All about the town of pink plaster, in the dust of the roads and fields, are an endless number of dead templestemples of every size and of every period; and all deserted, all empty; even those that are uninjured look like ruins. Outside the town the carriage went on for a long time through a poverty-stricken quarter, and past plots of ground dug out for the erection of factories. Fragile flowers, rose and lilac, bloomed in the shade of banyans and palm trees. Hedges of jasmine and bougainvillea, alternating with rose trees, scented the air. Then we came to Parel, a suburb where, in a spacious enclosure, stands the hospital for infectious diseases. It is a lofty structure of iron, the roof and walls of matting, which is burnt when infected with microbes, and which allows the free passage of the air. In spite of the heat outside it was almost cool in these shady halls.

In front of us were men loaded with bundles or with children; old women gasping as they leaned on long staves; chattering women with green or pink or white veils, their arms full of sheaves of flowers. By each little templebetween which there are[Pg 71] kiosks, sheltering innumerable grinning idolstrees grow, and under their shade the pilgrims break the climb with a short rest. In a palankin, carried by two men, a slim woman's figure was borne past, in a pink gauze dress spangled with silver; her feet and hands, beringed with silver and gold, were exquisitely delicate. For an instant her veil blew aside, showing her face, rigid with horrible white leprosy, only her almond-shaped black eyesbeautiful eyeswere alive with intense brilliancy, full of unfathomable woe.

In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilasbirds like magpiesalmost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted redterriblestraddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.