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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter V: The Issue Of My Interview With My Wife

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I found Puneeree Muckun, with the rest of my attendants, waiting at the gate, and they immediately conducted me to my own tents in the neighbourhood. I have been in many dangerous predicaments before that time and since, but I don't care to deny that I felt in the present instance such a throbbing of the heart as I never have experienced when leading a forlorn hope, or marching up to a battery.

As soon as I entered the tents a host of menials sprang forward, some to ease me of my armour, some to offer me refreshments, some with hookahs, attar of roses (in great quart bottles), and the thousand delicacies of Eastern life. I motioned them away. "I will wear my armour," said I; "I shall go forth to-night. Carry my duty to the princess, and say I grieve that to-night I have not the time to see her. Spread me a couch here, and bring me supper here: a jar of Persian wine well cooled, a lamb stuffed with pistachio-nuts, a pillaw of a couple of turkeys, a curried kid--anything. Begone! Give me a pipe; leave me alone, and tell me when the meal is ready."

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I thought by these means to put off the fair Puttee Rooge, and hoped to be able to escape without subjecting myself to the examination of her curious eyes. After smoking for a while, an attendant came to tell me that my supper was prepared in the inner apartment of the tent (I suppose that the reader, if he be possessed of the commonest intelligence, knows that the tents of the Indian grandees are made of the finest Cashmere Shawls, and contain a dozen rooms at least, with carpets, chimneys, and sash-windows complete). I entered, I say, into an inner chamber, and there began with my fingers to devour my meal in the Oriental fashion, taking, every now and then, a pull from the wine-jar, which was cooling deliciously in another jar of snow.

I was just in the act of despatching the last morsel of a most savoury stewed lamb and rice, which had formed my meal, when I heard a scuffle of feet, a shrill clatter of female voices, and, the curtain being flung open, in marched a lady accompanied by twelve slaves, with moon faces and slim waists, lovely as the houris in Paradise.

The lady herself, to do her justice, was as great a contrast to her attendants as could possibly be: she was crooked, old, of the complexion of molasses, and rendered a thousand times more ugly by the tawdry dress and the blazing jewels with which she was covered. A line of yellow chalk drawn from her forehead to the tip of her nose (which was further ornamented by an immense glittering nose-ring), her eyelids painted bright red, and a large dab of the same colour on her chin, showed she was not of the Mussulman, but the Brahmin faith--and of a very high caste: you could see that by her eyes. My mind was instantaneously made up as to my line of action.

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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