[Pg 228]

On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.

One of these halls, almost at the top of the mount, accommodated a school. The elder pupils sat on stools by the master's side; the little ones and the girls, in groups of five or six, squatted on mats in the corners; and all the little people were very quiet in the atmosphere of sandal-wood and flowers brought as offerings, read gravely out of big religious books, and listened to the Brahmin as, in a deep, resonant voice, he chanted a sort of strongly-marked melody. There was scarcely an ornament on the light-coloured walls, pierced with deep windows showing foliage without; and among the dead whiteness of the mats and the schoolchildren's draperies there was but one bright light,[Pg 109] the bell over the pulpit, surmounted by the sacred bull in bronze, of precious workmanship.

KANDY

In the native town the houses are lower and closer together, without gardens between. Down the narrow streets, between booths and shops, with here and there a white mosque where gay-coloured figures are worshipping, or polychrome temples where bonzes are drumming on deafening gongs, run tramways, teams of oxen, whose drivers shriek and shout, and hackney cabs, jingling and rattling. Among the vehicles there moves a compact crowd of every race and every colour: tall Afghans, in dingy white garments, leading Persian horses by the bridle for sale, and crying out the price; bustling Parsees; naked Somalis, their heads shaven and their[Pg 7] oiled black skins reeking of a sickening mixture of lotus and pepper; fakirs, with wild, unkempt hair, their faces and bodies bedaubed with saffron and the thread of the "second birth" across their bare breast; Burmese, with yellow skins and long eyes, dressed in silks of the brightest pink; Mongolians, in dark-hued satin tunics embroidered with showy colours and gold thread.

"But rice is very good, and it is very dear, and some of them have been ill for three weeks."

Next morningso far, so high on the horizon! I saw a pink spot; then, as day broke, the rose colour spreadbroader, lower, turned paler, then to white, and the Himalayas lay before me in blinding glory of size and light. Kinchinjunga, at a measureless distance, looked in the clear air as if it were quite close; and round the sovereign giant other giants rent their wrappings of cloud, an amphitheatre of peaks of dazzling whiteness lost against the sky, and almost insensibly fading away behind the vapour that rolled up from the abysses, grew[Pg 148] thicker, and settled into a compact mass over the lost summits, hiding the nearer heights and shrouding Darjeeling in opaque white fog.

A man by the roadside was mixing mud with[Pg 265] chopped straw; then when his mortar was of the right consistency he began to build the walls of his house between the four corner posts, with no tools but his hands. A woman and child helped him, patting the concrete with their hands until it began to look almost smooth.

Figures draped in pale muslins brushed past us, hastening to the door. Flower-sellers, in one of the arcades, were hurrying to finish their garlands; and suddenly, close before usa mass that looked as if it were part of the temple itselfan enormous elephant started into sight, passed on and vanished in the darkness.

The ancient palace of the kings of Lahore. Amid the ruins there is a mosque of red stone flowered[Pg 236] with white marble, the cupola of a material so milky that it might be jade; and the structure is mirrored in a pool of clear water, dappled with sun-sparks over the rose-coloured stones at the bottom.

Towards noon the mass of Kinchinjunga again lifted its head above the clouds, now white with a dust of rosy gold or violet on the snow in the shadows; and again, as the clouds swept across, of every changing tint of steel and copper, pearl and sunshine, till, following on the ardent glory of sunset, a purple and living fire, like a flame within the very substance of the ice-fields, all died into[Pg 153] mysterious blueness under the broad pure light of the moon.