When the last stone was placed, Shah Jehan sent for the architect and went with him to the top of the mausoleum.
The rajah's sleeping-room has at one end a dais ascended by three steps; here the sovereign's bed used to be spread; and here, now, the judges of the Supreme Court have their seats. In the middle of the room was a confused array of benches and tables, and against the walls, also washed with yellow, hung a series of portraits of bewigged worthies. After the giant a whole chain of lavender and rose-coloured peaks turning to blue came into sight in the marvellously clear atmosphere; then the sun rose below us, in the throbbing tide of heat the mountains seemed to come closer to us, but immediately the mist gathered about Gaurisankar. "The Apsaras wearing impenetrable veils, that mortals may not gaze too long on the throne of the gods,"[Pg 152] said my sa?s, who had fallen on his face since the first appearance of the snow-crowned colossus, with hands upraised towards the paradise of Indra. "Nautch-girls for tourists, like Europeans," said my Indian servant Abibulla. "Can-can dancing-girls," he added, with an air of triumph at having shown me a wonder.
On the edge of a pool, where, like a huge, full-blown lotus flower, stands a kiosk of sculptured marble, dedicated to the Rajah's mother, we came upon the shoe market, the last survival of a time not so very long ago, when shoemakers, as working on the skins of dead beasts, dared not come within the precincts of a town. The city produces an impression as of a town built in the clouds and then dropped, scattered over the plain with vast arid and barren spaces left between the houses. In the native and Moslem quarters, indeed, there is a crowd of buildings, closely packed, crammed together on quite a small plot of ground; and among them the electric tramway runs its cars, useless just now, and empty of travellers, for it is the beginning of Ramadan, and the Mohammedans in broad daylight are letting off crackers in honour of the festival.
A dancing-girl went by, wrapped in white muslin as thin as air, hardly veiling the exquisite grace of her shape. Close to us, in front of two musicians playing on the vina and the tom-tom, she began to dance, jingling the rattles and bells on her anklets: a mysterious dance with slow movements and long bows alternating with sudden leaps, her hands crossed on her heart, in a lightning flash of silver necklets and bangles. Every now and then a shadow passed between the nautch-girl and the lights that fell on her while she was dancing, and then she could scarcely be seen to touch the ground, she seemed to float in her fluttering[Pg 301] drapery; and presently, before the musicians had ceased playing, she vanished in the gloom of a side alley. She had asked for nothing, had danced simply for the pleasure of displaying her grace. The ugliest of these palaces is that of the Maharajah, with galleries of varnished wood, of which the windows overlooking the river are filled with gaudy stained glass. In the garden is a pagoda painted in crude colours crowned with a gilt cupola; the zenana has bright red walls striped with green, and in the grounds there is a cottage exactly copied from a villa in the suburbs of London. A plain of dried mud, dull grey, with scarcely a tinge of yellow in places; all round the horizon softly undulating hills which looked transparent, here a tender blue, there delicately pink, in flower-like hues. One of them, rising above all the eastern chain, might be a fortress, its towers alone left standing amid the general wreck. To the west the highest summits were lost in the blue of the sky, identically the same, but that the peaks were faintly outlined with a delicate line of snow.