| 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 |
VICTORIA—THE SIEGE OF DELHI
 A HUNDRED years had passed since the terrible night when the
British had been murdered in the Black Hole of Calcutta; a
hundred years had passed since Clive had gained the victory
of Plassey. Since then the British power in India had
steadily grown and grown until, instead of a few sepoys,
there was a great Indian army; instead of a few factories,
the whole of India was under the rule of Britain, and
British rule in India seemed firm and certain. But suddenly,
from out the calm, rebellion blazed.
New guns had been sent to India for the use of the sepoys.
The powder and shot for a gun is made up with paper into
what is called a cartridge. In those days the end of the
cartridge had to be bitten off before it could be used. The
paper of these cartridges was greased, and somehow the
sepoys came to think that the grease was a mixture of cow's
fat and pig's lard, and they refused to use the cartridges.
These Indian soldiers were not Christians, but Brahmins and
Mahometans. The Brahmins worship the cow, and they thought
that it was dreadfully wicked to put into their mouths, or
even touch, what they held as sacred. The Mahometans, on the
other hand, thought that pigs were unclean animals, and
re-  ligion forbade them to touch anything which was
considered unclean. So they, too, felt that it would be
wicked to use the cartridges.
The governor, Lord Canning, sent out a proclamation telling
all the people that the cartridges were not greased either
with cow's fat or with lard. But the sepoys did not believe
him, and a terrible rebellion, known as the Indian Mutiny,
It was a most dreadful time. There were very few British
soldiers in India, and Lord Canning knew that it would be
many weeks before others could arrive from Britain. But the
British had been fighting in Persia, and Lord Canning sent
for the soldiers there, and also for some who were on their
way to fight in China.
The Mutiny first broke out at a place called Meerut. There
the native soldiers one day suddenly fired upon their
officers, and killed some of them. Then they murdered many
of the white people in the town, broke open the gaols and
freed the prisoners, who joined in rioting and plundering.
But at last the few British soldiers who were there
succeeded in driving the sepoys from their barracks, and
they fled to Delhi, another town near.
At Delhi there lived an Indian Emperor of about eighty years
old. He was an emperor only in name, for his whole empire
was under British rule. But now the sepoys, driven from
Meerut, rushed to his palace and loudly clamoured for him to
come and be their Emperor once more. They would no longer
have British rulers, they said. They would sweep them from
the land. Dreadful deeds were done in Delhi, but British
troops besieged the town and took it again. When the Mutiny
was over, the old Emperor was put in prison, where he died.
At a place called Cawnpore, some of the most cruel
 acts were done. There were only about three hundred British troops
there, and more than three thousand sepoys. Sir Hugh
Wheeler, who was in command, was a very old man. He knew
that with his few soldiers he could not hold out against so
many sepoys, and he sent to Lucknow, to Sir Henry Lawrence,
for help. But alas! Sir Henry could not help him, for
Lucknow, too, was in great danger, and he needed every one
of his men.
So Sir Hugh sent to a native called the Nana Sahib, and
asked him for help. The Nana Sahib had always pretended to
be a friend, and Sir Hugh believed that he was. Really, he
hated the British. Now he came with three hundred men,
professing to be glad to help them. He got into Cawnpore
with his soldiers and his guns, and then he turned against
Sir Hugh and all the white people had gathered into an old
hospital for safety. The magazine, the place where the
gunpowder and fire-arms were kept, would have been a far
better refuge for them. It is difficult to understand why
Sir Hugh did not go there, but he did not, and it fell into
the hands of the sepoys.
The hospital was surrounded by a low wall of mud, which was
all the defense there was between the white people and the
shrieking, yelling mob of sepoys. Within these walls there
were nearly one thousand white people, and more than half of
them were women and children. The sepoys thought that it
would be easy to kill them all. But they found out their
mistake. The white people fought fiercely, and the sepoys
were driven back again and again.
The suffering within the old hospital was dreadful. The
women and children died by hundreds. The fierce Indian sun
blazed down upon the almost roofless house. There was little
to eat, and less to drink. Water could
 only be had from a
well which was within the range of the enemy's guns. To go
for water seemed to the bravest to be going to certain
death. During the whole siege not a cupful could be spared
to wash with.
Thousands of yelling sepoys were without the low mud walls,
yet so great was their dread of the white men that they
dared not leap over. At last the Nana Sahib, out of the deep
wickedness of his heart, proposed terms.
He promised that all who would lay down their arms should be
allowed to leave the town; that he would give them boats to
take them to another town where they would be safe; and that
they should have food for the journey. All he asked was that
they should go away.
What joy there was within the hospital when it was known
that the terrible siege was at an end. The women and
children were utterly worn and weary, the men were wounded,
sick, and hopeless. The joy and relief were almost too
The day came. Everything was ready, and the long, slow
procession passed down to where the boats were waiting on
the river. Gently the sick and wounded were placed under the
straw awnings, with which the boats were covered to protect
the passengers from the blazing sun. Then the women and
children stepped in, lastly the men. The Indian rowers took
their places and pushed off, when suddenly a trumpet was
heard. In a moment the straw-thatched roofs of the boats
were in flames, and the rowers, throwing down their oars,
made for the shore. A moment later both banks blazed and
roared with gunshots, and a horrible rain of bullets fell
upon the boats. To make the horror worse, the boats drifted
upon the mud banks and stuck fast.
At last the firing ceased. The women and children who were
still alive were taken ashore again and shut
 up this time in
a place called the Savada House. The men were all killed. So
the Nana Sahib kept faith!
But the British were coming. General Havelock and his brave
soldiers were not far off, and the Nana made haste to finish
his cruel work. He ordered his sepoys to fire at the women
and children through the windows of the Savada House. Even
the sepoys, however, turned from this awful work and aimed
high, so that the shots fell upon the roof and did no harm.
But in the evening five men went into the house. Horrible
shrieks were heard, then all was silence. The work was
finished. All the women and children were dead.
The bodies of those poor women and children were thrown into
a well, and when the British took Cawnpore, the horror of
that well was one of the first sights they saw. Now it is
covered over. A marble angel, holding a palm branch, guards
the spot, and a garden blooms where that ghastly house
The Nana Sahib was never punished. When his sepoys were
defeated before Cawnpore, he galloped away and was seen no
more. People said that he was not a man, but an evil spirit,
and that when his work was done, he vanished as a spirit
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