In the heart of Agra towards evening people were busy in the square of the Jumna Musjid stretching pieces of stuff over rather low poles to form a tent. Then in long file came the labourers from a famine-camp, with their sleep-walking gait, their glassy eyes, their teeth showing like those of a grinning skull. Rags in a thousand holes scarcely covered the horrors of their fleshless bodies.
As the sun sank the citadel absorbed the gold and purple glory, and looked as though it were of some translucent half-fused metal; the towers and temples with their decoration of tiles blazed[Pg 204] against the pure sky. High over Mandir a little balcony with spindle columns, overhanging the precipice at a giddy height, caught the last rays of Surya, and flashed with a gem-like gleam above Gwalior, which was already shrouded in the blue haze of night.
On the bank of the river, where there are no more steps, only beaten earth, in a little raised pit a pile of wood was slowly dying out. A man with[Pg 166] a cane raked back the sticks as they fell and rolled away. A squatting crowd were waiting till their relation was altogether consumed to cast his ashes on the sacred waters.
And so on, in an endless file, come the bodies of the faithful dead, some from long distances, so that their souls may rise at once to paradise from their ashes burnt on the Manumenka.