"And is that all?" Under each plate, a large square cut out of a banana leaf serves as a finger-napkin. Innumerable are the dishes of sweetmeats made with ghee (clarified butter), the scented ices, the highly-coloured[Pg 18] bonbons; while the young couple walk round the rooms, and hang garlands of flowers about the necks of the feasters.

On the outside, all round the lower part of the monument, carved borders frame flowers of pale mosaic in the walls; the ornament is in such faint relief that at a short distance it is invisible, and the Taj is seen only in the perfect elegance of its[Pg 206] proportions. The mausoleum is built on a broad terrace of white marble at a height of 270 feet, overhanging the Jumna; and the impressive, harmonious outline commands the plain from afar.

The sarcophagus rests in the depths of a vaulted crypt lighted only by narrow latticed loopholes, and it is shrouded in a mysterious glimmer, a mingling of golden sunbeams and the reflections from the marble walls inlaid with precious stones.

[Pg 12]

There was always the same torture of the horses, too small and too lean for their work, galloping the five miles of the stage and then stopping dead on the spot, incapable of moving, hustled by the fresh team that rushed off on its wild career.

Then into a garden with a number of quite narrow, straight paths bordered with nasturtiums, tall daisies, and geraniums, while a tangle of jasmine, china roses, bougainvillea, and poinsettia flourished freely under the shade of tamarind and palm trees. Over a clump of orange trees in blossom a cloud of butterflies was flitting, white patterned with black above, and cloisonns beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.

The Ghoorkhas, small men and very active, young too, with Chinese features, were practising gymnastics. And recruits were being drilled, two of them barefoot, though wearing their gaiters.

When a Sikh is beaten and surrenders he takes off his turban and lays it at the conqueror's feet, to convey that with the turban he also offers his head.

There is a never-ending traffic of elephants, baggage-camels, and vehicles with shouting drivers; and on the ground are spread heaps of fruit, baskets for sale, glass baubles and weapons. In all the pink and white throng not an European dress is to be seen, not even one of the vile compounds adopted by the baboo, a striped flannel jacket over the dhoti. Men and women alike wear necklaces of flowers, or flowers in their hair; the children are gaudy with trinkets and glass beads.

I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grassthe foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloudthe dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-woola speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was GaurisankarMount Everestthe top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea.