There is an old-time toast which is golden for its beauty. "when you
ascend the hill of prosperity may you not meet a friend."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The next picture that drifts across the field of my memory is one which
is connected with religious things. We were taken by friends to see a
Jain temple. It was small, and had many flags or streamers flying from
poles standing above its roof; and its little battlements supported a
great many small idols or images. Upstairs, inside, a solitary Jain was
praying or reciting aloud in the middle of the room. Our presence did
not interrupt him, nor even incommode him or modify his fervor. Ten or
twelve feet in front of him was the idol, a small figure in a sitting
posture. It had the pinkish look of a wax doll, but lacked the doll's
roundness of limb and approximation to correctness of form and justness
of proportion. Mr. Gandhi explained every thing to us. He was delegate
to the Chicago Fair Congress of Religions. It was lucidly done, in
masterly English, but in time it faded from me, and now I have nothing
left of that episode but an impression: a dim idea of a religious belief
clothed in subtle intellectual forms, lofty and clean, barren of fleshly
grossnesses; and with this another dim impression which connects that
intellectual system somehow with that crude image, that inadequate idol--
how, I do not know. Properly they do not seem to belong together.
Apparently the idol symbolized a person who had become a saint or a god
through accessions of steadily augmenting holiness acquired through a
series of reincarnations and promotions extending over many ages; and was
now at last a saint and qualified to vicariously receive worship and
transmit it to heaven's chancellery. Was that it?
And thence we went to Mr. Premchand Roychand's bungalow, in Lovelane,
Byculla, where an Indian prince was to receive a deputation of the Jain
community who desired to congratulate him upon a high honor lately
conferred upon him by his sovereign, Victoria, Empress of India. She had
made him a knight of the order of the Star of India. It would seem that
even the grandest Indian prince is glad to add the modest title "Sir" to
his ancient native grandeurs, and is willing to do valuable service to
win it. He will remit taxes liberally, and will spend money freely upon
the betterment of the condition of his subjects, if there is a knighthood
to be gotten by it. And he will also do good work and a deal of it to
get a gun added to the salute allowed him by the British Government.
Every year the Empress distributes knighthoods and adds guns for public
services done by native princes. The salute of a small prince is three
or four guns; princes of greater consequence have salutes that run higher
and higher, gun by gun,--oh, clear away up to eleven; possibly more, but
I did not hear of any above eleven-gun princes. I was told that when a
four-gun prince gets a gun added, he is pretty troublesome for a while,
till the novelty wears off, for he likes the music, and keeps hunting up
pretexts to get himself saluted. It may be that supremely grand folk,
like the Nyzam of Hyderabad and the Gaikwar of Baroda, have more than
eleven guns, but I don't know.
When we arrived at the bungalow, the large hall on the ground floor was
already about full, and carriages were still flowing into the grounds.
The company present made a fine show, an exhibition of human fireworks,
so to speak, in the matters of costume and comminglings of brilliant
color. The variety of form noticeable in the display of turbans was
remarkable. We were told that the explanation of this was, that this
Jain delegation was drawn from many parts of India, and that each man
wore the turban that was in vogue in his own region. This diversity of
turbans made a beautiful effect.
I could have wished to start a rival exhibition there, of Christian hats
and clothes. I would have cleared one side of the room of its Indian
splendors and repacked the space with Christians drawn from America,
England, and the Colonies, dressed in the hats and habits of now, and of
twenty and forty and fifty years ago. It would have been a hideous
exhibition, a thoroughly devilish spectacle. Then there would have been
the added disadvantage of the white complexion. It is not an unbearably
unpleasant complexion when it keeps to itself, but when it comes into
competition with masses of brown and black the fact is betrayed that it
is endurable only because we are used to it. Nearly all black and brown
skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare. How rare, one
may learn by walking down a street in Paris, New York, or London on a
week-day particularly an unfashionable street--and keeping count of the
satisfactory complexions encountered in the course of a mile. Where dark
complexions are massed, they make the whites look bleached-out,
unwholesome, and sometimes frankly ghastly. I could notice this as a
boy, down South in the slavery days before the war. The splendid black
satin skin of the South African Zulus of Durban seemed to me to come very
close to perfection. I can see those Zulus yet--'ricksha athletes
waiting in front of the hotel for custom; handsome and intensely black
creatures, moderately clothed in loose summer stuffs whose snowy
whiteness made the black all the blacker by contrast. Keeping that group
in my mind, I can compare those complexions with the white ones which are
streaming past this London window now:
A lady. Complexion, new parchment. Another lady. Complexion, old
Another. Pink and white, very fine.
Man. Grayish skin, with purple areas.
Man. Unwholesome fish-belly skin.
Girl. Sallow face, sprinkled with freckles.
Old woman. Face whitey-gray.
Young butcher. Face a general red flush.
Jaundiced man--mustard yellow.
Elderly lady. Colorless skin, with two conspicuous moles.
Elderly man--a drinker. Boiled-cauliflower nose in a flabby face
veined with purple crinklings.
Healthy young gentleman. Fine fresh complexion.
Sick young man. His face a ghastly white.
No end of people whose skins are dull and characterless modifications of
the tint which we miscall white. Some of these faces are pimply; some
exhibit other signs of diseased blood; some show scars of a tint out of a
harmony with the surrounding shades of color. The white man's complexion
makes no concealments. It can't. It seemed to have been designed as a
catch-all for everything that can damage it. Ladies have to paint it,
and powder it, and cosmetic it, and diet it with arsenic, and enamel it,
and be always enticing it, and persuading it, and pestering it, and
fussing at it, to make it beautiful; and they do not succeed. But these
efforts show what they think of the natural complexion, as distributed.
As distributed it needs these helps. The complexion which they try to
counterfeit is one which nature restricts to the few--to the very few.
To ninety-nine persons she gives a bad complexion, to the hundredth a
good one. The hundredth can keep it--how long? Ten years, perhaps.
The advantage is with the Zulu, I think. He starts with a beautiful
complexion, and it will last him through. And as for the Indian brown--
firm, smooth, blemishless, pleasant and restful to the eye, afraid of no
color, harmonizing with all colors and adding a grace to them all--I
think there is no sort of chance for the average white complexion against
that rich and perfect tint.
To return to the bungalow. The most gorgeous costume present were worn
by some children. They seemed to blaze, so bright were the colors, and
so brilliant the jewels strum over the rich materials. These children
were professional nautch-dancers, and looked like girls, but they were
boys, They got up by ones and twos and fours, and danced and sang to an
accompaniment of weird music. Their posturings and gesturings were
elaborate and graceful, but their voices were stringently raspy and
unpleasant, and there was a good deal of monotony about the tune.
By and by there was a burst of shouts and cheers outside and the prince
with his train entered in fine dramatic style. He was a stately man, he
was ideally costumed, and fairly festooned with ropes of gems; some of
the ropes were of pearls, some were of uncut great emeralds--emeralds
renowned in Bombay for their quality and value. Their size was
marvelous, and enticing to the eye, those rocks. A boy--a princeling--
was with the prince, and he also was a radiant exhibition.
The ceremonies were not tedious. The prince strode to his throne with
the port and majesty--and the sternness--of a Julius Caesar coming to
receive and receipt for a back-country kingdom and have it over and get
out, and no fooling. There was a throne for the young prince, too, and
the two sat there, side by side, with their officers grouped at either
hand and most accurately and creditably reproducing the pictures which
one sees in the books --pictures which people in the prince's line of
business have been furnishing ever since Solomon received the Queen of
Sheba and showed her his things. The chief of the Jain delegation read
his paper of congratulations, then pushed it into a beautifully engraved
silver cylinder, which was delivered with ceremony into the prince's
hands and at once delivered by him without ceremony into the hands of an
officer. I will copy the address here. It is interesting, as showing
what an Indian prince's subject may have opportunity to thank him for in
these days of modern English rule, as contrasted with what his ancestor
would have given them opportunity to thank him for a century and a half
ago--the days of freedom unhampered by English interference. A century
and a half ago an address of thanks could have been put into small space.
It would have thanked the prince--
1. For not slaughtering too many of his people upon mere caprice;
2. For not stripping them bare by sudden and arbitrary tax levies,
and bringing famine upon them;
3. For not upon empty pretext destroying the rich and seizing their
4. For not killing, blinding, imprisoning, or banishing the
relatives of the royal house to protect the throne from possible
5. For not betraying the subject secretly, for a bribe, into the
hands of bands of professional Thugs, to be murdered and robbed in
the prince's back lot.
Those were rather common princely industries in the old times, but they
and some others of a harsh sort ceased long ago under English rule.
Better industries have taken their place, as this Address from the Jain
community will show:
"Your Highness,--We the undersigned members of the Jain community of
Bombay have the pleasure to approach your Highness with the
expression of our heartfelt congratulations on the recent conference
on your Highness of the Knighthood of the Most Exalted Order of the
Star of India. Ten years ago we had the pleasure and privilege of
welcoming your Highness to this city under circumstances which have
made a memorable epoch in the history of your State, for had it not
been for a generous and reasonable spirit that your Highness
displayed in the negotiations between the Palitana Durbar and the
Jain community, the conciliatory spirit that animated our people
could not have borne fruit. That was the first step in your
Highness's administration, and it fitly elicited the praise of the
Jain community, and of the Bombay Government. A decade of your
Highness's administration, combined with the abilities, training,
and acquirements that your Highness brought to bear upon it, has
justly earned for your Highness the unique and honourable
distinction--the Knighthood of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of
India, which we understand your Highness is the first to enjoy among
Chiefs of your, Highness's rank and standing. And we assure your
Highness that for this mark of honour that has been conferred on you
by Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen-Empress, we feel no less
proud than your Highness. Establishment of commercial factories,
schools, hospitals, etc., by your Highness in your State has marked
your Highness's career during these ten years, and we trust that
your Highness will be spared to rule over your people with wisdom
and foresight, and foster the many reforms that your Highness has
been pleased to introduce in your State. We again offer your
Highness our warmest felicitations for the honour that has been
conferred on you. We beg to remain your Highness's obedient
Factories, schools, hospitals, reforms. The prince propagates that kind
of things in the modern times, and gets knighthood and guns for it.
After the address the prince responded with snap and brevity; spoke a
moment with half a dozen guests in English, and with an official or two
in a native tongue; then the garlands were distributed as usual, and the