The Silken East ^
Ali-Baba-like vats, agape and half-buried in the mire. The suggestion is one of some infernal kraal.
Making my way through this outer barrier, whose oily filth is far from inviting, I find myself within the inner circle, set round with lofty sheds which face inwards, like the seats of an amphitheatre. The platforms of the sheds are crowded with the strenuous naked figures of men employed in pouring oil from jars into iron reservoirs. The oil pours in a green, glutinous stream; the sun glints on the polished muscles of the toilers ; above in long rows on the topmost tiers sit the Indian supervisors and tally-clerks, in white robes, silent and taciturn. The stairs of the platforms are slippery with oil, and all the arena is alive with the moving figures of the oil-bearers, hastening up with their quota. They look like demons from some under-world, rather than human beings ; they look least of all like the happy people of the soil who elsewhere go to and fro in silken skirts to worship at some golden pagoda, lifted high above a world of beauty. Some strange metamorphosis has overtaken them here. And as I look I am reminded of the pictures that prophetic writers draw of the Industrial Future.
For here are the debased workers, unhuman in appearance ; supervisors over them of another race, silent but ready to intervene should a scuffle or riot take place among them ; and over all the shadow of the Colossus of Capital, into whose maw the toil of the under-workers runs. They are made to sell here