These gentlemen of the Civil Service would put in an appearance "now and then"—the eternal "now and then" that answers every question in India. They stepped out of a buggy, walked quickly round, had seen, and were gone again in a great hurry to finish some important work for the next European mail.
Back to the station, where we lived in our carriage, far more comfortable than a hotel [Pg 58]bedroom. T., my travelling companion in Gujerat, received a visit from a gentleman badly dressed in the European fashion, and followed by black servants outrageously bedizened. When this personage departed in his landau, rather shabby but drawn by magnificent horses, T. was obliged to tell me he was a rajah—the Rajah of Surat—quite a genuine rajah, and even very rich, which is somewhat rare in these days among Indian princes.As we approached the Afghan frontier, camp followed camp, clustering round the railway stations that lie closer together on the line. In the morning and towards evening there was a constant hum round the train, of bagpipes, bugles, and drums, and the red or grey ranks were to be seen of soldiers at drill.
All round the Rajah's palace crowds a town of palaces, mosques, and temples dedicated to Vishnu; and outside the walls, on a plain lying between the hills of Amber, is another town, still thick with ruins amid the forest of encroaching trees. And it is all dead, deserted, dust-coloured, unspeakably sad, with the sadness of destruction and desertion in the midst of a landscape gorgeous with flowers and groves. In the palace of Amber, guides make a good[Pg 216] business of showing us the public rooms, baths, and bedrooms, all restored with an eye to the tourist. In the gardens, heavy with perfume, the trees display swinging balls of baked earth full of holes, which protect the ripening fruit from the monkeys; a whole tribe of them scampered off at our approach, and went to torment the peacocks that were solemnly promenading a path, and that presently flew away.
Among the officers was a young lady on horseback, her black habit covered with dust. Instead of the pith helmet that the English ladies disfigure themselves by wearing, she had a straw hat with a long cambric scarf as a pugaree. She was pretty and sat well, and at the last turning she pulled up and watched the men, the ammunition and the baggage all march past, saluted them with her switch, and cantered off to the town of "cottages." I saw her again in the afternoon, taking tea in her garden as she sat on a packing-case among eviscerated bales, and giving orders to a mob of slow, clumsy coolies, who were arranging the house.Two or three thousand haggard and fleshless beings were digging or carrying earth to form an embankment for a railway or a road. With arms scarcely thicker than the handles of the tools they wielded, the labourers gasped in the air, tired in a minute, and pausing to rest in spite of the abuse of the overseers. Emaciated women, so small in their tattered sarees, carried little baskets on their heads containing a few handfuls of earth, but which they could scarcely lift. One of them, wrinkled and shrunken, looked a hundred years old tottering under her load; on reaching the spot where she was to empty out the soil, she leaned forward a little and let the whole thing fall, indifferent to the dust which covered her and filled her mouth and eyes; and after taking breath for a moment, off she went again as if walking in her sleep.
Birds, green, red, black, and gold-colour, fluttered gaily among the palms, the bamboos as tall as pine trees, the baobabs and mango trees; butterflies with rigid tails and large wings beating in uncertain flight, floated over the bright verdure flecked with sunshine. Round one pagoda, towering over a wretched village that lay huddled in the shade of its consecrated walls, a proud procession of stone bulls stood out against the sky, visible at a great distance in clear outline through the heated, quivering air.Tazulmulook arrives in the same town, and is on the point of ringing at Dilbar's door when he is hindered by his father's vizier, who tells him how many times this dangerous woman has been the ruin of kings' sons. But Tazulmulook, in a discourse on valour addressed to the audience, who stamped applause, rejects the counsels of prudence and rings at the dancer's door. Tazulmulook wins the game with Dilbar, and compels her to release his brothers, but only after branding each on the back of his neck.
Two men were quarrelling; one had robbed the other. The dispute went on endlessly, and no one, not the priest even, had succeeded in pacifying them. At last an elephant was fetched; he came up without being noticed by the disputants, and trumpeted[Pg 122] loudly just behind them. The thief, convinced that the animal in its wisdom had discovered his crime, took to his heels and fled.And then seeing that I did not go, that on wakening again from his dream I was still there, he fixed his eyes on me and caught sight of a medal that I wear.
Traversing the narrow avenues that intersect the bazaar, we came to a series of quiet courts; here were the police-station, the small barracks, and stables for camels and elephants. In a blind alley we found a white mosque, where men were praying robed in pink and green; while opposite, below a house consisting of three stories of arcades, some Syrian horses, as slender as gazelles, were exercising on the bright-hued mosaic floor of the open stable.Tazulmulook arrives in the same town, and is on the point of ringing at Dilbar's door when he is hindered by his father's vizier, who tells him how many times this dangerous woman has been the ruin of kings' sons. But Tazulmulook, in a discourse on valour addressed to the audience, who stamped applause, rejects the counsels of prudence and rings at the dancer's door. Tazulmulook wins the game with Dilbar, and compels her to release his brothers, but only after branding each on the back of his neck.
A flight of regular steps, hewn in the rock, under the shade of banyans and bamboos, all tangled with flowering creepers, leads straight up to the temple. It is a vast hall, dug out of granite and supported by massive columns, with capitals of a half-flattened spheroidal shape—columns which, seen near, seem far too slender to support the immense mass of the mountain that rises sheer above the cave under a curtain of hanging creepers. The temple opens[Pg 21] to the north, and a very subdued light—like the light from a painted window—filtering through the ficus branches, lends solemnity and enhanced beauty to this titanic architecture.Near one pagoda, where the highly venerated footprints of Adishwara are preserved, a tree—a gran tree—was cut down to the root, and, as the legend tells, grew again in a single night as large as it now is; and it would grow again if it were again felled, to screen with its shade the holy spot touched by the god.After the delay, which in India is a matter of course, the caravan set out—the last to go; for during the past three months no European had[Pg 247] crossed the pass, and in consequence of misunderstandings with some of the rebel tribes to the north, even the natives were prohibited henceforth from going to Cabul.
One boy, who being very tall looked even more emaciated than the rest, dragged an enormous leg swollen with elephantiasis, which had not diminished with the reduction of the rest of his body.Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glare—eyes that were already dead.Wide strands of golden sand; here and there among the rice-fields the palms and bamboos are less crowded. In the moist air, that grows hotter and hotter, the daylight is blinding, hardly tolerable through the blue glass of the windows. Scorched, russet rocks stand up from the short grass, tremulous in the noontide heat. The cattle, the very birds, silent and motionless, have sought shelter in the shade; all the people have gone within doors. And then, towards evening, in an oasis of gigantic trees, amid bamboos and feathery reeds, behold the huge temples of Madura, in sharp outline against a rosy sky.
Elephants came along, stepping daintily, but filling the whole width of the street, looking, with one little slanting eye cocked, as if they were laughing at the foot-passengers who were compelled to squeeze against the wall.详情
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