Round a village well, enclosed by walls with heavy doors that are always shut at night, a perfect flower-bed of young women had gathered, slender figures wrapped in robes of bright, light colours, drawing water in copper jars. The sunbeams, dropping between the leaves of a baobab tree that spread its immense expanse of boughs over the well, sparkled on their trinkets and the copper pots, dappling the gaudy hues of their raiment with flickering gold.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.
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.
[Pg 130]When we left he was in a coppersmith's shop, singing with wide open, staring eyes; his face had a strangely sad expression while he sang a gay, jigging tune to foolish words that made the people laugh.
In the ward we had just passed through there were none but convalescents or favourable cases. At the further end of the room a boy, fearfully emaciated, so thin that his body, lying in the hollow of the mattress, was hardly visible under the covering, was asleep as we approached. He had come from one of the famine districts, and in escaping from one scourge had come to where the other had clutched him. The doctor touched him on the[Pg 34] shoulder, and he opened his great splendid eyes. The awakening brought him gladness, or perhaps it was the end of his dream, for he had the happy look of a contented child, shook his shaven head waggishly, and the single corkscrew lock at the top, and was asleep again instantly.Outside Bombay, at the end of an avenue of tamarind trees, between hedges starred with lilac and pink, we came to Pinjerapoor, the hospital for animals. Here, in a sanded garden dotted with shrubs and flowers, stand sheds in which sick cows, horses and buffaloes are treated and cared for.[Pg 26] In another part, in a little building divided into compartments by wire bars, poor crippled dogs whined to me as I passed to take them away. Hens wandered about on wooden legs; and an ancient parrot, in the greatest excitement, yelled with all his might; he was undergoing treatment to make his lost feathers grow again, his hideous little black body being quite naked, with its large head and beak. In an open box, overhung with flowering jasmine, an Arab horse was suspended to the beams of the roof; two keepers by his side waved long white horsehair fans to keep away the flies. A perfect crowd of servants is employed in the care of the animals, and the litter is sweet and clean.
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The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.
Above Darjeeling—a modern and fashionable health-resort, a town of villas, for the most part with corrugated iron roofs—hangs a dense mist, cutting off the horizon at a distance of a few miles; and through the dull substance of this fleece, at an impossible height, there was a reflection—a mirage, an illusion, a brighter gleam, a bluer shadow, which might be the top of a mountain; but so high up, so far away, and above all so transient, that it failed to fix itself on the memory, blotted out at once by the pallid wall that shut[Pg 147] in the scene. But at sunset one thickness of the haze melted away, unveiling, leagues on leagues away, a chain of giant mountains, not yet the snowy peaks, but bright-hued cliffs on which gold and purple mingled in symphonies before dying into violet, turning to blue in the moonlight; and the mists fell once more—a shroud at our feet, an abyss of shadows, in which the tea-planters' lamps twinkled through the darkness.详情
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