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  The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter VI: Famine In The Garrison

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Thus my dangers for the night being overcome, I hastened with my precious box into my own apartment, which communicated with another, where I had left my prisoner, with a guard to report if he should recover, and to prevent his escape. My servant, Ghorumsaug, was one of the guard. I called him, and the fellow came, looking very much confused and frightened, as it seemed, at my appearance.

"Why, Ghorumsaug," said I, "what makes thee look so pale, fellow?" (He was as white as a sheet.) "It is thy master, dost thou not remember him?" The man had seen me dress myself in the Pitan's clothes, but was not present when I had blacked my face and beard in the manner I have described.

"O Bramah, Vishnu, and Mahomet!" cried the faithful fellow, "and do I see my dear master disguised in this way? For Heaven's sake let me rid you of this odious black paint; for what will the ladies say in the ballroom, if the beautiful Feringhee should appear amongst them with his roses turned into coal?"

I am still one of the finest men in Europe, and at the time of which I write, when only two-and-twenty, I confess I was a little vain of my personal appearance, and not very willing to appear before my dear Belinda disguised like a blackamoor. I allowed Ghorumsaug to divest me of the heathenish armour and habiliments which I wore; and having, with a world of scrubbing and trouble, divested my face and beard of their black tinge, I put on my own becoming uniform, and hastened to wait on the ladies; hastened, I say,--although delayed would have been the better word, for the operation of bleaching lasted at least two hours.

"How is the prisoner, Ghorumsaug?" said I, before leaving my apartment.

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"He has recovered from the blow which the Lion dealt him; two men and myself watch over him; and Macgillicuddy Sahib (the second in command) has just been the rounds, and has seen that all was secure."

I bade Ghorumsaug help me to put away my chest of treasure (my exultation in taking it was so great that I could not help informing him of its contents); and this done, I despatched him to his post near the prisoner, while I prepared to sally forth and pay my respects to the fair creatures under my protection. "What good after all have I done," thought I to myself, "in this expedition which I had so rashly undertaken?" I had seen the renowned Holkar; I had been in the heart of his camp; I knew the disposition of his troops, that there were eleven thousand of them, and that he only waited for his guns to make a regular attack on the fort. I had seen Puttee Rooge; I had robbed her (I say ROBBED her, and I don't care what the reader or any other man may think of the act) of a deal box, containing jewels to the amount of three millions sterling, the property of herself and husband.

Three millions in money and jewels! And what the deuce were money and jewels to me or to my poor garrison? Could my adorable Miss Bulcher eat a fricassee of diamonds, or, Cleopatra-like, melt down pearls to her tea? Could I, careless as I am about food, with a stomach that would digest anything--(once, in Spain, I ate the leg of a horse during a famine, and was so eager to swallow this morsel that I bolted the shoe, as well as the hoof, and never felt the slightest inconvenience from either)--could I, I say, expect to live long and well upon a ragout of rupees, or a dish of stewed emeralds and rubies? With all the wealth of Croesus before me I felt melancholy; and would have paid cheerfully its weight in carats for a good honest round of boiled beef. Wealth, wealth, what art thou? What is gold?--Soft metal. What are diamonds?-- Shining tinsel. The great wealth-winners, the only fame-achievers, the sole objects worthy of a soldier's consideration, are beefsteaks, gunpowder, and cold iron.

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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