The coachman we engaged at the station was a giant, with an olive skin and a huge, pale pink turban. He was clad in stuffs so thin that on his box, against the light, we could see the shape of his body through the thickness of five or six tunics that he wore one over another.
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.
In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notes—anything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit.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.
The muddy waters reflected the grey houses and the roofs of unbaked clay, on which the winter snows were melting in black trickling drops.As we go nearer, gothic towers are distinguishable among the buildings—faint reminiscences of Chester, clumsily revived under the burning light of white Asia.At the station pilgrims again, bewildered, shouting, rushing about in search of their lost luggage. One group presently emerged from the crowd, led by a man bareheaded, who rang a big bell with great gesticulations, his arms in the air, and the whole party marched off towards the temples in silent and orderly procession.
The doors were shut; all was silence—the stillness of the star-lit night.In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notes—anything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit.
Very gradually the measure quickened, the pitch grew shriller, and with faster and freer movements the bayadères were almost leaping in a sort of delirium produced by the increasing noise, and the constantly growing number of lights.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.HYDERABAD
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.
Some prisoners were brought to the train; a single sepoy led them by a chain. Two carried enormous bales, and the third a heavy case. They packed themselves into a compartment that was almost full already, and one of a couple that were chained together by the wrists put the chain round his neck; then, when he had scraped acquaintance with the other travellers, he amused himself by tormenting the hawkers of drink and pastry, bargaining with them for a long time and buying nothing, quite delighted when he had put them in a rage with him.From a quite small garden close to the palace a bronze gate with three medallions of lilies in high relief, of marvellous workmanship, opens on the Pearl Mosque, exquisitely white, at the end of its forecourt of immaculate pavement enclosed by a marble balustrade. Three polished and shining domes are supported by columns of snow made of a hard white marble, scarcely broken by [Pg 218]ornament, and carrying a roof hollowed into three vaults. The rings are still to be seen on the marble walls outside, to which, when the great Mogul came to prayer, curtains were attached made of gold net and spangled with diamonds and pearls.On the threshold I was desired to take off my shoes, because I was going into the presence of a holy man. As I crossed the forecourt fresh and ferocious shouts rang out; a curtain was lifted, and in a room scarcely lighted by a tiny window, the air thick with smoke, I could just make out a number of men, all standing, very excited, gesticulating wildly, and once more they shouted their savage cry.
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There are temples all along the shore, poor little structures for the most part. On the walls gaudy borders of crude colour serve to frame chromo-lithographs representing the principal events of the Vedas. There are but one or two sanctuaries built of marble, and very rarely have the idols any precious jewels.At the end of the court, over which enormous bread-fruit trees cast a cool shade, above some steps and a marble terrace where some musicians were performing, stands the holy spot which we dared not go near. In the dim light we could see a square object, red embroidered in gold—the couch of Ram-Roy—and hanging to the wall a silver curtain. All this, though perhaps it is but tinsel, looked at a distance and in the shadow like brocade and magnificent jewels. Round the main building there are four kiosks dedicated to the Guru's four wives.
Then there were races of baggage-mules, and competitions of speed in harnessing horses and in striking the tents. Finally the English officers rode a race, and then the prizes were distributed—money to the men and blue pugarees with gold thread to the native officers.By the side of the road, in the town, the walls are still standing, all that remains of a great hall in the palace of Secundra Bagh, in which, after the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857, two thousand sepoys who refused to surrender were put to death.详情
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