Deeply graven in the stone of one of the walls is the giant hand of Ali the Conqueror, the terrible, who came from the land of the Arabs, killing all on his way who refused to be converted to Islam. And he died in the desolate Khyber, where all who pass do him honour, and entreat his protection on their way.
At the last moment some porters, preceded by two sowars in uniform and holding pikes, bore a large palankin, hermetically closed, to the door of a first-class carriage, and softly set it down. The carriage was opened for a moment: I could see within a party of women-servants, shrouded in white muslin, who were preparing a couch. An old negress handed out to the porters a large sheet, which they held over the palankin, supporting it in such a way as to make a covered passage screening the carriage door. There was a little bustle under the sheet—the end was drawn in, and the sheet fell over the closed door.Round the railway station crowds the village of Chandernagore, the huts close together, with no land to spare, and at length we were in the city of houses, with broad terraces in front in a classic style, with colonnades and decorations in relief, and broad eaves overhanging for shade. And beautiful gardens, bougainvilleas, and almond trees, white-blossomed faintly touched with pink, hedge in streets with foreign-sounding names. The air was full of the fresh scent of water and greenery and of the blessed peace of silence—so rare in India.
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.Before us the road lay pink in colour, with purple lines where the pebbles were as yet un-crushed; it was hedged with blossoming thorn-bushes, and among the yellow and violet flowers parrots were flitting, and screaming minahs, large black birds with russet-brown wings, gleaming in the sun like burnished metal.
We saw the Jasmine tower from a corner of the garden in the glow of sunset. With its gilt cupola blazing in the low beams, its amber-hued walls as transparent as melting wax, and its pierced screen-work, it looked so diaphanous, so fragile, that it might be carried away by the evening breeze. And beyond the pavilion, above the ramparts carved with huge elephants, lies the old Hindoo palace, deserted by Jehangir for his house of pale marbles—an endless palace, a labyrinth of red buildings loaded to the top with an agglomeration of ornament supporting flat roofs. And pagodas that have lost their doors, a work of destruction begun by Aurungzeeb. One court is still intact, overhung by seventy-two balconies, where the zenana could look on at the dancing of bayadères. Perfect, too, is the queen's private apartment, with two walls between which an army kept guard by day and by night.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."By noon, under the torrid blaze which takes the colour out of everything, exhaustion overpowers the city. Vehicles are rare; a few foot-passengers try to find a narrow line of shade close to the houses, and silence weighs on everything, broken only by the buzzing of flies, the strident croak of birds of prey.
In the distance is the great mosque which no unbeliever may enter; the doors stand wide open. The only ornaments on the white walls are the lamps, hung with red. In the court of the mosque,[Pg 97] under magnificent trees, are the tombs of the Nizams, with stone lattices, jewellery of marble, fragile pierced work, whereon wreaths of pale flowers are wrought with infinite grace. Near these tombs are two large fountains, where a crowd of men were bathing, talking very loud; and a large basin of porphyry full of grain was besieged by grey pigeons.After the delay, which in India is a matter of course, the caravan set out—the last to go; for during the past three months no European had[Pg 247] crossed the pass, and in consequence of misunderstandings with some of the rebel tribes to the north, even the natives were prohibited henceforth from going to Cabul.
[Pg 27]To the Chandni Chowk—the bazaar. In a miniature-painter's shop was a medley of ivories, of boxes inlaid with silver and ebony, and toys carved in sandal-wood.
Out in the street a woman, bare-backed, was submitting to be brushed down the spine by a neighbour with a brush of cuscus; she scorned to answer me when I asked whether she felt better, but shutting her eyes desired the operator to go on more slowly.The muddy waters reflected the grey houses and the roofs of unbaked clay, on which the winter snows were melting in black trickling drops.Here, once more, is the spectre of the mutiny that broke out in the Residency, of which the ruins may be seen in the middle of a park intersected by watercourses, the English flag still proudly waving over them.
And then, under the verandah, the accused were brought up: an old man and a youth, father and son, both superbly handsome, very tall, erect, haughty, in spite of the hustling of the armed men and the heavy chains that weighed on them; and after bowing low to the judge they stood towering above the crowd of witnesses, soldiers, and native functionaries, in magnificent dignity and calm indifference.Outside the town of Delhi a road bordered by great trees leads across the white plain, all strewn with temples and tombs, to Khoutab, the ancient capital of the Moguls—a dead city, where the ruins still standing in many places speak of a past of unimaginable splendour. There is a colossal tower of red masonry that springs from the soil with no basement; it is reeded from top to bottom, gradually growing thinner as it rises, with fillets of letters in relief, and balconies on brackets as light as ribbands alternating to the top. It is an enormous mass of red stone, which the ages have scarcely discoloured,[Pg 219] and was built by Khoutab-Oudeen Eibek to commemorate his victory over the Sultan Pithri-Raj, the triumph of Islam over Brahminism.
The guardian fakirs who watch the sacred flag sat under a tree in front of the temple. One of these, quite young, was beautiful beyond words. He had taken a vow always to stand. Leaning on a long pole he rocked himself without ceasing; for an instant he allowed his rapt eyes to rest on the bystanders, and then looked up again at the plume of white horse-hair that crowns the flagstaff. His legs were rather wide apart and evidently stiff; he walked without bending his knees, and then as soon as he stood still he rested his chin on his long cane, and swayed his body as before.详情
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