Along the line were hedges of glaucous aloes, of[Pg 106] gynerium all plumed with white, and over every plant an inextricable tangle of baja, its pink flowers hanging in bunches."Export business!" says Abibulla.
At the railway station a woman, who would accept no gratuity, strewed flowers on the cushions of my carriage, and put garlands along the grooves of the open windows—bunches of ebony flowers, of Indian cork-flowers, lilies, and China roses on the point of dropping, only hanging to the calyx by the tip of the petals.To the right of the forecourt is the high priest's room; lustres, glass shades, gilt chairs, coloured photographs, incongruously surrounding an antique silk carpet, soiled and stained.
King Zainulmulook has lost his sight, and can recover it only if someone will bring to him a miraculous flower from the garden of Bakaoli. His four sons set out in search of it. Zainulmulook has a fifth son, named Tazulmulook. At the birth of this child the king has had his horoscope cast by the astrologers of the palace, who declared that the king would become blind if he should see his son before his twelfth year; but hunting one day the king has met Tazulmulook, who was walking in the forest, and has lost his sight.
At the polo-match in the evening the band played, and three ladies were present; in sign of the spring having come, a basket was hung to the branch of a tree, full of straw kept constantly wet by the coolies, and containing sundry bottles of soda-water.A forest in flower: Indian almond trees white, other trees yellow, a kind of magnolia with delicate pink blossoms; and among these hues like perfume, flew a cloud of birds, black, shot with glistening metallic green, and butterflies of polished bronze and dark gold flashed with blue, and others again sprinkled with white on the nacreous, orange-tinted wings.
At the further end of the last turning I saw a fire like blazing gold, the soaring flames flying up to an enormous banyan tree, turning its leaves to living fire. All round the pile on which the dead was being burned was a crowd drumming on copper pots and tom-toms.A very good quail that is often the victor, is worth eight or ten rupees. At a funeral a day or two since one of the bearers had his quail in a cage hanging from his girdle—a champion bird he would not part from.Beyond the new town of broad avenues planted with trees and bordered with gardens, was a brand-new bridge of gaudy bricks over a river, almost dry, where a swarm of naked natives were performing their ablutions—washing linen and shaking out red and white cloths, as far as the eye could see. Buffaloes lying in the mud were sleeping among the tame ducks, the ibis, and the herons, all seeking their food. An elephant plunged into the water, splashing it up and scaring thousands of bright birds, which flew up against the intensely blue sky.
An old man who sold us some shells, had, in the days of prosperity, made a little fortune by charming the sharks with spells and signs that kept them away from the boats, and from the naked and defenceless pearl-fishers as they plunged into the deep to seek the precious shells.A few officers, a few clergy only, had organized some distribution of relief; the administration,[Pg 197] wholly indifferent, was drawing double pay in consideration of the increase of work in famine time.
Here, one by one, in came the nautch-girls, dancers. Robed in stiff sarees, their legs encumbered with very full trousers, they stood extravagantly upright, their arms away from their sides and their hands hanging loosely. At the first sound of the tambourines, beaten by men who squatted close to the wall, they began to dance; jumping forward on both feet, then backward, striking their ankles together to make their nanparas ring, very heavy anklets weighing on their feet, bare with silver toe-rings. One of them spun on and on for a[Pg 29] long time, while the others held a high, shrill note—higher, shriller still; then suddenly everything stopped, the music first, then the dancing—in the air, as it were—and the nautch-girls, huddled together like sheep in a corner of the room, tried to move us with the only three English words they knew, the old woman repeating them; and as finally we positively would not understand, the jumping and idiotic spinning and shouts began again in the heated air of the room.Another temple, Sas Bahu, likewise elaborately carved under a roof too heavy for it, has a terrace overhanging the hill, whence there is a view over Lashkar, the new palace, gleaming white among the huge trees of the park.
The old king is at once cured; he embraces his sons again and again. After this emotion the first thing he remarks is the new palace that has sprung from the ground exactly opposite his own.
Making my way among the too numerous gods in relief against the overwrought walls heavy with carving, I came to a wonderful balcony where, in broken cages, I found the parrots that had betrayed me, and among them an exquisite pale yellow cockatoo of great rarity.详情
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