“Is that in a Pickwickian sense?” asked Scott.
“Not at all, for the Guicowar is as brave a man as ever put a foot into shoe-leather, or went barefooted,” replied Lord Tremlyn, “though there is a little exaggeration common to the Orient in the proclamation.”
As his Majesty came in front of the veranda the party rose and saluted him with low bows, and the waving of handkerchiefs by the ladies. He responded with a kingly smile and a graceful wave of the hand. The procession passed on, and shortly afterwards the booming cannon announced that the moment of the solemn benediction had come. The attentive officials of the court presently appeared with the carriages, and an invitation to the whole company to dine with the Guicowar again at his table.
They had to wait an hour for the king, but they found enough to interest them in observing the coming of numerous other guests. In an ante-room the floor was almost covered with shoes, many of them of the richest material, even with precious stones upon them. Sir Modava explained that Eastern etiquette required that the visitors going into the presence of the Maharajah should remove their shoes, but that Europeans and Americans were exempt from this requirement.
When the party entered they found the king seated in an apartment open to the air of heaven on two sides. All were barefoot or in their stocking-feet except the Gruicowar, who occupied a bench, or platform, at one side. He had removed his state garments, and was dressed in a suit of white linen. Most of the native officials present were seated on the floor; but the gentlemen of the visitors were invited to sit with his Highness, though only Lord Tremlyn and Sir Modava accepted it.
VARIOUS COMBATS IN THE GUICOWAR’S ARENA
The party remained a week at the palace of the Guicowar, and every day had a new pleasure or recreation. The king was as familiar with all the members as though they had belonged to his own household. He was sociable with them, and they ceased to be embarrassed in his presence. Even Mrs. Blossom no longer trembled before him, and he was as jolly with the boys as though he had been one of them.
On the day after the Sowari the gentlemen of the party were conducted to the arena of the elephants, which was a large enclosure, reminding those who had seen them of the bull-rings of Spain. It was surrounded by buildings; and on one side, behind a wall, was a vast area of elevated ground from which the people of the town could witness the scenes presented in the arena.
The ladies of the party had made the acquaintance of those of their own sex in the household, and the sports of the day had been discussed among them. On this day it was to be an elephant fight. The native women did not attend, for they never took part in any public affair. Mrs. Belgrave, as soon as she learned the nature of the entertainment, promptly declined to be present at it, and the others were of the same mind.