**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."