房产--北京频道--人民网

Towards evening came a storm of hail and snow, from which we took refuge in a government bungalow, where none but officials have a right to restbut we stayed there all the same. The wind was quite a tornado, sweeping the flowers before it, and the pink and yellow blossoms were mingled with the snowflakes and the tender green leaves, scarcely[Pg 272] unfolded. Birds were carried past, helpless and screaming with terror. We could hear the beasts in a stable close by bellowing and struggling; and then, while the thunder never ceased, repeated by innumerable echoes, darkness fell, opaque and terrific, slashed by the constant flare of lightning, and the earth shook under the blast.

The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.

A wide open space covered with rubbish heaps was to be seen where the sepoys' barracks had been, and where from the first the men had died of the plague by hundreds. In one garden, a bungalow where a[Pg 303] man had just died was being burnt downstill burning. A party of police were encouraging the fire, and a cordon of native soldiers kept everybody else off. In the native town, on a tank in front of a temple, a raft was moving very slowly. Under a dazzlingly gorgeous canopy stood an idol of gold, covered with garlands and jewels. A dense crowd, white and fragrant with jasmine and sandal-wood, stood about the sacred pool and on the steps, and bowed reverently as the divinity floated past.

Abibulla delivered a long harangue through the closed door; at last a wicket was opened, framing an eye. I was invited to approach, and then, after examination, the wicket in the polished door was abruptly closed! At Jhansi, by the station, were parties of famishing emigrants, all with the same dreadful white grimace and glazed eyes, and in the town more starving creatures dragging their suffering frames past the shopsalmost all closedor begging at the doors of the temples and mosques; and the few passers-by hurried on as if they, too, wanted to escape, overpowered by this scene of dread and horror.

In the ward we had just passed through there were none but convalescents or favourable cases. At the further end of the room a boy, fearfully emaciated, so thin that his body, lying in the hollow of the mattress, was hardly visible under the covering, was asleep as we approached. He had come from one of the famine districts, and in escaping from one scourge had come to where the other had clutched him. The doctor touched him on the[Pg 34] shoulder, and he opened his great splendid eyes. The awakening brought him gladness, or perhaps it was the end of his dream, for he had the happy look of a contented child, shook his shaven head waggishly, and the single corkscrew lock at the top, and was asleep again instantly.

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.