COLOMBO 聚了 Really the prison this time! in the midst of a large enclosure with high walls; a building on a star-shaped plan, with large windows to admit air and daylight. The prisoners, in a white uniform, with chains on their feet, were manufacturing various articles in basket-work, and in a shed with a cotton awning a hundred or so of convicts were weaving carpets. The brilliancy of colour was indescribable; the vividness of the medley of worsted piled by the side of the gorgeous looms, the light hues of the dresses, the faded turbans touched with light, the glitter of the steel chains, the bronze skins, glorified to gold in the quivering sunshine, which, scarcely subdued by the awning, bathed the[Pg 87] scene in a glow so intense that it seemed to proceed from the objects themselves. Behind each loom sat a warder, with the pattern of the carpet on his knees, dictating the colours to the weavers, chanting out his weariful litany of numbers and shades in a monotonous voice. As we go nearer, gothic towers are distinguishable among the buildings—faint reminiscences of Chester, clumsily revived under the burning light of white Asia.
但是 After the delay, which in India is a matter of course, the caravan set out—the last to go; for during the past three months no European had[Pg 247] crossed the pass, and in consequence of misunderstandings with some of the rebel tribes to the north, even the natives were prohibited henceforth from going to Cabul. "He comes now and then," said the baboo, who was our guide; but on my pressing the question this "now and then" remained vague, no day or week could be named. A kind of lemon plant, with picotee-like flowers of a texture like crystalline pearl, its petals delicately fringed, exhales a fresh scent like verbena. Then, on an ebony-tree, overgrown with succulent leaves forming an edging to every bough, is a bird—as it would seem—a lilac bird, with open wings, which, as we approach, turns into an orchid.
道的 The road lay among flowers, all-pervading; in the fields, on the rocks, on the road itself, pink flowers or lavender or white; bright moss, shrubs and trees in full bloom, and hovering over them birds of changing hue and golden butterflies.
In one room we heard music—guzlas, drums, and a vina. There were three dancing-girls. At first they only performed the Indian "goose-step," the slow revolutions growing gradually quicker. But urged by the soldiers who filled the room and beat time with their sticks on the floor, the nautch-girls marked their steps, wriggled with heavy awkward movements, and tried to dance a Highland jig, taught by two Scotch soldiers. 方天 "No." 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 interminable—one, 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.”
From a quite small garden close to the palace a bronze gate with three medallions of lilies in high relief, of marvellous workmanship, opens on the Pearl Mosque, exquisitely white, at the end of its forecourt of immaculate pavement enclosed by a marble balustrade. Three polished and shining domes are supported by columns of snow made of a hard white marble, scarcely broken by [Pg 218]ornament, and carrying a roof hollowed into three vaults. The rings are still to be seen on the marble walls outside, to which, when the great Mogul came to prayer, curtains were attached made of gold net and spangled with diamonds and pearls. 的机 In the middle of a garden, full of clumps of flowering shrubs standing on green lawns, is the Nadjiff Ackraff, a vast rotunda crowned with gilt[Pg 188] cupolas and spires, and all round the building is an arcade built in a square and studded with iron pins on which thousands of wax lights are stuck on the evenings of high festivals. A stone parapet runs along the river road, and below it the grassy bank slopes gently to the clear and limpid stream of the Ganges. On the shores[Pg 141] of the sacred river fine trees overshadow many idols, and fresh flowers are constantly laid at their feet.”