深圳湾海域发生赤潮 水色已恢复正常

The city produces an impression as of a town built in the clouds and then dropped, scattered over the plain with vast arid and barren spaces left between the houses. In the native and Moslem quarters, indeed, there is a crowd of buildings, closely packed, crammed together on quite a small plot of ground; and among them the electric tramway runs its cars, useless just now, and empty of travellers, for it is the beginning of Ramadan, and the Mohammedans in broad daylight are letting off crackers in honour of the festival. The country was nowhere deserted. Labourers in the rice-fields were transplanting the young seedlings or watering the taller growth that waved in delicate transparent verdure. Or again, there were the watchers perched on their platforms in the middle of the fields; fishermen pushing little nets before them, fastened to triangular frames, or grubbing in the mud in search of shell-fishsmall freshwater mussels, which they carried away in clay jars of Etruscan form. A motley crowd, with animated and graceful gesticulations; the women red or white figures in fluttering sarees, with flowers in their hair, and a few glittering bangles on their arms; the children quite naked, with bead necklaces and queer charms of lead or wood in their ears or their nose; the men slender and active, wearing light-coloured turbans made of yards on yards of twisted muslin, their brown skin hidden only by the langouti or loin-cloth.

Evening fell, purple and orange tinging the princes' muslins to delicate hues; then very quickly all was dark. Deep melancholy came over us; we all sat without speaking a word, while from afar came the clatter of tom-toms from the temple, sometimes drowning the music, which droned on in a minor key, a maundering strain without a close but constantly repeating itself. The Prince of Morvi came before sunrise to take us to the temples of Satrunji. On the way we outstripped carts packed full of women and children in light shimmering muslins. They were all making a pilgrimage to the sacred hill, singing shrill chants in time to the jolting of their springless vehicles,[Pg 70] and broken by oaths and imprecations at the stoppages occasioned by our expedition.

We sailed past the holy city in a heavy, massive junk, the prow formed of a snake with its head erect and jaws yawning, down the Ganges, all rippled with rose and blue. Palaces, and more palaces, with thick walls and towers, that look like bastions, stand in perspective as far as the eye can see. Windows and balconies are cut in the ponderous masonry at the level of the third floor, and high above these rajahs' dwellings rise the domes of the temples, pointing skywards among tall trees that spread their shade on the russet stonework. At the foot of the palaces, steps lead down to the river, divided by little stages covered with wicker umbrellas that shine in the sun like discs of gold; under these, Brahmins, after bathing, were telling their beads. Now and again they dipped their fingers in the sacred waters and moistened their eyes, forehead, and lips.

"Fivesix," said the baboo, hesitating; then,[Pg 194] seeing that I was quite incredulous, "Sometimes more," he added.

Here, one by one, in came the nautch-girls, dancers. Robed in stiff sarees, their legs encumbered with very full trousers, they stood extravagantly upright, their arms away from their sides and their hands hanging loosely. At the first sound of the tambourines, beaten by men who squatted close to the wall, they began to dance; jumping forward on both feet, then backward, striking their ankles together to make their nanparas ring, very heavy anklets weighing on their feet, bare with silver toe-rings. One of them spun on and on for a[Pg 29] long time, while the others held a high, shrill notehigher, shriller still; then suddenly everything stopped, the music first, then the dancingin the air, as it wereand the nautch-girls, huddled together like sheep in a corner of the room, tried to move us with the only three English words they knew, the old woman repeating them; and as finally we positively would not understand, the jumping and idiotic spinning and shouts began again in the heated air of the room.

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.

AT SEA

On our way back to the hotel, in a park through which we had to pass, we suddenly heard overhead a shrill outcry proceeding from a banyan tree to which a number of vampires had hung themselves up. Clinging together side by side, like black rags, and hardly visible in the thick foliage, the creatures formed a sort of living bunch, creeping, swaying, and all uttering the same harsh, monotonous, incessant cry.