The baboo who has lost caste and been half-civilized in the Anglo-Indian colleges, is always the middleman between the Government and the poor; and he, barefaced and with no pretence of concealment, took twenty per cent. of the wages he was supposed to pay the labourers. And there were none but baboos to superintend the poorhouses and the famine-camps. It is said that during the previous famine some made fortunes of six to eight lacs of rupees (the lac is ￡10,000).And again ruins. Under an archway still left standing on piers carved with lilies and foliage, lay a whole family of pariahs covered with leprosy and sores.
Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred city—the gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the river—and then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it."AHMEDABAD
A station on the road—the delightful days at Bunnoo left far behind.[Pg 270]Then a girl's body was brought out, wrapped in white muslin; the bier, made of bamboo, was wreathed with marigolds, and on the light shroud there were patches of crimson powder, almost violet. The bearers, on reaching the river, placed the body in the water, leaving it there for a time.
All the day long a solid blue mass melting into rain hid the mountains and darkened the nearer view; and our return journey was made between two grey walls, through which the trees, which sometimes met in an arch overhead, were but dimly visible.
In the atmosphere floated a pale blue smoke, rising from a heap of weeds that some children were burning, a weird sort of incense, acrid and aromatic, fading against the too-blue sky.
The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the ground—a white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanterns—and sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.
Inside the shops everything was piled together. The same man is at once a banker, a maker of papier-maché boxes—papi-machi they call it here—and of carpets, a goldsmith, tailor, upholsterer—and never lets you go till you have bought something.There was not a sound, not a bird, excepting on the fringe of the forest. As we penetrated further there soon was no undergrowth even on the dry soil, between the ever closer array of trees; the creepers hung very low, tangled with clinging parasites; and between the stilt-like and twining roots and the drooping boughs, the path, now impracticable, suddenly ended in face of the total silence and black shade that exhaled a strong smell of pepper, while not a leaf stirred.As the sun sank the citadel absorbed the gold and purple glory, and looked as though it were of some translucent half-fused metal; the towers and temples with their decoration of tiles blazed[Pg 204] against the pure sky. High over Mandir a little balcony with spindle columns, overhanging the precipice at a giddy height, caught the last rays of Surya, and flashed with a gem-like gleam above Gwalior, which was already shrouded in the blue haze of night.
The air is redolent of musk, sandal-wood, jasmine, and the acrid smell of the hookahs smoked by placid old men sitting in the shadow of their doors.Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glare—eyes that were already dead.
Off at four in the morning, led by a Mongol guide with a broad expressionless yellow face. My steed was a perfect little devil of a horse of a light coffee colour.详情
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