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Thomas Hoover.

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Jadar if he knew him."

"He'll support him if he becomes Moghul."

"Then you must help Prince Jadar tonight. So that he will."

Shirin had overseen the servants who had been sent to clean and repair
Hawksworth's doublet and hose. Then a bath was brought, accompanied by
barbers and manicurists. The maharana sent a vial of musk perfume to
Shirin, buried in a basket of flowers. By the time they were escorted
through the high scalloped archway leading into the palace banquet
hall, they both were bathed, perfumed, and refreshed; and Hawksworth
again looked almost like an ambassador.

Accustomed to the red sandstone of Agra, he was momentarily astounded
to see a room fashioned entirely from purest white marble. The hall was
long and wide, with two rows of bracketed columns its entire length.
Maharana Karan Singh sat at the far end in front of a marble screen,
his gold wand of office at his side, reclining against an enormous
bolster of gold brocade. He appeared to be Jadar's age, with eyes that
sparkled mischievously, a long Rajput moustache, glistening with wax,
which curled upward at the ends, and a turban of gold brocade. He wore
a long red and white striped satin skirt beneath a translucent cloak.
His necklace and earrings were matching green emeralds. Seated around
him, on red carpets woven with designs of fighting elephants, were his
Rajput nobles, each in white with an orange turban and a gold-trimmed
brocade sash at his waist. Every Rajput in the room had a gold-handled
katar.

Jadar saw Hawksworth and Shirin enter and rose to greet them. The
prince was dressed in his finest, with a cloak of gold cloth, pale
green trousers, red velvet slippers, a long double string of pearls
around his neck, and a pink silk turban crisscrossed with flowered
brocade and secured with a large ruby. He led Hawksworth before the
maharana and introduced him, in Rajasthani. Jadar then translated the
introduction into Turki for Hawksworth, who was startled to learn that
he was a high-ranking member of Angrezi - English - royalty. He looked
around and realized he was easily the most shabbily attired man in the
room, including the servants.

After the introduction Hawksworth took his place among Jadar's own
retinue of nobles. Shirin was seated on the carpet directly behind him.

All the guests sat in a line facing a long gold-threaded cloth spread
along the floor. Food was brought in on silver trays, which were placed
on silver stools directly in front of each diner. Hawksworth had
scarcely taken his seat before a full wine cup was placed in his hands.
It was never allowed to approach dryness.

The banquet was lavish, equaling anything he had seen in Agra. It was
immediately apparent that roast game was the speciality of Udaipur, as
tray after tray of antelope, venison, hare, and wild duck were placed
before him. In its emphasis on roasted meats, the food could almost
have been English, save it was all seasoned with spices he had never
tasted in London. The centerpiece was an elaborately glazed wild boar
the maharana had bagged personally from horseback with a spear. Nominal
Muslim though he was, Prince Jadar downed a generous portion of the
boar and praised the flavor.

The trays of meat were accompanied by spiced curds, local yogurts, and
baked vegetables swimming in ghee. The meal concluded with dried fruits
which had been sugared and perfumed, followed by mouth-freshening
_pan_, the betel leaves wrapped around spiced bhang, currants, sweet
imported coconut.

The final offering, eagerly awaited by all the Rajputs, was opium. As
they popped down handfuls of the brown balls, Hawksworth discreetly
signaled for more wine. After the dishes were cleared, several jeweled
women in red trousers and thin billowing blouses entered, drank glasses
of wine in honor of the maharana, then danced among the guests to the
accompaniment of a large sarangi.

After the dancers had been dismissed, Prince Jadar rose

and proposed a toast to the maharana. The toast was ceremonial,
elaborate, and - it seemed - entirely expected by everyone.

"To His Highness, the Maharana of Udaipur: whose line flows directly
from the great Kusa, son of Rama, King of Ajodhya and the noble hero of
the Ramayana. Descendant of the Royal House of the Sun, whose subjects
will refuse their food if neither he nor his brother the Sun are
present to show their face upon it and bless it."

The maharana's reply was equally effusive, describing Jadar as the
greatest Moghul warrior in all of history, the equal of his Mongol
forebears Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, a worthy descendant of the early
Moghul conquerors Babur and Humayun, and finally, the one Moghul whose
martial skills might actually approach those of the fighting Rajputs of
Mewar - an oblique reference to the fact that Jadar had led the Moghul
army that subdued Mewar a decade earlier and induced its Rajputs to
finally acknowledge Moghul dominance over northwest India.

Immoderate praise of one another's armies followed next. Then the
maharana said something else, and Jadar turned suddenly toward
Hawksworth.

"Ambassador Hawksworth. His Highness has asked to speak with you."

Hawksworth rose from the carpet and moved forward. Around him the
Udaipur Rajputs studied him with open curiosity. They had listened to
lavish toasts for years, but none had ever before seen a _feringhi _in
a doublet. The very concept of such a phenomenon exceeded their
imagination.

"His Highness has asked permission to allow his court painters to make
your portrait, so that he may remember your likeness. Dressed as you
are tonight. Do you have any objection?"

"Please tell His Highness I would be honored." Hawksworth found himself
startled, and unsure what reply was appropriate. "Please tell him that
my own father was once a painter in England."

Jadar smiled through his teeth. "You mean I should tell him there are
of course many skilled artists in your noble land of England. Your own
father, as we both know, was a great khan in England, not a lowly
craftsman."

As Hawksworth nodded dully, Jadar turned and translated this to the
maharana. Karan Singh's eyes brightened as he replied to Jadar.

"He asks if your king's painters are expert in Ragamala?"

"I'm not entirely sure what His Highness refers to." Hawksworth
examined Jadar with a puzzled expression.

Jadar translated and the Rajput looked surprised. He turned and quickly
said something to one of the servants, who vanished and reappeared
moments later with a leatherbound folio. The maharana spoke briefly to
Jadar, then passed the book.

"The maharana politely suggests that possibly your English king's
painters have not yet achieved the sophistication required for
Ragamala. He asks me to show you one of his personal albums." Jadar
opened the book and handed it to Hawksworth.

It was filled with vibrant miniature paintings, executed on heavy
sheets of paper that had been treated with a white pigment of rice
water and lavishly embellished with gold leaf. They showed round-eyed
young women with firm breasts and slender wrists lounging in
beautifully stylized gardens and courtyards, playing gilded instruments
or sensuously embracing their lovers, many surrounded by doves,
peacocks, tame deer, and tapestry-covered elephants. In some the blue-
faced god Krishna played an instrument that looked something like a
sitar, to the wistful gaze of longing doe-eyed women whose breasts
swelled through their gauze wraps. The paintings imparted to Hawksworth
a curious world of emotional intensity: a celebration of life, love,
and devotion.

"Each Ragamala painting depicts the mood of a specific raga." Jadar
pointed to one of a jeweled woman feeding a peacock which leaned down
from a white marble rooftop, while her lover reached his arms to
encircle her. "This is a raga named Hindol, a morning raga of love. The
Ragamala paintings of Mewar are a perfect blend of music, poetry, and
pure art." Jadar winked. "After the maharana has painted you in your
native costume, perhaps he will have his artists paint you as the young
god Krishna, enticing some milkmaids to your leafy bed."

The maharana spoke again to Jadar.

"He asks whether these are anything like the paintings your king's
artists create for English ragas?"

"Tell him we don't have ragas in England. Our music is different."

Jadar tried to mask his discomfort. "Perhaps I should merely say your
English ragas are in a different style from those we have in India. He
will not be impressed to learn that English music is not yet advanced
enough to have developed the raga."

Jadar's reply seemed to satisfy the maharana. He turned and said
something to one of the men sitting near him.

"His Highness has ordered that you be given an album of Ragamala
paintings to take back to your king, so the painters at his court may
try to copy them and begin to learn greatness."

"His Majesty, King James, will be deeply honored by the rana's gift."
Hawksworth bowed diplomatically, deciding not to inform the maharana
that King James had no painters and little taste.

The maharana beamed in satisfaction and dismissed Hawksworth with a
nod.

Then the exchange of gifts began. Jadar produced a gold cloak for the
maharana, a jewel-encrusted sword, a jeweled saddle, and promised to
deliver an elephant with a silver howdah. The maharana in turn gave
Jadar an emerald the size of a large walnut, a gilded shield studded
with jewels, and a brace of jeweled katars. Each thanked the other
extravagantly and set the presents aside.

Then Jadar suddenly stood up and began removing his turban. The room
fell silent at this unprecedented act.

"Tonight, in gratitude for his friendship, for his offer of an abode to
one who no longer has any roof save a tent, I offer to His Highness,
the Maharana of Udaipur, my own turban, that he may have a lasting
token of my gratitude. That in the years ahead when, Allah willing,
these dark days are past, we will neither of us forget my indebtedness
on this night."

As Jadar stepped forward to present the turban, the maharana's eyes
flooded with emotion. Before Jadar had moved more than a pace, Karan
Singh was on his feet, ripping off his own turban. They met in the
center of the room, each reverently placing his own turban on the
other's head, then embracing.

Hawksworth looked around the room and saw Rajputs who would gut an
enemy without a blink now near to tears. He leaned back toward Shirin.

"What's the significance of the turbans?"

"It's the rarest gift any man could present to another. I've never
before heard of a Moghul or a Rajput giving his turban. The story of
this will be told throughout Mewar. We have just seen the creation of a
legend."

Then the maharana's voice rose. "Mewar, the abode of all that is
beautiful in the world, is made even more beautiful by your presence.
In years past we have stood shield to shield with you; tonight we
embrace you in friendship. We wish you victory over those who would
deny you your birthright, which you have earned both by blood and by
deed. No other in India is more fit to reign, more just to govern, more
honorable to his friends, more feared by his foes. Tonight we offer you
our hand and our prayers that Lord Krishna will always stand with you."

Hawksworth turned to Shirin and whispered. "What's he saying?"

Her eyes were dark. "He's delaying his answer to the prince. Offering
him prayers to Lord Krishna. Prince Jadar doesn't need prayers to
Krishna. He needs Rajputs. Thousands of Rajputs. But perhaps in time
the maharana can be convinced. Banquets are not the place for
negotiation. They're the place for perfumed talk."

Jadar was smiling as though he had just been offered the whole of
Rajputana. He managed to thank the maharana lavishly.

The maharana beamed and signaled for _pan _leaves again, signifying the
evening was ended. The room emptied in moments.

"I think Jadar could be in serious trouble." Hawksworth turned to
Shirin as they entered the hallway. "If he fails to get support here,
what will he do?"

"I don't know. I think he may still manage an alliance before he's
through. But it will be costly. Otherwise he'll probably have to move
south and try to convince Malik Ambar to commit him his Maratha army.
But Rajputs are better." She moved closer. "I'm suddenly so very, very
tired of armies and tents and strategies. I don't know where it will
end. Time is running out. For him and for us." She brushed him lightly
with her body. "Will you make love to me tonight as though we'd never
heard of Rajputs and Marathas? We'll look at the lake in the moonlight
and forget everything, just for tonight." She opened her hand. Inside
were several small brown balls. "I took some of the maharana's
_affion_. Tonight we have no battles to fight."

*

Hawksworth sat beside Shirin watching the oarsmen strain against the
locks, their orange oars flashing against the ornately gilded boat like
the immense gills of some ceremonial fish. A turbaned drummer sat at
one end, sounding the beat, and the tillerman stood behind him.

They were headed for Jagmandir Island, on the invitation of Prince
Jadar, in a boat provided by Maharana Karan Singh. Three weeks of
banquets, hunting, and oaths of lasting friendship seemed to have done
little to _Resolve_ the question of the maharana's support for Jadar's
rebellion. Time, Hawksworth told himself, is starting to work heavily
against the prince. The Imperial army let us escape because they were
too shattered to attack again. But we all know they're rebuilding.
Jadar has to decide soon how much longer he can afford to stay here and
listen to vague promises.

Behind them the high walls and turrets of the maharana's palace towered
above the cliff, reflecting gold in the late afternoon sun. As they
neared the island, Hawksworth turned back to see the thick stone walls
of the city following the curve of the surrounding hilltops and finally
angling down to a tall watchtower at the very edge of the lake. He
realized the lake itself was actually the city's fourth defense
barrier.

Ahead, the white sandstone palace on Jagmandir glistened against the
water. At the front a large pavilion surrounded by delicate white
pillars jutted out into the lake. Its entrance was guarded by a row of
life-sized stone elephants rising out of the water, their trunks raised
above their heads in silent salute. As their boat neared the arched
entryway of the pavilion, Hawksworth saw a veiled woman surrounded by
eunuchs standing on the marble-paved dock to greet them.

"It's Her Highness, Princess Mumtaz." Shirin's voice was suddenly
flooded with surprised delight. Then she turned to Hawksworth with a
laugh. "Welcome to the _zenana_, Ambassador."

"What's she doing here?" Hawksworth examined the figure, whose jewels
glistened in the afternoon sun, then warily studied the eunuchs.

"She's come to meet us." Shirin's voice was lilting in anticipation. "I
think she's bored to frustration trapped on this island prison."

As their boat touched the dock, Mumtaz moved forward and immediately
embraced Shirin. Her eyes swept Hawksworth as he bowed.

"Your Highness."

Mumtaz giggled behind her veil and turned to Shirin, speaking in
Persian. "Do we have to speak barbarous Turki because of him?"

"Just for this afternoon."

"I welcome you in the name of His Highness." Mumtaz's Turki was
accented but otherwise flawless. "He asked me to meet you and show you
the garden and the palace."

She began chattering to Shirin in a mixture of Persian and Turki as
they walked into the garden. It soon revealed itself to be a matrix of
bubbling fountains and geometrical stone walkways, beside which rows of
brightly colored flowers bloomed. Ahead of them the small three-story
palace rose skyward like a long-stemmed lotus, its top a high dome with
a sensuous curve. The ground floor was an open arcade, with light
interior columns and a row of connecting quarters off each side for
women and servants, screened behind marble grillwork.

Mumtaz directed them on through the garden and into the cool arcade of
the palace. At one side, near the back, a stone stairway spiraled
upward to the second floor. Mumtaz led the way, motioning them to
follow.

At the second floor they emerged into a small chamber strewn with
bolsters and carpets that seemed to be Jadar's reception room. Mumtaz
ignored it as she started up the next circular staircase.

The topmost room was tiny, dazzling white, completely unfurnished. The
ornate marble cupola of the dome towered some thirty feet above their
heads, and around the sides were carved niches decorated with colored
stone. Light beamed through the room from a wide doorway leading to a
balcony, which was also bare save for an ornately carved sitar leaned
against its railing.

"His Highness has taken a particular fondness for this room and refuses
to allow anything to be placed in it. He sits here for hours, and on
the balcony there, doing I don't know what." Mumtaz gestured toward the
doorway. "He wanted me to bring you here to wait for him." She sighed.
"I agree with him that this room brings a great feeling of peace. But
what good is peace that cannot last? I don't know how much longer we
can stay here." Mumtaz turned and hugged Shirin again. "I so miss Agra.
And the Jamuna. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever see it again."

Shirin stroked Mumtaz's dark hair, then said something to her in
Persian. Mumtaz smiled and turned to Hawksworth.

"Do you really love her?"

"More than anything." Hawksworth was momentarily startled by her
directness.

"Then take her with you. Away from here. Away from all the killing and
death. How much longer can any of us endure it?" Her hard eyes blinked
away a hint of a tear. "I've lived most of my life with His Highness in
tents, bearing children. I'm so weary of it all. And now I wonder if
we'll ever have a place just for ourselves."

She would have continued, but footsteps sounded on the stone stairs,
and Jadar emerged beaming from the stairwell, his turban set rakishly
on the side of his head. He seemed in buoyant spirits. "You're here!
Let me welcome you and offer you something to banish the afternoon
heat." He gave Mumtaz a quick hug. Hawksworth sensed this was not the
official Jadar. This was a prince very much at his ease. "I hope Shirin
will join me in having some _sharbat_. But for you, Captain, I've had a
surprise prepared. I think you might even like it better than your foul
brandy." He spoke quickly to a eunuch waiting at the top of the stairs,
then turned back to Hawksworth and Shirin. "Have you found the
maharana's palace to your liking?"

"His view of the lake and the mountains is the finest in India." Shirin
performed a _teslim_. "We so thank Your Highness."

Mumtaz embraced Shirin once more, said something to her in Persian,
then bowed to Jadar and disappeared down the stairwell. He watched her
tenderly until she was gone before he turned back to Hawksworth and
Shirin.

"Come outside with me." He walked past them through the marble doorway.
"Have you seen the lake yet from the balcony? This one afternoon we
will drink together and watch the sunset. Before we all leave Udaipur I
wanted you to see this place. It's become very special for me. When I
sit here in the cool afternoon, I seem to forget all the wounds I've
ever felt in battle. For a moment nothing else exists."

"I think this palace is almost finer than the one Rana Karan Singh
has." Hawksworth stroked Shirin's thigh as they followed Jadar onto the
cool balcony, impulsively wanting her in his arms. Then he cleared his
throat. "I don't remember ever seeing anything quite like it in India."

"At times you can be a perceptive man, Captain. Allah may have showed
his wisdom when he sent you here." Jadar smiled. "You know, I still
remember my first word of your arrival, and your now-famous encounter
with the Portuguese. I think that morning will someday change the
history of both our lands - the morning India and England met." He looked
pensively down into the garden below. "It all depends on what happens
next."

"What do you think will happen, Highness?" Shirin moved next to Jadar
at the edge of the balcony.

He squinted into the waning sun for a moment, then turned his eyes
away. "It's difficult to know. Probably the Imperial army will be sent
against me again, any day now."

"Will the maharana support you with his cavalry?"

Jadar fell silent, as though choosing his words carefully. Then he
shrugged away discretion. "I think he might, but I still don't know. I
hear that many of the other ranas of Rajputana have warned him not to
side with me openly. They still remember the devastation Inayat Latif
wrought here fifteen years ago, when he was sent by Arangbar to put
down their rebellion. Rajputs love to battle, but not amid their own
cities and fields. And that's easy to understand. Rana Karan Singh is
in a difficult position. He knows if I stand here and fight, the battle
could well destroy Udaipur."

"What will you do?"

"I'll probably have to move out soon, and move quickly, farther north
into the mountains or back south to Burhanpur. I can't stand and fight
again, not yet. That's one of the reasons I sent for you." He turned to
face Hawksworth. "I think it's time you left India. No one in Agra
except Nadir Sharif knows you're alive. But it's obvious you can't
return there, not under the present circumstances. It's probably best
that you return to England, at least until my fortunes are _Resolve_d.
You must not join me in any more battles. It's not your war."

Hawksworth felt a sudden chill against his skin. "There's no reason for
me to leave. And besides, I have no way to return to England now. The
Company is supposed to send a voyage this autumn, but . . ."

"There's always a way to do anything, Captain." Jadar stopped and
laughed. "Well, almost anything. Here at Udaipur you're only a few
days' ride south to our port of Cambay. Like Surat, it's still free of
Portuguese control. I may have very few friends left in Agra, but I do
have friends in Cambay. I can arrange for your passage on an Indian
trader as far as the Moluccas, where you can doubtless hail a Dutch
fleet. You can leave India secretly and safely. No one in Agra need
ever know you helped me."

"I am not sure I want to leave now." Hawksworth slipped his arm around
Shirin's waist.

Jadar looked at him and smiled. "But Shirin has to leave with you. Her
life is no safer here now than yours." He fixed them both squarely. "I
hereby command her to accompany you. You can both return to India
someday . . . if Allah is kind and I succeed. And you'll be first among
all my ambassadors, Captain, I promise you. You'll receive my first
_firman _for trade. But if I die in the days to come, your English king
will not be accused someday of aiding a renegade. I hereby order you
both to leave, tomorrow."

"I don't run from a fight. There's some sea dog left in me."

"I know you don't, Captain, and that's one of the things I like most
about you. But I'm sending you away, ordering you to go. I'll always
remember it was against your will." Jadar looked up to see a eunuch
entering with a tray of cups. "Now for your drink. I ordered my kitchen
to make _panch _for you - I understand the _topiwallahs _in Surat think
it's called 'punch.'"

"Punch? What is it?"

"An Indian delicacy. A special blend of wine, water, sugar, lemons, and
spices. Five ingredients. Actually, _panch _is just the Hindi word for
five.' Try it."

Hawksworth tasted the perfumed red mixture, slices of lemon rind
floating on its surface. It was so delicious he almost drank it off at
one gulp. Jadar watched him, smiling, then lifted a cup of _sharbat
_from the tray and gestured the eunuch toward Shirin. "I gather you
find it acceptable."

"It's perfect to watch a sunset with."

"I thought you'd like it. You know, Captain, I've rather enjoyed seeing
you grow to understand and love India. That's rare among _feringhi_.
That's why I absolutely insist your king send you back as his next
ambassador."

"Nothing would please me more."

"I think you mean it. And I want you to believe me when I tell you that
nothing would please me more. Together we'll rid India of the
Portuguese scourge forever." Jadar lifted his cap in a toast and
Hawksworth joined him.

"And here's to ridding India of one Portuguese in particular."

Jadar paused. "Who do you mean?"

"The Viceroy, Miguel Vaijantes. I don't think I ever told you he
murdered my father in Goa, many years ago."



Online LibraryThomas HooverThe Moghul → online text (page 50 of 52)