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0105_001E The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter VI: Famine In The Garrison

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The two latter means of competency we possessed; I had in my own apartments a small store of gunpowder (keeping it under my own bed, with a candle burning for fear of accidents); I had 14 pieces of artillery (4 long 48's and 4 carronades, 5 howitzers, and a long brass mortar, for grape, which I had taken myself at the battle of Assaye), and muskets for ten times my force. My garrison, as I have told the reader in a previous number, consisted of 40 men, two chaplains, and a surgeon; add to these my guests, 83 in number, of whom nine only were gentlemen (in tights, powder, pigtails, and silk stockings, who had come out merely for a dance, and found themselves in for a siege). Such were our numbers:-

Troops and artillerymen        40
Ladies                         74
Other non-combatants           11

I count myself good for a thousand, for so I was regularly rated in the army: with this great benefit to it, that I only consumed as much as an ordinary mortal. We were then, as far as the victuals went, 126 mouths; as combatants we numbered 1,040 gallant men, with 12 guns and a fort, against Holkar and his 12,000. No such alarming odds, if -

IF!--ay, there was the rub--IF we had SHOT, as well as powder for our guns; IF we had not only MEN but MEAT. Of the former commodity we had only three rounds for each piece. Of the latter, upon my sacred honour, to feed 126 souls, we had but

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Two drumsticks of fowls, and a bone of ham. Fourteen bottles of ginger-beer. Of soda-water, four ditto. Two bottles of fine Spanish olives. Raspberry cream--the remainder of two dishes. Seven macaroons, lying in the puddle of a demolished trifle. Half a drum of best Turkey figs. Some bits of broken bread; two Dutch cheeses (whole); the crust of an old Stilton; and about an ounce of almonds and raisins. Three ham-sandwiches, and a pot of currant-jelly, and 197 bottles of brandy, rum, madeira, pale ale (my private stock); a couple of hard eggs for a salad, and a flask of Florence oil.

This was the provision for the whole garrison! The men after supper had seized upon the relics of the repast, as they were carried off from the table; and these were the miserable remnants I found and counted on my return; taking good care to lock the door of the supper-room, and treasure what little sustenance still remained in it.

When I appeared in the saloon, now lighted up by the morning sun, I not only caused a sensation myself, but felt one in my own bosom which was of the most painful description. Oh, my reader! may you never behold such a sight as that which presented itself: eighty-three men and women in ball-dresses; the former with their lank powdered locks streaming over their faces; the latter with faded flowers, uncurled wigs, smudged rouge, blear eyes, draggling feathers, rumpled satins--each more desperately melancholy and hideous than the other--each, except my beloved Belinda Bulcher, whose raven ringlets never having been in curl could of course never go out of curl; whose cheek, pale as the lily, could, as it may naturally be supposed, grow no paler; whose neck and beauteous arms, dazzling as alabaster, needed no pearl-powder, and therefore, as I need not state, did not suffer because the pearl-powder had come off. Joy (deft link-boy!) lit his lamps in each of her eyes as I entered. As if I had been her sun, her spring, lo! blushing roses mantled in her cheek! Seventy-three ladies, as I entered, opened their fire upon me, and stunned me with cross-questions, regarding my adventures in the camp--SHE, as she saw me, gave a faint scream (the sweetest, sure, that ever gurgled through the throat of a woman!) then started up--then made as if she would sit down--then moved backwards--then tottered forwards--then tumbled into my--Psha! why recall, why attempt to describe that delicious-- that passionate greeting of two young hearts? What was the surrounding crowd to us? What cared we for the sneers of the men, the titters of the jealous women, the shrill "Upon my word!" of the elder Miss Bulcher, and the loud expostulations of Belinda's mamma? The brave girl loved me, and wept in my arms. "Goliah! my Goliah!" said she, "my brave, my beautiful, THOU art returned, and hope comes back with thee. Oh! who can tell the anguish of my soul, during this dreadful dreadful night!" Other similar ejaculations of love and joy she uttered; and if I HAD perilled life in her service, if I DID believe that hope of escape there was none, so exquisite was the moment of our meeting, that I forgot all else in this overwhelming joy!

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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