THE SWEARING OF THE OATH
Two or three days after this conversation, I forget exactly which it was, Maqueda held her council in the great hall of the palace. When we entered the place in charge of a guard, as though we were prisoners, we found some hundreds of Abati gathered there who were seated in orderly rows upon benches. At the farther end, in an apse-shaped space, sat the Child of Kings herself on a gilded or perhaps a golden chair of which the arms terminated in lions’ heads. She was dressed in a robe of glittering silver, and wore a ceremonial veil embroidered with stars, also of silver, and above it, set upon her dark hair, a little circlet of gold, in which shone a single gem that looked like a ruby. Thus attired, although her stature is small, her appearance was very dignified and beautiful, especially as the gossamer veil added mystery to her face.
Behind the throne stood soldiers armed with spears and swords, and at its sides and in front of it were gathered her court to the number of a hundred or more, including her waiting-ladies, who in two companies were arranged to the right and left. Each member of this court was gorgeously dressed according to his profession.
There were the generals and captains with Prince Joshua at the head of them in their Norman-like chain armour. There were judges in black robes and priests in gorgeous garments; there were territorial lords, of whose attire I remember only that they wore high boots, and men who were called Market-masters, whose business it was to regulate the rate of exchange of products, and with them the representatives of other trades.
In short, here was collected all the aristocracy of the little population of the town and territory of Mur, every one of whom, as we found afterwards, possessed some high-sounding title answering to those of our dukes and lords and Right Honourables, and knights, to say nothing of the Princes of the Blood, of whom Joshua was the first.
Really, although it looked so fine and gay, the spectacle was, in a sense, piteous, being evidently but a poor mockery and survival of the pageantry of a people that had once been great. The vast hall in which they were assembled showed this, since, although the occasion was one that excited public interest, it was after all but a quarter filled by those who had a right to be present.