On the very edge of the Jumna, where russet fields break the monotony of its white sandy banks, is the private state-room, the residence of the sovereigns of Delhi, built of translucent milky[Pg 217] marble, warmed by the reflection of gold inlaid on the columns and merged with the stone that is turned to amber.One morning a quantity of dead rats were found lying on the ground; next some pigeons and fowls. Then a man died of a strange malady—an unknown disease, and then others, before it was known that they were even ill. A little fever, a little swelling under the arm, or in the throat, or on the groin—and in forty-eight hours the patient was dead. The mysterious disease spread and increased; every day the victims were more and more numerous; an occult and treacherous evil, come none knew whence. At first it was attributed to some dates imported from Syria, to some corn brought from up-country; the dates were destroyed, the corn thrown into the sea, but the scourge went on and increased, heralded by terror and woe.
We went into the observatory, where the servants were sleeping in the open air on camp beds, lying across each other and blocking the entrance.[Pg 177] I went to gaze at the north star, looking very small, a tiny spangle of blue in the blue velvet sky, visible at the top of a crazy flight of steps that goes up to nowhere in the air from the topmost terrace.
Here again the cars of the gods were neglected in the open air, and one of them, older than the rest, was fast being transfigured into a pyramid of shrubs and flowers.Men were carrying mud in enormous turtle-shells that they used for baskets.Delhi appeared in the blinding light like an unsubstantial vision, white against a bleached sky; and as we got nearer the city half vanished like a mirage, blotted out and dim through a shifting cloud of dust.
And side by side with history a pleasing legend tells that King Anang-Pal yearned to atone for his faults and redeem the earth from sin. So by the[Pg 220] counsels of a wise Brahmin he caused this vast iron spike to be forged by giants, to be driven into the earth and pierce the serpent Sechnaga, who upholds the world. The deed was done, but because certain disbelieving men denied that the monster was dead, the king caused the weapon to be pulled up, and at the end of it behold the stain of blood; so the iron beam was driven in again. But the spell was broken—the creature had escaped. The column remained unstable, prefiguring the end of the dynasty of Anang, and the serpent still works his wicked will.
As soon as we returned to Palitana the Rajah sent to inquire after me, and to present me with round boxes of fruit preserved in Cashmere, oval green grapes, each wrapped separately in cotton and smelling of honey.
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Music in the evening, in the gardens which surround the library, the chapel, and the tennis[Pg 286] courts. The ladies' dresses and the uniforms were lustrous in the moonlight. First we had the regimental band, and then songs to a banjo accompaniment; and all about us in the tall trees, the minahs and parrots shrieking as if it were broad daylight, finished the concert by themselves. A huge creeper, swaying between two branches, hung like a curtain of yellow flowers embroidered, as it seemed, on the airy tangle of leaves.One of my sepoys was lying asleep in the [Pg 82]verandah of the bungalow. A variety of articles hung from his belt: an antelope's horn made into a powder-flask, several tassels of red and green silk threaded in a row, a triple chain of copper serving to hang up lamps in front of the sacred images, a small damascened knife in a crimson velvet sheath, and a tiny yellow earthenware bottle containing kohl.
Then, as it began to grow a little cool, the inquiry was continued indoors, whither the table was removed with the papers and the weapons, and, with great care, the magistrate's "soda." The two culprits were brought in and out, and in and out again, sometimes alone, sometimes to be confronted with the witnesses, who, almost all of them, had the fresh stains of the festival on their garments.After an hour's passage we reached the island, which is thickly planted with fine large trees.详情
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