朝韩非武装地带:平静之下的剑拔弩张

The temples were already closed, but my servant, Abibulla, diverted the attention of the gatekeeper, and I stole unseen into the outer precincts. Then, in the magic of the evening, the air was saturated with fragrance; invisible gardenias, amaryllis, and lemon-flowers perfumed the cool night. On every side we could hear the quavering guzla, the sound of tom-toms and tambourines. The streets were brightly lighted up and crowded.

One of the largest buildings once slid into the river during an earthquake, and stands there complete and unbroken, its magnificence surviving under water. Some minarets only rise above the surface like kiosks, and form a landing-stage, invaded by[Pg 159] the bathers, who wash themselves with much gesticulation, flourishing their long sarongs and white loin-cloths, which they spread out to dry on the steps. Instead of the usual wreath of flowers for my neck the Rajah gave me a necklace of silver threads, to which hung a little bag of purple and green silk, closely embroidered, and looking like a scent-sachet, or a bag to hold some precious amulet.

Near a small station oxen were filing slowly past. On their heads were hoops hung with bells, and little ornaments at the tips of their horns dangled with quick flashes of light.

Under the cool shade of evening, the softening[Pg 44] touch of twilight, all this sculptured magnificence assumes an air of supreme grandeur, and calls up a world of legends and beliefs till the temples seem to recede, fading into the vapour of the blue night.

One of them was standing against a curtain of black satin embroidered with gold; muslin that might have been a spider's web hardly cast a mist over her sheenless skin, pale, almost white against the glistening satin and gold, all brightly lighted up. With a large hibiscus flower in her hand she stood in a simple attitude, like an Egyptian painting, then moved a little, raising or lowering an arm, apparently not seeing the passers-by who gazed at herlost in a dream that brought a strange green gleam to her dark eyes.

By the side of the road, in the town, the walls are still standing, all that remains of a great hall in the palace of Secundra Bagh, in which, after the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857, two thousand sepoys who refused to surrender were put to death.

[Pg 19]

"And how many die every day?"