FRIDAY, February 21.

We rose early, and were off before breakfast for a drive to the "Tower of Silence." This is the mountain top where the Parsees give their dead to be torn by the vultures. We shudder at cremation, but the sacred fire of the funeral pile as it flames to heaven has something awe-inspiring about it. Man sprung from the dust mingles at last with the purer element of fire, and "vanishes into air, into thin air," leaving no trace behind. But deliberately to throw our dead out to be torn in pieces and devoured by vultures - who can endure the thought! And yet many of the inhabitants here would be most unhappy if denied the consolation of believing that their bodies were to be served in this manner. Nor are these poor and ignorant; on the contrary, next to the English they are the best educated and the principal merchants in the city. It is simply that they have been taught in their youth that the earth must not be defiled by contact with the dead. They cannot bury, therefore, neither can they burn, because fire, one of the elements, is sacred; neither can they cast their dead into the sea, for it, too, is holy. There seems to them no way but this - of getting the birds of the air to come and take the flesh. We were received at the foot of the mound by a Parsee guide, who conducted us through every part. The towers, of which there are five, are approached by long flights of easy stairs. We entered a door at the top, and the first objects which struck our eyes were the vultures. They sat motionless, as close together as possible, on top of the wall of the round tower, with their tails toward us and their beaks toward the centre of the tower where the bodies are placed. The wall is about twenty feet high and fifty feet in diameter. There did not appear to be room for one more bird upon it, every inch of it being occupied, their bodies almost touching each other. What a revolting coping they formed to the otherwise plain round wall. More birds were perched on trees, and on the other towers; and indeed everywhere we looked these disgusting objects met our view. At ten o'clock every morning the dead are taken from the dead-house, rich and poor alike being previously divested of clothing; and were we to revisit the spot at that hour, we are told the quiet stillness which pervaded the grove would be found no longer. We inwardly congratulated ourselves that the dreaded heat of a Bombay sun had sent us to this place at so early an hour - ere the repast began - and rapidly withdrew. It isn't much, yet I would not be robbed of it - such a disposition of our dead as would still render it possible for us to say with Laertes:

  "Lay her i' the earth; 
   And from her fair and unpolluted flesh 
   May violets spring."

Hard times are everywhere, and produce some strange changes. The Banyan caste of Suerah has just resolved to abolish caste dinners after funerals, but if a wealthy Hindoo still wishes to indulge in these affairs he is permitted to do so after one year has elapsed. I fear many of the dear departed will never be honored by the feast after this interval. At marriages hereafter only one feast is to be given, instead of four, which were formerly considered the thing. Retrenchment is the word even where caste customs of long standing are involved.

I note that yesterday a native was fined ten rupees for driving a lame horse. What a singular race he must think these English! Before their day he could have done what he liked with horse or servant, male or female, "because he bought them," and now he can't even be the judge when to use his horse. The more I see of the thoroughness of the English Government in the East - its attention to the minutest details, the exceptional ability of its officials as evinced in the excellence of the courts, jails, hospitals, dispensaries, schools, roads, railways, canals, etc., - the more I am amazed. I had before no idea of what was implied by the government of India. It would have been madness for any other people than the English to undertake it. Not that we have not in America a class of men of equal organizing power, but these have careers at home open to them, and could not be induced to leave their own land. Even if this were not so, America requires an improved civil service to bring its ablest men forward. I am sure no such body of officials exists as that comprising the civil service of India, whether judged by its purity or its ability.

The British army has been reformed of late years in India to a degree beyond popular knowledge of the subject. Every one agrees in attributing the spread of the great mutiny to the fact that there were at two or three critical points superannuated veterans, unable to take before it was too late the most obvious measures for its suppression. In short, it was here just as it was in Washington when the Civil War began. I remember seeing General Scott, the commander-in-chief, when Bull Run was lost, carried or assisted from his carriage across the pavement to his office, he being too old and infirm to walk. There were others scarcely less feeble in charge of departments. It was just so in India; but now mark the change. No man can retain the command of a regiment in the British army more than five years, nor can generals serve longer. These officers retire on pensions, and the next in seniority takes his turn, always provided he passes successfully the most searching examination at each successive promotion. I was told that upon a recent examination only two officers out of thirteen passed. No favoritism is shown, and I have met young men related to the highest officials to whom it has been kindly intimated that another career than the army had better be sought. I have met many officers, and the impression made upon me is an exceedingly favorable one. I do not believe that in case of war now the blunder of those in command would have to be atoned for by the superior fighting qualities of the rank and file, as was notoriously the case during the Crimean War. The promotion of General Wolseley means business. The Duke of Cambridge, because he is a royal duke, is allowed to reign, but Wolseley is to govern.

I was struck with the full length portraits of the real man and the sham in last year's Royal Academy. General Winfield Scott in all his glory was not more brilliant than the duke, military hat in hand with its white waving plumes, booted and spurred, his breast a mass of decorations, "Old Fuss and Feathers" over again. Beside him was a man in plain attire, about as ornamental as General Grant; but this was the man of war, one of those very rare characters who does what there is to do - in Egypt as in Abyssinia - and never fails.

Bombay and Calcutta are again rivals for supremacy. Bombay Island, upon which Bombay City stands, another of the keys of the world, was given to Britain by Portugal as part of the dower of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II. Think of a woman giving anything for the privilege of marrying such a wretch! but so little was it esteemed that the government gave it in 1688 to the East India Company for a rental of L10 per annum. It was subsequently made the principal seat of their power, but it had no access to the interior, and Calcutta, which stands at the mouth of a river system of inland transportation rivalled only by that of our smoky Pittsburgh, soon eclipsed it. There was no chance for Bombay against this natural advantage, and she had to succumb; but now, since railways have penetrated the interior, and especially since the opening of the Suez Canal route has brought Bombay so very much nearer to Europe, the struggle for supremacy has begun anew. The European traffic now goes mainly to her, and Calcutta gets her portion by rail through her ancient rival. In 1872 the exports and imports of Bombay were L50,000,000, and those of Calcutta L54,000,000; so you see it is not going to be a walk over for Calcutta, though her population still exceeds that of her challenger by about a hundred thousand. It is water vs. rail on a large scale, and the result will be looked for with interest. I think the former capital, once dethroned, will eventually regain the crown; but there is plenty of room for both, and the rivalry between them should be a generous one.

Bombay is by far the finest city in the East, but it has been inflated more than any other, and is now undergoing severe contraction. Its public buildings would do credit to any European capital. Government concluded to sell the land fronting on the bay, which had been used as the site of an antiquated fort, and such was the rage for speculation at the time that five million dollars' worth of land was disposed of and enough retained to give Bombay a beautiful little park and a long drive along the beach. Government took the money and erected on part of the land retained the magnificent buildings referred to. We met one gentleman who had bought one hundred thousand dollars' worth of the new lots, for which he admitted he could not get today more than twenty thousand dollars. But Bombay is only learning the universal lesson which the world seems to need to have repeated every ten or twelve years. It is fortunate that this city is our last in India, because it so far excels any other. Nowhere else is such oriental richness to be seen. The colors of the masses as they move rapidly to and fro remind you of the combinations of the kaleidoscope. The native women of the lowest order work in gangs, and it is their dress which chiefly brightens the scene. A dark-green tight-fitting jacket, a magenta mantle festooned about the body and legs in some very graceful manner and reaching to the knees, the feet and legs bare to the knees, a purple veil on the head but thrown back over the shoulders - this is the dress as well as I can describe it. The habit of carrying loads upon the head makes them as straight as arrows, and as they march along with majestic stride they completely eclipse the poor-looking male, who seems to have had his manhood ground out of him by generations of oppression, while his companion has passed through subjugation without losing her personal dignity.

It seems homelike to see street railways, of which there are several prosperous lines here. For this enterprise an American gentleman has to be thanked. All classes ride together, and caste in Bombay gets serious knocks in consequence. From Bombay as a centre civilization is destined to radiate. A palpable breach has already been made in the solid walls which have hitherto shut India from the entrance of new ideas, and through this gate the assaulting columns must eventually gain possession; but it will not be within the span of men now living, nor for several generations to come. The Sailors' Home and the hospitals of the city are highly creditable, and among the charitable institutions I must not forget the Hindoo hospital for wretched animals, where some of each kind are tenderly cared for, to signify the reverence paid by this sect to all kinds of life, for the meanest form is sacred to them. We had a curious illustration of this while in Benares examining the richest specimens of the delicate embroideries for which that city is celebrated. A little nasty intruder showed itself on one of the finest, and a gentleman with us involuntarily reached forth to kill it, but the three Hindoos caught his arm at once, and exhibited great anxiety to save the insect. One of them did get it, and taking it to the window set it at liberty. It was Uncle Toby and the troublesome fly over again, as immortalized by the genius of Sterne: "Get thee gone, poor devil! there is room enough in the world for thee and for me," quoth Uncle Toby. And does not Cowper say -

  "I would not enter on my list of friends 
   (Though graced with polish'd manners and fine sense, 
   Yet wanting sensibility) the man 
   Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm."

Well, these Hindoos wouldn't do it either. Let them be credited accordingly, heathen though they be.

It begins to grow too hot here; I could not live one season in India - that I am convinced of. The tropical sun has no mercy, piercing through thick pith helmet, white umbrella, and driving one into the house. We are to leave none too soon. This evening we were surprised to see, as we strolled along the beach, more Parsees than ever before, and more Parsee ladies richly dressed; all seemed wending their way to the sea. It was the first of the new moon, a period sacred to these worshippers of the elements; and here on the shores of the ocean, as the sun was sinking in the sea, and the slender silver thread of the crescent moon was faintly shining in the horizon, they congregated to perform their religious rites. Fire was there in its grandest form - the sun - and water in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean outstretched before them. The earth was under their feet, and wafted across the sea the air came laden with the perfumes of "Araby the Blest." Surely no time nor place could be more fitly chosen than this for lifting up the soul to the realms beyond sense. I could not but participate with these worshippers in what was so grandly beautiful. There was no music save the solemn moan of the waves as they broke into foam on the beach,

  "With their ain eerie croon 
   Working their appointed work, 
   And never, never done."

But where shall we find so mighty an organ, or so grand an anthem? How inexpressibly sublime the scene appeared to me, and how insignificant and unworthy of the Unknown seemed even our cathedrals, "made with human hands," when compared to this looking up through Nature unto Nature's God! I stood and drank in the serene happiness which seemed to fill the air. I have seen many modes and forms of worship, some disgusting, others saddening, a few elevating when the organ pealed forth its tones, but all poor in comparison to this. Nor do I ever expect in all my life to witness a religious ceremony which will so powerfully affect me as that of the Parsees on the beach at Bombay. While I gazed upon the scene I stood conscious only that I was privileged to catch a glimpse of something that was not of the earth, but, as I sauntered homeward, Wordsworth's lines came to me as the fittest expression of my feelings. The passage is too long to quote at length; besides I have to confess I cannot at this moment recall it all. But he tells first how in his youth Nature was all in all to him, "nor needed a moral sense unborrowed from the eye," but later the inner light came; and hear him in his maturer years:

                     "For I have learned 
   To look on Nature, not as in the hour 
   Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes 
   The still, sad music of humanity, 
   Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power 
   To chasten and subdue. And I have felt 
   A Presence that disturbs me with the joy 
   Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime 
   Of something far more deeply interfused, 
   Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
   And the round ocean and the living air, 
   And the blue sky, and in the mind of man; 
   A motion and a spirit, that impels 
   All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
   And rolls through all things."

"The still sad music of humanity!" - it was that I heard sounding in the prayers of those devout Parsees and in the moan of that mighty sea. Sweet, refreshing it was, though tinged with sadness, as all our more precious musings must be, "since all we know is, nothing can be known."

In one of my strolls along the beach I met a Parsee gentleman who spoke excellent English. From him I learned that the disciples of Zoroaster number only about two hundred thousand, and of those no fewer than fifty thousand are in Bombay. They were driven from Persia by the Mohammedans and settled here, where they have prospered.

They do not intermarry with other sects, believe in one God, and worship the sun, moon, earth, and stars only as being the visible angels of God, as he termed them. In themselves these are nothing, but are the best steps by which we can ascend to God. Good men will be happy forever; bad men will be unhappy for a long time after death, and very bad men will be severely punished. But I was delighted to be assured that no one will be punished forever, all life being sacred to God because he made it, and all life must eventually be purified, return to its Maker, and be merged in Him. Parsees cannot burn the dead, because fire should not be prostituted to so vile a use. They cannot bury, because the earth should not be desecrated with the dead, neither should the sea; and therefore God has provided vultures, which cannot be defiled, to absorb the flesh of the dead. I said to him that the mere thought of violence offered to our dead caused us to shudder. "Then what do you think of the worms?" he asked. This was certainly an effective estoppel. "It comes to this," he continued, "a question of birds or worms." "You are right" (I had to admit it), I said; "after all, it's not worth disputing about." When I had asked him a great many questions, I suppose he thought turn-about was fair play, and he began to cross-examine me upon many points of Christian doctrine, which I did my best to put in the proper form. We finally agreed that no good men or good women of any form of religion would be eternally miserable, and upon this platform we said good-bye and parted.

On looking around, I saw that we had become the centre of quite a circle of Parsees, Hindoos, and Mohammedans, who had been attracted by our conversation, their earnest bronze faces, surmounted by the flaming red turbans, so very close to mine, forming with the gorgeous colors of their flowing robes, a picture I shall not soon forget. They opened a way of egress, and Sahib passed out of the throng amid their salaams, evidently an object of intense curiosity.

Our excursion to the Caves of Elephanta was very enjoyable. They are decidedly worth seeing. Here is the strongest contrast to the grand open-air worship of the Parsees, for the Hindoos sought to hide their worship in caves which shut out the light of day, and to seek their gods in the dark recesses. The carved figures and columns of the Temple are fine, the principal idol being of great size - a huge representation of the Hindoo Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, which make the three-headed god. The effect of such a monster, seen dimly by the lighted torch, upon ignorant natures, could not but be overpowering. When examined closely there is nothing repulsive in the faces; on the contrary, the expression of all three is rather pleasing than otherwise, like that of Buddha. It is evident that the gods of the Hindoos are good natured, kind, and disposed to forgiveness.

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