Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glare—eyes that were already dead.Another magnificent temple, with marble arcades wrought to filigree, curved in frilled arches, on spindle-like columns that soar to support the cupolas, as light as flower-stems. A gem of whiteness and sheen in the desert of ruins where yet stand three matchless marvels: the tower of Khoutab, the gate of Alandin, and the column of Dhava.
Not far from Peshawur a legend had arisen concerning a certain Guru, that the holy man now underground grew taller every year by a foot, and the heap of stones grew longer day by day, till the English authorities had to interfere and place a guard of soldiers to check the encroachment of the tumulus on the high road.
The song of birds in the mitigated atmosphere of the dying day came in from outside, for a moment almost drowning the pleader's weariful tones as he poured forth his statement, emphasized by sweeping gestures.A spell seemed to linger over this little bazaar, to slacken every movement and give the people an indolent grace. They spoke languidly in the shade of the awnings spread by the flower-sellers and the jewellers, who, with little ringing taps, were [Pg 95]hammering out minute patterns on silver anklets and necklaces.
In the hotel compound—more absurd than all the rest, lost in a waste of open land beyond the seething native town—there was a swarm of coolie servants, their wives and their children, who played all day at climbing about the coaches put up under the trees. And, without ceasing, a maddening hubbub of laughter and crying came up from this litter of brats, more weariful than the silence of vacancy all around.
Then, in the magic of the evening, the air was saturated with fragrance; invisible gardenias, amaryllis, and lemon-flowers perfumed the cool night. On every side we could hear the quavering guzla, the sound of tom-toms and tambourines. The streets were brightly lighted up and crowded.
The crimson sky seen above the tall coco-palms turns to pink, to pale, vaporous blue, to a warm grey that rapidly dies away, and almost suddenly it is night.
KOHATIn this Peshawur the houses are crowded along narrow, crooked alleys, and there is but one rather wider street of shops, which here already have a quite[Pg 242] Persian character, having for sale only the products of Cabul or Bokhara. The balconies, the shutters, the verandahs and galleries are of wood inlaid in patterns like spider-net. The timbers are so slight that they would seem quite useless and too fragile to last; and yet they are amazingly strong, and alone remain in place, amid heaps of stones, in houses that have fallen into ruin. In the streets, the contrast is strange, of tiny houses with the Afghans, all over six feet high, superb men wearing heavy dhotis of light colours faded to white, still showing in the shadow of the folds a greenish-blue tinge of dead turquoise. Solemn and slow, or motionless in statuesque attitudes while they converse in few words, and never gesticulate, they are very fine, with a fierce beauty; their large, open eyes are too black, and their smile quite distressingly white in faces where the muscles look stiff-set. Even the children, in pale-hued silk shirts, are melancholy, languid, spiritless, but very droll, too, in their little pointed caps covered with gold braid, and the finery of endless metal necklaces, and bangles on their ankles and arms.
Under the archway by which we entered a cow crossed our path, her head decked with a tiara of peacock's feathers, and went her way alone for a[Pg 200] walk at an easy pace. Within the palace is a maze of corridors, and pierced carving round every room fretting the daylight. An inner court is decorated with earthenware panels set in scroll-work of stone. A slender colonnade in white marble is relieved against the yellow walls, and below the roof, in the subdued light of the deeper angles, the stone, the marble, the porcelain, take hues of sapphire, topaz, and enamel, reflections as of gold and mother-of-pearl. In a pavilion is a little divan within three walls, all pierced and carved; it suggests a hollow pearl with its sides covered with embroidery that dimly shows against the sheeny smoothness of the marble. The effect is so exquisitely soft, so indescribably harmonious, that the idea of size is lost, and the very materials seem transfigured into unknown substances. One has a sense as of being in some fairy palace, enclosed in a gem excavated by gnomes—a crystal of silk and frost, as it were, bright with its own light.
KOHATOn the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.详情
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