DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction, and not intended for profit.Our thanks to the creators of Victorian Romance Emma for such a lovely story.
In Our Rajah's Service
Chapter One: We Go Out
We are always being told that we look alike. We do not think we look alike. We do not really understand why the English say this about us. Then, we realized that many of the English look alike. We decided that perhaps a person can only recognize a certain number of facial features outside of their own culture. We are not insulted anymore.
But, we are very glad that our Prince brought us to England. At first, we did not like the city. There's a black haze everywhere, and you end up with soot in your hair and your clothes. We felt sorry for the people who lived in the city. We are more used to it, now.
The Jones house is nice, though. Our Prince doesn't always like it so much. He says that the air suffocates him. It's not as nice as the palace at Jaipur, certainly. But, for a vacation, it is alright. We do not think the Jones family pays proper respect to our Prince as a guest, but we forgive them, since they are just English, and can't be expected to behave correctly.
Yes, there is so much we don't understand about the English. We're trying to learn more, though, because our Prince says that knowing the English will be important in times to come, and we wish to help our Prince do important things.
We are four. Indira, Ilpati, Inika, and Indali. We were raised to please Prince Hakim. We could not possibly wish for more. We shall never be less. We are his confidantes, his entertainers, his bodyguards, and his companions. Our world is Prince Hakim.
Our Rajah is our life.
Our Prince is melancholy, again. We are worried about him. It is that woman, the maid, Emma. At first, we did not like her. We thought she would take away our Prince. But, she did not wish to take away our Prince. She broke his heart, but not really. Prince Hakim stepped aside to allow Mr. Jones his chance, since Mr. Jones knew Miss Emma first. If Prince Hakim was not so gallant, Miss Emma would have eventually been his.
People do not turn down Prince Hakim so easily. We've never seen someone say "no" to him twice.
Then, we started to think. It would not be so bad if our Prince were to marry an English woman like Miss Emma. We could teach her how to dance, and perhaps she would teach us more of the English language. If she had children, we could help her care for them. Perhaps there would be a little golden-haired boy like Colin Jones. We like the poor, scared, little Colin. So sweet. So small! We wanted to ask Prince Hakim if he would get us a little golden-haired English boy to keep at the palace. But, we have not asked him yet. We will wait until he is not in such a melancholy mood.
Yes, our Prince is melancholy. Indira will rub his feet. Ilpati will handle the hookah. Inika will turn the pages of his book. Indali will sit at the ready, in case our Prince should need anything. He smokes slowly, thoughtfully. We feel for him, but all of our efforts are to no avail, these days. We can not amuse him. We feel terrible when we fail our Prince.
There is a knock on the door. It's Stevens, the older English manservant. We like Stevens very much. He's come to deliver an invite to Prince Hakim to play tennis with the family, again.
We've already decided to put a tennis court in at our quarters in Jaipur. Then, when there are English visitors, we will engage them with sport. We do not know the rules of tennis, yet, but we shall learn.
Stevens leaves, and we don't even get to play with him. We like his moustache. It's bushy and prickly underneath.
Prince Hakim stands up. We help him get dressed for tennis. We've heard that English ladies grow faint if they even touch a man on his wrist or hand. But, this is our Prince. We must be helpful to him. He is handsome, surely, but we find it odd to think that only a man should be allowed to help a man dress. We have seen him naked many times. He has a fine physique.
"You may have the afternoon," our Prince says. He is kind to us, this way. We are never overworked. We are encouraged to take in all the things we see, and to learn from our experiences. "I'll have Stevens make the carriage and a guide available to you. Go into town and buy the things you require. And more tobacco for my hookah, as well."
Indira takes the English money offered by our Prince. Ilpati fetches his tennis racket. Inika holds the door open, and Indali puts away the hookah. We don't wish him luck out loud, but he knows we do wish for it. We try not to talk unless Prince Hakim asks us a direct question, or seems to desire conversation. We don't want to disturb his train of thought.
After our Prince is gone, we tidy up his room and retire to ours. Oh yes, the Joneses have provided us a little room next to our Prince's. We mostly only spend time in there when our Prince is out, or wants to be alone. Usually, we sleep just sleep in his room.
Indira holds up some of the bills to the window. "How funny they look."
"What shall we buy?"
"But, which ones?"
"Hmmmm." We all think about it. We do not really want for comforts. Perhaps Prince Hakim would find it amusing if we dressed up as English ladies.
"But the dresses," Ilpati says as she looks into a hand-held mirror.
"There's so much fabric."
"We might trip."
Perhaps the only way to find out what to buy is to go see the shops.
There's a knock on the door. Inika answers it. There's a girl there, in a simple dark blue dress. She has a rather flat sort of hat with a few daisies tucked into the brim. "Beg pardon, misses. Mr. Stevens said you required a guide around the city? I'm Betsy Alister, the housekeeper's niece, and I will do my best to assist you."
We don't catch all of her words. Our English is not very good yet. We've been picking some up, though, from our Prince and from other people in the Jones house.
Indali reaches over and touches the daisies on Miss Alister's hat. Indira touches the black button on Miss Alister's cuff.
"She's younger than Miss Emma."
"No, more plain."
Miss Alister looks confused. We suppose she knows less of our language than we know of hers.
We usher Miss Alister inside and sit her in the straight-backed chair. It's the only one we don't have covered with pillows and silks and our things. No one wants to ever sit in it, except the English. They have very good posture, these English.
Miss Alister sits, her hands in her lap, blinking at us like a scared monkey.
"There's a chill, we should wear the blue silk sarees."
"With the white embroidery."
"Rajah likes those."
"He has good taste in things."
We get dressed. A sari is comfortable, but we enjoy our usual outfits better. There's too much fabric on a sari, and you have to be careful not to tear it when dancing or playing, especially the ones that are made of expensive silks.
Miss Alister looks away as we dress. Her cheeks turn a deep pink. The English women do this quite often, we've found. We think it is because they wear constrictive clothing, and do not move around quite enough.
It takes us a while, since we so rarely wear our sarees, but we are soon ready to go. Ilpati and Inika take Miss Alister by the wrists, and we steer her into the long hallway. Sometimes you have to push these English, just a bit, or they will dally far too long. We're not rough with her, oh no, but we are rather excited about going to the city.
There's a carriage waiting, a severe black monstrosity with grey burlap curtains in the windows. This is the carriage Stevens uses when he must go to town to take care of Mr. Jones' business dealings. We've seen other carriages, of course. The one Miss Vivian and Miss Grace use is white with decorative moldings. It has a top that comes down, and red velvet on the seats. Nice, but not as elegant as riding a well-trained elephant. Perhaps someday the Jones family will come to visit Prince Hakim. We will let them ride on our best elephant, not just one we loan out to trusted servants.
Nearby, there is a man to drive the carriage. He's wearing brown pants, a vest, and a terribly wide smile. We like him already. He pets one of the horses, and then comes over to open the door for us. "Nice day for it, isn't it, ladies? I'm Davy, and I'll be takin' ya into town. Anyone in particular you'd like to go?"
His voice is deep, but friendly. We think he's as old as Mr. William Jones, maybe just a little older. Indali inspects his lapel. The material is so coarse! Ilpati peeks at the horses. They look strong, very sturdy. We're not worried. Davy takes good care of his horses. We like a person who takes good care of things.
"I believe we're going shopping, Davy. Would you mind taking us to a place with a good number of different shops? I'm not quite sure what they'd like to buy." Miss Alister climbs into the carriage and then holds out her hand to help Inika inside.
"Not very talkative, are they?"
"Seems not. Well, perhaps they're just shy, don't you think, Davy?"
Davy takes his cap off and scratches his hair. He looks at us for a while, and then shakes his head. "Don't look very shy." Once his cap is back on, and we're all inside the carriage, he closes the door.
And then, we're off to town.
In Our Next Chapter: The girls go shopping in downtown London, and have an interesting conversation with their hostess.
A/N: According to the web, you can spell it "sari", "saree" or several other different ways. I've chosen "sari" for the singular and "sarees" for the plural.