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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter II: Allyghur And Laswaree

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Gleig, Mill, and Thorn have all told the tale of this war, though somehow they have omitted all mention of the hero of it. General Lake, for the victory of that day, became Lord Lake of Laswaree. Laswaree! and who, forsooth, was the real conqueror of Laswaree? I can lay my hand upon my heart and say that I was. If any proof is wanting of the fact, let me give it at once, and from the highest military testimony in the world--I mean that of the Emperor Napoleon.

In the month of March, 1817, I was passenger on board the "Prince Regent," Captain Harris, which touched at St. Helena on its passage from Calcutta to England. In company with the other officers on board the ship, I paid my respects to the illustrious exile of Longwood, who received us in his garden, where he was walking about, in a nankeen dress and a large broad-brimmed straw hat, with General Montholon, Count Las Casas, and his son Emanuel, then a little boy; who I dare say does not recollect me, but who nevertheless played with my sword-knot and the tassels of my Hessian boots during the whole of our interview with his Imperial Majesty.

Our names were read out (in a pretty accent, by the way!) by General Montholon, and the Emperor, as each was pronounced, made a bow to the owner of it, but did not vouchsafe a word. At last Montholon came to mine. The Emperor looked me at once in the face, took his hands out of his pockets, put them behind his back, and coming up to me smiling, pronounced the following words:-

"Assaye, Delhi, Deeg, Futtyghur?"

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I blushed, and, taking off my hat with a bow, said, "Sire, c'est moi."

"Parbleu! je le savais bien," said the Emperor, holding out his snuff-box. "En usez-vous, Major?" I took a large pinch (which, with the honour of speaking to so great a man, brought the tears into my eyes), and he continued as nearly as possible in the following words:-

"Sir, you are known; you come of an heroic nation. Your third brother, the Chef de Bataillon, Count Godfrey Gahagan, was in my Irish Brigade."

Gahagan. "Sire, it is true. He and my countrymen in your Majesty's service stood under the green flag in the breach of Burgos, and beat Wellington back. It was the only time, as your Majesty knows, that Irishmen and Englishmen were beaten in that war."

Napoleon (looking as if he would say, "D- your candour, Major Gahagan"). "Well, well; it was so. Your brother was a Count, and died a General in my service."

Gahagan. "He was found lying upon the bodies of nine-and-twenty Cossacks at Borodino. They were all dead, and bore the Gahagan mark."

Napoleon (to Montholon). "C'est vrai, Montholon: je vous donne ma parole d'honneur la plus sacree, que c'est vrai. Ils ne sont pas d'autres, ces terribles Ga'gans. You must know that Monsieur gained the battle of Delhi as certainly as I did that of Austerlitz. In this way:- Ce belitre de Lor Lake, after calling up his cavalry, and placing them in front of Holkar's batteries, qui balayaient la plaine, was for charging the enemy's batteries with his horse, who would have been ecrases, mitrailles, foudroyes to a man but for the cunning of ce grand rogue que vous voyez."

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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