Letters from Benares
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The following letters were recovered from a private collection and filed as part of the additional materials relating to SCP-2833.

Benares, 12 May 1909

Dear Cousin Emily,

Greetings from the British Raj! How terribly grand that sounds. Honestly, I can hardly believe we are all so far away from home, and school, and everything normal in the world. Do write and tell me how England is getting along without us!

I shan't bore you with the details of the journey (which was tedious), especially with Eleanor's constant complaints. Mother tells me I should be more understanding, but why must I have an older sister whose only thoughts are of dresses and boys? I wish she were sensible like you.

Anyway, here we are in Benares. It is so different here - beastly hot and dusty, with flies everywhere, and it smells of mud and rotting fruit (and worse things), but everything is exciting and new. We were driven through the town, and there were men with turbans, and women in silk dresses of pink and orange and blue, and Vinod our driver stopped for a huge cow in the middle of the road. And I drank a mango lassi - have you had one? They're delicious.

We reached our new house, which is all white and wicker, and surrounded by shade trees. And blessedly cool, which will be good for mother while she recuperates. Father says it is called the Ambassador's house, although he is only a liaison to the Maharajah. They have a Maharajah here, can you believe it?

And even better, we have our own personal guru! He's not called that, of course, he's a sadhu or something, but Eleanor and I have decided to call him Guru. He even looks the part, with a saffron robe around his waist, and bangles on his arms and white whiskers - he is ever so impressive. He met us in front of the gate and father offered him some money, but even though he looks very poor he refused and said he just wanted to bless the house, so of course we invited him in and gave him some tea. He did a very elaborate blessing, and told us it would keep the evil spirits away, and mother has said he can come back and tell us about all the strange customs here.

I am very excited about it, but everything is exciting here. I can't wait to write more and tell you.

Yours from the far reaches of the Empire,


Benares, 22 August 1909

Dear Cousin Emily,

How lovely to receive your letter, and to know that mine made it through. I am pleased to hear that you are well, and your work for the church sounds very interesting. You'll have to tell me more about it when you have time.

After weeks of tremendous thunderstorms, it is hot and dry all over again here. It makes one wonder whether the seasons ever change, or if we are all to be roasted here until our skin turns brown and cracks, like potatoes in the oven!

Oh dear, it's too awful, but that has just reminded me. Mother, Eleanor and I took a trip into the city last fortnight to see some of the sights. We even took a boat along the Ganges, which really is quite extraordinary. The river is so wide and old and slow, like an elephant wandering through the city, and full of little boats shuttling to and fro. The water is dark green, and the buildings rise up on either side, yellow and sandy-coloured. There are wide steps all the way down to the water's edge, and people everywhere - washing their clothes, bathing and even praying.

Guru came with us, of course, and he told the boatman to take us to Manikarnika Ghat. He told us that it was a very holy religious place, where the Hindus come to cremate the dead. I could smell the smoke before I saw it, along with the usual odor of the city, and another smell, almost sweet. When we came closer, there was a temple with tall spires like roundhead helmets, blackened from the smoke. On the steps to the river there were three fires burning, and people dressed in white circling around them.

We didn't go very close, but Guru told us all about the rituals. He said that the Hindus believe that the bodies are destroyed to allow the spirits to be reincarnated in another form. I told him that Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, and he laughed and said that sounded like a good idea, and maybe we should try to keep our bodies living longer in the first place. I thought he was teasing me, but he wants to teach us yoga for our health, and mother has said yes.

I asked Vinod later how to spell Manikarnika Ghat, and he gave me a strange look. And then I overheard him telling mother not to let Guru take us to places like that, and that Guru lives in a cemetery and believes strange things, but mother said it was all perfectly natural. I think Vinod said Eleanor's name too. I wonder if he is sweet on her? It would be just like her - all the boys in England love her, so why not here?

How I long for your company instead of hers! I hope you will write and tell me how you are.

Yours faithfully,


Benares, 3 December 1909

Dear Emily,

I read your letter with great interest, especially your church excursion to the South Downs. It must have been charming there with the autumn fruits and cream teas. I really think you have the best kind of life.

Life here continues as ever. Father has found me a tutor to continue my lessons, but I'm afraid he is an astounding bore. Fortunately we have our visits from Guru to enliven us.

He has been teaching us yoga, even father when he is able. We all sit cross-legged on mats, or out under the banyan tree outside, wearing loose linens. No doubt you will be scandalised, but everything is much more informal here. I think it is to do with the heat.

I am learning more in my yoga lessons than any others. Did you know that 'yoga' means "to join" or "to attach"? It's all about letting parts of the body grow and expand, and join into each other, and new body parts opening up, like we have a third eye in the middle of our foreheads, and - sorry, I'm not explaining it very well.

Let me try again. In our first lesson, we sat down and Guru made us do deep breathing. He thought I did it very well, and he was very pleased when he learned that I am left-handed. Apparently there is a left-handed path that he thinks everyone should follow, so I laughed and told Eleanor that I am ahead of her already.

Then we had to say a mantra, which sounds like "Ayom", but you have to say it very slowly while doing the breathing. And Guru told us all about the magical serpent that lives inside us, and you say the mantra to make it rise up through your body until it bursts out through your head and you reach something called samadhi, which I think is something like nirvana. It's quite hard to write properly about it, but it's fascinating, and it all made a lot of sense when Guru was talking.

One time, when we were doing our stretches, Guru saw mother's scar, from where the doctors had cut out the tumour. He was very upset and told us that the English doctors didn't understand what they were doing, and that he knew some medicines that would have been better. I have never seen him get angry before, but he soon apologised and said he just wanted to make sure we were as healthy as we could be.

And so I will sign off by wishing you good health too, and a happy Christmas. I have asked for a fly-swatter for Christmas to keep the ghastly things away from me!

Yours with love and best wishes,


Benares, 1 March 1910

Dear Cousin,

Thank you for your letter. You did sound a little stern with your warning about "Eastern philosophy". I know that your work at church makes you concerned about our spiritual guidance, but you needn't worry, Emily - it is all a bit of a lark, and something to pass the days here. And Guru makes some very interesting observations - even father says so.

Yesterday he took us to visit a temple just outside of the city. Benares has twenty thousand temples, and mother, Eleanor and I have seen many of them, but Guru said that this one was different. For one thing, it was in the middle of the jungle, and the entrace was cut into the rock of the hillside. I'm surprised that Vinod even drove us out there, but he is much better-disposed to Guru lately, though some of the other servants object to his visits. Some of them have even deserted their posts - would you credit it?

But back to the temple. Inside, there was light filtering from somewhere above, but it was faint, and the chambers were dark green and shadowy. There were carvings in the stone walls, which were quite old and mysterious. Some looked like the battles from the Ramayana, with huge juggernauts and the demons from Lanka all fighting. I saw a man who looked like he had a long elephant's trunk, and I asked Guru if it was Ganesha, but he just laughed at me and told me that they didn't worship Ganesha in this temple. Some of the older carvings weren't very good - all the people looked funny, like they weren't drawn right.

We went into the main chamber, which had a hole in the ground, and I couldn't see where it stopped, it was so dark. I wanted to see if it would echo, and Guru told us all to sit and close our eyes, and we could say our mantra together.

Well I must confess, it was the queerest thing. When we said our mantra, it was as if the echoes came right back out of the pit, and the air felt like it was humming. It gave me the shivers, rather, but it was invigorating, like my body was just waking up. I'm sure that mother and Eleanor felt it too.

I wish you could have been there. But I must get to dinner - a roast goat! Even Vinod, who used to be vegetarian, has changed his mind. Guru says that meat is meant to be eaten, and is the first step to true knowledge. He knows so many interesting things.

Yours in the quest for true knowledge,


PS - I had to show this letter to mother, so couldn't write this before. I have shocking news - Eleanor is to have a baby! Father and mother will be livid, but they don't know yet. I found Eleanor crying, and she made me promise not to tell anyone, but I'm sure I can tell you. She would not explain it, but she sounded very upset and confused. Could it be Vinod? What will father do?

Benares, 30 May 1910

Dearest Emily,

I am so delighted to hear that you are coming to visit us. I'm not sure whether this letter will reach you before you leave, but I just had to tell you. You will find us all in marvellous shape - Guru has done wonders for our health with his advice and our new diets. Honestly, you will hardly recognise me when you see me!

Even Eleanor is glowing, and would you believe she is already showing. Mother and Father were most gracious in accepting our new arrival, once they spoke with Guru. He tells us that the arrival of a new baby boy (he is certain it will be a boy) is a cause for celebration, as the cycle of reincarnation continues. Just think, Emily, another member of our family - our own flesh and blood.

When you arrive, do come straight up to the house. No need to wait for the servants to meet you, as the ones who are still with us will be busy preparing for your arrival. It is an arrival eagerly awaited by all here. It will be awfully jolly to have you join our growing clan.

Yours avidly,



17 JUNE 1910




Emily Cavanagh retired from public life in 1961 and is presumed deceased. The collected belongings recovered with the correspondence above have been retained for analysis in connection with the activities of the Church of the Broken God in various British Commonwealth countries.

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