Chandra Shekhar/Part 6/Chapter 4

 

CHAPTER IV

john stalkart

 Decorative I from Chandra Shekhar.pngt has been said in the preceding chapter that Kulsam had an interview with Mr. Warren Hastings. In relating to him, in detail, the incidents which brought her to Calcutta, she told him all about Foster's misdeeds. In history, Warren Hastings appears to be a great oppressor of men. But, it is an undeniable fact that men of action often become oppressive for the sake of their duty. The man upon whose shoulder rests the enormous responsibility of defending an Empire, is often compelled, on Imperial considerations, to play the role of an oppressor, although personally, he may be kind and even righteous. Those who are builders or defenders of an Empire, consider it expedient to oppress particular individuals when it is calculated to benefit the whole Empire. In fact, those who are competent, like Warren Hastings, to establish kingdoms and empires cannot possibly be unkind or unrighteous. The man who has not the heart to feel for others and has not the courage to adhere to the rigid principles of morality, can, by no means, perform a great task like that of founding an Empire; for, his mind is not broad—it is narrow—and it has not been, and will never be, the privilege of narrow-minded men to accomplish great deeds.

Warren Hastings was both kind and righteous. At the time we are speaking of, he was not the Governor. After sending Kulsam to the Nawab, he set himself to find out Foster. He found that Foster was ill. He, therefore, first of all, made arrangements for his treatment. Under the care of a good physician, Foster soon recovered. After that, Warren Hastings started an enquiry to ascertain Foster's crimes. Foster was frightened and he made a confession of his guilt. Thereupon, Warren Hastings moved the Council and had Foster dismissed from the Company's service It was his desire to drag Foster before a court of justice, but as it was not possible to get the witnesses and as Foster had already suffered much from the consequences of his sinful conduct, Warren Hastings desisted from it.

Foster could not appreciate the step which Warren Hastings had taken—he was extremely selfish and narrow-minded. He thought within himself that the punishment was too severe for his crime. Like a mean and ungrateful guilty servant, he became angry upon his old masters and resolved to do them harm, with all the zeal of an enemy.

At that time, one Dyce Schembre, a Swiss or a German by nationality, was serving Mir Kashim, as one of the leading officers in the army. This man was popularly known as "Samaru". Samaru was now present at Udayanalla, with the force under his command. Foster came there to meet him. He, first of all, very cleverly managed to send a messenger to Samaru. The latter thought that much information about the plans of the English could be obtained if Foster were taken into his army. So, Foster was admitted into Samaru's camp, where he cunningly assumed the name of John Stalkart. Lawrence Foster was in Samaru's camp when Amir Hossain was about to set out in search of that wicked profligate.

After leaving Kulsam in the proper place, Amir Hossain set himself to find out Foster. At the very outset, he came to know from his attendants that an Englishman had enlisted himself as a soldier in the Nawab's army, and that he was now in Samaru's tent. Amir Hossain went there to see the man.

Samaru and Foster were engaged in a conversation when Amir Hossain entered into the tent. After he took his seat there, Samaru introduced to him Foster, as Mr. John Stalkart. Amir Hossain then began a talk with Stalkart. In course of his conversation he asked,

"Do you know Mr. Lawrence Foster?"

Foster's face became red with fear—with downcast eyes, he faltered out,

"Lawrence Foster? No—I don't remember."

"Have you ever heard his name?" asked Amir Hossain.

Foster remained silent for a time and then said,

"His name—Lawrence Foster!—yes—let me see—no, I have never heard."

Amir Hossain did not go any further—he introduced other topics; but, he could see that Stalkart was not speaking freely. More than once, he rose up to go, but Amir Hossain entreated and made him sit again. He could feel that the Englishman knew everything about Foster, but would not give out anything.

A while after, Foster, all on a sudden, put on his hat and remained seated, as before. Amir Hossain knew that this was against the English etiquette. Besides, when Foster was putting on the hat, Amir Hossain's eyes accidentally fell upon a scar on Stalkart's head. Did Stalkart put on his hat to hide that mark? Amir Hossain took leave of Samaru and left his tent. He then went to his own quarters and calling up Kulsam before him, asked her to follow him. Kulsam did so, and Amir Hossan led her to the entrance of Samaru's tent. Leaving her there, he entered into the tent and said to Samaru,

"If you will permit, one of my slave girls will appear before you and pay her respects—she is coming here in the interest of an important business."

Samaru gave permission. Foster's heart began to beat violently—he rose up to go, but Amir Hossain smiled and taking Foster's hand in his, made him sit again. Kulsam was brought in and she was surprised to see Foster there—she stood staring at him, quite motionless.

Amir Hossain asked her,

"Who is this Englishman?"

"Lawrence Foster," replied Kulsam.

Forthwith, Amir Hossain caught hold of Foster's hand.

"What have I done?" asked Foster in pretended innocence.

Amir Hossain did not give any reply and said to Samaru,

"Sir, I have the Nawab's order to arrest this man. Please order a sepoy to take him, under arrest, along with me."

Samaru was surprised beyond measure and he asked,

"What is the matter?"

"I will tell you everything afterwards," replied Amir Hossain.

Samaru ordered a sepoy and he took away Foster in chains.
 

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