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THE ASSEMBLING OF THE ARMY.
BHURTPORE is a small independent State, adjoining Muttra on the west. The Rajah had died some four years previously to the occurrence of the events I am relating, and the English Government had assumed charge of the territory till the infant son he had left should come of age. The administration of the State was conducted by an English officer, Major Morrison, who had the title of Agent, and several assistants, of whom the chief was Captain Nixon. Captain Nixon had received early intelligence of the disturbances at Delhi, and had immediately proposed to the Government to make use of the Bhurtpore troops to aid in suppressing them. The proposal had been approved of, and he had been authorised to march the army to Delhi, taking Muttra by the way. From some oversight these orders had not been communicated to me, and I was in consequence, unaware of Captain Nixon's approach till about an hour before he entered the station.
As it was supposed that the mutineers were marching down on us, Captain Nixon decided to suspend his advance and await their arrival on the other side of the city, where he proposed to place his troops in position and throw up entrenchments. The city itself was very capable of defence, for it was full of narrow lanes and
houses of solid stone. At Captain Nixon's suggestion I erected barricades at the principal entrances, I raised guards, and I adopted various other measures to enable the inhabitants to co-operate with the soldiers-measures to which I looked back with some amusement, when I became better acquainted with the feelings of the citizens and their fighting capabilities.
Soon after breakfast I received a visit from two brothers-the Seths; they were wealthy bankers, and the persons of the greatest influence in the city. They came ostensibly to show me a letter they had received from their agent at Delhi, but the real object of their visit was to warn me against the Sepoy guard, whom they informed me intended to mutiny on the first opportunity, and carry off the treasure. They added that the guard would have mutinied the previous evening but for the unexpected arrival of Captain Nixon's troops.
We had then in the treasury over half a million of silver rupees, and about ten thousand pounds' worth of copper coins, and money no longer current. During the first two days after my return from Agra I had become doubtful of the fidelity of the guard, and I had in consequence requested permission to send the treasure in to Agra; in anticipation of the permission I had caused the rupees to be packed in boxes, and had collected carts for their conveyance. On the departure of the Seths I sent off a mounted messenger to Agra, reiterating my suspicions of the guard, and renewing my request for permission to send in the treasure.
In the course of the day we received intelligence that our fears regarding the approach of the mutineers were groundless. They were fortifying themselves in Delhi, from whence, apparently, they had no intention of departing. On this Captain Nixon decided to continue
his march, and to join the English army, which was approaching Delhi from the north. Orders were issued to the troops to prepare to move the next morning, and the rest of the day was spent by us in getting ready to accompany them.
The march was to commence at dawn; long before that time we were dressed and assembled in the verandah. Half an hour had passed when Captain Nixon joined us, and in tone and manner expressive of much annoyance informed me that he feared our departure would have to be delayed; the pay of the soldiers, he said, was in arrears, and they declined to set out till they received it, which could not be till the arrival of the State treasurer, which, however, he shortly expected.
This revelation of the discipline of the army was rather startling; it confirmed certain disparaging observations respecting the force which the Seths had let fall during their visit the previous day. Before long a jingling of bells was heard, and a gay little cart drawn by two fine bullocks entered the garden, and trotted up the avenue. A servant presently came up and announced the arrival of the treasurer. The chiefs were summoned, a consultation followed; when it was concluded, Captain Nixon informed us that the difficulty about the pay had been arranged, and that in a few minutes the army would begin to march. The minutes were so protracted that we began to fear some fresh obstacle had been discovered, when at length a gun fired. The report was followed by a babel of sounds, neighing of horses, shouts of men, jingling of bells, and at intervals that unpleasant bubbling noise that vicious camels emit when being laden. The sounds presently grew fainter, there was a tramp of men and horses, and in a
cloud of dust the army filed past the garden wall. After the army followed a miscellaneous rabble that seemed to have no end.
When the troops had passed and were fairly ahead, we mounted our horses and followed. Captain Nixon and another officer took their seats with me in my carriage. Just as we were passing through the gates it occurred to Captain Nixon that it would be as well to inspect the guard before leaving the station. I accordingly told the coachman to drive along the road that led to the office. A troop of the Bhurtpore horse and two chiefs accompanied us. The office was a large onestoried building, consisting of a few immense rooms, and surrounded by a wide massive verandah. It had originally been a private house, and in the days when Muttra was a large cantonment it had been the residence of the general. There was a tradition that it had once been temporarily occupied by Lord Lake.
It stood in the midst of extensive grounds, dotted with fine trees, and laid out something in the style of an English park. The grounds were usually thronged with people, but as it was long before office hours, they were now empty. The only person we saw as we drove up the avenue was the sentry on guard, and he was lolling carelessly against one of the pillars of the verandah. On seeing our cavalcade approaching he started upright, gave a confused look towards us, and ran through an open door into one of the rooms. He reappeared immediately, followed by the whole guard. They leaped off the verandah, formed in double line across the road, levelled their muskets, and threatened to fire if we advanced another step.
For a few minutes there was the greatest confusion; our escort drew their swords and commenced to gallop
round to take the Sepoys in the rear. We called to them to return, but every instant expected a collision. I and Captain Nixon left the carriage and advanced to the men, and after a good deal of coaxing and persuasion we induced their native officer to come forward, and we then explained to him that we had come merely to inspect the guard, and had no intention of attacking them, as they appeared to fear. Eventually the officer ordered the guard to ground their arms, and allowed us to enter the office. We made a hurried inspection, and left it, thankful that we had avoided a catastrophe. All the while we had been talking to the officer the men had kept their muskets levelled and their fingers on the triggers. If one of the guns had accidentally gone off there certainly would have been an engagement.
Captain Nixon drove on to his camp. I returned home, for I had a good deal to arrange before leaving the station. In the course of the morning the native officer called to offer apologies for the misadventure of the morning. He repeated his assurances of the loyalty of himself and his soldiers, and declared with many asseverations that they raised their muskets only to protect their lives, being fully persuaded, on seeing the Bhurtpore cavalry, that they had come to attack and destroy them. How the guard came to be in the office and in uniform instead of in undress and in their huts, as they ought to have been, he did not explain, nor did I think it prudent to inquire. I treated him very politely, accepted his excuses, and as soon as he had left I sent an express to Agra, reported what had happened, and urged again my advice that the treasure should be sent in without further delay.
In the afternoon I drove out to the camp. I found it pitched on a large open plain, about two miles on the