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Beyond the Black Waters

A. L. O. E.

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The title of this work would probably convey no definite idea to the minds of most Europeans; it might be considered as merely a figurative expression. It is otherwise with the native of Hindostan. The Black Waters are to him those that cut off from happiness and home the criminals of that vast region to which he belongs. Beyond the Black Waters lie the Andaman Islands, where, at the present time, about thirteen thousand convicts of both sexes—thieves, murderers, and murderesses—endure the punishment of exile, the due reward of their crimes.

A kind of mysterious pall seems to hang over the isles beyond the Black Waters. The convicts are under Government protection and Government control; nor can there be communication with them (at any rate with those confined in jail) without Government permission. The criminals are not treated harshly; the place of their exile is fruitful and fair. Nature smiles upon the Andaman Islands; it is man, guilty man, who seems to have forgotten how to smile.

To turn to a brighter part of the background of my tale: the stories of the Karens, their traditions, and of the remarkable man who stands amongst them conspicuous as a lighthouse at night, are no invention of mine. These belong to fact and not to fiction. If I would fain awaken pity for the sinners, I would also kindle admiration for the saints, and a keener and more practical interest in England and America for missionary labours in the lands of the East.