« PrethodnaNastavi »
PREJUDICES AND SUPERSTITIONS.
WISE and good as the queen was, death was a subject which she would not allow to be mentioned, or even alluded to, in her presence. The word death was banished altogether from ordinary conversation in her household, and even its equivalents, to be taken away, to depart this life, and such like, were not used. The periphrasis by which the idea was usually conveyed, was that the responsibility of the child was off the parents' shoulders, meaning that the child was dead ; or the responsibility of the wife off the husband's shoulders, meaning that the wife was dead, and so on.
The queen's father or mother, I do not know which, had died whilst apparently in a sound sleep, and this had made such an impression upon her mind when a girl, that
she always begged her attendants never to let her go into a very sound sleep, but to wake her up if she seemed to sleep more than ordinarily soundly. This the attendants. always promised to do, but never did.
Her youngest son was about ten years of age when her husband, Umjid Aly Shah, died, and was a great favourite both with his father and mother. I remember, on one occasion, a large quantity of gold mohurs had been brought in by the queen's treasurer, and, having been counted, were arranged in little piles of ten each on the carpet in front of her. I was but a child, and the thought was in my mind that I had never seen such piles of gold before in all my life. The youngest son of the queen and his nurse came in just then, and as he was about my own age, or a little younger, I looked upon him with great interest. By and by there was a great disturbance. Some of the gold pieces were missing, and servants were suspected, and search was made, and all were in terror of flogging to extort confession. For two or three days the investigation and
search about the missing gold went on, and both were unsuccessful-nothing was found.
At length the young prince himself told his mother he had taken some of the gold to give to his foster-mother, and that he had concealed it about his person before leaving the room. As many of the servants had been suspected, and so much trouble had been taken to find the culprit, the queen was very angry that her son had not told her before. So she had him tied hand and foot, after the manner of criminals, and taken into the king's presence to be judged and punished.
The king was at durbar when his son was brought to him thus; and on seeing the young prince, his favourite son, tied up, he was very angry, and ordered him to be released forthwith. He was very near punishing the servants who brought him in thus ignominiously, although they pleaded the queen's orders. However, finally, he released them with threats, and took the young prince and fondled him, and made him presents of gold and jewels.
The queen was not pleased at all this, and rated the king soundly when he next came to her apartment, and would not see the young prince for three days, as a punishment; but further punishment than that she did not or dared not inflict.
The queen was a believer in dreams, and no wonder. Do not thousands of dreams come true? A few months after the death of Umjid Aly Shah, the young prince, who had been very fond of his father, woke up one night crying, and said his father had called him three times. And the queen asked him, and the boy said, 'My father came to me and called to me three times thus, and beckoned: I want to go to him.' The young prince slept again; but the queen was very uneasy, and lay awake till morning. That morning the young prince got up, apparently quite well, but towards midday he sickened-cholera came on-and he was dead before evening! Yet people often say there is nothing in dreams!
It was not more than a year or so before the annexation of Oudh to the British terri
tories in India, that the queen dreamt one night that an old man of venerable aspect had come to the king's durbar, and, taking the king her son by the hand, had lifted him off the royal carpet, leaving him to stand upon the floor beyond. As none in the household could interpret this dream, the soothsayers of Lucknow were collected, and, after much consultation, they decided that some serious injury threatened the kingdom, and they showed how it was to be averted by prayers, and gifts, and such like. But the means they showed to avert the danger failed; and was not the annexation of Oudh by the English the fulfilment of the queen's dream? Yet the impious laugh at dreams!
It was a tradition in the palace that women had been walled up, in more places than one, for infidelity, and other crimes, by the various kings; and the queen had certain knowledge of two or three such cases that had occurred in former reigns. The queen therefore, did not like walking about the corridors or passages, after dark, and always had a good light in her own room. I have