Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part5/Chapter 1

PART V.
THE VEIL.


CHAPTER I .
AMYATT’s END.

THE English boats arrived at Murshidabad in due course. The news of Amyatt’s arrival reached Mahammad Taqui Khan, the Lieutenant of Mir Kasim. With a profuse display of pomp and show he visited Amyatt. Amyatt felt highly gratified and Taqui Khan ended his interview by inviting Amyatt to dinner. For the sake of decency, Amyatt had to accept the invitation, although not very willingly. Meanwhile Mahammad Taqui had secretly posted sentries to watch, so that the English boats might not slip away.

After Mahammad Taqui had left, the Englishmen took counsel of one another-whether to attend the invitation or not. Galstaun and Johnson were of opinion that an Englishman is and must be a stranger to fear, therefore, they should attend the invitation. Amyatt maintained that when war was about to be declared and misunderstandings had reached the breaking point, he failed to see how he was bound to observe the formalities of etiquette. Amyatt decided not to attend the invitation.

The news of the invitation had already found way into the boat where Dalani and Kulsam had been kept as close prisoners. They were talking in whispers.

“Kulsam, have you heard? ” said Dalani. “ It seems out deliverance is at hand.”

“How?”

“You seem not to understand anything. When those who brought the Nawab’s Begum in durance, have got such a cordial invitation from him, there must be some deep meaning in it. I suspect they will breathe their last to-day.”

“Do you feel joyous at the idea?”

“Why not? I would much rather there should not be any bloodshed if it could be helped, but if the death of those who needlessly brought us under confinement could procure our deliverance, I should be glad, instead of sorry for it.”

“But why are you so anxious for your deliverance? They can have no other motive than keeping us in confinement. They do not maltreat us in any way— only there is the confinement—but we are women, wherever we might go, we have got the same confinement for us in some shape or other.”

Dalani was extremely wrath and said, “When I am confined in my own house, I am Dalani Begum still. In the Englishmen’s boat I am nothing but a slave. I have half a mind not to exchange words with you any more. Can you tell me the cause of our confinement?”

“Why, they haven’t made a secret of it; just as Mr.Hay is confined at Monghyr as a hostage for the good behaviour of the English, so we are confined here as hostages for the Nawab. No sooner Mr. Hay is released, than they will set us free. If any harm is done to Mr. Hay then we must come in for similar treatment in our turn, otherwise there is no fear.”

Dalani grew still more angry and said, “I do not know your Mr. Hay, nor do I care to listen to your advocacy of the English. I presume you would not care to go even when released.”

Kulsam did not get angry. “Supposing I do not go,” she said smiling, “would you leave me behind?”

“Are you anxious for that also?” asked Dalani with growing anger.

“Who can say what is written in the book of Fate?” gravely replied Kulsam.

Dalani drew in her eyebrows, and with great vigour raised her small fist aloft. She did not discharge it now but kept it in reserve. Then balancing her clenched fist like a lotus-bud behind her ear, which coming in contact with her black tresses shone like a full-blown flower with the bumble-bee, said with menace in her air——

“Now look here, two days you were sent for by Amyatt—why? Mind you, speak the truth.”

“I have already told you the truth. He wanted to inquire if you felt any inconvenience. Their desire is that so long we are with them, we should live in comfort. Would to God, they do not set us free!”

“Would to God, you meet your end soon!” retorted Dalani raising her fist still higher.

“If the Englishmen set us free,” said Kulsam, “we are sure to fall into the Nawab’s hands. He might pardon you if he likes, but he will never pardon me that is certain. I shouldn’t like to go to him if I could get a home elsewhere.”

Dalani dropped her anger and with a tremulous voice said, “I have no other way. If I should at all die, I would lay down my life at his feet.”

Amyatt meanwhile ordered the sepoys under his command to hold themselves in readiness. “We are not so strong here, wouldn’t it be better to take the boats near the Residency?” suggested Johnson.

“The day on which one single Englishman will flee before the Indian,” said Amyatt, “that very day the hope of establishing British Empire in India will be gone.”

“If we should move our boats from here the Mussalmans would think we took fright and fled. Better face death standing here, but never flee in fear. But Foster is ill, he cannot die fighting, therefore, let him shift to the Residency. Let the Begum and her companion be transferred to his boat with two sepoys to escort them. It is not right for them to remain in the place of action.”

When the sepoys were ready, everyone took his post according to Amyatt’s order under cover of the boat. Holes are easily found in the wicker covering of a boat. Each sepoy sat with a musket at his hole. Dalani and Kulsam got into Foster’s boat according to Amyatt’s orders. Under the escort of the two sepoys Foster set sail to his boat. Mahammad Taqui’s sentries saw it and forthwith went to inform him.

On hearing this and the time for the Englishmen’s arrival having expired, Mohammad Taqui sent a footman to accompany them to his place. Amyatt sent back word to say that for certain reasons he was not willing to leave his boat.

After having gone a little way from the boat, the footman fired a blank cartridge. Along with that firing ten or twelve muskets roared from the bank. Amyatt found that bullets were pouring on his boat and in some places they had penetrated it. Then the English sepoys replied. The guns of the combatants discharged at one another, produced a terrific detonation. Both parties were fighting under cover. The Mussalmans lay concealed behind the houses and other protections on the bank; the Englishmen and their sepoys were hidden in their boats. In such a fight there was hardly any chance of any immediate result except the expenditure of powder and shot.

At last the Mussalmans left their protections, and with sword and spear they rushed with a yell on Amyatt’s boat. The determined Englishmen were nothing daunted.

Amyatt, Galstaun and Johnson took up their muskets, deliberately aimed from their boat at the rapidly descending Mussalmans and fired; and all with the surest execution. Every one of them laid a Mussalman prostrate on the sand at each shot.

By this time, like waves upon waves, parties of Mussalmans began to descend. Then Amyatt said, “By no earthly means can we save ourselves, come let us end our lives with pagan blood.”

The enemy had in the meantime, got into Amyatt’s boat. The three Englishmen pressed close together and fired simultaneously. The Mussalmans who had entered the boat were scattered and fell into the water as if riven by a trident.

They now began to pour into the boat in still larger numbers. Some hammered at the bottom with heavy clubs, and as it gave way, the water gurgled in, gradually filling up the hold.

Then addressing his companions Amyatt said, “Why suffer ourselves to be drowned like cows and sheep? Come, let us go out and die like heroes, sword in hand.”

Now the three intrepid Englishmen sallied forth sword in hand, and took their stand before countless Mussalmans. One of the enemy saluting Amyatt with a low bow said, “Why should you die? Surrender and follow us.”

“Yes, we are determined to die,” said Amyatt. "If we die here to-day, it will kindle such a flame in India as will consume the Mussalman kingdom altogether. When the earth is saturated with our gore, the royal standard of George III will be planted all the easier in it.”

“Then die,” and with one stroke of his sword the Pathan gashed Amyatt’s head. At once with a quick hand Galstaun severed the Pathan’s head from his shoulders.

Presently ten or twelve Mussalmans surrounded Galstaun and began to hack him. Overcome by the blows of so many men, both Galstaun and Johnson soon succumbed and lay dead on the boat.

Foster had started before that.