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类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-10-28 05:19:45

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The carriage of the Rajah of Palitana awaited us this morning at Songad. As an escort two sowars in long blue cloaks and red turbans, their guns slung behind them, galloped by our vehicle. On each side of the road lay fields of scorched grass, quite burnt and very fine, glistening like silk, reflecting the sun as far as we could see.All round the Rajah's palace crowds a town of palaces, mosques, and temples dedicated to Vishnu; and outside the walls, on a plain lying between the hills of Amber, is another town, still thick with ruins amid the forest of encroaching trees. And it is all dead, deserted, dust-coloured, unspeakably sad, with the sadness of destruction and desertion in the midst of a landscape gorgeous with flowers and groves. In the palace of Amber, guides make a good[Pg 216] business of showing us the public rooms, baths, and bedrooms, all restored with an eye to the tourist. In the gardens, heavy with perfume, the trees display swinging balls of baked earth full of holes, which protect the ripening fruit from the monkeys; a whole tribe of them scampered off at our approach, and went to torment the peacocks that were solemnly promenading a path, and that presently flew away.At a station where we stopped, a man with a broad, jolly, smiling face got into the carriage. He was a juggler and a magician, could do whatever he would, and at the time when the line was opened[Pg 90] he threatened that if he were not allowed to travel free he would break the trains into splinters. The officials had a panic, and the authorities were so nervous that they gave way; so he is always travelling from one station to another, living in the carriages.

The poorhouse is about two miles from the city; it consists of a courtyard enclosed by walls, from which awnings are stretched supported on poles. And here from twelve to fifteen hundred wretched skeletons had found shelter, spectres with shoulder-blades almost cutting through the skin, arms shrunk to the bone, with the elbow-joint like a knot in the middle, and at the end hands which looked enormous and flat and limp, as if every knuckle were dislocated. Their gnarled knees projected from the fearful leanness of their legs, and the tightened skin between the starting ribs showed the hollow pit of the stomach. Men and women[Pg 192] alike were for the most part naked, but for a ragged cotton loin-cloth. And all had the same scared look in their eyes, the same grin of bare teeth between those hollow cheeks. Almost all had bleeding wounds where the bones had come through the skin.

In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilas—birds like magpies—almost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted red—terrible—straddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.In the train again, en route for Ahmedabad. As we crossed the fertile plain of Gujerat the first monkeys were to be seen, in families, in tribes, perched on tall pine trees, chasing each other, or swinging on the wires that rail in the road, and solemnly watching the train go by. Peacocks marched about with measured step, and spread their tails in the tall banyan trees tangled with flowering creepers. Shyer than these, the grey secretary birds, with a red roll above their beak, seemed waiting to fly as we approached. On the margin of the lakes and streams thousands of white cranes stood fishing, perched on one leg; and in every patch of tobacco, or dahl, or cotton, was a hut perched on four piles, its boarded walls and leaf-thatch giving shelter to a naked native, watching to scare buffaloes, birds, monkeys, and thieves from his crop.

On the outside, all round the lower part of the monument, carved borders frame flowers of pale mosaic in the walls; the ornament is in such faint relief that at a short distance it is invisible, and the Taj is seen only in the perfect elegance of its[Pg 206] proportions. The mausoleum is built on a broad terrace of white marble at a height of 270 feet, overhanging the Jumna; and the impressive, harmonious outline commands the plain from afar.

The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.

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A large building of red and white stone, with spacious arcades and a central dome, as vast as a cathedral, stands at the angle of two avenues—the[Pg 6] railway terminus; and a great market of iron and glass—Crawford Market. Here are mountains of fruit, greenery, and vegetables of every colour and every shade of lustre; and a flower garden divides the various market sheds, where little bronze coolies, in white, scarcely clad, sell oranges and limes.On the great banyan trees in the garden, and on every palm, torpid vultures sit in the sun, awaiting the meal that will come with the next funeral procession.

Then at Peshawur again in the evening, girls, with groups of soldiers in red jackets or Scotch kilts; the common women were horrible, whitened,[Pg 251] with loose shirts and tight-fitting trousers. One alone sat at her window wreathed about with mindi flowers in the crude light of a lamp. The others accosted the passer-by, laughing and shouting in shrill tones.Presently all the company is assembled, robed in long white tunics. The bridegroom, likewise dressed in white, has a chain of flowers round his neck; orchids, lilies, and jasmine, falling to his waist. In one hand he holds a bouquet of white flowers, in the other a coco-nut. A shawl, neatly folded, hangs over one arm.

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