第五届宗旨论坛在四川南充市仪陇县举行

When the gate to the platform was opened there was a stampede, a fearful rush to the train; then the cars, once filled, were immediately shut on the noisy glee of those who were going.

Off next morning to the Khyber Pass. The road lay across the vast monotonous plain, richly productive all the way from Peshawur to the foot of the hills. At one end of a field some men had spread a net and were beating the field towards the corners with a heavy rope that broke down the tall oats; before long the birds were seen struggling under the meshes, but they were soon caught and carried away in cages.

They shoved it under water, but it presently rose to the surface and floated down the stream, followed by a flock of hawks that snatched at the burnt remains and fought over them in the air, while crocodiles below swam up and snapped at them, dragging them down in their enormous jaws, which appeared for a moment above the water. DARJEELING

Rising from the highest point of the hill the huge tomb of Aurungzeeb the Greatmore huge in the darknessstood out clearly, a black mass, its bulbous dome against the sky. Flocks of goats and sheep came clambering along the ridge to shelter for the night in the recesses of its walls. Then, one by one, the lights died out. Infinite calm brooded over the scene; a very subtle fragrance, as of rose and verbena, seemed to rise from the ground and scent the still air; and over the motionless earth swept enormous black bats in silent flight, with slow, regularly-beating wings.

While I spent the hot hours of the day in the bungalow, a flock of birds came in through the open doors, and quietly picked up the crumbs on the floor. They were followed by grey squirrels, which at first crouched in the corners, but presently, growing bolder, ended by climbing on to the table, with peering eyes, in hope of nuts or bread-crusts. In front of us were men loaded with bundles or with children; old women gasping as they leaned on long staves; chattering women with green or pink or white veils, their arms full of sheaves of flowers. By each little templebetween which there are[Pg 71] kiosks, sheltering innumerable grinning idolstrees grow, and under their shade the pilgrims break the climb with a short rest. In a palankin, carried by two men, a slim woman's figure was borne past, in a pink gauze dress spangled with silver; her feet and hands, beringed with silver and gold, were exquisitely delicate. For an instant her veil blew aside, showing her face, rigid with horrible white leprosy, only her almond-shaped black eyesbeautiful eyeswere alive with intense brilliancy, full of unfathomable woe.

The actors were exclusively men and boys, those who took female parts wore rusty wigs over their own long, black hair; these were plaited on each side of the face, and waxed behind to fall over the shoulders. The costumes of velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold and silver, were hideous.

Before daybreak, in the doubtful light of waning night, dim masses are visiblegrey and purple mountainsmountains shaped like temples, of which two indeed seem to be crowned with low squat towers as if unfinished.

Squeezed in and crushed between houses that tower above it, rises the pointed dome of Biseshwar Matti, covered with leaves of chased gold; smaller cones surround the principal dome, bristling with tiny pyramids of gold, carved into flowers round statues of Kali with her eight arms, of Ganesa, and of peacocks with spread tails. Under this splendid cupola, dazzlingly bright against the sky,[Pg 156] the temple itself is quite small, and strictly closed against the unbeliever. Some pious hands had hung chains of jasmine and roses above the entrance, and they gave a touch of beauty to the stonework, very old, and soiled with large stains of oil. A sense of intense piety hangs about this sanctuary, subdues every voice, and bends the head of every passer-by in reverence of the mystery, and they all bring flowers.

At night, when the fog had at last cleared off, a column of fire was piled up on the engine; it shone[Pg 154] on the smooth trunks of the "flame of the forest," which looked like the pillars of a cathedral, on the sparkling water-springs all hung about with prayer-strips, on the veronica shrubs covered with flowers and as tall as trees, and the sheaves of bamboo and fern; or it lighted up the hanging screen of creepers, the impenetrable jungle growth that shut in the silence of the sleeping forest.

All the men carry fighting quails in little cages made of a net stretched over a wooden tray and cone-shaped at top. Towards evening, in the shade of the houses, at the street corners, in the courtyardseverywhere, there is a group betting on the chances of a fight. The birds taken out of the cages at first turn slowly round each other, their beaks close together. Then a spring, a flutter of wings and flying feathers; the quails strike and peck, aiming at the head, and then suddenly they seem quite indifferent and turn round and round again, picking up grain from the ground. When a[Pg 284] bird is killed at the end of a battle, its eyes blinded and its breast torn open, it is considered a fine, a noble spectacle, and amateurs will talk of it for a long time. As a rule, after a few rounds one of the birds tries to get away. Then its owner pricks its neck with a knife, and the gasping creature dies slowly in the dust, the blood oozing drop by drop.

The artist sat at work in a corner of the window, copying minutely, for the thousandth time perhaps, a Taj or a Moti Musjid. Quite unmoved while his[Pg 226] shopman displayed his wares, he worked on with brushes as fine as needles; but when, on leaving, I asked him where I could procure some colours I needed, "Then the sahib paints?" said he; and he rose at once, insisted on my taking a seat, pressed me to accept a little sandal-wood frame, as a fellow-artist, and then would positively paint my portrait.

Some native lancers were man?uvring; they charged at top speed in a swirl of golden dust, which transfigured their movements, making them look as though they did not touch the earth, but were riding on the clouds. They swept lightly past, almost diaphanous, the colour of their yellow khaki uniforms mingling with the ochre sand; and then, not ten yards off, they stopped short, with astonishing precision, like an apparition. Their lances quivered for an instant, a flash of steel sparks against the skya salute to the Maharajahand then they were as motionless as statues.