This morning, at Peshawur, down come the police on my houseboat—three of them—and their leader explains matters. Abibulla interprets.
Music in the evening, in the gardens which surround the library, the chapel, and the tennis[Pg 286] courts. The ladies' dresses and the uniforms were lustrous in the moonlight. First we had the regimental band, and then songs to a banjo accompaniment; and all about us in the tall trees, the minahs and parrots shrieking as if it were broad daylight, finished the concert by themselves. A huge creeper, swaying between two branches, hung like a curtain of yellow flowers embroidered, as it seemed, on the airy tangle of leaves.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.
"Ah, your Kali, then?"
As we approached Jhansi we passed a village whence all the inhabitants had fled. The houses, the little temples, the gods on their pedestals by the dried-up tanks—everything was thickly coated with white dust.Shortly before sunset the dastour arrives—the high priest—in white, with a white muslin turban[Pg 15] instead of the wax-cloth cap worn by other Parsees.Then some men go past who have a stick like a distaff thrust through their belt with a net wound round it; they net as they walk, heedless of jostling, their eyes fixed on their work.
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.
A Mohammedan funeral now. The body was in a coffin, covered with red stuff, sparkling with gold thread. The bearers and mourners chanted an almost cheerful measure, as they marched very slowly to the[Pg 24] burial-ground by the seaside, where the dead rest under spreading banyans and flowering jasmine.
Some native lancers were man?uvring; they charged at top speed in a swirl of golden dust, which transfigured their movements, making them look as though they did not touch the earth, but were riding on the clouds. They swept lightly past, almost diaphanous, the colour of their yellow khaki uniforms mingling with the ochre sand; and then, not ten yards off, they stopped short, with astonishing precision, like an apparition. Their lances quivered for an instant, a flash of steel sparks against the sky—a salute to the Maharajah—and then they were as motionless as statues.[Pg 27]
Wherever the alleys cross in the bazaar, open cages are placed on pillars of carved marble or wood, and in these, charitable hands place grain for the birds; thus every evening, round these shelters there is a perpetual flutter of pigeons, minahs, and sparrows, pushing for places, and finally packed closely together, while the little lanterns flash out on all sides, giving a magical aspect to the shopfronts, turning copper to gold, fruit to flowers, and falling like a caress on the wayfarers in thin pale-hued robes.After passing the temples and tombs that surround the Khoutab, the town of ruins lies scattered over the plain of pale sand and withered herbage.There is a never-ending traffic of elephants, baggage-camels, and vehicles with shouting drivers; and on the ground are spread heaps of fruit, baskets for sale, glass baubles and weapons. In all the pink and white throng not an European dress is to be seen, not even one of the vile compounds adopted by the baboo, a striped flannel jacket over the dhoti. Men and women alike wear necklaces of flowers, or flowers in their hair; the children are gaudy with trinkets and glass beads.
The bridegroom sits awaiting his guests, in his garden all decorated with arches and arbours, and[Pg 14] starred with white lanterns. An orchestra is playing, hidden in a shrubbery.
AHMEDABADA 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.详情
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