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Letter XIII

Deesa, April 21st, 1840.

MY DEAR FATHER,--I received your letter, dated January 18th, about the beginning of this month, while on our march from Mandavie to this place. I see by the papers that the news of the taking of Kelat had readied England, as I find my name mentioned in the "Western Luminary," which came out in this overland. I wrote you last from Curachee, about the beginning or middle of February. We stayed there till the 20th. A few days before we left, Lord Keane and suite arrived, bringing with him Hyder Khan, the captured chief of Ghuzni. While there, Lord Keane presented new colours to the 40th regiment, which we had an opportunity of witnessing. He and all his party have since gone home.

On the 20th, I, with my company under my command, embarked for Mandavie, in Cutch, where we arrived in two days, in Patamars, and waited till the whole regiment came down, which they did by companies, so that it was the 10th of March before we were able to start for this place.

We arrived here on the 4th of this month, pushing on as fast as we could, as the commanding officer was anxious to get the men under cover, on account of the great heat. There was excellent shooting the whole way up; and if it had been the cold season, I should have enjoyed the march amazingly; but it was too hot to venture out. On arrival here we found about three hundred recruits, who had arrived since we went on service, and about fifty of the men we left behind us; also seven new officers. As I have a company under my command I have scarcely had a moment to myself since I have been here; what with fitting and getting the recruits in order, and new clothing the old hands, you have no conception what tedious work it is getting into quarters.

I have bought a very comfortable little bungalo for four hundred rupees. We were promised our full batta on our arrival here; but, although the Bengalees, it is said, received theirs some time ago, yet there is a screw loose, I fear, somewhere in the Bombay, and that it may be some time before we get ours, and that it will not be as much as the Bengalees: so much for being in an inferior Presidency. This is a great disappointment, after our losses on the campaign.

With regard to this place, I have not been long enough in it to form an opinion. Its appearance is decidedly against it, the soil being nothing but a barren sandy desert, with the low hills of the Aravulles to the eastward, running north to the mountain Aboo, the Parnassus of Hindostan. The last week has been oppressive, and hot in the extreme; and this is but the commencement of the hot weather, which I am told will last about six weeks longer, when a very slight monsoon comes on, and lasts at intervals till the end of October, when the cold season commences, which is said to be very pleasant. There is a lot of game here of every description, including lions; and it is one of the best hog-hunting stations in India.

Our men, to the surprise of everybody, were very healthy in the march up; and since they have been here, and not having their knapsacks to carry, knocked off their work in grand style. The men we have brought back with us are well-seasoned, hardy fellows, and I would back them to march against any soldiers in the world.

I suppose you have long ere this received Stisted's letter and mine about Kelat. Colonel Arnold[A] died at Cabool whilst we were there, and was buried with a magnificent military funeral in the Armenian burial-ground.

[Footnote A: Colonel Arnold was in the 10th Hussars at Waterloo, and shot through the body in the charge in which Major Howard, of that regiment, was killed.]

I am sorry to say that, as I predicted, the spear which I took at the storming of Ghuzni has been broken to pieces through the carelessness of my servants. I have, however, the Koran and sword from Kelat; and I think I shall be able to get a matchlock taken at that place,--a very good specimen of the sort of thing I was wounded by; perhaps it may be the identical one. The sword I left in Cutch, in my way up from Mandavie, to be put to rights, as the workmen of that country are the best in India, I will try if I can get another weapon, as a remembrance of Ghuzni. I brought down from Cabool as far as Quettah a very good specimen of the Kyber knife, a very cut-throat sort of instrument, with which every Afghan is armed. I sent it down with my other things through the Bolan Pass, when we turned off to Kelat, and I am sorry to say it was stolen.

You write about old ----: did I never mention him to you? He is here; but was not with us on the campaign, being too unwell when we started. Though not an old man, he is a very old soldier for an Indian, and is nearly worn out: he is anxious to get his discharge at the end of the year, when he will have served his twenty-one years, and be entitled to a decent pension. He is a very straight-forward, blunt, honest old fellow, and when he first joined was a very powerful man, and the best wrestler in the regiment, thereby proving his South Devon blood. He was ----'s servant when I joined, and I was delighted at hearing the South Devon dialect again, which he speaks with so much truth and native elegance that you would imagine he had but just left his native village. There were a great many Devonshire men in the regiment; we lost one, a very fine young man in the Grenadiers, in coming down from Kelat to Cutch Gundava, by the same chest complaint that carried off so many: he was a native of Tiverton.

Well; it is twelve o'clock, and I am afraid I shall be too late for the post; so good bye.

Your affectionate son,