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Following the Equator, Part 5 by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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run the blockade of Augustin Daly's back door.

CHAPTER XLVI.

If the desire to kill and the opportunity to kill came always together,
who would escape hanging.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

On the Train. Fifty years ago, when I was a boy in the then remote and
sparsely peopled Mississippi valley, vague tales and rumors of a
mysterious body of professional murderers came wandering in from a
country which was constructively as far from us as the constellations
blinking in space--India; vague tales and rumors of a sect called Thugs,
who waylaid travelers in lonely places and killed them for the
contentment of a god whom they worshiped; tales which everybody liked to
listen to and nobody believed, except with reservations. It was
considered that the stories had gathered bulk on their travels. The
matter died down and a lull followed. Then Eugene Sue's "Wandering Jew"
appeared, and made great talk for a while. One character in it was a
chief of Thugs--"Feringhea"--a mysterious and terrible Indian who was as
slippery and sly as a serpent, and as deadly; and he stirred up the Thug
interest once more. But it did not last. It presently died again this
time to stay dead.

At first glance it seems strange that this should have happened; but
really it was not strange--on the contrary,. it was natural; I mean on
our side of the water. For the source whence the Thug tales mainly came
was a Government Report, and without doubt was not republished in
America; it was probably never even seen there. Government Reports have
no general circulation. They are distributed to the few, and are not
always read by those few. I heard of this Report for the first time a
day or two ago, and borrowed it. It is full of fascinations; and it
turns those dim, dark fairy tales of my boyhood days into realities.

The Report was made in 1889 by Major Sleeman, of the Indian Service, and
was printed in Calcutta in 1840. It is a clumsy, great, fat, poor sample
of the printer's art, but good enough for a government printing-office in
that old day and in that remote region, perhaps. To Major Sleeman was
given the general superintendence of the giant task of ridding India of
Thuggee, and he and his seventeen assistants accomplished it. It was the
Augean Stables over again. Captain Vallancey, writing in a Madras
journal in those old times, makes this remark:

"The day that sees this far-spread evil eradicated from India and
known only in name, will greatly tend to immortalize British rule in
the East."

He did not overestimate the magnitude and difficulty of the work, nor the
immensity of the credit which would justly be due to British rule in case
it was accomplished.

Thuggee became known to the British authorities in India about 1810, but
its wide prevalence was not suspected; it was not regarded as a serious
matter, and no systematic measures were taken for its suppression until
about 1830. About that time Major Sleeman captured Eugene Sue's
Thug-chief, "Feringhea," and got him to turn King's evidence. The
revelations were so stupefying that Sleeman was not able to believe them.
Sleeman thought he knew every criminal within his jurisdiction, and that
the worst of them were merely thieves; but Feringhea told him that he was
in reality living in the midst of a swarm of professional murderers; that
they had been all about him for many years, and that they buried their
dead close by. These seemed insane tales; but Feringhea said come and
see--and he took him to a grave and dug up a hundred bodies, and told him
all the circumstances of the killings, and named the Thugs who had done
the work. It was a staggering business. Sleeman captured some of these
Thugs and proceeded to examine them separately, and with proper
precautions against collusion; for he would not believe any Indian's
unsupported word. The evidence gathered proved the truth of what
Feringhea had said, and also revealed the fact that gangs of Thugs were
plying their trade all over India. The astonished government now took
hold of Thuggee, and for ten years made systematic and relentless war
upon it, and finally destroyed it. Gang after gang was captured, tried,
and punished. The Thugs were harried and hunted from one end of India to
the other. The government got all their secrets out of them; and also
got the names of the members of the bands, and recorded them in a book,
together with their birthplaces and places of residence.

The Thugs were worshipers of Bhowanee; and to this god they sacrificed
anybody that came handy; but they kept the dead man's things themselves,
for the god cared for nothing but the corpse. Men were initiated into
the sect with solemn ceremonies. Then they were taught how to strangle a
person with the sacred choke-cloth, but were not allowed to perform
officially with it until after long practice. No half-educated strangler
could choke a man to death quickly enough to keep him from uttering a
sound--a muffled scream, gurgle, gasp, moan, or something of the sort;
but the expert's work was instantaneous: the cloth was whipped around the
victim's neck, there was a sudden twist, and the head fell silently
forward, the eyes starting from the sockets; and all was over. The Thug
carefully guarded against resistance. It was usual to to get the victims
to sit down, for that was the handiest position for business.

If the Thug had planned India itself it could not have been more
conveniently arranged for the needs of his occupation.

There were no public conveyances. There were no conveyances for hire.
The traveler went on foot or in a bullock cart or on a horse which he
bought for the purpose. As soon as he was out of his own little State or
principality he was among strangers; nobody knew him, nobody took note of
him, and from that time his movements could no longer be traced. He did
not stop in towns or villages, but camped outside of them and sent his
servants in to buy provisions. There were no habitations between
villages. Whenever he was between villages he was an easy prey,
particularly as he usually traveled by night, to avoid the heat. He was
always being overtaken by strangers who offered him the protection of
their company, or asked for the protection of his--and these strangers
were often Thugs, as he presently found out to his cost. The
landholders, the native police, the petty princes, the village officials,
the customs officers were in many cases protectors and harborers of the
Thugs, and betrayed travelers to them for a share of the spoil. At first
this condition of things made it next to impossible for the government to
catch the marauders; they were spirited away by these watchful friends.
All through a vast continent, thus infested, helpless people of every
caste and kind moved along the paths and trails in couples and groups
silently by night, carrying the commerce of the country--treasure,
jewels, money, and petty batches of silks, spices, and all manner of
wares. It was a paradise for the Thug.

When the autumn opened, the Thugs began to gather together by
pre-concert. Other people had to have interpreters at every turn, but
not the Thugs; they could talk together, no matter how far apart they
were born, for they had a language of their own, and they had secret
signs by which they knew each other for Thugs; and they were always
friends. Even their diversities of religion and caste were sunk in
devotion to their calling, and the Moslem and the high-caste and
low-caste Hindoo were staunch and affectionate brothers in Thuggery.

When a gang had been assembled, they had religious worship, and waited
for an omen. They had definite notions about the omens. The cries of
certain animals were good omens, the cries of certain other creatures
were bad omens. A bad omen would stop proceedings and send the men home.

The sword and the strangling-cloth were sacred emblems. The Thugs
worshiped the sword at home before going out to the assembling-place; the
strangling-cloth was worshiped at the place of assembly. The chiefs of
most of the bands performed the religious ceremonies themselves; but the
Kaets delegated them to certain official stranglers (Chaurs). The rites
of the Kaets were so holy that no one but the Chaur was allowed to touch
the vessels and other things used in them.

Thug methods exhibit a curious mixture of caution and the absence of it;
cold business calculation and sudden, unreflecting impulse; but there
were two details which were constant, and not subject to caprice: patient
persistence in following up the prey, and pitilessness when the time came
to act.

Caution was exhibited in the strength of the bands. They never felt
comfortable and confident unless their strength exceeded that of any
party of travelers they were likely to meet by four or fivefold. Yet it
was never their purpose to attack openly, but only when the victims were
off their guard. When they got hold of a party of travelers they often
moved along in their company several days, using all manner of arts to
win their friendship and get their confidence. At last, when this was
accomplished to their satisfaction, the real business began. A few Thugs
were privately detached and sent forward in the dark to select a good
killing-place and dig the graves. When the rest reached the spot a halt
was called, for a rest or a smoke. The travelers were invited to sit.
By signs, the chief appointed certain Thugs to sit down in front of the
travelers as if to wait upon them, others to sit down beside them and
engage them in conversation, and certain expert stranglers to stand
behind the travelers and be ready when the signal was given. The signal
was usually some commonplace remark, like "Bring the tobacco." Sometimes
a considerable wait ensued after all the actors were in their places--the
chief was biding his time, in order to make everything sure. Meantime,
the talk droned on, dim figures moved about in the dull light, peace and
tranquility reigned, the travelers resigned themselves to the pleasant
reposefulness and comfort of the situation, unconscious of the
death-angels standing motionless at their backs. The time was ripe, now,
and the signal came: "Bring the tobacco." There was a mute swift
movement, all in the same instant the men at each victim's sides seized
his hands, the man in front seized his feet, and pulled, the man at his
back whipped the cloth around his neck and gave it a twist the head sunk
forward, the tragedy was over. The bodies were stripped and covered up
in the graves, the spoil packed for transportation, then the Thugs gave
pious thanks to Bhowanee, and departed on further holy service.

The Report shows that the travelers moved in exceedingly small groups
--twos, threes, fours, as a rule; a party with a dozen in it was rare. The
Thugs themselves seem to have been the only people who moved in force.
They went about in gangs of 10, 15, 25, 40, 60, 100, 150, 200, 250, and
one gang of 310 is mentioned. Considering their numbers, their catch was
not extraordinary--particularly when you consider that they were not in
the least fastidious, but took anybody they could get, whether rich or
poor, and sometimes even killed children. Now and then they killed
women, but it was considered sinful to do it, and unlucky. The "season"
was six or eight months long. One season the half dozen Bundelkand and
Gwalior gangs aggregated 712 men, and they murdered 210 people. One
season the Malwa and Kandeish gangs aggregated 702 men, and they murdered
232. One season the Kandeish and Berar gangs aggregated 963 men, and
they murdered 385 people.

Here is the tally-sheet of a gang of sixty Thugs for a whole season--gang
under two noted chiefs, "Chotee and Sheik Nungoo from Gwalior":

"Left Poora, in Jhansee, and on arrival at Sarora murdered a
traveler.

"On nearly reaching Bhopal, met 3 Brahmins, and murdered them.

"Cross the Nerbudda; at a village called Hutteea, murdered a Hindoo.

"Went through Aurungabad to Walagow; there met a Havildar of the
barber caste and 5 sepoys (native soldiers); in the evening came to
Jokur, and in the morning killed them near the place where the
treasure-bearers were killed the year before.

"Between Jokur and Dholeea met a sepoy of the shepherd caste; killed
him in the jungle.

"Passed through Dholeea and lodged in a village; two miles beyond,
on the road to Indore, met a Byragee (beggar-holy mendicant);
murdered him at the Thapa.

"In the morning, beyond the Thapa, fell in with 3 Marwarie
travelers; murdered them.

"Near a village on the banks of the Taptee met 4 travelers and
killed them.

"Between Choupra and Dhoreea met a Marwarie; murdered him.

"At Dhoreea met 3 Marwaries; took them two miles and murdered them.

"Two miles further on, overtaken by three treasure-bearers; took
them two miles and murdered them in the jungle.

"Came on to Khurgore Bateesa in Indore, divided spoil, and
dispersed.

"A total of 27 men murdered on one expedition."

Chotee (to save his neck) was informer, and furnished these facts.
Several things are noticeable about his resume. 1. Business brevity;
2, absence of emotion; 3, smallness of the parties encountered by the 60;
4, variety in character and quality of the game captured; 5, Hindoo and
Mohammedan chiefs in business together for Bhowanee; 6, the sacred caste
of the Brahmins not respected by either; 7, nor yet the character of that
mendicant, that Byragee.

A beggar is a holy creature, and some of the gangs spared him on that
account, no matter how slack business might be; but other gangs
slaughtered not only him, but even that sacredest of sacred creatures,
the fakeer--that repulsive skin-and-bone thing that goes around naked and
mats his bushy hair with dust and dirt, and so beflours his lean body
with ashes that he looks like a specter. Sometimes a fakeer trusted a
shade too far in the protection of his sacredness. In the middle of a
tally-sheet of Feringhea's, who had been out with forty Thugs, I find a
case of the kind. After the killing of thirty-nine men and one woman,
the fakeer appears on the scene:

"Approaching Doregow, met 3 pundits; also a fakeer, mounted on a
pony; he was plastered over with sugar to collect flies, and was
covered with them. Drove off the fakeer, and killed the other
three.

"Leaving Doregow, the fakeer joined again, and went on in company to
Raojana; met 6 Khutries on their way from Bombay to Nagpore. Drove
off the fakeer with stones, and killed the 6 men in camp, and buried
them in the grove.

"Next day the fakeer joined again; made him leave at Mana. Beyond
there, fell in with two Kahars and a sepoy, and came on towards the
place selected for the murder. When near it, the fakeer came again.
Losing all patience with him, gave Mithoo, one of the gang, 5 rupees
($2.50) to murder him, and take the sin upon himself. All four were
strangled, including the fakeer. Surprised to find among the
fakeer's effects 30 pounds of coral, 350 strings of small pearls, 15
strings of large pearls, and a gilt necklace."

It it curious, the little effect that time has upon a really interesting
circumstance. This one, so old, so long ago gone down into oblivion,
reads with the same freshness and charm that attach to the news in the
morning paper; one's spirits go up, then down, then up again, following
the chances which the fakeer is running; now you hope, now you despair,
now you hope again; and at last everything comes out right, and you feel
a great wave of personal satisfaction go weltering through you, and
without thinking, you put out your hand to pat Mithoo on the back, when
--puff! the whole thing has vanished away, there is nothing there; Mithoo
and all the crowd have been dust and ashes and forgotten, oh, so many,
many, many lagging years! And then comes a sense of injury: you don't
know whether Mithoo got the swag, along with the sin, or had to divide up
the swag and keep all the sin himself. There is no literary art about a
government report. It stops a story right in the most interesting place.

These reports of Thug expeditions run along interminably in one
monotonous tune: "Met a sepoy--killed him; met 5 pundits--killed them;
met 4 Rajpoots and a woman--killed them"--and so on, till the statistics
get to be pretty dry. But this small trip of Feringhea's Forty had some
little variety about it. Once they came across a man hiding in a grave
--a thief; he had stolen 1,100 rupees from Dhunroj Seith of Parowtee.
They strangled him and took the money. They had no patience with thieves.
They killed two treasure-bearers, and got 4,000 rupees. They came across
two bullocks "laden with copper pice," and killed the four drivers and
took the money. There must have been half a ton of it. I think it takes
a double handful of pice to make an anna, and 16 annas to make a rupee;
and even in those days the rupee was worth only half a dollar. Coming
back over their tracks from Baroda, they had another picturesque stroke
of luck: "'The Lohars of Oodeypore' put a traveler in their charge for
safety." Dear, dear, across this abyssmal gulf of time we still see
Feringhea's lips uncover his teeth, and through the dim haze we catch the
incandescent glimmer of his smile. He accepted that trust, good man; and
so we know what went with the traveler.

Even Rajahs had no terrors for Feringhea; he came across an
elephant-driver belonging to the Rajah of Oodeypore and promptly
strangled him.

"A total of 100 men and 5 women murdered on this expedition."

Among the reports of expeditions we find mention of victims of almost
every quality and estate.

Also a prince's cook; and even the water-carrier of that sublime lord of
lords and king of kings, the Governor-General of India! How broad they
were in their tastes! They also murdered actors--poor wandering
barnstormers. There are two instances recorded; the first one by a gang
of Thugs under a chief who soils a great name borne by a better man
--Kipling's deathless "Gungadin":

"After murdering 4 sepoys, going on toward Indore, met 4 strolling
players, and persuaded them to come with us, on the pretense that we
would see their performance at the next stage. Murdered them at a
temple near Bhopal."

Second instance:

"At Deohuttee, joined by comedians. Murdered them eastward of that
place."

But this gang was a particularly bad crew. On that expedition they
murdered a fakeer and twelve beggars. And yet Bhowanee protected them;
for once when they were strangling a man in a wood when a crowd was going
by close at hand and the noose slipped and the man screamed, Bhowanee
made a camel burst out at the same moment with a roar that drowned the
scream; and before the man could repeat it the breath was choked out of
his body.

The cow is so sacred in India that to kill her keeper is an awful
sacrilege, and even the Thugs recognized this; yet now and then the lust
for blood was too strong, and so they did kill a few cow-keepers. In one
of these instances the witness who killed the cowherd said, "In Thuggee
this is strictly forbidden, and is an act from which no good can come. I
was ill of a fever for ten days afterward. I do believe that evil will
follow the murder of a man with a cow. If there be no cow it does not
signify." Another Thug said he held the cowherd's feet while this
witness did the strangling. He felt no concern, "because the bad fortune
of such a deed is upon the strangler and not upon the assistants; even if
there should be a hundred of them."

There were thousands of Thugs roving over India constantly, during many
generations. They made Thug gee a hereditary vocation and taught it to
their sons and to their son's sons. Boys were in full membership as
early as 16 years of age; veterans were still at work at 70. What was
the fascination, what was the impulse? Apparently, it was partly piety,
largely gain, and there is reason to suspect that the sport afforded was
the chiefest fascination of all. Meadows Taylor makes a Thug in one of
his books claim that the pleasure of killing men was the white man's
beast-hunting instinct enlarged, refined, ennobled. I will quote the
passage:

CHAPTER XLVII.

Simple rules for saving money: To save half, when you are fired by an
eager impulse to contribute to a charity, wait, and count forty. To save
three-quarters, count sixty. To save it all, count sixty-five.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

The Thug said:

"How many of you English are passionately devoted to sporting! Your days
and months are passed in its excitement. A tiger, a panther, a buffalo
or a hog rouses your utmost energies for its destruction--you even risk
your lives in its pursuit. How much higher game is a Thug's!"

That must really be the secret of the rise and development of Thuggee.
The joy of killing! the joy of seeing killing done--these are traits of
the human race at large. We white people are merely modified Thugs;
Thugs fretting under the restraints of a not very thick skin of
civilization; Thugs who long ago enjoyed the slaughter of the Roman
arena, and later the burning of doubtful Christians by authentic
Christians in the public squares, and who now, with the Thugs of Spain
and Nimes, flock to enjoy the blood and misery of the bullring. We have
no tourists of either sex or any religion who are able to resist the
delights of the bull-ring when opportunity offers; and we are gentle
Thugs in the hunting-season, and love to chase a tame rabbit and kill it.
Still, we have made some progress-microscopic, and in truth scarcely
worth mentioning, and certainly nothing to be proud of--still, it is
progress: we no longer take pleasure in slaughtering or burning helpless
men. We have reached a little altitude where we may look down upon the
Indian Thugs with a complacent shudder; and we may even hope for a day,
many centuries hence, when our posterity will look down upon us in the
same way.

There are many indications that the Thug often hunted men for the mere
sport of it; that the fright and pain of the quarry were no more to him
than are the fright and pain of the rabbit or the stag to us; and that he
was no more ashamed of beguiling his game with deceits and abusing its
trust than are we when we have imitated a wild animal's call and shot it
when it honored us with its confidence and came to see what we wanted:

"Madara, son of Nihal, and I, Ramzam, set out from Kotdee in the
cold weather and followed the high road for about twenty days in
search of travelers, until we came to Selempore, where we met a very
old man going to the east. We won his confidence in this manner: he
carried a load which was too heavy for his old age; I said to him,
'You are an old man, I will aid you in carrying your load, as you
are from my part of the country.' He said, 'Very well, take me with
you.' So we took him with us to Selempore, where we slept that
night. We woke him next morning before dawn and set out, and at the
distance of three miles we seated him to rest while it was still
very dark. Madara was ready behind him, and strangled him. He
never spoke a word. He was about 60 or 70 years of age."

Another gang fell in with a couple of barbers and persuaded them to come
along in their company by promising them the job of shaving the whole
crew--30 Thugs. At the place appointed for the murder 15 got shaved, and
actually paid the barbers for their work. Then killed them and took back
the money.

A gang of forty-two Thugs came across two Brahmins and a shopkeeper on
the road, beguiled them into a grove and got up a concert for their
entertainment. While these poor fellows were listening to the music the
stranglers were standing behind them; and at the proper moment for
dramatic effect they applied the noose.

The most devoted fisherman must have a bite at least as often as once
a week or his passion will cool and he will put up his tackle. The
tiger-sportsman must find a tiger at least once a fortnight or he will get
tired and quit. The elephant-hunter's enthusiasm will waste away little
by little, and his zeal will perish at last if he plod around a month
without finding a member of that noble family to assassinate.

But when the lust in the hunter's heart is for the noblest of all
quarries, man, how different is the case! and how watery and poor is the
zeal and how childish the endurance of those other hunters by comparison.
Then, neither hunger, nor thirst, nor fatigue, nor deferred hope, nor
monotonous disappointment, nor leaden-footed lapse of time can conquer
the hunter's patience or weaken the joy of his quest or cool the splendid
rage of his desire. Of all the hunting-passions that burn in the breast
of man, there is none that can lift him superior to discouragements like
these but the one--the royal sport, the supreme sport, whose quarry is
his brother. By comparison, tiger-hunting is a colorless poor thing, for
all it has been so bragged about.

Why, the Thug was content to tramp patiently along, afoot, in the wasting
heat of India, week after week, at an average of nine or ten miles a day,
if he might but hope to find game some time or other and refresh his
longing soul with blood. Here is an instance:

"I (Ramzam) and Hyder set out, for the purpose of strangling
travelers, from Guddapore, and proceeded via the Fort of Julalabad,
Newulgunge, Bangermow, on the banks of the Ganges (upwards of 100
miles), from whence we returned by another route. Still no
travelers! till we reached Bowaneegunge, where we fell in with a
traveler, a boatman; we inveigled him and about two miles east of
there Hyder strangled him as he stood--for he was troubled and
afraid, and would not sit. We then made a long journey (about 130
miles) and reached Hussunpore Bundwa, where at the tank we fell in
with a traveler--he slept there that night; next morning we followed
him and tried to win his confidence; at the distance of two miles we
endeavored to induce him to sit down--but he would not, having
become aware of us. I attempted to strangle him as he walked along,
but did not succeed; both of us then fell upon him, he made a great
outcry, 'They are murdering me!' at length we strangled him and
flung his body into a well. After this we returned to our homes,
having been out a month and traveled about 260 miles. A total of
two men murdered on the expedition."

And here is another case-related by the terrible Futty Khan, a man with a
tremendous record, to be re-mentioned by and by:

"I, with three others, traveled for about 45 days a distance of
about 200 miles in search of victims along the highway to Bundwa and
returned by Davodpore (another 200 miles) during which journey we
had only one murder, which happened in this manner. Four miles to
the east of Noubustaghat we fell in with a traveler, an old man. I,
with Koshal and Hyder, inveigled him and accompanied him that day
within 3 miles of Rampoor, where, after dark, in a lonely place, we
got him to sit down and rest; and while I kept him in talk, seated
before him, Hyder behind strangled him: he made no resistance.
Koshal stabbed him under the arms and in the throat, and we flung
the body into a running stream. We got about 4 or 5 rupees each ($2
or $2.50). We then proceeded homewards. A total of one man
murdered on this expedition."

There. They tramped 400 miles, were gone about three months, and
harvested two dollars and a half apiece. But the mere pleasure of the
hunt was sufficient. That was pay enough. They did no grumbling.

Every now and then in this big book one comes across that pathetic
remark: "we tried to get him to sit down but he would not." It tells the
whole story. Some accident had awakened the suspicion in him that these
smooth friends who had been petting and coddling him and making him feel
so safe and so fortunate after his forlorn and lonely wanderings were the
dreaded Thugs; and now their ghastly invitation to "sit and rest" had
confirmed its truth. He knew there was no help for him, and that he was
looking his last upon earthly things, but "he would not sit." No, not
that--it was too awful to think of!

There are a number of instances which indicate that when a man had once
tasted the regal joys of man-hunting he could not be content with the
dull monotony of a crimeless life after ward. Example, from a Thug's
testimony:

"We passed through to Kurnaul, where we found a former Thug named
Junooa, an old comrade of ours, who had turned religious mendicant
and become a disciple and holy. He came to us in the serai and
weeping with joy returned to his old trade."

Neither wealth nor honors nor dignities could satisfy a reformed Thug for
long. He would throw them all away, someday, and go back to the lurid
pleasures of hunting men, and being hunted himself by the British.

Ramzam was taken into a great native grandee's service and given
authority over five villages. "My authority extended over these people
to summons them to my presence, to make them stand or sit. I dressed
well, rode my pony, and had two sepoys, a scribe and a village guard to
attend me. During three years I used to pay each village a monthly
visit, and no one suspected that I was a Thug! The chief man used to
wait on me to transact business, and as I passed along, old and young
made their salaam to me."

And yet during that very three years he got leave of absence "to attend a
wedding," and instead went off on a Thugging lark with six other Thugs
and hunted the highway for fifteen days!--with satisfactory results.

Afterwards he held a great office under a Rajah. There he had ten miles
of country under his command and a military guard of fifteen men, with
authority to call out 2,000 more upon occasion. But the British got on
his track, and they crowded him so that he had to give himself up. See
what a figure he was when he was gotten up for style and had all his
things on: "I was fully armed--a sword, shield, pistols, a matchlock
musket and a flint gun, for I was fond of being thus arrayed, and when so
armed feared not though forty men stood before me."

He gave himself up and proudly proclaimed himself a Thug. Then by
request he agreed to betray his friend and pal, Buhram, a Thug with the
most tremendous record in India. "I went to the house where Buhram slept
(often has he led our gangs!) I woke him, he knew me well, and came
outside to me. It was a cold night, so under pretence of warming myself,
but in reality to have light for his seizure by the guards, I lighted
some straw and made a blaze. We were warming our hands. The guards drew
around us. I said to them, 'This is Buhram,' and he was seized just as a
cat seizes a mouse. Then Buhram said, 'I am a Thug! my father was a
Thug, my grandfather was a Thug, and I have thugged with many!'"

So spoke the mighty hunter, the mightiest of the mighty, the Gordon
Cumming of his day. Not much regret noticeable in it.--["Having planted
a bullet in the shoulder-bone of an elephant, and caused the agonized
creature to lean for support against a tree, I proceeded to brew some
coffee. Having refreshed myself, taking observations of the elephant's
spasms and writhings between the sips, I resolved to make experiments on
vulnerable points, and, approaching very near, I fired several bullets at
different parts of his enormous skull. He only acknowledged the shots by
a salaam-like movement of his trunk, with the point of which he gently
touched the wounds with a striking and peculiar action. Surprised and
shocked to find that I was only prolonging the suffering of the noble
beast, which bore its trials with such dignified composure, I resolved to
finish the proceeding with all possible despatch, and accordingly opened
fire upon him from the left side. Aiming at the shoulder, I fired six
shots with the two-grooved rifle, which must have eventually proved
mortal, after which I fired six shots at the same part with the Dutch
six-founder. Large tears now trickled down from his eyes, which he
slowly shut and opened, his colossal frame shivered convulsively, and
falling on his side he expired."--Gordon Cumming.]

So many many times this Official Report leaves one's curiosity
unsatisfied. For instance, here is a little paragraph out of the record
of a certain band of 193 Thugs, which has that defect:

"Fell in with Lall Sing Subahdar and his family, consisting of nine
persons. Traveled with them two days, and the third put them all to
death except the two children, little boys of one and a half years
old."

There it stops. What did they do with those poor little fellows? What
was their subsequent history? Did they purpose training them up as
Thugs? How could they take care of such little creatures on a march
which stretched over several months? No one seems to have cared to ask
any questions about the babies. But I do wish I knew.

One would be apt to imagine that the Thugs were utterly callous, utterly
destitute of human feelings, heartless toward their own families as well
as toward other people's; but this was not so. Like all other Indians,
they had a passionate love for their kin. A shrewd British officer who
knew the Indian character, took that characteristic into account in
laying his plans for the capture of Eugene Sue's famous Feringhea. He
found out Feringhea's hiding-place, and sent a guard by night to seize
him, but the squad was awkward and he got away. However, they got the
rest of the family--the mother, wife, child, and brother--and brought
them to the officer, at Jubbulpore; the officer did not fret, but bided
his time: "I knew Feringhea would not go far while links so dear to him
were in my hands." He was right. Feringhea knew all the danger he was
running by staying in the neighborhood, still he could not tear himself
away. The officer found that he divided his time between five villages
where be had relatives and friends who could get news for him from his
family in Jubbulpore jail; and that he never slept two consecutive nights
in the same village. The officer traced out his several haunts, then
pounced upon all the five villages on the one night and at the same hour,
and got his man.

Another example of family affection. A little while previously to the
capture of Feringhea's family, the British officer had captured
Feringhea's foster-brother, leader of a gang of ten, and had tried the
eleven and condemned them to be hanged. Feringhea's captured family
arrived at the jail the day before the execution was to take place. The
foster-brother, Jhurhoo, entreated to be allowed to see the aged mother
and the others. The prayer was granted, and this is what took place--it
is the British officer who speaks:

"In the morning, just before going to the scaffold, the interview
took place before me. He fell at the old woman's feet and begged
that she would relieve him from the obligations of the milk with
which she had nourished him from infancy, as he was about to die
before he could fulfill any of them. She placed her hands on his
head, and he knelt, and she said she forgave him all, and bid him
die like a man."

If a capable artist should make a picture of it, it would be full of
dignity and solemnity and pathos; and it could touch you. You would
imagine it to be anything but what it was. There is reverence there, and
tenderness, and gratefulness, and compassion, and resignation, and
fortitude, and self-respect--and no sense of disgrace, no thought of
dishonor. Everything is there that goes to make a noble parting, and
give it a moving grace and beauty and dignity. And yet one of these
people is a Thug and the other a mother of Thugs! The incongruities of
our human nature seem to reach their limit here.

I wish to make note of one curious thing while I think of it. One of the
very commonest remarks to be found in this bewildering array of Thug
confessions is this:

"Strangled him and threw him an a well!" In one case they threw sixteen
into a well--and they had thrown others in the same well before. It
makes a body thirsty to read about it.

And there is another very curious thing. The bands of Thugs had private
graveyards. They did not like to kill and bury at random, here and there
and everywhere. They preferred to wait, and toll the victims along, and
get to one of their regular burying-places ('bheels') if they could. In
the little kingdom of Oude, which was about half as big as Ireland and
about as big as the State of Maine, they had two hundred and seventy-four
'bheels'. They were scattered along fourteen hundred miles of road, at
an average of only five miles apart, and the British government traced
out and located each and every one of them and set them down on the map.

The Oude bands seldom went out of their own country, but they did a
thriving business within its borders. So did outside bands who came in
and helped. Some of the Thug leaders of Oude were noted for their
successful careers. Each of four of them confessed to above 300 murders;
another to nearly 400; our friend Ramzam to 604--he is the one who got
leave of absence to attend a wedding and went thugging instead; and he is
also the one who betrayed Buhram to the British.

But the biggest records of all were the murder-lists of Futty Khan and
Buhram. Futty Khan's number is smaller than Ramzam's, but he is placed
at the head because his average is the best in Oude-Thug history per year
of service. His slaughter was 508 men in twenty years, and he was still
a young man when the British stopped his industry. Buhram's list was 931
murders, but it took him forty years. His average was one man and nearly
all of another man per month for forty years, but Futty Khan's average
was two men and a little of another man per month during his twenty years
of usefulness.

There is one very striking thing which I wish to call attention to. You
have surmised from the listed callings followed by the victims of the
Thugs that nobody could travel the Indian roads unprotected and live to
get through; that the Thugs respected no quality, no vocation, no
religion, nobody; that they killed every unarmed man that came in their
way. That is wholly true--with one reservation. In all the long file of
Thug confessions an English traveler is mentioned but once--and this is
what the Thug says of the circumstance:

"He was on his way from Mhow to Bombay. We studiously avoided him.
He proceeded next morning with a number of travelers who had sought
his protection, and they took the road to Baroda."

We do not know who he was; he flits across the page of this rusty old
book and disappears in the obscurity beyond; but he is an impressive
figure, moving through that valley of death serene and unafraid, clothed
in the might of the English name.

We have now followed the big official book through, and we understand
what Thuggee was, what a bloody terror it was, what a desolating scourge
it was. In 1830 the English found this cancerous organization imbedded
in the vitals of the empire, doing its devastating work in secrecy, and
assisted, protected, sheltered, and hidden by innumerable confederates
--big and little native chiefs, customs officers, village officials, and
native police, all ready to lie for it, and the mass of the people,
through fear, persistently pretending to know nothing about its doings;
and this condition of things had existed for generations, and was
formidable with the sanctions of age and old custom. If ever there was
an unpromising task, if ever there was a hopeless task in the world,
surely it was offered here--the task of conquering Thuggee. But that
little handful of English officials in India set their sturdy and
confident grip upon it, and ripped it out, root and branch! How modest
do Captain Vallancey's words sound now, when we read them again, knowing
what we know:

"The day that sees this far-spread evil completely eradicated from
India, and known only in name, will greatly tend to immortalize
British rule in the East."

It would be hard to word a claim more modestly than that for this most
noble work.

CHAPTER XLVIII.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you
must have somebody to divide it with.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

We left Bombay for Allahabad by a night train. It is the custom of the
country to avoid day travel when it can conveniently be done. But there
is one trouble: while you can seemingly "secure" the two lower berths by
making early application, there is no ticket as witness of it, and no
other producible evidence in case your proprietorship shall chance to be
challenged. The word "engaged" appears on the window, but it doesn't
state who the compartment is engaged, for. If your Satan and your Barney
arrive before somebody else's servants, and spread the bedding on the two
sofas and then stand guard till you come, all will be well; but if they
step aside on an errand, they may find the beds promoted to the two
shelves, and somebody else's demons standing guard over their master's
beds, which in the meantime have been spread upon your sofas.

You do not pay anything extra for your sleeping place; that is where the
trouble lies. If you buy a fare-ticket and fail to use it, there is room
thus made available for someone else; but if the place were secured to
you it would remain vacant, and yet your ticket would secure you another
place when you were presently ready to travel.

However, no explanation of such a system can make it seem quite rational
to a person who has been used to a more rational system. If our people
had the arranging of it, we should charge extra for securing the place,
and then the road would suffer no loss if the purchaser did not occupy
it.

The present system encourages good manners--and also discourages them.
If a young girl has a lower berth and an elderly lady comes in, it is
usual for the girl to offer her place to this late comer; and it is usual
for the late comer to thank her courteously and take it. But the thing
happens differently sometimes. When we were ready to leave Bombay my
daughter's satchels were holding possession of her berth--a lower one.
At the last moment, a middle-aged American lady swarmed into the
compartment, followed by native porters laden with her baggage. She was
growling and snarling and scolding, and trying to make herself
phenomenally disagreeable; and succeeding. Without a word, she hoisted
the satchels into the hanging shelf, and took possession of that lower
berth.

On one of our trips Mr. Smythe and I got out at a station to walk up and
down, and when we came back Smythe's bed was in the hanging shelf and an
English cavalry officer was in bed on the sofa which he had lately been
occupying. It was mean to be glad about it, but it is the way we are
made; I could not have been gladder if it had been my enemy that had
suffered this misfortune. We all like to see people in trouble, if it
doesn't cost us anything. I was so happy over Mr. Smythe's chagrin that
I couldn't go to sleep for thinking of it and enjoying it. I knew he
supposed the officer had committed the robbery himself, whereas without a
doubt the officer's servant had done it without his knowledge. Mr.
Smythe kept this incident warm in his heart, and longed for a chance to
get even with somebody for it. Sometime afterward the opportunity came,
in Calcutta. We were leaving on a 24-hour journey to Darjeeling. Mr.
Barclay, the general superintendent, has made special provision for our
accommodation, Mr. Smythe said; so there was no need to hurry about
getting to the train; consequently, we were a little late.

When we arrived, the usual immense turmoil and confusion of a great
Indian station were in full blast. It was an immoderately long train,
for all the natives of India were going by it somewhither, and the native
officials were being pestered to frenzy by belated and anxious people.
They didn't know where our car was, and couldn't remember having received
any orders about it. It was a deep disappointment; moreover, it looked
as if our half of our party would be left behind altogether. Then Satan
came running and said he had found a compartment with one shelf and one
sofa unoccupied, and had made our beds and had stowed our baggage. We
rushed to the place, and just as the train was ready to pull out and the
porters were slamming the doors to, all down the line, an officer of the
Indian Civil Service, a good friend of ours, put his head in and said:--

"I have been hunting for you everywhere. What are you doing here? Don't
you know----"

The train started before he could finish. Mr. Smythe's opportunity was
come. His bedding, on the shelf, at once changed places with the
bedding--a stranger's--that was occupying the sofa that was opposite to
mine. About ten o'clock we stopped somewhere, and a large Englishman of
official military bearing stepped in. We pretended to be asleep. The
lamps were covered, but there was light enough for us to note his look of
surprise. He stood there, grand and fine, peering down at Smythe, and
wondering in silence at the situation. After a bit be said:--

"Well!" And that was all.

But that was enough. It was easy to understand. It meant: "This is
extraordinary. This is high-handed. I haven't had an experience like
this before."

He sat down on his baggage, and for twenty minutes we watched him through
our eyelashes, rocking and swaying there to the motion of the train.
Then we came to a station, and he got up and went out, muttering: "I must
find a lower berth, or wait over." His servant came presently and carried
away his things.

Mr. Smythe's sore place was healed, his hunger for revenge was satisfied.
But he couldn't sleep, and neither could I; for this was a venerable old.
car, and nothing about it was taut. The closet door slammed all night,
and defied every fastening we could invent. We got up very much jaded,
at dawn, and stepped out at a way station; and, while we were taking a
cup of coffee, that Englishman ranged up alongside, and somebody said to
him:

"So you didn't stop off, after all?"

"No. The guard found a place for me that had been, engaged and not
occupied. I had a whole saloon car all to myself--oh, quite palatial!
I never had such luck in my life."

That was our car, you see. We moved into it, straight off, the family
and all. But I asked the English gentleman to remain, and he did. A
pleasant man, an infantry colonel; and doesn't know, yet, that Smythe
robbed him of his berth, but thinks it was done by Smythe's servant
without Smythe's knowledge. He was assisted in gathering this
impression.

The Indian trains are manned by natives exclusively. The Indian stations
except very large and important ones--are manned entirely by natives, and
so are the posts and telegraphs. The rank and file of the police are
natives. All these people are pleasant and accommodating. One day I
left an express train to lounge about in that perennially ravishing show,
the ebb and flow and whirl of gaudy natives, that is always surging up
and down the spacious platform of a great Indian station; and I lost
myself in the ecstasy of it, and when I turned, the train was moving
swiftly away. I was going to sit down and wait for another train, as I
would have done at home; I had no thought of any other course. But a
native official, who had a green flag in his hand, saw me, and said
politely:

"Don't you belong in the train, sir?"

"Yes." I said.

He waved his flag, and the train came back! And he put me aboard with as
much ceremony as if I had been the General Superintendent. They are
kindly people, the natives. The face and the bearing that indicate a
surly spirit and a bad heart seemed to me to be so rare among Indians--so
nearly non-existent, in fact--that I sometimes wondered if Thuggee wasn't
a dream, and not a reality. The bad hearts are there, but I believe that
they are in a small, poor minority. One thing is sure: They are much the
most interesting people in the world--and the nearest to being
incomprehensible. At any rate, the hardest to account for. Their
character and their history, their customs and their religion, confront
you with riddles at every turn-riddles which are a trifle more perplexing
after they are explained than they were before. You can get the facts of
a custom--like caste, and Suttee, and Thuggee, and so on--and with the
facts a theory which tries to explain, but never quite does it to your
satisfaction. You can never quite understand how so strange a thing
could have been born, nor why.

For instance--the Suttee. This is the explanation of it:

A woman who throws away her life when her husband dies is instantly
joined to him again, and is forever afterward happy with him in heaven;
her family will build a little monument to her, or a temple, and will
hold her in honor, and, indeed, worship her memory always; they will
themselves be held in honor by the public; the woman's self-sacrifice has
conferred a noble and lasting distinction upon her posterity. And,
besides, see what she has escaped: If she had elected to live, she would
be a disgraced person; she could not remarry; her family would despise
her and disown her; she would be a friendless outcast, and miserable all
her days.

Very well, you say, but the explanation is not complete yet. How did
people come to drift into such a strange custom? What was the origin of
the idea? "Well, nobody knows; it was probably a revelation sent down by
the gods." One more thing: Why was such a cruel death chosen--why
wouldn't a gentle one have answered? "Nobody knows; maybe that was a
revelation, too."

No--you can never understand it. It all seems impossible. You resolve
to believe that a widow never burnt herself willingly, but went to her
death because she was afraid to defy public opinion. But you are not
able to keep that position. History drives you from it. Major Sleeman
has a convincing case in one of his books. In his government on the
Nerbudda he made a brave attempt on the 28th of March, 1828, to put down
Suttee on his own hook and without warrant from the Supreme Government of
India. He could not foresee that the Government would put it down itself
eight months later. The only backing he had was a bold nature and a
compassionate heart. He issued his proclamation abolishing the Suttee in
his district. On the morning of Tuesday--note the day of the week--the
24th of the following November, Ummed Singh Upadhya, head of the most
respectable and most extensive Brahmin family in the district, died, and
presently came a deputation of his sons and grandsons to beg that his old
widow might be allowed to burn herself upon his pyre. Sleeman threatened
to enforce his order, and punish severely any man who assisted; and he
placed a police guard to see that no one did so. From the early morning
the old widow of sixty-five had been sitting on the bank of the sacred
river by her dead, waiting through the long hours for the permission; and
at last the refusal came instead. In one little sentence Sleeman gives
you a pathetic picture of this lonely old gray figure: all day and all
night "she remained sitting by the edge of the water without eating or
drinking." The next morning the body of the husband was burned to ashes
in a pit eight feet square and three or four feet deep, in the view of
several thousand spectators. Then the widow waded out to a bare rock in
the river, and everybody went away but her sons and other relations. All
day she sat there on her rock in the blazing sun without food or drink,
and with no clothing but a sheet over her shoulders.

The relatives remained with her and all tried to persuade her to desist
from her purpose, for they deeply loved her. She steadily refused. Then
a part of the family went to Sleeman's house, ten miles away, and tried
again to get him to let her burn herself. He refused, hoping to save her
yet.

All that day she scorched in her sheet on the rock, and all that night
she kept her vigil there in the bitter cold. Thursday morning, in the
sight of her relatives, she went through a ceremonial which said more to
them than any words could have done; she put on the dhaja (a coarse red
turban) and broke her bracelets in pieces. By these acts she became a
dead person in the eye of the law, and excluded from her caste forever.
By the iron rule of ancient custom, if she should now choose to live she
could never return to her family. Sleeman was in deep trouble. If she
starved herself to death her family would be disgraced; and, moreover,
starving would be a more lingering misery than the death by fire. He
went back in the evening thoroughly worried. The old woman remained on
her rock, and there in the morning he found her with her dhaja still on
her head. "She talked very collectedly, telling me that she had
determined to mix her ashes with those of her departed husband, and
should patiently wait my permission to do so, assured that God would
enable her to sustain life till that was given, though she dared not eat
or drink. Looking at the sun, then rising before her over a long and
beautiful reach of the river, she said calmly, 'My soul has been for five
days with my husband's near that sun; nothing but my earthly frame is
left; and this, I know, you will in time suffer to be mixed with his
ashes in yonder pit, because it is not in your nature or usage wantonly
to prolong the miseries of a poor old woman.'"

He assured her that it was his desire and duty to save her, and to urge
her to live, and to keep her family from the disgrace of being thought
her murderers. But she said she "was not afraid of their being thought
so; that they had all, like good children, done everything in their power
to induce her to live, and to abide with them; and if I should consent I
know they would love and honor me, but my duties to them have now ended.
I commit them all to your care, and I go to attend my husband, Ummed
Singh Upadhya, with whose ashes on the funeral pile mine have been
already three times mixed."

She believed that she and he had been upon the earth three several times
as wife and husband, and that she had burned herself to death three times
upon his pyre. That is why she said that strange thing. Since she had
broken her bracelets and put on the red turban she regarded herself as a
corpse; otherwise she would not have allowed herself to do her husband
the irreverence of pronouncing his name. "This was the first time in her
long life that she had ever uttered her husband's name, for in India no
woman, high or low, ever pronounces the name of her husband."

Major Sleeman still tried to shake her purpose. He promised to build her
a fine house among the temples of her ancestors upon the bank of the
river and make handsome provision for her out of rent-free lands if she
would consent to live; and if she wouldn't he would allow no stone or
brick to ever mark the place where she died. But she only smiled and
said, "My pulse has long ceased to beat, my spirit has departed; I shall
suffer nothing in the burning; and if you wish proof, order some fire and
you shall see this arm consumed without giving me any pain."

Sleeman was now satisfied that he could not alter her purpose. He sent
for all the chief members of the family and said he would suffer her to
burn herself if they would enter into a written engagement to abandon the
suttee in their family thenceforth. They agreed; the papers were drawn
out and signed, and at noon, Saturday, word was sent to the poor old
woman. She seemed greatly pleased. The ceremonies of bathing were gone
through with, and by three o'clock she was ready and the fire was briskly
burning in the pit. She had now gone without food or drink during more
than four days and a half. She came ashore from her rock, first wetting
her sheet in the waters of the sacred river, for without that safeguard
any shadow which might fall upon her would convey impurity to her; then
she walked to the pit, leaning upon one of her sons and a nephew--the
distance was a hundred and fifty yards.

"I had sentries placed all around, and no other person was allowed to
approach within five paces. She came on with a calm and cheerful
countenance, stopped once, and casting her eyes upwards, said, 'Why have
they kept me five days from thee, my husband?' On coming to the sentries
her supporters stopped and remained standing; she moved on, and walked
once around the pit, paused a moment, and while muttering a prayer, threw
some flowers into the fire. She then walked up deliberately and steadily
to the brink, stepped into the centre of the flame, sat down, and leaning
back in the midst as if reposing upon a couch, was consumed without
uttering a shriek or betraying one sign of agony."

It is fine and beautiful. It compels one's reverence and respect--no,
has it freely, and without compulsion. We see how the custom, once
started, could continue, for the soul of it is that stupendous power,
Faith; faith brought to the pitch of effectiveness by the cumulative
force of example and long use and custom; but we cannot understand how
the first widows came to take to it. That is a perplexing detail.

Sleeman says that it was usual to play music at the suttee, but that the
white man's notion that this was to drown the screams of the martyr is
not correct; that it had a quite different purpose. It was believed that
the martyr died prophecying; that the prophecies sometimes foretold
disaster, and it was considered a kindness to those upon whom it was to
fall to drown the voice and keep them in ignorance of the misfortune that
was to come.

CHAPTER XLIX.

He had had much experience of physicians, and said "the only way to keep
your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what; you don't like,
and do what you'd druther not."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

It was a long journey--two nights, one day, and part of another day, from
Bombay eastward to Allahabad; but it was always interesting, and it was
not fatiguing. At first the, night travel promised to be fatiguing, but
that was on account of pyjamas. This foolish night-dress consists of
jacket and drawers. Sometimes they are made of silk, sometimes of a
raspy, scratchy, slazy woolen material with a sandpaper surface. The
drawers are loose elephant-legged and elephant-waisted things, and
instead of buttoning around the body there is a drawstring to produce the
required shrinkage. The jacket is roomy, and one buttons it in front.
Pyjamas are hot on a hot night and cold on a cold night--defects which a
nightshirt is free from. I tried the pyjamas in order to be in the
fashion; but I was obliged to give them up, I couldn't stand them. There
was no sufficient change from day-gear to night-gear. I missed the
refreshing and luxurious sense, induced by the night-gown, of being
undressed, emancipated, set free from restraints and trammels. In place
of that, I had the worried, confined, oppressed, suffocated sense of
being abed with my clothes on. All through the warm half of the night
the coarse surfaces irritated my skin and made it feel baked and
feverish, and the dreams which came in the fitful flurries of slumber
were such as distress the sleep of the damned, or ought to; and all
through the cold other half of the night I could get no time for sleep
because I had to employ it all in stealing blankets. But blankets are of
no value at such a time; the higher they are piled the more effectively
they cork the cold in and keep it from getting out. The result is that
your legs are ice, and you know how you will feel by and by when you are
buried. In a sane interval I discarded the pyjamas, and led a rational
and comfortable life thenceforth.

Out in the country in India, the day begins early. One sees a plain,
perfectly flat, dust-colored and brick-yardy, stretching limitlessly away
on every side in the dim gray light, striped everywhere with hard-beaten
narrow paths, the vast flatness broken at wide intervals by bunches of
spectral trees that mark where villages are; and along all the paths are
slender women and the black forms of lanky naked men moving, to their
work, the women with brass water-jars on their heads, the men carrying
hoes. The man is not entirely naked; always there is a bit of white rag,
a loin-cloth; it amounts to a bandage, and is a white accent on his black
person, like the silver band around the middle of a pipe-stem. Sometimes
he also wears a fluffy and voluminous white turban, and this adds a
second accent. He then answers properly to Miss Gordon Cumming's
flash-light picture of him--as a person who is dressed in "a turban
and a pocket handkerchief."

All day long one has this monotony of dust-colored dead levels and
scattering bunches of trees and mud villages. You soon realize that
India is not beautiful; still there is an enchantment about it that is
beguiling, and which does not pall. You cannot tell just what it is that
makes the spell, perhaps, but you feel it and confess it, nevertheless.
Of course, at bottom, you know in a vague way that it is history; it is
that that affects you, a haunting sense of the myriads of human lives
that have blossomed, and withered, and perished here, repeating and
repeating and repeating, century after century, and age after age, the
barren and meaningless process; it is this sense that gives to this
forlorn, uncomely land power to speak to the spirit and make friends with
it; to, speak to it with a voice bitter with satire, but eloquent with
melancholy. The deserts of Australia and the ice-barrens of Greenland
have no speech, for they have no venerable history; with nothing to tell
of man and his vanities, his fleeting glories and his miseries, they have
nothing wherewith to spiritualize their ugliness and veil it with a
charm.

There is nothing pretty about an Indian village--a mud one--and I do not
remember that we saw any but mud ones on that long flight to Allahabad.
It is a little bunch of dirt-colored mud hovels jammed together within a
mud wall. As a rule, the rains had beaten down parts of some of the
houses, and this gave the village the aspect of a mouldering and hoary
ruin. I believe the cattle and the vermin live inside the wall; for I
saw cattle coming out and cattle going in; and whenever I saw a villager,
he was scratching. This last is only circumstantial evidence, but I
think it has value. The village has a battered little temple or two, big
enough to hold an idol, and with custom enough to fat-up a priest and
keep him comfortable. Where there are Mohammedans there are generally a
few sorry tombs outside the village that have a decayed and neglected
look. The villages interested me because of things which Major Sleeman
says about them in his books--particularly what he says about the
division of labor in them. He says that the whole face of India is
parceled out into estates of villages; that nine-tenths of the vast
population of the land consist of cultivators of the soil; that it is
these cultivators who inhabit the villages; that there are certain
"established" village servants--mechanics and others who are apparently
paid a wage by the village at large, and whose callings remain in certain
families and are handed down from father to son, like an estate. He
gives a list of these established servants: Priest, blacksmith,
carpenter, accountant, washerman, basketmaker, potter, watchman, barber,
shoemaker, brazier, confectioner, weaver, dyer, etc. In his day witches
abounded, and it was not thought good business wisdom for a man to marry
his daughter into a family that hadn't a witch in it, for she would need
a witch on the premises to protect her children from the evil spells
which would certainly be cast upon them by the witches connected with the
neighboring families.

The office of midwife was hereditary in the family of the basket-maker.
It belonged to his wife. She might not be competent, but the office was
hers, anyway. Her pay was not high--25 cents for a boy, and half as much
for a girl. The girl was not desired, because she would be a disastrous
expense by and by. As soon as she should be old enough to begin to wear
clothes for propriety's sake, it would be a disgrace to the family if she
were not married; and to marry her meant financial ruin; for by custom
the father must spend upon feasting and wedding-display everything he had
and all he could borrow--in fact, reduce himself to a condition of
poverty which he might never more recover from.

It was the dread of this prospective ruin which made the killing of
girl-babies so prevalent in India in the old days before England laid the
iron hand of her prohibitions upon the piteous slaughter. One may judge
of how prevalent the custom was, by one of Sleeman's casual electrical
remarks, when he speaks of children at play in villages--where
girl-voices were never heard!

The wedding-display folly is still in full force in India, and by
consequence the destruction of girl-babies is still furtively practiced;
but not largely, because of the vigilance of the government and the
sternness of the penalties it levies.

In some parts of India the village keeps in its pay three other servants:
an astrologer to tell the villager when he may plant his crop, or make a
journey, or marry a wife, or strangle a child, or borrow a dog, or climb
a tree, or catch a rat, or swindle a neighbor, without offending the
alert and solicitous heavens; and what his dream means, if he has had one
and was not bright enough to interpret it himself by the details of his
dinner; the two other established servants were the tiger-persuader and
the hailstorm discourager. The one kept away the tigers if he could, and
collected the wages anyway, and the other kept off the hailstorms, or
explained why he failed. He charged the same for explaining a failure
that he did for scoring a success. A man is an idiot who can't earn a
living in India.

Major Sleeman reveals the fact that the trade union and the boycott are
antiquities in India. India seems to have originated everything. The
"sweeper" belongs to the bottom caste; he is the lowest of the low--all
other castes despise him and scorn his office. But that does not trouble
him. His caste is a caste, and that is sufficient for him, and so he is
proud of it, not ashamed. Sleeman says:

"It is perhaps not known to many of my countrymen, even in India,
that in every town and city in the country the right of sweeping the
houses and streets is a monopoly, and is supported entirely by the
pride of castes among the scavengers, who are all of the lowest
class. The right of sweeping within a certain range is recognized
by the caste to belong to a certain member; and if any other member
presumes to sweep within that range, he is excommunicated--no other
member will smoke out of his pipe or drink out of his jug; and he
can get restored to caste only by a feast to the whole body of
sweepers. If any housekeeper within a particular circle happens to
offend the sweeper of that range, none of his filth will be removed
till he pacifies him, because no other sweeper will dare to touch
it; and the people of a town are often more tyrannized over by these
people than by any other."

A footnote by Major Sleeman's editor, Mr. Vincent Arthur Smith, says that
in our day this tyranny of the sweepers' guild is one of the many
difficulties which bar the progress of Indian sanitary reform. Think of
this:

"The sweepers cannot be readily coerced, because no Hindoo or
Mussulman would do their work to save his life, nor will he pollute
himself by beating the refractory scavenger."

They certainly do seem to have the whip-hand; it would be difficult to
imagine a more impregnable position. "The vested rights described in the
text are so fully recognized in practice that they are frequently the
subject of sale or mortgage."

Just like a milk-route; or like a London crossing-sweepership. It is
said that the London crossing-sweeper's right to his crossing is
recognized by the rest of the guild; that they protect him in its
possession; that certain choice crossings are valuable property, and are
saleable at high figures. I have noticed that the man who sweeps in
front of the Army and Navy Stores has a wealthy South African
aristocratic style about him; and when he is off his guard, he has
exactly that look on his face which you always see in the face of a man
who has is saving up his daughter to marry her to a duke.

It appears from Sleeman that in India the occupation of elephant-driver
is confined to Mohammedans. I wonder why that is. The water-carrier
('bheestie') is a Mohammedan, but it is said that the reason of that is,
that the Hindoo's religion does not allow him to touch the skin of dead
kine, and that is what the water-sack is made of; it would defile him.
And it doesn't allow him to eat meat; the animal that furnished the meat
was murdered, and to take any creature's life is a sin. It is a good and
gentle religion, but inconvenient.

A great Indian river, at low water, suggests the familiar anatomical
picture of a skinned human body, the intricate mesh of interwoven muscles
and tendons to stand for water-channels, and the archipelagoes of fat and
flesh inclosed by them to stand for the sandbars. Somewhere on this
journey we passed such a river, and on a later journey we saw in the
Sutlej the duplicate of that river. Curious rivers they are; low shores
a dizzy distance apart, with nothing between but an enormous acreage of
sand-flats with sluggish little veins of water dribbling around amongst
them; Saharas of sand, smallpox-pitted with footprints punctured in belts
as straight as the equator clear from the one shore to the other (barring
the channel-interruptions)--a dry-shod ferry, you see. Long railway
bridges are required for this sort of rivers, and India has them. You
approach Allahabad by a very long one. It was now carrying us across the
bed of the Jumna, a bed which did not seem to have been slept in for one
while or more. It wasn't all river-bed--most of it was overflow ground.

Allahabad means "City of God." I get this from the books. From a printed
curiosity--a letter written by one of those brave and confident Hindoo
strugglers with the English tongue, called a "babu"--I got a more
compressed translation: "Godville." It is perfectly correct, but that is
the most that can be said for it.

We arrived in the forenoon, and short-handed; for Satan got left behind
somewhere that morning, and did not overtake us until after nightfall.
It seemed very peaceful without him. The world seemed asleep and
dreaming.

I did not see the native town, I think. I do not remember why; for an
incident connects it with the Great Mutiny, and that is enough to make
any place interesting. But I saw the English part of the city. It is a
town of wide avenues and noble distances, and is comely and alluring, and
full of suggestions of comfort and leisure, and of the serenity which a
good conscience buttressed by a sufficient bank account gives. The
bungalows (dwellings) stand well back in the seclusion and privacy of
large enclosed compounds (private grounds, as we should say) and in the
shade and shelter of trees. Even the photographer and the prosperous
merchant ply their industries in the elegant reserve of big compounds,
and the citizens drive in thereupon their business occasions. And not in
cabs--no; in the Indian cities cabs are for the drifting stranger; all
the white citizens have private carriages; and each carriage has a flock
of white-turbaned black footmen and drivers all over it. The vicinity of
a lecture-hall looks like a snowstorm,--and makes the lecturer feel like
an opera. India has many names, and they are correctly descriptive. It
is the Land of Contradictions, the Land of Subtlety and Superstition, the
Land of Wealth and Poverty, the Land of Splendor and Desolation, the Land
of Plague and Famine, the Land of the Thug and the Poisoner, and of the
Meek and the Patient, the Land of the Suttee, the Land of the
Unreinstatable Widow, the Land where All Life is Holy, the Land of
Cremation, the Land where the Vulture is a Grave and a Monument, the Land
of the Multitudinous Gods; and if signs go for anything, it is the Land
of the Private Carriage.

In Bombay the forewoman of a millinery shop came to the hotel in her
private carriage to take the measure for a gown--not for me, but for
another. She had come out to India to make a temporary stay, but was
extending it indefinitely; indeed, she was purposing to end her days
there. In London, she said, her work had been hard, her hours long; for
economy's sake she had had to live in shabby rooms and far away from the
shop, watch the pennies, deny herself many of the common comforts of
life, restrict herself in effect to its bare necessities, eschew cabs,
travel third-class by underground train to and from her work, swallowing
coal-smoke and cinders all the way, and sometimes troubled with the
society of men and women who were less desirable than the smoke and the
cinders. But in Bombay, on almost any kind of wages, she could live in
comfort, and keep her carriage, and have six servants in place of the
woman-of-all-work she had had in her English home. Later, in Calcutta, I
found that the Standard Oil clerks had small one-horse vehicles, and did
no walking; and I was told that the clerks of the other large concerns
there had the like equipment. But to return to Allahabad.

I was up at dawn, the next morning. In India the tourist's servant does
not sleep in a room in the hotel, but rolls himself up head and ears in
his blanket and stretches himself on the veranda, across the front of his
master's door, and spends the night there. I don't believe anybody's
servant occupies a room. Apparently, the bungalow servants sleep on the
veranda; it is roomy, and goes all around the house. I speak of
menservants; I saw none of the other sex. I think there are none, except
child-nurses. I was up at dawn, and walked around the veranda, past the
rows of sleepers. In front of one door a Hindoo servant was squatting,
waiting for his master to call him. He had polished the yellow shoes and
placed them by the door, and now he had nothing to do but wait. It was
freezing cold, but there he was, as motionless as a sculptured image, and
as patient. It troubled me. I wanted to say to him, "Don't crouch there
like that and freeze; nobody requires it of you; stir around and get
warm." But I hadn't the words. I thought of saying 'jeldy jow', but I
couldn't remember what it meant, so I didn't say it. I knew another
phrase, but it wouldn't come to my mind. I moved on, purposing to
dismiss him from my thoughts, but his bare legs and bare feet kept him
there. They kept drawing me back from the sunny side to a point whence I
could see him. At the end of an hour he had not changed his attitude in
the least degree. It was a curious and impressive exhibition of meekness
and patience, or fortitude or indifference, I did not know which. But it
worried me, and it was spoiling my morning. In fact, it spoiled two
hours of it quite thoroughly. I quitted this vicinity, then, and left
him to punish himself as much as he might want to. But up to that time
the man had not changed his attitude a hair. He will always remain with
me, I suppose; his figure never grows vague in my memory. Whenever I
read of Indian resignation, Indian patience under wrongs, hardships, and
misfortunes, he comes before me. He becomes a personification, and
stands for India in trouble. And for untold ages India in trouble has
been pursued with the very remark which I was going to utter but didn't,
because its meaning had slipped me: "Jeddy jow!" ("Come, shove along!")

Why, it was the very thing.

In the early brightness we made a long drive out to the Fort. Part of
the way was beautiful. It led under stately trees and through groups of
native houses and by the usual village well, where the picturesque gangs
are always flocking to and fro and laughing and chattering; and this time
brawny men were deluging their bronze bodies with the limpid water, and
making a refreshing and enticing show of it; enticing, for the sun was
already transacting business, firing India up for the day. There was
plenty of this early bathing going on, for it was getting toward
breakfast time, and with an unpurified body the Hindoo must not eat.

Then we struck into the hot plain, and found the roads crowded with
pilgrims of both sexes, for one of the great religious fairs of India was
being held, just beyond the Fort, at the junction of the sacred rivers,
the Ganges and the Jumna. Three sacred rivers, I should have said, for
there is a subterranean one. Nobody has seen it, but that doesn't
signify. The fact that it is there is enough. These pilgrims had come
from all over India; some of them had been months on the way, plodding
patiently along in the heat and dust, worn, poor, hungry, but supported
and sustained by an unwavering faith and belief; they were supremely
happy and content, now; their full and sufficient reward was at hand;
they were going to be cleansed from every vestige of sin and corruption
by these holy waters which make utterly pure whatsoever thing they touch,
even the dead and rotten. It is wonderful, the power of a faith like
that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and
the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such
incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining.
It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is.
No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination
marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites. There are choice great
natures among us that could exhibit the equivalent of this prodigious
self-sacrifice, but the rest of us know that we should not be equal to
anything approaching it. Still, we all talk self-sacrifice, and this
makes me hope that we are large enough to honor it in the Hindoo.

Two millions of natives arrive at this fair every year. How many start,
and die on the road, from age and fatigue and disease and scanty
nourishment, and how many die on the return, from the same causes, no one
knows; but the tale is great, one may say enormous. Every twelfth year
is held to be a year of peculiar grace; a greatly augmented volume of
pilgrims results then. The twelfth year has held this distinction since
the remotest times, it is said. It is said also that there is to be but
one more twelfth year--for the Ganges. After that, that holiest of all
sacred rivers will cease to be holy, and will be abandoned by the pilgrim
for many centuries; how many, the wise men have not stated. At the end
of that interval it will become holy again. Meantime, the data will be
arranged by those people who have charge of all such matters, the great
chief Brahmins. It will be like shutting down a mint. At a first glance
it looks most unbrahminically uncommercial, but I am not disturbed, being
soothed and tranquilized by their reputation. "Brer fox he lay low," as
Uncle Remus says; and at the judicious time he will spring something on
the Indian public which will show that he was not financially asleep when
he took the Ganges out of the market.

Great numbers of the natives along the roads were bringing away holy
water from the rivers. They would carry it far and wide in India and
sell it. Tavernier, the French traveler (17th century), notes that
Ganges water is often given at weddings, "each guest receiving a cup or
two, according to the liberality of the host; sometimes 2,000 or 3,000
rupees' worth of it is consumed at a wedding."

The Fort is a huge old structure, and has had a large experience in
religions. In its great court stands a monolith which was placed there
more than 2,000 years ago to preach (Budhism) by its pious inscription;
the Fort was built three centuries ago by a Mohammedan Emperor--a
resanctification of the place in the interest of that religion. There is
a Hindoo temple, too, with subterranean ramifications stocked with
shrines and idols; and now the Fort belongs to the English, it contains a
Christian Church. Insured in all the companies.

From the lofty ramparts one has a fine view of the sacred rivers. They
join at that point--the pale blue Jumna, apparently clean and clear, and
the muddy Ganges, dull yellow and not clean. On a long curved spit
between the rivers, towns of tents were visible, with a multitude of
fluttering pennons, and a mighty swarm of pilgrims. It was a troublesome
place to get down to, and not a quiet place when you arrived; but it was
interesting. There was a world of activity and turmoil and noise, partly
religious, partly commercial; for the Mohammedans were there to curse and
sell, and the Hindoos to buy and pray. It is a fair as well as a
religious festival. Crowds were bathing, praying, and drinking the
purifying waters, and many sick pilgrims had come long journeys in
palanquins to be healed of their maladies by a bath; or if that might not
be, then to die on the blessed banks and so make sure of heaven. There
were fakeers in plenty, with their bodies dusted over with ashes and
their long hair caked together with cow-dung; for the cow is holy and so
is the rest of it; so holy that the good Hindoo peasant frescoes the
walls of his hut with this refuse, and also constructs ornamental figures
out of it for the gracing of his dirt floor. There were seated families,
fearfully and wonderfully painted, who by attitude and grouping
represented the families of certain great gods. There was a holy man who
sat naked by the day and by the week on a cluster of iron spikes, and did
not seem to mind it; and another holy man, who stood all day holding his
withered arms motionless aloft, and was said to have been doing it for
years. All of these performers have a cloth on the ground beside them
for the reception of contributions, and even the poorest of the people
give a trifle and hope that the sacrifice will be blessed to him. At
last came a procession of naked holy people marching by and chanting, and
I wrenched myself away.

CHAPTER L.

The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that
wears a fig-leaf.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

The journey to Benares was all in daylight, and occupied but a few hours.
It was admirably dusty. The dust settled upon you in a thick ashy layer
and turned you into a fakeer, with nothing lacking to the role but the
cow manure and the sense of holiness. There was a change of cars about
mid-afternoon at Moghul-serai--if that was the name--and a wait of two
hours there for the Benares train. We could have found a carriage and
driven to the sacred city, but we should have lost the wait. In other
countries a long wait at a station is a dull thing and tedious, but one
has no right to have that feeling in India. You have the monster crowd
of bejeweled natives, the stir, the bustle, the confusion, the shifting
splendors of the costumes--dear me, the delight of it, the charm of it
are beyond speech. The two-hour wait was over too soon. Among other
satisfying things to look at was a minor native prince from the backwoods
somewhere, with his guard of honor, a ragged but wonderfully gaudy gang
of fifty dark barbarians armed with rusty flint-lock muskets. The
general show came so near to exhausting variety that one would have said
that no addition to it could be conspicuous, but when this Falstaff and
his motleys marched through it one saw that that seeming impossibility
had happened.

We got away by and by, and soon reached the outer edge of Benares; then
there was another wait; but, as usual, with something to look at. This
was a cluster of little canvas-boxes--palanquins. A canvas-box is not much
of a sight--when empty; but when there is a lady in it, it is an object
of interest. These boxes were grouped apart, in the full blaze of the
terrible sun during the three-quarters of an hour that we tarried there.
They contained zenana ladies. They had to sit up; there was not room
enough to stretch out. They probably did not mind it. They are used to
the close captivity of the dwellings all their lives; when they go a
journey they are carried to the train in these boxes; in the train they
have to be secluded from inspection. Many people pity them, and I always
did it myself and never charged anything; but it is doubtful if this
compassion is valued. While we were in India some good-hearted Europeans
in one of the cities proposed to restrict a large park to the use of
zenana ladies, so that they could go there and in assured privacy go
about unveiled and enjoy the sunshine and air as they had never enjoyed
them before. The good intentions back of the proposition were
recognized, and sincere thanks returned for it, but the proposition
itself met with a prompt declination at the hands of those who were
authorized to speak for the zenana ladies. Apparently, the idea was
shocking to the ladies--indeed, it was quite manifestly shocking. Was
that proposition the equivalent of inviting European ladies to assemble
scantily and scandalously clothed in the seclusion of a private park? It
seemed to be about that.

Without doubt modesty is nothing less than a holy feeling; and without
doubt the person whose rule of modesty has been transgressed feels the
same sort of wound that he would feel if something made holy to him by
his religion had suffered a desecration. I say "rule of modesty" because
there are about a million rules in the world, and this makes a million
standards to be looked out for. Major Sleeman mentions the case of some
high-caste veiled ladies who were profoundly scandalized when some
English young ladies passed by with faces bare to the world; so
scandalized that they spoke out with strong indignation and wondered that
people could be so shameless as to expose their persons like that. And
yet "the legs of the objectors were naked to mid-thigh." Both parties
were clean-minded and irreproachably modest, while abiding by their
separate rules, but they couldn't have traded rules for a change without
suffering considerable discomfort. All human rules are more or less
idiotic, I suppose. It is best so, no doubt. The way it is now, the
asylums can hold the sane people, but if we tried to shut up the insane
we should run out of building materials.

You have a long drive through the outskirts of Benares before you get to
the hotel. And all the aspects are melancholy. It is a vision of dusty
sterility, decaying temples, crumbling tombs, broken mud walls, shabby
huts. The whole region seems to ache with age and penury. It must take
ten thousand years of want to produce such an aspect. We were still
outside of the great native city when we reached the hotel. It was a
quiet and homelike house, inviting, and manifestly comfortable. But we
liked its annex better, and went thither. It was a mile away, perhaps,
and stood in the midst of a large compound, and was built bungalow
fashion, everything on the ground floor, and a veranda all around. They
have doors in India, but I don't know why. They don't fasten, and they
stand open, as a rule, with a curtain hanging in the doorspace to keep
out the glare of the sun. Still, there is plenty of privacy, for no
white person will come in without notice, of course. The native men
servants will, but they don't seem to count. They glide in, barefoot and
noiseless, and are in the midst before one knows it. At first this is a
shock, and sometimes it is an embarrassment; but one has to get used to
it, and does.

There was one tree in the compound, and a monkey lived in it. At first I
was strongly interested in the tree, for I was told that it was the
renowned peepul--the tree in whose shadow you cannot tell a lie. This
one failed to stand the test, and I went away from it disappointed.
There was a softly creaking well close by, and a couple of oxen drew
water from it by the hour, superintended by two natives dressed in the
usual "turban and pocket-handkerchief." The tree and the well were the
only scenery, and so the compound was a soothing and lonesome and
satisfying place; and very restful after so many activities. There was
nobody in our bungalow but ourselves; the other guests were in the next
one, where the table d'hote was furnished. A body could not be more
pleasantly situated. Each room had the customary bath attached--a room
ten or twelve feet square, with a roomy stone-paved pit in it and
abundance of water. One could not easily improve upon this arrangement,
except by furnishing it with cold water and excluding the hot, in
deference to the fervency of the climate; but that is forbidden. It
would damage the bather's health. The stranger is warned against taking
cold baths in India, but even the most intelligent strangers are fools,
and they do not obey, and so they presently get laid up. I was the most
intelligent fool that passed through, that year. But I am still more
intelligent now. Now that it is too late.

I wonder if the 'dorian', if that is the name of it, is another
superstition, like the peepul tree. There was a great abundance and
variety of tropical fruits, but the dorian was never in evidence. It was
never the season for the dorian. It was always going to arrive from
Burma sometime or other, but it never did. By all accounts it was a most
strange fruit, and incomparably delicious to the taste, but not to the
smell. Its rind was said to exude a stench of so atrocious a nature that
when a dorian was in the room even the presence of a polecat was a
refreshment. We found many who had eaten the dorian, and they all spoke
of it with a sort of rapture. They said that if you could hold your nose
until the fruit was in your mouth a sacred joy would suffuse you from
head to foot that would make you oblivious to the smell of the rind, but
that if your grip slipped and you caught the smell of the rind before the
fruit was in your mouth, you would faint. There is a fortune in that
rind. Some day somebody will import it into Europe and sell it for
cheese.

Benares was not a disappointment. It justified its reputation as a
curiosity. It is on high ground, and overhangs a grand curve of the
Ganges. It is a vast mass of building, compactly crusting a hill, and is
cloven in all directions by an intricate confusion of cracks which stand
for streets. Tall, slim minarets and beflagged temple-spires rise out of
it and give it picturesqueness, viewed from the river. The city is as
busy as an ant-hill, and the hurly-burly of human life swarming along the
web of narrow streets reminds one of the ants. The sacred cow swarms
along, too, and goes whither she pleases, and takes toll of the
grain-shops, and is very much in the way, and is a good deal of a
nuisance, since she must not be molested.

Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than
legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together. From a
Hindoo statement quoted in Rev. Mr. Parker's compact and lucid Guide to
Benares, I find that the site of the town was the beginning-place of the
Creation. It was merely an upright "lingam," at first, no larger than a
stove-pipe, and stood in the midst of a shoreless ocean. This was the
work of the God Vishnu. Later he spread the lingam out till its surface
was ten miles across. Still it was not large enough for the business;
therefore he presently built the globe around it. Benares is thus the
center of the earth. This is considered an advantage.

It has had a tumultuous history, both materially and spiritually. It
started Brahminically, many ages ago; then by and by Buddha came in
recent times 2,500 years ago, and after that it was Buddhist during many
centuries--twelve, perhaps--but the Brahmins got the upper hand again,
then, and have held it ever since. It is unspeakably sacred in Hindoo
eyes, and is as unsanitary as it is sacred, and smells like the rind of
the dorian. It is the headquarters of the Brahmin faith, and one-eighth
of the population are priests of that church. But it is not an
overstock, for they have all India as a prey. All India flocks thither
on pilgrimage, and pours its savings into the pockets of the priests in a
generous stream, which never fails. A priest with a good stand on the
shore of the Ganges is much better off than the sweeper of the best
crossing in London. A good stand is worth a world of money. The holy
proprietor of it sits under his grand spectacular umbrella and blesses
people all his life, and collects his commission, and grows fat and rich;
and the stand passes from father to son, down and down and down through
the ages, and remains a permanent and lucrative estate in the family. As
Mr. Parker suggests, it can become a subject of dispute, at one time or
another, and then the matter will be settled, not by prayer and fasting
and consultations with Vishnu, but by the intervention of a much more
puissant power--an English court. In Bombay I was told by an American
missionary that in India there are 640 Protestant missionaries at work.
At first it seemed an immense force, but of course that was a thoughtless
idea. One missionary to 500,000 natives--no, that is not a force; it is
the reverse of it; 640 marching against an intrenched camp of
300,000,000--the odds are too great. A force of 640 in Benares alone
would have its hands over-full with 8,000 Brahmin priests for adversary.
Missionaries need to be well equipped with hope and confidence, and this
equipment they seem to have always had in all parts of the world. Mr.
Parker has it. It enables him to get a favorable outlook out of
statistics which might add up differently with other mathematicians. For
instance:

"During the past few years competent observers declare that the number of
pilgrims to Benares has increased."

And then he adds up this fact and gets this conclusion:

"But the revival, if so it may be called, has in it the marks of death.
It is a spasmodic struggle before dissolution."

In this world we have seen the Roman Catholic power dying, upon these
same terms, for many centuries. Many a time we have gotten all ready for
the funeral and found it postponed again, on account of the weather or
something. Taught by experience, we ought not to put on our things for
this Brahminical one till we see the procession move. Apparently one of
the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion.

I should have been glad to acquire some sort of idea of Hindoo theology,
but the difficulties were too great, the matter was too intricate. Even
the mere A, B, C of it is baffling.

There is a trinity--Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu--independent powers,
apparently, though one cannot feel quite sure of that, because in one of
the temples there is an image where an attempt has been made to
concentrate the three in one person. The three have other names and
plenty of them, and this makes confusion in one's mind. The three have
wives and the wives have several names, and this increases the confusion.
There are children, the children have many names, and thus the confusion
goes on and on. It is not worth while to try to get any grip upon the
cloud of minor gods, there are too many of them.

It is even a justifiable economy to leave Brahma, the chiefest god of
all, out of your studies, for he seems to cut no great figure in India.
The vast bulk of the national worship is lavished upon Shiva and Vishnu
and their families. Shiva's symbol--the "lingam" with which Vishnu began
the Creation--is worshiped by everybody, apparently. It is the commonest
object in Benares. It is on view everywhere, it is garlanded with
flowers, offerings are made to it, it suffers no neglect. Commonly it is
an upright stone, shaped like a thimble-sometimes like an elongated
thimble. This priapus-worship, then, is older than history. Mr. Parker
says that the lingams in Benares "outnumber the inhabitants."

In Benares there are many Mohammedan mosques. There are Hindoo temples
without number--these quaintly shaped and elaborately sculptured little
stone jugs crowd all the lanes. The Ganges itself and every individual
drop of water in it are temples. Religion, then, is the business of
Benares, just as gold-production is the business of Johannesburg. Other
industries count for nothing as compared with the vast and all-absorbing
rush and drive and boom of the town's specialty. Benares is the
sacredest of sacred cities. The moment you step across the
sharply-defined line which separates it from the rest of the globe, you
stand upon ineffably and unspeakably holy ground. Mr. Parker says: "It
is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the intense feelings of
veneration and affection with which the pious Hindoo regards 'Holy Kashi'
(Benares)." And then he gives you this vivid and moving picture:

"Let a Hindoo regiment be marched through the district, and as soon
as they cross the line and enter the limits of the holy place they
rend the air with cries of 'Kashi ji ki jai--jai--jai! (Holy
Kashi! Hail to thee! Hail! Hail! Hail)'. The weary pilgrim
scarcely able to stand, with age and weakness, blinded by the dust
and heat, and almost dead with fatigue, crawls out of the oven-like
railway carriage and as soon as his feet touch the ground he lifts
up his withered hands and utters the same pious exclamation. Let a
European in some distant city in casual talk in the bazar mention
the fact that he has lived at Benares, and at once voices will be
raised to call down blessings on his head, for a dweller in Benares
is of all men most blessed."

It makes our own religious enthusiasm seem pale and cold. Inasmuch as
the life of religion is in the heart, not the head, Mr. Parker's touching
picture seems to promise a sort of indefinite postponement of that
funeral.

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