While I was talking to the postmaster the fakir smoked a hookah, burning amber powder and rose-leaves. The air was full of the narcotic fragrance; a piercing perfume that mounted to the brain.As we returned the wind had fallen, and the men rowed. The moon rose pale gold, and in the distance, in the violet haze, the lights of Bombay mingled with the stars. The boatmen's[Pg 23] chant was very vague, a rocking measure on ascending intervals.An old man who sold us some shells, had, in the days of prosperity, made a little fortune by charming the sharks with spells and signs that kept them away from the boats, and from the naked and defenceless pearl-fishers as they plunged into the deep to seek the precious shells.
All round the mosque, in narrow alleys, are more and yet more tombs, strewn with roses and enclosed in little plots. Some stand out in the street unenclosed, like milestones.On quitting Hyderabad, to the right and left of the iron road, the landscape was for a long way the same; rocks, that looked as if they had been piled up and then rolled over, lay in russet heaps among peaceful little blue lakes without number, breaking the monotony of the wide, scorched fields, a sheet of pure gold. At one of the stations a beggar was rattling his castanets furiously, and singing something very lively and joyous. At the end of each verse he shouted an unexpected "Ohé!" just like the cry of a Paris ragamuffin.
JEYPOORThe temples were already closed, but my servant, Abibulla, diverted the attention of the gatekeeper, and I stole unseen into the outer precincts.[Pg 40]
The fort, rising from a rock wall of rose-red sandstone, is reached by a series of drawbridges and bastions, now no longer needed and open to all comers.
When I went away home to the fort, where I was living with my friend Lieutenant F——, the sentinel's challenge, the tall grey walls casting sharp shadows on the courtyard silvered with moonlight, and another sentry's cry; and still, in contrast with the cheerful evening, I could remember nothing but the tonga post-horse—a thing so frequent in this land of fanatics, so common that no one gives it more than a passing thought.
Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.Under the archway by which we entered a cow crossed our path, her head decked with a tiara of peacock's feathers, and went her way alone for a[Pg 200] walk at an easy pace. Within the palace is a maze of corridors, and pierced carving round every room fretting the daylight. An inner court is decorated with earthenware panels set in scroll-work of stone. A slender colonnade in white marble is relieved against the yellow walls, and below the roof, in the subdued light of the deeper angles, the stone, the marble, the porcelain, take hues of sapphire, topaz, and enamel, reflections as of gold and mother-of-pearl. In a pavilion is a little divan within three walls, all pierced and carved; it suggests a hollow pearl with its sides covered with embroidery that dimly shows against the sheeny smoothness of the marble. The effect is so exquisitely soft, so indescribably harmonious, that the idea of size is lost, and the very materials seem transfigured into unknown substances. One has a sense as of being in some fairy palace, enclosed in a gem excavated by gnomes—a crystal of silk and frost, as it were, bright with its own light.
AGRAThere are closed carriages, victorias, vehicles with a red canopy drawn by oxen, the shafts set at an angle. The drivers bawl, shout to the porters, fight for the fare with their whips, while, overhead, kites and hawks wheel incessantly, uttering a plaintive cry.
"Can you suppose I should have insulted you by coming here without asking you some favour?"
A garden of roses and lilies was the dwelling-place of a very ancient fakir, who had taken a vow[Pg 163] to live naked, and only put on a loin-cloth when ladies were expected. He was venerated by all, yes, even by Abibulla, who knelt before him, touched the holy man's feet and then his own forehead. The old fellow was surrounded by pilgrims wearing wreaths of flowers round their neck; he came to meet me, took me by the hand, and led me under the shade of a kiosk, where he showed me a large book he had written, containing an account of the joys and ecstasies of his life of asceticism and prayer. This old man had a magnificent brow, and the deep gaze of his kind, smiling eyes was fine in a face puckered with a thousand wrinkles. Infinite calm and peace characterized this happy soul—a naked man in the midst of flowers.The bargaining was interminable, something in this manner:—详情
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