All the sufferers lay on thin mattresses spread on low camp beds; they were all quiet, torpid in the sleep of fever. The doctor showed them to me, one after another; there was nothing distressing to be seen in their naked bodies lying under a sheet. Some, indeed, had dressings under the arm, or on the groin. One, who had just been brought in, had a large swelling above the hip, a gland which was lanced to inject serum.Under each plate, a large square cut out of a banana leaf serves as a finger-napkin. Innumerable are the dishes of sweetmeats made with ghee (clarified butter), the scented ices, the highly-coloured[Pg 18] bonbons; while the young couple walk round the rooms, and hang garlands of flowers about the necks of the feasters.
A little way off an old man was wrapping the naked body of a poor woman in a white cloth; then he fastened it to two poles to dip it in the river; finally, with the help of another Sudra, he laid the corpse on a meagre funeral pile, and went off to fetch some live charcoal from the sacred fire which the Brahmins perpetually keep alive on a stone terrace overlooking the Ganges. He carried the scrap of burning wood at the end of a bunch of reeds, and, praying aloud, walked five times round the pyre, which completely concealed the body. Then he gently waved the bunch of reeds, making them blaze up, and placed them beneath the wood, which slowly caught fire, sending up dense curling clouds of white vapour and slender tongues of flame, creeping along the damp logs that[Pg 167] seemed to go out again immediately. But suddenly the fire flared up to the top of the pile; the flesh hissed in the flame, and filled the air with a sickening smell.Here again the cars of the gods were neglected in the open air, and one of them, older than the rest, was fast being transfigured into a pyramid of shrubs and flowers.[Pg 245]
Next day was kept as the spring festival. Every man had a rose stuck into his turban, and a shirt embroidered in gold on the shoulders and breast. The women appeared in stiff and gaudy veil cloths, bedizened with trumpery jewellery. Everybody was gay; a little excited towards evening by arrack, and dancing, and singing to the eternal tom-toms. Even the fiercest men from the hills, with black[Pg 279] turbans and enormously full calico trousers that once were white, and shirts embroidered in bright silks, had set aside their ferocious looks and stuck roses in their pugarees, smiling at those they met.
At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the ground—a white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanterns—and sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.
The fort of Allahabad, the fort of the mutiny of 1857, is a complete citadel where, in the thickness of the walls, behind screens of acacia trees, lurk doors into palaces. Among the gardens there are clearings full of guns and ambulance waggons, and enormous barracks and huts for native soldiers. Then on the ponderous stonework of the ramparts rise little kiosks in the light Hindoo-Mussulman style, elaborate and slender, built by Akbar the [Pg 183]conqueror, who took Prayag and razed it, to build on the site a city dedicated to Allah. And now modern architecture is slowly invading it, adding to the flat walls which hide under their monotony the gems of stonework with their elegant decoration.This cell is as dark as a cellar, barbarously squalid. But to all our questions the moollah who was our guide only replied:
The ugliest of these palaces is that of the Maharajah, with galleries of varnished wood, of which the windows overlooking the river are filled with gaudy stained glass. In the garden is a pagoda painted in crude colours crowned with a gilt cupola; the zenana has bright red walls striped with green, and in the grounds there is a cottage exactly copied from a villa in the suburbs of London.[Pg 201]
From Kusshalgar we were travelling in a tonga once more. The landscape was all of steep hills without vegetation; stretches of sand, hills of clay—lilac or rosy brick-earth scorched in the sun, green or brown earth where there had been recent landslips, baked by the summer heat to every shade of red. There was one hill higher than the rest, of a velvety rose-colour with very gentle undulations, and then a river-bed full of snowy-white sand, which was salt.There was a children's garden-party to-day in the grounds of the English Resident; a crowd of fair-haired babies, excessively Greenaway in their long, light frocks with bright-hued sashes. They shouted with joy at the swings and wooden horses, clapping their hands when it came to their turn to ride the elephant that marched about the park—so fair, so bright, with their nurses or Indian ayahs wrapped in crude showy muslins.详情
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