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Chapter 4: The Ladies of the Aristocracy

  “Love in full life and length, not love ideal, 
  No, nor ideal beauty, that fine name, 
  But something better still, so very real 
  That the sweet model must have been the same.

  And oh! the loveliness at times we see 
  In momentary gliding, the soft grace, 
  The youth, the bloom, the beauty which agree, 
  In many a nameless being we retrace, 
  Whose course and home we know not nor shall know 
  Like the lost Pleiad seen no more below.”

                               Beppo. Lord Byron.

They are Kshatriyas now, it has been said, these Rajputs from Central Asia. For from of old the classic, if academic, division of the Indian peoples has been supposed to be in four great caste or class abstractions, of which the second or warrior class is known as Kshatriya. And in fact it was into this caste that the invaders were by artful priests assumed to be adopted. The first hordes, from Bactria and the Oxus, had become followers of Buddha, a casteless faith in which the Brahman priesthood lost its privileges. But the later comers, the Gujjars and Huns, with their adoration of fire and sun and moon, were quickly persuaded to the Hindu system and the acceptance of the Brahman priesthood. So they slew as they conquered and extirpated the adherents of the reformed creed. And for reward they obtained the rank of Kshatriya and genealogies of the true Aryan breed. Those who were soldiers and founded states or formed the fighting men-at-arms of the clan maintained the rank, and are the Rajputs of to-day. The rest, as they settled down to trade or craftsmanship or as each by the succeeding horde was engulfed, and, where it was not absorbed, oppressed, brought to the multitudinous castes of upper India that Rajput element which is still strongly marked by Scythian tribal names and even by customs or appearance. It was a clan system, something like the Highland clans. Just as Macdonalds or Camerons absorbed into themselves earlier Picts or later broken septs, so did even the proud Sesodias of Udepur, one must suppose, take into their tribe in the first rush of conquest many converted Sákas or Kusháns, broken tribes, it may be, who were useful recruits, or perhaps at times some powerful leaders. As the Highlander going to Glasgow or the Lowlands, lost his nobility and became artisan or weaver or tradesman, marrying with the common people and shedding his pride and distinctions, so of the Central Asian fighting tribes there were many who descended to the common level of the working population.

Now the Rajput tribes for over a thousand years have been the kernel of Indian aristocracy. They have lofty genealogies which trace their trees to roots in mythology, to birth from fire or the personified sun and moon. The god Krishna, a Kshatriya chief, indeed, of real but hidden fact, mixed inextricably with the ancient concept of a cloud-god, powerful in some forgotten Aryan home, has his place as divine progenitor in many a family tradition. They have their professional bards who sing the epics of their race and preserve the records of their families and descent. For a thousand years they have spent the lustres fighting, tumultuous, each chief with his following against his neighbour, always divided, yet throughout in no mere lust of acquisition but in the spirit of a sport, sought for its own sake, governed by the rules of chivalry. Throughout Rajputana and Káthiawád, their castles stand on every eminence. Thence they could sally forth upon a foray, or in them, if the worst befell, sustain a brief siege. Younger sons either went out to carve themselves a career and perhaps a kingdom with the sword or received an appanage, half-independent, in which they governed as vassal princes. The chief ruled with a power absolute and arbitrary; but he had to rule as a father among his children. The clan obeyed, as a child obeys his father; yet withal there was always a curious feeling of equality. They were all of the same blood, they felt, high or low, born to carry arms, all gentlemen; and the chief was no better than his poorest brother, except that God had given him as eldest of the older line the right of decision in affairs. For their estates the clansmen paid by service, each according to his fief serving in person or with subordinate horsemen and men-at-arms. To this class belong the women who have been India’s heroines, the women whose names survive in story, brave with the brave, tender and true. Best known of all, perhaps too well-known again to bear mention, are Padmini, the princess of Mewár, and her no less courageous companions and maid-servants. For she was beautiful, of a beauty so surpassing as to bring ruin to her own people. ’Alá-ud-din, the great conqueror, heard of her fame and contrived to see her features in a mirror. Then, having looked, he swore that she must be yielded to his passion or, if not, that Chitor, the capital of Mewár, should fall. Finally, when it was no longer possible to resist and the impregnable fort was only too clearly pregnable by the enemy, Padmini called the wives and daughters of the fighting men and told them what was in her mind. In the vaults deep within the core of this strange hill fortress, they piled wood and straw and built themselves a vast pyre. Then with a farewell to the soldiers who were to charge in one last sortie upon the enemy, the women went down the steps to the supreme offering and laid themselves upon the logs of burning wood and died. In this way the women of Chitor--without one to shrink or to draw back--preserved for all time the memory of Rajput honour and the exaltation of Rajput womanhood.

Even to-day, without a doubt, there are within the zanánas of Mewár many women of a spirit no less sublime. The honour of the family, that is a sacred flame which they feed in their hearts with ever renewed fuel of self-sacrifice and devotion. That is a repute, which, even when they sin, they seek to preserve intact; and they know only too well that infraction of this law brings with it death. The women live, with few exceptions, in the strictest seclusion, seeing no male person except their husband and occasionally an uncle or a brother. But, in despite of privacy, the fame of their conduct is whispered abroad and their influence in affairs is only too often felt, even by Political Agents and Residents. In a chief’s household, there may be two or three wives, each with her separate establishment and her appanages. The management of her estates alone demands a good deal of intelligence and force of will. Handicapped as she is by being forced to converse with her stewards through a curtain, behind which she remains invisible, it is remarkable with what ability many a Rajput wife or widow controls the administration of her funds, though sometimes unhappily she may become the victim of fraud or specious appearances. The popular estimation of the Rajput ladies’ talents is shown in the Gujaráti proverb, “The clever woman’s children are fools, and the foolish woman’s children are clever,” in which the former is the Rajput woman with her impetuous and often imprudent sons, and the latter the cunning Bania trader with his usually awkward and futile mother.

Only experience can show how deep, and sometimes how perverted, is the respect for family honour; how hard the duty imposed upon women to preserve it above all things else at any cost. Some years ago, a young Rajput gentleman in an access of insane rage murdered his stepmother in her room. He had a sister, a girl of eighteen, still unmarried, who was sitting beside the pair and saw the murder done before her eyes. As it happened, a Government officer was near the place, got early information, and by a forced ride through darkness over forest tracks was able to reach the scene of the murder by midnight. He went at once to the girl’s quarters and, while respecting the custom of purdah, insisted upon speaking to her in person. The girl was still shaken by the murder that she had witnessed, her nerves upset, her night sleepless, her mind a vortex of cruel impressions. Under the skilful questioning, she soon broke down, and--told the truth! She recounted the facts as they had happened; and the facts were that her brother, the head of the family, was a murderer. But thereafter the girl remained unmarried, no Rajput of lineage, however poor, being found to accept in marriage a Rajput maiden who by the mere truth had fixed in the public eye a stain on the family name.

Of Rajput wooings there is still many a romantic story to be told. In one of the smaller states there had been some talk of marrying the daughter of the house to a greater chief. The young lady, a girl of about fifteen, exceptionally beautiful and graceful, well-educated, a writer of excellent letters both in her own and in the English language, managed to get hold of a photograph of the proposed consort and incontinently fell in love with the pictured image. The negotiations met with unexpected difficulties and the project all but fell through. The young chief, who had not seen her, was indifferent and accepted an offer from a more powerful state, where he married the young princess, almost a child. This was so far from damping the other lady, that it served only to inflame her further. The greater the difficulty, the more determined she was to win the man whom she now loved with a bitter passion. She wrote, she intrigued, she guided the negotiations herself, she entreated and schemed and insisted. At last she was successful, and the young chief came to wed her as his second wife. Throughout the ceremony, he was indifferent, almost bored. From his manner it was plain that he married only as a duty, because he was a gentleman, bound to a promise which he may have thought himself cheated into giving. But, the ceremony over, he went according to custom to eat the first meal with his new wife and for the first time to see her face and listen to her speech. In less than an hour everything was changed. Fired by her immediate charms, he burst all the bonds of etiquette and carried his bride off to his own tents. He made her his queen and put her like a seal upon his heart. For the child whom he had formerly married there was little thought, and the new bride, who for so many years had loved him from his portrait with a passionate eagerness, became the ruler as well as the loving servant of her prince.

The daily lives of these Rajput ladies of Mewár and Márwár may not have many deep interests but they are by no means empty. Among the greater chiefs, the woman’s life is the usual life of palaces, with luxuries at command and with corresponding duties. There are servants to order and affairs to manage. Most ladies read and hear recitations; maid-servants sometimes sing; and children have to be cared for and tended. Sewing is a common amusement in which most Rajput women are expert. Occasionally a Rajput girl is heard of who, in the remoter districts, goes out riding or even shooting, dressed sometimes as a man, though seldom indeed can such amusements, in a caste which follows the seclusion of women, be entertained after childhood. There are, however, among advanced chiefs with modern ideas not a few instances in which there is a tennis-court in the palace grounds for the ladies, where the wives play together or with their husband and his nearest relations. And there are some rare States where even the semblance of seclusion is being discarded and the ladies drive abroad or shoot big game in the jungle.

These, however, are the liberties of the great. Among the lesser nobility, where riches are usually wanting and position has to be maintained by a stricter observance of traditional rule, the manner of life is busier, with less need of pleasure-seeking. In such a minor country-house, the wife will usually rise with the sun. If her mother-in-law is alive, she goes first to her room and wishes her a good morning. Then comes, what is in all such households a duty of first importance, the care of the dairy-farm with its noble white cows. The milk and whey is always distributed to servants and dependents by the lady herself. That done, she has a bath and says a short prayer for her husband, sees the children have their breakfast, and visits the kitchen. The proudest nobleman’s wife would think shame of herself, if she did not superintend the cooking and at need take a hand in the baking of cakes and special delicacies. She sees to it that her husband and all male guests--usually numerous--have their breakfast before she herself eats her meal with her women. In that hot land, all sleep who can in the middle of the day, and the Rajput woman is no exception. When a couple of hours later she rises, she seeks for some amusement for the afternoon. All Rajput ladies are brought up from childhood to the strictest care of their persons and are taught even physical exercises. Before they are married they have learnt every device by which they can preserve or heighten their beauty and every art by which to sharpen their husbands’ zest and devotion. For this purpose there are many things they learn which in Europe would be disapproved. But it is largely due to this care that they are faultlessly neat, fair, and attractive, and that so often their beauty lasts to advanced years. Thus in the quiet afternoon hours one of the frequent amusements is to inspect and brush clothes. Ladies keep large wooden chests, hasped and bolted with iron and often beautifully carved, very like the bridal chests of the Italian Renaissance. In them are stored the clothes in whose neatness and beauty they place their vanity. One by one they are taken out by the maid-servants and dusted and shown to the mistress and refolded and put back. It is a poor woman indeed who does not have at least fifteen to twenty skirts, from the cheaper cotton or red Turkey cloth to the richest silks and gold embroidery. Mantles (Saris) are at least as many and of bodices there may be forty or fifty. The maid-servants who fold the clothes are a notable institution. Rather household slaves than servants, born and bred in the house, and almost of pure Rajput blood themselves, they are the intimates of their mistress. One or two of them there will always be who have been her affectionate companions since childhood and have, on marriage, accompanied her to her new home. Such a girl is the lady’s confidant and constant comrade, who looks to all her comforts, rubs her down after her bath and does skilful massage, knows all her secrets, brings her all rumours of the world, sleeps at her side in her husband’s absence, and is her much cherished friend. Often, especially in youth, the two spend their afternoons sewing together. Amongst the Rajputs of Káthiawád, besides the pretty bodices that they often sew themselves, it is the custom for girls to embroider fringed strips of cloth for hanging across doors or squares to fasten upon walls for use as ornament at marriages and festivals. Little pieces of glass or mica are let into the embroidery and the patterns very much resemble those still sewn by peasant women in Hungary, whither they were also brought from the same tribal centres of Asia. Reading, visiting, chatting take up the rest of the day till evening approaches. Then the Rajput woman puts on her richer dresses and her jewelry and gets ready for dinner and the night.

The Rajput women of Káthiawád and Cutch deserve some special mention, both for their beauty and their exceptional cleverness. Beautiful they are above all other women of India except only in Kashmir, fair with a rich fresh golden tint of skin, with full soft eyes, and with long black hair. In their apparel they are particularly tasteful, and the green hues that they specially affect set off their complexion at its best under the Indian sky. Of their intelligence there is no doubt, and throughout the Rajput country they are respected for their talents and perhaps, shall we add, feared for their intrigue. Jealous and ambitious to a fault, they are not ignorant even of the use of poison; and at least it is a proverb that “She marries the land, not the man.” Gallant and courageous they are, even in evil, and it is not so long ago that the tale was told of a not-virtuous princess that night after night in the dark hours saddled a riding camel with her own hands in the stable and rode six miles out to join a lover, and before dawn, another six miles back, unseen, unknown, with the threat of a dagger-thrust, if discovered, always in her mind. But when well-beloved and cherished, these Rajput women are charming companions and faithful, assiduous helpmates.

Besides the tribes who can claim to be Rajputs of authentic origin, descended as was said from the Central Asian invaders who transformed ancient India to its present type, it follows reasonably enough from the constitution of the tribal entities and from the eternal facts of power and sovereignty, that there are many others who put forward a claim more or less substantiated to a similar recognition. Such are the slightly later invaders of similar strains who came to India from Scythia by a different road, the Jhadejas of Cutch and Káthiawád, for instance, with their frequent marriages with Mussulmans. These have at least a perfectly legitimate title to the name by a sort of cadet copyhold. The hill Rajputs of the Himalayas, among whom for generations survived the last indigenous school of Indian painting, can also fairly put forward a claim based on historical descent. But in addition, throughout Northern India, whenever by the fortune of circumstance a new tribe, not yet included as a caste in the orthodox Hindu system, has attained to princely power, the claim to true Rajput ancestry, for a time overlaid and obscured by the dust-layers of adversity, is propounded and defended. Minstrels in India are no less complacent than genealogists and heralds in Europe; and a ruling chief can have a mythical founder of his line disinterred from unknown records as readily as can a British peer. Instances are many and notorious; but it would be invidious to retail cases, where very often the tribe or its ruling family are in every way worthy of inclusion.

Among the Hindu aristocracy not yet fully recognized as Rajput, perhaps the most notable are the Mahrattas. Cultivators of the arid Deccan highlands, their swift-raiding horsemen carved out many a principality in the last three centuries. Several regiments of the Indian army are recruited from these stern and hardy tribes, and the Mahratta has fought steadily and well on the Euphrates and the Yser. Among the ruling chiefs, the generosity, loyalty, and gallantry of H.H. the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior, in particular, have now become famous throughout the world.

Besides the ruling chiefs, the Mahratta tribes have a number of families of lesser nobility, above the mass of poorer farmers and peasants. Five of the tribes boast a purer birth and loftier ancestry; while in all ninety-nine tribes or branches of the race are counted. But in all tribes, far greater is the distinction between gentle and simple than among the Rajput clans. The Rajput clans form a real brotherhood in which, in many senses, each man is as good as another, wealth and power being accidentals only upon the leading strain. Over the whole social life is the tradition of the feudal fief and tenure, where all hold as gentlemen by their soldiers’ service. Among the Mahrattas there has never been this history of feudal aristocracy. And even more perhaps, a certain democratic tendency and a certain proneness to claim “rights” in the true democratic spirit, make it natural for those who have attained nobility to distinguish themselves by a haughtier aloofness. In many ways this tendency has affected the Mahratta woman. It has introduced the purdah or seclusion for one thing among a people to whom it is not natural, first among the nobility, and now to a modified degree among the richer or prouder of the farmer class. Among the mass it hardly exists even in name. More obvious still is the difference in appearance between the lady and the woman. The latter is like the generality of the Deccan population--one sect of Brahmans alone excepted--dark, stunted, hardly attractive. The former is fair, graceful, sometimes singularly charming. Seen at her best (and there are now not a few who in the disuse of seclusion in the more modern houses may be so seen) she is intelligent if quiet, winning though a trifle austere, grave and refined. The Mahratta lady lacks the open, ready smile and frank feminine fascination of the Rajput, but she has her own severer appeal. There is something in her always that is virginal. She goes through life as if unconscious of evil or at least as one deliberately and finely passing by with eyes unnoticing. Almost she reminds one of the girl-student resolute upon her way to lectures. Or--shall we say?--in her is something of the Florentine school, in the Rajput princess the full rich bloom of Venice.

But in the Peninsula where it narrows to a cape against Ceylon there still survives an earlier segregated India, untouched, or almost so, by Scythian immigration. It never knew those tribal communities, now broken up and regrouped and again assimilated, which left behind as their living memorial the strenuous organism of the Rajput clans. In the south, where the green of the rice-fields gleams bright like emerald, and traffic moves slowly upon great waterways, a world survives, two thousand years old, fallen perhaps a little to decrepitude, of indigenous Dravidians--caste-ridden, they, from the first known times--and rarer immigrant Aryans. And in that world out of the teeming millions of the Dravidian population, akin perhaps in remote ages to the inhabitants of the South Seas, the nobility are the Nairs. Aristocracy they can hardly perhaps be called with propriety, since they themselves do not claim to rule as being best. Rather they derive their nobility, by their own showing, from the fact that they were deemed worthy by the Aryan priests, whom they acknowledge to be the highest of mankind. The Nairs are a community, rather than a caste or tribe, with powers of assimilation. A large infusion of Aryan blood, obtained from the favours of the priesthood whom they venerate, has given them a peculiar distinction from the Dravidian masses.

In the “Relations of the Most Famous Kingdom in the World,” which was published in the year of Grace 1611 by Master Johnson, this southern nobility was abundantly described: “It is strange to see how ready the souldiour of this country is at his weapons: they are all gentile men and tearmed Naires. At seven years of age they are put to school to learn the use of their weapons, where, to make them nimble and active, their sinews and joints are stretched by skilful fellows and anointed with the oyle sesamus. By this anointing they become so light and nimble that they will wind and turn their bodies as if they had no bones, casting them forward, backward, high and low, even to the astonishment of the beholders. Their continual delight is in their weapon, persuading themselves that no nation goeth beyond them in skill and dexterity.” They are no longer warriors and the only soldiers of Nair caste are the household brigade maintained by H.H. the Maharaja of Travancore. But they are still brave, and in their play the sword and buckler and the bow and arrow keep their place.

Nowadays it is the women who have won the higher fame. Seldom in any country can there have been a womanhood that has received such universal eulogy. From the earliest histories of Malabar to the latest writings of French tourists, the chorus, of praise has been a monody. Old Duarte Barbosa, writing centuries ago his “Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar,” already clothed his impression in admiring words. Most of all he notes that “they are very clean and well-dressed women and they hold it a great honour to know how to please men.” This careful cleanliness and a certain grave sort of neatness are indeed recurrent in every description. The bath is to them a very article of faith and they bathe not daily but, almost it might be said, hourly. Beside each house is a large private tank or pond of masonry with broad stone steps leading to the water, and there are few moments in the hot daylight hours when it does not resound to a woman’s laugh. They use the nuts of various saponaceous plants to free hair and skin from the slightest impurity; and no robe, however slightly soiled, is ever worn again till it is thoroughly cleaned by the washerwoman. A scrupulous cleanliness and a fastidious neatness--a total impression of almost hieratic purity--this exhales from the Nair woman like an emanation. By their grave simplicity an English official was inspired to a pretty compliment, as he toiled through some red-tape Census Report with much talk of “excess of females” in the Nair population. “They could never be accused,” he reported with mock indignation, “of an ‘excess of females.’ The most beautiful women in India, if numerous, could never be excessive.”

The general picture of grave and simple purity is heightened by the appearance of their houses, each aloof and separate with a certain quiet dignity in its own grounds. A bathing tank and a garden, these are the first conditions of every household; and the garden is luxuriant with the great rough stems of the jack-fruit tree, the graceful areca and cocoa-nut palms, and bright green, broad-leaved banana plants. To the east is the gate, through the garden, to the house, with a stile to cross and a gate-house or lodge at its side. The house itself, with its large household all related through the female line, has on the ground floor its kitchen and store-rooms, an open courtyard, and a large dining-hall. And above, with two separate staircases, lie on one side the women’s, on the other the apartments of the men, segregated entirely one from another. In such houses with all their numerous family-members, brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and children always growing up, a certain quiet discipline and an instinctive order, from being a duty, becomes a constant habit. Comfort and tranquillity, if they are to be had, exact self-effacing restraint and gentle deference to others’ wishes and requirements. Whatever is boisterous and impulsive, the self-assertive and the crude, has had to be effaced and smoothed away, as pebbles shaken together in a bag lose their sharp edges. The manners that result are quiet and self-contained, a little solemn perhaps, as of people traversing a cathedral, but sweetened by human charity and a pleasant touch of worldly irony.

The dress is simple in the extreme, a single white cloth that reaches from the waist to the knee. This for long ages has been the sole honoured dress of the Nair lady, above all fear as she is and above reproach. That in all public places she should go boldly and unashamed, with no self-conscious daring, but simply and modestly, with the upper part of her body uncovered before all men, has been the law of her community. Only jewelry she wears, a gold or silver chain, even a gold belt about her waist, gold bosses in her ears, and a necklace whose pendants are as the cobra’s hood upon her neck. Sometimes, however, especially in these later days, and when she travels to other provinces, she throws a cloth over her shoulders and bosom, with a certain shyness, as of something coquettish and immodest.

Amusements too are simple, but to their thinking plentiful and quietly enjoyable. All girls are taught to read and write, and not a few are highly educated. They are in general on the happiest terms with their husbands, whom they do not see too much and whose affections are not blunted by the daily usage of a common household and the dulling minutiae of daily life. When, however, there is incompatibility, they separate simply and naturally without unkindness to seek a better loved mate. In leisure hours, swinging, two or three merry girls on the same swing, is a favourite amusement, and singing and dancing are often enjoyed, especially at the great autumn festival when the house is filled with presents and each one gives every one else a yellow cloth or a toy or an ornament. Prettiest of all their amusements, however, and most symbolic of all that quiet, so sweetly singular life on the backwaters of the south, is that of flower-decoration. In the early morning the children of the large household go into the fields to gather flowers and bring them back in armfuls. Then all sit down in the courtyard, and with their gathered blossoms make bright decorative patterns on the walls and floor. Best loved of all is a flower-carpet over which they raise a booth, gaily festooned with other flowers. When all is complete, the neighbours are asked to come in and admire; and they compare it with their own in turn. But the finest flowers of all are the sweet gravely tender women of Malabar.

When he turns to the Mussulman aristocracy of India, the European finds himself on ground more familiar, as it is more similar to the landscape of his own social existence. These chiefs and nobles are the descendants--in most part--of soldier adventurers who, as generals or as governors under the Emperors of Delhi, or as rebels and fighters for their own hand, achieved estates and even principalities. They have no caste or tribe to distinguish them from their fellows, but owe their position to their authority and landed interest. As sons of Adam, they hold, all men are in essence equal, but Destiny has apportioned sovereignty to one and to another beggary. They rise and fall, as in Europe, too, heritages are wasted and fortunes won; and they rely upon no mystic ordinance and no hieratic ceremonial for their prestige. The frank acceptance of the world as it is, facts alone one would say having importance, makes the Mussulman gentleman and his family appear figures fully human and comprehensible. Polygamy and the seclusion of women alone cause disparities, superficial even these in many respects.

The permission to marry up to four wives is in practice seldom utilized. The commandment to treat all wives alike, with equal favour and cherishing, in itself makes righteous polygamy by no means easy. But a more actual obstacle is the natural jealousy of the woman and her great influence. There are few Mussulman ladies whose husbands are not just the least thing “henpecked.” And few of them will allow a rival to enter the zanána without a struggle. Only in a few of the most powerful courts is it prevalent to any conspicuous degree; and in such royal households where it exists, it flies often in the face of Holy Scripture no less than human sense and comfort. It is then a vice and not an observance. Seclusion--the “purdah”--exists with a severity far exceeding modern Turkey or even Egypt, and still more in excess of the Prophet’s teaching; but it falls short of the unreasoning stringency of the Rajput code. It is relaxed for one thing by the recognition in each case of certain persons who stand “within the enclosure,” as it is called, or in other words are free to meet the women of the house unveiled. In this circle are included a large number of male relatives and even, in a few cases, the husband’s most intimate friends, as well as servants brought up from childhood within the family. Moreover, the restriction becomes less oppressive when it is relieved by the wide freedom to visit women-friends which is generally sanctioned. Veiled though they drive through the streets and unseen, there are few things which are not noted by the keen eyes behind the peep-holes in the shrouding cloak.

The Mussulman girl of the better class is in early childhood taught to recite prayers and to read the Qor’an in Arabic, though without understanding of the words she reads. As she grows older she is usually taught more, and attains a fair knowledge of Urdu, while, if she shows signs of greater capacity, she will often learn Persian as well. To read simple books in Urdu and Persian is at least a common accomplishment, and there are not a few who can themselves read or, at least, understand the elegant odes of Hafiz. In household management and the care of her children the Mussulman lady is able to find incessant occupation, while there is no one who more appreciates the pleasures of a garden with runnels of flowing water under a tropic sky. She rises very early, and shortly after dawn she is to be found among the roses in the walled garden. Chess and backgammon are frequent amusements. In talismans, omens, charms and the evil eye she has an unshakable belief, which survives every trial. And in her later years she looks forward to the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, with all its difficulties and hardships, as the last and best employment of a well-spent life. Something there is truly noble in that figure of an old lady, veiled in white, facing, after a long life behind the curtain, the crowded port, the steamer, and the desert Bedouins. But sweetest picture of all in the womanhood of the Mussulman nobility is the growing girl, not yet a woman, in coloured silk trousers, long robe, or shirt of fine Dacca muslin, and velvet cap gold-embroidered, as she sits cross-legged beneath a shady tree and recites aloud from the silk-covered Qor’an that is open before her on its carved sandalwood rest.