And again ruins. Under an archway still left standing on piers carved with lilies and foliage, lay a whole family of pariahs covered with leprosy and sores.[Pg 94]
Then, another day, the air was leaden, too heavy to breathe. The mountains of the gem-like hues had lost their glory; they were of one flat tone of dusky grey, and further away were lost to view, invisible in the dead monotony of the colourless sky. The silence was oppressive; there was not a bird in the air, and a strange uneasiness scared the beasts, all seeking a shady refuge.
Then some gardens looking like hothouses, concealing bungalows, and a gleaming lake among the greenery—and this was Kandy.In the harbour, where there was a light breeze blowing, the little outrigged canoes had hoisted large sails, white edged with black, and vanished into the distance, skimming like winged things over the intensely blue water.The dinner-table was covered with flowers—Maréchal Niel and Gloire de Dijon roses—but enormous, as big as saucers, and of such a texture, such a colour! a tissue of frost and light; and round the table, which was loaded with silver plate, were grey and red uniforms. Strains of music were wafted in through the open windows from the regimental band playing slow waltz-tunes a little way off.
One of the servants of the place, sitting in the shade of the arcade, was painting, after a strange method. He sprinkled powdered colour on the surface of some water in a tub, outlining the colour with black; then, with a feather, he massed and arranged the colours, taking some off and replacing it in infinitesimal quantities. Finally the result was a representation of Siva and Ourasi, robed in blue and violet, against a background of crude red. When they were quite finished he jerked the bowl, giving the figures a curtseying motion, and stood a little way off to contemplate the general effect;[Pg 158] and then, quite satisfied, stirred the whole thing up and began again, the same picture, with the same precise care.
At Byculla in the evening we went to Grant Road, the haunt of the street beauties, where the gambling-houses are. At the open windows under the lighted lamps were coarsely-painted women dressed in gaudy finery. In the entries were more of such women, sitting motionless in the attitude of idols; some of them real marvels—thin, slender bronze limbs scarcely veiled in dark, transparent gauze, gold rings round their neck and arms, and heavy nanparas on their ankles."Kali?" he asked.
Through the half-open doors in the courtyards bones were bleaching, almost buried under the fine powder that lies on everything. And from this dust, as we trod it, rose a sharp smell of pepper and smoke. Twisted branches drooped forlorn from the skeletons of a few trees that were left standing. Parasitic creepers had woven a flowing robe of tangle over a statue of Kali, left unbroken in front of a small temple in ruins; and all over the withered[Pg 198] and faded growth the fine white dust had settled in irregular patterns, a graceful embroidery rather thicker in the folds.
One of these towers, smaller than the others, and standing apart at the end of the garden, is used for those who have committed suicide. The bearers of the dead dwell in a large yellow house roofed with zinc. There they live, apart from the world, never going down to Bombay but to fetch a corpse and bring it up to the vultures, nor daring to mingle with the living till after nine days of purification.
Then the sunset, in the furnace of heavy purple and red, reflected in the water in fiery copper-colour streaked with violet, till soon it all faded together, to gold, to lemon-colour; the mist rising from the river spread over all the country, and everything looked the same in the cloudless gloom. One quarter of the sky glowed faintly, through the haze a crimson globe rose into view, the moon appeared, and soon lighted up all the sky with a soft greenish glow, pallid but deep, lying on the tranquil Ganges in broad rippling sheets of gold and green, spangled with light where a fish leaped, or a white bird dipped its wing as it skimmed swiftly across without a sound. The gold grew cold and dead, the moon turned to steel against the intensely blue sky, to cold blue steel on the lustrous face of the waters.The rajah's sleeping-room has at one end a dais ascended by three steps; here the sovereign's bed used to be spread; and here, now, the judges of the Supreme Court have their seats. In the middle of the room was a confused array of benches and tables, and against the walls, also washed with yellow, hung a series of portraits of bewigged worthies.详情
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