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The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.

At the station pilgrims again, bewildered, shouting, rushing about in search of their lost luggage. One group presently emerged from the crowd, led by a man bareheaded, who rang a big bell with great gesticulations, his arms in the air, and the whole party marched off towards the temples in silent and orderly procession.

Off next morning to the Khyber Pass. The road lay across the vast monotonous plain, richly productive all the way from Peshawur to the foot of the hills. At one end of a field some men had spread a net and were beating the field towards the corners with a heavy rope that broke down the tall oats; before long the birds were seen struggling under the meshes, but they were soon caught and carried away in cages.

At Jan the pagodas are of red stone. The largest, conical in shape, covers with its ponderous roof, overloaded with sculptured figures of gods and animals, a very small passage, at the end of which two lights burning hardly reveal a white idol standing amid a perfect carpet of flowers. Round the sacred tank that lies at the base of the[Pg 45] temple, full of stagnant greenish-white water, are flights of steps in purple-hued stone; at the angles, twelve little conical kiosks, also of red stone and highly decorated, shelter twelve similar idols, but black. And between the temples, among the few huts that compose the village of Jan, stand Moslem mausoleums and tombs. Verses from the Koran are carved on the stones, now scarcelyl visible amid the spreading briars and garlands of creepers hanging from the tall trees that are pushing their roots between the flagstones that cover the dead. A man by the roadside was mixing mud with[Pg 265] chopped straw; then when his mortar was of the right consistency he began to build the walls of his house between the four corner posts, with no tools but his hands. A woman and child helped him, patting the concrete with their hands until it began to look almost smooth.

The guardian fakirs who watch the sacred flag sat under a tree in front of the temple. One of these, quite young, was beautiful beyond words. He had taken a vow always to stand. Leaning on a long pole he rocked himself without ceasing; for an instant he allowed his rapt eyes to rest on the bystanders, and then looked up again at the plume of white horse-hair that crowns the flagstaff. His legs were rather wide apart and evidently stiff; he walked without bending his knees, and then as soon as he stood still he rested his chin on his long cane, and swayed his body as before.

In the courtyard a tall and gaudy cock was keeping the crows in order, driving them relentlessly away from the kitchen precincts. On the roof of the servants' quarters, always in the same spot, perched a kite, ready to pounce as soon as anything was thrown out. The doves, the house-pigeons, the fowls fled at once and squatted in corners; but the cock stood his ground, his feathers all on end, his crest erect, chuckling with rage and stalking round the yard within ten paces of the bird of prey.

The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.

Further away, in another quite small temple, a young Brahmin robed in white, and very handsome, was reading the Ramayana to two women; the three quite filled the little building. The entrance was screened by a curtain composed of jasmine flowers threaded on fine string, and behind this veil of flowers the three figures looked like the creatures of a legend. Outside the sanctuary, seated on the steps and flagstones and obstructing the street, were a score or so of women redolent of lemon and[Pg 178] sandal-wood, and listening to the scripture distinctly chanted out by the young priest.