Then, two and two, carrying on their shoulders heavy trays piled with presents, women mount the steps of the house, the bridegroom standing at the bottom. The bride's mother comes forth to meet them in a dress of pale-coloured China crape covered with a fine white saree. She waves her closed hand three times over the gifts, and then, opening it, throws rice on the ground. This action[Pg 16] she repeats with sugar and sweetmeats, and finally with a coco-nut. And each time she empties her hand a naked boy appears from heaven knows where, gathers up what she flings on the ground, and vanishes again, lost at once in the shadows of the garden.After passing through the town, all flowery with green gardens, at the end of a long, white, dusty road, where legions of beggars followed me, calling me "Papa" and "Bab," that is to say father and mother, I arrived at the residence of the Gaekwar, the Rajah of Baroda. At the gate we met the palace sentries released from duty. Eight men in long blue pugarees and an uniform of yellow khakee (a cotton stuff), like that of the sepoys, with their guns on their shoulders, looked as if they were taking a walk, marching in very fantastic step. One of them had a bird hopping about in a little round cage that hung from the stock of his gun. Three camels brought up the rear, loaded with bedding in blue cotton bundles.
"It is made at thirty-five, twenty, fifteen rupees."
In the street were bayadères, and women at every window, the pretty faces brightly illuminated, the plainer in a skilfully subdued light. The sound of tom-toms and pipes could be heard, and the guttural, quavering song of a dancing beauty performing for some amateur; quite young boys were wandering about the street, almost children, all in white. Where the roads met, a mosque was illuminated in honour of this month of Ramadan, and the believers were trooping out in a crowd.We changed horses every five miles; ill-kempt little beasts, and only half fed, who got through their stage only by the constant application of the whip, and shouts from the sais standing on the step; when released from harness they stood forlorn and hobbled off, lame of every leg, to their stables with no litter. Day broke, a dingy grey, dark with woolly cloud and heavy rain; a wall of fog rose up around us, while the road was uphill towards the mountains.Is a long row of bungalows in their own gardens, on each side of an avenue of thick trees that meet above the road. We crossed the bed of a dry torrent and came to the native village, a labyrinth of clay huts and narrow alleys through which goats and cows wandered, finding their way home to their own stables. On a raised terrace[Pg 47] three Parsees, bowing to the sun with clasped hands, prostrated themselves in adoration, and watched the crimson globe descend wrapped in golden haze; and as soon as the disc had vanished, leaving a line of fiery light in the sky, all three rose, touched each other's hands, passed their fingers lightly over their faces, and resumed their conversation.
From Lahore hither is an almost uninterrupted series of encampments—English and native regiments established in huts in the open fields far from every town, close only to the railway line. At one station a detachment of Indian guards were drawn up, and Abibulla declared from the number of men that they must be expecting a general at least; but nothing was discharged from the train but some cases of rupees, checked off by two English officers, and then carried to the barracks under the escort of sepoys.The manager also traded in clocks, and a selection was displayed for sale at one end of the stalls.And on the man's replying that he would try, the sultan, who chose that the monument should have no rival, caused the architect to be thrown into the Jumna on the spot, where he was dashed to pieces at the foot of his masterpiece, which remains unique.
The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.[Pg 60]
A naked fakir, his brown skin plastered with flour, and his long black hair all matted, bent over the bodies muttering holy words; then flourishing two yellow rags that he took out of a wallet hanging from his shoulder, he exorcised the station, driving away the spectre of the pestilence; going very fast, running along the line by which the evil had come, and vanishing where the rails ended behind the trees.
We reached the top of the hill, the sacred enclosure of the Ja?n temples. A stoppage again and a fresh dispute. The priests would not admit within the temples our soldiers, who wore shoes,[Pg 72] belts, and gun-straps made of the skins of dead beasts. The sowars wanted to go on, declaring that they would take no orders from "such men, priests with dyed beards, dressed in red flannel, with their turbans undone and heated with rage."[Pg 27]
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.And again ruins. Under an archway still left standing on piers carved with lilies and foliage, lay a whole family of pariahs covered with leprosy and sores.
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