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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

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

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That celebrated chieftain's tents and followers were gathered round one of the British bungalows which had escaped the flames, and which he occupied during the siege. When I entered the large room where he sat, I found him in the midst of a council of war; his chief generals and viziers seated round him, each smoking his hookah, as is the common way with these black fellows, before, at, and after breakfast, dinner, supper, and bedtime. There was such a cloud raised by their smoke you could hardly see a yard before you- -another piece of good-luck for me--as it diminished the chances of my detection. When, with the ordinary ceremonies, the kitmatgars and consomahs had explained to the prince that Bobbachy Bahawder, the right eye of the Sun of the Universe (as the ignorant heathens called me), had arrived from his mission, Holkar immediately summoned me to the maidaun, or elevated platform, on which he was seated in a luxurious easy-chair, and I, instantly taking off my slippers, falling on my knees, and beating my head against the ground ninety-nine times, proceeded, still on my knees, a hundred and twenty feet through the room, and then up the twenty steps which led to his maidaun--a silly, painful, and disgusting ceremony, which can only be considered as a relic of barbarian darkness, which tears the knees and shins to pieces, let alone the pantaloons. I recommend anybody who goes to India, with the prospect of entering the service of the native rajahs, to recollect my advice, and have them WELL WADDED.

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Well, the right eye of the Sun of the Universe scrambled as well as he could up the steps of the maidaun (on which, in rows, smoking, as I have said, the musnuds or general officers were seated), and I arrived within speaking distance of Holkar, who instantly asked me the success of my mission. The impetuous old man thereon poured out a multitude of questions: "How many men are there in the fort?" said he; "how many women? Is it victualled? have they ammunition? Did you see Gahagan Sahib, the commander? did you kill him?"

All these questions Jeswunt Row Holkar puffed out with so many whiffs of tobacco.

Taking a chillum myself, and raising about me such a cloud that, upon my honour as a gentleman, no man at three yards' distance could perceive anything of me except the pillar of smoke in which I was encompassed, I told Holkar, in Oriental language of course, the best tale I could with regard to the fort.

"Sir," said I, "to answer your last question first--that dreadful Gujputi I have seen--and he is alive: he is eight feet, nearly, in height; he can eat a bullock daily (of which he has seven hundred at present in the compound, and swears that during the siege he will content himself with only three a week): he has lost, in battle, his left eye; and what is the consequence? O Ram Gunge" (O thou-with-the-eye-as-bright-as-morning and-with-beard-as-black-as-night), "Goliah Gujputi--NEVER SLEEPS!"

"Ah, you Ghorumsaug (you thief of the world)," said the Prince Vizier, Saadut Alee Beg Bimbukchee--"it's joking you are;"--and there was a universal buzz through the room at the announcement of this bouncer.

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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