Slike stranica

The king always paid his mother, the queen my mistress, the compliment to come to her early on New Year's day, with Khash Mehal, his chief wife, and her son the heir apparent, to offer nuzzers or presents, and to wish her health, prosperity, and long life. On that day the queen put on her bravest apparel, and was loaded with jewellery. All her household took a pride in seeing her look her best, and wearing her richest clothing and ornaments; and throughout the year, it was often on New Year's day only that she would consent to be thus decked out.

When the king and Khash Mehal and the heir apparent had presented their gifts, then came a troop of the king's wives, a hundred or a hundred and twenty of them, whom the queen would not receive at other times. Some of them were mere children, many of them very pretty, some old, one was a negress, but all came trooping in in their best clothes, to the great amusement of the queen, who never looked upon them all without laughing.

Then came the general, with his eldest son and one or two of his wives; but those

whom he considered pretty, or whom he valued, the general never brought, lest his brother the king should see them and take them to himself. All came with gifts.

Great pitchers of red dye stood ready for use in the verandahs, and the queen sprinkled a little, a very little, on each, and was in turn sprinkled by them. Sweetmeats were then handed round, and the morning's amusements wound up with the servants trooping into the courtyard, and plentifully daubing each other over with the dye, which was done with much mirth and laughter.

Fans, large and small, to be used by the hand, were prepared for this day, and were neatly trimmed with red cloth, and handed from one to the other, with a slight waving, as if to fan the party to whom each fan was offered.

Such were the morning's amusements— such, combined with music and dancing and singing, which were never wanting in the palace on occasions of mirth and festivity. But it was in the evening that the greatest hilarity prevailed. For two or three hours

in the afternoon the queen usually lay down, fatigued with the morning's ceremony, but she never lay down without first reading prayers from the Koran, so zealous in religious matters was she.

The longest room in the palace was the scene of festivity in the evening, and in this preparation was made for the family banquet. New carpets were spread, and over them two long cloths from end to end, on each side of which plates were arranged. At right angles to this, across the top of the room, was another cloth, supported by a carpet of the richest material, fringed with gold lace. The most splendid cushions were here made ready, and massive gold and silver articles displayed on all sides. At this shorter tablecloth, the seat of honour, at the upper end of the room, the queen my mistress, and the king, and Khash Mehal, and the heir apparent, and the general and his eldest son, took their places, amid the loud flourish of trumpets, the playing of bands, and the roar of


The chandeliers from the roof were all lit

up, and the wall-shades by the sides of the large mirrors on the walls; the room was a blaze of light, and the sparkling of gold and silver cups, and plates, and jewellery, and rich dresses, reflected back by the large mirrors, made a gorgeous scene. It was as the court of Indra, the palace of the Peris. Then came the other wives of the king, trooping in, to take their places—some tall, some short, dark and fair, young and old, beautiful and ugly, all in rich kinkobs and cloths of gold, wearing their finest jewellery, and soft silvery voices rang forth in laughter, and the sweet tones of girlhood were mingled with the roar of drums and trumpets and all kinds of musical instruments without. The English are a great people, and do mighty wonders, but they have no assemblies like that so rich and gorgeous and splendid. Down the whole length of the room the chandeliers flashed upon rich garments and and many gems, beautiful faces, all reflected in the mirrors around; and as the music without ceased, and the banquet began, the hum of many voices rose from the long lines of

sitting figures, subdued voices, and whispering intermingled with the soft laugh of girlhood, and happiness was over all.

And I, did I not see it? Was I not every year in the room? Who gave the queen her hookah, but I? and who could once see that beautiful scene, and fail to remember it for ever after?

When the banquet was concluded, music and singing and dancing filled up the hours till near midnight-no entertainment lasted over midnight. In that, as in so many other things, the feasts and festivals of the court were unlike the rejoicings and parties of the sahibs. Have I not seen the balls and parties of the English sahibs and ladies continue till the morning? It was never so at court.

Two years before annexation, the queen my mistress was not on good terms with the king her son. I do not know what was the cause of difference. Doubtless it was connected with some affairs of state. I was but a slave who prepared the hookah: what could I know of it? However, this I know, that on that occasion the king did not come as

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