2021-04-17 10:22:50

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ENGLISH

And as the priests knew that the beast would need no help they again left me to myself. Up came the elephant at a brisk trot, flourishing his trunk and hooting; within two yards of me he stopped and stood still. He accepted a four-anna piece that I offered him, and handed it up for his driver, but finding no one on his back he put the coin back into my pocket, and sniffing all over my coat found a biscuit, ate it, and then quietly went back to his stable.

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Our boat stole slowly past the palaces, where there were no lights, through the haze rising from the river, and all things assumed a dissolving appearance as though they were about to vanish; all was shrouded and dim with mystery.Legends have gathered round the Taj Mahal as about every old building in India, and this one seems to me not impossible in its barbarity.The rice, lately sown, was sprouting in little square plots of dazzling green; it was being taken up to transplant into enormous fields perpetually under water. All the "paddy" fields are, in fact, channelled with watercourses, or if they are on higher ground, watered from a well. A long beam is balanced over the mouth of the well, and two boys run up and down to lower and raise the bucket; a man tilts the water into the runlets out of a large vessel of dusky copper, or perhaps out of a leaky, dripping water-skin.

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.In one tent there was a display of innumerable gilt images, very suggestive of Jesuit influencemincing, chubby angels, martyrs carrying palm-branches, and ecstatic virgins with clasped hands, all serving to decorate the shrine in which the god was to be carried back to the temple. Coloured fires lighted the workmen, and in the background the temple was darkly visible, with only a few dim lamps shrouded in incense, and burning before Rama, whose festival was being kept.

Society was much smaller, people knew each other, or at any rate knew much more about each other, than could be the case after the revolution. The Comte dEspinchal was the most extraordinary instance of this essentially social life. He passed his days and nights in going from one party or visit to another; he knew all about everything going [53] on, important or trivial. He appeared to know every one not only at the parties to which he went, but in all the boxes at the Opera, and nearly everybody he met in the streets, so that it was quite inconvenient for him to walk in them, as he was stopped every minute. Not only people at court and in society, but grisettes, employs of the theatres, persons of every class; but though a perfect mine of gossip, he never made mischief.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.As the sun sank the citadel absorbed the gold and purple glory, and looked as though it were of some translucent half-fused metal; the towers and temples with their decoration of tiles blazed[Pg 204] against the pure sky. High over Mandir a little balcony with spindle columns, overhanging the precipice at a giddy height, caught the last rays of Surya, and flashed with a gem-like gleam above Gwalior, which was already shrouded in the blue haze of night.

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Captain McT's orderly appeared as soon as we stirred in the morning, shouldering armsthe "arm" an umbrella which the authorities allow as a privilege off duty to the Ghoorkhas, men from the high plateaux, who are very sensitive to sunstroke, and who wear only a cap without a pugaree. The umbrella solemnly resting against his right shoulder, this worthy stood at attention, serious and motionless, and very uprighta quaint figure, his age impossible to guess, with his Mongolian face, his little slits of eyes, and his figure, in spite of his military squareness, rather too pliant in the yellow khaki uniform.In the courtyard a tall and gaudy cock was keeping the crows in order, driving them relentlessly away from the kitchen precincts. On the roof of the servants' quarters, always in the same spot, perched a kite, ready to pounce as soon as anything was thrown out. The doves, the house-pigeons, the fowls fled at once and squatted in corners; but the cock stood his ground, his feathers all on end, his crest erect, chuckling with rage and stalking round the yard within ten paces of the bird of prey.

HARDWARFor nothing was safe from her pencil: her books, her copy-books, even those of her schoolfellows, the walls of the dormitory, every available space was covered with heads, figures, and landscapes in crayon or charcoal, and when out in the playground she drew with a stick upon the sand.

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Apr-17 10:22:50