On the bank of the river, where there are no more steps, only beaten earth, in a little raised pit a pile of wood was slowly dying out. A man with[Pg 166] a cane raked back the sticks as they fell and rolled away. A squatting crowd were waiting till their relation was altogether consumed to cast his ashes on the sacred waters.Halting at noon at Kohala, we found a barber in the open street shaving and snipping his customers. In a cage hanging to the bough of a tree above his head a partridge was hopping about—black speckled with white, and gold-coloured wings. It had a strident cry like the setting of a saw.
A vision of Europe. Cottages surrounded by lawns under the shade of tall trees, and against the green the scarlet coats of English soldiers walking about. And close about the houses, as if dropped there by chance, tombs covered with flagstones and enclosed by railings, and on all the same date, June or July, 1857. Further away, under the trees, are heaps of stones and bricks, the ruins of mosques and forts, hardly visible now amid the roots and briars that look like the flowery thickets of a park, varied by knolls to break the monotony of the level sward. In the native town that has grown up on the site of the palace of Nana Sahib, built indeed of the[Pg 186] ruins of its departed splendour, dwell a swarm of pariahs, who dry their rags and hang out clothes and reed screens over every opening, living there without either doors or windows, in utter indifference to the passer-by.
ALLAHABADFirst went six armed regulars, then a party on horseback, for the most part Persians, one of whom was carrying in his arms an enormous sheaf of roses, which hid him completely and drooped over the saddle.
The rice, lately sown, was sprouting in little square plots of dazzling green; it was being taken up to transplant into enormous fields perpetually under water. All the "paddy" fields are, in fact, channelled with watercourses, or if they are on higher ground, watered from a well. A long beam is balanced over the mouth of the well, and two boys run up and down to lower and raise the bucket; a man tilts the water into the runlets out of a large vessel of dusky copper, or perhaps out of a leaky, dripping water-skin.
The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.
At our feet were the two walls, the outer wall enclosing the palace, the gardens, the arena, where fights were given between elephants and tigers; the inner wall, ten metres high, built round the zenana—the women's palace—of which even the foundations have almost disappeared under the overwhelming vegetation.In the English quarter of Bombay the houses are European: Government House, the post office, the municipal buildings—perfect palaces surrounded by gardens; and close by, straw sheds sheltering buffaloes, or tents squatted down on common land; and beyond the paved walks are beaten earth and huge heaps of filth, over which hover the birds of prey and the crows.
At a turn in the road the view opened out to a[Pg 249] distant horizon; the plain of Peshawur, intensely green in contrast with the rosy tone of the foreground; and far away the Himalayas, faintly blue with glaciers of fiery gold in the sun, against a gloomy sky where the clouds were gathering.Outside the fortifications is a peaceful township of large gardens with row on row of tombstones and mausoleums; some of enormous size, palaces of the dead, and others smaller, but wrought like lacework of stone. For a league or more the necropolis lies on both sides of the road. Across the door of each mausoleum hangs a chain by the middle and the two ends.
And to close the procession came more soldiers.
Two or three thousand haggard and fleshless beings were digging or carrying earth to form an embankment for a railway or a road. With arms scarcely thicker than the handles of the tools they wielded, the labourers gasped in the air, tired in a minute, and pausing to rest in spite of the abuse of the overseers. Emaciated women, so small in their tattered sarees, carried little baskets on their heads containing a few handfuls of earth, but which they could scarcely lift. One of them, wrinkled and shrunken, looked a hundred years old tottering under her load; on reaching the spot where she was to empty out the soil, she leaned forward a little and let the whole thing fall, indifferent to the dust which covered her and filled her mouth and eyes; and after taking breath for a moment, off she went again as if walking in her sleep.The roof, upheld by a double row of stone blocks set on end, and somewhat atilt, weighs on the building, which is already giving way; and the next monsoon will destroy this marvel of the Ja?n to spare the trouble of military constructors—the builders of barracks.In the shrine of Chaumuc, the god of many faces, the four masks grin down from the sides of a square pillar of white stucco. The walls, vault, and pavement of this temple are all red, with borders of green and yellow; the colours scream in contrast to the whiteness of the images, with their staring eyes made of crystal balls that look like spectacles.详情
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