[Pg 19]Far away, at the end of the bazaar, in a street where no one passes, are the shoemakers' booths littered with leather parings; old cases or petroleum tins serve as seats. Among the workmen swarm children in rags, pelting each other with slippers.
At two or three leagues from Lahore, in a city of ruins, opposite a tumble-down mosque which is strewing a powdering of rose-coloured stones on its white marble court, stands the tomb of Jehangir, splendid, and more splendid amid the squalor that surrounds it.
In the courtyard a tall and gaudy cock was keeping the crows in order, driving them relentlessly away from the kitchen precincts. On the roof of the servants' quarters, always in the same spot, perched a kite, ready to pounce as soon as anything was thrown out. The doves, the house-pigeons, the fowls fled at once and squatted in corners; but the cock stood his ground, his feathers all on end, his crest erect, chuckling with rage and stalking round the yard within ten paces of the bird of prey.
With tea a servant brought packets of betel in a chased gold box, with a lid imitating a lotus flower. Then, when everybody was served, he carefully replaced the precious object in an embroidered silk bag and disappeared.A tea plantation—a garden of large shrubs pruned[Pg 293] in such a way as to secure the greatest possible growth of young shoots, and above the delicate tea plants a shady hedge of fan palms and taller trees. The leaves are gathered by day, spread in the evening on hurdles and left for the night in open sheds. On the morrow they are first thrown into a sort of bottomless square funnel which revolves on a board; rolled and broken in this machine they are ready for drying. The tea passes through twenty grades of increasing temperature, and in drying it gives out the most delightful aroma—a mixture of sweetbriar, seaweed, and violets, with a scent of tea too. The leaves are finally sifted, which sorts them in four sizes into boxes containing the different qualities.
By three in the morning we had started on our way. At the very first streak of day, in front of us, on the road, was a snow-leopard, a graceful supple beast, with a sort of overcoat above its grey fur spotted with black, of very long, white hairs. It stood motionless, watching some prey, and it was not till we were close that it sprang from the road with two bounds, and then disappeared behind a rock with an elastic, indolent swing.
At the railway station thousands of people had collected to take leave of a great turbaned moollah from Mecca, dressed in yellow silk. Long after we had left Darjeeling the faithful ran by the side of the carriage to kiss his hand, on which blazed an enormous diamond cut in a cone; and all along the road, when the train going downhill went too fast for anyone to keep up with it, Moslem natives bowed and prostrated themselves in the road, shouting words of Godspeed to the holy man. And at one stopping-place a little carpet was spread, on which he took off his shoes and prayed—hurried through his last prostrations by the whistle of the locomotive.He came into ours as if he were at home, and amused himself by worrying me. At first he made believe to throw my rings out of window, substituting others, I know not how, which I saw fall on the line and roll into the grass on the bank. My watch got into his hands and vanished; I found it in my friend T——'s pocket, and afterwards in a basket of provender closed at Bhawnagar, and which I unpacked with my own hands.
A great crowd round the bungalow and along the road, and a mass of sepoys and police, made Abibulla remark:So, after waiting for the reply of the gentleman whose business it was to give me this free pass, seeing that he could not make up his mind, I left the town without it.
Then into a garden with a number of quite narrow, straight paths bordered with nasturtiums, tall daisies, and geraniums, while a tangle of jasmine, china roses, bougainvillea, and poinsettia flourished freely under the shade of tamarind and palm trees. Over a clump of orange trees in blossom a cloud of butterflies was flitting, white patterned with black above, and cloisonnés beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.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.
The old king is at once cured; he embraces his sons again and again. After this emotion the first thing he remarks is the new palace that has sprung from the ground exactly opposite his own."And is that all?"The south-western side of the great rock of Gwalior is hewn into temples sheltering gigantic statues of Tirthankar; there are the usual bas-reliefs all over the walls, idols squatting under canopies and pagodas, slender columns supporting arches, standing out in contrast with the ochre-coloured stone. Other temples, vast halls as at Ellora—a vale of pagodas, "the happy valley"—have all disappeared under the picks of engineers, to make a dusty road to the new town of bungalows all adobe and straw thatch.详情
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