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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter I

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On arriving, I say, at our barracks at Dum Dum, I for the first time put on the beautiful uniform of the Invincibles: a light blue swallow-tailed jacket with silver lace and wings, ornamented with about 3,000 sugar-loaf buttons, rhubarb-coloured leather inexpressibles (tights), and red morocco boots with silver spurs and tassels, set off to admiration the handsome persons of the officers of our corps. We wore powder in those days; and a regulation pigtail of seventeen inches, a brass helmet surrounded by leopard skin, with a bearskin top and a horsetail feather, gave the head a fierce and chivalrous appearance, which is far more easily imagined than described.

Attired in this magnificent costume, I first presented myself before Colonel Jowler. He was habited in a manner precisely similar, but not being more than five feet in height, and weighing at least fifteen stone, the dress he wore did not become him quite so much as slimmer and taller men. Flanked by his tall Majors, Thrupp and Gutch, he looked like a stumpy skittle-ball between two attenuated skittles. The plump little Colonel received me with vast cordiality, and I speedily became a prime favourite with himself and the other officers of the corps. Jowler was the most hospitable of men; and gratifying my appetite and my love together, I continually partook of his dinners, and feasted on the sweet presence of Julia.

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I can see now, what I would not and could not perceive in those early days, that this Miss Jowler--on whom I had lavished my first and warmest love, whom I had endowed with all perfection and purity--was no better than a little impudent flirt, who played with my feelings, because during the monotony of a sea voyage she had no other toy to play with; and who deserted others for me, and me for others, just as her whim or her interest might guide her. She had not been three weeks at headquarters when half the regiment was in love with her. Each and all of the candidates had some favour to boast of, or some encouraging hopes on which to build. It was the scene of the "Samuel Snob" over again, only heightened in interest by a number of duels. The following list will give the reader a notion of some of them:-

1. Cornet Gahagan . . . Ensign Hicks, of the Sappers and Miners. Hicks received a ball in his jaw, and was half choked by a quantity of carroty whisker forced down his throat with the ball.

2. Captain Macgillicuddy, B.N.I. Cornet Gahagan. I was run through the body, but the sword passed between the ribs, and injured me very slightly.

3. Captain Macgillicuddy, B.N.I. Mr. Mulligatawny, B.C.S., Deputy-Assistant Vice Sub-Controller of the Boggleywollah Indigo grounds, Ramgolly branch.

Macgillicuddy should have stuck to sword's play, and he might have come off in his second duel as well as in his first; as it was, the civilian placed a ball and a part of Mac's gold repeater in his stomach. A remarkable circumstance attended this shot, an account of which I sent home to the "Philosophical Transactions:" the surgeon had extracted the ball, and was going off, thinking that all was well, when the gold repeater struck thirteen in poor Macgillicuddy's abdomen. I suppose that the works must have been disarranged in some way by the bullet, for the repeater was one of Barraud's, never known to fail before, and the circumstance occurred at seven o'clock. [1]

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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