It apparently produced nothing except potatoes. The soil was supposed to be as good as it appeared to be. The quality of the water and the supply were unquestionable; the climate could not be surpassed for salubrity. There was a carriage road from Colombo, one hundred and fifteen miles, and from Kandy, forty-seven miles; the last thirteen being the Rambodde Pass, arriving at an elevation of six thousand six hundred feet, from which point a descent of two miles terminated the road to Newera Ellia.
The station then consisted of about twenty private residences, the barracks and officers' quarters, the resthouse and the bazaar; the latter containing about two hundred native inhabitants.
Bounded upon all sides but the east by high mountains, the plain of Newera Ellia lay like a level valley of about two miles in length by half a mile in width, bordered by undulating grassy knolls at the foot of the mountains. Upon these spots of elevated ground most of the dwellings were situated, commanding a view of the plain, with the river winding through its centre. The mountains were clothed from the base to the summit with dense forests, containing excellent timber for building purposes. Good building-stone was procurable everywhere; limestone at a distance of five miles.
The whole of the adjacent country was a repetition Of the Newera Ellia plain with slight variations, comprising a vast extent of alternate swampy plains and dense forests.
Why should this place lie idle? Why should this great tract of country in such a lovely climate be untenanted and uncultivated? How often I have stood upon the hills and asked myself this question when gazing over the wide extent of undulating forest and plain! How often I have thought of the thousands of starving wretches at home, who here might earn a comfortable livelihood! and I have scanned the vast tract of country, and in my imagination I have cleared the dark forests and substituted waving crops of corn, and peopled a hundred ideal cottages with a thriving peasantry.
Why should not the highlands Of Ceylon, with an Italian climate, be rescued from their state of barrenness? Why should not the plains be drained, the forests felled, and cultivation take the place of the rank pasturage, and supplies be produced to make Ceylon independent of other countries? Why should not schools be established, a comfortable hotel be erected, a church be built? In fact, why should Newera Ellia, with its wonderful climate, so easily attainable, be neglected in a country like Ceylon, proverbial for its unhealthiness?
These were my ideas when I first visited Newera Ellia, before I had much experience in either people or things connected with the island. My twelve months' tour in Ceylon being completed, I returned to England delighted with what I had seen of Ceylon in general, but, above all, with my short visit to Newera Ellia, malgre its barrenness and want of comfort, caused rather by the neglect of man than by the lack of resources in the locality.
CHAPTER II. Past Scenes - Attractions of Ceylon - Emigration - Difficulties in Settling - Accidents and Casualties - An Eccentric Groom - Insubordination - Commencement of Cultivation - Sagacity of the Elephant - Disappointments - "Death" in the Settlement - Shocking Pasturage - Success of Emigrants - "A Good Knock- about kind of a Wife".