Round a village well, enclosed by walls with heavy doors that are always shut at night, a perfect flower-bed of young women had gathered, slender figures wrapped in robes of bright, light colours, drawing water in copper jars. The sunbeams, dropping between the leaves of a baobab tree that spread its immense expanse of boughs over the well, sparkled on their trinkets and the copper pots, dappling the gaudy hues of their raiment with flickering gold.
Tazulmulook finds Bakaoli asleep in her garden, and after plucking the miraculous flower he exchanges the ring for that of the princess and departs. Bakaoli awakes, and discovering the theft of the flower and of her ring is much disturbed, and gives orders that the thief is to be caught.
A dark street corner where there were no shops. Under a canopy constructed of four bamboos thatched with straw, a young man in a light-coloured dhoti was sitting on a low stool; about him were women singing. Presently one of them came forward, and dipping her fingers into three little copper pots that stood on the ground in front of the youth, she took first oil, then a green paste, and finally some perfume with which she touched seven spots—the lad's feet, knees, shoulders, and turban. Then she wiped her fingers on the saree of the bridegroom's mother—for he was to be[Pg 252] married on the morrow—who was standing behind her son.
In one room we heard music—guzlas, drums, and a vina. There were three dancing-girls. At first they only performed the Indian "goose-step," the slow revolutions growing gradually quicker. But urged by the soldiers who filled the room and beat time with their sticks on the floor, the nautch-girls marked their steps, wriggled with heavy awkward movements, and tried to dance a Highland jig, taught by two Scotch soldiers.When the last stone was placed, Shah Jehan sent for the architect and went with him to the top of the mausoleum.
MADURAThe air is redolent of musk, sandal-wood, jasmine, and the acrid smell of the hookahs smoked by placid old men sitting in the shadow of their doors.Colombo again; and again the jewellers and their blue stones—an intoxicating, living blue.
There were people performing their devotional ablutions below stream from the place of burning, and one old man took a few drops of water in the hollow of his hand and drank it, quite close to a shapeless black mass at which a kite was pecking as it floated by.The cathedral, embowered in shrubs and tall banyans, stands on a square, where a pedestal awaits the bust of Dupleix.
Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glare—eyes that were already dead.At last, when it was very late, the reciter lifted the heavy idol on to his head. A few worshippers followed him, carrying the flowers, the little jars and the baskets offered to the goddess, and the procession marched off towards the Ganges; while the nautch-girls went on with their performance, giving loud, sharp shrieks out of all time with the shrill but somnolent music.From the roof, consisting of terraces between cupolas, there is a view of many temples glorified in the golden sunset, and nearer at hand stand ten[Pg 123] imposing columns, very tall—the last remaining vestiges of the rajah's elephant-house.
Spread before us in the iridescent atmosphere, the view extends over Palitana under its blue veil of light smoke, over the verdant plain chequered with plots of brown earth, and the winding ribbon of the Satrunji, a river as sacred to the Ja?ns as the Ganges is to the Brahmins. And far away, vague in the distance, a light shimmering more brightly where all is bright, lies the luminous breadth of the sea.At Srinagar you live under the impression that the scene before you is a panorama, painted to cheat the eye. In the foreground is the river; beyond it spreads the plain, shut in by the giant mountains, just so far away as to harmonize as a whole, while over their summits, in the perpetually pure air, hues fleet like kisses of colour, the faintest shades reflected on the snow in tints going from lilac through every shade of blue and pale rose down to dead white.A port crowded with steamers taking in coal, and very light barks high out of the water, kept in equilibrium by parallel outriggers at the ends of two flexible spars. These crank boats, made of[Pg 124] planks that scarcely overlap, were piled with luggage, and the boatmen jostle and turn and skim close under the fast-steaming transatlantic liners, amid a bewildering babel of shouts and oaths, under a sun hot enough to melt lead.
Another temple, Sas Bahu, likewise elaborately carved under a roof too heavy for it, has a terrace overhanging the hill, whence there is a view over Lashkar, the new palace, gleaming white among the huge trees of the park.
At mess there were two newly-arrived officers, come from Tochi; they had been attacked on the road in the night by sixteen men. The driver and the horse were killed; they themselves had not a scratch, and they told the story very much at their ease, relating the comic features of the incident—how a bullet had lodged itself in a pot hanging to a mule's pack, and the frightened creature had kicked "like mad."On the road the people bowed low as we passed, almost to the earth. The women, in token of respect, turned their backs and crouched down.详情
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