There are two towns of Peshawur: one a distracted, silly place, with no beginning nor end, straggling along something in the manner of Madras, with an embryonic bazaar and all the amusements demanded by soldiers; the other enclosed in walls of dried mud, which are preserved only "to protect the town from robbers."
Bakaoli bewails her lover's departure, for which no one, not even her mother, can comfort her.
The maiden was placed on a very high pile of saplings and dry crackling boughs. Her father fetched the sacred fire, and then, with the same ceremonials and prayers, set light to the wood, which flashed up in a golden glow with a sweet odour. The flame rose clear against the sky for a long time before the smell of her burnt flesh mingled with that of the poor woman, whose limbs, under the action of the heat, seemed to stretch to an inordinate length. One arm, sticking out from the fire, seemed to clench its fist, which was bright yellow, as if it would clutch at something; and then all was consumed—the wood pile fell in, the skull cracking with a dull snap, and nothing was left but a heap of embers, into which the attendants raked the cinders that rolled down the sloping bank.The whole mausoleum, the terrace on which it stands, the four minarets as tall as light-towers, are all in dead white marble, the whiteness of milk and opal, glistening with nacreous tints in the brilliant sunshine under a sky pale with heat and dust.
At sunset, when the glow fired the stones to a semblance of transparent, burning light, at the top of one of the flights of steps rising from the river to the town, and in front of a gate with large brass nails, glittering like sparks, the figure appeared of a holy beggar in yellow rags, with a copper jar blazing with reflected light; he was set in a halo of gold, and looked like the vision of some pagan god. He stood motionless for a[Pg 172] long time, and then, as the last sunbeam went out, he vanished beyond the fire-studded gate, while all the scene faded into rosy lilac, rapidly dying into blue night.The front of the temple is covered with paintings. Decorations in the Persian style divide the panels, on which are depicted the principal scenes from the sacred books of the Brahmins. There are two perfect things to be seen here: two nude female figures standing, one white, the other brown, exquisitely refined in colouring, admirably drawn in a style reminding me of early Italian art; and then, just beyond these, tasteless imitations of chromos—goddesses with eyes too large and a simper like the advertisements of tooth-paste, and some horrible caricatures of English ladies in the fashion of ten years ago holding parasols like a nimbus.
"Five—six," said the baboo, hesitating; then,[Pg 194] seeing that I was quite incredulous, "Sometimes more," he added.There was at the top of the temple a sarcophagus in a shrine, on which were masses of impalpable silk gauze embroidered with gold, which looked like a peacock's breast, so subtle were the transparent colours lying one above another—green, blue, and yellow predominating, gauze so light that the slightest breath set it floating in glistening and changing hues; and on the snowy white pavement of the floor was strewn a carpet of very pale lilac lilies and mindi flowers.
Colombo again; and again the jewellers and their blue stones—an intoxicating, living blue.At Roza, the plateau above the Hindoo sanctuaries, above a dozen of Moslem mausoleums are to be seen under the spreading banyans that shelter them beneath their shade, and sometimes hide them completely; the white objects are in a whimsical style of architecture, hewn into strange shapes, which in the doubtful starlight might be taken for ruins.[Pg 27]
"Ah, your Kali, then?"
In the silence of a moonless night nine o'clock struck from the great tower of the Law Courts—a pretty set of chimes, reminding me of Bruges or Antwerp; and when the peal had died away a bugle in the sepoys' quarters took up the strain of the chimes, only infinitely softer, saddened to a minor key and to a slower measure; while in the distance[Pg 32] an English trumpet, loud and clear, sounded the recall in counterpart.In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notes—anything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit.
At Jhansi, by the station, were parties of famishing emigrants, all with the same dreadful white grimace and glazed eyes, and in the town more starving creatures dragging their suffering frames past the shops—almost all closed—or begging at the doors of the temples and mosques; and the few passers-by hurried on as if they, too, wanted to escape, overpowered by this scene of dread and horror.详情
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