Soldiers, bristling with daggers and pistols in their belts, are on guard at the gate. Pikes and long muskets stand piled in the background; over this arsenal, flowering jasmine and convolvulus with enormous bell flowers hang their graceful shade. King Zainulmulook has lost his sight, and can recover it only if someone will bring to him a miraculous flower from the garden of Bakaoli. His four sons set out in search of it. Zainulmulook has a fifth son, named Tazulmulook. At the birth of this child the king has had his horoscope cast by the astrologers of the palace, who declared that the king would become blind if he should see his son before his twelfth year; but hunting one day the king has met Tazulmulook, who was walking in the forest, and has lost his sight.

Then, another day, the air was leaden, too heavy to breathe. The mountains of the gem-like hues had lost their glory; they were of one flat tone of dusky grey, and further away were lost to view, invisible in the dead monotony of the colourless sky. The silence was oppressive; there was not a bird in the air, and a strange uneasiness scared the beasts, all seeking a shady refuge.

The want of foresight in the people here is amazing. A servant earning five rupees a month got his son married, a child of fifteen, and for this event he bought fireworks on credit, and at enormous interest, which would cost him three years' wages. When the express had arrived that morning from Bombay, eight bodies were found of victims to the plague who had died on the way. They were laid on the platform and covered with a white sheet; and in the station there was a perfect panic, a surge of terror which spread to the town, and broke up the market. The shops were all shut, and the people rushed to their knees before the idols in the temples.

As we stood up there the caravan for Cabul came in sight on the road below, and slowly disappeared wrapped in dust, with mechanical steadiness and[Pg 250] without a sound. After that came the other train of travellers from Peshawur, singing to the accompaniment of mule-bells, every sound swelled by the echo. Children's laughter came up to our ears, the scream of an elephant angry at being stoppedeven at a distance we could still hear them a littleand then silence fell again under the flight of the eagles soaring in circles further and further away as they followed the caravan.

Round a temple, with iron roofs ending in copper balls at the top, a crowd was watching, some seated on steps cut in the soil and some squatting on the hillside, here almost perpendicular. By the temple long white streamers, fluttering from bamboo poles, were covered with painted prayers. A Lama was enthroned in an armchair under an arbour of pine-branches; he wore a yellow robe, and above a face like a cat's he had a sort of brass hat surmounted by a coral knob; his little beard was quite white, and he turned his praying machine with a steady, dull movement, perfectly stolid. Two women stood by his side fanning him, dressed in close-fitting aprons of dark cloth bordered with a brighter shade, and opening over pale pink satin petticoats, on their heads crowns of flowers of every hue.

From a quite small garden close to the palace a bronze gate with three medallions of lilies in high relief, of marvellous workmanship, opens on the Pearl Mosque, exquisitely white, at the end of its forecourt of immaculate pavement enclosed by a marble balustrade. Three polished and shining domes are supported by columns of snow made of a hard white marble, scarcely broken by [Pg 218]ornament, and carrying a roof hollowed into three vaults. The rings are still to be seen on the marble walls outside, to which, when the great Mogul came to prayer, curtains were attached made of gold net and spangled with diamonds and pearls.

DERWAL

Men were carrying mud in enormous turtle-shells that they used for baskets.