Chapter 12

In order to shorten the journey, the guide passed to the left of the railway line, which was still in process of being built. The Parsee declared that they would gain twenty miles by striking directly through the forest. The swift trotting of the elephant horribly jostled Phileas Fogg and Sir Francis Cromarty. After two hours the guide stopped the elephant, and gave him an hour for rest. At noon, the Parsee gave the signal of departure. The country soon presented a very savage aspect.

Verne writes a little about the area that they were passing through - All this portion of Bundelcund, is inhabited by a fanatical population, hardened in the most horrible practices of the Hindoo faith. The English have not been able to secure complete dominion over this territory, which is subject to the influence of rajahs, who are almost impossible to reach in their inaccessible mountain hideouts. The elephant is made to hurry away each time the mahout sees a band of people.

Some thoughts troubled the worthy servant - Passepartout - What would Mr. Fogg do with the elephant when he got to Allahabad? As he deliberated on such issues, the principal chain of the Vindhias was crossed by eight in the evening, and another halt was made on the northern slope, in a ruined bungalow. They had gone nearly twenty-five miles that day, and an equal distance still separated them from the station of Allahabad.

The group stops for the night. Nothing occurred during the night to disturb the slumberers, although occasional growls of panthers and chattering of monkeys broke the silence. The journey was resumed at six in the morning. Kiouni soon descended the lower spurs of the Vindhias, and towards noon they passed by the village of Kallenger, on the Cani, one of the branches of the Ganges. Allahabad was now only twelve miles away. They stopped under a clump of bananas. Then they entered a thick forest. They had not as yet had any unpleasant encounters, and the journey seemed on the point of being successfully accomplished, when the elephant suddenly stopped.

They heard a confused murmur, which came through the thick branches. Passepartout was all eyes and ears. Mr. Fogg waited patiently without a word. The Parsee went to find out where the sounds came from. He soon returned, saying: "A procession of Brahmins is coming this way. We must prevent their seeing us, if possible." The guide unloosed the elephant and led him into a thicket, at the same time asking the travelers not to stir. He hoped that the procession would pass without having noticed them.

The discordant tones of the voices and instruments drew nearer. The head of the procession soon appeared beneath the trees and here Verne describes the nature of the procession. Sir Francis Cromarty points out that the procession was that of goddess Kali. A group of old fakirs were making a wild ado round the statue; these were striped with ochre, and covered with cuts whence their blood issued drop by drop. Some Brahmins were leading a woman who faltered at every step. This woman was young, and as fair as a European. The procession also included the body of a dead man. Sir Francis watched the procession with a sad countenance, and, turning to the guide, said, "A suttee." Fogg had heard what Sir Francis said, and, as soon as the procession had disappeared, asked: "What is a suttee?" The general explained that a suttee is a human sacrifice, but a voluntary one. Passepartout is enraged by such an act. Fogg wonders aloud how come the British have not put an end to such practices. It is explained to him that areas such as this are out of the control of the British authorities. While Sir Francis was speaking, the guide shook his head several times, and now said: "The sacrifice which will take place tomorrow at dawn is not a voluntary one." He then goes on to talk about what he terms - the Bundelcund affair. He tells the others that this lady was being forced to commit suttee and that she had been doped on opium.

The guide now led the elephant out of the thicket. Just at the moment that he was about to urge Kiouni forward, Mr. Fogg stopped him, and, turning to Sir Francis Cromarty, said, "Suppose we save this woman." Sir Francis is surprised and Fogg explains that he has twelve hours to spare and that they can devote that time to try and save her.

The adventures on the elephant begin their recounting in this chapter. The Parsee mahout does not take the path along the railway line. This line, owing to the capricious turnings of the Vindhia Mountains, did not pursue a straight course. Fogg, Sir Francis and Cromarty are jostled madly on top of the trotting elephant. But, they endure the discomfort with true British phlegm, talking little, and scarcely able to catch a glimpse of each other. As for Passepartout, who was mounted on the beast’s back, and received the direct force of each concussion as he trod along, he was very careful, in accordance with his master’s advice, to keep his tongue from between his teeth, as it would otherwise have been bitten off short.

Passepartout is often a source of humor, as he is now. Verne writes - " The worthy fellow bounced from the elephant’s neck to his rump, and vaulted like a clown on a spring-board; yet he laughed in the midst of his bouncing, and from time to time took a piece of sugar out of his pocket, and inserted it in Kiouni’s trunk, who received it without in the least slackening his regular trot." Verne also adequately describes the landscape that they are passing through. - " Copses of dates and dwarf-palms succeeded the dense forests; then vast, dry plains, dotted with scanty shrubs, and sown with great blocks of syenite."

The guide gives the elephant and the part some rest after few hours of travelling. Neither Sir Francis nor Mr. Fogg regretted the delay, and both descended with a feeling of relief. "Why, he’s made of iron!" exclaimed the general, gazing admiringly on Kiouni.

"Of forged iron," replied Passepartout, as he set about preparing a hasty breakfast.

Verne has portrayed a very exotic picture of the landscape. He writes that the travelers several times saw bands of ferocious Indians, who, when they perceived the elephant striding across country, made angry arid threatening motions. Many English writers writing on India, present it’s natives as savage creatures. Here, Verne says that the Parsee avoided them as much as possible. Few animals were observed on the route; even the monkeys hurried from their path with contortions and grimaces, which convulsed Passepartout with laughter.

We notice that Passepartout has a predilection towards pondering and worrying, especially whenever he has the free time. While on the elephant, he worries about it. He wonders how Fogg will get rid of such a heavy animal after they have reached Allahabad. He thinks - " Would he carry him on with him? Impossible! The cost of transporting him would make him ruinously expensive. Would he sell him, or set him free? The estimable beast certainly deserved some consideration. Should Mr. Fogg choose to make him, Passepartout, a present of Kiouni, he would be very much embarrassed..." Such thoughts did not cease worrying him for a long time.

The group spends the night at an abandoned bungalow. The night was cold. The Parsee lit a fire in the bungalow with a few dry branches, and the warmth was very grateful, provisions purchased at Kholby sufficed for supper, and the travelers ate ravenously. The conversation, beginning with a few disconnected phrases, soon gave place to loud and steady snores. The guide watched Kiouni, who slept standing, bolstering himself against the trunk of a large tree. Sir Francis slept heavily, like an honest soldier overcome with fatigue. Passepartout was wrapped in uneasy dreams of the bouncing of the day before. As for Mr. Fogg, he slumbered as peacefully as if he had been in his serene mansion in Savile Row. Fogg is untouched and calm in each and every situation. His strong constitution is indeed remarkable.

The next day, the party stops in a grove of banana trees and savors the fruit. The banana fruit is described as " healthy as bread and as succulent as cream" which was " amply partaken of and appreciated." After having resumed their journey and having traveled a few miles, the elephant suddenly grows restless. The mahout takes the elephant to a shady grove and goes to investigate the source of the noise. It turns out to be a Brahmin procession. The mahout holds himself ready to bestride the animal at a moment’s notice, should flight become necessary; but he evidently thinks that the procession of the faithful would pass without perceiving them amid the thick foliage, in which they were wholly concealed. The murmur soon became more distinct; it now seemed like a distant concert of human voices accompanied by brass instruments.

An interesting view of the Brahmin procession is obtained. Verne writes - "... the strange figures who performed the religious ceremony were easily distinguished through the branches. First came the priests, with mitres on their heads, and clothed in long lace robes. They were surrounded by men, women, and children, who sang a kind of lugubrious psalm, interrupted at regular intervals by the tambourines and cymbals; while behind them was drawn a car with large wheels, the spokes of which represented serpents entwined with each other. Upon the car, which was drawn by four richly caparisoned zebus, stood a hideous statue with four arms, the body colored a dull red, with haggard eyes, disheveled hair, protruding tongue, and lips tinted with betel. It stood upright upon the figure of a prostrate and headless giant. Sir Francis, recognizing the statue, whispered, "The goddess Kali; the goddess of love and death." "Of death, perhaps," muttered back Passepartout, "but love that ugly old hag? Never!"

The curious feature of the procession is a fair woman who is walking in a dazed manner. Her head and neck, shoulders, ears, arms, hands, and toes were loaded down with jewels and gems with bracelets, earrings, and rings; while a tunic bordered with gold, and covered with a light muslin robe, betrayed the outline of her form. The guards who followed the young woman presented a violent contrast to her, armed as they were with swords hung at their waists, and long damascened pistols, and bearing a corpse on a palanquin. It was the body of an old man, gorgeously arrayed in the habiliments of a rajah, wearing, as in life, a turban embroidered with pearls, a robe of tissue of silk and gold, a scarf of cashmere sewed with diamonds, and the magnificent weapons of a Hindoo prince. Next came the musicians and a rearguard of capering fakirs, whose cries sometimes drowned the noise of the instruments; these closed the procession.

Sir Francis mutters that this is a suttee procession. The Parsee nodded, and put his finger to his lips. The procession slowly wound under the trees, and soon its last ranks disappeared in the depths of the wood. The songs gradually died away; occasionally cries were heard in the distance, until at last all was silence again. When the meaning of the word suttee is explained to Fogg, Passepartout gets angry at the idea of human sacrifice. "Oh, the scoundrels!" cried Passepartout, who could not repress his indignation. "And the corpse?" asked Mr. Fogg.

"Is that of the prince, her husband," said the guide; "an independent rajah of Bundelcund." "Is it possible," resumed Phileas Fogg, his voice betraying not the least emotion, "that these barbarous customs still exist in India, and that the English have been unable to put a stop to them?" "These sacrifices do not occur in the larger portion of India," replied Sir Francis; "but we have no power over these savage territories, and especially here in Bundelcund. The whole district north of the Vindhias is the theatre of incessant murders and pillage." ‘The poor wretch!" exclaimed Passepartout, "to be burned alive!" "Yes," returned Sir Francis, "burned alive. And, if she were not, you cannot conceive what treatment she would be obliged to submit to from her relatives. They would shave off her hair, feed her on a scanty allowance of rice, treat her with contempt; she would be looked upon as an unclean creature, and would die in some corner, like a scurvy dog. The prospect of so frightful an existence drives these poor creatures to the sacrifice much more than love or religious fanaticism. Sometimes, however, the sacrifice is really voluntary, and it requires the active interference of the Government to prevent it. Several years ago, when I was living at Bombay, a young widow asked permission of the governor to be burned along with her husband’s body; but, as you may imagine, he refused. The woman left the town, took refuge with an independent rajah, and there carried out her self devoted purpose." Through this conversation, Verne is able to explain the orthodox Indian customs that prevailed in India even after the British had come in. An Indian reader would not be surprised by a reference to such customs, but the western reader will find the idea of suttee curious and unheard of.

It is the Parsee Guide, who points out that in this particular case of suttee, the human sacrifice is not voluntary, but forced. He relates the story of an old Rajah’s young wife who was being forced to burn herself. The wretched creature did not seem to be making any resistance only because she was drugged with opium. "That was because they had intoxicated her with fumes of hemp and opium.", the guide says. ‘But where are they taking her?" "To the pagoda of Pillaji, two miles from here; she will pass the night there." "And the sacrifice will take place--" "Tomorrow, at the first light of dawn." When these words are being exchanged, we can never guess what shall be following and how Fogg is already thinking of something in his sharp mind.

When the guide is about to move the elephant on towards Allahabad, Fogg does the most unusual thing. He asks whether it would be possible to save the woman as he has time in hand. He says - "I have yet twelve hours to spare; I can devote them to that." "Why, you are a man of heart!" "Sometimes," replied Phileas Fogg, quietly; "when I have the time." The reader realizes that there is more to Fogg than the mere mathematically precise and logical man. He has a huge heart but that he puts it into function only when required, along with the neat working of his brain. Fogg endears himself even more not only to Passepartout by this action, but also to the readers.

Cite this page:

Staff, TheBestNotes. "TheBestNotes on Around the World in Eighty Days". . 09 May 2017