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Across India by Oliver Optic

Presented to the Guicowar by the viceroy

Behind the standard-bearer were two more elephants, each decked in all the splendor of the East; and mounted upon them were some of the great dignitaries of the court, over whom servants held highly fringed and ornamented umbrellas. In the procession was a troop of camels, all dressed out in the style of the horses and elephants. To say that the Americans were dazzled by the splendor of the scene would be to state it very mildly, for they were literally confounded and overwhelmed; and yet they had not seen the great feature of the spectacle, the Guicowar himself. Sir Modava had to talk very fast to describe the scene as it passed before them.

A dozen men, handsomely dressed like all the others, presently appeared, each bearing on a long pole something that looked like a crown. This was a sort of incense-censor, in which perfumes were burned, and from which a column of blue vapor proceeded. They were immediately before one of the king's elephants, which now came in front of the veranda. He was a gigantic creature, bearing on his back a howdah of solid gold. He was robed like the others, and the portions of his skin in sight were fantastically painted in various designs.

The howdah was surmounted by two pyramidal roofs, one in front of the other, supported by small columns. At the end of the elephant's tusks, which were sawed off square, were attached bouquets of rich feathers. On each side of the huge beast was a platform, suspended at the outside by golden cords, on which stood four men very richly dressed. One of them bears the hook, or pipe, presented to the Guicowar by the viceroy, another waves a banner, and the others flourish fans of peacock feathers. In front of the mahout is planted an ornament reaching nearly to the top of the howdah.

The golden howdah was presented by the Queen and Empress of India, and glitters with diamonds and other precious stones. The two domes make it look like two pavilions, and in the forward one sits the Guicowar in solemn dignity. He wears a tunic of scarlet velvet, which is covered with gold and diamonds. In fact, he seems to have diamonds enough to freight a schooner. Either he or one of his predecessors purchased a brilliant for which he paid the bagatelle of four hundred thousand dollars. Under the rear pavilion, and behind him, is the king's prime minister.

One of the officials at his side is the king's herald, who unfolds a flag of cloth-of-gold, and flourishes it before the people, and there are not less than a hundred thousand of them in the streets. As he does so he announces in good Hindustanee and in a loud voice a proclamation: "_Srimunt Sircar! Khunderao Guicowar! Sena Khas Khel! Shamshar Bahadoor!_"

"Exactly so," said Felix in a low tone.

"I suppose it is not given to outsiders to know what all that means?" added Louis.

"Certainly it is," replied Sir Modava. "It means, 'Behold the King of Kings, Khunderao Guicowar, whose army is invincible, whose courage is indomitable.'"

"Is that in a Pickwickian sense?" asked Scott.

"Not at all, for the Guicowar is as brave a man as ever put a foot into shoe-leather, or went barefooted," replied Lord Tremlyn, "though there is a little exaggeration common to the Orient in the proclamation."

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