CALCUTTA, THE CAPITAL OF INDIA
The viceroy's levee is exclusively for gentlemen. No ladies are expected, and a similar ceremony is carried out. It is intended to offer an annual opportunity for the native princes, and officials of the government, officers of the army, the Indian nobility and private citizens of prominence to pay their respects and offer their congratulations to their ruler and the representative of their king, and at 9 o'clock on the evening appointed, two days later than Lady Curzon's reception, every man of distinction in that part of the world appears at the palace and makes his bow to the viceroy as the latter stands under the canopy beside the throne. It might be a somber and stupid proceeding but for the presence of many natives in their dazzling jewels, picturesque turbans and golden brocades, and the large contingent of army officers, with their breasts covered with medals and decorations. This reception is followed a few days later by a state ball, which is considered the most brilliant function of the year in India. Invitations are limited to persons of certain rank who have been formally presented at Government House, but Lady Curzon is always on the lookout for her fellow countrymen, and if she learns of their presence in Calcutta invitations are sure to reach them one way or another. She is a woman of many responsibilities, and her time and mind are always occupied, but few Americans ever visit Calcutta without having some delightful evidence of her loyalty and thoughtfulness.
There were many other festivities for celebrating the New Year. All the English and native troops in the vicinity of Calcutta passed in review before the viceroy and Lord Kitchener, who is the commander-in-chief of the forces in India.
In one of the parks in the city was a native fair and display of art industries, and at the zoological gardens the various societies of the Roman Catholic church in Calcutta held a bazaar and raffled off many valuable and worthless articles, sold barrels of tea and tons of cake, and sweetmeats to enormous crowds of natives, who attended in their holiday attire. There was a pyramid of gold coins amounting to a thousand dollars, an automobile, a silver service valued at $1,000, a grand piano, a carriage and span of ponies, and various other prizes offered in the lotteries, together with dolls and ginger-cake, pipes and cigar cases, slippers, neckties, pincushions and other offerings to the god of chance. Fashionable society was attracted to the fair grounds by a horse and dog show, and various other functions absorbed public attention.
The great sporting event of the year in India is a race for a big silver cup presented by the viceroy and a purse of 20,000 rupees to the winner. We took an interest in the race because Mr. Apgar, an Armenian opium merchant, who nominated Great Scott, an Austrian thoroughbred, has a breeding farm and stable of 200 horses, and everything about his place comes from the United States. He uses nothing but American harness and other accoutrements, and as a natural and unavoidable consequence Great Scott won the cup and the purse very easily, and his fleetness was doubtless due to the fact that he was shod with American shoes. The programme showed that about half the entries were by natives. His Royal Highness Aga Khan, the Nawab of Samillolahs; Aga Shah; our old friend of the Chicago exposition, the Sultan of Johore, and His Highness Kour Sahib of Patiala, all had horses in the big race. Some of these princes have breeding stables. Others import English, Irish, Australian, American and Arabian thoroughbreds. There was no American horse entered for the viceroy's cup this year, but Kentucky running stock is usually represented.
There are two race tracks at Calcutta, one for regular running, the other for steeple chasing, and, as in England and Ireland, the horses run on the turf, and most of the riders are gentlemen. A few professional jockeys represent the stables of breeders who are too old or too fat or too lazy to ride themselves, but it is considered the proper thing for every true sportsman to ride his own horse as long as he is under weight. The tracks are surrounded by lovely landscapes, an easy driving distance from Calcutta, and everybody in town was there. The grand stand and the terraces that surround it were crowded with beautifully dressed women, many of them Parsees, in their lovely costumes, and within the course were more than 50,000 natives, wearing every conceivable color, red and yellow predominating, so that when one looked down upon the inclosure from a distance it resembled a vast flower bed, a field of poppies and roses. The natives take great interest in the races, and, as they are admitted free, every man, woman and child who could leave home was there, and the most of them walked the entire distance from the city.
The viceroy and vice-queen appear in the official old-fashioned barouche, drawn by four horses, with outriders, and escorted by a bodyguard of Sikhs in brilliant scarlet uniforms and big turbans of navy blue, with gold trimmings. The viceroy's box is lined and carpeted with scarlet, and easy chairs were placed for his comfort. Distinguished people came up to pay their respects to him and Lady Curzon, and between visits he wandered about the field, shaking hands with acquaintances in a democratic fashion and smiling as if he were having the time of his life. It is not often that the present viceroy takes a holiday. He is the most industrious man in India, and very few of his subjects work as hard as he, but he takes his recreation in the same fashion. He is always full of enthusiasm, and never does anything in a half-hearted way. Lord Kitchener came also, but was compelled to remain in his carriage because of his broken leg. The police found him a good place and he enjoyed it.