Page images
PDF
EPUB

through with an arrow, which he drew from his quiver. A little time afterwards, an antelope made its appearance within bow-shot. The emperor took aim at it with the same arrow with which he had pierced the caterpillar. Notwithstanding the antelope received the shaft in a part of its body which was not susceptible of a mortal wound, the animal instantaneously expired. The hunters of the prince, who opened the beast, found the flesh black and corrupted, and all the dogs who ate of it died immediately. The emperor recognized, from this circumstance, the extreme venom of the poison of the caterpillar. He commanded one of the officers of his suite to get it conveyed to his palace. It was on this occasion that the emperor created the office of poisoner, an office till then unknown to the Mogul government. By the instrumentality of this new officer, Akbar quietly disposed of the nobles and Rajas whom he believed to be concerned in the conspiracy of Mostafa. Poisoned pills were compounded for him, which he obliged them to take in his presence. The poison was slow in its operation, but no remedies could obviate its mortal effects. Akhar carried always about him a gold box, which was divided into three compartments, fn one was his betel; in another, the cordial pills which he used after a repast; and in the third were the poisoned pills. One day it happened that he took, inadvertently, one of the poisoned pills, and became himself a victim to its fatal power. He immediately felt himself struck with death. He, in vain, made trial of all the remedies prescribed for him by the Portuguese physicians, and died in the year 1605.

Jehan Gnir, the successor of Akhar, was a very different character from his father. His chief celebrity arises from the joviality of his manners, and the humility with which he submitted to the dominion of the beautiful, but imperious Nur Jeham, the Light of the World. Stories are told of his conviviality which remind us of the Arabian Nights. Among other instances of boon companionship, the following anecdote is recorded in history.

He entered, they say, one day, towards the evening, in disguise, into a tavern. Wine-houses, since the daysofAkhar, had been tolerated in the capital. The emperor took a seat near an artizan, who was drinking with great gaiety, and, inspired with the wine, was disposed to indulge his vocal talents. Jehan Guir was delighted to find himself in such pleasant society. A familiarity was soon established between them, and the artisan was particularly charmed with the liberality of the new guest, who paid the entire score, and made him drink deep. In their conversation, they treated of the affairs of government; the emperor was blamed for his weakness, in submitting to be governed by a woman, and suffering one of his younger sons to assassinate the elder. They took leave of the tavern most excellent friends, promising to see each other often in the same place. The emperor simply inquired of the artisan his trade, where he lodged, and his name. 'I am called,' he said, 'Secander; lama weaver, and my home is in a quarter of the city' which he indicated. 'Comrade,' said the emperor, 'I will come tomorrow and dine with you; we will renew our acquaintance, and we will swear a lasting friendship.' The two topers separated, highly satisfied with each other; and each, on his part, impatiently expected the ensuing morning. Some hours after sunrise, nearly about the same time the artisans are accustomed to dine, the emperor left his palace, attended by the most magnificent escort with which he had ever made his appearance in Labor. He was surrounded by his whole guard, and preceded by twenty war elephants, with their splendid harness of crimson velvet, ornamented with large gold plates. Jehan Guir was himself seated on a throne, burnished with precious stones, borne by an elephant of state; and, in this equipage, he gave erders to be conducted to the weaver's quarters. The cavalry and the elephants passed before the shop of Secander. liut he, occupied in preparing the regale which he was about to giro his friend, did not even give himself the trouble to take a peep at the royal cavalcade. Whilst all the people were at the doors of their houses, or dispersed in the streets, a soldier of the king's suite enquired for the house of Secander. The weaver, who heard himself named, came into his shop, holding in his hand a pestle with which he had just been pounding some rice. 'I am Secauder,' he said, 'and you will hardly find better cloth at any other shop in all Labor.' 'You are, also, a jovial toper,' said the soldier: 'the emperor has, in consequence, come to dine with you, in performance of the engagement he contracted with you yesterday.' Secander could not doubt but that it was the emperor himself with whom he had been drinking the preceding evening: and, as he recollected the seditious language which he had held to Jehan Guir, while they were carousing, the poor man gave himself up for lost. In the meanwhile, the emperor approached, and, as soon as Secander recognized him,' Might it please heaven,' he cried, 'that all those who put their trust in drunkards had this pestle thrown at their heads.' The king, who heard the poor weaver's exclamation, laughed most heartily. He tasted the good man's wine; and bestowed upon him employments at court sufficiently considerable to enable him to dispense with following any longer his profession.

The latter days of Jehan Guir were embittered by the civil wars which his rebellious children excited in their contentions for the right of succession. Jehan Guir had himself rebelled against his father Akhar, and, as a judgment on his unnatural crime, he now saw the members of his family divided against each other, and bis kingdom a prey to the miseries of war. Sultan Cborrom, afterwards called Shah Jehan, his third son, succeeded in seizing the empire; and the struggle between the rival parties was at length put an end to by one of the devices which we have remarked as so characteristic of the Moguls. He spread a report of his sudden death, and engaged his partisans to solicit, that his body might be buried in the sepulchre of his father.

Sultan Bolaqui, the grandson of the late emperor, had seized the throne on the death of Jehan Guir. When be was informed that his uncle, the rival claimant, was no more, he gave bis consent gladly, that all the honouTS of interment should be paid to a prince of his blood, from whom death, as he believed, had delivered him so opportunely. A convoy was therefore prepared, attended with all the magnificence due to a prince of the Mogul blood. The empty bier was conducted by more than a thousand men, chosen from among the principal officers of the deceased. Chorrom himself followed, in disguise, his own funeral. Squadrons of Rajepoots, seemingly to do it honour, had been disposed at different stations upon the line of march, which, continuing to swell the funeral pomp, accompanied it to Agra. The young emperor was persuaded, that a just decorum required he should proceed to meet the convoy of his uncle, and conduct to the place of interment the remains of a prince from whom he had now nothing to fear. The artifice succeeded. Bolaqui went forth from the gates of Agra, habited in deep mourning, accompanied by a weak escort, and in the equipage of a prince who is about to pay the last duties to a relative. He was astonished when he beheld so large an escort in the suite of a deceased person. He suspected the stratagem, and retracing his steps, he stole away from the cruelty of a rival, who would not have failed to take away his life if he had fallen into his power. The place of his retreat was a long time a secret, but it was at last known that he had taken refuge in Persia. In the meanwhile the trumpets sounded, Sultan Chorrom was proclaimed emperor, and the mourning chariot was changed into a car of triumph. Chorrom entered the citadel of Agra, amidst the acclamations of the people and of the army, who transferred, instantaneously, all their affection to the new monarch. It was then that this prince took the name of Shah Jehan, which signifies 'Sovereign of the Universe.'

Shah Jehan reigned to a very advanced period of his life, and before he died was thrust from the throne, and held in a kind of respectful imprisonment by one of his own sons, the celebrated Aurengzebe. Shah Jehan, in his earlier years, was celebrated for his love of justice, and in his latter ones for his avarice. He is said to nave dug caves under his palace, in which he spent lis days in the contemplation of heaps of gold and precions stones. At one time of his life, prodigality and a love of women were his dominant passions, and they ended, like those of many other spendthrifts, in concentrating themselves in the love of accumulation. Of the magnificent ornaments of a gallery, which he built for one of his favourites, many descriptions have been written.

The wall opposite the windows was covered with jasper; and on this first coating a vine was seen to climb, entirely composed of precious stones, of shades analogous to this species of vegetation. The stem was formed of those reddish a^ate stones which expressed the colour of the wood. The leaves were emeralds, interlaced with so much art, that the points where they united conld not be discerned. The grapes, which were pendent from the branches, and seemed to come out in relief, were composed partly of diamonds and partly of greuats. Materials could not be procured adequate to the completion of the whole design, and the work remained incomplete. The side of the gallery, in which were the windows, was ornamented with large mirrors, whose frames were thickly sown, at intervals, with the largest pearls to be found in the east. Thus, the vine, framed with rich jewels, being multiplied in the mirrors, shed a surprising lustre, which dazzled by its splendour during the day, and at night had the effect of an illumination. Of Shah Jehan's pretensions to the fame of a Solomon, the following anecdote is recorded:—

A soldier having stolen away the female slave of a writer belonging to the class that copy and distribute the news of tire court through the provinces, the com

« PreviousContinue »