And side by side with history a pleasing legend tells that King Anang-Pal yearned to atone for his faults and redeem the earth from sin. So by the[Pg 220] counsels of a wise Brahmin he caused this vast iron spike to be forged by giants, to be driven into the earth and pierce the serpent Sechnaga, who upholds the world. The deed was done, but because certain disbelieving men denied that the monster was dead, the king caused the weapon to be pulled up, and at the end of it behold the stain of blood; so the iron beam was driven in again. But the spell was broken—the creature had escaped. The column remained unstable, prefiguring the end of the dynasty of Anang, and the serpent still works his wicked will.There is a never-ending traffic of elephants, baggage-camels, and vehicles with shouting drivers; and on the ground are spread heaps of fruit, baskets for sale, glass baubles and weapons. In all the pink and white throng not an European dress is to be seen, not even one of the vile compounds adopted by the baboo, a striped flannel jacket over the dhoti. Men and women alike wear necklaces of flowers, or flowers in their hair; the children are gaudy with trinkets and glass beads.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.
Outside the palace is a large garden, devoid of shade, with pools of water bowered in flowers and shrubs that shelter myriads of singing birds. At the end of the park is a tank full of crocodiles. A keeper called the brutes, and they came up facing us in a row, their jaws open to catch the food which the Rajah amuses himself by throwing to them.Two old women had a quarrel, and all the neighbourhood came out to look on.
This morning, at Peshawur, down come the police on my houseboat—three of them—and their leader explains matters. Abibulla interprets."No; the Virgin Mary."
After dinner, with the dessert, the head orderly of the mess marched in with the decanters. He set them on the table, and then stood immovable at his post behind the colonel's chair, shouldering his gun till everybody had done, when he carried off the bottles with the same air of being on parade.Then the dancing began again, interrupted for a minute by the call of the night-watchman as he went past carrying a long bamboo. He paused for a moment to watch the performance, and then was lost in the darkness.
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.
Near a temple some bells and tom-toms animated the silence with their clang and clatter. Worshippers stole in noiselessly, barefoot on the stones, and entered the sanctuary, within which tapers were burning.In the centre of the modern fort, a belt of walls with gates that form palaces under the arches, is the ancient residence of the Moguls. Beyond the barracks full of native and English soldiers, we reached the cool silence of the throne-room. Colonnades of red stone surround a throne of white marble inlaid with lilies in carnelian on tall stems of jasper. All round this throne, to protect it from the tourists, but also as if to emphasize its vanity, is a railing.
In one vast hall were ancient weapons, swords and pistols, enriched with precious stones; suits of armour damascened with gold, guns with silver stocks set with pearls, and a whole battery of field-pieces to be carried on camels' backs and spit out[Pg 237] tiny balls—enormously, absurdly long, still perched on their saddle-shaped carriages. And in a window bay two toy cannon made of gold and silver, with which Dhuleep Singh used to play as a child before he lost his realm.
In the evening I was to dine with the officers of the Artillery mess, and in going I lost my way. Suddenly before me stood the amber palace, with blue shadows, moon-coloured, the carvings like opal in changing hues of precious gems. Half hidden by a growth of jasmine that loaded the air with fragrance, up rose the cupolas of the little mosque, like pearls reflecting the sparkle of the stars.After breakfast a party of jugglers appeared in front of the hotel; they performed on a little carpet spread under the shade of a banyan tree. Acrobatic tricks first, human ladders, feats of strength; then nutmegs were made to vanish and reappear; and finally they conjured away each other in turn, in little square hampers that they stabbed with knives to prove that there was nobody inside;[Pg 11] and to divert the spectators' attention at critical moments they beat a tom-tom and played a shrill sort of bagpipe.
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.And to and fro on the ramparts, the sentry, in an uniform of the same hue as the sun-baked bricks, paced his beat, invisible but for a needle of light on his fixed bayonet; till when crossing a patch of light he was seen like an apparition, lost again in the shadow of the wall.On entering the park the cocked turbans of the bodyguard again reminded us of the hats of the French Guards.
Children were selling whortleberries in plaited baskets; they came up very shyly, and as soon as they had sold their spoil hurried back to hide in their nook. Further on a little Afghan boy, standing alone and motionless by the roadside, held out three eggs for sale."We give rice to the sick, who all have dysentery, instead of the daily cake."详情
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