In a quiet, darkened corner a girl was lying on a bier, a girl of the Brahmin caste, all in white, veiled by a transparent saree. By her side an old man, a bearded patriarch, seemed to wait for someone. Then another Brahmin came out from a little house, carrying the fire wherewith to light the funeral pile in a little pot hanging from his girdle. The two old men took up their burthen—so light that even to them, tottering already towards their end, it seemed to be no weight. They made their way cautiously, so as not to tread on the [Pg 305]sleeping figures strewn about the street, going very slowly in devious zigzags. A dog woke and howled at them; and then, as silence fell, I could hear again the dying sounds of harmoniums and tom-toms, and the clatter of the games.When the gate to the platform was opened there was a stampede, a fearful rush to the train; then the cars, once filled, were immediately shut on the noisy glee of those who were going.
Then a girl's body was brought out, wrapped in white muslin; the bier, made of bamboo, was wreathed with marigolds, and on the light shroud there were patches of crimson powder, almost violet. The bearers, on reaching the river, placed the body in the water, leaving it there for a time.
Beyond the new town of broad avenues planted with trees and bordered with gardens, was a brand-new bridge of gaudy bricks over a river, almost dry, where a swarm of naked natives were performing their ablutions—washing linen and shaking out red and white cloths, as far as the eye could see. Buffaloes lying in the mud were sleeping among the tame ducks, the ibis, and the herons, all seeking their food. An elephant plunged into the water, splashing it up and scaring thousands of bright birds, which flew up against the intensely blue sky."I shall pay as much as I can myself, and by-and-by my son will earn money, and we shall pay between us."The carriage of the Rajah of Palitana awaited us this morning at Songad. As an escort two sowars in long blue cloaks and red turbans, their guns slung behind them, galloped by our vehicle. On each side of the road lay fields of scorched grass, quite burnt and very fine, glistening like silk, reflecting the sun as far as we could see.
At the top, facing two immense rocks that look like couchant lions, there was another palace; one[Pg 100] wall alone is left standing; on the creamy marble a peacock spreads its tail, carved into very delicate sprays and flowers.
As I was leaving, the fakir rose amid the cries of all the people, who clamoured for his blessing. He[Pg 246] silenced them by a sign, then laying one hand on my shoulder, after looking at my medal—Tazulmulook, again an outcast in the jungle, rescues a lady related to Bakaoli from the embrace of a demon, and she in gratitude takes the prince to Bakaoli's court. So at last the lovers are united and married.When a Sikh is beaten and surrenders he takes off his turban and lays it at the conqueror's feet, to convey that with the turban he also offers his head.
As the sun sank the citadel absorbed the gold and purple glory, and looked as though it were of some translucent half-fused metal; the towers and temples with their decoration of tiles blazed[Pg 204] against the pure sky. High over Mandir a little balcony with spindle columns, overhanging the precipice at a giddy height, caught the last rays of Surya, and flashed with a gem-like gleam above Gwalior, which was already shrouded in the blue haze of night.We landed at Ramnagar, a marble palace looking like a fortified town, its massive walls rising[Pg 174] from the river and crowned by balconies and fairy kiosks—a lacework of stone against the brilliant sky.
Between the cliff-walls of the defile, in a sort of bay, stands Ali Musjid, a little white mosque where travellers tarry to pray.
Between the large parasols are thousands of little pagodas, formed of four columns and a roof, and sheltering idols wreathed with flowers, to whom the faithful pray and bring offerings. Garlands are for ever floating down-stream, jasmine and Indian pinks, and patches of scattered rose petals; and on the banks of the river, where the sand forms little bays, flowers lie in a hem of delicate colours.[Pg 40]The last train gone, all round the station there was quite a camp of luckless natives lying on the ground, wrapped in white cotton, and sleeping under the stars, so as to be nearer to-morrow to the train[Pg 20] which, perhaps, might carry them away from the plague-stricken city.
A little way off, in the burning sandy plain, is a pagoda sacred to the pigeons. Lying as close as tiles, in the sun, they hide the roof under their snowy plumage. Round pots are hung all about the building, swaying in the wind, for the birds to nest in, a red decoration against the russet stone; each one contains an amorous and cooing pair.A kshatriya, a very old man, had seen me yesterday returning from Ramnagar with my necklet of silver threads. Convinced by this that I must be "a Europe Rajah," he tormented me to grant him a title. He wanted to be Raj Bahadur; this was the height of his ambition. After following me about the bazaar all the morning, he sat for a long time in my room. So, to get rid of him, seeing[Pg 180] that he persisted in hoping that I should call him Raj Bahadur, I did so; this, however, did not satisfy him: I must write it down on paper. At last I consented. Quite delighted now, he went off to shout the words to his friends, who had been waiting for him in the garden, and then, very solemn, and conscious of his new dignity, he disappeared down the road.详情
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