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this thy servant, they may be driven away from him, and be suffered no more to hurt or come near bim. Hear, O Lord, our humble supplication in the name and through the mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Soon after my appointment to Dhuboy, I witnessed an extraordinary occurrence, and committed the particulars to paper a few hours after it happened.
The discovery of money and jewels, concealed in receptacles within the thick walls and subterraneous cells in oriental houses, is well known ; such treasures are also frequently found in obscure spots in fields and gardens. A town is seldom conquered without such a discovery; and it is not uncommon to find similar deposits in the country. That these concealments were believed among the ancients, we learn from many historians, especially from an anecdote in Tacitus, respeting Nero becoming the dupe of fortune, and incurring the derision of the public, from giving credence to the visionary schemes of Cesellius Bassus, a native of Carthage ; a man of a crazed imagination, who relied on whatever occurred to him in his distempered dreams. * In India, from time immemorial, it has been the custom for sovereigns and great men to make immense collections of gold and precious stones. The treasures belonging to some of the ancient Hindoo rajahs almost exceed belief. Nadir Shah's plunder at the court of Delhi excites our wonder; and the treasuries of the late Tipoo Sultaun afford a recent instance of these accumulations. The Iliad and Odyssey abound with descriptions of royal wealth ; and Sacred History
informs us, that Hezekiah, king of Judah, shewed the ambassadors of the Babylonish monarch all the house of his precious things; the silver, the gold, and the spices; the precious ointinents, and all the house of his armour.—2 Kings, ch. xx. ver. 13.
But what comes nearest to the point in my own adventure is, an anecdote related by d’Herbelot, of a Persian king who, from want of attention to his finances, was reduced to great difficulties, and knew not how to replenish his exhausted exchequer. Walking one day in an unfrequented part of his palace, he saw a snake put his head out of a hole in the wall ; on which he ordered it to be killed. His attendants accordingly broke down a part of the wall, in search of the serpent; it eluded their vigilance, but, in so doing, they discovered a secret receptacle, containing treasure to a great amount, which had been concealed there by another prince, and relieved the monarch from his necessities.
During a journey from Baroche to Dhuboy, I stopped, with a small escort, for water and refreshments at Nurrah, a large ruined village about six miles from the capital. It had been plundered and burnt not long before, by the Mahratta cavalry, when General Goddard took Dhuboy. The principal house at Nurrah, a mansion far beyond the general style of Hindoo buildings, had belonged to a man of family and opulence, who emigrated during the war, and died in a distant country; the house and gardens were then in a state of desolation. I received private information, that under a particular tower in this mansion was a secret cell, known only to the owner and the mason who constructed it; that very man gave me the intelligence;
adding, it was purposely formed to contain his treasure without the knowledge of his family, and was afterwards closed with strong masonry.
We accompanied the informer through several spacious courts and extensive apartments, in a state of dilapidation, until we came to a dark closet in a tower, at one corner of the mansion: this was a room about eight feet square, the diameter of the interior of the tower, some stories above the supposed receptacle of the treasure. In the floor of this closet we observed a hole in the bricks and chunam, of which it was composed, sufficiently large for a slender person to pass through. We enlarged the opening, and sent down two men by a ladder. After descending several feet they came to another chunam floor, with a similar aperture; this also being enlarged and torches procured, I perceived from the upper room that it was a gloomy dungeon of great depth. I desired the men to enter it and search for the treasure, which they positively refused, alleging that throughout Hindostan, wherever money was concealed, there existed one of the genii, in the mortal form of a snake, to guard it. I laughed at their credulity, and enforced the order for their immediate descent with some energy. My attendants sympathized in their feelings, and, under a deep impression of fear, seemed to wait the event in a sort of awful expectation. The ladder being too short to reach the floor of this subterraneous cell, I ordered strong ropes and additional torches to assist their descent. They at length reluctantly complied, and by the lights held in their hands, during a slow progress down the ropes, we could distinguish,
through the gloom, the dark sides and moist floor of the dungeon. They had not been many seconds in search of the treasure, when they called out vehemently that they were enclosed with a large snake, and their cries, ascending from this dismal abyss, were most horrible. I still remained incredulous, and would not suffer the ropes for facilitating their escape to be lowered until I had seen the serpent. Their screams were dreadful, and my resolution inflexible ; until at length, by keeping the upper lights steady, I perceived something like billets of wood, or rather more resembling a ship's cable coiled up in a dark hold, seen from the deck; but no language can express my sensations of astonishment and terror, when I beheld a horrid monster rear his head, over an immense length of body, coiled in volumes on the ground; and working itself into exertion by a sort of sluggish motion. What I felt on seeing two fellow creatures exposed by my orders to this “fiend of vengeful nature," may be more easily conceived than expressed. There was not a moment for reflection ; down went the ropes, and we drew up the panting terrified wretches speechless ; but, to my inexpressible joy, no otherwise affected than by the cold perspiration and death-like state produced by fear, which soon subsided. Some hay being then thrown down upon the lighted torches left in the cavern, consumed the mortal part of the guardian genius, as we afterwards took up the scorched and lifeless body of a large snake ; but, notwithstanding a minute search, no money could be found. The proprietor had doubtless carried off his treasure when he Aed to a foreign country. As the cells in the tower were all
and deep, and the walls of strong masonry,
appears wonderful how this snake had subsisted.' Toads have been discovered alive in the centre of large blocks of marble, without any aperture, and in the midst of a solid trunk of oak; how either those reptiles, or the coluber genii of India, live in their singular abode, I must leave to the investigation of the curious.
My upper servant, then with me at Nurrah, was of the Parsee tribe ; an intelligent man, unprejudiced, and not tinctured with superstition. He told me that one of his countrymen at Surat, in repairing a house a few years before, had found a considerable sum of money in a similar receptacle ; guarded in the same manner by a large cobra di capello, of which several persons were witnesses. This Parsee was a man of consequence, and head-broker to the Dutch factory at Surat. Such an accumulation of wealth made a great noise in the city ; but instead of destroying the extraordinary centinel, he brought it a bason of milk, and burnt incense, which caused it to retire while he removed the treasure ; one half of which he wisely presented to the nabob, and dedicated part of the remainder to charitable purposes. After this adventure he was considered to be a lucky man, and prospered in all his undertakings.
I wished very much for one of the ancient psylli, or a modern snake-charmer, in my train at Nurrah, to have called forth the serpent, who had guarded the treasure confided to his care until its owner most probably carried it away, but forgot to liberate the centinel. Having acted faithfully in his trust, his life ought to have been spared. I have mentioned the power of musi over the dancing-snakes at Bombay,