In the evening, lamps shining out through latticed windows lighted the faithful in their pious gymnastics. A moollah's chant in the distance rose high overhead, and very shrill, and in the darkness the stars shed pale light on the tombstones mirrored in the black water; a plaintive flute softly carried on the sound of the priests' prayers. Down the dark streets the folk, walking barefoot without a sound, and wrapped in white, looked like ghosts. Children were selling whortleberries in plaited baskets; they came up very shyly, and as soon as they had sold their spoil hurried back to hide in their nook. Further on a little Afghan boy, standing alone and motionless by the roadside, held out three eggs for sale.

Then, in the magic of the evening, the air was saturated with fragrance; invisible gardenias, amaryllis, and lemon-flowers perfumed the cool night. On every side we could hear the quavering guzla, the sound of tom-toms and tambourines. The streets were brightly lighted up and crowded.

Seen through the blue glass under the low, broad carapace that covered the carriage, the landscape circled past, the colour hardly subdued to that of Europe; even in the dusk, with the windows open, everything was still intolerably, crudely white, with reflections of fiery gold. Everything vibrated in the heat, and at the stations the walls after baking all day scorched you when you went near. [Pg 12]

A naked fakir, his brown skin plastered with flour, and his long black hair all matted, bent over the bodies muttering holy words; then flourishing two yellow rags that he took out of a wallet hanging from his shoulder, he exorcised the station, driving away the spectre of the pestilence; going very fast, running along the line by which the evil had come, and vanishing where the rails ended behind the trees. For our noonday rest I took shelter under a wood-carver's shed. On the ground was a large plank in which, with a clumsy chisel, he carved out circles, alternating with plane-leaves and palms. The shavings, fine as hairs, gleamed in the sun, and gave out a scent of violets. The man, dressed in white and a pink turban, with necklaces and bangles on his arms of bright brass, sang as he tapped with little blows, and seemed happy to be alive in the world. He gave us permission to sit in the shade of his stall, but scorned to converse with Abibulla. BHAWNAGAR

As we reached Bunnoo green cornfields extended as far as the eye could see, under mulberry trees just unfolding their leaves. Numberless channels of water irrigated the land; the bed of the Kurrum[Pg 275] alone, quite white, was flecked here and there with blue pools, and was presently lost in the rosy distance of the hills on the Afghan frontier.

In the island of Srirangam we visited a temple to Vishnu, enclosed within eight walls, of which the three first only contain any dwellings. A crowd of pilgrims swarmed about the steps, where everything was on sale: little gods in bronze, in painted marble, in clay, and in wood; paper for[Pg 111] writing prayers on; sacred books; red and white face-paints, such as the worshippers of Vishnu use to mark their foreheads with a V; little baskets to hold the colours, with three or four divisions, and a mirror at the bottom; coco-nuts containing kohl; stuffs of every dye; religious pictures, artless indeed, and painted with laborious dabs of the brush in the presence of the customer; chromo-lithographs from Europe, sickeningly insipid and mawkishly pretty.

A delightful surprise was a museum of Indian art, the first I had seen, a fine collection and admirably arranged;[A] but the natives who resorted hither to enjoy the cool shelter of the galleries talked to each other from a distance, as is their universal custom, at the top of their voices, which rang doubly loud under the echoing vaults.

And as the priests knew that the beast would need no help they again left me to myself. Up came the elephant at a brisk trot, flourishing his trunk and hooting; within two yards of me he stopped and stood still. He accepted a four-anna piece that I offered him, and handed it up for his driver, but finding no one on his back he put the coin back into my pocket, and sniffing all over my coat found a biscuit, ate it, and then quietly went back to his stable.

In the evening the priest would say prayers over the couplethe bride being probably about fiveand the bridegroom would stay with the little bride's parents. Next day she would spend with the boy's parents, and after that they would both go back to their lessons and probably never meet again, unless they were very near neighbours, till he, having attained the age of fifteen, they would be really married.

At Byculla in the evening we went to Grant Road, the haunt of the street beauties, where the gambling-houses are. At the open windows under the lighted lamps were coarsely-painted women dressed in gaudy finery. In the entries were more of such women, sitting motionless in the attitude of idols; some of them real marvelsthin, slender bronze limbs scarcely veiled in dark, transparent gauze, gold rings round their neck and arms, and heavy nanparas on their ankles.

When the express had arrived that morning from Bombay, eight bodies were found of victims to the plague who had died on the way. They were laid on the platform and covered with a white sheet; and in the station there was a perfect panic, a surge of terror which spread to the town, and broke up the market. The shops were all shut, and the people rushed to their knees before the idols in the temples.