A man went past in heavy, nailed shoes, wrapped in a flowing dhoti; he carried a long cane over his[Pg 267] left shoulder, and as he went he cried, "Soli, soli, a?a soli." All the dogs in the village crowded after him howling; and in the distance I saw that he was walking round and round two carriages without horses, still repeating "Soli, soli."On the landing-stage we read in large letters: "Beware of sunstroke," and lower down, "Avoid it by buying the best umbrellas and the best pith helmets of John Dash." The streets are the commonplace highways of a commercial town; the houses tall, with shops below. Dust and light alike were blinding; jinrickshaws were passing to and fro, drawn by almost naked coolies running as fast as horses.
Abibulla saw them off with great deference and a contrite air, and watched their retreat; then, as[Pg 260] I was about to send him to despatch the message, he was indignant. The police! What could they do to a sahib like me? It was all very well to frighten poor folks—it was a sin to waste money in asking for a reply which I should never be called upon to show—and so he went on, till I made up my mind to think no more of the matter. And whenever I met the chief at the bazaar or by the Jellum, he only asked after my health and my amusements.Outside the fort which guards the opening of the pass there was confusion; a mad scurry of men, running, shouting, hustling. Quite a complicated mêlée of animals bolting, elephants and camels let loose and impossible to overtake, but caught at last.So, after waiting for the reply of the gentleman whose business it was to give me this free pass, seeing that he could not make up his mind, I left the town without it.
To the right of the forecourt is the high priest's room; lustres, glass shades, gilt chairs, coloured photographs, incongruously surrounding an antique silk carpet, soiled and stained.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.The horizon is the Himalaya range; the slopes are covered with the ribbed velvet of the tea plantations, and on one hill stand the scattered bungalows of Mussoree, looking no bigger than pebbles.
A carriage with four horses, and servants in dark green livery thickly braided with silver, and gold turbans with three raised corners very like the cocked hats of the French Guards, were standing in the Court of Honour. The little princess took a seat between her father and me. To drive out she had put on an incredible necklace with bosses of diamonds and heavy emerald pendants. With her talismans round her neck in little gold boxes, with this necklace of light, and rings of precious stones in her ears, she looked like a too exquisite idol, motionless and silent. It was not till we were returning and the falling night hid her glittering jewels that she chirped a few words, and consented to give me her hand, and even sang a few crystal notes of a favourite song. A little princess of seven years who can already read and write, sew[Pg 69] and embroider, sing in time, and dance as lightly, I should fancy, as a butterfly with her tiny feet, that fidget in her gold slippers when she hears the music—though, frightened lest the Rajah should make her dance before me, she denied it altogether—a little princess, an only child, whom her father takes with him everywhere that she may see something of the world before she is eleven years old, for after that she will never leave her mother's zenana but to marry and be shut up in another harem.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.
As we stood up there the caravan for Cabul came in sight on the road below, and slowly disappeared wrapped in dust, with mechanical steadiness and[Pg 250] without a sound. After that came the other train of travellers from Peshawur, singing to the accompaniment of mule-bells, every sound swelled by the echo. Children's laughter came up to our ears, the scream of an elephant angry at being stopped—even at a distance we could still hear them a little—and then silence fell again under the flight of the eagles soaring in circles further and further away as they followed the caravan.
Tazulmulook, again an outcast in the jungle, rescues a lady related to Bakaoli from the embrace of a demon, and she in gratitude takes the prince to Bakaoli's court. So at last the lovers are united and married.Then from afar came the sound of tom-toms and bagpipes, nearer and nearer, and the musicians became visible at the top of one of the stair-like alleys. First came the men, then the women. One of these, robed in pale green with a violet and silver saree, carried a child in her arms wrapped in a red dress embroidered with gold. He was this day six[Pg 160] months old; he had eaten rice, and was brought to see the sacred Ganges for the first time. The family, friends, and neighbours had assembled in honour of the great ceremony, which consisted in holding the infant face downwards over the water, which he scarcely saw with half-shut eyes; and then the procession went back again to the sound of the music, and was gone.
Back to the station, where we lived in our carriage, far more comfortable than a hotel [Pg 58]bedroom. T., my travelling companion in Gujerat, received a visit from a gentleman badly dressed in the European fashion, and followed by black servants outrageously bedizened. When this personage departed in his landau, rather shabby but drawn by magnificent horses, T. was obliged to tell me he was a rajah—the Rajah of Surat—quite a genuine rajah, and even very rich, which is somewhat rare in these days among Indian princes.
The poorhouse is about two miles from the city; it consists of a courtyard enclosed by walls, from which awnings are stretched supported on poles. And here from twelve to fifteen hundred wretched skeletons had found shelter, spectres with shoulder-blades almost cutting through the skin, arms shrunk to the bone, with the elbow-joint like a knot in the middle, and at the end hands which looked enormous and flat and limp, as if every knuckle were dislocated. Their gnarled knees projected from the fearful leanness of their legs, and the tightened skin between the starting ribs showed the hollow pit of the stomach. Men and women[Pg 192] alike were for the most part naked, but for a ragged cotton loin-cloth. And all had the same scared look in their eyes, the same grin of bare teeth between those hollow cheeks. Almost all had bleeding wounds where the bones had come through the skin.Beyond Siliguri, where we left the main line, a little toy railway, going very slowly, jostles the travellers across rice plantations and woods of giant trees, under whose shade tree-ferns expand on the banks of the streams. By the side of the water springs are hung prayers written on strips of rice-paper that flutter in the wind from the shrubs and bamboos, mingling with the blossoms of rhododendron and funkia, spots of bright colour showing against the forest of mighty cedars and sycamores and gloomy palms. Clinging to the highest branches, orchids like birds are to be seen, and from bush to bush hang bright green threads covered with white stars, tangled into hanks and hooked on to every thorn. The vegetation of banyans, ph?nix, and other tropical plants gradually becomes mixed with oak, box, and plane trees, and then disappears altogether as we get higher; and presently, as we pass through a belt of great dark firs, the shrubs, the mosses, and even the flowers are those of Europe. Higher up, the mountain side is mapped out into lines and squares, green and russet, looking from a distance[Pg 146] like ribbed velvet; these are the tea plantations. The horizon grows broader, spreading away and out of sight towards the vision-like mountains forming the outposts of the Himalayas; up to the very verge of the eternal snows they are cultivated in the same rib-like strips, all tea plantations; and amid the shrubs are the little factories where the precious leaves are dried, and villages of little homesteads lost among the greenery, or peeping through the opalescent haze, intensely blue under the pure, cold sky and crude sunshine. The natives here wear skins with the fur inside; the leather outside is patterned with red or blue cloth. Men and women alike go about in felt boots, which give them an unsteady and straddling gait.详情
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