Summary: Chapter XXXVI
At sundown that day, Aziz remembers that he promised to send ointment over to the guesthouse to treat Fielding’s brother‑in‑law’s bee stings. Aziz procures some of Mohammed Latif’s ointment and decides to take it over himself, as an excuse for a ride.
Outside, the Procession of the God is about to begin. The two claimants to the Rajah’s throne, sensing that the Rajah might be dead, have arrived at the palace, but they make no moves toward the throne while the festival continues. Aziz runs into Godbole on the street and tells the professor the news about Fielding’s wife. Godbole, however, has known all along that Fielding married Stella Moore, not Adela Quested. Aziz refrains from getting angry with Godbole out of respect for the festival time.
Riding toward the guesthouse, Aziz becomes cynical when he notices the English visitors out in the guesthouse boat watching the Hindu festival from afar. Aziz resents this sightseeing, which he views as really a form of ruling or patrolling India. Aziz rides on to the guesthouse, which is guarded only by a sleeping sentry. He lets himself in and snoops around the rooms, finally finding and reading a letter from Heaslop to Fielding and a letter from Adela to Stella. Aziz resents the intimate tone of the letters.
Frustrated, Aziz strikes the piano in front of him. Hearing the noise, Ralph Moore comes in, startled. Aziz recovers from his surprise and briskly asks to see the Englishman’s bee stings. Ralph retreats from Aziz, saying that Aziz’s hands are unkind. Ralph asks why Aziz is treating him and the other English visitors so cruelly. Aziz mentions Adela, but the procession outside nears the jail, and an outburst of sorrow from the crowd distracts them both.
Aziz decides to leave and shakes Ralph’s hand absentmindedly. Aziz suddenly senses that Ralph is no longer afraid of him. Aziz asks Ralph if he can always tell when a stranger is his friend. Ralph says yes, he can. Aziz pronounces Ralph an Oriental, then shivers, remembering that he once said those exact words to Mrs. Moore in the mosque. Aziz is wary that a cycle is beginning again—the friendship of the mosque, followed by the horror of the caves. Aziz impulsively offers to take Ralph out on the water for a few minutes.
Once on the water, Aziz’s old hospitality returns, and he begins to speak colorfully about the Hindu celebration. Ralph points out what looks like the Rajah floating on the water. Aziz admits that he does not know what it is, though he suspects it is the image of the old Rajah, which can be seen from only one point on the water. Aziz suddenly feels more like the visitor than the guide.