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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter II: Allyghur And Laswaree

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When the General, accompanied by his staff, entered the last line of fortifications, the brave old man raised me from the dead rhinoceros on which I was seated, and pressed me to his breast. But the excitement which had borne me through the fatigues and perils of that fearful day failed all of a sudden, and I wept like a child upon his shoulder.

Promotion, in our army, goes unluckily by seniority; nor is it in the power of the General-in-Chief to advance a Caesar, if he finds him in the capacity of a subaltern: MY reward for the above exploit was, therefore, not very rich. His Excellency had a favourite horn snuff-box (for, though exalted in station, he was in his habits most simple): of this, and about a quarter of an ounce of high-dried Welsh, which he always took, he made me a present, saying, in front of the line, "Accept this, Mr. Gahagan, as a token of respect from the first to the bravest officer in the army."

Calculating the snuff to be worth a halfpenny, I should say that fourpence was about the value of this gift: but it has at least this good effect--it serves to convince any person who doubts my story, that the facts of it are really true. I have left it at the office of my publisher, along with the extract from the Bengal Hurkaru, and anybody may examine both by applying in the counting-house of Mr. Cunningham. [1] That once popular expression, or proverb, "Are you up to snuff?" arose out of the above circumstance; for the officers of my corps, none of whom, except myself, had ventured on the storming party, used to twit me about this modest reward for my labours. Never mind! when they want me to storm a fort AGAIN, I shall know better.

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Well, immediately after the capture of this important fortress, Perron, who had been the life and soul of Scindiah's army, came in to us, with his family and treasure, and was passed over to the French settlements at Chandernagur. Bourquien took his command, and against him we now moved. The morning of the 11th of September found us upon the plains of Delhi.

It was a burning hot day, and we were all refreshing ourselves after the morning's march, when I, who was on the advanced picket along with O'Gawler of the King's Dragoons, was made aware of the enemy's neighbourhood in a very singular manner. O'Gawler and I were seated under a little canopy of horse-cloths, which we had formed to shelter us from the intolerable heat of the sun, and were discussing with great delight a few Manilla cheroots, and a stone jar of the most exquisite, cool, weak, refreshing sangaree. We had been playing cards the night before, and O'Gawler had lost to me seven hundred rupees. I emptied the last of the sangaree into the two pint tumblers out of which we were drinking, and holding mine up, said, "Here's better luck to you next time, O'Gawler!"

As I spoke the words--whish!--a cannon-ball cut the tumbler clean out of my hand, and plumped into poor O'Gawler's stomach. It settled him completely, and of course I never got my seven hundred rupees. Such are the uncertainties of war!

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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