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An Essence of the Dusk, 5th Edition by F. W. Bain


_Love turns venom, now I see, Flouted Beauties vipers be._






More generally known, perhaps, than any other Hindoo legend, is the story of the demon, RAHU, who brings about ECLIPSES, by devouring the Sun and Moon. For when the gods had upchurned the nectar, the delectable Butter of the Brine, Rahu's mouth watered at the very sight of it: and "in the guise of a god" he mingled unperceived among them, to partake. But the Sun and Moon, the watchful Eyes of Night and Day, detected him, and told Wishnu, who cast at him his discus, and cut his body from his head: but not until the nectar was on the way down his throat. Hence, though the body died, the head became immortal: and ever since, a thing unique, "no body and all head," a byword among philosophers, he takes revenge on Sun and Moon, the great Taletellers, by "gripping" them in his horrid jaws, and holding on, till he is tired, or can be persuaded to let go. Hence, in some parts of India, the doleful shout of the country people at eclipses: _Chor do! chor do[1]!_ and hence, also, the primary and surface meaning of our title: _A Digit of the Moon in the Demon's grip_: in plain English, _an eclipse of the moon_. And yet, legend though it be, there is something in the old mythological way of putting the case, which describes the situation in eclipses, far better than our arid scientific prose. I shall not easily forget, how, as we slid like ghosts at midnight, through the middle of the desert, along the Suez Canal[2], I watched the ghastly pallor of the wan unhappy moon, as the horrible shadow crept slowly over her face, stealing away her beauty, and turning the lone and level sands that stretched away below to a weird and ashy blue, as though covering the earth with a sepulchral sympathetic pall. For we caught the "griesly terror," Rahu, at his horrid work, towards the end of May, four years ago.

[1] _Let go! let go!_

[2] Though nothing can be less romantic than a canal, gliding through that of Suez is a strange experience at night. Your great ship seems to move, swift and noiseless, through the very sand: and if only you could get there without knowing where you were, you would think that you were dreaming.

But our title has yet another meaning underneath the first, for _Ahi_, the name employed for Rahu (like all other figures in Indian mythology, he is known by many names), also means a _snake_. _Beauty persecuted by a snake_ is the subject of the story. That story will presently explain itself: but the relation between _Rahu_, or eclipses, and a snake is so curiously illustrated by a little insignificant occurrence that happened to myself, that the reader will doubtless forgive me for making him acquainted with it.

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