Close to a village that has sprouted under the baobab-trees, in the midst of the plain that once was Khoutab, in the court of a mosque, is the marble sarcophagus of a princess. Grass is growing in the hollow of the stone that covers her, in fulfilment of the wishes of the maiden, who in her humility desired that when she was dead she should be laid to rest under the common earth whence the grass grows in the spring. And not far from the rajah's daughter, under a broad tamarind tree, in the blue shade, is the tomb of Kushru, the poet who immortalized Bagh-o-Bahar. On the sarcophagus, in the little kiosk, was a kerchief of silk and gold, with a wreath of fresh flowers renewed every day by the faithful.The elephant of ceremony, covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with gold, on which was placed a massive silver howdah edged with gold, was in waiting to take me for a ride. Round the beast's neck hung a huge necklace of balls as large as apples and long pendants from his ears, all of silver, tinkling as he moved and glittering in the sun. The mahout rested a ladder against the elephant's head for me to mount by, and we set out, following the Rajah and escorted by sowars, to the very modern tennis club of Palitana.
In front of a Buddhist temple were some tanks in which enormous tortoises were swimming. On the building, above carvings of elephants in relief on the stone, were a number of mural paintings, artless and terrible scenes set forth with the utmost scorn of perspective and chiaroscuro: a place of torment where green monsters thrust the damned against trees of which the trunks are saws, and enormous red and yellow birds devour living victims.
Two days later the roofs were covered with tulips of sheeny white and red, as light as feathers swaying on their slender stems; and the crowd, all in bright colours, went about in muslins in the clean, dry streets. Only a few very pious persons still wore the garments stained at the festival.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.
When at last the boy was allowed to return to his place in a corner he sat quite still, his eyes staring stupidly and shedding large tears, though not a muscle of his face moved.Suddenly there was a panic among the horses; they shied, reared, and bolted across the fields, and the road being cleared, the elephants belonging to the Ameer of Cabul went by, to march at the head of the caravan. Next came a thousand camels, also the Ameer's; like the elephants, they carried no baggage, but on the back of one female was a young one, tied into a basket, born only the day before, all white and woolly.Two more murders; one a squalid business with no motive—a man killed as he was on his way to gather his rice-harvest. Sixteen hill-men attacked him at once, riddling the body with bullets.
In the middle of the station groups of women and children squatted on the flagstones, their little bundles about them of red and white rags, and copper pots looking like gold; a huddled heap of misery, in this enormous hall of palatial proportions, handsomely decorated with sculptured marble.White clouds grew opalescent against the deep, infinite, blue-velvet sky, and their edges next the moon were fringed with silver. The stars, of a luminous pale green like aqua marine, seemed dead and had no twinkle.[Pg 228]
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.
In another hut was a woman, brought hither yesterday with her husband, who had died that morning. She had an exquisite, long, pale face and blue-black hair. On her arms were many[Pg 35] bangles, and gold earrings glittered in her ears. For a moment she opened her large gazelle-like eyes, and then with a very sad little sigh turned to the wall, making her trinkets rattle. She was still dressed in her blue choli. A striped coverlet had been thrown over her; by her bed she had a whole set of burnished copper pans and canisters. Charmingly pretty, and not yet exhausted by the disease, which only declared itself yesterday, she was sleeping quietly, more like a being in a storybook than a plague-stricken creature, who must infallibly die on the morrow under the incapable treatment of the Hindoo "bone-setter."
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Then the procession, with music, makes its way back to the bridegroom's house. On the threshold the priest says one more short prayer over the bowed heads of the newly-married couple, and at last the whole party go into the room, where the guests take their places at the long tables.
Some prisoners were brought to the train; a single sepoy led them by a chain. Two carried enormous bales, and the third a heavy case. They packed themselves into a compartment that was almost full already, and one of a couple that were chained together by the wrists put the chain round his neck; then, when he had scraped acquaintance with the other travellers, he amused himself by tormenting the hawkers of drink and pastry, bargaining with them for a long time and buying nothing, quite delighted when he had put them in a rage with him.At the further end of the last turning I saw a fire like blazing gold, the soaring flames flying up to an enormous banyan tree, turning its leaves to living fire. All round the pile on which the dead was being burned was a crowd drumming on copper pots and tom-toms.详情
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