On entering the park the cocked turbans of the bodyguard again reminded us of the hats of the French Guards.
The dinner-table was covered with flowers—Maréchal Niel and Gloire de Dijon roses—but enormous, as big as saucers, and of such a texture, such a colour! a tissue of frost and light; and round the table, which was loaded with silver plate, were grey and red uniforms. Strains of music were wafted in through the open windows from the regimental band playing slow waltz-tunes a little way off.
TRICHINOPOLYThe view spread to the horizon of mauve-pink sky, very faintly streaked with green. We could see the white mass of Secunderabad, a town of English barracks, at the foot of chaotic red-brown rocks, looking like the heaped-up ruins of some city of the Titans; and among trees shrouded in blue smoke, Hyderabad, conspicuous for its two mosques—the tomb of the Empress and the Jumna Musjid, the mausoleum of the Nizams.
Three musicians in white, with red turbans, squatted down on the ground in front of us. One sang to the accompaniment of a viol with three strings and nine frets, and a darboukha; a drawling strain, all on the upper notes, and rising higher to a shrill monotonous wail, retarded, as it were, to a rhythm against the accompaniment; then by degrees more lively, faster and faster, ending with a sudden stop on a word of guttural consonants. But the man began again; he sang for a long time, varying the tunes, always returning to the first. But nothing of them remains in my mind, not even the rhythm, only a vague recollection, a singular echo, confused but [Pg 67]charming, in spite of the weirdness of the too high pitch.Near this tomb is a stele with the dish on the top of it in which the Koh-i-noor was found. In the crypt of the mosque, at the end of a passage, is a vaulted room lined with stucco and devoid of ornament, and here is the burial place of Akbar, a mound covered with lime. The sarcophagus above, at the foot of which the Koh-i-noor once blazed, is but the replica of this.
As we go nearer, gothic towers are distinguishable among the buildings—faint reminiscences of Chester, clumsily revived under the burning light of white Asia.
More temples, each more stupendous than the[Pg 41] last, and more halls hewn in the rifts of the hills, and over them monks' cells perched on little columns, which at such a height look no thicker than threads.A marble balustrade, of flowing design and astounding delicacy, exquisitely harmonious and artistic, encloses the white sarcophagus, which is inlaid with mindi and basilic flowers in costly agate, linked by inscriptions looking like lacings of narrow black braid. This balustrade alone, in the Taj, under the marble pile which forms the tomb of the empress, and on which 20,000 craftsmen laboured for twenty years, would, in its indescribable beauty of workmanship, have amply fulfilled Shah Jehan's vow.
In this house abode the postmaster of the Persian mails, and I wanted to register a letter for Cabul.
The sarcophagus rests in the depths of a vaulted crypt lighted only by narrow latticed loopholes, and it is shrouded in a mysterious glimmer, a mingling of golden sunbeams and the reflections from the marble walls inlaid with precious stones.
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Above the mausoleum a fort with battlements towers over the pass, "an impregnable position," the guides tell us.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.>At the top of Malabar Hill, in a garden with freshly raked walks and clumps of flowers edged with pearl-shells, stand five limewashed towers, crowned with a living battlement of vultures: the great Dokma, the Towers of Silence, where the Parsees are laid after death, "as naked as when they came into the world and as they must return to nothingness," to feed the birds of prey, which by the end of a few hours leave nothing of the body but the bones, to bleach in the sun and be scorched[Pg 30] to dust that is soon carried down to the sea by the first rains of the monsoon.
As soon as the last customer's beard was trimmed, the barber took down the cage and carried the bird to another spot whence we could hear its scream.A poor sick ape, beaten by all the others, sat crying with hunger at the top of a parapet. I called her for a long time, showing her some maize on a tray. At last she made up her mind to come down. With the utmost caution she reached me, and then, after two or three feints, she struck the platter with her closed fist, sending all the grain flying. Utterly scared, she fled, followed to her perch by a whole party of miscreants roused by the gong-like blow on the tray. Others stole into the temple to snatch the flowers while the attendant priest had his back turned; and when I left they were all busily engaged in rolling an earthenware bowl about, ending its career in a smash. In front of the temple the crimson dust round a stake shows the spot where every day the blood is shed of a goat sacrificed to the Divinity.详情
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