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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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"'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! [3]

"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.

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"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 Hindustanee 'the-favourite-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.)

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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