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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter III: A Peep Into Spain--Account Of The Origin And Services Of The Ahmednuggar Irregulars

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"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.

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"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 colour 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 corkscrew 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 colour 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 cross-bones 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 real 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:-

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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