Transcriber's Note: "x" represents any letter "x" with a superior macron.
PUBLISHED JANUARY 4, 1897.
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* * * * *
FORTY-ONE YEARS IN INDIA
Subaltern to Commander-in-Chief
FIELD-MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR V.C., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E.
FIRST EDITION IN ONE VOLUME
WITH FORTY ILLUSTRATIONS
LONDON RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen 1898 [All rights reserved]
A NEW EDITION, BEING THE TWENTY-NINTH
_TO THE COUNTRY TO WHICH I AM SO PROUD OF BELONGING,
TO THE ARMY TO WHICH I AM SO DEEPLY INDEBTED,
AND TO MY WIFE,
WITHOUT WHOSE LOVING HELP
MY 'FORTY-ONE YEARS IN INDIA'
COULD NOT BE THE HAPPY RETROSPECT IT IS,
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK._
* * * * *
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
* * * * *
I would never have ventured to intrude upon the public with my personal reminiscences had I not been urged to do so by friends who, being interested themselves in what I was able to tell them of India as my father knew it, and as I found it and left it, persuaded me that my experiences of the many and various aspects under which I have known the wonderful land of my adoption and its interesting peoples would be useful to my countrymen. It was thought that I might thus contribute towards a more intimate knowledge of the glorious heritage our forefathers have bequeathed to us, than the greater number of them possess, and towards helping them to understand the characteristics and requirements of the numerous and widely different races by whom India is inhabited.
It is difficult for people who know nothing of Natives to understand and appreciate the value they set on cherished customs, peculiar idiosyncrasies, and fixed prejudices, all of which must be carefully studied by those who are placed in the position of their Rulers, if the suzerain Power is to keep their respect and gain their gratitude and affection.
The Natives of India are particularly observant of character, and intelligent in gauging the capabilities of those who govern them; and it is because the English Government is trusted that a mere handful of Englishmen are able to direct the administration of a country with nearly three hundred millions of inhabitants, differing in race, religion, and manners of life. Throughout all the changes which India has undergone, political and social, during the present century, this feeling has been maintained, and it will last so long as the services are filled by honourable men who sympathize with the Natives, respect their prejudices, and do not interfere unnecessarily with their habits and customs.
My father and I spent between us nearly ninety years in India. The most wonderful of the many changes that took place during that time may be said to date from the Mutiny. I have endeavoured in the following pages to explain the causes which, I believe, brought about that terrible event—an event which for a while produced a much-to-be-regretted feeling of racial antagonism. Happily, this feeling did not last long; even when things looked blackest for us, it was softened by acts of kindness shown to Europeans in distress, and by the knowledge that, but for the assistance afforded by the Natives themselves, the restoration of order, and the suppression of a fierce military insurrection, would have been a far more arduous task. Delhi could not have been taken without Sikhs and Gurkhas; Lucknow could not have been defended without the Hindustani soldiers who so nobly responded to Sir Henry Lawrence's call; and nothing that Sir John Lawrence might have done could have prevented our losing, for a time, the whole of the country north of Calcutta, had not the men of the Punjab and the Derajat[*] remained true to our cause.
[Note *: Tracts beyond the Indus.]
It has been suggested that all outward signs of the Mutiny should be obliterated, that the monument on the Ridge at Delhi should be levelled, and the picturesque Residency at Lucknow allowed to fall into decay. This view does not commend itself to me. These relics of that tremendous struggle are memorials of heroic services performed by Her Majesty's soldiers, Native as well as British; and by the civilians who shared the duties and dangers of the army. They are valuable as reminders that we must never again allow ourselves to be lulled into fancied security; and above all, they stand as warnings that we should never do anything that can possibly be interpreted by the Natives into disregard for their various forms of religion.
The Mutiny was not an unmitigated evil, for to it we owe the consolidation of our power in India, as it hastened on the construction of the roads, railways, and telegraphs, so wisely and thoughtfully planned by the Marquis of Dalhousie, and which have done more than anything to increase the prosperity of the people and preserve order throughout the country. It was the Mutiny which brought Lord Canning into closer communication with the Princes of India, and paved the way for Lord Lytton's brilliant conception of the Imperial Assemblage—a great political success which laid the foundation of that feeling of confidence which now, happily, exists between the Ruling Chiefs and the Queen-Empress. And it was the Mutiny which compelled us to reorganize our Indian Army and make it the admirable fighting machine it now is.
In the account I have given of our relations with Afghanistan and the border tribes, I have endeavoured to bring before my readers the change of our position in India that has been the inevitable consequence of the propinquity upon our North-West Frontier of a first-class European Power. The change has come about so gradually, and has been so repeatedly pronounced to be chimerical by authorities in whom the people of Great Britain had every reason to feel confidence, that until recently it had attracted little public attention, and even now a great majority of my countrymen may scarcely have realized the probability of England and Russia ever being near enough to each other in Asia to come into actual conflict. I impute no blame to the Russians for their advance towards India. The force of circumstances—the inevitable result of the contact of civilization with barbarism—impelled them to cross the Jaxartes and extend their territories to the Khanates of Turkestan and the banks of the Oxus, just as the same uncontrollable force carried us across the Sutlej and extended our territories to the valley of the Indus. The object I have at heart is to make my fellow-subjects recognize that, under these altered conditions, Great Britain now occupies in Asia the position of a Continental Power, and that her interests in that part of the globe must be protected by Continental means of defence.
The few who have carefully and steadily watched the course of events, entertained no doubt from the first as to the soundness of these views; and their aim has always been, as mine is now, not to sound an alarm, but to give a warning, and to show the danger of shutting our eyes to plain facts and their probable consequences.
Whatever may be the future course of events, I have no fear of the result if we are only true to ourselves and to India. Thinking Natives thoroughly understand the situation; they believe that the time must come when the territories of Great Britain and Russia in their part of Asia will be separated only by a common boundary line, and they would consider that we were wanting in the most essential attributes of Rulers if we did not take all possible precautions, and make every possible preparation to meet such an eventuality.
I send out this book in the earnest hope that the friendly anticipations of those who advised me to write it may not be seriously disappointed; and that those who care to read a plain, unvarnished tale of Indian life and adventure, will bear in mind that the writer is a soldier, not a man of letters, and will therefore forgive all faults of style or language.
30th September, 1896.
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Voyage to India—Life in Calcutta—A destructive cyclone—Home-sickness
Bengal Horse Artillery—Incidents of the journey—New Friends
With my father at Peshawar—Peshawar in 1852—Excitements of a frontier station—A flogging parade—Mackeson's assassination—The Jowaki expedition—A strange dream—A typical frontier fight
A trip to Khagan—The Vale of Kashmir—With the Horse Artillery—My first visit to Simla—Life at Peshawar—A staff appointment—The bump of locality
Lord Dalhousie's Afghan policy —Treaty with Dost Mahomed—War with Persia —The advantage of the Amir's friendship —John Nicholson —'A pillar of strength on the frontier'
First tidings of the mutiny —Prompt action at Peshawar—A bold policy —The Movable Column—An annoying occurrence —I leave Peshawar
First symptoms of disaffection —Outbreak at Berhampur—Mangal Pandy —Court-Martial at Meerut—Mutiny at Meerut —The work of destruction—Want of energy —Hugh Gough's experiences —Nothing could arrest the mutiny
General Anson—The news reaches Simla —Anson loses no time—A long list of troubles —John Lawrence—The Phulkian family —Death of General Anson
John Lawrence's wise measures —Disarmament at Peshawar —Salutary effect in the valley
Neville Chamberlain's presence of mind —The command of the Column—Robert Montgomery —Disarmament at Mian Mir —A Drum-Head Court-Martial—Swift retribution
Ferozepore—Crawford Chamberlain at Multan —Chamberlain's masterly conduct —Nicholson succeeds Neville Chamberlain —Irresolution at Jullundur—General Mehtab Sing —Nicholson's soldierly instincts —More disarmaments
George Ricketts at Ludhiana—Pushing on to Delhi —In the camp before Delhi
The first victory—Enthusiasm amongst the troops —Barnard's success at Badli-ki-Serai —The Flagstaff Tower—Position on the Ridge —Quintin Battye—The gallant little Gurkhas —Proposed assault—The besiegers besieged —Hard fighting—The centenary of Plassy
A new appointment
Reinforcements begin to arrive —An assault again proposed—The attack on Alipur —Death of General Barnard —General Reed assumes command —Two V.C.'s—Treachery in camp —Fighting close up to the city walls —Sufferings of the sick and wounded —General Reed's health fails
Archdale Wilson assumes command —Enemy baffled in the Sabzi Mandi —Efforts to exterminate the Feringhis —A letter from General Havelock —News of Henry Lawrence's death —Arrival of the Movable Column —The 61st Foot at Najafgarh
Wilson's difficulties—Nicholson's resolve —Arrangements for the assault —Construction of breaching batteries —Nicholson expresses his satisfaction —Orders for the assault issued —Composition of the attacking columns
Delhi stormed—The scene at the Kashmir Gate —Bold front by Artillery and Cavalry —Nicholson wounded—The last I saw of Nicholson —Wilson wavers—Holding on to the walls of Delhi
Capture of the Burn bastion —The 60th Rifles storm the palace —Hodson captures the King of Delhi —Nicholson's death—Gallantry of the troops —Praise from Lord Canning
Necessity for further action—Departure from Delhi —Action at Bulandshahr—Lieutenant Home's death —Knights-errant—Fight at Aligarh —Appeals from Agra—Collapse of the administration —Taken by surprise—The fight at Agra —An exciting chase—The Taj Mahal
Infatuation of the authorities at Agra —A series of Mishaps —Result of indecision and incapacity
Advantage of being a good horseman—News from Lucknow —Cawnpore—Heart-rending scenes—Start for Lucknow —An exciting Adventure —Arrival of Sir Colin Campbell —Plans for the advance
Sir Colin's preparations—The Alambagh —The Dilkusha and Martiniere—Mayne's death —A tall-talk story—Ammunition required —A night march—The advance on Lucknow —Sir Colin wounded—The attack on the Sikandarbagh —Heroic deeds—The 4th Punjab Infantry
Henry Norman—The Shah Najaf—The mess-house —Planting the flag—A memorable meeting —The Residency
Sir Colin's wise decision—Robert Napier —Impressions on visiting the Residency —Henry Lawrence—Lawrence as Statesman and Ruler —Lawrence's friendliness for Natives —A hazardous duty
Death of General Havelock—Appeals from Cawnpore —General Windham—The passage of the Ganges
The fight at Cawnpore—Unexpected visitors —A long chase—Unjur Tiwari—Bithur —Windham at Cawnpore
The Fight at Khudaganj—A melee—Oudh or Rohilkand?
Mianganj—Curious effect of a mirage —The Dilkusha revisited—Passage of the Gumti —Capture of the Chakar Kothi —Capture of the iron bridge—Hodson mortally wounded —Outram's soldierly instinct—A lost opportunity —Sam Browne—Start for England —Death of Sir William Peel
What brought about the Mutiny? —Religious fears of the people—The land question —The annexation of Oudh —Fulfilment of Malcolm's prophecy —The Delhi royal family—The Nana Sahib —The Native army—Greased cartridges —Limited number of British troops —Objection to foreign service —Excessive age of the British officers
Discontent of the Natives—Successful administrators —Paternal despotism—Money-lenders and the Press —Faddists—Cardinal points
Home again—Back in India—Allahabad and Cawnpore —The Viceroy's camp—State entry into Lucknow —The Talukdars of Oudh—Loyalty of the Talukdars —Cawnpore and Fatehgarh—The Agra Durbar
Delhi under a different aspect—Lord Clyde —Umritsar and Lahore—The Lahore Durbar —Simla—Life at Simla
The Staff Corps—With the Viceroy's camp again —The marble rocks—Lady Canning's death —Pig-sticking at Jamu—Lord Canning —Another cold-weather march—Gwalior and Jhansi —Departmental promotion
The Umbeyla expedition—The Akhund of Swat —The 'Eagle's Nest' and 'Crag piquet' —The death of Lord Elgin —Loyalty of our Pathan soldiers —Bunerwals show signs of submission —The conical hill—Umbeyla in flames —Bunerwals agree to our terms—Malka destroyed
A voyage round the Cape—Cholera camps —The Abyssinian expedition—Landed at Zula
Sir Robert Napier to command—Defective transport —King Theodore commits suicide—First A.Q.M.G.
Afzal Khan ousts Sher Ali —Sher Ali regains the Amirship —Foresight of Sir Henry Rawlinson —The Umballa Durbar
The Lushais—The Lushai expedition —Defective transport again —Practice versus theory—A severe march —Lushais foiled by Gurkhas —A successful turning movement—Murder of Lord Mayo
Lord Napier's care for the soldier —Negotiations with Sher Ali renewed —Sher Ali's demands
A trip in the Himalayas—The famine in Behar —The Prince of Wales in India —Farewell to Lord Napier
Lord Lytton becomes Viceroy —Difficulties with Sher Ali —Imperial assemblage at Delhi —Reception of the Ruling Chiefs —Queen proclaimed Empress of India —Political importance of the assemblage —Sher Ali proclaims a 'Jahad' —A journey under difficulties
Object of the first Afghan war —Excitement caused by Russia's advances
Effect of the Berlin Treaty at Kabul —Sher Ali decides against England —A meeting of portentous moment —Preparations for war—Letter from Sher Ali
Shortcomings of my column —Attitude of the Border tribes
The Kuram valley—Conflicting news of the enemy —An apparently impregnable position —Spingawi route decided on—Disposition of the force —A night attack—Advantages of a night attack —Devotion of my orderlies —Threatening the enemy's rear—The Peiwar Kotal
Alikhel—Treachery of the tribesmen —Transport difficulties —Sher Ali looks to Russia for aid —Khost—An attack on our camp —An unsuccessful experiment —An unpleasant incident—Punjab Chiefs' Contingent
Sher Ali's death—Premature negotiations —The treaty of Gandamak —Making friends with the tribesmen —Gloomy forebodings—Good-bye to Cavagnari
Massacre of the Embassy—The Kabul Field Force —Lord Lytton's foresightedness—Start for Kabul —Letter to the Amir —Proclamation to the people of Kabul —Yakub Khan's agents —Reasons for remaining at Alikhel
Hector Macdonald and Sher Mahomed—Yakub Khan —A Proclamation and an Order —The maliks of Logar—Attack on the Shutargardan —Reconnoitring roads leading to Kabul
The Afghan position—The fight at Charasia —Highlanders, Gurkhas, and Punjabis —Defeat of the Afghans—Kabul in sight —Deh-i-Mazang gorge—The enemy give us the slip
Guiding instructions—Visit to the Bala Hissar —Yakub Khan abdicates—The Proclamation —Administrative measures —Explosions in the Bala Hissar
Afghans afraid to befriend us—Kabul Russianized —Yakub Khan's abdication accepted —State treasury taken over
The amnesty Proclamation —Strength of the Kabul Field Force —Yakub Khan despatched to India
Political situation at Kabul —Serious trouble ahead —Macpherson attacks the Kohistanis —Combined movements—The uncertainty of war —The fight in the Chardeh valley—Forced to retire —Padre Adams earns the V.C. —Macpherson's column arrives —The captured guns recovered—Melancholy reflections
Attack on the Takht-i-Shah —City people join the tribesmen —Increasing numbers of the enemy —Loss of the conical hill —Captain Vousden's gallantry —The retirement to Sherpur
Sherpur—Defence of Sherpur—Arrest of Daud Shah —Rumours of an assault—Attack and counter-attack —Communication with India re-opened —Sherpur made safe
Two important questions—A Ruler required —News of Abdur Rahman Khan —Abdur Rahman in Afghan-Turkestan —Overtures made to Abdur Rahman
Jenkins attacked near Charasia —Sir Donald Stewart reaches Kabul —Difficulties with Abdur Rahman —Abdur Rahman proclaimed Amir
Affairs at Kandahar—The Maiwand disaster —Relief from Kabul suggested —A force ordered from Kabul —Preparations for the march —The Kabul-Kandahar Field Force —Commissariat and Transport
The order of marching—Ghazni and Kelat-i-Ghilzai —Food required daily for the force —A letter from General Phayre—Kandahar —Reconnoitring the enemy's position —A turning movement
Commencement of the fight —72nd Highlanders and 2nd Sikhs —92nd Highlanders and 2nd Gurkhas —Ayub Khan's camp—Difficulties about supplies —Parting with the troops—A pleasing memory
Reception in England—A fruitless journey —Andaman Isles and Burma—The Madras Army —Measures for improving the Madras Army —Memories of Madras—An allegory
Disturbing action of Russia—Abdur Rahman Khan —The Rawal Pindi Durbar —Unmistakable loyalty of the Natives
The Burma expedition—The Camp of Exercise at Delhi —Defence of the North-West Frontier —Quetta and Peshawar —Communications versus fortifications —Sir George Chesney
Nursing for the soldier —Pacification of Burma considered —Measures recommended —The Buddhist priesthood —The Regimental Institute —The Army Temperance Association
Defence and Mobilization Committees —The Transport Department —Utilization of Native States' armies —Marquis of Lansdowne becomes Viceroy —Rajputana and Kashmir —Musketry instruction —Artillery and Cavalry training
Extension of command —Efficiency of the Native Army —Concessions to the Native Army —Officering of the Native Army —The Hunza-Naga campaign —Visit to Nepal—A Nepalese entertainment —Proposed mission to the Amir —A last tour—Farewell entertainments —Last days in India
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
I. PORTRAIT OF FIELD-MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS. (From a Photograph by Bourne and Shepherd, Simla, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire) Frontispiece
II. THE KASHMIR GATE AT DELHI Over List of Contents
III. THE PEIWAR KOTAL Over List of Illustrations
IV. PORTRAIT OF GENERAL SIR ABRAHAM ROBERTS, G.C.B. (From a Photograph, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
V. PORTRAIT OF BRIGADIER-GENERAL JOHN NICHOLSON, C.B. (From a Painting by J.R. Dicksee in possession of the Rev. Canon Seymour, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
VI. PORTRAIT OF MAJOR-GENERAL SIR HARRY TOMBS, V.C., G.C.B. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Grillet and Co., engraved upon wood by Swain)
VII. PORTRAIT OF LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR JAMES HILLS-JOHNES, V.C., G.C.B. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Bourne and Shepherd, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
VIII. PORTRAIT OF FIELD-MARSHAL SIR DONALD MARTIN STEWART, BART., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., C.I.E. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Elliott and Fry, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
IX. PLAN OF THE ENGAGEMENT AT NAJAFGARH. (From a Plan made by Lieutenant Geneste, by permission of Messrs. Wm. Blackwood and Sons)
X. PLAN TO ILLUSTRATE THE SIEGE AND ATTACK OF DELHI, IN 1857
XI. PORTRAITS OF GENERAL SIR COLIN CAMPBELL (LORD CLYDE) AND MAJOR-GENERAL SIR WILLIAM MANSFIELD (LORD SANDHURST). (From a Photograph taken in India, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XII. PORTRAIT OF MAJOR-GENERAL SIR JAMES OUTRAM, G.C.B. (From a Painting by Thomas Brigstocke, R.A., engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XIII. PORTRAIT OF BRIGADIER-GENERAL SIR HENRY LAWRENCE, K.C.B. (From a Photograph taken at Lucknow, engraved upon wood by Swain)
XIV. PLAN TO ILLUSTRATE THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW, IN 1857
XV. PLAN OF CAWNPORE
XVI. PLAN OF THE ENGAGEMENT AT KHUDAGANJ
XVII. PORTRAIT OF GENERAL SIR SAMUEL BROWNE, V.C., G.C.B., K.C.S.I. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Elliott and Fry, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XVIII. PLAN TO ILLUSTRATE THE SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF LUCKNOW, IN 1858
XIX. PORTRAIT OF LADY ROBERTS (WIFE OF SIR ABRAHAM ROBERTS). (From a Sketch by Carpenter, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XX. PORTRAIT OF HIS EXCELLENCY EARL CANNING, K.G., G.C.B., G.M.S.I., VICEROY AND GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF INDIA. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Mayall, engraved upon wood by Swain)
XXI. THE STORMING OF THE CONICAL HILL AT UMBEYLA BY THE 101ST FOOT (BENGAL FUSILIERS). (From a Sketch by General Sir John Adye, G.C.B., R.A., engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXII. PORTRAIT OF FIELD-MARSHAL LORD NAPIER OF MAGDALA, G.C.B., G.C.S.I. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Maull and Fox, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXIII. PORTRAIT OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE EARL OF LYTTON, G.C.B., G.M.S.I., G.M.I.E., VICEROY OF INDIA. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Maull and Fox, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XXIV. THE ATTACK ON THE PEIWAR KOTAL. (From a Painting by Vereker Hamilton, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XXV. GENERAL ROBERTS'S GURKHA ORDERLIES. (From a Water-colour Sketch by Colonel Woodthorpe, C.B., R.E., engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXVI. GENERAL ROBERTS'S SIKH ORDERLIES. (From a Water-colour Sketch by Colonel Woodthorpe, C.B., R.E., engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXVII. ONE OF GENERAL ROBERTS'S PATHAN ORDERLIES. (From a Water-colour Sketch by Colonel Woodthorpe, C.B., R.E., engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXVIII. ONE OF GENERAL ROBERTS'S PATHAN ORDERLIES. (From a Water-colour Sketch by Colonel Woodthorpe, C.B., R.E., engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXIX. THE ENTRANCE TO THE BALA HISSAR—THE LAHORE GATE AT KABUL. (From a Photograph, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXX. SKETCH SHOWING THE OPERATIONS IN THE CHARDEH VALLEY ON DECEMBER 10TH AND 11TH, 1879
XXXI. PLAN TO ILLUSTRATE THE DEFENCES OF SHERPUR AND THE OPERATIONS ROUND KABUL IN DECEMBER, 1879
XXXII. CROSSING THE ZAMBURAK KOTAL. (From a Painting by the Chevalier Desanges, engraved upon wood by W. Cheshire)
XXXIII. PLAN OF THE ROUTE TAKEN FROM KABUL TO KANDAHAR
XXXIV. SKETCH OF THE BATTLE-FIELD OF KANDAHAR
XXXV. PORTRAITS OF THE THREE COMMANDERS-IN-CHIEF IN INDIA (SIR DONALD STEWART, SIR FREDERICK ROBERTS, AND SIR ARTHUR HARDINGE). (From a Photograph, engraved upon wood by Swain)
XXXVI. PORTRAIT OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE MARQUIS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.M.S.I., G.M.I.E., F.R.S., VICEROY OF INDIA. (From an engraving by the Fine Art Society of a portrait by the late Frank Holl, R.A., re-engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XXXVII. PORTRAIT OF HIS HIGHNESS ABDUR RAHMAN, AMIR OF AFGHANISTAN. (From a Photograph, engraved upon wood by Swain)
XXXVIII. MAP OF CENTRAL ASIA
XXXIX. PORTRAIT OF LADY ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Johnson and Hoffmann, engraved upon wood by George Pearson)
XL. PORTRAIT OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE, K.G., G.C.M.G., G.M.S.I., G.M.I.E., VICEROY OF INDIA. (From a Photograph by Messrs. Cowell, Simla, engraved upon wood by Swain)
XLI. PORTRAIT OF FIELD-MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS ON HIS ARAB CHARGER 'VONOLEL.' (From an Oil-painting by Charles Furse, made from an Instantaneous Photograph, and engraved upon wood by E. Whymper)
* * * * *
FORTY-ONE YEARS IN INDIA.
CHAPTER I. 1852
Voyage to India—Life in Calcutta—A destructive cyclone —Home-sickness
Forty years ago the departure of a cadet for India was a much more serious affair than it is at present. Under the regulations then in force, leave, except on medical certificate, could only be obtained once during the whole of an officer's service, and ten years had to be spent in India before that leave could be taken. Small wonder, then, that I felt as if I were bidding England farewell for ever when, on the 20th February, 1852, I set sail from Southampton with Calcutta for my destination. Steamers in those days ran to and from India but once a month, and the fleet employed was only capable of transporting some 2,400 passengers in the course of a year. This does not include the Cape route; but even taking that into consideration, I should doubt whether there were then as many travellers to India in a year as there are now in a fortnight at the busy season.
My ship was the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer Ripon, commanded by Captain Moresby, an ex-officer of the Indian Navy, in which he had earned distinction by his survey of the Red Sea. A few Addiscombe friends were on board, leaving England under the same depressing circumstances as myself, and what with wind and weather, and the thought that at the best we were bidding farewell to home and relations for ten long years, we were anything but a cheerful party for the first few days of the voyage. Youth and high spirits had, however, re-asserted themselves long before Alexandria, which place we reached without incident beyond the customary halts for coaling at Gibraltar and Malta. At Alexandria we bade adieu to Captain Moresby, who had been most kind and attentive, and whose graphic accounts of the difficulties he had had to overcome whilst mastering the navigation of the Red Sea served to while away many a tedious hour.
On landing at Alexandria, we were hurried on board a large mast-less canal boat, shaped like a Nile dahabeah. In this we were towed up the Mahmoudieh canal for ten hours, until we arrived at Atfieh, on the Nile; thence we proceeded by steamer, reaching Cairo in about sixteen hours. Here we put up at Shepherd's Hotel for a couple of days, which were most enjoyable, especially to those of the party who, like myself, saw an eastern city and its picturesque and curious bazaars for the first time. From Cairo the route lay across the desert for ninety miles, the road being merely a cutting in the sand, quite undistinguishable at night. The journey was performed in a conveyance closely resembling a bathing-machine, which accommodated six people, and was drawn by four mules. My five fellow-travellers were all cadets, only one of whom (Colonel John Stewart, of Ardvorlich, Perthshire) is now alive. The transit took some eighteen hours, with an occasional halt for refreshments. Our baggage was carried on camels, as were the mails, cargo, and even the coal for the Red Sea steamers.
On arrival at Suez we found awaiting us the Oriental, commanded by Captain Powell. A number of people met us there who had left England a month before we did; but their steamer having broken down, they had now to be accommodated on board ours. We were thus very inconveniently crowded until we arrived at Aden, where several of the passengers left us for Bombay. We were not, however, much inclined to complain, as some of our new associates proved themselves decided acquisitions. Amongst them was Mr. (afterwards Sir Barnes) Peacock, an immense favourite with all on board, and more particularly with us lads. He was full of fun, and although then forty-seven years old, and on his way to Calcutta to join the Governor-General's Council, he took part in our amusements as if he were of the same age as ourselves. His career in India was brilliant, and on the expiration of his term of office as member of Council he was made Chief Justice of Bengal. Another of the passengers was Colonel (afterwards Sir John Bloomfield) Gough, who died not long ago in Ireland, and was then on his way to take up his appointment as Quartermaster-General of Queen's troops. He had served in the 3rd Light Dragoons and on the staff of his cousin, Lord Gough, during the Sutlej and Punjab campaigns, and was naturally an object of the deepest veneration to all the youngsters on board.
At Madras we stopped to land passengers, and I took this opportunity of going on shore to see some old Addiscombe friends, most of whom were greatly excited at the prospect of a war in Burma. The transports were then actually lying in the Madras roads, and a few days later this portion of the expedition started for Rangoon.
At last, on the 1st April, we reached Calcutta, and I had to say good-bye to the friends I had made during the six weeks' voyage, most of whom I was never to meet again.
On landing, I received a letter from my father, who commanded the Lahore division, informing me that the proprietor of Spence's Hotel had been instructed to receive me, and that I had better put up there until I reported myself at the Head-Quarters of the Bengal Artillery at Dum-Dum. This was chilling news, for I was the only one of our party who had to go to a hotel on landing. The Infantry cadets had either been taken charge of by the Town Major, who provided them with quarters in Fort William, or had gone to stay with friends, and the only other Artilleryman (Stewart) went direct to Dum-Dum, where he had a brother, also a gunner, who, poor follow, was murdered with his young wife five years later by the mutineers at Gwalior. I was still more depressed later on by finding myself at dinner tete-a-tete with a first-class specimen of the results of an Indian climate. He belonged to my own regiment, and was going home on medical certificate, but did not look as if he could ever reach England. He gave me the not too pleasing news that by staying in that dreary hotel, instead of proceeding direct to Dum-Dum, I had lost a day's service and pay, so I took care to join early the following morning.
A few years before, Dum-Dum had been a large military station, but the annexation of the Punjab, and the necessity for maintaining a considerable force in northern India, had greatly reduced the garrison. Even the small force that remained had embarked for Burma before my arrival, so that, instead of a large, cheery mess party, to which I had been looking forward, I sat down to dinner with only one other subaltern.
No time was lost in appointing me to a Native Field Battery, and I was put through the usual laboratory course as a commencement to my duties. The life was dull in the extreme, the only variety being an occasional week in Fort William, where my sole duty was to superintend the firing of salutes. Nor was there much in my surroundings to compensate for the prosaic nature of my work. Fort William was not then what it has since become—one of the healthiest stations in India. Quite the contrary. The men were crowded into small badly-ventilated buildings, and the sanitary arrangements were as deplorable as the state of the water supply. The only efficient scavengers were the huge birds of prey called adjutants, and so great was the dependence placed upon the exertions of these unclean creatures, that the young cadets were warned that any injury done to them would be treated as gross misconduct. The inevitable result of this state of affairs was endemic sickness, and a death-rate of over ten per cent. per annum.
Calcutta outside the Fort was but a dreary place to fall back upon. It was wretchedly lighted by smoky oil-lamps set at very rare intervals. The slow and cumbrous palankin was the ordinary means of conveyance, and, as far as I was concerned, the vaunted hospitality of the Anglo-Indian was conspicuous by its absence.
I must confess I was disappointed at being left so completely to myself, especially by the senior military officers, many of whom were personally known to my father, who had, I was aware, written to some of them on my behalf. Under these circumstances, I think it is hardly to be wondered at that I became terribly home-sick, and convinced that I could never be happy in India. Worst of all, the prospects of promotion seemed absolutely hopeless; I was a supernumerary Second Lieutenant, and nearly every officer in the list of the Bengal Artillery had served over fifteen years as a subaltern. This stagnation extended to every branch of the Indian Army.
There were singularly few incidents to enliven this unpromising stage of my career. I do, however, remember one rather notable experience which came to me at that time, in the form of a bad cyclone. I was dining out on the night in question. Gradually the wind grew higher and higher, and it became evident that we were in for a storm of no ordinary kind. Consequently, I left my friend's house early. A Native servant, carrying a lantern, accompanied me to light me on my way. At an angle of the road a sudden gust of wind extinguished the light. The servant, who, like most Natives, was quite at home in the dark, walked on, believing that I was following in his wake. I shouted to him as loudly as I could, but the uproar was so terrific that he could not hear a word, and there was nothing for it but to try and make my own way home. The darkness was profound. As I was walking carefully along, I suddenly came in contact with an object, which a timely flash of lightning showed me was a column, standing in exactly the opposite direction from my own house. I could now locate myself correctly, and the lightning becoming every moment more vivid, I was enabled to grope my way by slow degrees to the mess, where I expected to find someone to show me my way home, but the servants, who knew from experience the probable effects of a cyclone, had already closed the outside Venetian shutters and barred all the doors. I could just see them through the cracks engaged in making everything fast. In vain I banged at the door and called at the top of my voice—they heard nothing. Reluctantly I became convinced that there was no alternative but to leave my shelter and face the rapidly increasing storm once more. My bungalow was not more than half a mile away, but it took me an age to accomplish this short distance, as I was only able to move a few steps at a time whenever the lightning showed me the way. It was necessary to be careful, as the road was raised, with a deep ditch on either side; several trees had already been blown down, and lay across it, and huge branches were being driven through the air like thistle-down. I found extreme difficulty in keeping my feet, especially at the cross-roads, where I was more than once all but blown over. At last I reached my house, but even then my struggles were not quite at an end. It was a very long time before I could gain admittance. The servant who had been carrying the lantern had arrived, and, missing me, imagined that I must have returned to the house at which I had dined. The men with whom I chummed, thinking it unlikely that I should make a second attempt to return home, had carefully fastened all the doors, momentarily expecting the roof of the house to be blown off. I had to continue hammering and shouting for a long time before they heard and admitted me, thankful to be comparatively safe inside a house.
By morning the worst of the storm was over, but not before great damage had been done. The Native bazaar was completely wrecked, looking as if it had suffered a furious bombardment, and great havoc had been made amongst the European houses, not a single verandah or outside shutter being left in the station. As I walked to the mess, I found the road almost impassable from fallen trees; and dead birds, chiefly crows and kites, were so numerous that they had to be carried off in cartloads. How I had made my way to my bungalow without accident the night before was difficult to imagine. Even the column against which I had stumbled was levelled by the fury of the blast. This column had been raised a few years before to the memory of the officers and men of the 1st Troop, 1st Brigade, Bengal Horse Artillery, who were killed in the disastrous retreat from Kabul in 1841. It was afterwards rebuilt.
Dum-Dum in ruins was even more dreary than before the cyclone, and I felt as if I could not possibly continue to live there much longer. Accordingly I wrote to my father, begging him to try and get me sent to Burma; but he replied that he hoped soon to get command of the Peshawar division, and that he would then like me to join him. Thus, though my desire to quit Dum-Dum was not to be immediately gratified, I was buoyed up by the hope that a definite limit had now been placed to my service in that, to me, uninteresting part of India, and my restlessness and discontent disappeared as if by magic.
In time of peace, as in war, or during a cholera epidemic, a soldier's moral condition is infinitely more important than his physical surroundings, and it is in this respect, I think, that the subaltern of the present day has an advantage over the youngster of forty years ago. The life of a young officer during his first few months of exile, before he has fallen into the ways of his new life and made friends for himself, can never be very happy; but in these days he is encouraged by the feeling that, however distasteful, it need not necessarily last very long; and he can look forward to a rapid and easy return to England and friends at no very distant period. At the time I am writing of he could not but feel completely cut off from all that had hitherto formed his chief interests in life—his family and his friends—for ten years is an eternity to the young, and the feeling of loneliness and home-sickness was apt to become almost insupportable.
The climate added its depressing influence; there was no going to the hills then, and as the weary months dragged on, the young stranger became more and more dispirited and hopeless. Such was my case. I had only been four months in India, but it seemed like four years. My joy, therefore, was unbounded when at last my marching orders arrived. Indeed, the idea that I was about to proceed to that grand field of soldierly activity, the North-West Frontier, and there join my father, almost reconciled me to the disappointment of losing my chance of field service in Burma. My arrangements were soon made, and early in August I bade a glad good-bye to Dum-Dum.
[Footnote 1: In the fifty-seven years preceding the Mutiny the annual rate of mortality amongst the European troops in India was sixty-nine per thousand, and in some stations it was even more appalling. The Royal Commission appointed in 1864 to inquire into the sanitary condition of the army in India expressed the hope that, by taking proper precautions, the mortality might be reduced to the rate of twenty per thousand per annum. I am glad to say that this hope has been more than realized, the annual death-rate since 1882 having never risen to seventeen per thousand.]
* * * * *
CHAPTER II. 1852
Bengal Horse Artillery—Incidents of the journey—New Friends
When I went to India the mode of travelling was almost as primitive as it had been a hundred, and probably five hundred, years before. Private individuals for the most part used palankins, while officers, regiments, and drafts were usually sent up country by the river route as far as Cawnpore. It was necessarily a slow mode of progression—how slow may be imagined from the fact that it took me nearly three months to get from Dum-Dum to Peshawar, a distance now traversed with the greatest ease and comfort in as many days. As far as Benares I travelled in a barge towed by a steamer—a performance which took the best part of a month to accomplish. From Benares to Allahabad it was a pleasant change to get upon wheels, a horse-dak having been recently established between these two places. At Allahabad I was most kindly received by Mr. Lowther, the Commissioner, an old friend of my father's, in whose house I experienced for the first time that profuse hospitality for which Anglo-Indians are proverbial. I was much surprised and amused by the circumstance of my host smoking a hookah even at meals, for he was one of the few Englishmen who still indulged in that luxury, as it was then considered. The sole duty of one servant, called the hookah-bardar, was to prepare the pipe for his master, and to have it ready at all times.
My next resting-place was Cawnpore, my birthplace, where I remained a few days. The Cawnpore division was at that time commanded by an officer of the name of Palmer, who had only recently attained the rank of Brigadier-General, though he could not have been less than sixty-eight years of age, being of the same standing as my father.
From Cawnpore I went to Meerut, and there came across, for the first time, the far-famed Bengal Horse Artillery, and made the acquaintance of a set of officers who more than realized my expectations regarding the wearers of the much-coveted jacket, association with whom created in me a fixed resolve to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour to become a horse gunner. Like the Cavalry and Infantry of the East India Company's service, the Artillery suffered somewhat from the employment of many of its best officers on the staff and in civil appointments; the officers selected were not seconded or replaced in their regiments. This was the case in a less degree, no doubt, in the Horse Artillery than in the other branches, for its esprit was great, and officers were proud to belong to this corps d'elite. It certainly was a splendid service; the men were the pick of those recruited by the East India Company, they were of magnificent physique, and their uniform was singularly handsome. The jacket was much the same as that now worn by the Royal Horse Artillery, but instead of the busby they had a brass helmet covered in front with leopard skin, surmounted by a long red plume which drooped over the back like that of a French Cuirassier. This, with white buckskin breeches and long boots, completed a uniform which was one of the most picturesque and effective I have ever seen on a parade-ground.
The metalled highway ended at Meerut, and I had to perform the remainder of my journey to Peshawar, a distance of 600 miles, in a palankin, or doolie.
This manner of travelling was tedious in the extreme. Starting after dinner, the victim was carried throughout the night by eight men, divided into reliefs of four. The whole of the eight were changed at stages averaging from ten to twelve miles apart. The baggage was also conveyed by coolies, who kept up an incessant chatter, and the procession was lighted on its way by a torch-bearer, whose torch consisted of bits of rag tied round the end of a stick, upon which he continually poured the most malodorous of oils. If the palankin-bearers were very good, they shuffled along at the rate of about three miles an hour, and if there were no delays, forty or forty-five miles could be accomplished before it became necessary to seek shelter from the sun in one of the dak-bungalows, or rest-houses, erected by Government at convenient intervals along all the principal routes. In these bungalows a bath could be obtained, and sorely it was needed after a journey of thirteen or fourteen hours at a level of only a few inches above an exceedingly dusty road. As to food, the khansamah, like 'mine host' in the old country, declared himself at the outset prepared to provide everything the heart of man could desire; when, however, the traveller was safely cornered for the rest of the day, the menu invariably dwindled down to the elementary and universal 'sudden death,' which meant a wretchedly thin chicken, caught, decapitated, grilled, and served up within twenty minutes of the meal being ordered. At dinner a variety was made by the chicken being curried, accompanied by an unlimited supply of rice and chutney.
I was glad to be able to break the monotony of this long journey by a visit to a half-sister of mine, who was then living at the hill-station of Mussoorie. The change to the delightful freshness of a Himalayan climate after the Turkish-bath-like atmosphere of the plains in September was most grateful, and I thoroughly enjoyed the few days I spent in the midst of the lovely mountain scenery.
My next station was Umballa. There I fell in with two other troops of Horse Artillery, and became more than ever enamoured with the idea of belonging to so splendid a service. From Umballa it was a two nights' journey to Ludhiana, where I rested for the day, and there met a cousin in the Survey Department, who had been suddenly ordered to Lahore, so we agreed to travel together.
The next halting-place was Jullundur. To make a change, we hired a buggy at this place, in which to drive the first stage, sending our palankins on ahead; when we overtook them, we found, to our surprise, that their number had increased to six. We were preparing for a start, when it struck us that we ought to make some inquiries about the additional four, which, from the luggage lying about, we assumed to be occupied, but which appeared to be stranded for want of bearers to carry them on. The doors were carefully closed, and it was some time before we could get an answer to our offers of assistance. Eventually a lady looked out, and told us that she and a friend, each accompanied by two children and an ayah, were on their way to Lahore; that the bearers who had brought them so far had run away, and that they were absolutely in despair as to how they were to proceed. It turned out that the bearers, who had been engaged to carry the ladies on the second stage towards Lahore, found it more amusing to attend the ceremony of the installation of the Raja of Kaparthala, then going on, than to fulfil their engagement. After discussing the situation, the ladies were persuaded to get out of their palankins and into our buggy. We divided the baggage and six doolies between our sixteen bearers, and started off, my cousin, the ayahs, and I on foot. It was then 10 p.m. We hoped relays of bearers for the whole party would be forthcoming at the next stage, but we were doomed to disappointment. Our reliefs were present, but none for the ladies. We succeeded, however, in inducing our original bearers to come on a further stage, thus arranging for the carriage of the ayahs, while we two men trudged on beside the buggy for another ten or twelve miles. It was a heavy, sandy road, and three stages were about as much as the horse could manage.
Soon after daybreak next morning we reached the Bias river. Crossing by a bridge of boats, we found on the other side a small one-roomed house with a verandah running round it, built for the use of the European overseer in charge of the road. On matters being explained, this man agreed to turn out. The ladies and children were put inside, and my cousin and I spent the day in the verandah; in the evening, with the assistance of the overseer, we were able to get a sufficient number of bearers to carry us all on to Mian Mir without further adventure. In the course of conversation we found that one of the ladies was the wife of Lieutenant Donald Stewart, of the 9th Bengal Infantry, and that she and her friend were returning to join their respective husbands after spending the summer months at Simla. This meeting was the beginning of a close friendship with Sir Donald and Lady Stewart, which has lasted to the present day.
At Mian Mir (the military cantonment of Lahore) I stayed a few days with another half-sister, and from there, as the weather was beginning to get cooler, I travelled day and night. One evening about eight o'clock I was disappointed at not having come across the usual rest-house; lights could be seen, however, at no great distance, and I proceeded towards them; they turned out to be the camp fires of a Cavalry regiment which was halting there for the night. Being half famished, and fearing that my craving for food was not likely to be gratified unless someone in the camp would take pity upon my forlorn condition, I boldly presented myself at the first tent I came across. The occupant came out, and, on hearing the strait I was in, he with kindly courtesy invited me to enter the tent, saying, 'You are just in time to share our dinner.' My host turned out to be Major Crawford Chamberlain, commanding the 1st Irregular Cavalry, the famous Skinner's Horse, then on its way to Peshawar. A lady was sitting at the table—Mrs. Chamberlain—to whom I was introduced; I spent a very pleasant evening, and in this way commenced another equally agreeable and lasting friendship.
[Footnote 1: A Native woman-servant.]
[Footnote 2: Now Field Marshal Sir Donald Stewart, Bart., G.C.B., G.C.S.I.]
[Footnote 3: Now General Crawford Chamberlain, C.S.I., a brother of General Sir Neville Chamberlain.]
* * * * *
CHAPTER III. 1852-1853
With my father at Peshawar—Peshawar in 1852—Excitements of a frontier station—A flogging parade—Mackeson's assassination —The Jowaki expedition—A strange dream—A typical frontier fight
Even the longest journey must come to an end at last, and early in November I reached Peshawar. My father, who was then in his sixty-ninth year, had just been appointed to command the division with the temporary rank of Major-General. Old as this may appear at a period when Colonels are superannuated at fifty-seven, and Major-Generals must retire at sixty-two, my father did not consider himself particularly unlucky. As for the authorities, they evidently thought they were to be congratulated on having so young and active an officer to place in a position of responsibility upon the North-West Frontier, for amongst my father's papers I found letters from the Adjutant-General and Quartermaster-General expressing high satisfaction at his appointment to this difficult command.
It was a great advantage as well as a great pleasure to me to be with my father at this time. I had left India an infant, and I had no recollection of him until I was twelve years old, at which time he came home on leave. Even then I saw very little of him, as I was at school during the greater part of his sojourn in England, thus we met at Peshawar almost as strangers. We did not, however, long remain so; his affectionate greeting soon put an end to any feeling of shyness on my part, and the genial and kindly spirit which enabled him to enter into and sympathize with the feelings and aspirations of men younger than himself, rendered the year I spent with him at Peshawar one of the brightest and happiest of my early life. In one respect particularly I benefited by the intercourse and confidence of the year in question. My father spoke to me freely of his experiences in Afghanistan, where he commanded during the Afghan war first a brigade, and then Shah Shuja's contingent. The information I in this way gathered regarding the characteristics of that peculiar country, and the best means of dealing with its still more peculiar people, was invaluable to me when I, in my turn, twenty-five years later, found myself in command of an army in Afghanistan.
Eleven years only had elapsed since the first Afghan war, when my father went to Peshawar and found himself again associated with several Afghan friends; some had altogether settled in the Peshawar district, for nearly all of those who had assisted us, or shown any friendly feeling towards us, had been forced by Dost Mahomed Khan, on his return as Amir to Kabul, to seek refuge in India. One of the chief of these unfortunate refugees was Mahomed Usman Khan, Shah Shuja's Wazir, or Prime Minister. He had been very intimate with my father, so it was pleasant for them to meet again and talk over events in which they had both played such prominent parts. Usman Khan died some years ago; but visitors to India who travel as far as Peshawar may still meet his sons, one of whom is the Commandant of the Khyber Rifles, Lieutenant-Colonel Aslam Khan, C.I.E., a fine specimen of a Native soldier and gentleman, who has proved his loyalty and done excellent service to the State on many trying occasions.
My father had also been on terms of intimacy with Dost Mahomed himself and many other men of influence in Kabul, from whom, while at Peshawar, he received most interesting letters, in which anxiety was often expressed as to whether the English were amicably disposed towards the Amir. To these communications my father was always careful to send courteous and conciliatory replies. The correspondence which took place confirmed him in his frequently expressed opinion that it would be greatly to the advantage of the Government, and obviate the necessity for keeping such large garrisons on the frontier, if friendly relations could be established with the Amir, and with the neighbouring tribes, who more or less looked to the Ruler of Kabul as their Chief. My father accordingly addressed the Secretary to the Government of India, and pointed out how successfully some of the most experienced Anglo-Indian officials had managed barbarous tribes by kindness and conciliation.
My father was prevented by ill-health from remaining long enough at Peshawar to see the result of his proposals, but it was a source of great satisfaction to him to learn before he left India that they were approved by Lord Dalhousie (the Governor-General), and that they were already bearing fruit. That the Amir was himself ready to respond to any overtures made to him was evident from a letter written by a brother of the Dost's, which was discovered amongst the papers of Colonel Mackeson (the Commissioner of Peshawar) after his death. It was still more gratifying to my father to find that the views of Mackeson's successor, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Edwardes, on this subject entirely coincided with his own. This distinguished officer and brilliant administrator zealously maintained this policy, and succeeded in establishing such a good understanding with the Ruler of Kabul that, when the Mutiny broke out, Afghanistan stood aloof, instead of, as might have been the case, turning the scale against us.
The Peshawar division in 1852 was not only the most important, but the largest, in India. It included besides Attock, Rawal Pindi, and Jhelum, the hill-station of Murree, which had only been recently occupied. The cantonment of Peshawar had been laid out by Sir Colin Campbell (afterwards Lord Clyde), who commanded there when we first occupied that place in 1849. He crowded the troops, European and Native, into as small a space as possible in order that the station might be the more easily protected from the raids of the Afridis and other robber tribes, who had their homes in the neighbouring mountains, and constantly descended into the valley for the sake of plunder. To resist these marauders it was necessary to place guards all round the cantonment. The smaller the enclosure, the fewer guards would be required. From this point of view alone was Sir Colin's action excusable; but the result of this overcrowding was what it always is, especially in a tropical climate like that of India, and for long years Peshawar was a name of terror to the English soldier from its proverbial unhealthiness. The water-supply for the first five-and-twenty years of our occupation was extremely bad, and sanitary arrangements, particularly as regards Natives, were apparently considered unnecessary.
In addition to the cordon of sentries round the cantonment, strong piquets were posted on all the principal roads leading towards the hills; and every house had to be guarded by a chokidar, or watchman, belonging to one of the robber tribes. The maintaining this watchman was a sort of blackmail, without consenting to which no one's horses or other property were safe. The watchmen were armed with all sorts of quaint old firearms, which, on an alarm being given, they discharged in the most reckless manner, making it quite a work of danger to pass along a Peshawar road after dark. No one was allowed to venture beyond the line of sentries when the sun had set, and even in broad daylight it was not safe to go any distance from the station.
In the autumn of 1851 an officer—Captain Frank Grantham, of the 98th Foot—was riding with a young lady on the Michni road, not far from the Artillery quarter-guard, when he was attacked by five hill-men. Grantham was wounded so severely that he died in a few days, the horses were carried off, but the girl was allowed to escape. She ran as fast as she could to the nearest guard, and told her story; the alarm was given, and the wounded man was brought in. The young lady was called upon shortly afterwards to identify one of the supposed murderers, but she could not recognize the man as being of the party who made the attack; nevertheless, the murderer's friends were afraid of what she might remember, and made an attempt one night to carry her off. Fortunately, it was frustrated, but from that time, until she left Peshawar, it was considered necessary to keep a guard over the house in which she lived.
From all this my readers may probably think that Peshawar, as I first knew it, was not a desirable place of residence; but I was very happy there. There was a good deal of excitement and adventure; I made many friends; and, above all, I had, to me, the novel pleasure of being with my father.
It was the custom in those days for the General commanding one of the larger divisions to have under him, and in charge of the Head-Quarter station, a senior officer styled Brigadier. Soon after I went to Peshawar, Sydney Cotton held this appointment, and remained in it for many years, making a great reputation for himself during the Mutiny, and being eventually appointed to the command of the division. The two senior officers on my father's staff were Lieutenant Norman and Lieutenant Lumsden, the former Deputy Assistant-Adjutant-General and the latter Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General. The high opinion of them which my father had formed was subsequently justified by their distinguished careers. Norman, with sixteen years' service, and at the age of thirty-four, became Adjutant-General of the Army in India, and a year or two later Secretary to Government in the Military Department. He finished his Indian service as Military Member of Council. Lumsden became Quartermaster-General, and afterwards Adjutant-General, the two highest positions on the Indian staff.
There was a separate mess for all the staff officers, and I remember a curious circumstance in connexion with that mess which, unless the exception proves the rule, is strong evidence against the superstition that thirteen is an unlucky number to sit down to dinner. On the 1st January, 1853, thirteen of us dined together; eleven years after we were all alive, nearly the whole of the party having taken part in the suppression of the Mutiny, and five or six having been wounded.
From the time of my arrival until the autumn of 1853, nothing of much importance occurred. I lived with my father, and acted as his Aide-de-camp, while, at the same time, I did duty with the Artillery. The 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion, to which I belonged, was composed of a fine body of men, who had a grand reputation in the field, but, being somewhat troublesome in quarters, had acquired the nickname of 'The Devil's Own.' Because of the unusually good physique of the men, this company was selected for conversion into a Mountain Battery, which it was thought advisable to raise at that time. I was the only subaltern with this battery for several months, and though my commanding officer had no objection to my acting as A.D.C. to my father, he took good care that I did my regimental duty strictly and regularly.
One very painful circumstance stamped itself on my memory. I was obliged to be present at a flogging parade—the only one, I am glad to say, I have ever had to attend, although the barbarous and degrading custom of flogging in the army was not done away with until nearly thirty years later. A few years before I joined the service, the number of lashes which might be given was limited to fifty, but even under this restriction the sight was a horrible one to witness. The parade to which I refer was ordered for the punishment of two men who had been sentenced to fifty lashes each for selling their kits, and to a certain term of imprisonment in addition. They were fine, handsome young Horse Artillerymen, and it was hateful to see them thus treated. Besides, one felt it was productive of harm rather than good, for it tended to destroy the men's self-respect, and to make them completely reckless. In this instance, no sooner had the two men been released from prison than they committed the same offence again. They were a second time tried by Court-Martial, and sentenced as before. How I longed to have the power to remit the fifty lashes, for I felt that selling their kits on this occasion was their way of showing their resentment at the ignominious treatment they had been subjected to, and of proving that flogging was powerless to prevent their repeating the offence. A parade was ordered, as on the previous occasion. One man was stripped to the waist, and tied to the wheel of a gun. The finding and sentence of the Court-Martial were read out—a trumpeter standing ready the while to inflict the punishment—when the commanding officer, Major Robert Waller, instead of ordering him to begin, to the intense relief of, I believe, every officer present, addressed the prisoners, telling them of his distress at finding two soldiers belonging to his troop brought up for corporal punishment twice in a little more than six weeks, and adding that, however little they deserved such leniency, if they would promise not to commit the same offence again, and to behave better for the future, he would remit the flogging part of the sentence. If the prisoners were not happy, I was; but the clemency was evidently appreciated by them, for they promised, and kept their words. I did not lose sight of these two men for some years, and was always gratified to learn that their conduct was uniformly satisfactory, and that they had become good, steady soldiers.
The Commissioner, or chief civil authority, when I arrived at Peshawar, was Colonel Mackeson, a well-known frontier officer who had greatly distinguished himself during the first Afghan war by his work among the Afridis and other border tribes, by whom he was liked and respected as much as he was feared. During Shah Shuja's brief reign at Kabul, Mackeson was continually employed on political duty in the Khyber Pass and at Peshawar. On the breaking out of the insurrection at Kabul, he was indefatigable in forwarding supplies and money to Sir Robert Sale at Jalalabad, hastening up the reinforcements, and maintaining British influence in the Khyber, a task of no small magnitude when we remember that a religious war had been proclaimed, and all true believers had been called upon to exterminate the Feringhis. While at Peshawar, as Commissioner, his duties were arduous and his responsibilities heavy—the more so as at that time the Afghan inhabitants of the city were in a dangerous and excited state.
On the 10th September, 1853, we were horrified to learn that Mackeson had been murdered by a religious fanatic. He was sitting in the verandah of his house listening to appeals from the decisions of his subordinates, when, towards evening, a man—who had been remarked by many during the day earnestly engaged in his devotions, his prayer-carpet being spread within sight of the house—came up and, making a low salaam to Mackeson, presented him with a paper. The Commissioner, supposing it to be a petition, stretched out his hand to take it, when the man instantly plunged a dagger into his breast. The noise consequent on the struggle attracted the attention of some of the domestic servants and one of the Native officials. The latter threw himself between Mackeson and the fanatic, and was himself slightly wounded in his efforts to rescue his Chief.
Mackeson lingered until the 14th September. His death caused considerable excitement in the city and along the border, increasing to an alarming extent when it became known that the murderer had been hanged and his body burnt. This mode of disposing of one of their dead is considered by Mahomedans as the greatest insult that can be offered to their religion, for in thus treating the corpse, as if it were that of (by them) a hated and despised Hindu, the dead man is supposed to be deprived of every chance of paradise. It was not without careful and deliberate consideration that this course was decided upon, and it was only adopted on account of the deterrent effect it would have upon fanatical Mahomedans, who count it all gain to sacrifice their lives by the murder of a heretic, and thereby secure, as they firmly believe, eternal happiness, but loathe the idea of being burned, which effectually prevents the murderer being raised to the dignity of a martyr, and revered as a saint ever after.
It being rumoured that the Pathans intended to retaliate by desecrating the late Commissioner's grave, it was arranged that he should be buried within cantonment limits. A monument was raised to his memory by public subscription, and his epitaph was written by the Governor-General himself.
Shortly before Mackeson's murder my father had found it necessary to go to the hill-station of Murree; the hot weather had tried him very much, and he required a change. He had scarcely arrived there, when he was startled by the news of the tragedy which had occurred, and at once determined to return, notwithstanding its being the most sickly season of the year at Peshawar, for he felt that at a time of such dangerous excitement it was his duty to be present. As a precautionary measure, he ordered the 22nd Foot from Rawal Pindi to Peshawar. This and other steps which he deemed prudent to take soon put an end to the disturbances.
No sooner had matters quieted down at Peshawar than the Jowaki Afridis, who inhabit the country immediately to the east of the Kohat Pass, began to give trouble, and we went out into camp to select a site for a post which would serve to cover the northern entrance to the pass and keep the tribesmen under surveillance. The great change of temperature, from the intense heat he had undergone in the summer to the bitter cold of November nights in tents, was too severe a trial for my father. He was then close on seventy, and though apparently active as ever, he was far from well, consequently the doctors strongly urged him not to risk another hot weather in India. It was accordingly settled that he should return to England without delay.
Shortly before his departure, an incident occurred which I will relate for the benefit of psychological students; they may, perhaps, be able to explain it, I never could. My father had some time before issued invitations for a dance which was to take place in two days' time—on Monday, the 17th October, 1853. On the Saturday morning he appeared disturbed and unhappy, and during breakfast he was silent and despondent—very different from his usual bright and cheery self. On my questioning him as to the cause, he told me he had had an unpleasant dream—one which he had dreamt several times before, and which had always been followed by the death of a near relation. As the day advanced, in spite of my efforts to cheer him, he became more and more depressed, and even said he should like to put off the dance. I dissuaded him from taking this step for the time being; but that night he had the same dream again, and the next morning he insisted on the dance being postponed. It seemed to me rather absurd to have to disappoint our friends because of a dream; there was, however, nothing for it but to carry out my father's wishes, and intimation was accordingly sent to the invited guests. The following morning the post brought news of the sudden death of the half-sister at Lahore with whom I had stayed on my way to Peshawar.
As my father was really very unwell, it was not thought advisable for him to travel alone, so it was arranged that I should accompany him to Rawal Pindi. We started from Peshawar on the 27th November, and drove as far as Nowshera. The next day we went on to Attock. I found the invalid had benefited so much by the change that it was quite safe for him to continue the journey alone, and I consented the more readily to leave him, as I was anxious to get back to my battery, which had been ordered on service, and was then with the force assembled at Bazidkhel for an expedition against the Bori villages of the Jowaki Afridis.
Having said farewell to my father, I started for Bazidkhel early on the 29th November. At that time there was no direct road to that place from Nowshera, nor was it considered safe to travel alone along the slopes of the lower Afridi hills. I had, therefore, to go all the way back to Peshawar to get to my destination. I rode as fast as relays of horses could carry me, in the hope that I should reach Bazidkhel in time for the fun; but soon after passing Nowshera I heard guns in the direction of the Kohat Pass, and realized that I should be too late. I was very disappointed at missing this, my first chance of active service, and not accompanying the newly raised Mountain Train (as it was then called) on the first occasion of its being employed in the field.
The object of this expedition was to punish the Jowaki section of the Afridis for their many delinquencies during the three previous years. Numerous murders and raids on the Kohat and Peshawar districts, the plunder of boats on the Indus, and the murder of a European apothecary, were all traced to this tribe. They had been blockaded, and their resort to the salt-mines near Bahadurkhel and to the markets of Kohat and Peshawar had been interdicted, but these measures produced no effect on the recalcitrant tribesmen. John (afterwards Lord) Lawrence, who had come to Peshawar for the purpose of taking (sic) over frontier affairs with Edwardes, the new Commissioner, held a conference with the maliks of the villages connected with the Jowaki Pass, and being anxious to avoid hostilities, offered to condone all past offences if the tribes would agree to certain conditions, which, briefly, were that no further crimes should be committed in British territory; that such criminals as had taken refuge in their villages should be given up; and that for the future criminals and outlaws flying from justice should not be afforded an asylum in Jowaki lands. To the second condition the whole tribe absolutely refused to agree. They stated, with truth, that from time immemorial it was their custom to afford an asylum to anyone demanding it, and that to surrender a man who had sought and found shelter with them would be a disgrace which they could not endure.
Afridis have curious ideas as to the laws of hospitality; it is no uncommon thing for them to murder their guests in cold blood, but it is contrary to their code of honour to surrender a fugitive who has claimed an asylum with them.
The sections of the tribe living nearest our territory agreed to the first and third of our conditions, no doubt because they felt they were in our power, and had suffered considerably from the blockade. But the Bori Afridis would make no atonement for the past and give no security for the future, although they admitted having robbed and murdered our subjects. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to send a force against them. This force consisted of rather more than 1,500 men, British and Native. The Afridis made no stand until we reached their main position, when they offered a stout resistance, which, however, proved of no avail against the gallantry of the Guides and 66th (now 1st) Gurkhas. The Bori villages were then destroyed, with a loss to us of eight men killed and thirty-one wounded.
Sufficient punishment having been inflicted, our force retired. The rear-guard was hotly pressed, and it was late in the evening before the troops got clear of the hills.
The tribesmen with whom we had just made friends sat in hundreds on the ridges watching the progress of the fight. It was no doubt a great temptation to them to attack the 'infidels' while they were at their mercy, and considerable anxiety was felt by Lawrence and Edwardes as to the part which our new allies would play; their relief was proportionate when it was found they intended to maintain a neutral attitude.
I shall not further describe the events of that day, more especially as I was not fortunate enough to be in time to take part in the proceedings. I have only referred to this expedition as being typical of many little frontier fights, and because I remember being much impressed at the time with the danger of trusting our communications in a difficult mountainous country to people closely allied to those against whom we were fighting. This over-confidence in the good faith of our frontier neighbours caused us serious embarrassments a few years later during the Umbeyla campaign.
The force remained in camp for some time for the protection of the men employed in building the post, which was called Fort Mackeson, after the murdered Commissioner. When it was completed we returned to Peshawar.
[Footnote 1: Shortly before my father left Peshawar he received the following letter from Colonel Outram, dated Calcutta, the 23rd October, 1853: 'As I know that your views as to the policy that should be pursued towards Dost Mahomed must be in accordance with those of the Governor-General, I accordingly showed your letter to Grant, Courtney, and Colonel Low, all of whom were glad to learn that you entertained such sound views, opposed though they be with the general clamour for war with the Kabulese which appears to be the cry of the army. This, together with the wise forethought you displayed before the Kabul insurrection (which, though at the time it found no favour at Head-Quarters, was subsequently so mournfully established by the Kabul massacre, which would have been prevented had your warnings been attended to), shows how well you would combine the military and political control of the country beyond the Indus.']
[Footnote 2: The late General Sir Sydney Cotton, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 3: Now General Sir Henry Norman, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., lately Governor of Queensland.]
[Footnote 4: Now General Sir Peter Lumsden, G.C.B.]
[Footnote 5: 1881.]
'HERE LIES THE BODY OF FREDERICK MACKESON,
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL IN THE BENGAL ARMY, COMPANION OF THE BATH, AND
COMMISSIONER OF PESHAWAR, WHO WAS BORN SEPTEMBER 2ND, 1807, AND DIED
SEPTEMBER 14TH, 1853, OF A WOUND INFLICTED BY A RELIGIOUS FANATIC.
He was the beau-ideal of a soldier—cool to conceive, brave to dare, and strong to do. The Indian Army was proud of his noble presence in its ranks—not without cause. On the dark page of the Afghan war the name of "Mackeson" shines brightly out; the frontier was his post, and the future his field. The defiles of the Khyber and the peaks of the Black Mountain alike witness his exploits. Death still found him in front. Unconquered enemies felt safer when he fell. His own Government thus mourn the fall.
'The reputation of Lieutenant-Colonel Mackeson as a soldier is known to and honoured by all. His value as a political servant of the State is known to none better than to the Governor-General himself, who in a difficult and eventful time had cause to mark his great ability, and the admirable prudence, discretion, and temper, which added tenfold value to the high soldierly qualities of his public character.
'The loss of Colonel Mackeson's life would have dimmed a victory; to lose him thus, by the hand of a foul assassin, is a misfortune of the heaviest gloom for the Government, which counted him amongst its bravest and best.
'General orders of the Marquis Dalhousie, Governor-General of India, 3rd October, 1853.
'This monument was erected by his friends.']
[Footnote 7: Head men.]
* * * * *
CHAPTER IV. 1854-1856
A trip to Khagan—The Vale of Kashmir—With the Horse Artillery —My first visit to Simla—Life at Peshawar—A staff appointment —The bump of locality
I had had a great deal of fever during my eighteen months' residence at Peshawar, and in April, 1854, I obtained six months' leave to Kashmir. I travelled via Murree to Abbottabad, along the route now well known as the 'Gullies.' Here I was joined by Lieutenant George Rodney Brown, a subaltern of Horse Artillery, with whom I chummed at Peshawar.
Abbottabad was a very small place in those days. It was named after its first Deputy-Commissioner, James Abbott, famous for his journey via Bokhara and Khiva to Russia in 1839, undertaken for the release of Russian prisoners who were kept as slaves by the Turkomans. He had just left, and had been succeeded as Deputy-Commissioner by a Captain Becher, who, fortunately for us, was away in the district. I say fortunately, because we were bent on visiting Khagan, and had obtained permission from the Commissioner of Peshawar to do so. He had told us to apply to Becher for assistance, but from what we heard of that officer, it did not seem likely he would help us. Khagan was beyond our border, and the inhabitants were said to be even more fanatical than the rest of the frontier tribes. The Commissioner, however, had given us leave, and as his Deputy appeared to be the kind of man to create obstacles, we made up our minds to slip away before he returned.
We started on the 21st May, and marched to Habibula-Ki-Ghari. Here the road bifurcates, one branch leading to Kashmir, the other to Khagan. We took the latter, and proceeded to Balakot, twelve miles further on, which was then our frontier post. There we found a small guard of Frontier Police, two of whom we induced to accompany us on our onward journey for the purpose of assisting to look after the baggage and collecting coolies. Three days' more marching brought us to Khagan. The road almost the whole way from Balakot ran along a precipice overhanging the Nainsukh river, at that time of year a rushing torrent, owing to the melting of the snows on the higher ranges. The track was rough, steep, and in some places very narrow. We crossed and recrossed the river several times by means of snow-bridges, which, spanning the limpid, jade-coloured water, had a very pretty effect. At one point our shikarris stopped, and proudly told us that on that very spot their tribe had destroyed a Sikh army sent against them in the time of Runjit Sing. It certainly was a place well chosen for a stand, not more than fifty yards wide, with a perpendicular cliff on one side and a roaring torrent on the other.
The people apparently did not object to our being in their country, and treated us with much civility throughout our journey. We were enjoying ourselves immensely, so when an official cover reached us with the signature of the dreaded Deputy-Commissioner in the corner, we agreed that it would be unwise to open it just then.
Khagan was almost buried in snow. The scenery was magnificent, and became every moment more wonderful as we slowly climbed the steep ascent in front of us; range after range of snow-capped mountains disclosed themselves to our view, rising higher and higher into the air, until at last, towering above all, Nanga Parbat in all her spotless beauty was revealed to our astonished and delighted gaze.
We could not get beyond Khagan. Our coolies refused to go further, alleging as their reason the danger to be dreaded from avalanches in that month; but I suspect that fear of hostility from the tribes further north had more to do with their reluctance to proceed than dread of falling avalanches. We remained at Khagan for two or three days in the hope of being able to shoot an ibex, but we were disappointed; we never even saw one.
We retraced our steps with considerable regret, and reached Habibula-Ki-Ghari on the 31st May. Here we received a second official document from Abbottabad. It contained, like the previous letter, which we now looked at for the first time, orders for our immediate return, and warnings that we were on no account to go to Khagan. Since then Khagan has been more than once visited by British officers, and now a road is in course of construction along the route we travelled, as being a more direct line of communication with Gilghit than that via Kashmir.
We made no delay at Habibula-Ki-Ghari, but started at once for the lovely Vale of Kashmir, where we spent the summer, amusing ourselves by making excursions to all the places of interest and beauty we had so often heard of, and occasionally shooting a bear. The place which impressed me most was Martund, where stand the picturesque ruins of a once renowned Hindu temple. These noble ruins are the most striking in size and position of all the existing remains of the past glories of Kashmir.
From Martund we made our way to Vernag, the celebrated spring which is supposed to be the source of the Jhelum river. The Moghul Emperor Akbar built there a summer palace, and the arches, on which it is said rested the private apartments of the lovely Nur Jehan, are still visible.
We wandered over the beautiful and fertile Lolab valley, and pitched our little camp in the midst of groves of chunar, walnut, apple, cherry, and peach trees; and we marched up the Sind valley, and crossed the Zojji La Pass leading into Thibet. The scenery all along this route is extremely grand. On either side are lofty mountains, their peaks wrapped in snow, their sides clothed with pine, and their feet covered with forests, in which is to be found almost every kind of deciduous tree. From time to time we returned for a few days to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, to enjoy the pleasures of more civilized society. Srinagar is so well known nowadays, and has been so often described in poetry and prose, that it is needless for me to dwell at length upon its delights, which, I am inclined to think, are greater in imagination than in reality. It has been called the Venice of the East, and in some respects it certainly does remind one of the 'Bride of the Sea,' both in its picturesqueness and (when one gets into the small and tortuous canals) its unsavouriness. Even at the time of which I am writing it was dilapidated, and the houses looked exactly like those made by children out of a pack of cards, which a puff of wind might be expected to destroy. Of late years the greater part of the city has been injured by earthquakes, and Srinagar looks more than ever like a card city. The great beauty of the place in those days was the wooden bridges covered with creepers, and gay with booths and shops of all descriptions, which spanned the Jhelum at intervals for the three miles the river runs through the town—now, alas! for the artistic traveller, no more. Booths and shops have been swept away, and the creepers have disappeared—decidedly an advantage from a sanitary point of view, but destructive of the quaint picturesqueness of the town.
The floating gardens are a unique and very pretty characteristic of Srinagar. The lake is nowhere deeper than ten or twelve feet, and in some places much less. These gardens are made by driving stakes into the bed of the lake, long enough to project three or four feet above the surface of the water. These stakes are placed at intervals in an oblong form, and are bound together by reeds and rushes twined in and out and across, until a kind of stationary raft is made, on which earth and turf are piled. In this soil seeds are sown, and the crops of melons and other fruits raised in these fertile beds are extremely fine and abundant.
The magnificent chunar-trees are another very beautiful feature of the country. They grow to a great height and girth, and so luxuriant and dense is their foliage that I have sat reading and writing for hours during heavy rain under one of these trees and kept perfectly dry.
The immediate vicinity of Srinagar is very pretty, and the whole valley of Kashmir is lovely beyond description: surrounded by beautifully-wooded mountains, intersected with streams and lakes, and gay with flowers of every description, for in Kashmir many of the gorgeous eastern plants and the more simple but sweeter ones of England meet on common ground. To it may appropriately be applied the Persian couplet:
'Agar fardos baru-i zamin ast, hamin ast, hamin ast' (If there be an Elysium on earth, it is this, it is this).
The soil is extremely productive; anything will grow in it. Put a stick into the ground, and in an extraordinary short space of time it becomes a tree and bears fruit. What were we about, to sell such a country for three quarters of a million sterling? It would have made the most perfect sanatorium for our troops, and furnished an admirable field for British enterprise and colonization, its climate being as near perfection as anything can be.