“I remember now, for I learned that in my geography when I first went to school; and it is strange that I should have forgotten it,” added Mrs. Belgrave.
“We know just where Benares is now,” Sir Modava proceeded. “It is the largest city in this part of India with the exception of Lucknow, to which it stands next, or sixth among those of the country, having a population of 219,467. It extends along the Ganges for three miles; and the shore is lined continuously with staircases, called ghats, which lead up to the temples, palaces, and the vast number of houses on the banks of the river. The stream sweeps around the place like a crescent, presenting one of the finest views you ever saw, with the ornamented fronts of dwellings, public offices, and a forest of towers, pinnacles, and turrets. To the Hindus it is the most sacred city known to them.
“When I was a boy I came here for the first time, brought by my father on account of the religious character of the place, if I may call anything idolatrous by such a name. But the city, when you get into it, will disappoint you. It is like Constantinople, very beautiful to look at from the Bosporus, or the Golden Horn; but its dirty, narrow streets disgust you. I am afraid this will be your experience in Benares. You will be obliged to forego the luxury of carriages in making your tours through the place, for the streets are so narrow and crowded that it is impossible to get along with a vehicle. An elephant is equally impracticable, and even in a palanquin your progress would be so slow that you would lose all your stock of patience.”
“The city must be ‘done’ by walking, must it?” asked the commander.
“Whew!” whistled Dr. Hawkes; and the sibilation was repeated by Uncle Moses, for each of them weighed over two hundred and a quarter.
“If the ship were here I would lend you the barge with eight rowers, to enable you to see the sights from the river,” suggested Captain Ringgold.
“A steam-launch shall be provided for all the company, and our obese friends shall be provided with stuffed chairs, for the survey of the river scenes; but carriages can be used in some parts of the city, though what you will desire to see can best be observed from the river; and we can land when you wish to see interiors,” added Lord Tremlyn.
This interruption was heartily applauded by the Cupids, as the fat gentlemen had been called in Cairo, assisted by all the others.
“The famous Monkey Temple is just out of the city, and that can be reached by carriages,” continued Sir Modava. “There are fourteen hundred and fifty Hindu temples, pagodas, and shrines, and two hundred and seventy-two Mohammedan mosques, so that our good friend, General Noury, need not neglect his devotions.”
“The good Mussulman never does that, whether there be a mosque at hand or not, for he says his prayers at the proper time, wherever he may be,” replied the general.