The fog seemed to turn to solid smoke, impenetrably black, wrapping us in darkness which was suddenly rent by a red flash, blood-red, ending in a green gleam. The mist retained a tint of sulphurous copper for some time; then a second flash, and far away among the lurid clouds we had a glimpse of the Himalayas, pallid purple with green shadows against an inky sky. The[Pg 254] thunder, deadened by the masses of snow and very distant, rolled to and fro with a hollow sound, frightening the horses which struggled uphill at a frantic pace. And the dense fog closed round us once more, a dark green milkiness streaked with snow, which was falling in large flakes formed of four or five clinging together like the petals of flowers. Then it hailed, which completely maddened the horses, and then again snow, and it was literally night at ten in the morning when at last we reached this spot and the shelter of a bungalow.The ripe rice, in golden ears, is cut with sickles; a row of women in red gather it into sheaves, which men carry on their back, at once, to the next village, and there it is threshed out forthwith on floors but just swept.
The road goes on. Trees cast their shade on the flagstone pavement, but between the houses and through open windows the sandy plain may be seen, the endless whiteness lost in a horizon of dust.
There are women, too, in the throng of men, but fewer in number. Parsee ladies, draped in light sarees of pale-hued muslin bordered with black, which shroud them entirely, being drawn closely over the narrow skirt, crossed several times over the bosom, and thrown over the right shoulder to cover the head and fall lightly on the left shoulder. Hindoo women, scarcely clothed in red stuff, faded in places to a strong pink; a very skimpy bodice, the chol, embroidered with silk and spangles, covers the bust, leaving the arms and bosom free; a piece of thin cotton stuff, drawn round the legs and twisted about the waist, covers the shoulders and head, like a shawl. On their wrists and ankles are silver bangles; they have rings on their fingers and toes, broad necklaces with pendants, earrings, and a sort of stud of gold or copper, with coloured stones, through the left nostril. They go barefoot, pliant[Pg 8] forms avoiding the jostling of the crowd, and carrying on their head a pile of copper pots one above another, shining like gold, and scarcely held by one slender arm with its bangles glittering in the sun. The tinkle of the nanparas on their ankles keeps time with their swinging and infinitely graceful gait, and a scent of jasmine and sandal-wood is wafted from their light raiment. Moslem women, wrapped from head to foot in sacks of thick white calico, with a muslin blind over their eyes, toddle awkwardly one behind the other, generally two or three together. Native children beg, pursuing the passenger under the very feet of the horses; their sharp voices louder than the hubbub of shouts, bells, and gongs, which exhausts and stultifies, and finally intoxicates the brain.In the chief temple, whose walls were painted all over, a huge Buddha of gold and silver was hidden under wreaths of flowers round his neck, and a diadem of flowers on his brow, where blazed a luminous diamond; and flowers were arranged in a canopy over his head, and were strewn like a carpet on the steps of the shrine.
In the plain the sowars were performing an[Pg 280] Indian fantasia. Charging at a gallop, their wide sleeves flying behind them, they swept past like a whirlwind, aiming with their lances at a peg of wood stuck into the ground. Whenever it was speared there were frantic shouts and applause from a crowd of spectators, packed in the best places. In a cloud of dust, growing steadily thicker and hanging motionless over the riders, the performance went on, its centre always this same peg of wood, replaced again and again, exciting the enthusiasm of connoisseurs till the last ray of light died away.
"Dog! traitor! cruel wretch! eater of meat!——"As we returned to Lahore the palace rose before us among trees, a strip of wall, uninjured, covered with sapphire and emerald tiles; a fragile minaret crowning a tower bowered in flowering shrubs—and then the vision was past. The carriage drove on for[Pg 238] a long way by ruins and vestiges of beauty, and re-entered the town, where lanterns were being lighted over the throng that pushed and hustled about the fair.
In a copse, women, surrounded by naked children, were breaking stones, which men carried to the road. The women screamed, hitting the hard pebbles with a too small pick, the children fought, the men squabbled and scolded, and amid all this hubbub three Parsees, sitting at a table under the shade of a tamarind tree, were adding up lines of figures on papers fluttering in the wind. There was not a dwelling in sight, no sign of an encampment, nothing but these labouring folk and the bureaucracy out in the open air, under the beating sun.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.
Out of doors, meanwhile, one funeral procession almost trod on the heels of the last; at the latest gleam of day, and out towards the west, above the Field of Burning, a broad red cloud filled all one quarter of the sky.
Here in southern India the women wear hardly any trinkets, and their garb consists of sarongs and sarees, so thin that their shape is visible through the light stuff. In their hair, which is knotted low on the neck, they stick flowers, and occasionally light trailing sprays fall down on the throat. They all have gold studs screwed into the two upper front teeth; hideous are these two red-gold teeth among the others, sound and white under young lips!AHMEDABAD详情
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