【人民网舆情数据中心人民在线】资深产品经理:李磊

A smart affair altogether is this carriage! two very high wheels, no springs, a tiny cotton awning[Pg 269] supported on four sticks lacquered red, and sheltering the seat which has three ropes by way of a back to it. Portmanteaus and nosebags are hung all round, and even a kettle swings from the near shaft, adding the clatter of its cymbal to the Indian symphony of creaking wheels, the cracking whips, the driver's cries of "Cello, cello," and Abibulla's repeated "Djaldi," all intended to hurry the horse's pace. Another sanctuary holds an idol made of seven metals mingled to a pale golden hue. The statue is loaded with jewellery of silver and precious stones. On its head is a fan-shaped diadem starred with rubies. The walls and columns, of a dull purple, are decorated with gaudy mosaic of scraps of looking-glass set in brass along the lines of the mouldings.

All round the Rajah's palace crowds a town of palaces, mosques, and temples dedicated to Vishnu; and outside the walls, on a plain lying between the hills of Amber, is another town, still thick with ruins amid the forest of encroaching trees. And it is all dead, deserted, dust-coloured, unspeakably sad, with the sadness of destruction and desertion in the midst of a landscape gorgeous with flowers and groves. In the palace of Amber, guides make a good[Pg 216] business of showing us the public rooms, baths, and bedrooms, all restored with an eye to the tourist. In the gardens, heavy with perfume, the trees display swinging balls of baked earth full of holes, which protect the ripening fruit from the monkeys; a whole tribe of them scampered off at our approach, and went to torment the peacocks that were solemnly promenading a path, and that presently flew away.

A kind of lemon plant, with picotee-like flowers of a texture like crystalline pearl, its petals delicately fringed, exhales a fresh scent like verbena. Then, on an ebony-tree, overgrown with succulent leaves forming an edging to every bough, is a birdas it would seema lilac bird, with open wings, which, as we approach, turns into an orchid. My friend Captain McT, with whom I stayed, had a house with a peaked, reed-thatched roof. Round the verandah where we slept at night hung festoons of jasmine and bougainvillea. Bamboos, ph?nix, and curtains of creepers at the end of the lawn made a wall of verdure, fresh and cool; and through this were wafted the perfumes shed on the airthe scent of roses and verbena, of violet[Pg 290] or of rosemary, according to the side whence the wind blew, mingling with that of the amaryllis and honeysuckle in bloom close at hand. And in this quiet garden, far from the bazaar where the darboukhas were twanging, birds sang all night, and the fireflies danced in mazes from flower to flower.

I have no right to stay in Cashmere without the authorization of the Anglo-Indian Government, and ought to have handed such a permit to the police on arriving. I have noneno papers whatever. At mess there were two newly-arrived officers, come from Tochi; they had been attacked on the road in the night by sixteen men. The driver and the horse were killed; they themselves had not a scratch, and they told the story very much at their ease, relating the comic features of the incidenthow a bullet had lodged itself in a pot hanging to a mule's pack, and the frightened creature had kicked "like mad." 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.

The same ubiquitous terminus on a sandy plain, remote from everything; then a drive jolting through bogs, and we reached the dirty, scattered town crowded with people who had collected round a sort of fair with booths for mountebanks, and roundabouts of wooden horses.

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.

Two days after, the people would burn in great state, on an enormous wood pile, an image of Time, to ensure the return next year of the festival of colours.

In this Peshawur the houses are crowded along narrow, crooked alleys, and there is but one rather wider street of shops, which here already have a quite[Pg 242] Persian character, having for sale only the products of Cabul or Bokhara. The balconies, the shutters, the verandahs and galleries are of wood inlaid in patterns like spider-net. The timbers are so slight that they would seem quite useless and too fragile to last; and yet they are amazingly strong, and alone remain in place, amid heaps of stones, in houses that have fallen into ruin. In the streets, the contrast is strange, of tiny houses with the Afghans, all over six feet high, superb men wearing heavy dhotis of light colours faded to white, still showing in the shadow of the folds a greenish-blue tinge of dead turquoise. Solemn and slow, or motionless in statuesque attitudes while they converse in few words, and never gesticulate, they are very fine, with a fierce beauty; their large, open eyes are too black, and their smile quite distressingly white in faces where the muscles look stiff-set. Even the children, in pale-hued silk shirts, are melancholy, languid, spiritless, but very droll, too, in their little pointed caps covered with gold braid, and the finery of endless metal necklaces, and bangles on their ankles and arms.

NANDGAUN

At last, when it was very late, the reciter lifted the heavy idol on to his head. A few worshippers followed him, carrying the flowers, the little jars and the baskets offered to the goddess, and the procession marched off towards the Ganges; while the nautch-girls went on with their performance, giving loud, sharp shrieks out of all time with the shrill but somnolent music.