My friend Captain McT——, with whom I stayed, had a house with a peaked, reed-thatched roof. Round the verandah where we slept at night hung festoons of jasmine and bougainvillea. Bamboos, ph?nix, and curtains of creepers at the end of the lawn made a wall of verdure, fresh and cool; and through this were wafted the perfumes shed on the air—the scent of roses and verbena, of violet[Pg 290] or of rosemary, according to the side whence the wind blew, mingling with that of the amaryllis and honeysuckle in bloom close at hand. And in this quiet garden, far from the bazaar where the darboukhas were twanging, birds sang all night, and the fireflies danced in mazes from flower to flower.There were people performing their devotional ablutions below stream from the place of burning, and one old man took a few drops of water in the hollow of his hand and drank it, quite close to a shapeless black mass at which a kite was pecking as it floated by.
[Pg 60]In this house abode the postmaster of the Persian mails, and I wanted to register a letter for Cabul.LAHORE
Far away a murmur is heard, a long-drawn chant, suddenly arousing the birds; they flap their wings, stretch themselves clumsily, and then fly towards one of the towers.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.
One after another I made my salaam to Siva, seated on a peacock; to Ganesa, looking calm and knowing; to Parvati, riding a bull; to Siva again, this time pinning a dragon to the ground with a fork, a writhing reptile with gaping jaws and outspread wings; the same god again, with a child in[Pg 121] his arms; and again, holding his leg like a musket up against his shoulder with one of his four hands, the other three lifting a bull, a sceptre, and a trophy of weapons above his head.Then a man rose, and standing on the bayadères' carpet, he recited, in verses of equal measure, a sort of heroic legend, making his voice big, and emphasizing his words with grand gesticulation. One of the dancers spoke the antistrophe, and this went on interminably, till their voices gradually sank to mere hollow and expressionless intoning, while they swayed their bodies to and fro like children who do not know their lesson.
The holy hill, bristling at top with the conical roofs of the pagodas, rises isolated in the vast stretch of silky grass, enclosed by a distant fringe of pale violet heights. At the foot of the ascent—in some places an incline, and in others a flight of steps going straight up to the temples—bearers were waiting for us, and an armed escort. A mob of pilgrims were shouting at the top of their voices, and did not cease their squabbling till we began the climb in our most uncomfortable palankins, etiquette forbidding us, alas! to get out of them. One of my bearers, almost naked, with a mere rag of white cotton stuff round his hips, had hanging from his left ear a ring with three pearls as large as peas and of luminous sheen.From the roof, consisting of terraces between cupolas, there is a view of many temples glorified in the golden sunset, and nearer at hand stand ten[Pg 123] imposing columns, very tall—the last remaining vestiges of the rajah's elephant-house.
We met a native on horseback; a pink turban and a beard also pink, with a round patch of intensely black skin about his mouth—white hair dyed with henna to make it rose-colour; and a lock of hair that showed below his turban was a sort of light, dirty green in hue, like a wisp of hay. The rider, well mounted on his horse, was deeply contemptuous of us, sitting in an ekka—the vehicle of the vulgar; and he passed close to us[Pg 268] muttering an insult in his pink beard trimmed and combed into a fan.
A distant noise of tom-toms—big drums thumping out minims in the bass, small ones rattling out semiquavers in very short, sharp notes; and to this accompaniment came the sharp trill of a metal flute. The music came nearer at a brisk pace, heralded by two tall baggage camels, a rare sight in Benares, where the streets are so narrow and straight, and only foot passengers are to be seen. Then followed saddle-horses, led by hand, and a large number of men on foot, and after an interval there appeared a band, atrociously out of tune, immediately in front of a palankin hung with a shawl embroidered all over in palms of different shades of gold and beads. In this sat a little bridegroom of eight, dressed in pale yellow satin, a wreath of marigolds round his neck, and above his turban a cap made of jasmine, the ends hanging all round his head—a little bridegroom, eight years old, very solemn, sitting cross-legged with a huge bouquet in his hand, and facing him his two little brothers in white silk and necklaces of jasmine.
In the circular marble crypt there is a large cracked bell, inscribed "Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, 1788," also a bust of the corporal, and, in an adjoining cell, the tomb of Colonel Martin, who,[Pg 187] having left his native town of Lyons for Pondicherry, after having painfully worked his way up to the grade of corporal in the French king's army, departed from thence and travelled to Oudh. There as a favourite of the Moslem king's and generalissimo of his troops, he amassed a large fortune, and spent it in building the palaces and colleges which perpetuate his name in several towns in India. He was an eccentric adventurer, whom some now remember here, and whose name pronounced in the Indian fashion, with a broad accent on the a, suggests an almost ironical meaning in conjunction with the idea of a college.Far away, at the end of the bazaar, in a street where no one passes, are the shoemakers' booths littered with leather parings; old cases or petroleum tins serve as seats. Among the workmen swarm children in rags, pelting each other with slippers.AT SEA
A wide open space covered with rubbish heaps was to be seen where the sepoys' barracks had been, and where from the first the men had died of the plague by hundreds. In one garden, a bungalow where a[Pg 303] man had just died was being burnt down—still burning. A party of police were encouraging the fire, and a cordon of native soldiers kept everybody else off.When the road was made through Bunnoo a pile of stones was heaped up in the middle of the village. The Moslems finally persuaded themselves that this was a saint's grave; and they come hither to perform their devotions, planting round it bamboo flagstaffs with pennons, and adding to the mound the stones they piously bring to it day by day.详情
Copyright © 2020