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India by  Victor Surridge

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OF MYSORE, MARÁTHÁS, AND MUTINY

[170] IT must not be thought that because the fierce old warrior Haidar Ali was in his grave, and peace had been declared with his successor, our trouble with the kingdom of Mysore was now ended. Far, indeed, was this from being the case. Tipú Sultán, the "Tiger of Mysore," upon whose swarthy brow now glittered the royal diadem, had inherited every whit the warlike spirit of his father. Towards his pale-faced conquerors—who came from over those seas which Haidar Ali had sorrowfully admitted he "could not dry up"—he bore a bitter and undying hatred. Woe betide any English prisoners who fell into his relentless clutches! If his royal sire had chastised them with whips, he assuredly lashed them with scorpions. An English general, who had been captured ere peace was declared, was murdered by having boiling lead poured down his throat; his unhappy wife went mad with horror on beholding the outrage. Other wretched captives were left to die in lingering agony, chained to the corpses of their friends. Some, we are told, had their throats cut slowly and by degrees; others, bound hand and foot, [171] had their jaws wrenched open to receive the poison which their tormentors poured gleefully down their throats. With such a monster as this upon the throne of Mysore it was not to be expected that the peace would prove of very long duration.

For several years waited Tipú "the Tiger," ere he decided that the time had come to embark on another struggle with his foes. Then he made an artful attempt to win the favour of the French. Alone in his private closet, he and Bertrand de Molleville, the civil administrator of France in India, conferred anxiously together for many hours. Shortly afterwards this same Bertrand de Molleville sailed on a secret mission to the Court of King Louis; nor sailed he empty-handed, for in his baggage were divers gifts which the Sultán had reluctantly parted with, hoping thereby to gain the goodwill of the genial French monarch. Duly the ambassador arrived at Versailles. Before a brilliant court he opened his precious bales, and laughter lurked on the lips of the fair ladies and gay gallants when they beheld the Rajah's presents laid out to their view. Tipú Sultán had been none too generous in his offerings. For the king there were some gold gauze and crimson silk stuffs, together with an aigrette of bad diamonds—flat, yellow, and ill-set. The share that fell to the beautiful Marie Antoinette was even more niggardly; three bottles partially filled with essences, a box of perfumed powder-balls, some scented matches—and the tale was told.

"Aha!" laughed King Louis, "what can I do with all this trumpery! It seems only fit to dress [172] dolls! But you have little girls who may be pleased with such: give it all to them."

"But the diamonds, sire?" faltered the embarrassed Bertrand.

"Oh, they are mighty fine!" jeered the amused monarch. "Perhaps you would like them placed among the jewels of the crown? But you may take them too, and wear them in your hat if you like!"

But before Tipú had time to learn how fared his embassy to France, his fierce impatience had fanned the smouldering embers of hostility to flame. A native ally of the British, the Rajah of Travancore, was signalled out for attack, and Lord Cornwallis, the new Governor-General, wisely decided to declare war against the common enemy. It was Tipú's first object to break through the Lines of Travancore,—a double line of works consisting of a thick plantation supported by a rampart with bastions,—which defended that country from invasion; but in the attempt to do so his troops were hurled back with terrible slaughter, and even he himself had a narrow escape from being hacked to pieces. So enraged was the Sultán by this unexpected defeat that he swore by a mighty oath that he would never quit it until he had forced the Lines. Fortunate was it for us that he did so, for he was compelled to remain before them for three months, and thus gave us time to make preparations for the conflict.

The Governor-General, who took command in person, directed his first movement against the strong fort of Bangalore. Outside the massive gate which gave entrance to the stronghold a terrible struggle [173] took place. A hail of musket shot from some turrets on the wall littered the ground with dead and dying, and gallant Colonel Moorhouse, one of the most accomplished officers in India, fell with four mortal Wounds. But undismayed by their comrades' fate the British charged again and again to the attack. At length the mighty gate was all but in pieces. A tiny officer named Lieutenant Aire wriggled a passage through it, sword in hand. "Bravo, Aire!" cried the jovial General Meadows. "Now, Whiskers,"—this to the grenadiers,—"try if you can follow and support the little gentleman." Lusty cheers greeted the general's words, and the brave fellows rushed tumultuously through the opening. Ere long the fort was gained, and the daring venture was amply repaid by the vast quantities of ammunition and military stores which fell into the hands of the British—things of which they were sorely in need.

Great was Tipú's rage when he heard that his fort had fallen. The brilliant rapidity of the British movements reduced him to a kind of stupor; angry despair took possession of his soul. His revenge was cruel and horrible. Nineteen English boys were prisoners at Mysore. These the Sultán ordered to be brought into his presence. Unconscious of the doom in store for them, but guessing instinctively from the "Tiger's" ferocious aspect that something was amiss, the little lads huddled together before the throne. The Sultán gave a signal and two swarthy Abyssinian slaves pounced upon one of the trembling group. One ebony giant seized his head, the other his body, and these they twisted in, opposite directions [174] until, by slow dislocation of the vertebras, the child was killed. Each of the others shared the same fate, and not until nineteen small corpses strewed the floor of his apartment did Tipú Sultán consider that he had in any way wiped out the memory of his defeat.

The campaign against Mysore was fraught with great hardships to the British. Over wild mountain passes and through dense forests they had to force their way, often in sad distress for lack of provisions, and pestered at every step by the fierce troops of the implacable Sultán. Sometimes the enemy would loosen huge boulders of granite, and these, hurtling like an avalanche down the mountain side, would sweep many of our men away to instant death. Yet, in spite of all difficulties, they grimly persisted in the fight; fort after fort was taken, until at last Tipú found himself hemmed in on all sides in his inland capital at Seringapatam; while the hardy Maráthás, now allies of England, were pillaging and laying waste his dominions. On the 23rd of February 1793 Tipú called together a great council of all his nobles and officers, and it was reluctantly agreed to accept terms. By these the "Tiger" was compelled to surrender half his territories, pay a war indemnity of 3,800,000 rupees, release all his prisoners, and deliver up his two sons as hostages for the due observance of the treaty.

Three days later an excited crowd of soldiers and citizens looked down from the ramparts of Seringapatam upon a picturesque and touching ceremony. From the interior of the fort a loud fanfare of trumpets rang out, and the eager chatter [175] of the spectators was hushed to attentive silence. Then the massive gate rolled back, and out of the great archway emerged a small and pathetic procession. First came a number of Brahmins, stately and dignified in their spotless robes. Closely behind marched seven standard-bearers, their green banneroles fluttering in the breeze; these were followed by a hundred pikemen, whose weapons, inlaid with silver, glittered and shone in the brilliant sunshine. Then came into view two elephants, richly caparisoned, upon whose mighty backs in howdahs, richly chased with silver, sat the two young hostages. As they appeared the cannon of Seringapatam thundered forth a royal salute, while from the British lines boomed back an answering greeting. A squadron of horse and two hundred Sepoys brought up the rear.

Surrounded by his staff and colonels of regiments, Lord Cornwallis received the two children at the entrance of his tent. The elder was ten years of age, the younger only two; but for all their tender years the little princes comported themselves with grave politeness and attention. Sitting one on either side of Cornwallis, they were formally surrendered to the English by the principal minister of Tipú.

"These children," said he, lowly bowing, "were this morning the sons of my master, the Sultán; their situation is now changed, and they must look up to your Lordship as their father."

How strange it must have been to see the venerable Governor-General, veteran of a hundred fights, trying to win the confidences of his tiny hostages! One can picture the grim old soldier [176] as he lays aside for a moment the mantle of authority and assumes the role of father and protector; while his two young charges, clad in flowing robes of white muslin, crimson turbans, and strings of costly gems, gaze at him, fearless and wondering. Happily Lord Cornwallis knew the way to reach the hearts of children, and the two little princes were quickly reconciled to their lot. But alone on a solitary bastion of his capital the fierce Sultán of Mysore was shedding tears of bitter anguish over his captive sons; and as he gazed yearningly towards the British tents, which now sheltered the only beings his savage nature had ever learned to love, fresh schemes for future vengeance and terrible reprisals arose in his embittered and sorrow-stricken heart.

It was left to the Marquess Wellesley—he of the iron hand—to bring about the final downfall of Tipú. Once again the Mysore Sultán had been negotiating with the French, and the Governor of Mauritius had posted up proclamations on the walls of his capital calling for volunteers to assist the cause of Tipú. Even the great Napoleon, who was now shaking continents with the thunder of his armies, had addressed a letter to the "most magnificent Sultán, our greatest friend Tippoo Sáhib," in which he expressed himself "full of the desire of relieving him from the iron yoke of England." The new Governor-General was not unaware of these amenities,—a copy of the Mauritius proclamation had indeed found its way on to his study table,—and he decided that the time had come once and for all to crush the power of Tipú.

[177] But before taking any decisive action Lord Wellesley deemed it wise to try negotiations. The Sultán received these in frivolous mood; and when, in reply to one of his letters, the Governor-General was handed an evasive and delicately sarcastic epistle, alluding to himself as "the prince, in station like Jeemscheid, with angels as his guards, with troops numerous as the sun illuminating the world, the heaven of empire and dominion, the luminary giving splendour to the Universe, the firmament of glory and power, the sultan of the sea and the land, the king of Room (be his empire perpetual!)"—and more in the same strain—he came to the unavoidable conclusion that by stern measures alone would satisfaction be ever obtained.

On the 22nd February 1799 war was formally declared. Once again British troops marched towards Mysore. Slowly but surely was Tipú Sultán, stubbornly contesting every foot of the way, driven backwards towards his capital; ensconced therein, with his enemies all around him, he gave himself over to melancholy and gloom. "We have arrived at our last stage," said he to a council of his nobles; "what is your determination?" "To die along with you," came the loyal response. " So be it," said Tipú, and forthwith prepared for the worst.

Day after day, with dogged persistence, the guns kept pounding away at the mighty ramparts. By April 4 a breach had been made wide enough to admit our men. The following day was selected for the attack.

[178] You will remember that among the wretched captives of Haidar Ali had been Sir David Baird. For four years he had endured unspeakable agonies in the dungeons of Mysore; then the treaty of Seringapatam gave him his release. He it was to whom was now allotted the honour of leading the storming party, and the memory of his awful experience must have filled his heart with a fierce determination to get even with his foes. "You must persevere to the last extremity," said General Harris, who was in command, thinking anxiously of the starving condition of his troops. "Success is necessary to our existence."

Breathless with excitement, the storming party crouched low in the trenches waiting the signal for attack. Rose at length the gaunt figure of Sir David, who, with sword waving above his head, shouted his encouragements to the expectant men. "Come, my brave fellows!" cried he in thrilling tones, "follow me, and prove yourselves worthy of the name of British soldiers."

Unmindful of the hail of bullets which came whizzing around and about them, the men charged gallantly to the attack. On they went, losing comrades at every stride, across the river, up the steep bank opposite, up at length to the very walls themselves. Instantly the breach became choked with struggling men—the red line of attackers striving to force their way to its summit—while the swarthy defenders battled desperately for life. From hand to hand passed the British colours, as each successive standard-bearer fell to rise no more; at length they [179] were seized by a Scottish sergeant named Grahame, who, fighting valiantly, succeeded in affixing them to the summit of the breach. "Huzza, success to 'Lieutenant' Grahame!" cried he, joyfully anticipating his promotion. At that moment a bullet struck him and he fell forward dead. But the breach was won! There was still a deep ditch to be crossed before the inner ramparts could be gained. On these were crowded the excited soldiery of Mysore, and in the midst, Tipú himself, fantastically attired, stood firing coolly at his advancing foes from guns which were hastily loaded and handed to him by his attendants. His courage availed him little. Soon staggering back,—the crimson stain on his white jacket showing where a bullet had found its mark,—he mounted his horse, and tried to make his way towards the palace. Once again he was wounded, and yet again; then his horse was shot under him, and he fell weak and dizzy to the ground. So he lay alone, the soldiers hurrying past him thinking only of their own safety and caring little for their master's hapless plight. At length came one more greedy than the rest. He espied the richly-jewelled belt of the fallen Sultán, and strove to wrest it from its place. Then the fierce spirit of the Tiger flickered up in one last despairing effort; drawing his sword he slashed blindly at the would-be robber. The same instant he fell back with a bullet through his brain. So perished the proud Sultán of Mysore! A few hours afterwards Colonel Arthur Wellesley, the future "Iron Duke," found the royal corpse, divested of jacket and turban, sword and belt, [180] beneath a ghastly heap of his dead and dying subjects.


[Illustration]

TIPU HIMSELF STOOD FIRING COOLLY AT HIS ADVANCING FOES.

The funeral of the dead Sultán was an impressive ceremony; it almost seemed as if the very elements had conspired to do honour to his obsequies. In the stately mausoleum of the Lál Bágh, by the side of his father Haidar Ali, the body of the slaughtered chieftain was reverently laid to rest. The heavy clouds, which had been gathering thickly overhead, gave an air of darkness and depression to the scene, and in their deep-toned mutterings and rumblings one might almost detect a voice of sorrow and despair. Then stepped forward the chief Kazi to perform the last solemn rites over the corpse, and as he did so the lowering storm broke forth in wild stupendous fury. The sad wailings of the mourners died away to silence, and frightened looks were turned heavenwards where crashed and thundered the devil's orchestra in its tribute to the dead. Out of the sable low-hanging clouds vivid streaks of lightning, writhing and twisting like fiery serpents, darted towards their prey. Terrified, the natives broke and ran, but many were stricken down, and rows of scorched and blackened victims bore witness to the storm-fiend's sacrifice to the memory of the terrible prince.

"Surely," said the people, "this is a sign that has come to us. No longer shall we be a free nation; for the rule of our Sultáns has passed away, and the power of the British is upon us."

The story of the Marquess of Wellesley's brilliant administration in India is essentially one of wars and [181] conquests. During the whole period he reigned as Governor-General, the iron hand of British rule was being surely and relentlessly extended in all parts of the peninsula. For a long while the Maráthás had been pursuing a similar policy. Upon the ruins of the old Moghul Empire they aimed at founding great and powerful Hindú kingdoms. Their efforts had met with phenomenal success, and the mighty chieftains of the Maráthá Confederacy were, without doubt, the greatest power in the land. It was inevitable that the two forces should clash. There was no room for rival competitors in the struggle for supremacy. One or the other had to yield. And thus it came about that August 3, 1803, saw the commencement of a memorable war.

On the famous field of Assaye General Arthur Wellesley, with four thousand five hundred men, found himself confronted by the two great Maráthá chieftains, Scindia of Gwalior and the Gaekwar of Baroda. Their army outnumbered his by more than ten to one, yet the lion-hearted leader decided to give them instant battle. It is said that the enemy thought him mad for daring to assail them with so small a force; but Wellesley knew what determination and discipline could effect when skillfully led against a huge and unwieldy foe. Nevertheless, the Maráthá artillery put in some murderous work. As the British advanced to the attack a terrible cannonade greeted them, and the ground was quickly strewed with the dead and the dying. The general decided to leave his guns behind, and at the head of the gallant first line he bore resolutely down [182] upon the foe. For very shame the Maráthás held their ground, eyeing in fascinated bewilderment the splendid courage of the tiny band. But soon the sharp flashing sabres were amongst them, cutting and thrusting with irresistible effect, and the first line of the enemy turned and fled. Nor did the second line make amends for their comrades' inglorious flight. Soon they also were in retreat, and with joyful cheers the British raced after the panic-stricken fugitives.

But the battle was not yet won. As cavalry and infantry were eagerly pursuing the retiring Maráthás, the sound of a heavy cannonade in their rear made them pause and turn. Then they realised how they had been tricked. When our men swept through the enemy's first line, many of the artillerymen had flung themselves under their guns, feigning death. Immediately the British had passed, however, the gunners leapt to their feet and opened fire upon the pursuing troops. Simultaneously several of the retreating battalions faced about and opened fire. It seemed as if we were caught in a trap. But Wellesley, who was everywhere at once, saw the danger, and made a desperate effort to win back the guns. Fiercely the struggle raged. The brave gunners stuck grimly to their task, but nothing could withstand the dogged persistence of the British attacks. Ere long the guns were ours.

A dramatic incident marked the close of the conflict. Gallant Colonel Maxwell, who, at the head of the 19th Dragoons, was driving the Maráthá infantry pęle-męle  before him, was seen to halt and [183] throw up his arms. A stray musket ball had shot him dead. His men, mistaking the death-agony of their leader for a signal to fall back, wheeled round and galloped up the line of the enemy's fire. Not for some minutes did they discover their mistake, and then, fiercely desirous to redeem their honour, they formed themselves up for one of the most desperate cavalry charges ever chronicled in the history of warfare. Its effect was irresistible: the Maráthás scattered in all directions upon the far-stretching plain, and the battle of Assaye had been fought and won. Not yet, however, did the fierce Scindia admit defeat. The fall of his great fortress of Aligarh and the loss of Delhi found him despairing but still defiant. As has been sung by countless lusty throats in the famous old "Song of the Soubandar—"

But Agra, Delhi, Allyghar, and Coel's deeds were vain,

Without the crowning victory upon Laswaree's plain;

The flower of Scindia's chivalry, the Invincible Brigade,—

To make one furious struggle yet, were for the strife arrayed.

And at Laswari—as it is now spelled—the fate of Scindia was sealed. In spite of the gallant resistance of his men, who fought, as the English general afterwards wrote, "like devils, or rather heroes," and pluckily stood their ground while our dragoons charged again and again through their ranks, he was compelled at length to yield, and shortly afterwards he signed a treaty ceding enormous tracts of his territories to the British.

There still remained to he reckoned with the [184] most powerful chieftain of all the Maráthá Confederacy. Rallying the Rájputs, the Rohillas, and the Sikhs to his standard, the great Holkar of Indore resolved to make a mighty effort to roll back the giant wave of British conquest sweeping so swiftly towards his lands. His method of warfare was marked with caution and restraint. Whereas his brother chiefs had been content to fight in the open plain and to risk their fortunes in a fixed battle, Holkar cunningly retreated before the slow-moving British troops, hoping thus to lure them on to their ultimate destruction. How disastrously they fell into the trap!

It was the rainy season, when fighting becomes practically impossible. Yet, carrying with him no stock of provisions, and neglecting to secure his communications over the many rivers he crossed, Colonel Monson, with only five battalions of Sepoys and three thousand irregular cavalry, pushed onwards in a fatuous attempt to follow up Holkar's retreating army. On they went, and ever onward, while the rains fell incessantly and the roads became mere mud tracks and well-nigh impossible for the native carts, crowded with the wives and children of the Sepoys (who always accompany their lords and masters during a campaign), to traverse. Then their provisions gave out. Worn out and dispirited the English commander found himself confronted by two terrible alternatives. He was, almost literally, between the devil and the deep sea. In front of him lay the giant army of Holkar, by no means reluctant for a conflict, to attack which meant almost [185] certain death. In his rear the rivers, flooded and unfordable, presented a grave obstacle to retreat. Which course should he take? Would it be wiser to go forward and snatch at their only chance of survival—small as it might be—which lay in a victory over the Maráthás? Or should he retire? Not invariably is discretion the better part of valour; at times it is fatal.

Painfully the little force retraced their steps. After them the joyful Holkar hurled derisive and insulting messages. "Fight," said the proud chieftain, "or surrender." But the British did neither of these things. Wet, hungry, and cold, they plodded doggedly onwards through the heavy mud. Their guns, sinking deep in the yielding soil, had to be spiked and abandoned; their ammunition they were forced to destroy. It was not to be expected that the foe would leave them unmolested. Stragglers met with short shrift at the hands of the fierce Maráthá cavalry, while the wounded were slain, and women and children seized and carried off under the very eyes of the helpless and grief-stricken Sepoys. At the last the toil-worn soldiers, nearly dropping from fatigue and want of sleep, formed themselves into a square, and upon them, yelling and thundering, the steel-shirted Maráthá horsemen came charging down. By hundreds they dropped, fighting grimly to the end, while the survivors, broken and demoralised, fled to Agra, whither Holkar dared not follow them.

"Alas!" wrote the gallant Duke, when he heard of the disaster, "I have lost five battalions and six companies, the flower of the army, and [186] how they are to be replaced at this day God only knows."

Not long, however, was Holkar allowed to enjoy his triumph. The blood of the British had been fired to boiling point by the misfortunes of their comrades, while every now and then the arrival in camp of some wretched prisoner, who had contrived to escape from the Maráthás' clutches, minus his nose, ears, and arms, would add fresh fuel to their wrath. From pillar to post was the great Holkar chivied, allowed never to rest; for an avenging army was hot on his track, and blood alone would wipe out the wrongs he had committed. Once, in the guise of a fakir, the fierce chieftain had to flee to Scindia for succour; on another occasion, at the head of a few followers, he was pursued across the sandy wastes of the Punjáb up to the wild frontier of the brave and warlike Afghans. Peace came at length. The Directors in London had wearied of the warlike policy of their Governor-General. They did not realise that to stand still was to recede, and that unless the great empire which was lying open to the British were seized and held, others would surely possess themselves of it. So they sent the aged Cornwallis out a second time, and told him to make an end of the brilliant campaigns of his predecessor. But Cornwallis was fast failing in health, and died shortly after his appointment, so it was left to his successor in office to carry out the pacific policy of the Company.

For a brief period of two years the title of Governor-General was held by Sir John Barlow, who [187] at the time of Cornwallis's death was the senior member of Council. His reign, though otherwise undistinguished, is rendered memorable by the outbreak of a serious mutiny among the Sepoys. It was at Vellore that the disturbance occurred. In this fort, not a hundred miles from Madras, the family of the deceased Tipú Sultán had been allotted apartments. In almost regal state they lived—as was befitting in the kinsmen of the great Tiger but watchful eyes were always upon them, for who knew at what time they might not seek to fan to flame the smouldering passions of their countrymen? So the fort was garrisoned by three hundred and seventy European troops and one thousand Sepoys, under the command of doughty Colonel Fancourt.

The Sepoys, sensitive on the subject of their caste and their religion, had an idea that it was the wish of their white masters to break asunder the links of creed and of custom which bound them to their own people so that they might grow to be all of one faith and race, debarred for ever from the privileges of their birth. Any circumstance which tended to justify them in this belief was naturally looked upon with the greatest suspicion. Thus it came about that when the authorities, desirous of creating a uniform appearance among the native troops, issued sundry drastic commands anent their dress and toilet, the indignation of the Sepoys became acute.

What were the dreadful regulations that were to cause so much misery and bloodshed? The Sepoys were ordered to dress alike, to shave their beards and trim their moustaches, and wear no caste marks. To [188] our Western minds there is nothing very harsh about this. But the list is not complete. There was yet another grievance, and one with which we cannot withhold a certain sneaking sympathy. For it was solemnly decreed that the soldiers should lay aside their turbans and adorn themselves with the tall glazed abominations of the Europeans—direct ancestors of our present-day top-hats.

"Ugh!" muttered the disgusted natives, as they surveyed their new head-gear, "surely none but an infidel would wear a thing like that! It is some wicked design of our masters to make Christians of us."

Nightly the Sepoys secretly foregathered to discuss their wrongs. From time to time rumours of these meetings and of the discontent which prevailed reached the officers' ears. Unhappily, however, they were ignored. Not until the thunder cloud had actually burst did the British realise the depth of feeling their ill-considered regulations had provoked among the native troops.

The 10th of July 1806 was the day chosen for revolt. Let us try to conjure up the scene. It is three o'clock in the morning, and all within the fort is quiet and still. Suddenly the doors of the native barracks swing open and, looking pale and ghostly in the uncertain light of dawn, the fifteen hundred Sepoys steal cautiously out in the open. Silently they tip-toe across to the European barracks; the wheels of the six-pounder they are dragging with them are heavily muffled, and no sound is heard as they place the gun in position beneath the gateway and point [189] its muzzle inwards. In front of the windows they halt and raise their muskets to their shoulders. There is a momentary pause, and then a signal, and a terrific crash of musketry arouses the slumbering inmates to their peril. Many have been shot in their sleep; the rest rush out in their night attire to seek the cause of the tumult. The six-pounder in the gateway bars their egress, while through the shattered windows volley after volley is poured with terrible effect. Behind their beds and scanty furniture the unarmed men vainly try to screen themselves. Ere long eighty-two of their number lie dead, while ninety-one more are wounded, and the fury of their assailants grows in intensity as the red stream of blood flows sluggishly out into the courtyard. With the officers things fare but little better. Over the threshold of his house Colonel Fancourt lies with a bullet through his heart, Colonel M'Kerras is stark and stiff on the parade ground, and thirteen others have been pitilessly massacred. A few contrive to cut their way out, sword in hand, and reach the privates' barracks, where a terrible scene of carnage meets their eyes. Eventually the surviving officers and men, nearly all of whom are wounded, manage to escape to the ramparts, where they crouch desperately, waiting for the inevitable finish. Above them floats the standard of the once-great Tipú—with its saffron sun and tiger stripes upon an emerald ground,—and as they behold it their cheeks blanch with apprehension, for what untold atrocities have not been committed beneath that sinister flag!

At Arcot, nine miles away, the continuous [190] booming of the Vellore cannon has aroused the garrison to wonder. Presently a messenger rides breathlessly into the fort and gasps out an incoherent tale of the morning's ghastly doings. Instantly a body of horse is marshalled, and a squadron of the 19th Dragoons and a troop of native cavalry gallop furiously to the rescue. So hard do they ride that the fortress walls soon loom before them, and the little company on the ramparts greets their arrival with loud cheers. The first and second gates are passed in safety, and the third, strongly barred, impedes their way. Without a moment's hesitation Sergeant Brady lets himself down by a rope from the ramparts and unbars the gate. The fourth and last gate, stoutly fastened, has still to be passed, and as they clamour before it the dying shrieks and yells which come from the interior of the fort send the men mad with rage. Quickly guns are brought up and the gate blown to pieces; then Colonel Rollo Gillespie, at the head of his dragoons, dashes into the fort. The air is full of clouds of dust, dimly through which are seen the flashing blades of the British as they cut down the Sepoys on every hand.

"The scene that presented itself," wrote Captain Young, one of the rescuers, "after all was over, no pen can depict, no language describe; it was one sheet of blood, and never do I wish to see the human form so mangled and mutilated." But what chiefly aroused the young officer's indignation were the bodies of the European women and children lying about in all directions, for in their blind lust for blood the Sepoys had spared neither age nor sex—all were butchered indiscriminatingly.

[191] The mutineers were severely punished. Four hundred had been slain by Gillespie and his men; the rest were tried by court-martial and either shot or punished according to their guilt. The number of the regiment was erased from the army list.

The final picture of this terrible tragedy is as impressive as any of its predecessors. Once more it is early dawn. Stern-faced and grim behind the guns stand the men of the battery, waiting the word of command. To the mouth of each gun is fastened a mutineer. "Fire!" cries a voice—there is a loud explosion, and the ringleaders of the rebellious Sepoys have been blown unceremoniously into eternity.


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