At the top, facing two immense rocks that look like couchant lions, there was another palace; one[Pg 100] wall alone is left standing; on the creamy marble a peacock spreads its tail, carved into very delicate sprays and flowers.This Rawal Pindi is an English town of cottages surrounded by lawns and shrubberies; about two streets of bazaar, and red uniforms everywhere, Highland soldiers in kilts, white helmets, and the officers' and sergeants' wives airing their Sunday finery in their buggies. The ladies drive themselves, under the shelter of a sunshade on an all[Pg 239] too short stick, painfully held by a hapless native servant clinging to the back of the carriage in a dislocating monkey-like attitude.
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.At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the ground—a white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanterns—and sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.
In the bazaar a light, glossy cheetah was being led round for an airing. The beast had on a sort of hood of silk stuck with peacock's feathers, which its keeper pulled down over its eyes when it saw a prey on which it was eager to spring; and with its eyes thus blinded, it would lick the hand that gave it an anna with a hot tongue as rough as a rasp.A regiment of artillery was marching into quarters. The Highlanders' band came out to meet them: four bagpipes, two side drums, and one big drum. They repeat the same short strain, simple enough, again and again; in Europe I should, perhaps, think it trivial, almost irritating, but here, filling me as it does with reminiscences of Brittany, especially after the persistent horror of tom-toms and shrill pipes, it strikes me as delightful—I even follow the soldiers to their quarters.Further on we came to a courtyard surrounded by a cloister, where the market for precious stones was held. The empress, invisible under her wrappers of gauze as thin as air, and surrounded by her women fanning her, would come out on her high balcony to choose the gems that pleased her for a moment by their sparkle, and then disappear into the gardens behind insurmountable walls. In another court, a[Pg 209] pool kept stocked with fish gave Shah Jehangir the pleasure of fancying he was fishing.
To the Chandni Chowk—the bazaar. In a miniature-painter's shop was a medley of ivories, of boxes inlaid with silver and ebony, and toys carved in sandal-wood.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 the procession, with music, makes its way back to the bridegroom's house. On the threshold the priest says one more short prayer over the bowed heads of the newly-married couple, and at last the whole party go into the room, where the guests take their places at the long tables.Below one of the palaces is a huge statue of Vishnu Bhin in a reclining attitude, daubed with ochre, the face flesh-colour and white; a statue which is carried away every year by the floods and restored every year in its pristine grossness.
In the distance we heard a sound of pipes, and the merchant hastened out to call the nautch-girls, who began to dance in the street just below us, among the vehicles and foot-passengers. There were two of them; one in a black skirt spangled with silver trinkets, the other in orange and red with a head-dress and necklace of jasmine. They danced with a gliding step, and then drew themselves up with a sudden jerk that made all their frippery tinkle. Then the girl in black, laying her right hand on her breast, stood still, with only a measured swaying movement of her whole body, while the dancer in yellow circled round, spinning as she went. Next the black one performed a sort of goose-step with her feet on one spot, yelling a so-called tune, and clacking her anklets one against the other. Then, after a few high leaps that set her saree flying, the dance was ended; she drew a black veil over her head, and turned with her face to the wall. The other boldly asked for backsheesh, held up her hands, and after getting her money, begged for cakes and sugar.A dark street corner where there were no shops. Under a canopy constructed of four bamboos thatched with straw, a young man in a light-coloured dhoti was sitting on a low stool; about him were women singing. Presently one of them came forward, and dipping her fingers into three little copper pots that stood on the ground in front of the youth, she took first oil, then a green paste, and finally some perfume with which she touched seven spots—the lad's feet, knees, shoulders, and turban. Then she wiped her fingers on the saree of the bridegroom's mother—for he was to be[Pg 252] married on the morrow—who was standing behind her son.The same ubiquitous terminus on a sandy plain, remote from everything; then a drive jolting through bogs, and we reached the dirty, scattered town crowded with people who had collected round a sort of fair with booths for mountebanks, and roundabouts of wooden horses.
But at Byculla, in Grant Road, the street of gambling-houses, there was a glare of lights; gaudy lanterns were displayed at the windows where spangles and tinsel trinkets glittered. And then, between two brightly illuminated houses where every window was wide open, there was the dark gap of a closed house, in front of it a pan of sulphur burning. The green and purple flame flickered grimly on the faces of the passers-by, making their dhotis look like shrouds wrapping spectres.As I was leaving, the fakir rose amid the cries of all the people, who clamoured for his blessing. He[Pg 246] silenced them by a sign, then laying one hand on my shoulder, after looking at my medal—详情
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