《永远在路上》 第二集:以上率下

A naked fakir, his brown skin plastered with flour, and his long black hair all matted, bent over the bodies muttering holy words; then flourishing two yellow rags that he took out of a wallet hanging from his shoulder, he exorcised the station, driving away the spectre of the pestilence; going very fast, running along the line by which the evil had come, and vanishing where the rails ended behind the trees. Such as were able to work at making rope or straw mats earned an anna a day, the children half an anna. This was extra to their food, a cake of gram flour, which was all the allowance for twenty-four hours. But among those admitted to the poorhouse about a quarter of the number were unable to work. In a similar but smaller enclosure adjacent was the infirmary, a hospital with no physician, no remedies. The shrunken creatures lay shivering in the sun, huddled under rags of blanket. All were moaning, many were unconscious, wandering in delirium, shrieking, and writhing. One man, too weak to stand, came up grovelling on his hands and knees, taking me for a doctor, and beseeching me to go to his wife who was lying over there, and by her a dusky moist rag as it seemedher very inside purged out by dysentery.

Inside the mausoleum numberless lustres hang from the roof, and fine large standing lamps with crystal pendants burn round two tombs covered with antique hangings and wreathed with jasmine; beneath these lie the two last kings of Oudh. Small models of two famous mosques, one in gold and one in silver, are placed on the tombs, round which a whole regiment of obsequious moollahs and beggars mount guard. On the walls childish paintings, representing scenes of the Anglo-Indian conflict, alternate with mirrors in gilt frames, and silk standards exquisitely faded, embroidered with dim gold and silver, and surmounted by tridents. 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. Then some gardens looking like hothouses, concealing bungalows, and a gleaming lake among the greeneryand this was Kandy.

In this house abode the postmaster of the Persian mails, and I wanted to register a letter for Cabul. "Export business!" says Abibulla.