Towards evening the sky turned to a dull, dark green, and in the sudden gloom down came the rain in floods, tremendous, solid, for about five minutes; then as suddenly it was as hot as ever again, dry and overpowering.
LUCKNOW This Rawal Pindi is an English town of cottages surrounded by lawns and shrubberies; about two streets of bazaar, and red uniforms everywhere, Highland soldiers in kilts, white helmets, and the officers' and sergeants' wives airing their Sunday finery in their buggies. The ladies drive themselves, under the shelter of a sunshade on an all[Pg 239] too short stick, painfully held by a hapless native servant clinging to the back of the carriage in a dislocating monkey-like attitude.
The orchestra, consisting of a harmonium, a violin, and a darboukha, played a languishing, drawling air to a halting rhythm, while the chorus, standing in a line on the stage, sang the introductory verses.
There was a sort of murmur behind the door, like reciting a prayer, then louder tones, indeed a very loud shout, repeated three times by several voices at once; and then the one alone continued in a dull chant. The door was half opened and I was beckoned, but to enter alone.
At the polo-match in the evening the band played, and three ladies were present; in sign of the spring having come, a basket was hung to the branch of a tree, full of straw kept constantly wet by the coolies, and containing sundry bottles of soda-water.
Some prisoners were brought to the train; a single sepoy led them by a chain. Two carried enormous bales, and the third a heavy case. They packed themselves into a compartment that was almost full already, and one of a couple that were chained together by the wrists put the chain round his neck; then, when he had scraped acquaintance with the other travellers, he amused himself by tormenting the hawkers of drink and pastry, bargaining with them for a long time and buying nothing, quite delighted when he had put them in a rage with him.
An old-world Indian city with nothing of modern flimsiness and tinsel. The arcades and balconies of the houses in the bazaar are carved out of solid wood, polished by ages to tones of burnished steel and warm gold. Copper nails in the doors shine in the sun. Along the quiet streets, where nothing passes by but, now and then, a slow-paced camel, Hindoos make their way, draped in pale pink, or in white scarcely tinged with green or orange colour; little naked children, with necklaces, bangles and belts of silver, looking like ribbons on their bronze skin. In front of the shops is a brilliant harmony of copper, sheeny fruits, and large pale green pots. A glad atmosphere of colour surrounds the smiling people and the houses with their old scorched stones.
The storm raged on all day, bringing down clouds that swept the earth and yawned in cataracts, to the awful roar of the thunder that shook the foundation of rock.
Pilgrims crowd the courts and the temples. All, when they speak, hold a hand or a corner of their[Pg 76] robe before their lips to avoid swallowing the tiniest insect, which would avert the favour of the gods. They bring offerings of rice or gram in little bags of faded silk, pale pink, or green, and gold thread; the poorest have bags of red and white beads.