At night, in the crowded station, a guard of honour was waiting, composed of sepoys. There was shouting among the crowd, a fanatical turmoil, a storm of orders, and heavy blows. Some great[Pg 93] magnate got out of the train, surrounded by secretaries and officers. The soldiers, bearing torches, attended him to his carriage; they remounted their horses, following the vehicle, in which a light dress was visible. Very fast, and with a great clatter, they rode away into the silent night fragrant with rich scents; they were lost under the trees to reappear in the distance on a height, the torches galloping still and the smoke hanging in a ruddy cloud above the bright steel and the white cruppers. Then, at a turn in the road, they all vanished.[Pg 245]
Legends have gathered round the Taj Mahal as about every old building in India, and this one seems to me not impossible in its barbarity."Could you design another tomb as beautiful as this?" asked the emperor.
Then at Peshawur again in the evening, girls, with groups of soldiers in red jackets or Scotch kilts; the common women were horrible, whitened,[Pg 251] with loose shirts and tight-fitting trousers. One alone sat at her window wreathed about with mindi flowers in the crude light of a lamp. The others accosted the passer-by, laughing and shouting in shrill tones.THE END
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.
And as the priests knew that the beast would need no help they again left me to myself. Up came the elephant at a brisk trot, flourishing his trunk and hooting; within two yards of me he stopped and stood still. He accepted a four-anna piece that I offered him, and handed it up for his driver, but finding no one on his back he put the coin back into my pocket, and sniffing all over my coat found a biscuit, ate it, and then quietly went back to his stable.
At a stopping-place a flock of sheep huddled together in terror, hens scuttered about clucking anxiously, the stable dogs crouched and slunk; high overhead a large eagle was slowly wheeling in the air.
[Pg 119]We went into the observatory, where the servants were sleeping in the open air on camp beds, lying across each other and blocking the entrance.[Pg 177] I went to gaze at the north star, looking very small, a tiny spangle of blue in the blue velvet sky, visible at the top of a crazy flight of steps that goes up to nowhere in the air from the topmost terrace.Not far from Ahmedabad, in a sandy desert[Pg 62] where, nevertheless, a few proliferous baobabs grow, there is a subterranean pagoda drowned in stagnant water that has filled three out of the six floors. These are now sacred baths, in which, when I went there, Hindoos were performing their pious ablutions. Sculptured arcades, upheld by fragile columns, skirt the pools; the stones are green under the water, and undistinguishable from the architecture reflected in the motionless surface that looks blue under the shadow of the great banyan trees meeting in an arch over the temple. A sickly scent of lotus and sandal-wood fills the moist air, and from afar, faint and shrill, the cries of monkeys and minah-birds die away into silence over the calm pool.
In the bazaar a light, glossy cheetah was being led round for an airing. The beast had on a sort of hood of silk stuck with peacock's feathers, which its keeper pulled down over its eyes when it saw a prey on which it was eager to spring; and with its eyes thus blinded, it would lick the hand that gave it an anna with a hot tongue as rough as a rasp.
The hills are left behind us; the plateau of Cashmere spreads as far as the eye can see, traversed by the glistening Jellum, that slowly rolling stream, spreading here and there into lakes.
Adinath, a Ja?n temple, is roofed with huge blocks of stone. The airy architecture is a medley of balconies, of pierced panels, of arcades in squares, in lozenges, in octagons; the two stories, one above the other, are on totally different plans, and along every wall, on every column and every balustrade runs a fatiguing superfluity of ornament, figures and arabesques repeated on the stone, of which not an inch is left plain.Gauze and muslin dresses moved gracefully about against the background of bamboos and roses. Light footsteps scarcely bent the grass; the ripple of talk, with its sprinkling of Indian words, was sweet and musical. Fireflies whirled above the plants making little tendrils of light; there was dreaminess in the air—an anticipation of fairyland to which the music seemed the prelude.详情
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