CHAPTER III: THE FIRST YEAR OF OCCUPATION
Fraser had formed up his troopers when recall orders reached him. Joyous that the situation entitled him to disobey them, he gave instead the word to charge. As the Afghans came down at no great pace, they fired occasionally; either because of the bullets, or because of an access of pusillanimity, Fraser's troopers broke and fled ignominiously. The British gentlemen charged home unsupported. Broadfoot, Crispin and Lord were slain; Ponsonby, severely wounded and his reins cut, was carried out of the melee by his charger; Fraser, covered with blood and wounds, broke through his assailants, and brought to Sale his report of the disgrace of his troopers. After a sharp pursuit of the poltroons, the Dost and his followers leisurely quitted the field.
Burnes wrote to the Envoy - he was a soldier, but he was also a 'political,' and political employ seemed often in Afghanistan to deteriorate the attribute of soldierhood - that there was no alternative for the force but to fall back on Cabul, and entreated Macnaghten to order immediate concentration of all the troops. This letter Macnaghten received the day after the disaster in the Kohistan, when he was taking his afternoon ride in the Cabul plain. His heart must have been very heavy as he rode, when suddenly a horseman galloped up to him and announced that the Ameer was approaching. 'What Ameer?' asked Macnaghten. 'Dost Mahomed Khan,' was the reply, and sure enough there was the Dost close at hand. Dismounting, this Afghan prince and gentleman saluted the Envoy, and offered him his sword, which Macnaghten declined to take. Dost and Envoy rode into Cabul together, and such was the impression the former made on the latter that Macnaghten, who a month before had permitted himself to think of putting a price on 'the fellow's' head, begged now of the Governor-General 'that the Dost be treated more handsomely than was Shah Soojah, who had no claim on us.' And then followed a strange confession for the man to make who made the tripartite treaty, and approved the Simla manifesto: 'We had no hand in depriving the Shah of his kingdom, whereas we ejected the Dost, who never offended us, in support of our policy, of which he was the victim.'
Durand regards Dost Mahomed's surrender as 'evincing a strange pusillanimity.' This opprobrious judgment appears unjustified. No doubt he was weary of the fugitive life he had been leading, but to pronounce him afraid that the Kohistanees or any other Afghans would betray him is to ignore the fact that he had been for months among people who might, any hour of any day, have betrayed him if they had chosen. Nobler motives than those ascribed to him by Durand may be supposed to have actuated a man of his simple and lofty nature. He had given the arbitrament of war a trial, and had realised that in that way he could make no head against us. He might, indeed, have continued the futile struggle, but he was the sort of man to recognise the selfishness of that persistency which would involve ruin and death to the devoted people who would not desert his cause while he claimed to have a cause. When historians write of Afghan treachery and guile, it seems to have escaped their perception that Afghan treachery was but a phase of Afghan patriotism, of an unscrupulous character, doubtless, according to our notions, but nevertheless practical in its methods, and not wholly unsuccessful in its results. It may have been a higher and purer patriotism that moved Dost Mahomed to cease, by his surrender, from being an obstacle to the tranquillisation of the country of which he had been the ruler.