金花:“金嗓子”永远为农牧民群众歌唱

From the top of the observatory, where instruments, all out of order, are to be seen on the deserted terraces, a staircase in a half-circle of stonework leads straight up to the open sky, and there the eye is dazzled by the view of Benares, all spread out below: the vast city of yellow stone, the cupolas of its temples, and its palaces stretching far along the Ganges, which slowly rolls its milky green waters under a sky of almost pearly whiteness; and in the distance the grassy plain of bright emerald green, lost on the horizon that throbs with the heat. Everything was wrapped in a halo rather than a haze, faintly blue with the smoke that went up from the funeral piles of the Hindoo dead.

The whole mausoleum, the terrace on which it stands, the four minarets as tall as light-towers, are all in dead white marble, the whiteness of milk and opal, glistening with nacreous tints in the brilliant sunshine under a sky pale with heat and dust.

The natives, to keep their money safeit is always in coin, never in paper, which is not much trusted in these partseither bury it or have it wrought into trinkets, worn by the women and children. Quite little ones of five or six, and perfectly naked, have round their neck sometimes three or four strings of gold pieces, or pierced silver rods as thick as a fingerand then one evening the child does not come home, and in some dark corner the poor little body is found bleeding, the jewels gone.

The post-chaise was a tonga, escorted by a mounted sowar, armed with a naked sword. He rode ahead at a rattling trot, but the clatter was drowned by the shouts of the driver and of the sais, who scrambled up on the steps and urged the steeds on with excited flogging.

At the top of the street a caravan of moollahs were performing their devotions at the tomb of a Mohammedan saint, whose sarcophagus was enclosed within a balustrade of marble and a border of lilies, alternately yellow and green, with large full-blown flowers in blue, fragile relics that have[Pg 223] survived for centuries amid ruins that are comparatively recent.

[Pg 205]

I proposed to go in without the soldiers. Impossible, it was not etiquette! I was the Rajah's guest. The Prince of Morvi and I could not mingle with the crowd, our escort was necessary to isolate us. Well, then, the soldiers must take off their shoes, and leave their belts and guns at the door! Again impossible. Where would the prestige of the uniform be?