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featured owner of these varied tastes. She reads sheets of closely written foreign paper, and you,—you creep behind her and look over her shoulder.
Kathiawad, November, 1896.
For all brainless, unjust atrocities commend me to sleek, globulous Rajalis of Indian principalities! You will remember the story of the poisoned comfits, and how excited I was at the pos sibility of investigating an Indian poison so early in my life here? ! had such visions of collecting useful data for the old Octopian in the dear laboratory round which my affections still hover. But, alack, my pride is turne·1 to remorse! The immediate result of my report is that they suspect a poor old widowed ex-Queen of an attempt to poison one of her grandson's wives, and she is expelled the palace, bereft of all that might, by any possibility, help her to keep herself in fairly decent comfort elsewhere. I expect the fact was that the young Ranees disliked the old one, and plotted this device for ridding themselves of her supervision. They tell me she has taken refuge in the house of a former maid, and I mean to go and see her, and hear more of her history.
No! I have not plagued myself with vain regrets, as you'd have done; not, at least, after a quiet sane consideration of the matter. Why should I prick my fingers with the thorns which other people gather? You will know, however, that I did not omit my best persuasions with the Prince, useless as I could not help feeling that they were at the time.
Meanwhile, to me personally the Rajah has been kindness itself. This is only a moderately sized State, and is not very remarkable for natural or artificial charms. The country round about is cotton-picking and flat. I rath
er liked seeing the small sparely-clad children (wearing nought but their hair, you know,), helping their mothers pick cotton under the bright Indian skies. But the cotton factories, with their tall unpicturesque chimneys, are an unpleasantly civilized suggestion. Among the arrangements planned for my amusement was a play by a strolling company. The palace has a theatre, but the night was so sultry that the performance transferred itself to an impromptu stage out in the open. "Twas a strange unforgetable sight, lighted as it was by flaming torches, burning weirdly under the glowering sky. In the foreground sat the Rajah on bis gemmed throne, richly jewelled and gaily robed; behind was a throng of fierce black-mustachioed attendants, and closing up round the royal personage an impenetrable guard. Even among his own people he is not safe. They say that at night he sleeps, literally, under drawn swords, two particularly trusty servitors keeping guard, like angels with extended wings, at the head of his bed.
The stage arrangements were rough enough, and the play in parts, I am told, quite impossible; but ignorance of the language stood me in stead of an expurgated edition. "Twas a pantomimic skit on the administration of justice by the young civilian. A florid Englishman (the mask was really good) sits at a camp table, holding his migratory court upon a criminal charged with murdering his wife. As he does not yet know the language, he works through an interpreter.
Magistrate. How old was your wife?
Interpreter. (Knowing the minority of the victim will heighten the heniousness of the crime to a civilized mind.) He says, Sir, she was an old woman of some sixty-five years.
Magistrate. An old woman! Where's the corpse?
Interpreter. Now burnt, some twelve
months since your Honor's last visit to this Zillah. Prisoner keeping in gaol all the time. But ashes in Prisoner's wallet. Your Honor inspect?
Magistrate. How old is the Prisoner? Criminal. Twenty-five years.
Interpreter. (Interpreting again to fit his own ideas of what is best.) Prisoner same age as late corpse, your Honor, but looking very young. Vishnu God, salt preserve his life.
Magistrate. (Whose eyes are opened by this blatant falsehood.) Hang the man,-to morrow, five A.M.!
The moral of it all seems to be, when you do stoop to lying, take care that the lies have at least some semblance of plausibility.
The second half of the evening was devoted to conjuring tricks, at which local jugglers are really unsurpassable. I hear that these jugglers are a caste by themselves, and are a most interesting people, clannish and unapproachable. To their own caste they are exceedingly kind. A juggler's portionless widow becomes the care of the whole community; his daughters are married at their joint expense, and his sons are taught the trade by the cleverest juggler among them. As a result a woman is oftenest in best case when widowed. Is it not strange that this should happen in the country where widowhood has always been shown us in the saddest colors? Truly is this a land of anomalies!
But to return,-a custom you would have enjoyed was the evening lamplighting. When the sun drops, the torch-bearers congregate at the palacegates, and run in a body, bearing flaming pines in their hands, to salute, at the chief entrance to the palace, the reigning King. He is called by all the titles which his country and the Empress bestow upon him, and by all the high-sounding flatteries which the Eastern tongue and loyal subjects can deVOL. VIII. 422
vise. Then the chief torch-bearer lights the lamps in the entrance-hall, till which is done not a single spark must relieve the darkness of the palace. Should there be a Prince living in his own separate palace, the ceremony is repeated for him. It was all so strange and oriental, I think it is one of my nicest memories of this place.
I hear I may visit the old Thekrani to morrow, so you shall have news of her when next I write.
P. S. What do the ladies do all day, you ask. Quarrel? No, they are too lethargic for any such activity. Most of them turn over and fondle their lovely jewels and silk garments. One Ranee has taken a violent passion for the concertina. She has about a hundred of them in all sizes, and by all makers, but refuses to be taught how to handle the instrument in the conventional way. As she is energetic about playing, you can imagine the consequence. I no longer wonder that about half a mile divides the King's apartments from the zenana.
Kathiawad, December, 1896.
Oh, my dear Marion, Such a hovel it is which houses the poor old Thekrani! A great gateway, built for offence and defence does indeed frown threateningly at the public road, and is officered by a custodian equally forbidding and imposing. But, oh the sordid poverty behind the wicket! Two small rooms are all the house contains. In one live the maid and her family, all devoted to the Thekrani and counting themselves happy to be serving her; the other is at the Thekrani's own disposal, but she lives mostly on the little veranda. Here I found her dressed in a spotless white cloth, seated on the floor, poring, with the bedimmed vision of her eighty-four years, over an illumined Sanskrit text.
The little gray squirrels ran about her unabashed, hiding in the folds of her draperies, and perching on her shoulder, a striking contrast. But, ugh!the mice ran about too, equally privileged, and you will understand how apprehensive these made me feel. In the yard just beyond are tethered the great unsightly buffaloes, and the dwarfed Indian cows, which provide not only the chief food, but also the only income of the small household. The incarnate pathos of it rises to your mind as you look at the old woman! I wish one could help her. She takes things with a large equanimity, however, saying, as they all say in this country, "It is my fate!"
Her jewels have long since been transmuted into coin, one beautiful uncut diamond alone remaining. Should nothing else happen to help her, she will use this to accomplish the final journey of her life. It is such an odd idea. When she feels death near (her horoscope will date the feeling), she will start, however feeble, on a pilgrimage to the sacred Ganges, which, you must know, is. many hundred miles distant from this place. She will take with her the ashes of her son and daughter, having vowed that these should mingle with the sacred fluid. "If I reach the Ganges," she explained, "after throwing in these two little bags and saying the necessary prayers, I will lay me down on the bank and die. Subibree, my faithful maid, will see that all that is necessary is done for my poor frame. This alone is now my care in life."
Of the Rajah she speaks with difficulty. Yet she did tell me how he wrested from her all her possessions, and indeed he still withholds her allowance, month by month as it falls due, but she is quite sure that with the gods there will be retribution for him, and she wastes no human vengeance.
Her ejection from the palace must Macmillan's Magazine.
have been picturesque. It was intended that this should be a final translation; and to this end, with some show of an attempt at reconciliation, was sent her the loveliest of garments. But the old maid, skilled in the poisons of native States, warned her, only just in time, that to wear it would be to prepare her body against cremation. I have a piece of it now, a valued possession. Failing fraud, they had recourse to force. Imagine it all! The breathless, dark night; the swift stealthy steps of the harridan, as she comes to bind her victim, preventing all possible outcry by a tent-peg wedged in between the poor, toothless jaws; the noiseless race (tyranny against helplessness!) through the deserted streets; the secretive palanquin revealing nothing concerning its burden—and, finally the ruthless desertion outside the city gates! Here she would have fared very badly indeed, but that a kindhearted palanquin-bearer had given up his place at the poles to the ubiquitous maid, who took her to the house where I found her. . . . And to think that all this time the Rajah was entertaining me, to lull my suspicions and keep me off enquiry! I am an oaf, and could weep with vexation!
Kathiawad, May, 1897.
Do you remember the old Thekrani, and her pitiful story? I have just heard that a few months after I said good-bye to her, she felt the death-call and went her pilgrimage. Her vitality lasted the distance of the sacred river, and she omitted nothing of all she had vowed. But that was a week ago, and she lies in a trance now on the treeless sand-banks, responsive to neither the fierce sun by day, nor the brilliant stars by night. Can't you see it all? And the eternal river flows by, cold, majestic, unheeding!
From no grim ancient headland blossom-crowned,
No lineless sand that girds the bay around
Where the wind's threats and clamors pause and fail, But from the green trough of the surges, sound
The Sirens' voices in a landward hail,
Far out where wind and wave play lustily,
Of old the Sirens promised peace and rest
But we whom careless fate in life has set
Like ships becalmed beneath a windless sky,
Life owes to Youth while yet his blood is high
What promise wedded to what melodies
Songs that the shock of meeting waves repeat,
And of the line where sky and water meet
Past which lies all the world to see and knowThrough these with smile austere looks Danger's face Charming our hearts to draw to her embrace.
Lured by the chant, the ancient sailor found
He knew not; but we know the voices sound
Yet while our blood is young, come Death or no,
The Cornhill Magazine.
A HILL-TOP FUNERAL.
To every dweller on the Little Mountain there comes a day when his neighbors, far and near, make their arrangements with him and him alone, in their thoughts. Up to that moment he may have been one of the most insignificant among them, one of the least regarded among the gray emmets which move over the naked fields as you look down upon the country from some bald, rocky height; but to him, on that day, the most pressing business, the most enticing pleasure, must give way. For him, as the season may run, the plough will stand still in mid-furrow; for him the precious hay will be uncarried on upland pastures, though gusty blasts whistle down the rocky valleys and moan round the gray stone of the hilltop cairn, and the wild cry of sea-birds flocking inland comes down the wind, and storm is near; for him, the scanty corn will lie unbound in the yellow sunshine, though days are shortening and autumn is dying fast.
Yet this situation is not exempt from the irony of things. On the day that the mountain to a man waits upon him, he will be unconscious of it all, for it will be the day of his funeral. Many customs have waned, many old ceremonials have fallen upon neglect and evil days, but the funeral to which the whole countryside gathers, still flourishes in the remoter parts of Wales as vigorously as ever; it is easily the greatest function in peasant and yeoman life.
A Welsh funeral begins, as it were, the night before, when a religious service is held at the house of the deceased person. This is usually fixed for halfpast six in the evening, and about five o'clock small knots of men begin to cross the mountain towards the church.
Their task is to fetch the bier, and when enough have gathered to form a small procession they start from the church to the house carrying the bier in turns. The bier is set in the middle of the living-room, the coffin placed upon it, a service held around it, and then friends and neighbors disperse until the next day.
Towards midday, then, on the morrow, you set off to attend the main function. The mountain is full of spurs or ridges, and the house lies almost for a certainty in a deep hollow for sake of shelter. As you cross the last ridge you pause for a moment to survey the country.
On every side you see people converging on the place, the nearer of them tiny, dark figures, sharp against the gray of the mountain, the farther mere dots, but all dropping down the encircling hillsides and running together to fall into the little black pool of people which surrounds the whitewashed farmhouse and its knot of wind-beaten trees. You push on and slip into the throng yourself. Everything is very quiet. A faint voice comes to your ears through the open window of the kitchen, and you know that some one is preaching there, but you do not move towards the sound; the house has been packed long ago. Not a tithe of the concourse could get in or even near the window, and you see long lines of brown-faced men clad in the dark
mountain homespun and seated quietly under the hedgerows or leaning against the dry-stone, lichen-spotted walls and whispering to each other, for on these occasions one-half of the countryside meets the other half and has much to say. You also lean leisurely over a wall and survey the scene. The part of