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.
Elephants, freshly painted, go past begging.Under the white dome a wooden ceiling, gilt in the hollows of the carving, has taken the place of an earlier ceiling of massive silver, worth seventy lacs of rupees, which was carried off by the conquerors after some long-ago seizure of the city. Inside, by way of walls, are carvings in marble of twisted lilies, inconceivably graceful and light. And then, at one of the entrances, those marble lattices, once gilt and now bereft of their gold, look just like topaz in the midday sun. After that magic splendour of gold and marbles fused to topaz and amber, the rest of the palace—the sleeping-rooms, the couches inlaid with mosaic flowers, the pierced stone balconies overlooking the Jumna—all seemed commonplace and familiar.Out in the street a woman, bare-backed, was submitting to be brushed down the spine by a neighbour with a brush of cuscus; she scorned to answer me when I asked whether she felt better, but shutting her eyes desired the operator to go on more slowly.
A distant noise of tom-toms—big drums thumping out minims in the bass, small ones rattling out semiquavers in very short, sharp notes; and to this accompaniment came the sharp trill of a metal flute. The music came nearer at a brisk pace, heralded by two tall baggage camels, a rare sight in Benares, where the streets are so narrow and straight, and only foot passengers are to be seen. Then followed saddle-horses, led by hand, and a large number of men on foot, and after an interval there appeared a band, atrociously out of tune, immediately in front of a palankin hung with a shawl embroidered all over in palms of different shades of gold and beads. In this sat a little bridegroom of eight, dressed in pale yellow satin, a wreath of marigolds round his neck, and above his turban a cap made of jasmine, the ends hanging all round his head—a little bridegroom, eight years old, very solemn, sitting cross-legged with a huge bouquet in his hand, and facing him his two little brothers in white silk and necklaces of jasmine.
"Then twenty-eight?"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.
Delhi appeared in the blinding light like an unsubstantial vision, white against a bleached sky; and as we got nearer the city half vanished like a mirage, blotted out and dim through a shifting cloud of dust.On the outside, all round the lower part of the monument, carved borders frame flowers of pale mosaic in the walls; the ornament is in such faint relief that at a short distance it is invisible, and the Taj is seen only in the perfect elegance of its[Pg 206] proportions. The mausoleum is built on a broad terrace of white marble at a height of 270 feet, overhanging the Jumna; and the impressive, harmonious outline commands the plain from afar."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.
This morning, at Peshawur, down come the police on my houseboat—three of them—and their leader explains matters. Abibulla interprets.A delightful surprise was a museum of Indian art, the first I had seen, a fine collection and admirably arranged;[A] but the natives who resorted hither to enjoy the cool shelter of the galleries talked to each other from a distance, as is their universal custom, at the top of their voices, which rang doubly loud under the echoing vaults.
The train, now travelling northwards again, ran for a long way across the scorched plain through groves of dead trees and sandhills covered with lichen, till, in the golden sunset close to Gwalior, suddenly, at the foot of a hill, we came upon the greenery of fine parks with palaces rising above cool marble tanks.In the courtyard a tall and gaudy cock was keeping the crows in order, driving them relentlessly away from the kitchen precincts. On the roof of the servants' quarters, always in the same spot, perched a kite, ready to pounce as soon as anything was thrown out. The doves, the house-pigeons, the fowls fled at once and squatted in corners; but the cock stood his ground, his feathers all on end, his crest erect, chuckling with rage and stalking round the yard within ten paces of the bird of prey.详情
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