"What is it, Satan?"
"God want to see you."
"God. I show him up, master?"
"Why, this is so unusual, that—that—well, you see indeed I am so unprepared—I don't quite know what I do mean. Dear me, can't you explain? Don't you see that this is a most ex——"
"Here his card, master."
Wasn't it curious—and amazing, and tremendous, and all that? Such a personage going around calling on such as I, and sending up his card, like a mortal—sending it up by Satan. It was a bewildering collision of the impossibles. But this was the land of the Arabian Nights, this was India! and what is it that cannot happen in India?
We had the interview. Satan was right—the Visitor was indeed a God in the conviction of his multitudinous followers, and was worshiped by them in sincerity and humble adoration. They are troubled by no doubts as to his divine origin and office. They believe in him, they pray to him, they make offerings to him, they beg of him remission of sins; to them his person, together with everything connected with it, is sacred; from his barber they buy the parings of his nails and set them in gold, and wear them as precious amulets.
I tried to seem tranquilly conversational and at rest, but I was not. Would you have been? I was in a suppressed frenzy of excitement and curiosity and glad wonder. I could not keep my eyes off him. I was looking upon a god, an actual god, a recognized and accepted god; and every detail of his person and his dress had a consuming interest for me. And the thought went floating through my head, "He is worshiped—think of it—he is not a recipient of the pale homage called compliment, wherewith the highest human clay must make shift to be satisfied, but of an infinitely richer spiritual food: adoration, worship!—men and women lay their cares and their griefs and their broken hearts at his feet; and he gives them his peace; and they go away healed."
And just then the Awful Visitor said, in the simplest way—"There is a feature of the philosophy of Huck Finn which"—and went luminously on with the construction of a compact and nicely-discriminated literary verdict.
It is a land of surprises—India! I had had my ambitions—I had hoped, and almost expected, to be read by kings and presidents and emperors—but I had never looked so high as That. It would be false modesty to pretend that I was not inordinately pleased. I was. I was much more pleased than I should have been with a compliment from a man.
He remained half an hour, and I found him a most courteous and charming gentleman. The godship has been in his family a good while, but I do not know how long. He is a Mohammedan deity; by earthly rank he is a prince; not an Indian but a Persian prince. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet's line. He is comely; also young—for a god; not forty, perhaps not above thirty-five years old. He wears his immense honors with tranquil brace, and with a dignity proper to his awful calling. He speaks English with the ease and purity of a person born to it. I think I am not overstating this. He was the only god I had ever seen, and I was very favorably impressed. When he rose to say good-bye, the door swung open and I caught the flash of a red fez, and heard these words, reverently said—
"Satan see God out?"
"Yes." And these mis-mated Beings passed from view Satan in the lead and The Other following after.
Few of us can stand prosperity. Another man's, I mean. —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The next picture in my mind is Government House, on Malabar Point, with the wide sea-view from the windows and broad balconies; abode of His Excellency the Governor of the Bombay Presidency—a residence which is European in everything but the native guards and servants, and is a home and a palace of state harmoniously combined.
That was England, the English power, the English civilization, the modern civilization—with the quiet elegancies and quiet colors and quiet tastes and quiet dignity that are the outcome of the modern cultivation. And following it came a picture of the ancient civilization of India—an hour in the mansion of a native prince: Kumar Schri Samatsinhji Bahadur of the Palitana State.
The young lad, his heir, was with the prince; also, the lad's sister, a wee brown sprite, very pretty, very serious, very winning, delicately moulded, costumed like the daintiest butterfly, a dear little fairyland princess, gravely willing to be friendly with the strangers, but in the beginning preferring to hold her father's hand until she could take stock of them and determine how far they were to be trusted. She must have been eight years old; so in the natural (Indian) order of things she would be a bride in three or four years from now, and then this free contact with the sun and the air and the other belongings of out-door nature and comradeship with visiting male folk would end, and she would shut herself up in the zenana for life, like her mother, and by inherited habit of mind would be happy in that seclusion and not look upon it as an irksome restraint and a weary captivity.
The game which the prince amuses his leisure with—however, never mind it, I should never be able to describe it intelligibly. I tried to get an idea of it while my wife and daughter visited the princess in the zenana, a lady of charming graces and a fluent speaker of English, but I did not make it out. It is a complicated game, and I believe it is said that nobody can learn to play it well—but an Indian. And I was not able to learn how to wind a turban. It seemed a simple art and easy; but that was a deception. It is a piece of thin, delicate stuff a foot wide or more, and forty or fifty feet long; and the exhibitor of the art takes one end of it in his hands, and winds it in and out intricately about his head, twisting it as he goes, and in a minute or two the thing is finished, and is neat and symmetrical and fits as snugly as a mould.
We were interested in the wardrobe and the jewels, and in the silverware, and its grace of shape and beauty and delicacy of ornamentation. The silverware is kept locked up, except at meal-times, and none but the chief butler and the prince have keys to the safe. I did not clearly understand why, but it was not for the protection of the silver. It was either to protect the prince from the contamination which his caste would suffer if the vessels were touched by low-caste hands, or it was to protect his highness from poison. Possibly it was both. I believe a salaried taster has to taste everything before the prince ventures it—an ancient and judicious custom in the East, and has thinned out the tasters a good deal, for of course it is the cook that puts the poison in. If I were an Indian prince I would not go to the expense of a taster, I would eat with the cook.
Ceremonials are always interesting; and I noted that the Indian good-morning is a ceremonial, whereas ours doesn't amount to that. In salutation the son reverently touches the father's forehead with a small silver implement tipped with vermillion paste which leaves a red spot there, and in return the son receives the father's blessing. Our good morning is well enough for the rowdy West, perhaps, but would be too brusque for the soft and ceremonious East.
After being properly necklaced, according to custom, with great garlands made of yellow flowers, and provided with betel-nut to chew, this pleasant visit closed, and we passed thence to a scene of a different sort: from this glow of color and this sunny life to those grim receptacles of the Parsee dead, the Towers of Silence. There is something stately about that name, and an impressiveness which sinks deep; the hush of death is in it. We have the Grave, the Tomb, the Mausoleum, God's Acre, the Cemetery; and association has made them eloquent with solemn meaning; but we have no name that is so majestic as that one, or lingers upon the ear with such deep and haunting pathos.
On lofty ground, in the midst of a paradise of tropical foliage and flowers, remote from the world and its turmoil and noise, they stood—the Towers of Silence; and away below was spread the wide groves of cocoa palms, then the city, mile on mile, then the ocean with its fleets of creeping ships all steeped in a stillness as deep as the hush that hallowed this high place of the dead. The vultures were there. They stood close together in a great circle all around the rim of a massive low tower—waiting; stood as motionless as sculptured ornaments, and indeed almost deceived one into the belief that that was what they were. Presently there was a slight stir among the score of persons present, and all moved reverently out of the path and ceased from talking. A funeral procession entered the great gate, marching two and two, and moved silently by, toward the Tower. The corpse lay in a shallow shell, and was under cover of a white cloth, but was otherwise naked. The bearers of the body were separated by an interval of thirty feet from the mourners. They, and also the mourners, were draped all in pure white, and each couple of mourners was figuratively bound together by a piece of white rope or a handkerchief—though they merely held the ends of it in their hands. Behind the procession followed a dog, which was led in a leash. When the mourners had reached the neighborhood of the Tower —neither they nor any other human being but the bearers of the dead must approach within thirty feet of it—they turned and went back to one of the prayer-houses within the gates, to pray for the spirit of their dead. The bearers unlocked the Tower's sole door and disappeared from view within. In a little while they came out bringing the bier and the white covering-cloth, and locked the door again. Then the ring of vultures rose, flapping their wings, and swooped down into the Tower to devour the body. Nothing was left of it but a clean-picked skeleton when they flocked-out again a few minutes afterward.
The principle which underlies and orders everything connected with a Parsee funeral is Purity. By the tenets of the Zoroastrian religion, the elements, Earth, Fire, and Water, are sacred, and must not be contaminated by contact with a dead body. Hence corpses must not be burned, neither must they be buried. None may touch the dead or enter the Towers where they repose except certain men who are officially appointed for that purpose. They receive high pay, but theirs is a dismal life, for they must live apart from their species, because their commerce with the dead defiles them, and any who should associate with them would share their defilement. When they come out of the Tower the clothes they are wearing are exchanged for others, in a building within the grounds, and the ones which they have taken off are left behind, for they are contaminated, and must never be used again or suffered to go outside the grounds. These bearers come to every funeral in new garments. So far as is known, no human being, other than an official corpse-bearer—save one—has ever entered a Tower of Silence after its consecration. Just a hundred years ago a European rushed in behind the bearers and fed his brutal curiosity with a glimpse of the forbidden mysteries of the place. This shabby savage's name is not given; his quality is also concealed. These two details, taken in connection with the fact that for his extraordinary offense the only punishment he got from the East India Company's Government was a solemn official "reprimand"—suggest the suspicion that he was a European of consequence. The same public document which contained the reprimand gave warning that future offenders of his sort, if in the Company's service, would be dismissed; and if merchants, suffer revocation of license and exile to England.
The Towers are not tall, but are low in proportion to their circumference, like a gasometer. If you should fill a gasometer half way up with solid granite masonry, then drive a wide and deep well down through the center of this mass of masonry, you would have the idea of a Tower of Silence. On the masonry surrounding the well the bodies lie, in shallow trenches which radiate like wheel-spokes from the well. The trenches slant toward the well and carry into it the rainfall. Underground drains, with charcoal filters in them, carry off this water from the bottom of the well.
When a skeleton has lain in the Tower exposed to the rain and the flaming sun a month it is perfectly dry and clean. Then the same bearers that brought it there come gloved and take it up with tongs and throw it into the well. There it turns to dust. It is never seen again, never touched again, in the world. Other peoples separate their dead, and preserve and continue social distinctions in the grave—the skeletons of kings and statesmen and generals in temples and pantheons proper to skeletons of their degree, and the skeletons of the commonplace and the poor in places suited to their meaner estate; but the Parsees hold that all men rank alike in death—all are humble, all poor, all destitute. In sign of their poverty they are sent to their grave naked, in sign of their equality the bones of the rich, the poor, the illustrious and the obscure are flung into the common well together. At a Parsee funeral there are no vehicles; all concerned must walk, both rich and poor, howsoever great the distance to be traversed may be. In the wells of the Five Towers of Silence is mingled the dust of all the Parsee men and women and children who have died in Bombay and its vicinity during the two centuries which have elapsed since the Mohammedan conquerors drove the Parsees out of Persia, and into that region of India. The earliest of the five towers was built by the Modi family something more than 200 years ago, and it is now reserved to the heirs of that house; none but the dead of that blood are carried thither.
The origin of at least one of the details of a Parsee funeral is not now known—the presence of the dog. Before a corpse is borne from the house of mourning it must be uncovered and exposed to the gaze of a dog; a dog must also be led in the rear of the funeral. Mr. Nusserwanjee Byranijee, Secretary to the Parsee Punchayet, said that these formalities had once had a meaning and a reason for their institution, but that they were survivals whose origin none could now account for. Custom and tradition continue them in force, antiquity hallows them. It is thought that in ancient times in Persia the dog was a sacred animal and could guide souls to heaven; also that his eye had the power of purifying objects which had been contaminated by the touch of the dead; and that hence his presence with the funeral cortege provides an ever-applicable remedy in case of need.
The Parsees claim that their method of disposing of the dead is an effective protection of the living; that it disseminates no corruption, no impurities of any sort, no disease-germs; that no wrap, no garment which has touched the dead is allowed to touch the living afterward; that from the Towers of Silence nothing proceeds which can carry harm to the outside world. These are just claims, I think. As a sanitary measure, their system seems to be about the equivalent of cremation, and as sure. We are drifting slowly—but hopefully—toward cremation in these days. It could not be expected that this progress should be swift, but if it be steady and continuous, even if slow, that will suffice. When cremation becomes the rule we shall cease to shudder at it; we should shudder at burial if we allowed ourselves to think what goes on in the grave.
The dog was an impressive figure to me, representing as he did a mystery whose key is lost. He was humble, and apparently depressed; and he let his head droop pensively, and looked as if he might be trying to call back to his mind what it was that he had used to symbolize ages ago when he began his function. There was another impressive thing close at hand, but I was not privileged to see it. That was the sacred fire—a fire which is supposed to have been burning without interruption for more than two centuries; and so, living by the same heat that was imparted to it so long ago.
The Parsees are a remarkable community. There are only about 60,000 in Bombay, and only about half as many as that in the rest of India; but they make up in importance what they lack in numbers. They are highly educated, energetic, enterprising, progressive, rich, and the Jew himself is not more lavish or catholic in his charities and benevolences. The Parsees build and endow hospitals, for both men and animals; and they and their womenkind keep an open purse for all great and good objects. They are a political force, and a valued support to the government. They have a pure and lofty religion, and they preserve it in its integrity and order their lives by it.
We took a final sweep of the wonderful view of plain and city and ocean, and so ended our visit to the garden and the Towers of Silence; and the last thing I noticed was another symbol—a voluntary symbol this one; it was a vulture standing on the sawed-off top of a tall and slender and branchless palm in an open space in the ground; he was perfectly motionless, and looked like a piece of sculpture on a pillar. And he had a mortuary look, too, which was in keeping with the place.
There is an old-time toast which is golden for its beauty. "When you ascend the hill of prosperity may you not meet a friend." —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The next picture that drifts across the field of my memory is one which is connected with religious things. We were taken by friends to see a Jain temple. It was small, and had many flags or streamers flying from poles standing above its roof; and its little battlements supported a great many small idols or images. Upstairs, inside, a solitary Jain was praying or reciting aloud in the middle of the room. Our presence did not interrupt him, nor even incommode him or modify his fervor. Ten or twelve feet in front of him was the idol, a small figure in a sitting posture. It had the pinkish look of a wax doll, but lacked the doll's roundness of limb and approximation to correctness of form and justness of proportion. Mr. Gandhi explained every thing to us. He was delegate to the Chicago Fair Congress of Religions. It was lucidly done, in masterly English, but in time it faded from me, and now I have nothing left of that episode but an impression: a dim idea of a religious belief clothed in subtle intellectual forms, lofty and clean, barren of fleshly grossnesses; and with this another dim impression which connects that intellectual system somehow with that crude image, that inadequate idol —how, I do not know. Properly they do not seem to belong together. Apparently the idol symbolized a person who had become a saint or a god through accessions of steadily augmenting holiness acquired through a series of reincarnations and promotions extending over many ages; and was now at last a saint and qualified to vicariously receive worship and transmit it to heaven's chancellery. Was that it?
And thence we went to Mr. Premchand Roychand's bungalow, in Lovelane, Byculla, where an Indian prince was to receive a deputation of the Jain community who desired to congratulate him upon a high honor lately conferred upon him by his sovereign, Victoria, Empress of India. She had made him a knight of the order of the Star of India. It would seem that even the grandest Indian prince is glad to add the modest title "Sir" to his ancient native grandeurs, and is willing to do valuable service to win it. He will remit taxes liberally, and will spend money freely upon the betterment of the condition of his subjects, if there is a knighthood to be gotten by it. And he will also do good work and a deal of it to get a gun added to the salute allowed him by the British Government. Every year the Empress distributes knighthoods and adds guns for public services done by native princes. The salute of a small prince is three or four guns; princes of greater consequence have salutes that run higher and higher, gun by gun,—oh, clear away up to eleven; possibly more, but I did not hear of any above eleven-gun princes. I was told that when a four-gun prince gets a gun added, he is pretty troublesome for a while, till the novelty wears off, for he likes the music, and keeps hunting up pretexts to get himself saluted. It may be that supremely grand folk, like the Nyzam of Hyderabad and the Gaikwar of Baroda, have more than eleven guns, but I don't know.
When we arrived at the bungalow, the large hall on the ground floor was already about full, and carriages were still flowing into the grounds. The company present made a fine show, an exhibition of human fireworks, so to speak, in the matters of costume and comminglings of brilliant color. The variety of form noticeable in the display of turbans was remarkable. We were told that the explanation of this was, that this Jain delegation was drawn from many parts of India, and that each man wore the turban that was in vogue in his own region. This diversity of turbans made a beautiful effect.
I could have wished to start a rival exhibition there, of Christian hats and clothes. I would have cleared one side of the room of its Indian splendors and repacked the space with Christians drawn from America, England, and the Colonies, dressed in the hats and habits of now, and of twenty and forty and fifty years ago. It would have been a hideous exhibition, a thoroughly devilish spectacle. Then there would have been the added disadvantage of the white complexion. It is not an unbearably unpleasant complexion when it keeps to itself, but when it comes into competition with masses of brown and black the fact is betrayed that it is endurable only because we are used to it. Nearly all black and brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare. How rare, one may learn by walking down a street in Paris, New York, or London on a week-day particularly an unfashionable street—and keeping count of the satisfactory complexions encountered in the course of a mile. Where dark complexions are massed, they make the whites look bleached-out, unwholesome, and sometimes frankly ghastly. I could notice this as a boy, down South in the slavery days before the war. The splendid black satin skin of the South African Zulus of Durban seemed to me to come very close to perfection. I can see those Zulus yet—'ricksha athletes waiting in front of the hotel for custom; handsome and intensely black creatures, moderately clothed in loose summer stuffs whose snowy whiteness made the black all the blacker by contrast. Keeping that group in my mind, I can compare those complexions with the white ones which are streaming past this London window now:
A lady. Complexion, new parchment. Another lady. Complexion, old parchment.
Another. Pink and white, very fine.
Man. Grayish skin, with purple areas.
Man. Unwholesome fish-belly skin.
Girl. Sallow face, sprinkled with freckles.
Old woman. Face whitey-gray.
Young butcher. Face a general red flush.
Jaundiced man—mustard yellow.
Elderly lady. Colorless skin, with two conspicuous moles.
Elderly man—a drinker. Boiled-cauliflower nose in a flabby face veined with purple crinklings.
Healthy young gentleman. Fine fresh complexion.
Sick young man. His face a ghastly white.
No end of people whose skins are dull and characterless modifications of the tint which we miscall white. Some of these faces are pimply; some exhibit other signs of diseased blood; some show scars of a tint out of a harmony with the surrounding shades of color. The white man's complexion makes no concealments. It can't. It seemed to have been designed as a catch-all for everything that can damage it. Ladies have to paint it, and powder it, and cosmetic it, and diet it with arsenic, and enamel it, and be always enticing it, and persuading it, and pestering it, and fussing at it, to make it beautiful; and they do not succeed. But these efforts show what they think of the natural complexion, as distributed. As distributed it needs these helps. The complexion which they try to counterfeit is one which nature restricts to the few—to the very few. To ninety-nine persons she gives a bad complexion, to the hundredth a good one. The hundredth can keep it—how long? Ten years, perhaps.
The advantage is with the Zulu, I think. He starts with a beautiful complexion, and it will last him through. And as for the Indian brown —firm, smooth, blemishless, pleasant and restful to the eye, afraid of no color, harmonizing with all colors and adding a grace to them all—I think there is no sort of chance for the average white complexion against that rich and perfect tint.
To return to the bungalow. The most gorgeous costume present were worn by some children. They seemed to blaze, so bright were the colors, and so brilliant the jewels strum over the rich materials. These children were professional nautch-dancers, and looked like girls, but they were boys, They got up by ones and twos and fours, and danced and sang to an accompaniment of weird music. Their posturings and gesturings were elaborate and graceful, but their voices were stringently raspy and unpleasant, and there was a good deal of monotony about the tune.
By and by there was a burst of shouts and cheers outside and the prince with his train entered in fine dramatic style. He was a stately man, he was ideally costumed, and fairly festooned with ropes of gems; some of the ropes were of pearls, some were of uncut great emeralds—emeralds renowned in Bombay for their quality and value. Their size was marvelous, and enticing to the eye, those rocks. A boy—a princeling —was with the prince, and he also was a radiant exhibition.
The ceremonies were not tedious. The prince strode to his throne with the port and majesty—and the sternness—of a Julius Caesar coming to receive and receipt for a back-country kingdom and have it over and get out, and no fooling. There was a throne for the young prince, too, and the two sat there, side by side, with their officers grouped at either hand and most accurately and creditably reproducing the pictures which one sees in the books—pictures which people in the prince's line of business have been furnishing ever since Solomon received the Queen of Sheba and showed her his things. The chief of the Jain delegation read his paper of congratulations, then pushed it into a beautifully engraved silver cylinder, which was delivered with ceremony into the prince's hands and at once delivered by him without ceremony into the hands of an officer. I will copy the address here. It is interesting, as showing what an Indian prince's subject may have opportunity to thank him for in these days of modern English rule, as contrasted with what his ancestor would have given them opportunity to thank him for a century and a half ago—the days of freedom unhampered by English interference. A century and a half ago an address of thanks could have been put into small space. It would have thanked the prince—
1. For not slaughtering too many of his people upon mere caprice;
2. For not stripping them bare by sudden and arbitrary tax levies, and bringing famine upon them;
3. For not upon empty pretext destroying the rich and seizing their property;
4. For not killing, blinding, imprisoning, or banishing the relatives of the royal house to protect the throne from possible plots;
5. For not betraying the subject secretly, for a bribe, into the hands of bands of professional Thugs, to be murdered and robbed in the prince's back lot.
Those were rather common princely industries in the old times, but they and some others of a harsh sort ceased long ago under English rule. Better industries have taken their place, as this Address from the Jain community will show:
"Your Highness,—We the undersigned members of the Jain community of Bombay have the pleasure to approach your Highness with the expression of our heartfelt congratulations on the recent conference on your Highness of the Knighthood of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India. Ten years ago we had the pleasure and privilege of welcoming your Highness to this city under circumstances which have made a memorable epoch in the history of your State, for had it not been for a generous and reasonable spirit that your Highness displayed in the negotiations between the Palitana Durbar and the Jain community, the conciliatory spirit that animated our people could not have borne fruit. That was the first step in your Highness's administration, and it fitly elicited the praise of the Jain community, and of the Bombay Government. A decade of your Highness's administration, combined with the abilities, training, and acquirements that your Highness brought to bear upon it, has justly earned for your Highness the unique and honourable distinction—the Knighthood of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, which we understand your Highness is the first to enjoy among Chiefs of your, Highness's rank and standing. And we assure your Highness that for this mark of honour that has been conferred on you by Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen-Empress, we feel no less proud than your Highness. Establishment of commercial factories, schools, hospitals, etc., by your Highness in your State has marked your Highness's career during these ten years, and we trust that your Highness will be spared to rule over your people with wisdom and foresight, and foster the many reforms that your Highness has been pleased to introduce in your State. We again offer your Highness our warmest felicitations for the honour that has been conferred on you. We beg to remain your Highness's obedient servants."
Factories, schools, hospitals, reforms. The prince propagates that kind of things in the modern times, and gets knighthood and guns for it.
After the address the prince responded with snap and brevity; spoke a moment with half a dozen guests in English, and with an official or two in a native tongue; then the garlands were distributed as usual, and the function ended.
Each person is born to one possession which outvalues all his others—his last breath. —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Toward midnight, that night, there was another function. This was a Hindoo wedding—no, I think it was a betrothal ceremony. Always before, we had driven through streets that were multitudinous and tumultuous with picturesque native life, but now there was nothing of that. We seemed to move through a city of the dead. There was hardly a suggestion of life in those still and vacant streets. Even the crows were silent. But everywhere on the ground lay sleeping natives-hundreds and hundreds. They lay stretched at full length and tightly wrapped in blankets, beads and all. Their attitude and their rigidity counterfeited death. The plague was not in Bombay then, but it is devastating the city now. The shops are deserted, now, half of the people have fled, and of the remainder the smitten perish by shoals every day. No doubt the city looks now in the daytime as it looked then at night. When we had pierced deep into the native quarter and were threading its narrow dim lanes, we had to go carefully, for men were stretched asleep all about and there was hardly room to drive between them. And every now and then a swarm of rats would scamper across past the horses' feet in the vague light—the forbears of the rats that are carrying the plague from house to house in Bombay now. The shops were but sheds, little booths open to the street; and the goods had been removed, and on the counters families were sleeping, usually with an oil lamp present. Recurrent dead watches, it looked like.
But at last we turned a corner and saw a great glare of light ahead. It was the home of the bride, wrapped in a perfect conflagration of illuminations,—mainly gas-work designs, gotten up specially for the occasion. Within was abundance of brilliancy—flames, costumes, colors, decorations, mirrors—it was another Aladdin show.
The bride was a trim and comely little thing of twelve years, dressed as we would dress a boy, though more expensively than we should do it, of course. She moved about very much at her ease, and stopped and talked with the guests and allowed her wedding jewelry to be examined. It was very fine. Particularly a rope of great diamonds, a lovely thing to look at and handle. It had a great emerald hanging to it.
The bridegroom was not present. He was having betrothal festivities of his own at his father's house. As I understood it, he and the bride were to entertain company every night and nearly all night for a week or more, then get married, if alive. Both of the children were a little elderly, as brides and grooms go, in India—twelve; they ought to have been married a year or two sooner; still to a, stranger twelve seems quite young enough.
A while after midnight a couple of celebrated and high-priced nautch-girls appeared in the gorgeous place, and danced and sang. With them were men who played upon strange instruments which made uncanny noises of a sort to make one's flesh creep. One of these instruments was a pipe, and to its music the girls went through a performance which represented snake charming. It seemed a doubtful sort of music to charm anything with, but a native gentleman assured me that snakes like it and will come out of their holes and listen to it with every evidence of refreshment And gratitude. He said that at an entertainment in his grounds once, the pipe brought out half a dozen snakes, and the music had to be stopped before they would be persuaded to go. Nobody wanted their company, for they were bold, familiar, and dangerous; but no one would kill them, of course, for it is sinful for a Hindoo to kill any kind of a creature.
We withdrew from the festivities at two in the morning. Another picture, then—but it has lodged itself in my memory rather as a stage-scene than as a reality. It is of a porch and short flight of steps crowded with dark faces and ghostly-white draperies flooded with the strong glare from the dazzling concentration of illuminations; and midway of the steps one conspicuous figure for accent—a turbaned giant, with a name according to his size: Rao Bahadur Baskirao Balinkanje Pitale, Vakeel to his Highness the Gaikwar of Baroda. Without him the picture would not have been complete; and if his name had been merely Smith, he wouldn't have answered. Close at hand on house-fronts on both sides of the narrow street were illuminations of a kind commonly employed by the natives —scores of glass tumblers (containing tapers) fastened a few in inches apart all over great latticed frames, forming starry constellations which showed out vividly against their black back grounds. As we drew away into the distance down the dim lanes the illuminations gathered together into a single mass, and glowed out of the enveloping darkness like a sun.
Then again the deep silence, the skurrying rats, the dim forms stretched every-where on the ground; and on either hand those open booths counterfeiting sepulchres, with counterfeit corpses sleeping motionless in the flicker of the counterfeit death lamps. And now, a year later, when I read the cablegrams I seem to be reading of what I myself partly saw—saw before it happened—in a prophetic dream, as it were. One cablegram says, "Business in the native town is about suspended. Except the wailing and the tramp of the funerals. There is but little life or movement. The closed shops exceed in number those that remain open." Another says that 325,000 of the people have fled the city and are carrying the plague to the country. Three days later comes the news, "The population is reduced by half." The refugees have carried the disease to Karachi; "220 cases, 214 deaths." A day or two later, "52 fresh cases, all of which proved fatal."
The plague carries with it a terror which no other disease can excite; for of all diseases known to men it is the deadliest—by far the deadliest. "Fifty-two fresh cases—all fatal." It is the Black Death alone that slays like that. We can all imagine, after a fashion, the desolation of a plague-stricken city, and the stupor of stillness broken at intervals by distant bursts of wailing, marking the passing of funerals, here and there and yonder, but I suppose it is not possible for us to realize to ourselves the nightmare of dread and fear that possesses the living who are present in such a place and cannot get away. That half million fled from Bombay in a wild panic suggests to us something of what they were feeling, but perhaps not even they could realize what the half million were feeling whom they left stranded behind to face the stalking horror without chance of escape. Kinglake was in Cairo many years ago during an epidemic of the Black Death, and he has imagined the terrors that creep into a man's heart at such a time and follow him until they themselves breed the fatal sign in the armpit, and then the delirium with confused images, and home-dreams, and reeling billiard-tables, and then the sudden blank of death:
"To the contagionist, filled as he is with the dread of final causes, having no faith in destiny, nor in the fixed will of God, and with none of the devil-may-care indifference which might stand him instead of creeds—to such one, every rag that shivers in the breeze of a plague-stricken city has this sort of sublimity. If by any terrible ordinance he be forced to venture forth, be sees death dangling from every sleeve; and, as he creeps forward, he poises his shuddering limbs between the imminent jacket that is stabbing at his right elbow and the murderous pelisse that threatens to mow him clean down as it sweeps along on his left. But most of all he dreads that which most of all he should love—the touch of a woman's dress; for mothers and wives, hurrying forth on kindly errands from the bedsides of the dying, go slouching along through the streets more willfully and less courteously than the men. For a while it may be that the caution of the poor Levantine may enable him to avoid contact, but sooner or later, perhaps, the dreaded chance arrives; that bundle of linen, with the dark tearful eyes at the top of it, that labors along with the voluptuous clumsiness of Grisi —she has touched the poor Levantine with the hem of her sleeve! From that dread moment his peace is gone; his mind for ever hanging upon the fatal touch invites the blow which he fears; he watches for the symptoms of plague so carefully, that sooner or later they come in truth. The parched mouth is a sign—his mouth is parched; the throbbing brain—his brain does throb; the rapid pulse—he touches his own wrist (for he dares not ask counsel of any man lest he be deserted), he touches his wrist, and feels how his frighted blood goes galloping out of his heart. There is nothing but the fatal swelling that is wanting to make his sad conviction complete; immediately, he has an odd feel under the arm—no pain, but a little straining of the skin; he would to God it were his fancy that were strong enough to give him that sensation; this is the worst of all. It now seems to him that he could be happy and contented with his parched mouth, and his throbbing brain, and his rapid pulse, if only he could know that there were no swelling under the left arm; but dares he try?—in a moment of calmness and deliberation he dares not; but when for a while he has writhed under the torture of suspense, a sudden strength of will drives him to seek and know his fate; he touches the gland, and finds the skin sane and sound but under the cuticle there lies a small lump like a pistol-bullet, that moves as he pushes it. Oh! but is this for all certainty, is this the sentence of death? Feel the gland of the other arm. There is not the same lump exactly, yet something a little like it. Have not some people glands naturally enlarged?—would to heaven he were one! So he does for himself the work of the plague, and when the Angel of Death thus courted does indeed and in truth come, he has only to finish that which has been so well begun; he passes his fiery hand over the brain of the victim, and lets him rave for a season, but all chance-wise, of people and things once dear, or of people and things indifferent. Once more the poor fellow is back at his home in fair Provence, and sees the sundial that stood in his childhood's garden—sees his mother, and the long-since forgotten face of that little dear sister—(he sees her, he says, on a Sunday morning, for all the church bells are ringing); he looks up and down through the universe, and owns it well piled with bales upon bales of cotton, and cotton eternal—so much so that he feels—he knows—he swears he could make that winning hazard, if the billiard-table would not slant upwards, and if the cue were a cue worth playing with; but it is not—it's a cue that won't move—his own arm won't move—in short, there's the devil to pay in the brain of the poor Levantine; and perhaps, the next night but one he becomes the 'life and the soul' of some squalling jackal family, who fish him out by the foot from his shallow and sandy grave."
Hunger is the handmaid of genius —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
One day during our stay in Bombay there was a criminal trial of a most interesting sort, a terribly realistic chapter out of the "Arabian Nights," a strange mixture of simplicities and pieties and murderous practicalities, which brought back the forgotten days of Thuggee and made them live again; in fact, even made them believable. It was a case where a young girl had been assassinated for the sake of her trifling ornaments, things not worth a laborer's day's wages in America. This thing could have been done in many other countries, but hardly with the cold business-like depravity, absence of fear, absence of caution, destitution of the sense of horror, repentance, remorse, exhibited in this case. Elsewhere the murderer would have done his crime secretly, by night, and without witnesses; his fears would have allowed him no peace while the dead body was in his neighborhood; he would not have rested until he had gotten it safe out of the way and hidden as effectually as he could hide it. But this Indian murderer does his deed in the full light of day, cares nothing for the society of witnesses, is in no way incommoded by the presence of the corpse, takes his own time about disposing of it, and the whole party are so indifferent, so phlegmatic, that they take their regular sleep as if nothing was happening and no halters hanging over them; and these five bland people close the episode with a religious service. The thing reads like a Meadows-Taylor Thug-tale of half a century ago, as may be seen by the official report of the trial:
"At the Mazagon Police Court yesterday, Superintendent Nolan again charged Tookaram Suntoo Savat Baya, woman, her daughter Krishni, and Gopal Yithoo Bhanayker, before Mr. Phiroze Hoshang Dastur, Fourth Presidency Magistrate, under sections 302 and 109 of the Code, with having on the night of the 30th of December last murdered a Hindoo girl named Cassi, aged 12, by strangulation, in the room of a chawl at Jakaria Bunder, on the Sewriroad, and also with aiding and abetting each other in the commission of the offense.
"Mr. F. A. Little, Public Prosecutor, conducted the case on behalf of the Crown, the accused being undefended.
"Mr. Little applied under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code to tender pardon to one of the accused, Krishni, woman, aged 22, on her undertaking to make a true and full statement of facts under which the deceased girl Cassi was murdered.
"The Magistrate having granted the Public Prosecutor's application, the accused Krishni went into the witness-box, and, on being examined by Mr. Little, made the following confession:—I am a mill-hand employed at the Jubilee Mill. I recollect the day (Tuesday); on which the body of the deceased Cassi was found. Previous to that I attended the mill for half a day, and then returned home at 3 in the afternoon, when I saw five persons in the house, viz.: the first accused Tookaram, who is my paramour, my mother, the second accused Baya, the accused Gopal, and two guests named Ramji Daji and Annaji Gungaram. Tookaram rented the room of the chawl situated at Jakaria Bunder-road from its owner, Girdharilal Radhakishan, and in that room I, my paramour, Tookaram, and his younger brother, Yesso Mahadhoo, live. Since his arrival in Bombay from his native country Yesso came and lived with us. When I returned from the mill on the afternoon of that day, I saw the two guests seated on a cot in the veranda, and a few minutes after the accused Gopal came and took his seat by their side, while I and my mother were seated inside the room. Tookaram, who had gone out to fetch some 'pan' and betelnuts, on his return home had brought the two guests with him. After returning home he gave them 'pan supari'. While they were eating it my mother came out of the room and inquired of one of the guests, Ramji, what had happened to his foot, when he replied that he had tried many remedies, but they had done him no good. My mother then took some rice in her hand and prophesied that the disease which Ramji was suffering from would not be cured until he returned to his native country. In the meantime the deceased Casi came from the direction of an out-house, and stood in front on the threshold of our room with a 'lota' in her hand. Tookaram then told his two guests to leave the room, and they then went up the steps towards the quarry. After the guests had gone away, Tookaram seized the deceased, who had come into the room, and he afterwards put a waistband around her, and tied her to a post which supports a loft. After doing this, he pressed the girl's throat, and, having tied her mouth with the 'dhotur' (now shown in Court), fastened it to the post. Having killed the girl, Tookaram removed her gold head ornament and a gold 'putlee', and also took charge of her 'lota'. Besides these two ornaments Cassi had on her person ear-studs a nose-ring, some silver toe-rings, two necklaces, a pair of silver anklets and bracelets. Tookaram afterwards tried to remove the silver amulets, the ear-studs, and the nose-ring; but he failed in his attempt. While he was doing so, I, my mother, and Gopal were present. After removing the two gold ornaments, he handed them over to Gopal, who was at the time standing near me. When he killed Cassi, Tookaram threatened to strangle me also if I informed any one of this. Gopal and myself were then standing at the door of our room, and we both were threatened by Tookaram. My mother, Baya, had seized the legs of the deceased at the time she was killed, and whilst she was being tied to the post. Cassi then made a noise. Tookaram and my mother took part in killing the girl. After the murder her body was wrapped up in a mattress and kept on the loft over the door of our room. When Cassi was strangled, the door of the room was fastened from the inside by Tookaram. This deed was committed shortly after my return home from work in the mill. Tookaram put the body of the deceased in the mattress, and, after it was left on the loft, he went to have his head shaved by a barber named Sambhoo Raghoo, who lives only one door away from me. My mother and myself then remained in the possession of the information. I was slapped and threatened by my paramour, Tookaram, and that was the only reason why I did not inform any one at that time. When I told Tookaram that I would give information of the occurrence, he slapped me. The accused Gopal was asked by Tookaram to go back to his room, and he did so, taking away with him the two gold ornaments and the 'lota'. Yesso Mahadhoo, a brother-in-law of Tookaram, came to the house and asked Taokaram why he was washing, the water-pipe being just opposite. Tookaram replied that he was washing his dhotur, as a fowl had polluted it. About 6 o'clock of the evening of that day my mother gave me three pice and asked me to buy a cocoanut, and I gave the money to Yessoo, who went and fetched a cocoanut and some betel leaves. When Yessoo and others were in the room I was bathing, and, after I finished my bath, my mother took the cocoanut and the betel leaves from Yessoo, and we five went to the sea. The party consisted of Tookaram, my mother, Yessoo, Tookaram's younger brother, and myself. On reaching the seashore, my mother made the offering to the sea, and prayed to be pardoned for what we had done. Before we went to the sea, some one came to inquire after the girl Cassi. The police and other people came to make these inquiries both before and after we left the house for the seashore. The police questioned my mother about the girl, and she replied that Cassi had come to her door, but had left. The next day the police questioned Tookaram, and he, too, gave a similar reply. This was said the same night when the search was made for the girl. After the offering was made to the sea, we partook of the cocoanut and returned home, when my mother gave me some food; but Tookaram did not partake of any food that night. After dinner I and my mother slept inside the room, and Tookaram slept on a cot near his brother-in-law, Yessoo Mahadhoo, just outside the door. That was not the usual place where Tookaram slept. He usually slept inside the room. The body of the deceased remained on the loft when I went to sleep. The room in which we slept was locked, and I heard that my paramour, Tookaram, was restless outside. About 3 o'clock the following morning Tookaram knocked at the door, when both myself and my mother opened it. He then told me to go to the steps leading to the quarry, and see if any one was about. Those steps lead to a stable, through which we go to the quarry at the back of the compound. When I got to the steps I saw no one there. Tookaram asked me if any one was there, and I replied that I could see no one about. He then took the body of the deceased from the loft, and having wrapped it up in his saree, asked me to accompany him to the steps of the quarry, and I did so. The 'saree' now produced here was the same. Besides the 'saree', there was also a 'cholee' on the body. He then carried the body in his arms, and went up the steps, through the stable, and then to the right hand towards a Sahib's bungalow, where Tookaram placed the body near a wall. All the time I and my mother were with him. When the body was taken down, Yessoo was lying on the cot. After depositing the body under the wall, we all returned home, and soon after 5 a.m. the police again came and took Tookaram away. About an hour after they returned and took me and my mother away. We were questioned about it, when I made a statement. Two hours later I was taken to the room, and I pointed out this waistband, the 'dhotur', the mattress, and the wooden post to Superintendent Nolan and Inspectors Roberts and Rashanali, in the presence of my mother and Tookaram. Tookaram killed the girl Cassi for her ornaments, which he wanted for the girl to whom he was shortly going to be married. The body was found in the same place where it was deposited by Tookaram."
The criminal side of the native has always been picturesque, always readable. The Thuggee and one or two other particularly outrageous features of it have been suppressed by the English, but there is enough of it left to keep it darkly interesting. One finds evidence of these survivals in the newspapers. Macaulay has a light-throwing passage upon this matter in his great historical sketch of Warren Hastings, where he is describing some effects which followed the temporary paralysis of Hastings' powerful government brought about by Sir Philip Francis and his party:
"The natives considered Hastings as a fallen man; and they acted after their kind. Some of our readers may have seen, in India, a cloud of crows pecking a sick vulture to death—no bad type of what happens in that country as often as fortune deserts one who has been great and dreaded. In an instant all the sycophants, who had lately been ready to lie for him, to forge for him, to pander for him, to poison for him, hasten to purchase the favor of his victorious enemies by accusing him. An Indian government has only to let it be understood that it wishes a particular man to be ruined, and in twenty-four hours it will be furnished with grave charges, supported by depositions so full and circumstantial that any person unaccustomed to Asiatic mendacity would regard them as decisive. It is well if the signature of the destined victim is not counterfeited at the foot of some illegal compact, and if some treasonable paper is not slipped into a hiding-place in his house."
That was nearly a century and a quarter ago. An article in one of the chief journals of India (the Pioneer) shows that in some respects the native of to-day is just what his ancestor was then. Here are niceties of so subtle and delicate a sort that they lift their breed of rascality to a place among the fine arts, and almost entitle it to respect:
"The records of the Indian courts might certainly be relied upon to prove that swindlers as a class in the East come very close to, if they do not surpass, in brilliancy of execution and originality of design the most expert of their fraternity in Europe and America. India in especial is the home of forgery. There are some particular districts which are noted as marts for the finest specimens of the forger's handiwork. The business is carried on by firms who possess stores of stamped papers to suit every emergency. They habitually lay in a store of fresh stamped papers every year, and some of the older and more thriving houses can supply documents for the past forty years, bearing the proper water-mark and possessing the genuine appearance of age. Other districts have earned notoriety for skilled perjury, a pre-eminence that excites a respectful admiration when one thinks of the universal prevalence of the art, and persons desirous of succeeding in false suits are ready to pay handsomely to avail themselves of the services of these local experts as witnesses."
Various instances illustrative of the methods of these swindlers are given. They exhibit deep cunning and total depravity on the part of the swindler and his pals, and more obtuseness on the part of the victim than one would expect to find in a country where suspicion of your neighbor must surely be one of the earliest things learned. The favorite subject is the young fool who has just come into a fortune and is trying to see how poor a use he can put it to. I will quote one example:
"Sometimes another form of confidence trick is adopted, which is invariably successful. The particular pigeon is spotted, and, his acquaintance having been made, he is encouraged in every form of vice. When the friendship is thoroughly established, the swindler remarks to the young man that he has a brother who has asked him to lend him Rs.10,000. The swindler says he has the money and would lend it; but, as the borrower is his brother, he cannot charge interest. So he proposes that he should hand the dupe the money, and the latter should lend it to the swindler's brother, exacting a heavy pre-payment of interest which, it is pointed out, they may equally enjoy in dissipation. The dupe sees no objection, and on the appointed day receives Rs.7,000 from the swindler, which he hands over to the confederate. The latter is profuse in his thanks, and executes a promissory note for Rs.10,000, payable to bearer. The swindler allows the scheme to remain quiescent for a time, and then suggests that, as the money has not been repaid and as it would be unpleasant to sue his brother, it would be better to sell the note in the bazaar. The dupe hands the note over, for the money he advanced was not his, and, on being informed that it would be necessary to have his signature on the back so as to render the security negotiable, he signs without any hesitation. The swindler passes it on to confederates, and the latter employ a respectable firm of solicitors to ask the dupe if his signature is genuine. He admits it at once, and his fate is sealed. A suit is filed by a confederate against the dupe, two accomplices being made co-defendants. They admit their Signatures as indorsers, and the one swears he bought the note for value from the dupe. The latter has no defense, for no court would believe the apparently idle explanation of the manner in which he came to endorse the note."
There is only one India! It is the only country that has a monopoly of grand and imposing specialties. When another country has a remarkable thing, it cannot have it all to itself—some other country has a duplicate. But India—that is different. Its marvels are its own; the patents cannot be infringed; imitations are not possible. And think of the size of them, the majesty of them, the weird and outlandish character of the most of them!
There is the Plague, the Black Death: India invented it; India is the cradle of that mighty birth.
The Car of Juggernaut was India's invention.
So was the Suttee; and within the time of men still living eight hundred widows willingly, and, in fact, rejoicingly, burned themselves to death on the bodies of their dead husbands in a single year. Eight hundred would do it this year if the British government would let them.
Famine is India's specialty. Elsewhere famines are inconsequential incidents—in India they are devastating cataclysms; in one case they annihilate hundreds; in the other, millions.
India had 2,000,000 gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.
With her everything is on a giant scale—even her poverty; no other country can show anything to compare with it. And she has been used to wealth on so vast a scale that she has to shorten to single words the expressions describing great sums. She describes 100,000 with one word —a 'lahk'; she describes ten millions with one word—a 'crore'.
In the bowels of the granite mountains she has patiently carved out dozens of vast temples, and made them glorious with sculptured colonnades and stately groups of statuary, and has adorned the eternal walls with noble paintings. She has built fortresses of such magnitude that the show-strongholds of the rest of the world are but modest little things by comparison; palaces that are wonders for rarity of materials, delicacy and beauty of workmanship, and for cost; and one tomb which men go around the globe to see. It takes eighty nations, speaking eighty languages, to people her, and they number three hundred millions.
On top of all this she is the mother and home of that wonder of wonders caste—and of that mystery of mysteries, the satanic brotherhood of the Thugs.
India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soil. It would seem as if she should have kept the lead, and should be to-day not the meek dependent of an alien master, but mistress of the world, and delivering law and command to every tribe and nation in it. But, in truth, there was never any possibility of such supremacy for her. If there had been but one India and one language—but there were eighty of them! Where there are eighty nations and several hundred governments, fighting and quarreling must be the common business of life; unity of purpose and policy are impossible; out of such elements supremacy in the world cannot come. Even caste itself could have had the defeating effect of a multiplicity of tongues, no doubt; for it separates a people into layers, and layers, and still other layers, that have no community of feeling with each other; and in such a condition of things as that, patriotism can have no healthy growth.
It was the division of the country into so many States and nations that made Thuggee possible and prosperous. It is difficult to realize the situation. But perhaps one may approximate it by imagining the States of our Union peopled by separate nations, speaking separate languages, with guards and custom-houses strung along all frontiers, plenty of interruptions for travelers and traders, interpreters able to handle all the languages very rare or non-existent, and a few wars always going on here and there and yonder as a further embarrassment to commerce and excursioning. It would make intercommunication in a measure ungeneral. India had eighty languages, and more custom-houses than cats. No clever man with the instinct of a highway robber could fail to notice what a chance for business was here offered. India was full of clever men with the highwayman instinct, and so, quite naturally, the brotherhood of the Thugs came into being to meet the long-felt want.
How long ago that was nobody knows-centuries, it is supposed. One of the chiefest wonders connected with it was the success with which it kept its secret. The English trader did business in India two hundred years and more before he ever heard of it; and yet it was assassinating its thousands all around him every year, the whole time.
The old saw says, "Let a sleeping dog lie." Right.... Still, when there is much at stake it is better to get a newspaper to do it. —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
January 28. I learned of an official Thug-book the other day. I was not aware before that there was such a thing. I am allowed the temporary use of it. We are making preparations for travel. Mainly the preparations are purchases of bedding. This is to be used in sleeping berths in the trains; in private houses sometimes; and in nine-tenths of the hotels. It is not realizable; and yet it is true. It is a survival; an apparently unnecessary thing which in some strange way has outlived the conditions which once made it necessary. It comes down from a time when the railway and the hotel did not exist; when the occasional white traveler went horseback or by bullock-cart, and stopped over night in the small dak-bungalow provided at easy distances by the government—a shelter, merely, and nothing more. He had to carry bedding along, or do without. The dwellings of the English residents are spacious and comfortable and commodiously furnished, and surely it must be an odd sight to see half a dozen guests come filing into such a place and dumping blankets and pillows here and there and everywhere. But custom makes incongruous things congruous.
One buys the bedding, with waterproof hold-all for it at almost any shop —there is no difficulty about it.
January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole world was present—half of it inside, the other half outside, and both halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight, trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one narrow door. These opposing floods were patient, gentle, long-suffering natives, with whites scattered among them at rare intervals; and wherever a white man's native servant appeared, that native seemed to have put aside his natural gentleness for the time and invested himself with the white man's privilege of making a way for himself by promptly shoving all intervening black things out of it. In these exhibitions of authority Satan was scandalous. He was probably a Thug in one of his former incarnations.
Inside the great station, tides upon tides of rainbow-costumed natives swept along, this way and that, in massed and bewildering confusion, eager, anxious, belated, distressed; and washed up to the long trains and flowed into them with their packs and bundles, and disappeared, followed at once by the next wash, the next wave. And here and there, in the midst of this hurly-burly, and seemingly undisturbed by it, sat great groups of natives on the bare stone floor,—young, slender brown women, old, gray wrinkled women, little soft brown babies, old men, young men, boys; all poor people, but all the females among them, both big and little, bejeweled with cheap and showy nose-rings, toe-rings, leglets, and armlets, these things constituting all their wealth, no doubt. These silent crowds sat there with their humble bundles and baskets and small household gear about them, and patiently waited—for what? A train that was to start at some time or other during the day or night! They hadn't timed themselves well, but that was no matter—the thing had been so ordered from on high, therefore why worry? There was plenty of time, hours and hours of it, and the thing that was to happen would happen —there was no hurrying it.
The natives traveled third class, and at marvelously cheap rates. They were packed and crammed into cars that held each about fifty; and it was said that often a Brahmin of the highest caste was thus brought into personal touch, and consequent defilement, with persons of the lowest castes—no doubt a very shocking thing if a body could understand it and properly appreciate it. Yes, a Brahmin who didn't own a rupee and couldn't borrow one, might have to touch elbows with a rich hereditary lord of inferior caste, inheritor of an ancient title a couple of yards long, and he would just have to stand it; for if either of the two was allowed to go in the cars where the sacred white people were, it probably wouldn't be the august poor Brahmin. There was an immense string of those third-class cars, for the natives travel by hordes; and a weary hard night of it the occupants would have, no doubt.
When we reached our car, Satan and Barney had already arrived there with their train of porters carrying bedding and parasols and cigar boxes, and were at work. We named him Barney for short; we couldn't use his real name, there wasn't time.
It was a car that promised comfort; indeed, luxury. Yet the cost of it —well, economy could no further go; even in France; not even in Italy. It was built of the plainest and cheapest partially-smoothed boards, with a coating of dull paint on them, and there was nowhere a thought of decoration. The floor was bare, but would not long remain so when the dust should begin to fly. Across one end of the compartment ran a netting for the accommodation of hand-baggage; at the other end was a door which would shut, upon compulsion, but wouldn't stay shut; it opened into a narrow little closet which had a wash-bowl in one end of it, and a place to put a towel, in case you had one with you—and you would be sure to have towels, because you buy them with the bedding, knowing that the railway doesn't furnish them. On each side of the car, and running fore and aft, was a broad leather-covered sofa to sit on in the day and sleep on at night. Over each sofa hung, by straps, a wide, flat, leather-covered shelf—to sleep on. In the daytime you can hitch it up against the wall, out of the way—and then you have a big unencumbered and most comfortable room to spread out in. No car in any country is quite its equal for comfort (and privacy) I think. For usually there are but two persons in it; and even when there are four there is but little sense of impaired privacy. Our own cars at home can surpass the railway world in all details but that one: they have no cosiness; there are too many people together.
At the foot of each sofa was a side-door, for entrance and exit. Along the whole length of the sofa on each side of the car ran a row of large single-plate windows, of a blue tint-blue to soften the bitter glare of the sun and protect one's eyes from torture. These could be let down out of the way when one wanted the breeze. In the roof were two oil lamps which gave a light strong enough to read by; each had a green-cloth attachment by which it could be covered when the light should be no longer needed.
While we talked outside with friends, Barney and Satan placed the hand-baggage, books, fruits, and soda-bottles in the racks, and the hold-alls and heavy baggage in the closet, hung the overcoats and sun-helmets and towels on the hooks, hoisted the two bed-shelves up out of the way, then shouldered their bedding and retired to the third class.
Now then, you see what a handsome, spacious, light, airy, homelike place it was, wherein to walk up and down, or sit and write, or stretch out and read and smoke. A central door in the forward end of the compartment opened into a similar compartment. It was occupied by my wife and daughter. About nine in the evening, while we halted a while at a station, Barney and Satan came and undid the clumsy big hold-alls, and spread the bedding on the sofas in both compartments—mattresses, sheets, gay coverlets, pillows, all complete; there are no chambermaids in India —apparently it was an office that was never heard of. Then they closed the communicating door, nimbly tidied up our place, put the night-clothing on the beds and the slippers under them, then returned to their own quarters.
January 31. It was novel and pleasant, and I stayed awake as long as I could, to enjoy it, and to read about those strange people the Thugs. In my sleep they remained with me, and tried to strangle me. The leader of the gang was that giant Hindoo who was such a picture in the strong light when we were leaving those Hindoo betrothal festivities at two o'clock in the morning—Rao Bahadur Baskirao Balinkanje Pitale, Vakeel to the Gaikwar of Baroda. It was he that brought me the invitation from his master to go to Baroda and lecture to that prince—and now he was misbehaving in my dreams. But all things can happen in dreams. It is indeed as the Sweet Singer of Michigan says—irrelevantly, of course, for the one and unfailing great quality which distinguishes her poetry from Shakespeare's and makes it precious to us is its stern and simple irrelevancy:
My heart was gay and happy, This was ever in my mind, There is better times a coming, And I hope some day to find Myself capable of composing, It was my heart's delight To compose on a sentimental subject If it came in my mind just right.
—["The Sentimental Song Book," p. 49; theme, "The Author's Early Life," 19th stanza.]
Barroda. Arrived at 7 this morning. The dawn was just beginning to show. It was forlorn to have to turn out in a strange place at such a time, and the blinking lights in the station made it seem night still. But the gentlemen who had come to receive us were there with their servants, and they make quick work; there was no lost time. We were soon outside and moving swiftly through the soft gray light, and presently were comfortably housed—with more servants to help than we were used to, and with rather embarassingly important officials to direct them. But it was custom; they spoke Ballarat English, their bearing was charming and hospitable, and so all went well.
Breakfast was a satisfaction. Across the lawns was visible in the distance through the open window an Indian well, with two oxen tramping leisurely up and down long inclines, drawing water; and out of the stillness came the suffering screech of the machinery—not quite musical, and yet soothingly melancholy and dreamy and reposeful—a wail of lost spirits, one might imagine. And commemorative and reminiscent, perhaps; for of course the Thugs used to throw people down that well when they were done with them.
After breakfast the day began, a sufficiently busy one. We were driven by winding roads through a vast park, with noble forests of great trees, and with tangles and jungles of lovely growths of a humbler sort; and at one place three large gray apes came out and pranced across the road—a good deal of a surprise and an unpleasant one, for such creatures belong in the menagerie, and they look artificial and out of place in a wilderness.
We came to the city, by and by, and drove all through it. Intensely Indian, it was, and crumbly, and mouldering, and immemorially old, to all appearance. And the houses—oh, indescribably quaint and curious they were, with their fronts an elaborate lace-work of intricate and beautiful wood-carving, and now and then further adorned with rude pictures of elephants and princes and gods done in shouting colors; and all the ground floors along these cramped and narrow lanes occupied as shops —shops unbelievably small and impossibly packed with merchantable rubbish, and with nine-tenths-naked natives squatting at their work of hammering, pounding, brazing, soldering, sewing, designing, cooking, measuring out grain, grinding it, repairing idols—and then the swarm of ragged and noisy humanity under the horses' feet and everywhere, and the pervading reek and fume and smell! It was all wonderful and delightful.
Imagine a file of elephants marching through such a crevice of a street and scraping the paint off both sides of it with their hides. How big they must look, and how little they must make the houses look; and when the elephants are in their glittering court costume, what a contrast they must make with the humble and sordid surroundings. And when a mad elephant goes raging through, belting right and left with his trunk, how do these swarms of people get out of the way? I suppose it is a thing which happens now and then in the mad season (for elephants have a mad season).
I wonder how old the town is. There are patches of building—massive structures, monuments, apparently—that are so battered and worn, and seemingly so tired and so burdened with the weight of age, and so dulled and stupefied with trying to remember things they forgot before history began, that they give one the feeling that they must have been a part of original Creation. This is indeed one of the oldest of the princedoms of India, and has always been celebrated for its barbaric pomps and splendors, and for the wealth of its princes.
It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you. —Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Out of the town again; a long drive through open country, by winding roads among secluded villages nestling in the inviting shade of tropic vegetation, a Sabbath stillness everywhere, sometimes a pervading sense of solitude, but always barefoot natives gliding by like spirits, without sound of footfall, and others in the distance dissolving away and vanishing like the creatures of dreams. Now and then a string of stately camels passed by—always interesting things to look at—and they were velvet-shod by nature, and made no noise. Indeed, there were no noises of any sort in this paradise. Yes, once there was one, for a moment: a file of native convicts passed along in charge of an officer, and we caught the soft clink of their chains. In a retired spot, resting himself under a tree, was a holy person—a naked black fakeer, thin and skinny, and whitey-gray all over with ashes.
By and by to the elephant stables, and I took a ride; but it was by request—I did not ask for it, and didn't want it; but I took it, because otherwise they would have thought I was afraid, which I was. The elephant kneels down, by command—one end of him at a time—and you climb the ladder and get into the howdah, and then he gets up, one end at a time, just as a ship gets up over a wave; and after that, as he strides monstrously about, his motion is much like a ship's motion. The mahout bores into the back of his head with a great iron prod and you wonder at his temerity and at the elephant's patience, and you think that perhaps the patience will not last; but it does, and nothing happens. The mahout talks to the elephant in a low voice all the time, and the elephant seems to understand it all and to be pleased with it; and he obeys every order in the most contented and docile way. Among these twenty-five elephants were two which were larger than any I had ever seen before, and if I had thought I could learn to not be afraid, I would have taken one of them while the police were not looking.
In the howdah-house there were many howdahs that were made of silver, one of gold, and one of old ivory, and equipped with cushions and canopies of rich and costly stuffs. The wardrobe of the elephants was there, too; vast velvet covers stiff and heavy with gold embroidery; and bells of silver and gold; and ropes of these metals for fastening the things on harness, so to speak; and monster hoops of massive gold for the elephant to wear on his ankles when he is out in procession on business of state.
But we did not see the treasury of crown jewels, and that was a disappointment, for in mass and richness it ranks only second in India. By mistake we were taken to see the new palace instead, and we used up the last remnant of our spare time there. It was a pity, too; for the new palace is mixed modern American-European, and has not a merit except costliness. It is wholly foreign to India, and impudent and out of place. The architect has escaped. This comes of overdoing the suppression of the Thugs; they had their merits. The old palace is oriental and charming, and in consonance with the country. The old palace would still be great if there were nothing of it but the spacious and lofty hall where the durbars are held. It is not a good place to lecture in, on account of the echoes, but it is a good place to hold durbars in and regulate the affairs of a kingdom, and that is what it is for. If I had it I would have a durbar every day, instead of once or twice a year.
The prince is an educated gentleman. His culture is European. He has been in Europe five times. People say that this is costly amusement for him, since in crossing the sea he must sometimes be obliged to drink water from vessels that are more or less public, and thus damage his caste. To get it purified again he must make pilgrimage to some renowned Hindoo temples and contribute a fortune or two to them. His people are like the other Hindoos, profoundly religious; and they could not be content with a master who was impure.
We failed to see the jewels, but we saw the gold cannon and the silver one—they seemed to be six-pounders. They were not designed for business, but for salutes upon rare and particularly important state occasions. An ancestor of the present Gaikwar had the silver one made, and a subsequent ancestor had the gold one made, in order to outdo him.
This sort of artillery is in keeping with the traditions of Baroda, which was of old famous for style and show. It used to entertain visiting rajahs and viceroys with tiger-fights, elephant-fights, illuminations, and elephant-processions of the most glittering and gorgeous character.
It makes the circus a pale, poor thing.
In the train, during a part of the return journey from Baroda, we had the company of a gentleman who had with him a remarkable looking dog. I had not seen one of its kind before, as far as I could remember; though of course I might have seen one and not noticed it, for I am not acquainted with dogs, but only with cats. This dog's coat was smooth and shiny and black, and I think it had tan trimmings around the edges of the dog, and perhaps underneath. It was a long, low dog, with very short, strange legs—legs that curved inboard, something like parentheses wrong way (. Indeed, it was made on the plan of a bench for length and lowness. It seemed to be satisfied, but I thought the plan poor, and structurally weak, on account of the distance between the forward supports and those abaft. With age the dog's back was likely to sag; and it seemed to me that it would have been a stronger and more practicable dog if it had had some more legs. It had not begun to sag yet, but the shape of the legs showed that the undue weight imposed upon them was beginning to tell. It had a long nose, and floppy ears that hung down, and a resigned expression of countenance. I did not like to ask what kind of a dog it was, or how it came to be deformed, for it was plain that the gentleman was very fond of it, and naturally he could be sensitive about it. From delicacy I thought it best not to seem to notice it too much. No doubt a man with a dog like that feels just as a person does who has a child that is out of true. The gentleman was not merely fond of the dog, he was also proud of it—just the same again, as a mother feels about her child when it is an idiot. I could see that he was proud of it, not-withstanding it was such a long dog and looked so resigned and pious. It had been all over the world with him, and had been pilgriming like that for years and years. It had traveled 50,000 miles by sea and rail, and had ridden in front of him on his horse 8,000. It had a silver medal from the Geographical Society of Great Britain for its travels, and I saw it. It had won prizes in dog shows, both in India and in England—I saw them. He said its pedigree was on record in the Kennel Club, and that it was a well-known dog. He said a great many people in London could recognize it the moment they saw it. I did not say anything, but I did not think it anything strange; I should know that dog again, myself, yet I am not careful about noticing dogs. He said that when he walked along in London, people often stopped and looked at the dog. Of course I did not say anything, for I did not want to hurt his feelings, but I could have explained to him that if you take a great long low dog like that and waddle it along the street anywhere in the world and not charge anything, people will stop and look. He was gratified because the dog took prizes. But that was nothing; if I were built like that I could take prizes myself. I wished I knew what kind of a dog it was, and what it was for, but I could not very well ask, for that would show that I did not know. Not that I want a dog like that, but only to know the secret of its birth.
I think he was going to hunt elephants with it, because I know, from remarks dropped by him, that he has hunted large game in India and Africa, and likes it. But I think that if he tries to hunt elephants with it, he is going to be disappointed.
I do not believe that it is suited for elephants. It lacks energy, it lacks force of character, it lacks bitterness. These things all show in the meekness and resignation of its expression. It would not attack an elephant, I am sure of it. It might not run if it saw one coming, but it looked to me like a dog that would sit down and pray.
I wish he had told me what breed it was, if there are others; but I shall know the dog next time, and then if I can bring myself to it I will put delicacy aside and ask. If I seem strangely interested in dogs, I have a reason for it; for a dog saved me from an embarrassing position once, and that has made me grateful to these animals; and if by study I could learn to tell some of the kinds from the others, I should be greatly pleased. I only know one kind apart, yet, and that is the kind that saved me that time. I always know that kind when I meet it, and if it is hungry or lost I take care of it. The matter happened in this way
It was years and years ago. I had received a note from Mr. Augustin Daly of the Fifth Avenue Theatre, asking me to call the next time I should be in New York. I was writing plays, in those days, and he was admiring them and trying to get me a chance to get them played in Siberia. I took the first train—the early one—the one that leaves Hartford at 8.29 in the morning. At New Haven I bought a paper, and found it filled with glaring display-lines about a "bench-show" there. I had often heard of bench-shows, but had never felt any interest in them, because I supposed they were lectures that were not well attended. It turned out, now, that it was not that, but a dog-show. There was a double-leaded column about the king-feature of this one, which was called a Saint Bernard, and was worth $10,000, and was known to be the largest and finest of his species in the world. I read all this with interest, because out of my school-boy readings I dimly remembered how the priests and pilgrims of St. Bernard used to go out in the storms and dig these dogs out of the snowdrifts when lost and exhausted, and give them brandy and save their lives, and drag them to the monastery and restore them with gruel.
Also, there was a picture of this prize-dog in the paper, a noble great creature with a benignant countenance, standing by a table. He was placed in that way so that one could get a right idea of his great dimensions. You could see that he was just a shade higher than the table—indeed, a huge fellow for a dog. Then there was a description which event into the details. It gave his enormous weight—150 1/2 pounds, and his length 4 feet 2 inches, from stem to stern-post; and his height—3 feet 1 inch, to the top of his back. The pictures and the figures so impressed me, that I could see the beautiful colossus before me, and I kept on thinking about him for the next two hours; then I reached New York, and he dropped out of my mind.
In the swirl and tumult of the hotel lobby I ran across Mr. Daly's comedian, the late James Lewis, of beloved memory, and I casually mentioned that I was going to call upon Mr. Daly in the evening at 8. He looked surprised, and said he reckoned not. For answer I handed him Mr. Daly's note. Its substance was: "Come to my private den, over the theater, where we cannot be interrupted. And come by the back way, not the front. No. 642 Sixth Avenue is a cigar shop; pass through it and you are in a paved court, with high buildings all around; enter the second door on the left, and come up stairs."
"Is this all?"
"Yes," I said.
"Well, you'll never get in"
"Because you won't. Or if you do you can draw on me for a hundred dollars; for you will be the first man that has accomplished it in twenty-five years. I can't think what Mr. Daly can have been absorbed in. He has forgotten a most important detail, and he will feel humiliated in the morning when he finds that you tried to get in and couldn't."
"Why, what is the trouble?"
"I'll tell you. You see——"
At that point we were swept apart by the crowd, somebody detained me with a moment's talk, and we did not get together again. But it did not matter; I believed he was joking, anyway.
At eight in the evening I passed through the cigar shop and into the court and knocked at the second door.
I entered. It was a small room, carpetless, dusty, with a naked deal table, and two cheap wooden chairs for furniture. A giant Irishman was standing there, with shirt collar and vest unbuttoned, and no coat on. I put my hat on the table, and was about to say something, when the Irishman took the innings himself. And not with marked courtesy of tone:
"Well, sor, what will you have?"
I was a little disconcerted, and my easy confidence suffered a shrinkage. The man stood as motionless as Gibraltar, and kept his unblinking eye upon me. It was very embarrassing, very humiliating. I stammered at a false start or two; then——
"I have just run down from——"
"Av ye plaze, ye'll not smoke here, ye understand."
I laid my cigar on the window-ledge; chased my flighty thoughts a moment, then said in a placating manner:
"I—I have come to see Mr. Daly."
"Oh, ye have, have ye?"
"Well, ye'll not see him."
"But he asked me to come."
"Oh, he did, did he?"
"Yes, he sent me this note, and——"
"Lemme see it."
For a moment I fancied there would be a change in the atmosphere, now; but this idea was premature. The big man was examining the note searchingly under the gas-jet. A glance showed me that he had it upside down—disheartening evidence that he could not read.
"Is ut his own handwrite?"
"Yes—he wrote it himself."
"He did, did he?"
"H'm. Well, then, why ud he write it like that?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mane, why wudn't he put his naime to ut?"
"His name is to it. That's not it—you are looking at my name."
I thought that that was a home shot, but he did not betray that he had been hit. He said:
"It's not an aisy one to spell; how do you pronounce ut?"
"H'm. H'm. Mike Train. H'm. I don't remember ut. What is it ye want to see him about?"
"It isn't I that want to see him, he wants to see me."
"Oh, he does, does he?"
"What does he want to see ye about?"
"I don't know."
"Ye don't know! And ye confess it, becod! Well, I can tell ye wan thing—ye'll not see him. Are ye in the business?"
"The show business."
A fatal question. I recognized that I was defeated. If I answered no, he would cut the matter short and wave me to the door without the grace of a word—I saw it in his uncompromising eye; if I said I was a lecturer, he would despise me, and dismiss me with opprobrious words; if I said I was a dramatist, he would throw me out of the window. I saw that my case was hopeless, so I chose the course which seemed least humiliating: I would pocket my shame and glide out without answering. The silence was growing lengthy.