The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan, by William Makepeace Thackeray


A Peep Into Spain — Account of the Origin and Services of The Ahmednuggar Irregulars.


I have been here for some months, along with my young friend Cabrera: and in the hurry and bustle of war — daily on guard and in the batteries for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, with fourteen severe wounds and seven musket-balls in my body — it may be imagined that I have had little time to think about the publication of my memoirs. Inter arma silent leges — in the midst of fighting be hanged to writing! as the poet says; and I never would have bothered myself with a pen, had not common gratitude incited me to throw off a few pages.

Along with Oraa’s troops, who have of late been beleaguering this place, there was a young Milesian gentleman, Mr. Toone O’Connor Emmett Fitzgerald Sheeny, by name, a law student, and member of Gray’s Inn, and what he called Bay Ah of Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Sheeny was with the Queen’s people, not in a military capacity, but as representative of an English journal; to which, for a trifling weekly remuneration, he was in the habit of transmitting accounts of the movements of the belligerents, and his own opinion of the politics of Spain. Receiving, for the discharge of his duty, a couple of guineas a week from the proprietors of the journal in question, he was enabled, as I need scarcely say, to make such a show in Oraa’s camp as only a Christino general officer, or at the very least a colonel of a regiment, can afford to keep up.

In the famous sortie which we made upon the twenty-third, I was of course among the foremost in the melee, and found myself, after a good deal of slaughtering (which it would be as disagreeable as useless to describe here), in the court of a small inn or podesta, which had been made the head-quarters of several Queenite officers during the siege. The pesatero or landlord of the inn had been despatched by my brave chapel-churies, with his fine family of children — the officers quartered in the podesta had of course bolted; but one man remained, and my fellows were on the point of cutting him into ten thousand pieces with their borachios, when I arrived in the room time enough to prevent the catastrophe. Seeing before me an individual in the costume of a civilian — a white hat, a light blue satin cravat, embroidered with butterflies and other quadrupeds, a green coat and brass buttons, and a pair of blue plaid trousers, I recognized at once a countryman, and interposed to save his life.

In an agonized brogue the unhappy young man was saying all that he could to induce the chapel-churies to give up their intention of slaughtering him; but it is very little likely that his protestations would have had any effect upon them, had not I appeared in the room, and shouted to the ruffians to hold their hand.

Seeing a general officer before them (I have the honor to hold that rank in the service of his Catholic Majesty), and moreover one six feet four in height, and armed with that terrible cabecilla (a sword so called, because it is five feet long) which is so well known among the Spanish armies — seeing, I say, this figure, the fellows retired, exclaiming, “Adios, corpo di bacco, nosotros,” and so on, clearly proving (by their words) that they would, if they dared, have immolated the victim whom I had thus rescued from their fury. “Villains!” shouted I, hearing them grumble, “away! quit the apartment!” Each man, sulkily sheathing his sombrero, obeyed, and quitted the camarilla.

It was then that Mr. Sheeny detailed to me the particulars to which I have briefly adverted; and, informing me at the same time that he had a family in England who would feel obliged to me for his release, and that his most intimate friend the English ambassador would move heaven and earth to revenge his fall, he directed my attention to a portmanteau passably well filled, which he hoped would satisfy the cupidity of my troops. I said, though with much regret, that I must subject his person to a search; and hence arose the circumstance which has called for what I fear you will consider a somewhat tedious explanation. I found upon Mr. Sheeny’s person three sovereigns in English money (which I have to this day), and singularly enough a copy of The New Monthly Magazine, containing a portion of my adventures. It was a toss-up whether I should let the poor young man be shot or no, but this little circumstance saved his life. The gratified vanity of authorship induced me to accept his portmanteau and valuables, and to allow the poor wretch to go free. I put the Magazine in my coat-pocket, and left him and the podesta.

The men, to my surprise, had quitted the building, and it was full time for me to follow; for I found our sallying party, after committing dreadful ravages in Oraa’s lines, were in full retreat upon the fort, hotly pressed by a superior force of the enemy. I am pretty well known and respected by the men of both parties in Spain (indeed I served for some months on the Queen’s side before I came over to Don Carlos); and, as it is my maxim never to give quarter, I never expect to receive it when taken myself. On issuing from the podesta with Sheeny’s portmanteau and my sword in my hand, I was a little disgusted and annoyed to see our own men in a pretty good column retreating at double-quick, and about four hundred yards beyond me, up the hill leading to the fort; while on my left hand, and at only a hundred yards, a troop of the Queenite lancers were clattering along the road.

I had got into the very middle of the road before I made this discovery, so that the fellows had a full sight of me, and whiz! came a bullet by my left whisker before I could say Jack Robinson. I looked round — there were seventy of the accursed malvados at the least, and within, as I said, a hundred yards. Were I to say that I stopped to fight seventy men, you would write me down a fool or a liar: no, sir, I did not fight, I ran away.

I am six feet four — my figure is as well known in the Spanish army as that of the Count de Luchana, or my fierce little friend Cabrera himself. “GAHAGAN!” shouted out half a dozen scoundrelly voices, and fifty more shots came rattling after me. I was running — running as the brave stag before the hounds — running as I have done a great number of times before in my life, when there was no help for it but a race.

After I had run about five hundred yards, I saw that I had gained nearly three upon our column in front, and that likewise the Christino horsemen were left behind some hundred yards more; with the exception of three, who were fearfully near me. The first was an officer without a lance; he had fired both his pistols at me, and was twenty yards in advance of his comrades; there was a similar distance between the two lancers who rode behind him. I determined then to wait for No. 1, and as he came up delivered cut 3 at his horse’s near leg — off it flew, and down, as I expected, went horse and man. I had hardly time to pass my sword through my prostrate enemy, when No. 2 was upon me. If I could but get that fellow’s horse, thought I, I am safe; and I executed at once the plan which I hoped was to effect my rescue.

I had, as I said, left the podesta with Sheeny’s portmanteau, and, unwilling to part with some of the articles it contained — some shirts, a bottle of whiskey, a few cakes of Windsor soap, &c. &c. — I had carried it thus far on my shoulders, but now was compelled to sacrifice it malgre moi. As the lancer came up, I dropped my sword from my right hand, and hurled the portmanteau at his head, with aim so true, that he fell back on his saddle like a sack, and thus when the horse galloped up to me, I had no difficulty in dismounting the rider: the whiskey-bottle struck him over his right eye, and he was completely stunned. To dash him from the saddle and spring myself into it, was the work of a moment; indeed, the two combats had taken place in about a fifth part of the time which it has taken the reader to peruse the description. But in the rapidity of the last encounter, and the mounting of my enemy’s horse, I had committed a very absurd oversight — I was scampering away WITHOUT MY SWORD! What was I to do? — to scamper on, to be sure, and trust to the legs of my horse for safety!

The lancer behind me gained on me every moment, and I could hear his horrid laugh as he neared me. I leaned forward jockey-fashion in my saddle, and kicked, and urged, and flogged with my hand, but all in vain. Closer — closer — the point of his lance was within two feet of my back. Ah! ah! he delivered the point, and fancy my agony when I felt it enter — through exactly fifty-nine pages of the New Monthly Magazine. Had it not been for that Magazine, I should have been impaled without a shadow of a doubt. Was I wrong in feeling gratitude? Had I not cause to continue my contributions to that periodical?

When I got safe into Morella, along with the tail of the sallying party, I was for the first time made acquainted with the ridiculous result of the lancer’s thrust (as he delivered his lance, I must tell you that a ball came whiz over my head from our fellows, and entering at his nose, put a stop to HIS lancing for the future). I hastened to Cabrera’s quarter, and related to him some of my adventures during the day.

“But, General,” said he, “you are standing. I beg you chiudete l’uscio (take a chair).”

I did so, and then for the first time was aware that there was some foreign substance in the tail of my coat, which prevented my sitting at ease. I drew out the Magazine which I had seized, and there, to my wonder, DISCOVERED THE CHRISTINO LANCE twisted up like a fish-hook, or a pastoral crook.

“Ha! ha! ha!” said Cabrera (who is a notorious wag).

“Valdepenas madrilenos,” growled out Tristany.

“By my cachuca di caballero (upon my honor as a gentleman),” shrieked out Ros d’Eroles, convulsed with laughter, “I will send it to the Bishop of Leon for a crozier.”

“Gahagan has CONSECRATED it,” giggled out Ramon Cabrera; and so they went on with their muchacas for an hour or more. But, when they heard that the means of my salvation from the lance of the scoundrelly Christino had been the Magazine containing my own history, their laugh was changed into wonder. I read them (speaking Spanish more fluently than English) every word of my story. “But how is this?” said Cabrera. “You surely have other adventures to relate?”

“Excellent Sir,” said I, “I have;” and that very evening, as we sat over our cups of tertullia (sangaree), I continued my narrative in nearly the following words:—

“I left off in the very middle of the battle of Delhi, which ended, as everybody knows, in the complete triumph of the British arms. But who gained the battle? Lord Lake is called Viscount Lake of Delhi and Laswaree, while Major Gaha — nonsense, never mind HIM, never mind the charge he executed when, sabre in hand, he leaped the six-foot wall in the mouth of the roaring cannon, over the heads of the gleaming pikes; when, with one hand seizing the sacred peishcush, or fish — which was the banner always borne before Scindiah — he, with his good sword, cut off the trunk of the famous white elephant, which, shrieking with agony, plunged madly into the Mahratta ranks, followed by his giant brethren, tossing, like chaff before the wind, the affrighted kitmatgars. He, meanwhile, now plunging into the midst of a battalion of consomahs, now cleaving to the chine a screaming and ferocious bobbachee,9 rushed on, like the simoom across the red Zaharan plain, killing with his own hand, a hundred and forty-thr — but never mind —‘ALONE HE DID IT;’ sufficient be it for him, however, that the victory was won: he cares not for the empty honors which were awarded to more fortunate men!

9 The double-jointed camel of Bactria, which the classic reader may recollect is mentioned by Suidas (in his Commentary on the Flight of Darius), is so called by the Mahrattas.

“We marched after the battle to Delhi, where poor blind old Shah Allum received us, and bestowed all kinds of honors and titles on our General. As each of the officers passed before him, the Shah did not fail to remark my person,10 and was told my name.

10 There is some trifling inconsistency on the Major’s part. Shah Allum was notoriously blind: how, then, could he have seen Gahagan? The thing is manifestly impossible.

“Lord Lake whispered to him my exploits, and the old man was so delighted with the account of my victory over the elephant (whose trunk I use to this day), that he said, ‘Let him be called GUJPUTI,’ or the lord of elephants; and Gujputi was the name by which I was afterwards familiarly known among the natives — the men, that is. The women had a softer appellation for me, and called me ‘Mushook,’ or charmer.

“Well, I shall not describe Delhi, which is doubtless well known to the reader; nor the siege of Agra, to which place we went from Delhi; nor the terrible day at Laswaree, which went nigh to finish the war. Suffice it to say that we were victorious, and that I was wounded; as I have invariably been in the two hundred and four occasions when I have found myself in action. One point, however, became in the course of this campaign QUITE evident — THAT SOMETHING MUST BE DONE FOR GAHAGAN. The country cried shame, the King’s troops grumbled, the sepoys openly murmured that their Gujputi was only a lieutenant, when he had performed such signal services. What was to be done? Lord Wellesley was in an evident quandary. ‘Gahagan,’ wrote he, ‘to be a subaltern is evidently not your fate — YOU WERE BORN FOR COMMAND; but Lake and General Wellesley are good officers, they cannot be turned out — I must make a post for you. What say you, my dear fellow, to a corps of IRREGULAR HORSE?’

“It was thus that the famous corps of AHMEDNUGGAR IRREGULARS had its origin; a guerilla force, it is true, but one which will long be remembered in the annals of our Indian campaigns.


“As the commander of this regiment, I was allowed to settle the uniform of the corps, as well as to select recruits. These were not wanting as soon as my appointment was made known, but came flocking to my standard a great deal faster than to the regular corps in the Company’s service. I had European officers, of course, to command them, and a few of my countrymen as sergeants; the rest were all natives, whom I chose of the strongest and bravest men in India; chiefly Pitans, Afghans, Hurrumzadehs, and Calliawns: for these are well known to be the most warlike districts of our Indian territory.

“When on parade and in full uniform we made a singular and noble appearance. I was always fond of dress; and, in this instance, gave a carte blanche to my taste, and invented the most splendid costume that ever perhaps decorated a soldier. I am, as I have stated already, six feet four inches in height, and of matchless symmetry and proportion. My hair and beard are of the most brilliant auburn, so bright as scarcely to be distinguished at a distance from scarlet. My eyes are bright blue, overshadowed by bushy eyebrows of the color of my hair, and a terrific gash of the deepest purple, which goes over the forehead, the eyelid, and the cheek, and finishes at the ear, gives my face a more strictly military appearance than can be conceived. When I have been drinking (as is pretty often the case) this gash becomes ruby bright, and as I have another which took off a piece of my under-lip, and shows five of my front teeth, I leave you to imagine that ‘seldom lighted on the earth’ (as the monster Burke remarked of one of his unhappy victims), ‘a more extraordinary vision.’ I improved these natural advantages; and, while in cantonment during the hot winds at Chittybobbary, allowed my hair to grow very long, as did my beard, which reached to my waist. It took me two hours daily to curl my hair in ten thousand little cork-screw ringlets, which waved over my shoulders, and to get my moustaches well round to the corners of my eyelids. I dressed in loose scarlet trousers and red morocco boots, a scarlet jacket, and a shawl of the same color round my waist; a scarlet turban three feet high, and decorated with a tuft of the scarlet feathers of the flamingo, formed my head-dress, and I did not allow myself a single ornament, except a small silver skull and crossbones in front of my turban. Two brace of pistols, a Malay creese, and a tulwar, sharp on both sides, and very nearly six feet in length, completed this elegant costume. My two flags were each surmounted with a red skull and cross-bones, and ornamented, one with a black, and the other with a red beard (of enormous length, taken from men slain in battle by me). On one flag were of course the arms of John Company; on the other, an image of myself bestriding a prostrate elephant, with the simple word, ‘Gujputi’ written underneath in the Nagaree, Persian, and Sanscrit characters. I rode my black horse, and looked, by the immortal gods, like Mars. To me might be applied the words which were written concerning handsome General Webb, in Marlborough’s time:—

“‘To noble danger he conducts the way,
His great example all his troop obey,
Before the front the Major sternly rides,
With such an air as Mars to battle strides.
Propitious heaven must sure a hero save
Like Paris handsome, and like Hector brave!’

“My officers (Captains Biggs and Mackanulty, Lieutenants Glogger, Pappendick, Stuffle, &c., &c.) were dressed exactly in the same way, but in yellow; and the men were similarly equipped, but in black. I have seen many regiments since, and many ferocious-looking men, but the Ahmednuggar Irregulars were more dreadful to the view than any set of ruffians on which I ever set eyes. I would to heaven that the Czar of Muscovy had passed through Cabool and Lahore, and that I with my old Ahmednuggars stood on a fair field to meet him! Bless you, bless you, my swart companions in victory! through the mist of twenty years I hear the booming of your war-cry, and mark the glitter of your scimitars as ye rage in the thickest of the battle!11

11 I do not wish to brag of my style of writing, or to pretend that my genius as a writer has not been equalled in former times; but if, in the works of Byron, Scott, Goethe, or Victor Hugo, the reader can find a more beautiful sentence than the above, I will be obliged to him, that is all — I simply say, I WILL BE OBLIGED TO HIM. —— G. O’G. G., M. H. E. I. C. S., C. I. H. A.

“But away with melancholy reminiscences. You may fancy what a figure the Irregulars cut on a field-day — a line of five hundred black-faced, black-dressed, black-horsed, black-bearded men — Biggs, Glogger, and the other officers in yellow, galloping about the field like flashes of lightning; myself enlightening them, red, solitary, and majestic, like yon glorious orb in heaven.

“There are very few men, I presume, who have not heard of Holkar’s sudden and gallant incursion into the Dooab, in the year 1804, when we thought that the victory of Laswaree and the brilliant success at Deeg had completely finished him. Taking ten thousand horse he broke up his camp at Palimbang; and the first thing General Lake heard of him was, that he was at Putna, then at Rumpooge, then at Doncaradam — he was, in fact, in the very heart of our territory.

“The unfortunate part of the affair was this:— His Excellency, despising the Mahratta chieftain, had allowed him to advance about two thousand miles in his front, and knew not in the slightest degree where to lay hold on him. Was he at Hazarubaug? was he at Bogly Gunge? nobody knew, and for a considerable period the movements of Lake’s cavalry were quite ambiguous, uncertain, promiscuous, and undetermined.

“Such, briefly, was the state of affairs in October, 1804. At the beginning of that month I had been wounded (a trifling scratch, cutting off my left upper eyelid, a bit of my cheek, and my under lip), and I was obliged to leave Biggs in command of my Irregulars, whilst I retired for my wounds to an English station at Furruckabad, alias Futtyghur — it is, as every twopenny postman knows, at the apex of the Dooab. We have there a cantonment, and thither I went for the mere sake of the surgeon and the sticking-plaster.

“Furruckabad, then, is divided into two districts or towns: the lower Cotwal, inhabited by the natives, and the upper (which is fortified slightly, and has all along been called Futtyghur, meaning in Hindoostanee ‘the-favorite-resort-of-the-white-faced-Feringhees-near the-mango-tope-consecrated-to Ram’) occupied by Europeans. (It is astonishing, by the way, how comprehensive that language is, and how much can be conveyed in one or two of the commonest phrases.)

“Biggs, then, and my men were playing all sorts of wondrous pranks with Lord Lake’s army, whilst I was detained an unwilling prisoner of health at Futtyghur.

“An unwilling prisoner, however, I should not say. The cantonment at Futtyghur contained that which would have made ANY man a happy slave. Woman, lovely woman, was there in abundance and variety! The fact is, that when the campaign commenced in 1803, the ladies of the army all congregated to this place, where they were left, as it was supposed, in safety. I might, like Homer, relate the names and qualities of all. I may at least mention SOME whose memory is still most dear to me. There was —

“Mrs. Major-General Bulcher, wife of Bulcher of the infantry.

“Miss Bulcher.

“Miss BELINDA BULCHER (whose name I beg the printer to place in large capitals.)

“Mrs. Colonel Vandegobbleschroy.

“Mrs. Major Macan and the four Misses Macan.

“The Honorable Mrs. Burgoo, Mrs. Flix, Hicks, Wicks, and many more too numerous to mention. The flower of our camp was, however, collected there, and the last words of Lord Lake to me, as I left him, were, ‘Gahagan, I commit those women to your charge. Guard them with your life, watch over them with your honor, defend them with the matchless power of your indomitable arm.’

“Futtyghur is, as I have said, a European station, and the pretty air of the bungalows, amid the clustering topes of mango-trees, has often ere this excited the admiration of the tourist and sketcher. On the brow of a hill — the Burrumpooter river rolls majestically at its base; and no spot, in a word, can be conceived more exquisitely arranged, both by art and nature, as a favorite residence of the British fair. Mrs. Bulcher, Mrs. Vandegobbleschroy, and the other married ladies above mentioned, had each of them delightful bungalows and gardens in the place, and between one cottage and another my time passed as delightfully as can the hours of any man who is away from his darling occupation of war.

“I was the commandant of the fort. It is a little insignificant pettah, defended simply by a couple of gabions, a very ordinary counterscarp, and a bomb-proof embrasure. On the top of this my flag was planted, and the small garrison of forty men only were comfortably barracked off in the case-mates within. A surgeon and two chaplains (there were besides three reverend gentlemen of amateur missions, who lived in the town,) completed, as I may say, the garrison of our little fortalice, which I was left to defend and to command.

“On the night of the first of November, in the year 1804, I had invited Mrs. Major-General Bulcher and her daughters, Mrs. Vandegobbleschroy, and, indeed, all the ladies in the cantonment, to a little festival in honor of the recovery of my health, of the commencement of the shooting season, and indeed as a farewell visit, for it was my intention to take dawk the very next morning and return to my regiment. The three amateur missionaries whom I have mentioned, and some ladies in the cantonment of very rigid religious principles, refused to appear at my little party. They had better never have been born than have done as they did: as you shall hear.

“We had been dancing merrily all night, and the supper (chiefly of the delicate condor, the luscious adjutant, and other birds of a similar kind, which I had shot in the course of the day) had been duly feted by every lady and gentleman present; when I took an opportunity to retire on the ramparts, with the interesting and lovely Belinda Bulcher. I was occupied, as the French say, in contering fleurettes to this sweet young creature, when, all of a sudden, a rocket was seen whizzing through the air, and a strong light was visible in the valley below the little fort.

“‘What, fireworks! Captain Gahagan,’ said Belinda; ‘this is too gallant.’

“‘Indeed, my dear Miss Bulcher,’ said I, ‘they are fireworks of which I have no idea: perhaps our friends the missionaries —’

“‘Look, look!’ said Belinda, trembling, and clutching tightly hold of my arm: ‘what do I see? yes — no — yes! it is — OUR BUNGALOW IS IN FLAMES!’

“It was true, the spacious bungalow occupied by Mrs. Major-General was at that moment seen a prey to the devouring element — another and another succeeded it — seven bungalows, before I could almost ejaculate the name of Jack Robinson, were seen blazing brightly in the black midnight air!

“I seized my night-glass, and looking towards the spot where the conflagration raged, what was my astonishment to see thousands of black forms dancing round the fires; whilst by their lights I could observe columns after columns of Indian horse, arriving and taking up their ground in the very middle of the open square or tank, round which the bungalows were built!

“‘Ho, warder!’ shouted I (while the frightened and trembling Belinda clung closer to my side, and pressed the stalwart arm that encircled her waist), ‘down with the drawbridge! see that your masolgees’ (small tumbrels which are used in place of large artillery) ‘be well loaded: you, sepoys, hasten and man the ravelin! you, choprasees, put out the lights in the embrasures! we shall have warm work of it to-night, or my name is not Goliah Gahagan.’

“The ladies, the guests (to the number of eighty-three), the sepoys, choprasees, masolgees, and so on, had all crowded on the platform at the sound of my shouting, and dreadful was the consternation, shrill the screaming, occasioned by my words. The men stood irresolute and mute with terror! the women, trembling, knew scarcely whither to fly for refuge. ‘Who are yonder ruffians?’ said I. A hundred voices yelped in reply — some said the Pindarees, some said the Mahrattas, some vowed it was Scindiah, and others declared it was Holkar — no one knew.

“‘Is there any one here,’ said I, ‘who will venture to reconnoitre yonder troops?’ There was a dead pause.

“‘A thousand tomauns to the man who will bring me news of yonder army!’ again I repeated. Still a dead silence. The fact was that Scindiah and Holkar both were so notorious for their cruelty, that no one dared venture to face the danger. Oh for fifty of my brave Abmednuggarees!’ thought I.

“‘Gentlemen,’ said I, ‘I see it — you are cowards — none of you dare encounter the chance even of death. It is an encouraging prospect: know you not that the ruffian Holkar, if it be he, will with the morrow’s dawn beleaguer our little fort, and throw thousands of men against our walls? know you not that, if we are taken, there is no quarter, no hope; death for us — and worse than death for these lovely ones assembled here?’ Here the ladies shrieked and raised a howl as I have heard the jackals on a summer’s evening. Belinda, my dear Belinda! flung both her arms round me, and sobbed on my shoulder (or in my waistcoat-pocket rather, for the little witch could reach no higher).

“‘Captain Gahagan,’ sobbed she, ‘GO— GO— GOGGLE— IAH!’

“‘My soul’s adored!’ replied I.

“‘Swear to me one thing.’

“‘I swear.’

“‘That if — that if — the nasty, horrid, odious black Mah-ra-a-a-attahs take the fort, you will put me out of their power.’

“I clasped the dear girl to my heart, and swore upon my sword that, rather than she should incur the risk of dishonors she should perish by my own hand. This comforted her; and her mother, Mrs. Major-General Bulcher, and her elder sister, who had not until now known a word of our attachment, (indeed, but for these extraordinary circumstances, it is probable that we ourselves should never have discovered it,) were under these painful circumstances made aware of my beloved Belinda’s partiality for me. Having communicated thus her wish of self-destruction, I thought her example a touching and excellent one, and proposed to all the ladies that they should follow it, and that at the entry of the enemy into the fort, and at a signal given by me, they should one and all make away with themselves. Fancy my disgust when, after making this proposition, not one of the ladies chose to accede to it, and received it with the same chilling denial that my former proposal to the garrison had met with.

“In the midst of this hurry and confusion, as if purposely to add to it, a trumpet was heard at the gate of the fort, and one of the sentinels came running to me, saying that a Mahratta soldier was before the gate with a flag of truce!

“I went down, rightly conjecturing, as it turned out, that the party, whoever they might be, had no artillery; and received at the point of my sword a scroll, of which the following is a translation:—


“‘LORD OF ELEPHANTS, SIR — I have the honor to inform you that I arrived before this place at eight o’clock P.M. with ten thousand cavalry under my orders. I have burned, since my arrival, seventeen bungalows in Furruckabad and Futtyghur, and have likewise been under the painful necessity of putting to death three clergymen (mollahs), and seven English officers, whom I found in the village; the women have been transferred to safe keeping in the harems of my officers and myself.

“‘As I know your courage and talents, I shall be very happy if you will surrender the fortress, and take service as a major-general (hookahbadar) in my army. Should my proposal not meet with your assent, I beg leave to state that tomorrow I shall storm the fort, and on taking it, shall put to death every male in the garrison, and every female above twenty years of age. For yourself I shall reserve a punishment, which for novelty and exquisite torture has, I flatter myself, hardly ever been exceeded. Awaiting the favor of a reply, I am, Sir,

“‘Your very obedient servant,



“‘R. S. V. P.’

“The officer who had brought this precious epistle (it is astonishing how Holkar had aped the forms of English correspondence), an enormous Pitan soldier, with a shirt of mail, and a steel cap and cape, round which his turban wound, was leaning against the gate on his matchlock, and whistling a national melody. I read the letter, and saw at once there was no time to be lost. That man, thought I, must never go back to Holkar. Were he to attack us now before we were prepared, the fort would be his in half an hour.

“Tying my white pocket-handkerchief to a stick, I flung open the gate and advanced to the officer; he was standing, I said, on the little bridge across the moat. I made him a low salaam, after the fashion of the country, and, as he bent forward to return the compliment, I am sorry to say, I plunged forward, gave him a violent blow on the head, which deprived him of all sensation, and then dragged him within the wall, raising the drawbridge after me.

“I bore the body into my own apartment: there, swift as thought, I stripped him of his turban, cammerbund, peijammahs, and papooshes, and, putting them on myself, determined to go forth and reconnoitre the enemy.”


Here I was obliged to stop, for Cabrera, Ros d’Eroles, and the rest of the staff, were sound asleep! What I did in my reconnaisance, and how I defended the fort of Futtyghur, I shall have the honor of telling on another occasion.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00