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A Peep into Toorkisthhan by Rollo Burslem

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responded to the call. Involuntarily my thoughts recurred to Dante's
beautiful description of the Comte Ugolino's children and their
piteous end in the Torre della Fame--but here, a sickening sense of
the dreadful reality of the horrors, which it was evident from these
mute memorials of man's cruelty to his fellow had been endured, quite
oppressed me, and I wished I had never visited the spot. I felt myself
so much harrowed by this sad scene, that I endeavoured to distract
my attention; but what was my astonishment when my eye fell upon the
print of a human naked foot, and beside it the distinct mark of the
pointed heel of the Affgh[=a]n boot!--I hope my reader will give me
credit for truth--I can assure him that it was some time before I
could believe my own eyes, though I considered that the result of our
explorations would explain in part the sight, which appeared to me
so extraordinary, and which tallied so strangely with the footprints
which had frightened Shah Pursund Khan twelve years ago. I was still
absorbed in reflections of no very gay colour, when one of the
attendants warned me that if I staid all day amongst the "dead
people," there would not be sufficient oil to feed the torches, and we
should be unable to visit the Ice Caves. I was immediately roused,
and proceeded onwards with the party through several low arches and
smaller caves,--suddenly a strange glare spread itself about me, and
after a few more steps a magnificent spectacle presented itself.

[Illustration: Drawn by Mr Gempertz Pelham Richardson Litho

View of the Ice Caves in the Cavern of Yeermallik.]

In the centre of a large cave stood an enormous mass of clear ice,
smooth and polished as a mirror, and in the form of a gigantic beehive,
with its dome-shaped top just touching the long icicles which depended
from the jagged surface of the rock. A small aperture led to the
interior of this wonderful congelation, the walls of which were nearly
two feet thick--the floor, sides, and roof were smooth and slippery,
and our figures were reflected from floor to ceiling and from side to
side in endless repetition. The inside of this chilly abode was divided
into several compartments of every fantastic shape; in some the glittering
icicles hung like curtains from the roof; in others the vault was
smooth as glass. Beautifully brilliant were the prismatic colours
reflected from the varied surface of the ice, when the torches flashed
suddenly upon them as we passed from cave to cave. Around, above,
beneath, every thing was of solid ice, and being unable to stand on
account of its slippery nature, we slid or rather glided mysteriously
along the glassy surface of this hall of spells. In one of the largest
compartments the icicles had reached the floor, and gave the idea of
pillars supporting the roof. Altogether the sight was to me as novel
as it was magnificent, and I only regret that my powers of description
are inadequate to do justice to what I saw.

After wandering for some time amongst these extraordinary chambers, we
proceeded further to examine the nature of the caverns in which they
were formed: these seemed to branch out into innumerable galleries,
which again intersected each other. Sometimes they expanded into
halls, the dimensions of which our feeble light prevented us from
calculating, and anon they contracted into narrow passages, so low
that we were obliged to creep along them on our hands and knees. Our
party had just emerged from one of these defiles and were standing
together on a kind of sloping platform, at which point the declivity
seemed to become more precipitous as it receded from our sight,
when our attention was suddenly arrested by the reappearance of the
mysterious naked footprints which I had before observed in the chamber
of skeletons. I examined them minutely, and am certain from the spread
of the toes that they belonged to some one who was in the habit of
going barefoot. I took a torch, and determined to trace them as far as
I could. Had I met with these prints in the open air, I should have
decided upon their being quite fresh, but the even temperature and
stillness of atmosphere which reigned in these strange regions might
account for the tracks retaining that sharpness of outline which
denotes a recent impression. The direction I took led me immediately
down the slope I have just mentioned, and its increasing steepness
caused me some misgivings as to how I should get back, when suddenly a
large stone on which I had rested my foot gave way beneath my weight,
and down I came, extinguishing my torch in my fall. Luckily I managed
to stop myself from rolling down the fearful chasm which yawned
beneath, but the heavy rounded fragment of rock rolled onwards, first
with a harsh grating sound, as if it reluctantly quitted its resting
place, then, gradually acquiring impetus, down it thundered, striking
against other rocks and dragging them on with it, till the loud echoes
repeated a thousand times from the distant caves mingling with the
original sound raised a tumult of noise quite sufficient to scare a
braver crew than our party consisted of. The effect of my mishap was
instantaneous. Our followers raised an universal shout of Sheit[=a]n,
Sheit[=a]n, (the devil, the devil,) and rushed helter skelter back
from the direction of the sound. In the confusion all the torches
carried by the natives were extinguished, and had not my friend Sturt
displayed the most perfect coolness and self-possession, we should
have been in an alarming predicament; for he (uninfluenced by any such
supernatural fears as had been excited amongst the runaways by the
infernal turmoil produced by my unlucky foot, and though himself
ignorant of the cause of it from having been intent upon the footmarks
when I slipped), remained perfectly unmoved with his torch, the only
one still burning, raised high above his head, waiting patiently till
the panic should subside. Order was at length restored in some degree,
but the thirst of enterprise was cooled, and the natives loudly
declared they would follow the devil no farther, and that we must
return forthwith. Shah Pursund Kh[=a]n, who was just as great a coward
as the rest, declared it was no use following the track any more, for
it was well known the cavern extended to Cabul!!! Finding it useless
endeavouring to revive the broken spirits of these cravens, we
reluctantly commenced a retrograde movement, and I was obliged to
remain in lasting ignorance of the nature of the mysterious origin of
the footprint.

We had considerable difficulty in finding our way back to the ice
rooms; the fears of our followers had now completely got the better of
them; they lost their presence of mind, and, consequently, their way;
and it was not till after we had wandered about for more than an hour
that we hit upon the ledge which eventually led us to the drop which
we had originally descended by means of the ladder of turbans. At the
head of this drop we had left a couple of men to haul us up; as soon
as they perceived the light of our expiring torches, they called out
loudly to us to make haste and get out of the place, for they had seen
the _Sheit[=a]n_, about an hour ago, run along the ledge beneath them,
and disappear in the gloom beyond. This information raised the terror
of the poor natives to a climax; all made a rush for the rope of
turbans, and four or five having clutched hold of it, were in the act
of dragging down turban, men, and torches upon our devoted heads, when
Sturt interfered, and by his firm remonstrances, aided by the timely
fall of a few well-aimed stones upon the heads of the crew, made them
relax their grasp and ascend one by one.

The chief, being the lightest, claimed the privilege of being drawn up
first, which was readily agreed to; and so in succession each when he
had mounted assisted in drawing up his companions, till at last we
were all safely landed at the top, out of the reach of _any ordinary
sized_ devil. We soon emerged into the open air, covered with dust
from head to foot like Indian Faqueers, after having been for nearly
four hours wandering in the bowels of the earth. Our followers soon
regained their courage now that the danger was past, and each in turn
began to boast of his own valour and sneer at the pusillanimity of his
comrade; but all agreed that nothing on earth or in heaven should ever
tempt them again to visit the ice-caves of Yeermallick.

CHAPTER XII.

On the 13th of July we bade adieu to our friend Shah Pursund Kh[=a]n,
who accompanied us a short distance on our way, after in vain
endeavouring to induce us to remain with him for some time longer,
this we could not accede to, but promised, if our time permitted, to
pay him a lengthened visit on our return. We had a long march this
day, the distance being nearly eighteen miles; but our beasts of
burden were much the better for their day's halt, and, the greater
part of the road being a descent, we reached Rhoeh, where we pitched
our tents, in very good time. The first few miles were along the
delightful valley of the Doaub, which we reluctantly quitted, and
after crossing a low ridge descended through broken country till we
reached the foot of the hills, where I observed for the first time
a genuine Tartar krail, composed of a number of small black blanket
tents fastened to a kind of wattle. In the plain of Rhoeh is a small
mud fort in a dilapidated state, and uninhabited; the village itself
was not of any importance, the habits of the people being evidently
migratory.

The Jerboa is a native of this country as well as the steppes of
Tartary, where it is most commonly found in the shrubless plains;
in form it is a miniature of the kangaroo, to which in some of its
peculiarities it bears a close resemblance, though in size it is very
little larger than our common English rat. The name of the "Vaulting
Rat," by which it is known among naturalists, is very applicable.
These little animals burrow deeply in the ground, and the method of
dislodging them adopted by us was the pouring a quantity of water into
their holes, which causes them to rush out at another aperture, when
they commence leaping about in a surprising manner until they observe
another burrow and instantly disappear. If chased, they spring from
the hind quarters, darting about here and there, and affording great
amusement to the pursuers. It is difficult to hold them, as they are
rarely grasped without losing a portion of their long and beautiful
tails. The forelegs are much shorter than the hind ones, the ears are
very large and silky, and the eye surpassingly black and brilliant.
It is a harmless animal, and no doubt when tamed would be perfectly
domesticated.

Nothing of interest occurred either this day or the next, which
brought us, after another dreary march of seventeen miles, to the fort
and village of Koorrum. For nearly the whole distance between Rhoeh
and Koorrum not a drop of water is procurable; as we had not provided
against this contingency, we suffered in proportion. Altogether this
part of the road offers considerable obstacles to the progress of an
army, from its numerous ravines and steep though short ascents and
descents, which would be very difficult for artillery; I should, from
a cursory glance at the country, imagine that these steep pitches
might be avoided by a more circuitous route, though the one we pursued
was the beaten track for the caravans, and they generally find out the
most convenient passage. The approach to Koorrum was pretty, but the
scenery was of a character with which we were now so familiar that
its peculiar beauties did not perhaps impress us as much as when they
afforded the additional charm of novelty. A succession of walnut,
apricot, mulberry, and apple trees shaded our path, which lay through
extensive orchards, carpeted with beautiful turf. The vines clung to
the sycamore trees; and where the spade had been at work, corn and
artificial grasses grew in abundance. Our next halting place was
Sarbagh, where we arrived on the 15th, after marching through a
pleasant and fruitful valley, flanked by parallel belts of mountain
land, the agreeable verdure relieving the eye from the barrenness of
this, I may call it, parietal range. The ornamental trees which fringe
the banks of the Koollum river, as it gracefully pursues its course to
the Oxus, had altogether a very picturesque appearance.

The son of Baber Beg, the chief of Heibuk, was at this time residing
at Sarbagh, and shewed us every possible attention, sending us sheep,
fowls, corn, flour, fruit, and every article required for about
seventy people. It was very gratifying to us to find that we were
treated by the Uzbeg chiefs in so friendly a manner, as we had some
misgivings lest our being unprovided with any letters from influential
men in C[=a]bul, might create unfavourable surmises amongst a
half-savage and naturally suspicious race. Doubtless we gained a large
portion of attention and civility from the idea which pervaded all our
hosts that we were great hakeems, _physicians_, and if we chose,
could relieve the human body from every illness whether real or
imaginary--and I was glad to remark that the latter class of ailment
was by far the most common. Still, some diseases were very prevalent,
particularly those which may be considered as induced by a total
absence of cleanliness. Sore eyes were very common here, as in
Affghanist[=a]n, and our powers and medicine chest were sometimes
rather too severely taxed by importunate applicants, who never would
apply the remedy in the manner described, unless it was administered
upon principles which they understood, and which was in accordance
with their own reasoning. In C[=a]bul, the medical officers were the
only class of Europeans allowed an entrance to the harems of the rich,
when they were expected after feeling the pulse of some Cashmerian
beauty to pronounce her malady, and effect her cure forthwith. The
lords of the creation too, debilitated from early dissipation or a
life of debauchery, sued for remedies and charms, which, alas! are
only to be found in the hundredth edition of a work known by its
mysterious advertisement in the columns of a London newspaper.

On the 16th, after a long march of twenty-two miles, we approached
Heibuk through the same kind of scenery as the preceding day; on
rounding a projecting ledge of rock we saw that fortress in the
distance, on an insulated eminence adjacent to a low range of hills.
Meer Baber Beg has placed his fortress in a very respectable state
of defence, quite adequate to repel the desultory inroads of his
predatory neighbours; but commanded by and exposed to enfilade from
the hills about it, on one of these hills he has built a tower as a
kind of outwork, but it is very weak and of insignificant size.

The only thing worth seeing near Heibuk is the Tukt-i-Rustum or Throne
of Hercules, which we accordingly visited, and found it to be a
fortification of no very great extent on a most uncommon principle,
and of unknown date. The best idea I can convey to the reader of its
shape, is by begging him to cut an orange in half, and place its
flat surface in a saucer; he will then have a tolerable model of the
Tukt-i-Rustum. We entered by a narrow gallery piercing through the
solid mass of rock which forms the outer wall or saucer, and leading
by an irregular flight of steps to the summit of the orange. I
instituted many enquiries concerning the origin of this place, but
I could obtain no information; not even a legend beyond that it was
holy. We were accompanied by one of the chief's sons, a fat jolly
youth of about four-and-twenty, with a countenance that was a type of
his good humour--he sat with us for some time whilst we were at our
toilette, but affected to be somewhat shocked at the very scanty
clothing which we considered sufficient while our Bheesties poured the
contents of their mussocks[*] over us. It was rather amusing to hear
the remarks of the bystanders, who seemed to view cleanliness as
a consideration very secondary to etiquette. It would have been
fortunate for us if I could have persuaded our criticising friends to
try on their own persons the advantage of a dash of fresh water, for
they were without exception the most filthy race it has ever been my
misfortune to meet; their garments teem with life, and sometimes,
after merely sitting on the same rug placed to receive visitors, I
have been under the necessity of making a fresh toilette.

[* Note: Skins of water.]

Meer Baber Beg was a great man in these parts, and kindly sent us
three sheep, with fowls, flour, fruits, and grain in abundance,
intimating, at the same time, his intention to pay us a visit in the
evening. He came accordingly, and favoured us with his presence for a
considerable time. He seemed an intelligent man, but in a very infirm
state of health, and quite crippled from rheumatism. One would hardly
have supposed, while admiring his pleasing features, which expressed
so much benignity, that when on the throne of Koollum he had been such
a bloody tyrant; yet such was the case;--though the hereditary ruler
of Koollum and its dependencies, he had by his brutality made himself
so obnoxious, that he was deposed by his own subjects headed by his
younger brother, and dare not now shew his face on his paternal
estate.

This corpulent son whom I have before mentioned brought a
double-barrelled percussion gun for my inspection, and requested that
I would test its qualities on some pigeons that were flying about;
I was fortunate enough to bring down a couple on the wing, but was
somewhat mortified to find that the burst of admiration which followed
my feat was entirely confined to the weapon, which, together with the
donor, Dr. Lord, was praised to the skies, whilst no kind of credit
was given to my skill in using it.

We halted at Heibuk on the 17th, as the Meer requested we would stay a
day with him before putting ourselves in the power of the dreaded Meer
Walli of Koollum. At first he endeavoured to persuade us to abandon
our project of proceeding further, but, finding us determined, he
contented himself with relating every possible story he could remember
or invent concerning the many acts of cruel treachery which the
Meer Walli had perpetrated, and concluded by an eulogium on his own
manifold virtues.

During the course of the day a Hindoo from Peshawur peeped cautiously
into my tent, and, on my inquiring his business, he approached, and
with many salaams, laid a bag of money at my feet; rather astonished
at so unusual an offering, I requested to know the cause of this act
of generosity, and I was informed that it was a "first offering," or,
in other words, a bribe to propitiate me, in the hope that I would use
my influence to get the Hindoo out of the clutches of Meer Baber Beg.
The story he told me was, that some years back he came to Heibuk to
trade, and having made a little money was packing up his property
preparatory to his departure, when he was suddenly ordered into the
Meer's presence. "Friend," said this benign ruler, "stay here a
little longer; it is not right that, having made a sum of money in my
country, you should spend it in your own." Since then, he added, he
had been ill-treated and robbed several times to satisfy the rapacity
of this wicked monster; and then, as if frightened at his own
expressions, he peered cautiously round the tent, apparently fancying
the Meer himself would start from behind the screen to punish him for
his audacity. I returned him his 250 rupees, but told him if his story
were true I would use what little influence I possessed to procure his
release. When Baber Beg came to pay us his evening visit I broached
the subject, and requested as a favour that the Hindoo might be
permitted to accompany our party as a guide and interpreter. "If you
will take my advice," said he, "you will have nothing to say to the
scoundrel, who will come to a bad end: he has been deceiving you; but
if, after my warning, you still wish to have him as a guide, take him
by all means."

Accordingly I took him, but in justice to the Meer's discrimination of
character it must be owned that my protege, as soon as he considered
himself safe from the Meer's indignation, proved himself to the
full as great a scoundrel as he had been represented. The following
morning, before taking our departure, Sturt presented to the Meer's
youngest son a handsome pair of percussion pistols, for which the
father seemed so very grateful that I could not help suspecting he
intended to appropriate them to his own use as soon as we were well
away.

On leaving the fortress of Heibuk we passed through a very extensive
cultivated district, the principal produce being the grain which in
Hindoostan is called jow[=a]r. The remaining portion of our journey to
Hazree Soolt[=a]n, which was a distance of eighteen miles, was nothing
but a barren waste with occasional patches of low jungle. We were now
evidently on the farthest spur of the Hindoo Khoosh; the hills were
low and detached, gradually uniting into the endless plain which
bounded the horizon to the north and west. On the road we met a
messenger who was on his way to Sir Alexander Burnes at K[=a]bul,
having come from Bokhara, bearing a letter from the _Vakeel_, or
native ambassador, whom Sir Alexander had sent some time back to
endeavour, by persuasion or stratagem, to effect the release of our
unfortunate countryman, Col. Stoddart. The courier, who had received
the account from the Vakeel, whether true or false he could not
inform us, stated "that Col. Stoddart accompanied the Persian army to
Her[=a]t, and finding they could not make the desired impression
on the walls, raised the siege, and the Colonel left the army and
proceeded across to Bokhara, whether to endeavour to effect the
release of the Russian slaves, (there being many in the dominions of
the Bokhara King,) or merely for amusement, he could not say; but that
the latter was the generally received opinion. On approaching the city
of the tyrant king he met a man riding furiously away with a woman,
and as she passed, called out to the Colonel Amaun, Amaun! mercy,
mercy! whereupon he immediately galloped up to the ravisher, and
securing the deliverance of the woman, told her to keep under his
protection until he entered the city. On the first day after
his arrival the King passed as the Colonel was riding on
horseback, and although the latter gave the salute usual
in his own country, it did not satisfy the ruler; moreover, he, the
Feringhi, was on horseback without permission, and therefore the Khan
ordered him the following day into his presence. Messengers the next
morning were sent, who abruptly entered the Colonel's house, and
finding he would not willingly submit, dragged him before their chief.
He was asked, why he had infringed the customs of the country by
riding on horseback in the city, and why he did not pay the recognised
submission to the ruler of a free country? The reply was, that the
same compliment had been paid to the King of Bokhara as was customary
in Europe to a crowned head. And why have you presumed to ride on
horseback within the city walls, where no Feringhi is allowed? Because
I was ignorant of the custom. It's a lie; my messengers ordered you
to dismount and you would not. 'Tis true, they did order me and I did
not, but I thought they were doing more than their duty. After this
the King ordered him into confinement, where he now is."

The courier, after giving us this information, remarked that he
was penniless, and that as his business concerned the safety of a
countryman, he hoped we would assist him. Though we were not quite
satisfied with the man's story, we stood the chance of its being true,
and furnished him with funds for the prosecution of his journey,
for which, on our return to Cabul, we were kindly thanked by Sir
Alexander, who informed us that the note from the Vakeel conveyed the
intelligence of the failure of his endeavours, and that he had himself
been put in confinement.

At the time of which I am writing both Dost Mahommed Kh[=a]n and his
notorious son Akbar were prisoners at Bokhara; but the means taken
by _their_ friends to release them were more successful than those
adopted by our politicals at Cabul. It appears that the chief at Shere
Subz had for some time been at enmity with his Bokhara neighbour, and,
wishing to do Dost Mahommed a good turn, he picked out fifty of the
most expert thieves in his dominions--a difficult selection where the
claims of all to this bad preeminence were so strong--but the Shere
Subz chief was from experience a tolerable judge of the qualifications
of an expert rogue, and having pitched upon his men, he promised them
valuable presents, provided they effected, by whatever means they
might choose to adopt, the release of the Dost; hinting at the same
time that if they failed he should be under the necessity of seizing
and selling their families. The thieves were successful, and at the
expiration of a month the Dost was free.

If we could have interested the chief of Shere Subz in our favour by
presents and fair words, might not the same means have been employed
for the rescue of poor Stoddart? The only way to deal with a ruffian
like him of Bokhara would have been by pitting against him some of his
own stamp.

The King of Bokhara has several times endeavoured to coerce the
Shere Subz's chief, but the instant a hostile force appears on his
frontiers, the latter causes the whole of his country to be inundated,
so that the invader is obliged to retire, and is by this stratagem
kept at a respectful distance.

Another traveller came across us this day, who had resided for some
years at Kok[=a]n, and furnished us with some account of the nature of
the Chinese garrison of that fort. It is situated on an isolated rock,
and every five years relieved with men, provisions, and ammunition;
the flanks of the bastions are armed with ponderous wall pieces,
requiring three men to work them. Chambers are also bored in the live
rock, from whence enormous masses of stone might be discharged on an
assailing foe. The Kok[=a]nese have often attempted to dislodge the
intruders, but owing to the good state of defence in which the fort
is kept, and the strong escorts under which the reliefs are regularly
forwarded, they have been always repulsed with severe loss. My
informant had been in the service of the Kok[=a]nese, and was now on
his way to Hindoostan; in military notions he must have been of the
famous Captain Dugald Dalgetty's school, for I afterwards met him as a
non-commissioned officer in Shah Seujah's Goorkah battalion.

CHAPTER XIII.

A march of eighteen miles brought us on the 19th July to Koollum.

[Illustration: Drawn by J. Cowell Esq! Pelham Richardson Litho

View of Koollum, from the eastward.]

The road continued along the banks of the river, through a wide valley
bounded by low distant hills for nearly the whole way. Towards the end
of our journey a spur from these hills struck right across the direction
of the river, which had forced for itself a passage through the obstacle
without deviating much from its rectilinear course, but considerably
disturbing its previously placid character, for here it rushed with
impetuous violence through the narrow cleft which it had formed, through
this, the most advanced outpost of the glorious range of the Hindoo
Khoosh. The defile, though short, was difficult of access and capable of
being long defended; there is a small tower about the centre, slightly
removed from and commanding the road: but a mere handfull of troops
stationed on the crags above could, by hurling down the loosened masses
of rock which totter on the edge of the cliff, for a time effectually
stop the progress of a hostile army from either side. I should imagine,
however, that this as well as every other pass I have ever seen except
the Khyber and Bolun would be more easily turned than forced.

On emerging from this last defile, a prospect presents itself strongly
contrasting with the romantic scenery we had recently been witnessing.
Immediately before us lay the populous city of Koollum, the fortress
standing on a small isolated eminence, and the dome-shaped houses
embosomed in the deep foliage of their gardens and orchards clustered
round it for miles on every side. Immediately on the outskirts of the
city the desert commences, which, stretching away to Bokhara as far as
the eye could reach, formed a melancholy and uninviting background
to the busy scene before us. As we approached the city, we had our
misgivings as to the nature of our reception by the Meer Walli, as,
contrary to the treatment we had invariably experienced from the
chiefs of all the considerable places through which we had had
occasion to pass since entering Toorkisth[=a]n, no one appeared on the
part of the Meer to welcome us. At length, after wandering about the
suburbs for more than an hour, followed by a crowd of gaping idlers
who seemed half disposed to question our right of _squatting_, we
selected an open space and commenced unloading our baggage animals,
and prepared to establish ourselves.

Our spirits were raised, however, soon after, by the welcome arrival
of an officer of the Meer's household, who was sent by his master
to convey us to the caravanserai, where, after a short period, we
received three or four sheep with fruit and other provisions of all
descriptions, which supply was regularly continued during the whole
time we remained at Koollum. Our uneasiness, thus quieted, was soon
entirely dispelled by a message announcing that a visit from the great
man himself would take place in the evening. We must have been rather
difficult to please, however, on this particular day, for after the
wished-for visit was over, we both agreed that it had been dreadfully
tiresome; to be sure, as fate would have it, we had not had time to
eat our dinner before his arrival, and etiquette obliged us to defer
eating till after his departure, which did not release us till past
midnight, though he made his appearance soon after eight o'clock.

In person the Meer Walli was certainly very prepossessing; his voice
was peculiarly musical, and his manner gentlemanly and easy; his face
would have been eminently handsome but for a dreadful wound by which
he had lost a portion of his nose. At this our first interview nothing
relative to our own future proceedings was discussed, though that
was the subject uppermost in our own minds, as we could not but feel
ourselves entirely at the mercy of a robber prince of notorious
character. As it was, the conversation was made up of those
compliments and common-places with which the Orientals know so well
how to fill up "awkward pauses," when, for reasons of their own, they
do not intend talking upon the real business. He very politely acceded
to our request of visiting the bazaar the following morning, which
being market-day, the influx of strangers from the Tartar encampments
at the different oases of the Bokhara Desert, and country people from
the Toorkisth[=a]n mountains, was very great. One of his household was
always in attendance as we passed out of the gate of the caravanserai,
where we lodged, to conduct us about, and act in the double capacity
of spy and cicerone. The city was crowded, and our appearance excited
considerable sensation--much more so in truth than was pleasant, for
we were followed wherever we went by a very curious and a very dirty
crowd. We had heard a good deal about the Mahommedan college at
Koollum, and of course were very anxious to see what comparison
existed between it and our own colleges: we could trace none beyond
the term of college. The house itself was new and capacious, with
clean-looking apartments for the scholars. We entered the halls
of study, which were long narrow verandahs, and found several
white-bearded and sagacious-looking Moollahs reading out portions of
the Kor[=a]n to their attentive scholars, with a grave countenance and
a loud nasal twang, exciting a propensity to laughter which I with
difficulty repressed. I do not think the reasoning of the college is
very deep, or that the talents of its senior wrangler need be very
first-rate, and am inclined to suspect that this pompous reading
was got up for the occasion for the purpose of astonishing the weak
intellects of the Feringhee strangers.

From the college we proceeded to the slave market, which was well
furnished, and chiefly supplied from the ever victimized Huzarehs; the
women were generally ill-favoured, but all appeared contented with
their lot so that _somebody_ purchased them. After making the tour of
the city in search of wonders, we returned home, hot, wearied, and
disappointed, for we had found nothing to repay us for the annoyances
we had been subjected to from the impertinent curiosity of the filthy
multitude. Our own intentions were to get away from Koollum in order
to be able to reach Balkh and return to C[=a]bul before the cold
weather should set in; but alas! our wishes were not destined to be
fulfilled. Our uneasiness concerning the real intentions of the Meer
was again excited towards the evening, for one of our followers came
to us almost frantic with terror, stammering out as soon as his
nervous state permitted him to speak, that he had heard it stated as a
notorious fact that we were all to be detained at Koollum--that such
was the pleasure of the Meer. The reader will believe that this
intelligence was any thing but satisfactory; I could not help
conjuring up visions of a long and wearisome captivity--of hope
deferred and expectations disappointed--with Stoddart's melancholy
situation as a near precedent. I managed to make myself for a short
time as thoroughly uncomfortable as if I were already a prisoner, but
soon a sense of the great foolishness of indulging in this tone of
thought came over me, and making a strong effort to shake off the
gloomy shadows of an imaginary future, I betook myself to consider the
best means of ascertaining, in the first instance, the truth of the
report, which if I had done so at once would have saved me a good deal
of painful thought. As a preliminary step I desired a couple of our
Affgh[=a]n escort to proceed, so as not to excite suspicion, to the
bourj or _watch tower_ in the centre of the defile by which we had
approached Koollum, and through which our only retreat must have been,
to ascertain if the post was occupied by any of the Meer's people.
They soon brought us the satisfactory intelligence that not a man
was to be seen; but the Affgh[=a]ns qualified their information by
persisting in their opinion that some treachery was intended. So
strong was this feeling amongst our men that it became imperatively
necessary that our doubts should be resolved into certainty one way
or the other, and Sturt and I, after a short consultation, determined
that at the interview which was to take place next morning we should
put the question to the chief categorically. Having come to this
conclusion, we were obliged to smoke the "pipe of patience" on the
"couch of uncertainty" till the Meer Walli arrived.

The Meer made his appearance the following morning, and, after the
usual compliments, to our great astonishment himself touched on the
subject. "I have heard," said he, "that you have sent out spies to see
if the Bourj in the defile is occupied, and if any of my people
are abroad to restrain your movements." This was rather an ominous
commencement: "but," continued the old gentleman, "if such had been my
intention, could I not have put the whole of you into confinement the
moment you arrived? At all events, what could you and your party
do against my force?" Sturt glanced his eye at the speaker; for an
instant, too, it rested on me, as if to read my opinion; then he
boldly answered, "You may outnumber us by thousands, but you will
never capture us alive." He said this so calmly, with such politeness
of manner, and yet so firmly, that the Meer was evidently taken aback:
at length he replied, "But no such piece of villainy has ever entered
my head." He then adroitly changed the subject, and shortly after took
his leave.

When he was gone we held another council of war. It was by no means
clear that the last declaration of the chief was a sincere one; but
it might have been a temporizing answer elicited by the perhaps
unexpected boldness of Sturt's remark. We determined, at all events,
to keep on the alert, guard against any surprise, avoid as much as
possible offering any pretext for offence, and, if the worst came to
the worst, make as good a resistance as we could.

The next day we received a polite message, requesting an interview,
and asking us to visit him in his favourite garden. Under all
circumstances we deemed it best to allow it to appear that our
suspicions were dissipated, and we accordingly accepted the
invitation, and found the Meer seated on the chabooka, or _raised
platform of masonry_, under the shade of some magnificent trees. He
immediately commenced saying, "The reason I did not go out to meet you
as you approached my city is, that during the warm weather I sleep the
greater portion of the day and sit up enjoying the coolness of the
night air; but I sent a messenger to escort you in with all care, and
unfortunately _he missed the way_." Such an excuse was possible, but
not at all probable. We did not give him credit for telling the truth
about the guide, as there was only one road from Heibuk, and the
approach of our party to Koollum was known in the city several days
before our arrival. It was now evident to us that on our approach the
Meer Walli was undecided whether he should treat us as friends or
foes; it seemed that for the present he had determined in our favour,
but distrusting his capricious disposition we were only the more
anxious to get out of his reach, though we both agreed that the wisest
and safest plan would be to carry our heads very high and put a bold
front upon all our proceedings. This decision we came to whilst
sitting in the garden in the presence of the Meer. Suddenly we heard
a confused murmur behind us, and the heavy sound of the butt end of
several muskets striking the ground as in "ordering arms;" we turned
sharply round, and perceived with astonishment, not unmingled
with satisfaction, that six or eight of our Affgh[=a]n guard,
notwithstanding the numerous followers round the Meer, had entered the
garden of their own accord and placed themselves immediately in our
rear with bayonets fixed. The Meer appeared to take no notice of this
extraordinary intrusion, and after a few compliments permitted us to
withdraw.

On returning to the caravanserai we inquired why the guard had acted
thus without orders; they told us they had secretly heard that
treachery was intended by the Meer towards us, and that therefore they
had deemed it their duty to protect us from any surprise; moreover,
that ten more of the guard had been stationed close outside the garden
ready to support them at a moment's notice. Our own opinion was that
at that time nothing of the kind was in contemplation, but it was
satisfactory to view the determined spirit which animated our men.
Strange anomaly that these very men who now came voluntarily forward
to protect our persons from insult at the imminent risk of their
lives, should have been found amongst those who, with their arms and
accoutrements, had deserted in a body from the British to the side of
the Ex-Ameer at the battle of Bamee[=a]n a few months after.

CHAPTER XIV.

Pursuant to our plan of appearing to have full confidence in the Meer
Walli's integrity of purpose, we affected to lay aside all personal
precaution and courted his society, of which, to say truth, he
seemed disposed to give us plenty. We had several interviews with
him,--indeed, hardly a day passed without his sending for and
honouring us with his presence for several hours.

During these meetings we used every endeavour to sound the chief as to
his intentions with respect to us, without betraying an undue anxiety
on the subject, but could make very little out of him.

Our conversation frequently turned on military matter, and many very
pertinent questions were put to us relative to our rank, pay, duties,
discipline, &c. On Sturt informing him that he was in the engineer
department, and that his particular duties were to construct bridges,
repair fortifications, superintend mining operations, and furnish
plans of attack, he was promptly asked, "In how long a time do you
think your army could take my fortress?" In about a quarter of an
hour, answered Sturt in his quiet way. "No, no," said the Meer with
some indignation, "I am sure you could not do so in so short a time;"
and then he paused, evidently making up his mind to tell us a story.
After a little, out it came. "That Feringhis should take my fortress,
the strongest in the world, in a quarter of an hour is impossible,
for it took me, with five hundred horsemen, double that time." Then,
apparently forgetting his anger in the anxiety to recount his own
exploits, he continued, "when I took possession of this fort I left
my army at a little distance, and selecting a few expert warriors,
I gallopped up to the gate of the fortress, which I found _open_. I
dashed in before the enemy were alarmed, and immediately proclaimed
that the place was taken by the victorious Merr Walli. The fools
believed me, and all ran away. By-and-bye my army came up and marched
quietly in."

We had heard some time before that Dost Mahommed's eldest son, Meer
Ufzul Khan, was in Koollum, and it must be confessed that this
circumstance did not much contribute to our sense of security, for we
could not but feel that we might fairly expect he would not lose so
palpable an opportunity of doing us harm should he be so disposed. One
morning he sent us a polite message to request an interview, which of
course was readily granted. He came, looking pale and sorrowful,
and his tone and manner soon satisfied us that his intentions were
peaceable. After the usual compliments he entered on the subject of
his father's present position and political prospects; he remarked
that our _star was too bright_, and assured us that his father was
anxious to accede to any terms which the British might think fit to
impose short of banishing him to India, and strongly urged us to write
to our Government to that effect. We explained to Ufzul Khan that we
had received no instructions to act in a political capacity, and that
any interference on our part with the affairs of the nation might be
looked upon by our superiors as an unwarrantable piece of presumption.
He seemed much disappointed at the reply, and, at last, Sturt promised
to write and mention the conversation to the authorities, which he
did. I am not certain whether he wrote to Dr. Lord or Sir William
M'Naghten, nor can be positive that his letter ever reached its
destination--at all events, it was of no avail. Ufzul Kh[=a]n
endeavoured to persuade us to remain at Koollum till his father should
arrive, who, he said, had escaped from his prison at Bokhara by the
assistance of the chief of Shere Subz, as I have already noticed,
and was now making his way to the territories of the Meer Walli by
a circuitous route, so as to elude the vigilance of the king, and
frustrate his endeavours to recapture him. We were much pleased to
find that Ufzul Khan had no suspicion of our not being free agents,
and Sturt answered he regretted much that the shortness of the time we
had yet at our disposal would prevent his complying with his request,
which, indeed, considering all the circumstances of the case, it would
have been an act of most culpable folly to have acceded to. At the
conclusion of this interview Sturt presented him with a handsome
rifle, which he received with the utmost gratitude, saying that he was
now poor and had nothing to offer in return but his thanks, which,
however, he hoped we would believe to be sincere.

No sooner had Meer Ufzul taken his leave than the Meer Walli made his
appearance with the evident intention of ascertaining the results
of our interview, and the part we were disposed to take in any
negociation concerning the Dost. The Meer was apparently anxious to
remain on good terms with both parties, or, in other words, preferred
having two strings to his bow. "Should the Dost claim my protection,"
said he, "how would you advise me to act?--He is your enemy, yet I
must not abandon him, or deliver him into the hands of the British;
for, although I do not wish to offend the British Government, I owe my
present power to the influence of the Ameer,--he has always been my
patron, and I must be his friend. And then, moreover, you are the
first British officers I have seen since your army took possession of
Affghanist[=a]n; no notice has been taken of me, the Meer Walli of
Koollum; yet, to the petty chiefs of Bamee[=a]n vakeels and friendly
messages have been sent, with valuable presents--while, to my repeated
letters courting an amicable alliance, not even an answer has been
given.--Is it courteous to treat an inferior so?--Is it the conduct
generally adopted by the first nation in the world? The doubtful way
in which your Government has behaved leaves me uncertain as to how my
conduct will be interpreted,--but, if _you_ will represent that the
Meer Walli wishes to be on terms of amity, I shall consider you as
my best friends. Indeed, I would have it known I wish to remain
as neutral as possible in any political struggle that may take
place."--Here he paused, as if expecting some answer which would be
a guide to him, but, receiving none, he at length continued: "I
will receive the Dost and be kind to him until he recovers from the
fatigues of his journey, and then will beg him to leave Koollum."--It
was obvious enough that a consideration for himself was the only
motive which really influenced our worthy guest, who, it was clear,
would gladly have betrayed his former patron if he could have induced
us to guarantee an adequate reward to himself. Of course we did not
feel authorised to hold out any such prospect, and endeavoured to
convince him of the truth that we were not employed in any political
capacity, and could not possibly interfere without exposing ourselves
to severe animadversions from our superiors. I could not but feel the
truth of the Meer's remarks on our policy in conciliating the petty
chiefs, whilst the friendly overtures of the more powerful were
treated almost with insulting neglect.

From the expression of the Meer's sentiments during this interview, we
concluded that, however great a rascal his highness might eventually
prove, still his present policy was to be on good terms with us, and
all anxiety on our part as to being forcibly detained was allayed, so
that we began now seriously to determine on our future proceedings.
As one of the principal objects I had in view on joining Sturt was
to procure coins and those relics of antiquity so abundant in the
neighbourhood of Balkh, I was most anxious to prosecute my journey
hither, and accordingly took an opportunity of explaining to the
Meer my wishes and intentions, requesting him to furnish me with an
adequate escort for my protection. He evinced a decided unwillingness
to facilitate my advance, treating my anxiety to collect coins as an
assumed reason to conceal some other more important motive. This was
very provoking, but, by this time, we were so much accustomed to have
the true and simple account of our plans and intentions treated with
civil incredulity, that we felt almost disposed to allow the
frequent insinuations of our concealed political character to remain
uncontradicted--so useless were all our endeavours to satisfy the
natives as to our real position. In vain I urged upon the Meer the
emptiness of all his professions of friendship if he now declined to
assist me in the manner I clearly pointed out; all was of no avail; on
the contrary, the more urgent I became the more obstinate he grew, and
I at last was painfully convinced, not only that he disbelieved me,
but that he had not the slightest intention of permitting us to
proceed across his frontier in the direction of the territories of the
King of Bokh[=a]r[=a]. He objected that it was a long journey from
C[=a]bul to Balkh merely to pick up "rubbish;" and though the actual
danger was only for a short space, yet, if any accident happened, if,
as he declared was highly probable, we were seized and carried into
slavery, he should have to answer to the British Government. His
horsemen too would be an insufficient protection against an attack
from the numerous hordes of thieves who infested the desert, and
would surely be on the alert to pounce upon so valuable a booty.
He continued repeating these arguments till we lost all hope of
persuading him, and not deeming it advisable to risk a rupture of our
present apparently good understanding, we reluctantly submitted and
turned our thoughts homewards.[*]

[* Note: The anxiety I have here shewn to procure the escort from
the Meer will perhaps appear uncalled for, but those who delight in
numismatological specimens will agree with me that the disappointment
was not trifling, as only a few travellers had succeeded in obtaining
rare coins, and I had every reason to believe other varieties were to
be found.]

[Illustration: Coins.]

No sooner was it rumoured in the bazaar that we were about to return
to Cabul, than several Hindoo bankers waited upon us to pay their
respects and offer whatever sums of money we might require for
the journey. They were all very anxious to lend, and were much
dissatisfied at the insignificant amount of the cash we required,
though the only security was a written promise that we would pay the
amount to a certain banker in Cabul on our return; they offered us
as much as ten thousand rupees, and appeared very anxious to avail
themselves of the opportunity of sending money to Cabul. At all events
their confidence was a gratifying proof of the high estimation in
which the British name was held in that remote country.

CHAPTER XV.

After a most friendly parting interview with the Meer Walli, when he
presented us with a horse and baggage pony, we started from Koollum on
the 22nd of July, accompanied, by the Meer's special directions, by
one of his confidential servants to act ostensibly as our guide, but
who, probably, had also his secret instructions to report on all such
of our proceedings as might in any way affect the interests of his
master.

We proposed to diverge from the route by which we had advanced, at
Heibuk, passing through Ghoree, in the territories of the Koondooz
chief, and returning to Badjgh[=a]r by the Dushti Suffaed pass, which
Sturt was very anxious to survey.

Our first day's march brought us to Hazree Sultan, and the next
morning we reached Heibuk, where we were cordially welcomed by our old
friend Meer Baber Beg, and had again to undergo the infliction of that
detestable compound of grease, flour, salt, and tea, which the Meer in
his hospitality was always pressing us to swallow.

On our departure the next morning, he sent us a present of a horse;
an indifferent one, 'tis true, but, at least, it marked his kindly
feeling; he warned us not to delay longer than was absolutely
necessary in the country of Meer Moorad Beg, whom he described in no
very flattering terms; and he, moreover, cautioned us against the
Koondooz fever, which he declared would inevitably attack us if we
were not very careful in selecting our encamping ground at a distance
from the pestilential marshes which skirted the bases of the hills. We
thanked him for his friendly advice, and started for Rhob[=a]t, where
we arrived after a dismal ride of twenty-two miles. The country
through which we travelled was perhaps the most dreary portion of
Toorkisth[=a]n; for about twelve miles we traversed a dry low grass
jungle of about a foot in height, tenanted by a species of wild goat,
several of which we disturbed on our passage through their haunts, but
not being prepared for any sport, I did not take advantage of their
unwariness.

The road was utterly devoid of water for a space of full sixteen
miles, at the end of which we came upon a scanty supply, scarce
sufficient for our immediate necessities and utterly inadequate for a
force of any magnitude. The pista tree, the fruit of which is carried
to the Indian market, was seen here in considerable quantities; it is
very similar in its growth and foliage to the Dauk of Hindoostan.

The _assa foetida_ shrub also abounded on the neighbouring hills, and
we were almost overpowered by the horrible stench exhaled therefrom.
It is collected in its wild state and sent to C[=a]bul and India,
yielding a good profit to those who pick it, as it is used very
generally throughout the East for kabobs and curries. We also
observed, that day, several coveys of chikore.

At Rhobat is an old caravanserai for travellers, the remains of a very
fine and extensive building, with accommodation and apartments all
round the square of about twenty-four yards. It is said to have been
constructed in the time of the famous Abdoollah Khan, and was reduced
to its present desolate state by Meer Moorad Beg, the chief of
Koondooz, who some years ago ravaged the whole of this district,
burning and laying waste whatever he could not carry off.

On the 25th of July we marched to Ghoree, a distance of about 21
miles. As we approached it, we enjoyed a fine prospect of the
extensive savannahs of grass so characteristic of Toorkisth[=a]n; many
horses were feeding in the distance, and the vale, flanked by low
hills, was bounded only by the horizon. We were told that it extended
in a right line upwards of thirty miles, and that it was frequently
used for horse-racing, the customary length of the course being
upwards of twenty miles. We were now in the territories of Meer Moorad
Beg, a chief of notorious character, but, trusting to the continuance
of the good fortune which had hitherto attended us, we did not make
ourselves uncomfortable about him. We could not much admire his town
of Ghoree, which, with his fort, was situate on the edge of a morass
extending from the limits of the savannah to the foot of the hills--I
should think that the fever so prevalent in these districts must be in
a great degree attributable to the absolute want of drainage and the
decomposition of vegetable matter. Its position was most insalubrious,
for the marshy swamps commenced at the very base of hills, and thus as
it were encircled the savannahs with a belt of miasma.

The ague, which is usually accompanied by fever, is of a kind very
difficult to shake off, gradually weakening the sufferer till he sinks
under its influence; the natives themselves are by no means free from
its strokes, to which attacks every stranger who remains for many days
in the vicinity of the marshes is liable. Though a veil of mystery
still covers the particulars of poor Moorcroft's fate, it seems more
than probable that he fell a victim to the fever of this country,
though the seed that was sown did not mature till some time after he
had quitted it.

The fort of Ghoree has great strength, being on a level with the
adjacent country and surrounded by a wet ditch thirty feet wide and
very deep; its stagnant water teemed with fish of a large size, but
I had no opportunity of ascertaining their species. There was a rude
drawbridge across the moat, and the dwellings around the fort were
temporary hovels composed of straw; so suspicious were the occupants
of our intentions that they would not allow us access to the interior
of the fort. While reposing at the door of my tent on the evening of
our arrival at Ghoree, I was accosted by an old man, with the usual
request for a little medicine, as one of his family was afflicted with
rheumatism; I gave from our now much reduced medicine chest what I
thought at least could do no harm, and endeavoured, as was my custom,
to engage the old gentleman in conversation. I have before mentioned
the propensity of these people for _story-telling_, and I much fear
that when, with their native acuteness in discriminating character,
they detect an anxiety on the part of the questioner for old stories,
no difficulty exists in the concoction of one for him. In the case now
alluded to, I beg to assure my readers that I do not in the slightest
degree pledge myself for the veracity of the story which the old man
related to me. I should not like even to say that the customs to which
he alluded were really "_bona fide"_ the customs of his country;
however, I give it as it was related, nothing doubting that it will be
received with due caution, and, at all events, though it may not be
received as a legend really characteristic of Toorkisth[=a]n weddings,
it has indisputable claims to illustrate the habits of Toorkisth[=a]n
_story-tellers_.

I was remarking to him on the beauty and extent of his savannahs, and,
in assenting to what I said, he observed that they were frequently
the theatre of wedding races; having soon engaged my attention, he
proceeded to narrate the following story, founded perhaps on the
numerous outrages of which the despised Huzareh tribe were the
victims.

"Far up in one of the numerous valleys of the Yakkoollung country," he
commenced, "resided an ancient couple, whose occupation throughout the
summer day consisted in storing food for the winter season, and who,
when their work was finished, continued mournfully to dwell on the
all-absorbing subject of the forcible abduction of their daughter by
one of the Uzbeg chiefs.

"Two years and more had now passed since the outrage was perpetrated
by a party of Uzbeg horsemen, who, ever bent on plunder and bloodshed,
made an incursion into the valley, visiting the different forts at
the time when the male inhabitants were employed in the labour of
cultivation, and seizing numerous youths and maidens. On the occasion
alluded to, among the number of victims was the only daughter of the
aged Huzareh peasants, who was considered amongst her tribe as a
perfect Peri--'A maid with a face like the moon, scented like musk,
a ravisher of hearts, delighting the soul, seducing the senses, and
beautiful as the full moon,' She was placed for security behind one of
the best mounted of the robbers, whilst the other helpless wretches
were driven unresistingly before the horsemen like a flock of sheep,
till the abductors reached their own independent territory.

"Before the close of that ill-fated day, the mothers and relations
of the stolen were rushing in frantic despair through the fields,
announcing to the husbands and fathers the misfortune which had
overtaken them.

"The men immediately quitted their work, and armed only with their
implements of labour pursued the ravishers for many a mile; but
what could they do on foot against so many horsemen? Perhaps it was
fortunate for them that they could not overtake the robbers, for they
would only have become additional victims. They returned home to
bewail their unhappy fate and curse the cruel authors of their misery.

"It happened about a year afterwards that the old man's son returned
from Candah[=a]r, to enjoy, as he anticipated, a few weeks' happiness
with his aged parents and blooming sister; but no sooner had he
crossed the threshhold and received the blessing of his trembling
parents, than he was made aware of the desolation that had passed over
his house. Vowing vengance on the perpetrators of this foul act, and
calling down the anger of heaven on all the generation of Uzbegs, the
brave Azeem left his home, and abandoning all hopes of repose, busied
himself in collecting a band of athletic and desperate young men, who
swore on the Kor[=a]n their determination to have revenge or perish
in the attempt. Young Azeem was unanimously chosen commander of
the party, and the next morning at break of day, without further
preparation beyond taking a small supply of food, they started on
their journey. Travelling long days, and resting short nights in the
crevices of the mountains, after eighteen days' toil, they at length
reached a part of Tartary, distant only two days' march from the fort
belonging to the robber Uzbegs who had so cruelly injured them. It now
became necessary to advance with more circumspection, as they could no
longer depend upon the peasants for protection in the less friendly
country they had reached, so separating into several small parties
they approached stealthily the Uzbeg fort; some kept the hills on
either side, while the rest followed the winding of the grassy plains.
Thus proceeding, they formed a kind of circle round the fort, so that
they could notice the ingress or departure of its tenants on every
side. The fort appeared too strong for an open attack, and when, at
night, the leaders of the detached parties assembled to discuss their
future plans and to report what they had seen during the day, it was
determined to lie in ambush another day for the chance of the main
body of the Uzbegs quitting their fort on some foray, so that they
would have a better chance, should it become necessary to attack it.
Providence seemed to favour their designs, for early next morning
considerable parties of Uzbegs were seen issuing from the fort and
proceeding towards a large savannah, where some festival was evidently
in preparation--for, from the quantity of women and children who
accompanied the horsemen, it was clear that fighting was not the
business of the day.

"Anxiously did Azeem and his followers watch the movements of their
unsuspecting enemy, and soon, from the nature of the preparations
going forward, they discovered that a wedding race was about to take
place. It was instantly determined to allow the ceremony to proceed,
and the capture of the bride was to be the signal for all the Huzarehs
to rush in and carry out their object.

"And now the suitors of the maiden, nine in number, appear in the
field, all unarmed, but mounted on the best horses they can procure;
while the bride herself, on a beautiful Turkoman stallion, surrounded
by her relations, anxiously surveys the group of lovers. The
conditions of the bridal race were these:--The maiden has a certain
start given, which she avails herself of to gain a sufficient distance
from the crowd to enable her to manage her steed with freedom, so as
to assist in his pursuit the suitor whom she prefers. On a signal from
the father all the horsemen gallop after the fair one, and whichever
first succeeds in encircling her waist with his arm, no matter whether
disagreeable or to her choice, is entitled to claim her as his wife.
After the usual delays incident upon such interesting occasions, the
maiden quits the circle of her relations, and putting her steed into
a hand gallop, darts into the open plain. When satisfied with her
position, she turns round to the impatient youths, and stretches out
her arms towards them, as if to woo their approach. This is the moment
for giving the signal to commence the chace, and each of the impatient
youths, dashing his pointed heels into his courser's sides, darts like
the unhooded hawk in pursuit of the fugitive dove. The savannah was
extensive, full twelve miles long and three in width, and as the
horsemen sped across the plain the favoured lover became soon apparent
by the efforts of the maiden to avoid all others who might approach
her.

"At length, after nearly two hours' racing, the number of pursuers is
reduced to four, who are all together, and gradually gaining on the
pursued; with them is the favourite, but alas! his horse suddenly
fails in his speed, and as she anxiously turns her head she perceives
with dismay the hapless position of her lover; each of the more
fortunate leaders, eager with anticipated triumph, bending his head on
his horse's mane, shouts at the top of his voice, "I come, my Peri;
I'm your lover." But she, making a sudden turn, and lashing her horse
almost to fury, darts across their path, and makes for that part of
the chummun, _plain_, where her lover was vainly endeavouring to goad
on his weary steed.

"The three others instantly check their career, but in the hurry to
turn back two of the horses are dashed furiously against each other,
so that both steeds and riders roll over on the plain. The maiden
laughed, for she well knew she could elude the single horseman, and
flew to the point where her lover was. But her only pursuer was rarely
mounted and not so easily shaken off; making a last and desperate
effort he dashed alongside the maiden, and, stretching out his arm,
almost won the unwilling prize; but she, bending her head to her
horse's neck, eluded his grasp and wheeled off again. Ere the
discomfited horseman could again approach her her lover's arm was
around her waist, and amidst the shouts of the spectators they turned
towards the fort.

"Alas! this was the agreed signal amongst the Huzarehs, who, screened
by the undulations of the savannah or hidden in the watercourses, had
been anxiously awaiting the event. With a simultaneous shout they
rush in upon the unprepared multitude, and commence an indiscriminate
massacre; but short was their success, for a distant party of Uzbegs
were observed rapidly gallopping to the scene of action, and the
Huzarehs were compelled to retire, their spirit for vengeance yet
unslaked. The panic their sudden onslaught had caused was so great
that they might all have retired unmolested had not Azeem suddenly
recognized his sister amongst a group of females who were being
hurried towards the fort. Regardless of the almost certain death that
awaited him he rushed to embrace her, but hardly had he clasped her in
his arms when the chief of the harem drove his Persian dagger through
his back. At sight of this all thoughts of further revenge were
abandoned, and the Huzarehs hastily quitting the field made the best
of their way home, not without having, though at the expense of the
life of their leader, inflicted a severe punishment on the invaders of
their peaceful country,"[*]

[* Note: Clark, in his Travels in Russia and Tartary, describes the
ceremony of marriage among the Calmucks as performed on horseback.

"The girl is first mounted and rides off at full speed. Her lover
pursues, and if he overtakes her she becomes his wife, and the
marriage is consummated on the spot; after which she returns with him
to his tent. But it sometimes happens that the woman does not wish to
marry the person by whom she is pursued, in which case she will not
suffer him to overtake her; and we were assured that no instance
occurs of a Calmuck girl being caught, unless she has a partiality for
her pursuer. If she dislikes him she rides, to use the language of
an English sportsman, 'neck or nothing,' until she has completely
escaped, or until the pursuer's horse is tired out, leaving her at
liberty to return, and to be afterwards chased by some more favourite
admirer."]

Such was the old man's tale; whether the offspring of his fertile
imagination, or actually founded upon fact, so plausible did it
appear, and so much interested was I in his narration, that it became
forcibly imprinted on my memory, and I have minutely followed him in
its details.

The morning after our arrival at Ghoree several of our followers were
taken ill, and as all were in great dread of the Koondooz fever, a
considerable alarm prevailed in our small camp. We did not at first
think much of the sickness, which we attributed to too free an
indulgence in the Koondooz melon, which is of a very large size, and
equal in flavour to those of Cabul. We therefore determined to remain
a day or two at Ghoree, in the hopes of a favourable change taking
place. But on the third day it was evident that the Koondooz fever had
really made its appearance, and several of the guard and servants,
to the number of twenty and upwards, were so much weakened as to be
unable to proceed. In this dilemma we deemed it advisable not to
remain any longer in the vicinity of the marshes, and resolved to
proceed with such of our men as were still healthy, to survey the
Dushti Suffaed Pass, already alluded to. We determined on leaving the
sick and the greater portion of our baggage behind, and despatched a
letter to Meer Moorad Beg, requesting permission for them to remain at
Ghoree till our return, which we hoped would not be delayed beyond a
few days. The ruler of Koondooz civilly acceded to our request, and
sent us many friendly messages, but hardly sufficient to dispel our
uneasiness at leaving even for so short a time such temptation for the
gratification of his predatory propensities; but we had the choice of
two evils--our time was so short that if we all remained together at
Ghoree, not only might the ravages of the fever become more serious,
but the opportunity would be lost of examining the pass. Before
leaving Ghoree we received a message from the governor of the fort,
apologizing for his inability to visit us, with the excuse that there
being much treachery and ill will in the neighbourhood, he dare not
quit his post, lest he fall under the dreaded displeasure of Meer
Moorad Beg.

We now dismissed, with a dress of honour and letter of thanks, the
_confidential_ man whom the Meer Walli of Koollum had ordered to
accompany us, and leaving the greater part of our medicine chest for
the use of the sick, we started on the 28th of August. Before our
departure we received a further proof of the friendly disposition of
Moorad Beg, in the shape of a beautiful Toorkm[=a]n saddle, not larger
than an English racing one; the flaps were richly embroidered, and the
steel pommel was inlaid with inscription in gold of sentences from the
Kor[=a]n.

CHAPTER XVI.

We were now about to explore a part of Toorkisth[=a]n which I have
reason to believe had never been visited by Europeans; the distance
between Ghoree and Badjgh[=]ar is about eighty miles, across as wild
and romantic a country as can well be conceived, consisting of a
succession of difficult and in some places perilous defiles; the last
of these was the famous Dushti Suffaed, which leads to Badjgh[=a]r.
There is a sameness in the features of these Toorkisth[=a]n passes
which renders a faithful description tedious, from its monotony and
the necessary repetition of similar characteristic features; yet the
reader will hardly fail to draw important conclusions from the immense
difficulty and almost practical impossibility that a modern army
of considerable numbers, with all its incumbrances, through such a
country, with any hope of its retaining its efficiency or even a
tithe of its original numerical strength, will encounter. And when we
consider that the passes of Toorkisth[=a]n embrace only a small part
of the distance to be traversed by an army from the west, we may
well dismiss from our minds that ridiculous impression, once so
unfortunately prevalent in India, that is now justly denominated
_Russophobia_. What a fearful amount of human suffering might have
been averted! what national disgrace might have been avoided! and what
millions of treasure saved, had the authorities in India but examined
the practicability of an invasion which Russia had too much wisdom
ever seriously to contemplate!

But to return to our wanderings. As I said before, we left Ghoree
early in the morning of the 28th, and soon reached the foot of the
hills, ascending a narrow valley which gradually contracted into a
rocky ravine. As we traversed the higher levels all vegetation ceased,
excepting the Pista tree already alluded to; yet there must have been
some herbage in the gullies, as we saw several flocks of wild goats,
so wild indeed that it was impossible to get within rifle range
of them. We had heard of a place called Shull[=a]ctoo, within the
distance of a day's march, and conceiving naturally that it was a
habitation of men, we determined to pass the night there. As the
evening advanced, the aspect of the country assumed a still wilder
and more desolate character, our cattle began to show symptoms of
distress, and as the hills were apparently destitute of water, we
became a little uneasy regarding the nature of our billet. A sudden
turn of the ravine brought us to a small open space, without a blade
of grass or a vestige of any thing human, which our guide complacently
informed us was Shull[=a]ctoo, a mere "locus standi." After the first
feeling of dismay had subsided, we recollected that we had a small
supply of food for our horses; and water being now found for the first
time since we entered the hills,--and we had come a good sixteen
miles,--we determined not to proceed further, so pitching our little
tent we made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would admit.

On the 29th we marched, a distance of fourteen miles, to a small fort
called Keune. But I unfortunately commenced the day's work by losing
my way amongst the rocks, with some of the guard: after wandering
for some hours, surrounded by scenery the grandeur of which I should
better have appreciated under different circumstances, one of the
Affgh[=a]n soldiers hit upon a pathway, and seeing a man in the
distance, he made for, and, seizing him in the most unceremonious
manner, brought him to me. The poor fellow was in the greatest state
of alarm; he had evidently never seen a Feringhi before, and fancied
that his last hour had arrived. I put a rupee into his hand, and
endeavoured to make him understand that we were neither robbers nor
murderers, but travellers who had lost their way; he was naturally
incredulous, for certainly our appearance gave but small indication of
our respectable character.[*] At length we were obliged to intimate
that his fears might be realized unless he showed us the way to Keune,
which we eventually reached in the evening, much exhausted with our
excursion.

[* Note: I was armed with a huge old-fashioned sword of the 11th
dragoons, purchased in the Cabul bazaar, (marked D-XI Dr.) and clad in
a green Swiss frock. I had a coloured turban wound in copious folds
round my head as a protection from the sun, beard of nearly three
months' growth, and accompanied by a ferocious-looking tribe of
Affghans, all unshorn as well as myself, created anything but
a prepossessing impression to a stranger. The reader will not,
therefore, feel surprised at the man's hesitation in meeting us.]

The chief of the fort at first declined furnishing us with any
supplies, though we offered liberal payment, declaring that he had
only sufficient for his own consumption; he, however, relented, and
sent us enough for our immediate wants. He afterwards came himself,
and informed us that we had acted very unwisely in mentioning at
Ghoree the route we proposed to follow, as one of the Sheikkallee
Huzareh chiefs, who was in a state of rebellion, had passed through
Keune the day before, and had stated that a party of Feringhis were
about to pass through his country with a quantity of odd looking boxes
filled with money, (alluding, I suppose, to the theodolite, &c.)
and that he would with his whole tribe waylay and rob us. This was
pleasant news, but we took the hint and determined to be on our guard.
In return for this piece of information, the inhabitants of Keune
expressed a desire to see the _Feringhis feed_; rather a novel
request, but one which we easily gratified by striking the walls of
the tent while we eat our dinner. The natives squatted down in a
circle outside the tent pins, and watched every morsel we put into our
mouths with the utmost interest and with many exclamations of surprise
and astonishment; and when before retiring for the night we as usual
had a skinful of water poured over us, their wonder knew no bounds;
they were evidently but slightly acquainted with the use of water as
applied for the purposes of cleanliness.

We left Keune at daybreak on the 30th, hoping to be able to make our
way to Badjgh[=a]r, distant about forty-five miles, by surmounting the
Keune pass and proceeding down the Surruk Kulla valley. The ascent
was long and steep, the distance we had to travel before reaching the
summit being above thirteen miles; and though we had been on the move
nearly all day, such were the difficulties of the pass that night
overtook us shortly after we had reached its crest.

Not a sign of habitations or trace of cultivation was visible; we had
no corn for our cattle, but fortunately the more sheltered spots in
the vicinity of water were clothed with luxuriant grass, which the
horses greedily eat. Our followers had, with the improvidence of
Asiatics, brought but a scanty supply of food, and indeed we were
all to blame for having trusted too much to the wild mountains
for supplies. There were plenty of chikore, however, and as I had
succeeded in shooting two or three in the morning we were not entirely
without food; and having pitched our tent, we retired to rest in the
hope that the next day we should come upon some fort where we might
recruit.

As we were preparing to start early on the morning of the 31st, we met
a traveller pursuing his solitary way to Keune, who, after expressing
his wonder at encountering a party of Feringhis in such a place,
inquired our proposed route. We informed him that our intention was to
proceed over the Surruk Kulla pass and make our way to Badjghar, but
he cautioned us not to attempt any such thing; for though the road
was better than the more direct one, called the Espion Pass, it was
infested by a robber tribe from whose hands he had himself only
escaped, not having any thing to lose.

This unwelcome intelligence induced Sturt to change his plan, and we
agreed that having done our utmost to fulfil the wishes of government
in ascertaining the nature of the passes in the vicinity of Badjghar,
it was our duty to consult the safety of ourselves and followers, and
get them as soon as possible within reach of protection. We had no
food of any kind left, but after all we did not anticipate much
serious evil from a forced fast of forty-eight hours; so, after
rewarding our wanderer for his very seasonable warning, we struck off
to cross the Espion Pass. The event proved how imminent had been our
danger, for after reaching Badjghar we were made aware that a large
body of horsemen had assembled in the Surruk Kullah valley for the
purpose of attacking us--that they had come up the road to meet us,
and had actually reached the point where we turned off about two hours
after us.

We travelled the whole of the 31st August across a succession of
broken passes; so complicated were the valleys and so broken were
the range of hills, that we were unable to tell when we reached the
back-bone of the ridge, and we struggled on in doubt and difficulty
till we were again overtaken by the shades of night.

Our cattle were quite exhausted; our followers grumbling, dispirited,
and frightened, the prospect of a second bivouac by no means improving
their discipline and insubordination.

While I was endeavouring to pacify them by the only argument I had
at my disposal, founded on the principle of "_levius fit patientia
quidquid corrigere est nefas_," one of our servants brought us the
joyful news that from an eminence adjacent he had discovered an
abatta, or clump of blanket tents, surrounded by cultivated land,
about a mile off. Where tents were, food would probably be obtainable;
and as we were not in a condition to be very particular as to the
character of the inhabitants, we immediately despatched an embassy
with money to purchase whatever edible substances they could procure.
Our anxieties were now relieved by the return of our mission, driving
before them a couple of very thin sheep, and carrying a small supply
of corn for the cattle. With this reasonable supply we made a
tolerable meal, and succeeded in putting the discontented into a
better frame of mind.

We determined to make a push next morning for Badjghar, and started
before day-break for the Dushti Suffaeed Pass, the crest of which we
reached after travelling a distance of about nine miles over very bad
ground. We were now "_en pays de connoissance_," but our cattle were
so much weakened by the work and privations of the last three or four
days, that we could not attempt the long and difficult descent into
the valley beneath. I therefore rode on alone and reached Badjghar in
a few hours. I immediately visited Capt. Hay, and having procured a
supply of food, returned with it the same night to the party, much
exhausted with my trip, but satisfied now that there could be no
further cause for grumbling on the part of our followers.

The state of our baggage-equipage next morning was so bad, that Sturt
thought it advisable to give them another day's rest, and he went
on himself to Badjghar; but in the course of the day I received an
express from him, stating that circumstances had occurred which made
it absolutely necessary for me to bring in the whole party without
delay. I knew Sturt too well to doubt the urgency he represented, and
in spite of lame legs, sore backs, &c. I managed to bring all hands
safe into Badjghar late on the evening of the 2d of August. Our men
were taken every care of, (which indeed they required, as fever and
ague had weakened them much,) and in a few days all traces of their
sufferings had disappeared; but poor Sturt, who had been complaining
for some days before of great debility and headache, was seized on the
morning of the 3d with a violent attack of Koondooz fever, which soon
prostrated his strength and caused me some uneasiness. He weathered
the storm, however, and by the 11th was sufficiently recovered to
enable him to resume his duties.

I have before mentioned, I think, that we had left some of our
followers and a considerable portion of our baggage at Ghoree,
intending to return to that fort after visiting the passes which I
have alluded to; but on our reaching Badjghar we found that the clouds
which had been gathering for some time past in the political horizon
had assumed so threatening an appearance that it would be madness to
attempt to prosecute our examination of the nature of the country,
when its wild and lawless population were in such an excited state.
The intentions of the Koondooz ruler were not known, and we felt very
anxious for the safety of the sick whom we had been necessitated
to leave at Ghoree, as in addition to his natural sympathy for a
fellow-creature's sufferings, Sturt feared that if any misfortune
befel them, he might, though unjustly, be accused of having deserted
them. His uneasiness was increased by receipt of a letter from Ghoree
from one of our people, in which it was stated that the baggage we had
left behind had been opened and some things abstracted, and that they
themselves were in imminent danger of being seized and sold as slaves.

After making every allowance for the exaggerations of fear, there
was still sufficient in this communication to aggravate poor Sturt's
difficulties; he was in doubt whether to assume a high tone, or to
endeavour by flattery to save his followers, and his last act before
the violence of the fever obliged him to succumb was a firm but
respectful letter which he wrote to Meer Moor[=a]d Beg, in which he
stated that reports inconsistent with that chief's known good faith
had reached him; that he had heard that his property had been seized
and his people threatened; that he was sure they were lies invented by
Moor[=a]d Beg's enemies to create a bad feeling towards him; and that
he requested the men and property might be immediately forwarded safe
to Cabul. Those who are familiar with the vanity and punctiliousness
on points of etiquette of the chieftains of the Hindoo Khoosh will
easily conceive how much depended upon the wording of this letter.

In the written intercourse between equals it is customary to put the
impression of the signet at the top of the sheet, but from an inferior
such an act would be considered as highly presumptuous. Sturt, though
advised to assume the humble tone, was resolute in putting his seal at
the beginning of the letter, and the event proved that his judgment
was as usual correct, for though (it was stated) the chief of Koondooz
was but a few months after in arms against the British, yet our people
and property were safely forwarded to us at Cabul.

CHAPTER XVII.

It was only after my arrival at Badjghar with the men that I became
acquainted with Sturt's reasons for requesting me to come in without
delay, Capt Hay was in daily expectation of the arrival of a convoy
from Bamee[=a]n with a supply of provisions, clothing, and ammunition
for the use of his regiment, and having received information from one
of the numerous spies, who gain a livelihood by supplying information
to _both_ parties, that large bodies of men were assembling in
the Kammurd valley, through which the convoy would have to pass,
determined, though he did not attach much credit to his informant, to
despatch as strong a body as he could spare to reinforce the escort.
He accordingly sent out two companies of the Goorkha regiment with
directions to proceed to the "Dundun Shikkun Kotul," there to meet the
convoy and protect them in their passage through the Kammurd valley.
Such was the scarcity of European officers, that Capt. Hay was obliged
to intrust the command of the force to the quarter-master-serjeant of
his corps; who, though unused to the management of so considerable a
party in the field, and who might have been excused if in the hour of
need his brain had not been as fertile of expedients as is generally
necessary in encounters of this kind, acquitted himself in a manner
that would have done credit to the best light infantry officer in the
service. I much regret that I cannot record his name, but before being
appointed to the Goorkha corps he was a non-commissioned officer in
the Bengal European regiment. He was one of the many victims, I fear,
of the year 1841, as I have been unable to trace his career. Hundreds
of brave European non-commissioned officers met a similar fate, and
are merely noticed as having perished in the retreat from Cabul. The
many acts of coldblooded treachery which disgraced the Affghans, and
which ought to have opened the eyes of those in power to the absurdity
in trusting to their faith, were merged in the wholesale murders of
Khoord Cabul, Jugdulluk, and Gundummuk.

I have before described the narrowness of the valley up to Kammurd and
the lofty ranges of precipitous hills by which it is flanked; and the
reader will perhaps recollect my noticing two forts on either side of
the river a little above Piedb[=a]gh. It was here that the Serjeant
halted his party after the first day's march, intending to proceed
the next morning to the Dundun Shikkun pass to meet the convoy. At
day-light he was informed that the expected convoy had not crossed the
pass, and while forming his men to proceed and ascertain whether the
report was correct or otherwise, he was suddenly attacked by large
bodies of horse and foot: the serjeant immediately took advantage of
the ground to protect his party from the heavy fire which was poured
in from all sides, and having observed that the enemy, whoever they
were, were in too great a force to leave him a chance of successfully
maintaining his position, which was commanded from several points, he
determined on retreating to Badjghar, a distance of about nine miles.
The valley was full of orchards divided by low walls, and perhaps to
a well-disciplined company of steady old soldiers with plenty of
officers, a retreat, even in the face of several hundred Uzbegs, might
have been effected without loss, by forming the whole body into two
lines of skirmishers, and retiring alternately; but the serjeant knew
too well the temper of his gallant little mountaineers, who are more
famous for bravery than judgment, to trust the safety of his party to
the success of a manoeuvre, the chief point in which was to know when
to retreat. His first line of skirmishers would never have retired in
order, taking advantage of every natural obstacle of the ground for
concealment, but would have boldly confronted the cavalry and probably
been destroyed to a man. He therefore moved his Goorkhas in quarter
distance column steadily along the road, which luckily hugged the
precipitous hills on one side, so that the enemy could only avail
themselves of the valley on the other side of the road to attack him,
the mountains being so impracticable that while they attempted to
climb them to turn his flank he had already gained so much ground as
to be out of reach of even a "plunging" fire. In ordinary quick time
did this little band retire under a heavy though straggling fire from
a force many times more numerous than themselves. The serjeant was
enabled with difficulty to carry out his plan, which was, not to
return the enemy's fire, but to proceed steadily on till he could
suddenly take advantage of some protecting ledge of rock or orchard
wall behind which he could form his men and confuse the enemy by
pouring in a few volleys. He would then form quarter distance columns
of subdivisions again, and proceed in his retreat as before. He had no
misgivings as to the courage and firmness of his men, for the Goorkhas
have ever been noted for their dashing bravery, and an incident soon
proved how wisely he had judged in not extending his men. While
retiring, a chance shot killed a man who happened to be a great
favourite; his nearest comrades immediately halted and faced about,
and notwithstanding the commands and entreaties of the serjeant; they
determined to avenge his death. Grouping themselves round the body of
their dead companion, they awaited the enemy, and when sure that every
shot would tell, each man delivered his fire, and then drawing his
knife with a yell of defiance, rushed upon hundreds of their foes;
to have supported them would have been to lead the whole party to
inevitable slaughter, and the authority of the quarter-master-serjeant
was scarce sufficient to restrain his men from breaking from their
cover to join the unequal fight: as it was, the gallant little band
were soon outnumbered, and after a reckless and desperate resistance
were literally hacked to pieces. The enemy encouraged by this success
now pressed hard upon the Goorkhas, and had they been fortunate enough
in getting round to the front not a man would have escaped; as it was,
the men were falling very fast, when a happy occurrence changed
the aspect of affairs. It seems that a chief, conspicuous from his
glittering armour and steel head-piece, mounted on a powerful horse
with an armed footman behind him, attracted the notice of the Goorkhas
by the cool manner in which he rode up to within a distance of about
eighty yards, delivered his fire, then galloped away out of gunshot
to allow the gentleman "en croupe" to reload. A few of the men having
observed this manoeuvre repeated three or four times, concealed
themselves behind a rock, while the main body retired. On came the
chief to within his prescribed distance; a volley from behind the rock
scarce ten paces off rolled horse and man over and over. The effect on
the enemy was such that they kept at a more respectful distance,
and after a few random shots discontinued the pursuit. Such was the
account the serjeant himself gave me of the fight, and I have no
reason to suspect him of exaggeration. He accomplished his arduous
retreat with a loss of nineteen men killed, but more than half this
number voluntarily sacrificed themselves to avenge the death of their
comrade. It is difficult, when relating the numerous acts of heroism
of the Goorkha troops, to refrain from drawing invidious comparisons
between their conduct and that of the Hindoo soldier during the
retreat from Cabul; but though it must be allowed that the despondency
and mental enervation which sometimes spreads like an epidemic
among Sepoy troops, must importantly deteriorate from their general
character as soldiers, still it must be recollected that the physical
constitution of the Hindoo incapacitates him from action under some
circumstances. Severe cold benumbs his faculties of mind as well as
body, and the nature of his ordinary food is such that unless the
supply is regular and sufficient his strength fails him; and again,
his belief in predestination is strong, and often a trivial reverse
will induce him to abandon himself to his fate. But in these days the
Hindoo soldier need not fear that his noble and gallant qualities will
not be understood or appreciated. Every good soldier will honor the
Hindoo for his patient endurance, his courage, and fidelity.

To turn to the convoy: the attempt was made to get the camels laden
with ammunition, stores, and provisions over the Dundun Shikkun Pass;
but the difficulties were found to be so great that the escort and
convoy returned to Sygh[=a]n, and crossing the Nulli Fursh Kotul,
reached their destination.

This was the first glaring instance of the state of the country, and
some people may well be astonished it was viewed by the political
authorities in so insignificant a light. But I will not too much
impose upon the patience of the reader by detailing the execrable
reasons which were put forth for the most absurd measures during the
twelve months preceding the annihilation of our army.

It was now evident to those who were not obstinately blind that a
general rising was contemplated; and a few days after our arrival at
Badjghar we heard that Dost Mahommed had arrived at Koollum, and that
after all his diplomacy our old friend the Meer Walli had received him
with open arms, and was now on his way to attack our out-posts. The
authorities were shortly afterwards aroused from their apathy, the
advanced troops were very properly withdrawn, the gallant Col. Dennie
was sent in command of a small but efficient force to the head of the
Bamee[=a]n valley, where, as has been before detailed, he repulsed the
combined forces of Dost Mahommed Khan, the Meer Walli of Koollum, and
all the Uzbeg chiefs.

CHAPTER XVIII.

On the 12th of August we departed from Badjghar on our return to
C[=a]bul, and I reached Bamee[=a]n by a forced march in two days,
preceding Sturt, who was still very weak and obliged to travel more
leisurely. I was very nearly suffering from my anxiety to get on, for
one of the laden Yabboos, being urged beyond what he considered his
lawful rate of progress, lashed out most furiously with both hind
legs; luckily, the flap of my saddle received the full force of one
of his heels, and the soft part of my leg the other, which lamed me
severely for a time.

On the 22nd, Sturt having arrived, we made up our party to visit
the ruins of the Castle of Zohawk, distant about ten miles from
Bamee[=a]n. I was rewarded for my trouble, both from the picturesque
nature of the ruins themselves, and because I was fortunate enough
again to fall in with one of those professional story-tellers from
whom I have already largely quoted. I have indeed listened to many
more stories than I have ventured here to insert; some I have rejected
from the nature of their details, others from there being a strong
impression on my mind that they were the extempore invention of the
story-teller with a view to the rupee, which he feared he would not
secure if he confessed he had nothing to relate. I have not perhaps
been judicious in my selection of those which I hoped would amuse the
reader, but I have done my best to choose for insertion those which
differed the most from each other; and I may be allowed to add as an
excuse for my apparent credulity regarding the tales themselves, that
they are implicitly believed by the inhabitants, so that, making
allowance for the corruption of tradition, the facts on which they are
founded in all probability did really occur.

The ruins of the Castle of Zohawk are situated on a hill commanding
the high road from Toorkisthan over the Ir[=a]k and Kalloo passes, and
in the angle formed by the union of the Bamee[=a]n and Ir[=a]k rivers.
It is impossible to fix the date of the first structure; it seems from
the ruin to have been added to at many successive epochs. The size of
the towers appeared very insignificant compared with the extent of
ground which the building at one time evidently covered, but perhaps
the towers, though small, were numerous. The only one now standing was
situated high up the hill, from which a covered passage partly cut
through the solid rock leads down to the water side. We had some
trouble in gaining the highest point of the ruins, as we were obliged
to scramble up the steep face of the precipice, still covered with the
remains of walls and bastions, which had been built up wherever the
ground was sufficiently level for a foundation. Many dreary-looking
cells attracted our notice amongst the ruins, and all the information
I could get was, that they were the abode of evil spirits. My
informant would, I do believe, have amused me for hours with legends
of the said spirits, and indeed every river and lake, every mountain
and valley in this district bears its peculiar legend, always
improbable, generally absurd, and though from that very cause
diverting for the moment, I fear that the naive taste amongst our
"savans" which delighted in the history of Jack the Giant-killer being
fast on the wane, they would not be gratified by a lengthy recital;
but I must still take the liberty of repeating as well as I could
follow the vile jargon of my narrator, a tale which he told me of the
Castle of Zohawk while standing on its ruins. He had evidently been
accustomed to tell the same story to others, or else I imagine that,
in consideration of our both being on the spot, he would have spared a
description of what I saw before my eyes. I give it to the reader as
nearly as I can in the narrator's words.

"At the extreme end of a precipitous hill jutting out from the main
range of mountains at the junction of the Bamee[=a]n and Ir[=a]k
rivers, are the remains of an old castle called Zohawk, after a noted
freebooter, who, secure in the strength of his fortress, was the
terror of the surrounding villages, and lived by rapine, pillage, and
plunder of every kind. To a careless observer the diminutive tower,
which alone remains standing, would not convey an adequate idea of the
original extent of the castle; but on a close examination the whole
face of the mountain will be found to be covered with ruined walls
and roofless chambers, now the fit abodes of devils of all sorts and
denominations. Many hundreds of years ago, before the invasion of
Nadir Shah, Zohawk Khan occupied the castle; he did not build it, but
as it acquired an infamous notoriety during his life-time, and has not
been inhabited since, it still bears the name of the ferocious robber,
who with a band as vicious as himself lived there for many years.
Zohawk Khan was originally an Huzareh peasant; he was seized while
a child and carried off in slavery to Toorkisth[=a]n, where
his naturally cruel and savage disposition was exasperated by
ill-treatment and fostered by the scenes of wickedness with which he
was made familiar. Being very cunning, he soon acquired influence
amongst his fellow slaves, and organized a conspiracy, in the
fulfilment of which his own master and many other Toorkomaun chiefs
were put to death under every refinement of torture. Zohawk at the
head of the rebel slaves then traversed the country, robbing the
harmless peasants, till he reached the vicinity of the castle,
which still bears his name. It was then inhabited by an old Huzareh
chieftain, who had formerly been a kind master to Zohawk's parents.
Regardless of the memory of past kindness, the ruffian determined to
possess himself of this place, and under the pretence of craving the
hospitality of the rightful owner, introduced himself and fellow
villains into the fortification. In the dead of the night, according
to a preconcerted plan, the robbers rose from their place of rest, and
stealing to the sleeping apartment of the chieftain, murdered him; the
affrighted garrison craved for life, but one after another were placed
in irons to be disposed of as slaves. The freebooter, now master of
the fortress, assumed the title of Kh[=a]n, and commenced that career
of ruthless cruelty and depravity which more than any thing else
causes his name to be remembered and his memory cursed by the present
inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The government of the self-styled
Kh[=a]n was a reign of terror, and many were the nameless atrocities
committed within the walls of the castle. He had, however, one
confidant, whom he believed faithful, but who from interested motives
submitted to the savage passions of his master, and being the chief
eunuch of the harem, had great influence in that department. It was
the custom of Zohawk Kh[=a]n to choose the autumn of the year for the
season of his predatory excursions, and it happened that, while
absent with the flower of his force on one of these death-dealing
expeditions, a conspiracy was set on foot, the principal agitator
being the eunuch of the seraglio. "It was determined that on the
evening when the chieftain was expected to return, a general feast
should be given to those remaining at home, with the double view of
rendering the men who had not joined in the conspiracy incapable from
the effects of debauchery in siding with Zohawk, and of exasperating
the ferocious chieftain, who was known to be averse to any revelry
during his absence. The favourite wife summoned all the harem to a
feast, whilst a copious allowance of intoxicating liquor was served
out to the minor portion of the garrison. The wine soon produced
the required effect, and in the midst of the revelry and uproar the
Kh[=a]n appeared at his castle gate, and without enquiring the cause
of the tumult, instantly proceeded to the harem, and lifting the
Purdah stood in the presence of his wives. 'What is this?' said he,
glancing savagely round.--'We expected your return and have prepared a
feast to welcome you,' was the ironical reply of the favourite wife,
who at the same time trembling in her limbs scarce dared to face the
enraged tyrant, 'It is a lie, offspring of a Kaffir; you shall pay the
penalty of your disobedience of my orders. Here, Saleh, take her and
throw her over the battlements into the river;' but ere the reluctant
eunuch could enforce the cruel mandate, the woman raised her hand,
and with a small dagger pierced herself to the heart. Unmoved by her
tragic fate, Zohawk instantly commanded that four of the other women
should be dealt with in the same way, and seeing the eunuch hesitate,
drew his Persian blade and rushed at him; but ere the sword fell, the
knife of Saleh was sheathed in the ruffian's breast. "The news of his
death spread rapidly through the castle; then followed the strife
of war. The Kh[=a]n's party, though in number nearly double that of
Saleh, were wearied with their recent foray, and after a desperate
conflict of three hours they were driven into one of the wings of
the castle, and butchered to a man. Blood flowed in almost every
apartment; broken swords, daggers, and matchlocks lay in all
directions, shewing how terrible the strife had been. And now, when
Zohawk's party had been exterminated, a murmuring arose amongst the
victors as to who should be the chief, and Saleh, perceiving that he
should gain nothing for the exertions he had made, demanded permission
to leave the castle, taking with him as his sole share of booty his
sister, who was an inmate of the harem. His terms were immediately
complied with, and the wary eunuch lost no time in quitting the scene
of blood.

"Those remaining agreed to defer the election of a chief till they had
refreshed themselves after their labours: in the heat of intoxication
blood again flowed, and after passing the whole night in drinking and
fighting, morning appeared to eighteen survivors of the fray. Each
still claimed for himself the chieftainship, and while still wrangling
on the subject, one of the wounded partizans of Saleh, unperceived
by the drunkards, secreted a large bag of powder in the room, and
igniting it by a train with his slow match crawled out of the castle.

"The explosion was terrific; down toppled tower and bastion,
enveloping in their ruins the remainder of the garrison, and the
castle was in a few moments reduced to the shapeless mass which it now
presents.

"The wounded author of the catastrophe alone escaped; but the
knowledge of his crimes prevented him from returning to his country,
and he wandered for many years about the blackened walls, the terror
of the neighbourhood, who considered him an evil spirit. He subsisted
on herbs growing on the adjacent mountains, till at last he
disappeared no one knew where. Since that period, the fortress has
never been the resting place of the traveller or the haunt of the
freebooter."

Such was the terrible tale of blood and wounds which my informant
communicated to me, and certainly, if it rests its foundation on any
one of the horrors with which it is filled, the castle of Zohawk does
well deserve its bad repute.

On the 23rd we left Bamee[=a]n and proceeded over the Ir[=a]k pass to
Oorgundee, where we arrived on the 28th. No event occurred nor any
thing worth mentioning, unless it be the "naivete" of an old man, who,
observing me light my cigar with a lucifer-match, asked in a grave
and solemn tone, whether that was indeed fire. I took his finger, and
placed it in the flame, much to his astonishment, but convincing him
of its reality. He then enquired if it was the fire from heaven, which
he heard the Feringhis were possessed of. I endeavoured, but I fear
without success, to explain to the old gentleman the nature of
fulminating substances, and though he listened with patience, he was
evidently still in the dark, when I presented him with the contents
of my match-box and shewed him how to ignite them; his gratitude was
manifest, as he walked off highly pleased with his toy, which I hope
may not have burned his fingers.

Sturt left me on the 29th, being anxious to get back to Cabul; but
as I had three days to spare, and my taste for wandering was still
unabated, I joined Capt. Westmacott, of the 37th Native Infantry, in
a flying excursion into the valley of Charrik[=a]r, which the
Affgh[=a]ns consider as the garden of Cabul. The first day we rode
from Oorgundee to Shukkur Durra, or "the sugar valley," so called,
not from growing that useful article of grocery, but from its fertile
orchards and extensive vineyards. After a few miles' ride we crossed
a low range of hills, and came upon the flourishing district of
Be-tout,--literally, "without mulberries." The sagacious reader will
justly infer that mulberry trees were in profusion every where else;
indeed so plentiful are they in general that many of the natives
live almost exclusively in winter upon the fruit, which is dried and
reduced to a powder, and after being mixed with a little milk, or even
water, forms a palatable and nutritious food. The view from the
crest of the low range of hills was really enchanting, and strongly
contrasted with the wild and craggy mountains amongst which we had of
late been struggling. An extensive plain, bounded by high mountains,
and again crowned by the snowy peaks of those more distant, lay
before us, its whole surface dotted with a multitude of white forts
surrounded by a belt of the most vivid green, the barrenness of the
uncultivated spots acting as a foil to the rich vegetation which
springs under the foot of the Affgh[=a]n husbandman wherever he can
introduce the fertilizing stream. We rode leisurely on through this
wilderness of gardens, till on approaching the village of Be-tout the
loud wail of women hired to pour forth their lamentations for some
misfortune assailed our ears, and on enquiring we learnt that one
of the inhabitants had been murdered the preceding night under the
following circumstances.

It appears that ten years ago the murdered man (who was a Persian) had
a very pretty daughter, and that a neighbouring chief hearing of her
beauty caused her to be forcibly seized and conveyed to his own fort.
The father, regardless of any consideration but revenge, arming
himself with his long Affgh[=a]n knife, gained admission into the
chief's house and immediately cut him down and made his escape. For
ten years he concealed himself from the vengeance of the relatives
of the chief, but a few days before he had returned to his native
village, hoping that time would have softened the vindictiveness of
his enemy; but he shewed his ignorance of the Affgh[=a]n character,
with whom revenge is a sacred virtue. He had not been long returned,
when a nephew of the chief he had slain shot him through the heart
from behind a wall. As we passed through the village we saw the
inhabitants crowding round the still unburied corpse of the injured
father, and our thoughts were painfully diverted from a contemplation
of the richness and plenty which Providence had vouchsafed to this
fertile spot, to a mournful consideration of the wild passions of man,
who pollutes the earth with the blood of his fellow-creature.

As we proceeded onwards we came upon those luxuriant vineyards which
produce the famous Kohist[=a]n grape, of enormous size as to berry
and bunch, but excelling in delicacy of flavour, in juiciness, and
thinness of skin even the far-famed Muscadel.

The vines are trained either upon a trellice work or along the ground,
the latter mode being used for the most delicate grape; but it
requires more care and attention, it being necessary while the fruit
is ripening so to trim the plant and thin its foliage, that the branch
may have sufficient sun, and be kept as near as possible to the
earth without touching it. This mode of training is adopted in the
cultivation of the enormous black grape, called from its size and
colour "the cow's-eye." Towards evening we reached the vicinity of
Shukkur Durrah, lying at the extremity of the plain and backed by
mountains of considerable height. Here we encamped for the night under
the shelter of a magnificent walnut tree, in a small garden adjoining
the fort.

After we had pitched our tents, many Hindoos who trade in fruit, the
staple produce of the country, came to pay their respects, and one of
them informed me that about four miles across the mountains to the
north-west in the Sheikkallee Huzareh country, there were three lakes
so extensive that it occupied a well-mounted horseman a whole day to
ride round them. No European, he said, had ever visited them; one
gentleman, whose name he did not know, had tried to reach them, but
drank so much brandy by the way that he was obliged to lie down
instead, and the guide had great difficulty in getting him back. I
regretted that the expiration of my leave prevented me from exploring
these lakes, which I do not think have ever been examined by any of
our engineers; but I hope that, had I undertaken the excursion, I
should not have fallen into the same scrape the above mentioned
gentleman did. The gardens belonging to the chief were well worth
looking at, with a beautiful stream of water flowing through the
centre, tortured by artificial rocks into fifty diminutive cataracts.

We were well satisfied with our quarters, but after night-fall
intimation was given us that unless we kept a sharp look-out it was
very probable we might have some unwelcome intruders before morning,
as a neighbouring fort was hostile to that of Shukkur Durrah; and
moreover, that the inhabitants of the fort itself were in the utmost
dread of a band of desperadoes who infested the adjacent hills and
occasionally paid them a nocturnal visit. Luckily for us they were in
hourly expectation of such an intrusion, for their fears kept them
on the alert, and they had a watchman on each of the towers, whose
sonorous voices proclaimed every hour of the night. Our guard was
now reduced to six, the remainder being employed to escort Sturt's
instruments into Cabul, so that I really did not much like the
appearance of things; when about midnight my servant reported to me
that the sentry saw a great many lights moving about us.

I instantly rose and distinctly observed the lighted slow matches of
firearms; there might have been forty or fifty. The sentry challenged,
but the ruffians returned no answer, and decamped, finding us on the
alert, and probably not knowing our weakness; for had we come to blows
our party must have got the worst of it, though I have not the least
doubt that our Affgh[=a]n guard would have stood by us even against
their own countrymen.

The next morning we proceeded along a very pretty road, flanked by
green hedgerows full of wild flowers, and varied occasionally near the
houses with parterres of roses of exquisite fragrance. My route lay to
B[=a]ber's tomb, but Capt. Westmacott being anxious to reach C[=a]bul
could not accompany me, so we parted, mutually regretting that we had
so short a time to spend in this delicious region. At B[=a]ber's tomb
the Kazi of the adjacent village endeavoured to play off on me a
trick, well known to old campaigners, by assuring me that unless I
took from his hands a guard of at least twelve men (of course paying
them for their services), my life would not be safe during the night.
I refused his guard, and the only annoyance I experienced was from
myriads of musquitoes, who tormented me incessantly throughout the
night. I rode into camp the following day, and was delighted to find
myself once more with my brother officers.

CHAPTER XIX.

On the 24th September I started on another excursion, though under
very different circumstances; our party on this occasion consisting of
Her Majesty's 13th Light Infantry, two companies of the 37th Native
Infantry, two squadrons of the Bengal 2nd Cavalry, a small body of
Affgh[=a]n horsemen under Prince Timour Shah, three nine-pounders, two
24-inch howitzers, and two 8 1/2-inch mortars, the whole under the
command of Sir Robert Sale, the object of the expedition being to
quell some refractory chiefs inhabiting the northern and some hilly
parts of the Kohist[=a]n.

It would be beyond the sphere of this little book to enter into a
detailed account of our operations in the field, nor do I pretend
to have sufficient materials by me for such a delicate task, in the
execution of which I might by erroneous statements expose myself to
just animadversion.

I had not, I regret to say, the means of ascertaining with precision
the different causes which had driven these hill chiefs into
rebellion. The footing which Dost Mahomed had lately acquired in the
north-west encouraged them to persist, and it will be seen in the
sequel, that at the disgraceful scene of Purwun Durrah the Dost was
almost a _prisoner_ in the hands of those who were considered, by the
unversed in the intricacies of Affgh[=a]n policy, to be only in arms
for the restoration of their favourite to the throne of C[=a]bul.

Were it in my power to give an accurate description of the different
positions assumed by the enemy, and provided I had the leisure to
survey the ground, then I am well aware that I might have claimed
additional interest for my pages, as I should have elucidated the mode
of warfare peculiar to the Affgh[=a]ns; but such an attempt would
perhaps carry me out of my depth. I must therefore be content with
remarking, that though in action the Affgh[=a]ns acknowledge some
guiding chieftain, yet the details of position are left to each tribe.
They have no confidence in each other; it follows, therefore, that the
wisest plan is to turn either or both flanks, as this manoeuvre is
almost sure to require a change in the original disposition of their
force, which they, for want of good communications between their
detached parties, are unable to effect. Hence confusion arises, and
the uncertainty of support generally causes the whole to retreat. The
Affgh[=a]ns have great dread of their flanks being turned, and will
sometimes abandon an almost impregnable position in consequence of a
demonstration being made to that effect, which after all could never
have been carried out.

On the third day after our departure from C[=a]bul, the force encamped
at a place called Vaugh opposite the beautiful Ist[=a]lif, whose
luxuriant vineyards and magnificent orchards have before excited the
admiration of the traveller. But we had still some marches to get over
before reaching the territories of the refractory chiefs, and it
was not till the 29th that we came to Toottum Durrah, or valley of
mulberries. Here we found the enemy posted in force, but it was merely
an affair of detachments, two companies of the 13th and two of the
37th being ordered to make a detour to the right and left, so as to
threaten the enemy's flanks. The main column closing up continued to
advance; the enemy did not make a very determined resistance, yet a
chance shot killed poor Edward Conolly, brother to the victim of the
ruffian king of Bokhara. His--poor fellow!--was a soldier's death;
though we deplore his loss, we know that he died in honorable warfare;
but we have no such consolation for the fate of his poor brother, and
it is with difficulty that his indignant countrymen can refrain from
imprecating the vengeance of God upon the cowardly destroyer of so
much talent and virtue.

The enemy made no further stand this day, and we proceeded about
fifteen miles down the valley to Julghur, destroying before our
departure the mud forts of Toottum Durrah. At Julghur the enemy shewed
more resistance; they trusted in the strength of their fort, and we
perhaps too much to its weakness. The result was, that a wing of the
13th, not more than one hundred and twenty strong, suffered a loss
of fourteen men killed and seventeen wounded, and the enemy were
eventually shelled out by the batteries under the direction of Capt.
Abbott.

The following morning we buried our gallant companions, amongst them
our respected serjeant-major (Airey), in one deep grave; but a report
was current, that shortly after our departure, the bodies had been
disinterred and exposed in front of the grave, that every Affgh[=a]n
might witness and exult in the disgrace to which they had subjected
the corpses of the Feringhis.

This is but a single instance of the hatred which actuated our enemy,
and when we consider the exasperating effects of these cowardly
outrages on the minds of the soldiery, we should the more admire the
generosity and clemency of the British in the hour of victory. I
am aware that ill-informed people have accused our armies in
Affghanist[=a]n, especially after the advance of General Pollock's
force, of many acts of cruelty to the natives, but I can emphatically
deny the justice of the accusation. Some few instances of revenge for
past injuries did occur, but I am sure that an impartial soldier would
rather admire the forbearance of men who for days had been marching
over the mangled remains of the C[=a]bul army.

But to return to the Kohist[=a]n. On the 4th of October we took a
transverse direction westward, crossing the plain of Buggr[=a]m,
supposed to be the site of the "Alexandria ad Calcem Caucasi" of the
ancients; numerous coins, gems, and relics of antiquity are found
hereabouts, particularly subsequently to the melting of the snows.
Formerly they were considered useless, but when our enterprising
countrymen and the army of the Indus found their way to C[=a]bul,
these memorials of the Greek had ready purchasers amongst the
numismatologists of the British force. At the same time the
C[=a]bulese considered it great folly our exchanging the current coin
for what were in their estimation useless pieces of old silver and
copper.

Throughout the marches and countermarches which it was necessary for
us to make in the northern districts of the Kohist[=a]n, in order to
prevent the enemy from gathering together, we were much interested by
the varied beauty of the scenery; and it must candidly be admitted
that our ignorance as to the nature or amount of force we might any
day find opposed to us by no means diminished our excitement. Rather
an extraordinary phenomenon occurs in a small range of hills detached
from the parent mountains, a little to the northward of the fort of
Julghur. From top to bottom of the precipitous side of one of these
spurs extends a light golden streak, rather thicker and less highly
coloured at the bottom than at the top. I was unable to approach it

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