Where the roads cross there are basins where flowers are kept fresh, and above them white pigeons are always fluttering. Public scribes, squatting cross-legged on the ground, trace letters that look like arabesques, on rice-paper with a reed pen. Those who dictate them crouch beside them with an absorbed and meditative expression, dropping out the words one by one with long pauses between. In the case of a Brahmin it is the judge who hurries to the threshold, and affects to touch the priest's feet.
Many hapless creatures here suffer from elephantiasis, and even quite little children are to be seen with an ankle stiffened, or perhaps both the joints ossified; and the whole limb will by-and-by be swollen by the disease, a monstrous mass dreadfully heavy to drag about. Other forms of lupus affect the face, and almost always, amid a crowd watching[Pg 138] some amusing performance, a head suddenly appears of ivory whiteness, the skin clinging to the bone or disfigured by bleeding sores.
Cymbals and kettle-drums formed the orchestra, reinforced by the shrill cries and strident laughter of the spectators.
Beyond these ruins, at the end of a long avenue bordered with tamarind trees, beyond an artificial lake, is the tomb of Shah Alam. A wide marble court; to the right a mosque with three ranks of columns; above, a massive roof crowned with a[Pg 56] bulbous dome, flanked by fragile minarets. The fountain for ablutions in the midst of the court is surmounted by a marble slab supported on slender columns. To the left, under the shade of a large tree, is the mausoleum of marble, yellow with age, looking like amber, the panels pierced with patterns of freer design than goldsmith's work. "Export business!" says Abibulla.