Page images

(also the acting master of ceremonies), I was told that I might present my offering, which being an Alum Shahee rupee,” a coin of rather an inferior value in this quarter, I was received with a frown, and my money underwent a strict examination. Would you not imagine that I had been bargaining with a Jew pedlar, instead of conferring with the chief of a country Though I was mortified at beholding among us so glaring a meanness and want of decorum, yet as a trait of national charaćter was disclosed, I received some satisfaction in obtaining so unequivocal a testimony of it. In further proof of the inconsistency of condućt, as well as a want of fortitude in the people of this country, I am induced to relate to you an event, (though foreign to the immediate purpose of this letter) that came within my own knowledge. At the time when the Mahometans were driven from Kattuck, the chief of that territory fled to Bengal, where having expended the amount of the treasure and moveables that had been preserved, he went to the coast of Coromandel, and was received into the list of penfioners maintained by the Navaub of the Carnatic. During the regular payment of the allowance, this man enjoyed ease; and by the shew of a palanquin, and a respectable retinue, he maintained a certain state. The provision which the Navaub at that time found it expedient to make for pensioners of a higher order, caused

a deduction from the stipend of his Kattuck dependant, who then

* A rupee of the present reign.


laid down his palanquin, and purchased a small horse. This was doubtless a mortifying degradation; but the cup of his sorrow was not yet full ; for on a greater redućtion, and at length, a total abolition of the pension, this poor man losing fight of the character he had supported, and blinded by a vanity which discouraged all industrious exertion for a livelihood, became notoriously addićted to fraud, and petty-thefts; and was scarcely saved from an ignominious end. I have quoted these examples, thinking them more conclusive in conveying to you a knowledge of charaćter, than any speculative observation. But when the mind at an early period, is not accustomed to behold and admire examples of integrity and honor, or taught to shun with horror and contempt the habits of vice ; on the contrary, when the instruction given to youth, tends to appreciate the duties of life by the performance of futile ceremonies, and the study of legends pregnant with fable, or violent prejudices, we are not to wonder at such acts of

depravity. The flies tormented me so much in the Bellaspour army, that I could not but with difficulty secure my food from their vile attacks. A certain quantity of poison I believe is contained in the body of an Indian fly, for on swallowing it, a nausea and vomiting almost immediately succeed. I had imagined that the sickness might proceed from the motion of the infect in the stomach, but on examining one after it had been discharged, I perceived it with. out life, though but a very short time deprived of its natural air, The The intense heat of the stomach indeed, must speedily cause the suffocation of so small an animal. OU R situation in the Bellaspour camp was disgusting and incommodious. The heat was in the extreme, with a compound of finells arising from the filth of the people, that grossly tainted the air : and I became so anxious to escape, that I had determined to embrace any mode of operation which might lead to a change of quarters. This eagerness had almost produced a measure, which probably would have caused a material failure of my plan. Two messengers who were to convey proposals of peace to the Kangrah camp, promised to condućt our party thither in safety, and I had resolved to commit myself to their charge, though much opposed by my associates, who decidedly said, that these men would betray us. The chief's chobedar,” a brother Mahometan, also endeavoured to impress me with an ill opinion of these messengers. Had they formed any scheme of mischief, it was happily frustrated on the evening previously to our intended departure, by the arrival of a drove of asles, laden with iron, who were pursuing our route. On the 29th, the joint party moved, and had arrived at the boundary of Bellaspour, eight miles distant from the camp, when our troubles came thick upon us. Two of the Kangrah horsemen appeared in front, and passing me, went towards the rear, where

they plundered the ironmongers to the amount of one hundred rupees, which is accounted a large sum in these parts. They seized also on a Kashmirian, who was lagging behind, and were in the ačt of stripping him, when he loudly cried out, which was not true, that he was my servant, and that I was a person of some distinétion. This intelligence induced the horsemen to follow me; but on approaching, one of them observed that I had the appearance of a balla audimee,” and should not suffer any molestation; that only stragglers, and fingle travellers fell under their notice. Seeing them disposed to this civil treatment, I procured the Kashmirian's release, as also that of my own servant, who had come up during the parley, and had been likewise taken into custody. It was, I believe, a fortunate event for the prisoners that I returned, for our cavaliers were then in quest of prey, nor did they seem nice in the distinctions of persons; for whilst I remained, some stray passengers were laid under contribution, from one of whom, an ass driver, they took a pair of shoes. We were informed that two hundred Sicques who had been lately entertained in the Kangah service, would soon appear. Aware of the licentious manners of the disciples of Nanock, F especially when employed in foreign service, I would then willingly have sacrificed a moiety of my property to have had the other secured. There was

* A person who carries a silver stick before men in high station.


no other reliedy than asluming the look of confidence and ease, which, Heaven knows, ill corresponded with my heart : so pushing my horse into a quick trot, I was speedily conveyed into the midst of this formidable corps, who received me very attentively, but without offering any violence. Imagining our approach to have been that of the enemy, the Sicques were preparing for the fight, to which they loudly exclaimed, in the tone of religious ejaculation, that their prophet had summoned them. In token of respect, I had dismounted, and was leading my horse, when a Sicque, a smart fellow, mounted on a active mare, touched me in passing. The high mettled animal, whether in contempt of me or my horse, perhaps of both, attacked us fiercely from the rear, and in the assault, which was violent, the Sicque fell to the ground. The action having commenced on the top of a hill, he rolled with great rapidity to the bottom of it, and in his way down, left behind him his matchlock, sword, and turban : so compleat a derangement I feared, would have irritated the whole Sicque body; but on evincing the shew of much sorrow for the disaster, and having assiduously assisted in investing the fallen horseman with his scattered appurtenances, I received general thanks. My good fortune, which had this day repelled a series of perils, conveyed me in safety to the camp of the Kangrah, or as he is often called, from a more ancient name of his country, the Katochin chief. We regaled ourselves this evening with great joy, having suffered from hunger as well as fatigue, though

* In the Hindoffany language, any person above the ordinary class, is so denominated

+ The founder of the Sicques. which,

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »