Across India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about Across India.

They were all seated on the huge beasts, and the procession started, the Italian band following the native, and playing when they ceased to do so.

CHAPTER XXV

FELIX MCGAVONTY BRINGS DOWN SOME SNAKES

“Well, what do you think of this?” asked Captain Ringgold, turning to Mrs. Belgrave, as the elephant moved off.

“I don’t feel quite at home up here,” she replied, holding on with both hands at the side of the howdah.

“I think it is nice,” added Miss Blanche.  “It seems very much like riding on a camel, only there is more motion.”

“It is a good place to see everything there is to be seen,” suggested Louis, as he looked about him.  “The king is taking us to his palace in high style.  If he meant to astonish us, he has hit the nail on the head.”

“But where are Lord Tremlyn and Sir Modava?” asked Miss Blanche.

“They are mounted on a couple of as handsome horses as I ever saw in my life,” replied the commander.  “One of them is on each side of the Guicowar, at the head of the cavalry troop.  In England and America the escort goes ahead of the persons thus honored; but here, as a rule, the king cannot ride behind anybody.  You remember that when we saw the Sultan going to the mosque in Constantinople he rode at the head of the procession, and all the great officers of state went behind him; and that seems to be the fashion here.”

“But is he much of a king?” Mrs. Belgrave inquired.

“They all call him a king, and I suppose he is one.  He is a Maharajah, a word written with a capital, and composed of two words, maha, which means great, and rajah, a king.  The definition is ’a Hindu sovereign prince,’ and that makes a king of him.  He rules over a large territory, and Lord Tremlyn says he is the most powerful of all the native princes.  He is certainly treating us very handsomely.”

“I think I could get along without quite so much style,” said Mrs. Belgrave, laughing; and she seemed to feel as though she was taking a part in a farce.

“All the style is in honor of the distinguished gentlemen we picked up in the Arabian Sea.  But excuse me, Mrs. Belgrave, if I suggest that it is not wise and prudent to laugh in the midst of such a spectacle as this.  The Hindus are very exclusive until you get acquainted with them, and have a great many prejudices which we cannot comprehend.  They are very sensitive, and are very likely to misinterpret the expression and the actions of a stranger; your laugh might be offensive, leading them to believe you were sneering, or making fun of them, as we should call it.”

“Then I will be very circumspect,” replied the lady.  “But is the Guicowar really a king, when all this country belongs to the English?  Victoria is the Empress of India.”

“He rules over a protected state; but his powers seem to be almost unlimited.  A British officer is always at his court, and is called a ‘resident,’ who is the representative of the government.  But he does not meddle with the affairs of the state unless occasion requires.”

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Across India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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