In the midst of so much treachery, such dastardly deeds of murder and rapine, the bright light of unwavering fidelity, sealed and confirmed by surpassing gallantry in the field, so appealed to the hearts of the storm-pressed Englishmen, that the Guides received little short of an ovation when they returned to Peshawur. By order of Major-General Sir Sidney Cotton the whole of the garrison was paraded to receive the shattered remnants of that war-worn corps. On their approach a royal salute was fired by the artillery, and cavalry and infantry came to the salute while the massed bands played. The General then made a most eloquent and affecting address, welcoming the corps back to the frontier, and expressing the pride and honour felt by all in being associated with men whose deeds of daring had earned for themselves and their noble profession undying fame. They had taken six hundred men to Delhi and their casualties had reached three hundred and fifty. During the siege the whole strength in British officers had been renewed four times, and all these had been killed or wounded. One officer indeed had been wounded six times and yet survived, another four times, and others at least twice.
After his stirring speech, the General called for three cheers for the little band of ragged and war-worn heroes, who stood before them. A feu de joie accompanied by a salute of twenty-one guns was then fired, and after this the Guides, taking the place of honour at the head of the line, marched past the flag.
TWENTY YEARS OF MINOR WARS
Short breathing space, and little of the rest of peace awaited the Guides on their return from Delhi. Within two months they were again taking the field, under Sir Sidney Cotton, against the Hindustani fanatics of Sittana.
These fanatics, as they were called, were really refugees from British territory, for the most part deserters from corps that had mutinied, or outlaws who had participated in some unforgivable outrage; some, however, were clean-handed patriots, who, on principle, refused to bow to the decree of destiny, or to become peaceful subjects of the Queen. If the latter had remained quiet and inoffensive members of tribes or communities beyond our borders, the British Government, never vindictive, would probably, as the heat and passions of a desperate war died down, have left them to their solitude. But instead of thus living peaceably in the asylum they had found, they set about inciting their hot-blooded neighbours to join them in disturbing the peace of the border. They harried villages, drove off cattle, killed and wounded British subjects, and thus became an additional disturbing feature on a frontier always ready enough for the pleasure of a good fight. The opportunity was therefore taken of the presence of Sir Sidney Cotton’s column to make them feel that the strong hand of the British Government could reach them even in their mountain fastnesses.