Page images
PDF
EPUB

will repeat it to Gooby, who will tell you, and you will wink your eye and stroke your hair, and in about ten minutes you will give me an answer through the same channels. Now you understand.

To return to this show. We drove for two miles and a half through a lane of Runjeet's

goocherras,' or body guard. The sun was up and shining on them, and I suppose there was not one who would not have made the fortune of a painter. One troop was dressed entirely in yellow satin, with gold scarfs and shawls; but the other half were in that cloth of gold which is called kincob—the fond being gold and the pattern scarlet, or purple, or yellow; their arms were all gold-many of them had collars of precious stones; their shields and lances were all studded with gold. They have long beards down to their waists, and most of them had a silver, or gold tissue drapery, which they bring over their heads and pass round their beards to keep them from the dust. In the distance there was a long line of troops extending four miles and a half, and which after much deliberation I settled was a white wall with a red coping. I thought it could not possibly be alive; but it was—with 30,000 men. G. says old Runjeet was very much pleased with his own display. Shere Singh dined with us again; but otherwise it was a day of rest.

Thursday we began poking about to find shawls and agate curiosities, which are supposed to abound at Umritzir; but our native servants are afraid of going into the bazaars, they say the Sikhs laugh at them and their dress; my man told me they are a very proudly people, me not much like; they say, “ What this ?” and “What that?” I say, “It Mussulmaun dress—if you not like, don't touch!” Then they say, “ No city like our Umritzir!” I say, “ I say nothing against your Umritzir; but then you never see anything else. If you come to Calcut, I show you beautiful things—ships that go by smoke, and fine houses.” However, they are so proudly that now I pretend I no understand their Punjâbee, but I know what they mean.'

With all their proudliness' they are very civil to our people, and told them that the Maharajah had proclaimed he would put to death anybody who maltreated any of the GovernorGeneral's followers; or, as they expressed it, that he would cut open their stomachs'—very unpleasant, for a mere little incivility. In the

afternoon he sent word he was going to show us the city and the famous Sikh temple, where he had consulted the oracle about his present alliance with us. This temple is the only thing the Sikhs are supposed to venerate in a religious way. After all the plans were settled, a grand schism sprang up in our camp about G.'s taking off his shoes, and parties ran very high; however, I believe it was settled that it was impossible he could ever take off his shoes, except for the purpose of going to bed; but then it was equally impossible to rebut Runjeet's great civility in letting us go to this temple at all, and it was not a question of state. Runjeet takes off his shoes and stoops down, and puts some of the dust on his forehead ; it amounts to taking off a hat, and only answers to the same respect that we should wish anybody to pay on entering one of our own churches. So it ended in G.'s drawing a pair of dark stockings on over his boots, and the Sikhs made no objection. F. and I went in white shoes, and pretended to take off our dressing slippers from over them. All they really care about is, that their sacred marble should not be defiled by shoes that have trod the common streets. I am glad we went, and would

have given up my shoes and stockings too, for it.

The temple stands in an immense tank of holy water, and a narrow marble bridge leads to it. There is a broad walk all round the tank, and it is surrounded by palaces belonging to his principal sirdar, and by other holy buildings.

The temple is of pure gold; really and truly covered completely with gold, most beautifully carved, till within eight feet from the ground, and then there are pannels of marble inlaid with flowers and birds—very Solomonish altogether. There are four large folding-doors of gold. We walked round it, and then Runjeet took us in.

There was a large collection of priests, sitting in a circle, with the Grooht, their holy book, in the centre, under a canopy of gold cloth, quite stiff with pearls and small emeralds. The canopy cost 10,0001. Runjeet made G. and F. and me sit down with him on a common velvet carpet, and then one of the priests made a long oration, to the effect that the two great potentates were now brothers and friends, and never could be otherwise. Then G. made a speech to the same effect, and mentioned that the two armies had joined, and they could now conquer the whole

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

len

world; and Runjeet carried on the compliment, and said that here, the oracle had prompted him to make his treaty, and now they saw that he and the English were all one family. In short, you never saw two gentlemen on better terms with themselves and each other. G. presented 16,000 rupees, and they, in return, gave us some very fine shawls. I think, mine was scarlet and gold, but the Company's baboo twisted it up in such haste that I did not see it well.

When all this was over, Runjeet took us up to a sort of balcony he has in one corner of the square, and by that time the bridge, the temple, the minarets, everything was illuminated. Shere Singh's palace was a sort of volcano of fireworks, and large illuminated fish were swimming about the tank. It was a curious sight, and supposed, by those who know the Sikhs, to be a wonderful proof of confidence on Runjeet's part.

Yesterday my search for small agate curiosities was rather successful; and the shawls here are not despicable by any means, and very cheap, but I happen to have spent all my money. W.O.'s tent is the great harbour for merchants, but I have found out that I make my little bargains better if I can convey my merchant safely into my own tent.

« PreviousContinue »