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Soldiers of Fortune
Indian Adventures


THE growth of standing armies in the eighteenth century closed Europe to the adventurous spirits who, as wandering soldiers of fortune, changed their camps and their colours on a caprice. Simultaneously a wider field was opening to daring ambitions. The East, with its fabled wealth and all its wonderful possibilities, lay before them. France and England had carried the continental wars into India, and Hindustan was in convulsions from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin. Never and nowhere had there been greater opportunities. Successive invasions from the north had shaken the Empire of the Moguls to its foundation. The final shock had come from the incursions of Sivagie's "rats," as Sir John Malcolm called them, a race of predatory warriors of roving instincts, slight of frame compared to Sikhs or Rajpoots, but distinguished for craft and courage, and admirable fighting material. The representative of the Mogul Emperors had become the shadow of a mighty power, held in honourable tutelage at Delhi by the Peishwah who reigned at Poona, the head of the great loose Mahratta confederation. For the Peishwah's feudatories, the Guikwar of Baroda, Scindiah of Gwali or, Holkar of Indore, the Rajahs of Berar and Nagpore, habitually set him at defiance. The Nizam of Hyderabad ruled the largest state in India, and between the Deccan and the Carnatic Hyder Ali, as Sultan of Mysore, one of the ablest of Oriental soldiers of fortune, had set up a dynasty of his own, apparently on solid foundations. All these powers and principalities, unknitted by old relations and unconfined by ancient landmarks, were in a state of chronic collision. Moreover, every one of them was distracted by intestine feuds and broils. The palaces were the scenes of perpetual intrigue, and the death of a ruler, if he survived dagger or poison, was almost invariably the cause of a contested succession.

In all its conditions and circumstances the India of the time resembled the Italy that was the prey of the Condottieri. Afghan and Arab mercenaries flocked to the standards of chiefs who lured them by the promise of plunder. Naturally their services were most in demand in states comparatively unwarlike, where they terrorised the peaceful population. But the whole Indian peninsula was in a far more lamentable state than that of Germany in the worst of the Thirty Years' War. Law there was none and violence was right. The restless Mahrattas were always raiding their neighbours, giving no quarter where resistance was offered, and showing no pity where booty was to be got. And the ravages of the Mahrattas were surpassed by the Pindaries, who were robbers and land pirates, pure and simple. Meadows Taylor, who had studied his subjects well, gives a vivid and revolting picture of their ruthless cruelties and their enormous gains. His Thug in the "Confessions" follows the fortunes of Chefoo, one of their most notable leaders, and even the Thug was moved to compassion and revenge by the horrors he witnessed. Cities were laid under contribution as by the Condottieri, and if by policy they were spared immediate sack, the municipalities and merchants must pay enormous ransoms in specie. There was a certain rude justice among themselves ; the booty was promptly distributed, and though the leaders took the lion's share, each horseman's saddle was stuffed with coin or jewels. Sometimes the plunder was so great that there was difficulty in disposing of it. Proverbially faithless, the only instances in which the Pindaries kept their faith was when they summoned the shopkeepers or merchants to a bazaar. Then the very men who had been exploit' elsewhere might recoup themselves in a measure by buying cheaply the booty of which others had been stripped. But the speciality of the Pindaries was their stooping to the most paltry robbery and revelling in wanton mischief. The peasant, with his silver ornaments or his handful of rupees, was compelled to surrender his little savings by nameless tortures. Whether the villages resisted or no, they were burned all the same, the women were violated, the most attractive carried off, the fruit-trees were felled, and the tanks were breached. And these robber hordes were more or less in open alliance with the potentates who offered them a safe retreat in consideration of a handsome commission on their plunder.

That was the India which had opened to European adventurers. At first the French had it all their own way. The English in Hindustan were a scattered handful of traders, sheltering in fortified ports on the coast, paying tribute to despots from whom they only bought toleration and trading license. The French were represented by statesmen and soldiers with far-reaching ambitions which they pushed indefatigably. It is to Lally, Bourdonnais, and Dupleix that we are indebted for the Empire, won by a merchant company to be surrendered to the Crown. Had Dupleix been appreciated at Versailles and adequately supported, Hindustan might now have been a French dependency. As it was, he had made himself for a time the virtual sovereign of Southern Hindustan, and it was his overshadowing authority and his masterful aggressions which forced us into conflict for self-preservation. Fortunately we found men who could rise to the emergency, and Clive and Hastings came to the rescue.

But it was Dupleix who had showed them the way to win. As Macaulay has indicated, he was the first to realise what could be done in those scenes of unregulated turmoil by disciplining native levies under European leading. Clive, Coote of Wandewash, and Lake of Liswari had adopted his methods and practice, when they gained victories against overwhelming odds with battalions of Bengalees and Madrasees, stiffened with the sweepings of our gaols and gutters. The memorable defence of Arcot was the turning-point. But in military methods Dupleix only pointed the way. He was a statesman and a skilful diplomat, but no soldier. It was De Boigne, a soldier first of all, though scarcely less able in diplomacy, who was the first to discipline the wild Indian hordes, and form them into something like the battalions of King Louis. De Boigne was emphatically a soldier of fortune. A Savoyard of noble birth, he had served his apprenticeship to arms in the Irish Brigade. But slow promotion dis-gusted him, as afterwards when he engaged under the British colours in India. In the interval he had tried his fortunes with the Russians, when he came again to what he fancied was a deadlock. But circumstances had made him a friend in Lord Percy, which seemed to offer a career in India, and with strong introductions, at the age of twenty-seven, in 1778 he landed at Madras. After some difficulties the Savoyard was given a commission in a regiment of native infantry, but there also the promotion was by seniority, and after holding it for a year or two, he threw it up. He had been court-martialled and con-demned on a charge of which he was subsequently acquitted, and the unmerited misfortune recommended him to the favourable notice of Warren Hastings, who gave him credentials to our resident at Lucknow. He had been baulked before in his intentions of travelling overland to India ; now he hoped to accomplish the journey in the reverse direction, through Afghanistan, the Turcoman Khanates, and Persia. He was passed on to the camp of Scindiah, who was then laying siege to his own future stronghold of Gwalior. Favoured at first, he fell under suspicion, and happily for him, was waylaid by Scindiah's order, and robbed of all he possessed. So his projects of travel came to an end. It would be a long story to tell, how he soon afterwards made his peace with the most powerful of the Mahrattas. I only advert in passing to the foreign adventurers in India. But De Boigne knew how to make himself indispensable ; his master was wise enough to value the servant, and formidable as Scindiah had been before, De Boigne with his well-drilled battalions made the Maharajah supreme in those parts, and immensely extended his dominions. A great strategist and able tactician, his coolness was equal to his courage, and like Marlborough he never lost his presence of mind in the most critical emergencies. Like Gordon, he led " an in-vincible army." His soldiers were devoted to a leader who, during eighteen years of incessant fighting, had never lost a battle. But the strain and the climate told on his health, and he resolved to return to Europe. He left India at the apogee of his greatness. Scindiah ruled the central provinces, De Boigne ruled Scindiah, and there was a time when the adventurer had taken the Mogul under his protection. His genius had been great, and oddly enough, while continually in the field, he had been running a lucrative mercantile business in Lucknow. Yet the fortune he took home, though large, was not excessive; it is said to have fallen short of half a million. For though he has been, perhaps unreasonably, taxed with avarice, he knew the wisdom of dazzling Orientals, and had lived en prince in magnificent state with open-handed hospitality. What was less usual in those times, he retired with a tolerably clear conscience. He had kept his soldiers well in hand, and had invariably shown clemency to the vanquished. Even if he had sinned, he made practical atonement. Welcomed by his countrymen and honoured by his sovereign, he bought an estate near his native Chambery, and distinguished himself in his declining years by philanthropy and munificent benefactions.

We shall frequently come across his compatriot Perron in tracing the careers of Anglo-Indian soldiers. Perron, the son of a bankrupt, trod in De Boigne's steps, and was his pupil in statecraft and the art of war. Decidedly his inferior in both, he was nevertheless more successful from a worldly point of view, and like his master he returned to his native France, but with a very much larger fortune. When De Boigne parted from Scindiah he succeeded to the command of the army his master had made. Then it numbered nearly 50,000 disciplined infantry and cavalry. Nominally the general of Scindiah, he established his personal sovereignty over territories stretching far into the Punjaub and comprehending great part of the Doab. His revenues are said to have fallen little short of two millions, and he prudently remitted great part of his economies to France. Victorious in twelve or fourteen battles, his troops were never beaten till he measured swords with the English. His growing power was regarded with such apprehension by Lord Wellesley that Perron may be said to have been the cause of the Mahratta wars. Then his star paled rapidly before those of Wellesley and Lake, and at Assaye, Aligarh, and the crowning victory of Liswari, the veteran regiments De Boigne had trained were broken, scattered, or annihilated.

One of Perron's most troublesome enemies, when he was at the height of his power, was George Thomas, the most remarkable of the British soldiers of fortune—and their beginnings were almost identical. Both went out to India before the mast ; both ran from their ships and went up country to seek military service. But Thomas, a Tipperary man, was a common sailor who could neither read nor write; he was always hampered and was ruined at last by the sailor's addiction to drink. Nevertheless, like Perron, he too made himself an independent prince, defying the potentates who had been his stepping-stones to fortune, and making formal treaties with adjacent states.

When he deserted at Madras, he took refuge with the Poligars in the hill-country of the Carnatic. Seeing no opening among those wild though warlike mountaineers, he found his way to Hyderabad, enlisting in the armies of the Nizam. There was no promotion there for the letterless private, and he left the Deccan for Delhi and the court of the Mogul. That lonely walk through a country ravaged by marauding bands must have been a marvellous achievement for a man who was tongue-tied, but his luck served him well, and he arrived at his destination in safety. The Mogul Emperor, overshadowed by the menacing Mahrattas, had a splendid household, but could afford no regular army. More powerful feudatories had strengthened themselves in the immediate neighbourhood of Delhi. The most formidable of his neighbours was a lady who had in her pay some fairly disciplined battalions commanded by Europeans. With her the English sailor found the opening he sought. The notorious; Begum Samzoo was perhaps the most remarkable woman India ever produced, and her whole career was a marvel of romance, intertwined with those of European soldiers of fortune, and with that of Thomas in particular. It was she who gave Thomas his start, and he did her much good and evil.

The Begum figures in many British biographies and reminiscences, but perhaps the best and most reliable account is given by Sleeman, though he takes an unduly favourable view of her character, and is inclined to gloss over her cruelty and her crimes. In a country and of a creed which condemn women to seclusion, she soon cast the conventionalities of the zenana behind her; looked battle and danger boldly in the face unveiled, and led her own squadrons into action. As bewitching and winning as Emma, Lady Hamilton, in early youth, she had a masculine temperament, a passionate and sensuous nature, a heart of stone, and an inflexible will. She claimed descent from the Prophet of Islam, and her beauty as a girl is said to have been a byword. At Sardhana, some five and forty miles from Delhi, she took the fancy of the renegade Walter Reinhardt, who had adopted Oriental dress and manners. Reinhardt first added her to his harem, and then married her according to Mohammedan rites. He was the son of a Salzburg butcher ; he came out to India as a private in a French regiment, changed to the service of the East India Company, and rose to the rank of sergeant. It was the French who gave him the sobriquet of Sombre, from the swarthiness of his complexion, and he afterwards did us the honour of anglicising it as Somers. The Armenian prime minister of Meer Cossim, Nawab of Bengal, tempted him to a second desertion when that potentate was driven to break with the British by the high-handed proceedings of Mr. Ellis, chief of the factory at Patna. The war broke out and the Nawab took a terrible revenge on his enemy. The factory fell at the opening of the campaign ; there was a tragedy as black as that of the Black Hole, and all the captives were condemned to death. Even the tyrant's native officers refused to butcher the helpless victims, but Sombre eagerly embraced the opportunity of ingratiating himself with his master. Meer Cossim was beaten in the ordinary course of the wars between the Company and its neighbours, and driven into Oude ; the Nawab of Oude was vanquished in turn, when Sombre left him and sought service in Rohilcund. A veritable Condottiere, among the warlike Rohillas he found means of levying several battalions, which he was always ready to hire out to the highest bidder. Europeans came to officer his companies, but they were the most ruffianly of a disreputable class. Absolutely illiterate like their chief, they were as seldom sober. Sleeman says that the men seldom got their pay, till they subjected their commandant to the peine forte et dire. They either sentenced him to cells, or rode him on a heated cannon without his trousers. It may be doubted if the method was invariably successful, for we know the proverb about Highlanders and their breeches, though if they could not find hard cash, they could generally borrow under threats from the bankers. Sombre showed rare skill and caution in trafficking in his mercenaries. He never risked them unnecessarily ; left his employers or allies to bear the brunt of the fighting, and then either passed over to the victors—for a price—or pressed forward to have his share of the plunder.

He died in 1778, a wealthy man. He left one son of feeble intellect by a former marriage, and the widow who knew better than any woman in the world how to take her own part. Sombre's Pretorian Guards settled the succession. They chose the Begum for their leader by acclamation, and she heartily acceded to the call. Her position was legalised and confirmed by the Emperor Shere Alum. She had a succession of lieutenants—Italian, English, and French—and at last the subordinate command fell to a Frenchman, Le Vaisseau, a gentleman of birth, education, and refinement. Half her troops were. then at Sardhana, her place of residence, the other half in garrison at Delhi, where she had extended her protection to her liege lord. It was then she made the acquaintance of Thomas.

The Begum, though her bloom was gone by, was still a beautiful woman. Even as an octogenarian she prided herself on some of her old attractions—specially on her hands, arms, and feet. Captain Mundy, an officer on Lord Combermere's staff, describes her as she was in 1827, when the Commander-in-Chief, an old acquaintance, paid his respects to her. " In person she is very short, and rather embonpoint; her complexion is unusually fair, her features large and prominent, and their expression roguish and astute." She smoked a hookah, and at the head of her table entertained her visitors unveiled. "Indeed," Captain Mundy adds, "if the absence of all the softer qualities and the possession of the most fiery qualities, stubbornness of purpose and almost unexampled cruelty, can give her a claim to be numbered among the hardier sex, her right to virility will hardly be disputed." As to the cruelty, Mundy comes nearer to the truth than the more friendly Sleeman, who relates without comment a highly characteristic incident. The Begum was offended with two female slaves—historians differ as to the reason. She had them flogged till they fainted, waited till they recovered, and then buried them alive. Worse than the Thugs, who slept peacefully over strangled victims, "she arranged the execution for the evening meal, and spread her bedding over the grave, that she might baulk any attempt at deliverance."

Thomas was then a handsome man, with the plausible manners of an Irishman and the mellifluous brogue of Tipperary. The Begum was not critical as to culture ; the soldier-like sailor took her fancy, and he soon found an opportunity of showing his quality in the field. By a gallant charge he saved the Emperor in a hard-fought battle with a rebel feudatory ; the Begum, who took the credit, recognised her debt. Le Vaisseau became jealous of Thomas' growing favour, and proposed marriage to his mistress, as the surest way of keeping the upper hand. Thomas in disappointment threw up his commission to start Condottiere on his own account. There was no lack of swordsmen to gather to his standard. Yet all the time he kept a watchful eye on the Begum and on the affairs of Sardhana.

The ménage of the newly-wedded couple had not worked smoothly. Le Vaisseau was over-fastidious for his place ; he refused to entertain at dinners and carouses his ruffianly European subordinates, which to say the least was bad policy. They leagued against him and headed a mutiny. Thomas had vindictively been egging them on, and pro-mising assistance if needful. The Begum found her position untenable, and determined on flight with her husband and valuables. She asked an asylum of the Company, like many other victims of mutinous intrigue, but the Governor-General hesitated; to assist the flight of a servant of the Emperor might involve the Government in trouble. He instructed the agent at Delhi to endeavour to mediate in favour of the Begum with Scindiah, who was then virtually Prime Minister and master of the Mogul. Scindiah was open to a bribe, and ultimately came to terms. The lady was to be suffered to withdraw with her treasures ; the Mahratta prince was to take over her troops, and Le Vaisseau was to be received by the British as prisoner of war on parole. But the mutinous Delhi battalions had to be reckoned with, and they got wind of the intended escape. News was brought to Le Vaisseau that they were marching upon Sardhana, and lie knew the fate that awaited him if he fell into their hands. He persuaded the Begum to lose no time, and they made a midnight flitting with a slender escort.

Then occurred a mysterious tragedy from which the veil can never be lifted. Either the Begum was guilty of a most infamous crime or she was a much calumniated woman. Captain Skinner, a trustworthy witness, acquits her, but the weight of evidence is the other way, and the popular version has been generally accepted. She swore to her husband that she would live and die with him; that she would stab herself to the heart rather than survive him. She showed him the dagger when she stepped into her palanquin. He mounted and rode beside her. They had barely set out when news was brought that their enemies were following hard on their traces. Le Vaisseau again asked his wife if she remained firm to her resolve. Again, for answer, she showed him the dagger. He could have ridden off and saved himself, but the answer decided him. The pursuers were close behind ; the Begum's female attendants were screaming; Le Vaisseau stooped to look into the palanquin and saw his wife's white bosom- cloth stained with blood; he drew a pistol and blew out his brains. Skinner says the dagger had glanced from the chest bone, and that she wanted courage to repeat the blow. The less charitable construction was that it was a marvellously clever piece of acting; that she had plotted to get rid of an inconvenient spouse, and resume her wild and piquant liberty of action.

Be that as it may, she had no immediate reason for satisfaction. Her captors treated her with extreme brutality —it may be presumed that they stripped her of all her valuables: for seven days she was chained under a gun and subjected to every sort of indignity. Then Thomas, who had sparks of chivalry in his nature, came swiftly to the rescue. He appealed to the common sense of the mutinous officers, who had elected the weak-minded son of Sombre to the leadership, telling them that their only chance of maintaining themselves in independence at Sardhana was to replace the Begum in authority. They signed a paper promising devoted allegiance for the future, or rather they set their marks to it, for only one of them could subscribe his name.

The man who could sign succeeded to the command, and the four battalions were multiplied to six. Still in a chronic state of mutiny, they invaded the Deccan with Scindiah, were cut up in successive actions, and finally lost their guns at Assaye. When the survivors rallied and came back the Begum made alliance with the British; she formed arsenals and established a foundry for cannon. She managed her shaken finances well ; developed the resources of her territories, and not only paid her way and gave generously to many charitable objects, but accumulated the great fortune which, when bequeathed to her stepson, became the subject of the famous Dyce-Sombre lawsuit. We have seen Lord Combermere pay his respects to her at Sardhana when on a ceremonial tour, and have said that they were old acquaintances. She came to him with some of her battalions at the siege of Bhurtpore to offer assistance, which was courteously declined. It was supposed that she wished to have her share in the sack, and that, vulture-like, she scented the fabulous treasures which were believed, and not without credibility, to be buried within the walls of the famous stronghold. Nor would she have objected to take her part in the fighting. Undoubtedly his lordship had a great liking for her; regard and admiration seem to have been mutual. She promised faithfully to remember him in her will—one of the many promises she failed to keep—and persuaded him in return to act as guardian to her stepson, with whom he was to share her wealth. When the youth came to England afterwards, plunging into a wild course of dissipation, Comber- mere did his utmost to redeem a pledge which cost him infinite trouble and anxiety.

The Begum professed Christianity, was munificent in her donations to many creeds, and died at a good old age in the odour of respectability and sanctity. Bishop Heber, who visited her in 1825, some years before Captain Mundy reported on her, had described her as a very queer-looking old woman, with brilliant but wicked eyes; and ten years afterwards she had a more flattering testimonial from Lord William Bentinck—addressing her as "my esteemed friend"—to "the benevolence of disposition and extensive charity which have endeared you to thousands, and excited in my mind sentiments of the warmest admiration."

The biography of the Begum has brought us somewhat in advance of Thomas' story. But it illustrates the almost unaccountable ascendant these unlettered soldiers of fortune asserted among races of hereditary warriors at least as

reckless of life as themselves. Sailors from the forecastle, such as Thomas and Sombre, who had come out in ragged dungaree, grumbling at the salt junk and weevily biscuit, played a leading part in native courts accustomed to barbaric pomp and stately ceremonial, among Brahmins who abjured the sacred ox, and Mohammedans who had forsworn swine and strong liquors. They easily assimilated the colours of their surroundings, and with the common vices of lust and greed were permitted to indulge in their personal predilections. Had Thomas turned Moslem and total abstainer his fate would have been different ; it was his misfortune that drunkenness brought him to grief. In some respects Sombre's case is the more remarkable, for he was a coward at heart, and never risked himself in action. Thomas, on the contrary, was always to the front of the fighting ; he had the genius of astute strategy and surprise, was free-handed in the disposal of his ill-gotten spoils, and not without a glitter of noble qualities which his reckless followers could appreciate. It might be said of him—

"They followed him, for he was brave,
And great the spoil he got and gave.
But still his Christian origin
With them was little less than sin,
Since he, their mightiest chief, had been
In youth a bitter Nazarene."

Not that Thomas had been a Nazarene or anything at all, but he came of infidel kin and from a Christian country.

In 1793 he had found the jealousy of Le Vaisseau and the French officers of the Begum too strong for him. He feared a conspiracy, and had taken to flight with a few hundred rupees in his saddle-bags. He had quickly gathered a following of some scores of desperadoes, laid a wealthy village under contribution, and with the proceeds increased companies into battalions, which he as rapidly brought into some sort of discipline. At that time every Mahratta chieftain had a gang of robbers in his pay who added materially to his revenues. He kept the conduct of the more important expeditions to himself, but detached his freebooters on minor expeditions, on which he levied a handsome commission. One of the most powerful and turbulent of Scindiah's feudatories was Appi Rao Khandi, and with him Thomas soon came to an understanding. When Appi backed his bills or his promises, Thomas raised fresh levies. A large district was assigned him on Appi's borders, where the inhabitants, although raided at intervals, had refused to resign their independence. Thomas was an excellent man of business; he gladly undertook the congenial work, but stipulated for a half-yearly settlement of accounts. It was no light task, for his men, like those of his employer, were always verging on mutiny; their pay was always in arrear, and the irregular settlements depended on pillage. The peasants were stubborn in resistance, and swarmed like hornets round Thomas' flying camps. By indomitable will and rapid movements he triumphed over all opposition, and his remittances to Appi were so satisfactory that his jaghires were largely extended.

The acquisitions he had won had made trouble with Scindiah, and Appi's army was in revolt. He sought refuge with Thomas, who, showing a bold front, saved him from a threatened attack of the mutineers. In gratitude he gave him the full freehold of other lands, yielding a revenue of a lakh and a half of rupees (15,000), a sum equal to more than four times the money now. The value of the gift was enhanced by the cession of an almost impregnable fortress, to which Thomas held tenaciously till on the eve of his fall. Scindiah had had good reason to appreciate his feudatory's staunch friend, and made him many tempting offers. But Thomas, except when personally endangered, was a Dalgetty in fidelity to a military bargain. He stuck to Appi, who had on the whole treated him faithfully and generously, but even with Appi he obstinately held his own. The war had gone on between Appi and his feudal superior. Thomas had taken a fortified town, surrendered by the martial Brahmin governor on condition of safety for his life and property. Appi, who hoped to squeeze the wealthy Brahmin, demanded that he should be handed over to him, a demand which Thomas positively refused. Appi brooded over the injury, and, in Oriental fashion, planned an assassination which Thomas narrowly escaped. Then, as often, both before and afterwards, his courage and presence of mind served him well.

But Appi had on the whole been a generous patron, and his death threw Thomas back on the world. He quarrelled with the chief's successor. He was dismissed from his posts as warden of Scindiah's northern marches; he found himself his own master, with troops who were clamouring for arrears of pay. There was nothing for it but frankly to turn freebooter and support himself and his men by pillage; he became a Pindarie to all intents, save that he was never wantonly cruel. He ranged the country far and wide, laying towns and villages under contribution. But with his relatively feeble forces that could not go on indefinitely; he was encroaching on the rights of more legalised robbers, and it was clear he would sooner or later be suppressed as a nuisance. Then he decided to set up for himself as an independent prince. When we remember his scanty resources, the audacity of his schemes is amazing. Knowing the vicissitudes of Oriental politics, he had been long casting covetous eyes on the district of Harriana to the north-west of his borders. It was a debatable land of drought and desolation, owning no paramount ruler, but with a warlike population and many strong places. Moreover, Sikhs from the Punjaub had been establishing themselves within the northern boundaries. Nothing daunted by the difficulties, after desperate fighting he overran and occupied the country, driving out the Sikh colonists, although it brought him into collision with the Khalsa. Then the freebooter became the statesman and sage administrator, taking wise measures to secure his conquest. He rebuilt and strengthened the fortifications of Hansi, his principal town. He invited skilled artisans, who had liberal wages, and, like his old friend the Begum, established an arsenal, a cannon foundry, and a mint. The Sikhs he had disturbed were awkward neighbours, but he not only managed to keep them at bay but actually dreamed of extending his dominion to the Indus. To his following he was free-handed beyond his means, for he not only promised pensions to his veterans but made liberal compensation to the wounded.

With these ambitious dreams of conquests in his mind he set to work on preparations which soon exhausted his exchequer. To pay his troops he must find them profitable occupation. He therefore decided to raid Jeypore, which, as he used gratefully to remark, had always afforded a supply to his necessities. Like Morayshire, between Lowlands and Highlands, it was a land where all men took their prey. Whatever may be said as to the morality of the proceeding, from the financial and military standpoints it was a success; his arms were everywhere victorious over overwhelming odds. Once with 2000 fagged and famishing men he held a hostile city against an army of 40,000— though he ultimately was compelled to retire with his booty in a retreat through thirsty deserts that would have done credit to Eugene, Massena, or Marshal Soult. His personal magnetism must have been marvellous, and at the last, when deserted by all the rest, his bodyguard still stood by him staunchly.

Discomfited in a measure, but enriched and noways discouraged, he turned his arms against the Sikhs. Yet he was embarrassed besides by a complication of intrigues among neighbours ostentatiously professing friendships of which it is impossible to disentangle the threads. His invasion was the raid of the robber on a great scale, but never did his military talents shine with greater lustre. Considering the fighting qualities of the Sikhs, which we have learned to appreciate as their enemies and their overlords, we are alike puzzled and astonished. The odds against him were often almost as great as those in his Jeypore campaign; and his own handfuls of irregular horse were lost in the swarms of the Punjaub cavalry. More than once his audacity nearly brought him to disaster, but strangely enough, the enemy was panic-stricken and ready to accept peace upon any terms. For more urgent affairs had called him back, and he withdrew with enhanced credit and glory, though with no territorial gains. With ambitions still fixed on the Indus, in the following year he again invaded the Sutlej States. Tempted by the wealth and fertility of the country, the task he undertook was that which taxed to the uttermost the whole of the British strength in two prolonged and doubtful campaigns. In daring so much he recognised its increasing difficulties, and opened communications with the British Government with the object of assuring the neutrality of Perron who then commanded Scindiah's forces. Perron's jealousy of Thomas was extreme, but the one power with which the Frenchman notoriously avoided coming in contact was that of the Company. Thomas said his intention was to take possession of the country and hand it over to the British Raj, placing himself and his army absolutely at their disposal. Lord Wellesley had his hands full elsewhere, and naturally mistrusting what seemed a mad adventure, declined the proposals, so Thomas had to content himself with another of his lucrative forays, from which he came off with flying colours. Again he dictated terms to the Sikhs, exacting a large indemnity. Had they known the heavy pressure on him they might have been less complaisant. His inveterate enemy Perron was threatening his own territories ; there was no room in Hindustan for both of these aspiring soldiers, and Perron had at his back all the strength of Scindiah. Thomas made one of his rapid marches back to Hansi, and began to prepare for an impending siege. Scarcely had he retired from the Punjaub before the Sikhs offered Perron effective assistance. Thomas
would have found it hard to make head against that com-bination, but there came one of the strokes of good fortune which repeatedly saved him and others of the adventurers in emergency. The two great Mahratta chiefs had come to blows, and Holkar had routed Scindiah in a pitched battle. Scindiah sent Perron a peremptory summons of recall. That meant his abandoning his own lucrative satrapy in the north and leaving Thomas master of the situation. The weakening of Scindiah was no great blow to him, for it increased the master's dependence on his best general. But Perron's jealousy had been excited by the knowledge that Scindiah had made those repeated overtures to Thomas, which had hitherto been declined. Now he dreamed of a triple stroke of policy—to embroil Thomas with the alliances he had been negotiating in the north, to break off negotiations he had been attempting with Holkar and to send him to the Deccan instead of himself. The scheme was absurd, for Thomas was not the man to be befooled ; nevertheless, realising that his situation had become precarious, he was not indisposed to hear what Scindiah had to offer, and an interview with Perron committed him to nothing. They met in council, when the most friendly relations were established between the English officers in either camp. Scindiah's offers were satisfactory in the main, but there were two conditions which Thomas would not entertain. One was that, as Perron had suggested, he should send some of his battalions to fight Holkar, which meant loosing his hold on the territory he had appropriated; the other, and perhaps the more objectionable, that he should be Perron's subordinate. On reflection he categorically refused, yet, as events proved, he would have been wise to accept. He reverted to the ordeal by battle, and there was a series of bloodily contested actions. After what had been nearly a drawn fight, he lost everything by failing to follow up a victory. The old foremast man celebrated it by getting hopelessly drunk, and was in a state of intoxication for a fortnight. Then Hearsey, of whom we have heard lately in a most interesting memoir of his family, comes in : the command devolved upon him, and he seems to have shown himself in the crisis supine and incompetent. The beaten enemy brought up supports, and drew lines of circumvallation round Thomas' camp. When he came to himself he did all man could do to retrieve the consequences of his drunken folly. But the fatalists who followed him believed his star had been eclipsed, and began to falter in their allegiance. The enemy's emissaries were busy within his lines, bribing and intriguing. Food and water and ultimately ammunition failed. The daily desertions became more frequent, and at the last he was abandoned by his most trusted chiefs. Only his immediate guards remained faithful. When the case became desperate he determined to cut his way out. The Mahratta horse took the alarm; there was a long and close pursuit, but he reached his capital in safety. There again he did all that man could do. He poisoned the wells for miles around, throwing in beef and pork so that neither Mohammedan nor Hindoo would drink the water. These formidable obstacles were surmounted ; the town was carried by storm; the citadel was reduced to the last extremity. The celebrated Skinner was in the front of the attack, where Englishman was well matched against Englishman, and in the hand-to-hand fighting blood flowed like water. Capitulation became a matter of sheer necessity. Perron would have pressed his advantage mercilessly, but Skinner and his English officers, admiring Thomas' indomitable pluck, generously interposed. Honourable terms were granted, but there was an ignoble fall of the curtain on the tragedy. Thomas was entertained at a grand banquet, where the Frenchman received him with forced courtesy and his countrymen did all in their power to console him. Again the wine got the upper hand, and a spark set fire to the sulphurous atmosphere. A heated French officer proposed a toast which roused the half- drunken Celt to a frenzy. He unsheathed his sword, ranted and swaggered like a Bobadil or a Capitaine Fracasse, and although he was calmed for the time, the festival ended in an orgy. The sober Skinner took the precaution of ordering his sentries not to challenge Thomas on his exit. Unfortunately there was some misunderstanding, and one of the sentries did challenge and stop him. Thomas, no longer responsible for his actions, struck at the man and cut off his hand. When he came to his senses next morning he made ample apology, but the mischief to his own reputation had been done.

He left Hansi for the British frontier with wife and children, under honourable escort, but only a lakh or two of rupees. At Benares he was received and welcomed by Lord Wellesley, to whom he gave much valuable information as to Central India and the North-West. He urged again the annexation of the Punjaub, arguing that the internal distractions would make it easy. The Governor- General lent a not unwilling ear, but at that time he had other and more serious pre-occupations.

Like the French adventurers, who had been more suc-cessful in amassing fortunes, Thomas longed for a return to his native land ; but though only in his forty-sixth year he died on the river voyage to Calcutta. The toils of incessant warfare and the anxieties of rough and ready statecraft had done their work, while his frequent bouts of intoxication had sapped a strong constitution. He died and was buried at the cantonment of Bahrampur. Though absolutely illiterate to the last, he is said to have become an accomplished linguist, and could address himself to his recruits in their various dialects. He could not have achieved so much had he not won the devotion of his immediate entourage, and he showed wonderful tact in the management of men who were for the most part in arrears of pay and as often on the verge of rebellion. That he was not without some dash of chivalry was proved when he rode in hot haste to the rescue of the Begum.

Skinner's career was sensational as that of Thomas. He was one of the early English adventurers who, like the Hearseys and the Palmers of Hyderabad, whether soldiers or merchants, by birth, virtual naturalisation or intermarriage, became semi-Indian. Like the Hearseys, he passed into the British service when the Mahratta power was broken, but unlike Thomas he died honoured, hospitable, and prosperous, in a good old age. In person and bearing the two men were very different. The Irish sailor was singularly handsome, tall, and athletic; with his muscular figure he seemed a match for any Pathan or Rajpoot swordsman, Skinner was a cheery-looking little fellow, wiry and active, but below the middle height. No one would have set him down at sight for the most daring leader of light cavalry in Hindustan. Appearances were deceptive, and his troopers knew better. Assiduous practice had made him a master of his weapons; his swordsmanship resembled sleight of hand, and his skill with the lance was unsurpassed even by those who had handled it from childhood. When the light of battle flashed into his face, that jolly, good-humoured countenance was transformed. He had his wild followers thoroughly in hand, but they loved him for he invariably shared their hardships and looked carefully after their comforts.

His dark complexion stamped his origin ; he was a half-breed and illegitimate. In the memoir he left he tells much of his own story. His father was a Scotchman in the Company's service, who, like most of his brother officers, had formed an illicit connection with a Rajpoot girl who had been captured in a raid at the age of fourteen. By her the young Scot had six children—three daughters and as many sons. The daughters were married well to men in the Company's service; of the sons the eldest went to sea; James and his younger brother took to soldiering. From boyhood Skinner led a hard life, and he had varied and trying experiences before he found his vocation. The beginnings of his education were in a charity school, for his father had nothing beyond his pay. Then he was bound apprentice to a printer, and on the first night he was kept at work in the office till two in the morning. Two nights more of the drudgery were enough for him; he escaped by the window, and set out to seek his fortunes with eightpence in his pocket. For a time he earned a precarious livelihood by carrying loads in the bazaars for fourpence a day. Then he was recognised and reclaimed by a servant of a brother-in-law who gave him his keep in return for copying papers. That work was as distasteful as the printing business, when his godfather, Colonel Burn, came to the rescue. He proved more of a father than his natural parent. He was told that the boy was an idle scamp, so he called him up and solemnly reprimanded him. But the bark was worse than the bite, and he asked what line of life he wanted to follow. "Soldier or sailor," was the ready reply, and the Colonel gave him 300 rupees and forwarded him to his father at Cawnpore, whither he was soon to follow himself, when he would find him employment. The Colonel was as good as his word, and gave him a letter to De Boigne, then at the head of the Mahratta army. He was gazetted an ensign, and appointed to a regiment commanded by Colonel Sutherland, another Scot with whom he had many relations in the future. When De Boigne resigned to leave for France, Sutherland succeeded him in command of the regulars in Hindustan— that term was then confined to three central provinces— the southern brigades being then under his rival, the Frenchman Perron.

Sutherland was ordered into Bundelcund. Besides his regulars there were 20,000 horse with him under Lukwa Dada, one of the most daring of the Mahratta leaders, with a train of field artillery. They were charged with reducing "refractory Rajahs"; in other words, with annexing territory to which Scindiah had no sort of claim. The wild campaigning was an excellent school for the zealous ensign of eighteen. When not in the field he gave all his time to archery, spear practice, and the sword exercise.

Half a native by birth, from the first he laid himself out to make fast friendships with the native chiefs. Then there came a turn in the intrigues for ascendency at court, and Sutherland was superseded by Perron. For the masterful Madhajee Scindiah had died, and been succeeded by his nephew, Dowlat Rao.

Necessarily there were palace intrigues, a disputed succession, and revolts. It is needless to go into the intricate complications. There was war between Dowlat Rao and the Peishwah, who was leagued with Holkar and the Nizam. Many of Scindiah's subjects rebelled ; for some reason, when his services were most indispensable there was a quarrel with Lukwa Dada, and dismissed from office, he headed the insurgents. The outlook for Scindiah was dark, but it gave young Skinner the first opportunity for distinguishing himself. In an engagement against formidable odds, two of the regular battalions, both commanded by Englishmen, bore the brunt of the battle. They had lost a third of their numbers before they began to cover the retreat, which could scarcely have been effected had not the escape been by a narrow gorge. Skinner with a couple of companies was left to hold the pass. When he heard the enemy's drums the main body had cleared the gorge, and he began to fall back. Then his only gun broke down, when the question was whether to abandon it or "to die defending it like good soldiers." He had fired his soldiers with his own spirit, and the shout was to stand by the gun. The pursuit came up in force, to be greeted with a storm of grape and a volley of small arms. A charge followed; three stand of colours were taken, and the enemy driven back in great confusion. The gun was saved, the retreat was made good, and next day Skinner received a dress of honour, with honourable mention in despatches. What was more to the purpose, he had his promotion, with an increase of pay.

That intestine Mahratta war was no child's play, and Skinner has many sensational and characteristic episodes to narrate. Scindiah's forces were blockading Chittur Ghur, defended by the gallant Lukwa Dada. It was the hill fortress of Oodeypore, and deemed impregnable. The siege was slow, and they were joined by Thomas with the six battalions he had hired to Scindiah. Supplies ran short and forage was almost exhausted. Skinner had had no pay for six months, and that of the Mahratta irregulars was some years in arrear. Plundering became general; raiding parties ravaged all the country, every village within a radius of fifty miles being burned, the Raj poot warriors and the ryots alike taking shelter in their large hill-forts. It was then Skinner had an adventure which illustrates alike the faithlessness of the Orientals and the unscrupulous greed of the English soldiers of fortune who engaged with them. One of Scindiah's bravest captains was a certain Hurjee, but unhappily for him he was hated alike by his own leader and by the enemy's general. They arranged together that he was to be entrapped and murdered. One morning, when Skinner was exercising his horse, he met Hurjee at the head of a squadron, and asked where he was going. Hurjee said he had been ordered out in search of a ford, and asked Skinner to accompany him. They rode straight into the snare, but cut their way out after some desperate fighting, in which Skinner manfully played his part. Next day the grateful Hurjee said that his valiant sowars had only done their duty, but the Englishman had fought for him as a friend. And he presented him, to his great gratification, with bracelets set with diamonds, a sword, a shield, and a valuable horse. Then the rapacious Sutherland came on the scene. He reprimanded Skinner severely for riding out without orders, adding that he should report him. But he let him understand that, if he handed over the horse, the escapade might be overlooked. Sutherland gained nothing by the attempt at blackmailing. Skinner did not give up his horse, and Hurjee praised him so highly to Perron that the general sent him a flattering letter of thanks.

Those Rajpoot fortresses; often of vast extent, were naturally immensely strong, and labour had been ex-hausted in artificially strengthening them. One of the most thrilling incidents in our Indian warfare is the gallant attempt on Gwalior when held by the Mahrattas, which only missed success by circumstances which could not have been foreseen. Skinner gives a vividly picturesque account of the storm of Shahjeghur, heroically defended by its Rajpoot garrison and assailed with equal determination by the Mahrattas. As in the Gwalior affair, when the stormers reached the walls the breaches were found impracticable. Nevertheless, they persevered. The defenders hailed down great stones upon them, and showered powder-pots plugged with grass and thatch—an Indian modification of the Greek tire. After two hours of fruitless effort the assailants withdrew. Some days afterwards, to their own misfortune, the garrison roused them with a sally to beat up their trenches. The Rajpoots were repulsed; the Mahrattas followed them up, and thronged through one of the gates along with them. From all sides storming parties swarmed up like hornets ; the place was carried and the bulk of the garrison cut to pieces. But a thousand of them had retreated to a keep. The Mahrattas sometimes showed generous chivalry in victory. Their leader, when he saw the carnage, said the survivors were noble fellows who must be saved, and sent a white flag offering them capitulation on their own terms. They said they would yield if permitted to march out with their arms, otherwise they would blow up the keep and die with their wives and children. They got the terms they asked, and were sent away under escort.

Indeed the exterminating determination with which those wars were waged makes it the more surprising that the foreigners, however daring, should invariably have been found to the front, and that they should have survived shot and sabre to reap the fruits of their recklessness. Here is another example of the stubborn heroism of the well-matched combatants. They had come face to face to fight a pitched battle. One of Scindiah's brigades of 8000 under a Frenchman, Dudernaig, was charged by io,000 of the enemy's horse. Io,000 Rhattores "were seen approaching from a distance; the tramp of their immense and compact body rising like thunder above the roar of the battle." A slow hand-gallop quickened to racing speed ; the cannon of the brigade riddled their masses, "cutting down hundreds at each discharge," still the pace was never slackened; "on they came like a whirlwind," trampling over the fallen; nothing could either check or shake them: "they poured like a torrent over the brigade and rode it fairly down, leaving scarce a vestige remaining." Of the 8000 only 200 escaped, and Dudernaig saved himself by a miracle by throwing himself down among the dead.

Such a murderous charge should have decided the battle, but notwithstanding the victory remained with the Mahrattas. Skinner, although slightly wounded, made a good thing of it. The victors burst into the hostile camp, and scattered to pillage. He had the good luck to find his way to the Rajah's bungalow, magnificently decorated with embroidery and brocades. "I saw nothing but gold and silver." Opening a basket he found some jewellery and two golden idols with diamond eyes—the idols he immediately secreted in his bosom. In the circumstances a summons to his commander's presence was awkward, for an uneasy conscience made him suspect that the chief had information of his prizes. But on the contrary all passed pleasantly ; he was praised for his good service in the day's work, and among other things presented with another robe of honour, a palanquin, and an allowance of forty rupees a month to pay the bearers.

The formidable insurrection had been put down, and Scindiah, who had been thoroughly frightened, showed his tender mercies to the captured leaders by various ingenious methods for their happy despatch. Four were blown from guns in the ordinary way, another was blown up by rockets, some were simply poisoned, and others had their heads crushed in with tent mallets—a disagreeable reminder to the Europeans that they held their lives on precarious tenure, for as they were perpetually changing sides, they were liable to be sentenced as traitors.

So the Niahratta wars always went on. Scindiah gave his men incessant occupation. Alternately aggressive or standing on the defensive, he was eternally annexing territory, repelling attacks, or quelling disturbances. His hordes of horsemen lived in the saddle like the Pindaries, and if they were very irregularly paid had ample opportunities of looting. Skinner did well for himself on the whole, but could not always expect to come off scatheless. Once, to use a vulgar phrase, he had an exceedingly near squeak for it. They were then fighting the Rajpoot Rajah of Ooncara. Their infantry had deserted en masse, and when the Rajah pressed his advantage, Skinner was falling back with some guns at the head of a thousand horse. Retreating towards ravines which promised a refuge, he was charged by the Rajah in person and surrounded. He made his men a brief, soldier-like speech, told them that death must come sooner or later, that come it must, and that it became them to meet it now and die like soldiers. They charged in turn and took the enemy's cannon. They formed squares, but were beset on all sides and broken. Then his troopers lost their coolness, his own guns were lost as well, he found himself left with only ten followers, and one of the enemy's troopers galloping up, fired his matchlock at close quarters. He dropped for dead at three in the afternoon, and did not regain consciousness till sunrise. He had been stripped to his trousers, and dragged himself under a bush for shelter from the blazing sun. Two men of his battalion, severely wounded like himself, had crawled to his side. They lay there through the day, dying of thirst, till the second night came on. It was so dreadful, he says, that he swore if he survived to have nothing more to do with soldiering. All around were the wounded crying for water, and the jackals who were feasting on wounded and dead could only be kept off by throwing stones at them. But in the morning two benevolent Samaritans came, a man and a woman who brought bread and water. Skinner drank eagerly, thanking the woman and Heaven. But there was an extraordinary example of the strength of caste. One of his companions, a Subandar, was a high-caste Rajpoot; the good folk who came to their assistance were Chunars of the lowest class, and he would neither have bread nor water at their hands. If he died, he preferred to die unpolluted.

That day the Rajah sent coolies to bury the dead and bring away the wounded. Skinner was carried into camp ; the ball was extracted, and with his intense vitality, he was on his legs again almost immediately, to receive gifts and the highest commendation from the chivalrous Rajah. Nor did his generosity end there. He sent the prisoner to his capital, lodged him well, treated him handsomely, and finally dismissed him free at the end of a month, with a horse, a sword, and a shield.

Perron was then at the height of his prosperity, and Scindiah had every reason to be grateful to him. Had not Perron's authority made him formidable to his master, and had the Frenchman continued to serve the Mahratta loyally, the course of events might have been different. But Perron was intoxicated with unbroken successes; his head was turned and his character changed. Skinner says he had once been a good, honest soldier: now he had turned despot, lending a ready ear to flatterers. Formerly he had been free-handed like De Boigne, but now he became avaricious. All the best appointments were given to his countrymen; the Mahratta chiefs and the English officers were alike disgusted. The dissensions and intrigues veakened Scindiah, and encouraged his enemies. Holkar of Indore, always jealous, seized the opportunity. He gathered Pindaries around him, leagued himself with the Pathan, Ameer Khan, and candidly told his troops they could have no pay, but promised an abundance of plunder. He kept his word, and those ferocious hordes of horse were backed by disciplined battalions, officered for the most part by Englishmen. Meantime there was almost an open rupture between Scindiah and Perron. Skinner assisted at a memorable Durbar, to which Perron had been invited in courteous terms. It was nothing less than a snare arranged by the Rajah for the assassination of the inconvenient general. But Perron, well versed in Oriental methods, had wind of the court conspiracy. He came to the Durbar attended by 300 of his own officers, foreign and native, all armed to the teeth. Scindiah was surrounded by a Pathan guard, assembled as Perron's executioners. He showed his disappointment when he saw his prey escape him. There was whispering with his counsellors, and the Pathans were ordered to withdraw. Then the Rajah had recourse to flattery, but Perron knew him, and was not to be hoodwinked. He laid his sword at the Maharajah's feet, told him he could not brook such insults, and must retire. A peace was patched up, with interchange of compliments. Perron carried off the honours and rode back in triumph to his camp, but with the injury rankling.

So it came about that while Holkar with his ruthless bands was making a hell of Southern Hindustan, Perron, indifferent to his master's orders, held aloof, looking after his own affairs in the north. The state of the country, and the appeal of the Peishwah, alarmed at the growing power of Holkar, induced the English to interfere, and the treaty of Bassein was followed by the Mahratta wars. The declaration of hostilities was a turning-point in Skinner's career. As much Indian as English, and a veritable soldier of fortune, he had no wish to leave the Mahratta service, but he was compelled to go. Other Englishmen in Scindiah's pay had refused to fight their countrymen and had resigned their commissions, whereupon the whole of those serving with Perron were summarily dismissed. Probably Perron was glad of the opportunity, for Skinner and his comrades were sent off in high-handed fashion, and warned that they were not to be found near the General's camp after a certain day. They went to Agra, but regretted pay and prospects, and had still a hope that their dismissal might be reconsidered. On the day of the notable battle of Aligarh when Perron met Lord Lake, their tents were pitched in a garden near the battlefield. Skinner rode out to witness the flight of the Mahratta horse, with Perron, hatless, bringing up the rear. He actually accosted the fugitive, saying he was there to share his fortunes. Perron said that all was over, that his men had behaved like cowards, and bid him make his peace with the British. Skinner urged him to rally his forces and make a stand, but Perron was in despair, and not to be persuaded. After some further attempts, Skinner cursed him for a traitor, and took his leave, telling him to go to the devil.

Though he had broken with Perron and parted from him in disgust, nevertheless he had no wish to leave Scindiah's service. His brother officers were of a different mind. They represented that the Mahratta chief would never trust them again—that they had best make their peace with the English, who would welcome them gladly. The wiser counsel prevailed, and they rode in a body to the British outposts. Their first reception was rough enough, and Skinner's future was trembling in the balance, when a letter was handed to him from an officer, an old friend of his father's, couched in cordial terns, which induced him to delay his departure. With his comrades he proceeded to headquarters, and they were at once introduced to the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Lake, who was only too pleased to encourage desertions from the Mahrattas, received them with the greatest kindness; half-famished, they were invited to dinner in the mess-room, and before the evening closed all doubts as to their welcome were dissipated. His lordship knew Skinner well by report, and asked him if he would take service and raise a regiment of horse. Those first overtures Skinner unhesitatingly declined; he said he was still Scindiah's soldier, and would never draw sword against him. Nor would he consent to write to the other officers still with the Maharajah, to assure them that if they came over they should hear favourable terms. But after all, he was a soldier of fortune and bethought himself; he realised that, with Perron for an enemy, his position with Scindiah was shaken, and he yielded to the blandishments of the Englishmen. He agreed to send the letters, and they safely reached their destination for his name and reputation franked them, while the messengers who carried others written by his comrades were waylaid and murdered. Doubtless that incident weighed with Lake, and when eight rissalahs of Perron's horse passed over to the camp at Delhi, he renewed his proposals. This time Skinner accepted. He could not resist the temptation of again leading his old followers into action when they greeted him with joyous acclaim. Thenceforward they became known as the famous "Yellow Boys," so called from their picturesque and rather grotesque uniforms, and noted under their daring leader for many a dashing deed of arms. Still, with a Dugald Dalgetty sense of honour, he stipulated that they should never fight against their former master.

But the British were now in the field against Holkar, and with regard to him, as Scindiah's jealous rival, Skinner had no scruples. His horse were with the supports upon which Colonel Monson fell back after his disastrous advance and discreditable retreat. The British fled to the shelter of Agra, abandoning guns, camp equipage, and wounded, making the fatal and foolish mistake of flying before Orientals. For Holkar, on his side, though of high-strung courage, always nervous and scared by his own unexpected success, was withdrawing in the opposite direction. At Agra the very dregs of the populace were deriding the Feringhees and pelting straggling sepoys with stones, till Lord Lake came up in force, bringing victory with him, to retrieve the situation. Yet Holkar, a man of moods, had taken heart again, and with his raw levies of wild horse, to be numbered by the ten thousand, was pressing on the British entrenchments. Their foraging parties were being cut up; they were being brought from short rations to within a hair's-breadth of famine. Naturally Skinner's irregulars were regularly engaged in the foraging, and as they were well used to raiding hostile country they generally came off scatheless. As the old marauder puts it bluntly, " I used to go out in the morning, plunder the villages, and send in whatever I could lay hold of." Consequently Lake, who was nursing his scanty forces, thought him the very man to send out on a dangerous, but necessary piece of work. A body of brinjarrahs (carriers) were bringing up their bullock-train with supplies of grain from Cawnpore. They had been stopped en route by a Rajah who was wavering in his allegiance, and who had bribed the reluctant carriers, honest enough in an ordinary way like all their class, to hand over the grain. Lord Lake sent for Skinner, and asked whether he thought he could save the stores. Skinner, who seems to have been far from hopeful, said he would either save them or lose his life, whereupon his lordship shook his hand and said he would never forget the service. Subsequently the promise was redeemed.

Skinner sounded to boot and saddle, and started with 1200 troopers. Halting within a short ride of his destination, he sent forward spies, who reported that the carriers were just beginning to unload into the fortress. Not a moment was to be lost. Leaving two-thirds of his men with his brother, with the rest he dashed into the midst of the brinjarrahs, shouting out that Lord Lake had sent him to their help. They hesitated and began throwing down their loads, but lie ordered them to stop that, under pain of death, and several were summarily shot pour encourager les autres. It was a night attack, and ere sunrise all were well clear of the town. But the carriers had had reason for their hesitation, and the Rajah was soon in hot pursuit. By the time he was overtaken Skinner had rejoined his main body, and now he sent his brother on, with half his men, in charge of the convoy, while with the other half he showed front to the pursuit. The Rajah came up in far superior force, but after vapouring and threats, with some emptied saddles, he held a parley and listened to reason. The grain was gone, the camp would be fed, and he was in an awkward fix with the British army between him and the Mahrattas. It ended with his entreating Skinner to make his peace with the British genera]. Had Skinner been less prompt, he would have interposed too late. Lord Lake realised it, and was profuse in thanks, renewing his promises of never forgetting. That was the first of many exploits by which he won the favour of his new employers. The welcome supplies enabled Lake to turn the tables, and Holkar was retreating. There was much skirmishing and fighting, and Skinner was always hard on the heels of the retiring foe, taking many prisoners. Some he released, with sarcastic messages to Holkar. For seven days, he says, they slept in the open and had no provision but what they found in the fields. Sometimes they had to change their ground twice or thrice in the night to avoid surprises. It was trying work, but it had its compensations. "In this pursuit I acquired great plunder in horses and camels." He adds that, though results were satisfactory, "I felt the want of my dram;" for though he attained a good old age, it was not by practising the severe temperance prescribed for Europeans by the doctors. Lord Lake bestowed the highest commendation on him, presenting him with another horse with gorgeous trappings. Indeed he made himself useful in various ways, for the fame of his exploits reached his old comrades at Gwalior, and lured many deserters from Scindiah to take service under the British flag.

There was no rest for the Yellow Boys, who were the scouts and eyes of Lord Lake's scattered battalions. The wild Pindarie leader Ameer Khan marched from Bhurtpore, traversed the Doab, and broke into Rohilcund, his native country, where he was far from welcome. Everywhere he spread devastation. He came with 30,000 horse, and when he left with only a third of the number, it was Skinner who played the leading part in his discomfiture. His atrocities far exceeded those of Holkar, but he had not the Mahratta's courage. When the concentrating forces of the British drove him to retreat, Skinner invariably led the chase, but the movements of the lightly equipped marauders tasked his energies to the utmost. They came, as has been said before, with only horses and arms, and though Skinner's squadrons were not much more heavily encumbered, it was wearisome work to follow. One of the first duties on which he was detached was the relief of Bareilly, for Ameer's sudden inroad had rushed the country, and the British resident with a handful of native guards was blockaded in Bareilly gaol. That episode reminds one of the days of the Mutiny and of Wake's brilliant defence of the billiard-room at Arrah. Skinner with i000 troopers dashed ahead of the General in command of the main body, to find that the Pindaries had been scared by their advance after being gallantly kept at bay by the little garrison. They hurried forward in pursuit, but "Ameer Khan had led us such a dance, that for several days we were all in the dark as to where he had got," till Skinner caught some of his foragers and elicited the desired information. Then there is another incident which recalls Kavanagh's memorable sortie, in Indian disguise, to carry news from beleaguered Lucknow to the troops advancing to its succour. The General was puzzled as to the movements of Ameer, and Skinner volunteered to go into his camp and find out what was going on. Skinner looked the Hindoo, and was fluent of native speech, nevertheless nothing could have been more venturesome, for he had to trust his life to the fidelity of troopers who could have earned a great reward by betraying him ; but, as the result proved, his confidence in their loyalty was not misplaced. Donning native dress, disguising ten picked servants, he went straight for the Pindarie camp, mingled with a foraging party. and rode in. He came back primed with the intelligence he sought, having previously sent information by instalments by messengers. One important fact he learned— that the robbers were divided in racial factions ; he waited to see a free fight between Pathans and Mahrattas, and then he slipped away, again in company of their foragers.

Then there was close pressure on the Pindaric flight, with incessant fighting and skirmishing. Skinner and his brother showed the way, in command of separate detachments. In hand-to-hand combat he and his brother had many hair-breadth escapes. In brief, soldierly language he relates a dramatic incident of deep personal interest. News was brought him that his brother was surrounded in a ruinous serai by the enemy in overwhelming strength. Again there was a striking illustration of the loyalty of the rissaldars to their English chiefs. Ameer summoned the dilapidated fort, inviting them to give up their leader and surrender an untenable post, promising to each man three days' pay as the purchase-money. The younger Skinner told them that, to save their 500 lives, he would gladly give himself up. The answer was, that when all had fallen he might go, but not so long as a man of them was alive. They knelt and prayed to God to give them courage. The storm burst from all sides: the stormers repeatedly topped the walls, only to be cut down or hurled back, and were finally driven off with great slaughter. When night had fallen, a spy who was with the detachment stole out to carry news of their desperate straits, having cut up his horse's shoes into slugs, for ammunition was almost exhausted.

The elder Skinner was in sore distress. The General sympathised, but declined to move; he said plausibly, that there must have been another assault, and that one way or another the affair must have been decided. The resourceful Skinner, thrown back upon himself, took prompt action as a veritable free lance. He wrote a letter, addressed to his brother, but really intended for Ameer Khan. A man brought up in his family undertook its delivery to the true destination, and ten of his most trusted sowars volunteered to engage in the plot. It was efficiently carried out with Hindoo craft. The chief messenger, having assured himself that the garrison still held out, let himself fall into the hands of the enemy's pickets. The letter was duly read by Ameer; it told young Skinner to drag out negotiations for surrender, as the General was advancing by forced marches to his relief. Meanwhile the ten sowars had fired some corn-stacks and given chase to some straggling camp-followers. The cry was raised that the English were coming, and with the panic that so quickly spreads in Oriental armies, Ameer and his host took to precipitate flight. A thousand of his men had fallen in the attack, and the loss of the defenders was comparatively trifling.

The pursuit by the Yellow Boys was resumed, and the check proved fatal. Ameer lost credit and character ; his soldiers deserted by hundreds, he found resistance at every walled village, and hurrying to escape out of Rohil-cund, crossed the frontier river with 10,000 disheartened men. The flying Pindaries were in evil case, but Skinner and the Yellow Boys were scarcely beaten off. He says they had hunted Holkar for 500 miles and Ameer Khan afterwards for half as many again; they had been far in advance of the main body, and he adds the almost in-credible statement that, "to the best of my belief," they were never less than eighteen hours a day on horseback. All the same, and immediately afterwards, he expresses his gratitude to the General for always sending for him when there was anything to be done. There was no difficulty in gratifying his tastes, and soon after he had the opportunity of a specially sensational exploit before a cloud of witnesses. The restless Holkar, with the defeated Ameer in company, making a wide circuit, had crossed into the Punjaub, hoping to rouse the Sikhs and be supported by Runjeet Singh. Thither the British forces, led by Lord Lake in person, had followed him. The armies were separated by the broad stream of the Sutlej, and the campaign had come to a sort of stalemate. Finally, as Holkar sat fast, Lake decided to attempt the passage, but the difficulty was to find a ford. There was a place immediately in front of him which, though dangerous, was deemed practicable—so dangerous was it, that he hesitated to give orders to sound it, but one evening he remarked at dinner, apparently casually, that he wished some one would try the depth, with a troop and a galloping gun. The chief of the staff whispered to Skinner that the hint was meant for him, whereupon he rose incontinently and said, " If your lordship will give me leave I will try the ford to-morrow morning." Next day, with two squadrons and a galloper, Skinner was down at the ghaut, and his lordship, with his staff and a strong muster of officers, were all there to look on. One of the political agents remonstrated as to the peril, but his lordship's mind was then made up, and he said curtly that he accepted the responsibility.

"Our horses had to swim for twenty yards, after which they got footing. There was an island in the middle of the river, to which I bent my course. On reaching this we found it a quicksand, on which my galloper stuck fast. I dismounted and directed my brother with two rissalahs to cross, and then, dismounting one of them, to bring the men back to relieve the gun, which had now sunk up to the wheels. The rissalah returned, took out the horses, and dragged the gun across; and just as we landed I took off my hat and giving three hurrahs in which Lord Lake and all the staff joined, proclaimed that the first British gun had crossed the Sutlej."

Like Hawkwood, the Anglo-Italian Condottiere, Skinner avowed his occupation was war, and these stirring times to his disgust were succeeded by a period of piping peace. Lord Cornwallis had replaced Lord Wellesley. Lord Lake had to tell Skinner, "with tears," that his Yellow Horse were to be disbanded, and asked him how he was to be repaid for his invaluable exertions. Skinner answered that he would be satisfied with a small jaghire, as he intended to retire from soldiering. Asked whether 20,000 rupees of rent would content him and his brother, he replied that it would be making princes of them. Disappointed of that by the interposition of the Resident at Delhi, who asserted that no British subject could become an Indian landowner, he was indemnified by a pension. He had spoken of renouncing soldiering, but he could never be happy in retreat. His staunch patron Lord Lake had promised to befriend him, but Lake had died. Helped by other and influential friends, he had been permitted to retain command of 300 of his old troopers as the civil guard of the Delhi Resident. They were the nucleus of a force that any call from him could expand, and he was soon to have the opportunity. Central India could never be long at rest, nor could the Company ever repose on its conquests. A Rajah to whom a tributary territory had been assigned had been unable to manage his turbulent subjects, and a British force was to be marched into the country. Skinner, with his regiment increased to 800 men, was attached to a work which went on for several years, but for once he had few opportunities of distinguishing himself.

Such desultory little wars were but the prelude to serious trouble. With Lord Moira's advent as Governor- General circumstances compelled a change to a more warlike policy. First we came to blows with the Ghoorkas, who have since given us some of our best native regiments. Skinner for a time had been residing at Delhi, where an admiring Resident had reversed his predecessor's decision as to jaghires, and commuted his pension for a grant which made him a landowner, and had material consequences for his future career. Now, with the first mutterings of the war storms, his regiments were raised to a strength of 3000, and once more he was out on active service. In the northern hill country and the passes leading into Nepaul his mounted men were seldom called into action, but they were being disciplined for a service better suited to their habits and fighting qualities. As scouts and skirmishers they were again to be pitted against their old enemies, the flying Mahratta horsemen and the Pindaries.

In 1814 the situation on our frontiers had become intolerable. It was estimated that there were 40,000 Pindaries abroad, under chiefs who rivalled each other in ferocity, mainly taking their spoil in the rich valley of the Nerbudda. Some 30,000 men were either regularly in the pay of the Mahrattas, or with Ameer Khan in the north. At last they had broken bounds and invaded British territory. They knew that they had the Mahratta princes behind them, who were leaguing themselves for a last supreme effort to shatter the Company's power. Holkar and the Bonslah had openly taken the field : Scindiah was known to be in virtual alliance, though with his habitual craft he was slow to commit himself. In 1817 the British preparations were complete, and well-combined movements from north and south ringed in the marauding Pindarie hordes. Scattered in the field, as Sir John Malcolm says, they were hunted down like wild beasts in the jungle. Brigand soldiers of fortune, their hour had come. A dramatic Nemesis overtook Chetoo, the most noted of all the sanguinary leaders. Declining or distrusting the strangely lenient terms offered him, he took refuge in the jungles. He had well earned the sobriquet of "The Tiger," and a tiger killed him. His body was identified by the saddle, sword, valuables and papers which bestrewed the ground. Following up the tracks, the tiger was traced to his lair, and there the head of the famous freebooter was found intact.

Skinner was with Ochterlony in the campaign which brought Ameer Khan to unconditional surrender. There was more treating than fighting, and Skinner had little to do. Sir John Malcolm, commanding his division, sent him a letter commending the steady conduct of his corps, and hoping they might long continue in the gallant performance of their duty. Malcolm's kindly hopes were only partially realised. Retrenchment was to be the order of the day, and the bulk of the corps was paid off. By way of compensation to the Colonel, his jaghires, which were leasehold, were made freehold and hereditary. With the end of the "Pindarie War" his active service may be said to have come to a conclusion. The old soldier was rusting in repose, and in his memoirs he gives vent to disgust and disappointment. "Rapid indeed has been my fall." His expectations in the Mahratta service had been high, and no question had been raised as to his birth or colour. When he entered with the British, he hoped zeal and fidelity would have had their adequate reward. Regarded as a half-caste, colour and birth were against him. The old soldier was a grumbler, and in reality had little reason to complain. His services had generous recognition by his chiefs, from successive Governors-General downwards, and it is obvious, from the state he kept in his household, that he must have amassed a handsome fortune. Nor was he altogether without the military distractions in which he delighted. He was never without some command of horse ; and in 1825, when the Jhat states were giving trouble, he was commissioned to raise a second corps, when he had only to pick and choose among his old troopers. He was with Lord Combermere at the siege and capture of Bhurtpore, though then his duties as a cavalry officer were chiefly confined to scouting and foraging. With his susceptibilities as a half-caste he was immensely pleased when his services were rewarded with the ribbon of the Bath.

Back at Hansi, one of his regiments was disbanded. He went in the train of Lord William Bentinck, who treated him with the highest consideration, to the memorable meeting with Runjeet Singh, accompanying him afterwards on his progress through the Raj poot states. These were his last marches. On his return he and the fighting "Yellow Boys" became the guardians of order as a semi-civilian police. At Hansi and his bungalow of Belaspore, as a wealthy zemindar and country gentleman, he lived beloved and respected by his neighbours, hospitable to all corners and generous to the poor. There he entertained Lord Combermere and his staff when on their progress in 1827. Captain Mundy, his lordship's aide-de-camp, describes it as a handsome and spacious house in a flourishing garden, where, " to such an extent does he carry his ideas of luxury, the comfortable old soldier has erected to himself an elegant and snug-looking mausoleum." They were with him again on the return march, when their reception was still more magnificent, with Oriental nautch dances and fireworks. The Commander-in-Chief reviewed Skinner's famous Horse. The costumes were striking, though serviceable. Tunics of red cloth, white cotton pantaloons, horse-furniture of red and yellow ; the weapons, the matchlock, spear, and sword. The most of their manoeuvres were those of European cavalry, but their speciality was the Mahratta charge. There was an advance in line, two deep ; the trot broke from a canter into a gallop, and on close approach the files opened out, and they came thundering on, with wild shrieks and swords flashing over their heads. At the word " Halt," each charger was brought on his haunches within ten yards of the reviewing General. Next they displayed their skill with the matchlock and lance ; with the latter they showed amazing dexterity. Sometimes the play seemed likely to end in earnest, and then the veteran commander would take a spear from an attendant and join in the game. "I think I see him now, with his good- natured, twinkling eyes, and white teeth shining through his dark countenance. In his youth he had been a master of the weapon; even in age, and with ' belly with good capon lined,' there were few in his regiment who could match him." Like Tostig the Saxon, Murat, and many another dashing cavalry leader, he loved the pomp and pageantry of war, and his own uniform and that of his officers was resplendent. He does not repose in the mausoleum he had built. He was buried at Hansi with military honours, but afterwards the remains were transferred to Delhi, where the second obsequies were attended by unprecedented crowds, and sixty-three minute guns were fired, for as many years of his life, as he was laid under the altar of the church he had built. A native Prince paraphrased in Oriental speech the scriptural lament that a great man had fallen in Israel.

The Anglo-Indian soldiers who won the Hindu affections had their native sobriquets. Skinner was known as Secunder Sahib ; Meadows Taylor long afterwards won wide popularity as Mahadeo Baba ; and Colonel Sutherland, who, in hot rivalry with Thomas, for a time had succeeded Perron as commander of Scindiah's army, was Sutlej Sahib. He ran a course almost identical with that of his competitors, with very similar vicissitudes. He had not Skinner's sense of honour, and an incident has been mentioned in which he figured very discreditably. Naturally his unscrupulousness was no bar to his advancement. He had begun badly. He was cashiered from our 73rd Regiment. He deserted to De Boigne, and was second in command when De Boigne retired. With Perron he was always at daggers drawn; their rival ambitions made them bitter enemies. His grand exploit was his beating Holkar and Ameer Khan leagued together in the bloody battle of Indore. Finally, by the intrigues of Perron, who nevertheless was nearly connected with him by marriage, he was degraded from his high rank, when he left Scindiah in disgust and withdrew to Agra. On the outbreak of the Mahratta war, that fortress capitulated to the British, and it was Sutherland who treated for the surrender. That may have been the reason for his being pensioned by the Company, dying in obscurity in somewhat straitened circumstances, for he does not appear to have made much of his great opportunities.

When communications with the mother country were slow and comparatively rare, and adventurers were more familiar with the sword than the pen, many of their memorable exploits were never recorded. But much of public interest may still exist in neglected family papers. We have a striking example of that in the records of the Hearseys, recently edited by Colonel Pearse, and published by Messrs. Blackwood. For five generations they were famous in Oriental wars, fighting first for their own hands and afterwards for the British Raj. The last of note, and by far the most distinguished, was Sir John, the hero of many a battle and of many a hair-breadth escape, the veteran who quelled the Barrackpore revolt, the prelude to the Mutiny, when Mungal Pandy, whose name became the synonym for a mutineer, paid the penalty of his crimes on the gallows. But many another fighting family played a similar part in the thrilling history of our Indian conquests.


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