马尔康的马帮三兄弟(下)

"It is made at thirty-five, twenty, fifteen rupees." Down in the streets the houses looked ghostly blue in the moonlight, the cross roads, lighted with the warmer glow of a few lamps in red paper shades, alternating with the black darkness, in which it was just possible to discern cows and goats lying on the ground.

From the summit we looked down over a panorama of the town, set out in square blocks sunk in the verdure of palms, bamboos, and banyans. At our feet was the cupola of the temple of Siva, all gold, and covered with bosses, the edges of the mouldings catching the sun. Besides this a number of coloured domes, painted in pale shades faded by the sunshine, descended the almost perpendicular incline down to the bazaar, where the throng was beginning to stir like white ants, of slow gait and deliberate gestures, their light-hued dhoutis flitting about the stalls for drink and fruit. Far away, beyond the bright green rice-fields, and against the horizon of intensely blue hills, the rocks stand outFrench rocks and Golden rockswhere the treasure of the conquered natives was distributed to English soldiers. It might almost be fancied that a glow of metal still shines on the smooth stone, a warm, yellow stone bathed in sunshine. Japanese girls, too, in every possible hue, with piles of tinsel and flowers above their little flat faces all covered with saffron and white paint; little fidgeting parrakeets flitting from window to window, and calling to the people in the street in shrill, nasal tones.

And of all the victims of the disaster those I had just seen were not the most to be pitied. It was on families of high caste, men who might not work and whose wives must be kept in seclusion, that the famine weighed most cruelly. At first they borrowed money (and the rate of interest recognized and tolerated here is seventy-five per cent.), then they sold all they could sell. Bereft of every resource, unable to earn anything in any way, regarding the famine as an inevitable infliction by the incensed gods, they let themselves starve to death in sullen pride, shut up in their houses with their womankind. Thus they were the most difficult to rescue. Their unassailable dignity made them refuse what they would have regarded as charity, even to save the life of those dearest to them, and it needed the angelic craft of the women of the Zenana Mission to induce the kshatriyas to accept the smallest sum to keep themselves alive. We left Rawal Pindi in a tonga. The night was black, the carriage had no lamps; but now and again, at the sound of the driver's horn, dark massesbaggage camels, scarcely distinguishable in the gloommade way for us to go past at a gallop.