The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.
Next day was kept as the spring festival. Every man had a rose stuck into his turban, and a shirt embroidered in gold on the shoulders and breast. The women appeared in stiff and gaudy veil cloths, bedizened with trumpery jewellery. Everybody was gay; a little excited towards evening by arrack, and dancing, and singing to the eternal tom-toms. Even the fiercest men from the hills, with black[Pg 279] turbans and enormously full calico trousers that once were white, and shirts embroidered in bright silks, had set aside their ferocious looks and stuck roses in their pugarees, smiling at those they met.Music attracted us to where the cross-roads met, darboukhas struck with rapid fingers and a bagpipe droning out a lively tune. The musicians sat among stones and bricks, tapping in quick time on their ass's-skin drums, beating a measure for some masons to work to. Women carried the bricks men spread the mortar; they all sang and worked with almost dancing movements in time with the music, as if they were at play.
"Here lies Jehangir, Conqueror of the World."The streets were hung with gaudy flags and[Pg 135] coloured paper. Altars had been erected, four poles supporting an awning with flounces of bright-coloured silk, and under them a quantity of idols, of vases filled with amaryllis and roses, and even dainty little Dresden figures—exquisite curtseying Marquises, quite out of their element among writhing Vishnus and Kalis.
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.
Outside, under a thatched screen, sits the punkah coolie, his legs crossed, the string in his hand; and as soon as everyone goes into the room he wakes up, rocks his body to and fro, his arm out in a fixed position, swaying all of a piece with a mechanical see-saw, utterly stupid. He will go to sleep lulled by his own rocking, and never wake unless the cord breaks, or somebody stops him.
More and yet more temples, seen through the mist of weariness, the nightmare of grimacing idols, the heavy vapour of the incense burnt in every chapel, and of the flowers brought by the pilgrims. A dark red pagoda, lighted by a mysterious blue gleam falling intermittently from somewhere in the roof, enshrined a white marble god, whose glittering gems seemed to rise and fall behind the cloud of perfume that floated about him.On quitting Hyderabad, to the right and left of the iron road, the landscape was for a long way the same; rocks, that looked as if they had been piled up and then rolled over, lay in russet heaps among peaceful little blue lakes without number, breaking the monotony of the wide, scorched fields, a sheet of pure gold. At one of the stations a beggar was rattling his castanets furiously, and singing something very lively and joyous. At the end of each verse he shouted an unexpected "Ohé!" just like the cry of a Paris ragamuffin.
After inspecting my little permit to visit the Khyber, the officials at the fort had placed in my carriage a soldier of the native Khyber rifle-corps, six feet six in height, placid and gentle. When I got out of the carriage to walk up a hill he would follow a yard or so behind, and watching all my movements, looked rather as if he were taking me to prison than like an escort to protect me.At an angle of the stairs of violet-tinted stone, which lead to the summit of the hill, a tablet of green marble, engraved in flowing Arabic characters, remains uninjured, the record of the great deeds of some emperor of Golconda.
Very gradually the measure quickened, the pitch grew shriller, and with faster and freer movements the bayadères were almost leaping in a sort of delirium produced by the increasing noise, and the constantly growing number of lights.详情
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