Further on we came to a courtyard surrounded by a cloister, where the market for precious stones was held. The empress, invisible under her wrappers of gauze as thin as air, and surrounded by her women fanning her, would come out on her high balcony to choose the gems that pleased her for a moment by their sparkle, and then disappear into the gardens behind insurmountable walls. In another court, a[Pg 209] pool kept stocked with fish gave Shah Jehangir the pleasure of fancying he was fishing.
In the street were bayadères, and women at every window, the pretty faces brightly illuminated, the plainer in a skilfully subdued light. The sound of tom-toms and pipes could be heard, and the guttural, quavering song of a dancing beauty performing for some amateur; quite young boys were wandering about the street, almost children, all in white. Where the roads met, a mosque was illuminated in honour of this month of Ramadan, and the believers were trooping out in a crowd.
They were all flying from the plague, which was spreading, and emptying the bazaars and workshops. The Exchange being closed, trade was at a standstill, and the poor creatures who were spared by the pestilence were in danger of dying of hunger.
A large open niche, supported on massive columns and enclosed by a carved parapet, built by some king with a long, high-sounding name, looks as if it were made of gold; the stone is yellow and flooded with sunshine, which, where the hard material is not too thick, shines through and makes it seem transparent, with the peculiar vibrant glow of molten metal. The shadows, blue by contrast, are as soft as velvet; twinkling sparks are lighted up in the angles of the architrave, by the reflected rays, like stars in the stone itself.
MURREEThe elephant of ceremony, covered with a velvet cloth embroidered with gold, on which was placed a massive silver howdah edged with gold, was in waiting to take me for a ride. Round the beast's neck hung a huge necklace of balls as large as apples and long pendants from his ears, all of silver, tinkling as he moved and glittering in the sun. The mahout rested a ladder against the elephant's head for me to mount by, and we set out, following the Rajah and escorted by sowars, to the very modern tennis club of Palitana.
From a quite small garden close to the palace a bronze gate with three medallions of lilies in high relief, of marvellous workmanship, opens on the Pearl Mosque, exquisitely white, at the end of its forecourt of immaculate pavement enclosed by a marble balustrade. Three polished and shining domes are supported by columns of snow made of a hard white marble, scarcely broken by [Pg 218]ornament, and carrying a roof hollowed into three vaults. The rings are still to be seen on the marble walls outside, to which, when the great Mogul came to prayer, curtains were attached made of gold net and spangled with diamonds and pearls.[Pg 40]详情
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