新疆库木塔格沙漠变茫茫“雪海”(组图)

[Pg 196]

In the hotel compoundmore absurd than all the rest, lost in a waste of open land beyond the seething native townthere was a swarm of coolie servants, their wives and their children, who played all day at climbing about the coaches put up under the trees. And, without ceasing, a maddening hubbub of laughter and crying came up from this litter of brats, more weariful than the silence of vacancy all around. Close to a village that has sprouted under the baobab-trees, in the midst of the plain that once was Khoutab, in the court of a mosque, is the marble sarcophagus of a princess. Grass is growing in the hollow of the stone that covers her, in fulfilment of the wishes of the maiden, who in her humility desired that when she was dead she should be laid to rest under the common earth whence the grass grows in the spring. And not far from the rajah's daughter, under a broad tamarind tree, in the blue shade, is the tomb of Kushru, the poet who immortalized Bagh-o-Bahar. On the sarcophagus, in the little kiosk, was a kerchief of silk and gold, with a wreath of fresh flowers renewed every day by the faithful.

A vision of Europe. Cottages surrounded by lawns under the shade of tall trees, and against the green the scarlet coats of English soldiers walking about. And close about the houses, as if dropped there by chance, tombs covered with flagstones and enclosed by railings, and on all the same date, June or July, 1857. Further away, under the trees, are heaps of stones and bricks, the ruins of mosques and forts, hardly visible now amid the roots and briars that look like the flowery thickets of a park, varied by knolls to break the monotony of the level sward. In the native town that has grown up on the site of the palace of Nana Sahib, built indeed of the[Pg 186] ruins of its departed splendour, dwell a swarm of pariahs, who dry their rags and hang out clothes and reed screens over every opening, living there without either doors or windows, in utter indifference to the passer-by.

And then seeing that I did not go, that on wakening again from his dream I was still there, he fixed his eyes on me and caught sight of a medal that I wear. A rosy light flooded the whole scene with fiery radiance, and then suddenly, with no twilight, darkness blotted out the shape of things, drowning all in purple haze; and there, where India had vanished, a white mist rose from the ocean that mirrored the stars.