声音:越学越有紧迫感

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.

At the end of the passage was a sort of den, where, through the open door, I caught sight of a marvellous Indian hanging of faded hues on a pale ground, hidden in places by stains; the noble pattern represented a peacock spreading his tail between two cypresses.

"How do you expect to pay?" asked his master, an officer. The bridegroom sits awaiting his guests, in his garden all decorated with arches and arbours, and[Pg 14] starred with white lanterns. An orchestra is playing, hidden in a shrubbery.

Through the half-open doors in the courtyards bones were bleaching, almost buried under the fine powder that lies on everything. And from this dust, as we trod it, rose a sharp smell of pepper and smoke. Twisted branches drooped forlorn from the skeletons of a few trees that were left standing. Parasitic creepers had woven a flowing robe of tangle over a statue of Kali, left unbroken in front of a small temple in ruins; and all over the withered[Pg 198] and faded growth the fine white dust had settled in irregular patterns, a graceful embroidery rather thicker in the folds.

As we passed the sacred tanks, where a smell of decay filled the air that still rang with the cries of the bats, our horses suddenly shied and refused to go forward, terror-stricken by some invisible danger suggested to them by that reiterated shriek or the corpse-like smell. A very long minute passed as we sat in the carriage, a minute of dread that left us quite excited by this mysterious peril of which we had somehow felt the awe. Nor was it till we had left the great trees by the tanks behind us that the impression wore off under the comforting light of the stars. These gentlemen of the Civil Service would put in an appearance "now and then"the eternal "now and then" that answers every question in India. They stepped out of a buggy, walked quickly round, had seen, and were gone again in a great hurry to finish some important work for the next European mail.