“封城”之下的南非缩影

Servants carrying large trays offer the company certain strange little green parcels: a betel-leaf screwed into a cone and fastened with a clove, containing a mixture of spices and lime, to be chewed after dinner to digest the mass of food you may see spread out in the tables in the dining-room. 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.

Near one pagoda, where the highly venerated footprints of Adishwara are preserved, a treea gran treewas cut down to the root, and, as the legend tells, grew again in a single night as large as it now is; and it would grow again if it were again felled, to screen with its shade the holy spot touched by the god.

In the native town, on a tank in front of a temple, a raft was moving very slowly. Under a dazzlingly gorgeous canopy stood an idol of gold, covered with garlands and jewels. A dense crowd, white and fragrant with jasmine and sandal-wood, stood about the sacred pool and on the steps, and bowed reverently as the divinity floated past. Coolies in white turbans were busy round the machines. They are very skilful, but work with determined slowness as a mute rebellion against the humiliating coercion of obeying a thing of wood and iron, and above all of obeying it without stopping, for the ideal of every Hindoo is to do nothing. And this rose to positive martyrdom when, in the absence of our own servants, who were nowhere to be found, one of these craftsmen, a Brahmin, strictly forbidden by his religion ever to touch the food of the disbelievers, or even the[Pg 294] vessels they use, was obliged to make tea for us. Looking utterly miserable, the poor fellow weighed out the leaves, put them into little antique earthenware pots, and poured on the boiling water. A sand-glass marked how long the infusion was to stand. He even brought us some pretty little crackle basins that looked as if they had come out of some old-world convent pharmacy; but the poor man could not bring himself to pour the tea outhe fled.

The view spread to the horizon of mauve-pink sky, very faintly streaked with green. We could see the white mass of Secunderabad, a town of English barracks, at the foot of chaotic red-brown rocks, looking like the heaped-up ruins of some city of the Titans; and among trees shrouded in blue smoke, Hyderabad, conspicuous for its two mosquesthe tomb of the Empress and the Jumna Musjid, the mausoleum of the Nizams. This Rawal Pindi is an English town of cottages surrounded by lawns and shrubberies; about two streets of bazaar, and red uniforms everywhere, Highland soldiers in kilts, white helmets, and the officers' and sergeants' wives airing their Sunday finery in their buggies. The ladies drive themselves, under the shelter of a sunshade on an all[Pg 239] too short stick, painfully held by a hapless native servant clinging to the back of the carriage in a dislocating monkey-like attitude.