一米开外,全球“社交疏离”下众生相

Toglackabad, again an ancient Delhi, a rock on the bank of the Jumna after crossing a white desert; walls of granite, massive bastions, battlemented towers of a Saracen stamp, rough-hewn, devoid of ornament, and uniform in colourbluish with light patches of lichen. The enclosure has crumbled into ruin, in places making breaches in the walls, which nevertheless preserve the forbidding aspect of an impregnable citadel.

And as they went home at nightfall enormous bats came out and flew across above the tall trees in heavy, steady, straight flight. Without a sound they made for the last gleam on the horizon, where[Pg 98] the vanished sun had left a crimson line; and what an insistent image of death and oblivion were those great black fowl, slowly flapping their five-fingered wings spread out round their bodies, headless as they would seem, so small is the head, and so close-set on the neck. One might fancy that they were bearing away the day, gliding noiseless and innumerable towards the west, where already the last gleam is dead.

A man in the fort always struck out the hours on a gong, very slowly, in the heat of the day. Twelve at noon was interminableone, two, three were so feeble as to be scarcely audible. And then when it was cooler and the tom-toms could be heard in the distance, the strokes had a queer dislocated rhythm, and sometimes even a stroke too many, smothered in a hurried roll. The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any coloureverything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyonepeople who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun. Under the blinding sunshine reflected from the whitewashed houses, an incredibly mixed crowd, squeezed against the railings of the custom-house wharf, stands staring at the new arrivals. Natives, naked but for a narrow loin-cloth rolled about their hips; Parsees in long white tunics, tight white trousers, and on their heads hideous low square caps of dark wax-cloth, pursuing the stranger with offers of money-changing; Hindoos, clad in thin bright silk, and rolls of light-hued muslin on their head; English soldiers, in white helmets, two of whom stare at me fixedly, and exclaim that, "By Jo', Eddy has missed this steamer!"

Immediately on entering we were in the maze of vaults, sanctuaries, great halls and arcades, where stall-keepers sell their goods, priests keep school, and flower-sellers wander. Statues, repeated in long rows, lead up to temples all alike, of a bewildering uniformity of architecture and identical decoration.

The bargaining was interminable, something in this manner:

The evening was exquisitely calm, shrouding everything in rose-colour, and shedding a light, opalescent golden haze on the pools and streams. And out of this floating gauze, in the doubtful light, white figures seemed to emerge gradually,[Pg 107] only to vanish again in the pure, transparent atmosphere of the blue night.

The coachman we engaged at the station was a giant, with an olive skin and a huge, pale pink turban. He was clad in stuffs so thin that on his box, against the light, we could see the shape of his body through the thickness of five or six tunics that he wore one over another.

An interpreter translated to the accused the questions put by the judge, who understood the replies, though he was not allowed to speak excepting in English.