Slike stranica

heard the queen say that more than once shrieks from the built-up walls had reached her ears, whether of the women themselves or of their spirits she did not know; and, so far as she could make out, they called for food, for water, for life. I was but a child, and often I had to go alone at night through these passages; and I went fearfully, my flesh creeping, my heart beating aloud, and every limb trembling-so much so that I could hardly walk.

After her widowhood the queen never occupied a state bed again, but simple couches of wood with little ornament. She always lay too on her right side, and her attendants said it was a penance she imposed on herself, in memory of her deceased husband.

So short had been the reigns of the two or three former kings of Oudh, that there was a rumour in Lucknow that a snake lay hidden in the throne, and that its poison soon ended the sovereign's life. Hence, when the queen's son Wajid Aly was crowned, he would not sit upon the guddee, or cushion, as his fathers had done, but simply touched the

guddee seven times bowing, and then sat himself apart from it. And certain it is, that whilst his father and grandfather reigned only three or four years each, he reigned nine or ten years, and had many sons whilst king. The throne in Lucknow was said to be the very one on which King Solomon, the wisest of men, had sat. It was taken to pieces by the English. Although the wisest of men had sat on that throne, all were not wise that sat on it. Wajid Aly had many wives, and so had Solomon. It is written in the Koran that Solomon had many wives, and he was the wisest of men, and it was God himself gave him his wisdom. Mashallah! God's will be done!




On the occasion of a birth in the royal harem, notice was sent to all the relatives of the father in the first place. None but female assistance and attendance were allowed, and the skill of these female attendants was proverbial. Drinks of hot milk, and food consisting of rice and pease flavoured with ginger and cloves, were the nourishment usually given in the first instance to the mother. If the infant was a son, cannon were fired, and fireworks let off at night with lavish profusion. If a daughter, the rejoicings were of a much milder and less boisterous character. For boys a wet-nurse was engaged for two years and a quarter, and for girls for one year and three-quarters, the mothers of the royal household never nurs

ing their own children. Besides the wetnurse, another woman was engaged whose sole duty it was to look after the wet-nurse, to see that she did not eat things likely to be injurious to her, and that she lived a strictly chaste and temperate life. This attendant was expected to be with the nurse night and day.

On the ninth day after the birth the mother was bathed and dressed in new clothes. Her friends were then first permitted to call upon her and offer their congratulations, and it was usual for her own relatives to forward gifts of large quantities of all kinds of food to the palace; the gifts of money and ornaments intended for the nurse were usually thrown into the bath-tub, on the occasion of the newly-born infant being first bathed the father setting the example. After that first bath the infant was daily rubbed with oil, but was not again bathed for a whole year. The mother was similarly rubbed and shampooed with oil. Whether she were wife by nikha or muta-that is, by the most formal, or only by left-handed marriage-on the birth

of a son she took rank at once after the duly betrothed and dowried wife. Her establishment was placed at once upon a more respectable footing, and she herself became a power in the state. But the giving birth to a daughter did not confer these advantages.

The mother on these occasions did not leave her room for forty days, and the mother of a son had then the liberty of roaming about in the palace, pretty much as she pleased, although her doing so previously would be highly indecorous—in fact, would not be permitted. The presents usually sent to the mother and child by the king were a cradle and playthings of silver, and ornaments for the wrists and ankles. The establishment with which a mother of a son was endowed comprised an annual payment from the treasury, larger or smaller in proportion to the favour in which she was held, but never to my knowledge less than 12,000 rupees a year (1,2007.). Handsome jewels and clothes were sent to her. She was addressed as mulika, or queen. Guards, attendants, slaves, were

« PrethodnaNastavi »