Trees shut in the flat, interminable road, and it was midnight before we reached Srinagar, where I found, as a surprise, a comfortable house-boat with inlaid panels, and a fragrant fire of mango-wood smelling of orris-root.While all this is going forward in the jungle, Bakaoli, disguised as an astrologer, comes to the king, to whom she promises the coming of the miraculous flower, and even while she is speaking the return of the four princes is announced.
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.
And then night, the real night, transparently blue and luminous with stars, appeared above the last cloud that vanished with the last clap of thunder. Unspeakable freshness and peace reigned over nature, and in the limpid air the mountain-chains, the giant Himalayas, extended to infinity in tones of amethyst and sapphire. Nearer to us, lights sparkled out in the innumerable huts built even to the verge of the eternal snows, on every spot of arable ground or half-starved grass land.In the shrine of Chaumuc, the god of many faces, the four masks grin down from the sides of a square pillar of white stucco. The walls, vault, and pavement of this temple are all red, with borders of green and yellow; the colours scream in contrast to the whiteness of the images, with their staring eyes made of crystal balls that look like spectacles.At mess there were two newly-arrived officers, come from Tochi; they had been attacked on the road in the night by sixteen men. The driver and the horse were killed; they themselves had not a scratch, and they told the story very much at their ease, relating the comic features of the incident—how a bullet had lodged itself in a pot hanging to a mule's pack, and the frightened creature had kicked "like mad."
In the heart of Girgaum, one of the suburbs of Bombay, at the end of a street, under a large areca palm an old man was selling grain and rice in open baskets. A whole flight of bickering sparrows settled on his merchandise, and he looked at them with happy good humour without scaring them away.From Lahore hither is an almost uninterrupted series of encampments—English and native regiments established in huts in the open fields far from every town, close only to the railway line. At one station a detachment of Indian guards were drawn up, and Abibulla declared from the number of men that they must be expecting a general at least; but nothing was discharged from the train but some cases of rupees, checked off by two English officers, and then carried to the barracks under the escort of sepoys.
Words and more words for an hour, till one of them stooping down took up a handful of sand and flung it to the earth again at her feet. The other, at this crowning insult, which, being interpreted, conveys, "There, that is how I treat you! like sand thrown down to be trodden on," covered her face with her sleeves and fled howling.Beyond the temples is the merchants' quarter: a few very modest shops, the goods covered with dust; and in the middle of this bazaar, a cord stretched across cut off a part of the town where cholera was raging.By the side of the Manumenka stand two stel?, on which two carved figures, represented as surrounded by flames, preserve the memory of the time when the funeral pyre consumed the living wife with the dead husband.
The coachman we engaged at the station was a giant, with an olive skin and a huge, pale pink turban. He was clad in stuffs so thin that on his box, against the light, we could see the shape of his body through the thickness of five or six tunics that he wore one over another.
As I was leaving, the fakir rose amid the cries of all the people, who clamoured for his blessing. He[Pg 246] silenced them by a sign, then laying one hand on my shoulder, after looking at my medal—Trees shut in the flat, interminable road, and it was midnight before we reached Srinagar, where I found, as a surprise, a comfortable house-boat with inlaid panels, and a fragrant fire of mango-wood smelling of orris-root.
Towards evening Ellora came in sight, the sacred hill crowned with temples, in a blaze of glory at first from the crimson sunset, and then vaguely blue, wiped out, vanishing in the opalescent mist.From the open loggia at the end of the vast reception-room, lined with white marble and hung with thick carpets, there was an extensive view over the green plain inundated with water and sunshine to the holy city of dazzling domes that looked as if they had just risen from the Ganges. The air was full of heady fragrance; the Rajah described the springtide festivals, barges carrying troupes of dancing bayadères on the Ganges sparkling with a myriad lights.
Then at Peshawur again in the evening, girls, with groups of soldiers in red jackets or Scotch kilts; the common women were horrible, whitened,[Pg 251] with loose shirts and tight-fitting trousers. One alone sat at her window wreathed about with mindi flowers in the crude light of a lamp. The others accosted the passer-by, laughing and shouting in shrill tones.详情
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