On the sloping bank to the river stood a large wooden mosque falling into ruins. In front of this building was a plot full of tombstones, some overthrown, some still standing on the declivity.In a copse, women, surrounded by naked children, were breaking stones, which men carried to the road. The women screamed, hitting the hard pebbles with a too small pick, the children fought, the men squabbled and scolded, and amid all this hubbub three Parsees, sitting at a table under the shade of a tamarind tree, were adding up lines of figures on papers fluttering in the wind. There was not a dwelling in sight, no sign of an encampment, nothing but these labouring folk and the bureaucracy out in the open air, under the beating sun.
Bakaoli, having returned to her own country, sends her confidante, named Hammala, with a letter to Tazulmulook, who at once follows the messenger. The prince and the queen fall in love with each other. Bakaoli's mother finds them together, and furious at the disobedience of her daughter, who is affianced to another rajah, she calls up a djinn to plunge Tazulmulook in a magic fount. The prince finds himself transformed into a devil with horns, and wanders about the jungle once more. There he meets a pariah woman with three children, who begs him to marry her. Tazulmulook in despair leaps back into the spring to die there, and to his great surprise recovers his original shape.A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.
From a quite small garden close to the palace a bronze gate with three medallions of lilies in high relief, of marvellous workmanship, opens on the Pearl Mosque, exquisitely white, at the end of its forecourt of immaculate pavement enclosed by a marble balustrade. Three polished and shining domes are supported by columns of snow made of a hard white marble, scarcely broken by [Pg 218]ornament, and carrying a roof hollowed into three vaults. The rings are still to be seen on the marble walls outside, to which, when the great Mogul came to prayer, curtains were attached made of gold net and spangled with diamonds and pearls.Between the large parasols are thousands of little pagodas, formed of four columns and a roof, and sheltering idols wreathed with flowers, to whom the faithful pray and bring offerings. Garlands are for ever floating down-stream, jasmine and Indian pinks, and patches of scattered rose petals; and on the banks of the river, where the sand forms little bays, flowers lie in a hem of delicate colours.
Then follow more trays with tufts of jasmine stuck into the heart of a pink rose; and as the guest takes one of these bouquets the servant sprinkles first the flowers and then him with rose-water.Then a fat native lawyer began to speak, and silence fell on the crowd of three or four hundred listeners sitting behind the accused, as if they were in church. The monotonous voice went on and on, urging every plea.
"And is there no doctor?"
In the chief temple, whose walls were painted all over, a huge Buddha of gold and silver was hidden under wreaths of flowers round his neck, and a diadem of flowers on his brow, where blazed a luminous diamond; and flowers were arranged in a canopy over his head, and were strewn like a carpet on the steps of the shrine.In the evening calm, the silence, broken only by the yelling of the jackals, weighed heavy on the spirit; and in spite of the twinkling lights and the village at our feet, an oppressive sense of loneliness, of aloofness and death, clutched me like a nightmare.
Inside the mausoleum numberless lustres hang from the roof, and fine large standing lamps with crystal pendants burn round two tombs covered with antique hangings and wreathed with jasmine; beneath these lie the two last kings of Oudh. Small models of two famous mosques, one in gold and one in silver, are placed on the tombs, round which a whole regiment of obsequious moollahs and beggars mount guard. On the walls childish paintings, representing scenes of the Anglo-Indian conflict, alternate with mirrors in gilt frames, and silk standards exquisitely faded, embroidered with dim gold and silver, and surmounted by tridents.
An interpreter translated to the accused the questions put by the judge, who understood the replies, though he was not allowed to speak excepting in English.Every house in the town was shuttered, not a soul was to be seen in the baked streets; only here and there in a shady corner a beggar might be seen asleep. A chigram only was slowly moving along at the slow pace of two draught oxen, carrying the women of a zenana, and their constant chatter[Pg 300] within the curtains of the clumsy vehicle sounded formidably loud and discordant in the silence, the death-like exhaustion of noon. A foxy smell came up from everything that the sun was baking, and towards the end of the day it had become intolerable, corpse-like. It died away, however, after sunset.
The bridegroom sits awaiting his guests, in his garden all decorated with arches and arbours, and[Pg 14] starred with white lanterns. An orchestra is playing, hidden in a shrubbery.After the delay, which in India is a matter of course, the caravan set out—the last to go; for during the past three months no European had[Pg 247] crossed the pass, and in consequence of misunderstandings with some of the rebel tribes to the north, even the natives were prohibited henceforth from going to Cabul.
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.详情
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