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On the 21st of January another great breach was made, and another attempt to carry the place by assault; but it was repelled with terrible slaughter, upwards of six hundred men being killed or wounded. At the same time, Meer Khan, with eight thousand horse, endeavoured to cut off a great train of camels and bullocks bringing up provisions, but was defeated, as were the united forces of Meer Khan, Holkar, and the Rajah of Bhurtpore, in a similar attempt to intercept another provision train on its way from Agra. In order to compel Lake to raise the siege of Bhurtpore, Meer Khan made an incursion with his own cavalry, and a powerful reinforcement of Pindarrees, into the Doab, the Company's territory. But Lord Lake was not to be drawn away from the fort. He despatched Major-General Smith with a body of horse and the horse artillery, who followed the track of Meer Khan, marked by burning villages and desolated fields, and coming up with him, on the 1st of March, near Afzulgur, he routed him with great slaughter, dispersing and almost annihilating his force. During this expedition, which lasted a month, and in which the British crossed and re-crossed the Ganges and the Jumna several times, they gave a splendid example of the effective condition of our troops in India.
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With the war the manufacture of guns and arms of all kinds was greatly increased, and several important improvements were made in the construction of gun-barrels and their breeches. All kinds of cutlery were improved, but, at the same time, both Government, by contractors, and foreign countries, by merchants, were imposed on by articles that had more show than use, to the serious injury of the British reputation. Knives and razors were sent out of mere iron, and our pioneers and sappers and miners were often supplied with axes, picks, and shovels more resembling lead than iron.She gave a cry of relief. "Mr. Cairness, Mr. Cairness," she called, "it is only my husband." She went herself a little way into the passage. "Jack, Mr. Cairness has gone in there, call to him." And she called again herself.
After a lengthened and toilsome Session Parliament was at length prorogued by the king in person on the 10th of September. Several important measures which had passed the Commons were rejected by the Lords. Their resistance had caused great difficulty in carrying through the imperatively demanded measures of Municipal Reform; and they had deprived the Irish Church Temporalities Act of one of its principal features. But their obstructive action was not confined to great political measures of that kind. They rejected the Dublin Police Bill, and other measures of practical reform. The consequence was that the Liberal party began to ask seriously whether the absolute veto which the Lords possessed, and which they sometimes used perversely and even factiously, was compatible with the healthful action of the legislature and the well-being of the country. It was roundly asserted that the experience of the last two years had demonstrated the necessity of reform in the House of Lords. The question was extensively agitated, it was constantly discussed in the press, public meetings were held throughout the country upon it, and numerous petitions were presented to Parliament with the same object. On the 2nd of September Mr. Roebuck, while presenting one of these petitions, announced his intention of introducing early in the next Session a Bill to deprive the House of Lords of its veto upon all measures of legislation, and to substitute for it a suspense of power, so that if a Bill thrown out by the Lords should pass the Commons a second time, and receive the Royal Assent, it might become law without the concurrence of the Peers. Mr. Ripon also gave notice of a motion to remove the bishops from the House of Peers; while Mr. Hume indignantly denounced the humiliating ceremonials observed in the intercourse between the Commons and the Lords. Although the whole proceeding at a conference between the two Houses consists of the exchange of two pieces of paper, oral discussions not being permitted, the members of the House of Commons are obliged to wait upon the Lords, standing with their hats off, the members of the Upper House, as if they were masters, remaining seated with their hats on. The state of feeling among the working classes on this subject was expressed in the strongest language in an address to Mr. O'Connell from the "non-franchised inhabitants of Glasgow." They warmly deprecated the unmanly and submissive manner in which the Ministers and the Commons had bowed bare-headed to the refractory Lords. They demanded that responsibility should be established in every department of the State; and they said, "As the House of Lords has hitherto displayed a most astounding anomaly in this enlightened age by retaining the right to legislate by birth or Court favour, and being thereby rendered irresponsible, it follows it must be cut down as a rotten encumbrance, or be so cured as to be made of some service to the State, as well as amenable to the people."
The cook came running, six-shooter in hand, but Alchesay was driving them away and lowering the canvas flaps. Felipa told the cook that it was all right, and went on with her dressing. Although she had no gifts for guessing the moods and humors of her father's race, she understood her mother's considerably better,[Pg 93] and so she did not even call a "gracias" after Alchesay. She merely nodded amicably when she went out and found him sitting on the ground waiting for her. He returned the nod, a degree less graciously, if possible, and began to talk to her in bad Spanish, evidently putting small faith in her command of the White Mountain idiom, marvellous, to be sure, in a White-eye squaw, for such were of even greater uselessness than the average woman, but of no account whatever in a crisis. And such he plainly considered this to be.
Astounded by these repeated defections, Louis tried to gather some notion of the state of other bodies and troops about him. He attended a sitting of the Chamber of Deputies, and was received with acclamation; he reviewed twenty-five thousand of the National Guard, and there was the same display of loyalty; he inspected six thousand troops of the line, but there the reception was not encouraging. He finally summoned a council at the Tuileries, and there the generals declared frankly that he had no real means of resisting Buonaparte. This was on the 18th of March, and Louis felt that it was time for him to be making his retreat. At one o'clock in the morning of the 20th he was on his way towards Lille, escorted by a body of Household Troops. It was time, for that very day Buonaparte reached the camp of Mlun, where Macdonald had drawn up the troops to attack him; but Buonaparte threw himself amongst them, attended only by a slight escort of horse, and the soldiers all went over to him with a shout. Macdonald rode back to Paris, and, following the king, assumed the command of the Guard accompanying him. Louis hoped that the troops at Lille, under Mortier, would stand by him; but Mortier assured him of the contrary, and so, taking leave of Macdonald on the frontiers, Louis pursued his way to Ostend and thence to Ghent, where he established his Court. The Household Troops who had accompanied him were disbanded on the frontiers, and in attempting to regain their homes by different routes, most of them were killed, or plundered and abused.