The want of foresight in the people here is amazing. A servant earning five rupees a month got his son married, a child of fifteen, and for this event he bought fireworks on credit, and at enormous interest, which would cost him three years' wages.In one tent there was a display of innumerable gilt images, very suggestive of Jesuit influence—mincing, chubby angels, martyrs carrying palm-branches, and ecstatic virgins with clasped hands, all serving to decorate the shrine in which the god was to be carried back to the temple. Coloured fires lighted the workmen, and in the background the temple was darkly visible, with only a few dim lamps shrouded in incense, and burning before Rama, whose festival was being kept.
Soldiers, bristling with daggers and pistols in their belts, are on guard at the gate. Pikes and long muskets stand piled in the background; over this arsenal, flowering jasmine and convolvulus with enormous bell flowers hang their graceful shade.A plantation of theobromas (cacao), carefully enclosed and tended, with their puckered leaves, and fruit-pods as large as an ostrich egg hanging from the trunk and the larger branches, seemed quite melancholy, like wild things tethered.On the river-bank were some eagles devouring a dead beast. One of them fluttered up, but came back to the carrion, recovering its balance with some difficulty, its body was so small for its large, heavy wings. Then they all rose together straight into the air with slow, broad wing-strokes, smaller and smaller, till they were motionless specks against the sky, and flew off to vanish amid the snowy peaks.
And in the evening at mess—a dinner given in honour of a regiment marching through—news was brought in that close to Bunnoo, in the Kurrum valley, two travellers had been murdered in the night.All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-booth—a din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.
From Kusshalgar we were travelling in a tonga once more. The landscape was all of steep hills without vegetation; stretches of sand, hills of clay—lilac or rosy brick-earth scorched in the sun, green or brown earth where there had been recent landslips, baked by the summer heat to every shade of red. There was one hill higher than the rest, of a velvety rose-colour with very gentle undulations, and then a river-bed full of snowy-white sand, which was salt.
"Then twenty-eight?"As we stood up there the caravan for Cabul came in sight on the road below, and slowly disappeared wrapped in dust, with mechanical steadiness and[Pg 250] without a sound. After that came the other train of travellers from Peshawur, singing to the accompaniment of mule-bells, every sound swelled by the echo. Children's laughter came up to our ears, the scream of an elephant angry at being stopped—even at a distance we could still hear them a little—and then silence fell again under the flight of the eagles soaring in circles further and further away as they followed the caravan.
Next morning—so far, so high on the horizon! I saw a pink spot; then, as day broke, the rose colour spread—broader, lower, turned paler, then to white, and the Himalayas lay before me in blinding glory of size and light. Kinchinjunga, at a measureless distance, looked in the clear air as if it were quite close; and round the sovereign giant other giants rent their wrappings of cloud, an amphitheatre of peaks of dazzling whiteness lost against the sky, and almost insensibly fading away behind the vapour that rolled up from the abysses, grew[Pg 148] thicker, and settled into a compact mass over the lost summits, hiding the nearer heights and shrouding Darjeeling in opaque white fog.
"Yes. But how much is this?"Off at four in the morning, led by a Mongol guide with a broad expressionless yellow face. My steed was a perfect little devil of a horse of a light coffee colour.详情
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