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Chandra Shekhar/Part 5/Chapter 1

 

CHANDRA SHEKHAR

Part V

THE VEIL

 

 

CHANDRA SHEKHAR

CHAPTER I

the fate of amyatt.

 Decorative A from Chandra Shekhar.pngmyatt's boat reached Murshidabad in due course of time. The Nawab's representative, Mahammad Taki Khan, was at once informed of it. He came to meet Amyatt in his boat, with great pomp. Amyatt was greatly pleased at this mark of courtesy. At the close of the interview, Taki Khan invited Amyatt to dinner. Amyatt was persuaded to accept the invitation, but he did so not with a cheerful mind. On the other hand, Mahammad Taki Khan secretly stationed sentries to watch, from their hiding places, the boats of the English, so that they might not escape.

When Mahammad Taki left Amyatt's boat, the Englishmen began to discuss among themselves, whether they should attend the invitation. Golston and Johnson said that Englishmen did not and should not know what fear is, and so they must join the dinner. Amyatt, however, said that when they were about to enter into a war with the Nawab, and when ill feelings between the two parties had reached their climax, there was absolutely no necessity to observe ceremonious courtesy. Amyatt decided that they should not go to dine at Taki Khan's place.

The news of the invitation reached the boat in which Dalani and Kulsam were being kept as prisoners. Dalani and Kulsam, thereupon, began to speak with each other, in whispers.

"Kulsam, do you hear? I think our deliverence is near at hand", said Dalani with a cheerful countenance.

"Why?" inquired Kulsam.

Dalani. You don't seem to understand anything, as if you are a simpleton! Don't you see there is something very significant about this invitation, or why should the Nawab's men invite those who have carried away the Begum? Methinks, these devils will meet with death to-day.

Kulsam. Has that cheered you up?

Dalani. Why not? I, of course, wish that there may not be any bloodshed, but I cannot but be rather delighted than sorry, if my deliverence follows the death of those, who have unjustly imprisoned me.

Kulsam. But then, why should you be at all so anxious for your deliverence? The Englishmen do not seem to have any other motive than to merely keep us under arrest—they are not molesting us in any way. They have simply imprisoned us, and we women will be imprisoned wherever we may go.

Dalani was greatly annoyed, and she said,

"If I have to live like a captive in my own house, I shall still be regarded there as Dalani Begum; but here I am no better than a poor slave girl. It sickens me to talk with you. Now, can you say, why the Englishmen have imprisoned us?"

Kulsam. Why, they have already given out their mind! We are here as much a security for the Nawab's good conduct, as Mr. Hay is at Monghyr for that of the English. We shall be released as soon as Mr. Hay is let off; if Mr. Hay is left unmolested, we have nothing to be afraid of.

Dalani got more annoyed and said,

"I have nothing to do whatsoever with your Hay—I am quite tired of your partiality for the English. Methinks, you will not, perhaps, leave these rogues even if you are let off!"

Kulsam did not show temper; she said with a smile,

"If I do not, would you, in that case, go away without me?"

Dalani was getting more and more short of her temper, and she indignantly said,

"Do you even wish that?"

"Who can say what Fate has ordained for us?" said Kulsam with affected seriousness.

At this Dalani contracted her eyebrows, and shook her little fist at Kulsam; she, however, reserved the blow for the present. She simply raised her clenched fist as far as that cluster of her curls, which hung over her ear like the hovering bee over a beautiful flower. She then said in a rather disgusting tone,

"Would you tell me the truth—why did Amyatt, on two different days, called you before him?"

Kulsam. I have already told you all about it—he sent for me only to inquire whether you were quite comfortable here. It is his desire, that so long as we shall have to live with him, we may pass our days comfortably. May God so grant it that the English may not leave us!

Dalani now raised her little closed fist still higher, and said,

"May God so ordain that death may come upon you soon."

Kulsam. If the English let us off, we shall fall into the hands of the Nawab—he may forgive you, but I can very well see, that he will by no means let me go unpunished. I always think, that if I get shelter somewhere, I shall no more appear before the Nawab, in his Royal Court.

Dalani got herself softened, and said in a voice of emotion,

"But, I know of no other stay than my beloved lord. If I am to die, I will like to breathe my last at his feet."

On the other hand, Amyatt ordered his Sepoys to get themselves ready for a fight. Johnson said to Amyatt,

"We are not very strong here—isn't it desirable to take our boat close to the Residency?"

"The hope of founding British rule in India will completely vanish away when an Englishman will, like a coward, take to heels in terror of the natives of this country", said Amyatt boastingly. "If we simply remove our boats from this place, the Mahamedans will think that we have been frightened by them. It is a thousand times better to stand here and meet death, than to run away in fear; but Foster is ill and bedrid—he is unfit to die with sword in hand; so, order him to go to the Residency. Ask the Begum and the other woman to go with him and let two Sepoys accompany them—it is quite useless for them to stay in the field of action."

After the Sepoys had got themselves ready, they hid themselves within the boat, at Amyatt's command. There was no dearth of small holes in the matted walls of the country-boats, and so, near each hole a Sepoy knelt down with his gun, to fire at the enemies, unobserved. Dalani and Kulsam got up on Foster's boat, as enjoined on them by Amyatt. Foster left with them for the Residency, with two Sepoys guarding his boat. The scouts of Mahammad Taki saw this, and went to their chief to inform him of it.

When Mahammad Taki heard of this, and found that the Englishmen did not turn up at his place at the appointed hour, he sent a messenger to Amyatt's boat to bring along with him the invited Englishmen. Amyatt, however, told the man that for reasons of his own, he was unwilling to alight from his boat.

The messenger, thereupon, came away from Amyatt's boat, and after having had gone a little off from it, gave an alarm by a blank fire. With that sound were instantly heard the reports of about a dozen guns. Forthwith, Amyatt found that shots from the enemy's ranks were coming upon his boat like hails, and that through some places, the enemy's bullets were actually making their way within it.

Now, the Sepoys of the English replied to their enemy's guns, and the incessant fires from both sides created a tremendous noise. The Mahamedans lay concealed behind trees and houses on the bank of the river, and the Englishmen with their Sepoys, placed themselves under the cover of their boats. Under such circumstances, no tangible result, except a mere waste of powder, could be expected. The Mahamedans lost their patience and violently rushed towards Amyatt's boat with sabres and spears in their hands, bursting into fearful shouts, as they came. This, however, did not frighten the resolute Englishmen. With a firm and unyielding attitude, Amyatt, Golston and Johnson opened an incessant fire on the Mahamedans, as they were quickly descending the sandy mound of the river, and at each fire, the brave Englishmen caused one of their enemies to lie for ever on that bed of sand. But, as wave after wave is seen to roll forward in a sea or a mighty river, so, row after row of Mahamedans were found to descend the bank of the river. Amyatt then shouted to his comrades,

"There is now absolutely no chance of our deliverence. Come, let us then lay down our lives in killing the heretics before us."

No sooner had Amyatt concluded, than a few of the Mahamedans leaped upon Amyatt's boat. The Englishmen, it seemed, were ready for it, and they let off their guns at the assailants all at once—they were blown off from the boat and scattered into the river in all directions. But more Mahamedans now got up on the boat, and others began to strike its bottom with heavy clubs and hammers. The boat soon gave way and water rushed into it with a great noise. Amyatt then said to his men,

"Why should we suffer ourselves to be drowned here like dumb helpless cattle? Let us go out and die like soldiers with sword in hand."

Amyatt's comrades responded to his heroic call, and the three undaunted Englishmen came out of the boat with sword in hand, and took their stand before a legion of enemies. One of the Mahamedans approached Amyatt and said to him, with a salute,

"Why should you unnecessarily risk your life? Better come along with us."

"We are determined to die here and not to surrender," replied Amyatt with undaunted courage. "If we die here to-day, a fire will be kindled in Hindusthan, which will reduce to ashes the Moslem Empire. If this field be moistened with our blood, the royal ensign of George III will be easily planted on it."

"Then die", said the Mahamedan, and with a single stroke of his sword severed Amyatt's head from his body.

Golston saw this, and with a swift hand cut off the head of that dashing enemy, to avenge Amyatt's death. Instantly, about a dozen of the Nawab's men encircled Golston and Johnson, and began to strike them severely. The two unfortunate Englishmen soon fell never to rise again!

 

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