Page images

and a printing press, and once nearly caused a pestilence by burying an elephant. He was fond of travelling, a very unusual taste in a native, and was now absent on a tour in Rajpootana. He left the management of the business to his brothers, who in their turn confided it to their agents. A few years before, one of these had led them into speculations in opium, that entailed on them a loss of some hundreds of thousands of pounds. The agents. were allowed a liberty, and assumed an independence to our English notions very astounding. The one at Bombay was then in open rebellion; his revolt did not result in his dismissal, but in preventing the elder Seth from visiting that city as he had intended.

The Seths' house contained hardly any furniture, beyond curtains and awnings, nor any books, pictures, or other works of art. But of jewels they possessed a vast abundance, and stores of gold and silver that filled vaults. They had necklaces of emeralds, each stone the size of a large marble, enormous pearls, a ring of which the hoop and signet were cut out of a single ruby, a table diamond about an inch and a half long and of proportionate width, and smaller stones without number. The most precious ornaments were reserved for the women, and these I never saw; among them was a small idol carved out of a single emerald.

On state occasions their elephant appearedcaparisoned in silver; the caparison was composed of discs overlapping each other, something in the style of scale armour. They usually rode in English carriages, of which they had several. These vehicles were kept in open sheds and rarely, if ever, cleaned; neither were their horses. For dirt and untidiness the equipage of a native has no equal.

I have said that the Seths had no books; the elder

brother had one, oddly enough the first volume of a Koran. It had been obtained from the plunder of the palace of some Mohammedan prince, in one of our many wars. I once saw it. It was beyond compare the most beautiful manuscript I ever beheld; each letter had round it a border of gold. It must have taken a lifetime to write. It was the Seth's great desire to obtain the other volume; he did not succeed in procuring it.

My life in the Seths' house would form an interesting story, but I shall not now relate it; the description would too much interrupt the course of my narrative. We had many adventures, some escapes. Once some Sepoy mutineers entered the city, twice the Seths' guards attempted to murder us. The villagers, after an interval, recommenced their aggressions. I collected a rabble, marched out, and burnt some of their villages; others it was prudent to avoid. Over the river several villages coalesced, and under the leadership of one Dayby Sing proclaimed their independence. Dayby Sing assumed the title of Rajah, and having attacked and subdued some of his neighbours, expressed his intention of turning me out of the city. At this juncture there arrived to my assistance a miniature army, termed the 'Kotah Contingent,' Captain Dennys commanding it.

The contingent arrived in the morning, in the afternoon the villagers sent in to make their submission; next day the contingent was recalled to Agra. The villagers heard of its departure, and shot at the messengers who conveyed my answer. The news reached Dayby Sing. I had put together the bridge of boats that we might march over and attack him. He learnt that the contingent was gone, he sent me a message to remove the bridge or he would save me the trouble by coming and burning it. That message cost him his life. I had

intended to remove the bridge lest he should use it to cross, but after this message I felt bound to maintain it. In a few days the contingent returned as unexpectedly as it had left, and the bridge being ready, Captain Dennys resolved to make a dash over the river, and, if possible, to capture the Rajah. I joined the force, which had encamped on one of the parade grounds, and about one o'clock the next morning we commenced our march.



AFTER a fatiguing march of many miles we arrived before Dayby Sing's stronghold. It was an ordinary village, large and very ugly, a mere collection of mud huts closely huddled together. It stood on the open plain, but the plain was prettily dotted with groves of trees. The sun was high in the heavens before we reached it, for there had been a great delay in crossing the river, and we had stopped on the way to burn another insurgent village, from which the inhabitants had fled. We made sure that Dayby Sing and his men had done the same, for they must have had ample notice of our approach. In case, however, they should be inside and intend to fight, Captain Dennys thought it right to proceed with due caution. We halted, the men formed in line, the cavalry galloped off to right and left to cut off the fugitives, and then the guns were ordered to the front; and for the first time in my life I saw shots fired in earnest.

I was standing close by one of the cannon when there came a deafening roar, a jet of flame, and a puff of smoke. In a second or two there appeared in the air, as if it had come out of vacancy, a black ball sailing majestically, and, as it seemed, very deliberately towards the village. When it was just above the houses it burst, sending out a sheet of flame and a shower of fragments in all

directions. A second shell exploded inside the village. When the smoke had cleared, we perceived crowds of men and women making their way across the fields, and more streaming out from the village to follow them. As soon as they were well away the cavalry closed in, cut off their return, and then drove them in groups towards us. In half an hour the whole population had been made prisoners and were seated around us. The shells had terribly frightened them, but by good luck had injured none of them. Among the prisoners, to our surprise, was discovered Dayby Sing, the insurgent Rajah himself. He was a very ordinary-looking man, distinguished from the other villagers only by his yellow dress-yellow among the Hindoos being the dress of royalty.

He had been found hid in a field of sugar cane. He at first denied his identity, but a score of his subjects deposed to it, as also did his wife. She, with a number of other women, had been apprehended while flying in a different direction. On searching Dayby Sing's clothes a letter was found, the reading of which afforded much amusement, to the Sepoys especially. It was from his agent, a fellow-villager, and dated from a neighbouring town. It commenced with the usual string of adulatory epithets which Eastern etiquette demands in addresses to those of exalted rank. To the lord of beneficence, the source of wealth, the foundation of prosperity, the treasury of grace, the supporter of the poor, the illustrious prince, the Rajah, the great Rajah Dayby Sing, monarch of the fourteen villages, the victorious in war.'

The subject of the letter was hardly in keeping with its grandiloquent commencement. It reported only the purchase of a few pennyworths of pepper and about an equal amount of sugar and vegetables.

While the letter was being read the poor Rajah sat

« PreviousContinue »