Slike stranica




THE real sorrows of the queen began with the death of her husband, Umjid Aly Shah, but she had apparent sorrows enough even when he was alive. He had been a long time heir apparent, and did not come to the throne till he was advanced in middle

life, and only reigned five years. It was very shortly after his reign began that I was brought to the palace, and, child though I was, I remember everyone used to say he was a model of a husband, because he had never taken any other wife. The queen's children, three boys and one girl, were all born before her husband came to the throne.

The only apparently cruel thing I can remember the queen having ever done, was the result of jealousy. When Umjid Aly

had been nearly a year or so on the throne, he began to distinguish one of the queen's attendant girls by presents, and by sending to her kind messages. As this girl was the servant usually in charge of the youngest prince, then an infant, the king had many opportunities of speaking to her, and the queen thought the presents he gave her were prompted by his affection for the child. The household, however, knew better, and began to treat her with more respect, and to call her by higher titles, when they saw that the king was really attached to her. Whether the king went through any ceremony of marriage with her, or not, I do not know. Certain it is, however, that the queen came to hear of the affection he displayed, and of the consequent assumption by her servant of titles of honour and a proud carriage, when not actually in the queen's presence.

Now the queen was known to all to be a resolute determined woman. She was learned, could read and write Persian and Arabic, was a princess of Delhi by birth and a queen by marriage-was such a woman to

allow a base-born slave to step between her and her lord, she being the mother of the king's children? When she once expressed a desire for anything, she always got it, no matter who opposed. If it was not granted at once, she neither eat nor drank till either the request was granted, or at least a solemn promise was made to grant it. But she was wise too, and never injured the kingdom by her demands. Sole lord of the king's heart, mother of his children, was she to allow a rival to carry off his affections from her? Certainly not.

The attendant in question, I forget her name, was one afternoon sleeping soundly, fatigued by exercise, and overcome by the sultriness of the day. The apartment in which she slept was at the end of a gallery leading from the queen's private rooms to those of public reception. The queen accidentally passed by, and saw her there asleep. The attendant was a handsome girl, full grown, with a fine figure, and through some accident had never been married. It was whispered in the palace that she would one day be

mother of a royal child, whether truly or falsely I do not know.

The queen passed on and said nothing till she came to her own apartment. She then called to her one of her most trusted servants- -an old woman who had been with her from her maidenhood, who had come with her from Delhi. How the thing was managed afterwards I do not know, but soon all the palace was in an uproar, roused by the screams of the attendant who had been sleeping a few minutes before so soundly, dreaming perhaps of the affection of a king. She had been sleeping, I heard, with face and neck uncovered, the usual muslin veil having been thrown aside in consequence of the heat; and some description of firework, or explosive substance, had been let off so close to her as to burn her severely on the face and neck. The queen was very sorry for the pain she suffered, and was doing all she could to alleviate it, when the king came in. A dark scowl was on his face. The girl was removed by his orders, in order that proper medical aid might be

ill. Her beauty

obtained. She was long ill. was clean gone for ever, and she was soon forgotten. I do not know what became of her afterwards.

I was only a child when all this happened, but I remember the screams and the bustle, and the queen's sorrow. She cried over the poor girl, her heart was good. It was never proved, of course, that she had anything to do with it, but I believe she had, all the same. There was an investigation, of course, and it was all set down as the result of accident; but they say that the king was for a long time terribly angry. His anger, however, was little matter, for the queen ruled him still. There was but one will between the two, and that will was hers.

But was not all this very cruel on the queen's part? No, not cruel, but in reality very merciful. Any other queen would have had the slave put to death, and her body thrown into the river. If I were a queenwell it's no use saying what I should do if I were a queen, but no slave should come between me and my husband. Of that you

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