Then at Peshawur again in the evening, girls, with groups of soldiers in red jackets or Scotch kilts; the common women were horrible, whitened,[Pg 251] with loose shirts and tight-fitting trousers. One alone sat at her window wreathed about with mindi flowers in the crude light of a lamp. The others accosted the passer-by, laughing and shouting in shrill tones.Beyond this point among the mountains the road seemed to vanish, to lead nowhere, lost in pale red among the red cliffs, as if it stopped at the foot of the rocky wall.Images of horses recurred at intervals, singly, or in pairs face to face; and as evening came on we saw round a pagoda a whole procession of horses in terra-cotta, some very much injured, arranged as if they were running round, one after another, in search of the heads and legs they had lost.
All the sick were sudras, Hindoos of the lowest caste. All the rest, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisiyas, would rather die at home, uncared for, than endure the promiscuous mixture of caste at the hospital, and contact with their inferiors. Even the sudras are but few. There is an all-pervading dread of a hospital, fostered by Indian bone-setters and sorcerers, stronger even than the fear of the pestilence; the people hide themselves to die, like[Pg 33] wounded animals, and their relations will not speak of an illness for fear of seeing anybody belonging to them taken to the hospital.The Prince of Morvi came before sunrise to take us to the temples of Satrunji. On the way we outstripped carts packed full of women and children in light shimmering muslins. They were all making a pilgrimage to the sacred hill, singing shrill chants in time to the jolting of their springless vehicles,[Pg 70] and broken by oaths and imprecations at the stoppages occasioned by our expedition.The sun cast broad satin lights on its bay coat, already dry; the light hoofs, the pretty head with dilated nostrils gave the creature dignity—it looked like a thoroughbred, really noble in its last rest; while the vultures and kites hovered round, waiting for us to be gone.
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.And at this day the high road passes Secundra Bagh in ruins, and on the ground where Nana Sahib's soldiers fell, huge flowers are strewn of "flame of the forest" fading into hues of blood.
On a square, shaded by an awning, with porticoes all round, coolies in white dresses sat on the ground making up little bunches of flowers, the blossoms without stems tied close to a pliant cane for garlands—jasmine, roses, chrysanthemums, and sweet basil—for in India, as in Byzantium of old, basil is the flower of kings and gods. The basil's fresh scent overpowered the smell of sandal-wood and incense which had gradually soaked into me in the presence of the idols, and cleared the atmosphere delightfully. A woman rolled up in pale-tinted muslins under the warm halo of light falling through the[Pg 80] awning, was helping one of the florists. She supported on her arm a long garland of jasmine alternating with balls of roses. Almost motionless, she alone, in the midst of the idols, at all reminded me of a goddess.Then a man rose, and standing on the bayadères' carpet, he recited, in verses of equal measure, a sort of heroic legend, making his voice big, and emphasizing his words with grand gesticulation. One of the dancers spoke the antistrophe, and this went on interminably, till their voices gradually sank to mere hollow and expressionless intoning, while they swayed their bodies to and fro like children who do not know their lesson.
The front of the temple is covered with paintings. Decorations in the Persian style divide the panels, on which are depicted the principal scenes from the sacred books of the Brahmins. There are two perfect things to be seen here: two nude female figures standing, one white, the other brown, exquisitely refined in colouring, admirably drawn in a style reminding me of early Italian art; and then, just beyond these, tasteless imitations of chromos—goddesses with eyes too large and a simper like the advertisements of tooth-paste, and some horrible caricatures of English ladies in the fashion of ten years ago holding parasols like a nimbus.The actors were exclusively men and boys, those who took female parts wore rusty wigs over their own long, black hair; these were plaited on each side of the face, and waxed behind to fall over the shoulders. The costumes of velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold and silver, were hideous.
Out of doors, meanwhile, one funeral procession almost trod on the heels of the last; at the latest gleam of day, and out towards the west, above the Field of Burning, a broad red cloud filled all one quarter of the sky.
In the silence of a moonless night nine o'clock struck from the great tower of the Law Courts—a pretty set of chimes, reminding me of Bruges or Antwerp; and when the peal had died away a bugle in the sepoys' quarters took up the strain of the chimes, only infinitely softer, saddened to a minor key and to a slower measure; while in the distance[Pg 32] an English trumpet, loud and clear, sounded the recall in counterpart.In the spacious harbour, where a whole fleet of steamships lies at anchor, a swarm of decked boats are moving about, sober in colour, with the bows raised very high in a long peak, and immense narrow sails crossed like a pair of scissors, and resembling a seagull's wings.
The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.[Pg 196]The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.详情
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