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
line where the railway was still in process of being built. This line,
owing to the capricious turnings of the Vindhia Mountains, did not
pursue a straight course. The Parsee, who was quite familiar with the
roads and paths in the district, declared that they would gain twenty
miles by striking directly through the forest.
Phileas Fogg and Sir Francis Cromarty, plunged to the neck in the
peculiar howdahs provided for them, were horribly jostled by the swift
trotting of the elephant, spurred on as he was by the skilful Parsee;
but they endured the discomfort with true British phlegm, talking
little, and scarcely able to catch a glimpse of each other. As for
Passepartout, who was mounted on the beast's back, and received the
direct force of each concussion as he trod along, he was very careful,
in accordance with his master's advice, to keep his tongue from between
his teeth, as it would otherwise have been bitten off short. The
worthy fellow bounced from the elephant's neck to his rump, and vaulted
like a clown on a spring-board; yet he laughed in the midst of his
bouncing, and from time to time took a piece of sugar out of his
pocket, and inserted it in Kiouni's trunk, who received it without in
the least slackening his 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, set to devouring the branches and shrubs round
about him. Neither Sir Francis nor Mr. 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
At noon the Parsee gave the signal of departure. The country soon
presented a very savage aspect. Copses of dates and dwarf-palms
succeeded the dense forests; then vast, dry plains, dotted with scanty
shrubs, and sown with great blocks of syenite. All this portion of
Bundelcund, which is little frequented by travellers, is inhabited by a
fanatical population, hardened in the most horrible practices of the
Hindoo faith. The English have not been able to secure complete
dominion over this territory, which is subjected to the influence of
rajahs, whom it is almost impossible to reach in their inaccessible
mountain fastnesses. The travellers several times saw bands of
ferocious Indians, who, when they perceived the elephant striding
across-country, made angry and threatening motions. The Parsee avoided
them as much as possible. Few animals were observed on the route; even
the monkeys hurried from their path with contortions and grimaces which
convulsed Passepartout with 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 he carry him on with him? Impossible! The cost of
transporting him would make him ruinously expensive. Would he sell
him, or set him free? The estimable beast certainly deserved some
consideration. Should Mr. Fogg choose to make him, Passepartout, a
present of Kiouni, he would be very much embarrassed; and these
thoughts did not cease worrying him for a long time.
The principal chain of the Vindhias was crossed by eight in the
evening, and another halt was made on the northern slope, in a ruined
bungalow. They had gone nearly twenty-five miles that day, and an
equal distance still separated them from the station of Allahabad.
The night was cold. The Parsee lit a fire in the bungalow with a few
dry branches, and the warmth was very grateful, provisions purchased at
Kholby sufficed for supper, and the travellers ate ravenously. The
conversation, beginning with a few disconnected phrases, soon gave
place to loud and steady snores. The guide watched Kiouni, who slept
standing, bolstering himself against the trunk of a large tree.
Nothing occurred during the night to disturb the slumberers, although
occasional growls from panthers and chatterings of monkeys broke the
silence; the more formidable beasts made no cries or hostile
demonstration against the occupants of the bungalow. Sir Francis 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 serene
mansion in Saville Row.
The journey was resumed at six in the morning; the guide hoped to reach
Allahabad by evening. In that case, Mr. Fogg would only lose a part of
the forty-eight hours saved since the beginning of the tour. Kiouni,
resuming his rapid gait, soon descended the lower spurs of the
Vindhias, and towards noon they passed by the village of Kallenger, on
the Cani, one of the branches of the Ganges. The guide avoided
inhabited places, thinking it safer to keep the open country, which
lies along the first depressions of the basin of the great river.
Allahabad was now only twelve miles to the north-east. They stopped
under a clump of bananas, the fruit of which, as healthy as bread and
as succulent 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 any unpleasant encounters, and the journey seemed on the
point of being successfully accomplished, when the elephant, becoming
restless, suddenly stopped.
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 a
confused murmur which came through the thick branches.
The murmur soon became more distinct; it now seemed like a distant
concert of human voices accompanied by brass instruments. Passepartout
was all eyes and ears. Mr. Fogg patiently waited without a word. The
Parsee jumped to the ground, fastened the elephant to a tree, and
plunged into the thicket. He soon returned, 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
time asking the travellers not to stir. He held himself ready to
bestride the animal at a moment's notice, should flight become
necessary; but he evidently thought that the procession of the faithful
would pass without perceiving them amid the thick foliage, in which
they were wholly concealed.
The discordant tones of the voices and instruments drew nearer, and now
droning songs mingled with the sound of the tambourines and cymbals.
The head of the procession soon appeared beneath the trees, a hundred
paces away; and the strange figures who performed the religious
ceremony were easily distinguished through the branches. First came
the priests, with mitres on their heads, and clothed in long lace
robes. They were surrounded by men, women, and children, who sang a
kind of lugubrious psalm, interrupted at regular intervals by the
tambourines and cymbals; while behind them was drawn a car with large
wheels, the spokes of which represented serpents entwined with each
other. Upon the car, which was drawn by four richly caparisoned zebus,
stood a hideous statue with four arms, the body coloured a dull red,
with haggard eyes, dishevelled hair, protruding tongue, and lips tinted
with betel. It stood upright upon the figure of a prostrate and
Sir Francis, recognising the statue, whispered, "The goddess Kali; the
goddess of love and death."
"Of death, perhaps," muttered back Passepartout, "but of love—that
ugly old hag? 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 issued drop by drop—stupid fanatics, who, in the great
Indian ceremonies, still throw themselves under the wheels of
Juggernaut. Some Brahmins, clad in all the sumptuousness of Oriental
apparel, and leading a woman who faltered at every step, followed.
This woman was young, and as fair as a European. Her head and neck,
shoulders, ears, arms, hands, and toes were loaded down with jewels and
gems with bracelets, earrings, and rings; while a tunic bordered with
gold, and covered with a light muslin robe, betrayed the outline of her
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 damascened pistols, 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, a turban embroidered with pearls, a robe of
tissue of silk and gold, a scarf of cashmere sewed with diamonds, and
the magnificent weapons of a Hindoo prince. Next came the musicians
and a rearguard of capering fakirs, whose cries sometimes drowned the
noise of the instruments; these closed the procession.
Sir Francis watched the procession with a sad countenance, and, turning
to the guide, said, "A suttee."
The Parsee nodded, and put his finger to his lips. The procession
slowly wound under the trees, and soon its last ranks disappeared in
the depths of the wood. The songs gradually died away; occasionally
cries were heard in the distance, until at last all was silence again.
Phileas Fogg had heard what Sir Francis said, and, as soon as the
procession had 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 his
"And the corpse?" asked Mr. Fogg.
"Is that of the prince, her husband," said the guide; "an independent
rajah of Bundelcund."
"Is it possible," resumed Phileas Fogg, his voice betraying not the
least emotion, "that these barbarous customs still exist in India, and
that the English have been unable to put a stop to them?"
"These sacrifices do not occur in the larger portion of India," replied
Sir Francis; "but we have no power over these savage territories, and
especially here in Bundelcund. The whole district north of the
Vindhias is the theatre of incessant murders and pillage."
"The poor wretch!" exclaimed Passepartout, "to be burned alive!"
"Yes," returned Sir Francis, "burned alive. And, if she were not, you
cannot conceive 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, treat her with contempt; she would be looked upon as
an unclean creature, and would die in some corner, like a scurvy dog.
The prospect of so frightful an existence drives these poor creatures
to the sacrifice much more than love or religious 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 permission of the
governor to be burned along with her husband's body; but, as you may
imagine, he refused. The woman left the town, took refuge with an
independent rajah, and there carried out her self-devoted purpose."
While Sir Francis was speaking, the guide shook his head several times,
and now said: "The sacrifice which will take place to-morrow at dawn is
not a voluntary one."
"How do you know?"
"Everybody knows about this affair in Bundelcund."
"But the wretched creature did not seem to be making any resistance,"
observed Sir Francis.
"That was because they had intoxicated her with fumes of hemp and
"But where are they taking her?"
"To the pagoda of Pillaji, two miles from here; she will pass the night
"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 peculiar whistle, 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."