Little beggar-girls with a depraved look, artful little hussies, pursued us coaxingly: "Give something, sahib, to pretty Cingalee girl, who wants to go over sea to where the gentlemens live."
But at Byculla, in Grant Road, the street of gambling-houses, there was a glare of lights; gaudy lanterns were displayed at the windows where spangles and tinsel trinkets glittered. And then, between two brightly illuminated houses where every window was wide open, there was the dark gap of a closed house, in front of it a pan of sulphur burning. The green and purple flame flickered grimly on the faces of the passers-by, making their dhotis look like shrouds wrapping spectres.Grain was now at five times the usual price, and would continue to rise till the next harvest-time. Official salaries and the wages of the poor remained fixed, and misery was spreading, gaining ground on all sides of the devastated districts.
[Pg 19]Colonel C—— went out shooting wild duck on a pool close to Bunnoo with a native, whose horse, led by a servant, came after them. But when they came to the native gentleman's village he mounted, and returned the civility of the salaaming people, who till then had avoided recognizing him, [Pg 282]regarding the fact that a kshatriya had come on foot as sufficient evidence that he wished to pass incognito. Then, when they were out of the village, the native gentleman dismounted and walked on with the colonel.By the side of the Manumenka stand two stel?, on which two carved figures, represented as surrounded by flames, preserve the memory of the time when the funeral pyre consumed the living wife with the dead husband.
Everything seems fused in a haze under the sun, as it grows hotter and hotter, and in that quivering atmosphere looks like a mass in which red and white predominate, with the persistent harmony of motion of the swaying, barefooted crowd.The rock is girt with a belt of walls, and in the citadel, besides Mandir, with its outbuildings and tanks, there is a whole town of palaces and temples, which are being demolished little by little to make way for barracks.
The highest peak of the chain that overlooks Bunnoo looks like the ruins of a fortress. A legend, which must have had its origin at some time when a man-eating tiger lurked in the neighbourhood, relates that it is the lair of a ferocious ogre always on the look-out for prey. Nothing on earth would induce any of the natives to go up the mountain; nay, for a long distance even the plain is not too safe.In the sleeping town of Darjeeling a bell and drum were sounding to announce the Tibetan Christmas. The Brahmin paradise remained invisible and mysterious behind a clear sky studded with stars.DARJEELING
A tank here is deep below ground, down three flights of galleries. Quite at the bottom is a little stagnant water, into which children leap from the top of the structure, a plunge of twenty metres, ending in a great splash of green mud that smells of water-lilies and grease.
I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grass—the foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloud—the dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-wool—a speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was Gaurisankar—Mount Everest—the top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea.The fort, rising from a rock wall of rose-red sandstone, is reached by a series of drawbridges and bastions, now no longer needed and open to all comers.
Close to a shop where I was bargaining for some old bronzes, in an open booth, and quite alone among the metal jars and trays, sat a boy of four, his only garment a green silk jacket bordered with blue velvet, stitched with silver thread; there was nothing between the little vest and his bright bronze skin. He had a blue cap embroidered with gold, and his eyes were darkened with khol. He was drawing lines very neatly on a slate, and then wrote beneath them the pretty Hindoo letters that look like cabalistic signs, saying them as he went on, pa, pa, pa, pi, pi, pi, pa?, pa?, pa?, pom, pom, pom, till at last, seeing that I was looking at him and smiling, quite fascinated by his pretty ways, he burst out laughing, a hearty, happy, baby laugh, and then gravely went on with his business again.
We reached the top of the hill, the sacred enclosure of the Ja?n temples. A stoppage again and a fresh dispute. The priests would not admit within the temples our soldiers, who wore shoes,[Pg 72] belts, and gun-straps made of the skins of dead beasts. The sowars wanted to go on, declaring that they would take no orders from "such men, priests with dyed beards, dressed in red flannel, with their turbans undone and heated with rage."In the heart of Agra towards evening people were busy in the square of the Jumna Musjid stretching pieces of stuff over rather low poles to form a tent. Then in long file came the labourers from a famine-camp, with their sleep-walking gait, their glassy eyes, their teeth showing like those of a grinning skull. Rags in a thousand holes scarcely covered the horrors of their fleshless bodies.详情
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