In a coach-house, through which we passed on our way to see the prince's favourite horses with the state carriages—quite commonplace and comfortable, and made at Palitana—was a chigram,[Pg 68] off which its silk cover was lifted; it was painted bright red and spangled with twinkling copper nails. This carriage, which is hermetically closed when the Ranee goes out in it, was lined with cloth-of-gold patterned with Gohel Sheri's initials within a horseshoe: a little hand-glass on one of the cushions, two boxes of chased silver, the curtains and hangings redolent of otto of roses.
THE SACRED HILL
One old man, indeed, bowed so low that he fell into the water, and all the worshippers shouted with laughter.The morning mist shrouds everything; the scene insensibly passes through a series of pale tints, to reappear ere long in the clear rosy light, which sheds a powdering of glowing gold on the broad roadstead of Bombay.
Close to a temple, of which the cornice is decorated with female figures holding musical instruments, on a sort of terrace a party of youths were making a distracting din with brass instruments, acutely shrill, and, of course, tom-toms. Two very small temples covered with brass that shines like gold stand in the bazaar to mark the beginning and end of the coppersmiths' quarter, where every stall rings with the tinkle of the little hammers tapping the metal that is beaten into trays and pots and a thousand vessels for the worship of the gods and for domestic purposes. Workmen aged four, the great-grand-sons of the master-smith, were already trying their 'prentice hand, chiselling the hard metal with a free touch, and ornamenting cups and bowls of traditional shape. And this is the only part of the calm and lazy city, living on its temples and its sacred river,[Pg 161] where the visitor feels himself a "tourist." Here the shops for the special craft of Benares are furnished with the unwonted luxury of chairs, and some display of signs and wares is made. Further on is a large open place full of piles of flowers, garlands of jasmine and marigold, and heaps of rose petals to be strewn on the water.
Here, one by one, in came the nautch-girls, dancers. Robed in stiff sarees, their legs encumbered with very full trousers, they stood extravagantly upright, their arms away from their sides and their hands hanging loosely. At the first sound of the tambourines, beaten by men who squatted close to the wall, they began to dance; jumping forward on both feet, then backward, striking their ankles together to make their nanparas ring, very heavy anklets weighing on their feet, bare with silver toe-rings. One of them spun on and on for a[Pg 29] long time, while the others held a high, shrill note—higher, shriller still; then suddenly everything stopped, the music first, then the dancing—in the air, as it were—and the nautch-girls, huddled together like sheep in a corner of the room, tried to move us with the only three English words they knew, the old woman repeating them; and as finally we positively would not understand, the jumping and idiotic spinning and shouts began again in the heated air of the room.
A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.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.
And then seeing that I did not go, that on wakening again from his dream I was still there, he fixed his eyes on me and caught sight of a medal that I wear.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.
Colombo again; and again the jewellers and their blue stones—an intoxicating, living blue.One of these mausoleums served us for a bungalow. The distance was visible from the window openings, which were fringed with cuscus blinds[Pg 39] that would be pulled down at night: the spreading dark plain, broken by gleaming pools, and dotted with the lamps in the temples to Vishnu, of which the cones were visible in silhouette, cutting the clear horizon.MADRAS
And this morning I had seen in the place of Akbar or Jehangir, a sturdy, blowsy soldier, in his red coatee, his feet raised higher than his head, spread out in his wicker deck-chair, and reading the latest news just brought by the mail from Europe.详情
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