WEDNESDAY, February 12.

We are on our way to Agra by rail, and expect to arrive in time to drive out and see the Taj by moonlight. I have been reading more carefully than before some descriptions of it, and keep wondering whether this gem of the world is to prove a disappointment or not. Most things which have been heralded like the Taj fail to fulfil expectations at first, and how can stone and lime be so formed as to justify such fulsome praises as have been bestowed upon this tomb? One writer, for instance, exclaims, "There is no mystery, no sense of partial failure about the Taj. A thing of perfect beauty and of absolute finish in every detail, it might pass for the work of genii, who knew naught of the weakness and ills with which mankind were afflicted." The exact and prosaic Bernier had to express doubts whether "I may not be somewhat infected with 'Indianisme,' but I must needs say I believe it ought to be reckoned amongst the wonders of the world." Bayard Taylor exhausts eulogy upon the Pearl Mosque, calling it "a sanctuary so pure and stainless, revealing so exalted a spirit of worship, that I felt humbled as a Christian that our noble religion had never inspired its architects to surpass this temple to God and Mohammed;" but when he comes to the Taj itself he is lost in rapture. There is nothing, however, which the critics - those men who have failed in literature and art - will not venture to attack, and I thought it advisable to tone down my expectations by taking a dose of carping criticism. Unfortunately for me, however, when I had got fairly in with a writer who assures me "the design is weak and feeble," the "shadows are much too thin," this misleader left me in a worse condition than ever, for succumbing at last to the sweet overpowering charms of the structure as a whole, and apparently ashamed of himself for ever having dared to say one word against its perfections, he adds - just after he had bravely done the "design" and the "shadows" - "but the Taj is like a lovely woman: abuse her as you please, the moment you come into her presence you submit to her fascinations." Pretty criticism this for one who wishes the faults of this beauty clearly set forth! I put this lover of the Taj aside at once and try another writer, who does indeed give me a page of preventive, well suited to one in my condition, but upon turning over the page he too falls sadly away, for here is his last line:

  "The rare genius of the calm building finds its way unchallenged 
   to the heart."

Well, then, gentlemen, if all this be so, what's the use of your petty criticism? If this marvel, before whose spell all men, even you yourselves, must bow, has a "rigidity of outline," an "air of littleness and luxury," a "poverty of relief," and if "the inlaid work has been vulgarly employed," and the patterns are "meagre in the extreme," wasn't it the highest aim that its builder could probably have had in view, to entrance the world and give to it a thing of beauty which is indeed a joy forever? and doesn't the Taj do this so far beyond all other human structures that no one thinks of naming another in comparison? And should not this incontrovertible fact teach you a lesson - just a little bit of modesty? No, gentlemen; it isn't the Taj that must be changed, either in its outline or shadows, to conform to your canons of criticism, but your canons of art that must be changed to embrace the Taj, or rather to set it apart, as a stroke of original genius, and consequently above and beyond the domain of criticism; for criticism, like science, works solidly only upon what is absolutely known, formulating its fixed decrees upon the past. All great geniuses have encountered the critics of their day. How Shakespeare violated the unities! and didn't Napoleon win battles which he should have lost? Let these people then be silent, and know that when a transcendent exhibition of original genius wins success beyond the reach of measurement by their plumb and line and square and compass, the higher law governing the seeming miracle will be duly revealed: and the Taj is just such a miracle, from all I can learn of its power.

The evidences of the intense summer heat are seen everywhere. The railway carriages have false tops, leaving an air space of a foot between the roof and the cover. Awnings cover the windows outside, and there are posted up directions for the use of the cooling apparatus applied to each first-class compartment; the frames for punkas are seen in the railway waiting-rooms, and we notice in the army regulations that during the hot season soldiers are required to stay in-doors between the hours of eleven and three. We are told of revolving fans being used to cool rooms, and that it is very common to fill doors and windows with thick mats of scented grass, which are kept constantly wet; the wind, passing through these, is cooled to about ninety degrees, and large banana leaves furnish a cool bed in extreme cases, from all of which, "Good Lord, deliver us!" We thank our stars every day that we are doing India when the heat, though great at midday, is not unbearable. We are five hundred and fifty miles north of Calcutta, and find the temperature much cooler. The people look stronger, and necessarily wear more clothing, which means that another piece of coarse bagging is wrapped around their shoulders. We are at the best hotel in Agra, and I notice as remarkable, in the printed list of prices, that a man to pull the punka in one's bedroom 
 all night can be obtained for the sum of three annas, or six cents in silver. Washing costs two cents per piece, but while these strike us as cheap, the next item tells us that each guest during the hot season is chargeable with twenty cents per day for ice used at table etc. It is very sparingly used, but yet the little bit of ice you see costs as much as the labor of three men all night. All the employees of the railways in India are required to join the volunteer forces, and to drill under the supervision of regular army officers, appointed by the government for this purpose. An excellent auxiliary force numbering many thousands is thus secured at trifling expense. One significant announcement posted at stations attracted my attention, and gave me an insight into one department in which India is in advance of us. This placard set forth that certain employees having been found under the influence of liquor while on duty, the district court had sentenced them to six months' imprisonment. This betokens a decided step forward, I take it, and one which it would be advisable for us to follow. A captain, pilot, engineer, railway conductor, or any one directly charged with the care of human lives convicted of being drunk while on duty should be held guilty of a criminal offence and punished by the State.

I have been admiring all through India three magnificent vines, now in full bloom. One, the Begonia, resembles our honeysuckle, but the flower is larger and hangs in large clusters; the second, called the Bouganviella, is purple in color and like our morning- glory, and the two are often seen climbing together up tall trees almost to their very tops, covering them with a mass of flowers. The third favorite, Poinsetta, is a leaf of rich magenta color. These three are the special glories of India. Some of our own flowers do tolerably well in this region, and the inherent love of the English for flowers and plants is seen in the numerous pretty plots and gardens.

Life in India is only rendered tolerable by the opportunity people have to enjoy things which would be beyond their reach at home without fortunes. All residences have grounds connected with them, more or less extensive, and laid out in fine gardens. Lawn-tennis and croquet grounds are the rule. Horses and carriages, or at least a vehicle of some kind, are indispensable, and no one who strolls around the European quarters in early morning and sees the large staff of servants lounging about the spacious verandas, awaiting the call of "Sahib" or "Mem Sahiba," can be at a loss to account for the disappointment often experienced by those who, after years of longing, at last go home to enjoy themselves in their fancied Elysium. Alas! ten times the sum that supports them here in style would not suffice in England. Here Sahib awakes and drawls out, "Qui hi" (you of my people who are in waiting). There is a stir among several servants who have lain the whole night long at his door, to be in readiness, and the moaning reply comes, "S-a-h-i-b," and he is surrounded by those who minister to his slightest wish all day, leaving him again at night only to repeat the performance on the morrow. When he drives his gig to town one servant stands at his back to wait upon him, and Madame appears in the afternoon upon the Mall in her grand equipage, two on the box and two standing behind, as if she were a duchess. As a European walks the streets he is salaamed by every native he chances to look at. He moves about, one of a superior race and rank. As he approaches a crowd, to look at a passing sight, a clear lane is made for him; and if he steps into the post-office to ask for letters, the natives instinctively fall back until Sahib is served. All this spoils a man for residence at home, where "one man is as good as another and a good deal better," unless a tremendous fortune is at one's back to purchase precedence, which nowadays is scarcely obtainable at any price even in England where traces of by-gone days linger longest: and so it falls out that many who have prayed for long years for the day to come for their return to England, find the coveted change but Dead Sea fruit when it is gained at last. A few even return to the land they had so long prayed to be allowed to leave, and take up their final abode among the hills. For these people I cannot help feeling deeply sorry. It is impossible that their lives can be full and rich to overflowing here. A tone of sadness, of vain regret, must pervade the mind. The prize so ardently struggled for has been found unsatisfactory, and at best their lives must draw to a close tinged by a sense of partial failure.

How many human beings can the land maintain to the square mile? About three hundred and fifty in Europe say the authorities, provided the soil is fertile and climate good. This is close upon the English and Belgian standard; but some parts of India are cursed with more than double this number; indeed one district has nearly eight hundred to the square mile. This seems to be the limit even for India, as population does not increase beyond it, and female infanticide begins to protrude its monstrous form whenever population becomes so dense. In the Punjaub, for instance, the males exceed the females sixteen per cent. - a fearful revelation; but it is just the same in many parts of China. All authorities agree that male children are tenderly cared for, and even desired. This is especially so in China, for no greater evil can befall a Chinaman than the absence of sons to keep unbroken the worship. of ancestors. Death is nothing if he passes away with dutiful sons around his bedside ready to perform the sacred rites. To die without these is to send his soul forth a wanderer without claims upon his gods. The commercial aspect, however, has mostly to do with the question in India. Where is food for the little mouths, to come from, and how can a girl be reared by a family who live from day to day upon the brink of starvation, even when every member labors like a slave?

One morning we drove to the jail - one of the sights of India - and were fortunate in meeting the Inspector-General, Mr. Walker, an authority on all matters relating to prison discipline, and Dr. Tyler, the Chief for Agra. These officials kindly conducted us through the vast establishment. The prison labor is not, as generally with us, contracted out - a vicious plan which necessitates the intercourse of outsiders with the criminals and invariably leads to bad results. Here the prisoners deal with none but their keepers; but what pleased me most was the admirable system of rewards and promotions for good conduct which has been established. Marks are given and worn upon the clothes which shorten one's sentence from one day up to several, and it is possible for a prisoner in this way to acquire marks enough to take as much as one tenth from his imprisonment. The best behaved of all can rise to the position of wardens. Several hundreds have reached this prize, and are distinguished by better clothing, and also by ornamental badges. These wardens are placed over the other malefactors, and there is no difficulty experienced in enforcing the strictest discipline through them. Foremen of shops and of the various departments are all appointed from among the prisoners themselves, and, with the exception of the one in charge of the complicated machinery, there are no others employed in such capacities. The armed guards are, however, not of this class. In ordinary years the cost of maintenance per person is one rupee a month (40 cents gold); clothing 75 cents a year, including cost of supervision and all expenses of the jail department; prisoners in India thus cost only about $14 per year each. This prison maintains itself by the labor of its inmates, and last year showed an actual profit of about $40,000. Twenty-three hundred prisoners were confined within its walls when we were there. The total number of inmates of the jail in this and the Northwest Province is just now 39,000; but last year, owing to the famine, the number rose to 42,000. This seems a great number, but I am informed that, taking the population into account, it is not quite up to the average in England. We saw the prisoners working the celebrated Agra jail carpets and rugs, for which there is such demand that orders given to-day cannot be filled for many months. A new building has just been erected and filled with looms to increase the supply. Native dyes and materials alone are used, and one can thus rest assured that a carpet obtained here is genuine throughout. France takes the finest qualities, and we saw some so fine that the day's task of men sitting as close as they could the entire width of the web was only one inch per day. These carpets, which are really works of art, cost here $10 gold per square yard, and certainly not less than double that when retailed in Paris. Of the inmates about one hundred were women, their special crime being that of child-stealing, which is very common in India, the ornaments worn by the little ones being a strong temptation. We saw two young lads sentenced for life for this crime. They had stolen and robbed a child, and afterward thrown the body into a well. We left Messrs. Walker and Tyler strongly imbued with the feeling that we had seen the model prison of the world in Agra jail.

India gives us valuable hints upon the land question. There is no private tenure; at least it is not general, for when one speaks of a continent with two hundred and fifty millions of people possessed of different customs it is unsafe to say that anything does not exist. Speaking generally, the land of India belongs to village communities in which every family has its right. The State first taxes a certain portion of the produce. Akbar the first Mogul fixed it at one-third of the gross amount, which the head man of each village was required first to set apart for government. The remainder was divided among the community. For untold generations these village communities have preserved intact their traditions, which neither anarchy nor conquest have abolished. Unfortunately the English in the early days were disposed to introduce their system of landlord and tenant, and in the Bengal province this has led to infinite trouble. Men had arisen there who undertook the collection of the land tax of a district and paid the government an agreed-upon sum. They were in fact contractors (Zemindars); this was certainly the easiest mode for the British Government to obtain the revenue, but in recognizing these contractors it raised them virtually to the position of landlord. The poor cultivator could not reach the government at all. He was in the power of the Zemindar, who alone dealt with the authorities. As was to have been expected, the result was just as it has been found in Ireland. The Zemindars squeezed every penny out of the poor farmer which he could be made to yield, until finally the government was compelled to embark upon that perilous sea, land legislation, tenant rights, judicial rents, and all the rest of it.

In the Bombay presidency, however, wiser councils have prevailed. The cultivator deals directly with the government; has a lease as it were subject to revaluation every thirty years. In time the poor cultivator will no doubt rise to the advantages of this system by a process of natural selection. It was certain that many unfit occupiers would be found, and this has been the case so far. The plan is bound, however, to develop and sustain the most competent, and this means that it is the right plan. The land yields the government twenty-two millions sterling per annum ($110,000,000). Had the land owners of England not released themselves while acting as M. P.'s of the tax under which till then land was held by them, England would be in position to-day to remit many taxes which bear heavily upon the people.

We had a talk to-day with an officer of the forest department of India, which vainly strives to save the forests from wandering tribes who practice nomadic agriculture, reaping indeed where they sow, but rarely sowing twice in the same place, which is the difficulty. These tribes inhabit the hills of India, and depend for food solely upon crops grown in the forests. They make a clearing by burning the timber and scatter the seed, rarely taking the trouble to turn up the soil, although some tribes scratch the surface with sticks. The virgin soil yields forty and fifty fold of rice as a first crop. This is gathered and off go the gypsies to another locality for next season. The destruction of timber upon these small clearings is nothing, as our friend explained, compared to that caused by the spread of the fires. The government imposes heavy penalties upon these nomads, if discovered, but vast, tracts remain where no restraint is possible. He was on his way to solitude among the hills, which he preferred to even the plains with their crowds. But England, England some day! was his dream. Ah, poor fellow! the chances are that he will fall and lie in his Indian forest; or, sadder yet, should fortune reach him and he realize his dream, that he would find life in England intolerable and return to die here a disappointed man. We have met several such, and for no class am I so profoundly sorry. Never to realize one's life dream is bad enough, but to have it sent you and then find it naught - that seems to me the keenest thrust which can enter the soul of man.

Among the attractions of Agra are the palaces and tombs of the Great Moguls, and we have been busy visiting them day after day. This was the capital during the most brilliant period of that extraordinary family's reign. The founder, Baber, lies buried at Cabool, which was the chief place before the invaders penetrated farther south. Six of these Moguls reigned, and no dynasty in history has six consecutive names of equal power to boast. Hereditary genius has strong support in the careers of these illustrious men; besides this, Baber was a lineal descendant of Tamerlane himself, on his father's side, and of a scarcely less able Tartar leader on his mother's side. So much for blood.

The greatest of the six was Akbar, who proved to be that rare combination, soldier and statesman in one. He, Mohammedan by birth, dared to marry a Hindoo princess as an example for his people to follow, but which, unfortunately, they have failed to do. It is strange to remember that the Moguls were seated on their thrones only three hundred years ago, Akbar being contemporaneous with Henry VIII., and ruling India when Shakespeare was still on earth.

Six successive generations of great men, like the Great Moguls, cannot be matched, I think, elsewhere; but it would not be fair to attribute this unbroken line altogether to the doctrine of hereditary genius. Much lies in the fact that upon each of these rulers in turn, depended the maintenance and success of his empire. The Moguls were real powers, indeed the only powers, and not only reigned but governed. Had the doctrine of the divine right of kings been overthrown in India during the reign of even the ablest of the six, and the heir to the throne been debarred the exercise of power; taught from his infancy that his role was to be wholly ornamental, a sham king whose chief end and use was the opening of fancy bazaars or the laying of foundation stones, he too would have developed into something suited for the purpose in view, just as heirs apparent have done elsewhere. It was the continual exercise of high functions which made the race great and kept it so. To play the part of king when one knows himself the political valet of his prime minister, would soon have taken manhood out of Akbar himself, if we can imagine such a man willing to play the part.

I am not going to give a catalogue of what is to be seen in Agra, having no notion of writing a guide-book or of filling notes with long passages from such sources, as I see many writers have done; but I must speak of three or four structures which have pleased me most.

The "Fort" is a most impressive pile of masonry, a Warwick Castle upon a large scale, the ramparts being one and a quarter miles in circumference. This was Akbar's principal palace, or rather series of palaces, for it embraces the Pearl Mosque, Public Audience Hall, and Jessamine Tower, all of which are within its walls.

The tomb of her father, built by that rare woman, Noor Mahal, she who sleeps in the Taj, is a marble structure of exquisite proportions, and quite unlike others because of the great number and extent of the perforated screens of marble of which it is principally composed. Up to the time we had seen this I think I liked it the best of any; but then Noor Mahal had built it for her father, and I was predisposed to like this proof of her filial devotion.

There is one romantic and perfect love story concerning her in the annals of the Moguls. Akbar's son, the future ruler, fell desperately in love with a young lady, but for reasons of state she was not eligible, and the emperor quietly provided a husband for her in the person of one of his generals. The young heir only knew that she was married and he condemned to take to wife the woman provided for him. Two years after he had become emperor the husband of his first love died, and although she was then a middle-aged woman, he, the emperor, sought her out and not only married her (she could have been his slave), but raised her to the throne with himself, stamping her image with his own upon the coin of the realm. Such an unbounded influence did this capable and high-spirited woman acquire over not only her devoted husband but the circle of the court, that she became the constant adviser in all important affairs; and that she might not be less thoroughly feminine, I am glad to see it recorded that she introduced improved modes of dress and manners among her ladies. The emperor told his priests one day that until he had married this paragon he had not known what marriage meant. But her grandest achievement is yet to be told. The emperor had previously been dissolute, probably from his first pure dream of love having been so cruelly dispelled - who knows? - but Noor Mahal lifted him into higher regions, and made him a better man. She loved him fervently, and, on more than one occasion, when the emperor was attacked, she imperilled her own life to save his. As they grew old they became more and more to each other, and at her death was it any wonder the emperor ordered that a tomb should rise excelling all previous tombs as much, if possible, as Noor Mahal excelled all other women? This tomb, the Taj Mahal (Diadem Tomb), is said to have cost more than two millions sterling, which is equal to an expenditure of fifty millions of dollars with us to-day. Truly a costly monument, you say. No doubt, but if it has given to mankind one proof that the loftiest ideal can be wrought out and realized in practice, the Taj would be cheap even if its erection had emptied the Comstock lode; and there are men - wise men too - who affirm that it performs this miracle and inspires them with the pleasing hope that in the far ages yet to come the real and the ideal may grow closer together. The emperor built no tomb for himself, as was customary, but as the kind fates decreed, he was placed side by side with her who had been to him so much, and they rest together, under the noblest canopy ever made by human hands. Taking into account the degraded position accorded to women, and remembering to what Noor Mahal raised herself, I think she must be allowed to rank as the greatest woman who ever reigned, and perhaps the greatest who ever lived, for no one has climbed from such a depth to such a height as she, as far as I know. Assuming that Cleopatra was all that Shakespeare has made her for us, a human being of whom it could be truly said

  "Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite variety,"

yet the Egyptian was born to the purple, a queen recognized by her nation, and entitled to rule from the first. What was this general's daughter in India? A woman, to begin with, which in India meant an inferior being, and yet she rose to equality with the Mogul and was consulted upon affairs of state - not simply because she was, in a bad sense, the ruler's favorite, but by the inherent force of her own abilities.

Akbar's Tomb amazes one by its gigantic size, which dwarfs all other tombs. The amount of inlaid work, composed of jasper, carnelian, and other precious stones, seen at every step, inclines one to believe that it cost the fabulous sum stated. It should be remembered that it was the custom among these monarchs always to erect during their lives a palace in which great ceremonies took place while they lived, and which became their tomb at their death. A similar custom prevailed in Egypt, where each ruler began a pyramid when he began his reign. It was in this way that so many splendid structures were built. Akbar did not live to see this vast building completed, but his son carried on the work. The stern simplicity of Akbar's tomb, which is in the centre of the building and under ground, pleased me. It is a plain solid block of marble, without one word upon it, or mark of any kind; as if it would say to all time, What need to tell the world that the great Akbar lies here?

Speaking generally, the palaces and tombs of Agra are far finer than I had imagined them to be, and the relief experienced in getting away from the plaster shams of Lucknow - cheap magnificence, to genuine grandeur at Agra - can be easily imagined.

Our train having been delayed in reaching Agra, we had arrived too late to visit the Taj by moonlight; and in deference to the strong remonstrance of every one we have met here, we have not yet attempted to see the wonder. "Oh! don't think, please don't think of seeing the Taj until the very last, because, if you do, every thing else will seem so coarse," has been in substance the exclamation of every friend. But now we are through with all else, and we start, two o'clock P.M., February 14th, 1879. Vandy has just come to announce that our carriage is ready. Good-bye! Am I to be disappointed? Of course I am. I have made up my mind to that, and having just had tiffin, and drank a whole pint of bitter beer, I feel myself quite competent to criticise the Taj with the best of them, and especially well fitted just now to stand no nonsense. We met an American who was travelling as a matter of duty, and had found, as far as travel was concerned, I suspect, that he belonged to the class represented by the grumbler in paradise, whose "halo didn't fit his head exactly." He had found nothing in India, he said, but a lot of rubbish, but checked himself at once, "except the Taj. Now that building - that is - perfectly satisfactory," as if he had ordered a suit of clothes from his tailor and had nothing to find fault with. On the other hand, I have just come across a statement "that stern men, overpowered by the sight of it, have been known to burst into tears." It is this miracle of inanimate matter we are now to see. But here comes Vandy again. "Come on, Andrew; carriage waiting." I'm off - particulars in our next.

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