2021-04-18 10:28:42

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ENGLISH Lisette was now rapidly becoming very pretty, to the great satisfaction of her mother, who, seeing that in spite of her busy life and deep interest in her work, her spirits still suffered from the loss of her father, tried to give her all the distraction possible. She would take her to walk in the Tuileries gardens, where the beauty of both mother and daughter attracted much attention; and what pleased her most, to see all the picture galleries possible. They often went to the Luxembourg, in the galleries of which were then the Rubens and many others of the old masters now in the Louvre; besides which they saw all the good private collections. By far the best at that time was the gallery of the Palais Royal, collected by the Regent, Duc dOrlans. These pictures were sold in the Revolution. Many of them were bought by Lord Stafford.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.

Deeply graven in the stone of one of the walls is the giant hand of Ali the Conqueror, the terrible, who came from the land of the Arabs, killing all on his way who refused to be converted to Islam. And he died in the desolate Khyber, where all who pass do him honour, and entreat his protection on their way.In the island of Srirangam we visited a temple to Vishnu, enclosed within eight walls, of which the three first only contain any dwellings. A crowd of pilgrims swarmed about the steps, where everything was on sale: little gods in bronze, in painted marble, in clay, and in wood; paper for[Pg 111] writing prayers on; sacred books; red and white face-paints, such as the worshippers of Vishnu use to mark their foreheads with a V; little baskets to hold the colours, with three or four divisions, and a mirror at the bottom; coco-nuts containing kohl; stuffs of every dye; religious pictures, artless indeed, and painted with laborious dabs of the brush in the presence of the customer; chromo-lithographs from Europe, sickeningly insipid and mawkishly pretty.The large town lies along the bank of the Jellum; the houses are of wood, grey and satiny with old age, and almost all tottering to their end on the strand unprotected by an embankment. The windows are latticed with bent wood in fanciful designs. Large houses built of brick have thrown out covered balconies and verandahs, supported on tall piles in the water, and on brackets carved to represent monsters or flowering creepers.

Trees shut in the flat, interminable road, and it was midnight before we reached Srinagar, where I found, as a surprise, a comfortable house-boat with inlaid panels, and a fragrant fire of mango-wood smelling of orris-root.In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilasbirds like magpiesalmost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted redterriblestraddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.

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In the evening, in the open street, we came upon a circle of bystanders all beating time, while in the midst four little girls were dancing, wearing the sarong, but naked to the waist. They leaned very much over to the right, resting the right elbow on the groin, clapping the right hand with the left, and throwing back the left leg. All four did the same, round and round, and this went on again and again without a pause, under the pale light of the stars filtering through an enormous banyan tree. Occasionally a woman among the crowd would give a slow, long-drawn cry, and the dancers answered in very short notes, piercingly shrill.

[Pg 295]Then the sunset, in the furnace of heavy purple and red, reflected in the water in fiery copper-colour streaked with violet, till soon it all faded together, to gold, to lemon-colour; the mist rising from the river spread over all the country, and everything looked the same in the cloudless gloom. One quarter of the sky glowed faintly, through the haze a crimson globe rose into view, the moon appeared, and soon lighted up all the sky with a soft greenish glow, pallid but deep, lying on the tranquil Ganges in broad rippling sheets of gold and green, spangled with light where a fish leaped, or a white bird dipped its wing as it skimmed swiftly across without a sound. The gold grew cold and dead, the moon turned to steel against the intensely blue sky, to cold blue steel on the lustrous face of the waters.

Inside the mausoleum numberless lustres hang from the roof, and fine large standing lamps with crystal pendants burn round two tombs covered with antique hangings and wreathed with jasmine; beneath these lie the two last kings of Oudh. Small models of two famous mosques, one in gold and one in silver, are placed on the tombs, round which a whole regiment of obsequious moollahs and beggars mount guard. On the walls childish paintings, representing scenes of the Anglo-Indian conflict, alternate with mirrors in gilt frames, and silk standards exquisitely faded, embroidered with dim gold and silver, and surmounted by tridents.The streets were hung with gaudy flags and[Pg 135] coloured paper. Altars had been erected, four poles supporting an awning with flounces of bright-coloured silk, and under them a quantity of idols, of vases filled with amaryllis and roses, and even dainty little Dresden figuresexquisite curtseying Marquises, quite out of their element among writhing Vishnus and Kalis.

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For 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."You know it is pashmina?"

King Zainulmulook has lost his sight, and can recover it only if someone will bring to him a miraculous flower from the garden of Bakaoli. His four sons set out in search of it. Zainulmulook has a fifth son, named Tazulmulook. At the birth of this child the king has had his horoscope cast by the astrologers of the palace, who declared that the king would become blind if he should see his son before his twelfth year; but hunting one day the king has met Tazulmulook, who was walking in the forest, and has lost his sight.In the evening at Byculla, in the street of the disreputable, in front of a house hermetically closed, and painted with a round red spot for each person who had died there, a fire of sulphur was burning with a livid glow. Only one gambling-house tried to tempt customers with a great noise of harmonium and tom-toms; and from a side street came a response of muffled tambourines and castanets. First the dead, wrapped in red stuff and tied to a bamboo, and then the procession turned into the lighted street. White shapes crowded by, vanishing at once, and the harmonium again rose above the silence with its skipping tunes, and the tom-toms beating out of timeand attracted no one.

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Apr-18 10:28:42