« PreviousContinue »
the houses, constructed of stone and mortar, have a neat appearance. Kalour is bounded to the northward by the Kangrah districts; to the eastward by a large tract of eountry called Busseer; to the southward by Nhan; and to the westward by the Punjab; and its revenue is said to amount to twelve lacks of rupees. On my arrival at Bellaspour, I found the Ranee engaged in a war with the chief of Kangrah, on the limits of whose country her army was then encamped. It may not edify or perhaps entertain you to know the cause of this fell dispute, which however had taken such possession of the minds of the mountaineers, and to them was so important an event, that they seemed to think the hills and forests of Bellaspour the seat of universal war. The siege of Troy, and the conflicts on the Scamander, would have appeared as mere skirmishes to these sylvan heroes; aud they probably would have allowed no other degree of comparison, than that women were the cause of them both. But as I myself became involuntarily interested in their story, and having little other matter to communicate, I am induced to intrude a sketch of it on your patience. To deduce this eventful matter ab ovo, I must . call your attention to the days of Acbar, who is said to have been the first Mahometan prince
who reduced the northern mountains of Hindostan to the obedience of the empire. Towards the northern limit of Kalour, is a strong hold on an eminence, called the Kote Kangrah, the reduction of which detained Acbar, who commanded the expedition in person, a whole year, according to the tradition of this quarter. To reward one of his officers who had signalized himself in this service, he bestowed on him the captured fort, with a considerable space of adjacent territory. The descendants of this chief, who are of the Sheah's sect of Mahometans, continued in the possession until the present period, when the Rajah of Kangrah, on some pretence, laid the districts waste, and besieged the fort. Unable himself to repel the enemy, the Mahometan solicited the aid of the Bellaspour Ranee, who, with the spirit of a heroine, afforded speedy and vigorous succour to her neighbour, whose cause she has already revenged by plundering and destroying almost every village of Kangrah; the chief of which now vainly asserts, that the Ranee, seeing his country destitute of defence, seized, under the colour of assisting her ally, the occasion of augmenting her own power.
Halted on the 21st and 22d, at Bellaspour. These wars did not a little derange our measure of progress, especially as there was attached to
Vol. i. R
the Kangrah army, through which we must necessarily pass, a body of Sicques, who had impressed, with a lively terror, even this sequestered region. The two Kashmiriens, now my only associates, were averse to any motion until we should be reinforced. After much entreaty, they consented to accompany me. to the Bellaspour camp, where the probability of meeting passengers going to the northward, they were obliged to confess, was greater than in the town. But to a rooted indolence, the common want of enterprise presides over all the actions of an Indian; and here let me observe, that our principal superiority over them, will largely consist in attacking this weak side. The prompt decision of our councils, the vigour of action, must in every contest with them command success. This constitutional inactivity and languor of the mind, have been farther promoted by the creed of predestination and astrology. A minute attention is shewn by the natives of India to certain days, hours, and minutes. On the commencement of any service, or in the performance of even the ordinary duties of life, their conduct is regulated by the immediate period j and should the calculator discover a reluctancy, or desire of delay in his employer, or apprehend that his own reputation might suffer in the event, he usually lays a bar on the
undertaking. Over such men what advantage do we not possess? Yet in some of the late military transactions of India, we have weakened our claim to those natural and acquired powers, which English soldiers in most of their actions have displayed in this country. Do not misconstrue the tendency of this digression, and mark me as an abettor of the incursions and depredations which we are occasionally used to make on the lands of our neighbours. Our conduct to one * of them has been as unjust as it was unwise, nor do I know whether to attribute the favourable conclusion of the event f to good fortune, or to the folly of our enemies.
On the evening of the 23d, crossed in a ferryboat, the Setloud, a narrow, deep, and rapid river, full of windings, and halted at a small village opposite to Bellaspour, though the distance from the ferry was nearly two miles from the town. A Tumboo-shall kafilah had encamped on the north side of the town on its way to Delhi and Lucknow, with the proprietors of which, or rather their agents, I formed an acquaintance; and through their influence with the collector of the customs I was permitted to pass without obstacle. This assistance was the more opportune, as the Bellaspour government
* The Marhattas.
< f The contention of Wargaum, which covered u« with disgrace.
––––--------- - -wo
is deemed jealous and oppressive. The collector extended his favour even to a length that I had not expected, for he not only expedited my passage through the Bellaspour districts, but gave me a recommendatory letter to his brother, who was the manager of the Kangrah customhouse. The people of the Tumboo kafilah were desirous of knowing my story, and you also, perhaps, would wish to be informed of the present one, certain parts of which, on hearing that the Turkish language was spoken by a person of the party, I compiled for the use of the day. God only knows, my friend, what a varied multiplicity of fictions I have formed in the course of this journey: and I have to supplicate his pardon for the fabrication, as well as to hope for your acquiescence in the necessity. The tenour of my story sets forth, that I was by birth a Turk, and had come when young to India, where, I was taken into the house of a person of distinction who had brought me up. That from my long residence in India, I had forgotten uny native language, and that my profession had been chiefly that of a soldier, which quitting on a disgust, I had collected my little property and become a travelling merchant. The story, not very complex, possessed plausibility sufficient to procure common belief, and I myself had entered so warmly into its spirit,