On the river-bank were some eagles devouring a dead beast. One of them fluttered up, but came back to the carrion, recovering its balance with some difficulty, its body was so small for its large, heavy wings. Then they all rose together straight into the air with slow, broad wing-strokes, smaller and smaller, till they were motionless specks against the sky, and flew off to vanish amid the snowy peaks.Above a large fan-palm the pale fronds of a talipot soar towards the sky, gracefully recurved like enormous ostrich plumes. A fluff, a down, of flowers clings to the stems of the magnificent crest, a delicate pale cloud; and the broad leaves of the tree, which will die when it has blossomed, are already withering and drooping on the crown. Then, in the clearings made by the recent decay of such a giant, falling where it had stood, and crushing the bamboos and ph?nix that grew round its foot, the flowers sprang in myriads—great sunflowers, shrubs of poinsettia, with its tufts of red or white bracts at the end of a branch of green[Pg 132] leaves, surrounding a small inconspicuous blossom, and tall, lavender-blue lilies.
To-day a religious festival; from the earliest hour everybody had donned new clothes, and in the [Pg 262]afternoon in the bazaar there was a masquerade of the lowest class—embroidered dhotis, white robes, light-coloured turbans displaying large discs of green, red or blue. The men, even old men, ran after each other with bottles of coloured water, which they sprinkled far and near. One indeed had neither more nor less than a phial of violet ink, which, on the face and hands of a little black boy, shone with metallic lustre. One boy, in a clean garment, fled from a man who was a constant beggar from me, and who was pursuing him with some yellow fluid; and the fugitive was quite seriously blamed for disregarding the will of the gods and goddesses, whose festival it was.Stones flying, sticks thrown—at a little pariah girl, whose shadow as she passed had defiled the food of a Brahmin. He merely threw away the rice, which the dogs soon finished; but the bystanders who had witnessed the girl's insolence in going so near the holy man—she so base and unworthy—flew at the unhappy creature, who ran away screaming, abandoning a load of wood she was carrying on her head.
The temples were already closed, but my servant, Abibulla, diverted the attention of the gatekeeper, and I stole unseen into the outer precincts.
The ripe rice, in golden ears, is cut with sickles; a row of women in red gather it into sheaves, which men carry on their back, at once, to the next village, and there it is threshed out forthwith on floors but just swept.After her another woman repeated the ceremony, and then they went away, still singing. This went on for part of the evening. When it was all over they went to eat rice at the bridegroom's house, and meanwhile the same ceremony had been performed with the bride, whom her neighbours had taken it by turns to anoint and perfume, in a house closed against prying eyes.
TRICHINOPOLYThere was always the same torture of the horses, too small and too lean for their work, galloping the five miles of the stage and then stopping dead on the spot, incapable of moving, hustled by the fresh team that rushed off on its wild career.
In the evening, at the railway terminus, there was a crush of coolies packed close up to the ticket-office of the third-class, and holding out their money. Never tired of trying to push to the front, they all shouted at once, raising their hands high in the air and holding in their finger-tips one or two shining silver rupees. Those who at last succeeded in getting tickets slipped out of the crowd, and sang and danced; others who had found it absolutely impossible to get anything retired into corners, and groaned aloud.
Beyond the outermost wall, when we had at last left it behind us, at the foot of the pile of terra-cotta-coloured bricks, were vast tanks of stagnant water, said to be inexhaustible. Near them was a shrine to Siva, with two small idols hung with yellow flowers, where an old Hindoo was praying devoutly; and then through a park of giant trees, and shrubs bright with strange blossoms, over which the parrots flew screaming.In another building is the hall where the dastours say the last prayers over the dead in the presence of the relations; the body is then stripped in a consecrated chamber and abandoned to the mysteries of the tower.
At the end of the garden, in a little temple, is a statue of the holy man of the size of life, in his favourite attitude, sitting on his crossed legs. Round the image were the most absurd toys—and a photograph of the German Emperor! As I was leaving, the fakir called me back, asked me to think of him sometimes, and gave me one of the splendid yellow roses that hung about him like a glory.The throng outside had increased; Abibulla could scarcely make way for me to the end of the street, and for a long time I could still hear the cries that reached us at a distance.
Beyond this point among the mountains the road seemed to vanish, to lead nowhere, lost in pale red among the red cliffs, as if it stopped at the foot of the rocky wall.This Rawal Pindi is an English town of cottages surrounded by lawns and shrubberies; about two streets of bazaar, and red uniforms everywhere, Highland soldiers in kilts, white helmets, and the officers' and sergeants' wives airing their Sunday finery in their buggies. The ladies drive themselves, under the shelter of a sunshade on an all[Pg 239] too short stick, painfully held by a hapless native servant clinging to the back of the carriage in a dislocating monkey-like attitude.详情
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