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506

(From a engraved face page 514 OF LANS

VICEROY

El, Simla,
face page 524

ON HIS

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89

FORTY-ONE YEARS IN INDIA.

CHAPTER I.

FORTY years ago the departure of a cadet for India was a much more serious affair than it is at present. Under the regulations then in force, leave, except on medical certificate, could only be obtained once during the whole of an officer's service, and ten years had to be spent in India before that leave could be taken. Small wonder, then, that I felt as if I were bidding England farewell for ever when, on the 20th February, 1852, I set sail from Southampton with Calcutta for my destination. Steamers in those days ran to and from India but once a month, and the fleet employed was only capable of transporting some 2,400 passengers in the course of a year. This does not include the Cape route; but even taking that into consideration, I should doubt whether there were then as many travellers to India in a year as there are now in a fortnight at the busy season.

My ship was the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer Ripon, commanded by Captain Moresby, an ex-officer of the Indian Navy, in which he had earned distinction by his survey of the Red Sea. A few Addiscombe friends were on board, leaving England under the same depressing circumstances as myself, and what with wind and weather, and the thought that at the best we were bidding farewell to home and relations for ten long years, we were anything but a cheerful party for the first few days of the voyage. Youth and high spirits had, however, re-asserted themselves long before Alexandria, which place we reached without incident beyond the customary halts for coaling at Gibraltar and Malta. At Alexandria we bade adieu to Captain Moresby, who had been most kind and attentive, and whose graphic accounts of the difficulties he had had to overcome whilst mastering the navigation of the Red Sea served to while away many a tedious hour.

On landing at Alexandria, we were hurried on board a large mast

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LIFE IN CALCUTTA

3 Lahore division, informing me that the proprietor of Spence's Hotel had been instructed to receive me, and that I had better put up there until I reported myself at the Head-Quarters of the Bengal Artillery at Dum-Dum. This was chilling news, for I was the only one of our party who had to go to a hotel on landing. The Infantry cadets had either been taken charge of by the Town Major, who provided them with quarters in Fort William, or had gone to stay with friends, and the only other Artilleryman (Stewart) went direct to Dum-Dum, where he had a brother, also a gunner, who, poor fellow, was murdered with his young wife five years later by the mutineers at Gwalior. I was still more depressed later on by finding myself at dinner tête-à-tête with a first-class specimen of the results of an Indian climate. He belonged to my own regiment, and was going home on medical certificate, but did not look as if he could ever reach England. He gave me the not too pleasing news that by staying in that dreary hotel, instead of proceeding direct to Dum-Dum, I had lost a day's service and pay, so I took care to join early the following morning.

A few years before, Dum-Dum had been a large military station, but the annexation of the Punjab, and the necessity for maintaining a considerable force in northern India, had greatly reduced the garrison. Even the small force that remained had embarked for Burma before my arrival, so that, instead of a large, cheery mess party, to which I had been looking forward, I sat down to dinner with only one other subaltern.

No time was lost in appointing me to a Native Field Battery, and I was put through the usual laboratory course as a commencement to my duties. The life was dull in the extreme, the only variety being an occasional week in Fort William, where my sole duty was to superintend the firing of salutes. Nor was there much in my surroundings to compensate for the prosaic nature of my work. Fort William was not then what it has since become-one of the healthiest stations in India. Quite the contrary. The men were crowded into small badly. ventilated buildings, and the sanitary arrangements were as deplorable as the state of the water supply. The only efficient scavengers were the huge birds of prey called adjutants, and so great was the dependence placed upon the exertions of these unclean creatures, that the young cadets were warned that any injury done to them would be treated as gross misconduct. The inevitable result of this state of affairs was endemic sickness, and a death-rate of over ten per cent. per annum.*

*In the fifty-seven years preceding the Mutiny the annual rate of mortality amongst the European troops in India was sixty-nine per thousand, and in some stations it was even more appalling. The Royal Commission appointed in 1864 to inquire into the sanitary condition of the army in India expressed the hope that, by taking proper precautions, the mortality might be

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