Slike stranica

No, my mistress the
She was pious and

may be sure. Cruel? queen was never cruel. devout and charitable, and read the Koran daily. Had her husband and her son been as good as she was, God would never have taken the kingdom from the family. Was not all the fault in this case her husband's ?

Yes, the king had his revenge nevertheless. He took a flower-girl of Lucknow, and married her by muta (an inferior or left-handed marriage peculiar to the Sheeahs). She had a palace given to her, and was made great and wealthy, but the queen knew nothing of it, as I heard, until cannon announced the birth of a son. When she subsequently reproached the king on the subject, his answer was, that in the Koran many more wives were allowed than he had ever taken or intended to take. Before all the servants she spoke loudly and bitterly in reply, saying, 'True, it is allowed, and you have waited till the best years of your life are gone, and now, your old age, you take a flower-girl to wife-a flower-girl fresh from the bazaar, Your servants, who have bought flowers from


her, are daily in your court, and say in their hearts, as they look on you, "Behold the husband of the flower-girl, from whom we bought flowers in the bazaar on such a day!", The king rose and went away in a rage; and the queen's attendants said to her, 'He will not come again.' 'He shall not come,' was her answer, but it was only in bravado she said it, for when she was in her own room she cried bitterly.

The young wife, the flower-girl, was called mulika, or princess, after the birth of her son, but never in the queen's presence, nor was that son ever spoken of before her as sahibalum, or shahzadha, or prince. Her servants and attendants well knew she would not allow it.

But, as I have said, Umjid Aly Shah only reigned a few years, and when he first fell ill he showed his affection for the queen my mistress throughout, till his death. I do not know what his sickness was. I only know he was sick, and that the immediate cause of death was an ulcer or sore on his shoulder, which gave him great pain, and which the

queen afterwards believed had been poisoned by one of his physicians, bribed so to do, as I have said before.

A few days before his death the mulika, daughter of the fruiterer, sent her son, in order that he might get his father's blessing. She did not venture to come herself, for the queen would never have given her permission to enter her apartments, but she hoped there would be mercy for her infant son, and she was right. She knew the queen had a good heart.

When the sahibalum came we knew not how to announce him to the queen. To give him his title would offend her; to omit it would probably offend the king, and the king was dying. After some delay, at length one of the king's eldest eunuchs approached him, saying: May it please your majesty, lord of the universe, protector of the poor, the infant son of Mulika Ahud has been sent to payhis respects to your majesty.' 'Let the sahibalum be admitted,' was the king's order. 'Sahibalum!' echoed the queen, 'Sahibalum! What king's daughter or what queen's daughter


is his mother? What was her dowry? and whence did it come? Bring in the boy." The infant was brought in. We slaves expected that she would have spat on him, or at the least taken no notice of him. But we were mistaken. Who shall understand the hearts of princes? She was a good and a kind mistress. She spoke kindly to the infant, took him on her knee, and said to him, 'What is your mother doing?' She is crying, because my father, the king, is so sick,' was the child's answer. Tears collected in the queen's eyes, she patted the boy's cheek, and kissed him, and the king, who was lying down, took her hand in his, and said to her: 'Begum, his mother is nothing. I give the boy to you. Love him for my sake, when I am gone.' The queen wept, forgave him freely, promised to befriend the boy, but added, 'Why do you talk so? you will soon be well again.' So little idea had she that he was so soon to die!

After the death of Umjid Aly Shah, the frequent and constant muta marriages of her son Wajid Aly gave the queen much trouble

and annoyance. So far as I am aware, he contracted only one nikha (full and complete marriage), and that was with the daughter of his vizier. I speak of the time subsequent to his father's death. He had more than one nikha wife before that, of whom Khash Mehal was chief.

After contracting marriage with his daughter, Wajid Aly was very intimate with the vizier, often allowing him a seat on his own carpet at durbar, contrary to custom, and contrary to the remonstrances of the queen my mistress. This familiarity of the king with her husband, caused the wife of the vizier to assume an importance and dignity of demeanour to which she was not entitled either by position or birth.

I remember, on one occasion, the wife of the vizier called on the queen my mistress at an hour earlier than visitors were usually admitted. It so happened that the queen was up and dressed, but, as she was very tenacious of her dignity, and would not allow anyone to infringe upon it, she sent word to the vizier's wife that, as the usual recep

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