The matter was evidently very serious. The three constables consulted together in an undertone, and then went off after desiring that I would forthwith telegraph to Sealkote and bring the reply to the police office.
Opposite the hotel, beyond the tennis club, is a sort of no-man's-land, where carriages are housed under tents. Natives dust and wash and wipe down the carriages in the sun, which is already very hot; and the work done, and the carriages under cover, out come swarms of little darkies, like ants, who squall and run about among the tents till sunset.
At our feet were the two walls, the outer wall enclosing the palace, the gardens, the arena, where fights were given between elephants and tigers; the inner wall, ten metres high, built round the zenana—the women's palace—of which even the foundations have almost disappeared under the overwhelming vegetation.As we approached Jhansi we passed a village whence all the inhabitants had fled. The houses, the little temples, the gods on their pedestals by the dried-up tanks—everything was thickly coated with white dust.
MURREEThen two children, their pretty, fresh voices in unison, sang some womanly songs, languishing ballads, swinging to a very indefinite rhythm, and suggestive of slow dances and waving gauze scarves in flowery gardens under the moonlight.While I spent the hot hours of the day in the bungalow, a flock of birds came in through the open doors, and quietly picked up the crumbs on the floor. They were followed by grey squirrels, which at first crouched in the corners, but presently, growing bolder, ended by climbing on to the table, with peering eyes, in hope of nuts or bread-crusts.
The other victim, the night watchman of a neighbouring village, was suspected of treachery towards the hill-tribes in a recent skirmish. One ball through the head had killed him, and his arms had been cut off.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.Country folks bring in cages of birds full of the poor little fluttering things, which are bought by children and by many men, captive at the end of a long string; pretty black-headed bulbuls, so bold in the land of the Buddhists, and victims here to the Moslems.
White clouds grew opalescent against the deep, infinite, blue-velvet sky, and their edges next the moon were fringed with silver. The stars, of a luminous pale green like aqua marine, seemed dead and had no twinkle.In the train again, en route for Ahmedabad. As we crossed the fertile plain of Gujerat the first monkeys were to be seen, in families, in tribes, perched on tall pine trees, chasing each other, or swinging on the wires that rail in the road, and solemnly watching the train go by. Peacocks marched about with measured step, and spread their tails in the tall banyan trees tangled with flowering creepers. Shyer than these, the grey secretary birds, with a red roll above their beak, seemed waiting to fly as we approached. On the margin of the lakes and streams thousands of white cranes stood fishing, perched on one leg; and in every patch of tobacco, or dahl, or cotton, was a hut perched on four piles, its boarded walls and leaf-thatch giving shelter to a naked native, watching to scare buffaloes, birds, monkeys, and thieves from his crop.
And then night, the real night, transparently blue and luminous with stars, appeared above the last cloud that vanished with the last clap of thunder. Unspeakable freshness and peace reigned over nature, and in the limpid air the mountain-chains, the giant Himalayas, extended to infinity in tones of amethyst and sapphire. Nearer to us, lights sparkled out in the innumerable huts built even to the verge of the eternal snows, on every spot of arable ground or half-starved grass land.As soon as the last customer's beard was trimmed, the barber took down the cage and carried the bird to another spot whence we could hear its scream.The sultan's bath is lined with panels of lapis lazuli framed in gold, and inlaid with [Pg 210]mother-of-pearl, or looking-glass, and the walls have little hollow niches for lamps, over which the water fell in a shower into a bath with a decoration of scroll-work. And in front of Jehangir's room, again a series of basins hollowed in the steps of a broad marble stair, where a stream of water fell from one to another.
In the evening, on my way to dine with a friend by Malabar Hill, I could hardly recognize some parts of the town: houses, a camp of little huts and tents, a whole district had been swept away."He comes now and then," said the baboo, who was our guide; but on my pressing the question this "now and then" remained vague, no day or week could be named.详情
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