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THE INVASION OF NEPAUL.
“ An iron race the mountain cliffs maintain,
Foes to the gentle genius of the plain ;
[What a wonderful change has come over the destiny of India! Instead of an Ambassador to the Great Mogul on the plains of Hindoostan, as facetiously described in this article, we behold a Hindoo vizier passing the bounds of the forbidden Attock, and crossing the globe to make his salaam in a far distant island in the west, to the successor of the Timor sceptre, in the person of our illustrious beloved British queen. We hope, therefore, to have the pleasure, quite apropos at this juncture, of making our readers better acquainted with some of the features of the romantic kingdom of Nepaul. It is also highly interesting to us Scotchmen to read of the effect that our native music had on the far-travelled ambassador at a late public entertainment, when he delighted to declare " that he, too, was a mountaineer, and that such were the strains that inspired him on the battlefield."]
More than half a century had elapsed since the battle of Passy was fought-a battle that not only decided our fate as to our existing as traders at a petty factory at the insignificant village of Calcutta, but which was, by its consequences, if successful, in the course of time to make us merchant-monarchs of the Mogul empire. “We fought and conquered,” and it was no longer at our option to accept or refuse a mighty monarchy—this was forced upon us by our new position, for it brought us successively in contact with viceroys who had made themselves independent in the misrule and decline of the Timor dynasty, and whose only hopes of security against our arms (erroneously supposing that the conquest of India was our ultimate aim), was that of extermination of the foreign invaders. We may figure to ourselves Lord Clive, on the morning of Plassy, like the conquering genius of England, drawing his sword, and casting its scabbard into the Ganges, on whose banks he stood, never to be sheathed again till the current of time had carried that scabbard to the sea, round Cape Comerin, and only to come again to light, when, after the consummating battle of Goojerat, it was drifted ashore on the Indus, and the conquering blade of Plassy was restored to its sheath, amid shouts of final triumph, and promise of peace and prosperity to India. Then was the declaration of the Marquis of Wellesley, the greatest governor India ever saw, realisied, that our Indian possessions would never be consolidated and secure, till the Indus formed the western boundary of our Eastern principality.
From Bengal we had proceeded in our conquering career to the Sutlej, over one vast, unvaried, interminable plain, rich with luxuriant harvests, watered by gently flowing sea-like rivers, reflecting magni
ficent cities, temples, and towers, teeming with inhabitants, and civilised by eastern lore, and excelling in the most delicately wrought manufac. tures. All this time we knew little or nothing of Nepaul, save that it was an abrupt, stupendous mountain range that bounded, on the north, our triumphant march to the north-west; and at times, when the line of march lay nearer to the impenetrable-looking barrier, and when the rainy season lifted the misty vale, we gained a glance of the mysterious sublimity of pure white peaks, rising far beyond and far above the magnificent blue range in the foreground, whose height far surpasses our loftiest Grampians. On these we gazed with conscious solemnity, the effect being increased by their contrast to the vast level champaign expanse over which we were travelling, and contemplating the distant Himalaya, we experienced an overpowering sensation, in beholding a portion of our earth projecting its unsullied spires to such an unimagined altitude in the pure azure abyss of heaven.
So long had these mountains been considered a kind of terra incognita, even during the long dynasties of the Mahommedan kings of Hindostan, that about the time of Arunzebe, when the Mogul empire extended from those mountains to the sea, an embassy from Nepaul arriving at Agra was regarded almost as an embassage from another world. It is recorded, that the king, at the magnificent durbar that received the mountaineer ambassador from these rugged regions, anxious to know something of the strange country, desired the envoy to describe the nature of his master's dominions. He, by a truly Eastern, effective, and primitively statistical demonstration, merely held aloft his open hand, with the fingers expanded from each other, thus giving at least a truly graphic section of the successive precipitous hill and narrow vale that characterise Nepaul.
On one occasion, a scientific British traveller, Buchanan, had been adınitted into the Vale of Katmandoo, and one or two enterprising officers had taken a stolen glance into the outworks of the jealous ironbound mountain bulwarks, and brought back stories which we could scarcely credit, that so near our tropic plains they had seen pine-trees, primroses, strawberries, hawthorn, &c. &c., and heard the notes of our home enchanting merle. About the year 1812 or 1813, the time had nearly arrived when the British cannon was to blow open the adamantine portals of Nepaul. The celebrated traveller Morcroft, accompanied by the adventurous and romantic Major Hearsey, had penetrated, disguised as pilgrims, to the source of the Ganges, and at the little solitary temple amid the chaos of rock and cataract, ice and snow, those unsuspected palmers were told by the oracular priest of the shrine, that whenever two pilgrims of the western world stood undiscovered at his altar, the fate of Nepaul was doomed, and would pass into the rule of a fairhaired race. However vague that coincidence might be, we may conceive what a thrilling effect it must have had on our adventurous concealed countrymen. The fulfilment of this pretended Asian Delphos was at hand.
About the time that the British conquered at Plassy, the Goorkas, a tribe of Tartar-blooded Nepaulese, inhabiting an eastern district of the kingdom, resolved on the conquest of Nepaul; and being a brave, stalwart, hardy race, easily bore down the more enervated and gentler aborigines of the mountains, and first conquered Nepaul proper; and then, while we were advancing in our conquests along the plains, they held a parallel victorious line of march along the mountain tops. And had they been gifted with a due sense of the prowess and resources of the lowland invaders, they would have avoided any cause of offence or collision, and remained contented with their accessions in their own proper altitudes. Both armies had advanced as far as the Sutlej, subduing in succession the different provinces on plain and mountain, and the prize of the vale of Cashmere was close at hand for the Goorka force ; but, in spite of British remonstrances and threatenings, the mountaineers would not be restrained from occasionally stepping aside from their own proper highway, to help themselves to some of the good things on our plains; and no doubt the fertile fields in the vale of the Ganges, viewed from the barren mountain sides, must have been very alluring to hungry uncommisserated marauders. But, knowing the insuperable difficulties in carrying the tactics of European warfare into such a country, and the little advantage to be gained by the conquest of it, each retiring governor-general left the punishment of Nepaul as a legacy to his successor.
The soldier governor, the noble Hastings, at last arrived in India, entrusted with the combined high commissions of Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief. Indignant at the insults offered to Great Britain by the mountaineers of Nepaul, he was not long in shaking his veteran gauntlet at the heaven-seeking hills, and despatching his dignified ultimatum to the court at Katmandoo, demanding apologies for the past, guarantees for the future, or the invasion of their country, commenced his voyage of inspection on the Ganges, in all the splendour of an Eastern potentate. It was at the city of Patna, we think, that his lordship received the answer to his menacing communications. It was something to the following effect, "If you provoke us by such presumptuous demands we will extend our territories, in revenge, to the banks of the Ganges.” “ There,” said Lord Hastings, throwing the paper on the breakfast table for the amusement of his staff, " there is a bold defiance from our mountain neighbours." His lordship immediately declared war, and undertook the arduous task of chastising the Nepaulese in their own stupendous fastnesses, and to carry war into a country unparalleled for sublimity and difficulties. It is not our intention to give an account of the Nepaul war, that is the business of the historian, and has been already done; we wish to give an illustrated episodical description of the new and striking position in which we felt ourselves placed, and the highly excited feelings given to the dwellers on the plains by such a sudden and sublime transition.
Lord Hastings had ordered the assault on Nepaul to be made at several different points along the range, and soon after he left his boats and proceeded by camp, in a parallel line, and at no great distance from the foot of the mountains, that he might be in the vicinity of the scene of action, and receive reports of the invading army as he moved along; but, alas! his progress was marked by nothing but disastrous despatches from every invading division, and he soon found that the chastisement of Nepaul was to be no easy matter. The point of attack, which the regiment to which we belonged was destined to reinforce, was that in the
province of Nahn, which, being nearly the most western of the Goorka conquests, had, of course, been more recently subdued.
There is no gradual intermingling of mountain and plain on approaching Nepaul ; the hills descend at once abrupt and sheer upon the level champaign ; the transition is in an instant, and the traveller may almost plant, at the same moment, one foot on the torrid and the other on the temperate zone.
Arrived at the base of the first mountain range, our noble pavilions of the plains were abandoned for little gipsylooking tents—a piece of canvass suspended on three sticks; instead of the tall camel for carrying our grand camp equipage, our beasts of burden dwindled into little shaggy hill ponies; the palanquin and charger were exchanged for a stout bamboo walking stick, while vast depots of strong European peasants' shoes lay there in readiness, to supply the sepoy with a more sufficient defence against flinty goat-paths, than the sandals of the sandy plain. Our first sudden dive into Nepaul was by the channel of the Jumna. That mighty river which we had so long only witnessed flowing with its slow, deep, silent, turbid flood through the flats of Hindostan, now met us in its bright, musical, and rejoicing course. Over the dry portions of the gravelly bed, overbung by confining rocky precipices, we pursued our novel and highly interesting line of march, encamping at last at the spot where our aërial ascent was to commence on the following morning. No sign of human dwelling appeared ; all was desolate and “tremendous sublimity."
We may here mention that the scene of operations in front of us, consisted of two parallel stupendous mountain ranges rising in succession almost perpendicularly from the level of their base. We were told that on the summit of the first, almost right over our heads, at the height of two thousand feet, was situated the deposed rajah's capital and palace of Nahn. This, at so great an eminence, where nothing was to be seen from our post but tiger-haunted trees and brushwood, appeared somewhat surprising. From the city of Nahn we were informed that the mountain range made a precipitous descent on the other side to the bottom of a narrow, profound valley, from whence the succeeding range arose, in like manner to the first, to the height of four thousand feet above our camp; and that on the peak of Jeytuck, five hundred feet still higher, the enemy had taken up his fortified position. We retired to rest, for the first time since our arrival in india, lullabied, in the language of Ossian, by the "roar of streams."
To men who had, during their Indian career, only seen, day after day, and year after year, the sun rise at once with level beams along the ocean-like plain, it was with a strangely interesting and novel feeling in the morning, that we looked out upon the small expanse of sun-bright skies overhead, from the mountain abyss, without seeing, for many hours after, the tropic luminary that lighted them up; and most delicious it was, instead of looking out on the dull, dry, unvaried plain, to see around, dashing water, dewy caverns, and ivy-mantled cliffs. An early breakfast over, we prepared for the ascent, the nature of which will be best understood by conceiving, if possible, a turnpike stair with two thousand steps. So steep are the mountain-sides, that the easiest mode of ascending has been found to be, by taking two steps first to the right and then to the left, in zigzag fashion. The order was given to
advance in such a line of march as had never before lain before either the Europeans or natives. The officers, leaving their ponies to follow in the rear as they best might, joined the file-rank on foot, and we began to scale the mountain. Loud resounding peals of laughter was our music band; it was like a holiday excursion to schoolboys, for the first time permitted to ascend to the top of the highest Highland mountains. This was all very well for a little, and the active and younger Briton and Indian pushed nobly on, bending and peghing over their walkingsticks; but many of the veterans, long unseparated from charger, elephant, and palanquin, felt it a most arduous task, and one more suited to their will than their power. Some mountaineer natives in the train now taught those who had ponies and wished for their aid, a new and laughable mode of bringing them into play to assist us in our toilsome progress.
A tent-rope was brought and placed across the breast, forming traces extending a yard or two in the pony's rear. The end of these traces the gentlemen were directed to twist round their hands, and, holding fast, to lean back with their whole body, at right angles with the mountain. These hill ponies, being all trained to this mode of harness and draught, understand well what is required, and on they move; all that the gentleman has to do is merely to lift one foot after another in succession, which, by the advance of the pony, is brought, nolens volens, again in contact with the path. It is interesting to observe the tact of these little animals in their aèrial progress ; they never shrink from their duty, or attempt an inviting retreat, but ever and anon, to recover their breath, make, of their own accord, a decided stop, with their legs arrested in advancing position, graceful and form as statuary; and oh for Punch's pencil to give it and the honourable gentleman reclining at the end of the traces in the rear, for an illustration of his next number! Of his own accord, having recovered his wind and strength, the noble creature again moves upwards with his human appendage. I shall never forget the scene upon coming up with one of the oldest, noblest, and bravest subadars (native captain), whose only drawback was his great obesity. On the plains his bearing had always been an almost caricature military erectness. Alas, what a change was here! I now beheld him with his brave turban off, his scarlet coat unbuttoned to the breeze, and, not being able to secure the assistance of a hill pony, he had called into requisition two young stalwart sepoys. With a hand in each of theirs, he lay back at the same angle as the gentleman behind the pony; only using, like him, his legs mechanically up and down, in compliance with his go-a-head supporters, helpless as a child, with his fine broad face expanded parallel to the skies, whilst his hoary locks drooped, agreeably to the laws of gravitation, directly to the earth. “ What is all this, subadar?" said I; “ what has come over you
u ?" The brave, good, old man, no doubt a little ashamed at his ignoble and unmilitary position, resolved, however, as he could not put " a stiff back to a stae brae,” to put a good face on what he could not help. “Sir," said he, “I am lāchär (helpless). You ask what has come over me. I reply, I am overcome by the mountains; I am vanquished at last."
After this fashion on we toiled. We met with nothing human on our upward progress ; dense tiger-hunted woods and rocks bounded the