On the great banyan trees in the garden, and on every palm, torpid vultures sit in the sun, awaiting the meal that will come with the next funeral procession. In front of a Buddhist temple were some tanks in which enormous tortoises were swimming. On the building, above carvings of elephants in relief on the stone, were a number of mural paintings, artless and terrible scenes set forth with the utmost scorn of perspective and chiaroscuro: a place of torment where green monsters thrust the damned against trees of which the trunks are saws, and enormous red and yellow birds devour living victims.

They were clad in colourless rags, matted and grizzled hair hung about their pain-stricken faces. The woman was the more delicate, her bones smaller and less knotted than those of the man, whose joints were gnarled, his scraggy knees forming thick bosses of bone above his shins. They threw themselves like hungry animals on some cooked grain which Abibulla brought out for them, and then, with scared looks all round, they went quickly away, as quickly as they could with halting, weary feet, without even saying thank-you.

The roof, upheld by a double row of stone blocks set on end, and somewhat atilt, weighs on the building, which is already giving way; and the next monsoon will destroy this marvel of the Ja?n to spare the trouble of military constructorsthe builders of barracks.

Further yet lay the artificial lake of Meer Alam, reflecting the palace of Baradari and the russet plain, infinite as far as the eye could reach towards the north, where other superb mausoleums were visible in their whiteness. After the delay, which in India is a matter of course, the caravan set outthe last to go; for during the past three months no European had[Pg 247] crossed the pass, and in consequence of misunderstandings with some of the rebel tribes to the north, even the natives were prohibited henceforth from going to Cabul.

At every street-corner there were blocks of salt,[Pg 298] which the cows and goats licked as they went past.

DELHI

In the mystery of a polychrome temple, whose walls are closely covered with sculptured bas-reliefs of gods in the shape of men or animals, is a relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha; and all about the precious object, which is enclosed in a series of shrines within impenetrable walls, there is no sign of respect, but all the noise and bustle of a fair, a perfect turmoil of hurrying, chattering folk, whose only anxiety is to keep unbelievers away from the sacred spot.

In the evening, as I again went past the Towers of Silence, the palm trees were once more crowded with sleeping birds gorged with all the food sent them by the plague. On the other side of Back Bay, above the Field of Burning, a thick column of smoke rose up, red in the last beams of the crimson sun.

Out of doors, meanwhile, one funeral procession almost trod on the heels of the last; at the latest gleam of day, and out towards the west, above the Field of Burning, a broad red cloud filled all one quarter of the sky.