"Can you suppose I should have insulted you by coming here without asking you some favour?"He appeared without a sound, visible only as a white figure, his brown face lost, effaced in the gloom of the dimly-lighted room. For a moment I had a really uncanny sensation at this headless apparition, but in an instant there was the gleam of a row of brilliant teeth, the light in the eyes, and the eternally smiling face of the household coolie.Delhi appeared in the blinding light like an unsubstantial vision, white against a bleached sky; and as we got nearer the city half vanished like a mirage, blotted out and dim through a shifting cloud of dust.
The front of the temple is covered with paintings. Decorations in the Persian style divide the panels, on which are depicted the principal scenes from the sacred books of the Brahmins. There are two perfect things to be seen here: two nude female figures standing, one white, the other brown, exquisitely refined in colouring, admirably drawn in a style reminding me of early Italian art; and then, just beyond these, tasteless imitations of chromos—goddesses with eyes too large and a simper like the advertisements of tooth-paste, and some horrible caricatures of English ladies in the fashion of ten years ago holding parasols like a nimbus.
In the evening the priest would say prayers over the couple—the bride being probably about five—and the bridegroom would stay with the little bride's parents. Next day she would spend with the boy's parents, and after that they would both go back to their lessons and probably never meet again, unless they were very near neighbours, till he, having attained the age of fifteen, they would be really married.DERWAL
At the back of the room the master of the house squatted on the floor, dressed in green richly embroidered with gold, and on his head was a vase-shaped cap or tiara of astrakhan. Near him, in an armchair, sat a perfectly naked fakir, his breast covered with jade necklaces. His face was of superhuman beauty, emaciated, with a look of suffering, his eyes glowing with rapt ecstasy. He seemed to be entranced, seeing nothing but a vision, and intoxicated by its splendour.[Pg 12]As soon as he had bid us welcome, bunches of chrysanthemums were presented to us tied round a little stick. The Rajah hung garlands of jasmine round our neck, and a servant sprinkled us with otto of roses. The conversation turned on Europe, which Rawl Shri regards as a land of marvels, where fairy-like manufactures are produced and extraordinary forces have subjugated nature. He, like his cousin of Palitana, has a passion for horses, and he took me to visit his stud.
Between the tracery of bamboos, behind clumps of cedars spreading their level plumes of fine, flexible needles, we still constantly saw the roofs of temples involved in clouds of tiny phosphorescent sparks weaving their maze of light; and the clang of bells and drums fell on the ear.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.
All the day long a solid blue mass melting into rain hid the mountains and darkened the nearer view; and our return journey was made between two grey walls, through which the trees, which sometimes met in an arch overhead, were but dimly visible.BARODA
Outside the town the carriage went on for a long time through a poverty-stricken quarter, and past plots of ground dug out for the erection of factories. Fragile flowers, rose and lilac, bloomed in the shade of banyans and palm trees. Hedges of jasmine and bougainvillea, alternating with rose trees, scented the air. Then we came to Parel, a suburb where, in a spacious enclosure, stands the hospital for infectious diseases. It is a lofty structure of iron, the roof and walls of matting, which is burnt when infected with microbes, and which allows the free passage of the air. In spite of the heat outside it was almost cool in these shady halls.In front of these stolid-looking sepoys, their black heads and hands conspicuous in their yellow uniforms, are drilled to beat of drum, marking every step and movement.
A stone parapet runs along the river road, and below it the grassy bank slopes gently to the clear and limpid stream of the Ganges. On the shores[Pg 141] of the sacred river fine trees overshadow many idols, and fresh flowers are constantly laid at their feet.It was melancholy to return under the gloomy, spreading banyans, through the dimly-lighted suburbs, where the people were still at work and selling their wares; and the dungeon, the dead stones, the guns now for ever silenced and pointed at vacancy, were lost in blue darkness.
A tall wide gate beyond the bridge opens into the ferocious fortress of Hyderabad.There was a sort of murmur behind the door, like reciting a prayer, then louder tones, indeed a very loud shout, repeated three times by several voices at once; and then the one alone continued in a dull chant. The door was half opened and I was beckoned, but to enter alone.
The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.By the roadside came two figures tottering along, and then, turning to look at me, showed me the horror of their shrivelled bodies, their dimmed eyes—all that seemed alive in those drawn faces of skin and bone—the jaw stiffened in a skull-like grimace; victims of the famine, who had come from the Central Provinces where there had been no rain for two years, and where everything was dying. This couple were making their way to a poorhouse hard by. They had come from a village in Bundelkund, whence all the inhabitants had fled—themselves the sole survivors of a family of eighteen souls. First the children died, then the very old folks. These two had kept themselves alive on what had been given them on the way, but immigrants soon were too many in the districts unvisited by famine, and ere long they could get nothing; then they fed on roots, on what they[Pg 191] could steal from fields or garden-plots, or found left to rot, scorned even by the beasts.From the top of the observatory, where instruments, all out of order, are to be seen on the deserted terraces, a staircase in a half-circle of stonework leads straight up to the open sky, and there the eye is dazzled by the view of Benares, all spread out below: the vast city of yellow stone, the cupolas of its temples, and its palaces stretching far along the Ganges, which slowly rolls its milky green waters under a sky of almost pearly whiteness; and in the distance the grassy plain of bright emerald green, lost on the horizon that throbs with the heat. Everything was wrapped in a halo rather than a haze, faintly blue with the smoke that went up from the funeral piles of the Hindoo dead.详情
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