Adjacent to this temple was the court-house, a hall of ancient splendour in the time of the kings of Kandy. It stood wide open, the walls lined with carved wood panels. The court was sitting under the punkhas that swung with regular monotony, the judges robed in red. One of the accused, standing in a sort of pen, listened unmoved to the pleading. A large label bearing the number 5 hung over his breast. Behind a barrier stood other natives, each decorated with a number, under the charge of sepoys. One of them, having been wounded in the murderous fray for which they were being tried, lay at full length on a litter covered with pretty matting, red and white and green, stretched on bamboo legs. A long robe of light silk enveloped his legs, and he alone of them all had charming features, long black eyes with dark blue depths, his face framed in a sort of halo of silky, tangled hair. He, like the man now being sentenced and those who had gone through their examination,[Pg 129] seemed quite indifferent to the judges and the lawyers. He mildly waved a palm leaf which served him as a fan, and looked as if he were listening to voices in a dream, very far away.
Flocks of almost tame partridges and wood-pigeons occupying the road did not fly till they were almost under the horses' feet, and all the way as we went, we saw, scampering from tree to tree, the scared little squirrels, grey with black stripes and straight-up bushy tails.While all this is going forward in the jungle, Bakaoli, disguised as an astrologer, comes to the king, to whom she promises the coming of the miraculous flower, and even while she is speaking the return of the four princes is announced.
And then night, the real night, transparently blue and luminous with stars, appeared above the last cloud that vanished with the last clap of thunder. Unspeakable freshness and peace reigned over nature, and in the limpid air the mountain-chains, the giant Himalayas, extended to infinity in tones of amethyst and sapphire. Nearer to us, lights sparkled out in the innumerable huts built even to the verge of the eternal snows, on every spot of arable ground or half-starved grass land.A very large temple, with its walls pierced in Persian patterns, contains fifty-two chapels behind pointed arches. In each chapel are four gods, all alike, of white plaster, all decked with the same jewels. In an angle of the vaulting a female figure, carved in the stone and wearing a tiara, holds an infant in her arms; this statue, with its long face and the rigid folds of the drapery, might have been transferred here from a gothic building.
In the ward we had just passed through there were none but convalescents or favourable cases. At the further end of the room a boy, fearfully emaciated, so thin that his body, lying in the hollow of the mattress, was hardly visible under the covering, was asleep as we approached. He had come from one of the famine districts, and in escaping from one scourge had come to where the other had clutched him. The doctor touched him on the[Pg 34] shoulder, and he opened his great splendid eyes. The awakening brought him gladness, or perhaps it was the end of his dream, for he had the happy look of a contented child, shook his shaven head waggishly, and the single corkscrew lock at the top, and was asleep again instantly.Then a quiet little street. Our guide paused in front of a whitewashed house. An old woman came out, and with many salaams and speeches of welcome led us into a large, low room.
The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.
After passing the temples and tombs that surround the Khoutab, the town of ruins lies scattered over the plain of pale sand and withered herbage.Stones flying, sticks thrown—at a little pariah girl, whose shadow as she passed had defiled the food of a Brahmin. He merely threw away the rice, which the dogs soon finished; but the bystanders who had witnessed the girl's insolence in going so near the holy man—she so base and unworthy—flew at the unhappy creature, who ran away screaming, abandoning a load of wood she was carrying on her head.
The plague-stricken man lay on a low bed struggling with anguish; large drops of sweat stood on his face, his throat was wrapped in wet bandages, and he spoke with difficulty, as in a dream.
We met a strange caravan; a small party of men surrounding more than a hundred women wrapped in dark robes, and bearing on their veiled heads heavy bales sewn up in matting, and large copper pots. A little blind boy led the way, singing a monotonous chant of three high notes. He came up to my tonga, and to thank me for the small coin I gave him he said, "Salaam, Sahib," and then repeated the same words again and again to his[Pg 37] tune, dancing a little step of his own invention till the whole caravan was hidden from me in a cloud of dust.DELHI.A tea-party in the afternoon at the yacht club. The ladies in smart dresses, the talk all of fashionable gossip—how far away from all I had been seeing. An European atmosphere, where a touch of local colour was only suggested by the native servants. The plague, the ruling terror when I was last in Bombay, was forgotten; the only subject now was the Jubilee, and the latest news from England arrived by that day's mail.
Inside the building, under a silken Persian rug, stretched like an awning, there were piles of coin on a cloth spread on the ground, with flowers, rice, and sweetmeats offered there. In a recess was a band of musicians—tom-toms and fiddles—scarcely audible in the turmoil of shouted prayers and the chatter of the faithful.详情
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