« PreviousContinue »
to the young man, who duly responds. A good deal of the remainder of the visit is devoted to banquets, entertainments, and visits to institutions, and very likely, if the opportunity offers, to shikar. But before any of these functions or amusements can take place, there is always a preliminary exchange of formal visits between the Viceroy and the Chief, at which a consecrated and rigid etiquette is faithfully observed. The Chief calls upon his guest at an early hour after the arrival of the latter. little later the Viceroy returns the call, and the number of guns, the strength of the escort, the details of the reception, and the offerings made or exchanged are prescribed with the most scrupulous precision.
As a rule the bundobust is magnificent, and the arrangements proceed with clockwork regularity. But occasionally a little grit will get into even the best-oiled machinery, or some unforeseen and laughable incident will occur. On one occasion, just as the Viceroy's procession was about to start for the palace, my solar topé could nowhere be found. It was too hot to drive through the streets in a grey top-hat, and my native servant confessed that he had packed up the topé and left it at the station. Mounted men were sent galloping down, while I fumed and waited. At length the missing headpiece arrived. But my "bearer", not thinking that he would be detected, had wrapped it up inside a cooking tin, from which it emerged somewhat the worse for its unseemly incarceration.
This, however, was nothing to an experience I
once had at a country house in England, when, having entrusted my packing to the footman who was valeting me, I found that, in a meticulous desire to economise space, he had packed my sponge-bag inside my boots and my boots inside my top-hat.
However, to revert to the Indian installation. The young prince whom I was to install was the Nawab of B- -r, and the ceremony took place with due éclat in the Durbar Hall of the palace. But the preliminary visits were exchanged in a second palace where I was accommodated, and in a house which was being temporarily occupied by the young ruler. The best state furniture had been moved to the Durbar Hall, and the room in which the Nawab received me was in consequence somewhat sparsely equipped. At the At the upper end stood the silver chairs of state, upon which my host and I took our seats. Below and lower down were ranged in two confronting rows the seats which were to be occupied by his staff and by mine, the former on the left, and the latter on the right. The procession had entered, the preliminary bows had been made, the Nawab and I had taken our seats. My staff, faultlessly clad in white duck uniforms, stood in a line in front of the chairs upon which they were now expected to sit down. Instead, however, of the customary upright seats, there had been substituted for them, in at least one case, a low English arm-chair upholstered in satin. The A.D.C. for whom this was intended, not realising, when the signal to sit down was given, that his intended seat was a good deal lower than that of his colleagues, made a descent upon it so
precipitate that he landed upon the back of the chair instead of on the seat. Over went the chair backwards, and the only spectacle presented to us was the two little white-trousered legs of the Guardsman sticking up in the air, with his spurs protruding from his shining boots, and himself totally unable either to recover his equilibrium or regain his seat. Convulsions of laughter twisted the faces and shook the forms of his comrades. The Indian Sirdars opposite sat immovable, without the flicker of an eyelash, or the symptom of a smile; while on the dais it was my lot, during the extrication of the A.D.C., to discourse learnedly to the prince on the advantages of the water-works which he was introducing into his capital city, and upon the services which his Camel Transport Corps were capable of rendering, in future imperial campaigns, to the British Raj.
Fortuna saevo laeta negotio et
nunc mihi, nunc alii benigna.
Laudo manentem; si celeres quatit
HORACE, Odes iii. 29, 49.
THE relations between the Viceroy and the Ruling Princes of India, based partly on treaty, partly on long usage, partly on considerations of high expediency and honour, are among the most agreeable, but also the most anxious, of his responsibilities. In modern times the standards of administrative efficiency in the Native States have greatly improved, and many of them are ruled over by men who do honour to their exalted order. But in the last resort, in cases of flagrant misdemeanour or crime, the Viceroy retains, on behalf of the Paramount Power, the inalienable prerogative of deposition, though it is only with extreme reluctance and after the fullest inquiry and consultation with the Secretary of State that he would decide to exercise it.
A few such cases occurred in my time. One prince, who was a confirmed drunkard, shot his bodyservant dead in a fit of ungovernable temper; another was privy to the poisoning of his uncle; a third, who for nearly twenty years had been guilty of gross maladministration, of shocking barbarity in the treatment of his subjects, and of persistent contumacy to the Government of India, only escaped a similar fate by himself expressing a voluntary desire to abdicate and live henceforward in retirement; although no sooner had this offer been made and accepted than he tried hard to withdraw it and to have the decision of the Government reversed.
This case revealed in so striking a fashion both the weaknesses and the inherent nobility of the Indian nature, that, now the incident is long buried in oblivion, and the principal actors are dead, I can safely tell the story here.
The prince in question had, I think, a streak of real madness in his composition, which perhaps accounted for his crimes. But he had also an extraordinary sense of humour, no small measure of self-respect, and in the last resort, a feeling of genuine loyalty to the British Crown. In his more violent moods he would heap abuse on the Government of India and its officers, and act as a lunatic towards his own people. Then he would write me a letter saying that he was only a naughty boy who ought to be whipped; although, when frustrated in any of his evil acts, he was more fond of describing himself as a "rat in a hole" and a bison in a cage". After the acceptance of his abdication, he