Page images

Australia. There were picturesque figures from the hill states that skirt the Chinese frontier, from the Persian borderland and the coasts of Arabia, and from the snowy passes of the Hindu Kush. There were the Members of the Governor-General's Council, the Governors of the Presidencies and Provinces, the Commander-in-Chief and his staff, and countless civil and military officers, all in brilliant uniforms. There were the High Court Judges in their state robes and full-bottomed wigs; and there also was a crowd of distinguished guests from all parts of India and from England. Seats were found for 13,500 persons; as many more stood. Out on the plain, through the two points of the horseshoe, could be seen in the near distance the serried ranks of the massed battalions in close formation, 40,000 strong; and behind them was a tall mound, packed from foot to summit with thousands of native spectators. In the centre of the amphitheatre the imperial flag floated at a height of 100 feet in the air. Round its base were massed the bands of twelve regiments that had won glory in the campaigns of the Mutiny, nearly half a century before. The dais, in the inner hollow of the horseshoe, surmounted by a domed pavilion directly copied from a building of Akbar at Agra, awaited its Royal and Viceregal occupants. At the sound of the bugle a sudden hush fell upon the whole assembly.

Then was seen a spectacle that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, that brought tears to the eyes of strong men and a choking in every throat. Preceded by a military band, there walked


into the arena, in irregular formation, with no attempt at parade or symmetry, a group, a knot, a straggling company, of old or elderly men. Nearly all were grey-headed or white-haired, many were bowed with years, and were with difficulty supported by their comrades or by younger officers who conducted them round. In front marched a little knot of Europeans, headed by a splendid veteran, Colonel A. R. Mackenzie, C.B. Some were in stained and dilapidated uniforms, others in every variety of civil dress; but there was not a bosom that did not glitter with the medals that both explained their presence and bespoke their glory.

Behind them walked, and in some cases tottered, a cluster of Sikh veterans, many with long white beards, clad entirely in white.

The entire procession consisted of between 300 and 400 men, of whom the great majority were Indians, and a small minority of less than 30, Europeans and Eurasians.

They were the veterans of the Mutiny, the survivors of that great drama of mingled tragedy and heroism, the officers and non-commissioned officers who had borne a part in the immortal episodes of Delhi and Lucknow, the men but for whom the Imperial Durbar would never have been held.

As they made their way slowly round the broad track of the arena, to which none had hitherto been admitted but themselves, the entire audience, European and Indian, rose to their feet and greeted them with long and tumultuous cheering; but when the proud strains of "See the Conquering Hero comes",

to which the veterans had entered, and in response to which they drew themselves erect and marched with firm step, were succeeded by the wailing pathos of "Auld Lang Syne", there was audible sobbing both of men and women, and many in that vast audience broke down. One brave old fellow, quite blind, was led by a younger comrade: he turned his sightless orbs towards the cheering, and feebly saluted. It was his last salute; for the excitement was too much for him, and on the morrow he died. At length the old men were all conducted to their seats in the amphitheatre, and the stage was set for the principal scene.

I was gratified at the success of the venture; for when I planned and announced it beforehand, there had been many critics, particularly at a distance, who condemned the proposal as striking a jarring note on a day of rejoicing, and as reviving memories that ought to be forgotten. No such view was entertained by a single person, European or Indian, at Delhi: the Indians themselves regarded the invitation as the greatest of honours; and many, who were present at the scene I have described, declared it to be the supreme moment of the Durbar.

I would gladly have summoned all, of whatever position or rank, from every part of India, who had fought on the British side in the Mutiny. But when it appeared on examination that there were over 1400 of these, many of them living in remote parts of India, distant many days' journey from Delhi, the idea had to be abandoned, and I was obliged to confine the invitation to the list before mentioned.

Two days after the Durbar the veterans paraded again in front of my headquarters in the Central Camp, where, at their own instance, they presented me with an address of thanks, which is one of my most treasured possessions.



O what a fall was there, my countrymen !
SHAKSPEARE, Julius Caesar, Act III. Sc. 2.

AMONG the duties which the Viceroy is sometimes called upon to perform in India is the installation of a Ruling Chief or Prince on the gadi, or, as it is called if he be a Mohammedan, the musnud, of his state. I installed three young princes in my time. The occasion is one for the utmost pageantry, and for great rejoicing in the state concerned. The ceremony itself usually takes place in the Durbar Hall of the palace, before an immense concourse of the nobles and ministers of the state and a large assemblage of European officers and guests. Outside are ranged the state elephants, all magnificently caparisoned and with their heads and trunks fantastically painted in every hue of vermilion and saffron and gamboge. The state regalia are plentifully displayed, every servant of the state has a new livery or dress for the occasion, and coloured silks, satins, and velvets provide a sumptuous background to ropes of emeralds, rubies, and pearls. The Viceroy, after being escorted to the dais, delivers a speech or allocution of friendly advice and encouragement

« PreviousContinue »