民航共计安全运输六百零八名台胞返台

The air is heavy with indefinable perfume. We are already coasting the Indian shore, but it remains invisible, and gives no sign but by these gusts of warmer air laden with that inscrutable aroma of musk and pepper. A lighthouse to port, which we have for some time taken for a star, vanishes in the light mist that hangs over the coast, and then again there is nothing but the immensity of waters under the clear night, blue with moonlight.

And for an hour as we drove along towards Amber, the old town deserted in favour of modern Jeypoor, the same succession of temples wheeled past. The crenated walls enclose three hills, one of them crowned by a fortress, to defend erewhile the white palace mirrored in the waters of an artificial lake. On a square, shaded by an awning, with porticoes all round, coolies in white dresses sat on the ground making up little bunches of flowers, the blossoms without stems tied close to a pliant cane for garlandsjasmine, roses, chrysanthemums, and sweet basilfor in India, as in Byzantium of old, basil is the flower of kings and gods. The basil's fresh scent overpowered the smell of sandal-wood and incense which had gradually soaked into me in the presence of the idols, and cleared the atmosphere delightfully. A woman rolled up in pale-tinted muslins under the warm halo of light falling through the[Pg 80] awning, was helping one of the florists. She supported on her arm a long garland of jasmine alternating with balls of roses. Almost motionless, she alone, in the midst of the idols, at all reminded me of a goddess.

Outside Bombay, at the end of an avenue of tamarind trees, between hedges starred with lilac and pink, we came to Pinjerapoor, the hospital for animals. Here, in a sanded garden dotted with shrubs and flowers, stand sheds in which sick cows, horses and buffaloes are treated and cared for.[Pg 26] In another part, in a little building divided into compartments by wire bars, poor crippled dogs whined to me as I passed to take them away. Hens wandered about on wooden legs; and an ancient parrot, in the greatest excitement, yelled with all his might; he was undergoing treatment to make his lost feathers grow again, his hideous little black body being quite naked, with its large head and beak. In an open box, overhung with flowering jasmine, an Arab horse was suspended to the beams of the roof; two keepers by his side waved long white horsehair fans to keep away the flies. A perfect crowd of servants is employed in the care of the animals, and the litter is sweet and clean.

There was nobody in the garden of the mausoleums, not even the usual obsequious and mendicant attendant. Only by the tomb of Purvez a moollah was kneeling in prayer, motionless, and wrapped in some very light white material, which the wind gently stirred and blew up. All the time I was examining the mausoleums he prayed on, prostrate, immovable; and even from afar, from the road, I could see him still, like a stone among the marble work, at the feet of the hero who sleeps his last in mid-air. I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grassthe foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloudthe dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-woola speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was GaurisankarMount Everestthe top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea. The actors spoke their parts like lessons, with a gesture only now and then, and invariably wrong;[Pg 229] and they all spoke and sang through the nose in an irritating voice pitched too high.

Next came a whole row of very small shops, where there was an endless variety of trifles for sale, toys made of wood painted red and green; and finally, on the ground floor of houses ornamented with carvings and slender colonnades, in a cool and shady and silent street, were the sellers of silk and cloth.

Very late in the evening came the sound of darboukhas once more. A throng of people, lighted up by a red glow, came along, escorting a car drawn by oxen. At each of the four corners were children carrying torches, and in the middle of the car a tall pole was fixed. On this, little Hindoo boys were performing the most extraordinary acrobatic tricks, climbing it with the very tips of their toes and fingers, sliding down again head foremost, and stopping within an inch of the floor. Their bronze skins, in contrast to the white loin-cloth that cut them across the middle, and their fine muscular limbs, made them look like antique figures. The performance went on to the noise of drums and singing, and was in honour of the seventieth birthday of a Mohammedan witch who dwelt in the village. The car presently moved off, and, after two or three[Pg 49] stoppages, reached the old woman's door. The toothless hag, her face carved into black furrows, under a towzle of white hair emerging from a ragged kerchief, with a stupid stare lighted up by a gleam of wickedness when she fixed an eye, sat on the ground in her hovel surrounded by an unspeakable heap of rags and leavings. The crowd squeezed in and gathered round her; but she sat perfectly unmoved, and the little acrobats, performing in front of her door, did not win a glance from her. And then, the noise and glare annoying her probably, she turned with her face to the wall and remained so. She never quitted her lair; all she needed was brought to her by the villagers, who dreaded the spells she could cast. Her reputation for wisdom and magic had spread far and wide. The Nizam's cousin, and prime minister of the dominion, never fails to pay her a visit when passing through Nandgaun, and other even greater personages, spoken of only with bated breath, have been known to consult her.

BUNNOO

In the train to Delhi the windows were screened with cuscus mats constantly sprinkled with water, and so long as the train was in motion the air came in cool, fragrant, and breathable. But whenever we stopped in the desert which this country becomes just before the monsoon, melted lead seemed to scorch up the atmosphere and shut the train in between walls of fire.

Not far from the great hospital, in huts of bamboo and matting, some Hindoos were isolated, who refused to be attended by any but native doctors, or to take anything but simples. An old man lay there who had a sort of stiff white paste applied to the swellings under his arms. He, too, was delirious, and watched us go by with a vague, stupefied glareeyes that were already dead.

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.