We leave it to the critics to determine the value of Jules Verne's descriptions if they were shorn of the marvellous in which he delights to clothe them. All we can say is. his grotesque images are highly amusing. Here we have the story of the Sepoy Mutiny in India, and hear a great deal about the terrible Nana who set it a-going. The Steam House is a gigantic engine of steel, fashioned like a huge elephant, impelled by steam, and dragging several vast cars as big as houses, up and down the country. We meet with this droll conception in many of the fabulous illustrations by a French artist.
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The Steam House
Jules Verne – A Biographical Primer
The Steam House
Book One - The Demon Of Cawnpore
Book Two - Tigers And Traitors
The Steam House, J. Verne
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Frontcover: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Angelique
Jules Verne (1828–1905), French author, was born at Nantes on the 8th of February 1828. After completing his studies at the Nantes lycée, he went to Paris to study for the bar. About 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he wrote librettos for two operettas, and in 1850 his verse comedy, Les Pailles rompues, in which Alexandre Dumas fils had some share, was produced at the Gymnase. For some years his interests alternated between the theatre and the bourse, but some travellers’ stories which he wrote for the Musée des Familles seem to have revealed to him the true direction of his talent—the delineation, viz., of delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures to which cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details lent an air of versimilitude. Something of the kind had been done before, after kindred methods, by Cyrano de Bergerac, by Swift and Defoe, and later by Mayne Reid. But in his own particular application of plausible scientific apparatus Verne undoubtedly struck out a department for himself in the wide literary genre of voyages imaginaires. His first success was obtained with Cinq semaines en ballon, which he wrote for Hetzel’s Magazin d’Éducation in 1862, and thenceforward, for a quarter of a century, scarcely a year passed in which Hetzel did not publish one or more of his fantastic stories, illustrated generally by pictures of the most lurid and sensational description.The most successful of these romances include: Voyage au centre de la terre (1864); De la terre à la lune (1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1869); Les Anglais au pôle nord (1870); and Voyage autour du monde en quatre-vingts jours, which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872.The adaptation of this last (produced with success at the Porte St Martin theatre on the 8th of November 1874) and of another excellent tale, Michael Strogoff (at the Châtelet, 1880), both dramas being written in conjunction with Adolphe d’Ennery, proved the most acceptable of Verne’s theatrical pieces. The novels were translated into the various European languages—and some even into Japanese and Arabic—and had an enormous success in England. But after 1877, when he published Hector Servadac, a romance of existence upon a comet, the writer’s invention began to show signs of fatigue (his kingdom had been invaded in different directions and at different times times by such writers as R. M. Ballantyne, Rider Haggard and H. G. Wells), and he even committed himself, somewhat unguardedly, to very gloomy predictions as to the future of the novel. Jules Verne’s own novels, however, will certainly long continue to delight readers by reason of their sparkling style, their picturesque verve—apparently inherited directly from Dumas—their amusing and good-natured national caricatures, and the ingenuity with which the love element is either subordinated or completely excluded. M. Verne, who was always extremely popular in society, divided his time for the most part between Paris, his home at Amiens and his yacht. He was a member of the Legion of Honour, and several of his romances were crowned by the French Academy, but he was never enrolled among its members. He died at Amiens on the 24th of March 1905. His brother, Paul Verne, contributed to the Transactions of the French Alpine Club, and wrote an Ascension du Mont Blanc for his brother’s collection of Voyages extraordinaires in 1874.
“TWO THOUSAND POUNDS FOR A HEAD.”
“A REWARD of two thousand pounds will be paid to any one who will deliver up, dead or alive, one of the prime movers of the Sepoy revolt, at present known to be in the Bombay presidency, the Nabob Dandou Pant, commonly called…”
Such was the notice read by the inhabitants of Aurungabad, on the evening of the 6th of March, 1867.
A copy of the placard had been recently affixed to the wall of a lonely and ruined bungalow on the banks of the Doudhma, and already the corner of the paper bearing the second name—a name execrated by some, secretly admired by others—was gone.
The name had been there, printed in large letters, but it was torn off by the hand of a solitary fakir who passed by that desolate spot. The name of the Governor of the Bombay presidency, countersigning that of the Viceroy of India, had also disappeared. What could have been the fakir’s motive in doing this?
By defacing the notice, did he hope that the rebel of 1857 would escape public prosecution, and the consequences of the steps taken to secure his arrest? Could he imagine that a notoriety so terrible as his would vanish with the fragments of this scrap of paper?
To suppose such a thing would have been madness. The notices were affixed in profusion to the walls of the houses, palaces, mosques, and hotels of Aurungabad. Besides which, a crier had gone through all the streets, reading in a loud voice the proclamation of the Viceroy. So that the inhabitants of the lowest quarters knew by this time that a sum, amounting to a fortune, was promised to whomsoever would deliver up this Dandou Pant. The name, annihilated in one solitary instance, would, before twelve hours were over, be proclaimed throughout the province.
If, indeed, the report was correct that the Nabob had taken refuge in this part of Hindoostan, there could be no doubt that he would shortly fall into the hands of those strongly interested in his capture. Under what impulse, then, had the fakir defaced a placard of which thousands of copies had been circulated!
The impulse was doubtless one of anger, mingled perhaps with contempt; for he turned from the place with a scornful gesture, and entering the city was soon lost to view amid the swarming populace of its more crowded and disreputable quarter.
That portion of the Indian peninsula which lies between the Western Ghauts, and the Ghauts of the Bay of Bengal, is called the Deccan. It is the name commonly given to the southern part of India below the Ganges. The Deccan, of which the name in Sanscrit signifies “south,” contains a certain number of provinces in the presidencies of Bombay and Madras. Chief among these is the province of Aurungabad, the capital of which was, in former days, that of the entire Deccan.
In the seventeenth century the celebrated Mogul Emperor Aurungzebe, established his court in the town of Aurungabad, known in the early history of India by the name of Kirkhi. It then contained one hundred thousand inhabitants. Now, in the hands of the English who rule it in the name of the Nizam of Hyderabad, there are not more than fifty thousand. Yet it is one of the most healthful cities of the peninsula, having hitherto escaped the scourge of Asiatic cholera, as well as the visitations of the fever epidemics so much to be dreaded in India.
Aurungabad possesses magnificent remains of its ancient splendour. Many artistic and richly ornamental buildings bear witness to the power and grandeur of the most illustrious of the conquerors of India, the renowned Aurungzebe, who raised this empire, increased by the addition of Cabul and Assam, to a marvellous height of prosperity.
The palace of the Great Mogul stands on the right bank of the Doudhma. The mausoleum of the favourite Sultana of the Shah Jahan, the father of Aurungzebe, is also a remarkable edifice; so likewise is the elegant mosque built in imitation of the Tadje at Agra, which rears its four minarets round a graceful swelling cupola.
Among the mixed and varied population of Aurungabad, such a man as the fakir above mentioned easily concealed himself from observation. Whether his character was real or assumed, he was in no respect to be distinguished from others of his class. Men like him abound in India, and form, with the “sayeds,” a body of religious mendicants, who, travelling through the country on foot or on horseback, ask alms, which, if not bestowed willingly, they demand as a right. They also play the part of voluntary martyrs, and are held in great reverence by the lower orders of the Hindoo people.
This particular fakir was a man of good height, being more than five foot nine inches. His age could not have been more than forty, and his countenance reminded one of the handsome Mahratta type, especially in the brilliancy of his keen black eyes; but it was difficult to trace the fine features of the race, disfigured and pitted as they were by the marks of small-pox. He was in the prime of life, and his figure was robust and supple. A close observer would have seen that he had lost one finger of his left hand. His hair was dyed a red colour, and he went barefoot, wearing only a turban, and a scanty shirt or tunic of striped woollen stuff girded round his waist.
On his breast were represented in bright colours the emblems of the two principles of preservation and destruction taught by Hindoo mythology: the lion’s head of the fourth incarnation of Vishnu, the three eyes and the symbolic trident of the ferocious Siva.
There was great stir and commotion that evening in the streets of Aurungabad, especially in the lower quarters, where the populace swarmed outside the hovels in which they lived. Men, women, children, Europeans and natives; English soldiers, sepoys, beggars of all descriptions; peasants from the villages, met, talked, gesticulated, discussed the proclamation, and calculated the chances of winning the enormous reward offered by Government.
The excitement was as great as it could have been before the wheel of a lottery where the prize was 2000£. In this case the fortunate ticket was the head of Dandou Pant, and to obtain it a man must first have the good luck to fall in with the Nabob, and then the courage to seize him.
The fakir, apparently the only person unexcited by the hope of winning the prize, threaded his way among the eager groups, occasionally stopping and listening to what was said, as though he might hear something of use to him. He spoke to no one, but if his lips were silent his eyes and ears were on the alert.
“Two thousand pounds for finding the Nabob!” exclaimed one, raising his clenched hands to heaven.
“Not for finding him,” replied another, “but for catching him, which is a very different thing!”
“Well, to be sure, he is not a man to let himself be taken without a resolute struggle.”
“But surely it was said he died of fever in the jungles of Nepaul?”
“That story was quite untrue! The cunning fellow chose to pass for dead, that he might live in greater security!”
“The report was spread that he had been buried in the midst of his encampment on the frontier!”
“It was a false funeral, on purpose to deceive people.”
The fakir did not change a muscle of his countenance on hearing this latter assertion, which was made in a tone admitting of no doubt. But when one of the more excited of the group near which he was standing began to relate the following circumstantial details, his brows knit involuntarily as he listened.
“It is very certain,” said the speaker, “that in 1859 the Nabob took refuge with his brother, Balao Rao, and the ex-rajah of Gonda, Debi-Bux-Singh, in a camp at the foot of the mountains of Nepaul. There, finding themselves closely pressed by the British troops, they all three resolved to cross the Indo-Chinese frontier. Before doing so, they caused a report of their death to be circulated, in order to confirm which they went through the ceremony of actual funerals; but in fact only a finger from the left hand of each man had been really buried. These they cut off themselves when the rites were celebrated.”
“How do you know all this?” demanded one of the crowd of listeners.
“I myself was present,” answered the man. “The soldiers of Dandou Pant had taken me prisoner. I only effected my escape six months afterwards.”
While the Hindoo was speaking, the fakir never took his gaze off him. His eyes blazed like lightning. He kept his left hand under the ragged folds of his garment, and his lips quivered as they parted over his sharp-pointed teeth.
“So you have seen the Nabob?” inquired one of the audience.
“I have,” replied the former prisoner of Dandou Pant.
“And would know him for certain if accident were to bring you face to face with him?”
“Assuredly I would: I know him as well as I know myself.”
“Then you have a good chance of gaining the 2,000£!” returned his questioner, not without a touch of envy in his tone.
“Perhaps so,” replied the Hindoo, “if it be true that the Nabob has been so imprudent as to venture into the presidency of Bombay, which to me appears very unlikely.”
“What would be the reason of his venturing so far? What reason would induce him to dare so much?”
“No doubt he might hope to instigate a fresh rebellion, either among the sepoys or among the country populations of Central India.”
“Since Government asserts that he is known to be in the province,” said one of the speakers, who belonged to that class which takes for gospel everything stated by authority, “of course Government has reliable information on the subject.”
“Be it so!” responded the Hindoo; “only let it be the will of Brahma that Dandou Pant crosses my path, and my fortune is made!”
The fakir withdrew a few paces, but he did not lose sight of the ex-prisoner of the Nabob.
It was by this time dark night-time, but there was no diminution of the commotion in the streets of Aurungabad. Gossip about the Nabob circulated faster than ever. Here, people were saying that he had been seen in the town; there, that he was known to be at a great distance. A courier from the north was reported to have arrived, with news for the Governor, of his arrest. At nine o’clock the best informed asserted that he was already imprisoned in the town jail—in company with some Thugs who had been vegetating there for more than thirty years; that he was going to be hanged next day at sunrise without a trial, just like Tantia Topi, his celebrated comrade in revolt.
But by ten o’clock there was fresh news. The prisoner had escaped, and the hopes of those who coveted the reward revived. In reality all these reports were false. Those supposed to be the best informed knew no more than any one else. The Nabob’s head was safe. The prize was still to be won.
It was evident that the Indian who was acquainted with the person of Dandou Pant had a better chance of gaining the reward than any one else. Very few people, especially in the presidency of Bombay, had had occasion to meet with the savage leader of the great insurrection.
Farther to the north, or more in the centre of the country—in Scinde, in Bundelkund, in Oude, near Agra, Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow, on the principal theatre of the atrocities committed by his order—the population would have risen in a body, and delivered him over to British justice. The relatives of his victims—husbands, brothers, children, wives—still wept for those whom he had caused to be massacred by hundreds. Ten years had passed, but had not extinguished the righteous sentiments of horror and vengeance. It seemed, therefore, impossible that Dandou Pant should be so imprudent as to trust himself in districts where his name was held in execration.
If, then, he really had, as was supposed, re-crossed the Indo-Chinese frontier—if some hidden motive, whether projects for new revolt or otherwise, had induced him to quit the secret asylum which had hitherto remained unknown even to the Anglo-Indian police—it was only in the provinces of the Deccan that he could expect an open course and a species of security. And we have seen that the Governor had, in point of fact, got wind of his appearance in the presidency, and instantly a price had been set on his head. Still it must be remarked that men of the upper ranks at Aurungabad—magistrates, military officers, and public functionaries—considerably doubted the truth of the information received by the Governor.
It had so often been reported that this man had been seen, and even captured! So much false intelligence had been circulated respecting him, that there began to be a kind of legendary belief in a gift of ubiquity possessed by him, to account for the skill with which he eluded the most able and active agents of the police. The population, however, made no doubt that the intelligence as to his appearance was reliable.
Among those now most convinced that the Nabob was to be found was, of course, his ex-prisoner. The poor wretch, allured by the hope of gain, and likewise animated by a spirit of personal revenge, began to set about the undertaking at once, and regarded his success as almost certain.
His plan was very simple. He proposed next day to offer his services to the Governor; then, after having learned exactly all that was known of Dandou Pant—that is to say, the particulars on which was founded the information referred to in the proclamation, he intended to make his way at once to the locality in which the Nabob was reported to have been seen.
About eleven o’clock at night the Indian began to think of retiring to take some repose. His only resting-place was a small boat moored by the banks of the Doudhma; and thither he directed his steps, his mind full of the various reports he had heard, as, with half-closed eyes and thoughtful brow, he revolved the project he had resolved to carry out.
Quite unknown to him the fakir dogged his steps; he followed noiselessly, and, keeping in the shadow, never for an instant lost sight of him. Towards the outskirts of this quarter of Aurungabad the streets became gradually deserted. The chief thoroughfare opened upon bare, unoccupied ground, one circuit of which skirted the stream of the Doudhma. The place was a kind of desert beyond the town, though within its walls a few passengers were hastily traversing it, evidently anxious to reach more frequented paths. The footsteps of the last died away in the distance, but the Hindoo did not remark that he was now alone on the river’s bank.
The fakir was at no great distance, but concealed by trees, or beneath the sombre walls of ruined habitations, which were scattered here and there. His precautions were needful. When the moon rose and shed uncertain rays athwart the gloom, the Hindoo might have seen that he was watched, and even very closely followed. As to hearing the sound of the fakir’s tread, it was utterly impossible. Barefoot, he glided rather than walked. Nothing revealed his presence on the banks of the Doudhma.
Five minutes passed. The Hindoo took his way mechanically towards his wretched boat, like a man accustomed to withdraw night after night to this desert place.
He was absorbed in the thought of the interview he meant to have next day with the Governor; while the hope of revenging himself on the Nabob—never remarkable for his tenderness towards his prisoners—united with a burning desire to obtain the reward, rendered him blind and deaf to everything around him; and though the fakir was gradually approaching him, he was totally unconscious of the danger in which his imprudent words had placed him.
Suddenly a man sprang upon him with a bound like that of a tiger! He seemed to grasp a lightning flash. It was the moonlight glancing on the blade of a Malay dagger!
The Hindoo, struck in the breast, fell heavily to the ground. The wound, inflicted by an unerring hand, was mortal; but a few inarticulate words escaped the unhappy man’s lips, with a torrent of blood. The assassin stooped, raised his victim, and supported him while he turned his own face to the full light of the moon.
“Dost know me?” he asked.
“It is he!” murmured the Indian; and the dreaded name would have been his last choking utterance, but his head fell back, and he expired. In another instant the corpse had disappeared beneath the waters of the Doudhma.
The fakir waited until the noise of the plunge had passed away; then, turning swiftly, he traversed the open ground, and passing along the now deserted streets and lanes, approached one of the city gates.
This gate was closed for the night just before he reached it, and a military guard occupied the post, to prevent either ingress or egress. The fakir could not leave Aurungabad, as he had intended to do. “Yet depart this night I must, if ever I am to do it alive!” muttered he.
He turned away, and followed the inner line of fortifications for some little distance; then, ascending the slope, reached the upper part of the rampart. The crest towered fifty feet above the level of the fosse which lay between the scarp and counterscarp, and was devoid of any salient points or projections which could have afforded support. It seemed quite impossible that any man could descend without a rope, and the cord he wore as a girdle was but a few feet in length. He paused, glanced keenly round, and considered what was to be done.
Great trees rise within the walls of Aurungabad, which seems set in a verdant frame of foliage. The branches of these being long and flexible, it might be possible to cling to one, and at great risk, drop over the wall. No sooner did this idea occur to the fakir, than, without a moment’s hesitation, he plunged among the boughs, and soon reappeared outside the wall, holding a long pliable branch, which he grasped midway, and which gradually bent beneath his weight.
When the branch rested on the edge of the wall, the fakir began to let himself slowly downwards, as though he held a knotted rope in his hands. By this means he descended a considerable distance; but when close to the extremity of the bough, at least thirty feet still intervened between him and the ground. There he hung, swinging in the air by his outstretched arms, while his feet sought some crevice or rough stone for support.
A flash!—another! The report of musketry!
The sentries had perceived the fugitive and fired upon him. He was not hit, but a ball struck the branch which supported him, and splintered it.
In a few seconds it gave way, and down went the fakir into the fosse. Such a fearful fall would have killed another man—he was uninjured. To spring to his feet, dart up the slope of the counterscarp amid a storm of bullets—not one of which touched him—and vanish in the darkness, was mere play to the agile fugitive.
At a distance of two miles he passed the cantonments of the English troops, quartered outside Aurungabad.
A couple of hundred paces beyond that he stopped, turned round, and stretching his mutilated hand towards the city, fiercely uttered these words: “Woe betide those who fall now into the power of Dandou Pant! Englishmen have not seen the last of Nana Sahib!”
Nana Sahib! This name, the most formidable to which the revolt of 1857 had given a horrid notoriety, was there once more, flung like a haughty challenge at the conquerors of India.
“What do you think of India?”
“MAUCLER, my dear fellow, you tell us nothing about your journey!” said my friend Banks, the engineer, to me. “One would suppose you had never got beyond your native Paris! What do you think of India?”
“Think of India!” I replied, “I really must see it before I can answer that question!”
“Well, that is good!” returned Banks. “Why, you have just traversed the entire peninsula from Bombay to Calcutta, and unless you are downright blind—”
“I am not blind, my dear Banks; but during that journey you speak of I was blinded.”
“Yes! quite blinded by smoke, steam, dust; and, above all, by the rapid motion. I don’t want to speak evil of railroads, Banks, since it is your business to make them; but let me ask whether you call it travelling to be jammed up in the compartment of a carriage, see no further than the glass of the windows on each side of you, tear along day and night, now over viaducts among the eagles and vultures, now through tunnels among moles and rats, stopping only at stations one exactly like another, seeing nothing of towns but the outside of their walls and the tops of their minarets, and all this amid an uproar of snorting engines, shrieking steam-whistles, grinding and grating of rails, varied by the mournful groans of the brake? Can you, I say, call this travelling so as to see a country?”
“Well done!” cried Captain Hood. “There, Banks! answer that if you can. What is your opinion, colonel?”
The colonel, thus addressed, bent his head slightly, and merely said, “I am curious to know what reply Banks can make to our guest, Monsieur Maucler.”
“I reply without the slightest hesitation,” said the engineer, “that I quite agree with Maucler.”
“But then,” cried Captain Hood, “why do you construct these railroads at all?”
“To enable you to go from Calcutta to Bombay in sixty hours when you are in a hurry.”
“I am never in a hurry.”
“Ah, well then, you had better take to the great trunk road and walk!”
“That is exactly what I intend doing.”
“When the colonel will agree to accompany me in a pretty little stroll of eight or nine hundred miles across the country!”
The colonel smiled, and without speaking again fell into one of the long reveries from which his most intimate friends, among whom were Captain Hood and Banks the engineer, found it difficult to rouse him.
I had arrived in India a month previously, having journeyed by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which runs from Bombay to Calcutta, via Allahabad. I knew literally nothing of the country. But it was my purpose to travel through its northern districts beyond the Ganges, to visit its great cities, to examine and study the principal monuments of antiquity, and to devote to my explorations sufficient time to render them complete.
I had become acquainted with the engineer Banks in Paris. For some years we had been united by a friendship which only increased with greater intimacy. I had promised to visit him at Calcutta as soon as the completion of that part of the Scinde, Punjab, and Delhi railroad, of which he was engineer, should set him at liberty.
The works being now at an end, Banks had some months leave, and I had come to propose that he should take rest by roaming over India with me! As a matter of course he had accepted my proposal with enthusiasm, and in a few weeks, when the season would be favourable, we were to set off.
On my arrival at Calcutta in the month of March, 1867, Banks had introduced me to one of his gallant comrades, Captain Hood, and afterwards to his friend Colonel Munro, at whose house we were spending the evening. The colonel, at this time a man of about forty-seven, occupied a house in the European quarter; it stood somewhat apart, and consequently beyond the noise and stir of the great metropolis of India, which consists in fact of two cities, one native, the other foreign and commercial.
This English quarter is sometimes called “the city of palaces,” and certainly it abounds with palaces if the name is to be applied to every building which can boast of porticoes and terraces. Calcutta is a rendezvous for all the orders of architecture which English taste lays under contribution when constructing her colonial capitals.
As to the residence of Colonel Munro, it was a simple “bungalow,” a dwelling of one story raised on a brick basement, and having a pointed pyramidal roof. It was surrounded by a verandah supported on light columns. The kitchens, offices, coach-house, stables, and out-houses, formed two wings. A garden shaded by fine trees, and bounded by a low wall, enclosed the whole.
The colonel’s house was evidently that of a man in easy circumstances. There was a large staff of servants, such as is required in Anglo-Indian families. The furniture and every household arrangement was in the very best taste and style. In everything about the establishment might be traced the hand of an intelligent woman, whose thoughtful care must have originally planned the comforts and conveniences of the home, but at the same time one felt that this woman was no longer there.
The management of the household was conducted entirely by an old soldier of the colonel’s regiment, who acted as his steward or major-domo. Sergeant McNeil was a Scotchman, who had been with him in many campaigns, not merely in his military capacity, but as an attached and devoted personal attendant.
He was a man of five-and-forty or thereabouts, of tall and vigorous frame, and manly, well-bearded countenance. Although he had retired from the service when his colonel did, he continued to wear the uniform; and this national costume, together with his martial bearing, bespoke him at once the Highlander and the soldier.
Both had left the army in 1860. But instead of returning to the hills and glens of their native land, both had remained in India, and lived at Calcutta in a species of retirement and solitude, which requires to be explained.
When my friend Banks was about to introduce me to Colonel Munro, he gave me one piece of advice. “Make no allusion to the sepoy revolt,” he said: “and, above all, never mention the name of Nana Sahib.”
Colonel Edward Munro belonged to an old Scottish family, whose members had made their mark in the history of former days.
He was descended from that Sir Hector Munro who in 1760 commanded the army in Bengal, when a serious insurrection had to be quelled. This he effected with a stern and pitiless energy. In one day twenty-eight rebels were blown from the cannon’s mouth—a fearful sentence, many times afterwards carried out during the mutiny of 1857.
At the period of that great revolt Colonel Munro was in command of the 93rd Regiment of Highlanders, which he led during the campaign under Sir James Outram—one of the heroes of that war—of whom Sir Charles Napier spoke as “The Chevalier Bayard of the Indian Army.” Colonel Munro was with him at Cawnpore; and also, in the second campaign, he was at the siege of Lucknow, and continued with Sir James until the latter was appointed a Member of the Council of India at Calcutta.
In 1858 Colonel Munro was made a Knight Commander of the Star of India, and was created a baronet. His beloved wife never bore the title of Lady Munro, for she perished at Cawnpore on the 27th June, 1857, in the atrocious massacre perpetrated by the orders and before the eyes of Nana Sahib.
Lady Munro (her friends always called her so) had been perfectly adored by her husband. She was scarcely seven-and-twenty at the time of her terrible death. Mrs. Orr and Miss Jackson, after the taking of Lucknow, were miraculously saved and restored to their husband and father. But to Colonel Munro nothing remained of his wife. She had disappeared with the two hundred victims in the well of Cawnpore.
Sir Edward, now a desperate man, had but one object remaining in life; it was to quench a burning thirst for vengeance—for justice. The discovery of Nana Sahib, for whom, by order of Government, search was being made in all directions, was his one great desire, his sole aim.
It was in order to be free to prosecute this search that he had retired from the army. Sergeant McNeil got his discharge at the same time, and faithfully followed his master. The two men were animated by one hope, lived in one thought, had but one end in view; and eagerly starting in pursuit, followed up one track after another, only to fail as completely as the Anglo-Indian police had done. The Nana escaped all their efforts.
After three years spent in fruitless attempts, the colonel and Sergeant McNeil suspended their exertions for a time.
Just then the report of Nana Sahib’s death was current in India, and this time it seemed to be so well attested as to admit of no reasonable doubt.
Sir Edward Munro and McNeil returned to Calcutta, and established themselves in the lonely bungalow which has been described. There the colonel lived in retirement, never left home, read nothing which could contain any reference to the sanguinary time of the mutiny, and seemed to live but for the cherished memory of his wife. Time in no way mitigated his grief.
I learned these particulars from my friend Banks, on our way to the house of mourning, as Sir Edward’s bungalow might be called. It was very evident why he had warned me against making any allusion to the sepoy revolt and its cruel chief.
It must be noted that a report of Nana’s reappearance in Bombay, which had for some days been circulating, had not reached him. Had it done so, he would have been on the move at once.
Banks and Captain Hood were tried friends of the colonel’s, and they were his only constant visitors.
The former, as I have said, had recently completed the works he had in charge, on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. He was a man in the prime of life, and was now appointed to take an active part in constructing the Madras Railway, designed to connect the Arabian Sea with the Bay of Bengal, but which was not to be commenced for a year. He was just now on leave at Calcutta, occupied with many mechanical projects, for his mind was active and fertile, incessantly devising some novel invention. His spare time he devoted to the colonel, whose fast friend he had been for twenty years. Thus most of his evenings were spent in the verandah of the bungalow. There he usually met Captain Hood, who belonged to the 1st squadron of Carabineers, and had served in the campaign of 1857-58 first under Sir John Campbell in Oude and Rohilcunde, and afterwards in Central India, under Sir Hugh Rose, during the campaign which terminated in the taking of Gwalior.
Hood was not more than thirty; he had spent most of his life in India, and was a distinguished member of the Madras Club. His hair and beard were auburn, and he belonged to an English regiment; otherwise he was thoroughly “Indianised,” and loved the country as if it had been his by birth. He thought India the only place worth living in. And there, certainly, all his tastes were gratified. A soldier by nature and temperament, opportunities for fighting were of constant recurrence. An enthusiastic sportsman, was he not in a land where nature had collected together all the wild animals in creation, all the furred and feathered game of either hemisphere? A determined mountaineer, the magnificent ranges of Thibet offered him the ascent of the loftiest summits on the globe.
An intrepid traveller, what debarred him from setting foot on the hitherto untrodden regions of the Himalayan frontier? Madly fond of horse-racing, the race-courses of India appeared to him fully as important as those of Newmarket or Epsom.
On this latter subject Banks and Hood were quite at variance. The engineer took very little interest in the turfy triumphs of “Gladiator,” and Co.
One day, when Hood had been urging him to express some opinion on the point, Banks said that to his mind races could never be really exciting but on one condition.
“And what is that?” demanded Hood.
“It should be clearly understood,” returned Banks quite seriously, “that the jockey last at the winning-post is to be shot in his saddle.”
“Ah! not a bad idea!” exclaimed Hood, very simply. Nor would he have hesitated to run the chance himself.
Such were Sir Edward Munro’s two constant visitors, and without joining in their conversations he liked to listen to them. Their perpetual discussions and disputes, on all sorts of subjects, often brought a smile to his lips.
One wish and desire these two brave fellows had in common. And that was to induce the colonel to join them in making a journey, and so to vary the melancholy tenour of his thoughts. Several times they had tried to persuade him to go to places frequented during the hot season by the rich dwellers in Calcutta.
The colonel was immovable.
He had heard of the journey which Banks and I proposed to take. This evening the subject was resumed. Captain Hood’s idea was a vast walking-tour in the north of India. He objected to railroads, as Banks did to horses. The middle course proposed was to travel either in carriages or in palanquins—easy enough on the great thoroughfares of Hindoostan.
“Don’t tell me about your bullock-waggons and your humped-zebu carriages!” cried Banks. “I believe if you had your way without us engineers, you would still go about in primitive vehicles such as were discarded in Europe 500 years ago.”
“I’m sure they are far more comfortable than some of your contrivances, Banks. And think of those splendid white bullocks! why, they keep up a gallop admirably, and you find relays at every two leagues—”
“Yes; and they drag a machine on four wheels after them, in which one is tossed and pitched worse than in a boat at sea in a storm.”
“Well, I can’t say much for these conveyances, certainly,” answered Hood. “But have we not capital carriages for two, three, or four horses, which in speed can rival some of your trains? For my part, give me a palanquin rather than a train.”
“A palanquin, Hood! Call it a coffin—a bier—where you are laid out like a corpse!”
“That’s all very well, but at least you are not rattled and shaken about. In a palanquin you may write, read, or sleep at your ease, without being roused up for your ticket at every station. A palanquin carried by four or six Bengalee gamals (bearers) will take you at the rate of four-and-a-half miles an hour, and ever so much safer, too, than your merciless express trains!”
“The best plan of all,” said I, “would certainly be to carry one’s house with one.”
“Oh you snail!” cried Banks.
“My friend,” replied I, “a snail who could leave his shell, and return to it at pleasure, would not be badly off. To travel in one’s own house, a rolling house, will probably be the climax of inventions in the matter of journeying!”
“Perhaps it will,” said Colonel Munro, who had not yet spoken. “If the scene could be changed without leaving home and all its associations, if the horizon, points of view, atmosphere, and climate could be varied while one’s daily life went on as usual—yes, perhaps—”
“No more travellers’ bungalows,” said Hood, “where comfort is unknown, although for stopping there you require a leave from the local magistrate.”
“No more detestable inns, in which one is fleeced morally and physically!” said I.
“What a vision of delight!” cried Captain Hood. “Fancy stopping when you please, setting off when you feel inclined, going at a foot’s pace when disposed to linger, racing away at a gallop the instant the humour strikes you! Then to carry with you not only a bedroom, but drawing, and dining, and smoking-rooms! and a kitchen! and a cook! That would be something like progress, indeed Banks! and a hundred times better than railways. Contradict me if you dare!”
“Far from contradicting, I should entirely agree with you, if only you carried your notion of improvement far enough.”
“What? do you mean to say better still might be done?”
“Listen, and judge for yourself. You consider that a moving house would be superior to a carriage—to a salooncarriage—even to a sleeping-car on a railroad. And supposing one travelled for pleasure only, and not on business, you are right; I suppose we are agreed as to that?”
“Yes,” said I, “we all think so;” and Colonel Munro made a sign of acquiescence.
“Well,” continued Banks. “Now let us proceed. You give your orders to your coach-builder and architect combined, who turns you out a perfect realization of the idea, and there you have your rolling house, answering in every way to your requirements, replete with every convenience and comfort; not so high as to make one fear a somersault, not so broad as to suggest the possibility of sticking in a narrow road; well hung—in short, perfection. Let us suppose it has been built for our friend Colonel Munro; he invites us to share his hospitality, and proposes to visit the northern parts of India—like snails if you please, but snails who are not glued by the tail to their shells. All is prepared—nothing forgotten, not even the precious cook and kitchen so dear to our friend Hood. The day for starting comes! All right! Holloa! who is to draw your house my good friend?”
“Draw it?” cried Hood; “why mules, asses, horses, bullocks!”
“In dozens?” said Banks.
“Ah! let’s see; elephants, of course—elephants! It would be something superb, majestic, to see a house drawn by a team of elephants, well-matched, and with splendid action. Can you conceive a more lordly and magnificent style of progression? Would it not be glorious?”
“But! still another of your ‘buts.’”
“And a very big ‘but’ it is.”
“Bother you engineers! you are good for nothing but to discover difficulties.”
“And to surmount them when not insurmountable,” replied Banks quietly.
“Well then, surmount this one.”
“I will—and in this way. My dear Munro, Captain Hood offers us a large choice of motive power, but none which is incapable of fatigue, none which will not on occasion prove restive or obstinate, and above all, require to eat. It follows that the travelling house we speak of is quite impracticable unless it can be a steam house.”
“And run upon rails, of course! I thought so!” cried the captain, shrugging his shoulders.
“No, upon roads,” returned Banks; “drawn by a first-rate traction engine.”
“Bravo!” shouted Hood, “bravo! Provided the house need not follow your imperious lines of rails, I agree to the steam.”
“But,” said I to Banks, “an engine requires food as much as mules, asses, horses, bullocks, or elephants do, and for want of it will come to a standstill.”
“A steam horse,” replied he, “is equal in strength to several real horses, and the power may be indefinitely increased. The steam horse is subject neither to fatigue nor to sickness. In all latitudes, through all weathers, in sunshine, rain, or snow, he continues his unwearied course. He fears not the attack of wild beasts, the bite of serpents nor the stings of venomous insects. Desiring neither rest nor sleep, he needs no whip, spur, or goad. The steam horse, provided only he is not required at last to be cooked for dinner, is superior to every draught animal which Providence has placed at the disposal of mankind. All he consumes is a little oil or grease, a little coal or wood; and you know, my friends, that forests are not scarce in our Indian peninsula, and the wood belongs to everybody.”
“Well said!” exclaimed Captain Hood. “Hurrah for the steam horse! I can almost fancy I see the travelling house, invented by Banks the great engineer, travelling the highways and byeways of India, penetrating jungles, plunging through forests, venturing even into the haunts of lions, tigers, bears, panthers, and leopards, while we, safe within its walls, are dealing destruction on all and sundry! Ah. Banks, it makes my mouth water! I wish I wasn’t going to be born for another fifty years!”
“Why not, my dear fellow?”
“Because fifty years hence your dream will come true; we shall have the steam house.”
“It is ready now,” said Banks simply.
“Ready! Who has made one? Have you?”
“I have; and to tell you the truth, I rather expect it will even surpass your visionary hopes.”
“My dear Banks, let’s be off at once!” cried Hood, as if he had received an electric shock.
The engineer begged him to be calm, and turning to Sir Edward Munro, addressed him in an earnest tone.
“Edward,” said he, “if I place a steam house at your command—if a month hence, when the season will be suitable, I come and tell you that your rooms are prepared, and that you can occupy them and go wherever you like, while your friends Maucler, Hood, and I are ready and willing to accompany you on an excursion to the north of India—will you answer me, ‘Let us start, Banks, let us start; and the God of the traveller be our speed’?”
“Yes, my friends,” replied Colonel Munro, after a few moments’ reflection. “Yes, I agree. I place at your disposal, Banks, the requisite funds. Keep your promise. Bring to us this ideal of a steam house, which is to surpass even Hood’s imagination, and we will travel over all India.”
“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” shouted Captain Hood. “Now for wild sports on the frontiers of Nepaul!”
At this moment Sergeant McNeil, attracted by the captain’s ringing cheers, appeared at the entrance to the verandah.
“McNeil,” said Colonel Munro, “we start in a month for the north of India. Will you go?”
“Certainly, colonel, if you do,” he replied.
THE SEPOY REVOLT.
Some account must now be given of the state of India at the period when the events of this story took place, and especially it will be necessary to relate the chief circumstances connected with the formidable revolt of the sepoys.
The Honourable East India Company, called sometimes by the nickname of “John Company,” was founded in 1600, in the reign of Elizabeth, in the midst of a population of two hundred millions, inhabiting the sacred land of Aryavarta.
Their first title was merely “The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading to the East Indies,” and at their head was placed the Duke of Cumberland.
About this time the power of the Portuguese, which till then had been very great in the Indies, began to diminish. Of this the English immediately took advantage, and made their first attempt at a political and military administration in the presidency of Bengal; its capital, Calcutta, to be the centre of the new government.
A French Company was founded about the same period, under the patronage of Colbert, and the conflicting interests of the rival companies gave rise to endless contentions, in which, a century later, the names of Dupleix, Labourdonnais, and Count de Lally, are distinguished both in successes and reverses. The French were finally compelled to abandon the Carnatic, that portion of the peninsula which comprehends a part of its eastern coast.
Lord Clive’s brilliant successes having assured the English power in Bengal, Warren Hastings consolidated the empire Clive had founded, and from that time war and conquest went on, till England became master of that vast empire which has been described as “not less splendid and more durable than that of Alexander.”
The Company, however, till then all powerful, began to lose its authority, and in 1784 a bill was passed placing it under the control of Government. In 1813 it lost the monopoly of trading to India, and in 1833 the right of trading to China.
Since the establishment of a military force in India, the army had always been composed of two distinct contingents, European and native. The first consisted of British cavalry and infantry regiments, and European infantry in service of the Company; the second, of native regulars, commanded by English officers. There was also artillery, which belonged to the Company, and was European with the exception of a few batteries.
When Lord William Bentinck was made Governor of Madras, he introduced some reforms which highly offended the native troops. The sepoys were required to clip their moustachios, shave their chins, and were forbidden to wear their marks of caste. A new regulation turban was also ordered for them. Incited by the sons of Tippoo Sahib, this was made the excuse for an outbreak, in which the garrison at Vellore rose against and massacred their officers and about a hundred English soldiers, even the sick in the hospital being butchered.
The English troops quartered at Arcot fortunately arrived in time to stem that rebellion. This, however, showed that a slight cause would at any moment set the natives against their conquerors, and in 1857 imminent peril threatened our Eastern Empire.
The Mohammedans of both sects longed to set themselves free from the British yoke, but could not hope to do so while the Hindoo soldiery remained true to their salt. Unhappily the spark that was needed to inflame their passions was not long in being supplied. A suspicion had seized the Hindoo mind that their religion and caste were in danger; that the English had determined that all the natives should become Christians. They believed that the cartridges for their new Enfield rifles were purposely greased with pig’s fat, so that when they bit off the ends they would be defiled, lose caste, and be compelled to embrace the Christian religion.
Now, in a country where the population renounces even the use of soap, because the fat of either a sacred or unclean animal may enter into its composition, it was found very difficult to enforce the use of cartridges prepared with this substance, especially as they had to be touched with the lips. The Government yielded in some degree to the outcry which was made; but it was quite in vain to modify the drill with the rifles, or to assert that the fats in question took no part in the manufacture of the cartridges. Not a sepoy in the army could be reassured or persuaded to the contrary.
At this time Lord Canning was at the head of the administration as governor-general. Perhaps this statesman deluded himself as to the extent of the movement. For some years past the star of the United Kingdom had been growing visibly dimmer in the Hindoo sky. In 1842 the retreat from Cabul had diminished the prestige of the European conquerors. The attitude of the English army during the Crimean war had not in some instances been such as to sustain its military reputation. The sepoys, therefore, who were well acquainted with all that was happening on the shores of the Black Sea, thought the time had come when a revolt of the native troops would probably be successful. Their minds, already well prepared, were inflamed and excited by the bards, brahmins, and moulvis, who stirred them up by songs and exhortations.
At the beginning of the year 1857, whilst the contingent of the British army was reduced owing to exterior complications, Nana Sahib, otherwise called Dandou Pant, who had been residing near Cawnpore, had gone to Delhi, and twice to Lucknow, no doubt with the object of provoking the rising, prepared so long ago, for, in fact, very shortly after the departure of the Nana, the insurrection was declared.
On the 24th of February, at Berampore, the 34th regiment refused the cartridges. In the middle of the month of March an adjutant was massacred, and the regiment being disbanded after the punishment of the assassins, carried into the neighbouring provinces most active elements of revolt.
On the 10th of May, at Meerut, a little to the north of Delhi, the 3rd, 11th, and 20th regiments mutinied, killed their colonels and several staff officers, gave up the town to pillage, and then fell back on Delhi. Here the rajah, a descendant of Timour, joined them. The arsenal fell into their power, and the officers of the 54th regiment were slaughtered. On the 11th of May, at Delhi, Major Fraser and his officers were pitilessly massacred by the mutineers of Mirut, in the very palace of the European commandant; and on the 16th of May forty-nine prisoners, men, women, and children, fell under the hatchets of the assassins. On the 20th of May, the 26th regiment, cantonned near Lahore, killed the commandant of the fort and the European sergeant-major.
The impulse once given to these frightful butcheries, it was impossible to stop them. On the 28th of May, at Nourabad, many Anglo-Indian officers fell victims. The brigadier commandant, with his aide-de-camp, and many other officers, were murdered in the cantonments of Lucknow on the 30th of May. On the 31st of May, at Bareilly, in the Rohilkund, several officers were surprised and massacred, without having time to defend themselves. At Shahjahanpore, on the same date, were assassinated the collector and a number of officers by the sepoys of the 38th regiment; and the next day, beyond Barwar, many officers, women, and children, who were en route for the station of Sivapore, a mile from Aurungabad, fell victims.
In the first days of June, at Bhopal, were massacred a part of the European population; and at Jansi, under the inspiration of the terrible dispossessed Rani, all the women and children who took refuge in the fort were slaughtered with unexampled refinement of cruelty. At Allahabad, on the 6th June, eight young ensigns fell by the sepoys’ hands. On the 14th of June, two native regiments revolted at Gwalior, and assassinated their officers.
On the 27th of June, at Cawnpore, expired the first hecatomb of victims, of every age and sex, all shot or drowned—a prelude to the fearful drama which was to take place there a few weeks later. On the 1st of July, at Holkar, thirty-four Europeans—officers, women, and children—were massacred, and the town pillaged and burnt; and on the same day, at Ugow, the colonel and adjutant of the 23rd regiment were slain.
The second massacre at Cawnpore was on the 15th of July. On that day several hundred women and children—amongst them Lady Munro—were butchered with unequalled cruelty by the order of Nana himself, who called to his aid the Mussulmen butchers from the slaughterhouses. This atrocious act, and how the bodies were afterwards thrown down a well, is too well known to need further description.
On the 26th of September, in Lucknow, many were half cut to pieces, and then thrown still living into the flames. Besides these, in all the towns, and throughout the whole country, there were isolated murders, which altogether gave to this mutiny a horrible character of atrocity.
To these butcheries the English generals soon replied by reprisals—necessary, no doubt, since they did much to inspire terror of the British name among the insurgents—but which were truly frightful. At the beginning of the insurrection, at Lahore, Chief Justice Montgomery and Brigadier Corbett had managed to disarm, without bloodshed, the 8th, 16th, 26th, and 49th native regiments. At Moultan the 62nd and 29th regiments were also forced to surrender their arms, without being able to attempt any serious resistance. The same thing was done at Peshawar, to the 24th, 27th, and 51st regiments, who were disarmed by Brigadier S. Colton and Colonel Nicholson, just as the rebellion was about to burst. But the officers of the 51st regiment having fled to the mountains, a price was set on their heads, and all were soon brought back by the hill-men. This was the beginning of the reprisals.
A column, commanded by Colonel Nicholson, attacked a native regiment, which was marching towards Delhi. The mutineers were soon defeated and dispersed, and 120 prisoners brought to Peshawar. All were indiscriminately condemned to death; but one out of three only were really executed. Ten cannon were placed on the drilling-ground, a prisoner fastened to each of their mouths, and five times were the ten guns fired, covering the plain with mutilated remains, in the midst of air tainted with the smell of burning flesh.
These men, as M. de Valbezen says in his book called “Nouvelles Etudes sur les Anglais et l’lnde,” nearly all died with that heroic indifference which Indians know so well how to preserve even in the very face of death. “No need to bind me, captain,” said a fine young sepoy, twenty years of age, to one of the officers present at the execution; and as he spoke he carelessly stroked the instrument of death. “No need to bind me; I have no wish to run away.” Such was the first and horrible execution, which was to be followed by so many others.
At the same time Brigadier Chamberlain published the following order to the native troops at Lahore, after the execution of two sepoys of the 55th regiment: “You have just seen two of your comrades bound to the cannon’s mouth and blown to pieces; this will be the punishment of all traitors. Your conscience will tell you what penalties they will undergo in the other world. These two soldiers have been shot rather than hung on the gallows, because I wished to spare them the pollution of the executioner’s touch, and prove thus that the Government, even at this crisis, wishes to avoid everything that would do the least injury to your prejudices of religion and caste.”
On the 30th of July, 1,237 prisoners fell successively before firing platoons, and fifty others only escaped to die of hunger and suffocation in the prisons in which they were shut up. On the 28th of August, of 870 sepoys who fled from Lahore, 659 were pitilessly massacred by the soldiers of the British army.
After the taking of Delhi, on the 23rd of September, three princes of the king’s family, the heir presumptive and his two cousins, surrendered unconditionally to Major Hodson, who brought them, with an escort of five men only, into the midst of a menacing crowd of 5,000 Hindoos—one against 1,000. And yet, half way through, Hodson stopped the cart which contained his prisoners, got into it, ordered them to lay bare their breasts, and then shot them all three with his revolver. “This bloody execution, by the hand of an English officer,” says M. de Valbezen, “excited the highest admiration throughout the Punjab.”
After the capture of Delhi, 3,000 prisoners perished by shot or on the gallows, and with them twenty-nine members of the royal family. The siege of Delhi, it is true, had cost the besiegers 2,151 Europeans, and 1,686 natives. At Allahabad horrible slaughter was made, not among the sepoys, but in the ranks of the humble population, whom the fanatics had almost unconsciously enticed to pillage. At Lucknow, on the 16th of November, 2,000 sepoys were shot at the Sikander Bagh, and a space of 120 square yards was strewed with their dead bodies.
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