[Pg 224] The bargaining was interminable, something in this manner:

RAWAL PINDI

A giant rock and natural fortress command the plain, towering above the garden-land. Two roads, hewn in the stone, lead by easy ascents to the top. All along the rock wall bas-reliefs are carved, warriors riding on elephants, and Kalis in graceful attitudes. There are openings to the green depths of reservoirs, small temples, arcades sheltering idols bowered in fresh flowers. Arches in the Ja?n style of architecture span the road, and at the summit, beyond the inevitable drawbridge, stands Mandir, the palace of King Pal, a dazzling structure of yellow stone, looking as if it had grown on the hill-rock that it crowns with beauty. Towers carrying domed lanterns spring skywards above the massive walls. The decoration is playfully light, carvings alternating with inlaid tiles; and all round the lordly and solemn edifice wheels a procession of blue ducks on a yellow ground in earthenware. Asses followed, oxen and more camels, loaded beyond their strength with old iron, tin pannikins, a whole cargo of goods in cases from Manchester and Sheffieldso badly packed that things came clattering down as the beasts pushed each other amid oaths and blows.

The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town. The ugliest of these palaces is that of the Maharajah, with galleries of varnished wood, of which the windows overlooking the river are filled with gaudy stained glass. In the garden is a pagoda painted in crude colours crowned with a gilt cupola; the zenana has bright red walls striped with green, and in the grounds there is a cottage exactly copied from a villa in the suburbs of London.

In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notesanything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit. The play was Gul-E-Bakaoli.

We landed at Ramnagar, a marble palace looking like a fortified town, its massive walls rising[Pg 174] from the river and crowned by balconies and fairy kiosksa lacework of stone against the brilliant sky.

He appeared without a sound, visible only as a white figure, his brown face lost, effaced in the gloom of the dimly-lighted room. For a moment I had a really uncanny sensation at this headless apparition, but in an instant there was the gleam of a row of brilliant teeth, the light in the eyes, and the eternally smiling face of the household coolie.

In the further room were four sufferers past all hope: one in the anguish of delirium that made him cry out the same words again and again, in a hoarse voice that was growing fainter. He was held by two attendants. Another lay with chattering teeth; a third was struggling violently, hidden under his coverlet; the fourth seemed unconscious, apathetic.

BUNNOO

The barge was screened by a crimson awning and rowed by four men in red. The water, a broad sheet of silky sheen, seemed motionless, and in the distance, under a soft, powdery haze, Benares showed like a mass of dim gold, the two slender minarets of Aurungzeeb's mosque towering above the town.

At Byculla in the evening we went to Grant Road, the haunt of the street beauties, where the gambling-houses are. At the open windows under the lighted lamps were coarsely-painted women dressed in gaudy finery. In the entries were more of such women, sitting motionless in the attitude of idols; some of them real marvelsthin, slender bronze limbs scarcely veiled in dark, transparent gauze, gold rings round their neck and arms, and heavy nanparas on their ankles.

In every house a tiny lamp allowed us to see the women, squatting while they pounded millet, or cooked in copper pots. Then night suddenly fell, and I could no longer find my way about the dark alleys, stumbling as I went over cows lying across the path, till I suddenly found myself opposite a very tall pagoda, three storeys high. On the threshold the bonzes were banging with all their might on gongs and drums, alternately with bells. And on the opposite side of the street, in a sort of shed enclosed on three sides, but wide open to the passers-by, people in gay robes were prostrate before two shapeless idols, Krishna and Vishnu, painted bright red, twinkling with ornaments of tinsel and lead-paper, and crudely lighted up by lamps with reflectors. And then at once I was between low houses again, and going down tortuous streets to the river-bed,[Pg 48] whither I was guided by the sound of castanets and tambourines.