“I know that some of your people are better Christians than some who bear the name,” replied the Hindu gentleman politely. “Benares is so holy, and the Ganges is so holy, that hundreds of thousands visit it as the Mussulmans visit Mecca. Men of wealth, and those who have the means without being rich, come to this city when they feel that they have been seized with a malady likely to prove fatal; for to die here with the Hindu is a passport to eternal happiness. But I am talking too long, though there is much more that might be said; but perhaps it could be better said on board of that launch my friend mentions, and in sight of the temples, towers, and other objects of interest.”
In the middle of the afternoon the train arrived at its destination; and the party proceeded in carriages to the western suburb, the location of the cantonment, or English quarter of the city.
A STEAMER TRIP UP AND DOWN THE GANGES
Clarke’s Hotel, at Secrole, received the tourists, and everything was in readiness for them when they arrived. Lord Tremlyn had announced the coming of himself and his large party, and a person of his distinction and influence could command anything he desired. The rest of the day was given to rest, though in the evening Sir Modava talked to the tourists about the city.
Early the next morning the party were conveyed to the river, where they embarked in a steam-yacht which had been provided for their use. It was more than a launch; for its standing-room would seat the whole company, while an awning was spread over a portion of the upper deck, from which a full view of the shore could be obtained. The city is on the north shore of the river, which has an easterly course in this portion of India, and the houses are packed in about as thickly as they can be.
“This is the Dasasvamedh Ghat,” said Sir Modava, with a smile. “I thought you might wish to recall it after you get home to America. I think it is rather pleasant to know the names of places one has visited.”
“We could not speak the word now without an hour’s practice, and I am sure not one of us will know it when we get to the other side of the Atlantic,” said Mrs. Belgrave.
“You can write it down in your diaries.”
“We might as well attempt to copy the top of a tea-chest,” added Louis.
The ladies were assisted on board of the steamer. The captain was a very gentlemanly Englishman; and he was all devotion to the wants of his passengers, who seated themselves on the promenade deck. The steamer belonged to the government; and she was fitted up in the most comfortable manner, though it was not so gaudy as the craft of a maharajah would have been. The ghat was at the western extremity of the crescent to which Sir Modava had alluded, and from this point the town looked like an amphitheatre.
The river is ordinarily about half a mile wide, but in the season of high water it is double that width. The captain called the attention of the party to the ghat as they receded from it, the broad flight of stairs being a rather wonderful sight to the strangers, though they had seen something of the kind before in Delhi and Cawnpore.