Abstract and Keywords
The author presents an account of his service with Hindú Rao's physician, his visit to Delhi and return to Gwálior, how a poor peon bitten by a cobra was cured, his return to Ujjain, Sir T. Hislop's army, the Battle of Mehidpur, his luckless rencontre with Músá, and his mother's death.
My service with Hindú Rao's physician—I visit Delhi—Return to Gwálior—The cobra's bite cured—Once more at Ujjain—Filial love stronger than the astrologer's threats—Sir T. Hislop's army—Battle of Mehidpur—I am weary of Ujjain—My luckless rencontre with Músá, the Afghán—Strange wanderings in the jungle—The secret unveiled—Nádir, chief of the Bheels—I am promoted to the thieves’ secretary—A Bheel banquet and strange horrors—My flight—The old Shaikh once more—My mother's death.
In the month of February 1817, Hakím Rahmatullah Beg Khán, the physician to Hindú Ráo, the brother-in-law of His Highness Daulat Ráo Sindhiah, came to Agra on his way to Delhi on business. Having had the honour of knowing this good old gentleman previously at Gwálior, I called on him, and was received very warmly. I begged, if I could be of any use to him, to be allowed to accompany him in his present travels. He kindly took me in his service as a superintendent of his medicines and his household, on a small salary.
Favoured by unexpected success in this object of my desires, I returned home with the good news, and communicated it to my benefactor, who, with all the members of the family, was excessively sorry to part with me, as I was domesticated with them for a period of about five years. On the day of my departure, the ten gold mohurs, with a few rupees that I had in my possession, I placed at the feet of my benevolent instructor, and begged him to oblige me by the acceptance of such a trifle. He granted this request with some reluctance, to my (p.49) great satisfaction, and then he called on the physician in person and spoke to him a great deal about me and in my favour; and, giving my hand into his, he bade us khudâ háfiz and a good journey.
Early on Thursday morning, we took our leave of our friends and bade farewell to the city of Agra. It must be well known to those who have visited that part of the country that travelling from Agra to Delhi is no more than walking in gardens for pleasure, and we completed this interesting journey in a week. On the morning of the eighth day, the very splendid view of Delhi, the ancient capital of rajas and emperors, presented itself to our eyes. The first look of this grand city reminds the reflecting traveller that this was the central seat of empire in India, whence orders and prohibitions were issued and executed throughout the whole of the provinces; that this was the place, the sight of which filled the mind of many princes of high rank with terror and awe; that the heads of many delinquent nobles and princes used to be hung at the gates in retribution for their misconduct, while others passed through in triumph.
On our entering the city gates, a few clerks and peons of the English Government, to our great annoyance, searched our luggage and examined us, questioning us very minutely respecting our intention and cause of coming to the city, which being directly replied to, we were left to ourselves. The physician took his temporary abode with a nobleman, a descendant of Nawázish Khán, residing at Chándni Chauk in a grand mansion that was furnished with everything requisite for the luxury and vanity of man. Here, after the fatigue of the journey, we lived very comfortably for seventeen days, during which period I had very little to do. In the morning I had only a few prescriptions, written by the doctor, to enter in the book, and sometimes gave some medicines as he directed to some of the patients from the chest in my charge; and then, after breakfast, having all the day at my own disposal, I passed it delightfully in walking through the city and its environs.
The ancient city of Delhi, entitled Indraprastha in the mythological annals of the Hindús, lies in mounds of ruins, to the south of the modern town. Several marks of the ancient palaces and mansions are still in existence; and some of them, such as the old gates of the town, mosques, and mausoleums of the Emperor Humáyun, etc., the fort of Sher Sháh, and other small citadels, stand unshaken up to this time. Their form and structure seem wonderfully strong even at this time. The first Mohamedan invader of India was Sultán Mahmúd of Ghizní, who (p.50) took the capital at about the end of the year 1110. But, according to his political liberality, he restored it to the Rájá, and replaced him on the throne as a tributary to himself.
The modern town was peopled by Emperor Sháh Jahán in about 1631, on the western bank of the river Jamna, and he entitled it Sháh Jahánabád, bestowing his own name upon it. The population at the time of my visit was estimated to be about two hundred thousand inhabitants. The city seemed to be in a ruinous condition, having suffered much during the Marátha wars. The city walls, with numerous bastions, and seven gates, are built with red stone. There are many edifices here worthy of notice, some in good condition, others falling to decay. Of the former class are the college of Gháziuddin Khán, situated near the Ajmeer Gate, the palaces of Alí Mardán Khán, Kamru'ddun Khán, and Kudsya Begum, the mother of Mohamed Sháh, and many mosques. But the loftiest of all, and most elegant, is the Jâmi Masjid, or the great Mohamedan cathedral, built of red stone lined with pure marble, and situated in the middle of the city. This venerable place of worship was begun by Emperor Sháh Jahán in the fourth year of his reign and completed in the eleventh.
The people are generally polite and well-behaved, and the climate seems healthy. After about three weeks’ sojourn in Delhi, my employer ordered preparations for his return to Gwálior, which being made in a short time, we left the old metropolis of India, and in about another week reached our destination in safety, with the exception of one accident to a peon of ours. It happened so, that on the fourth day of our march, as we halted under a tree by the side of a small village to take our breakfast, this poor Hindú, feeling thirsty, was the first person to descend into the well (near which we had halted) with his pot of water. After having gone down a few steps he was bitten by a large black snake that was lying under the stepping-stone of the same colour. As soon as the man saw his mortal enemy, and felt the pain of his bite, he took his pistol from his girdle and fired at it. The sudden report of the firearm instantly brought us to the well, and what did we see but the man engaged in separating a piece of flesh from his heel with his sword, and the noxious animal writhing about two yards from him with a hole in his hood that the pistol ball had made. We carried up the poor man, who fainted from the loss of blood; but our master, the kind physician, immediately ordering a large knife to be made red hot, cauterized his foot below the ankle, and having washed the wound he put a quantity of common salt upon it. I believe the smarting of the salt roused him from (p.51) his deadly swoon and he asked for water; but the doctor gave him a copious draught of the English brandy instead of water, which soon brought him down to sleep.
In the meantime, a multitude of the people of the village were collected near the well. They thanked us for the destruction of the monster, which, they said, had put an end to the lives of two men and one woman of their village during that year. The snake, being brought out and measured, was found something more than two yards long; and when its stomach was opened, a frog and a sparrow were found in it. Of the former there was only a small part remaining, but the latter was nearly whole. The poor peon, being tied on a camel, was carried during the remainder of the journey, and recovered from his severe illness after about six weeks, when His Excellency Hindú Ráo (the brother-in-law of His Highness the Mahárájah), in whose service our noble physician was, heard of the man's courage and promoted him from his peonship to the cavalry, on the salary of a rupee per day, and dresses, etc.
Upon our arrival in the camp, the old Súbahdár, my late protector, rather oppressor, called on the physician, and begged of me to forget and forgive what had passed between us and remonstrated with the doctor to allow me to go with him. The doctor said he had no objection in case it was my wish to go. He then turned towards me to hear my consent. I remarked, I had already forgiven what had taken place, and would also forget it if I could. I would wait upon him with pleasure when I had time, but would never leave the service of the doctor to stay with him, or on any account other than my finding a caravan proceeding to Ujjain; then would I beg my dismissal to repair to see my parent. This determination of mine silenced the Súbahdár, and he went home.
I stayed with the doctor about six months, during which period, being constantly engaged in medical occupation, I began to take much interest in the profession and learnt something of that most useful science. The practice of this doctor was very simple and easy—he seldom had recourse to medicines, but generally prescribed a change of diet. His employer, Hindú Ráo, had great confidence in him. Though his salary was only five hundred rupees a month, the presents he received amounted to more than double that sum. I recollect an instance of his practice. Once His Excellency Hindú Ráo went out hunting for two or three days, to a distance of about thirty miles from the camp, where he was affected with constant and severe hiccup. He had two medical men with him, who tried their best to remove this troublesome (p.52) malady from His Excellency, but to no purpose. One of them wanted to take some blood from the arm, but this was objected to by the patient himself. His Excellency, not being able to suffer any more pain, returned to the camp immediately, and then my master, being ordered to attend, prescribed merely a few small pieces of sugarcane, sprinkled with rose water, to be chewed and smoked. This being done, the patient was instantly relieved, and our doctor, before leaving the palace, was well rewarded. His Excellency took from his own neck a necklace of large pearls and presented it to him, with a pair of very handsome shawls.
Whenever I had leisure, I visited the Súbahdár, and sometimes dined with him, and found him always civil. In August, Khande Ráo, the nobleman in whose company we came to Gwálior, obtained leave to proceed to Ujjain to visit his family, and the Súbahdár managed to be ordered to attend him until his return. On the day of their departure I obtained my dismissal from the service of the doctor, who was unwilling to grant it, observing that if I stayed with him for four or five years, he would make a good doctor of me, and then I should become an independent gentleman or master of myself. But the anxiety to see my parent blinded the sight of my reason, and my prejudiced ear would not listen to his wholesome advice. He paid my arrears, and very liberally added a sum of money and dresses to them as a reward; so I found myself again master of upwards of a hundred rupees.
About the middle of August, we left the camp and proceeded on our journey by long marches. We started at about seven o'clock every morning and marched till four in the evening. Our travel was not so pleasant, on account of the rainy season. Every river and stream detained us for hours, and sometimes for a day and night. On our halting near Bundí the rains began to fall in torrents, and continued all night, and the next day never ceased even for a second. At night, the waters breaking through the trenches of the tents, rose more than two feet above the level of the ground, and caused our beds and pillows to float. Our horses and camels stood trembling, and we were in no better condition than the poor animals. Besides, the pain of hunger crowned our misfortune and we were obliged to halt here for five days.
At the end of the first week in September, we at last reached our destination in safety, and glad was I to see Ujjain again, after an absence of more than six years. Khánde Ráo, under the Súbahdár, would not enter the city for a week more, it being unlucky according to the astrological calculations. As for myself, I was so anxious to see my (p.53) mother that no astrology could possibly keep me a moment longer in the camp, and, previous to the prohibition being proclaimed there that nobody should enter the city until next week, I was in the house of my parent, with the tears of joy running over my face. I was glad to see her in a state of perfect health, and her son, too, a fine healthy boy. I was more surprised to see her house filled with all sorts of furniture, drapery of several kinds, valuable spices, and copper vessels, etc. Finding these articles beyond the income of the Súbahdár, I asked my mother whence they came? To this she gave me an evasive reply. But, not being satisfied with her answer, I made further enquiries about it, and found out from other members of the family that all the riches were plundered property, unlawfully obtained by the brother of the Súbahdár's former wife, who, all the time during our absence, acted agreeably to his orders as a freebooter, and used to go on his diabolical excursions with his horses and camels and bring these articles home.
I lived with my dear parent for a period of three months and a few days, very quietly. About the middle of December, a force of about ten thousand of the English army, headed by Sir Thomas Hislop, arrived there and halted at the other bank of the river Sípra. My whole attention was taken up by their excellent uniforms, their cannons in beautiful order, and all their warlike materials. Every day, after morning prayer, I went to the camp to see their extraordinary manoeuvres, exercise, and processions on parade. I contracted friendship with a white soldier, who was very civil to me in his manner, but he could not speak my language. We expressed our thoughts to each other by signs and a few words of bad Hindústáni that he knew. He took me to his tent and seated me by him, and all his friends received me with kindness, and asked me to drink some of the forbidden liquor, which they seemed to enjoy. I declined the offer, and took a piece of bread and milk to please them. This was the first time I heard the English language spoken, and I felt an irresistible desire to learn it. In this society, of only three or four days’ duration, I learnt thirty-seven words, which I wrote down in the Persian characters; the list still remains with me in the bundle of my notes.
One morning as I repaired to the camp, to my great surprise, I found it gone. The site being crowded with crows and kites appeared horrible, but there were a few camp followers left behind, and they too appeared to be in great confusion engaged in pulling down their tents and loading their provisions, etc. on the back of a poor camel that seemed to have been overworked, as its lamentable cries denoted. From these people I (p.54) learnt that the army had proceeded to Mehidpur, where they expected to have a battle with Holkar's forces. Hearing this, I returned home in despair, considering myself very unlucky, not being capable of participating in such affairs.
Híra Khán, the governor of Ujjain, and almost all the chiefs, got ready to plunder the English baggage, the owners of which they considered would get a good beating and be defeated. Also, parties of the mercenary vagabonds, who had nothing to lose, but everything to gain—and who sojourned in the city, in expectation of such an opportunity of executing their evil designs—appeared in singular excitement. My old Súbahdár and his former wife's brother, a notorious robber, seemed particularly so, anticipating a disaster to the English. There would have been a host of about ten thousand armed men to destroy the foreigners had they lost the battle, but all these hopes were frustrated by news of a contrary nature, which appeared to them incredible at first, considering the strength of Holkar. Little did they know that Nuwáb Abdulghafúr Khán played the part of a traitor to his master and deserted the field of battle with the force under his command just at the moment when the English were on the point of losing the battle through the loyal and gallant exertions of Roshanbeg, the Captain-General of Holkar's artillery. The stain of this disgrace clung too firmly to the name of Abdulghafur as long as he lived, to be effaced by his great liberality towards the poor and others; and his son Gházi Mohamed Khán is not unreproached by the natives of India for his late father's misbehaviour, though he enjoys the district of Jaora, assigned to the family through the favour of the British authorities in India.
I stayed with my good parent in the city until the end of December 1817, and then began to feel very dull, being tired of a monotonous life. Besides, I did not like to eat the Súbahdár's bread so unlawfully obtained, and I found my mind in a state of excitement hearing the news of wars in the Dakhan [Deccan] and the overthrow of Báji Ráo, the last representative of the family of the Peshwá, whose vanity and shortsighted policy had lately rendered him odious to two formidable castes—his benefactors, viz. Mohamedans and English—forgetting that through the aid of the former he was put on the throne and through that of the latter, he retained it. He incurred the dislike of the Mohamedans by prohibiting them from appearing in his sight till ten o'clock in the morning every day, in order that his eyes might not be defiled by seeing them.
Moreover, he issued a proclamation prohibiting all Muslims of whatever rank or station from even passing through those streets which (p.55) were overlooked by his palace. The wise and powerful Christians, although they were treated alike, yet cared not about his folly in such matters, but were greatly incensed at his vacillation and disregard of their advice.
In the beginning of January in the year 1818, hearing talk of the war in the Dakhan, I burned to proceed thither, thinking I should find there a ladder to ascend to the terrace of distinction. Infatuated with this idea, I wandered about in the city in search of a caravan or any kind of a companion through whom to accomplish my design. One day, as I rambled about I saw some twenty stranger Afgháns, and a Jamadár, apparently a well-behaved man of good temper, who was lodging in the shop of a Bania. As I passed by, I saluted them according to the established custom of the Mohamedans, founded upon the tradition of the prophet. The Jamadár, Músa Khán (such was his name as I found out afterwards), kindly returned my salutation and asked me to sit and smoke with him, to which I agreed with pleasure, and to my great satisfaction, I found from the conversation that he was on his return to Puna, whence he had obtained a few months' leave to visit his family at Rampur. I enquired as to the time when he intended leaving the city; ‘for,’ said I, ‘I was also thinking of proceeding to the Dakhan, where I might get employment.’ The Jamadár replied that he was to leave the place next morning after prayer, and he would take me into his service if I liked on a salary of ten rupees per month, and that I should eat and drink with him free of charges; he would also furnish me with clothes, and I should keep the accounts of his twenty-five Patháns, and might leave him when I got a better situation; but I must make up my mind and be quick. I readily assented to the above terms, and promised to be with him the next morning as early as possible with my luggage. ‘No luggage,’ replied he, ‘as we have none, except our small carpets and arms, but if you have any, recollect that you will have to carry it on your own shoulders.’ Thinking I might easily put up with such an inconvenience for a short journey, I told him I should be as light as possible, and perhaps lighter than his men.
I returned home delighted, and packing up all my things in a box, gave it in charge of my mother, retaining the key in my own possession. I kept my intention a profound secret, knowing that if divulged to anybody, my going would surely be stopped. My future prospects having filled my brain, I was so busy all night in building castles in the air that I could not sleep for a moment, not having the least idea that I was precipitating myself headlong into an abyss of misfortune worse (p.56) than death; but the lines of fate prescribed by the mighty hand of the Supreme Being are entirely unintelligible to the eye of our limited reason. Who can tell what is to become of him tomorrow? Hearing, at last, the first crow of the cock, I got up, and performing my ablution said my prayers, and putting my small carpet on my shoulder, and pen, ink, and paper into my girdle, I repaired to my new friends, whom I found preparing to start. They unanimously received me with an acclamation of joy. ‘This is the first day of your employment with a gallant party of real men,’ said Músá, ‘may your days be prosperous: you are very welcome to us.’ He then asked me if I had said my prayers, and if so, to sit near the bonfire and look over the arms, etc. until their return. On my taking charge of their things, all of them repaired to the nearest mosque and performed their devotions, and then returning to me they rehearsed their salutation, as it is the duty of Muslims to salute each other after prayers and when they come near the one who is seated. They then accoutred themselves in a few minutes, and unanimously repeated the following prayer, to be said by all Muslim travellers and warriors, at the moment of their starting on an expedition: ‘Nasrum minalláh, fathun karíb wabashshiril mominín, Fallâhu khairun háfiza wahuwa urhamur ráhimín,’ that is, ‘Assistance from God, and a speedy victory, and do thou bear good tidings to the true believers. God is the best guardian, and he is the most merciful of those that show mercy’ (ch. lxii, ver. 12, Alkurʼán). Having done this we started off and were out of the gate of the city by sunrise.
We went south-west from the town, and leaving the city of Indúr on the left, we proceeded by long marches from morning till evening every day, avoiding to put up at any of the large towns that were in the way, for reasons unknown to me. We halted at small villages at nights, and purchasing our provisions, dressed them by turns. We took our dinner at about eight o'clock in the evening, all sitting together; and then one loaf and a little quantity of onions, or coarse sugar, was given to each man to take care of his breakfast the next morning. My time passed very pleasantly in the society of my new friends, and Músá Khán particularly seemed always very anxious about my comfort. On the evening of the sixth day of our departure from Ujjain, we halted at a small Bheel village, situated at the foot of the enormous chain of mountains in this part of the world, extending east and west along the valley of the Narbadda River, which on the other side forms a natural boundary between the two extensive provinces of Malwa and Khandesh. On enquiring the reason for our coming to this dreary and difficult part of (p.57) the mountain, instead of going through the celebrated pass of Jámghát, I was informed that this pass, named Jamanya, though very difficult and having only a footpath, was preferred by Músá Khán as being the shortest road to Mandaleshwar, where the Narbadda is always fordable.
The next morning, at about 2 a.m., we set off and entered the mountains. Our progress was very difficult—dark ahead, and dangerous voices behind—but, at the same time, it was very fast. Músa Khán, and the other Afgháns, seemed to be as well acquainted with the giddy ascents, dangerous precipices, and fearful ravines of the mountains, as a citizen with the winding streets and narrow lanes of his own native town. At daybreak we halted near a clear fountain, and, performing our ablutions, said our prayers. The cold this morning was so intense that our teeth involuntarily chattered. The Afgháns seemed indifferent to it, but for my part I felt my extremities benumbed and my whole body chilled. After prayers, however, Músá ordered a bonfire to be made and pipes to be filled. We obeyed the order with alacrity and in a moment pieces of firewood, of which there was no deficiency, were collected into a large heap and one of the Afghêns, taking the chakmak (steel and flint) from his girdle, struck fire and soon kindled a flame, to our inexpressible comfort. In the meantime, the great planet rose from the eastern horizon, rendering us independent of the fire by his rays, we took our breakfast, and soon concluded it with another smoke. Thus being well refreshed, we set off again at a more rapid pace than the night before. The road was very difficult and complicated: the footpath that we followed often became traceless. Sometimes we penetrated through the thick forest, and at others we caught hold of the roots of trees and corners of rocks to sling ourselves over a precipice or craggy peak.
Thus we went on till about five o'clock in the evening, when all the Afgháns joyfully exclaimed, ‘There is the end of our journey, thanks to God! We have at last reached our destination.’ Seeing no trace of habitation, or the expected ferry of the Narbadda, I felt greatly surprised and asked Músá where we were? In reply, he pointed out to me a wide valley, thickly covered with trees and dotted with huts, situated at the distance of about a musket shot from one another. ‘There,’ said he, ‘that is the place I was so anxious to reach, and there is to be my home for one year, and then I shall return to my native country.’ He added, that in the same valley resided his lord and master, the chief of the Bheels, by the name Nádir, who always had about five hundred of his tribe ready at his command; and they, with the party of Afgháns I (p.58) had joined, plundered caravans and travellers and infested the passes and roads of that mountain. The booty was brought to Nadir and divided into three shares, two of which were taken by the Bheel chief, and the remainder by the Afgháns. After telling me this, Músá consoled me by observing that I had nothing to do with their excursions and might stay at home and take care of their baggage, etc. during their absence, and that their accounts would not engage my time more than half an hour every month.
I was actually horrified at this unexpected address, and my vexation was so great that it nearly burst forth in angry words, when, no doubt, I should have been murdered on the spot. But, on reflection, I perceived the necessity of having recourse to a hypocritical policy, and, with a feigned smile, I enquired, ‘Are we not, then, to go to Puna, after all?’ ‘No, never,’ rejoined he, ‘what is the use of going there when we can acquire here the object of our desire?’ ‘Well,’ replied I, ‘as I am joined to you by the decree of fate, I will try and make myself useful in your service for the fixed time of one year, and then I shall see if fortune casts her favourable eye upon me.’ At the end of this confabulation we arrived very near the den of our host, and three muskets were fired from our party as a sign of our arrival. The report echoed and re-echoed in the valley, and was followed by the wild cries of the Bheels in reply, and in a few minutes we were surrounded by a host of them—naked, save a narrow strip of cotton round the middle, but armed with bows and arrows. Their bows were made of a strong piece of bamboo string, with a thin slip of the same material, and the arrows were not unlike those used in sport by more civilized nations. One of them, advancing furiously forward, cast his red fiery eyes upon us and addressed the party in a wild, threatening tone, as follows: ‘Who are ye that voluntarily rush into the jaws of death?’ ‘Dost thou not know me, Kaliya?’ cried Músá. The Bheel recognized the voice of the Jamadár and advanced towards us, shouting at the same time to the others, ‘Re Músá re apno Músá rip nahín,’ that is, ‘it is our own Músá, and no enemy.’ Upon this all of us were intermixed with the native robbers; and old Kaliya's friendly talking with Músá Khán demonstrated their former intimate acquaintance with each other. As the evening began to set in we reached a cave, at the mouth of which we beheld a black well-made man squatting on a four legged frame interwoven with fibres of wild creepers. He was also naked as the others; but a pair of thick golden bracelets on his wrists and a sword placed before him, in addition to the usual bow and arrows and a chafing dish with live fire at a little distance, (p.59) encircled with several squatting Bheels, clearly showed that he was the chief of the banditti. Músá, looking at him, saluted and said, ‘There is Nádir Bhái, the good prince of the wilderness. Make your respects to him and go home; I will be with you after a little while.’ So all of us raised our hands to our foreheads to the Bheel, who got up from his seat, returned our saláms, and desired Músá to approach, which he did, and sat near him on the ground, leaning against one of the feet of the rude throne. Our party now walked to the place of our future stay, which they knew too well to require a guide. It was only about half a mile off; but abhorrence, disappointment, and despondency having expelled all my eagerness and ambition, I felt going over this little distance equal to a fatiguing journey of a hundred miles. At length we arrived at a place near the side of a hill, which, like a natural wall, formed the back of our dwelling. Adjoining this hill was a spacious shed built of trunks of trees, and the three sides walled with strong bamboos, leaving a large space in the middle of the front to serve as a door. There were two compartments, with about thirty rooms in each, partitioned off with split bamboos. This last march had much fatigued the Afgháns too; so, immediately on our arrival there, all of them hung their matchlocks to the walls of the hall, and each taking possession of a room for himself, flung himself down on a rude frame, the only furniture there. I followed the example of my friends, and stretching myself out, attempted to close my eyes in sleep, and thereby relieve my exhausted limbs. But instead of sleeping, I began to reflect, ‘Why did I accompany this murderous gang without inquiry? I might have waited another month with my kind parent and looked for a better convoy. It is my want of experience, nay, my folly, that always pushes me into the abyss of misfortune. It is true, Músá acted treacherously towards me; but an outlaw considers treachery a joke. Why did I allow myself to be imposed upon? Being nearly eighteen years of age, I ought to have judged for myself.’ Feeling utterly helpless (as is natural with man), I betook myself to the last and unfailing resource. I lifted my eyes and hands towards heaven, and prayed thus: ‘O Almighty and glorious God! how long wilt thou keep me in calamities? Am I doomed to be dishonoured, and destined to live with murderers, robbers, and outlaws? O Lord of earth and heaven! Am I born a disgrace to the name of my ancestors? If so, my most gracious Lord, I beseech thee to put an end to my being in this world. Amen.’ As I repeated this, the tears flowed over my cheeks incessantly, and then an opposing train of thoughts made their appearance in the mirror of my brain to exonerate me from blame. I began to reflect as follows: ‘I do not (p.60) deserve these severe accusations, for I must submit to the decrees of my fate in the same way as man, wise or fool, whether endowed with the philosophy of Plato or the stupidity of Khozíb, whether with the crown of royalty on his head or the wallet of misery over his shoulder. I knew not the character of the former Súbahdár, nor that of Juma the Thug, nor was I acquainted with that of the present Jamadár. My outward senses clearly showed that they were men; and if they turn out inhuman, I am not to blame.’
In the meantime, at about 8 p.m., Músá came home. He called to us, and the whole party ran to him immediately, when, to our great delight, we saw several Bheels along with him, carrying pots of water, milk, sugar, and wheaten cakes, more than our appetite demanded. These articles of indispensable necessity at this moment were considered a great blessing: Músá was loaded with thanks from all sides. We then performed our ablutions and said our evening and night prayers at once. Due justice was then done to the meal and everybody retired to repose, except two sentinels, one of them posted in the hall and the other upon a lofty tree. Being well tired by the hard labour of the day, all of us were soon asleep; for my part, I think I was more soundly dormant than the others. In the morning I did not get up from my deep sleep until I was shaken by the shoulders.
I soon felt the necessity of putting up with all my troubles and torture of mind without murmuring, and began to familiarize myself with the place and its original residents. I often sat alone under trees in meditation, and sometimes conversed with the Afgháns, friends of mine and foes of the public, or rather bitter enemies of mine too, having imposed on me with success. The system of robbery and rapine was, meantime, constantly carried on under the guidance of the notorious Nádir, the Bheel chief, whose detestable followers not only infested all the passes of the mountain, but very frequently attacked the neighbouring villages and towns. When one of their own party happened to be disabled by wounds from keeping up with them, they immediately cut off his head, which they buried or burnt to avoid being recognized and to prevent the secret being divulged, as the individual being tortured might confess and bring on a general misfortune.
Our arrival caused a great acceleration to the current of black deeds, systematically perpetrated under the diabolical superintendence of the black chief. Twice or thrice a month, a detachment of about fifteen of the Afgháns used to be ordered to go on an expedition with a band of the native robbers, and if they found no travellers in the passes, etc., (p.61) worthy of attack, the Afgháns generally proceeded to the civilized part of the neighbouring country, stationing the Bheels in ambuscades, where they awaited the return of the former, with travellers decoyed by them and persuaded to engage their escort to the fatal spot. A signal from them then drew the Bheels to the point, and a false conflict taking place between the banditti and the Afgháns, the latter were of course defeated and driven to a distance; and the poor travellers were then stripped of everything in their possession, even to the clothes they wore. A piece of rag, about one foot broad and three feet long, was generously given to every plundered individual to cover himself, and he was sent away. Any mark of resistance on the part of the poor travellers was sure to bring upon them severe blows or cuts, or even loss of life. Such were the horrid scenes, the accounts of which were brought and faithfully related to me by my comrades, to my secret disgust. Thanks to heaven, I was never an eyewitness to these horrible affairs; but the descriptions were quite sufficient to inflict wounds upon wounds on a heart unaccustomed to cruelty. On the fourth return of our party, three heads of our own people were brought back with the booty; two of them belonged to the Bheels, and the third was that of a young Afghán, named Dára Khán. These three individuals were so badly wounded in their legs by the defending escort of an attacked caravan, that they were unable to walk; so severing their heads from their bodies was considered expedient by their friends. We interred the head of poor Dárá according to our usual mode, and he was never thought of any more.
My annoyance, indignation, and horror were indescribable; but my safety depending upon my feelings being kept concealed, I still hypocritically preserved a smiling countenance with my companions. I got up early, at about four o'clock every morning, and proceeded to a solitary fountain, where I made my ablutions and performed my prayers. I returned home after sunrise, took my breakfast with Músá and others, conversed with them for an hour or so, and then, with a pellet-bow, a kind present to me from an old Bheel, I repaired to the jungle, where I passed my time either in shooting small birds, or sitting in solitude, lamenting my deplorable condition. Very nearly four months—as tedious as four years—passed in this state, and I thought eight more must be completed before the tree of my hope could bear the fruit of release.
The eighth expedition of our detachment was so lucky, and so abundantly lucriferous, that every Afghán of the party returned loaded with gold and silver, coins and jewels. The division of this booty took (p.62) place during the next night, and the Jamadár and all his party became at once in possession of large sums. Two pair of silver anklets, one golden bangle, and thirty rupees in ready cash, altogether amounting to the value of about four hundred rupees, fell to my lot in the distribution. I thanked the Jamadár for this unexpected boon, and buried my riches in my room, unperceived by all. The charm and beauty of the gold tried to allure my thoughts in vain, for the possession of this plundered property could not afford me that genial pleasure which one feels in well-earned and lawful gains.
The Afgháns having obtained their objective, were now anxious to take their leave of the Bheel chief for a few months to visit their home, and Músá waiting upon, him for the purpose, the request was readily granted. The chief told Músá that as he and his party were to leave him for six months, he would not allow them to depart without giving them a grand feast in about three days. Saying this, he ordered his people to make the necessary preparations for the appointed day. Músá returned to his followers, and mentioned to them the result of his visit, which delighted them to a high degree; and I must say these tidings, as they involved my liberty, rendered me happiest of all. Opium and henbane, both plain and in confection, and sweetmeats in plenty, and fat sheep, were sent to our quarters to feast us. The Afgháns, considering themselves relieved from active duties, had recourse to the nourishing and intoxicating articles, and thereby made themselves as happy as possible. They sat up till late at night to look at the wild dances of the Bheels, and to hear their songs. Thus my friends were deluded or blinded by the order of the chief for three days and nights, and on the fourth day they expected to have the grand feast which had been promised them.
On the morning of the feast I got up from my sleep earlier than usual, and repaired to my frequented fountain; and after performing the unavoidable duties of a good Muslim I sat down and began to think upon the happy subject of my return to the civilized world, and freedom from the society of freebooters and thieves. Strange to say, such thoughts, instead of delighting my heart, rendered it more heavy. I knew not why, but the dawning of the hoped-for morning, instead of cheering the heart, seemed to be clouded with gloom. I took little notice of these ominous forebodings, and at daybreak began my return to the shed. As I neared the place, and came within sound of the voice, my senses were terrified with yells and screams attended with the slashing noise of cutting instruments, as if a butcher's hatchet descended upon (p.63) an animal's flesh and bones. Then came cries of distress, ending in groans. Here reason, again making its timely appearance, stopped me from thinking over the matter. ‘It may be the sheep are being butchered for our feast,’ said I to myself; ‘but what then can be the cause of these dreadful squealings?’ Whilst engaged in this soliloquy, my feet were naturally forced backward instead of forward; and suddenly, to my great terror and dismay, what did I behold but an Afghán running away, with his head bleeding, and his dress covered with gore! Running up to him, ‘What is the matter, Ibrahím Khán?’ inquired I. To this he replied, ‘We are undone; all the Afgháns are assassinated by the Bheels. I have lost these three fingers in parrying a cut aimed at my head. My wound is not a bad one, but feigning death, I have escaped. Don't follow me—I may be overtaken—run as fast as thou canst to save thy life.’ ‘Adieu, Ibrahím,ʼ said I, ‘may God protect thee!’
Saying this, I ran with the speed of a swift horse for more than two hours in a northern direction, without looking back, making hairbreadth escapes over the precipices, rugged heights, and deep valleys. Sometimes I climbed where I saw the clouds under me spread like an ocean; at others I went down as if to the lowest region. Three hours’ run, however, rendered me quite exhausted; and not being able to move on any more, I dropped down under a tree to refresh myself. Hunger and thirst advanced their demands to be satisfied; I knew not where I was. The slightest shake of the dry leaves of the forest by the wind or an animal was sufficient to scare me. I trembled at the thought of being overtaken and murdered by the assassins. Recovering myself in about half an hour, I resumed my journey, but I was unable to perform it with the first speed. I went, however, on through the wilderness of the mountain and the thick forest till sunset, making several halts to regain strength whenever I found myself unable to walk through fatigue. Often I gathered a quantity of wild figs and berries, with which I tried to satisfy the cravings of hunger; but they could not answer the purpose. Fright, I suppose, having deranged my stomach, it could retain nothing. The pellet-bow and tinder-box fortunately remained with me; with the former I tried several shots at small birds, but without success.
The dusk of evening now came on to my great satisfaction. ‘The darkness of night,’ thought I, ‘will be a good motherly veil to protect me.’ But the danger of being torn to pieces by some ravenous beast and loneliness were sad companions. There was no sign of habitation anywhere to be seen. I travelled all day without meeting a footpath, or even a footmark, and knew not where I was. ‘Where is a bed for me to (p.64) repose upon? Where are friends? Is there no one to aid me in this solitary condition? Can I think of being so fortunate as ever again to reach civilized society?’ Involved in these thoughts I stood gazing about on the side of a ravine. Hope did not forsake me even in this condition, but my fears were far stronger. Horror of either being murdered, or becoming a prey to wild animals, haunted my brain; and to avoid these evils, I climbed up a large high tree, and rested myself upon a branch of it in deep contemplation. A dead silence reigned, only disturbed now and then by the howlings of the wild creatures of the place. When my eyes turned up, they were fascinated by the clear azure sky, ornamented with innumerable brilliant stars, the wonderful works of the omnipotent Creator: these common phenomena filled my unscientific mind with awe. In the mean time, the beautiful orb of the moon began its welcome rise from the eastern direction like a mountain of pure gold. A flood of brilliance quickly extended over the surrounding mountains, and the objects therein situated. The scenes around me began to assume a different form. Steep sides of mountains with hillocks and uneven plains in their front, covered with verdant trees, represented palaces and grand mansions with handsome gardens before them. These deluding phantoms in the clear moonlight, and the refreshing breeze, impregnated with the delicately sweet scent of flowers, and the shrubs of the forest, had such a tranquilizing effect that I was immediately transported to the region of sleep; and the active mental and corporeal powers being at once suspended, I walked in my dreams in these fantastical gardens amongst húris and nymphs, when a sudden dash, severely felt by my back and head, soon restored me to my senses.
Thus I was made conscious who and where I was. I found myself lying under the tree, for a moment unable to move; but I soon recovered. Luckily, my tree was situated in a sandy part of the place; so the shock was, although a great one, in no way injurious. I re-climbed the tree, and then fastening myself to the bough, with my turban, I slept as fast as a horse merchant after the disposal of his horses.
- He dreams of riches, grandeur, and a crown;
- He wakes and finds himself a simple clown
The reader here will observe the superior advantages of the graceful Asiatic garb over the patchful light pieces of dresses of the Europeans, which can only be used for the one particular purpose of covering the (p.65) body closely. On the other hand, our convenient long coat may be gracefully put on to command respect; and the same will serve as a bed if we chance to have no other. Our dopatta, the waistband, is a zone on respectable occasions; it is a sheet to cover one at night if required, or may be erected as a small tent to protect one from the burning sun. The turban is the most useful part of the Asiatic attire, far superior to the European hat in every respect. It is a handsome ornament to the human head, and repulses the severity of the sun; the hat, on the contrary, attracts it. The turban is the best means to save the life of a thirsty traveller in the deserts and jungles, where there is no water to be had except in deep wells. In such a crisis, the precious liquid can be drawn by the aid of the turban with great ease. A silken turban's softness guards the head from the cut of a sharp sabre better than a helmet; it can serve the purposes of bandages for wounds on important occasions, when surgical aid is wanting and is not at hand; and many other advantages can be derived from it, which, if described, would take up time and space unaffordable here.
The most beautiful chirping of the morning birds awoke me from sleep, when I felt myself much refreshed; but I found the joints of my limbs stiff and reluctant to move. Coming down, however, from my elevated place of sleep, I performed the usual duties of a good Mohamedan to his Creator by the side of an elegant spring of water near my tree of rest, and then I resumed my march in the northern direction. Although I had not now the elasticity of the day before, yet I had scarce walked half a mile when the stiffness left me, and the spark of vigour kindled the name of power anew in my veins. Reader, I should tire you with the difficulties of my progress, without a road or path, or even a spot appearing ever to he trodden on by a human being, the sight of which would then have given me inexpressible delight; but you will understand me if I say that my egress was a hundred times more difficult than the ingress already described to you.
To shorten the account of my misery, I travelled on for four days, guided by the sun only, and for four nights I slept upon trees, tying myself with my turban to the boughs. My food for this period was wild figs and berries, and I shot only three sparrows and one parrot during the whole time, and, I must confess, they were very palateable. The last mentioned bird, although forbidden by our law, the compulsion of hunger would not allow me to spare. On the morning of the fifth day, from the summit of a hill, I had the happiness to discern, at a distance of more than a mile, several poor Bheel women and men with bundles (p.66) of firewood on their heads, which clearly denoted that they must go to some habitable part to sell them. I ran towards them with all possible speed, and overtook this half-starved party at about 9 a.m. whilst they sat by a well to refresh themselves. The ungovernable love of man for his fellow creatures, felt when alone in a wilderness, involuntarily attracted me to these children of Adam, forgetting that these were of the race inimical to the civilized, and, although they were in a miserable condition, yet their number was sufficient to put an end to my existence if they liked, for a snake, though lean, is still as poisonous as ever. But having already arrived near them, it was now too late to hesitate. ‘Inquiries as to where and how far was a village,’ thought I, ‘might induce them to take me for a wandering dupe, and thus being placed at their mercy, they will surely injure me to any extent they choose.’ So, shaking off all timidity, I was obliged to put on a grave appearance, and I sternly inquired the price of their bundles. Each of them mentioning a very trifling sum, asked me if I would buy them on the spot or at Hásilpur? The name of the village of poor old Shaikh Nasrulláh mentioned in the first chapter, revived me as if from death. I spoke to them with an affected firmness, to command their respect, and said that a party of my friends I had left behind would require some firewood, and I would buy when I got to the village, if they went with me. Upon this the party started with me, and after marching for about three miles, ascending and descending several hills, I had the happiness of descrying the environs of the village. I shall never forget the inexpressible joy I felt at that moment. I ran to the village, leaving my humble escort far behind; and it was about eleven o'clock in the morning when I reached the cottage of the old Shaikh, whom I found sitting at breakfast with the members of his family—a large trough, filled with the coarse flour of the Indian corn boiled in water being in the middle, and a cup of sour milk before each of the assembly. The old Shaikh recognised me from a distance, and ran and embraced me with great warmth and pleasure. I attempted to offer my humble thanks to him and to inquire after his and his family's health, but the power of articulation was lost. The old man then told me that he had heard of my return from Gwálior and of my subsequent disappearance. ‘Tell me, where have you been, young man?’ said he. But instead of a reply from the mouth, he had it from my eyes. He was astonished to see the torrent of tears which burst forth at his question. He tried to offer consolation, and inquired again if I had been maltreated by anybody. ‘Tell me, my friend, what is the matter?’ he asked, but in vain. I made no answer, and my tears flowed (p.67) incessantly. The old Shaikh then ordered a goblet of cold water to be brought, with which he made me wash my face, hands, and feet; and by this simple remedy, I found myself quite recovered from my hysterical fit.
After this, mutual compliments and inquiries having taken place, I was requested to partake of food with them. Hunger lent charms to the trough of plain and sorry gruel and sour milk, and I joined them with eagerness, and devoured a very large quantity of it. I also mentioned to the old Shaikh my miserable circumstances, which, moving his sympathy, caused him to shed tears of pity and compassion over my misfortunes. The enormous quantity of food I had eaten, a feeling of safety, and the sense of excessive pleasure at my escape, soon brought on drowsiness. The old Shaikh, perceiving this, showed me a room to take my rest, where I slept very soundly for about eighteen hours—being the remaining six hours of the day and the whole of the night. Early next morning, the old Shaikh aroused me from deep sleep, and after prayers we entered into a long conversation. He gave me a news that made me uneasy; it was about my stepfather at Gwálior, the Súbahdár, that he had resigned the service of Sindhiah, and had engaged himself along with his brother-in-law (his late wife's brother) and a few horsemen in the service of Holkar at Indúr, to which city he had removed with his family. Shortly after his arrival at Indur, there ensued a quarrel between him and his brother-in-law, and with excitement on both sides rising higher and higher, words were changed into blows, and blows into sword cuts. The latter, being a young and smart swordsman, inflicted several fatal cuts with his sharp scimitar upon the former, and disabled him from any farther movement. Seeing that he had finished his adversary, he next made a desperate attempt to escape, in which he wounded several persons that happened to be near; but the noise of the scuffle having attracted a multitude of people to the spot, many pursued him and shot him dead. The Súbahdár also died of his wounds the next day, and the government seized all the property, under pretence that they died criminals—having disturbed the peace and taken the law into their own hands.
This sad news brought another cloud over my head. I felt sorry for the Súbahdár, but I felt extreme distress for my mother. What had become of her I knew not. My stay with Shaikh Nasrullah was, in consequence, of only three days’ duration.
On the fourth I left him against his will, and proceeded to Indúr. I reached the city in two days, where, fortunately, I soon found out the (p.68) place of my dearest mother's residence, who was the sole object of my love. Our mutual happiness at meeting is beyond my power to describe. She told me all the particulars of the fatal quarrel and the unlawful steps taken by the government in pillaging the house and property afterwards. My own chest that I had left with her, containing my things and the small sum of money lawfully earned, escaped the ransackers, its shabby appearance attracting no attention. Enquiring earnestly after my mother's health, which did not appear to me good, I received a sad answer, which, suddenly, like a Tátar's arrow, pierced my breast. She simply said she had a low fever attended with slight cough and diarrhoea, for which she cared but little; but she felt her vital powers gradually sinking. Knowing the nature of her seemingly mild, but fatal, indisposition, my alarm was great. I kept, however, my self-possession in her presence; and affecting indifference, I told her that she would recover very soon, if it pleased Almighty God, as the distemper was not serious. At the same time I recommended a change of air, saying it would prove beneficial to her, particularly if she returned to her native town, and saw her dear mother, brother, and other members of the family. To this she willingly agreed, and taking a bracelet off her arm, asked me to sell it for the expenses of the journey. But I objected, telling her that I had some money in my chest for such and other expenses, and that, thank God! we had not been driven to such extremities as to think of disposing of a part of the few jewels that remained to her untouched by the plunderers, who dared not infringe the rule of respect towards ladies of rank on such occasions of injustice, perpetrated under government orders.
I hastened to the marketplace and made all the preparations in a short time. On the next day, early in the morning, we left Indúr, and, by the blessing of Heaven, reached our native town on the third day without any accident. When we entered our humble abode, we were received by all the members with very sincere joy; and surprise and astonishment at our unexpected arrival seemed to prevail everywhere in the family. It was a day of real happiness to all except myself—the anticipation of our impending evil day did not allow me to participate in their pleasureable feelings. I informed my uncle, in secret, of the mortal disease of his sister; but the paleness of her complexion, slow cough, and depression of spirits having already told him the same fatal tale, his grief and despair were great. At the same time he comforted me, observing that I should exhibit no sign of grief to the patient or anybody else, and rather seem pleased and satisfied in my conversation with her, for such are the rules of treatment in such maladies; and that I must not (p.69) suffer myself to be overcome with despair, for life and death are, the mysterious secrets solely in the omnipotent hand of Providence; and that it is unwise to fear death on the two days, that is, the day that is doomed and the day that is not doomed for our death, because, in the former as well as in the latter case, fear must be folly.
We observed the above rule very strictly, and used all the remedies in our power; but to no purpose. The disease made progress every day, and the sufferer's strength changed into utter weakness, and in about twenty days she was reduced to a mere skeleton. Perceiving at last that her days were nearly finished, she gave me her last injunctions as follows: ‘My son, be virtuous, and guide yourself by your reason and conscience in the world. Take care of that orphan boy of mine, who is only in his sixth year, and has no one else to look to; treat him with brotherly affection, and may God be your protector wherever you are: as for me, I am now perfectly sure of being obliged to return to the same region whence I was obliged to come.’ Saying this, she fell into a deep swoon, and I could no more restrain the flood of tears that was every now and then ready to flow for the impending eternal parting. All the bystanders, my grandmother, uncle, and others, melted into tears and followed my example in the tragical scene. Thus we continued for about half an hour, when, to our great joy, she returned to her senses and called for water; and then she began to appear more composed and firm in reason, as she comforted us and particularly enjoined us not to grieve. The next day she appeared to be quite recovered, and, to our extreme happiness, we saw her walking a little, assisted by a staff. But, alas! this sudden recovery could but retard the fatal result: it was something like a sudden blaze emitted by a lamp when it is about to go out. So on the following day she became worse than before; and in the afternoon of Friday, 24 April, whilst her head rested on my bosom, her pure and sacred soul took its flight to the blissful region of eternity. May the blessing of the merciful God shower upon her for ever and ever. Amen.
I being the only person now to be consulted as to the funeral ceremonies, I directed them to be performed, poor as I was, in a dignified style, and defrayed the charges liberally. My funds were, however, nearly exhausted, as I had to bear all the expenses of the obsequies, of the alms to the poor, and of entertaining relations and friends, who paid their visits from far and near to condole with the family. I disposed of the few jewels left by my mother, but even then there was not enough to defray all the charges. I began to think of some (p.70) pretence of deserting the town, where my further stay seemed likely to be both disagreeable and hurtful to my reputation; for the creditors, of whom I had borrowed small sums, already began to importune me for repayment.
A friend of mine, named Munshí Najaf Alí Khán, a very respectable gentleman from the upper provinces, at this time resided at Dhárápur, as the native agent of the British Government. I frequently visited him, and was treated with much kindness, as I was useful to him in supplying information. Finding an opportunity, I imparted to him my distressful circumstances with tearful eyes, which moved this honourable man with compassion; and he not only prevented my fall into the abyss of impending ruin by his generous aid, but used his exertions to promote my interests by getting me employed as a district post clerk in the Honourable Company's service, upon a small salary of fifteen rupees per mensem. On 18 May, I received the order, bearing Sir John Malcolm's seal and signature, from the head quarters at Mhow, purporting that I was taken into the service of the Honourable Company, and that, if I proved a loyal and faithful servant, my rise would be certain. At the same time, I was instructed to proceed to the village of Dharampuri with seven harkáras (or runners) under my command, and, stationing myself there, to act as postmaster and despatch all packages from the Sindúa Pass to Mandleshwar, and vice versâ. With the Mandleshwar post I was ordered to write a letter containing all the news of the place and daily transmit it to the address of Mr Bell at Mhow. Having received my instructions, I made preparations for the journey and proceeded forthwith to the station with my harkáras. I reached my destination on the 22nd, in three days, and put up in a large Hindú temple with my small party. I was the first British officer that ever had been stationed there, and was respected by all the people in consequence. The governor of the place at this time, on the part of the Dhár Government, was a brahman by caste, and by name, Nathúbháí. He was a man about fifty, of black complexion, thin, and an opium eater, very tyrannical to the people of the village, and of very peevish and disreputable character, his deeds well corresponding with his outward form! In appearance, he treated me with great respect, furnished me gratis with all the necessities of life; but inwardly, he hated my presence in the town, seeing that I exercised my authority, and his subjects were more submissive to me than to him. Nathúbháí, of course, was obliged to put up with this, bitter as it was to him. It being quite clear that his master's power, in comparison with that of the British, was as an ant to an (p.71) elephant; and I being a representative of the latter, a handsome young man of the high governing caste, in appearance far superior to his withered person, he allowed matters to take their course.
Dharampurí, a large town about twenty years ago, but now reduced to a small village, almost all in ruins with only a hundred houses, and these inhabited by people in indigent circumstances, became the seat of my government. The people having greatly suffered from the oppression of remorseless governors, similar to Nathúbhaí, and from the depredations of robbers, seemed extremely anxious to have a ruler over them endowed with equity; and being informed that the justice of the British Government was unparalleled in the world, they were ready to throw themselves under its protection at the first opportunity. Dharampurí, though in ruins, as I have already observed, is excellently situated on the right bank of the river Narbadda, lat. 22° 10′ North, long. 76° 26′ East. The sight of the pure limpid water flowing on the gravelly bed of the river here is a very charming one. Both banks are adorned with many Hindú temples, built by the celebrated Lady Ahilya Báí, who ruled over the extensive possessions of the Holkar Government during the years 1769 to 1795, with talent, energy, and despotic power. Her moderation, impartial justice, masculine courage, and pious liberality will perpetuate her name for many ages.
The river here abounds with waterfowl of various kinds, and the country, though its forests are not very thick, swarms with game of all sorts and is infested with ravenous beasts. These animals were dangerously troublesome to the people of our village, whose kine and goats were carried off by them once or twice a month, even from within the enclosures; and my doorless residence, the temple, consequently was a frightful place at night. I strictly ordered my runners to keep the fire alive all night as a safeguard against these nocturnal visitors. Shortly after my arrival, a detachment of the Madras Native Infantry, headed by a very handsome Englishman, arrived and was stationed here, to the highest satisfaction of the people and myself, and to the great annoyance of the governor, Nathúbháí. The Englishman, hearing all I had to say, left his party under the command of his native Súbahdár, and himself, with a Náik, and three Sipáhís, proceeded to Mhow early next morning. My position and authority now became stronger in the village: the time I passed here was the happiest I recollect. The performance of the government duties did not occupy me more than half an hour; the rest of the day was my own. During the day I bathed in the pure water of the river, and caught some waterfowl by means of fish-baits, and (p.72) played chess at home with the native officers of the detachment; and at night I held a regular darbár in the temple, attended by the head men from the village, and the officers above mentioned, till midnight.
Two months afterwards, another Englishman, an engineer officer, named Mr Dangerfield, arrived with his distance measuring wheel, etc. He took down the census of the place from my mouth, and put several other questions to me, which, having answered, I retired. This poor man appeared to be very sickly, and his illness seemed to have rendered him harsh and irritable. During my stay with him, a fly having repeatedly settled on his mouth and he not only cursed his attendant, who stood fanning him, but tried to inflict a blow on his face, but without success, the man having parried it well. This excited his master more and more, until the poor fellow was obliged to leave the tent in self-defence, and would not come back, though strictly ordered to do so. At this I could not help smiling, but there appeared no sign of mirth on the face of the master.
I continued here unmolested for a period of about four months. In the beginning of September, the post ceased coming to my station without my being able to account for it; but during the latter end of the same month an order from headquarters surprised me, like a shot striking a bird, as it announced my dismissal from the service. The translation of it was as follows: ‘You have conducted your duties to the satisfaction of the sublime government. H. H. the Peshwá having lately been captured, and the country being settled, there is no further need of your services, so you are hereby dismissed. Please render your accounts in your next communication, which send, with the seven footmen under your command, to Mhow. Receive the amount of forty-five rupees from the bearer, your wages for the ensuing month, and two months pay as a reward. Consider these injunctions to be strict, and act upon the same.’
This final order I was obliged to carry into effect immediately on receipt. Again, I was in possession of some money to get on with in the world; but all my hopes of rising in rank and becoming a person of consequence were at once frustrated, and the castles built in the air for a period of more than four months suddenly vanished.
The next day I took leave of all my friends of the village, and the native officers and men of the detachment. The nights being moonlit at this time of the month, we started at about six o'clock in the cool of the evening. A náik of the detachment, by the name Mahiuʼddín Sáhib, accompanied me for about a mile, being an intimate friend of mine, (p.73) with whom I generally played chess, and he was a man well versed in that art. I had the pleasure of seeing Mahíuʼd-din Sáhib again at Surat in 1840, after twenty-two years, in religious garb, with a long flowing white beard. He appeared an entirely different man from what I had seen him. I am sorry to add that his change in life did not improve his circumstances, though he set himself up for a Saiyid.
I left Dharampurí, with my seven footmen and the bearer of the bad news of my dismissal, at about five o'clock for Maheshwar, where I intended to separate myself from these people! whence they might proceed to Mhow and I with a caravan to my native town. We proceeded on our march, sometimes talking with each other, and sometimes hearing the songs of the bringer of the black tidings, who sung very well, and was asked every now and then by the party to oblige them with his excellent music. The darkness of the evening, on account of the cloudy weather, came on with rapidity and I advised that each man should, alternately, lead the way, with a burning log of wood in his hand to scare off the ravenous beasts, as was usual when charged with the post. Being out of the service, my words were not only disobeyed, but actually had no longer any weight with them. They ridiculed my fears, and said, ‘Pray come on quietly, if you wish to accompany us; if not, you may return and do as you like.’ This was the first insult that pierced through my heart, and I never spoke to any of them again.
It was about eleven o'clock at night, when fatigue of the march and the cool of the night rendered my brain heavy and my feet unwilling to move; but I strolled on still with the people. The moon sometimes extended her calm splendour over us, and sometimes was overshadowed with dark clouds. Suddenly, upon the left side of our road, a crackling was heard among the bushes. All of us were alarmed, and in an instant a tiger, rushing out of the jungle, pounced upon the one of the party that was the foremost, and carried him off in the twinkling of an eye. The rush of the animal, and the crush of the poor victim's bones in his mouth, and his last cry of distress, ‘Ho hai!’ involuntarily echoed by all of us, was over in three seconds; and then I know not what happened, till I returned to my senses, when I found myself and companions lying down on the ground, as if prepared to be devoured by our enemy, the sovereign of the forest. I find my pen incapable of describing the terror of that dreadful moment. Our limbs stiffened, our power of speech ceased, and our hearts beat violently, and only a whisper of the same ‘Ho hai!’ was heard from us. In this state we crept on all fours for some distance back, and then ran for life with the speed of an Arab horse, for (p.74) about half an hour and fortunately happened to come to a small village of about fifty huts, into which we rushed, heedless of the barking of the dogs, which roused the inhabitants, who, taking us to be a gang of robbers, hooted and shouted with all their might to drive us away. Not caring for the shouts, we entered the Chaura, or miserable police hut, which had a small fire in front. The poor old police Bheel that sat by the fire soon found out by instinct that we were no robbers, but the robbed, and he pacified the inhabitants by telling them his opinion. Being out of breath we could not utter a word for some time; but soon recovering our senses, we found that one of the footmen, named Rámá, was missing, and told our tale to our suspicious hosts. They reproached us for our folly in travelling at night through that dangerous part of the jungle without fire and said it was no wonder we met with a fatal accident. They brought us then a large pot of sour milk, diluted with water, and a large draught was kindly served out to each. It was taken with great avidity, and thankfully drunk to the good health of our hosts. After this every one of us was attacked with fever, attended with shivering, in which deplorable state we remained till morning, when we proceeded to Maheshwar, about five miles from this, guided and escorted by two Bheels, kindly lent us by the good villagers, and reached the place at about 9 a.m. Here, leaving the government footmen to shift for themselves, I put up with the Kazi, or judge, a namesake of mine, who was also distantly related to my family.
I passed about a week with the Kazi's family, and was hospitably treated during my stay; and then, with a good caravan, I returned home, where I passed some months in peace, but dejected, in consequence of my unexpected dismissal from the service. By the blessing of Heaven at this time, even after liquidating my small debts, I had a sum of money sufficient to allow me and my brother to live for a year or so. It happened that Sir John Malcolm at this time visited the shrine, and made a handsome present in money to us, the sacred attendants of it. He also took a fancy to a large slab of black marble, about two feet and a half square and four inches thick—fixed upon the seat of the pulpit of the mosque—on account of its being completely inscribed with a Hindu legend, in excellent order, in ancient Sanskrit. He asked us to give it to him for a sum of money, which we did, after considering over the question. We knew that it was improper to have one of the relics removed from the place of worship, where it had been placed by the mighty hand of the King who changed the temple into a mosque. Taking this view of the case, we could not at once comply with the request. On (p.75) the other hand, we thought it was inexpedient to reject the demand of the great man whose one word to the Raja upon the subject might dispossess us of the stone without any remuneration whatever; so we allowed the general's people to take it for him on the plea that the pagan inscription must have been fixed in that holy receptacle by mistake and that the sooner it was removed from the sacred place the better. The stone was taken away and the place soon repaired by the general's people, who was highly pleased with his acquisition. He called us into his tent, and finding me only (and not my cousin) fit to be conversed with, he approached so near to my person that I found my head reached only to his bosom. He then addressed himself to me, and most amiably talked much, in good Persian, in praise of the stone and our family, which pleased us more than the coins.