"She is the mother of Christ, you say? You are a stranger, and you cannot know all the mischief they do us in the name of her Son."From the summit we looked down over a panorama of the town, set out in square blocks sunk in the verdure of palms, bamboos, and banyans. At our feet was the cupola of the temple of Siva, all gold, and covered with bosses, the edges of the mouldings catching the sun. Besides this a number of coloured domes, painted in pale shades faded by the sunshine, descended the almost perpendicular incline down to the bazaar, where the throng was beginning to stir like white ants, of slow gait and deliberate gestures, their light-hued dhoutis flitting about the stalls for drink and fruit. Far away, beyond the bright green rice-fields, and against the horizon of intensely blue hills, the rocks stand out—French rocks and Golden rocks—where the treasure of the conquered natives was distributed to English soldiers. It might almost be fancied that a glow of metal still shines on the smooth stone, a warm, yellow stone bathed in sunshine.
Shops of the same trade are found in rows; carpenters joining their blocks, and workmen carving ornaments with very simple tools—clumsy tools—which they use with little, timid, persistent taps. Further on, coppersmiths are hammering the little pots which are to be seen in everybody's hands; under the shade of an awning stretched over the tiny booth, the finished vessels, piled up to the roof, shed a glory over the half-naked toilers who bend over their anvils, perpetually making jars of a traditional pattern, used for ablutions. There are two men at work in each shop, three at most, and sometimes an old man who sits smoking with half-closed eyes.Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glare—eyes that were already dead.
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.
This cell is as dark as a cellar, barbarously squalid. But to all our questions the moollah who was our guide only replied:"Dog! traitor! cruel wretch! eater of meat!——"
The natives, to keep their money safe—it is always in coin, never in paper, which is not much trusted in these parts—either bury it or have it wrought into trinkets, worn by the women and children. Quite little ones of five or six, and perfectly naked, have round their neck sometimes three or four strings of gold pieces, or pierced silver rods as thick as a finger—and then one evening the child does not come home, and in some dark corner the poor little body is found bleeding, the jewels gone.In a consecrated hall we came to a plaster image of a camel modelled over stone. To prove that you are without sin you must be able to pass under the beast, or at least between the front legs and the girth of the belly without touching any part; and so very narrow is this little gateway of Ja?n virtue that, to preserve my character in the presence of my escort, I did not attempt it.When the express had arrived that morning from Bombay, eight bodies were found of victims to the plague who had died on the way. They were laid on the platform and covered with a white sheet; and in the station there was a perfect panic, a surge of terror which spread to the town, and broke up the market. The shops were all shut, and the people rushed to their knees before the idols in the temples.
Close to a temple, of which the cornice is decorated with female figures holding musical instruments, on a sort of terrace a party of youths were making a distracting din with brass instruments, acutely shrill, and, of course, tom-toms. Two very small temples covered with brass that shines like gold stand in the bazaar to mark the beginning and end of the coppersmiths' quarter, where every stall rings with the tinkle of the little hammers tapping the metal that is beaten into trays and pots and a thousand vessels for the worship of the gods and for domestic purposes. Workmen aged four, the great-grand-sons of the master-smith, were already trying their 'prentice hand, chiselling the hard metal with a free touch, and ornamenting cups and bowls of traditional shape. And this is the only part of the calm and lazy city, living on its temples and its sacred river,[Pg 161] where the visitor feels himself a "tourist." Here the shops for the special craft of Benares are furnished with the unwonted luxury of chairs, and some display of signs and wares is made. Further on is a large open place full of piles of flowers, garlands of jasmine and marigold, and heaps of rose petals to be strewn on the water.
Here, once more, is the spectre of the mutiny that broke out in the Residency, of which the ruins may be seen in the middle of a park intersected by watercourses, the English flag still proudly waving over them.This Dilbar was a boy with a more woolly wig than the others, and to emphasize her sex wore a monstrous display of trinkets round her neck and arms, in her ears and nose.
In one vast hall were ancient weapons, swords and pistols, enriched with precious stones; suits of armour damascened with gold, guns with silver stocks set with pearls, and a whole battery of field-pieces to be carried on camels' backs and spit out[Pg 237] tiny balls—enormously, absurdly long, still perched on their saddle-shaped carriages. And in a window bay two toy cannon made of gold and silver, with which Dhuleep Singh used to play as a child before he lost his realm.I turned back into Grant Road, where bands of tom-toms and harmoniums were hard at it, where the gamblers were stifling each other round the roulette-boards in a frenzy of amusement and high spirits, eager for enjoyment before hovering death should swoop down on them.THE END详情
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