| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
GEORGE II.—THE STORY OF THE BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA
 BESIDES the civil war, Britain had other wars to fight.
France, England's old enemy was still the enemy of Britain.
Once again there was war between them, and this time the
fighting was not in France, nor in England, nor on the seas,
but in far-off lands.
Long ago in the days of Elizabeth, you remember that
Englishmen sailed over the seas to the newly-discovered
country of America, and made their home there. You remember
how Raleigh claimed Virginia for England, and how later the
stern Puritans sailed away in the Mayflower, and founded a
new Plymouth and a New England over the sea. Little by
little these colonies (as such new countries which are
peopled by an old country are called) grew. Towns sprang up,
harbours were built, and the colonies became a rich and
powerful part of Great Britain.
In another country, called India, Britain had also
possessions, and trade with India had become of great
importance, and was carried on chiefly by a company called
the East India Company.
But France, too had colonies in India and in America, and
the French and the British became so jealous of each other
that war broke out in both countries. The French
 were much
stronger in India at this time than the British, and they
made up their minds to drive the British away altogether.
They might have succeeded too, but for the cleverness of a
young man called Robert Clive. He was a clerk in the East
India Company's office, and not a particularly good clerk
either, because the work he had to do was not at all the kind
of work for which he was fitted.
When war broke out Robert Clive gave up being a clerk and
became a soldier, and he soon showed that he was a clever
one. Some of the native Indians fought for the French and
some for the British. But Clive and his sepoys, as the
native soliders were called, won, and the French governor
was obliged to leave the country.
A few years later, one of the native princes who had fought
for the French, attacked the British who were living in
Calcutta. He killed many of them, destroyed their houses and
factories, and those who were left alive he shut up in a
horrible prison called the Black Hole.
There were one hundred and forty-six prisoners, and the
Black Hole was so small that there was hardly room in it for
them to stand. The windows were so tiny that hardly any air
could come through them. When the prisoners were told that
they were all to go into this dreadful place they could not
believe it. They thought at first that the Prince meant it
as a jest. But they soon found out that it was no jest, but
horrible, sinful earnest. In spite of their cries and
entreaties, they were all driven in and the door fastened.
It was a hot summer night. What little air came through the
tiny windows was soon poisoned by being breathed over and
over again. People fainted, went
 mad, died. The cruel
Indians held torches to the windows and, looking in, laughed
at the terrible sufferings of the poor prisoners, who cried
for mercy as they beat upon the door trying vainly in their
agony to break it down. In the morning only twenty-three
came out from the dreadful Hole alive.
When Clive heard of this horrible deed, he marched against
the native Prince, and utterly defeated him in a battle
called Plassey. He drove him from his throne, and placed
another Prince, who was friendly to the British, upon it; he
drove the French from their fortress there, and ever since
then the power of Britain has grown and grown in India,
until to-day our King, the King of Great Britain and
Ireland, is also the Emperor of India.
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