OCCUPATION OF THE CITY
Cholera still continued its ravages among the small number of troops left in Delhi. The reaction from a life of strife and excitement to the dull existence we were now leading had its effects on the men, and we each day lamented more and more that we had not gone with the Movable Column, leaving the noisome smells, the increasing sickness, and the monotony of Delhi behind. Two thousand sick and wounded had been moved into the Fort of Selimgarh, where the pure air and open situation of the place soon made a marked change in the number of invalids: but disease was rife among the regiments quartered in the city, and convalescents from Selimgarh were soon replaced by men suffering from cholera and fever ague.
In the beginning of October, to our intense delight, we moved from the Ajmir Gate, that sink of corruption, and took up our quarters in the magazine. The officers here occupied a fine roomy building of two stories, while the men were housed in comfortable sheds round the enclosure. We still furnished guards at the Ajmir and Lahore Gates, the term of duty, through paucity of men for relief, extending over three days. The officer on guard at the former gate visited detachments and sentries at the "Delhi" and "Turkoman" Gates, a distance of a mile and a half through streets in which dead bodies in the last stage of decomposition were still lying. While one day engaged on this duty, I passed a carcass on which some pariah dogs were making a meal. Disgusted at the sight, and weak in stomach from the putrid air, I returned to my tent at the Ajmir Gate at the time when my servant arrived with my dinner from the magazine. I asked him what he had brought me, and was answered, "Liver and bacon." The nauseating sight I had just witnessed recurred to my memory, visions of diseased and putrid livers rose before my view, and, unable to control myself, I was seized with a fit of sickness which prostrated me for some time after.
Nothing of importance occurred during the month of October. We settled into a very quiet life at the magazine, varied by eternal guard-mounting at the different gates of the city and regimental drill. My health had been failing for some time, and, now that there seemed no immediate prospect of employment on active service, I gladly acquiesced in the doctor's advice that I should proceed to Umballah on sick leave.
November 8. - Accordingly I left Delhi on November 8, my destination being Umballah, a station in the Cis-Sutlej provinces. A palki ghari, or Indian carriage, drawn by two horses, awaited me that evening at Selimgarh, and, bidding adieu to our good doctor, who had nursed me with unremitting attention during my sickness, I entered the carriage. Just before starting, an officer of my regiment handed me two double-barrelled pistols - revolvers were at a premium in those days - saying they might possibly come in useful during my journey, and I little thought at the time that their services would be brought into requisition.
The country around Delhi swarmed with goojars, the generic name for professional thieves, who inhabited the numerous villages and levied blackmail on travellers, though seldom interfering with Europeans. My baggage, consisting of two petarahs (native leather trunks) containing uniform and clothing, was deposited on the roof of the vehicle under charge of my bearer, but the loot I had acquired, I had safely stowed in a despatch-box, which was placed under my pillow in the interior of the carriage. A bed, comfortably arranged, occupied the seats, and on this I lay down, closing the doors of the ghari when night came on.
Some two stages from Delhi, after changing horses and proceeding on the journey along the pucka road, I fell into a doze, and at last into a sound sleep. From this I was rudely awakened by shouts of "Chor! chor!" (Thief! thief!) from my bearer and the native coachman. Starting up, I seized the pistols, and opening the doors of the ghari, saw, as I fancied, some forms disappearing in the darkness at the side of the road. I fired two barrels in the direction and pursued for some distance, but finding that my shots had not taken effect, and fearful of losing my way - for the night was pitch-dark - I returned to the carriage. My bearer then told me that some robbers had climbed up the back of the ghari, taken the two petarahs between which he was lying, and made off into the country. We had been driving at the usual pace, about six miles an hour, and it proves the practised skill and agility of the goojars, who, with such ease, had abstracted the boxes from under the very nose of my servant. There was nothing for it but to continue my journey regretting the loss of my personal effects, but still fortunate in one respect - that the loot was safe under my pillow.