An old man who sold us some shells, had, in the days of prosperity, made a little fortune by charming the sharks with spells and signs that kept them away from the boats, and from the naked and defenceless pearl-fishers as they plunged into the deep to seek the precious shells.Even more than the assembly of their relatives and friends, the prisoners at the bar maintained the impassive mien of men who attach no disgrace to a sentence pronounced by a conquering race; they would take the penalty without a murmur, as one of the inevitable incidents of this life, which to them is but a stage, a passage to a higher existence.The train, now travelling northwards again, ran for a long way across the scorched plain through groves of dead trees and sandhills covered with lichen, till, in the golden sunset close to Gwalior, suddenly, at the foot of a hill, we came upon the greenery of fine parks with palaces rising above cool marble tanks.
Soldiers, bristling with daggers and pistols in their belts, are on guard at the gate. Pikes and long muskets stand piled in the background; over this arsenal, flowering jasmine and convolvulus with enormous bell flowers hang their graceful shade.After inspecting my little permit to visit the Khyber, the officials at the fort had placed in my carriage a soldier of the native Khyber rifle-corps, six feet six in height, placid and gentle. When I got out of the carriage to walk up a hill he would follow a yard or so behind, and watching all my movements, looked rather as if he were taking me to prison than like an escort to protect me.This Rawal Pindi is an English town of cottages surrounded by lawns and shrubberies; about two streets of bazaar, and red uniforms everywhere, Highland soldiers in kilts, white helmets, and the officers' and sergeants' wives airing their Sunday finery in their buggies. The ladies drive themselves, under the shelter of a sunshade on an all[Pg 239] too short stick, painfully held by a hapless native servant clinging to the back of the carriage in a dislocating monkey-like attitude.
The central square, formerly the Sultan Akbar's garden, is now a parade-ground for soldiers, and barracks occupy the site of ruined palaces. Still[Pg 207] some remains of ancient splendour are to be seen that have escaped the vandals.[Pg 119]
The bridegroom sits awaiting his guests, in his garden all decorated with arches and arbours, and[Pg 14] starred with white lanterns. An orchestra is playing, hidden in a shrubbery.Then, under a portico in front of us, a man began to undress. He threw off his dhoti and his sarong, keeping on his loin-cloth only. With outstretched arms he placed a heavy copper pot full of water on the ground, took it up between[Pg 171] his teeth, and without using his hands tilted his head back till the water poured all over him in a shower, which splashed up from the pavement, sprinkling the spectators in the front row. Next he tied his dhoti round the jar, which he refilled, and fastened the end to his long hair. Then, simply by turning his head, he spun the heavy pot round him. It looked as if it must pull his head off, but he flung it faster and faster till he presently stopped.A few officers, a few clergy only, had organized some distribution of relief; the administration,[Pg 197] wholly indifferent, was drawing double pay in consideration of the increase of work in famine time.
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.It was a miserable assemblage of booths and tumble-down dwellings, crowded round a sumptuous old palace with porticoes carved with divinities. The new town consists of modern buildings, devoid of[Pg 86] style, the residence of wealthy Parsee merchants. Here are libraries, archives—all kinds of offices, which seem so useless here, and which, till I was told what they were, I took to be a prison.Then her bedroom: no bed, only a vast mattress rolled up against the wall, and spread over the floor every night—it must cover the whole room.
The road goes on. Trees cast their shade on the flagstone pavement, but between the houses and through open windows the sandy plain may be seen, the endless whiteness lost in a horizon of dust.
A plantation of theobromas (cacao), carefully enclosed and tended, with their puckered leaves, and fruit-pods as large as an ostrich egg hanging from the trunk and the larger branches, seemed quite melancholy, like wild things tethered.
"And how many die every day?"
In the plain, beyond shady avenues of tamarind and terminalia trees, Hardwar begins again, a second town of large buildings, buried in the greenery of banyans and bamboos. Here again was the ghost of a bazaar, where all seemed dead under the bleaching sun—a bazaar bereft of sellers, no one in the booths, and no buyers in the deserted streets.Bakaoli, having returned to her own country, sends her confidante, named Hammala, with a letter to Tazulmulook, who at once follows the messenger. The prince and the queen fall in love with each other. Bakaoli's mother finds them together, and furious at the disobedience of her daughter, who is affianced to another rajah, she calls up a djinn to plunge Tazulmulook in a magic fount. The prince finds himself transformed into a devil with horns, and wanders about the jungle once more. There he meets a pariah woman with three children, who begs him to marry her. Tazulmulook in despair leaps back into the spring to die there, and to his great surprise recovers his original shape.
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.At sunset, when the glow fired the stones to a semblance of transparent, burning light, at the top of one of the flights of steps rising from the river to the town, and in front of a gate with large brass nails, glittering like sparks, the figure appeared of a holy beggar in yellow rags, with a copper jar blazing with reflected light; he was set in a halo of gold, and looked like the vision of some pagan god. He stood motionless for a[Pg 172] long time, and then, as the last sunbeam went out, he vanished beyond the fire-studded gate, while all the scene faded into rosy lilac, rapidly dying into blue night.详情
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