Infomotions, Inc.A Peep into Toorkisthhan / Burslem, Rollo Gillespie



Author: Burslem, Rollo Gillespie
Title: A Peep into Toorkisthhan
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): koollum; affgh; meer; cabul; toorkisth; sturt; meer walli; bul; fort; amongst
Contributor(s): Blair, Emma Helen, -1911 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 46,649 words (really short) Grade range: 17-20 (graduate school) Readability score: 37 (difficult)
Identifier: etext11902
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Title: A Peep into Toorkisthhan

Author: Rollo Burslem

Release Date: April 4, 2004 [EBook #11902]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A PEEP INTO TOORKISTHHAN ***




Produced by Lesley Halamek and PG Distributed Proofreaders





A

PEEP INTO TOORKISTHAN.




BY CAPTAIN ROLLO BURSLEM,

THIRTEENTH PRINCE ALBERT'S LIGHT INFANTRY.


1846.


      *       *       *       *       *


[Transcriber's Note: [=a] is representing a-macron, unicode character
U0101, and [=A] is representing A-macron, unicode character U0100.
This is usually pronounced as a long a.
There are around 240 instances of vowels accented with macrons
(straight line above), mostly A-macron or a-macron, with one instance
of e-macron, and five instances of u-macron, and one u that should be
u-macron(Dao[=u]b) and isn't (Daoub).

Use of the macron is _not_ consistent throughout the text...

...and the spelling of some place names is not consistent either:
e.g. Toorkisth[=an]; Toorkisthan; Toorkistan.


(There are also a number of words with 'unusual' spellings.

These spellings I have corrected:

territories for territorities; retrograde for retrogade; amongst for amonst.


These 'period' spellings I have left intact:

befel, chace, surprized, loth, gallopped, gallopping, secresy, shew, shewed,
shewing, preeminence, handfull, negociation, threshhold, trellice,
picketted, barricadoed, compaign.

I have also retained M'Naghten for the modern McNaghten.)]

       *       *       *       *       *




[Illustration: Drawn by Mr Gompertz Pelham Richardson Litho. View of
the Outer Cave of Yeermallik, shewing the Entrance Hole to the larger
Cavern]


       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: MAP OF CABUL AND THE KOHISTAN WITH THE ROUTE FOR
KOOLLUM]


       *       *       *       *       *


A PEEP INTO TOORKISTHAN.

BY CAPTAIN ROLLO BURSLEM, THIRTEENTH PRINCE ALBERT'S LIGHT INFANTRY.

1846.




TO THE

RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF CARNARVON, HIGHCLERE CASTLE.


MY LORD,

Having received your Lordship's permission to dedicate to you this my
first essay as an Author, I beg to tender my best acknowledgements for
the honour, and for the interest you have so kindly expressed in the
success of the following pages. Under such favourable auspices a
successful result may be confidently anticipated by

Your Lordship's Obliged and obedient servant,

ROLLO BURSLEM.

HAREWOOD LODGE, HAMPSHIRE.




TO THE READER.


The following pages are literally what they profess to be, a record
of a few weeks snatched from a soldier's life in Affghanist[=a]n, and
spent in travels through a region which few Europeans have ever visited
before. The notes from which it is compiled were written on the desert
mountains of Central Asia, with very little opportunity, as will be
easily supposed, for study or polish. Under these circumstances, it can
hardly be necessary to deprecate the criticism of the reader.
Composition is not one of the acquirements usually expected of a
soldier. What is looked for in his narrative is not elegance, but
plainness. He sees more than other people, but he studies less, and the
strangeness of his story must make up for the want of ornament. I can
hardly expect but that the reader may consider the style of my chapters
inferior to many of those which are supplied to the public by those who
are fortunate enough to enjoy good libraries and plenty of leisure; two
advantages which a soldier on service seldom experiences. But this I
cannot help. Such as they are, I offer him my unadorned notes; and
perhaps he will be good enough to let one thing compensate another, and
to recollect that if the style of the book is different from what he
sometimes sees, yet the scenery is so too. If instead of a poetical
composition he gets a straightforward story, yet instead of the Rhine
or the Lakes he gets a mountain chain between Independent Tartary and
China.

WALMAR BARRACKS, _March_, 1846.




A PEEP INTO TOORKISTH[=A]N.[*]

[* Note: A portion of the following pages in their original form has
appeared in the Asiatic Journal.]




CHAPTER I.


During the summer of 1840, the aspect of the political horizon in
Affghanist[=a]n afforded but slight grounds for prognosticating the
awful catastrophe which two short years after befel the British arms.
Dost Mahommed had not yet given himself up, but was a fugitive, and
detained by the King of Bokhara, while many of the principal Sirdars
had already tendered their allegiance to Shah Sooja: and there was in
truth some foundation for the boast that an Englishman might travel
in safety from one end of Affghanist[=a]n to the other. An efficient
force of tried soldiers occupied Ghuzni, Cabul, Candahar, Jellalabad,
and the other strongholds of the country; our outposts were pushed
to the north-west some fifty miles beyond Bamee[=a]n, the Khyber
and Bolun passes were open, and to the superficial observer all was
tranquil. The elements of strife indeed existed, but at the time when
I took the ramble which these pages attempt to describe, British
power was paramount, and the rumour was already rife of the speedy
diminution of the force which supported it.

Notwithstanding the modern rage for exploration, but few of our
countrymen have hitherto pierced the stupendous barrier of the
Paropamisan range; but the works of Hanway, Forster, Moorcroft, and
Trebeck, Masson, and Sir Alexander Burnes, convey most valuable
information concerning the wild regions through which they travelled,
and I am bound in simple honesty to confess that my little book does
not aspire to rank with publications of such standard merit. An
author's apology, however humble and sincere, is seldom attended to
and more rarely accepted. Surely I am not wrong in assuming that a
feeling of mournful interest will pervade the bosom of those who have
the patience to follow my perhaps over-minute description of places
whose names may be already familiar to them as connected with the
career of those bold spirits who in life devoted their energies to the
good of their country and the advancement of science, and who in the
hour of disaster, when every hope was dead, met their fate with the
unflinching gallantry of soldiers and the patient resignation of
Christians.

My lamented friend, Lieutenant Sturt, of the Bengal Engineers, was
one of the foremost of those who endeavoured, during the critical
situation of the Cabul force previous to its annihilation, to rally
the drooping spirits of the soldiers; and without wishing in any way
to reflect on others, it may fairly be said that his scientific
attainments and personal exertions contributed not a little to those
partial successes, which to the sanguine seemed for a moment to
restore the favourable aspect of our military position. But I forbear
from now dwelling upon these circumstances, lest I might undesignedly
give pain to those who still survive the fatal event, merely stating
my humble opinion that the memory of any mistake committed, either in
a political or military light, will by the noble-minded be drowned in
sorrow for the sufferings and death of so many thousands of brave men.

In the month of June, 1840, Lieutenant Sturt was ordered to survey the
passes of the Hindoo Koosh, and I obtained leave from my regiment,
then in camp at Cabul, for the purpose of accompanying him; my object
was simply to seek pleasant adventures; the "_cacoethes ambulandi_"
was strong upon me, and I thirsted to visit the capital of ancient
Bactria; the circumstances which prevented our reaching Balkh will
hereafter be detailed, but the main object of the expedition was
attained, as Sturt executed an excellent map of the passes alluded to,
and satisfactorily demonstrated that almost all the defiles of this
vast chain, or rather group of mountains, may be turned, and that it
would require a large and active well-disciplined force to defend the
principal ones. I have made every possible inquiry as to the fate of
the results of Sturt's labours, but fear that they too were lost
in the dreadful retreat. Whatever still exists must be in the
Quarter-Master General's Department in India, far out of my reach, so
that I am obliged again to request the indulgence of my reader for the
want of a proper map on which he might, if he felt so inclined, trace
our daily progress,[*] and to crave his forgiveness if I occasionally
repeat what has been far more ably related by Moorcroft and the other
authors whom I have already mentioned.

[* Note: Since receiving the proof sheets for correction I have been
kindly supplied by my friend Major Wade with a map taken principally
from the one executed by the late Lieutenant Sturt.]

To the traveller whose experience of mountain scenery is confined to
Switzerland, the bold rocks and rich though narrow valleys of the
frontiers of Toorkisth[=a]n offer all the charms of novelty; the lower
ranges of hills are gloomy and shrubless, contrasting strikingly with
the dazzling, yet distant splendour of the snowy mountains. It is
an extraordinary fact, that throughout the whole extent of country
occupied by these under features, which presents every variety of form
and geological structure, there are scarcely any hills bearing trees
or even shrubs; every valley, however, is intersected by its native
stream, which in winter pursues its headlong course with all the
impetuosity of a mountain torrent, but in the summer season glides
calmly along as in our native meadows.

The multitude and variety of well-preserved fossils which are imbedded
in the different strata of the Toorkisth[=a]n hills would amply reward
the researches of the Geologist, and to the Numismatologist this
portion of Asia proves eminently interesting, Balkh and other
localities in its vicinity abounding in ancient coins, gems, and other
relics of former days; and I much regret that I was unable to reach
the field from whence I expected to gather so rich a harvest.




CHAPTER II.


In accordance with the golden rule of restricting our baggage to the
least possible weight and compass, we allowed ourselves but one pony a
piece for our necessaries, in addition to what were required for our
small tent and cooking utensils, Sturt's surveying instruments being
all carried by Affgh[=a]n porters whom he hired at Cabul for that
purpose.

On the 13th of June we commenced our ramble, intending to proceed
to Balkh by the road through Bamee[=a]n, as we should then have to
traverse the principal passes of the Hindoo Khosh, and our route would
be that most likely to be selected by an army either advancing from
Bokh[=a]r[=a] on Cabul or moving in the opposite direction. The
plundering propensities of the peasantry rendered an escort absolutely
necessary, and ours consisted of thirty Affghans belonging to one of
Shah Soojah's regiments, under the command of Captain Hopkins. As
Government took this opportunity of sending a lac[*] of rupees for the
use of the native troop of Horse-Artillery stationed at Bamee[=a]n,
our military force was much increased by the treasure-guard of eighty
Sipahis and some remount horses; so that altogether we considered our
appearance quite imposing enough to secure us from any insult from
the predatory tribes through whose haunts we proposed travelling. Our
first day's march was merely to make a fair start, for we encamped two
miles north-west of the city in a grove of mulberry-trees, and the
wind, as usual in summer, blowing strong in the day-time, laid the
produce at our feet; so that by merely stretching out our hands, we
picked up the fruit in abundance; for although the sun was powerful,
we preferred the open air under the deep foliage to the closeness of
a tent. During the early part of the night an alarm was raised
throughout our small camp, and as we knew the vicinity of Cabul to
be infested with the most persevering thieves, we naturally enough
attributed the disturbance to their unwelcome visit, but it turned out
to be only one of the remount horses, which having broken away from
his picket was scampering furiously round our tents, knocking over
the chairs, tables, and boxes which had been placed in readiness for
packing outside the tent door. The neighing of the other horses,
and their struggles to get loose and have a fight with their more
fortunate companion, added to the braying of donkeys, barking of dogs,
and groaning of the camels, gave me the notion of a menagerie in a
state of insurrection. The affair looked serious when the animal began
to caper amongst Sturt's instruments, but luckily we secured him
before any damage was done, though for some time theodolites,
sextants, artificial horizons, telescopes, and compasses were in
imminent danger. The worst of an occurrence of this kind is, that your
servants once disturbed never think of returning to rest when quiet is
restored, but sit up for the remainder of the night, chatting over the
event with such warmth and animation, as effectually to keep their
master awake as well as each other. We started next morning at four,
and marched about six miles and a half, the distances being always
measured with a perambulator, the superintending of which gave Sturt
considerable trouble, as it was necessary to have an eye perpetually
on the men who guided it, lest they should have recourse to the usual
practice of _carrying_ the machine, whenever the nature of the ground
made that mode of transportation more convenient than _wheeling_.
This, together with taking bearings, and the other details of
surveying, gave my companion plenty of occupation, not only during the
march, but for the rest of the day when halted.

We were now encamped close to a village called Kulla Kazee, a place of
no very good repute as regarding honesty; indeed, we were well aware
of the predatory propensities of our neighbours; but we seemed
destined to experience more annoyance from the great apprehension of
being attacked which existed amongst our followers, than from any
well-founded anticipation of it; their fears were not totally
groundless, as it must be confessed that to a needy and disorganized
population the bait of a lac of rupees was very tempting.

[*Note: lac, lakh (-k), n. (Anglo-Ind.). A hundred thousand
(usu._ of rupees)_.]

We had chosen a picturesque little garden for our resting place, the
treasure and remount horses with the Sipahi guard being encamped about
half a mile off to our rear. At about eleven at night the European
sergeant in charge of the horses burst into our tent in some
consternation, stating that a large band of robbers were descending
from the adjacent hills to attack the treasure. Sturt immediately
jumped up, and mounting his horse gallopped off to the supposed scene
of action. All was quiet _without_ the camp; _within_ there was a
terrible bustle, which Sturt at last succeeded in allaying by sending
out patrols in various direction, who reported that nothing could be
either heard or seen of the dreaded robbers. Being rather averse to
these nocturnal diversions, especially as they promised to be of
frequent occurrence, I made careful inquiries to ascertain if there
were any real foundation for the alarm, but all I could learn was,
that the neighbourhood had always been noted for robbers, who hasten
towards the point upon the report of any party worth plundering
passing near any of their forts. Possibly some robbers had gained
intelligence of our treasure, and had actually appeared on the hills,
but on discovering the strength of our party had retired.

The next day our route lay through delicious fields of ripening
clover, in such profusion that the air was impregnated with its
agreeable perfume, to a small fort called Oorghundee, remarkable
chiefly for being the head-quarters of the oft-mentioned thieves, of
whom I daresay the reader is as tired as we were after the mere dread
they inspired had caused us to pass two sleepless nights. But we were
now determined to assume a high tone, and summoning the chief of the
fort, or, in other words, the biggest villain, into our presence,
we declared that in the event of our losing a single article of our
property or being annoyed by a night attack, we would retaliate in the
morning by cutting the surrounding crops and setting fire to the fort!

The military reader, especially if conversant with some of the
peculiarities of eastern discipline, will question how far we should
have been justified in carrying our threats into execution. I can
assure him we had no such intention; but be that as it may, our
threats had the desired effect, and at length we enjoyed an
uninterrupted night's rest.

On the morning of the 16th we proceeded to Koteah Shroof, the whole
distance being about ten miles: but the first three brought us to the
extremity of the beautiful valley through which we had been travelling
ever since we left Cabul. The aspect of the country in the immediate
vicinity of our path has been well described by one of the most
lamented victims to Affghan ingratitude and treachery. "If the reader
can imagine," writes Sir Alexander Burnes, "a plain about twenty
miles in circumference, laid out with gardens and fields in pleasing
irregularity, intersected by three rivulets which wind through it by
a serpentine course, and dotted with innumerable little forts and
villages, he will have before him one of the meadows of Cabul." To
complete the picture the reader must conceive the grey barren hills,
which, contrasting strongly with the fertility of the plains they
encompass, are themselves overlooked by the eternal snows of the
Indian Caucasus. To the English exile these valleys have another
attraction, for in the hot plains of Hindoostan artificial grasses are
rarely to be found, and the rich scent of luxuriant clover forcibly
reminds the wanderer of the sweet-smelling fields of his native land.

But these pleasing associations were soon dispelled by the steep and
rugged features of the pass through which we ascended on leaving the
plain. It is called the Suffaed K[=a]k or White Earth, and we found by
the barometer, that the gorge of the ravine was about a thousand feet
above our last encamping ground. The hills on either side were ragged
and abrupt, but of insignificant height: the length of the pass itself
was about two miles, and from its head to Koteah Shroof the road was
stony and difficult; but, as we had been careful at starting not to
overload our baggage animals, they got through their work without
being much distressed.




CHAPTER III.


I find it difficult to convey to the reader an adequate conception
of the strange character of the hilly country we had now entered: no
parts of Wales or even the varied groupings of the Swiss mountains
offer a correct analogy. After passing the defile of the Suffaed
K[=a]k the hills recede to a distance of about two miles on either
side of the road, and the whole space thus offered to the labours of
the peasant is very highly cultivated; but the barren rocks soon hem
in the narrow valley, and as you approach nearer and nearer you
find your enchanting gardens transformed into a dreary and desolate
defile,--this succession of small plots of fertile ground, alternating
with short rugged passes, extends to Julrez, ten miles beyond Koteah
Shroof; which latter place is an insignificant fort, situated in the
centre of one of the little green spots so pleasingly varying this
part of the country.

At Koteah Shroof we gained the banks of the Cabul river, a placid
flowing stream, and as the neighbourhood of our camp did not offer any
features of peculiar interest, I determined to try my luck in fishing;
but first I had to tax my ingenuity for implements, as I had neither
rod, line, nor net. A willow stick and a bit of string was all I could
command; and yet my primitive apparatus was very successful, for the
fish also were primitive, affording me ample sport and taking the bait
with extraordinary eagerness. My occupation attracted the attention of
a few peasants who gathered round me, and stood wondering what potent
charm attached to the string could entice the fish from their native
element. I endeavoured to explain the marvel, but was utterly
unsuccessful; indeed, the peasants did not accept my explanation,
which they evidently considered as a fabrication invented to deceive
them and conceal my supernatural powers. The inhabitants of these
valleys seemed a simple and inoffensive race, and, as in Europe, their
respectful demeanour became more conspicuous as we increased our
distance from the capital.

With regard to the state of cultivation of this valley--in which it
resembles others generally throughout Affghanistan--wherever there is
soil enough to hold the seed, the Affgh[=a]n husbandman appears to
make the most of it. We found here and there in profusion the pear,
apple, cherry, mulberry, and luxuriant vine, and in some situations
wheat, with an under-crop of clover.

On the 17th we proceeded to Julrez, a collection of wretched hovels
of no interest, and on the 18th, after a march of ten miles through
a succession of valleys and defiles, we reached the Kuzzilbash fort,
Suffaed Kulla. About two miles before we arrived at our encamping
ground we passed near the Sir-e-chusm or "fountain head," one of
the sources of the Cabul river; it is a large pool stocked with a
multitude of enormous fish that are held sacred by the few inhabitants
of the adjoining hamlets, and which are daily fed by an aged fanatic,
who for many years has devoted himself to their protection. As it
would be deemed in the highest degree sacrilegious to eat any of these
monsters, they are never molested, and are so tame as to come readily
to the hand when offered food. Of course, my necessary compliance with
the prejudices of the guardian of the fish prevented the exercise of
my Waltonian propensities.

A little further on is a remarkable bourj or _watch-tower_ isolated on
a projecting rock, and supposed to have been built for the purpose of
giving the chiefs of the little plain below, when at variance with the
neighbouring mountaineers, notice of the approaching invader. At this
point the valley is extremely narrow, being almost choked up with huge
masses of rock hurled by the violence of some convulsion of nature
from the sides of the impending precipices.

There are several minor forts in the vicinity of Suffaed Kulla, which
is the largest, and is at present occupied by a Kuzzilbash chief,
who took advantage a few years ago of the temporary absence of its
rightful owner, and acting upon the principle of "might makes right,"
possessed himself forcibly of it, and has held it ever since. He
treated us with great kindness and attention, sending us most
acceptable presents of fruit, with food for our followers and cattle.

We here experienced to a great degree that remarkable daily variation
of temperature so peculiar to these regions: in the gully the wind was
bleak and cold, but when encamped under the shelter of the fort the
heat from the sun's rays reflected from the smooth surface of the bare
rock was so intense that the thermometer rose to 100 of Fahrenheit.
While in camp at Cabul I frequently experienced the same rapid change,
for it would sometimes be a hard frost at day-break and an Indian
summer heat at mid-day.

On the 19th of June we started very early, as the tremendous Oonnye
pass rising to the height of 11,400 feet lay before us, and we had a
full ten miles march ere we could reach our proposed halting place at
the village of Uart. We soon entered the mouth of the pass, which was
girt on either side by magnificent precipices; the road was narrow and
slippery--of course without even an apology for a parapet--running
along a natural ledge on the verge of a perpendicular cliff, and so
_sheer_ was the side, that from a horse's back you might
sometimes have dropped a stone into the apparently bottomless
ravine--bottomless, for the rays of a noon-day sun have never broken
the eternal darkness of the awful chasm beneath. Had horse, camel,
or man missed their footing whilst scrambling up the steep and stony
pathway, nothing could have saved them from being dashed to pieces.
Frequently, when rounding some projecting crag, the small treasure-box
fastened on the camel literally overhung the abyss, and I held my
breath and the pulsations of my heart increased as I watched horse
after horse and camel after camel weather the critical point.

Before we reached Uart a poor woman of the Huzareh tribe (the most
persecuted and enslaved throughout these regions) came and complained
to us that her child had been seized by a band of plunderers, as she
supposed, to be sold into slavery. Sturt immediately despatched a
couple of the guard to recover her child if possible, and the poor
woman went off with the two soldiers in the full confidence that her
escort would be successful. I own that I myself was not so sanguine,
but I had yet to learn how much even in these wild mountains the
British name was respected. The mother's hopes were realized, and in
the course of the day the child was recovered, having been instantly
surrendered on the requisition being made; but I was surprised to see
instead of a helpless child a fine handsome well-knit young man. The
gratitude of the poor woman was sincere; she had nothing, she said, to
offer in return, but prayed that every blessing might descend upon us
and our most distant relations; that we might all become great kings;
and that finally we might be successful in conquering the country we
were proceeding to invade: vain were our endeavours to set before her
in their true light the object of our expedition.

We arrived rather late at Uart after a hard day's work, and were not
much gratified by the aspect of our camp, which was disagreeable, from
its great elevation and its situation on a bleak table-land, thinly
covered with a short grass, with the strong winds of the Hindoo Khoosh
sweeping across it.

Here a young woman came to our tent asking permission to avail
herself of our protection, as she was proceeding to the frontiers
of Toorkisth[=a]n to purchase slave girls for the Cabul market. She
accompanied us to Bamee[=a]n, and there remained. I heard afterwards
that she did not succeed according to her anticipations, and that on
her return to Cabul she died of fever. Our English ideas of slavery
drawn from our knowledge of the varied sufferings endured by the
thousands who are annually exported from the western shores of Africa,
are opposite to those entertained in the east even by the victims
themselves. The Asiatic and African slave are alike in name alone; the
treatment of the latter in those parts of America where, spite of the
progress of civilization and the advancement of true principles
of philanthropy over the world, slavery is still tolerated and
encouraged, has been too well and too often described for me to
venture a word of my own opinion, but in Asia, in many cases, the loss
of liberty is hardly felt.

The situation of the domestic slave of Egypt (though, strictly
speaking, he must be classed under the head of "African") is analogous
to that observable generally in the east; and I form my opinion partly
from an anecdote related to me by my friend Captain Westmacott, of the
37th Native Infantry, who was killed in the retreat from Cabul, which
I will venture to repeat as an illustration. He was proceeding by the
overland route from England to India, and remained some time in Egypt
to view its splendid antiquities. On making inquiries with the object
of procuring servants, he was informed that he had better purchase
slaves. The civilized notions of my friend revolted at the idea, but
he was assured that it was a method very generally adopted, as he
would find it extremely difficult to hire servants, and if successful,
they would prove the veriest rascals on the face of the earth. He
reluctantly consented, and had them purchased. On his departure for
India he summoned his slaves, and informed them that as they had
behaved themselves well he would give them their freedom. They looked
astounded and burst into tears, reminding him that instead of being
kind to them he had shewn cruelty, "for where," said they, "shall we
go now? Who will have anything to say to us? We shall starve and die;
but if your highness will sell us again, we shall be well fed and
clothed." I confess I do not see why the servants, if they really were
so anxious to return to slavery, should not have sold themselves, and
pocketed their own value. Throughout Afghanist[=a]n a slave is treated
as an humble friend, and is generally found to be faithful and
trustworthy.




CHAPTER IV.


After surmounting the Oonnye Pass, which is one of the principal
defiles of the Hindoo Khoosh, we proceeded on the 20th to
Gurdundew[=a]l, a distance from Uart of about six and a half miles.
The road was a gradual descent, and very rugged, leading along the
bases of barren rocks, till we debouched upon the river Elbon, as
it is termed by the natives, but the Helmund or Etymander of the
ancients. Even here, where the stream was in its infancy, the current
was so strong, that while we were fording it, one of our baggage
ponies laden with a tent was carried away by its violence, and, but
for the gallant exertions of our tent-pitcher, we should have had to
sleep in the open air for the rest of our journey; as it fortunately
happened, both animal and load were recovered; and when properly
dried, neither one nor the other were a bit the worse for their
washing. On the 21st we encamped near the village of Kazee, after a
march of nine miles along the right bank of the Helmund, which here
flows in a south-westerly direction; we could procure no supplies
whatever, either for man or beast, which was the more vexatious as
we had a very hard day's work in prospect for the morrow, and were
anxious to recruit ourselves and cattle before attempting it. We
managed well enough in spite of our compulsory fast, and on the 22d we
reached Kalloo, a distance of twelve miles, after crossing the steep
and difficult pass of Hadjekuk, 12,400 feet high; as we approached
the summit we found ourselves amongst the snow, and experienced some
little inconvenience from a difficulty of respiration; though this
pass was even higher than that of Oonnye, it does not possess the
same abruptness and boldness of feature which render the latter so
interesting and dangerous. The hills near the gorge were so strongly
impregnated with iron as sensibly to affect the needle of the
theodolite.

Throughout this country, and especially amongst the Uzbegs, there is a
fortified wall in the form of a square surrounding each village, with
small bastions or towers at the angles. Plunder is so much the order
of the day, or rather of the night, that, as a protection, the cattle
and every living animal are shut up in these places at sunset; the
wicket is locked and barred, and if the villagers happen to have a
feud with any of their neighbours, which generally is the case, a
watchman is stationed on each bastion. Truly of this land it may be
said, that "what one sows another reaps," for frequently a chief
forming a "chuppaeo" or plundering party against his neighbour, if
unsuccessful in seizing men to sell for slaves or cattle for use,
reaps and carries off the corn. These chuppaeos are considered among
the predatory tribes very exciting affairs, as affording opportunities
for the young warriors to flesh their maiden swords; but it seldom
happens that these encounters are very bloody, as, in the event of one
party shewing a determined front, the other generally retreats. The
unfortunate Huzareh tribe are constantly the sufferers, and the
traveller will recognize more slaves of that than of any other "clan."

We were now in the vicinity of the Koh-i-baba, a mountain whose
granite peaks still towered six thousand feet above us, though our
own camp was at least nine thousand above the level of the sea. We
determined upon ascending it the following morning, but at first
experienced considerable difficulty in procuring guides, not from the
natives being either unqualified or unwilling to undertake the task,
for they were chiefly hunters, and familiar with the paths they had
themselves formed in pursuit of game, but they could not conceive why
_we_ should be anxious to climb the difficult height, and therefore
were obstinately stupid in refusing to understand the purpose for
which we required their services. At length we obtained a guide, and
started next morning at half-past five: with considerable fatigue and
some little risk we reached the summit after three hours walking, but
the magnificent view amply rewarded us for our trouble. The peaks
about us were capped with eternal snow; those below were rugged and
black. The comparison of the view from the top of a lofty mountain in
a hilly country with that of the sea in a storm is old perhaps, but
only the truer for that very reason. It was, indeed, as if the hand
of God had suddenly arrested and turned to stone varied and fantastic
forms of the dark tumultuous waves.

The solemn stillness of these lofty regions was a striking contrast
with the busy plains below. The mountains abound in wild sheep, which
the hardy hunter pursues for days together, taking with him a slender
stock of food, and wrapping his blanket about him at night, when he
seeks his resting-place amongst the crevices of these barren rocks. It
is seldom that he returns empty-handed if he takes up a good position
over-night, for the flocks of wild sheep descend from the least
accessible parts at the earliest dawn in search of pasture, and one
generally falls a victim to the unerring bullet of the rested
Juzzyl. The distant view of the barrier range was beautiful beyond
description, for, though the peak on which we stood was the highest
for many miles around us, the lofty peaks of the Indian Caucasus were
many thousand feet above us. We were now beyond the range of the wild
sheep, and not a living creature was to be seen save a majestic eagle,
who, deeming _us_ intruders where he was lord of all, sailed up along
the sides of the precipitous ravines, sweeping about our heads as he
soared upwards, then again wheeling downwards near and nearer, till at
length I fancied him within range; but so deceptive was the distance
or so defective my aim that he continued unruffled in his course,
whilst the sharp crack of the rifle echoed and re-echoed from crag to
crag. After satiating our gaze with these wild splendours of creation,
a most unsentimental craving of the inward man warned us to descend,
and we returned to Kalloo by eleven o'clock to do ample justice to our
breakfasts.

We left Kalloo on the 24th, ascending by a rugged broken track to the
highest point of the pass, where we came upon a fort surrounded by a
small belt of cultivation divided into fields by hedgerows abounding
with wild roses. I could hardly have imagined the road practicable for
camels, but the cautious though unwieldy animals eventually succeeded
in surmounting all difficulties, and arrived late at our encampment
near a village called Topechee, the whole distance being ten miles and
a half. From the crest of the pass to Topechee was a gradual descent,
the road bordering a tremendous fissure, deep and gloomy, along the
bottom of which a pelting torrent forced its way. The variegated
strata on the mountain side, forming distinct lines of red, yellow,
blue, and brown, were very remarkable, and I much regret that I had
not time to devote to them most strict examination in a geological
point of view.

On the 25th we started for Bamee[=a]n, passing by another Topechee a
few miles further on, which is famous for its trout stream. Very few
of these fish are found in the country, and only in the streams within
a few miles of this spot. They are red-spotted and well-flavoured,
and, as the natives do not indulge in the angler's art, they will rise
at any kind of fly and gorge any bait offered. While halting a few
minutes at lower Topechee we fell in with an Uzbeg warrior, a most
formidable looking personage, armed, in addition to the usual weapons
of his country, with a huge bell-mouthed blunderbuss at least three
inches in diameter; the individual himself was peaceably enough
disposed, and, contrary to the usual habit of Asiatics, made no
objections to our examining the small cannon he carried. On inspecting
the deadly instrument we discovered it to be loaded to the very
muzzle, a mixture of pebbles, slugs, and bits of iron being crammed
into the barrel over a charge of a couple of ounces of powder. On our
inquiring why it was so heavily charged, the man told us with much
naivete, that it was to kill _nine_ men, illustrating the method by
which this wholesale destruction was to be accomplished, by planting
the butt on his hip and whirling the muzzle from right to left in a
horizontal direction across us all, and telling us very pleasantly
that if he were to fire we should all fall from the scattering of the
different ingredients contained in the blunderbuss; had we not an
instant before drawn the charge from which the fellow anticipated such
dire effects, we might have felt rather uncomfortable at our relative
positions; but I doubt whether the owner had ever had occasion to try
the efficacy of his boasted manoeuvre, as he would probably at the
first discharge have been killed himself either by the recoil or the
bursting of the defective and honey-combed barrel.

The approach to Bamee[=a]n was very singular; the whole face of the
hills on either hand was burrowed all over with caves like a huge
rabbit-warren. I am informed that these caves are the work of nature,
"yet worked, as it were planned," and are occupied occasionally by
travellers both in summer and winter; they are observable in many
places in Toorkisth[=a]n, and, when situated high up on the face of
the hill, afford a safe retreat for the hunter. The road was tolerably
good for the last three miles, running along a narrow valley sprinkled
with numerous forts, which are generally occupied by the Huzareh
tribes, an ill-featured but athletic race.

I shall not detain the reader by any description either of the
wonderful ruins of the ancient city of Goolgoolla or of the gigantic
images of Bamee[=a]n, these curiosities having been ably described in
Masson's very interesting work; but I was a good deal amused by the
various legends with which the natives are familiar, of one of which,
relating to a chalybeate spring in the neighbourhood called the
"Dragon's Mouth," I shall take the liberty to offer a free version. It
was related to me by an old gentleman who brought a few coins to sell,
and I listened to him with some patience; but in proportion as the old
fellow observed my passive attention did he increase in verbosity and
pompous description. I still waited for the _point_ of the story, but
my friend, after exhausting his powers of speech and metaphor, was
fain to wind up his tale with a most lame and impotent conclusion.
I now give it to the reader, not from a wish to punish him as I
was punished, but because from the prolixity of the narrator he
necessarily most minutely described scenes and customs, which, though
they had nothing on earth to do with the "Dragon's Mouth," may prove
interesting to the reader, as illustrating the peculiarities of the
people amongst whom we were now sojourning.




CHAPTER V.

"A TALE OF THE DRAGON'S MOUTH."


In the reign of Ameer Dost Mahommed Kh[=a]n, when all the pomp and
pride of glorious war was in its zenith at C[=a]bul, there lived on
the borders of Kulloom and Kundooz, a chieftain named Khan Shereef,
whose grandfather had accompanied the illustrious Nadir Shah from
Persia in his expedition through Affghanist[=a]n, and followed the
fortunes of his royal master, even to the very gates of the imperial
Delhi. On his return towards Persia, he had for a time intended to
settle in C[=a]bul, but "death, who assaults the walled fort of the
chieftain as well as the defenceless hovel of the peasant," seized him
for his own; the father also paid the debt of nature in the capital of
Affghanist[=a]n, but not before the young Khan Shereef had seen the
light. Growing up to manhood and wearying of the monotonous life a
residence in C[=a]bul entailed, he pursued his way across the frontier
mountains of Toorkisth[=a]n, and arrived at the court of Meer Moorad
Beg. Here he performed good service in the field, and becoming his
master's personal friend and favourite, had a fort and a small portion
of territory assigned to him. It was at the court of the Kundooz
ruler that he first became acquainted with Zebah, the lovely rose
of Cashmere, whom he eventually purchased from her father for
his wife.[*] He started with his bride to take possession of his
newly-acquired gift, an insulated fortress in the heart of a country
abounding in those extensive prairies for which Toorkisth[=a]n is
so justly celebrated. On these magnificent savannahs he reared the
Toorkman steed, and soon boasted an unrivalled stud.

[* Note: It is customary in this country as well as in other parts
of Asia to purchase the young women who may be selected for wives of
their relations, the purchase money varying according to the degrees
of beauty.] Towards the close of the first year he became a father, an
event which was hailed with extravagant joy by all his vassals, the
old retainers of his father foretelling the future achievements in the
foray of the young Abdoollah Reheem.

A few months had scarcely elapsed, when the anxious mother spied an
old crone moving about in the court-yard; their eyes happening to
meet, Zebah screamed and fell into a swoon. The young heir was
instantly hurried away, but not before the old hag had cast a
withering glance on the boy's beautiful face; every one was now fully
convinced that he had been struck by the "evil eye," which was but too
clearly proved by the event, for from that day he sickened and pined
away till reduced to a mere skeleton.

Large sums of money were expended by the fond parents in the endeavour
to discover a charm to counteract the effects of the "evil eye," till
at length in an auspicious moment it was proposed the boy should try
the efficacy of the celebrated water of the "Dragon's Mouth," which is
situated at the head of the enchanting vale of Bamee[=a]n, just beyond
the western limits of Toorkisth[=a]n. The slave girl who proposed this
scheme related numerous and wonderful cures effected by the magic
waters, and enumerated many hundred individuals, the lame, the blind,
the infirm, the rheumatic, and those afflicted with _bad temper_, who
had been perfectly cured by either drinking of the water or being
immersed in the fountain itself. She would not be positive which
mode was the best, but certain she was that the cure was perfect and
permanent; she herself had been ugly and cross-tempered, and now she
left her audience to judge of her character and appearance. This last
proof at once determined the mother to adopt a plan, which after so
many unsuccessful attempts she could not but consider as her last
resource.

Khan Shereef was not quite so credulous, but what chance has a man
alone against his united harem! He was so far influenced by the
earnest entreaties of his disconsolate wife, that it was determined
in three days he should with a strong cavalcade accompany his darling
invalid to the charmed waters of Bamee[=a]n. The Toorkm[=a]n warriors
were too religious to doubt the fortunate results of the experiment,
and accordingly for the few days which elapsed previous to the setting
forth of the expedition the fort was a scene of active preparation.
Armour was burnished, swords brightened and fresh ground, juzzyls
cleaned and matches got ready, so that they might produce as imposing
an effect as possible, not only on the presiding spirit of the
fountain, and the very questionable friends through whose territories
they were about to pass, but also that they might do due honour to
their lord and master.

But before proceeding with my history, I must not omit a more minute
description of Khan Shereefs fort. I have already described its
locality on the borders of Toorkisth[=a]n. It was situated at the base
of a low conical hill, on the summit of which a look-out tower had
been erected; this building was in troublesome times occupied by a
party of Juzzylchees, who took their station in it, and, fixing their
cumbrous pieces on the parapet, watched the approach of any hostile
party, and from their commanding and protected position would be
enabled to keep in check an enemy attempting to ascend the opposite
side of the hill. As the nearest stream of water was full two miles
from the fort, the present owner, being a man full of science and
mathematical knowledge, had with unparalleled ingenuity sunk a deep
and substantial well inside his walls, thus rendering his position
infinitely more tenable than if his water-carriers had been daily
obliged, as is the case in most places, to run the gauntlet of
the enemy's fire whilst procuring the requisite supply of that
indispensable article.

The fort itself was an oblong square, and required three hundred men
to man its walls; it was built of mud, with a large bastion at each
angle three and four stories high, and loopholed. It had but one gate,
on which the nature of the defences afforded means for concentrating a
heavy fire. Immediately facing the gate, and detached from buildings
of inferior importance, was the Khan's own residence, and some low
flat-roofed houses lining the inside of the whole extent of walls,
which afforded a secure shelter to the vassals. The audience-chamber
or public sitting-room was so situated that the Kh[=a]n could survey
the whole of the interior of his fort whilst squatting on his
Persian carpet or reclining on the large soft pillow, which is an
indispensable luxury for a grandee of the rank and importance of
Kh[=a]n Shereef.

The sides of the apartment consisted of a lattice-work of wood
reaching nearly to the ceiling, and connecting the mud pillars which
supported the roof; the framework was richly carved, and on slides, so
as to enable the owner to increase or diminish the quantity of light
and air at his pleasure.

Between the Kh[=a]n's dwelling and the gate was the mosque, whose
minarets towered above the walls and bastions of the fort,--its dome
was beautifully proportioned, and inlaid with agate, jasper, and
carnelian, besides being wonderfully painted with representations of
strange animals unknown to the common people, but which the Moollah
affirmed were all taken from the life.

At this time the base of the mosque was occupied by a party of men
smoking and passing the Kalee[=a]n to each other; amongst them was
one, evidently superior to the rest in age and wisdom, for his opinion
was frequently appealed to by all and listened to with much deference.
When not called upon to interfere he sat quiet and reserved, and
to judge by his countenance was in a melancholy mood. His name was
Rhejjub;--he was the oldest retainer of the family, and to him in all
cases of emergency did the Kh[=a]n apply for advice, which had never
been given without due deliberation and almost prophetic foresight. He
had only that morning been deputed to remain and guard the fort during
the absence of his master, and although he knew it to be a post of
honor and trust, yet he could not but consider it an effeminate duty
to be left guardian of the Koch-khanah or _family_, and superintendent
of the _un_chosen of the band. With him, "to hear was to obey," still
he envied those who had been selected to accompany their lord. Old
Rhejjub had been a great traveller in his day; had wandered over many
portions of Arabia, and visited the holy city of Mecca; thus gaining
the valuable privileges of a Suyud or _holy man_, which title alone
was a passport and safeguard amongst even the lawless Ghilgyes and
Khyberr[=e]es of Affghanist[=a]n, it being a greater crime for a man
to kill a Suyud than even his own father. Thus, whenever a Chuppao or
other warlike expedition was in contemplation, Rhejjub was invariably
despatched to reconnoitre and obtain information, and being a man of a
shrewd turn of mind, and calculating all chances during his homeward
journey, was always prepared after detailing his news to give a sound
opinion as to the best plan to be pursued.

At early dawn of the proposed day of departure the whole party were
summoned by the Muezzin's call to offer up prayers for their safe
arrival at the "Dragon's Mouth," for the effectual cure of the young
Abdoollah, and his happy return to his fond mother. Before mounting,
was performed the ceremony of taking from its resting place the famous
sword given to the Kh[=a]n's grandfather by Nadir Shah himself.
The blade was of Damascus steel, and valued alone at one hundred
tomauns;[*] the ivory handle was ornamented with precious stones,
and the pommel was one large emerald of great beauty and value. The
scabbard was of shagreen finely embroidered in gold. This precious
weapon the Suyud had the enviable office of presenting to his chief
unsheathed, whilst the aged Moollah who stood by read aloud the inlaid
Arabic inscription on the blade, "May this always prove as true a
friend to thee as it has been to the donor." The Kh[=a]n received the
valued heir-loom with all due respect, and kissing the weapon sheathed
and fixed it firmly to his belt.

[* Note: Tomaun, twenty rupees or about L2.]

All necessary preparations for the departure being now completed, the
camel destined for the accommodation of the invalid was brought to the
door of the palace, conducted by a favourite Arab who had for many
years filled the office of head Surwan or _camel-driver_. The colour
of the animal was almost white, and the large gold embroidered
housings swept the ground; on either side was fixed a wicker-basket
lined and covered with red cloth, and furnished with soft cushions;
one of these held the young Kh[=a]n, whilst the other was occupied by
the nurse who was the original promoter of the expedition. At length
the word to march was given, and the escort consisting of sixty
horsemen galloped forth. Khan Shereef himself was clad in a coat
of mail, and wore a circular steel head-piece, in which were three
receptacles for as many heron plumes; a light matchlock, the barrel of
which, inlaid with gold, was slung across his shoulder; attached to
his sword-belt were the usual priming and loading powder-flasks made
of buffalo's hide, with tobacco-pouch and bullet-holder of Russia
leather worked with gold thread; and the equipment was completed by
the Affgh[=a]n boots drawn up over the loose trousers reaching to the
knee, with sharp-pointed heels serving for spurs.

The procession moved on, the escort forming an advance and rear-guard,
the chief galloping sometimes in front of the party, and now walking
his Toorkm[=a]n steed alongside the richly caparisoned camel with its
precious burthen.

Occasionally a horseman would dash out from the ranks in chace of
a wild goat or sheep crossing the little frequented road, or,
dismounting and giving his horse in charge of a comrade, would make
a detour on foot in the hope of getting a shot at a chichore.[*] The
tedious hours of march were thus wiled away till they reached the
"Dundun Shikkun Kotul" or _tooth-breaking_ pass, when the horsemen
assumed a more steady demeanour. They were now within forty miles of
the celebrated spring, which they hoped to reach on the following day.

[* Note: This is a species of partridge very abundant throughout
Toorkistan.]

The Dragon's Mouth is situated four or five miles to the north-west
of Bamee[=a]n, high up in the mountains in the direction of the
Yookaoolung country. After a toilsome and somewhat perilous ascent
the traveller finds himself at the edge of a deep ravine--or rather
fissure in the rock, for the width at the top is seldom more than
twelve feet--the sides presenting a ferruginous appearance, with tints
varying from extremely dark to lighter shades, by reason of the soil
being so strongly impregnated with ore. The low gurgling of the
wonder-working stream might be heard issuing from the depths of the
dark abysm.

Below, and at the only point of feasible approach for the
disease-stricken, is a large cave, where the water bubbles up warm,
and forming innumerable small whirlpools before it breaks again into a
stream, and mingles its waters with those of a torrent below.

Here, at the base of a large fragment of rock, almost entirely covered
with Arabic inscriptions and quotations from the Kor[=a]n alluding to
the healing powers of the well and the mercy of God, Khan Shereef and
his now dismounted followers offered up prayers for success. Suddenly
a huge mass of rock detaching itself from the mountain side thundered
down the steep; it was hailed by all as a good omen, and the Moollah
declaring that "now or never" was the auspicious moment, the child was
taken from the arms of the now trembling nurse and immersed in the
turbid waters. Hope elevated the breasts of the father and of the
attendants, nor was that feeling fallacious, for on the following
morning the invalid was pronounced decidedly better, and was again
taken to the cavern, and again, with sanguine prayers and invocations,
dipped into the pool.

Khan Shereef, feeling assured that he could now do no more, and
trusting to the goodness of Providence, ordered a retrograde movement,
and in a few days arrived at his castle with the infant nearly
restored to health. A few years after the young Abdoollah was a
healthy active boy, indulging in the sports of the field, and
anxiously awaiting the time when he should be of sufficient age to
join in the more exciting scenes of the chuppao. The old nurse, the
proposer of the successful scheme, was highly honoured, and became
chief attendant in the seraglio, which office she holds to this day.

"And now," concluded the old gentleman, "if my lord will choose to
purchase these beautiful coins, he shall have them for whatever price
his generosity may think fit to put upon them."




CHAPTER VI.


The force stationed at Bamee[=a]n consisted, at the time we were
there, of a troop of native horse artillery and a regiment of Goorkahs
in the service of Shah Seujah.

On our arrival, Dr. Lord, the political agent, sent us a polite note
of invitation to pitch our tents near his fort, and (we) become his
guests during our stay; we remained with him till the 29th, and were
much gratified by his kind attention.

The quiet demeanour of the natives here was very remarkable, and as
we can hardly attribute the circumstance to an inherent pacific
disposition, we must the more appreciate the wonderful address
displayed by the political agent in his dealings with the various
parties, who in these remote mountains, as well as in more civilised
countries, are ever ready to quarrel with each other, and only suspend
their animosity when a common powerful enemy is to be resisted or a
helpless stranger to be plundered. As it was, we reaped considerable
benefit from the favourable impression made on the peasants by the
authorities, for we were enabled to go out shooting, alone, and even
wander unarmed amongst the hills without experiencing the slightest
insult or incivility.

Indeed, at the period of which I am writing, there seemed to have
been a pause in the wild passions of the Affgh[=a]ns throughout the
country, which was perhaps one of the fatal causes which lulled us
into that dangerous feeling of security, from whence we were awoke by
the most dreadful disaster that has ever befallen the British arms.
Poor Dr. Lord was killed at Purwan Durrah during the short campaign in
the Kohistan under Sir Robert Sale; and the other British officer, Dr.
Grant, who was the medical attache to the mission, disappeared during
the retreat from Charrik[=a]r in 1841, and has never been heard of
since.

On the 29th June we left Bamee[=a]n for Surruk Durrah (red valley),
which is situated at the mouth of the gorge; it is a place of
no importance, but the face of the impending hills has a most
extraordinary appearance from the fanciful shapes of the harder rocks
which jut out from the clayey sides of the mountains.

Here it was that Colonel Dennie, of the 13th, who afterwards fell at
Jell[=a]labad, with a small force of a few hundred men, completely
routed the Ex-Ameer Dost Mahommed Kh[=a]n, who was accompanied by all
the principal Uzbeg chiefs and the famous Meer Walli of Kulloom.

A report reached the gallant Colonel in the morning, that the enemy
had taken up a position at the head of the Bamee[=a]n valley;
he immediately ordered a reconnoitring party to proceed in that
direction, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there was any
foundation for the alarm, and accompanied them himself; he was rather
astonished on perceiving the enemy debouching from the hills in great
force; the odds were fearfully against him in numbers, but, like a
good soldier, he at once decided upon attacking without delay. He
immediately opened a fire on them from his two guns, under the able
superintendence of Lieut. McKenzie, and then dashing forward, drove
them back with great slaughter into the narrow gorge, from whence they
again attempted to advance, but were again beaten back, till at length
they lost courage and broke away in every direction.

On the 30th we marched to Akrob[=a]d, a distance of ten miles. On
leaving Surruk Durrah we entered the narrow gorge before alluded to;
it is five miles long, and has precipitous sides, at the bottom of
which rushed a foaming torrent: the formation of the hills was slate
with a superstratum of limestone. On emerging from the Akrob[=a]d
Pass, where there was not a breath to disturb the meagre foliage, we
were suddenly surprized by a bleak piercing wind, which we were told
invariably blew across the table land on which the fort is built.
Although in the height of summer, the wind was intensely cold, and we
were glad to take into wear the scanty supply of winter clothing which
we had brought with us in case of emergency. Out of the stream running
in front of the fort in less than an hour I managed to take a few
well-flavoured trout, which swallowed my bait most greedily. From
Surruk Durrah to Akrob[=a]d the road was, comparatively speaking,
good, it being under the superintendence of Lieut. Broadfoot, who
had been directed to make it practicable for artillery as far as
Sygh[=a]n; he had made good progress in his work, and at the period I
write of, it was a very fair military road as far as Akrob[=a]d. Poor
Broadfoot was slain in the gallant and desperate charge made by the
officers of the 2d Bengal Cavalry at Purw[=a]n Durrah, of which I
hope in the proper place to be able to give the reader a slight
description.

The hills about Akrob[=a]d are so situated as to form a funnel for all
the winds of the snowy range, rendering the temperature of the little
table-land bitterly cold both in summer and winter--so much so in
winter, that the Huz[=a]reh inhabitants desert the fort in autumn for
some more sheltered locality, and return again with the spring.

We now entered Toorkisth[=a]n, the pass of Akrob[=a]d dividing it from
Affghanist[=a]n. Should the traveller form his opinion of the country
beyond by the specimen now before us, he would be loth indeed to
proceed, for a more dismal corner can hardly be conceived. The outline
of the adjacent mountains was dreary and uninviting, with very little
cultivation in the valley, which also bore a most desolate aspect--it
was barren and unpromising, without participating in the wild and
grand features which generally characterize these regions. Fuel was
with difficulty procured, and our camp was but scantily furnished with
even the most necessary supplies.




CHAPTER VII.


On the 1st of July we left this sad region, and pitched our tents
some five miles further onwards, in a pleasant meadow, where we met a
brother of Dost Mahommed, the well-known Sird[=a]r Jubber Kh[=a]n, who
arrived in the course of the day from the interior of Toorkist[=a]n,
and encamped close to us. He was then on his way to Cabul, having
in charge the women and children belonging to the seraglio of the
ex-king. He invited us to pay him a visit, which we did in uniform,
and found him an agreeable old gentleman, with manners far more
polished than the generality of his countrymen, who, though not
deficient in a certain national savage grace, frequently shock our
European notions of propriety by their open disregard of what we are
accustomed to consider the decencies of society; but Jubber Kh[=a]n
seemed to have all the good qualities and few of the vices so
prevalent in the Affgh[=a]n character. No doubt that superior polish
of manner was derived from his more extensive intercourse with
Europeans. During our visit he presented us each with a small silver
Mahommedan coin, saying at the same time with peculiar grace and
dignity that he was now a poor man, and entirely dependent on the
generosity of the British; that the coin was of no intrinsic value,
but still he hoped we would remember the donor. Much as we respected
the character of our host, I could not but regret that he had not yet
picked up the English habit of sitting on a chair; for what with
tight pantaloons and a stiff uniform, I got so numbed by sitting
cross-legged like a tailor, that when the interview was over I could
not rise from my cramped position without assistance, much to the
amusement of Jubber Kh[=a]n, whose oriental gravity was entirely
upset.

I was informed that on being requested by the British authorities to
deliver up the family of his brother, he boldly refused, stating that
they were given into his charge, and that he deemed it a sacred trust
not to be betrayed by any consideration of personal advantage. It will
be gratifying to the reader to know that this manly refusal did not
operate to his prejudice in the opinions of those to whom it was made.
He subsequently obtained from the Dost permission to comply with the
demand, and was now on his journey for that purpose; but though he
professed to have every confidence in our honour and generous kindness
with regard to the females, he appeared somewhat anxious as to the
influence which his previous refusal might have with reference to his
own treatment. Jubber Kh[=a]n's name was in great repute amongst
the Affgh[=a]ns, who, all wild and savage as they are, still have
sufficient feeling to admire in others those virtues which are
so rarely met with amongst themselves: he is considered an able
politician also, as well as the poor man's friend--high and low find
him equally easy of access, and he is the general mediator in quarrels
between the different chiefs, and the principal counsellor in the
national debates.

Whilst encamped here the united seraglios of Dost Mahommed and Jubber
Kh[=a]n passed in front of our tents, on their way to K[=a]bul. It was
a very large procession, consisting of nearly eighty camel loads of
fair ones of every age and quality. Each camel was furnished on either
side with a large pannier, and in each pannier was a lady--weight
against weight. The presence of Englishmen so much excited their
curiosity that we were enabled to enjoy a nearer and better view of
the beauties than strict decorum would have justified, and it may not
perhaps be uninteresting to my fair readers, if, turning to advantage
this slight impropriety, I here take the liberty of describing as much
as I could observe of the very remarkable travelling costume of the
female Affgh[=a]n aristocracy. When in public the highborn Affgh[=a]n
lady is so completely enveloped by her large veil (literally sheet),
that the person is entirely concealed from head to foot; there are
two eyelet holes in that part of the sheet which covers the face,
admitting air and light, and affording to the fair one, herself
unseen, a tolerable view of external objects. I trust I may be
permitted without indiscretion to remove this shroud and give some
slight description of the costume.

Over a short white under-garment, whose name of Kammese[*]
sufficiently denotes its use, is a Peir[=a]n or jacket, which amongst
the higher classes is made of Bokh[=a]ra cloth, or not unfrequently of
Russian broad cloth, brought overland through Bokh[=a]ra. This garment
is generally of some glaring gaudy colour, red or bright yellow,
richly embroidered either in silk or gold; it is very like the Turkish
jacket, but the inner side of the sleeve is open, and merely confined
at the wrist with hooks and eyes. A pair of loose trousers, gathered
at the waist with a running silken cord, and large at the ankle, forms
a prominent feature in the costume, and is made either of calico,
shawl-cloth, or Cachmere brocade, according to the finances of the
wearer. Instead of stockings they wear a kind of awkward-looking linen
bag, yellow or red, soled with thick cloth or felt, the top being
edged with shawl-cloth. The shoes are similar to the Turkish slipper,
with the usual Affgh[=a]n high-pointed heels tipped with iron; and as
these articles must from their shape be an impediment to walking, I
presume that the real use to which they are generally put must
have given rise to the common expression in Hindoost[=a]n for any
punishment inflicted, the term being "jutte mar," literally,
beating with the shoe. The weapon put to this purpose would be very
formidable, and I have little doubt that the beauties of the harem
keep their lords in high discipline by merely threatening with such an
instrument.

[* Note: Anglice, Chemise. It may fairly be inferred that the name of
this under-garment is derived from the word mentioned in the text; and
doubtless there are many words in our own as well as in other modern
languages that may equally be traced to Asia; for instance, Sheittan,
Satan.]

On the head of the Affgh[=a]n female is worn a small skull cap,
keeping in place the hair in front, which is parted, laid flat, and
stiffened with gum, while the rest hangs in long plaits down the back.

Next day we left for Sygh[=a]n, and after a march of about fifteen
miles pitched our tents in the vicinity of the principal fort. The
whole journey was through a deep defile, except about half-way, when
we came upon a small but well cultivated plain, with a fort in the
centre. The contrast was pleasing after travelling so many miles
amidst the dark overhanging crags, threatening destruction on the
passer-by; but this relief was of short duration, for after two miles
it gradually contracted, and formed a continuation of the defile down
to the valley of Sygh[=a]n.

The fort is on a small hill detached from the main range, but easily
commanded, though it is said for ages to have been deemed impregnable,
till some chief more knowing than his neighbours hit upon the very
obvious expedient of lining the overhanging range with Juzzylchees,
and picking off every individual who ventured to appear on the
battlements. It is now in our possession, and occupied by two
companies of Sepoys; and though the place might be seriously annoyed
by musketry from the adjacent hills, still the sides of those hills
are so rocky and precipitous that cannon could not be brought to bear
from the summit without immense labour.

These hills are composed of sandstone and indurated clay, in which
numerous fossils abound.

The valley along which we proceeded produces many varieties of fruit,
and is rich in the cultivation of artificial grasses, lucerne being
the most abundant.

On arriving at our encamping ground on the 3rd of July, about four
miles and a half beyond Sygh[=a]n, a poor villager, a vassal of
Mahommed Ali Beg's, to whom the fort of Sygh[=a]n belonged previous to
its cession to the British, came to complain that some of our baggage
animals had injured one of his fields by trampling down his grain.
Upon enquiry his story was found to be correct. Mahommed Ali Beg
happened to be paying us a visit when the man presented himself, and
wished to drive the poor fellow away to prevent his troubling us; and
great indeed was the wonder and astonishment shewn by all the natives
about us when Sturt desired that the peasant should receive ten rupees
as compensation for the damage done to his crops.

Loud were the praises bestowed upon our _extraordinary_ justice; and
Mahommed Ali Beg, forgetting the line of conduct he had but a moment
before advocated, delivered the following expression of his reformed
opinion in a loud pompous tone, whilst his followers listened,
open-mouthed, to the eloquence of their now scrupulous chief:
"Although the Feringhis have invaded our country they never commit any
act of injustice;" then, having delivered himself of this inconsistent
speech, he lifted a straw from the ground, and turning round to his
audience, continued: "they don't rob us even of the value of
_that_; they pay for every thing, even for the damage done by their
followers." Corporal Trim's hat falling to the ground was nothing to
the effect produced by the comparison of the straw; but, alas for
human nature! I had but too strong grounds for suspecting that, of
the ten rupees awarded to the peasant, seven were claimed by Ali for
having induced the Feringhis to listen to the claim!!

The surrounding hills have here as at Surruk Durrah the appearance of
ruined castles, with donjon or keep and tower; they forcibly reminded
me of the "Castle of St. John," in Scott's Bridal of Triermain, but my
visions of Merlin and fair maidens awoken from their charmed slumbers
were destroyed by the sight of a little purling brook which promised
me a few hours angling. Nor was I disappointed; for in a short time I
(being unprovided with my fishing basket) filled two towels full of
fish, and congratulated myself on my sport; however, to use an old
phrase, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," and so we found
it, for when brought to table "my catch" fell far short of our
epicurean anticipations, and I almost regretted that I had not
continued my dreams instead of disturbing the finny tribe.

A complaint was made to us in the course of the day, that an Huzareh
female, returning to her own country with one attendant, had been
seized and carried away to one of the adjacent forts, where she was
detained; and our interference was requested with a view to obtaining
her release. We were of course most anxious to help the poor woman,
especially as it appeared from what was reported to us that there were
not the slightest grounds for the outrage, beyond the helplessness
of her situation and the natural cupidity of the robber chief of the
fort; but, unfortunately, we were travelling without credentials, the
Envoy having declined to furnish us, lest the inhabitants should fancy
that we were vested with any political power; and therefore we could
not interfere, and what became of her I know not, though we were
afterwards told that on her resigning her trinkets as her ransom she
would be released. Indeed the personal ornaments of the petty chiefs
are generally the point of some lawless proceeding like the one
alluded to, as they are seldom possessed of sufficient capital in
specie to purchase jewels, but exchange their grain and fruits for
clothes and precious stones. I have mentioned the above circumstance
to give the reader some notion of the lawless state of society,
deeming it out of keeping with the humble character of this simple
narrative, and perhaps beyond the ability of the writer, to enter more
minutely into the various causes which have contributed to bring the
country into so unhappy a state.




CHAPTER VIII.


On the 4th July our route lay across the Dundun Shikkun. Kotul, or
"tooth-breaking pass," and a truly formidable one it is for beasts
of burden, especially the declivity on the northern side. Very few
venture upon the descent without dismounting, for the surface of the
rock is so smooth and slippery, that the animals can with difficulty
keep their legs even when led, and many teeth, both of man and horse,
have been broken before reaching the bottom.

The valley of K[=a]mmurd lying at the foot of the northern side of
the pass has a very fertile appearance, and orchards of different
descriptions of fruit-trees are interspersed throughout the
cultivation. The fort of the principal chief, named Uzzuttoollah Beg,
from whom we received a visit, is high up the valley, and there are
two others of minor importance on either bank of the river, lower down
and together.

Uzzuttoollah Beg was in appearance a very fine old man with an
imposing white beard; he was six feet high, large boned and muscular,
and by far the most powerful and stately looking personage we had
hitherto met; but he was a shrewd wicked old fellow, and when the star
of British prosperity began to wane, proved himself a dangerous enemy.
His own vassals, from whom he exacted the strictest obedience, stood
in great awe of him. He came merely, he said, to pay his respects,
to chat over political affairs, and to inquire from us whether the
English intended giving up his valley to the Meer Walli of Koollum.
We could give him no information as to the intentions of Government.
"Khoob (well,)" answered he, "if such really be the case, the Meer
Walli may seize me if he is able, provided _you_ keep aloof; the Meer
has tried that game before now, but did not succeed; on two separate
occasions he has visited my fort in an unceremonious manner, and with
hostile intent; but, gentlemen, there are two sides to a fort, the
inside and the out. I was in--the Meer was out, and I kept him there;
till, (suffering no other inconvenience myself than the deprivation
from riding for a few days,) by keeping up a constant fire on his
ragamuffins, I one fine day compelled him to beat his retreat:" and
so saying, he stroked his beard with much complacency, evidently
considering it and its owner the two greatest wonders of the
Toorkisth[=a]n world.

It may be as well to remark here, that in these valleys as throughout
Affghanist[=a]n in general, the forts are made of mud, the walls being
of great strength and thickness; they are built gradually, and it
takes many months to erect a wall twenty feet high, as each layer
of mud is allowed to bake and harden in the sun before the next is
superimposed. Now, as none of the chiefs possess cannon, except the
Meer Walli and Moorad Beg of Koondooz, it is almost impossible to gain
an entry into a well-constructed fort, except by treachery; and even
the few honey-combed pieces of small calibre possessed by the above
chieftains would not have much effect against the massive ramparts.

But the Uzbegs have a method of undermining the bastion, by turning
the course of some convenient stream right under the very base; this
gradually softens the lower stratum of mud, and diminishing its
tenacity, the whole fabric comes tumbling down from its own weight.
They also have frequently recourse to mining, but for either method to
succeed the defenders cannot be on the alert.

A man who had been engaged in an operation of the latter kind, by
which the fort of Badjgh[=a]r was once taken, explained to me the plan
adopted, which bears a rude analogy to the modern plan of mining under
the glacis to the foot of the counterscarp.

To-day a horseman came into our camp at about 3 P.M. with letters from
Bamee[=a]n; he had left early in the morning, and thus accomplished a
journey of fifty miles with the same horse, over two severe passes,
and through a succession of difficult defiles. On alighting, he tied
his horse to the branch of a tree, merely loosening the girths, but
not intending to give him food till the evening. The horses are
habituated to the want of any midday feeding, and at night and morning
seldom get grain. But the dried lucerne and other artificial grasses
with which they are supplied must afford them sufficient nourishment,
as they are generally in very good working condition; they are
undersized, but very sure-footed; it is indeed astonishing over what
fearful ground they will carry their riders. The yabboo is a different
style of animal, heavier built and slower; its pace is an amble, by
means of which it will get over an immense distance, but it is not so
sure-footed.

I remarked that aged horses were very rarely met with, and on
inquiring the reason, was informed that the horses were all so
violently worked when young as soon to break down, after which they
are slaughtered and made into _kabobs_. I was assured that the
eating-shops of Cabul and Kandah[=a]r always require a great supply of
horseflesh, which is much liked by the natives, and when well seasoned
with spices is not to be distinguished from other animal food.

At this station fruit was in great profusion; I observed that the
sides of a barren hill near our camp were of a bright yellow tint
for upwards of a mile and a half, and on approaching to discover the
cause, I found the whole space covered with apricots placed side by
side to dry in the sun. I tasted some of them, which had apparently
only just been gathered, and found them very well flavoured, though
generally speaking I must allow that the fruits of these valleys are
inferior to those of Europe, with the exception of the grape, which is
unequalled. But the grape and apricot are not the only fruits which
flourish in this green spot surrounded by barren rocks,--the walnut,
the peach, mulberry, apple, and cherry, also come to perfection in
their respective seasons.

At sunset Uzzuttoollah Beg sent us a plentiful supply of fruit, grain
for our cattle, and flour for the servants, regretting at the same
time that he was not able to send us sheep enough for the whole party.
When he came to take leave, we told him we had received more than
we expected or required, and begged his acceptance of a loonghee or
_headdress_ in remembrance of us. He was much gratified with the
trifle, it being of Peshawurree muslin, a kind much sought after and
prized by the Uzbegs. He immediately took off his own turban, which
was indeed rather the worse for wear, and binding the new one round
his head, declared with a self-satisfied look, that "it would be
exceedingly becoming." He then arose, and probably to shew his
knowledge of European breeding, gave me such a manly shake of the hand
as made me expect to see the blood start from the tips of my fingers.
I am not sure, with all due respect for the good old custom of shaking
hands, that I should not have preferred submitting to the Uzbeg mode
of salutation. On approaching an equal, the arms of both are thrown
transversely across the shoulders and body, like the preparatory
attitude of wrestlers in some parts of England, then, placing breast
to breast, the usual form of "salaam aleikoom" is given in a slow
measured tone. But on horseback the inferior dismounts, and, according
to the degree of rank, touches or embraces the stirrup.

The valley of Kammurd is of an oblong form flanked by stupendous
mountains; the enormous barrier of the Dundun Shikkun almost precludes
the possibility of bringing cannon from the south, although one gun is
known to have been dragged over by sheer manual labour; it was brought
by Dost Mahommed from Cabul to quell some refractory chiefs, the
carriage being taken to pieces, and the gun fastened by ropes in the
hollowed trunk of a tree.

On the 5th of July we reached Piedb[=a]gh, five miles further down the
valley, which gradually decreased in breadth, seldom exceeding two
hundred yards, and sometimes contracting to fifty. Along the banks
of a muddy river flowing through the centre of the narrow vale, the
sycamore tree was very luxuriant, and two or three forts formed a
chain of communication from one end of the cultivated land to the
other. Piedb[=a]gh, as its name implies, is a complete orchard,
_piedan_ meaning perpetual, and b[=a]gh, garden; from a distance it
looks like a thick wood with the turrets of the forts overtopping the
dark foliage. We took advantage of the quiet beauty of this spot
to give our horses a day's rest, and lucky it was for us we had at
Bamee[=a]n exchanged for stout yaboos the unwieldy camels which we had
brought from Cabul; the yaboos get over the ground twice as fast as
the camel, and for mountainous districts are infinitely preferable to
the "ship of the desert."

It was lucky also that we had not burdened ourselves with bedsteads or
charpoys, as they are called in the East (literally "_four feet_");
they would have inconvenienced us much; and we should, probably, have
been forced to abandon them on the road, the pathways along the glens
being often so narrow, and so encumbered with the detritus from the
overhanging mountains, as to make it necessary to pack our baggage
very compactly; inattention to this important point in mountain
travelling is sometimes followed by very serious consequences, for the
chair or bedstead, projecting far beyond the centre of gravity of the
unfortunate animal, catches against a corner of rock, and both load
and pony run imminent risk of being hurled into the abyss below. We
were now so inured to sleeping on the ground, that had it not been for
the multitudes of fleas we should never have felt the want of a
more elevated sleeping place. The animal and vegetable character of
Piedb[=a]gh may be stated in a few words--apricots and fleas are in
abundance, the former very large sized, and the latter healthy.

In the course of my journal I hope to be able to relate the
circumstances of a very pretty little affair which occurred here, some
months after we passed through, between two companies of Shah Soojah's
Goorkah regiment and the inhabitants of the neighbouring forts. The
Goorkahs, upholding their well-known character, fought desperately
against an overwhelming force; they would have suffered severely
but for the able conduct of their leader, who was an European
non-commissioned officer and quarter-master sergeant of the corps; his
manoeuvring would have done credit to many an older soldier.

On the 7th July we quitted Piedb[=a]gh for Badjgh[=a]r, the most
westerly of our advanced posts; it was occupied at the period of which
I write by Captain Hay, and was the head-quarters of the Goorkah
battalion. The hills from a little above Piedb[=a]gh encroach so much
upon the valley as to reduce it to little more than a ravine forming
two gigantic walls, that on the right being inaccessible save to the
wild goat, whilst the left-hand boundary, though still precipitous,
may be surmounted by active light-armed troops. On emerging from
the orchards we came upon a grass meadow extending to the fort of
Badjgh[=a]r, which is again situate at the mouth of a defile leading
to M[=a]ther, the route we eventually pursued. The fort is capable of
containing about two hundred men; when first taken possession of it
was literally choked with filth and abominations of all kinds, but the
industry of the little garrison had succeeded in giving it an air of
cleanliness and comfort. As a military position it is most faulty, and
it is really astonishing to conceive how heedless those who fixed
upon it as a post of such importance must have been of the manifold
weakness of the place; from the surrounding heights it has the
appearance of being situated in a deep dyke; it is completely hemmed
in, and juzzaelmen occupying the adjacent hills could easily find
cover from whence they might pour in so destructive a fire as to
render the place untenable. In addition to these defects, the fort of
Badjgh[=a]r is unprovided with a well within its defences; this,
as has before been remarked, is a common case, but still it would
materially affect the integrity of a force within, as they would be
reduced to the necessity of frequent sallies to the neighbouring
stream to obtain water.

We found Capt. Hay in no enviable position; he had but one European to
assist him in his various important duties; the three or four officers
who were nominally attached to the corps being either on detachment or
other military employ, so that with such slender aid as one European
sergeant, it was very hard work for him to keep up discipline amongst
a brave but half savage band, to provide for their subsistence, keep a
sharp look-out on his front and flanks, and remain on good terms
with the neighbouring chiefs, whose conflicting interests, lawless
propensities, and savage nature were continually requiring his
mediation or interference.

"_Quem deus vult perdere prius dementat_" is an old saw most
applicable to the conduct, or rather want of conduct of the "powers
that were" during the spring of 1841, and the state of the important
outpost of Badjgh[=a]r is a type of the condition of most of the
detached posts throughout the kingdom of Cabul; the dreadful
catastrophe which ushered in the year 1842 is but too unanswerable a
proof of the opinion I here express; and though innumerable instances
of individual gallantry as well amongst the unlettered privates as the
superior officers have thrown a halo round their bloody graves, the
stern truth still forces itself upon us, that the temporary eclipse of
British glory was not the consequences of events beyond the power of
human wisdom to foresee or ward off, but the natural results of an
overweening confidence in our power, and of an infatuated blindness to
the sure indications of the coming storm which for many months before
it burst darkened our political horizon.

It will easily be believed that the various duties entailed upon Capt.
Hay left him but little time for scientific researches, yet this
indefatigable officer had already made a fine collection of geological
specimens from the adjacent hills. I regret that circumstances prevent
me from giving any of the useful information which his industry
supplied. I am only able to say, that the fossils were generally found
in tertiary deposits, and were plentiful in quantity, but the variety
was not great. He had at the time of our visit made, likewise,
considerable progress in putting his position into as good a state
of defence as circumstances allowed; of course he had not means to
defilade his fort, but he had erected a breastwork four feet and a
half high across the defile, which would certainly be of great use in
checking any body of horsemen who might advance from the north, at
least for a time sufficient to enable the garrison to prepare for an
attack. The fort seemed a focus for all the rays of the sun, and was
intensely hot, the thermometer ranging from 95 to 110 in the shade;
nor was the situation healthy, for a great many Goorkahs were in
hospital, and all were more or less debilitated from the effects of
the climate.

Whilst at Badjgh[=a]r we made the acquaintance of one of the chiefs,
Suyed Mahommed of the Dushti Suffaed or _white desert_, through whose
country we eventually travelled; we found him an easy good-tempered
man, well inclined towards the British, but grasping and avaricious.
Throughout our intercourse with him he behaved well, but he took
occasion frequently to remind us we were not to forget that he looked
for a reward; still, in summing his character, I must say he was
superior to his "order;" for, either from the wish to lead a quiet
life or from his limited means and unwarlike disposition, he was not
given to feuds or chuppaos like his neighbours. He sent rather a
characteristic letter to Shah Pursund Kh[=a]n, a chief whose dominions
were also on our line of route, recommending us to his notice, but
concluding by telling him to judge of us and act according to our
merits.




CHAPTER IX.


On the 9th July we bade our kind friend Capt. Hay farewell, and many
were the prayers offered up for our safe return; the Goorkah soldiers
even accompanied us for three or four miles. Sturt had not been
supplied with any introductory letters from Sir William M'Naghten,
although he was sent on duty, for it was uncertain what kind of a
reception we might meet with amongst the chiefs of Toorkisth[=a]n,
and it was therefore deemed unadvisable to give us the character of
accredited agents, which would necessarily tend to mix us up with
politics. Though this plan may have been very wise on the part of
Government, yet it by no means contributed to our comfort, as we found
ourselves frequently the objects of suspicion. Some of the chiefs
plainly said, "you are come to survey our country, and eventually to
take possession;" but most of them cared very little whether we came
as friends or foes: they had little to lose and everything to gain
by a _row_. With a few of the more influential chiefs the case was
different; if we had caused Dost Mahommed, the all powerful Ameer of
C[=a]bul, to become a fugitive, what chance had they if our views led
us across the Hindoo Khoosh? Such was their mode of reasoning; but it
must be confessed that they were ignorant of the immense advantage
the rugged nature of their barren land would give them over a regular
army, and thus they were unable to form an idea of the value of the
resistance which a few determined mountaineers might oppose. Amongst
other wild schemes, I fancy that the idea was once entertained, or
at all events the question was mooted, of sending a force to
Bokh[=a]r[=a] to procure the release of poor Stoddart. Without
dwelling upon the enormous sacrifice of life and treasure which such
an expedition of magnitude sufficient to ensure success would entail,
I may be permitted to point out what from personal observation I have
been led to consider as the "least impossible" route. The line I
should recommend would be the one we pursued as far as Koollum, when
the force should so shape its route as to avoid the great sandy
desert, which extends for three hundred and fifty miles from Koollum
to Bokh[=a]r[=a], by keeping to the north, and "striking" the Oxus,
which is navigable for boats of heavy burthen for many hundred miles
above the capital. But even on this plan we must suppose the force
to have already surmounted the thousand and one passes which occur
between Cabul and Koollum. Much has been printed and a great deal more
written and wisely left _un_printed concerning the practicability of
these routes for a modern army; it savours of a useless truism to
state, that if the government making the attempt has resources
sufficient in men, transport, and treasure, and dwells not upon the
sacrifice of these three necessaries for an army, the thing may be
done; but I can hardly conceive any crisis in political affairs which
could render such a measure advantageous to the party undertaking it.
The advancing force will always suffer, whether it be Russia advancing
upon India, or India advancing towards Europe. The hand of God has
fixed the tremendous barrier; woe to him who would despise the
warning.

Our route lay along the usual green vale so often described, bounded
by barren hills, over which a few inhabitants might occasionally be
seen stalking along in their dark-coloured garments, which harmonized
with the sombre character of the country. We pitched our tents
near the little fort of M[=a]ther, about five miles from our last
encampment, and situate at the foot of the Kara Kotul, or _black
pass_. Our resting place afforded nothing remarkable; and indeed
I feel that some apology is due to my readers for the unavoidable
sameness of the details of this part of our journey; but I am in hopes
that this very defect, though it render the perusal of my journal
still heavier, will assist in conveying an accurate idea of the nature
of the country; it is not my fault if we met with no adventures, no
hairbreadth escapes, or perilous encounters. I must once more crave
indulgence.

The Affgh[=a]n soldiers of our escort did not much relish the
discipline I enforced. A complaint was made to me in the course of the
day by a peasant, that these warriors had most unceremoniously
broken down hedges, and entering his apricot orchard, had commenced
appropriating the fruit, responding to his remonstrances with threats
and oaths. I thought this a fine opportunity to read my savages a
lecture on the advantages of discipline and regular pay. I asked them
whether they were not now much better off than when employed by their
own countrymen, and whether they expected to be treated as regular
soldiers, and still be allowed to plunder the inoffensive inhabitants?
One of the men, who was evidently an orator, listened to me with more
attention than the rest, but with a look of evident impatience for the
conclusion of my harangue, that he too might show how well he could
reason. "My lord," said the man, putting himself into an attitude
worthy of the Conciliation-Hall, to say nothing of St. Stephen's,
"my lord, on the whole your speech is very excellent: your pay is
good--the best, no doubt, and very regular; we have not hitherto been
accustomed to such treatment; though you brought the evil the remedy
has come with it; your arrival in C[=a]bul has so raised the price
of provisions that we could not live on Affgh[=a]n pay; we have,
therefore, entered the service of the foreigner; but had we received
the same wages we now get from you, we should in our own service have
been gentlemen." Here the orator made a pause, but soon imagining from
my silence that his speech was unobjectionable, he boldly continued;
"but there is one powerful argument in favour of the Ameer's service,
_he_ always allowed us on the line of march to plunder from every
one; we have been brought up in this _principle(!!)_ since we were
children, and we find it very difficult to refrain from what has so
long been an established practice amongst us: we are soldiers, sir, and
it is not much each man takes; but the British are so strict, that
they will protect a villager or even a stranger:" this last sentence
was evidently pronounced under a deep sense of unmerited oppression.
"But," continued he, "look at that apricot orchard on the right, how
ripe and tempting is the fruit; if we were not under your orders,
those trees would in a moment be as bare as the palm of my hand." But
I remarked, "would not the owners turn out and have a fight; is it not
better to go through a strange country peaceably and making friends?"
"_They_ fight," answered my hero; "oh! they are Uzbegs and no men,
more like women--one Affghan can beat three Uzbegs." I was not quite
satisfied how far the vaunted pay and discipline would prevail over
the natural lawless propensities of _my army_, and in order not to try
their insubordination too much, I conceived that a compromise would be
the wisest plan, and giving them a few rupees, I desired them to make
the most they could out of them. Off they went highly delighted with
the results of the interview, clapping their orator on the back,
crying out _sh[=a]bash, sh[=a]bash, bravo, bravo_, and evidently
believing the gift of the rupees as entirely due to the eloquence
of their comrade. They are a simple people with all their savage
characteristics, but it is very sad to contemplate a whole nation as a
race of systematic plunderers.

In the afternoon the chief of M[=a]ther called to pay his respects,
bringing a present of fruit and sheep's milk; the latter I found so
palatable, that I constantly drank it afterwards; it is considered
very nutritious, and is a common beverage in Toorkisth[=a]n, where the
sheep are milked regularly three times a day. Goats are very scarce,
cows not to be seen, but the sheep's milk affords nourishment in
various forms, of which the most common is a kind of sour cheese,
being little better than curdled milk and salt. Tea is also a
favourite drink, but is taken without sugar or milk; the former is
too expensive for the poorer classes, and all prefer it without the
latter. Sometimes a mixture such as would create dismay at an English
tea-table is handed round, consisting principally of tea-leaves, salt,
and fat, like very weak and very greasy soup, and to an European
palate most nauseous. We could never reconcile our ideas to its being
a delicacy. Tea is to be procured in all large towns hereabouts, of
all qualities and at every price; at C[=a]bul the highest price for
tea is L5 sterling for a couple of pounds' weight; but this is of very
rare quality, and the leaf so fine and fragrant that a mere pinch
suffices a moderate party.

What would our tea-drinking old ladies say for a few pounds of that
delicious treasure? This superfine leaf reaches Cabul from China
through Thibet, always maintaining its price; but it is almost
impossible to procure it unadulterated, as it is generally mixed by
the merchants with the lesser priced kind. The most acceptable present
which a traveller could offer in Toorkisth[=a]n would be _fire-arms_
or _tea_; the latter is a luxury they indulge in to excess, taking it
after every meal; but they seldom are enabled to procure it without
the lawless assistance of the former.

On leaving M[=a]ther we commenced the ascent of the Kara Kotul or
Black Pass, which lasted for seven long miles and was very fatiguing.
The large masses of rock on either side the pathway were of a deep
brown colour. From the length and steepness of the ascent, this pass
must be higher than any we had hitherto surmounted; the descent on the
other side is difficult in proportion. The approach to Doa[=u]b is
through one of the most romantic glens conceivable. It is here that
the Koollum river takes its rise; it flows due north and soon reaches
a mountain meadow, where it unites with another stream coming from the
east, whence the name of the Doa[=u]b (two waters) is given to this
district. In this defile are scattered huge rocks, which have been
dislodged from the overhanging precipices by the effects of frost or
convulsions of the elements: in vain do these masses obstruct the
progress of the waters of this river. The torrent dashing in cataracts
over some of the large boulders and eddying round the base of others,
pursues an agitated course until it reaches the desert, through which
it glides more calmly, and combines with the Oxus beyond Koollum,
whence the confluent waters proceed uninterruptedly to the sea of
Aral.

The banks of this river differ from those of the mountain streams in
general; they were decked with the most beautiful wild flowers, which
bloomed luxuriantly on the bushes, and growing from the deep clefts in
the rock, scented the air with their perfume.

The glen is here so filled with large blocks of granite, that to
accomplish our passage through it, it was necessary to transfer by
manual labour the loads of the baggage animals across the obstructing
masses: the difficulties we encountered, and more particularly the
romantic scene itself, are still imprinted on my memory.

The wind whistling round the jutting points, the dashing of the
waters, and the cries of one of the most timid of our followers, who
to save himself from wet feet had mounted an overladen pony, and was
now in imminent danger both of Scylla and Charybdis, added to the
interest of the picture; but, occasionally, the reverberation caused
by the fragments of rock, which, detaching themselves from the upper
regions, came tumbling down, not far from where we stood, warned us
not to dwell upon the spot. We took the hint, and hastily extricating
man and beast, though not until they had experienced a severe ducking,
we proceeded onwards to where the waters enclose within their
fertilizing arms the grassy fields of the mountain Doa[=u]b. Here it
was that we caught the first glimpse of the extensive plains where the
Toorkm[=a]n mares are turned out to graze; those in foal are left for
several months; and after foaling, the animals are put into smaller
pastures provided with enclosures, where they are shut up at night.
The extent of the larger savannahs is very great, some of them
exceeding twenty miles, and the horses that are allowed to range in
them become so shy, that their owners only can approach them, and the
animals are considered safe from depredators.

As we gradually emerged from the hard bosom of the mountains, we were
struck with the simple beauty of this little garden of nature. The
vale is triangular, its greatest breadth being about five miles;
its whole extent is covered with a rich turf, intermingled by just
sufficient cultivated land as to supply the inhabitants with
grain. Every wild flower that enlivens our English meads grew here
luxuriantly, while the two streams crept along on either side like
silver threads bordering a jewelled carpet. This gay and brilliant
sight was enhanced by the lofty range of dark frowning hills which
encompassed it. It was worthy of being sung as the "Loveliest vale in
Toorkisth[=a]n."




CHAPTER X.


I have already mentioned that we had received a letter to Shah Pursund
Kh[=a]n, the chief of the Doa[=u]b, who accordingly came out to
welcome us to his territory; he embraced us in the Uzbeg fashion,
telling us in eastern phraseology "to consider his dominion as
our own, and that we might command all he possessed." After many
compliments of this nature, he inquired with some bluntness whither
we were bound and what our object was? We answered him, that we were
proceeding to Koollum, and were anxious to get as much information as
he would be good enough to afford us concerning so beautiful a portion
of the globe, and we wished to survey its particular features. "Mind,"
rejoined he, "that the chief of Heibuk and the Meer Walli of Koollum
are my enemies, and may be yours." "If," answered Sturt, "we shall
meet with the same reception from them as we have hitherto enjoyed
from all other chiefs whose possessions we have had occasion to
trespass upon during our journeyings, we cannot complain of want of
either kindness or hospitality; for as travellers we come, and once
eating the 'salt of an Uzbeg,' we know that none would dishonour
himself by acting the traitor." "True," retorted the kh[=a]n, "but he
who is your friend while in his dominions will rob you as soon as you
set your foot across his frontier." We were not much pleased at this
prospect, as we knew he spoke truth when declaring himself at enmity
with the surrounding chiefs, but "sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof," so we made up our minds to take what advantage we could of
his friendly disposition towards us, and trust to our good fortune and
the "chapter of accidents" for our future safety. Shah Pursund Kh[=a]n
did not confine his kindness to words, for he sent us an ample supply
of flour and clarified butter for our followers, grass and corn for
our cattle, and a sheep for ourselves; these sheep are of the
Doomba species, with large tails weighing several pounds, which are
considered the most delicate part of the animal. He also sent us from
his harem an enormous dish of foul[=a]deh, made of wheat boiled to a
jelly and strained, and when eaten with sugar and milk palatable and
nutritious.

The following morning, as we were preparing to start, I happened to
enter into conversation with an aged moollah, the solitary cicerone of
the Doa[=u]b, who gave us a brief but very extraordinary account of a
cavern about seven miles off; our curiosity was so much excited by the
marvellous details we heard, that we determined to delay our departure
for the purpose of ascertaining how much of his story was due to the
wild imagination of our informant. We accordingly gave orders to
unsaddle, and communicated our intentions to the khan. At first he
strongly urged us not to put our plan into execution, declaring that
the cave was the domicile of the evil one, and that no stranger who
had presumed to intrude upon the privacy of the awful inhabitant had
ever returned to tell of what he had seen. It will easily be imagined
that these warnings only made us more determined upon visiting the
spot. At length, finding our resolution immovable, the kh[=a]n, much
to our astonishment, declared that it was not from personal fear, but
from anxiety for our safety that he had endeavoured to deter us, but
that, as we were obstinate, he would at least afford us the advantage
of his protection, and accompany us, I confess we were not sanguine in
our expectations that he would keep his word, and were not a little
surprised to see him shortly after issue forth from his fort fully
armed, and accompanied by his principal followers. We immediately made
all necessary preparations, and started on our visit to his satanic
majesty.

A bridle-path conducted us for some miles along the edge of a gentle
stream, whose banks were clothed with long luxuriant grass extending
on either side for a few hundred yards; we proceeded rapidly at first,
keeping our horses at a hand gallop, as the path was smooth, and also
to escape from the myriads of forest-flies or blood-suckers which were
perpetually hovering around us, and irritating our cattle almost to
madness whenever we were obliged to slacken our pace; our tormentors,
however, did not pursue us beyond the limits of the pasture land, so
that we were glad to exchange the beauties of the prairie for the
stony barren ground which succeeded it. We soon reached the base of
a hill from whence the wished-for cavern was visible, situated about
half-way up its face. We were now obliged to dismount, and leaving
our horses under the charge of an Uzbeg, who could hardly conceal his
delight at being selected for the least dangerous duty, we commenced
the ascent.

During our ride I had endeavoured to gather a few more particulars
concerning the dreaded cavern, and as might have been expected, the
anticipated horrors dwindled away considerably as we approached it;
still enough of the marvellous remained to keep my curiosity on the
stretch. Shah Pursund Kh[=a]n confessed that he was not positive
that the devil actually lived there, but still, he said, it was very
probable; he had first heard of the existence of the cave when he
obtained possession of the Do[=a]ub twelve years ago, from the very
moollah who was our informant. Urged by a curiosity similar to our
own, he had ventured some little distance inside, but suddenly he came
upon the print of a naked foot, and beside it another extraordinary
impression, which he suspected to be from the foot of sheittan (the
devil) himself; quite satisfied that he had gone far enough, he
retreated precipitately, and from that day to this had never intruded
again. He argued that any _human_ being living in the cave would
require sustenance, and of course would purchase it at his fort, which
was the only one where the necessaries of life could be procured for
many miles around; but he knew every one who came to him, and no
stranger had ever come on such an errand; he therefore concluded
with an appealing look to the moollah who was with us. The moollah,
however, had a tale of his own to tell, and seemed to have no great
respect for the superstitious fears of his patron. "The name of the
cavern is Yeerm[=a]lik, and the fact of the matter is this," said he,
settling himself in his saddle for a long story. "In the time of the
invasion, six hundred years ago, of Genghis Kh[=a]n the Tartar, seven
hundred men of the Huzareh tribe, with their wives and families and a
stock of provisions, took possession of this cavern, hoping to escape
the fury of the ruthless invader, and never stirred beyond its mouth.
But the cruel Genghis, after wasting the country with fire and sword,
set on foot a strict search for such of the unfortunate inhabitants as
had fled from his tyranny. His bloodhounds soon scented the wretched
Huzarehs, and a strong party was sent to drive them from their place
of refuge. But despair lent to the besieged a courage which was not
the characteristic of their tribe, and knowing that, if taken alive, a
lingering torture and cruel death would be their fate, they resolved
to make good their defence at every hazard. The mouth of the cave was
small, and no sooner did the invaders rush in than they were cut down
by those inside; in vain were more men thrust in to take the place of
those slain; the advantages of position were too great, and they were
obliged at length to desist. But Genghis was not to be balked of his
victims, and his devilish cunning suggested the expedient of lighting
straw at the mouth of the cave to suffocate those inside, but the size
of the place prevented his plan from taking effect; so he at last
commanded a large fragment of rock to be rolled to the mouth of the
cavern, adding another as a support, and having thus effectually
barred their exit, he cruelly abandoned them to their fate. Of course
the whole party suffered a miserable death, and it is perhaps the
spirits of the murdered men that, wandering about and haunting it,
have given a suspicious character to the place; but," concluded he,
rather dogmatically, "the devil _does not_ live there now--it is too
cold!!"[*]

[* Note: Those who have been familiarized to the atrocities
perpetrated by the French in Algeria will not feel the horror that the
moollah's tale would otherwise have excited; the similarity of these
outrages to humanity is so striking, that I quote a passage extracted
from the French paper, "The National," which will speak for itself.

"The National gives a frightful picture of Marshal Bugeaud's doings
in Africa. According to the accounts published by this paper,
fifty prisoners were one day shot in cold blood--thirteen villages
burned--the Dahra massacre acted over again, for it appears that a
portion of a tribe having hid themselves in a cave, the same means
were resorted to exactly as those employed by Colonel Pelissier, and
all smoked and baked to death. The Marshal himself is the author of
all these horrors--his last triumph was a monster razzia--he has
ordered the most strict secresy as to his barbarous proceedings; and
the writer of the accounts calls him a second Attila, for he puts all
to the sword and fire, sparing only women and children."]

After scrambling over loose stones, climbing up precipices, and
crawling round the projecting rocks, which consumed an hour, we found
ourselves on a small ledge in front of the outer aperture, which was
nearly circular and about fifty feet high. We were now in a cavern
apparently of no great extent, and as I could not discover any other
passage, I began to fancy that it was for this paltry hole we had
undergone so much fatigue, and had had our expectations raised so
high. I was about to give utterance to my disappointment, when I
perceived the Uzbegs preparing their torches and arranging the line of
march, in which it seemed that no one was anxious to take precedence.
I now began to look about me, in the hope that there was something
more to be seen, and was delighted to observe one adventurous hero
with a torch disappear behind some masses of rock. We all followed our
leader, and it was with great difficulty that, one by one, we managed
to squeeze ourselves through a narrow gap between two jagged rocks,
which I presume I am to consider as the identical ones that were
rolled to the mouth six hundred years ago at the stern command of the
Tartar Attila.

I confess that hitherto I had treated the moollah's account as an
idle tale; my unbelief, however, was quickly removed, for just as we
entered the narrow passage the light of the torches was for an instant
thrown upon a group of human skeletons. I saw them but for an instant,
and the sight was quite sufficient to raise my drooping curiosity to
its former pitch.




CHAPTER XI.


We proceeded down the sloping shaft, occasionally bruising ourselves
against its jagged sides, until our leader suddenly came to a dead
halt. I was next to him, and coming up as close as I could, I found
that one step further would have precipitated the adventurous guide
into an abyss, the bottom and sides of which were undistinguishable;
after gazing for a moment into this apparently insurmountable obstacle
to our further progress, I could just perceive a narrow ledge about
sixteen feet below me, that the eye could trace for a few yards
only, beyond which it was lost in the deep gloom surrounding us. Our
conductor had already made up his mind what to do: he proceeded to
unwind his long narrow turban composed of cotton cloth, and called to
his comrades to do the same; by joining these together they formed a
kind of rope by means of which we gradually lowered each other, till
at last a party ten in number were safely landed on the ledge. We left
a couple of men to haul us up on our return, and proceeded on our way,
groping along the brink of the yawning chasm. Every now and then loose
stones set in motion by our feet would slip into this bottomless pit,
and we could hear them bounding down from ledge to ledge, smashing
themselves into a thousand fragments, till the echoes so often
repeated were like the independent file-firing of a battalion of
infantry. Sometimes the narrow path would be covered for a distance of
many feet with a smooth coat of ice, and then it was indeed dangerous.
After moving on in this way for some minutes, the road gradually
widened till we found ourselves on the damp and dripping flooring of a
chamber of unknown dimensions; the torch light was not strong enough
to enable us to conceive the size of this subterraneous hall, but all
around us lay scattered melancholy proofs that there was some sad
foundation for the moollah's story. Hundreds of human skeletons were
strewed around; as far as the eye could penetrate these mournful
relics presented themselves; they were very perfect, and had evidently
not been disturbed since death; some had more the appearance of the
shrivelled-up remains which we find in the Morgue on the road to
the Grand St. Bernard, and lay about us in all the varied positions
induced by their miserable fate. Here, it seemed that a group had,
while sufficient strength yet remained, huddled themselves together,
as if to keep up the vital warmth of which death so slowly and yet
so surely was depriving them; a little farther on was a figure in a
sitting posture, with two infants still clasped in its bony arms;
and then again the eye would fall upon some solitary figure with
outstretched limbs, as if courting that death which on the instant
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
nearer than about four miles, but I was credibly informed that the
streak was in reality what its appearance first suggested to my mind,
a body of fine sand continually flowing over the side of the hill, and
depositing its volumes in a heap at the base of the mountain. I might
perhaps in a windy day have ascertained the correctness of the report,
as then the sandy cascade would appear as a cloud of dust, but the
weather was calm during the whole time we were in its vicinity. It
is called by the natives the Regrow[=a]n or flowing sand. Being no
geologist, I refrain from offering any suggestions as to its cause,
but merely state what I saw and heard.

After marching about the country for some days like the Paladins of
old in search of adventure, we turned our faces once more towards
C[=a]bul and encamped near Kara-bagh. While here, a scene occurred
which will doubtless be still in the recollection of many officers
with the force, and which I relate as illustrative of the barbarous
customs of the people. Many of the stories which I have introduced
must of course be received by the impartial or incredulous reader "cum
grano salis." I have given them as they were repeated to me, but I can
personally vouch for the following fact.

Our bugles had just sounded the first call to dinner, when a few
officers who were strolling in front of the camp observed a woman with
a black veil walking hurriedly from some dark-looking object, and
proceed in the direction of that part of the camp occupied by the
Affghan force under Prince Timour Shah, the Shah Zada, heir apparent
to the throne of C[=a]bul. On approaching the object, it was
discovered to be a man lying on the ground with his hands tied behind
him, his throat half severed, with three stabs in his breast, and two
gashes across the stomach. The mangled wretch was still breathing,
and a medical man being at hand, measures were instantly taken most
calculated to save his life, but without success, and in a quarter of
an hour he was a corpse. Familiar as we were with scenes which in our
own happy land would have excited the horror and disgust of every man
possessed of the common feelings of humanity, there was something in
this strange murder which caused us to make enquiries, and the reader
will hardly believe me when I tell him that the victim met his fate
with the knowledge and consent of Timour Shah. The woman whom we first
observed was the legal murderess. She had that morning been to the
Shah Zada and sworn on the Kor[=a]n that the deceased many years back
had murdered her husband and ran away with his other wife; she had
demanded redress according to the Mahommedan law--blood for blood. The
Shah Zada offered the woman a considerable sum of money if she would
waive her claim to right of personally inflicting the punishment on
the delinquent, and allow the man to be delivered over to his officers
of justice, promising a punishment commensurate with the crime he had
committed. But the woman persisted in her demand for the law of the
Kor[=a]n. Her victim was bound and delivered into her hands; she had
him conducted in front of the prince's camp about three hundred yards
off, and effected her inhuman revenge with an Affgh[=a]n knife, a fit
instrument for such a purpose.

Before returning to C[=a]bul it was deemed requisite to punish the
rebellious owner of the fort of Babboo-koosh-Ghur. On the approach of
our force he decamped with all his vassals, and as it was advisable to
leave some permanent mark of our displeasure, the bastions were blown
down with gunpowder. It seems that the enemy imagined we were very
negligent in camp, for they honored us the same evening with one of
their night attacks, for which they are famous, the object in general
being rather to harass their adversary by keeping him on the alert
than to penetrate to his tents.

On the present occasion they commenced a distant fusillade upon the
left of our line, extending it gradually along nearly the whole face;
a few rounds of grape from the artillery soon cleared _their_ front,
but the enemy continued for above three hours a random fire upon the
left, and, strange to say, they kept aloof from the European troops,
who were encamped as usual on the right of the line. The artillery
horses being picketted in soft ground soon drew their iron pegs, and
having thus obtained their liberty, scampered up and down in rear of
the troops and amongst the tents, thereby considerably adding to the
confusion and uproar. On the alarm first sounding every light was
extinguished in the camp, and well was it that these precautionary
measures were adopted, for a great portion of the standing tents were
riddled. The enemy fired without aim, and we were fortunate enough to
lose only one sepoy; we could not ascertain the amount of casualty
amongst them, but from the sudden cessation of any attack upon that
part of the line where the artillery was stationed, we concluded that
the rounds of grape must have told with considerable effect.

After midnight the enemy withdrew, and when at a distance of about
half a mile from our outposts gave a shout of defiance, perhaps to
draw a party from the camp to pursue them, which, however, was not
done, or rejoicing at the havoc they imagined to have made in our
ranks. We heard afterwards that the Affgh[=a]ns with their usual
superstition had remembered that many years ago a large army had been
attacked on the same ground we then occupied and annihilated, and
that probably a like success would crown their efforts in the present
instance.

This night attack rendered some further demonstration of our powers of
retaliation necessary, particularly as a portion of our adversaries
were from the fort of Kardurrah, to which we proceeded the next day
and easily captured, the enemy retiring to the hills on our advance,
abandoning a strong and easily defended position, for their flank
could not have been turned without incurring considerable loss, if
the fort of Kardurrah had been held in a determined manner. It was
generally remarked as being a particularly strong place, the approach
leading through orchards surrounded by mud walls six or seven feet
high and loopholed, the lanes intersecting them being barricadoed as
if to be held to the last extremity.

Probably such was their valiant intention, but it seems they were
bewildered by our attacking them from different points, and not
trusting to each other for support, all took to their heels. The
undulating ground was strewn with masses of detached rocks, and they
had also built up several small but substantial stone breast-works,
so that altogether we had reason to congratulate ourselves on their
unexpected retreat.

The women had been previously conveyed away with the heavy baggage,
and we found the houses empty, but fruit of every description was
lying about the streets, prepared and packed for the winter supply of
the C[=a]bul market. Melons, peaches, pears, walnuts were either in
heaps against the walls or placed in baskets for transportation; but
the most curious arrangement was exhibited in the mode in which they
preserved their brobdignag grapes for winter consumption. About thirty
berries, each of enormous size and separately enveloped in cotton,
were hermetically enclosed between a couple of rudely shaped clay
saucers, so that we were obliged to crack the saucers to get at
the fruit inside, and great was the scrambling amongst the thirsty
soldiers for their luscious contents as they rolled out upon the
ground.




CHAPTER XX.


The thread of my narrative now guides me to an event which cannot
be contemplated without astonishment and regret. I allude to the
unaccountable panic which seized the 2nd Cavalry during the action at
Purwan Durrah; indeed I would willingly pass it over in silence, but I
am anxious to express my humble admiration of the chivalrous bearing
of the European officers on that melancholy occasion.

The several severe blows which we had recently inflicted upon the
Affgh[=a]ns during the course of this short compaign, and their not
having lately appeared in any organized force in the vicinity of our
camp, caused an opinion to prevail amongst many that our labours for
the season were brought to a close; but on the 20th of October we were
again excited by the rumour that Dost Mahommed, who had been hovering
about, intended as a "derniere ressource" once more to try his fortune
in war. Our anticipations of a little more active service were soon
realized by an order to advance upon Purwan Durrah. We accordingly
struck our tents, passing by Aukserai, and encamped near Meer
Musjedi's fortress, remaining there till the 3rd of November watching
the movements of the enemy. On that day information was received that
the Dost, with a large body of horse and foot, was moving towards us
by the Purwan Durrah; the general decided upon checking his progress,
and an advanced guard consisting of four companies of the 13th under
Major Kershaw, two companies of Native Infantry, two nine-pounders,
and two squadrons of the 2nd Bengal Cavalry, the whole under the
command of Col. Salter of the 2nd Cavalry, preceded the main column.
On the road we met a follower of one of the friendly chiefs charged
with a report that the ex-Ameer's party had been attacking some of the
forts in the valley, but for the present had taken up a position on
the neighbouring hills. We soon came on them, and at a short distance
perceived a small body of cavalry in the plain. A rumour passed
through our ranks that Dost Mahommed was himself amongst the horsemen,
and it was a subject of congratulation that the only opportunity had
now arrived of our cavalry engaging theirs, and that one brilliant
attack would bring this desultory warfare to a glorious termination.

The squadrons under the command of the gallant Fraser were ordered to
advance, and moved steadily forward at a trot; all eyes were fixed
upon them--the men were apparently steady--and even the least sanguine
could hardly doubt the result of a shock of disciplined cavalry on an
irregular body of horse not half their numerical strength.

But when the word to charge was given, an uncontrolled panic seized
the troopers; instead of putting their horses into a gallop and
dashing forward to certain victory, the pace gradually slackened; in
vain did their officers use every effort to urge the men on--in vain
did the spirit-stirring trumpet sound the charge--the troopers were
spell-bound by the demon of fear; the trot became a walk, then a halt;
and then, forgetful of their duty, their honor, and their officers,
they wheeled about and shamefully fled.

But not for one single instant did Fraser hesitate; with a bitter and
well-merited expression of contempt at this unmanly desertion, he
briefly said, "We must charge alone," and dashing spurs into his
horse, he rushed to an almost certain fate, followed by Ponsonby,
Crispin, Broadfoot, Dr. Lord, and by about a dozen of his men, who all
preferred an honourable death to an ignominious life.

The feelings of disgust mingled with intense admiration with which
this unparalleled scene was viewed by the infantry can be better
imagined than expressed; and those who under similar trying
circumstances would have endeavoured to imitate the heroism of their
countrymen, could scarce subdue a thrill of horror as this handful of
brave soldiers galloped forward. The intrepid Fraser, mounted upon a
large and powerful English horse, literally hewed a lane for himself
through the astonished Affghans; and Ponsonby too--for I am weary of
seeking fresh epithets for their unsurpassable conduct--on a strong
Persian mare, for a time bore down all opposition. Dost Mahommed
himself, though in some personal danger from the impetuosity of this
desperate charge, could not restrain his admiration.

The event fully proved the danger incurred. Dr. Lord, Crispin, and
Broadfoot upheld the glory of their country to the last, and fell
covered with many wounds. Fraser and Ponsonby were both desperately
hacked, and owed their lives to their horses becoming unmanageable,
bearing their riders from the midst of the enemy. The reins of
Ponsonby's bridle were cut, and he himself grievously wounded in the
face, while Fraser's arm was nearly severed in two; neither did
their horses escape in the conflict, as both bore deep gashes of the
Affgh[=a]n blades.

While the European officers were thus sacrificing themselves in the
execution of their duty, the dastard troopers came galloping in
amongst the infantry of the advanced guard, some of whom were with
difficulty restrained from inflicting on the spot the punishment they
so well deserved.

Meanwhile the enemy's cavalry, flushed with success, advanced against
the infantry with colours flying and loud shoutings, as in expectation
of an easy victory. But the infantry were prepared to receive them,
and a few rounds from the nine-pounders soon caused them to halt;
finding that their antagonists were not under the same influence as
the cavalry, they gave up the attack and retired to a distant position
on the hills. The steady advance of the 37th N.I. from the main body
of our forces, together with a few judiciously thrown shells, soon
drove their infantry to a more elevated range of hills; and before
sunset we had quiet possession of the field.

We had the melancholy satisfaction of finding the bodies of our
comrades, whom we buried at night in one large grave, and performing
the solemn service of the dead by torchlight. There is no chance of
their being forgotten: so long as gallantry is admired and honour
revered amongst British soldiers, so long will they remember Fraser's
charge at Purwan Durrah.

I am loath to dwell on the misconduct of the troopers; as far as I am
enabled to ascertain it was unexpected by the officers. Some, indeed,
declare that previous disaffection existed amongst the men; others say
that the troopers being Mussulmen did not like to charge against Dost
Mahommed himself, whom they considered as their religious chief; but
I think we may fairly attribute their flight to downright
_cowardice_, as no complaint or cause was assigned by the men
previous to encountering the foe. Whatever be the truth, the event was
most unfortunate, for it appears that the Dost was even previous
to the action anxious to throw himself upon the protection of
the British, but his followers would not permit him to do so;
nevertheless, on the evening of that day he managed to elude their
vigilance, and riding directly to C[=a]bul met the envoy Sir William
M'Naghten taking his evening ride, and surrendered himself into his
hands.

The news of this event of course put an end to further hostilities,
and on the 7th of November we returned to C[=a]bul, heartily glad once
more to get comfortably housed, as the winter was rapidly approaching
and the nights severely cold.





THE END.





LIST OF PLATES.


View of the Outer Cave of Yeermallik, shewing the Entrance Hole to the
larger Cavern

Map of Cabul and the Kohistan, with the Route to Koollum

View of the Ice Caves in the Cavern of Yeermallik

View of Koollum from the Eastward

Fac-Simile Drawings of Ancient Coins found in Toorkisthan and
Affghanistan, in the possession of Capt. Burslem, as follows:

No. 1. A Bactrian coin: legend on the obverse, [Transliterated from
the Greek lettering, Basileus ermaion sot]. Reverse, Hercules on a
tuckt or throne, with his right arm extended.

No. 2. A square copper coin of Apollodotus: legend, [Transliterated
from the Greek lettering, Basileus pollodot soter]; a male figure,
holding in one hand a club, and a spear in the other. The reverse
bears Pelhvic characters.

No. 3. A square copper coin of Eucratides: [Transliterated from the
Greek, Basileus megal] is only decypherable. If of Eucratides the
Great, of which I have no doubt, this coin is of great value, as he
reigned in Bactria 181 B.C. The reverse bears a Pelhvic legend, with
the figures of two warriors mounted.

No. 4. A square silver coin of Menander. A helmeted head, with the
inscription, [Transliterated from the Greek, Basileus soteros Menandrou].
The reverse bears the emblematic figure of an owl.

No. 5. A square copper coin, inscription illegible. On the obverse is
a woman holding a flower or a priest offering incense. It appears to
be a Kanirkos coin.

No. 6. A round silver Indo-Scythian coin.

No. 7. A square silver coin of Apollodotus, 195 B.C. Obverse, an
elephant, with the Bactrian monogram beneath--[Transliterated from
the Greek, Basileus pollodoton soteros]. Reverse, an Indian bull. The
characters and figures on this coin are very distinct.

No. 8. Another coin of Menander. An elephant's head with the proboscis
elevated: legend, [Transliterated from the Greek, Basileus soteros
Menandrou]. On the reverse is a cannon. This is an old and valuable
coin.

No, 9. A gold coin, supposed by Lady Sale to be a Kadphises. The
legend begins with Amokad and ends with Korano. On the reverse is a
naked figure, with the right arm stretched out. A few specimens, but
in copper, have been found in the barrow at Maunikyala in the Punjaub.
Lady Sale considers this coin to be a great beauty and of value.

No. 10. A gem found in the plain of Buggram.










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