The road goes on. Trees cast their shade on the flagstone pavement, but between the houses and through open windows the sandy plain may be seen, the endless whiteness lost in a horizon of dust.The sweepers, the saises, the bearers, the whole tribe of noisy, idle servants—men, women, and children—all sleep out of doors in the hotter weather. And all day long the camp-bed, the two mats, and half a dozen pots, which constitute the[Pg 285] whole furniture of a family, move round the house with the shade, only settling down after dark.At our feet lay old Gwalior, sacked again and again, and as often rebuilt out of its own ruins;[Pg 202] and now the princely residences, all of marble wrought in almost transparent lacework, serve to shelter wandering cattle.
And to close the procession came more soldiers.In an alley of the bazaar girls were lounging in hammocks hung to nails outside the windows, smoking and spitting down on the world below.
Figures draped in pale muslins brushed past us, hastening to the door. Flower-sellers, in one of the arcades, were hurrying to finish their garlands; and suddenly, close before us—a mass that looked as if it were part of the temple itself—an enormous elephant started into sight, passed on and vanished in the darkness.A tank here is deep below ground, down three flights of galleries. Quite at the bottom is a little stagnant water, into which children leap from the top of the structure, a plunge of twenty metres, ending in a great splash of green mud that smells of water-lilies and grease.
[Pg 244]"Nautch-girls for tourists, like Europeans," said my Indian servant Abibulla. "Can-can dancing-girls," he added, with an air of triumph at having shown me a wonder.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.
Entering by one of the fourteen gates in the ramparts of stone blocks scarcely hewn into shape, the city of palaces and mosques is found in ruins, matching the fortifications, without any decoration,[Pg 225] and all of the same cold grey hue, like a city of prisons.Then a girl's body was brought out, wrapped in white muslin; the bier, made of bamboo, was wreathed with marigolds, and on the light shroud there were patches of crimson powder, almost violet. The bearers, on reaching the river, placed the body in the water, leaving it there for a time.
A dome of smoke hangs like a vault over the fires, motionless, veiling the sun. The relations of the dead, sitting on their heels, gaze at the flames with an expression almost of indifference; no one weeps, and they converse calmly in no subdued tones.
[Pg 110]And suddenly, emerging from the ruins, we came on a Moslem street with high walls, windowless, and waving plumes of banyan and palm trees rising above the houses.
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