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Chandra Shekhar/Part 2/Chapter 7

 

CHAPTER VII

golston and johnson.

 Decorative W from Chandra Shekhar.jpghen Ramcharan had alighted from the boat with Shaibalini and quitted with her, and Pratap too had left, the Telinga sepoy, who had been sitting on the top of the boat, with his hands benumbed at Pratap's strike, stealthily alighted from the boat and got upon the bank of the river. He then followed the track which formed the route of Shaibalini's palanquin. He kept an eye on the palanquin from at a great distance, and began to follow it unnoticed. The sepoy was a Mahomedan by race. His name was Bakaulla Khan. The first batch of soldiers, that came to Bengal with Clive, was recruited in Madras, and for that reason, in those days, all the native soldiers of the English, in Bengal, were styled as Telingas. At the time of this story, many up-country Hindus and Mahomedans were taken into the English army. Bakaullah was an inhabitant of a place in the neighbourhood of Gazipur.

Bakaullah followed the palanquin unobserved as far as Pratap's lodging. He saw that Shaibalini entered into that house, and immediately left for Amyatt's quarters. On his arrival there he noticed considerable agitation in the camp. Amyatt had already heard what happened in Foster's Budgrow. Bakaullah came to know that Amyatt had promised a reward of a thousand rupees to any one who would find out the rowdy oppressors, on that very night. Bakaullah went to Amyatt and reported to him everything in detail. He said, "I can point out the house of the offenders." At this Amyatt's countenance became cheerful, and his contracted eyebrows became straight again. He ordered four sepoys and a native officer to accompany Bakaullah. "Go, and drag the ruffians here before me," then said he with all the weight of his authority.

"In that case, pray, order two Englishmen to accompany me—Pratap Roy is Satan incarnate—no native of this country will be able to arrest him," urged Bakaullah persuasively. Two armed Englishmen—Golston and Johnson—set out with Bakaullah, at Amyatt's command.

"Did you ever go within that house?" inquired Golston and Johnson of Bakaullah, just as they were starting.

"No—I did not," replied Bakaullah.

"Then, take with you a candle and a match—the Hindus do not keep up light throughout the night for fear of expense," said Golston to Johnson.

Johnson took with him, in his pocket, a candle and a match box. The two Englishmen then proceeded along the broad thoroughfare, with firm and steady steps, resembling those of the soldiers marching on to the battle-field. Neither of them said a word. The four sepoys and the native officer with Bakaullah were following them silently. The watchmen of the town turned aside in fear before them. Golston and Johnson, with the sepoys, noiselessly arrived at the gate of Pratap's house, and gently knocked at the door.

As a servant Ramcharan had no equal. He was a trained hand in securing ease and comfort to his master by artfully rubbing his body and applying oil to it before bath. He was an expert in handsomely frilling his master's Dhuties and was an excellent valet. As a keeper of household furniture, he had no equal—a marketeer like him was rare. But these were his ordinary qualifications. He was well-known throughout the length and breadth of Murshidabad as a trained and skilful stick-player—Many Hindus and Mahomedans had met their death at his hands. As to how sharp and infallible he was at his rifle, was written in unmistakable letters on the waters of the Ganges with Foster's blood.

But Ramcharan had still one more qualification, which was more useful than all these, at times of emergency—this was his cunningness. Ramcharan was as sly as a fox. Nevertheless, his devotion to his master and his trustworthiness were unrivalled.

When Ramcharan came to open the door, he thought within himself, "Who is it that knocks at this ungodly hour? Is it the pious hermit? Most likely so. But we have had quite an adventure to-night, and I am not going to open the door at this unearthly hour, till I see who knocks at it."

Ramcharan then noiselessly came up to the entrance and stood there for a while in silence—he was listening to something. He heard two men whispering to each other in a peculiar language—Ramcharan used to call it "Indil mindil"—now people call it "English." At this Ramcharan said within himself, "Wait you devils! If I must open the door, I must do so with a gun in hand. He must be a damned fool who trusts in "Indil mindil."

Ramcharan also thought that, perhaps, one gun was not sufficient and that he should call up his master. So he came away from the gate to call up Pratap.

Now the Englishmen lost their patience. "We need not wait any more," cried Johnson fretfully, unable to endure the delay. "Kick at the door, the Indian door will not stand British kicks."

Golston kicked at the door—it cracked, jarred and made a rattling noise. Ramcharan ran. The noise reached Pratap's ears. He began to descend the stairs to come down. The door did not break at that kick. Then Johnson kicked at it and it gave way.

"Let, in this way whole India crumble down under British kicks," vaunted forth the Englishmen and entered into the house—the sepoys followed them in.

Pratap met Ramcharan on the stairs. "Hide yourself in the darkness—some Englishmen have come, perhaps, from Ambat's camp," whispered Ramcharan to Pratap.

Ramcharan would pronounce Amyatt as Ambat.

Pratap. What fear is in that?

Ramcharan. Mind you, they are eight in number.

Pratap. What will be the fate of the women in this house if I hide myself like a coward? Go, and bring down my gun.

If Ramcharan had known all particulars about the English, he would not have asked Pratap to hide himself in the darkness. By the time they were speaking to each other, the house suddenly became lighted. Johnson handed over to a sepoy the burning taper. In its light the Englishmen saw two persons standing on the stairs.

"What, are those the ruffians?" inquired Johnson of Bakaullah.

Bakaullah could not recognise them fully. He had seen Pratap and Ramcharan in the darkness of night, and so it was not possible for him to identify them with confidence. But the pain of his broken hand had passed endurance—some one, it does not matter who, is responsible for it. Bakaullah, therefore, said,

"Yes, they are indeed."

The Englishmen then leaped upon the stairs like tigers. Finding the sepoys following them, Ramcharan began to ascend the stairs, in a breathless speed, to fetch Pratap's gun. Johnson noticed him. He instantly raised the pistol in his hand and fired at Ramcharan. The shot struck one of his legs and he sat down, disabled to move any further.

Pratap had no arms with him—he was unwilling to run away; besides, he saw with his own eyes the fate of Ramcharan in his attempt to get away. Pratap, therefore, calmly asked the Englishmen,

"Who are you—why have you come here?"

"Who are you?" interposed Golston haughtily.

"I am Pratap Roy," responded Pratap with his characteristic calmness.

Bakaullah had not forgotten that name. From the top of Foster's Budgrow, Pratap, with gun in hand, had boastingly said, 'Know it, my name is Pratap Roy'. Bakaullah at once cried out, "Sir, this man is the ring-leader."

Thereupon Johnson caught hold of Pratap's one hand and Golston the other. Pratap felt that it was useless to apply strength. He endured every thing silently. The native officer had a handcuff with him. He put it on to Pratap's hands.

"What's to be done with that fellow?" asked Golston of Johnson, pointing out with his finger the wounded Ramcharan.

"Bring that man along with you," enjoined Johnson upon two sepoys.

The sepoys accordingly dragged away Ramcharan along with them.

The noise roused Dalani and Kulsam from their sleep, and greatly frightened them. They slightly opened the door of their room and were seeing through the opening what was going on outside. Their room was close to the stairs.

When the Englishmen were coming down with Pratap and Ramcharan, the light of the burning taper in the hand of the sepoy, accidentally fell upon Dalani's dark blue eyes, moving about the opening of the door. Bakaullah happened to catch a glimpse of those eyes. The moment he saw them, he cried out, "Here is Mr. Foster's lady."

"Oh I see! Where is she?" said Golston in pleasant surprise.

"In that room," replied Bakaullah, pointing out with his finger the slightly opened door, through which Dalani was peeping.

Johnson and Golston entered into the room and asked Dalani and Kulsam to follow them.

Dalani and Kulsam were greatly frightened and confounded. They followed the Englishmen quietly.

Shaibalini alone remained in that house. She too had seen everything.

 

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