Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 4

 

CHAPTER IV.

THE YOUTHFUL GENERAL.


When Jagat Singha returned to his father, Maharaja Man Singha learnt from the lips of his son that an army of about fifty thousand Pathans had encamped near tho village of Dharpur, that they were plundering the neighbouring villages, and that having raised or captured forts, they were lying unmolested. Man Singha saw that a speedy check must be put on the excesses of the Pathans; but that this was a task of no small difficulty. With the view of deciding the appropriate course to be followed, he took counsel with the officers who had accompanied the expedition.

"Day after day," said he, "village after village, Pargana after Pargana are slipping off from the hands of the Emperor. Now, the Pathans must be chastised. But how to do this? The odds are against us—further, the enemy will fight from the shelter of forts; so that even if we could beat them, they could not be crushed or dislodged. But, mark, if on the contrary we are worsted, we shall be at once annihilated in this shelterless region of the enemy. Therefore, methinks, it would be a piece of hair-brained bravado to risk the lives of so many of the Emperor's troops, as also to blight once for all the prospect of conquering Orissa. To wait for Syed Khan, then, seems to be the best course; but then, in the meanwhile, some speedy means must be resorted to, for keeping the enemy in some check. What do you advise, Sirs?"

All the old officers returned with one voice that to wait for Syed Khan seemed the best course.

Raja Man Singha said, "Instead of risking the whole army, my intention is to send a small force under some able officer."

"Maharaj," replied an old officer, "where you are afraid to send the whole army, what will a detachment avail?"

"I don't mean to send it," rejoined Man Singha, "to face the enemy in the open field. A small force lying concealed will be able to keep in check small bands of Pathans who are harassing the villages."

"Maharaj," answered the Mogal, "what officer will court certain destruction?"

Man Singha scowled. "What?" said he, "breathes there not one among so many Rajputs and Mogals who can look on death with scorn?"

Immediately a few Mogals and Rajputs started up, and expressed their readiness to go. Jagat Singha was present there. He was the youngest of all. From behind the others, he also said, "With your permission, Sir, I am also willing to do the Emperor's business."

"Ah! why shouldn't it be so?" said Man Singha with complacence. "Now, I know the day is yet distant when the name of either Rajput or Mogal will be a thing of the past. So you are all ready to undertake this perilous task? Now, whom shall I select?"

"Maharaj," replied a courtier laughing, "'tis fortunate that so many have come forward. Pray, Sir, make the most of this competition, and select him who agrees to take the fewest men."

"Aye!" replied the Raja, "this is sound advice." He then asked the first that had volunteered, "With what number are you willing to go?"

"With fifteen thousand, so please you."

"Nay, that can't be. If fifteen thousand were detached, a sufficient number would not be left behind. What gallant is ready to take ten thousand?"

The officers were silent. At length Yasovantha Singha, a Rajput warrior and favorite of the Raja, solicited his permission to be placed in command. The Raja now began to eye them round with satisfaction. Prince Jagat Singha had been standing courting his glance, and as the Raja's gaze fell on him, he humbly said,

"Maharaj, under your favor, with the help of five thousand, I can engage to drive away Katlu Khan to the other side of the Subarnarekha."

Man Singha was struck dumb; the officers began to whisper to one another. "My son," said he after a while, "I know you are the pride of the Rajput race, but, child, you are rash."

Jagat Singha supplicated with clasped hands,

"Sire, if instead of redeeming my word, I waste the Emperor's troops, let me meet with condign punishment."

After thinking a while, the Raja said,

"God forbid that I should hinder the free exercise of your Rajput virtue. Look! here I entrust you with this business."

Saying this, he embraced the Prince with much feeling and bade him farewell.