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类型:奇幻地区:轹发布:2020-09-22 02:12:04

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At the station pilgrims again, bewildered, shouting, rushing about in search of their lost luggage. One group presently emerged from the crowd, led by a man bareheaded, who rang a big bell with great gesticulations, his arms in the air, and the whole party marched off towards the temples in silent and orderly procession.

At the back of the room the master of the house squatted on the floor, dressed in green richly embroidered with gold, and on his head was a vase-shaped cap or tiara of astrakhan. Near him, in an armchair, sat a perfectly naked fakir, his breast covered with jade necklaces. His face was of superhuman beauty, emaciated, with a look of suffering, his eyes glowing with rapt ecstasy. He seemed to be entranced, seeing nothing but a vision, and intoxicated by its splendour.

And to and fro on the ramparts, the sentry, in an uniform of the same hue as the sun-baked bricks, paced his beat, invisible but for a needle of light on his fixed bayonet; till when crossing a patch of light he was seen like an apparition, lost again in the shadow of the wall.A palankin, hung with heavy red curtains, went by very quickly, borne by five men. They chanted a sort of double-quick march, marking the time with a plaintive sigh and a slight bend of the knees, which gave their pace the appearance of a dance, the litter swaying very gently.

We left the caravan far behind. In the gorge with its rosy-pink soil the silence was exquisite, the air had the freshness of a mountain height, and quite inexplicably amid these barren rocks, where there was not a sign of vegetation, there was a scent of honey and almonds.We visited a temple where the natives treasure the couch of the Guru Ram-Roy, a very holy and much venerated fakir.

At our feet were the two walls, the outer wall enclosing the palace, the gardens, the arena, where fights were given between elephants and tigers; the inner wall, ten metres high, built round the zenanathe women's palaceof which even the foundations have almost disappeared under the overwhelming vegetation."It must be the tax-collector to bring such a mob together."

Four women and two men wearing masks stretched in a broad grimaceone of the men in a red satin robe edged with leopard-skin, while the other had a squalid white shirt, intentionally soiled, over all his clothesthen began to dance round the priest, stopping presently to spin very fast on one[Pg 149] spot, and the girls' skirts floated gracefully in heavy folds, showing their under-skirts of bright satin embroidered with silver and gold. One of these women, who were not satisfied with painting their faces, by way of adornment, on the nose and cheeks with blackened pig's blood, took off her mask, showing her whole face smeared with it. She and the man in the dirty shirt played a number of mountebank's tricks to the great delectation of the spectators, and she finished amid thunders of applause by seating herself on the Lama's knee and stroking his beard.HARDWARThe 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.

Along the roads of beaten earth, between tall plastered houses, a tramway runs. In the shopfronts the motley display suggests a curiosity shop, and the goods have a look of antiquity under the thick layer of dust that lies on everything. It is[Pg 5] only in the heart of the city, in the "Fort," that the shops and houses have a European stamp.From Kusshalgar we were travelling in a tonga once more. The landscape was all of steep hills without vegetation; stretches of sand, hills of claylilac or rosy brick-earth scorched in the sun, green or brown earth where there had been recent landslips, baked by the summer heat to every shade of red. There was one hill higher than the rest, of a velvety rose-colour with very gentle undulations, and then a river-bed full of snowy-white sand, which was salt.

TRICHINOPOLYThen a quiet little street. Our guide paused in front of a whitewashed house. An old woman came out, and with many salaams and speeches of welcome led us into a large, low room.

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The bearer of Kali walked into the sacred river up to his knees, and then dropped the idol. The[Pg 143] Hindoos who had followed him fell prostrate in fervent prayer, hiding their face in their hands, and then flung after the goddess, now lost in the waters, all the baskets, jars, and flowers, to be carried down the stream. For a moment the silver paper crown which had floated up spun on the water that was spangled by the moon, and then it sank in an eddy.The doors were shut; all was silencethe stillness of the star-lit night.Turning out of this high street blazing with lamps, were dens of prostitution, and dark, cut-throat alleys.

And as they went home at nightfall enormous bats came out and flew across above the tall trees in heavy, steady, straight flight. Without a sound they made for the last gleam on the horizon, where[Pg 98] the vanished sun had left a crimson line; and what an insistent image of death and oblivion were those great black fowl, slowly flapping their five-fingered wings spread out round their bodies, headless as they would seem, so small is the head, and so close-set on the neck. One might fancy that they were bearing away the day, gliding noiseless and innumerable towards the west, where already the last gleam is dead.The evening was exquisitely calm, shrouding everything in rose-colour, and shedding a light, opalescent golden haze on the pools and streams. And out of this floating gauze, in the doubtful light, white figures seemed to emerge gradually,[Pg 107] only to vanish again in the pure, transparent atmosphere of the blue night.

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