In the evening, in the open street, we came upon a circle of bystanders all beating time, while in the midst four little girls were dancing, wearing the sarong, but naked to the waist. They leaned very much over to the right, resting the right elbow on the groin, clapping the right hand with the left, and throwing back the left leg. All four did the same, round and round, and this went on again and again without a pause, under the pale light of the stars filtering through an enormous banyan tree. Occasionally a woman among the crowd would give a slow, long-drawn cry, and the dancers answered in very short notes, piercingly shrill.
The fort of Allahabad, the fort of the mutiny of 1857, is a complete citadel where, in the thickness of the walls, behind screens of acacia trees, lurk doors into palaces. Among the gardens there are clearings full of guns and ambulance waggons, and enormous barracks and huts for native soldiers. Then on the ponderous stonework of the ramparts rise little kiosks in the light Hindoo-Mussulman style, elaborate and slender, built by Akbar the [Pg 183]conqueror, who took Prayag and razed it, to build on the site a city dedicated to Allah. And now modern architecture is slowly invading it, adding to the flat walls which hide under their monotony the gems of stonework with their elegant decoration.
Down the middle of the Ganges a white bundle is being borne, and on it a crow pecking the body of a child wrapped in its winding-sheet.
BUNNOO A salesman of whom I had bought several things, wishing to do me a civility, called a tom-tom player, who was to escort me home rapping on his ass's[Pg 215] skin; and when I declined very positively, the poor man murmured with a piteous, crushed look: There, again, they all sit down in the garden. The same little packets of betel, only wrapped in gold leaf, are offered to the company, and bunches of chrysanthemum sprinkled with scent.