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India by  Victor Surridge

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HOW BENGAL WAS WON

[103] THE curtain has fallen upon the Deccan. The campaigns and conspiracies of the south are shut for a time from our view, and history directs our eyes northwards to Bengal. Through this Eden of the East the mighty Ganges flows before emptying itself by its hundred mouths into the sea. The most splendid cities of India stand upon its banks. The most holy shrines of the people line its shores. Happy are they who can bathe in its sacred-waters, for their sins will be washed away. Happier still are they to whom it is given to die and be burned beside its placid stream; Hindú cannot end his days in better wise.

Beside one of the many mouths rises a rich and prosperous town. Viewing it with reverted eye, we behold its streets thronged with a gaily-clad, multi-coloured population. We see the bazaars, busy with traders bartering the costly silks and spices of the Orient for the variegated products of the West. We perceive the river crowded with stately vessels bringing cargoes from far-away lands to this great mart of the eastern world. The Union Jack, hanging limp [104] and motionless in the noonday heat, betokens the city's nationality. For this is Calcutta, the Seat of the English Presidency in Bengal: Calcutta, founded upon the mud-banks of the Hugli in 1686 and now become a flourishing and important settlement.

It is 1756, and a spirit of unrest is in the air. A new ruler has succeeded to the Viceroyship of Bengal, and apprehensions are rife. For it is no far-seeing statesman, no wise man of affairs, that sways the sceptre, but a spoiled, vicious, degenerate youth of twenty years. Siráj-ud-Daulá had been brought up in luxury. Nothing that the noble infant desired was withheld from him. Every taste—no matter how depraved—was pandered to; every whim gratified. It was one of his whims to hate the English. He was not clever enough to see the great benefits they had brought to his country by trade. He saw only that they were rich and that they would make fair game for plunder. He was annoyed also at the fortifications they had raised at Calcutta, and he thirsted to sweep the insolent strangers into the sea from whence they came.

Siráj-ud-Daulá lacked many virtues, but few vices, and among the latter greed held a prominent place. Robbery and extortion were the pastimes of an idle hour. It is easy to imagine the young tyrant's rage when he learned that a rich merchant he had marked down for plunder had taken refuge at Calcutta. How dared the English stand between the Viceroy and his lawful prey! He fumed with fury and vexation. The obsequious courtiers added [105] fuel to the flames of his wrath by the stories they told-richly garnished and highly coloured as became an eastern tale—of the perfidy and villainy of Englishmen. Had they not stored away hoards of treasure at Calcutta, had they not built forts and defences to protect it, had they not broken the Viceroy's laws and flouted his ambassadors; were they not, in short, in every way worthy of death? Siráj-ud-Daulá's eyes glistened when they spoke to him of the treasure; he assembled a mighty army and rushed furiously upon the Presidency.

One can picture the feelings of the poor inhabitants of Calcutta when they learned that a savage and revengeful prince was already on the way to destroy them. Unlike the Europeans of Madras and Fort St. David, they knew little of warfare. Never before had they been called upon to defend themselves, and now, when the hour of their trial was near, they found themselves entirely without means of resistance. Their fortifications were rotten with age, their guns dismantled, their ammunition perilously short. It was the old, old story of negligent authorities and neglected warnings. They had lived so long in peace that they had almost forgotten the possibility of warfare.

With what terrible anxiety was the arrival of the enemy awaited! Roger Drake, the Governor, called many meetings of the Council, and the situation was anxiously discussed. But the citizens lacked a leader to tell them what to do, and their discussions were full of bickering and wrangling. "Barricade the streets," cried one; "Concentrate in the fort," sug- [106] gested another; "Take to the ships," added a third. A Clive might have saved Calcutta, but the hero of Arcot was far away. Drake was ill-suited for the responsible situation he held; had he been a strong and capable man there might have been no tragedy of the "Black Hole" to record.

On June 16 scouts brought in news that Siráj-ud-Daulá's troops were near at hand. The effect was to cause a panic in the town, for until the enemy were actually outside the gates, the British did not begin to realise the peril of their position. They thought that the Viceroy was merely "bluffing," and that he would not really dare to attack them. Now all was confusion and alarm. The native inhabitants fled in terror into the country. The white women, who, while their men-folk squabbled, had been labouring with patient courage to make cartridges for the cannon, were hastily put aboard some of the shipping in the river. Two members of Council volunteered to accompany them—ostensibly to see to their safety! "Our Colonel and Lieutenant-Colonel of militia," sneered a spectator, "preferred entering the list among the number of women rather than defend the Company's and their own property."

Worse was to follow—an incident so extraordinary as to make us wonder whether we are really writing of Englishmen. It is charitable to suppose that the days of anxious suspense had so wrought upon their nerves that they did not realise what they were doing. The Governor and chief civil and military officers deliberately abandoned the fort and—escap- [107] ing the musket shots which the enraged civilians fired after them—took refuge with the women on the river! Then anchors were weighed and sail hoisted, and the fleet moved slowly down stream until they were out of reach of the enemy's guns.

Roger Drake stood on the deck of the ship which had borne him to safety, and gazed backwards toward the city he had betrayed. It was night, and the flames from the burning houses lit up the sky with a fierce glare. What pictures must have arisen in his mind of the despair and wrath of his imprisoned comrades as they learned that their Governor had forsaken them. Morning broke, and he heard the loud roaring of the guns as the enemy renewed the cannonade. He beheld the colours fluttering from the fortress, showing that the garrison still maintained a stubborn fight. Then their tokens of distress caught his eye—their frantic signals for the ships to return and rescue them. It might be supposed that the Governor by this time bitterly regretted his cowardly impulse, and that he would seek to do all in his power to retrieve his name from ignominy. It would have been a simple matter to sail up the river upon the flood-tide. It would have been easy, even then, to take off every one of the garrison, and, under the very eyes of the enemy, to sail away to safety. Yet, incredible as it may seem, although the fort held out for two days after the Governor's departure, Roger Drake did none of these things.

The command of the one hundred and seventy-three Europeans left in the fort fell upon a civilian [108] named Holwell. But brave and capable as he was, he could not lead his comrades to victory. That was now impossible. Already the enemy were swarming over the parapets and planting their flags upon the walls. Mad with despair a number of the garrison had broken into the liquor-store and made themselves helplessly drunk with the ardent spirits. Holwell saw that further resistance was useless, and delivered up his sword to the young Viceroy.

Siráj-ud-Daulá fussed and fretted when the British leader was brought before him. "Why had they dared to defend their town against his mighty army? Why had Holwell not run away with his Governor? Where was the treasure that the English had been so carefully preserving?" Such were a few of the questions that fell from his querulous lips. Holwell explained that there was no treasure. "No treasure!" cried the Viceroy incredulously. "But I know there is treasure. Take care how you attempt to deceive me!" When he learned that the Englishman really spoke the truth, his chagrin was immense. He waved Holwell from his presence in disgust.

It was six o'clock in the evening of June 20 when the captors took possession of the fort. The prisoners, one hundred and forty-six in number, crouched together on the verandah. Many were wounded; all were in a state of utter exhaustion. Over them stood a swarthy guard, lighted torches and naked scimitars gleaming in their hands. To the right and the left of them the factory buildings were blazing fiercely; and as the flames crept nearer [109] and nearer the prisoners were seized with panic, thinking their deaths were intended by fire and suffocation. Native officers bearing flaring torches approached and entered the adjoining chambers; they were seeking a place to house their captives for the night. Presently they found a tiny cell, about eighteen feet long by fourteen broad, lighted and ventilated by two small barred openings, called by courtesy windows. This was the place where it was the custom to confine refractory soldiers. They named it the "Black Hole," for even to pass a single night in it unfettered and alone was considered an experience never to be forgotten.

Into this gloomy apartment the prisoners were driven at the point of the sword. They entered in an agitated torrent, impelling one another forward like the waves of the sea. It was not until they were all inside and the doors clanged after them that they realised where they were. Then what a terrible rush was there to the windows to obtain air; what frantic appeals to the guards to slay them outright rather than leave them to a night of lingering agony! It was no use; nothing could be done without the order of the Nabob, and the Nabob was asleep!

The story of that ghastly night reads like a canto out of Dante's Inferno;  there is no need to recount it here in any detail. Those who do not know India cannot in any degree imagine the dead stifling heat of a summer's night when the very birds drop to the ground panting with open beaks for breath. It is bad enough in lofty halls, cooled by waving fans and punkahs. What it must have been in that tiny cell, [110] crowded to its utmost capacity and ventilated almost not at all, baffles the comprehension.

The prisoners went mad with agony and despair. They fought with each other, and struggled desperately for places at the windows. In their delirious frenzy they called upon their gaolers to fire among them through the barred openings; but the guards scoffed and jeered at their wretched captives, mocking their tortures by handing in scanty supplies of water, and holding up lights to the bars the better to enjoy their agonies. By degrees the tumult died away. The despairing cries of the living were succeeded by the moans of the dying, and even these were at last hushed into silence. Dawn broke, and the native guards flung wide the doors of the tiny cell. A pile of corpses confronted them. When these had been cleared away, twenty-three ghastly-looking figures tottered out into the light of day. Amongst them was one woman, a Mrs. Carey, who survived the horrors of that awful night by nearly forty-five years. The remainder of the one hundred and forty-six prisoners had succumbed to the tortures of thirst and suffocation!

Siráj-ud-Daulá expressed neither pity nor regret when he heard of his unhappy captives' fate. It was not altogether his fault, for he had merely given orders that they should be locked up somewhere safely for the night. Blundering officers had converted this simple order into a dreadful tragedy. Yet the officers went without blame, and the English without sympathy; for to Siráj-ud-Daulá nothing more serious had happened than that the world had [111] been rather unexpectedly relieved of a number of obstinate and rebellious Englishmen. And in the Viceroy's opinion this was not a circumstance which necessitated a very profuse shedding of tears.

Holwell, one of the survivors, who was brought before him, was treated to another violent torrent of abuse for there being so little money in the treasury. All Europeans were commanded to leave the town before sunset under pain of having their noses and ears cut off. This was followed up by an edict expelling all the British from Bengal, and utterly forbidding them ever again to dwell within its precincts. Calcutta received a new name to commemorate its purging from the infidels. "Henceforth," quoth the Nabob, "it should be called Allingore, 'the port of God.'" Then to the accompaniment of wild, barbaric music, and the fierce banging of drums, the Viceroy stepped into his gaily decorated state barge, and made a triumphal exit from the newly-conquered city.

To Siráj-ud-Daulá the capture of Calcutta and subsequent expulsion of the British from Bengal was a great and glorious achievement unequalled since the days of Timour, the mighty conqueror, who in the fourteenth century had swayed half Asia with a sceptre of blood and iron. His nominal master at Delhi received letters wherein the warlike deeds, of his faithful Viceroy were set forth in pompous language and much picturesque embellishment. It is possible that the puppet Emperor was not a little surprised to learn that he possessed in the ruler of Behar, Orissa, and Bengal a subject whose martial [112] genius was comparable only with that of the greatest names in history!

A few months passed. Siráj-ud-Daulá found to his dismay that his vast revenues were steadily diminishing. It was mortifying to learn, as he did through his ministers, that this was due to the expulsion of the English, who had brought great prosperity to the country by their trade; but the Viceroy loved riches even more than he hated the English, and he began to meditate the advisability of letting them return to their ruined factories under certain severe restrictions. That they would attempt to recover their possessions by force he never for a moment dreamed, for Siráj-ud-Daulá's lively contempt for Europeans was stimulated by his firm belief that there were not ten thousand persons in all Europe. You may judge of his wrath and fury when he heard that a British force was marching rapidly northwards to avenge their murdered countrymen. His whole army was forthwith ordered to assemble at Murshidabad, the capital of his dominions, for the purpose of resisting the daring strangers.

It was from Madras that the avenging army came. The stout settlers at Fort St. George had been greatly moved when the story of the grim tragedy enacted at Calcutta reached their ears, and fierce and bitter were the imprecations they hurled at the bloodthirsty ruler of Bengal.

Their first thought was, not unnaturally, of vengeance, and within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the news it had been resolved that an [113] army should be sent northwards to bring the haughty Viceroy to his senses. Clive had only just returned to India, and was fresh from his adventure with Angria the Pirate; and it was to him that the leadership of the land forces was entrusted. The naval armament was under the command of Admiral Watson.

It was not until December that the squadron reached Bengal, and sailing up the river, came abreast of the Fort Baj-Baj. Inside this stronghold was Monichund, whom Siráj-ud-Daulá had appointed Governor of Calcutta, with nearly four thousand men. The guns from the ship were soon in action, and till night fell a heavy bombardment was kept up. Clive had slipped ashore with five hundred men to cut off the garrison's retreat should they attempt to escape. Through swampy and difficult country this little force picked its way, until at length reaching the desired position in the rear of the fort, a halt was called, and the wearied soldiers flung themselves headlong down to sleep. Monichund's spies, who had been tracking the British down all during their long march of sixteen hours, beheld them sink into slumber, with never a sentinel posted to keep a lookout or to sound the alarm, and creeping noiselessly back to the fort they told their master what they had seen.

Within an hour the whole army of Monichund had surrounded the sleeping soldiers and seized their unprotected guns. Still they slumbered on, until a volley of matchlock balls and arrows aroused them to a sense of their peril. Thanks to his brilliant [114] carelessness, Clive had been in many a tight corner before, and on each occasion had come off with flying colours. This was no exception to the rule. The enemy were driven from their position, and the lost guns recaptured. At the end of half an hour's stiff fighting, during which the British lost seventeen men, killed and wounded, a bullet passed in perilously close proximity to Monichund's turban, which circumstance so astonished that gallant commander, that he deemed it high time to turn tail and disappear from the scene. The retreat of the leader was, of course, followed by that of his army, and Clive had the satisfaction of beholding a force which outnumbered his own by eight to one fleeing in disorderly array towards the fort.

Meanwhile a small body of sailors had been landed from the ships to assist Clive. One of these, a man named Strahan, had been imbibing more grog than was good for the maintenance of his mental equilibrium. His footsteps, too, were decidedly erratic, and, as a consequence, he got separated from his companions, and went stumbling about by himself. Presently he found himself outside the fort. The guns from the ships had made several breaches, and through one of these the sailor managed to climb. He immediately found himself in the midst of the garrison. An ordinary man might have felt somewhat disconcerted at suddenly finding himself face to face with a few thousand relentless foes; but it was otherwise with Strahan. Instead of retiring discreetly by the way he had come, he blazed away at the astonished garrison with his pistol, and [115] then, drawing his cutlass, slashed vigorously about him. "Hooray!" he bawled, "I've captured the fort!" And so he had! for the enemy, thinking their stronghold had been taken by surprise, scattered in all directions. When, attracted by the strange noises they heard proceeding from the direction of the fort, the rest of the contingent arrived upon the scene they found the place evacuated, and their intoxicated comrade in joyful possession of the field!

The valiant Strahan was ordered up next day for punishment. "Well," he exclaimed indignantly, "if a flogging's to be the upshot, it's no me that'll be takin' onny more forts for ye!" And there are no records in history to show he failed to keep his word.

It was a curious predicament which confronted Clive when he had recaptured Calcutta, and vindicated the honour of the British flag. With Siráj-ud-Daulá, who one minute would breathe forth fire and slaughter against all Englishmen, and the next write the most abject letters of submission, a sort of peace had been patched up. But Clive knew that he could place no reliance in the word of the Viceroy, for had he not heard of his secret intrigues with the French, and the rich presents he had offered to their famous general Bussy to induce him to drive the English from Bengal? On the principle that "thrice-armed is he who gets his blow in first," Clive resolved to attack the French before they had time to attack him. Their settlement at Chandranagar was vigorously besieged both by water and land, and although the [116] garrison defended themselves bravely, it was not long before they were obliged to capitulate.

Clive was now able to turn his whole attention towards the fickle Viceroy, whose huge army and vast resources entitled him to no small amount of respectful attention. But Siráj-ud-Daulá's end was at hand. The canker-worm of discontent had eaten deeply into the hearts of his subjects. Nobles and peasants, merchants and soldiers, all were disgusted with this wayward, dissolute, and vain-glorious prince, all were groaning beneath the burden of his rule. There were whisperings and mutterings in the Nabob's court, sly looks and secret signals were exchanged between apparently faithful and obsequious courtiers. A great conspiracy was on foot to oust the Nabob from his throne, and to raise up Mir Jafar, chief of his army, in his place.

The conspirators unfolded their plan to the British, and begged their assistance. There was much hesitation at Calcutta about having anything to do with the plot; but Clive rejoiced at the opportunity of getting rid of the Viceroy, and it was his firmness that bore down all opposition. "Tell Mir Jafar," said he, "to fear nothing. I will join him with five thousand men who never turned their backs. Assure him I will march night and day to his assistance, and stand by him as long as I have a man left."

The plot progressed apace; when just at the last moment a circumstance arose which threatened to bring death upon all those concerned in it. One of the parties to the scheme was a rich, cunning, and [117] unscrupulous Hindú named Omichund. He had been at Calcutta when the Viceroy captured the city, and had sustained severe losses. For these the English had promised him liberal compensation. But this was not enough to satisfy his avaricious spirit. He now came forward and claimed three hundred thousand pounds as the price of his silence; if this were not paid the whole conspiracy should be at once revealed.

Clive determined to fight the wily Bengalee with his own weapons. Knavery, he thought, should be defeated by artifice. Omichund was promised all he asked. But Omichund was not so simple as to be satisfied with promises alone. He wished to see a separate clause included in the treaty between the English and the conspirators embodying his own demands. Clive prepared two treaties, one on white paper and the other on red. The white treaty was the genuine one; the red treaty, a spurious document, contained the obnoxious clause. All the contracting parties signed the sham treaty except Admiral Watson, whose conscience would not permit him to be party to such deception. This was a serious difficulty, for Omichund would at once have noticed the absence of such an important signature. So Admiral Watson's name was (with the Admiral's knowledge) added by Mr. Lushington, and the Hindú's eyes lit up with joy as he thought of the wealth he was about to acquire.

All this time, it may be explained, the Viceroy had remained inactive, his suspicions being lulled by the "soothing" letters which Clive from time to time [118] had addressed to him. One morning he received a rude shock. A courier brought him a missive in which the English commander struck a deeper and a sterner note. Instead of the usual honeyed phrases and flattering protestations there were bitter reproaches and abrupt commands. The Viceroy was invited to choose between submission to the commands of the British or instant war. He chose war.

Near the mango groves of Plassey Clive lay encamped with his tiny force. There were only three thousand men all told, and of these scarcely a third were white. Between them and the Viceroy's vast army of fifty thousand foot and twenty thousand horse rolled the river Hugli. Clive had grave cause for anxiety, for Mir Jafar, in whom he had trusted implicitly, seemed about to play him false. He had agreed to march with his whole force to the assistance of the British and effect a junction with them before the battle; but the days went by and no Mir Jafar appeared, only half-hearted and evasive letters. It seemed as though the arch-conspirator's fears had over-reached his ambitions.

It was a momentous question that Clive had to decide. Should he cross the river with his handful of men and put all to the hazard—staking dearly-won victory against utter annihilation? It was an enormous risk and the chances of success seemed very small. Clive called a council of war—his first and last—and himself voted for retreat. The majority of the officers agreed with him. When the meeting was over Clive strolled apart and, sitting beneath a mango tree, spent an hour in anxious thought. [119] When he returned to his tent his mind was fully made up; he gave the order for advance.

Clive slept but little the night before the battle. One can well understand his restlessness when so much depended on the action he had taken. The fate of India hung on the morrow's contest. All through the long hours of darkness the sound of drums and cymbals arose from the enemy's encampment. Siráj-ud-Daulá was spending as sleepless a night as his opponent. The nearness of the crisis appalled him. His mind was filled with wild doubts and horrible imaginings, and he sat alone in his tent a prey to gloomy thoughts.

At break of dawn there was a rustle and stir in the Viceroy's camp; great preparation was being made for the coming conflict. Clive, watching them through his telescope, beheld a vast kaleidoscope of brilliant colours, a mighty army clad in flowing draperies and armed with weapons of picturesque and semi-barbaric pattern. They carried spears and swords, daggers and rockets; some had ancient matchlocks, beautifully inlaid, but of little real use. Stretching into the remote distance were line upon line of glittering cavalry, their brass-orbed shields and tasselled lances flashing in the morning sun, while stationed here and there were snow-white oxen, of beautiful and graceful build, which drew behind them fifty great pieces of cannon. These were mounted on cumbrous platforms six feet high and manned by forty French officers and deserters.

With a great flourish of trumpets this vast force moved slowly into the open plain and took up [120] position in battle array. All the pomp and circumstance of eastern warfare stood thatched against a few brave hearts.

The heavy roar of the Viceroy's artillery announced that the battle had begun. The cannonade proved so destructive that Clive ordered his men to take shelter in a mango grove. This movement was greeted by the enemy with exultant yells; they thought the Company's troops were retreating. Fiercer and fiercer became the attack, thicker and thicker the hail of shell which tore through the grove. But the missiles passed over the heads of the English and did little harm, while from their concealed position Clive's gunners were able to rake the closely-packed masses of the enemy with terrible effect. The Viceroy's only faithful general was swept from his horse by a cannon ball. They bore his broken body into the royal tent, and the brave warrior expired before his master's eyes. The terrors of despair were upon Siráj-ud-Daulá. He cast his turban before Mir Jafar and prayed him to avenge the fallen general's fate. Bowing low to hide the traitor's smile, Mir Jafar suggested a retreat to the entrenchments. "Stay!" exclaimed another officer indignantly, "to do what you say would be madness, and fatal to us all! "The wretched Nabob, torn with doubts and frantic with fear, placed all reliance on the chief of his army. He gave the order for retreat.

Clive, watching the huge army opposed to them, saw it suddenly break into two portions. To his unbounded astonishment and delight one of these began to beat a hurried retreat, the other remained [121] stationary. Instantly he recognised the position of affairs. Mir Jafar had drawn off his wing of the army; it was the Viceroy's force retreating. Clive felt that the moment for advance had come. The enemy's lines were carried; their mighty host was soon in full retreat. Like a mountain avalanche sweeping all before it, these unruly hordes fled in panic from the field. The few Frenchmen who tried gallantly to rally them were carried away in that mad rush. The British pressed on in hot pursuit. On the swiftest dromedary he possessed the vanquished prince rode terror-stricken across the plains, nor paused to draw rein until the great gates of his capital had clanged noisily behind him.

A few days later Clive stood in the Viceroy's palace at Murshidabad, an actor in a solemn pageant. It was the installation of Mir Jafar to the Nabobship of Bengal. To him came Omichund, smiles on his lips and flattering phrases on his tongue. He was awaiting his promised reward. Clive thought it time to undeceive the crafty Bengalee. "Omichund," said he, "the red paper is a trick; you are to have nothing." The Hindú turned pale, staggered, and fell fainting to the floor. When he recovered consciousness it was found that the shock had unhinged his mind. He died an imbecile eighteen months later. For his unhappy fate it is difficult to feel much pity. He would not have scrupled to sacrifice any number of victims upon the altar of his greed. That his schemes should have been thwarted and his cunning overreached is surely a matter for deep and profound thankfulness.

[122] Clive was taken into the treasure-house of the Nabob. On either side of him were heaped ingots of gold and silver. Coins of every country were piled ceiling high. Diamonds and rubies glittered on every hand. He was invited to help himself to what he would. He contented himself with about a quarter of a million sterling. Years afterwards, when he was charged before the House of Commons with over-greed, the founder of our Indian Empire exclaimed indignantly, "When I recollect entering the Nabob's treasury at Murshidabad, with heaps of gold and silver to the right and left, and these crowned with jewels, by God! at this moment do I stand astonished at my own moderation."

A few days after Mir Jafar's triumphal entry into the capital news came to hand of the capture of Siráj-ud-Daulá. The wretched prince, who had fled secretly from his palace as soon as he had heard of his enemy's approach, was found skulking in a garden, where his boatmen, exhausted by rowing, had been compelled to land him. By a curious irony of fate his capturer was a fakir, whose ears had been cut off some thirteen months before by the young Viceroy's orders. From him no mercy was to be expected. With every mark of insult and ignominy the wretched prisoner was dragged back to the capital, and hustled like a common felon into Mir Jafar's presence.

In the palace in which he had once reigned supreme Siráj-ud-Daulá flung himself weeping at the feet of his conqueror. Wildly he besought that his life should be spared.

Mir Jafar himself was inclined to mercy, but [123] Meerum his son, a callous young brute of sixteen, insisted on his instant execution. Siráj-ud-Daulá was led away into a distant dungeon. It was after midnight, but for the wretched captive there was to be no sleep that night, save the one from which there is no awakening. Presently came the jingle of weapons and the heavy tramp of feet along the passage. Then the door was thrown violently open, and armed ruffians crowded into the cell. Guessing their dreadful purpose, the ex-Viceroy burst into an agony of lamentation; but, recovering himself, prayed that he might be allowed to make his ablutions and say his prayers. His executioners were in no mood for delay. Seizing a pot of water that stood near they threw it over their victim's head; poignards and swords completed the deadly work.

Next day the mangled remains were drawn through the city, and exposed to the gaze of the populace. With awe and consternation was this grim procession beheld, but there was no tumult or disorder. So perished Siráj-ud-Daulá in the twentieth year of his age. Few who have died so young have left behind them such a record of villainy.

And that is how Britain became the dominant power in India's richest province.


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