On the bank of the river, where there are no more steps, only beaten earth, in a little raised pit a pile of wood was slowly dying out. A man with[Pg 166] a cane raked back the sticks as they fell and rolled away. A squatting crowd were waiting till their relation was altogether consumed to cast his ashes on the sacred waters.
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.Next came a whole row of very small shops, where there was an endless variety of trifles for sale, toys made of wood painted red and green; and finally, on the ground floor of houses ornamented with carvings and slender colonnades, in a cool and shady and silent street, were the sellers of silk and cloth.The heat to-day has suddenly become stifling; the low clouds veil the colourless sun, and the flowers, which yesterday were still lovely, are now[Pg 278] withered and pallid, and only give out their scent in the evening, when it is cool again.
In the plain the sowars were performing an[Pg 280] Indian fantasia. Charging at a gallop, their wide sleeves flying behind them, they swept past like a whirlwind, aiming with their lances at a peg of wood stuck into the ground. Whenever it was speared there were frantic shouts and applause from a crowd of spectators, packed in the best places. In a cloud of dust, growing steadily thicker and hanging motionless over the riders, the performance went on, its centre always this same peg of wood, replaced again and again, exciting the enthusiasm of connoisseurs till the last ray of light died away.And then we came away from this hospital, where no sister of charity, no woman even, had brought some little consolation or the kindliness of a smile to these dying creatures, whose wandering or frantic black eyes haunted me.The two chairs are now placed side by side, and the priest goes on chanting his prayers to a slow measure, in a nasal voice that is soon lost again in the chatter of the bystanders. Rice is once more shed over the couple, and incense is burnt in a large bronze vessel, the perfume mingling with that of the jasmine wreaths on the walls.
Above a large fan-palm the pale fronds of a talipot soar towards the sky, gracefully recurved like enormous ostrich plumes. A fluff, a down, of flowers clings to the stems of the magnificent crest, a delicate pale cloud; and the broad leaves of the tree, which will die when it has blossomed, are already withering and drooping on the crown. Then, in the clearings made by the recent decay of such a giant, falling where it had stood, and crushing the bamboos and ph?nix that grew round its foot, the flowers sprang in myriads—great sunflowers, shrubs of poinsettia, with its tufts of red or white bracts at the end of a branch of green[Pg 132] leaves, surrounding a small inconspicuous blossom, and tall, lavender-blue lilies.In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notes—anything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit.
Inside the mausoleum numberless lustres hang from the roof, and fine large standing lamps with crystal pendants burn round two tombs covered with antique hangings and wreathed with jasmine; beneath these lie the two last kings of Oudh. Small models of two famous mosques, one in gold and one in silver, are placed on the tombs, round which a whole regiment of obsequious moollahs and beggars mount guard. On the walls childish paintings, representing scenes of the Anglo-Indian conflict, alternate with mirrors in gilt frames, and silk standards exquisitely faded, embroidered with dim gold and silver, and surmounted by tridents.As we returned to Lahore the palace rose before us among trees, a strip of wall, uninjured, covered with sapphire and emerald tiles; a fragile minaret crowning a tower bowered in flowering shrubs—and then the vision was past. The carriage drove on for[Pg 238] a long way by ruins and vestiges of beauty, and re-entered the town, where lanterns were being lighted over the throng that pushed and hustled about the fair.
"Nothing could be fine enough to be worthy of[Pg 212] Akbar, so this was made in a hurry that he might at least rest in peace without delay."In the afternoon, while it was still broad daylight and very bright outside, it was already dusk under the arches of the temple, and bats were flitting about.
DARJEELINGCymbals and kettle-drums formed the orchestra, reinforced by the shrill cries and strident laughter of the spectators.
The crimson sky seen above the tall coco-palms turns to pink, to pale, vaporous blue, to a warm grey that rapidly dies away, and almost suddenly it is night.In the town, at a spot where several alleys meet, stood a mob of people holding out the ends of their sarees or dhotis to catch handfuls of grain which a kshatriya was throwing to them from a[Pg 170] window, though he looked almost as ragged as the beggars collected in front of the house.All round the Royal Hill ancient buildings are piled in stages, the remains of still majestic magnificence. The thorn-brakes cover supporting walls as broad as crenellated terraces; fragments of light and fantastic architecture stand up from amid golden blossoms; tottering colonnades overhang tanks, all green at the bottom with a pool of brackish water.
"We give rice to the sick, who all have dysentery, instead of the daily cake."
And on the man's replying that he would try, the sultan, who chose that the monument should have no rival, caused the architect to be thrown into the Jumna on the spot, where he was dashed to pieces at the foot of his masterpiece, which remains unique.The carriage of the Rajah of Palitana awaited us this morning at Songad. As an escort two sowars in long blue cloaks and red turbans, their guns slung behind them, galloped by our vehicle. On each side of the road lay fields of scorched grass, quite burnt and very fine, glistening like silk, reflecting the sun as far as we could see.Abibulla delivered a long harangue through the closed door; at last a wicket was opened, framing an eye. I was invited to approach, and then, after examination, the wicket in the polished door was abruptly closed!详情
Copyright © 2020