A Narrative of the Siege of Delhi eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 159 pages of information about A Narrative of the Siege of Delhi.

January 10, 1858.—­After a short stay there—­the time being principally taken up with chartering boats and providing necessaries for the passage down the river—­we all, to the number of about fifty persons, occupying twenty-two boats, which had to be specially fitted up with straw-built houses with sloping roofs, set off on January 10, 1858, under the protection of a guard of Sikhs, and, after what may on the whole be regarded as a pleasant trip, reached Tattah on February 11.  Thence I went on to Karachi and Bombay and Marseilles, and, after a pleasant tour on the Continent of Europe, arrived in the Old Country in May, 1858, after an absence of rather more than six years.

[Illustration:  “HOMEWARD,” NEAR JERRICK, ON THE INDUS]

[Footnote 1:  Since the above was written, especial honour has been shown to those who participated in the hardships and glories of the campaign by His Majesty King Edward VII., who received the surviving officers at a levee at St. James’s Palace on June 3, 1907.

A public dinner was also given by the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph in the Albert Hall on December 23 of the same year to all the surviving veterans who had taken part in the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857.]

[Footnote 2:  White people.]

CHAPTER VI

THE RICHES OF DELHI

The riches of the city of Delhi and the opulence of its Princes and merchants had been celebrated in Hindostan from time immemorial.  For ages it had been the capital of an empire extending from the snows of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin; and to Delhi, as to a centre, gravitated the wealth of the richest country in the world.  Fabulous reports had reached us of the booty carried away to distant regions by the numerous warriors who burst like a torrent over Hindostan, making that city the goal of their conquests and the scene of their predatory forays.  During the nineteenth century Delhi, since its capture by Lord Lake in 1803, had remained in the hands of the British, the city owing a nominal allegiance to the King, who, to all intents and purposes a State prisoner, was a pensioner of our Government up to 1857, holding a Court (consisting for the most part of wretched dependents and ragamuffins) in the Palace of the Great Mogul.

The quiet which reigned during that period had a salutary effect on the prosperity of Delhi; its merchants and storekeepers, trading with the inhabitants of the richly-cultivated Dooab and with more distant countries, became rich and prosperous, accumulating vast treasures, while the people, with the instinct of a penurious race, converted their ready-money into jewels and gold and silver ornaments, and safely stowed them away in hidden receptacles within their houses.

The numerous races of India—­and notably the Sikhs—­burning for an opportunity to plunder the imperial city, cast longing eyes towards these hidden treasures, the fame of which had spread far and wide; and to this desire may be attributed, as much as any other reason, the willingness of that warlike people to help us during the Mutiny.

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