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Chapter 44

The old saw says, "Let a sleeping dog lie." Right.... Still, when there
is much at stake it is better to get a newspaper to do it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

FROM DIARY:

January 28. I learned of an official Thug-book the other day. I was
not aware before that there was such a thing. I am allowed the temporary
use of it. We are making preparations for travel. Mainly the
preparations are purchases of bedding. This is to be used in sleeping
berths in the trains; in private houses sometimes; and in nine-tenths of
the hotels. It is not realizable; and yet it is true. It is a survival;
an apparently unnecessary thing which in some strange way has outlived
the conditions which once made it necessary. It comes down from a time
when the railway and the hotel did not exist; when the occasional white
traveler went horseback or by bullock-cart, and stopped over night in the
small dak-bungalow provided at easy distances by the government--a
shelter, merely, and nothing more. He had to carry bedding along, or do
without. The dwellings of the English residents are spacious and
comfortable and commodiously furnished, and surely it must be an odd
sight to see half a dozen guests come filing into such a place and
dumping blankets and pillows here and there and everywhere. But custom
makes incongruous things congruous.

One buys the bedding, with waterproof hold-all for it at almost any shop
--there is no difficulty about it.

January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It
was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole
world was present--half of it inside, the other half outside, and both
halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight,
trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one
narrow door. These opposing floods were patient, gentle, long-suffering
natives, with whites scattered among them at rare intervals; and wherever
a white man's native servant appeared, that native seemed to have put
aside his natural gentleness for the time and invested himself with the
white man's privilege of making a way for himself by promptly shoving all
intervening black things out of it. In these exhibitions of authority
Satan was scandalous. He was probably a Thug in one of his former
incarnations.

Inside the great station, tides upon tides of rainbow-costumed natives
swept along, this way and that, in massed and bewildering confusion,
eager, anxious, belated, distressed; and washed up to the long trains and
flowed into them with their packs and bundles, and disappeared, followed
at once by the next wash, the next wave. And here and there, in the
midst of this hurly-burly, and seemingly undisturbed by it, sat great
groups of natives on the bare stone floor,--young, slender brown women,
old, gray wrinkled women, little soft brown babies, old men, young men,
boys; all poor people, but all the females among them, both big and
little, bejeweled with cheap and showy nose-rings, toe-rings, leglets,
and armlets, these things constituting all their wealth, no doubt. These
silent crowds sat there with their humble bundles and baskets and small
household gear about them, and patiently waited--for what? A train that
was to start at some time or other during the day or night! They hadn't
timed themselves well, but that was no matter--the thing had been so
ordered from on high, therefore why worry? There was plenty of time,
hours and hours of it, and the thing that was to happen would happen
--there was no hurrying it.

The natives traveled third class, and at marvelously cheap rates. They
were packed and crammed into cars that held each about fifty; and it was
said that often a Brahmin of the highest caste was thus brought into
personal touch, and consequent defilement, with persons of the lowest
castes--no doubt a very shocking thing if a body could understand it and
properly appreciate it. Yes, a Brahmin who didn't own a rupee and
couldn't borrow one, might have to touch elbows with a rich hereditary
lord of inferior caste, inheritor of an ancient title a couple of yards
long, and he would just have to stand it; for if either of the two was
allowed to go in the cars where the sacred white people were, it probably
wouldn't be the august poor Brahmin. There was an immense string of
those third-class cars, for the natives travel by hordes; and a weary
hard night of it the occupants would have, no doubt.

When we reached our car, Satan and Barney had already arrived there with
their train of porters carrying bedding and parasols and cigar boxes, and
were at work. We named him Barney for short; we couldn't use his real
name, there wasn't time.

It was a car that promised comfort; indeed, luxury. Yet the cost of it
--well, economy could no further go; even in France; not even in Italy. It
was built of the plainest and cheapest partially-smoothed boards, with a
coating of dull paint on them, and there was nowhere a thought of
decoration. The floor was bare, but would not long remain so when the
dust should begin to fly. Across one end of the compartment ran a
netting for the accommodation of hand-baggage; at the other end was a
door which would shut, upon compulsion, but wouldn't stay shut; it opened
into a narrow little closet which had a wash-bowl in one end of it, and a
place to put a towel, in case you had one with you--and you would be sure
to have towels, because you buy them with the bedding, knowing that the
railway doesn't furnish them. On each side of the car, and running fore
and aft, was a broad leather-covered sofa to sit on in the day and sleep
on at night. Over each sofa hung, by straps, a wide, flat,
leather-covered shelf--to sleep on. In the daytime you can hitch it up
against the wall, out of the way--and then you have a big unencumbered
and most comfortable room to spread out in. No car in any country is
quite its equal for comfort (and privacy) I think. For usually there are
but two persons in it; and even when there are four there is but little
sense of impaired privacy. Our own cars at home can surpass the railway
world in all details but that one: they have no cosiness; there are too
many people together.

At the foot of each sofa was a side-door, for entrance and exit.
Along the whole length of the sofa on each side of the car ran a row of
large single-plate windows, of a blue tint-blue to soften the bitter
glare of the sun and protect one's eyes from torture. These could be let
down out of the way when one wanted the breeze. In the roof were two oil
lamps which gave a light strong enough to read by; each had a green-cloth
attachment by which it could be covered when the light should be no
longer needed.

While we talked outside with friends, Barney and Satan placed the
hand-baggage, books, fruits, and soda-bottles in the racks, and the
hold-alls and heavy baggage in the closet, hung the overcoats and
sun-helmets and towels on the hooks, hoisted the two bed-shelves up out
of the way, then shouldered their bedding and retired to the third class.

Now then, you see what a handsome, spacious, light, airy, homelike place
it was, wherein to walk up and down, or sit and write, or stretch out and
read and smoke. A central door in the forward end of the compartment
opened into a similar compartment. It was occupied by my wife and
daughter. About nine in the evening, while we halted a while at a
station, Barney and Satan came and undid the clumsy big hold-alls, and
spread the bedding on the sofas in both compartments--mattresses, sheets,
gay coverlets, pillows, all complete; there are no chambermaids in India
--apparently it was an office that was never heard of. Then they
closed the communicating door, nimbly tidied up our place, put the
night-clothing on the beds and the slippers under them, then returned
to their own quarters.

January 31. It was novel and pleasant, and I stayed awake as long as I
could, to enjoy it, and to read about those strange people the Thugs. In
my sleep they remained with me, and tried to strangle me. The leader of
the gang was that giant Hindoo who was such a picture in the strong light
when we were leaving those Hindoo betrothal festivities at two o'clock in
the morning--Rao Bahadur Baskirao Balinkanje Pitale, Vakeel to the
Gaikwar of Baroda. It was he that brought me the invitation from his
master to go to Baroda and lecture to that prince--and now he was
misbehaving in my dreams. But all things can happen in dreams. It is
indeed as the Sweet Singer of Michigan says--irrelevantly, of course, for
the one and unfailing great quality which distinguishes her poetry from
Shakespeare's and makes it precious to us is its stern and simple
irrelevancy:

My heart was gay and happy,
This was ever in my mind,
There is better times a coming,
And I hope some day to find
Myself capable of composing,
It was my heart's delight
To compose on a sentimental subject
If it came in my mind just right.

--["The Sentimental Song Book," p. 49; theme, "The Author's Early Life,"
19th stanza.]


Barroda. Arrived at 7 this morning. The dawn was just beginning to
show. It was forlorn to have to turn out in a strange place at such a
time, and the blinking lights in the station made it seem night still.
But the gentlemen who had come to receive us were there with their
servants, and they make quick work; there was no lost time. We were soon
outside and moving swiftly through the soft gray light, and presently
were comfortably housed--with more servants to help than we were used to,
and with rather embarassingly important officials to direct them. But it
was custom; they spoke Ballarat English, their bearing was charming and
hospitable, and so all went well.

Breakfast was a satisfaction. Across the lawns was visible in the
distance through the open window an Indian well, with two oxen tramping
leisurely up and down long inclines, drawing water; and out of the
stillness came the suffering screech of the machinery--not quite musical,
and yet soothingly melancholy and dreamy and reposeful--a wail of lost
spirits, one might imagine. And commemorative and reminiscent, perhaps;
for of course the Thugs used to throw people down that well when they
were done with them.

After breakfast the day began, a sufficiently busy one. We were driven
by winding roads through a vast park, with noble forests of great trees,
and with tangles and jungles of lovely growths of a humbler sort; and at
one place three large gray apes came out and pranced across the road--a
good deal of a surprise and an unpleasant one, for such creatures belong
in the menagerie, and they look artificial and out of place in a
wilderness.

We came to the city, by and by, and drove all through it. Intensely
Indian, it was, and crumbly, and mouldering, and immemorially old, to all
appearance. And the houses--oh, indescribably quaint and curious they
were, with their fronts an elaborate lace-work of intricate and beautiful
wood-carving, and now and then further adorned with rude pictures of
elephants and princes and gods done in shouting colors; and all the
ground floors along these cramped and narrow lanes occupied as shops
--shops unbelievably small and impossibly packed with merchantable rubbish,
and with nine-tenths-naked natives squatting at their work of hammering,
pounding, brazing, soldering, sewing, designing, cooking, measuring out
grain, grinding it, repairing idols--and then the swarm of ragged and
noisy humanity under the horses' feet and everywhere, and the pervading
reek and fume and smell! It was all wonderful and delightful.

Imagine a file of elephants marching through such a crevice of a street
and scraping the paint off both sides of it with their hides. How big
they must look, and how little they must make the houses look; and when
the elephants are in their glittering court costume, what a contrast they
must make with the humble and sordid surroundings. And when a mad
elephant goes raging through, belting right and left with his trunk, how
do these swarms of people get out of the way? I suppose it is a thing
which happens now and then in the mad season (for elephants have a mad
season).

I wonder how old the town is. There are patches of building--massive
structures, monuments, apparently--that are so battered and worn, and
seemingly so tired and so burdened with the weight of age, and so dulled
and stupefied with trying to remember things they forgot before history
began, that they give one the feeling that they must have been a part of
original Creation. This is indeed one of the oldest of the princedoms of
India, and has always been celebrated for its barbaric pomps and
splendors, and for the wealth of its princes.

Mark Twain