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Chapter 12

  • **IN WHICH PHILEAS FOGG AND HIS COMPANIONS VENTURE ACROSS THE INDIAN FORESTS, AND WHAT ENSUED**
  • In order to shorten the journey, the guide passed to the left of the lin_here the railway was still in process of being built. This line, owing to th_apricious turnings of the Vindhia Mountains, did not pursue a straigh_ourse. The Parsee, who was quite familiar with the roads and paths in th_istrict, declared that they would gain twenty miles by striking directl_hrough the forest.
  • Phileas Fogg and Sir Francis Cromarty, plunged to the neck in the peculia_owdahs provided for them, were horribly jostled by the swift trotting of th_lephant, spurred on as he was by the skilful Parsee; but they endured th_iscomfort with true British phlegm, talking little, and scarcely able t_atch a glimpse of each other. As for Passepartout, who was mounted on th_east's back, and received the direct force of each concussion as he tro_long, he was very careful, in accordance with his master's advice, to kee_is tongue from between his teeth, as it would otherwise have been bitten of_hort. The worthy fellow bounced from the elephant's neck to his rump, an_aulted like a clown on a spring-board; yet he laughed in the midst of hi_ouncing, and from time to time took a piece of sugar out of his pocket, an_nserted it in Kiouni's trunk, who received it without in the least slackenin_is regular trot.
  • After two hours the guide stopped the elephant, and gave him an hour for rest, during which Kiouni, after quenching his thirst at a neighbouring spring, se_o devouring the branches and shrubs round about him. Neither Sir Francis no_r. Fogg regretted the delay, and both descended with a feeling of relief.
  • "Why, he's made of iron!" exclaimed the general, gazing admiringly on Kiouni.
  • "Of forged iron," replied Passepartout, as he set about preparing a hast_reakfast.
  • At noon the Parsee gave the signal of departure. The country soon presented _ery savage aspect. Copses of dates and dwarf-palms succeeded the dens_orests; then vast, dry plains, dotted with scanty shrubs, and sown with grea_locks of syenite. All this portion of Bundelcund, which is little frequente_y travellers, is inhabited by a fanatical population, hardened in the mos_orrible practices of the Hindoo faith. The English have not been able t_ecure complete dominion over this territory, which is subjected to th_nfluence of rajahs, whom it is almost impossible to reach in thei_naccessible mountain fastnesses. The travellers several times saw bands o_erocious Indians, who, when they perceived the elephant striding across- country, made angry and threatening motions. The Parsee avoided them as muc_s possible. Few animals were observed on the route; even the monkeys hurrie_rom their path with contortions and grimaces which convulsed Passepartou_ith laughter.
  • In the midst of his gaiety, however, one thought troubled the worthy servant.
  • What would Mr. Fogg do with the elephant when he got to Allahabad? Would h_arry him on with him? Impossible! The cost of transporting him would make hi_uinously expensive. Would he sell him, or set him free? The estimable beas_ertainly deserved some consideration. Should Mr. Fogg choose to make him, Passepartout, a present of Kiouni, he would be very much embarrassed; an_hese thoughts did not cease worrying him for a long time.
  • The principal chain of the Vindhias was crossed by eight in the evening, an_nother halt was made on the northern slope, in a ruined bungalow. They ha_one nearly twenty-five miles that day, and an equal distance still separate_hem from the station of Allahabad.
  • The night was cold. The Parsee lit a fire in the bungalow with a few dr_ranches, and the warmth was very grateful, provisions purchased at Kholb_ufficed for supper, and the travellers ate ravenously. The conversation, beginning with a few disconnected phrases, soon gave place to loud and stead_nores. The guide watched Kiouni, who slept standing, bolstering himsel_gainst the trunk of a large tree. Nothing occurred during the night t_isturb the slumberers, although occasional growls front panthers an_hatterings of monkeys broke the silence; the more formidable beasts made n_ries or hostile demonstration against the occupants of the bungalow. Si_rancis slept heavily, like an honest soldier overcome with fatigue.
  • Passepartout was wrapped in uneasy dreams of the bouncing of the day before.
  • As for Mr. Fogg, he slumbered as peacefully as if he had been in his seren_ansion in Saville Row.
  • The journey was resumed at six in the morning; the guide hoped to reac_llahabad by evening. In that case, Mr. Fogg would only lose a part of th_orty-eight hours saved since the beginning of the tour. Kiouni, resuming hi_apid gait, soon descended the lower spurs of the Vindhias, and towards noo_hey passed by the village of Kallenger, on the Cani, one of the branches o_he Ganges. The guide avoided inhabited places, thinking it safer to keep th_pen country, which lies along the first depressions of the basin of the grea_iver. Allahabad was now only twelve miles to the north-east. They stoppe_nder a clump of bananas, the fruit of which, as healthy as bread and a_ucculent as cream, was amply partaken of and appreciated.
  • At two o'clock the guide entered a thick forest which extended several miles; he preferred to travel under cover of the woods. They had not as yet had an_npleasant encounters, and the journey seemed on the point of bein_uccessfully accomplished, when the elephant, becoming restless, suddenl_topped.
  • It was then four o'clock.
  • "What's the matter?" asked Sir Francis, putting out his head.
  • "I don't know, officer," replied the Parsee, listening attentively to _onfused murmur which came through the thick branches.
  • The murmur soon became more distinct; it now seemed like a distant concert o_uman voices accompanied by brass instruments. Passepartout was all eyes an_ars. Mr. Fogg patiently waited without a word. The Parsee jumped to th_round, fastened the elephant to a tree, and plunged into the thicket. He soo_eturned, saying:
  • "A procession of Brahmins is coming this way. We must prevent their seeing us, if possible."
  • The guide unloosed the elephant and led him into a thicket, at the same tim_sking the travellers not to stir. He held himself ready to bestride th_nimal at a moment's notice, should flight become necessary; but he evidentl_hought that the procession of the faithful would pass without perceiving the_mid the thick foliage, in which they were wholly concealed.
  • The discordant tones of the voices and instruments drew nearer, and no_roning songs mingled with the sound of the tambourines and cymbals. The hea_f the procession soon appeared beneath the trees, a hundred paces away; an_he strange figures who performed the religious ceremony were easil_istinguished through the branches. First came the priests, with mitres o_heir heads, and clothed in long lace robes. They were surrounded by men, women, and children, who sang a kind of lugubrious psalm, interrupted a_egular intervals by the tambourines and cymbals; while behind them was draw_ car with large wheels, the spokes of which represented serpents entwine_ith each other. Upon the car, which was drawn by four richly caparisone_ebus, stood a hideous statue with four arms, the body coloured a dull red, with haggard eyes, dishevelled hair, protruding tongue, and lips tinted wit_etel. It stood upright upon the figure of a prostrate and headless giant.
  • Sir Francis, recognising the statue, whispered, "The goddess Kali; the goddes_f love and death."
  • "Of death, perhaps," muttered back Passepartout, "but of love— that ugly ol_ag? Never!"
  • The Parsee made a motion to keep silence.
  • A group of old fakirs were capering and making a wild ado round the statue; these were striped with ochre, and covered with cuts whence their blood issue_rop by drop—stupid fanatics, who, in the great Indian ceremonies, still thro_hemselves under the wheels of Juggernaut. Some Brahmins, clad in all th_umptuousness of Oriental apparel, and leading a woman who faltered at ever_tep, followed. This woman was young, and as fair as a European. Her head an_eck, shoulders, ears, arms, hands, and toes were loaded down with jewels an_ems with bracelets, earrings, and rings; while a tunic bordered with gold, and covered with a light muslin robe, betrayed the outline of her form.
  • The guards who followed the young woman presented a violent contrast to her, armed as they were with naked sabres hung at their waists, and long damascene_istols, and bearing a corpse on a palanquin. It was the body of an old man, gorgeously arrayed in the habiliments of a rajah, wearing, as in life, _urban embroidered with pearls, a robe of tissue of silk and gold, a scarf o_ashmere sewed with diamonds, and the magnificent weapons of a Hindoo prince.
  • Next came the musicians and a rearguard of capering fakirs, whose crie_ometimes drowned the noise of the instruments; these closed the procession.
  • Sir Francis watched the procession with a sad countenance, and, turning to th_uide, said, "A suttee."
  • The Parsee nodded, and put his finger to his lips. The procession slowly woun_nder the trees, and soon its last ranks disappeared in the depths of th_ood. The songs gradually died away; occasionally cries were heard in th_istance, until at last all was silence again.
  • Phileas Fogg had heard what Sir Francis said, and, as soon as the processio_ad disappeared, asked: "What is a suttee?"
  • "A suttee," returned the general, "is a human sacrifice, but a voluntary one.
  • The woman you have just seen will be burned to-morrow at the dawn of day."
  • "Oh, the scoundrels!" cried Passepartout, who could not repress hi_ndignation.
  • "And the corpse?" asked Mr. Fogg.
  • "Is that of the prince, her husband," said the guide; "an independent rajah o_undelcund."
  • "Is it possible," resumed Phileas Fogg, his voice betraying not the leas_motion, "that these barbarous customs still exist in India, and that th_nglish have been unable to put a stop to them?"
  • "These sacrifices do not occur in the larger portion of India," replied Si_rancis; "but we have no power over these savage territories, and especiall_ere in Bundelcund. The whole district north of the Vindhias is the theatre o_ncessant murders and pillage."
  • "The poor wretch!" exclaimed Passepartout, "to be burned alive!"
  • "Yes," returned Sir Francis, "burned alive. And, if she were not, you canno_onceive what treatment she would be obliged to submit to from her relatives.
  • They would shave off her hair, feed her on a scanty allowance of rice, trea_er with contempt; she would be looked upon as an unclean creature, and woul_ie in some corner, like a scurvy dog. The prospect of so frightful a_xistence drives these poor creatures to the sacrifice much more than love o_eligious fanaticism. Sometimes, however, the sacrifice is really voluntary, and it requires the active interference of the Government to prevent it.
  • Several years ago, when I was living at Bombay, a young widow asked permissio_f the governor to be burned along with her husband's body; but, as you ma_magine, he refused. The woman left the town, took refuge with an independen_ajah, and there carried out her self-devoted purpose."
  • While Sir Francis was speaking, the guide shook his head several times, an_ow said: "The sacrifice which will take place to-morrow at dawn is not _oluntary one."
  • "How do you know?"
  • "Everybody knows about this affair in Bundelcund."
  • "But the wretched creature did not seem to be making any resistance," observe_ir Francis.
  • "That was because they had intoxicated her with fumes of hemp and opium."
  • "But where are they taking her?"
  • "To the pagoda of Pillaji, two miles from here; she will pass the nigh_here."
  • "And the sacrifice will take place—"
  • "To-morrow, at the first light of dawn."
  • The guide now led the elephant out of the thicket, and leaped upon his neck.
  • Just at the moment that he was about to urge Kiouni forward with a peculia_histle, Mr. Fogg stopped him, and, turning to Sir Francis Cromarty, said,
  • "Suppose we save this woman."
  • "Save the woman, Mr. Fogg!"
  • "I have yet twelve hours to spare; I can devote them to that."
  • "Why, you are a man of heart!"
  • "Sometimes," replied Phileas Fogg, quietly; "when I have the time."