The air is heavy with indefinable perfume. We are already coasting the Indian shore, but it remains invisible, and gives no sign but by these gusts of warmer air laden with that inscrutable aroma of musk and pepper. A lighthouse to port, which we have for some time taken for a star, vanishes in the light mist that hangs over the coast, and then again there is nothing but the immensity of waters under the clear night, blue with moonlight.The Maharajah was out, at his devotions; I could see everything. Up a staircase with a gilt paper and gilt banisters, leading to rooms where crystal lustres hang like tears above Oxford Street furniture, and lovely chromo-lithographs in massive and glittering frames.The large town lies along the bank of the Jellum; the houses are of wood, grey and satiny with old age, and almost all tottering to their end on the strand unprotected by an embankment. The windows are latticed with bent wood in fanciful designs. Large houses built of brick have thrown out covered balconies and verandahs, supported on tall piles in the water, and on brackets carved to represent monsters or flowering creepers.
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 as the priests knew that the beast would need no help they again left me to myself. Up came the elephant at a brisk trot, flourishing his trunk and hooting; within two yards of me he stopped and stood still. He accepted a four-anna piece that I offered him, and handed it up for his driver, but finding no one on his back he put the coin back into my pocket, and sniffing all over my coat found a biscuit, ate it, and then quietly went back to his stable.
Still the tonga; uphill and down, over the hilly country, with a horizon of dull, low mountains, and the horses worse and worse, impossible to start but by a storm of blows. Towards evening a particularly vicious pair ended by overturning us into a ditch full of liquid mud. The sais alone was completely immersed, and appealed loudly to Rama with shrieks of terror. Abibulla on his part, after making sure that the sahibs and baggage were all safe and sound, took off his shoes, spread his dhoti on the ground, and made the introductory salaams of thanksgiving to the Prophet, while the coolie driver returned thanks to Rama.The want of foresight in the people here is amazing. A servant earning five rupees a month got his son married, a child of fifteen, and for this event he bought fireworks on credit, and at enormous interest, which would cost him three years' wages.
Then follows a long discussion in Hindi with the bystanders, who always escort a foreigner in a mob, ending in the question—
Ekkas, and chigrams closed with thick curtains, came galloping past with loud cries from within. All was noise and a shifting of many colours, seeming more foolish here, in this large island, with its deserted avenues of tall trees, than anywhere else.
Opposite the hotel, beyond the tennis club, is a sort of no-man's-land, where carriages are housed under tents. Natives dust and wash and wipe down the carriages in the sun, which is already very hot; and the work done, and the carriages under cover, out come swarms of little darkies, like ants, who squall and run about among the tents till sunset.At the first ray of sunrise I went down to the temples, hewn out of the side of the hill and extending for above a mile and a quarter. Gigantic stairs are cut in the rock, and lead to caves enshrining immense altars, on which Buddha or other idols of enormous size are enthroned. Hall after hall is upheld by carved pillars. Bas-reliefs on the walls represent the beatitudes of Krishna surrounded by women, or the vengeance of Vishnu the terrible, or the marriage of Siva and Parvati; while on the flat roof, on the panels and architraves—all part of the solid rock—there is an endless procession of Krishnas and Vishnus, on a rather smaller scale, producing utter weariness of their unvaried attitudes and beatific or infuriated grimacing.
Under each plate, a large square cut out of a banana leaf serves as a finger-napkin. Innumerable are the dishes of sweetmeats made with ghee (clarified butter), the scented ices, the highly-coloured[Pg 18] bonbons; while the young couple walk round the rooms, and hang garlands of flowers about the necks of the feasters.
The Ghoorkhas, small men and very active, young too, with Chinese features, were practising gymnastics. And recruits were being drilled, two of them barefoot, though wearing their gaiters.
Two men were quarrelling; one had robbed the other. The dispute went on endlessly, and no one, not the priest even, had succeeded in pacifying them. At last an elephant was fetched; he came up without being noticed by the disputants, and trumpeted[Pg 122] loudly just behind them. The thief, convinced that the animal in its wisdom had discovered his crime, took to his heels and fled.
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.详情
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