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many that are related in the Arabian Nights' Tales seem to be done before our eyes by these skillful performers.
One of the most remarkable performances of these conjurers is known as “the mango trick.”
The mango is a delicious fruit grown in the East. Taking the stone of this fruit, the juggler will say, “Now, watch me, and see if I do not cause this stone to take root in the earth, and grow into a tree which shall bear fruit.” We watch him carefully. The conjurer forms a little hill of soil, and in this he places the mango stone, at the same time chanting many a Hindu proverb. The whole is then covered with a cloth. After a few moments he uncovers the earth and we see that a little green shoot is pushing its way through the soil.
Again the cloth is spread, and the conjurer mutters many things to himself.
When we look again we find that the little shoot has grown into a plant a few inches high. Gradually the plant becomes larger and larger, until it stands full-grown above the soil.
Perhaps the juggler will then turn to the people grouped about him, and, taking off his turban, a piece of muslin three yards in length, give one end to one person and the other to another, and then request a third party to cut the muslin right through the middle. When this has been done, the juggler, taking the two pieces and rubbing them in his hands, will spread out the turban as whole as it was at the beginning.
Another curious feat is to throw a cocoanut into the air and catch it on his head, when the nut shivers to fragments instead of breaking the juggler's head as might be expected.
Here is another story as related by a recent traveler:
“ After this the juggler took a large earthen jar with wide mouth, filled it with water, and turned it upside down, when all the water of course ran out. He then reversed the jar, which all present perceived to be quite full, and all the earth around was perfectly dry. He then emptied the jar and handed it round for inspection. He asked one of the company to fill it to the brim ; after which he upset it, but not a drop of water flowed. Nevertheless, to the astonishment of all, the jar was quite empty.
“ This trick was shown several times, and at last the juggler broke the jar to prove that it really was nothing but the ordinary earthenware that it appeared.”
These, and many more tricks as wonderful, are performed in the open air, surrounded by spectators, and must be considered very remarkable exhibitions of skill.
Here in Benares, and, in fact, everywhere in India, are to be found wandering snake charmers, who, like the jugglers, for a trifling sum will favor you with an exhibition of their ability to charm the snakes, which they carry about in a basket or hidden away in their garments.
Taking these snakes out of the basket, and placing them on the ground, the snake charmers play weird music upon a curious native instrument, called a tubri. The effect of the music upon the snakes is wonderful; they raise their heads and sway backwards and forwards with a curious motion as if dancing.
Then one of the men seizes the nearest snake and twines it about his neck; the next one he throws over his shoulders ; and so on with others till the writhing, hissing reptiles seem to cover him completely.
The very thought of snakes is repulsive to us, and we find it difficult to understand that the natives of India can really worship such reptiles. Many of the
people, for fear of them, do worship poisonous snakes, hoping thereby to escape the venom of their bite.
On every side in Benares we see the sacred monkeys scrambling along the balconies of the houses, and peering in to see what they can steal. Occasionally one darts down upon some unlucky fruit seller's stand to seize a banana or a custard apple, and then escapes An Eng
to some point of safety, looking wise and wicked, as monkeys always do.
It is not in Benares alone that such numbers of monkeys are to be found. They are in all parts of India. Within recent years the Himalayan monkeys have been captured for the sake of their long black fur, which has been exported to Europe and America.
One of the many stories told of the sacred monkeys will illustrate how annoying they often are. lish lady living in India was to give a dinner party. She was especially anxious to have everything very pretty, and superintended all the arrangements herself. When the fruit, flowers, and sweetmeats had been put in their proper places on the table and all was ready, the lady went to her dressing room, charging her servants on no account to leave the room. The desire to smoke, however, proved too strong for them, and they went out onto the veranda, forgetting the open window.
In a large tree near by sat a number of monkeys watching all that was going on.
We can better imagine than describe the feelings of the lady when she came in just as her guests arrived and found "a busy company of monkeys hard at work, grinning and jabbering, their cheeks and arms crammed with expensive sweetmeats, while the table presented a scene of frightful devastation, — broken glass and china, fair linen soiled, everything tossed about in hopeless confusion !"
Everywhere in Benares the sacred bulls roam about unmolested, and the adjutant birds fearlessly seek their food along the narrow streets. The kites and crows, as well as adjutant birds, seen in great numbers near an Indian bazaar, present one of the most curious sights. In a land where drainage is unknown these birds act as valuable scavengers.
In one of his masterly essays Lord Macaulay has given us this beautiful description of Benares : “ His [Warren Hastings'] first design was on Benares, a city which in wealth, population, dignity, and sanctity was among the foremost of Asia.
It was commonly believed that half a million of human beings was crowded into that labyrinth of lofty alleys, rich with shrines and minarets and balconies and carved oriels, to which the sacred apes clung by hundreds.
“ The traveler could scarcely make his way through the press of holy mendicants and not less holy bulls. The broad and stately flights of steps which descended from these swarming haunts to the bathing places along the Ganges were worn every day by the footsteps of an innumerable multitude of worshipers.
“ The schools and temples drew crowds of pious Hindus from every province where the Brahminical faith was known. Hundreds of devotees came hither every month to die ; for it was believed that a peculiarly happy fate awaited the man who should pass from the sacred city into the sacred river.
“Nor was this superstition the only motive which allured strangers to that great metropolis. Commerce had as many pilgrims as religion. All along the shores of the venerable stream lay great fleets of vessels, laden with rich merchandise. From the looms of Benares went forth the most delicate silks that adorned the