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The road lay among flowers, all-pervading; in the fields, on the rocks, on the road itself, pink flowers or lavender or white; bright moss, shrubs and trees in full bloom, and hovering over them birds of changing hue and golden butterflies.

A plain of dried mud, dull grey, with scarcely a tinge of yellow in places; all round the horizon softly undulating hills which looked transparent, here a tender blue, there delicately pink, in flower-like hues. One of them, rising above all the eastern chain, might be a fortress, its towers alone left standing amid the general wreck. To the west the highest summits were lost in the blue of the sky, identically the same, but that the peaks were faintly outlined with a delicate line of snow. To-day a religious festival; from the earliest hour everybody had donned new clothes, and in the [Pg 262]afternoon in the bazaar there was a masquerade of the lowest classembroidered dhotis, white robes, light-coloured turbans displaying large discs of green, red or blue. The men, even old men, ran after each other with bottles of coloured water, which they sprinkled far and near. One indeed had neither more nor less than a phial of violet ink, which, on the face and hands of a little black boy, shone with metallic lustre. One boy, in a clean garment, fled from a man who was a constant beggar from me, and who was pursuing him with some yellow fluid; and the fugitive was quite seriously blamed for disregarding the will of the gods and goddesses, whose festival it was.

A marble balustrade, of flowing design and astounding delicacy, exquisitely harmonious and artistic, encloses the white sarcophagus, which is inlaid with mindi and basilic flowers in costly agate, linked by inscriptions looking like lacings of narrow black braid. This balustrade alone, in the Taj, under the marble pile which forms the tomb of the empress, and on which 20,000 craftsmen laboured for twenty years, would, in its indescribable beauty of workmanship, have amply fulfilled Shah Jehan's vow.

A large open niche, supported on massive columns and enclosed by a carved parapet, built by some king with a long, high-sounding name, looks as if it were made of gold; the stone is yellow and flooded with sunshine, which, where the hard material is not too thick, shines through and makes it seem transparent, with the peculiar vibrant glow of molten metal. The shadows, blue by contrast, are as soft as velvet; twinkling sparks are lighted up in the angles of the architrave, by the reflected rays, like stars in the stone itself. And at this day the high road passes Secundra Bagh in ruins, and on the ground where Nana Sahib's soldiers fell, huge flowers are strewn of "flame of the forest" fading into hues of blood.

And for an hour as we drove along towards Amber, the old town deserted in favour of modern Jeypoor, the same succession of temples wheeled past. The crenated walls enclose three hills, one of them crowned by a fortress, to defend erewhile the white palace mirrored in the waters of an artificial lake.

One of the police in charge had a whip, and when he was leading away the old man, holding his chain he "played horses" with him, to the great amusement of the bystanders, and even of the old fellow himself.

Then, under a portico in front of us, a man began to undress. He threw off his dhoti and his sarong, keeping on his loin-cloth only. With outstretched arms he placed a heavy copper pot full of water on the ground, took it up between[Pg 171] his teeth, and without using his hands tilted his head back till the water poured all over him in a shower, which splashed up from the pavement, sprinkling the spectators in the front row. Next he tied his dhoti round the jar, which he refilled, and fastened the end to his long hair. Then, simply by turning his head, he spun the heavy pot round him. It looked as if it must pull his head off, but he flung it faster and faster till he presently stopped.

A tank here is deep below ground, down three flights of galleries. Quite at the bottom is a little stagnant water, into which children leap from the top of the structure, a plunge of twenty metres, ending in a great splash of green mud that smells of water-lilies and grease.

All about the town of pink plaster, in the dust of the roads and fields, are an endless number of dead templestemples of every size and of every period; and all deserted, all empty; even those that are uninjured look like ruins.