THE INSIGHT DESCRIPTION AND NARRATION OF MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH AT THE HEIGHT OF HIS POWER (PART-II).
In the travelogue penned by Baron Charles Hugel of his tortuous, circuitous and labyrinthine route ascending the eclivities and descending the declivities in a hot and humid and elsewhere extremely cold climate has been poignantly and painstakingly narrated as follows:
Tuesday, January 19.-I remained at home all day and wrote, but not without many interruptions. Jemidar's son came with his tutor, a well-bred and well-educated man from Kashmir. I have said that this Jemidar is a Brahmin; the tutor is a Mohammedan, and the youth can read and write the Persian, the Panjábí, and the Hindú languages. He wishes much to learn English, and has applied that view to a man who calls himself an American, but who is really an Irishman, and not belonging to that class called gentlemen, to judge by appearances. He is an officer in the Maha Raja's artillery. Then came the son of Mehán Singh, with a letter from his father, complaining that the Maha Raja required, for the ensuing year, a tribute of twenty-two and a half lakhs of rupees from the valley, which, as I very well knew could not be raised in the country; he therefore begged me to intercede with Ranjit for some diminution of the sum demanded. I desired the Munshí to answer this request instantly, saying that the Governor must have learned by this time, in what manner I had spoken of him to the Maha Raja; that if he questioned me again, I should repeat the same opinion. I was also convinced that the country could not pay twenty-two and a half lakhs of rupees this year, and Mehán Singh was at liberty to show my letter to Ranjit Singh, or make use of it as he thought best. In the evening 1 took a walk with Mr. Fox, and we strolled to a fine monument, one side of which, undermined by an arm of the Ráví, which flows along by the exercising ground, is disjoined from the building, and open towards the west. Of the three lofty cupolas, the one on this side was rent asunder in the middle, and the chasm yawned like some revengeful monster crying towards heaven. The colours were quite fresh, and no one would have supposed that paint could have so well withstood the winds and storms of centuries. We visited many more such monuments, and the dwelling of a fakír, who has a fancy for sitting by a well, and in this artificial wilderness can always assist the wanderer with a refreshing draught. The sun was just sinking, and the awakening spring filled the breast with those sensations which make.the first appearance of the same season so like the commencement of a new life to a European. The feeling is stronger here, in proportion as the powers of vegetation spring up to a renewed existence more swiftly from the slumber in which they have been buried for a briefer space. Here the. winter never kills the buds: it merely bends their heads for some days, until the next soft breeze unfolds them into full leaf. With us winter is the death of the year, and spring a tedious regeneration; here, nature is immortal, and her sleep is so light, that the first warm day of sunshine suffices to arouse her. On my return, I betook myself to the platform in front of the house,and watched the vapours of evening as they veiled the setting sun, and the great city with its brilliant palaces. The horizon was clear in one direction only, viz., where tombs and monuments, minarets and domes, were piled up, a mass of ruins in the artificial desert they have made around them, reminding one of the Egyptian monuments in their natural sands: in both, the quiet abiding-place of those who have gone to their long last rest. The sun was yet red in the heavens, but the eye can gaze on its disk unharmed as it approaches the straight horizontal line formed by the vast Indian waste, which has the effect of a sunset on the boundless surface of the octan. Single elephants and long trains of camels were bringing for themselves and their working comrades large branches of the fig-tree to the city, and moving along with a measured regular tread. Horses and asses laden with grass were following these, or marching past them at a more rapid pace. Here, a cloud of dust follows a finely dressed Sikh, who was hastening forward on his proud, steed, attended by a numerous suite, to a once imperial dwelling; there, Indians were driving their small flocks towards the city, some bearing a new-born kid, others helping onward some aged animal over the uneven ground. They were seeking a refuge against the nightly depredations of the wolf and the hyena, or against man, even worse than these. The poor man has neither friend nor protector in India, he has but hope and patience to bear him onward to a better world. Large parties of crows and jackdaws were flying towards the towers of the city. Everything was seeking rest for the night-all, but the parrots chattering among the trees in the garden, and the sound of the water-wheel worked by oxen, which is accompanied by the cry of the industrious peasant, as it turns heavily round day and night without intermission,-announced departing day. In the distance, the songs of the dancing fakír in honour of the great Govindji, and the accompaniment of his guitąr, were still audible. Such was the scene which I quitted only when night rendered all objects invisible to me, and the cold reminded me where I stood. For some inexplicable reason, my mind has been more depressed to-day than usual. Perhaps this is the effect of rest and leisure, after the necessary labour of my continual journeyings. If so, it is a bad omen for that rest, which, God willing, I trust to enjoy in my own country. It would be well to depart at once, and forget my present temper of mind in trouble and deprivations. But there is a sort of enjoyment in the expression of one's feelings which I cannot resist. Age is always selfish, and I feel life advancing. Should these lines reach home without me, they will suffice to prove how much years must have stolen upon me. I force myself to recollect that there was a time when life was dear to me for the sake of others, and when I looked forward only to home with peace and joy. The stranger, far distant in place, time, and feeling; the self-banished one, has long given up all claims to happiness for himself, and against his expectation he finds that five years of solitude, toil, and exertion are gone, and that, however outward circumstances may have changed, he is·the same in heart as when he once made a long farewell to Vienna, his fatherland. The past started up to-day like a spectre in the darkness, weighing down my soul with the consciousness that it had destroyed all hope and gladness in me. I must look back to a remote period where I can forget the long interval of sadness which has intervened; many it have passed forever, and for that I would gladly relinquish all that I have learned, my travels, my collections, my writing, everything for forgetfulness. A partial forgetfulness, however, is painful, bringing from the past, only what we would most wish blotted out, the sun shining on the bleached bones of the famine-stricken people of Kashmir, where they lie among the green herbs.
Wednesday, January 20.-The Maha Raja deputed the Fakír Sahib this morning to express his disappointment at having seen so little of me during my stay in Lahore, more particularly as he heard that my departure was so near at hand. He had not sent for me, because he hoped I would visit him whenever I found it agreeable, and he knew that I desired to see the curiosities of the city. If I had already done this, he trusted that I would not refuse to devote the next fortnight to him. I thanked Raja for his invitation, but repeated my wish to pay my visit,and take leave of him to-day. I introduced Mohammed Shah to the Fakír Sahib,and recommended his business to him as well as I could. But I had been in Lahor long enough to see that every man there thinks and acts for himself, and therefore was determined to name the subject to the Maha Raja himself. Everything depends on a petitioner seeing the king, wherefore I now begged the Fakír Sahib, who is a most honourable and independent man, and, in this respect, stands almost alone in Lahore, to request an audience for the Shah. In a few hours he returned to me with the information that the Maha Raja wished to see on the following day. He had oyunen of the Shah, but had received no answer. Yesterday, I had regulated my watch after taking an observation with the sextant in the presence of Jemidar's son, who asked me the meaning of what I was doing. I explained it, adding that I wished to know the distance from Lahor to Calcutta. This morning he visited me again, bringing the astronomer and astrologer of Lahor with him, the last having a large astrolabe and a Sanskrit book in his hand. He seemed very earnest and thoughtful. I had long desired to meet with an individual of this class, and presently asked him if he knew how to use the instrument. He did not understand my question, and I soon discovered that he carried it about with him only as an external sign of his rank. On inquiring about the subject of the book, be informed me it was the Sháster; I pointed out a passage and requested him to read it, this however he could not do; all he knew, in short, was to repeat a few passages which he had got by rote and could point out. These people know the latitude of the ancient cities from the Sháster; for instance, they know that Lahor is 32° from Lanka, but where that point commences, or what was the measure of each degree, they were quite ignorant, as also of the number of degrees to the circle. Now, it is quite unimportant from what place the degrees of latitude are reckoned, the Hindús reckon from the middle of the. sea, but the reckoning can be worth nothing, if the length of the degree is unknown, and I could not at first understand what made this man come to display his ignorance before me. After a while I found that he wanted to ascertain the latitude of Amritsar for astrological purposes. This, as a city of newly acquired importance, is not mentioned in the Sháster.
The American Irishman came a little later, and brought me a plan of Kandahár. I thanked him for the attention, but observed that I should not make use of any plans, except the map I had myself taken. Besides these, I was honoured with many other visitors, all with petitions of some sort to the Maha Raja. Having determined to speak for no person who was unknown to me, I was obliged to decline any interference on their concerns, even in the affair of Mr. Forni, which I knew that I could not further. The Maha Raja had offered him 700 rupees a month if he would manage a powder-mill for him, but Mr. Forni demanded 3000 rupees, and had already been here several months, executing various little services, for which he had never received the smallest recompense. He would be glad now to be dismissed altogether with a sum of a few thousand rupees, but cannot succeed in getting any payment at all. He was very desirous to travel with me, and wished me to speak to Maha Raja on the subject, but I assured him that the first was quite impossible, and that I could not do the last. He travelled to Lahore np the Indus, in the company of a German adventurer who wished to enter the service of Ranjit, but could not obtain anything, and is now at Kabúl, whence he wrote the most absurd letter to General Ventura that I ever read, giving himself out for a Russian spy, and offering to perform the same service for him on payment of a salary equal to what he now receives.
Yesterday we had no nách. I was out of spirits, and having generally contrived to animate the evening's conversation, the hours passed heavily on that account. General Ventura thought that I missed the usual amusement, and though I assured him to the contrary, he ordered the performance this evening, and I regretted the repetition of the monotonous, and to me unpleasant noise, not to speak of the unnecessary expense to which it put my kind host.
Thursday,21st January.-At noon the Fakír Sahib came, with saddle horses and the Maha Raja's carriage drawn by four horses. The equipment was by no means splendid, though he had received it as a present from the King of England. Lieut. Burnes brought it over for him, and with it five horses. It had become of much importance to England to survey the Indus, and ascertain the possibility of navigating it. It was navigable in the time of Alexander is evident,but we hear nothing about it in any other age, and the information drawn from the accounts of that time is of the most meagre description. All men acquainted with the history of the last forty years, will understand the humane intentions of the English philanthropists, who desire to give an outlet to the productions of the upper provinces of India, and enable the poor inhabitants to exchange their coarse home-made stuff for the far better and cheaper goods of England. The Indus has several mouths,and the channel is not only very shallow, according to the last survey,(in fact it has only three feet of water before the rainy season, in the shallowest places of the deepest among its arms,) but the sand is constantly shifting, thus altering the water-way, and in a short time blocking up one arm and forming a new one. The lower Indus is in the possession of three small states, whose princes are called Amírs of Sindh, viz., Hyderabad, Khyrpoor and Mírpoor. These are Mohammedans, and were it rendered serviceable to them, the Company could no doubt easily induce them to enter into a commercial treaty, when the survey of the Indus shall be completed. Ranjit Singh had sent a present to the English king, and the occasion of returning this courtesy by a gift, the very nature of which rendered it essential to take advantage of the river, was an excellent pretext for sailing up the Indus. Four large cart-horses, some mares, and one of those huge dray-horses which are sometimes seen in the London streets, and appear to carry death and destruction at their heels, were embarked accordingly, and despatched to Bombay. What, indeed,could be More flattering too. Ranjit Singh, then a present so exactly in accordance with his well-known predilection for fine horses; what more natural than that care should be taken not to expose this expensive present to a fatiguing land-journey! To add to the impropriety of such a risk, the Governor of the Bombay Presidency, Sir John Malcolm, added an old coach, lined inside with blue velvet, and coarsely painted without. In 1830, Lieutenant Burnes was commissioned to convey this splendid gift up the Indus to Lahor, and to survey the river on his way. But the Amírs of Sindh were as little to be deceived by the pretext as Ranjit Singh himself; and it certainly did evince great ignorance of the circumstances and affairs of India, not only on the part of the authorities in England, but of those also in Bombay. It would seem almost incredible, indeed, if it stood alone; but, unhappily for the Indian population, there are not wanting evident and repeated proofs how imperfectly acquainted the English Ministry is; nay more, how uninformed with Indian politics even one Presidency is with the affairs of the others. It was considered most advisable to sail up the Indus, without obtaining the previous permission of the Amírs; hence, when the expedition entered their territories thus unexpectedly, they at first refused to suffer it to proceed, but were at length induced, though against their convictions,to give up their opposition. Now it is most incumbent on such a power as that of the English in India that it should act with vigour, instead of having recourse to subterfuge which everybody can see through, and in this case it would have been far better to have entered into an open negotiation, and communicated its purport to Ranjit Singh. By the method adopted, they ran the risk of provoking Ranjit to take possession of these small states, or at least to impede the whole plan, as far as he could do so. After all, the treaty with the Amírs ended with the usual“I will"of the Company, and therefore it would have been better to have pronounced it at first. What must Ranjit Singh have thought of this way of conveying his presents? The English Ministry could not have been made aware, that thousands of horses are conveyed to and from India through the Panjáb every year; that scarcely a day passes that horses do not leave Calcutta For Lúdiana and Lahor, and that there is not a station in Northern Hindústan where vehicles of various kinds are not kept, which during the fine season travel from Calcutta to the Setlej, drawn by horses, and mounted on four wheels. The Company must have known this, because so far back as 1810, Lord Minto sent a state carriage to Ranjit Singh all the way from Calcutta to Lahor. The Begam Samrú, that extraordinary woman, who rose from a dancing girl, to have the government of an independent principality, bringing in a revenue of 700,000 forints, in like manner sent from Serdhana, her chief tow n,a present of a state carriage of glass, with four horses, to General Ventura, which as far surpasses in beauty the lumbering vehicle of the Company as the Medicean Venus surpasses the Begam Samrú. But to the selection made: to send four brewers' horses and a monstrous dray horse to a prince who has a peculiar fancy for the most elegant saddle horses, is something like giving a man who loves the rare fowers which adorn his beautiful hothouse, a cart-load of potatoes. Had it been possible to make a more extraordinary present, Ranjit Singh must have been flattered, nevertheless, by the very idea that it came from the King of England. The mares were forthwith seut to graze, without receiving any further notice, as these animals are very rarely used in the Panjáb. There the plough is drawn by oxen and buffaloes, and horses are never harnessed to waggons. The other gigantic horse was sent to the schoolmaster, to be instructed in the art of dancing with other Panjábi horses; he was found so intractable, however, that all hope of his improvement was eventually relinquished, and he was dressed up like an elephant, and stationed before Ranjit's palace, where at the expiration of a year he departed this life. Into this state coach I now step, with Vigne and the Fakír Sahib, while Mohan, whom the Maha Raja distinguishes on all occasions, stood behind with some officers. Some of the straps had given way, and the coach swung about in the most uncomfortable manner. It happened most unluckily that the place where we were to meet the Maha Raja was five miles off, the exercising ground extending that distance along the shore of the Ráví. The road was good and well watered: Ranjit Singh's rich and beautiful tents added greatly to the ornamental character of the fine groups of trees which studded the park-like ground. A large Kashmir carpet was spread on that part where the river forms a bend, and four arm-chairs were placed on it.Ranjit Singh was occupied in overlooking the troops while they threw up a field work. He took my arm and asked me whether they were working properly, to which I replied in the affirmative. Perhaps my looks were not quite in unison with my words, as their want of order and regularity made them resemble some seditious multitude, collected for the purpose of destroying rather than constructing field works. Ranjit Singh informed me that he was making a carriage road onward to Amritsir, similar to that which was carried through the ground.where we then were. I observed that he could not possibly do better than make good roads,which would facilitate the movements of his troops, and render their progress from one place to another so rapid and easy,that their numbers would be apparently doubled. Mohan, who acted as my interpreter, caught my idea immediately, but had some difficulty in making it intelligible to Ranjit Singh; when at length he comprehended its purport, after many interrogatories, he answered: “Yes, but I should make it also more easy for an enemy to advance against me." I reminded him that the want of roads had never prevented the subjection of any part of India hitherto, but that it might in like manner have impeded the advance of any force desirous of relieving threatened point, and in order to act with any efficiency, a regular army must have regular roads. “I wish," he exclaimed, that you could remain with me. Could you not, at least, postpone your journey for three months?" I said that I appreciated his kindness most sincerely, but that my arrangements were finally completed, and that it was twelve months since I had received any letters from my native land. Very little, moreover, could be accomplished in three months towards the reorganization of his troops. We now proceeded to a small palace, before which some troops were drawn up, and Ranjit Singh, fatigued with walking, though he leaned on my arm, stood still, and said to Vigne : “ Do you understand how to restore a country which is much impoverished ?” Vigne did not quite understand Mohan,and I repeated the question, adding in English: “Take care, he means to appoint you his viceroy in the country we have recently quitted.” Vigne took my words in jest, and made some reply in a jocular way, which expressed nothing. Mohan, however, translated it into an affirmative, and the Maha Raja continued: “ Do you understand how to govern a country?" This seemed so absurd to Vigne that he laughed outright in Ranjit's face, who asked him again: “What would you do in Kashmir to make it more prosperous ?" Vigne was quite unprepared with an immediate reply, and desired Mohan to say as much. The boy not well understanding this, the conversation dropped, as the thoughts of Ranjit had wandered to other subjects. He presently addressed me: “I begin to feel old; I am quite exhausted now, and must be taken to the battery in my palankeen. You will ride in the carriage. What is that carriage worth?" I said that I knew its history, and would like to have the sum it had cost where it came into his possession. He and the young Raja Híra Singh got into the palankeen, and I mounted the carriage, that he might not be kept waiting, but I ordered that it should remain in the rear of his palankeen. This he would not suffer, but commanded the coachman to proceed. An open tent was pitched for the Raja in front of the building. Two nine pounders were set on the bank of an arm of the Ráví, and on the opposite side a white spot was painted on an acacia tree; while behind the guns was stationed a company of infantry and a pultun of Gorcheli. The palankeen being some few hundred steps behind,I went up to the guns. Both were cast in Lahore,and seemed in excellent order; their carriages were made after English models. I carefully examined every part, and as I stooped to see whether the aim was good, Ranjit Singh came up, and inquired of me if they were good guns. “Very good, "I answered._“Are they properly adjusted ? "he inquired. “No," answered I;"they will not hit the tree unless the sight is wrong, and the gunners are perfectly aware of it." He ordered the pieces to be fired, but they hit nothing; two shots more were equally unsuccessful. He said that he would like much to know where the fault lay, and requested me to point them. The fault,I observed, must always rest with the man who laid the guns, and who ought to know better; but I made no doubt if he would allow me three shots, that I should succeed in hitting the mark the third time. I then pointed the piece, stepped aside, and my excellent eyesight did me good service. The tree was about 800 yards distant, and following the ball, I saw it fly straight over the tree; while the other gun, discharged by an officer, dropped the ball in the ground just in front of the tree. My second ball fell in the branches a little too far to the right; while that from the other gun flew away over them. I then pointed the gun the third time; and stepped behind the Maha Raja. It went off, the ball passing through the trunk, and splitting the tree. “I knew this would be the result," exclaimed Ranjit Singh; while the Gorchelí, who had all drawn near, cried: “ Wáh! Núr allah núr!” To explain the Maha Raja's words, I must add that, though without any real faith, he considers it necessary to pretend great devotion to the Sikh religion, and is, moreover, exceedingly superstitious. Not long ago a Frenchman came to Lahor, and gave himself out for an officer of artillery, desired to enter Ranjit's service. The Maha Raja, to test his skill, appointed as a trial the same tree, which was to be hit by these guns in three shots. General Ventura clearly explained that success in this trial depended more upon chance than upon the talent of the officer, and therefore endeavoured to dissuade him from requiring such a test, as he might thereby, on the one hand, lose an officer whose services in his army might be very useful; or on the other, he might give some post to a man whose only merit consisted in having luckily hit a tree. But the Maha Raja adhered to his own opinion; the experiment took place; the officer missed the tree, and lost his hope of emolument. It was evident that Ranjit Singh had entertained an idea that fate would pronounce to him whether I was to be useful to him or not, by the success of my aim at this same tree; his exclamation, “I was certain of it, "verified the correctness of my opinion. When we were seated,both pieces were discharged in our presence several times,but without success. This reminds me of the management of Ranjit Singh's artillery,which is divided into so many Daroga, or batteries,each commanded by an officer, but deficient in regular gunners or carriages; hence, when their service is required in the field, the officer has to find both men and horses. This prevents the artillery from being well served, and the only duty they seem to perform is that of loading and firing as well as they can. The officers of the French legion have drawn the attention of the Maha Raja to the necessity of keeping this, as well as all the other branches of the army,in an efficient state of equipment and training; at present, those trains only which are attached to the French legion, besides the two batteries of six guns, now in Lahore, are regularly organized. The guns now fired a spherical case, which burst too soon. These had astonished the Maha Raja beyond measure when he first saw them at a review at Rúpar, during his conference with Lord William Bentinck: after every shot, he rode up to the target, and counted the holes which the balls and fragments of the shivered shell had torn in it. He then observed the fearful havoc such missiles would occasion among irregular troops. He ordered his European officers to provide the same for his artillery, and the first shell which exploded was worth 30,000 rupees to Colonel Court. Ranjit asked me whether I understood anything about them, and on telling him that I did, he inquired further, perhaps in order to prove my knowledge, how it happened that the shells did not all burst in the same way? I answered, that in a manufacture which was by no means simple and which required the utmost nicety, the fault might lay either in the fuzes being of different lengths, or in the powder being badly made, or of indifferent quality; and then, thinking it a favourable moment to speak a word in behalf of Forni, I told him that he would soon find it necessary to build a regular ana well-organized powder manufactory, where the powder might be prepared of the proper strength and quality, and that there was already a man called Forni in Lahore, who thoroughly understood the process. Without answering me, Ranjit ordered a ball ready to be brought to us, and I told him that it was very coarsely made. He begged me particularly to say what I thought of the spherical case. I said that this was one of the rarest inventions of modern days, but that one of the most difficult points in gunnery was the management of mortars. It might not only be most dangerous but perfectly useless without a proper knowledge of the due strength of the powder, and the exact measure of the fuze. “Stay with me here,” he exclaimed, “a few years to you can signify but little. You are still young: I wish you to go to Amritsir and visit the laboratory, and I will write to the Commandant at Govindgarh, that he must meet you and show you everything there.” As I made no reply, he continued,“You must, at all events, go to Amritsir ; will you write to me there?" I promised to do so. “I know,"he said,“that you came to take leave to-day; but you must give me a few days longer. You must remain until the Basant*.” This, I knew, would take place on the 22nd. I therefore told him how happy I was at all times,when it was possible to comply with his wishee, and that I would remain in Lahore until that time.
＂Those are the Gorchelí, "he said, pointing to the troops, "of whom I told you that I had 4000." I asked him the meaning of the road. He told me that they had territories which brought them in a revenue of 3000 or 4000 rupees a-piece, and that their horses and entire equipment were also their own. They are, in fact, the remainder of those 69,500 Sikh lords of the Panjáb, brought under the power of Ranjt's authority, and receive from their despotic minister an ansaigs I requested Iaeye to inspect them, and never beheld a fner nor a more remarkably-striking body of men. Each one was dressed differently,and yet so much in the same fashion, that they all looked in perfect keeping· The handsome Raja Sushet Singh was in a similar costume,and reminded me of the time when the fate of empires hung on the
point of a lance,and when the individual whose bold heart beat fearlessly under his steel breastplate, was the sole founder of his own fortunes. The strange troop before me was most peculiarly Indian. The uniform consisted of a. velvet coat or gabardine, over which most of them wore a shirt of mail. Others had this shirt made to form a part of the tunic. A belt round the waist,richly embroidered in gold, supported the powder-horn, covered with cloth of gold,a's well as the Persian katár and the pistols which many of them carried in addition to those weapons. Some wore a steel helmet, inlaid with gold, and surmounted with the·kalga or black heron's plume; others wore a cap of steel, worked like the cuirass in rings: this cap lies firmly on the turban, and covers the whole head, having openings for the eyes. The left arm is often covered from the hand to the elbow with a steel cuff inlaid with gold. The round Sikh shield hangs at the back, fastened with straps across the chest,a quiver at the right side and a bow slung at the back being carried as part of the equipment; a bag made in the belt holds the balls, and a tall bayonet, frequently ornamented with gold, held in the right hand when the man is on foot, and carried over the shoulder when in the saddle, completes the dress. One would suppose that the arms that each man carried would be enough to weigh him down,but this is not the case, and though the Sikhs are anything but strongly-built men,they seemed to bear them with the greatest ease; the black curly beard which hangs as low as the chest giving them an appearance of power which they do not in reality possess. It is a strange sight to a European to see their slippers embroidered in gold covering their naked feet. Some few among them wear high jack boots. When I returned to Ranjit Singh he asked me if I should like
to see them fire, and on my request to do so, a brass pot was fixed about 100 paces' distant, and one Gorchelí after the other stepped forward to shoot at the mark. One of them hit it every time, and very shortly the poor brass pot was perforated in every part. A fresh one was then set up and the company of regular troops advanced, and Wereranged into rank and file, evidently to disadvantage. The number of regular troops which fired were three times that of the Gorcheli, and the Mahd, when the three Fonds few as only hit the mark; for the men at the wings could scarcely aim at the pot at all. Ranjit Singh saw me smiling, and he observed:“＇This is the way that regular troops fire, a great inducement, is it not, to turn old warriors into disciplined soldiers?" I said that the Gorchelig would not. fire so well if they were in rank and file; the adversary was not the target but the line. “You have now seen divisions of all my troops,” observed Ranjit, to me; “tell me what you think of them ?" I answered that what I had seen exceeded anything that I could have anticipated. He still pressed for a more definite answer, and I continued: “The world knows what these troops have done under you. The answer to your question has been given by your cannon from Ladák to Multan,from the Setlej to the heart of Afghánistan.” “You evade my question,” said Ranjit Singh.
I answered that he was a much better judge of soldiers than I.-“Tell me,” he persisted,“what you think of my troops compared with those of the East India Company?" “You require me to do so?”＿“Yes, "he said. Mohan had on an imitation Kashmir shawl of mine, while one of his suite wore a genuine and very beautiful one. I showed him both, saying,“This is genuine, the other an imitation,-which of the two is the best?"He looked at me, and said, after a short pause,“You have expressed my own opinion; but do you believe that a battalion of my army could engage with one of the Company's battalions?" “My answer is already given in my last question.
I do not."_“Do you believe," he went on, ＂that my troops could stand against an attack of a body of Russians" I replied that I thought them able to withstand any force likely to appear west of the Indus at present. Upon which he said, “It is growing late ; the sun is low on the horizon, and we are
far from the city. I take you at your word, that you will remain for the Basant" I then left him, and our carriage drove rapidly. Over the ground, escorted by a party of horsemen, while Ranjit followed slowly in lis palankeen at the head of a division of his troops. He soon dismiused the Goreheli and his suite, and at, once, with a wild and loud cry,tho armod horsemen sprang forward, firing off their pieces, and rushing over the plain: they were followed by the guns, which sent forth a salvo ns they advanced; next came the elephants in their trappings striding along, and a cloud of dius soon after veiled the whole from sight. Before I reached the house, night had completely enveloped every object in thick darkness.
Friday, January 22.-I forgot to notice yesterday, that I received intelligence that Dr. IHenderson was at Atok ; I rejoice to learn that the journey had not been too fatiguing for his enfeebled frame, and that there was some probability of my even seeing him in Lahor. The morning brought the Fakir Sahib, and the large elephant to be drawn by Vigne, and the famous horse Láili, that I had inquired for. The Maha Raja let me know that this horse had cost him 60 lakhs of rupees, and 12,000 soldiers, having been the occasion of several wars. It was the property of Yár Mohammed Khan of Pesháwar, and Ranjit Singh made the delivery of the animal to him one of the conditions of peace.The cunning Mohammedan, however, who considered this article humiliating to him, evaded it several times by sending another horse under the name of Láili, and it was owing to a plan devised by General Ventura, that it was eventually obtined. He took a company of soldiers as his guard on one occasion when he went to Pesháwar to receive the horse. The Khan would have temporised as before, but he was taken suddenly ill and died, whereupon Ventura put his brother Sultan Mohammed Khan, the same whom I have spoken of as being present at the first review, by the Maha Raja's command, in possession of Peshúwar,but on condition that Láili should be given up. Sultan Mohammed Khan tried also what evasions would do; but General Ventura made his appearance one morning, attended as usual by his troops, to press the fulfilment of the conditions of his investiture. He entered the reception room,and demanded Láili; and when Sultan Mohammed interposed some fresh obstacle, Ventura suddenly called out to the soldiers,who were posted ready in the courtyard, to come up to him in the palace,and on their appearance he pronounced Sultan Mohammed a prisoner in his own capital, until he chose to surrender Láili. Mohammed was so astounded at this bold step, that he ordered the horse to be brought immediately,and Ventura quitted Pesháwar with his costly booty. It is the finest horse belonging to the Maha Raja, and I could not help mounting a steed that had cost six millions of fforins. The bridle and saddle was splendid, and round his knees he has gold bangles: he is a dark grey,with black legs, thirteen years old, and full sixteen hands high. I have heard that at Rúpar,Ránjít Singh showed a brown horse as Láili,but General Ventura, assured me that this was the true Láili. The Fakír told me that the Máha Raja wished to have another paper from me,and that he would have spoken about it yesterday, but feared that I should not understand what he wished. I had seen since my first writing,he said,a. great many things, and moreover, I had not said any thing about the friendship of the Company towards him. Several articles had appeared of late in the newspapers of Hindústhan and of Calcutta,which went to show that the English must of necessity soon march to the Indus,and make that river the western boundary of British India, and I fancied that Ranjit Singh had thought a good deal of these articles. Further, he added,theMaha Raja had permitted me to visit the Durbar in Amritsir, and begged that I would take notice of it,
as though I had been there already. Finally,I had said nothing before of my friendship for the Maha Raja,nor of his for me. I told the Fakír Sahib that I would draw up the memorial without loss of time, make the Munshi translate it into Persian,and send it to him, that it might be brought into a proper form, requesting him to leave out any thing likely to displease Ranjit Singh, and to assist me with his talent for the most acceptable compliments. The following was the result:-
＂During ny stay at Lahor,his Higbness the Mobá Roja hashonoued me with a review of those regiments which were bere by chance, and which,although soldiers only of a year's standing, astonished me by their good appearance and their quick fire: they are decidedly more advanced than recruits of the same standing are in Europe. If I had to proffer my opinion upon the service which may be expected from them,I should say that the troops of the Maha Raja are fully prepared to dispute the palm of victory in the plains of the Panjáb with any army crossing the Atok. Yesterday the Maha Raja showed me the practising of artillery, and of his troops at the target.' The most distinguished feat of this day,there is no doubt, was the firing of the Gorchelís armed with matchlocks. The Austrians are celebrated for their shooting at the target,but there cannot be a better shot than one of the Gorchelís, who, every time he fired, shot through the vessel placed as the target.“I must confess that I have been very much surprised at all that I have found in Lahor, notwithstanding I had heard very much of it in India, and if, on my return to Europe, I should give an account of what I have seen of the magnificence of the court and of the army of the Maha Raja, to his Majesty the Emperor of Austria [this was put in by his expressed wish],he will be very much pleased and astonished with it. “I have to acknowledge, moreover, the gratitude I feel tò the Maha Raja for having had the kindness to allow me to approach the place known to the whole world for its holiness, and envied to the Panjáb by the whole of Hindústhan, namely,the holy reservoir at Amritsir. For thé permission to see it,I feel no less gratitude to the Maha Raja than for his other numerous favours. “I have to add, that having spoken in my first letter of the friendship between the Maha Raja and the Honourable Company only by report, I must now state,that I was long enough in India and the Panjáb to form an opinion of it for myself, and that I am convinced that it is strong,sincere,reciprocal,full of confidence, and without reserve. If it is the wish of the Maha Raja to preserve it, it is the interest of the British Government to do so also; and whatever the liberty of the press may allow to appear in the newspapers against it, I am sure that
it is the desire of the English Government to maintain and fortifyit, and, if it were possible, still more to consolidate it. How sincere the Maha Raja was, I, who experienced the henefit of it, had the clearest proof, since the friendship of Austria, with Great Britain caused me to be treated as the friend of a friend. May this friendship always increase for the happiness of the world.
“I have lastly to return my sincere thanks for the friendship of which the Maha Raja gave me a proof in his wish to retain me at Lahor; and I have only to add, that I hope the Maha Raja's friendship for me will last as long as mine for him, which is:to say, for ever.
“Lahor, January 22,1836.”
The Fakir Sahib finding this testimony very good, it was written out in Persian and English, and sealed up,and committed to a very fine bag which I had brought from Kashmir. Yesterday the Maha Raja having commissioned the Fakír Sahib to make the request,Vigne began a drawing of an English soldier. This morning he went on with his task,and finished a representation of an officer holding the English flag in his left hand, and giving the right to a Sikh, who holds the flag of the French legion, tri-colored, with Govind Singh on horseback, carrying the falcon on his right wrist,as a testimony of friendship.
This being quite ready, I waited while my paper was being written out in Persian, that I might present both to Ranjit Singh. Vigne had much wished to take a drawing of the black fakír; and that no time might be lost, I sent to him while my letter was being transcribed. A droll scene took place when he arrived. The black fakír, or Hindú converted to the Sikh faith, looked with very jealous eyes on the Mohammedan Fakír at the court of the Sikh Maha Raja. The Fakír Sahib began with all the politeness of a courtier,by telling him that the Maha Raja not only permitted, but wished the European gentleman to take a portrait of him, the fakír. « The Maha Raja said the black fakír; “ and who is he ?”＿« The holy(Sri) MahaRanjit Singh,"answered the Fakír Sahib. «I do not know him,” continued the other;“and if I did, how can he wish or command as you say?
I have nothing to do with him, and have no need of him." The Fakír was astonished and very indignant,but still exceedingly polite. ThebMaha Raja thought that you would not be the only one of his subjects to refuse to treat his friend,a European gentleman,with the courtesy that he himself shows to him." Mohan, who stood behind iny chair, whispered to me, “ The beggars are beginning to squabble.” “ I am not Ranjit Singh's subject,” cried the black fakír,“I am a saintly personage, and belong to God, and to nobody else, and you call yourself by a name that you have no title to. You are the Maha Raja's servant, I shall not do anything at your bidding, either to go or to stay: I am very angry now, but perhaps I may let him draw me 'bye-and-by, not because the Maha Raja wishes it, but because it pleases me.”＿“It is the same thing on what account you consent, so that you let it be done,"returned the Fakír Sahib. And the black devotee soon complied with our requests. When at length the copy was ready,Vigne and I rode out on horseback to the same place where we had met the Maha Raja yesterday.
They were firing away at a tree near the mark of the preceding day, and Ranjit Singh pointed it out directly to me, already shivered in pieces. I had not seen Ranjit looking so well, or so young, as on this occasion. He was in high spirits too, and his hand, before almost lifeless,was to-day quite warm. When the Fakir Sahib presented my letter, he examined the seal carefully, to see that it was unbroken; and having had the contents read over to him, he expressed himself much gratified with it,and ordered it to be given into the custody of the Fakir Azíz ud Din.
Vigne now produced his drawing, and the Maha Raja was delighted when he found that the Setlej, with Fílor on the one side,and Lúdiana on the other, were represented in it. These are the boundary towns of his own and the Company's territories. Calling one of his grandees to him after the other,he explained to each the allegory of his friendship with. England. This thought seemed more flattering to him than any other, and is a good proof of the influence of the Company's empire in India. A better explanation of this will be seen, when we come to treat of Ranjit's power, which,although great in itself, is naturally overrated by the founder of it.
The Fakír Sahib had told me in the morning,that the Maha Raja had postponed the Basant for a day,in order to prolong my stay. I therefore did not remain long there on the field, the evening drawing on when I first came on the ground. My large suite not allowing me to ride fast,Ranjit Singh gave me his carriage on my return; he himself was carried in a palankeen. In the evening we had the dancing girls again.
Saturday,January 23.-The Basant,literally the spring, is a festival celebrated yearly at this season in Upper Hindústhán and the Panjáb,the Sirsya then covering the whole face of the country with its blossoms. This is the first sign of the opening of the year, as the snow drop is with us. On this day the Maha Raja betakes himself to a small building not far from the Shalimár, and the whole population of Lahor have orders to show themselves on the road to it. I never saw a more singular-looking assemblage. The Sikhs are the only Hindús of the plain always ready for amusement, and the people of Lahor are especially known for this disposition. I took this road at twelve o'clock, with Khalifa. Sahib and Vigne; and as we went on remarked them in succession, some collected in groups, others idly loitering among the ruins, and many moving along on camels, oxen, horses, or elephants, according to their means. On the camels,which were dressed out with collars of shells and little bells, mingled with large tassels, formed of party-coloured wools, and the tails of the Tibet cow, sat three or four men ; while from eight to twelve persons were seated in the Munjil, Amári, or Howdah on the elephant's backs. Nor were the palankeens less numerous, or less strange in shape and colour. Large crowds had formed round a talking or a singing fakír ; a juggler or an astrologer; a vender of toys or sweetmeats. At another spot, grown-up men were running about the fields with kites, and multitudes of persons were seen following some musicians who were beating their tám-táms, and blowing horns. About half way along, at the balcony of a first story, sat a Sikh Gurú, such as I have already described at Baramulla; and not a Sikh passed him without his “Salám, Maha Raja,” while some bestowed on him.a few rupees. All was bustle and mirth, and in every direction we heard the Sikh greeting,“Wáh! Gurúji-ke fatih!"Hail
to the conqucring Gurú ! The horsemen attending on me were all in light yellow,as well as the whole court:this being the colour of the spring in the Panjáb. We missed our way at one time and got entangled among the ruins, whence we had so much trouble in recovering the direct path,that the Maha Raja was kept waiting some time for us. On the last mile, three regiments, dressed in yellow,were drawn up like a close fence on both sides. In Europe,this change of uniform would cost a large sum of money,but here the expense is trifing ; the white linen is coloured with saffron for the day,and then washed again. The unsightly building where Ranjit Singh held the Basant stood at the end of a close alley. “ And why here?" I inquired. “Because it is the will of the Maha Raja,"said the astonished Fakír Sahib. Before it, in two lines, stood thirty elephants,so close to one another that, in order to gain the entrance we were obliged to squeeze in under their trunks, or just before them ; but they were so tame and gentle, that there was not the least danger in this. The elephant is a very social animal, and behaves himself in company whether with his equals or with men,with the greatest discretion. It is to be supposed that the Sirdár Hati was among them. We crowded in through a narrow doorway into the interior,for the greatest freedom reigns during the feasts and ceremonies in India, and the people were all pressing forward together.
One part of the court was divided from the rest by a kanát,or canvass screen,and there sat Ranjit Singh in an arm-chair under a large tent of Kashmir stuff,yellow like the carpet, himself, and every thing about it. It gave him a look of additional ugliness. Large quantities of the Sirsya,and other yellow flowers were scattered about here and there. Vigne and I were the only persons in dark clothes,Mohan being in yellow,according to the prevailing fashion. Here I saw Karak Sing, the Maha Raja's eldest son, whose exterior promises very littl