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.
"Dog! traitor! cruel wretch! eater of meat!——"
Music in the evening, in the gardens which surround the library, the chapel, and the tennis[Pg 286] courts. The ladies' dresses and the uniforms were lustrous in the moonlight. First we had the regimental band, and then songs to a banjo accompaniment; and all about us in the tall trees, the minahs and parrots shrieking as if it were broad daylight, finished the concert by themselves. A huge creeper, swaying between two branches, hung like a curtain of yellow flowers embroidered, as it seemed, on the airy tangle of leaves.
Under the blinding sunshine reflected from the whitewashed houses, an incredibly mixed crowd, squeezed against the railings of the custom-house wharf, stands staring at the new arrivals. Natives, naked but for a narrow loin-cloth rolled about their hips; Parsees in long white tunics, tight white trousers, and on their heads hideous low square caps of dark wax-cloth, pursuing the stranger with offers of money-changing; Hindoos, clad in thin bright silk, and rolls of light-hued muslin on their head; English soldiers, in white helmets, two of whom stare at me fixedly, and exclaim that, "By Jo', Eddy has missed this steamer!"The road lay among flowers, all-pervading; in the fields, on the rocks, on the road itself, pink flowers or lavender or white; bright moss, shrubs and trees in full bloom, and hovering over them birds of changing hue and golden butterflies.In the depths of little recesses the lamps twinkled feebly before images crowned with flowers. At the entrances to shrines little glass lamps, like a mysterious fairy illumination, followed the lines[Pg 116] of the arabesques, sparkling like glowworms, without lighting up the passages which remained dark, and in which, in fact, we finally lost ourselves.
[Pg 102][Pg 57]
There was nobody in the garden of the mausoleums, not even the usual obsequious and mendicant attendant. Only by the tomb of Purvez a moollah was kneeling in prayer, motionless, and wrapped in some very light white material, which the wind gently stirred and blew up. All the time I was examining the mausoleums he prayed on, prostrate, immovable; and even from afar, from the road, I could see him still, like a stone among the marble work, at the feet of the hero who sleeps his last in mid-air.In the coppersmiths' street was a booth that seemed to be a school of art, where little fellows of seven or eight were engraving platters and pots with the decision of practised craftsmen.
We drove across a succession of parks to visit[Pg 175] Sumer Mundir, a too elaborately carved temple, the panels representing scenes from the Ramayana set in ornamental borders. On the roof, which bristled with sculptured stone, thousands of blue pigeons were perched asleep, their iridescent plumage scarcely stirring in the sunshine. Beyond a tank at the end of the park was a palace in the Arab style with incredibly delicate ornaments of wrought marble, open halls painted in subdued colouring, and lighted by the golden reflections from the water. The pool had steps all round it, in which crowds seat themselves on the occasions of pilgrimage, and far away the enchanting vision of Benares, the holy city, in every shade of amber and honey.
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At the door of the house the sick man's wife was washing a white robe, in which he would be dressed for the grave on the morrow. The nearest relation of the dying must always wash his garment, and the woman, knowing that her husband had the plague and was doomed, as she was required by ritual to prepare for the burial while her husband was yet living, wore a look of mute and tearless resignation that terrified me.详情
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