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.
Under the blinding sunshine reflected from the whitewashed houses, an incredibly mixed crowd, squeezed against the railings of the custom-house wharf, stands staring at the new arrivals. Natives, naked but for a narrow loin-cloth rolled about their hips; Parsees in long white tunics, tight white trousers, and on their heads hideous low square caps of dark wax-cloth, pursuing the stranger with offers of money-changing; Hindoos, clad in thin bright silk, and rolls of light-hued muslin on their head; English soldiers, in white helmets, two of whom stare at me fixedly, and exclaim that, "By Jo', Eddy has missed this steamer!"Before daybreak, before the réveillée, the moollah's prayer roused the Sikhs, of which two regiments were quartered in the fort; and till it was broad daylight, till the sun had chased away shadows and sadness, I still felt the melancholy, the twilight sense of uneasiness left by that slow and plaintive chant.
Close to a village that has sprouted under the baobab-trees, in the midst of the plain that once was Khoutab, in the court of a mosque, is the marble sarcophagus of a princess. Grass is growing in the hollow of the stone that covers her, in fulfilment of the wishes of the maiden, who in her humility desired that when she was dead she should be laid to rest under the common earth whence the grass grows in the spring. And not far from the rajah's daughter, under a broad tamarind tree, in the blue shade, is the tomb of Kushru, the poet who immortalized Bagh-o-Bahar. On the sarcophagus, in the little kiosk, was a kerchief of silk and gold, with a wreath of fresh flowers renewed every day by the faithful.
The storm raged on all day, bringing down clouds that swept the earth and yawned in cataracts, to the awful roar of the thunder that shook the foundation of rock.
A tame white antelope was wandering about the garden of the old rajahs' palace, under a shower of gardenia-like flowers that hung by a stem[Pg 88] scarcely thicker than a thread. The whole of one avenue was strewn with this snow, on which the graceful little beast, with its large sad eyes, was feeding. Further on, under some other trees with red blossoms, stands a little mausoleum built by the prince over Jacky, his dog, "who was faithful and good."[Pg 40]
The Viharas, monasteries of cells hollowed out in the hillside, extend for more than half a mile; briars and creepers screen the entrances leading to these little retreats, a tangle of flowers and carvings.
Close to a shop where I was bargaining for some old bronzes, in an open booth, and quite alone among the metal jars and trays, sat a boy of four, his only garment a green silk jacket bordered with blue velvet, stitched with silver thread; there was nothing between the little vest and his bright bronze skin. He had a blue cap embroidered with gold, and his eyes were darkened with khol. He was drawing lines very neatly on a slate, and then wrote beneath them the pretty Hindoo letters that look like cabalistic signs, saying them as he went on, pa, pa, pa, pi, pi, pi, pa?, pa?, pa?, pom, pom, pom, till at last, seeing that I was looking at him and smiling, quite fascinated by his pretty ways, he burst out laughing, a hearty, happy, baby laugh, and then gravely went on with his business again.The Ghoorkhas, small men and very active, young too, with Chinese features, were practising gymnastics. And recruits were being drilled, two of them barefoot, though wearing their gaiters.
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.Then, in a blaze of coloured fire, a fortissimo of music, and a whirlwind of drapery, they stopped exhausted in front of the idol. The lights were put out, the tom-toms were the only sound, and the procession moved on, escorting the shrine which glittered for some time yet, till it disappeared at an angle, leaving the temple in darkness just tinted blue by the moon.
When the express had arrived that morning from Bombay, eight bodies were found of victims to the plague who had died on the way. They were laid on the platform and covered with a white sheet; and in the station there was a perfect panic, a surge of terror which spread to the town, and broke up the market. The shops were all shut, and the people rushed to their knees before the idols in the temples.详情
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