But at Byculla, in Grant Road, the street of gambling-houses, there was a glare of lights; gaudy lanterns were displayed at the windows where spangles and tinsel trinkets glittered. And then, between two brightly illuminated houses where every window was wide open, there was the dark gap of a closed house, in front of it a pan of sulphur burning. The green and purple flame flickered grimly on the faces of the passers-by, making their dhotis look like shrouds wrapping spectres.The Ghoorkhas, small men and very active, young too, with Chinese features, were practising gymnastics. And recruits were being drilled, two of them barefoot, though wearing their gaiters.
As we go nearer, gothic towers are distinguishable among the buildings—faint reminiscences of Chester, clumsily revived under the burning light of white Asia.Down in the streets the houses looked ghostly blue in the moonlight, the cross roads, lighted with the warmer glow of a few lamps in red paper shades, alternating with the black darkness, in which it was just possible to discern cows and goats lying on the ground.
A kind of grey snipe, as they rose to fly, spread white wings which made them look like storks or gulls, and then, dropping suddenly, became dull specks again, scarcely distinguishable on the margin of the tank. Ibis, on the watch, with pretty, deliberate, cautious movements, stood on one leg,[Pg 105] their bodies reflected in the mirror on which lay the lotus and the broad, frilled leaves of the water-lily, and a sort of bind-weed hanging from the edge in festoons of small, arrow-shaped leaves, with a crowd of tiny pink starry flowers that looked as if they were embroidered on the water.When the road was made through Bunnoo a pile of stones was heaped up in the middle of the village. The Moslems finally persuaded themselves that this was a saint's grave; and they come hither to perform their devotions, planting round it bamboo flagstaffs with pennons, and adding to the mound the stones they piously bring to it day by day.
"Nothing could be fine enough to be worthy of[Pg 212] Akbar, so this was made in a hurry that he might at least rest in peace without delay."
We changed horses every five miles; ill-kempt little beasts, and only half fed, who got through their stage only by the constant application of the whip, and shouts from the sais standing on the step; when released from harness they stood forlorn and hobbled off, lame of every leg, to their stables with no litter. Day broke, a dingy grey, dark with woolly cloud and heavy rain; a wall of fog rose up around us, while the road was uphill towards the mountains.Under the central dome sleeps Mumtaj-Mahal, the well-beloved sultana, for whom Shah Jehan erected the most beautiful mausoleum in the world.
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.So at last the door was opened.
As soon as the last customer's beard was trimmed, the barber took down the cage and carried the bird to another spot whence we could hear its scream.
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The children of the bazaar watched them pass, holding out in their fingers scraps of food—the remains of cakes, green fruit, or handfuls of rice, and the famishing creatures quarrelled for the morsels, frightening the little ones, who fled. Then they disappeared silently under the awnings, filling the air with a smell of dust and pepper, scaring the pigeons away from the pool for ablutions, and the birds fluttered up in dismay in the rosy sunset glow, seeking some other refuge for the night.
And as the priests knew that the beast would need no help they again left me to myself. Up came the elephant at a brisk trot, flourishing his trunk and hooting; within two yards of me he stopped and stood still. He accepted a four-anna piece that I offered him, and handed it up for his driver, but finding no one on his back he put the coin back into my pocket, and sniffing all over my coat found a biscuit, ate it, and then quietly went back to his stable.Beyond these ruins, at the end of a long avenue bordered with tamarind trees, beyond an artificial lake, is the tomb of Shah Alam. A wide marble court; to the right a mosque with three ranks of columns; above, a massive roof crowned with a[Pg 56] bulbous dome, flanked by fragile minarets. The fountain for ablutions in the midst of the court is surmounted by a marble slab supported on slender columns. To the left, under the shade of a large tree, is the mausoleum of marble, yellow with age, looking like amber, the panels pierced with patterns of freer design than goldsmith's work.详情
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