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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter I

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We used to call her the witch--there was magic in her beauty and in her voice. I was spell-bound when I looked at her, and stark staring mad when she looked at me! O lustrous black eyes!--O glossy night-black ringlets!--O lips!--O dainty frocks of white muslin!--O tiny kid slippers!--though old and gouty, Gahagan sees you still! I recollect, off Ascension, she looked at me in her particular way one day at dinner, just as I happened to be blowing on a piece of scalding hot green fat. I was stupefied at once--I thrust the entire morsel (about half a pound) into my mouth. I made no attempt to swallow, or to masticate it, but left it there for many minutes, burning, burning! I had no skin to my palate for seven weeks after, and lived on rice-water during the rest of the voyage. The anecdote is trivial, but it shows the power of Julia Jowler over me.

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The writers of marine novels have so exhausted the subject of storms, shipwrecks, mutinies, engagements, sea-sickness, and so forth, that (although I have experienced each of these in many varieties) I think it quite unnecessary to recount such trifling adventures; suffice it to say, that during our five months' trajet, my mad passion for Julia daily increased; so did the captain's and the surgeon's; so did Colonel Lilywhite's; so did the doctor's, the mate's--that of most part of the passengers, and a considerable number of the crew. For myself, I swore--ensign as I was--I would win her for my wife; I vowed that I would make her glorious with my sword--that as soon as I had made a favourable impression on my commanding officer (which I did not doubt to create), I would lay open to him the state of my affections, and demand his daughter's hand. With such sentimental outpourings did our voyage continue and conclude.

We landed at the Sunderbunds on a grilling hot day in December 1802, and then for the moment Julia and I separated. She was carried off to her papa's arms in a palankeen, surrounded by at least forty hookahbadars; whilst the poor cornet, attended but by two dandies and a solitary beasty (by which unnatural name these blackamoors are called), made his way humbly to join the regiment at headquarters.

The -'th Regiment of Bengal Cavalry, then under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Julius Jowler, C.B., was known throughout Asia and Europe by the proud title of the Bundelcund Invincibles--so great was its character for bravery, so remarkable were its services in that delightful district of India. Major Sir George Gutch was next in command, and Tom Thrupp, as kind a fellow as ever ran a Mahratta through the body, was second Major. We were on the eve of that remarkable war which was speedily to spread throughout the whole of India, to call forth the valour of a Wellesley, and the indomitable gallantry of a Gahagan; which was illustrated by our victories at Ahmednuggar (where I was the first over the barricade at the storming of the Pettah); at Argaum, where I slew with my own sword twenty-three matchlock-men, and cut a dromedary in two; and by that terrible day of Assaye, where Wellesley would have been beaten but for me--me alone: I headed nineteen charges of cavalry, took (aided by only four men of my own troop) seventeen field-pieces, killing the scoundrelly French artillerymen; on that day I had eleven elephants shot under me, and carried away Scindiah's nose-ring with a pistol-ball. Wellesley is a Duke and a Marshal, I but a simple Major of Irregulars. Such is fortune and war! But my feelings carry me away from my narrative, which had better proceed with more order.

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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