The Parsees have made Bombay their own, more surely even than the Scotch possess Calcutta. Numerically very weak, they are long-headed and far- sighted beyond any Indian and are better qualified to traffick and to control. All the cotton mills are theirs, and theirs the finest houses in the most beautiful sites. When that conflict begins between the Hindus and the Mohammedans which will render India a waste and a shambles, it is the Parsees who will occupy the high places - until a more powerful conqueror arrives.

Bombay has no more curious sight than the Towers of Silence, the Parsee cemetery; and one of the first questions that one is asked is if one has visited them. But when the time came for me to ascend those sinister steps on Malabar Hill I need hardly say that my companion was a many years' resident of Bombay who, although he had long intended to go there, had hitherto neglected his opportunities. Throughout my travels I was, it is pleasant to think, in this way the cause of more sightseeing in others than they might ever have suffered. To give but one other instance typical of many - I saw Faneuil Hall in Boston in the company of a Bostonian some thirty years of age, whose office was within a few yards of this historic and very interesting building, and whose business is more intimately associated with culture than any other, but who had never before crossed the threshold.

The Towers of Silence, which are situated in a very beautiful park, with little temples among the trees and flowers, consist of five circular buildings, a model of one of which is displayed to visitors. Inside the tower is an iron grating on which the naked corpses are laid, and no sooner are they there than the awaiting vultures descend and consume the flesh. I saw these grisly birds sitting expectantly in rows on the coping of the towers, and the sight was almost too gruesome. Such is their voracity that the body is a skeleton in an hour or so. The Parsees choose this method of dissolution because since they worship fire they must not ask it to demean itself with the dead; and both earth and water they hold also too sacred to use for burial. Hence this strange and - at the first blush - repellant compromise. The sight of the cemetery that awaits us in England is rarely cheering, but if to that cemetery were attached a regiment of cruel and hideous birds of prey we should shudder indeed. Whether the Parsees shudder I cannot say, but they give no sign of it. They build their palaces in full view of these terrible Towers, pass, on their way to dinner parties, luxuriously in Rolls-Royces beside the trees where the vultures roost, and generally behave themselves as if this were the best possible of worlds and the only one. And I think they are wise.

Oriental apathy, or, at any rate, unruffled receptiveness, may carry its owner very far, and yet if these vultures cause no misgivings, no chills at the heart, I shall be surprised. As for those olive-skinned Parsee girls, with the long oval faces and the lustrous eyes - how must it strike them?

It was not till I went to the caves of Elephanta that I saw vultures in their marvellous flight. It is here that they breed, and the sky was full of them at an incredible distance up, resting on their great wings against the wind, circling and deploying. At this height they are magnificent. But seen at close quarters they are horrible, revolting. On a day's hunting which I shall describe later I was in at the death of a gond, or swamp-deer, at about noon, and we returned for the carcase about three hours later, only to find it surrounded by some hundreds of these birds tearing at it in a kind of frenzy of gluttony. They were not in the least disconcerted by our approach, and not until the bearers had taken sticks to them would they leave. The heavy half-gorged flapping of a vulture's wings as it settles itself to a new aspect of its repast is the most disgusting sight I have seen.

To revert to the Towers of Silence, one is brought very near to death everywhere in the East. We have our funeral corteges at home, with sufficient frequency, but they do not emphasize the thought of the necessary end of all things as do the swathed corpses that one meets so often being carried through the streets, on their way to this or that burning place. In Bombay I met several every day, with their bearers and followers all in white, and all moving with the curious trot that seems to be reserved for such obsequies. There were always, also, during my stay, new supplies of fire-wood outside the great Hindu burning ground in Queen's Road; and yet no epidemic was raging; the city was normal save for a strike of mill-hands. It is true that I met wedding parties almost equally often; but in India a wedding party is not, as with us, a suggestion of new life to replace the dead, for the brides so often are infants.

One of the differences between the poor of London and the poor of India may be noticed here. In the East-End a funeral is considered to be a failure unless its cost is out of all proportion to the survivors' means, while a wedding is a matter of a few shillings; whereas in India a funeral is a simple ceremony, to be hurried over, while the wedding festivities last for weeks and often plunge the family into debts from which they never recover.