The road goes on. Trees cast their shade on the flagstone pavement, but between the houses and through open windows the sandy plain may be seen, the endless whiteness lost in a horizon of dust.
In the afternoon the Rajah wore a pale green dress embroidered with gold and gems, and sparkling with stones, and a wide rose-coloured sash fringed with pearls. He wore no jewels but priceless diamond buckles in his shoes. As I had lingered long in the morning at a jeweller's shop, the prince wished to show me his possessions. Servants, as solemn as gaolers, brought in many trays covered[Pg 83] with enormous emeralds cut into beads and strung on white cords, necklaces of pear-shaped pearls threaded on almost invisible silk. And then, from among the goldsmith's work, modelled into impossible flowers and chimeras twisted to make heavy anklets, from among coat-buttons, rings and sword-guards sparkling with diamonds, the Rajah took up a costly snuff-box and begged me keep it as a remembrance.
"Yes, I know. How much?" In every shop of the High Street jewellers are on the look-out for customers, hale them in, tease them to buy, and open for inspection little bags or cardboard boxes kept in safes, and containing the finest sapphires in the world. The day slips by in bargaining for the gems, in endless discussions and feigned departures. The indefatigable vendors return to the charge, run after the customer, wait for him at the door of a rival dealer, and drag him back again. Then there is a fresh dispute over prices, till irresistible argument at last brings down the estimates to a third or a quarter of what they were at starting.
Between the cliff-walls of the defile, in a sort of bay, stands Ali Musjid, a little white mosque where travellers tarry to pray.
Past a magnificent railway station, and through a manufacturing district of tall furnaces, we came to the quiet country and the Ganges, bordered with gardens, where creepers in flower hang over the muddy stream stained with iridescent grease and soot.
One temple to Buddha only, on an elongated plan, ends in a vault forming a bulb-shaped cupola supported on massive columns, quite Byzantine in character and wholly unexpected. The dim light, coming in only through a low door and two small windows filled in with pierced carving, enhances the impression of being in some ancient European fane, and the Buddha on the high altar has a look of suffering and emaciation that suggests a work of the fourteenth century.
The morning mist shrouds everything; the scene insensibly passes through a series of pale tints, to reappear ere long in the clear rosy light, which sheds a powdering of glowing gold on the broad roadstead of Bombay.
In the streets, swarming with people, every woman who is not a pariah, walks veiled in all the mystery of her unrevealed features, her long, dreamy eyes alone visible.
We met a strange caravan; a small party of men surrounding more than a hundred women wrapped in dark robes, and bearing on their veiled heads heavy bales sewn up in matting, and large copper pots. A little blind boy led the way, singing a monotonous chant of three high notes. He came up to my tonga, and to thank me for the small coin I gave him he said, "Salaam, Sahib," and then repeated the same words again and again to his[Pg 37] tune, dancing a little step of his own invention till the whole caravan was hidden from me in a cloud of dust.