Introduction | Begumbagh


I’ve waited all these years, expecting some one or another would give a full and true account of it all; but little thinking it would ever come to be my task. For it’s not in my way; but seeing how much has been said about other parts and other people’s sufferings; while ours never so much as came in for a line of newspaper, I can’t think it’s fair; and as fairness is what I always did like, I set to, very much against my will; while, on account of my empty sleeve, the paper keeps slipping and sliding about, so that I can only hold it quiet by putting the lead inkstand on one corner, and my tobacco-jar on the other. You see, I’m not much at home at this sort of thing; and though, if you put a pipe and a glass of something before me, I could tell you all about it, taking my time, like, it seems that won’t do. I said, “Why don’t you write it down as I tell it, so as other people could read all about it?” But “No,” he says; “I could do it in my fashion, but I want it to be in your simple unadorned style; so set to and do it.”

I daresay a good many of you know me—seen me often in Bond Street, at Facet’s door—Facet’s, you know, the great jeweller, where I stand and open carriages, or take messages, or small parcels with no end of valuables in them, for I’m trusted. Smith, my name is, Isaac Smith; and I’m that tallish, grisly fellow with the seam down one side of my face, my left sleeve looped up to my button, and not a speck to be seen on that “commissionaire’s” uniform, upon whose breast I’ve got three medals.

I was standing one day, waiting patiently for something to do, when a tallish gentleman came up, nodded as if he knew me well, and I saluted.

“Lose that limb in the Crimea, my man?”

“No, sir. Mutiny,” I said, standing as stiff as use had made nature with me.

And then he asked me a lot more questions, and I answered him; and the end of it was that one evening I went to his house, and he had me in, and did what was wanted to set me off. I’d had a little bit of an itching to try something of the kind, I must own, for long enough, but his words started me; and in consequence I got a quire of the best foolscap paper, and a pen’orth of pens, and here’s my story.