There are closed carriages, victorias, vehicles with a red canopy drawn by oxen, the shafts set at an angle. The drivers bawl, shout to the porters, fight for the fare with their whips, while, overhead, kites and hawks wheel incessantly, uttering a plaintive cry.
The Rajah, a prisoner in his little state, a ruler only in name and deposed from his power, as I rose to take my leave, cast a glance of deep melancholy towards a last golden beam that quivered on the sacred hill, and seemed to awake from a dream.
"Kali?" he asked. A few officers, a few clergy only, had organized some distribution of relief; the administration,[Pg 197] wholly indifferent, was drawing double pay in consideration of the increase of work in famine time.
When we stopped to change horses, two or three mud-huts under the shade of a few palm trees would emit an escort of little native boys, who followed the fresh team, staring at the carriage and the "Inglis Sahib" with a gaze of rapturous stupefaction.
Children were selling whortleberries in plaited baskets; they came up very shyly, and as soon as they had sold their spoil hurried back to hide in their nook. Further on a little Afghan boy, standing alone and motionless by the roadside, held out three eggs for sale.
And at this day the high road passes Secundra Bagh in ruins, and on the ground where Nana Sahib's soldiers fell, huge flowers are strewn of "flame of the forest" fading into hues of blood.
Inside the temple long arcades connect the shrines sunk in the thickness of the walls, gloomy recesses with images of Vishnu and other idols; where the corridors or arcades cross each other there are vast halls with a sculptured roof supported by thousands of columns. In one of these halls there is a chariot full of divinities. The wheels, the horses, the highly-venerated images, are all of marble very delicately wrought, and amazing after the coarse caricatures on the outside. In the courts again, under sheds, there are cars; one of enormous size in black wood carved with innumerable figures and interlacing patterns; pendant ornaments of the same wood sway in the wind. The solid wheels, without spokes, small and having huge axles, seem made not to turn, and the shafts, to which a whole army of the faithful harness themselves on the occasion of a high festival, are long and as thick as masts.[Pg 114] Another car, past service, lay slowly rotting in a corner; almost all its images had vanished, and its canopy had fallen off; it was almost completely hidden under aristolochia in blossom.
In the heart of an extensive park, where wide lawns are planted with gigantic baobabs and clumps of bamboo and tamarind, stands an important-looking building, hideously modern in a mixture of heterogeneous styles and materials, of a crude yellow colour, and much too new. There is no attempt at unity of effect. A central dome crowns the edifice and a square tower rises by the side of it. Some portions, like pavilions, low and small, carry ornaments disproportioned to their size; while others, containing vast halls, have minute windows pierced[Pg 52] in their walls, hardly larger than loopholes, but framed in elaborate sculpture and lost in the great mass of stone. Arcades of light and slender columns, connected by lace-like pierced work of alarming fragility, enclose little courts full of tree-ferns and waving palms spreading over large pools of water. The walls are covered with niches, balconies, pilasters, and balustrades carved in the Indian style, the same subjects constantly repeated.
The Maharajah of Benares sent his carriage this morning to take me to him. We went to the Ganges, where a palankin was in waiting to carry me across the narrow strip of sand between the road and the boat, escorted by a worthy who held a tall red umbrella, fringed with gold, over my head.