海南2020年首个“重磅车展”将于5月21日开幕

In a little alley of booths was a shop with no front show, and behind it a sort of studio full of carvers and artists working on sandal-wood boxes, ivory fans as fine as gauze, and wooden lattices with elaborate flower patterns, used to screen the zenana windows. And in little recesses workmen dressed in white, with small copper pots about them in which they had brought rice for their meals, were chasing and embossing metal with little taps of their primitive tools, never making a mistake, working as their fancy might suggest, without any pattern, and quite at home in the maze of interlacing ornament. Between the houses tiny garden-plots full of flowers surround gravestones, on which fresh roses are constantly laid.

Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.

I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grassthe foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloudthe dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-woola speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was GaurisankarMount Everestthe top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea.

The gardens are overgrown with exuberant tropical vegetation: orchids, daturas hung with their scented purple bells, gardenias and creepers; and yet what the brother of a London friend, on whom I am calling, shows me with the greatest pride, are a few precious geraniums, two real violets, and a tiny patch of thickly-grown lawn of emerald hue.

But this suburb is now no more than a heap of huts and hovels. The tombs, ruined and overthrown, are few and far apart, heaped with sand, and showing as arid hillocks amid the level of withered grass. The plain beyond, laid out in rice-fields of a tender green, furrowed with silver streamlets, spreads unbroken to the foot of a huge wall of the hue of red gold enclosing a hill; and on[Pg 99] entering the precincts, behold, in the bays of the thickness of the wall, a whole village where dwell the families of the soldiers who guard this citadel.

In one of the inmost circles, a sacred elephant had gone must, breaking his ropes, and confined now by only one leg. The chains fastened round his feet as soon as he showed the first symptoms of madness were lying broken in heaps on the ground. The brute had demolished the walls of his stable and then two sheds that happened to be in his way; now he was stamping a dance, every muscle in incessant motion, half swallowing his trunk, flinging straw in every direction, and finally heaping it on his head. A mob of people stood gazing from a distance, laughing at his heavy, clumsy movements; at the least step forward they[Pg 113] huddled back to fly, extending the circle, but still staring at the patient. In an adjoining stable were two more elephants very well cared for, the V neatly painted in red and white on their trunks, quietly eating and turning round only at the bidding of the driver; but one of them shed tears.