Higher on the hills, amid the rich bright verdure of the tea-plantations, we find magnolias, pines, and the Campeachy medlar, all wreathed with climbing plants and invaded by the young growth of palms, by rattans which have succeeded in piercing the awning of parasites that hangs, starred with flowers, from tree to tree—flowers like lamps shining among the ripe coco-nuts, mango fruit, and papaws.A tame white antelope was wandering about the garden of the old rajahs' palace, under a shower of gardenia-like flowers that hung by a stem[Pg 88] scarcely thicker than a thread. The whole of one avenue was strewn with this snow, on which the graceful little beast, with its large sad eyes, was feeding. Further on, under some other trees with red blossoms, stands a little mausoleum built by the prince over Jacky, his dog, "who was faithful and good."
In the hotel compound—more absurd than all the rest, lost in a waste of open land beyond the seething native town—there was a swarm of coolie servants, their wives and their children, who played all day at climbing about the coaches put up under the trees. And, without ceasing, a maddening hubbub of laughter and crying came up from this litter of brats, more weariful than the silence of vacancy all around.A dancing-girl went by, wrapped in white muslin as thin as air, hardly veiling the exquisite grace of her shape. Close to us, in front of two musicians playing on the vina and the tom-tom, she began to dance, jingling the rattles and bells on her anklets: a mysterious dance with slow movements and long bows alternating with sudden leaps, her hands crossed on her heart, in a lightning flash of silver necklets and bangles. Every now and then a shadow passed between the nautch-girl and the lights that fell on her while she was dancing, and then she could scarcely be seen to touch the ground, she seemed to float in her fluttering[Pg 301] drapery; and presently, before the musicians had ceased playing, she vanished in the gloom of a side alley. She had asked for nothing, had danced simply for the pleasure of displaying her grace.
Then the dancing began again, interrupted for a minute by the call of the night-watchman as he went past carrying a long bamboo. He paused for a moment to watch the performance, and then was lost in the darkness.A tank here is deep below ground, down three flights of galleries. Quite at the bottom is a little stagnant water, into which children leap from the top of the structure, a plunge of twenty metres, ending in a great splash of green mud that smells of water-lilies and grease.
The natives, to keep their money safe—it is always in coin, never in paper, which is not much trusted in these parts—either bury it or have it wrought into trinkets, worn by the women and children. Quite little ones of five or six, and perfectly naked, have round their neck sometimes three or four strings of gold pieces, or pierced silver rods as thick as a finger—and then one evening the child does not come home, and in some dark corner the poor little body is found bleeding, the jewels gone.The natives here were an even finer race than those at Peshawur, and more uncultured, never bowing when we met them, but eyeing us as we passed as if they were meditating some foul blow.At the end of the garden, in a little temple, is a statue of the holy man of the size of life, in his favourite attitude, sitting on his crossed legs. Round the image were the most absurd toys—and a photograph of the German Emperor! As I was leaving, the fakir called me back, asked me to think of him sometimes, and gave me one of the splendid yellow roses that hung about him like a glory.
Then, two and two, carrying on their shoulders heavy trays piled with presents, women mount the steps of the house, the bridegroom standing at the bottom. The bride's mother comes forth to meet them in a dress of pale-coloured China crape covered with a fine white saree. She waves her closed hand three times over the gifts, and then, opening it, throws rice on the ground. This action[Pg 16] she repeats with sugar and sweetmeats, and finally with a coco-nut. And each time she empties her hand a naked boy appears from heaven knows where, gathers up what she flings on the ground, and vanishes again, lost at once in the shadows of the garden.
The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.In the sleeping town of Darjeeling a bell and drum were sounding to announce the Tibetan Christmas. The Brahmin paradise remained invisible and mysterious behind a clear sky studded with stars.
Over the rice-fields, in the darkness, danced a maze of fire-flies, quite tiny, but extraordinarily bright; they whirled in endless streaks of flame, intangible, so fine that they seemed part of the air itself, crossing in a ceaseless tangle, faster and faster, and then dying out in diamond sparks, very softly twinkling little stars turning to silver in the moonlight."Nautch-girls for tourists, like Europeans," said my Indian servant Abibulla. "Can-can dancing-girls," he added, with an air of triumph at having shown me a wonder.
The Rajah, a prisoner in his little state, a ruler only in name and deposed from his power, as I rose to take my leave, cast a glance of deep melancholy towards a last golden beam that quivered on the sacred hill, and seemed to awake from a dream.AHMEDABAD
They were clad in colourless rags, matted and grizzled hair hung about their pain-stricken faces. The woman was the more delicate, her bones smaller and less knotted than those of the man, whose joints were gnarled, his scraggy knees forming thick bosses of bone above his shins. They threw themselves like hungry animals on some cooked grain which Abibulla brought out for them, and then, with scared looks all round, they went quickly away, as quickly as they could with halting, weary feet, without even saying thank-you.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 a stopping-place a flock of sheep huddled together in terror, hens scuttered about clucking anxiously, the stable dogs crouched and slunk; high overhead a large eagle was slowly wheeling in the air.详情
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