At night, in the crowded station, a guard of honour was waiting, composed of sepoys. There was shouting among the crowd, a fanatical turmoil, a storm of orders, and heavy blows. Some great[Pg 93] magnate got out of the train, surrounded by secretaries and officers. The soldiers, bearing torches, attended him to his carriage; they remounted their horses, following the vehicle, in which a light dress was visible. Very fast, and with a great clatter, they rode away into the silent night fragrant with rich scents; they were lost under the trees to reappear in the distance on a height, the torches galloping still and the smoke hanging in a ruddy cloud above the bright steel and the white cruppers. Then, at a turn in the road, they all vanished.
"Here lies Jehangir, Conqueror of the World."Steaming over the transparent and intensely blue sea, we presently perceived an opaquer streak of sandy matter, getting denser, and becoming at last liquid, extremely liquid, yellow mud—the waters of the Ganges, long before land was in sight. Between the low banks, with their inconspicuous vegetation, a desolate shore, we could have fancied we were still at sea when we had already reached the mouth of the sacred stream. Some Hindoos on board drew up the water in pails to wash their hands and face, fixing their eyes in adoration on the thick sandy fluid. Enormous steamships crossed our bows, and in the distance, like a flock of Ibis, skimmed a whole flotilla of boats with broad red sails, through which the low sun was shining. The banks closed in, the landscape grew more definite—tall palm trees, plots of garden ground, factory chimneys, a high tower. On the water was an inextricable confusion of canoes and row-boats flitting among the steamships and sailing barks moored all along the town that stretched away out of sight.
Our last evening at the Residency, where I had spent days made enchanting by music.One mosque alone, a marvel of workmanship, its stones pierced with a thousand patterns, remains intact amid the Indian dwellings built, all round the sacred spot, of the remains of ancient magnificence, of which, ere long, nothing will be left standing.
One of them was standing against a curtain of black satin embroidered with gold; muslin that might have been a spider's web hardly cast a mist over her sheenless skin, pale, almost white against the glistening satin and gold, all brightly lighted up. With a large hibiscus flower in her hand she stood in a simple attitude, like an Egyptian painting, then moved a little, raising or lowering an arm, apparently not seeing the passers-by who gazed at her—lost in a dream that brought a strange green gleam to her dark eyes.[Pg 73]The garden, which is very extensive and laid out in beds carefully crammed with common flowers, has Jablochkoff lamps at every turning. It is traversed by a little narrow-gauge railway, and[Pg 203] the toy train is kept under a vault of the brand-new, spotless white palace.
Past a magnificent railway station, and through a manufacturing district of tall furnaces, we came to the quiet country and the Ganges, bordered with gardens, where creepers in flower hang over the muddy stream stained with iridescent grease and soot.
In the silence of a moonless night nine o'clock struck from the great tower of the Law Courts—a pretty set of chimes, reminding me of Bruges or Antwerp; and when the peal had died away a bugle in the sepoys' quarters took up the strain of the chimes, only infinitely softer, saddened to a minor key and to a slower measure; while in the distance[Pg 32] an English trumpet, loud and clear, sounded the recall in counterpart.
As we approached the Afghan frontier, camp followed camp, clustering round the railway stations that lie closer together on the line. In the morning and towards evening there was a constant hum round the train, of bagpipes, bugles, and drums, and the red or grey ranks were to be seen of soldiers at drill.
In the depths of a deserted temple in the bazaar, amid heaps of rags, bones, and colourless debris, dwelt an old man, a very highly venerated fakir, motionless in his den, while around him were gathered all the masterless dogs of Srinagar, who allowed no one to come near him and flew at anybody who tried to enter the temple.详情
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