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kind, and did not want to hurt the boy, and sent him to the daughter of the vizier, the general's wife, that wife whom he had neglected so much. She would not receive the youth, but returned him to the English officer, reviling the boy as half a Hindu and half a Christian, and saying that she had nothing to do with him, and could not let a child like that and she called him an opprobrious name-live with her. After some delay and much correspondence, the boy was finally sent down to Calcutta, and is now with the ex-king, as I have said.
On the occasion of a birth in the palace, particular care was taken to prevent evil spirits doing any harm. For six days after the infant's birth a fire and a light were kept in the room constantly. The evil spirits are driven away by fires and by lights—are they not spirits of darkness, and of the Evil One? But if human eyes are kept fixed on the little one, the evil spirits have no power over it. Hence a mother should never turn her back upon her child for six days at least.
After I left the palace, during the time of
the wars, I was visiting a poor friend. A boy had just been born to her, and she had no proper assistance, and was wearied watching her little one, for fear of the spirits. So I took it from her, and told her to sleep, and she did so. I had travelled a good deal that day, and my eyes were heavy. However, determined to watch the little one, I sat on a low stool before a small fire, with my back to the wall, and the infant in my lap. After midnight, in spite of myself, I dozed, and, after a time, I heard a rushing footstep beating hard on the earthen floor, and I roused myself, and found the infant had been taken from my lap by the evil spirit, and was lying on the floor quite dead. The spirits take the life only, not the body.
The child's neck
And you ask
was broken in the struggle. how I know it was an evil spirit did it. How do I know that I am alive now, and was alive then? Would God or a good spirit do it? No; the child could not have fallen from my lap, and broken its neck upon the hard unmatted ground. Besides, did I not hear the rushing footstep beating hard
upon the earthen floor? O full of unbelief! -forgive me, my lord, but we in Oudh know more of these evil spirits, and what they can do, than you sahibs from England appear to know. Did I not hear the footstep? Why then talk of falling from my arms? Wah! wah! but the world is as full of unbelief as the sun is of light. But God is good and great, and the evil spirits are very wicked.
THE marriages in the court were of two kinds-nikha and muta. The former was the complete and perfect ceremony between equals; the latter usually between a superior and inferior, and not considered so binding as the nikha. In the royal family the boys were usually betrothed at the age of from ten to sixteen years. It was unusual to find a boy betrothed under ten years of age, and it would not have been easy to find a boy of sixteen who was not betrothed. The girls were usually betrothed when two years younger than the boys.
Presents of flowers and fruit usually passed between the betrothed until the time of marriage; and for a month before marriage the bride was fed exclusively upon milk, un
leavened bread, and sweetmeats. Two days before the marriage both bride and bridegroom rubbed mayndee, a red dye, on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet, and the way in which the mayndee adhered was considered emblematical of the lasting character of the affection between the two, and the happiness of the match. It was also usual for the bridegroom to send a suit of yellow clothing to the bride, as emblematical of love.
In the royal household all matters appertaining to dowry and such like were settled long before the marriage ceremony took place. But in the households of poorer Mussulmans it is not at all unusual for violent altercations on this subject to break out even when the marriage procession is being formed.
The marriage procession was usually a time of great mirth and festivity at court. Elephants with silver howdahs, splendid palanquins, and highly ornamented chairs of state borne by servants in liveries of scarlet and gold lace, bands of music, richly caparisoned