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The White Chief of the Caffres   By: (1827-1901)

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The White Chief of the Caffres, by Major General A.W. Drayson.



I was born in the city of Delhi, in Central India, where my father held a command as major in the old East India Company's service. I was an only son, and my mother died shortly after I was born. I resided at Delhi until I was ten years of age. Having been attended as a child by an ayah, and afterwards taught to ride by one of my father's syces, I learned to speak Hindostani before I could speak English, and felt quite at home amongst black people.

My father, Major Peterson, had a brother in England who was a bachelor, and an East Indian merchant, and supposed to be very rich. I was named Julius, after this uncle, who was my godfather, and who was much older than was my father, and who, although he had never seen me, yet took great interest in me, and mentioned me in all his letters.

It was just before my tenth birthday that my father received a letter from my uncle, which caused a great change in my life, and led to those adventures which I relate in this tale. In this letter my uncle wrote, that from his experience of India he was certain that I could not be properly educated in that country; that at my age the climate was very trying; and that consequently he wished my father to send me home, in order that I might be placed at a good school in England, and eventually sent either to Addiscombe or Haileybury, according as I chose the military or civil service of India. The expenses of my education, my uncle stated, would be undertaken by him, so that money need not interfere with the question. Young as I was I saw the advantages of this proposition, and being by nature ambitious and fond of adventure, I was pleased at the prospect of seeing England. After a little hesitation my father consented to part with me, and I and my father commenced our long journey from Delhi to Calcutta. In those early days of my youth there were no railways in India; there was no Suez Canal, and there were no steamers in the world. To reach England we embarked at Calcutta in what was termed one of Green's ships that is, a fine East Indiaman, a full rigged ship of about 1,000 tons and having sailed down the Hoogly river, commenced our four months' voyage, round the Cape, and from thence by Saint Helena to England.

I can remember Delhi as it was in those days its fine old fort, the fortifications round the town, its long street, in which were the bazaars and jewellers' shops. Many of the little native children to whom I used to talk in my childhood were probably among those who, during the Mutiny, were the murderers of my countrymen. Localities on which I have sat with my ayah, and took my first steps, have since then become famous as the places where our soldiers have fought and conquered against overwhelming numbers. Though I have passed through many strange scenes, I still remember Delhi, for it was my birthplace, and it has ever had a charm for me on that account only.

After a journey of nearly a month we reached Calcutta, and were received as guests by a friend who lived in Fort William. I was astonished at the sight of the ships that were anchored close to the fort, for I had no idea that any vessels could be so large. As the Madagascar the ship in which I was to sail was ready for sea, we stayed but a few days in Calcutta. I was placed in charge of the captain, bid my father good bye, promised to be a good boy and to do everything my uncle wished me to do, and commenced my voyage to England.

On the second day after leaving Calcutta we entered the Bay of Bengal, and with a fair wind sailed merrily over the dancing waves. During a few days I was sea sick; but I soon recovered, and was then much interested in watching the sailors when they went aloft to take reefs in the sails, or to take in a royal or studding sail... Continue reading book >>

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