Evening fell, purple and orange tinging the princes' muslins to delicate hues; then very quickly all was dark. Deep melancholy came over us; we all sat without speaking a word, while from afar came the clatter of tom-toms from the temple, sometimes drowning the music, which droned on in a minor key, a maundering strain without a close but constantly repeating itself.

At sunrise we reached Nandgaun, whence I went on towards Ellora in a tonga, the Indian post-chaise, with two wheels and a wide awning so low and so far forward that the traveller must stoop to look out at the landscape. A rosy haze still hung over the country, rent in places and revealing transparent blue hills beyond the fields of crude green barley and rice. The road was hedged with mimosa, cassia, and a flowering thorny shrub, looking like a sort of honeysuckle with yellow blossoms, and smelling strongly of ginger. A poor old fellow, behind a grating that shut him into a kind of hovel, called out to us, first beseeching and then threatening, rushing frantically to the back of his hut and at once coming forward again with fresh abuse. He was a dangerous madman, placed there to keep him out of mischief and to be cured by the Divinity.

The artist sat at work in a corner of the window, copying minutely, for the thousandth time perhaps, a Taj or a Moti Musjid. Quite unmoved while his[Pg 226] shopman displayed his wares, he worked on with brushes as fine as needles; but when, on leaving, I asked him where I could procure some colours I needed, "Then the sahib paints?" said he; and he rose at once, insisted on my taking a seat, pressed me to accept a little sandal-wood frame, as a fellow-artist, and then would positively paint my portrait.

[Pg 89] A port crowded with steamers taking in coal, and very light barks high out of the water, kept in equilibrium by parallel outriggers at the ends of two flexible spars. These crank boats, made of[Pg 124] planks that scarcely overlap, were piled with luggage, and the boatmen jostle and turn and skim close under the fast-steaming transatlantic liners, amid a bewildering babel of shouts and oaths, under a sun hot enough to melt lead.

Inland from Colombo it is pure enchantment to travel among the rich and tangled vegetation of every shade of green that grows by the margins of the pools, the rivers, and the rice-fields. At first, skirting the shallows, where men, standing to their waists in water, were fishing with large nets which[Pg 126] they managed but clumsily, the flat banks are overgrown with anthuriums, their broad leaves of dark velvet or of light gauze splashed with rose and white, mirrored in the channels that form a network to irrigate the rice-swamps. Then ferns, bamboos, and feathery reeds in every varying shade of gold; creepers clinging to the trunks of coco trees or ph?nix-palms bear bunches of pink or yellow blossoms between the palm-leaves, invading everything with their luxuriance, and forming a gaudy undergrowth below the tall treesa light but impenetrable thicket where the sun casts warm purple shadows.