I found it almost impossible to persuade the natives to work in such weather; and it being absolutely necessary that cottages should be built with the greatest expedition, I was obliged to offer an exorbitant rate of wages. In about fortnight, however, the wind and rain showed flags of truce in the shape of white clouds set in a blue sky. The gale ceased, and the skylarks warbled high in air, giving life and encouragement to the whole scene. It was like a beautiful cool mid-summer in England.
I had about eighty men at work; and the constant click-clack of axes, the felling of trees, the noise of saws and hammers and the perpetual chattering o the coolies gave a new character to the wild spot upon which I had fixed.
The work proceeded rapidly; neat white cottages soon appeared in the forest; and I expected to have everything in readiness for the emigrants on their arrival. I rented a tolerably good house in Newera Ellia, and so far everything had progressed well.
The "Earl of Hardwick" arrived after a prosperous voyage, with passengers and stock all in sound health; the only casualty on board had been to one of the hounds. In a few days all started from Colombo for Newera Ellia. The only trouble was, How to get the cow up? She was a beautiful beast, a thorough-bred "shorthorn," and she weighed about thirteen hundredweight. She was so fat that a march of one hundred and fifteen miles in a tropical climate was impossible. Accordingly a van was arranged for her, which the maker assured me would carry an elephant. But no sooner had the cow entered it than the whole thing came down with a crash, and the cow made her exit through the bottom. She was therefore obliged to start on foot in company with the bull, sheep, horse and hounds, orders being given that ten miles a day, divided between morning and evening, should be the maximum march during the journey.
The emigrants started per coach, while our party drove up in a new clarence which I had brought from England. I mention this, as its untimely end will be shortly seen.
Four government elephant-carts started with machinery, farming implements, etc., etc., while a troop of bullock-bandies carried the lighter goods. I had a tame elephant waiting at the foot of the Newera Ellia Pass to assist in carrying up the baggage and maidservants.
There had been a vast amount of trouble in making all the necessary arrangements, but the start was completed, and at length we were all fairly off. In an enterprise of this kind many disappointments were necessarily to be expected, and I had prepared myself with the patience of Job for anything that might happen. It was well that I had done so, for it was soon put to the test.
Having reached Rambodd? at the foot of the Newera Ellia Pass, in safety, I found that the carriage was so heavy that the horses were totally unable to ascend the pass. I therefore left it at the rest-house while we rode up the fifteen miles to Newera Ellia, intending to send for the empty vehicle in a few days.