We left the caravan far behind. In the gorge with its rosy-pink soil the silence was exquisite, the air had the freshness of a mountain height, and quite inexplicably amid these barren rocks, where there was not a sign of vegetation, there was a scent of honey and almonds.
In the midst of a large room crowded with women in light-hued sarees, the bridegroom takes his seat between two tables, on which are large trays of rice. Facing him is a chair, and one is occupied by the bride, who is brought in by a party of girls. She is scarcely fourteen, all in white; on her head is a veil of invisibly fine muslin ten folds thick; it enfolds her in innocence, and is crowned with sprays of myrtle blossom.
The poorhouse is about two miles from the city; it consists of a courtyard enclosed by walls, from which awnings are stretched supported on poles. And here from twelve to fifteen hundred wretched skeletons had found shelter, spectres with shoulder-blades almost cutting through the skin, arms shrunk to the bone, with the elbow-joint like a knot in the middle, and at the end hands which looked enormous and flat and limp, as if every knuckle were dislocated. Their gnarled knees projected from the fearful leanness of their legs, and the tightened skin between the starting ribs showed the hollow pit of the stomach. Men and women[Pg 192] alike were for the most part naked, but for a ragged cotton loin-cloth. And all had the same scared look in their eyes, the same grin of bare teeth between those hollow cheeks. Almost all had bleeding wounds where the bones had come through the skin. Is a long row of bungalows in their own gardens, on each side of an avenue of thick trees that meet above the road. We crossed the bed of a dry torrent and came to the native village, a labyrinth of clay huts and narrow alleys through which goats and cows wandered, finding their way home to their own stables. On a raised terrace[Pg 47] three Parsees, bowing to the sun with clasped hands, prostrated themselves in adoration, and watched the crimson globe descend wrapped in golden haze; and as soon as the disc had vanished, leaving a line of fiery light in the sky, all three rose, touched each other's hands, passed their fingers lightly over their faces, and resumed their conversation.