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One day, in the beginning of March, whilst the General was at breakfast, the Sheik-el-Bekir came to implore his protection. He had been obliged to quit Cairo, the new Viceroy having ordered him to be arrested and put to death. He was an old man of about sixty, whose only crime was that of having shown too great an attachment towards the French, and particularly for General Buonaparte. The conduct of the Viceroy towards him was a direct violation of the treaty of Cairo, General Belliard having stipulated that no one should be annoyed for his opinions or conduct with regard to the French.
General Ramsay wrote immediately to the Viceroy to claim the performance of this promise, and to demand for the Sheik-el-Bekir a free return to Cairo:
The Viceroy returned an extremely polite answer, promising at the same time that the Sheik should not again be disturbed. El Bekir returned to his abode; but our departure probably delivered him up to that vengeance from which we had for a short time respited him. This, however, I cannot take upon myself to
The plague was beginning its ravages at Boulac, at Cairo, at Rehmanieh, and in Middle Egypt. The General, consequently, adopted the strictest measures to preserve Gyzeh from this contagion, All communication with the capital was interdicted, and the boats, which either ascended or descended the river, were subjected to a quarantine. These precautions were most urgent, and happily effectual; for Gyzeh was, I believe, almost the only town in Egypt, which remained exempt from the contagion. The Indian army at Rosetta was attacked by it and lost several soldiers. One of our surgeons affirmed that this cruel malady was not epidemical, nor even absolutely dangerous in all cases. He offered his services to attend those who were attacked by it, and even inocuculated himself, as well as a young Arab who was in his service, with the virus; both, however, fell victims to their temerity.
The zeal of our other surgeons was unbounded; several of them shut themselves up in the lazaretto with the sufferers, and were rewarded for their noble devotion by the very small number of those who fell victims to the disease. An extraordinary fact and one worthy of recital occurred to a soldier of the 26th light dragoons. This man, attacked by the disorder, felt his end approaching, and, suffering the torments of a raging thirst, said to the physicians, 'I have only a few moments to live; give me, I implore you, a bottle of port wine; that will, perhaps, calm the agonies I am enduring! The physician consented, and gave the bottle to the dragroon, who swallowed the whole of its contents at a single draught, then threw himself back on his couch. and fell into a profound sleep. On awaking, he found himself considerably better; he no longer felt the torture of thirst, and the racking
pains he had before endured had subsided: his courage and strength increased hourly; and the patient speedily saw himself perfectly restored to health. From that time the doctor administered port wine to all his patients, and did not lose one. It is remarkable, that, although we lost several soldiers, not a single officer perished. Can it be that they were indebted to a better-served table, for this exception? It appears, I think, extremely probable.
Mr. Burroughs, Attorney-General at Bengal, arrived at Gyzeh from India, during the month of March. He returned to England by the same route we did. An extraordinary adventure happened to this gentleman, which I shall relate; because it does honour to the Beys, and to the fidelity of the Arabs, who do not in general pride themselves much on this virtue. When he left Keneh, where he embarked to descend the Nile, his servant left behind him, by mistake, in the house which they had occupied, a small box belonging to his master: it contained several letters of exchange, a considerable sum in gold, and jewels, and other valuable articles. The lock was injured, and the box might consequently have been opened with very little difficulty. The servant did not discover the loss, until they were at too great a distance to think of returning to Keneh. On his arrival at Gyzeh, however, Mr. Burroughs informed General Ramsay of the loss he had sustained, and begged him to interest himself in his behalf with Ibrahim Bey and Selim. The General wrote, and despatched a Courier to the Beys, not, however, without some fear as to his safe arrival, from the troubled state of the country. But, before his letter could possibly have reached its destination, the Sheik of Keneh, in whose hands the casket had been placed, apprised Ibrahim of it, who immediately ordered a son of one of the Bedouin Chiefs to carry it to Cairo, by way of the desert, in order to avoid the Turks, and to deliver it from him to General Ramsay, to whom he also wrote to express the great pleasure he experienced at having it in his power to evince, in the smallest degree, his gratitude for the many kindnesses with which he had loaded him. I received this casket by order of the General, and, although it was open, and the lid only secured by cords, I nevertheless found, according to the inventory left with me by Mr. Burroughs, that nothing was missing. The Arab demanded a receipt, stating that the casket was untouched, and an answer to Ibrahim Bey's letter. The General gave him both, and offered him a reward, in the name of the owner. This, however, the Arab refused, Ibrahim having, he said, expressly forbidden him to accept any.
Mr. Hamilton returned from his expedition into Upper Egypt towards the middle of April. He had every where met with the kindest reception, for which he was indebted to the Beys, who had given strict orders to this effect, and had secured to him every possible facility. He informed us that the plague had made great
ravages in the towns and villages of the Saïd, and that he had been compelled to have recourse to all kinds of precautions to prevent his people from communicating with the inhabitants; but that, happily, during the whole of his journey, not a single man of his party had been attacked by the disorder.
About this time, a young man, habited as a Turk, but calling himself a native of Guernsey, arrived at our garrison. He spoke both French and English extremely well, and related to us his history; according to which, he had been taken prisoner by the Turks, and compelled to enter their service. He added, that he had escaped from their hands, and had come to claim his rights as an Englishman, desiring to engage himself as a soldier in the 18th regiment. The interesting countenance of this youth pleaded so forcibly in his behalf, that he was admitted. The new-comer made, however, such good use of his time, that he succeeded, in a very few days, in seducing a great number of soldiers, who went over to the Turks. The desertion, indeed, became so alarming that the General sent me to make complaints on this subject to the Viceroy. I did not doubt that the fugitives had arrived at Cairo, and took with me two dragoons to arrest them. On the road, I learnt that several had been seen to enter the citadel. They wished to form a body at Cairo, disciplined according to the European mode, and it was with our people that they proposed to organise it. I said to the Viceroy, that I had come to claim some soldiers who had deserted their standard; that the General knew they were at Cairo ; that he had even learnt they had taken refuge in the citadel. He replied, that he was totally ignorant of it; but that, if it were really the case, he would engage his word to send them back to Gyzeh.
On my return home, I perceived, near Fort Ibrahim, in the midst of a detachment of Turkish troops, two men disguised, whom I recognised as soldiers belonging to the 18th regiment. I continued my route without appearing to remark them. On my arrival at Gyzeh, however, I informed General Ramsay of the circumstance, but told him that I had not a sufficient force with me to arrest the deserters, and that, the Viceroy having, besides, promised to send them back, I had thought it advisable to await his determi nation.
During the night of the 24th, nine other soldiers deserted, carrying with them their arms, and accompanied by the young native of Guernsey. A dragoon followed their example, taking with him his horse. We then discovered that we had been duped, and that our Englishman was nothing more than the agent of the Viceroy.
The General, being much irritated at this conduct, sent me again to Cairo, at seven in the morning, with a positive order to claim the deserters, and to notify that, if in the space of three hours they were not given up, all communication between Cairo and Gyzeh must
cease. I took with me twelve dragoons, to arrest such of the fugitives as I might overtake on the road, and to escort back those who should be delivered up to me. Arrived near Cairo, we spurred our horses, and entered the court of the palace at full gallop, where my little troop ranged itself in order of battle. This bold bearing seemed to intimidate the Turks, who, on their side, advanced a detachment of cavalry and of infantry.
I entered the Viceroy's palace, explained to him the motive of my visit, and, with my watch in my hand, granted him three hours, within which space of time all the deserters were to be given up
I had scarcely concluded my conference, when one of my dragoons requested permission to speak with me, and informed me that the serjeant who commanded them had just seized, from a Turkish soldier, a musket belonging to the 18th regiment. I gave orders for its retention, and communicated this circumstance to the Viceroy, who then wished to persuade me that they had arrested one of the deserters, and that he was then in the palace. I requested to see him, and, on questioning him, learnt that he had been seduced by a man belonging to the household of the Viceroy, and speaking English, from which circumstances I judged that the person indicated could have been no other than a dragoman, formerly attached to the service of Lord Keith. I then begged the Viceroy, who denied any knowledge or participation in these proceedings, to have the culprit sought for. My deserter recognised him immediately, and I insisted, more peremptorily than ever, on the others being delivered up to me. At length, by dint of menaces, I succeeded in prevailing on the Viceroy to give up nine, with a promise to send the remainder on the following morning; a promise which he faithfully kept; but all our endeavours to seize the English traitor were unsuccessful.
These poor wretches were, on their arrival, brought before a council of war, and all condemned to death: clemency, however, prevailed, and two only were executed; the others obtained pardon.
Such were the events which were passing amongst us, when the peace concluded at Amiens, between the warlike Powers, put an end to our stay in Egypt. The Indian army received orders to return to Calcutta, with the exception of the 10th, 61st, and 80th regiments; which, to their great regret, were recalled to Europe. The troops were at liberty individually to offer their services for India; and about from a thousand to twelve hundred men availed themselves of this permission.
On the 10th of May the army concentrated itself at Gyzeh; where preparations had been made for its reception, as well as for its crossing the desert to Suez, where the fleet awaited it.
As I had almost the sole charge of these arrangements, I took care to establish two depôts of provisions and water; the one at Birket-el-Hadji, at the entrance of the desert, and the other about half way on the route. The distance from Cairo to Suez is about twenty-three leagues; and there is not a single drop of water to be met with on the whole of the road from Birket-el-Hadji to that post.
The army passed through Boulac before entering the desert, and made the journey in detachments.
General Baird left with the last. We separated from him with very great regret. This worthy chief had always distinguished himself by the lively interest which he took in the officers under his command, and by his solicitude for the comfort of the soldiery. Severe, but strictly just, in the exercise of his duties, he was equally loved and respected by all his subordinates.
Gyzeh was completely evacuated on the 21st, which plunged the inhabitants in the greatest distress. The town appeared quite deserted; for, such was the dread inspired by the Turks, that they almost invariably concealed themselves on their approach.
The army repaired to Suez, and embarked for India on the evening of the 6th of June, with the exception of a detachment of sepoys, one of the soldiers of which had been attacked by the plague. This detachment sailed about the end of July.'
Before quitting Gyzeh, General Ramsay paid a visit to the Viceroy. Until then he had always avoided seeing him, feeling, from many circumstances which had come to his knowledge, nothing but dislike and contempt for his character. The General was old, and consequently rather timid on horseback; Mohammed Yousouf, who, on his arrival, saw him take some precaution in dismounting, indulged in a little ridicule on the occasion, and exclaimed to his interpreter, from whom I afterwards learnt it, 'Is it this timid old man, then, who has sometimes endeavoured to intimidate me? He may congratulate himself that I was not sooner acquainted with him; I should then have acted with him more at my ease, and have made a more advantageous bargain. But the Viceroy was mistaken; the General's firmness was equal to his bravery; and neither ridicule nor menaces could have made him deviate, for a moment, from the right path. This worthy officer had gained his rank at the point of his sword, and amongst many other anecdotes of him, related in the army, was that of his memorable conduct at the battle of Lincelles in 1794, where, at the head of the 40th regiment of infantry of the line, he repulsed a force triple in numbers to his own, giving proof, on the field of battle, of equal intrepidity and preser.ce of mind.