In the city, which is swept and cleaned till it is hard to believe oneself among Hindoos, there are six hundred tanks, for the most part stagnant, in which the natives wash themselves and their clothes. Round others, which are gradually being appropriated to the use of the residents, and all about the houses, bamboos are planted and "flame of the forest," covered with enormous red star-shaped blossoms as solid as fruit, and trees curtained with creepers of fragile growth—one long garden extending almost to the bazaar.
Close to a shop where I was bargaining for some old bronzes, in an open booth, and quite alone among the metal jars and trays, sat a boy of four, his only garment a green silk jacket bordered with blue velvet, stitched with silver thread; there was nothing between the little vest and his bright bronze skin. He had a blue cap embroidered with gold, and his eyes were darkened with khol. He was drawing lines very neatly on a slate, and then wrote beneath them the pretty Hindoo letters that look like cabalistic signs, saying them as he went on, pa, pa, pa, pi, pi, pi, pa?, pa?, pa?, pom, pom, pom, till at last, seeing that I was looking at him and smiling, quite fascinated by his pretty ways, he burst out laughing, a hearty, happy, baby laugh, and then gravely went on with his business again.
The plague-stricken man lay on a low bed struggling with anguish; large drops of sweat stood on his face, his throat was wrapped in wet bandages, and he spoke with difficulty, as in a dream.From Kusshalgar we were travelling in a tonga once more. The landscape was all of steep hills without vegetation; stretches of sand, hills of clay—lilac or rosy brick-earth scorched in the sun, green or brown earth where there had been recent landslips, baked by the summer heat to every shade of red. There was one hill higher than the rest, of a velvety rose-colour with very gentle undulations, and then a river-bed full of snowy-white sand, which was salt.
We met a native on horseback; a pink turban and a beard also pink, with a round patch of intensely black skin about his mouth—white hair dyed with henna to make it rose-colour; and a lock of hair that showed below his turban was a sort of light, dirty green in hue, like a wisp of hay. The rider, well mounted on his horse, was deeply contemptuous of us, sitting in an ekka—the vehicle of the vulgar; and he passed close to us[Pg 268] muttering an insult in his pink beard trimmed and combed into a fan.Wide strands of golden sand; here and there among the rice-fields the palms and bamboos are less crowded. In the moist air, that grows hotter and hotter, the daylight is blinding, hardly tolerable through the blue glass of the windows. Scorched, russet rocks stand up from the short grass, tremulous in the noontide heat. The cattle, the very birds, silent and motionless, have sought shelter in the shade; all the people have gone within doors. And then, towards evening, in an oasis of gigantic trees, amid bamboos and feathery reeds, behold the huge temples of Madura, in sharp outline against a rosy sky.
A poor old fellow, behind a grating that shut him into a kind of hovel, called out to us, first beseeching and then threatening, rushing frantically to the back of his hut and at once coming forward again with fresh abuse. He was a dangerous madman, placed there to keep him out of mischief and to be cured by the Divinity.All round the post-office there is invariably a crowd of natives scribbling in pencil on post-cards held in their left hands. Their correspondence is lengthy, minute, and interminable; in spite of their concentration and look of reflection I could never bring myself to take them seriously, or feel that they were fully responsible for their thoughts and acts—machines only, wound up by school teaching, some going out of order and relapsing into savages and brutes.
A rosy light flooded the whole scene with fiery radiance, and then suddenly, with no twilight, darkness blotted out the shape of things, drowning all in purple haze; and there, where India had vanished, a white mist rose from the ocean that mirrored the stars.
One of these mausoleums served us for a bungalow. The distance was visible from the window openings, which were fringed with cuscus blinds[Pg 39] that would be pulled down at night: the spreading dark plain, broken by gleaming pools, and dotted with the lamps in the temples to Vishnu, of which the cones were visible in silhouette, cutting the clear horizon.
A company of the Khyber Rifles are quartered there in the old buildings and the officers' deserted bungalows; over all hangs an atmosphere of icy desolation and overpowering melancholy. Above our heads a flight of eagles wheeled against the sky.[Pg 245]详情
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