A voyage to India nowadays is a continuous social event. The passengers compose a house party, being guests of the Steamship company for the time. The decks of the steamer are like broad verandas and are covered with comfortable chairs, in which the owners lounge about all day. Some of the more industrious women knit and embroider, and I saw one good mother with a basket full of mending, at which she was busily engaged at least three mornings. Others play cards upon folding tables or write letters with portfolios on their laps, and we had several artists who sketched the sky and sea, but the majority read novels and guide books, and gossiped. As birds of a feather flock together on the sea as well as on land, previous acquaintances and congenial new ones form little circles and cliques and entertain themselves and each other, and, after a day or two, move their chairs around so that they can be together. Americans and English do not mix as readily as you might expect, although there is nothing like coolness between them. It is only a natural restraint. They are accustomed to their ways, and we to ours, and it is natural for us to drift toward our own fellow countrymen. In the afternoon nettings are hung around one of the broad decks and games of cricket are played. One day it is the army against the navy; another day the united service against a civilian team, and then the cricketers in the second-class salon are invited to come forward and try their skill against a team made up of first-classers. In the evening there is dancing, a piano being placed upon the deck for that purpose, and for two hours it is very gay. The ladies are all in white, and several English women insisted upon coming out on the deck in low-cut and short-sleeved gowns. It is said to be the latest fashion, and is not half as bad as their cigarette smoking or the ostentatious display of jewelry that is made on the deck every morning. Several women, and some of them with titles, sprawl around in steamer chairs, wearing necklaces of pearls, diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones, fit for only a banquet or a ball, with their fingers blazing with jewels and their wrists covered with bracelets. There seemed to be a rivalry among the aristocracy on our steamer as to which could make the most vulgar display of gold, silver and precious stones, and it occurs to me that these Englishwomen had lived in India so long that they must have acquired the Hindu barbaric love of jewelry. My attention was called not long ago to a cartoon in a British illustrated paper comparing the traveling outfits of American and English girls. The American girl had a car load of trunks and bags and bundles, a big bunch of umbrellas and parasols, golf sticks, tennis racquets and all sorts of queer things, and was dressed in a most conspicuous and elaborate manner. She was represented as striding up and down a railway platform covered with diamonds, boa, flashy hat and fancy finery, while the English girl, in a close fitting ulster and an Alpine hat, leaned quietly upon her umbrella near a small box, as they call a trunk, and a modest traveling bag. But that picture isnt accurate. According to my observation it ought to be reversed. I have never known the most vulgar or the commonest American woman to make such a display of herself in a public place as we witnessed daily among the titled women upon the P. and O. steamer Mongolia, bound for Bombay. Nor is it exceptional. Whenever you see an overdressed woman loaded with jewelry in a public place in the East, you may take it for granted that she belongs to the British nobility. Germans, French, Italians and other women of continental Europe are never guilty of similar vulgarity, and among Americans it is absolutely unknown.
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The student of India who would at the same time be an historian, discovers to his sorrow that the land of his researches is lamentably poor in historical sources. And if within the realm of historical investigation, a more seductive charm lies for him in the analysis of great personalities than in ascertaining the course of historical development, then verily may he look about in vain for such personalities in the antiquity and middle ages of India. Not that the princely thrones were wanting in great men in ancient India, for we find abundant traces of them in Hindu folk-lore and poetry, but these sources do not extend to establishing the realistic element in details and furnishing life-like portraits of the men themselves. That the Hindu has ever been but little interested in historical matters is a generally recognized fact. Religious and philosophical speculations, dreams of other worlds, of previous and future existences, have claimed the attention of thoughtful minds to a much greater degree than has historical reality. The misty myth-woven veil which hangs over persons and events of earlier times, vanishes at the beginning of the modern era which in India starts with the Mohammedan conquest, for henceforth the history of India is written by foreigners. Now we meet with men who take a decisive part in the fate of India, and they appear as sharply outlined, even though generally unpleasing, personalities. Islam has justly been characterized as the caricature of a religion. Fanaticism and fatalism are two conspicuously irreligious emotions, and it is exactly these two emotions, which Islam understands how to arouse in savage peoples, to which it owes the part it has played in the history of the world, and the almost unprecedented success of its diffusion in Asia, Africa and Europe. About 1000 A.D. India was invaded by the Sultan Mahmud of Ghasna. With Mahmuds expedition into India begins one of the most horrible periods of the history of Hindustan. One monarch dethrones another, no dynasty continues in power, every accession to the throne is accompanied by the murder of kinsmen, plundering of cities, devastation of the lowlands and the slaughter of thousands of men, women and children of the predecessors adherents; for five centuries northwest and northern India literally reeked with the blood of multitudes. Mohammedan dynasties of Afghan, Turkish and Mongolian origin follow that of Ghasna. This entire period is filled with an almost boundless series of battles, intrigues, imbroglios and political revolutions; nearly all events had the one characteristic in common, that they took place amid murder, pillage and fire.
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