Wherever the alleys cross in the bazaar, open cages are placed on pillars of carved marble or wood, and in these, charitable hands place grain for the birds; thus every evening, round these shelters there is a perpetual flutter of pigeons, minahs, and sparrows, pushing for places, and finally packed closely together, while the little lanterns flash out on all sides, giving a magical aspect to the shopfronts, turning copper to gold, fruit to flowers, and falling like a caress on the wayfarers in thin pale-hued robes.
In the distance, across the plain, herds of deer were feeding, and hardly looked up as the train went by.In the street were bayadères, and women at every window, the pretty faces brightly illuminated, the plainer in a skilfully subdued light. The sound of tom-toms and pipes could be heard, and the guttural, quavering song of a dancing beauty performing for some amateur; quite young boys were wandering about the street, almost children, all in white. Where the roads met, a mosque was illuminated in honour of this month of Ramadan, and the believers were trooping out in a crowd.
Not far from Peshawur a legend had arisen concerning a certain Guru, that the holy man now underground grew taller every year by a foot, and the heap of stones grew longer day by day, till the English authorities had to interfere and place a guard of soldiers to check the encroachment of the tumulus on the high road.In the town a zebu cow was trotting along with an air of business. To avoid a vehicle she jumped on to the footpath and went her way along the flagstones, and every Hindoo that she passed patted her buttock and then touched his forehead with the same hand with great reverence.Then from afar came the sound of tom-toms and bagpipes, nearer and nearer, and the musicians became visible at the top of one of the stair-like alleys. First came the men, then the women. One of these, robed in pale green with a violet and silver saree, carried a child in her arms wrapped in a red dress embroidered with gold. He was this day six[Pg 160] months old; he had eaten rice, and was brought to see the sacred Ganges for the first time. The family, friends, and neighbours had assembled in honour of the great ceremony, which consisted in holding the infant face downwards over the water, which he scarcely saw with half-shut eyes; and then the procession went back again to the sound of the music, and was gone.
A man went past in heavy, nailed shoes, wrapped in a flowing dhoti; he carried a long cane over his[Pg 267] left shoulder, and as he went he cried, "Soli, soli, a?a soli." All the dogs in the village crowded after him howling; and in the distance I saw that he was walking round and round two carriages without horses, still repeating "Soli, soli."The Maharajah of Benares sent his carriage this morning to take me to him. We went to the Ganges, where a palankin was in waiting to carry me across the narrow strip of sand between the road and the boat, escorted by a worthy who held a tall red umbrella, fringed with gold, over my head.
On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.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.
For our noonday rest I took shelter under a wood-carver's shed. On the ground was a large plank in which, with a clumsy chisel, he carved out circles, alternating with plane-leaves and palms. The shavings, fine as hairs, gleamed in the sun, and gave out a scent of violets. The man, dressed in white and a pink turban, with necklaces and bangles on his arms of bright brass, sang as he tapped with little blows, and seemed happy to be alive in the world. He gave us permission to sit in the shade of his stall, but scorned to converse with Abibulla.Wide strands of golden sand; here and there among the rice-fields the palms and bamboos are less crowded. In the moist air, that grows hotter and hotter, the daylight is blinding, hardly tolerable through the blue glass of the windows. Scorched, russet rocks stand up from the short grass, tremulous in the noontide heat. The cattle, the very birds, silent and motionless, have sought shelter in the shade; all the people have gone within doors. And then, towards evening, in an oasis of gigantic trees, amid bamboos and feathery reeds, behold the huge temples of Madura, in sharp outline against a rosy sky.
Another sanctuary holds an idol made of seven metals mingled to a pale golden hue. The statue is loaded with jewellery of silver and precious stones. On its head is a fan-shaped diadem starred with rubies. The walls and columns, of a dull purple, are decorated with gaudy mosaic of scraps of looking-glass set in brass along the lines of the mouldings.They shoved it under water, but it presently rose to the surface and floated down the stream, followed by a flock of hawks that snatched at the burnt remains and fought over them in the air, while crocodiles below swam up and snapped at them, dragging them down in their enormous jaws, which appeared for a moment above the water.
[Pg 211]Near her was another woman, gone mad, dancing, her skeleton limbs contorted in a caricature of[Pg 193] grace; and a child of some few months, like an undeveloped abortion, of the colour of a new penny, with a large head rolling on a neck reduced to the thickness of the vertebr?, and arms and legs no larger than knitting-pins, but, in a sort of mockery, the swollen belly of the fever-stricken. The eyes blinked in the little wrinkled face, seeking something in vacancy; it tried to cry, but the only sound was a feeble croak.
[Pg 38]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.
On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.Delhi appeared in the blinding light like an unsubstantial vision, white against a bleached sky; and as we got nearer the city half vanished like a mirage, blotted out and dim through a shifting cloud of dust.详情
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