0Monday. 25th December [1905]—Bikaner
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25 December 1905 — Bikaner
Monday. 25th December [1905]. Christmas Day. The Private Secy Mr Cooper having returned from the camp where he had been all yesterday making arrangements called on us & arranged to take us out in the afternoon to see the houses of some Hindu bankers who are very rich & establish themselves in Bikaner in quantities. We gladly accepted. On waking this morning we found it was raining but only a slight shower fell—to the disappointment of many. There are generally showers at Christmas time wh are eagerly looked for in this sandy desert. This the first rain I have seen since leaving Venice. Mr Cooper explained to us the reason of the sentinel’s preventing us passing thro’ the gate to be that they have strict orders not to allow workmen & gardeners to leave the place by that gate & they did not know the difference of persons. We walked out of the garden to see the tigers kept in their cages. All the native chiefs seem to take a pride in having wild beasts in cages. I always feel sorry for them—they are such noble animals & must feel the indignity so much especially when they are tormented by their attendants in order to show them off to visitors! After lunch we drove into the town with Mr Cooper & stopped in the streets to buy common glass bangles such as the women wear here– A large crowd immediately gather round us. The streets are very narrow & very picturesque—the houses quaint—with carved facades, the costumes of the natives resplendent in fine colours. There is not an European to be seen there. Outside the larger houses there are kind of dais in stone or a charpoy on wh the owners or their retainers sit smoking or gossipping. When we got to the Bankers’ quarter we found arches still remaining up with “Welcome from the Bankers” on them in honor of the Wales– At last we stopped at a house where the owner came down to the door to receive us. He was in oriental costume with European patent leather shiny shoes. However he left these at the door on mounting the narrow stairs to his house & I noticed that he avoided them carefully when we left & slipped into a pair of old native shoes– When we got up into the 1st floor we found ourselves in a rather small square room in which were 2 charpoys with silver legs—round the room were low chairs & tables on which were heaped all the family worldly goods silver framed looking glasses, china figures, lambs, lamps &c &c. Above this a narrow shelf ran round the walls—on this was arranged a continuous row of silver cups rather larger than our egg cups—above these were countless prints, photographs, lithographs, oleographs &c in common cheap frames hung as closely as possible up to the ceiling. From the ceiling I counted 9 glass chandeliers wh hung so close to the beams that they evidently never could be lighted. In between them were as many glass globes to hold candles. There were pictures of our royal family, of their own family & common german pictures—a curious medley. Having seen & admired all this we passed thro’ narrow courts & flat roofs & returned to the street & were invited by the banker to go on to see his other house. We gladly did so & were ushered up into a square room on the 1st floor where we found a sort of office table before which were arranged 2 silver chairs– There were many chandeliers & prints & pictures but they were not so crowded as in the 1st house. After a while a large musical box was made to play a weird kind of wailing oriental time for us. Then Mr Cooper asked our host to show us his jewels wh he kindly consented to do. His mother’s big silver bangles were brought in, her pearl & emerald necklace. His own pearl & ruby earrings & necklace—the usual picturesque oriental jewels– He wore 2 fine pearls with a ruby between on a large gold ring put into the upper part of his ear. He was inclined to be fat tho’ evidently about 25 years old. Just before we left he said his mother would like to show us her bangles. We went down into the tiny internal court & in a huddle under the verandah we saw a heap of red cotton stuff. This proved to be the mother who was strictly “purdah,” & as Mr Cooper was present kept the red covering over everything but one eye. Out of this mass came two arms on which were heavy silver bracelets & silver rings on the hands. A little girl stood by her whom our host said was his sister. We then bid all good bye & as Mr Cooper had gone and the mother rose & held her veil back with both hands a fine tall woman stood before me with a fine sad countenance. We shook hands “salaamed” & left the house. Mr Cooper left us & went to his own house. We returned to the Palace & dined having Baker with us. The friendly Portuguese waiter made us drink wine at dinner to drink our friends health & served us a Plum pudding with brandy sauce to wh he set fire—saying that he knew that that was the way the English liked to keep Christmas.

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