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A tea plantationa garden of large shrubs pruned[Pg 293] in such a way as to secure the greatest possible growth of young shoots, and above the delicate tea plants a shady hedge of fan palms and taller trees. The leaves are gathered by day, spread in the evening on hurdles and left for the night in open sheds. On the morrow they are first thrown into a sort of bottomless square funnel which revolves on a board; rolled and broken in this machine they are ready for drying. The tea passes through twenty grades of increasing temperature, and in drying it gives out the most delightful aromaa mixture of sweetbriar, seaweed, and violets, with a scent of tea too. The leaves are finally sifted, which sorts them in four sizes into boxes containing the different qualities. After bathing, during their long prayers to the gods of the river, almost as sacred here as it is at Benares, the pilgrims threw grain to the half-tame fish. Steering vigorously with their tails, the creatures turned and rolled, making eddies of light in the water, and hurrying up to the falling grain occasionally upset the equilibrium of some old woman still taking her bath. At the top of the bank, in the blazing sunshine, two fakirs, squatting in the dusty road, remained unmoved by all this turmoil, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, absorbed in a fixed thought which concentrated their gaze[Pg 297] on an invisible point. The fall of an old woman into the Ganges, with all the shouting that such an incident entails in India, left them quite indifferent; they did not stir, did not even glance at the river as the woman was taken out unconscious.

In the streets, swarming with people, every woman who is not a pariah, walks veiled in all the mystery of her unrevealed features, her long, dreamy eyes alone visible.

Past the buildings, and palaces with gardens enclosed behind pierced stonework, and then across fresh green fields full of flowers, under the shade of banyans and palm trees, we reached the temple of the monkeys. This temple, dedicated to the fierce and bloodthirsty goddess Durga, is painted all over of a vivid red colour, blazing in the sunshine with intolerable brightness. Inside the sanctuary a black image of the goddess may be seen, mounted on her lion, and flowers are arranged about her in radiating lines mingled with gold thread, and producing very much the effect of a theatrical sun. In the [Pg 162]forecourt, on the carvings and the roof of the temple monkeys swarm, rushing after each other, fighting for the grains of maize that are thrown to them, and tormenting the wretched mangy dogs that seek refuge in the temple precincts, where they, too, are kept alive by the faithful.

The ceremony now begins. The dastour chants his prayers, throwing handfuls of rice all the time[Pg 17] over the young couple. A sheet is held up between the two, and a priest twines a thread about the chair. At the seventh turn the sheet is snatched away, and the bride and bridegroom, with a burst of laughter, fling a handful of rice at each other. The actors were exclusively men and boys, those who took female parts wore rusty wigs over their own long, black hair; these were plaited on each side of the face, and waxed behind to fall over the shoulders. The costumes of velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold and silver, were hideous.

A large building of red and white stone, with spacious arcades and a central dome, as vast as a cathedral, stands at the angle of two avenuesthe[Pg 6] railway terminus; and a great market of iron and glassCrawford Market. Here are mountains of fruit, greenery, and vegetables of every colour and every shade of lustre; and a flower garden divides the various market sheds, where little bronze coolies, in white, scarcely clad, sell oranges and limes. The subterranean passage leading from the empress's rooms to the mosque, has in the roof a thick flagstone that admits a subdued glimmer as through amber or honey, lighting up all one end of the dark corridor.

When the gate to the platform was opened there was a stampede, a fearful rush to the train; then the cars, once filled, were immediately shut on the noisy glee of those who were going.

There was at the top of the temple a sarcophagus in a shrine, on which were masses of impalpable silk gauze embroidered with gold, which looked like a peacock's breast, so subtle were the transparent colours lying one above anothergreen, blue, and yellow predominating, gauze so light that the slightest breath set it floating in glistening and changing hues; and on the snowy white pavement of the floor was strewn a carpet of very pale lilac lilies and mindi flowers.

Presently three beggar-women came up to sing from door to door. In their arms, like babies at the breast, they carried shapeless idols painted red, bedizened with spangles and gilt paper. They wailed out a ditty repeated again and again, knocked perseveringly at the doors, insisting on alms; and[Pg 96] then, when they had received it, they touched the threshold with their blood-coloured puppets and departed.

A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.

As we returned the wind had fallen, and the men rowed. The moon rose pale gold, and in the distance, in the violet haze, the lights of Bombay mingled with the stars. The boatmen's[Pg 23] chant was very vague, a rocking measure on ascending intervals.

The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.