[An audience with the Samori (=*Zamorin*)]

[Excerpt from Letter VII, from Goa, January 31, 1624:]

[184] After a short space the King came in at the same door, accompany'd with many others.  He was a young Man of thirty or five-and-thirty years of Age, to my thinking; of a large bulk of body, sufficiently fair for an Indian, and of a handsome presence. He is call'd (as a Principal Courtier, whom I afterwards ask'd, told me) by the proper name of Vikira. His Beard was somewhat long, and equally round about his Face; he was naked, having only a piece of fine changeable cotton cloth, blue and white, hanging from the girdle to the middle of the Leg. He had divers bracelets on his Arms, pendants at his Ears, and other ornaments with many Jewels and rubies of value. In his Hand he carried a painted [185] staff (if it were not an Indian Cane), like a Shepherd's staff, upon which fix'd in the earth, just as Shepherds are represented in our Comedies, he stood leaning for a while.

When he was saluted by us, he receiv'd us smiling, and with much courtesy; and whilst his two Nieces stood by him leaning against a high bank to sit upon, we stood orderly in the Court just before the King; and the whole Court and the Porches being full of other Courtiers who came in, partly with the King, and partly by some other little entrances. I will not omit the manner how those that entered saluted the King; for I saw more than one do it, and particularly, a Youth who enter'd a good while after the King by one of those little Gates; to whom in particular the King spake much, and of whom he seemed to make great account.

In his salutation he advanced his joined Hands over his Head, then parting them a little, so extended and exalted, he smote [=struck] them lightly together twice or thrice, to wit, the palm of one Hand with the four longest Fingers of the other joined together; which whole action he repeated twice or thrice. Such as had weapons, lifted up their joined Hands above their Heads, with their Swords, Poniards [=daggers], Bucklers, or other Arms in them; and instead of striking with their Fingers, as by reason of their Arms they could not, they bowed down their Hands so conjoined, and made the points of their Swords touch the ground. No less full were the higher Cloisters [=galleries] round about of women, who stood there to behold us; amongst whom stood apart in the most eminent place the Queen, Sister to the King, a Woman of ripe Age, cloth'd in blue Cotton as to her lower parts, and abundantly adorned with Jewels.

The King desiring to talk with us, caused the youth Cicco to draw near and afterwards called for the Indian Slave above-mentioned; because Cicco, either out of excessive Reverence, or for that [=because] he had forgotten the Portugal [=Portuguese] -Tongue, durst not undertake to interpret. He asked our Captain who he was, and how called? The Captain would not confess himself Captain of a Ship, and so become known, but counterfeiting another Name, said, he was a private Soldier, and Companion to the rest of us; which the King seemed not to believe. He enquired likewise concerning the other Soldiers present; and above all, very particularly concerning me, pointing at the pendant which I wore in my Ear, almost like their Custom of India, and looking upon me for it with some wonder, as a thing which he knew not usual among the Portugals; whereupon I told him who I was, to wit, of what Country, and something I said briefly concerning the curiosity of my Travels; that I had run through so many Countries only to see the world, and was at length come to his Court, being no Portugal, but of Rome, a different and remote Nation from Portugal; with all which he seem'd well pleas'd.

He bid us several times put on our Hats; but our Captain, whose example 'twas fit for us to follow, being resolv'd not to make [186] himself known, not only would not do it, but refused it both by gestures and words, which I liked not well; for shaking his Head and smiling he answer'd that he would not, that they should not cause him to commit that false Latine [=social fault], what ever else he did; that indeed it was not a thing to be jested in, with other such gallantries; he conceiving, as I believe, that herein consisted all the punctuality [=proper behavior] of this Audience on his part: So that none of the rest of us cover'd himself; but it would not have been ill done, if the favour had been with better Answers than by saying, as the Captain did twice or thrice (with greater Courtship, as he thought), that it was hot, and therefore he would not put on his Hat, which his smiling betray'd to be but an excuse; though he conceiv'd he thereby shew'd himself an excellent Courtier.

The the King began to speak to our Captain (whom he well perceiv'd to be the Chief of the company), concerning the Peace; yet saying no more than what he had signified to our General, and desiring him to persuade the General not to depart so soon from Calicut, but to stay till he had consulted better with his Ministers, and had time to give a better and more determinate Resolution. The Captain answer'd cunningly, that these matters did not belong to him, who was a private Soldier, and was come thither only to see the City and the Palace, whether he had been unexpectedly invited by his Highness; that as to the Peace, it was to be treated of with the General, who had already answered his Highness as far as he could, according to the Orders given him by the Vice-Roy; nevertheless that in Obedience to his Highness, he would deliver this Message to him in the evening.

The King saw that a Soldier of ours had one of those Harquebuzes [=rifles] which the Portugals call Baccamarti, which are very short, of a large bore, and with a Fire-lock after the English fashion. He asked to have it brought to him to look upon; whereupon a Courtier taking it out of the Soldier's Hand reach'd it to the King, not giving it into his Hand (for 'tis not lawful for them to touch a thing at the same time with the King), but (because it would neither have been handsome to have lay'd it down on the ground for the King to take it up), therefore he took this course: He let the butt-end of the Harquebuz upon the ground at a little distance from the King, and then giving the bore-end a gentle cast from himself, made it fall into the Hands of the King, who held them ready for that purpose.

The King taking the Harquebuz in his Hand, presently shaked the powder out of the pan upon the ground, lest any disaster should befall him (for he perceived it was charged), then lifting it up to his Eye, he looked through the sight, shewing thereby that he was a good marksman, as they told us afterwards he was. He look'd much upon the Fire-lock as a thing unknown to them, for their Guns have only match; and being [=since] he seemed much taken with this piece, I told the Captain it would be handsome to present it to him, and indeed had it been [187] mine, I should willingly have given it [to] him. The Captain spoke to the Soldier, who, uncapable of such noble thoughts, answered that he would give it to the King if he might have forty Piasters for it, which was above twice the value. So that the King not offering to buy it, nor the Captain to lay out so much Money in order to present it to him, the pleasuring him therewith was waived; nor was it otherwise offered to him, as in my opinion Civility required. Nevertheless the King never let it go out of his Hand so long as we were with him. Afterwards he shewed us a little Parrot standing in an open Cage under the Cloister; he endeavoured to cause it to speak in our presence; and because our Interpreters were not very good, he sent to call an eminent Servant of his, who spoke the Portugal-Tongue better, to come and interpret in this Conversation.

The Signori Portoghesi my companions, little accustomed to Princes' Courts, though otherwise well-bred, gave me occasion to laugh within my self... that it appearing to them unhandsome, that the King stood all the while he discoursed with us, as he did; or at most, leaned only on the wall or his staff; they took upon them to speak to his Highness to sit down, and not put himself to such trouble. I dissuaded the Captain from it by all means, because Kings are Kings, and sit or stand when they please, and do what they list [=wish], 'tis their part to command; nor are we to use those Complements with them which we do to our equals, but always leave them to their own will and pleasure, for this is the breeding of the Court: But my counsel prevailed little, for the Captain was resolved to speak and desire him to sit down, as he did, not once, but twice or thrice; of which, nevertheless, the King made little account, and answered only with a smile....

In short, the Audience lasted till night, the two little Ladies his Nieces, being present almost all the time (for they went and came now and then), and the Queen in the upper Cloister; in beholding of whom, to speak truth, I was more attentive than in all hearing these discourses, which I well saw were of little importance, and therefore I cannot relate more punctually [=precisely]. At length it growing dark, upon our Captain's importunity the King dismiss'd us, and the door being open'd, we were suffer'd to go forth; but first he caus'd many branches of Indian Figs and Lagne [=unripe coconuts], to be brought and presented to us; the Courtiers giving them to our Captain and the other Soldiers, not by stretching forth the Hand, but by tossing them in the Air, as their custom is, I believe, to avoid being contaminated [189] by our contact. The King did the like, when at our departure he restor'd the Harquebuz to its owner; for he cast it after the same manner into the Hands of one of his Courtiers as it was cast to him, but gently, and with much care lest it should fall, bowing himself almost to the ground for that purpose, as it was necessary to do by reason of the shortness of the piece.

These Ceremonies, of not being touch'd, and the like, of which in publick demonstration they are so rigorous, yet in secret and when they please, they do not so exactly observe. And 'twas told us of this King, that he is a great drinker of Wine, though rigorously prohibited by his Religion, and that he hath sometimes eaten and drunk at the same Table with Portugals very familiarly; and that he is a Man of very affable humour, and a great friend to a jovial life, as also his carriage towards us demonstrated. Besides the Lagne and Figs which he appointed some of his Servants to carry for us even to the Boats, he gave our Captain a wild Pig alive, which he caus'd to be brought from some inner rooms of the Court, and being tied with a rope to be carry'd likewise to the Sea-side, whither also he sent many, and some of the principal of his Courtiers, to accompany us.

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