Near the statues, which are placed in a row close to the wall, other statues, finer, slenderer, and more graceful, stood before the pedestals, anointing the stone with some oil which in time soaks in and blackens it, or else hanging lanterns up over the divinities. These were the temple servants, wearing nothing but the langouti tied round their loins; they either shuffle about barefoot, or remain motionless in rapt ecstasy before the little niches where the idols grin or scowl among branches of roses and amaryllis.In the chief temple, whose walls were painted all over, a huge Buddha of gold and silver was hidden under wreaths of flowers round his neck, and a diadem of flowers on his brow, where blazed a luminous diamond; and flowers were arranged in a canopy over his head, and were strewn like a carpet on the steps of the shrine.
Above Darjeeling—a modern and fashionable health-resort, a town of villas, for the most part with corrugated iron roofs—hangs a dense mist, cutting off the horizon at a distance of a few miles; and through the dull substance of this fleece, at an impossible height, there was a reflection—a mirage, an illusion, a brighter gleam, a bluer shadow, which might be the top of a mountain; but so high up, so far away, and above all so transient, that it failed to fix itself on the memory, blotted out at once by the pallid wall that shut[Pg 147] in the scene. But at sunset one thickness of the haze melted away, unveiling, leagues on leagues away, a chain of giant mountains, not yet the snowy peaks, but bright-hued cliffs on which gold and purple mingled in symphonies before dying into violet, turning to blue in the moonlight; and the mists fell once more—a shroud at our feet, an abyss of shadows, in which the tea-planters' lamps twinkled through the darkness.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 causeway of white stone, with a fragile [Pg 234]balustrade and columns bearing lanterns of gold, leads from the shore to the temple.
An old-world Indian city with nothing of modern flimsiness and tinsel. The arcades and balconies of the houses in the bazaar are carved out of solid wood, polished by ages to tones of burnished steel and warm gold. Copper nails in the doors shine in the sun. Along the quiet streets, where nothing passes by but, now and then, a slow-paced camel, Hindoos make their way, draped in pale pink, or in white scarcely tinged with green or orange colour; little naked children, with necklaces, bangles and belts of silver, looking like ribbons on their bronze skin. In front of the shops is a brilliant harmony of copper, sheeny fruits, and large pale green pots. A glad atmosphere of colour surrounds the smiling people and the houses with their old scorched stones.THE ENDTazulmulook finds Bakaoli asleep in her garden, and after plucking the miraculous flower he exchanges the ring for that of the princess and departs. Bakaoli awakes, and discovering the theft of the flower and of her ring is much disturbed, and gives orders that the thief is to be caught.
A tall wide gate beyond the bridge opens into the ferocious fortress of Hyderabad.A kind of lemon plant, with picotee-like flowers of a texture like crystalline pearl, its petals delicately fringed, exhales a fresh scent like verbena. Then, on an ebony-tree, overgrown with succulent leaves forming an edging to every bough, is a bird—as it would seem—a lilac bird, with open wings, which, as we approach, turns into an orchid.
This, then, is the malady of the appalling name—the Plague—hardened glands in the throat or under the arm; the disease that gives its victim fever, sends him to sleep, exhausts, and infallibly kills him.
We were off by break of day. Among hanging creepers, shrubs, and trees, temples, gilded by the rising sun, gleamed dimly through the rosy mist, and faded gradually behind a veil of white dust raised by the flocks coming down from Roza, or melted into the dazzling blaze of light over the distance.Round a village well, enclosed by walls with heavy doors that are always shut at night, a perfect flower-bed of young women had gathered, slender figures wrapped in robes of bright, light colours, drawing water in copper jars. The sunbeams, dropping between the leaves of a baobab tree that spread its immense expanse of boughs over the well, sparkled on their trinkets and the copper pots, dappling the gaudy hues of their raiment with flickering gold.Then a fat native lawyer began to speak, and silence fell on the crowd of three or four hundred listeners sitting behind the accused, as if they were in church. The monotonous voice went on and on, urging every plea.
Colaba is the port; the docks, with tall houses between the enormous warehouses. The silence is appalling; windows, doors—all are closed. Only a few coolies hurry by in the white sunshine, with[Pg 13] handkerchiefs over their mouths to protect them against the infection in these streets, whence came the plague which stole at first through the suburbs, nearer and nearer to the heart of the city, driving the maddened populace before it.But the enchantment of this rose-tinted land, vibrating in the sunshine, is evanescent. The city[Pg 3] comes into view in huge white masses—docks, and factories with tall chimneys; and coco-palms, in long lines of monotonous growth, overshadow square houses devoid of style.
At Srinagar you live under the impression that the scene before you is a panorama, painted to cheat the eye. In the foreground is the river; beyond it spreads the plain, shut in by the giant mountains, just so far away as to harmonize as a whole, while over their summits, in the perpetually pure air, hues fleet like kisses of colour, the faintest shades reflected on the snow in tints going from lilac through every shade of blue and pale rose down to dead white.Then follow more trays with tufts of jasmine stuck into the heart of a pink rose; and as the guest takes one of these bouquets the servant sprinkles first the flowers and then him with rose-water.
In every house a tiny lamp allowed us to see the women, squatting while they pounded millet, or cooked in copper pots. Then night suddenly fell, and I could no longer find my way about the dark alleys, stumbling as I went over cows lying across the path, till I suddenly found myself opposite a very tall pagoda, three storeys high. On the threshold the bonzes were banging with all their might on gongs and drums, alternately with bells. And on the opposite side of the street, in a sort of shed enclosed on three sides, but wide open to the passers-by, people in gay robes were prostrate before two shapeless idols, Krishna and Vishnu, painted bright red, twinkling with ornaments of tinsel and lead-paper, and crudely lighted up by lamps with reflectors. And then at once I was between low houses again, and going down tortuous streets to the river-bed,[Pg 48] whither I was guided by the sound of castanets and tambourines.详情
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