Under the white dome a wooden ceiling, gilt in the hollows of the carving, has taken the place of an earlier ceiling of massive silver, worth seventy lacs of rupees, which was carried off by the conquerors after some long-ago seizure of the city. Inside, by way of walls, are carvings in marble of twisted lilies, inconceivably graceful and light. And then, at one of the entrances, those marble lattices, once gilt and now bereft of their gold, look just like topaz in the midday sun. After that magic splendour of gold and marbles fused to topaz and amber, the rest of the palace—the sleeping-rooms, the couches inlaid with mosaic flowers, the pierced stone balconies overlooking the Jumna—all seemed commonplace and familiar.And there are ruins all the way to Delhi, whither we returned by the old fortress of Purana Kila, with its pink walls overlooked by a few aerial minarets and more traces of graceful carving, the precursors of the Divan i Khas and Moti Musjid the Pearl Mosque.
After the giant a whole chain of lavender and rose-coloured peaks turning to blue came into sight in the marvellously clear atmosphere; then the sun rose below us, in the throbbing tide of heat the mountains seemed to come closer to us, but immediately the mist gathered about Gaurisankar. "The Apsaras wearing impenetrable veils, that mortals may not gaze too long on the throne of the gods,"[Pg 152] said my sa?s, who had fallen on his face since the first appearance of the snow-crowned colossus, with hands upraised towards the paradise of Indra.Music in the evening, in the gardens which surround the library, the chapel, and the tennis[Pg 286] courts. The ladies' dresses and the uniforms were lustrous in the moonlight. First we had the regimental band, and then songs to a banjo accompaniment; and all about us in the tall trees, the minahs and parrots shrieking as if it were broad daylight, finished the concert by themselves. A huge creeper, swaying between two branches, hung like a curtain of yellow flowers embroidered, as it seemed, on the airy tangle of leaves.
The elephant of ceremony, covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with gold, on which was placed a massive silver howdah edged with gold, was in waiting to take me for a ride. Round the beast's neck hung a huge necklace of balls as large as apples and long pendants from his ears, all of silver, tinkling as he moved and glittering in the sun. The mahout rested a ladder against the elephant's head for me to mount by, and we set out, following the Rajah and escorted by sowars, to the very modern tennis club of Palitana.
[Pg 295]The streets were hung with gaudy flags and[Pg 135] coloured paper. Altars had been erected, four poles supporting an awning with flounces of bright-coloured silk, and under them a quantity of idols, of vases filled with amaryllis and roses, and even dainty little Dresden figures—exquisite curtseying Marquises, quite out of their element among writhing Vishnus and Kalis.
A poor old fellow, behind a grating that shut him into a kind of hovel, called out to us, first beseeching and then threatening, rushing frantically to the back of his hut and at once coming forward again with fresh abuse. He was a dangerous madman, placed there to keep him out of mischief and to be cured by the Divinity.The ground here and there is stained with large pink patches of a disinfectant, smelling of chlorine,[Pg 9] strewn in front of the house where anyone lies dead. And this of itself is enough to recall to mind the spectre of the plague that is decimating Bombay; in this excitement, this turmoil of colour and noise, we had forgotten it.The little palace of Nilam Bagh, panelled inside throughout with carved wood, looks like a jewel-casket dropped in a vast park of green shade and[Pg 85] broad lawns. Rawl Shri Bhaosinhji, Rajah of Bhawnagar, is very young, almost a child, and still very shy, dressed in the European fashion in a long grey overcoat, with a voluminous turban of turquoise-blue gauze.
Further off, under the banyan trees, is the sepoys' camp; they have been turned out of barracks on account of the plague; and flashing here and there among the dark, heavy verdure there lies the steely level of motionless ocean.And of all the victims of the disaster those I had just seen were not the most to be pitied. It was on families of high caste, men who might not work and whose wives must be kept in seclusion, that the famine weighed most cruelly. At first they borrowed money (and the rate of interest recognized and tolerated here is seventy-five per cent.), then they sold all they could sell. Bereft of every resource, unable to earn anything in any way, regarding the famine as an inevitable infliction by the incensed gods, they let themselves starve to death in sullen pride, shut up in their houses with their womankind. Thus they were the most difficult to rescue. Their unassailable dignity made them refuse what they would have regarded as charity, even to save the life of those dearest to them, and it needed the angelic craft of the women of the Zenana Mission to induce the kshatriyas to accept the smallest sum to keep themselves alive.
On the bank of the river, where there are no more steps, only beaten earth, in a little raised pit a pile of wood was slowly dying out. A man with[Pg 166] a cane raked back the sticks as they fell and rolled away. A squatting crowd were waiting till their relation was altogether consumed to cast his ashes on the sacred waters.In the harbour, where there was a light breeze blowing, the little outrigged canoes had hoisted large sails, white edged with black, and vanished into the distance, skimming like winged things over the intensely blue water.
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.详情
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