Further yet lay the artificial lake of Meer Alam, reflecting the palace of Baradari and the russet plain, infinite as far as the eye could reach towards the north, where other superb mausoleums were visible in their whiteness."Nothing could be fine enough to be worthy of[Pg 212] Akbar, so this was made in a hurry that he might at least rest in peace without delay."
Then the dancing began again, interrupted for a minute by the call of the night-watchman as he went past carrying a long bamboo. He paused for a moment to watch the performance, and then was lost in the darkness.
One of my sepoys was lying asleep in the [Pg 82]verandah of the bungalow. A variety of articles hung from his belt: an antelope's horn made into a powder-flask, several tassels of red and green silk threaded in a row, a triple chain of copper serving to hang up lamps in front of the sacred images, a small damascened knife in a crimson velvet sheath, and a tiny yellow earthenware bottle containing kohl.
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.
At the end of the passage was a sort of den, where, through the open door, I caught sight of a marvellous Indian hanging of faded hues on a pale ground, hidden in places by stains; the noble pattern represented a peacock spreading his tail between two cypresses.Opposite the hotel, beyond the tennis club, is a sort of no-man's-land, where carriages are housed under tents. Natives dust and wash and wipe down the carriages in the sun, which is already very hot; and the work done, and the carriages under cover, out come swarms of little darkies, like ants, who squall and run about among the tents till sunset.
Inland from Colombo it is pure enchantment to travel among the rich and tangled vegetation of every shade of green that grows by the margins of the pools, the rivers, and the rice-fields. At first, skirting the shallows, where men, standing to their waists in water, were fishing with large nets which[Pg 126] they managed but clumsily, the flat banks are overgrown with anthuriums, their broad leaves of dark velvet or of light gauze splashed with rose and white, mirrored in the channels that form a network to irrigate the rice-swamps. Then ferns, bamboos, and feathery reeds in every varying shade of gold; creepers clinging to the trunks of coco trees or ph?nix-palms bear bunches of pink or yellow blossoms between the palm-leaves, invading everything with their luxuriance, and forming a gaudy undergrowth below the tall trees—a light but impenetrable thicket where the sun casts warm purple shadows.The cathedral, embowered in shrubs and tall banyans, stands on a square, where a pedestal awaits the bust of Dupleix.
The god having been placed in the shrine, which was enormously heavy, and took a hundred men to carry it, the procession set out. First two drums, then some children burning coloured fire and whirling fireworks round above their heads. Three oxen with housings of velvet, richly embroidered in gold, carried tom-tom drummers, and behind them came the priests and the god, hardly visible among the lights and flowers on the shrine. A breath of awe fell on the crowd as the divinity came by; they bowed in adoration with clasped hands and heads bent very low.In the atmosphere floated a pale blue smoke, rising from a heap of weeds that some children were burning, a weird sort of incense, acrid and aromatic, fading against the too-blue sky.Very early in the morning we met a many-coloured caravan of men, women, and children riding astride on asses, amid baskets and bundles. They were on their way to a wedding: they had stopped to rest for the last time; and alone, far from the merry, noisy group, a "bad woman" sat down on a stone. She was on the way to the same festival, and was allowed to travel with the[Pg 288] caravan for succour in case of need; but she was not permitted to join the party.
Toglackabad, again an ancient Delhi, a rock on the bank of the Jumna after crossing a white desert; walls of granite, massive bastions, battlemented towers of a Saracen stamp, rough-hewn, devoid of ornament, and uniform in colour—bluish with light patches of lichen. The enclosure has crumbled into ruin, in places making breaches in the walls, which nevertheless preserve the forbidding aspect of an impregnable citadel.A kind of grey snipe, as they rose to fly, spread white wings which made them look like storks or gulls, and then, dropping suddenly, became dull specks again, scarcely distinguishable on the margin of the tank. Ibis, on the watch, with pretty, deliberate, cautious movements, stood on one leg,[Pg 105] their bodies reflected in the mirror on which lay the lotus and the broad, frilled leaves of the water-lily, and a sort of bind-weed hanging from the edge in festoons of small, arrow-shaped leaves, with a crowd of tiny pink starry flowers that looked as if they were embroidered on the water.
I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grass—the foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloud—the dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-wool—a speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was Gaurisankar—Mount Everest—the top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea.The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.详情
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