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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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"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 CONTER-ing 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!

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"'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 Ahmednuggarees!' 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 tomorrow'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).

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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