The actors were exclusively men and boys, those who took female parts wore rusty wigs over their own long, black hair; these were plaited on each side of the face, and waxed behind to fall over the shoulders. The costumes of velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold and silver, were hideous.In the little white church, all open windows, mass was performed by a priest with a strong Breton accent. During the sermon, to an accompaniment of parrots' screaming and kites' whistling, there was a constant rustle of fans, which were left on each seat till the following Sunday. The church was white and very plain; French was spoken, and little native boys showed us to our places on benches. Old women in sarees were on their knees, waving their arms to make large signs of the cross. A worthy Sister presided at the harmonium, and the little schoolgirls sang in their sweet young voices[Pg 144] airs of the most insipid type; but after the incessant hubbub of bagpipes and tom-toms their music seemed to me quite delicious, raising visions in my mind of masterpieces of harmony and grace.On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.
Adjacent to this temple was the court-house, a hall of ancient splendour in the time of the kings of Kandy. It stood wide open, the walls lined with carved wood panels. The court was sitting under the punkhas that swung with regular monotony, the judges robed in red. One of the accused, standing in a sort of pen, listened unmoved to the pleading. A large label bearing the number 5 hung over his breast. Behind a barrier stood other natives, each decorated with a number, under the charge of sepoys. One of them, having been wounded in the murderous fray for which they were being tried, lay at full length on a litter covered with pretty matting, red and white and green, stretched on bamboo legs. A long robe of light silk enveloped his legs, and he alone of them all had charming features, long black eyes with dark blue depths, his face framed in a sort of halo of silky, tangled hair. He, like the man now being sentenced and those who had gone through their examination,[Pg 129] seemed quite indifferent to the judges and the lawyers. He mildly waved a palm leaf which served him as a fan, and looked as if he were listening to voices in a dream, very far away.In front of the palace, beds filled with common plants familiar in every European garden fill the place of honour; they are very rare, no doubt, in[Pg 54] these latitudes, and surprising amid the gorgeous hedges of wild bougainvillea that enclose the park.
The forest round Kandy is glorious, an exuberance, a crush of trees growing as thick as they can stand, the dense tangle of boughs and leaves outgrown by some enormous ficus, or tall terminalia, whose sharp, angular roots have pushed through the soil while its trunk, twisting in a spiral, has made its way to a prodigious height, ending a thick dome of foliage. This, again, is overgrown by delicate creepers decking the green mass with their flowers. Spreading banyans, with a hundred stems thrown out like branches and ending in roots, form colonnades of a rosy grey hue like granite, and might seem to be the vestiges of some colossal church with a dark vault above, scarcely pierced here and there by a gleam of blue light from the sky beyond. Among these giants of the forest dwells a[Pg 131] whole nation of bending ferns as pliant as feathers, of clinging plants hanging in dainty curtains of flowers from tree to tree. Sometimes between the screen of flowers a bit of road comes into view, deep in impalpable brick-red dust, of the same tint as the fruits that hang in branches from the trees.
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.Heavy coaches with solid wheels, hermetically covered with red stuff patterned with white, were bringing home the invisible but noisy ladies of the zenana.
The sun had just set, a violet haze was rising and enwrapping every object. Fires were being lighted in the villages on the road to the holy place. Tom-toms were rattling in the distance,[Pg 115] and nearer at hand a vina, gently touched by an invisible player, murmured a tune on three notes.Outside the fort which guards the opening of the pass there was confusion; a mad scurry of men, running, shouting, hustling. Quite a complicated mêlée of animals bolting, elephants and camels let loose and impossible to overtake, but caught at last.
[Pg 244]COLOMBOFakirs, holding out their begging-bowls as they squatted round an opening in the ground, showed that it was the entrance to a temple; a few steps down, a long corridor with little niches on each side, and then hall after hall full of grimacing gods, lighted up by our guide's torch, till at last we reached an immense vault where impenetrable darkness filled the angles lost in a labyrinth of arcades converging to some mystery. Here all the Hindoo gods, carved in stone, have been crowded together, with their horrible contortions, their stolid beatitude, their affected grace; and in their midst is a huge idol, hacked with a great cut by Aurungzeeb, the Moslem emperor, at the time of his conquest. Suddenly all about us was a crowd of Brahmins, appearing from what dark corners we could not discover. They looked nasty and half asleep, and vanished at once with a murmur of whispered speech that hung about the galleries in an echo.
At last, when it was very late, the reciter lifted the heavy idol on to his head. A few worshippers followed him, carrying the flowers, the little jars and the baskets offered to the goddess, and the procession marched off towards the Ganges; while the nautch-girls went on with their performance, giving loud, sharp shrieks out of all time with the shrill but somnolent music.After an hour's passage we reached the island, which is thickly planted with fine large trees.From the summit we looked down over a panorama of the town, set out in square blocks sunk in the verdure of palms, bamboos, and banyans. At our feet was the cupola of the temple of Siva, all gold, and covered with bosses, the edges of the mouldings catching the sun. Besides this a number of coloured domes, painted in pale shades faded by the sunshine, descended the almost perpendicular incline down to the bazaar, where the throng was beginning to stir like white ants, of slow gait and deliberate gestures, their light-hued dhoutis flitting about the stalls for drink and fruit. Far away, beyond the bright green rice-fields, and against the horizon of intensely blue hills, the rocks stand out—French rocks and Golden rocks—where the treasure of the conquered natives was distributed to English soldiers. It might almost be fancied that a glow of metal still shines on the smooth stone, a warm, yellow stone bathed in sunshine.
Images of horses recurred at intervals, singly, or in pairs face to face; and as evening came on we saw round a pagoda a whole procession of horses in terra-cotta, some very much injured, arranged as if they were running round, one after another, in search of the heads and legs they had lost.We saw the Jasmine tower from a corner of the garden in the glow of sunset. With its gilt cupola blazing in the low beams, its amber-hued walls as transparent as melting wax, and its pierced screen-work, it looked so diaphanous, so fragile, that it might be carried away by the evening breeze. And beyond the pavilion, above the ramparts carved with huge elephants, lies the old Hindoo palace, deserted by Jehangir for his house of pale marbles—an endless palace, a labyrinth of red buildings loaded to the top with an agglomeration of ornament supporting flat roofs. And pagodas that have lost their doors, a work of destruction begun by Aurungzeeb. One court is still intact, overhung by seventy-two balconies, where the zenana could look on at the dancing of bayadères. Perfect, too, is the queen's private apartment, with two walls between which an army kept guard by day and by night.
The almost imperceptible hum of a bagpipe came up from below; in a white mosque of open colonnades enclosing a paved court, and in front of the little lamps that burned above the holy of holies sheltering the Koran, figures in light garments were prostrate in prayer; their murmurs came up to us in sighs, mingling with the slow and tender notes of the music.All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-booth—a din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.详情
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