Before the party entered a carriage arrived, from which General Noury and another person alighted. The Moroccan had accepted the invitation of a Delhi Mussulman to be his guest, and this gentleman had begun to show him the sights of the city. The general presented him to the members of the party as Abbas-Meerza. Evidently in honor of his host the Moroccan had put on his Oriental dress, which was certainly a very picturesque costume, though it called up unpleasant memories in the minds of the commander and the Woolridges.
Abbas-Meerza was evidently a Persian, or the son of one; for he was clothed in the full costume of that country. He wore a rich robe, reaching to his ankles, with a broad silk belt around his waist. His cap, of equally costly material, was a tall cylinder, with the top slanting down to the left side, as though it had been cut off. He spoke English as fluently as the general. He invited the party to step to a certain point, and view the mosque as a whole.
The wall of the esplanade was a continued series of pointed arches, with a handsome frieze above it. On the elevated platform was a colonnade of the same arches on each side, with a pillared tower at each corner, interrupted only at the grand entrances. It looked as though one might walk entirely around the vast structure in the shade of this colonnade.
Within the enclosure could be seen three domes, the one in the centre overtopping the other two, two lofty minarets, with small domes at the summit, supported by several columns, and an immense pointed arch leading into the great mosque. The whole edifice is built of red sandstone. The visitors mounted one of the staircases, and entered a court paved with marble tiles. They walked around the esplanade under the arches of the colonnade, or cloisters as some call them, and finally entered the mosque itself. The interior was very simple in its style, but very beautiful. The roof, pavement, pillars, and walls were of white marble, ornamented with carvings in the stone. Slabs of black marble presented sentences to the praise of God, and in memory of Shah Jehan, who was the founder of the mosque.
“Formerly no person not a Mussulman was permitted to enter this mosque,” said Sir Modava, while the general and his host were engaged in their devotions; “but for more than thirty years it has been open to all. From the top of one of the minarets a very fine view of the surrounding country can be obtained; but the ascent is by a very narrow flight of circular stairs, two hundred in number. He advised Dr. Hawkes and Uncle Moses not to attempt it.”
A venerable mollah was found, who put half a dozen of the party in the way of going up; and they reported the view as worth the labor and fatigue. The aged priest then proposed to show them the relics of the mosque; and a fee was paid to him, and to the man who unlocked a door for their admission. The mollah produced a small golden box, from which he took a silver case. Muttering the name of Allah very solemnly all the time, he unscrewed the top of the receptacle, and took from it a single hair, about six inches long, red and stiff, and fixed in a silver tube.