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[Pg 270] A humble poet, more venerated than the kings whose superb mausoleums are crumbling to dust in subjugated India, who, though she forgets her past, is still true to her dreams.

Then a girl's body was brought out, wrapped in white muslin; the bier, made of bamboo, was wreathed with marigolds, and on the light shroud there were patches of crimson powder, almost violet. The bearers, on reaching the river, placed the body in the water, leaving it there for a time.

The maiden was placed on a very high pile of saplings and dry crackling boughs. Her father fetched the sacred fire, and then, with the same ceremonials and prayers, set light to the wood, which flashed up in a golden glow with a sweet odour. The flame rose clear against the sky for a long time before the smell of her burnt flesh mingled with that of the poor woman, whose limbs, under the action of the heat, seemed to stretch to an inordinate length. One arm, sticking out from the fire, seemed to clench its fist, which was bright yellow, as if it would clutch at something; and then all was consumedthe wood pile fell in, the skull cracking with a dull snap, and nothing was left but a heap of embers, into which the attendants raked the cinders that rolled down the sloping bank. Last year he and his brother had gone into the mausoleum of a Moslem saint with their shoes on; both had gone mad. The other brother died in a madhouse, where he was cared for; this one, incurable but harmless, went about the highways, followed by the dogs.

There was a large encampment round the bungalow that night: tents for the soldiers, and under the vehicles men sleeping on straw; others gathered round the fires, over which hung the cooking-pots, listening to a story-teller; and in a small hut of mud walls, with the door hanging loose, were the two prisoners with no light, watched by three dozing soldiers.

Towards evening Ellora came in sight, the sacred hill crowned with temples, in a blaze of glory at first from the crimson sunset, and then vaguely blue, wiped out, vanishing in the opalescent mist.