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0105_001E The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter IV: The Indian Camp--The Sortie From The Fort

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I took the hint at once: the Indian who had come up to the fort was a great man--that was evident; I walked on with a majestic air, gathered up the velvet reins, and sprung into the magnificent high-peaked saddle. "Buk, buk," said I. "It is good. In the name of the forty-nine Imaums, let us ride on." And the whole party set off at a brisk trot, I keeping silence, and thinking with no little trepidation of what I was about to encounter.

As we rode along, I heard two of the men commenting upon my unusual silence (for I suppose, I--that is the Indian--was a talkative officer). "The lips of the Bahawder are closed," said one. "Where are those birds of Paradise, his long-tailed words? they are imprisoned between the golden bars of his teeth!"

"Kush," said his companion, "be quiet! Bobbachy Bahawder has seen the dreadful Feringhee, Gahagan Khan Gujputi, the elephant-lord, whose sword reaps the harvest of death; there is but one champion who can wear the papooshes of the elephant-slayer--it is Bobbachy Bahawder!"

"You speak truly, Puneeree Muckun, the Bahawder ruminates on the words of the unbeliever: he is an ostrich, and hatches the eggs of his thoughts."

"Bekhusm! on my nose be it! May the young birds, his actions, be strong and swift in flight."

"May they DIGEST IRON!" said Puneeree Muckun, who was evidently a wag in his way.

"O--ho!" thought I, as suddenly the light flashed upon me. "It was, then, the famous Bobbachy Bahawder whom I overcame just now! and he is the man destined to stand in my slippers, is he?" and I was at that very moment standing in his own! Such are the chances and changes that fall to the lot of the soldier!

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I suppose everybody--everybody who has been in India, at least--has heard the name of Bobbachy Bahawder: it is derived from the two Hindustanee words--bobbachy, general; bahawder, artilleryman. He had entered into Holkar's service in the latter capacity, and had, by his merit and his undaunted bravery in action, attained the dignity of the peacock's feather, which is only granted to noblemen of the first class; he was married, moreover, to one of Holkar's innumerable daughters; a match which, according to the Chronique Scandaleuse, brought more of honour than of pleasure to the poor Bobbachy. Gallant as he was in the field, it was said that in the harem he was the veriest craven alive, completely subjugated by his ugly and odious wife. In all matters of importance the late Bahawder had been consulted by his prince, who had, as it appears (knowing my character, and not caring to do anything rash in his attack upon so formidable an enemy), sent forward the unfortunate Pitan to reconnoitre the fort; he was to have done yet more, as I learned from the attendant Puneeree Muckun, who was, I soon found out, an old favourite with the Bobbachy--doubtless on account of his honesty and love of repartee.

"The Bahawder's lips are closed," said he, at last, trotting up to me; "has he not a word for old Puneeree Muckun?"

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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