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My chief trouble at this time was the presence of the Afghan Sirdars within the cantonment. I had good reason to believe that some of them, though full of protestations of friendship, had been in communication with Mahomed Jan, the high-priest Mushk-i-Alam, and other Afghan leaders, so that I felt sure that neither they nor their followers were to be depended upon. I was also somewhat anxious about the Pathan soldiers in our ranks, a feeling which I was unwilling to acknowledge even to myself, for they had hitherto behaved with marked loyalty, and done splendid service; but they were now being exposed to a most severe trial, in that they were, as I knew, being constantly appealed to by their co-religionists to join in the jahad against us, and bitterly reproached for serving their infidel masters. Whether they would be strong enough to resist such appeals, it was impossible to tell; but it would have been most unwise, as well as most painful to me, to show the slightest suspicion of these fine soldiers. It happened that the Corps of Guides and 5th Punjab Infantry, which had of all regiments the largest number of Mahomedans amongst them, were located at the two extremities of the Bimaru range, the points most likely to be attacked; to have made any change in the disposition would have been to show that they were suspected, so I determined (after taking their commanding officers, Colonels Jenkins and McQueen, into my confidence) to leave them where they were, and merely to strengthen each post by a couple of companies of Highlanders.

I was also considerably exercised about the safety of the large stacks of firewood, grain, and forage, for if anything had happened to them we could not have continued to hold Sherpur. There were not enough British soldiers to furnish guards for these stacks, so I was obliged to have them watched for a time by officers; an opportune fall of snow, however, on the night of the 18th, rendered incendiarism impossible.

One other extremely unpleasant precaution I felt it my duty to take was the placing of Daud Shah, Yakub Khan's Commander-in-Chief, under arrest. I liked the man, and he had mixed freely with us all for more than two months. He was not, however, absolutely above suspicion some of his near relatives were the most prominent amongst our enemies; and I had been struck by a change in his manner towards me of late. In trusting him to the extent I had done, I acted against the opinion of almost everyone about me, and now that I had a doubt myself, I felt I was not justified in leaving him at liberty, for if he were disposed to make use of his opportunities to our disadvantage, his unrestrained freedom of movement and observation would be certainly a source of great danger..

For three or four days cloudy weather prevented heliograph communication with Lataband, and messengers sent by Hudson had failed to reach Sherpur, so that we were without any news from the outer 29-2

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RUMOURS OF AN ASSAULT

453 intentions of the enemy while we were surrounded in Sherpur; but from spies who managed to pass to and from the city under cover of night, I gathered that plans were being made to attack us.

It was not, however, until the 21st that there were any very great signs of activity. On that and the following day the several posts to the east of the cantonment were occupied preparatory to an attack from that quarter; and I was told that numbers of scaling-ladders were being constructed. This looked like business. Next, information was brought in that, in all the mosques, mullas were making frantic appeals to the people to unite in one final effort to exterminate the infidel; and that the aged Mushk-i-Alam was doing all in his power to fan the flame of fanaticism, promising to light with his own hand at dawn on the 23rd (the last day of the Moharram, when religious exaltation amongst Mahomedans is at its height) the beacon-fire which was to be the signal for assault.

The night of the 22nd was undisturbed, save by the songs and cries of the Afghans outside the walls, but just before day the flames of the signal-fire, shooting upwards from the topmost crag of the Asmai range, were plainly to be seen, followed on the instant by a burst of firing.

Our troops were already under arms and at their posts, waiting for the assault, which commenced with heavy firing against the eastern and southern faces. The most determined attack was directed against the two sections commanded by Brigadier-General Hugh Gough and Colonel Jenkins, who by their able dispositions proved themselves worthy of the confidence I had reposed in them.

It was too dark at first to see anything in front of the walls, and orders were given to reserve fire until the advancing masses of the assailants could be clearly made out. Gough's Mountain guns, under Lieutenant Sherries, then fired star-shells, which disclosed the attacking force up to a thousand yards off. The 28th Punjab Infantry were the first to open fire; then the Guides, the 67th, and 92nd, each in their turn, greeted by their volleys the ghazis who approached close to the walls. Guns from every battery opened on the foe moving forward to the attack, and from 7 to 10 a.m. the fight was carried on. Repeated attempts were made to scale the southeastern wall, and many times the enemy got up as far as the abattis, but were repulsed, heaps of dead marking the spots where these attempts had been most persistent.*

* A curious exemplification of the passive courage and indifference to danger of some Natives was the behaviour of an old Mahomedan servant of mine. At this juncture, just at the time when the fight was hottest, and I was receiving reports every few seconds from the officers commanding the several posts, Eli Bux (a brother of the man who had been with me throughout the Mutiny) whispered in my ear that my bath was ready. He was quite

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