2021-04-14 12:39:17

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ENGLISH There was not a sound, not a bird, excepting on the fringe of the forest. As we penetrated further there soon was no undergrowth even on the dry soil, between the ever closer array of trees; the creepers hung very low, tangled with clinging parasites; and between the stilt-like and twining roots and the drooping boughs, the path, now impracticable, suddenly ended in face of the total silence and black shade that exhaled a strong smell of pepper, while not a leaf stirred.Since your Majesty saw me, I must inform the Queen that I removed that rouleau of gold because it is false.

In one brilliantly-lighted hall, priests, dressed in long yellow dalmatics, were adoring idols, elephants, Anantas; and from an enormous gold lotus sprang the Mandeel, rising through the dome, its tip standing in the outer air to bear the white flag that is hoisted on high festivals. At the entrance to this shrine parrots in cages suddenly set up a hostile outcry as I passed them, and were only pacified by the coming of a priest, who gave them some food. The clatter, however, had attracted other Brahmins; one of them desired me to leave, "and[Pg 117] at once." I declined to obey, so he sent for the elephant who does duty as police, to turn me out.

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.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.

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When I went away home to the fort, where I was living with my friend Lieutenant F, the sentinel's challenge, the tall grey walls casting sharp shadows on the courtyard silvered with moonlight, and another sentry's cry; and still, in contrast with the cheerful evening, I could remember nothing but the tonga post-horsea thing so frequent in this land of fanatics, so common that no one gives it more than a passing thought.

To-day a religious festival; from the earliest hour everybody had donned new clothes, and in the [Pg 262]afternoon in the bazaar there was a masquerade of the lowest classembroidered dhotis, white robes, light-coloured turbans displaying large discs of green, red or blue. The men, even old men, ran after each other with bottles of coloured water, which they sprinkled far and near. One indeed had neither more nor less than a phial of violet ink, which, on the face and hands of a little black boy, shone with metallic lustre. One boy, in a clean garment, fled from a man who was a constant beggar from me, and who was pursuing him with some yellow fluid; and the fugitive was quite seriously blamed for disregarding the will of the gods and goddesses, whose festival it was.

On our way back through the temple-quarter a sudden wild excitement possessed the worshippers and priests; out of a side street rushed a large troop of monkeys, grey, with black faces. They galloped past in a close pack and fled to the trees, shrieking shrilly. One, however, lagged behind, bent on stealing some rice that had been brought as an offering to a plaster image of Vishnu. A Brahmin stood watching the monkey, and tried to scare it away with a display of threatening arms, but he dared not hit the beast sacred to Hanuman, the god of the green face. The creature, never stirring from the spot, yelled aloud, bringing the rest of the pack back on to the roof of the neighbouring pagodas. Then the ringleader, with a subdued, sleepy, innocent gait, stole gently up to the tray of offerings. He was on the point of reaching it when the priest raised his arm. This was a signal for the whole tribe to scream and dance with terror, but without retreating. The performance seemed likely to last; the bazaar and the temples were in a hubbub of excitement; the doors of the shops and the sanctuaries were hastily shut, till, at the mere sight of a man who came out[Pg 299] with a long bamboo in his hand, the whole pack made off and appeared no more, and Hardwar relapsed into its somnolent sanctity.The Rajah's residence, of plaster like the rest of the town, is pink too outside, but the interior is aggressive with paint of harsh colours. In the living rooms is shabby furniture, gilt chairs turned one over the other, as on the day after a ball. The curtains over the doors and windows are of silk,[Pg 214] but frayed and threadbare. In the shade of a marble court with carved columns, clerks are employed in counting moneyhandsome coins stamped with flowers and Indian characters, laid out in rows. They count them into bags round which soldiers mount guard.

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A garden of roses and lilies was the dwelling-place of a very ancient fakir, who had taken a vow[Pg 163] to live naked, and only put on a loin-cloth when ladies were expected. He was venerated by all, yes, even by Abibulla, who knelt before him, touched the holy man's feet and then his own forehead. The old fellow was surrounded by pilgrims wearing wreaths of flowers round their neck; he came to meet me, took me by the hand, and led me under the shade of a kiosk, where he showed me a large book he had written, containing an account of the joys and ecstasies of his life of asceticism and prayer. This old man had a magnificent brow, and the deep gaze of his kind, smiling eyes was fine in a face puckered with a thousand wrinkles. Infinite calm and peace characterized this happy soula naked man in the midst of flowers.The noblesse depe was the highest, most brilliant, and most scandalous in France; but in its ranks were to be found heroic examples and saintly characters; while far away in the convents and chateaux scattered over the country and in quiet bourgeois families in the towns lives were led of earnest faith, devotion, and self-denial.The most important part of the tour to Mme. Le Brun was her visit to Antwerp, then a medi?val city of extraordinary beauty and interest, which have only, in fact, of comparatively recent years been destroyed by the vandalism of its inhabitants. So striking was its appearance, with its walls, gates, and forest of towers rising from the broad Scheldt, that Napoleon, enchanted with its beauty, said it looked like an Arab city, and he gazed upon it with admiration.

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Apr-14 12:39:17