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We met a strange caravan; a small party of men surrounding more than a hundred women wrapped in dark robes, and bearing on their veiled heads heavy bales sewn up in matting, and large copper pots. A little blind boy led the way, singing a monotonous chant of three high notes. He came up to my tonga, and to thank me for the small coin I gave him he said, "Salaam, Sahib," and then repeated the same words again and again to his[Pg 37] tune, dancing a little step of his own invention till the whole caravan was hidden from me in a cloud of dust.

CALCUTTA On the road the people bowed low as we passed, almost to the earth. The women, in token of respect, turned their backs and crouched down.

The two chairs are now placed side by side, and the priest goes on chanting his prayers to a slow measure, in a nasal voice that is soon lost again in the chatter of the bystanders. Rice is once more shed over the couple, and incense is burnt in a large bronze vessel, the perfume mingling with that of the jasmine wreaths on the walls. The Cingalese women, of languid gait, wear a long dark robe clinging about their legs and reaching to the ground. The poorer women have only a scanty saree to complete the costume; the more wealthy display stockings and boots; a white bodice cut low, with open sleeves and no basque leaves a roll of skin visible between the skirt and the bodice. The men wear a long loin-cloth of English trouser-stuff, a white jacket buttoned over the bare skin, and a twist of back hair like a woman's, in which they stick a celluloid comb, coronet-fashionsuch a comb as is used in Europe[Pg 125] to keep the hair back from a child's forehead. And all the race are too slender, too pliant, their eyes too long and slightly darkened with kohl; the boys especially have an unpleasant, ambiguous look.

They shoved it under water, but it presently rose to the surface and floated down the stream, followed by a flock of hawks that snatched at the burnt remains and fought over them in the air, while crocodiles below swam up and snapped at them, dragging them down in their enormous jaws, which appeared for a moment above the water.