| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
THE PINDARIS AND THE LAST MARÁTHÁ WAR
 THE trouble with the Ghurkas was over, but the
lawlessness of Central India became worse and worse.
The Pindaris made life a terror. Rather than fall into
the hands of these fierce bandits, whole villages of
people were known to burn themselves alive in their
huts. Rather than be driven off by them like sheep, so
be sold and slaughtered, women drowned themselves in
the village wells.
Yet, while horrors unspeakable still raged around, and
the Pindaris carried fire and sword among the peaceful,
defenceless villages, Lord Hastings could do little,
for the directors at home kept telling him not to
But at length he made up his mind to look on no more,
but to crush the power of the Pindaris for ever. To do
this, he gathered the largest army ever seen in India.
From north and south the soldiers came; from Madras,
Bombay and Bengal, until the Governor-General had an
army 116,000 strong. It was a far greater force than
was needed to crush the Pindaris. But Lord Hastings
knew that he had not only to deal with them but with
all the Maráthá chiefs, who were weary of their
Subsidiary Alliance, and of the peace that it gave
them, and who were longing to be free again to fight
and plunder as of old. And if the Pindaris were
 ever so little, Lord Hastings knew it would give the
Maráthás courage to rise against the British too.
But before there was any fighting, Lord Hastings found
means of settling with several of the lawless
chieftains. The Pindaris thus found themselves
forsaken by many of their friends, and surrounded on
all sides by a watchful enemy. In the battles which
followed, many of the Pindaris were slain, some yielded
themselves prisoners, and many were killed by the
villagers whom they had been used to oppress and
plunder, and who were now glad of revenge. Some sought
refuge in the pathless jungle. For nearly a year the
last chief held out, followed by a little band of about
two hundred. But he, too, at last sought shelter in
the jungle, and there, one day, his dead body was
found, torn and mangled by tigers, while beside him,
grazing quietly, was his horse, the only friend from
whom he had not been forced to part.
So thoroughly were the Pindaris rooted out, that in a
few years their terrible deeds were almost forgotten,
and those of them who were left became as peaceful
farmers and weavers of cotton as the peasants whom they
had plundered in days gone by.
The Peshwá, or over-lord of the Maráthás, had, you
remember, made an alliance with the British. But for a
long time he had been growing restless, and eager to be
rid of his alliance. Although he still pretended to be
friendly, he was really trying to stir up the other
Maráthá chiefs against the British, urged on by a
favourite called Trimbukji Dainglia, in whose power he
was. Already, about two years before the Pindari war,
Trimbukji had murdered a man because he would not side
against the British.
For this, Trimbukji was put in prison. The prison was
not very strong, but so that he might have no chance
 of escape, he had a guard of British soldiers. But in
spite of this, when he had been about a year in prison,
he escaped. It was very cleverly managed.
One of the British officers had a groom who was a
Maráthá. This man used to walk his master's horse up
and down outside the prison, passing under Trimbukji's
window. And as he passed he used to sing Maráthá
songs, which, of course, the guard could not
understand. But these songs told Trimbukji that
friends were near and were making ready for his escape.
This is something like what he sang:
Behind the bush the bowmen hide
The horse beneath the tree,
Where shall I find the knight will ride
The jungle-paths with me?
There are five-and-fifty coursers there, and
When the fifty-fifth shall mount his steed,
The Deccan thrives again.
Soon all was arranged. A hole was cut through the wall
of Trimbukji's room, into a stable next it, and one
dark, wet night, he squeezed himself through. Then in
the dress of a common workman, carrying a basked on his
head, he boldly marched out of the gate. The four and
fifty men were ready waiting for him, and throwing
himself on his horse, he was soon galloping with them
through the darkness and the rain.
To hunt for him was useless. He had vanished. The
Peshwá knew all about it.
It was soon heard that Trimbukji was raising both men
 and money. The Peshwá, too, began to gather his army.
Other Maráthá chiefs joined them, and the last Maráthá
Now again there were many stern fights, brave defences,
gallant deeds. Both the Bombay and the Bengal sepoys
proved heroes, and faithful to their British masters.
In the end the Peshwá was utterly defeated. His land
was taken from him, and added to the Bombay Presidency.
But he was left with his title and given a pension of
Ł80,000 a year, and so, wealthy and idle, he lived in
luxury in Cawnpore till he died, an old man.
The Maráthá power was broken for ever, and Rajputana,
which had been torn with war and bloodshed for nearly a
hundred years, was at last at peace. Indeed, for the
first time in all known history, there was peace in
India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin.
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