Chandra Shekhar/Part 3/Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III

the new hobby.

 Decorative T from Chandra Shekhar.pnghe Nawab, after making inquiries on several matters, said to Gurgan Khan,

"It appears it is in every way desirable that war should be declared against the English. Methinks, Amyatt should be arrested before hostilities commence; for he is my pronounced enemy. What do you say to this?"

Gurgan Khan. I am always ready for war; but an envoy should not be severely dealt with. If we oppress him, we shall be guilty of treachery in the eye of the world, and—

"Only last night," interposed the Nawab haughtily, "Amyatt entered into a house, in this town, by force, and took away the inmates under arrest! Why should I not order the punishment of a man, no matter that he is an envoy, who has committed such a crime within my territories?"

Gurgan Khan. If he has really done so, he is certainly punishable. But how am I to arrest him?

Nawab. Immediately despatch to his quarters some Sepoys with a gun, to bring him here with his party, under arrest.

Gurgan Khan. Amyatt and his men are not in this town now—they have left it this noon.

Nawab. How is it! Without giving any intimation?

Gurgan Khan. They have left one Mr. Hay for that purpose.

Nawab. What is the reason of their decamping so suddenly, and without my permission? It certainly indicates hostile attitude, and they must have quitted the town with open eyes as to what it would mean.

Gurgan Khan. Last night, some one murdered the English officer in charge of their ammunition boat. Amyatt suspects that our men have committed the murder, and has quitted the town in disgust. He is reported to have said that life was not safe here.

Nawab. Have you heard who murdered the man?

Gurgan Khan. Yes, one Pratap Roy.

Nawab. Well done! If I meet Pratap, I will handsomely reward him. Where is he?

Gurgan Khan. Amyatt has taken away along with him Pratap and others. I have, however, received no definite information, whether he has taken them along with him or has sent them to Azimabad.

Nawab. Why did you not let me know all these things so long?

Gurgan Khan. Igot the informations only a little before.

This was a lie. Gurgan Khan knew everything from the very beginning to the end. Without his consent, Amyatt could by no means leave Monghyr. Gurgan Khan had two-fold interest in letting Amyatt go. In the first place, he would be safe if Dalani was out of Monghyr, and secondly, Amyatt might do him some good in future if he would oblige him now.

The Nawab dismissed Gurgan Khan. While he was leaving the place, the Nawab cast upon him an askance glance. By that he meant—"So long as the war does not come to an end, I shall not touch a hair of your body—at the time of war you are my best weapon. But after that, I will discharge the debt I owe to Dalani Begam, with your blood."

The Nawab then summoned before him the Mir Munshi, and said, "Issue orders to Mahammud Taki Khan, at Murshidabad, to arrest Amyatt as soon as his boat arrives there, and send the prisoners with him to my court, here. Also, write that the arrest should be skilfully effected without an open engagement. Send a messenger with the order by land—it will then reach Murshidabad earlier."

The Nawab then returned to the harem, and called in his presence Shaibalini, and said, "Your husband cannot be rescued immediately—the Englishmen have left for Calcutta with the prisoners. I have sent orders to my officer, at Murshidabad, to arrest them there. Now you—"

"Excuse this light woman," interposed Shaibalini, with folded hands, "is it not possible to capture them if men are sent now?"

Nawab. It is not possible for a handful of Sepoys to arrest the Englishmen. A big boat will be required if a large number of armed men are despatched, and so the rescuing party will not be able to overtake the offenders on this side of Murshidabad. Besides, the Englishmen, I am afraid, may put to death all the prisoners, if they notice signs of regular fight. I have clever officers at Murshidabad, and they will skilfully effect an arrest.

Shaibalini could feel that her beautiful face has been of great help to her. It must have, she thought, made the Nawab believe her every word, and show to her so much kindness; or, why should he care to tell her so many things for her satisfaction? This emboldened Shaibalini. She again folded her hands, and said, "If you have been so very kind to this forlorn woman, be pleased to excuse me when I beseech you to listen to another prayer of mine. It is very easy to deliver my husband—he himself is a brave and skilful soldier. If he had weapons in his hand, the Englishmen could not have arrested him, and if he gets arms now, no one will be able to keep him in confinement. If some one can go and give him some weapons, he himself will be able to effect his own release and that of his companions.

The Nawab laughed at this, and said, "You are a mere girl and you do not know what sort of people the Englishmen are; who will venture to go upon their boat to give arms to your husband?"

"If you desire it, and if I get a small boat, I myself will go," replied Shaibalini, in a low but determined voice, with down-cast eyes.

The Nawab laughed aloud. At this, Shaibalini contracted her eye-brows, and said with striking firmness, "My lord, if I fail, I shall meet death—that won't affect anybody. But if I be successful, I shall gain my own object and you yours."

The contracted eye-brows of Shaibalini, which lent a peculiar grace to her countenance, convinced the Nawab that she was not an ordinary woman. He thought within himself, "Let her go. If she succeeds so much the better, if not, Mahammud Taki will accomplish the object, at Murshidabad." He then said to Shaibalini, "Would you go alone?"

"I am a woman, I shall not be able to go alone. If you will be so kind to me, please order a maid-servant and an armed man to accompany me," replied Shaibalini entreatingly.

The Nawab remained silent for a while, and then ordered to call in his presence Mashibuddin, a faithful, strong and courageous eunoch attendant. The man came there, and made his obeisance to his Royal master. The Nawab said to him, "Immediately set out, with this lady, in a small boat, for Murshidabad. Take along with you some arms, which she may select, and a Hindu maid-servant."

"What duty shall I have to perform at Murshidabad?" inquired Mashibuddin respectfully.

"You shall do what she will command," replied the Nawab, "Honour her as a Begum. If you meet Dalani Begum, bring her along with you."

After this, they both saluted the Nawab in the proper form, and took leave of him. Shaibalini imitated the eunoch attendant in his observance of the court etiquette. Like him, she receded from the Nawab without showing her back and repeatedly saluted him, as she withdrew herself, touching the floor with her hands. The Nawab smiled at this, and said,

"Remember me, fair lady. If you are ever in difficulty, come to Mir Kashim for help."

At this, Shaibalini made a profound bow to the Nawab. She said within herself, "Of course, l shall—I shall perhaps, come to you for the settlement of my dispute with Rupashi, in respect of Pratap."

Mashibuddin got a maid-servant and a boat ready, and at the instance of Shaibalini, procured swords, daggers, guns, revolvers, bullets and powder. He did not venture to ask Shaibalini as to what she would do with them. He thought within himself that she was another Chand Sultana.

They got into the boat, and set out that very night.

 

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