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London is served up every morning at breakfast to your wives and daughters, is of such rare occur rence in India, that all the affairs of that nature, which have broken out in English families from the first moment of our having so much as a factory there, to the present day, when what were once factories have become populous capitals, put together, would not amount to thirty-three, which, to speak with statistical precision, is not so much as half a one per annum.
This has the appearance of a problem, inasmuch as the female heart there, as well as at home, is beset with frailties and exposed to temptation. But the solution of it will be found in those exterior circumstances to which I have before adverted, as disciplining and fashioning dispositions and characters.
It may, perhaps, diminish the value of the compliment, but it is almost an obvious truth, that in India our wives are better guarded by one little circumstance in their domestic economy, than if they were secluded with Turkish jealousy from every eye, or secured from contact by ramparts of brass. Conjugal infidelity is next to impracticable; and what do you think it is which renders it impracticable ?
In the first place (do not smile, reader), in every house, through every apartment, the doors of which, from the necessity of the climate, are always open, there are constantly gliding along, with noiseless and inaudible rtead, a variety of domestics, with various names, and acting in various offices. They are eternally at the elbow of their mistress. If she shakes off Ramasawmy, Vencatah is sure to succeed him. The moment the kansumar leaves the saloon, the kitmugar steals into it. So unheard and unperceived is their foot-fall, that they are like flies with respect to their exits and entrances. He who does not perceive the influence that so perpetual an exposure to observation will have upon the female conduct, must needs have the dullest apprehension in the world. The force of such a restraint is almost incalculable. It acts upon the wife as a supernumerary conscience, and it has all the efficacy of the severest penalties which law could inflict. In truth, your black servants, whose eyes are those of lynxes, and who are endued with a kind of invisible ubiquity, may be relied upon by the most jealous husband as so many walking statutes against adultery. Nor are there in your houses in India any of those snug receptacles of intrigue, those petits boudoirs, which in England are considered by every lady to be inviolable-her castellum, her sanctuary, into which none but a few foolishly indulgent wives will permit even their husbands to intrude. The eye may command at once every apartment of the mansion, which is seldom of more than one story, as distinctly as Don Cleofas inspected the interior of the houses of Madrid which his friend the lame devil had unroofed to his curiosity. Consider, again, I beseech you, the necessary effect of this one circumstance, in the formation as well as the preservation of chaste and guarded habits, and the bridling irregular and licentious passions, by the almost entire impossibility of indulging them, and you will set a proper value on a moral restraint at once so gentle and so effectual.
Another most invaluable restraint, which keeps down in India this worst of domestic scourges in English society,—that pernicious crime which, in our world of fashion, is so often snapping asunder the golden cord of wedded affection-is a restraint of a physical rather than moral kind; but it operates with equal force on the seducer and the victim. What I mean is, the almost absolute impracticability of eloping. There are no posthorses to carry off the erring couple, as it were, on the wings of love, or at least with the degree of velocity which their escape from shame and retribution requires. Palanquins are out of the question. As for running away on horseback, it is quite impossible. No lady in that torrid climate could endure the fatigues incident to a mode of travelling so disconcerting to the female nerves. Every successive bump would be a lecture upon her imprudence ; her misplaced desires would be completely jolted to pieces ; and I question whether the gallant himself, whilst spurring his flagging Arab under a burning sun, would not be inclined to think that he had at least gone far enough, and begin to vote the whole affair to be a bore. Then there are not, as in England, delightful inns, stored with exquisite viands and admirable wines, with smiling landlords and obsequious waiters, where the fugitive pair may halt, to recruit their spirits, and drown in champagne or claret the squeamish and uncomfortable risings of remorse, that may obtrude upon their felicity. But for these there are, at occasional distances, certain buildings called choultries, facetiously said to have been erected for the comfort of travellers ; desolate, cheerless, uninhabited, echoing to no sounds but the howl of jackals and the hum of musquitoes. In these inhospitable edifices there is nothing to cheer or support you, and a much better chance of your being yourself eaten up, than of finding any thing to eat. Now absolute famine, or even bad fare, is a decisive antidote to love of any kind, lawful or unlawful. Travellers who refresh themselves at these places are obliged to send on all their culinary preparations before them. In the case of an elopement, these preparations would betray the secrecy and impede the progress of the expedition.
Such then are the salutary checks which, in the English society of India, interpose between woman and the thoughtless folly that undermines her fame and her happiness in other countries. The black servants, I repeat, are as vigilant guards over your earthly paradise as if they were “cherubims with flaming swords” stationed at its gates. The impediments to rapid flight soon reconcile the wedded dame to the ills she has, instead of encountering those “she knows not of;" and it is a most invaluable law of our nature, that we are not long in learning to endure that from which we cannot fly. Pastidious moralists may cry out that these are equivocal signs of virtue, and degrading motives to abstain from evil. Senseless prate! If virtue consists in abstinence from vice, no matter how the end is accomplished, it is still virtue. The result of all this is, that handsome wives gradually subside into respectable matrons, that euthanasia of beauty, in which all irregular and unholy affections are buried in the quiet grave of conjugal stillness, and they return to England to spend the autumnal season of their charms with placid and