栖霞新闻--江苏频道--人民网

Grain was now at five times the usual price, and would continue to rise till the next harvest-time. Official salaries and the wages of the poor remained fixed, and misery was spreading, gaining ground on all sides of the devastated districts.

A New Year's dinner this evening at the Guest Bungalow. The prince, forbidden by his religion to eat with men who are not of his own caste, was represented by Mr. S, the English engineer at Bhawnagar. Beyond the new town of broad avenues planted with trees and bordered with gardens, was a brand-new bridge of gaudy bricks over a river, almost dry, where a swarm of naked natives were performing their ablutionswashing linen and shaking out red and white cloths, as far as the eye could see. Buffaloes lying in the mud were sleeping among the tame ducks, the ibis, and the herons, all seeking their food. An elephant plunged into the water, splashing it up and scaring thousands of bright birds, which flew up against the intensely blue sky.

A tall wide gate beyond the bridge opens into the ferocious fortress of Hyderabad. He appeared without a sound, visible only as a white figure, his brown face lost, effaced in the gloom of the dimly-lighted room. For a moment I had a really uncanny sensation at this headless apparition, but in an instant there was the gleam of a row of brilliant teeth, the light in the eyes, and the eternally smiling face of the household coolie.

All the day long a solid blue mass melting into rain hid the mountains and darkened the nearer view; and our return journey was made between two grey walls, through which the trees, which sometimes met in an arch overhead, were but dimly visible. In the coppersmiths' street was a booth that seemed to be a school of art, where little fellows of seven or eight were engraving platters and pots with the decision of practised craftsmen.

Outside the town of Delhi a road bordered by great trees leads across the white plain, all strewn with temples and tombs, to Khoutab, the ancient capital of the Mogulsa dead city, where the ruins still standing in many places speak of a past of unimaginable splendour. There is a colossal tower of red masonry that springs from the soil with no basement; it is reeded from top to bottom, gradually growing thinner as it rises, with fillets of letters in relief, and balconies on brackets as light as ribbands alternating to the top. It is an enormous mass of red stone, which the ages have scarcely discoloured,[Pg 219] and was built by Khoutab-Oudeen Eibek to commemorate his victory over the Sultan Pithri-Raj, the triumph of Islam over Brahminism.

All the guests press forward, ceasing their conversation, which has sometimes drowned the voice of the dastour, to ask which of the two threw the rice firsta very important question it would seem.

Music in the evening, in the gardens which surround the library, the chapel, and the tennis[Pg 286] courts. The ladies' dresses and the uniforms were lustrous in the moonlight. First we had the regimental band, and then songs to a banjo accompaniment; and all about us in the tall trees, the minahs and parrots shrieking as if it were broad daylight, finished the concert by themselves. A huge creeper, swaying between two branches, hung like a curtain of yellow flowers embroidered, as it seemed, on the airy tangle of leaves.

Four women and two men wearing masks stretched in a broad grimaceone of the men in a red satin robe edged with leopard-skin, while the other had a squalid white shirt, intentionally soiled, over all his clothesthen began to dance round the priest, stopping presently to spin very fast on one[Pg 149] spot, and the girls' skirts floated gracefully in heavy folds, showing their under-skirts of bright satin embroidered with silver and gold. One of these women, who were not satisfied with painting their faces, by way of adornment, on the nose and cheeks with blackened pig's blood, took off her mask, showing her whole face smeared with it. She and the man in the dirty shirt played a number of mountebank's tricks to the great delectation of the spectators, and she finished amid thunders of applause by seating herself on the Lama's knee and stroking his beard.