Suddenly there was a panic among the horses; they shied, reared, and bolted across the fields, and the road being cleared, the elephants belonging to the Ameer of Cabul went by, to march at the head of the caravan. Next came a thousand camels, also the Ameer's; like the elephants, they carried no baggage, but on the back of one female was a young one, tied into a basket, born only the day before, all white and woolly.In front of the palace, beds filled with common plants familiar in every European garden fill the place of honour; they are very rare, no doubt, in[Pg 54] these latitudes, and surprising amid the gorgeous hedges of wild bougainvillea that enclose the park.And under an arcade priests were hanging the shrine with wreaths of pink and yellow flowers, in preparation for its nocturnal progress, while an old woman, all alone, was bathing in the tank, with much splashing and noise of waters.
In the town a zebu cow was trotting along with an air of business. To avoid a vehicle she jumped on to the footpath and went her way along the flagstones, and every Hindoo that she passed patted her buttock and then touched his forehead with the same hand with great reverence.As I was leaving, the fakir rose amid the cries of all the people, who clamoured for his blessing. He[Pg 246] silenced them by a sign, then laying one hand on my shoulder, after looking at my medal—At the bazaar we were positively hunted as customers; the clamour was harassing, and everything was displayed for sale in the open street, while the owner and his family crowded round us and hindered us from going a single step further.
From the summit we looked down over a panorama of the town, set out in square blocks sunk in the verdure of palms, bamboos, and banyans. At our feet was the cupola of the temple of Siva, all gold, and covered with bosses, the edges of the mouldings catching the sun. Besides this a number of coloured domes, painted in pale shades faded by the sunshine, descended the almost perpendicular incline down to the bazaar, where the throng was beginning to stir like white ants, of slow gait and deliberate gestures, their light-hued dhoutis flitting about the stalls for drink and fruit. Far away, beyond the bright green rice-fields, and against the horizon of intensely blue hills, the rocks stand out—French rocks and Golden rocks—where the treasure of the conquered natives was distributed to English soldiers. It might almost be fancied that a glow of metal still shines on the smooth stone, a warm, yellow stone bathed in sunshine.
At last the bridegroom goes up the steps. The mother-in-law repeats the circular wave of welcome over the young man's head with rice and sugar and an egg and a coco-nut; then she takes the garland, already somewhat faded, from his neck, and replaces it by another twined of gold thread and jasmine flowers, with roses at regular intervals. She also changes his bouquet, and receives the coco-nut her son-in-law has carried in his hand.
We left Rawal Pindi in a tonga. The night was black, the carriage had no lamps; but now and again, at the sound of the driver's horn, dark masses—baggage camels, scarcely distinguishable in the gloom—made way for us to go past at a gallop.
The natives here were an even finer race than those at Peshawur, and more uncultured, never bowing when we met them, but eyeing us as we passed as if they were meditating some foul blow.A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us out—temples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.
Really the prison this time! in the midst of a large enclosure with high walls; a building on a star-shaped plan, with large windows to admit air and daylight. The prisoners, in a white uniform, with chains on their feet, were manufacturing various articles in basket-work, and in a shed with a cotton awning a hundred or so of convicts were weaving carpets. The brilliancy of colour was indescribable; the vividness of the medley of worsted piled by the side of the gorgeous looms, the light hues of the dresses, the faded turbans touched with light, the glitter of the steel chains, the bronze skins, glorified to gold in the quivering sunshine, which, scarcely subdued by the awning, bathed the[Pg 87] scene in a glow so intense that it seemed to proceed from the objects themselves. Behind each loom sat a warder, with the pattern of the carpet on his knees, dictating the colours to the weavers, chanting out his weariful litany of numbers and shades in a monotonous voice.
The sultana's mosque is quite small, of translucent milky-white marble, and close by it is a[Pg 208] red wall, hardly pierced by a narrow window with a stone screen, behind which Shah Jehangir was kept a prisoner for seven years.
And once more in a barge on the Ganges. The atmosphere seemed faintly iridescent, like mother-of-pearl, the silence serenely lulled by the distant sound of a flute. The palaces and temples, reflected in the still water, looked in the distance like forts crowned with turrets of gold, and their little windows like loopholes. The broad stairs of the quays, where the priests' umbrellas glitter, assumed a spacious, unfamiliar dignity, the red colour shading paler towards the bottom, where it was washed off by the lapping Ganges, looking as though a fairy hanging of gauze were spread under the wavelets in honour of the Apsaras and the divinities of the river.Far up the hill, and for a long time, the clanging brass and sharp cries followed me on my way all through the afternoon, and I could picture the dancing women, the Lama under his gleaming brass hat, turning his praying-wheel beneath his bower of branches and papers fluttering in the wind; and[Pg 150] not till dark did the whole party break up and go back to Darjeeling; the poorer women, on foot, all a little tipsy, danced a descending scale that ended occasionally in the ditch; the richer ladies, in thin dark satin robes with wide sleeves all embroidered in silk and gold, and their hair falling in plaits from beneath a fillet of red wood studded with large glass beads, fitting tightly to the head, rode astride on queer little horses, mostly of a dirty yellow colour, that carried them at a brisk amble. Their husbands, extremely attentive, escorted the dames, some of whom gave noisy evidence of the degree of intoxication they had reached. The least blessed had but one husband, or perhaps two; but the more fortunate had a following of as many as six eager attendants, whom they tormented with incessant scolding.详情
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