The Silken East ^
over vast spaces, it is almost motionless. It is shallow, and the winter waits to expose its shallowness. Yet the purple shadows of the mountains lend it the suggestion of unfathomed deeps. Little, if any, life moves on its surface. A derelict log floats by with scarcely perceptible motion ; sand-bubbles break and spread their concentric rings on it in silence. From the cover of the silver kaing, a buffalo waddles slowly down to the river's edge, mammoth-likeaa counterpart of the slow, quiet world about him. In the fading light he makes a clear black spot on the landscapeaa lictor of the night. On the distant eastern horizon, clouds, like white pufifs from a furnace, stayed in the full tide of their life, become a palette for the last light of the sun, and their lustrous reflections make all the river, looking down, a mirror of pink and opal loveliness, that is in supreme antithesis to the dark mystery, the deep unfathomable purple of it, under the mountains.
Mountains and river are here in close fellowship, yet those blue-green patches on the slopes, and the line of little houses by the river, are a whole world apart. To the mountaineer, all below is a forbidden tract of civilisation, once, in the great days gone by, his prey. To the plainsman, all that is of the mountains savours of savagery greater than his own, and a hate that is never asleep. The one from his valley hamlets, the other from his eyrie on the cliffs, regard each other and pass by. There is no communion between them.
Homalin is in the keeping of an Aracanese officer, one of the ablest of his countrymen. He rules here