A regiment of artillery was marching into quarters. The Highlanders' band came out to meet them: four bagpipes, two side drums, and one big drum. They repeat the same short strain, simple enough, again and again; in Europe I should, perhaps, think it trivial, almost irritating, but here, filling me as it does with reminiscences of Brittany, especially after the persistent horror of tom-toms and shrill pipes, it strikes me as delightful—I even follow the soldiers to their quarters.
By the side of the road, in the town, the walls are still standing, all that remains of a great hall in the palace of Secundra Bagh, in which, after the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857, two thousand sepoys who refused to surrender were put to death.
Beyond these ruins, at the end of a long avenue bordered with tamarind trees, beyond an artificial lake, is the tomb of Shah Alam. A wide marble court; to the right a mosque with three ranks of columns; above, a massive roof crowned with a[Pg 56] bulbous dome, flanked by fragile minarets. The fountain for ablutions in the midst of the court is surmounted by a marble slab supported on slender columns. To the left, under the shade of a large tree, is the mausoleum of marble, yellow with age, looking like amber, the panels pierced with patterns of freer design than goldsmith's work.In the sacred tank, where Vishnu bathes when[Pg 165] he comes on earth, an old woman was standing pouring the stagnant green water over her body, while others of the faithful, seated on the steps, were piously drinking the stuff from a coco-nut that they handed round. In one corner of this pool was an exquisite bower of floating wreaths—yellow, white, and violet—a splash of bright colour on the squalid water.
Inside, a subdued light, rosy and golden, comes in through the myriad interstices, casting a glow of colour on the pierced marble screens which enclose the tomb of Shah Alam, Sultan of Gujerat. The tomb itself, hung with a red cloth under a canopy on posts inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is dimly seen in the twilight, scarcely touched here and there with the pearly gleam and lights reflected from ostrich eggs and glass balls—toys dedicated by the faithful to the hero who lies there in his last sleep. Yet further away, under the trees, is another tomb, almost the same, but less ornamented, where the sultan's wives repose.The moon at night shed an intense light, warm and golden. There was scarcely any shadow, and in the quivering atmosphere the flowers poured out their perfume on the cooler air. Frogs croaked a basso continuo to cries of night birds, and a sort of roar, very loud but very distant, almost drowned the concert in the fort close by.Heavy coaches with solid wheels, hermetically covered with red stuff patterned with white, were bringing home the invisible but noisy ladies of the zenana.
Above the road lie dark cliffs; a rose-coloured waterfall of melted snow tumbled mixing with the clay—pink with lilac depths, and the foam iridescent in the sunbeams. The ruins of a large temple of green stone carved with myriads of fine lines stood in solitude at the edge of a wood, and the background was the mountain-range, the Himalayas, lost in the sky and bathed in blue light. Only a portico remains standing—a massive, enduring frame for the infinite distance of snow-capped giants. The stones have lost their hue; they are darkly streaked by the rains and a growth of grey and purple mosses, and russet or white lichens have eaten into the surface.
Many hapless creatures here suffer from elephantiasis, and even quite little children are to be seen with an ankle stiffened, or perhaps both the joints ossified; and the whole limb will by-and-by be swollen by the disease, a monstrous mass dreadfully heavy to drag about. Other forms of lupus affect the face, and almost always, amid a crowd watching[Pg 138] some amusing performance, a head suddenly appears of ivory whiteness, the skin clinging to the bone or disfigured by bleeding sores.
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Tazulmulook on his way meets a blind man, whom he restores to sight by the help of the magical flower; the man relates the story of the cure to the four brothers, who quickly follow up Tazulmulook and presently overtake him. After a short conflict they rob him of the talisman and fly. The young prince is in despair, but as he wrings his hands he rubs Bakaoli's ring and the dragon instantly appears. Tazulmulook commands him forthwith to build a palace in front of that of King Zainulmulook.
To light the way, coolies carried long iron tridents tipped with balls of tow soaked in oil. The mass moved slowly forward through the people, suddenly soothed to silence. The procession paused at the wayside altars, and then, in the middle of a circle formed by the torch-bearers and coloured lights, the sacred bayadères appeared—three girls with bare heads, dressed in stiff new sarongs heavy with tinkling trinkets, and an old woman crowned with a sort of very tall cylindrical tiara of red velvet embroidered with gold. Very sweet-toned bagpipes and some darboukhas played a slow tune, and the dancers began to move; they spun slowly round, their arms held out, their bodies kept rigid, [Pg 137]excepting when they bowed to the shrine. The crude light of the red fire or the sulphurous flare of the torches fell on their glittering ornaments, alternately festive and mysterious, shedding over the performance an atmosphere at once dreamy and magically gorgeous.At the back of the shops, which lie lower than the street, we could see men trampling in vats all[Pg 261] day long; they were stamping and treading on old woollen shawls, fulling them to take off the shiny traces of wear, to sell them again as new goods.And in the evening at mess—a dinner given in honour of a regiment marching through—news was brought in that close to Bunnoo, in the Kurrum valley, two travellers had been murdered in the night.详情
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