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In an alley of the bazaar girls were lounging in hammocks hung to nails outside the windows, smoking and spitting down on the world below. In the middle of the course was a stand, and there, with the officers and civil functionaries, were four English ladies who had accompanied their husbands to this remote station. They thought of their dress and took care of their babies, living among these Sikhs whom the native priests are perpetually inciting to rebellion, and seeming to have not the least fear of danger.

In the further room were four sufferers past all hope: one in the anguish of delirium that made him cry out the same words again and again, in a hoarse voice that was growing fainter. He was held by two attendants. Another lay with chattering teeth; a third was struggling violently, hidden under his coverlet; the fourth seemed unconscious, apathetic.

From the open loggia at the end of the vast reception-room, lined with white marble and hung with thick carpets, there was an extensive view over the green plain inundated with water and sunshine to the holy city of dazzling domes that looked as if they had just risen from the Ganges. The air was full of heady fragrance; the Rajah described the springtide festivals, barges carrying troupes of dancing bayadres on the Ganges sparkling with a myriad lights.

After sunset, in every garden, on every hedge, wherever there had been a scrap of shade during the afternoon, there was a perfect burst of flowers, opening in the cooler air and scenting the night. Round one bungalow the rose trees, overloaded with flowers, hardly had a leaf, and in the grass, violet and lavender larkspurs grew as tall as maize plants. Yellow stars gleamed in the tangle of creepers over the verandahs, and on a tree that looked as if it were dead blossoms glistened in the moonlight like polished steel.

As soon as dessert was removed two lieutenants got up, and seizing a couple of drums played away with all their might, while some other officers, under the pretext of dancing a Highland fling, cut the most amazing capers. When the band had left[Pg 276] the fun went on to the sound of the banjo, lasting late into the cool night, all in the highest spirits.