On returning to Lucknow in 1906, I insisted on going at once to revisit the Husainabad, though I was warned that there was nothing to see there. Alas! in broad daylight and in the glare of the fierce sun the whole place looked abominably tawdry. What I had taken for black-and-white marble was only painted stucco, and coarsely daubed at that; the details of the decoration were deplorable, and the Husainabad was just a piece of showy, meretricious tinsel. The gathering dusk and the golden expanse of the Indian sunset sky had by some subtle wizardry thrown a veil of glamour over this poor travesty of the marvels of Delhi and Agra. So a long-cherished ideal was hopelessly shattered, which is always a melancholy thing.
We are all slaves to the economic conditions under which we live, and the present exorbitant price of paper is a very potent factor in the making of books. I am warned by my heartless publishers that I have already exceeded my limits. There are many things in India of which I would speak: of big-game hunts in Assam; of near views of the mighty snows of the Himalayas; of jugglers and their tricks, and of certain unfamiliar aspects of native life. The telling of these must be reserved for another occasion, for it is impossible in the brief compass of a single chapter to do more than touch the surface of things in the vast Empire, the origin of whose history is lost in the mists of time.
Matters left untold—The results of improved communications—My father’s journey to Naples—Modern stereotyped uniformity—Changes in customs—The faithful family retainer Some details—Samuel Pepys’ stupendous banquets—Persistence of idea—Ceremonial incense—Patriarchal family life—The barn dances—My father’s habits—My mother—A son’s tribute—Autumn days—Conclusion.
I had hoped to tell of reef-fishing in the West Indies; of surf-riding on planks at Muizenberg in South Africa; of the extreme inconvenience to which the inhabitants of Southern China are subjected owing to the inconsiderate habits of their local devils; of sapphire seas where coco-nut palms toss their fronds in the Trade wind over gleaming-white coral beaches; of vast frozen tracts in the Far North where all animate life seems suspended; of Japanese villages clinging to green hill-sides where boiling springs gush out of the cliffs in clouds of steam, and of many other things besides, for it has been my good fortune to have seen most of the surface of this globe. But all these must wait until the present preposterous price of paper has descended to more normal levels.