+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

It was a moonlight night, and slow as
was the pace at which we proceeded, I
never so much enjoyed a ride in my life.
The scene altogether was highly picturesque;
and, as far as I was concerned, had the
wonderful charm of novelty; while it was
impossible not to be extremely entertained
by the volubility and lightheartedness of my
military friend; who, notwithstanding he had
extracted from me that I did not belong to
the Civil Service or the Army, had refrained
from inquiring my name or pursuit, and in
variably addressed me as Old Boy, albeit my
years were certainly not in excess of his

"Well, Maun Sing! " cried the Lieutenant,
"how do you feel now?"

"Quite well, but very weak," was the sepoy's

"Then you must have a little drop of weak
brandy and water. Hold hard, syce, and give
me the suraiee (water-bottle)."

The brandy and water was mixed in a
silver tumbler, and handed to Maun Sing;
who, as soon as the groom went again to the
horse's head, applied it to his lips, and drank
without any scruple. On the contrary, it
struck me that he liked the liquor.

"You have lost your caste," said the
Lieutenant jocularly. "You ought to have drunk
it, you know, as medicine, out of your own
lota (brass vessel)."

This observationmade with a view to
draw the sepoy out for my edificationhad
its effect. It was thus Maun Sing discoursed,
while the Lieutenant and myself smoked our
cheroots on either side of him:

"The Sahib logue believe everything that
the natives tell them about caste, and the
consequence is they believe a great many
falsehoods. If I could lose my caste by
drinking medicine out of this tumbler, I
would lose it by drinking it out of my own
cup, because it came out of a bottle which
you have handled, and perhaps some drops
of it touched your fingers, while you were
pouring it from one vessel to the other.
Empty a bottle of brandy or gin into your
chillumchee (brass wash-hand-basin), and tell
one of your palkee-bearers to throw it away.
He and his companions will drink it, but not
in your presence. Ask the same man to
drink the liquor from your tumbler. He
will put his hands together, and implore
you to excuse him, as he would lose his

"But is it not forbidden in the Shasters?"
said I.

"There is no mention of brandy in
Shasters, Sahib," returned Maun Sing with
some humour. "The shasters are silent on
the subject. But, supposing that it were
forbidden; do not men of every religion
frequently and continually depart from the
tenets thereof, in minor things, or construe
them according to their own inclination or
convenience, or make some sort of bundobust
(agreement) with their consciences? Indeed,
if we did not make this bundobust, what
Hindoo or Mussulman would come in contact
at all with one another, or with Christians,
and certainly we, the natives of India, would
not serve as soldiers."

"How so?"

"Because we should be in continual dread
of having our bodies contaminated and our
souls placed beyond the reach of redemption,
and who would submit to this for so many
rupees a-month? Who can say what animal
supplies the skin which is used for our
chacos and accoutrements? The cow or the
pig? The Mussulmans, when we laugh
together about it, say the cow. We protest
that it is pigskin."

"And how do you usually settle these
disputes?" I inquired, with an eagerness which,
seemed to amuse the sepoy.

"O, Sahib!" he replied, "it would be a
pity to settle any dispute of that kind, since
it always affords us some merriment on a
long march. When Pertab Sing came down
to Barruckpore to corrupt the regiments of
native infantry there stationed, in eighteen
hundred and forty-eight, he wanted them to
protest against wearing the chacos."

"And how was he received?" I inquired.

"They listened to him as long as his money
lasted, and then made known to their officers
what he was about."

"And who was Pertab Sing?"

"A relation of the Ranee of Lahore."

"And had he money?"

"Yes, and distributed it freely."

Here the Lieutenant informed me of the
particulars relating to the mission of Pertab
Sing, which was simply to excite the native
troops to mutiny and to kill their officers; but
the plot was happily discovered by the
information given by the sepoys of the Sixteenth.
Grenadiers: "There was an investigation,
but the government deemed it best to treat
the whole affair as a farce, and Pertab Sing
was looked upon as a fool and a madman,
and eventually set at liberty. It was said
that the sepoys who gave the information
were to receive an order of merit; they
had no reward at all, however, beyond
some expressions of praise from the

Suddenly, the treasure party halted, and
all the sepoys were speedily congregated
beneath a mango tree.

"What is the matter?" cried the Ensign.

"Adjutant Bangow Sahib's grave," said
Maun Sing. "Do you not remember the spot?"

"I did not, in this light," said the Lieutenant,
alighting from the buggy, followed by
myself and Maun Sing. "Yes. Here he
rests, poor fellowone of the best and bravest
beings that ever breathed. He died
suddenly one morning when we were encamped
here. He was a great favourite with the
men, as you may judge from the respect paid