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黑防联盟

类型:奇幻地区: 发布:2020-10-23 02:04:57

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In the train to Delhi the windows were screened with cuscus mats constantly sprinkled with water, and so long as the train was in motion the air came in cool, fragrant, and breathable. But whenever we stopped in the desert which this country becomes just before the monsoon, melted lead seemed to scorch up the atmosphere and shut the train in between walls of fire.To the Chandni Chowkthe bazaar. In a miniature-painter's shop was a medley of ivories, of boxes inlaid with silver and ebony, and toys carved in sandal-wood.

Near the sepoys' tents long lines of mules picketed by their feet stood by the guns; and further on baggage-camels, lying down, were hardly distinguishable from the russet grass and the scorched ochre sand.But this suburb is now no more than a heap of huts and hovels. The tombs, ruined and overthrown, are few and far apart, heaped with sand, and showing as arid hillocks amid the level of withered grass. The plain beyond, laid out in rice-fields of a tender green, furrowed with silver streamlets, spreads unbroken to the foot of a huge wall of the hue of red gold enclosing a hill; and on[Pg 99] entering the precincts, behold, in the bays of the thickness of the wall, a whole village where dwell the families of the soldiers who guard this citadel.

The Rajah being absent we were allowed to see everything. On the upper floor is the Ranee's dressing-room. All round the large room were glass wardrobes, in which could be seen bodices in the latest Paris fashion, and ugly enough; and then a perfect rainbow of tender opaline hues: light silks as fine as cobwebs, shawls of every dye in Cashmere wool with woven patterns, and[Pg 53] gauze of that delicate rose-colour and of the yellow that looks like gold with the light shining through, which are only to be seen in Indiaroyal fabrics, dream-colours, carefully laid up in sandal-wood and stored behind glass and thick curtains, which were dropped over them as soon as we had looked. And crowding every table and bracket were the most childish thingsscreens, cups and boxes in imitation bronze, set with false stonesthe playthings of a little barbarian. A coloured photograph stood on the toilet-table between brushes and pomatum-pots; it represented the mistress of this abode, a slender doll without brains, her eyes fixed on vacancy.Inside, a subdued light, rosy and golden, comes in through the myriad interstices, casting a glow of colour on the pierced marble screens which enclose the tomb of Shah Alam, Sultan of Gujerat. The tomb itself, hung with a red cloth under a canopy on posts inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is dimly seen in the twilight, scarcely touched here and there with the pearly gleam and lights reflected from ostrich eggs and glass ballstoys dedicated by the faithful to the hero who lies there in his last sleep. Yet further away, under the trees, is another tomb, almost the same, but less ornamented, where the sultan's wives repose.

The regiment is housed under sheds, the horses picketed to the ground by one fore and one hind foot. They are thoroughbred and magnificent beasts, almost all from the prince's stud, and affectionately cared for by the men, who were delighted to be complimented on their steeds.COLOMBOThe Cingalese women, of languid gait, wear a long dark robe clinging about their legs and reaching to the ground. The poorer women have only a scanty saree to complete the costume; the more wealthy display stockings and boots; a white bodice cut low, with open sleeves and no basque leaves a roll of skin visible between the skirt and the bodice. The men wear a long loin-cloth of English trouser-stuff, a white jacket buttoned over the bare skin, and a twist of back hair like a woman's, in which they stick a celluloid comb, coronet-fashionsuch a comb as is used in Europe[Pg 125] to keep the hair back from a child's forehead. And all the race are too slender, too pliant, their eyes too long and slightly darkened with kohl; the boys especially have an unpleasant, ambiguous look.

A causeway of white stone, with a fragile [Pg 234]balustrade and columns bearing lanterns of gold, leads from the shore to the temple.

In the evening calm, the silence, broken only by the yelling of the jackals, weighed heavy on the spirit; and in spite of the twinkling lights and the village at our feet, an oppressive sense of loneliness, of aloofness and death, clutched me like a nightmare.On the great banyan trees in the garden, and on every palm, torpid vultures sit in the sun, awaiting the meal that will come with the next funeral procession.

The moon at night shed an intense light, warm and golden. There was scarcely any shadow, and in the quivering atmosphere the flowers poured out their perfume on the cooler air. Frogs croaked a basso continuo to cries of night birds, and a sort of roar, very loud but very distant, almost drowned the concert in the fort close by.The muddy waters reflected the grey houses and the roofs of unbaked clay, on which the winter snows were melting in black trickling drops."Export business!" says Abibulla.

By the side of the Manumenka stand two stel?, on which two carved figures, represented as surrounded by flames, preserve the memory of the time when the funeral pyre consumed the living wife with the dead husband.All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-bootha din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.

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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.Above Darjeelinga modern and fashionable health-resort, a town of villas, for the most part with corrugated iron roofshangs a dense mist, cutting off the horizon at a distance of a few miles; and through the dull substance of this fleece, at an impossible height, there was a reflectiona mirage, an illusion, a brighter gleam, a bluer shadow, which might be the top of a mountain; but so high up, so far away, and above all so transient, that it failed to fix itself on the memory, blotted out at once by the pallid wall that shut[Pg 147] in the scene. But at sunset one thickness of the haze melted away, unveiling, leagues on leagues away, a chain of giant mountains, not yet the snowy peaks, but bright-hued cliffs on which gold and purple mingled in symphonies before dying into violet, turning to blue in the moonlight; and the mists fell once morea shroud at our feet, an abyss of shadows, in which the tea-planters' lamps twinkled through the darkness.

After her another woman repeated the ceremony, and then they went away, still singing. This went on for part of the evening. When it was all over they went to eat rice at the bridegroom's house, and meanwhile the same ceremony had been performed with the bride, whom her neighbours had taken it by turns to anoint and perfume, in a house closed against prying eyes.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.

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