Her children are tricked out with more fancy. The little brown girl, who yesterday had not one square inch of cloth on the whole of her tiny person, comes out a petite miss in a crimson bodice and a white skirt, with her shining black hair oiled and combed and plaited and decked with flowers, and her neck and arms and feet twinkling with ornaments. Her brother of six or seven looks as if he were going to a fancy-dress ball in the character of His Highness the Holkar. His small head is set in a great three-cornered Maratha turban, and his body, a stranger to the feel of clothes, is masked in a resplendent purple jacket. The young men of the village, such of them as are not gone a-fishing, have donned clean white jackets. Beyond that they will not go, contemning effeminacy.
About nine o'clock, when the sun is now well up, the distant sound of a tom-tom is heard, and the first of the returning fleet of muchwas appears at the mouth of the creek. A long line of red and white flags extends from the top of the mainyard to the helm and streamers flutter from the mastheads. A monster bouquet of marigolds is mounted on the bowsprit, branches of trees are stuck about in all possible situations, and three or four large fishes hang from the bow, trailing their tails in the water. With the exception of the man at the helm, who sits stolid, minding his business, and one youth who plays the tom-tom, the crew are standing in a ring, gesticulating with their arms and legs, or waving wands and branches of trees. Some have half of their faces smeared with red paint. If a boat passes they greet it with a shout and a sally of wit or ribaldry. The other muchwas follow close behind, with every inch of white sail spread and all a-flutter with flags and streamers: it would be difficult to imagine a prettier spectacle, and the tom-toming and the happiness beaming on the faces of the crews are almost infectious. One feels almost compelled to wave one's hat and cry, "Hip, hip, hooray!"
The boats come to shore, and then there ought to be a tumbling out of the silvery harvest and a gathering of women and a strife indescribable of shrill tongues, and then a long procession of wives and daughters trotting to market, each balancing a great, dripping basket on her comely head, while the husbands and fathers go home to eat and sleep. But there is none of that to-day. The silvery harvest may go to destruction and the husbands and fathers can do without sleep for once. The children are taken on board in all their finery, and friends join and musicians with their instruments. Then all sails are spread again and the boats start for a circuit round the harbour. The wind blows fiercely from the north, and each buoyant muchwa scuds along at a fearful pace, heeling over until the rippling water fingers the edge of the gunwale as if it were just getting ready to leap over and take possession. But the hilarious Koli balances himself on the sloping thwarts and jumps and sings and claps his hands, while the pipes screech and the drums rattle. Twice, or three times, does the whole fleet go out over the bar and wheel and return, each boat racing to be first, with no more sense of danger than a porpoise at play.
At last they have had enough. The sails are furled and the boats beached, the big fishes are taken down from the bows, and the whole crowd, with their trophies and garlands, dance their way to the village. There it is better that we leave them. To-night great fires will be lighted in the middle of the main road and capacious pots of toddy will be at hand, and every merry Koli will get hilariously drunk and do and say things which we had better not see and hear. And the children will look on and try to imitate their elders. And women will find it best to keep out of the way for the sake of their pretty dresses, if there were no better reason. For pots of water dyed crimson with goolal powder are ready, and everybody has licence to splash everybody when he gets a chance. Any time during the next two or three days you may find your own servants coming home dappled with red.
So the ape has his fling. And the tiger is lurking not far behind. In each of those fires it is the proper thing to roast a cock, throwing him in alive. If the fire is a great one, a general village fire, then it is still greater fun to throw in a live goat. But the worst of these ceremonies are happily going out of fashion. For the English law is stern, and the sahibs have strange and quixotic notions about cruelty to animals, and although they are far away on tour at this season and no native officer would voluntarily interfere with an immemorial custom, still the tiger walks in fear in these days and the Koli is often content to roast a coconut as proxy for a cock or a goat.