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Government was awaiting the course of events, and awaiting them in much anxiety, for we were there in a situation of great peril. A few marches to the southwest was the state of Gwalior. The Rajah was friendly, but the contingent had lately mutinied. It was a formidable force, numbering about ten thousand men, and regarded as the finest and best disciplined body of troops in the whole Bengal army. It had expressed an intention of marching on Agra. The prime minister of the Rajah had dissuaded the leaders from carrying out their intention, but it was uncertain if he would in the future be able to restrain them.
Another army also threatened us. This was the native brigade that had been stationed at Neemuch, a city far away to the west, in the territory of Rajpootana. It had mutinied like the rest, and after plundering the treasury had commenced to march, it was supposed, for Delhi. But on this point doubts had for some time arisen. The route they had taken would lead equally to Agra, and it was now uncertain if, after all, Agra was not really their destination. The uncertainty was causing all at Agra great anxiety, not a little apprehension; for if this rebel army did come we had but a very small force wherewith to meet it. After much debate, much hesitation, the Government had at length decided to increase their forces by calling in the Kotah contingent, and the order was issued that caused Captain Dennys and his officers so great gratification. Their gratification was a little modified by a second order, which almost immediately followed, and which forbade the contingent to cross the river. Captain Dennys was directed to remain encamped on the eastern bank of the Jumna till the destination of the Neemuch mutineers was positively ascertained.
The contingent marched away in the morning; I followed in the afternoon. I had collected some revenue. I thought, now that the contingent were leaving, it would be safer in Agra. I obtained permission to bring it in.
It was not so very long since I had been at Agra, but in the interval a great change had occurred in the sentiments of the higher officials. There was little of the former confidence, less of that disbelief in the danger, now that it threatened themselves. The conviction of the danger did not, however, appear to have called forth either much wisdom or much unanimity as to the method of meeting it. I heard the arrangements discussed. They seemed to me very foolish; but on this point the reader will be able to form his own opinion when later on I describe them.
I returned to my district the next day, bringing back with me one of my assistants, Mr. Clifford. He had been ill, and though hardly recovered insisted on returning and sharing our dangers. I will hurry over the events of the next few days. Anticipating the departure of the contingent, I had collected a force of my own. It was supplied by the great landholders; each sent in a party of so many men. Wonderful savages they were; lazy, dirty, stupid, and armed with as miscellaneous a collection of weapons as if they had plundered a museum. The way they performed their duties would have broken the heart of a disciplinarian. They had no conception of order or of obedience. As guards, even as messengers, they were quite unreliable. They would sleep at their posts, or, if the fancy took them, would desert them. A letter delivered to one, however urgent, would be passed on to a second or to a third. It would be delayed whilst the man who ultimately took
it ate, smoked, or visited a friend by the way. Of such mobs, no doubt, were composed the armies of the native princes that we encountered in the early days of our rule. No wonder that with such mere handfuls of troops we so easily defeated them.
The horsemen, however, were much better. They were men of a superior class, generally connected more or less nearly to the landholder who furnished them. They were well dressed, well armed in the native fashion, and mounted on really beautiful horses. I collected a large troop of these men. They were afterwards transferred to the Government, and, under the appellation of De Kautzow's horse, did good service towards the end of the disturbances.
Bad as my levies were, they were as good as the villagers'. I could have maintained my position in the district with them had I not been threatened by more dangerous enemies.
CLOSING AROUND US.
SOME ten or twelve miles further down the road, on the side of which I was encamped, there was a detachment of native cavalry and horse artillery. They formed a portion of that Gwalior contingent which, as I have stated, had recently mutinied. It was daily expected that this detachment would do the same. When they did we should have to fly, and for that contingency I had made all preparation. I had also, should things come to the worst, endeavoured to procure the means of defence, and with that object I had applied to the Government for some muskets and a few rounds of ammunition. I was told that none could be spared, but in their place the Government sent me a fresh troop of this mutinous cavalry. They were to be under my immediate orders; how likely they were to obey them might be conjectured from their behaviour on their arrival.
They marched in at dawn; their native officers came to report themselves; I had been up late, and was asleep. The Sahib (gentleman) is asleep, is he?' they replied to the servant; then we will try and awaken him,' and so saying they walked into the verandah and discharged their pistols before my bedroom door.
It was about the third day after the arrival of this
troop that I received a note from Captain Alexander, who commanded the detachment down the road, to warn me that his men were about to mutiny. Between nine and ten in the evening, just as we were going to bed, we heard a tremendous hubbub in the yard of the bungalow. Mr. Clifford and I seized our guns and ran out; we found the yard filled with our servants in a state of great excitement, and we could perceive indistinctly a party of horsemen on the road beyond. We concluded that the detachment had mutinied and were come to attack We were going to run back to the bungalow and try to defend ourselves, when I heard myself called to in English, and I recognised the voice as Captain Alexander's; he begged me to come to the roadside and speak to him.
I found him on horseback, his officers beside him, and a party of troopers behind. In a few words he informed me that his detachment had mutinied, as he had expected, but that a number of the men had insisted that their officers should not be injured, and had told off some of their number to see them safe into Agra. He said that he had halted to inform me, and recommended that I and Mr. Clifford should accompany him. I should have done so but for my assistants at Muttra, Mr. Dashwood and Mr. Colvin, whom I could not in honour abandon. I should have stated that they and also the civil surgeon had lately returned to Muttra, and were residing in a bungalow I had had put in order for them. I informed Captain Alexander why I could not avail myself of his proposal, and then we shook hands and the troop rode on. Had he not told me so, I should never have supposed that the men were mutineers. While we were conversing they had remained as silent, as orderly, and as respectful as the most obedient of soldiers.