This custom seems to me worthy of being adoi ted as an olficial practice in Europe. Only be careful to talk business after, and not before the meal! The Parsees, as is well known, form a most important element in the population of Bombay. The ball-room was magnificently decorated in a style half English half Oriental. The master of the house seemed to me the type of the Merchant Prince of the Arabian Nights. And to think that this man will leave his corpse to be devoured by vultures!
TIio ladies of the family did not appear. ICvei'yone joined in the dancinu, some witii an animation scarcely justified by the tem- ] erature, and others from a sense of duty. I saw military veterans frisking about with the zeal aiul devotion of men accustomed to obey orders. English society does well not to recognise limits of age. It leaves to Providence the business of su erannuation. Dancers in all countries, but es[ ecially in Anglo-Saxon circles, are divided into two classes — those who are inspired by the sacred ilame of Terpsichore, and those who are influenced by conscientious motives, the men of duty.
As for the latter, I admire but ] ity them. Nothing can be less amusing than their methods of ainu. This afternoon, under the guidance of M.
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Stockinger, the amiable Austrian consul, I was taken, in spite of the stifling heat, to Malabar Hill. On reaching the top we came to a high wall with a gateway. The guards let us pass unhindered, and we found ourselves in a delightful garden filled with flowering shrubs. In this encliant- ing spot stand three circular towers, without roofs and about twenty feet in height. They have left tlie neighbouring jungle of the native quarter whi ;h serves them as a haunt, and, swooping down upon one of the towers, close their ranks and form a black circle round the top.
Suddenly all is silent again. Perfectly motionless, but with their foul feathers ruffled up, these hideous birds await their prey. It is not long in coming ; a small pro- cession emerges from the gateway in the outer wall. It is the corpse of a Parsee being brought by his relations or friends. Two bearded men, who are to throw the body to the vultures, walk behind the bier. They are followed by other Parsees in white robes. A halt is made before two sacred dogs, whose duty, it seems, is to ascer- tain the identity of the dead person. The two men with beards carry the corpse into the en- closure, where no one but themselves is admitted.
The birds swoop down immediately and devour it. In less than half an hour their work is done, and they fly away gorged with their meal, leaving nothing but the skeleton. This is left to bleach until it becomes perfectly dry, and the bones are then removed from the grating and cast into a well II! Their peculiar hats and the ampleness of their robes, as also their features, put one in mind of Persia, the land from which they came, and the name of wliic'h they have taken and retain. Of all tlie races inhabiting the Gangetic peninsula, theirs, in education, knowledge, ac- quaintance with foreign countries and taste for travelling, most resembles the European.
In this respect the diHerence between the Parsees and the Hindoos is rennu'kable. Many of the former speak English. More than once, while rambling alone in the native quarters, I happened to ask my way, in English, of Parsees, and knowing, as they do, the lanixuatje, thcv were able to inform me. Nearlv all of them are merchants or artisans, and frecpient business dealings multiply their personal relations with the English.
Nevei'theless, a gulf separates the two races. European civilisation has VOL. Tlie men themselves ai'e not clianued : tliey still b nv to the elements, as they bowed some thousands of years aii'o. To touch a c r se is defilement. These two men with beards, themselves the meanest members of their community in tiie eyes of the Parsees.
This is the explanation of the scene 1 have just witnessed, not without emotion. But let us avert our eyes and thoughts from these disnustinii' feasts of Harpies and look around us. IJombay is at our feet, the city, the bay and the sea! Farther- eastward stands a confused mass of houses, broken!
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But the contrast offei-e.! We talked together, and in the eourse of a conversati.. Do they believe in their innumeral le p-ods? Those who have passed through English schools cannot help seeing that the idols are simply the symbols of phih sophical truth. I begged him to tell me what he imderstood by this term.
He tried in vain to find an answer. Vexation and embarrassment, and, if I am not much mistaken, doubt, were de] icted on his mild and intellectual countenance.
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Yes, he seemed to be doubtful about his symbol, and I immediately clianged the conversation. I am told he is one of the most intelliaent and best-informed men of his class, but a vague and meaningless term suffices him to explain everything.
This reminds me of a little incident tliat hap- pened to me in Paris on December 2, , the day of the Coiij d'etat. I was strolling on the IJoidevards. Close to the Porte St.
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Denis, I ob- served, in the cent:e of a gmip of people, a man wdio, amidst the acclamations of his audience, kept repeating the same words, ' Brethren, let us sit down to the banquet of Nature. To my mind it was like a Hash of light : a man in searcli of novelty, Avhether he tries to fiud it in the paths of speculative pliilosophy or, revolver in hand, u] on the barricades, quickly seizes hold of a formula suggested to him, but aban- dons it Avith equal readiness under the influence of the first sceptic that he meets.
Xo doubt, at the touch of science the mists of superstition vanish and idols collapse, but not without leaving gaps in the heart of tlieir votary. Unless you fill up tliese gaps by giving him new convictions, he fares like a man who, to save himself from drowr. He eagerly gras] s the first hollow formula or shibboleth that is offered to his mind, but rejects it on the first breath of dou] t ; the reed breaks in his hands, and he sinks into the void.
On tlie. Dense forests of cocoa-nut ] alms clothe each bank of the Mandavi, which here ilows into the bay.
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Streets, runninu' steeply down to the river, are lined with hand- some trees, that shelter tlie houses of the Indo-Por- tuuuese. CHAP, iir.
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I hke. The Ciovernor'. Ltvvard sigus of slou gi'owth. Many of the rooms are liung throughout with portraits of Viceroys, the oldest t f which goes back to lOO-j. The second in carder of time is that of Albuquerque ; and the series is continued to the present day. Goa was, and to a certain extent is still, the capital of the lloman Catholic world in India.
The Cabinet at Lisbon, deaf to all these arguments, persists in advancing and supporting pretensions which the Holy See rejects, and wdiich the Enolish Government, without joins' into the merit of the question, likewise declares inadmissible. The Eoman Curia grounds its oppo- 1 1 hi [part IV. I shall not retrace here the history of the in- terminable transactions between Kome and Lisbon. In , a schism seemed imminent. In 18o7, after long negotiations, a Concordat was fnially concluded which mitigated, but did not abolish, :he evils from Avhich the Eonian Catholic Church iu India then suflered, and suflei's to this day.
Tlie Concordat had allowed the ju. This gave rise to uncertainties and conflicts of jurisdiction between the j riests sent out by the propaganda and those of the Goanese clergy; often to new Portuguese ] retcnsions ; and. On the other hand is the Holy! The old capital is situated I'arther up the river, six to seven miles from the town. The negotiations are still proceeding.
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Li' into clia, and L Koiiiaii K ina! AV 27 iiiLi' with ihcir iiiiiiato. What a contrast to Nature, here so lavish of her smiles and treasures! In the same village, on the slopes oj' a liill, are seen some lino old country houses built of stone, ea ;h of them dis- plavinii' above the door the ancient escutcheon of the family.
I seenu'd to be at Lamego, or Viseu, oi' in some other antique and venerable little town of Portugal. It is the I'idalgos' quartt'? Goanesc freethinkers allirni that the Pathei's built it in one nisjfht with the aid of the devil.