Towards noon the mass of Kinchinjunga again lifted its head above the clouds, now white with a dust of rosy gold or violet on the snow in the shadows; and again, as the clouds swept across, of every changing tint of steel and copper, pearl and sunshine, till, following on the ardent glory of sunset, a purple and living fire, like a flame within the very substance of the ice-fields, all died into[Pg 153] mysterious blueness under the broad pure light of the moon.Halting at noon at Kohala, we found a barber in the open street shaving and snipping his customers. In a cage hanging to the bough of a tree above his head a partridge was hopping about—black speckled with white, and gold-coloured wings. It had a strident cry like the setting of a saw.
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."Making my way among the too numerous gods in relief against the overwrought walls heavy with carving, I came to a wonderful balcony where, in broken cages, I found the parrots that had betrayed me, and among them an exquisite pale yellow cockatoo of great rarity.Then her bedroom: no bed, only a vast mattress rolled up against the wall, and spread over the floor every night—it must cover the whole room.
The ripe rice, in golden ears, is cut with sickles; a row of women in red gather it into sheaves, which men carry on their back, at once, to the next village, and there it is threshed out forthwith on floors but just swept.In the prince's stables were a long row of brood mares and superb stallions; and then a hundred or so of colts were turned out into the yard—mischievous, frisking things, romping against each other, suddenly stopping short, and wrapped ere long in white dust, which fell on us, too.
The young prince then goes on his way in search of the magical flower. He is about to rest awhile in a cavern, but at the moment when he lies down on a stone it is transformed into a monster made of bladder, which rears itself enraged in the air with a trumpet-cry. By good luck the king's son calls upon the aid of the prophet Suleiman, whom the dragon also reveres, and the pacified monster conveys Tazulmulook to the garden of Bakaoli, and, moreover, gives him a ring which will be a talisman in danger.As we went down to the shore a whole swarm of little dark boys wanted to sell scarabs, rattans, birds' nests shaped like pockets, and dream-flowers, gathered from the creepers on the temples; large almond-scented lilies, and hanging bunches of the ebony-tree flowers, so fragile in texture and already faded in the sun, but exhaling till evening a faint perfume of verbena and lemon.In the sleeping town of Darjeeling a bell and drum were sounding to announce the Tibetan Christmas. The Brahmin paradise remained invisible and mysterious behind a clear sky studded with stars.
In the middle of a garden, full of clumps of flowering shrubs standing on green lawns, is the Nadjiff Ackraff, a vast rotunda crowned with gilt[Pg 188] cupolas and spires, and all round the building is an arcade built in a square and studded with iron pins on which thousands of wax lights are stuck on the evenings of high festivals.There are two towns of Peshawur: one a distracted, silly place, with no beginning nor end, straggling along something in the manner of Madras, with an embryonic bazaar and all the amusements demanded by soldiers; the other enclosed in walls of dried mud, which are preserved only "to protect the town from robbers."
The fort of Allahabad, the fort of the mutiny of 1857, is a complete citadel where, in the thickness of the walls, behind screens of acacia trees, lurk doors into palaces. Among the gardens there are clearings full of guns and ambulance waggons, and enormous barracks and huts for native soldiers. Then on the ponderous stonework of the ramparts rise little kiosks in the light Hindoo-Mussulman style, elaborate and slender, built by Akbar the [Pg 183]conqueror, who took Prayag and razed it, to build on the site a city dedicated to Allah. And now modern architecture is slowly invading it, adding to the flat walls which hide under their monotony the gems of stonework with their elegant decoration."What a pity that the sahib does not like music!"A very solid structure, with walls like a fortress, contains the treasury of the sacred mount. Five guards in turn came to open as many padlocks, and at last the ponderous door turned slowly on its hinges. A car, an elephant, and a vehicle to which are harnessed two prancing horses, are all brought out to convey the idols when they go forth in a[Pg 81] procession. The animals are chased with almost artistic skill. The harness, starry with precious stones, all takes to pieces.
"Pané, sahib!"—"Water, sir!"At the railway station a woman, who would accept no gratuity, strewed flowers on the cushions of my carriage, and put garlands along the grooves of the open windows—bunches of ebony flowers, of Indian cork-flowers, lilies, and China roses on the point of dropping, only hanging to the calyx by the tip of the petals.
Here again the cars of the gods were neglected in the open air, and one of them, older than the rest, was fast being transfigured into a pyramid of shrubs and flowers.In the hotel compound—more absurd than all the rest, lost in a waste of open land beyond the seething native town—there was a swarm of coolie servants, their wives and their children, who played all day at climbing about the coaches put up under the trees. And, without ceasing, a maddening hubbub of laughter and crying came up from this litter of brats, more weariful than the silence of vacancy all around.Elephants, freshly painted, go past begging.
The last train gone, all round the station there was quite a camp of luckless natives lying on the ground, wrapped in white cotton, and sleeping under the stars, so as to be nearer to-morrow to the train[Pg 20] which, perhaps, might carry them away from the plague-stricken city.详情
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