Captain McT——'s orderly appeared as soon as we stirred in the morning, shouldering arms—the "arm" an umbrella which the authorities allow as a privilege off duty to the Ghoorkhas, men from the high plateaux, who are very sensitive to sunstroke, and who wear only a cap without a pugaree. The umbrella solemnly resting against his right shoulder, this worthy stood at attention, serious and motionless, and very upright—a quaint figure, his age impossible to guess, with his Mongolian face, his little slits of eyes, and his figure, in spite of his military squareness, rather too pliant in the yellow khaki uniform.In the afternoon the Rajah wore a pale green dress embroidered with gold and gems, and sparkling with stones, and a wide rose-coloured sash fringed with pearls. He wore no jewels but priceless diamond buckles in his shoes. As I had lingered long in the morning at a jeweller's shop, the prince wished to show me his possessions. Servants, as solemn as gaolers, brought in many trays covered[Pg 83] with enormous emeralds cut into beads and strung on white cords, necklaces of pear-shaped pearls threaded on almost invisible silk. And then, from among the goldsmith's work, modelled into impossible flowers and chimeras twisted to make heavy anklets, from among coat-buttons, rings and sword-guards sparkling with diamonds, the Rajah took up a costly snuff-box and begged me keep it as a remembrance.
Then starting to his feet, and stretching out his arm to point at me, he poured forth invective in sharp, rapid speech. The words flowed without pause:—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.
A wide open space covered with rubbish heaps was to be seen where the sepoys' barracks had been, and where from the first the men had died of the plague by hundreds. In one garden, a bungalow where a[Pg 303] man had just died was being burnt down—still burning. A party of police were encouraging the fire, and a cordon of native soldiers kept everybody else off.
Only one entrance to the temple remains, built of polished red stone mingled harmoniously with marble, toned by time to a warm golden hue almost rose-colour. All the profusion of Indian design is lavished on this gateway framing the marvel erected by Pal. Tangles of interlacing letters incised and in relief, mingling with trails of flowers as lissom as climbing plants, and supporting figures of gods; while a fine powdering of white dust over the dimmed warm yellow of marble and sandstone softens yet more the carved flowers and sinuous patterns, amid which the images sit in tranquil attitudes.In the ward we had just passed through there were none but convalescents or favourable cases. At the further end of the room a boy, fearfully emaciated, so thin that his body, lying in the hollow of the mattress, was hardly visible under the covering, was asleep as we approached. He had come from one of the famine districts, and in escaping from one scourge had come to where the other had clutched him. The doctor touched him on the[Pg 34] shoulder, and he opened his great splendid eyes. The awakening brought him gladness, or perhaps it was the end of his dream, for he had the happy look of a contented child, shook his shaven head waggishly, and the single corkscrew lock at the top, and was asleep again instantly.
Near a temple some bells and tom-toms animated the silence with their clang and clatter. Worshippers stole in noiselessly, barefoot on the stones, and entered the sanctuary, within which tapers were burning.As we went down to the shore a whole swarm of little dark boys wanted to sell scarabs, rattans, birds' nests shaped like pockets, and dream-flowers, gathered from the creepers on the temples; large almond-scented lilies, and hanging bunches of the ebony-tree flowers, so fragile in texture and already faded in the sun, but exhaling till evening a faint perfume of verbena and lemon.
The game had begun. The prince's cousins, dressed in light white muslin, seemed to fly as they ran after the ball in the fluttering of the diaphanous stuff.One of them was standing against a curtain of black satin embroidered with gold; muslin that might have been a spider's web hardly cast a mist over her sheenless skin, pale, almost white against the glistening satin and gold, all brightly lighted up. With a large hibiscus flower in her hand she stood in a simple attitude, like an Egyptian painting, then moved a little, raising or lowering an arm, apparently not seeing the passers-by who gazed at her—lost in a dream that brought a strange green gleam to her dark eyes.The fort of Allahabad, the fort of the mutiny of 1857, is a complete citadel where, in the thickness of the walls, behind screens of acacia trees, lurk doors into palaces. Among the gardens there are clearings full of guns and ambulance waggons, and enormous barracks and huts for native soldiers. Then on the ponderous stonework of the ramparts rise little kiosks in the light Hindoo-Mussulman style, elaborate and slender, built by Akbar the [Pg 183]conqueror, who took Prayag and razed it, to build on the site a city dedicated to Allah. And now modern architecture is slowly invading it, adding to the flat walls which hide under their monotony the gems of stonework with their elegant decoration.
At the last moment some porters, preceded by two sowars in uniform and holding pikes, bore a large palankin, hermetically closed, to the door of a first-class carriage, and softly set it down. The carriage was opened for a moment: I could see within a party of women-servants, shrouded in white muslin, who were preparing a couch. An old negress handed out to the porters a large sheet, which they held over the palankin, supporting it in such a way as to make a covered passage screening the carriage door. There was a little bustle under the sheet—the end was drawn in, and the sheet fell over the closed door.One old man, indeed, bowed so low that he fell into the water, and all the worshippers shouted with laughter.
Below one of the palaces is a huge statue of Vishnu Bhin in a reclining attitude, daubed with ochre, the face flesh-colour and white; a statue which is carried away every year by the floods and restored every year in its pristine grossness.Round a temple, with iron roofs ending in copper balls at the top, a crowd was watching, some seated on steps cut in the soil and some squatting on the hillside, here almost perpendicular. By the temple long white streamers, fluttering from bamboo poles, were covered with painted prayers. A Lama was enthroned in an armchair under an arbour of pine-branches; he wore a yellow robe, and above a face like a cat's he had a sort of brass hat surmounted by a coral knob; his little beard was quite white, and he turned his praying machine with a steady, dull movement, perfectly stolid. Two women stood by his side fanning him, dressed in close-fitting aprons of dark cloth bordered with a brighter shade, and opening over pale pink satin petticoats, on their heads crowns of flowers of every hue.
At the bottom of the steps, almost in the street, was another school at the entrance to a temple. The children, in piercing tones, were all spelling together under the echoing vault, a terrible noise which seemed to trouble nobody.
PALITANASqueezed in and crushed between houses that tower above it, rises the pointed dome of Biseshwar Matti, covered with leaves of chased gold; smaller cones surround the principal dome, bristling with tiny pyramids of gold, carved into flowers round statues of Kali with her eight arms, of Ganesa, and of peacocks with spread tails. Under this splendid cupola, dazzlingly bright against the sky,[Pg 156] the temple itself is quite small, and strictly closed against the unbeliever. Some pious hands had hung chains of jasmine and roses above the entrance, and they gave a touch of beauty to the stonework, very old, and soiled with large stains of oil. A sense of intense piety hangs about this sanctuary, subdues every voice, and bends the head of every passer-by in reverence of the mystery, and they all bring flowers.详情
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