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.
At the bottom of a wide flight of steps flows the Ganges, translucent, deeply green, spangled with gold. The bathers, holding the little brass pots that they use for their ablutions, are performing the rites, surrounded by large yellow fishes spotted with green. Pink and white stuffs are spread to dry on the steps, flowers are scattered on the stream, long wreaths are floating down the river, curling and uncurling at the caprice of the current.
On the very edge of the Jumna, where russet fields break the monotony of its white sandy banks, is the private state-room, the residence of the sovereigns of Delhi, built of translucent milky[Pg 217] marble, warmed by the reflection of gold inlaid on the columns and merged with the stone that is turned to amber.
At night, when the fog had at last cleared off, a column of fire was piled up on the engine; it shone[Pg 154] on the smooth trunks of the "flame of the forest," which looked like the pillars of a cathedral, on the sparkling water-springs all hung about with prayer-strips, on the veronica shrubs covered with flowers and as tall as trees, and the sheaves of bamboo and fern; or it lighted up the hanging screen of creepers, the impenetrable jungle growth that shut in the silence of the sleeping forest.In the streets the people, all wrapped in long shawls of a neutral brown, were only distinguishable amid the all-pervading greyness by their white head-dress. Men and women alike wear the same costume—a full robe of dirty woollen stuff with[Pg 258] long hanging sleeves, and under this they are perfectly naked. The rich put on several such garments one over another; the poor shiver under a cotton wrapper. And all, even the children, look as if they had the most extraordinary deformed angular stomachs, quite low down—charcoal warmers that they carry next their skin under their robe.
Inside the shops everything was piled together. The same man is at once a banker, a maker of papier-maché boxes—papi-machi they call it here—and of carpets, a goldsmith, tailor, upholsterer—and never lets you go till you have bought something.The muddy waters reflected the grey houses and the roofs of unbaked clay, on which the winter snows were melting in black trickling drops.
The gateway looks as if it had been carved by the dints of bullets in the stone, and close by, a breach in the huge enclosing wall scored all over by shot gave ingress to the murderous host. Inside,[Pg 189] on the walls that are left standing, and they are many, the bullets seem to have scrawled strange characters. In the bath-house with its graceful columns and arabesque ornaments, in Dr. Fayrer's house, of which the proportions remind us of Trianon, where Sir Henry Lawrence died among the ruins of the mosque—everywhere, we see tablets of black marble commemorating the numerous victims of the rebellion. In one barrack two hundred and forty-five women and children were murdered; in another forty-five officers were buried in the ruins. And close by the scene of carnage, in a smiling cemetery, their graves hidden in flowers, under the shadow of the English flag that flies from the summit of the ruined tower which formerly commanded the country round, sleep the nine hundred and twenty-seven victims of Nana Sahib's treachery.
[Pg 244]The temples were already closed, but my servant, Abibulla, diverted the attention of the gatekeeper, and I stole unseen into the outer precincts.详情
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