吴应谱、樊贞子——最美的青春,定格在扶贫路上(图)

The fog seemed to turn to solid smoke, impenetrably black, wrapping us in darkness which was suddenly rent by a red flash, blood-red, ending in a green gleam. The mist retained a tint of sulphurous copper for some time; then a second flash, and far away among the lurid clouds we had a glimpse of the Himalayas, pallid purple with green shadows against an inky sky. The[Pg 254] thunder, deadened by the masses of snow and very distant, rolled to and fro with a hollow sound, frightening the horses which struggled uphill at a frantic pace. And the dense fog closed round us once more, a dark green milkiness streaked with snow, which was falling in large flakes formed of four or five clinging together like the petals of flowers. Then it hailed, which completely maddened the horses, and then again snow, and it was literally night at ten in the morning when at last we reached this spot and the shelter of a bungalow.

In the shops the salesmen, to weigh their merchandise, had a strange collection of curious weightsdumps, rings, balls of copper, iron, or lead, stamped or inlaid with symbols and flowers; fragments of spoons to make up too light a weight, even pieces of wood; and they used them all with perfect readiness and never made a mistake.

"And is that all?" The other victim, the night watchman of a neighbouring village, was suspected of treachery towards the hill-tribes in a recent skirmish. One ball through the head had killed him, and his arms had been cut off.

All the guests press forward, ceasing their conversation, which has sometimes drowned the voice of the dastour, to ask which of the two threw the rice firsta very important question it would seem. 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 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. Outside the fortifications is a peaceful township of large gardens with row on row of tombstones and mausoleums; some of enormous size, palaces of the dead, and others smaller, but wrought like lacework of stone. For a league or more the necropolis lies on both sides of the road. Across the door of each mausoleum hangs a chain by the middle and the two ends.

They were clad in colourless rags, matted and grizzled hair hung about their pain-stricken faces. The woman was the more delicate, her bones smaller and less knotted than those of the man, whose joints were gnarled, his scraggy knees forming thick bosses of bone above his shins. They threw themselves like hungry animals on some cooked grain which Abibulla brought out for them, and then, with scared looks all round, they went quickly away, as quickly as they could with halting, weary feet, without even saying thank-you.

This interminable piece, with twenty changes of scene, dragged its weary length till two in the morning. One by one the soldiers went away; even the baboos soon followed them, and only the coolies remained, enthusiastically applauding every scene, every harangue, in a frenzy of delight, before the final apotheosis of Tazulmulook and Bakaoli, as man and wife, lovingly united against a background of trees with golden boughs.

At Srinagar you live under the impression that the scene before you is a panorama, painted to cheat the eye. In the foreground is the river; beyond it spreads the plain, shut in by the giant mountains, just so far away as to harmonize as a whole, while over their summits, in the perpetually pure air, hues fleet like kisses of colour, the faintest shades reflected on the snow in tints going from lilac through every shade of blue and pale rose down to dead white.

When at last the boy was allowed to return to his place in a corner he sat quite still, his eyes staring stupidly and shedding large tears, though not a muscle of his face moved.

AT SEA

The servant who came to tell me that dinner was served went barefoot, like all native servants, in spite of his liverya sash and a shoulder-belt arranged over the Indian costume, and bearing the arms of England, and a monogram placed in his turban.