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.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.Asses followed, oxen and more camels, loaded beyond their strength with old iron, tin pannikins, a whole cargo of goods in cases from Manchester and Sheffield—so badly packed that things came clattering down as the beasts pushed each other amid oaths and blows.
The cathedral, embowered in shrubs and tall banyans, stands on a square, where a pedestal awaits the bust of Dupleix.
As the sun sank, a magical light of lilac fading into pink fell on the mountain temples, on the rock partly blackened by ages or scorched to pale yellow, almost white; it shed an amethystine glow, transfiguring the carved stone to lacework with light showing through. A wheeling flock of noisy parrakeets filled the air with short, unmeaning cries, intolerable in this rose and lavender stillness, where no sound could be endurable but the notes of an organ. A ray of fiery gold shot straight into the red temple, falling on the marble Buddha. For a moment the idol seemed to be on fire, surrounded by a halo of burning copper.On the great banyan trees in the garden, and on every palm, torpid vultures sit in the sun, awaiting the meal that will come with the next funeral procession.
He came into ours as if he were at home, and amused himself by worrying me. At first he made believe to throw my rings out of window, substituting others, I know not how, which I saw fall on the line and roll into the grass on the bank. My watch got into his hands and vanished; I found it in my friend T——'s pocket, and afterwards in a basket of provender closed at Bhawnagar, and which I unpacked with my own hands.
In one tent there was a display of innumerable gilt images, very suggestive of Jesuit influence—mincing, chubby angels, martyrs carrying palm-branches, and ecstatic virgins with clasped hands, all serving to decorate the shrine in which the god was to be carried back to the temple. Coloured fires lighted the workmen, and in the background the temple was darkly visible, with only a few dim lamps shrouded in incense, and burning before Rama, whose festival was being kept.Far up the hill, and for a long time, the clanging brass and sharp cries followed me on my way all through the afternoon, and I could picture the dancing women, the Lama under his gleaming brass hat, turning his praying-wheel beneath his bower of branches and papers fluttering in the wind; and[Pg 150] not till dark did the whole party break up and go back to Darjeeling; the poorer women, on foot, all a little tipsy, danced a descending scale that ended occasionally in the ditch; the richer ladies, in thin dark satin robes with wide sleeves all embroidered in silk and gold, and their hair falling in plaits from beneath a fillet of red wood studded with large glass beads, fitting tightly to the head, rode astride on queer little horses, mostly of a dirty yellow colour, that carried them at a brisk amble. Their husbands, extremely attentive, escorted the dames, some of whom gave noisy evidence of the degree of intoxication they had reached. The least blessed had but one husband, or perhaps two; but the more fortunate had a following of as many as six eager attendants, whom they tormented with incessant scolding.A man in the fort always struck out the hours on a gong, very slowly, in the heat of the day. Twelve at noon was interminable—one, two, three were so feeble as to be scarcely audible. And then when it was cooler and the tom-toms could be heard in the distance, the strokes had a queer dislocated rhythm, and sometimes even a stroke too many, smothered in a hurried roll.
Beyond the temples is the merchants' quarter: a few very modest shops, the goods covered with dust; and in the middle of this bazaar, a cord stretched across cut off a part of the town where cholera was raging.After an hour's passage we reached the island, which is thickly planted with fine large trees.
When at last the boy was allowed to return to his place in a corner he sat quite still, his eyes staring stupidly and shedding large tears, though not a muscle of his face moved.
A golden mass, an enormous shrine chased all over and starred with tapers, now came forward, borne by a score of naked men. Against the gold background, in a perfect glory of diamonds and pearls, sat Vishnu, decked out with flowers and jewels, his head bare with a huge brilliant in his forehead.
Another mausoleum is of lace-like carving in marble, the roof painted with Persian ornament; and the whole thing is uninjured, as fresh as if it had been wrought yesterday, under the broad shade of theobromas and cedars that have grown up among the ruins.
Close to a field that had just been reaped four oxen yoked abreast were threshing out the grain, tramping round and round on a large sheet spread on the ground. The driver chanted a shrill, slow tune; further away women in red were gleaning, and a patriarch contemplated his estate, enthroned on a cart in a halo of sunset gold.On the tomb, in elegant black letters, is this inscription:Some more small boys, a little way off, were doing embroidery, mingling gold thread and coloured silks in patterns on shawls. They were extremely fair, with long-shaped black eyes under their bright-hued pointed caps, and their dresses were gay and pretty, mingling with the glistening shades of silks and gold. And they were all chattering, laughing, and twittering as they worked, hardly needing the master's supervision.详情
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