推动新时代纪检监察工作高质量发展

A bulbul, flying out of a temple where it had been picking up the offered rice, perched on a pomegranate tree and began to sing, at first a little timid chirp, and then a ripple of song, soon drowned by the shrieks of parrots, which came down on the tree and drove out the little red-breasted chorister.

In the little white church, all open windows, mass was performed by a priest with a strong Breton accent. During the sermon, to an accompaniment of parrots' screaming and kites' whistling, there was a constant rustle of fans, which were left on each seat till the following Sunday. The church was white and very plain; French was spoken, and little native boys showed us to our places on benches. Old women in sarees were on their knees, waving their arms to make large signs of the cross. A worthy Sister presided at the harmonium, and the little schoolgirls sang in their sweet young voices[Pg 144] airs of the most insipid type; but after the incessant hubbub of bagpipes and tom-toms their music seemed to me quite delicious, raising visions in my mind of masterpieces of harmony and grace.

At the polo-match in the evening the band played, and three ladies were present; in sign of the spring having come, a basket was hung to the branch of a tree, full of straw kept constantly wet by the coolies, and containing sundry bottles of soda-water. A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us outtemples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.

In a quiet, darkened corner a girl was lying on a bier, a girl of the Brahmin caste, all in white, veiled by a transparent saree. By her side an old man, a bearded patriarch, seemed to wait for someone. Then another Brahmin came out from a little house, carrying the fire wherewith to light the funeral pile in a little pot hanging from his girdle. The two old men took up their burthenso light that even to them, tottering already towards their end, it seemed to be no weight. They made their way cautiously, so as not to tread on the [Pg 305]sleeping figures strewn about the street, going very slowly in devious zigzags. A dog woke and howled at them; and then, as silence fell, I could hear again the dying sounds of harmoniums and tom-toms, and the clatter of the games.

A poor sick ape, beaten by all the others, sat crying with hunger at the top of a parapet. I called her for a long time, showing her some maize on a tray. At last she made up her mind to come down. With the utmost caution she reached me, and then, after two or three feints, she struck the platter with her closed fist, sending all the grain flying. Utterly scared, she fled, followed to her perch by a whole party of miscreants roused by the gong-like blow on the tray. Others stole into the temple to snatch the flowers while the attendant priest had his back turned; and when I left they were all busily engaged in rolling an earthenware bowl about, ending its career in a smash. In front of the temple the crimson dust round a stake shows the spot where every day the blood is shed of a goat sacrificed to the Divinity. A vision of Europe. Cottages surrounded by lawns under the shade of tall trees, and against the green the scarlet coats of English soldiers walking about. And close about the houses, as if dropped there by chance, tombs covered with flagstones and enclosed by railings, and on all the same date, June or July, 1857. Further away, under the trees, are heaps of stones and bricks, the ruins of mosques and forts, hardly visible now amid the roots and briars that look like the flowery thickets of a park, varied by knolls to break the monotony of the level sward. In the native town that has grown up on the site of the palace of Nana Sahib, built indeed of the[Pg 186] ruins of its departed splendour, dwell a swarm of pariahs, who dry their rags and hang out clothes and reed screens over every opening, living there without either doors or windows, in utter indifference to the passer-by. In the evening the priest would say prayers over the couplethe bride being probably about fiveand the bridegroom would stay with the little bride's parents. Next day she would spend with the boy's parents, and after that they would both go back to their lessons and probably never meet again, unless they were very near neighbours, till he, having attained the age of fifteen, they would be really married.