>At the top of Malabar Hill, in a garden with freshly raked walks and clumps of flowers edged with pearl-shells, stand five limewashed towers, crowned with a living battlement of vultures: the great Dokma, the Towers of Silence, where the Parsees are laid after death, "as naked as when they came into the world and as they must return to nothingness," to feed the birds of prey, which by the end of a few hours leave nothing of the body but the bones, to bleach in the sun and be scorched[Pg 30] to dust that is soon carried down to the sea by the first rains of the monsoon.
In the plain, beyond shady avenues of tamarind and terminalia trees, Hardwar begins again, a second town of large buildings, buried in the greenery of banyans and bamboos. Here again was the ghost of a bazaar, where all seemed dead under the bleaching sun—a bazaar bereft of sellers, no one in the booths, and no buyers in the deserted streets.In a very quiet little alley, fragrant of sandal-wood, men may be seen in open stalls printing patterns with primitive wooden stamps, always the same, on very thin silk, which shrinks into a twisted cord reduced to nothing when it is stretched out to dry.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.
High in the air, in the first mausoleum, at the head and foot of the white marble cenotaph, covered with letters that look like creepers, are tablets bearing inscriptions which record the life of the hero; and above the sarcophagus rises an almost impossibly light and airy structure—a canopy of white marble supported on columns as slender as flower-stems.
A bulbul, flying out of a temple where it had been picking up the offered rice, perched on a pomegranate tree and began to sing, at first a little timid chirp, and then a ripple of song, soon drowned by the shrieks of parrots, which came down on the tree and drove out the little red-breasted chorister.
Flocks of almost tame partridges and wood-pigeons occupying the road did not fly till they were almost under the horses' feet, and all the way as we went, we saw, scampering from tree to tree, the scared little squirrels, grey with black stripes and straight-up bushy tails.Tazulmulook on his way meets a blind man, whom he restores to sight by the help of the magical flower; the man relates the story of the cure to the four brothers, who quickly follow up Tazulmulook and presently overtake him. After a short conflict they rob him of the talisman and fly. The young prince is in despair, but as he wrings his hands he rubs Bakaoli's ring and the dragon instantly appears. Tazulmulook commands him forthwith to build a palace in front of that of King Zainulmulook.
One of the police in charge had a whip, and when he was leading away the old man, holding his chain he "played horses" with him, to the great amusement of the bystanders, and even of the old fellow himself.
The dinner-table was covered with flowers—Maréchal Niel and Gloire de Dijon roses—but enormous, as big as saucers, and of such a texture, such a colour! a tissue of frost and light; and round the table, which was loaded with silver plate, were grey and red uniforms. Strains of music were wafted in through the open windows from the regimental band playing slow waltz-tunes a little way off.
As we returned the wind had fallen, and the men rowed. The moon rose pale gold, and in the distance, in the violet haze, the lights of Bombay mingled with the stars. The boatmen's[Pg 23] chant was very vague, a rocking measure on ascending intervals.Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.
At the end of the garden are the bird sellers, their little cages packed full of parrots, minahs, and bulbuls; and tiny finches, scarcely larger than butterflies, hang on the boughs of ebony trees and daturas in bloom.One morning a quantity of dead rats were found lying on the ground; next some pigeons and fowls. Then a man died of a strange malady—an unknown disease, and then others, before it was known that they were even ill. A little fever, a little swelling under the arm, or in the throat, or on the groin—and in forty-eight hours the patient was dead. The mysterious disease spread and increased; every day the victims were more and more numerous; an occult and treacherous evil, come none knew whence. At first it was attributed to some dates imported from Syria, to some corn brought from up-country; the dates were destroyed, the corn thrown into the sea, but the scourge went on and increased, heralded by terror and woe.详情
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