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AN EPISODE OF THE INDIAN MUTINY.

THE OUTBREAK.

AT the time of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny my brother and I were engaged in business as indigo-planters and merchants in Fatehgarh. We occupied a bungalow together in the civil station on the banks of the river Ganges, where we led a happy life amid a wide circle of friends residing in Fatehgarh and the surrounding district. Indigo in those days was a prosperous manufacture, and the life of the merchant lay in pleasant places. The Germans had not then invented aniline to supplant it and wipe the "true blue" out of existence. The old race of planters, whose prestige stood high with the natives, and whose verbal promise was as good as a bond, is fast disappearing, and the link that held them in touch with the rulers and the people will soon be a matter of tradition. To return, however, to the past. Whilst living in profound peace, happy in our Indian home, strange rumours reached our ears, disquieting, yet discredited. Presently we were startled by news of mutinous regiments, and before we could realise what that meant reports of outbreaks poured in in quick succession, together with alarming accounts of murders and massacres. The whole country seemed perturbed, and

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garrisoned the station and fort. Evidence confirmatory of these rumours accumulated daily, spreading consternation and dismay among the residents; and meetings were held hurriedly to concert measures for the protection of the ladies and children, and to take steps for the defence of the station.

The awkwardness of the situation, however, however, rendered unanimity impossible, and paralysed the counsels of the authorities. The military officers, in spite of evidence and the trend of passing events, refused to believe that their sepoys were disloyal, and declined to do anything that might savour of distrust. Under the circumstances, the civil authorities were unable to take the initiative, and they refused to abandon the station as long as the sepoys were held together. It was their plain duty to stick to their posts, though convinced of the insecurity of their position. It was a most painful dilemma, and the lives of something like 300 Europeans hung upon prompt action. The roads to Cawnpore and Agra were still open, and escape was still possible for the majority if measures were instantly adopted for their removal. The unofficial residents, fully alive to the emergency, resolved upon taking the matter into their own hands. They decided to secure boats for themselves and their families,

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and to hold them in readiness to quit the station at a moment's notice and to pull down to Cawnpore, which, equipped as it was with a strong European garrison and easy of access under any circumstances, we never doubted for an instant would be safe. The civil authorities and others unconnected with the regiment joined in the scheme, and the great body of planters, merchants, and missionaries lost no time in providing the boats, which, it was arranged, should be moored under the magistrate's bungalow, ready to cast off at a given signal. We all slept either on the boats or in the houses of friends in their vicinity. Our lives during the period of suspense and waiting were anything but enviable. The heat was awful, and every hour was rendered terrible by alarms by day, while by night the bazaarmen shouted and discharged firearms to keep off marauders, and the dogs howled in sympathy, making night hideous and chasing away rest. We were painfully distracted, and in every mind the wish was uppermost that the crisis might come and relieve us of the intolerable tension of inaction and suspense.

I think it was on the 3rd of June that the news arrived of the mutiny of the 9th Native Infantry at Aligarh, a neigh

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bouring station. ported that the mutineers were marching on Fatehgarh, from which they were then a day's march distant. The effect of this rumour was electrical. The residents hurried to the boats, there to await eventualities and the signal that was to sever them from their cherished homes. The conduct of the 10th on that occasion was as exemplary as it was unexpected. They obeyed the orders of their commandant cheerfully, and showed no indication of a disposition to fraternise with the 9th. The spy with letters from the mutineers was given up to the colonel, whose orders to barricade and defend the roads. were carried out with alacrity. Every preparation was made to give the invaders a warm reception; but whether the station would have stood the test of actual attack is problematical. The immediate effect, however, was satisfactory, as the wouldbe invaders, getting wind of the doings at Fatehgarh, prudently turned their faces in the direction of Delhi. I may here mention that the 10th, having served in Burmah, whither they were conveyed in ships, and having thus crossed the "black waters,' were looked upon as outcasts, and regarded with suspicion and distrust. This fact no doubt influenced the course of action taken by the 9th.

WE LEAVE FATEHGARH,

It is almost certain that had matters ended there that night the whole trouble would have

passed over quietly and events have taken a different turn. Unhappily the colonel found it

necessary to remove the treasure from the collector's office to a place of greater safety, and the sight of the great bags of rupees proved too much for his men, who lost all control of themselves and clamoured for their custody, refusing to obey orders or to listen to reason, and threatening violence to their officers. The confusion and disturbance were great, and the din of the bazaars redoubled. The news of this incident, together with the report of the subsequent looting of the treasure, was conveyed to us at midnight, magnified and exaggerated as only native gossip can be; and the sudden blazing of a large stack of thatching grass, suggesting the firing of bungalows, completed our consternation. There was no further need to await the long-looked-for signal for departure. The fleet of something like twenty boats cast off and dropped down the stream, the majority of the occupants never to return again.

Who can possibly describe what passed through the minds of those unhappy voyagers? The youthful members of the party, unable to realise the forlorn nature of the move and supported by the natural buoyancy of their spirits, refused to be cast down by the gloomy outlook. But the agonies of fathers and mothers, torn from their homes, homes, with fortunes wrecked and their dear ones in dire danger, were terrible; and how earnest must have been their appeals to heaven for deliverance from the cruel hands of the enemy!

gling boats drifted with the sluggish stream, the native boatmen toiling wearily at their unwieldy oars, producing just enough way to keep the boats' heads straight while the Europeans, armed with their sporting guns and rifles, kept a sharp look-out and urged the labouring manjis (boatmen) with promises and threats. By daylight next morning we had put eight or ten miles between us and Fatehgarh, our progress having been delayed by the frequent grounding of the boats in the shallows. By break of day unforeseen difficulties and dangers began to manifest themselves, foreshadowing worse to come. Our hopes that the villagers would not be hostile or molest our passage were rudely dispelled at Singhirampur, a large village situated on a prominent height of the river - bank. Here the inhabitants turned out in force and demanded immediate surrender, emphasising their threats with a discharge of matchlocks. A prompt reply from the boats soon undeceived the fellows, and we rapidly pulled through the fire without sustaining any loss or damage.

The small guard of Oudh Thakurs provided by Koer Hardeo Buksh—a powerful talukhdar in Oudh-for the protection of Mr Probyn, the magistrate, whose friendship he had won, foreseeing greater dangers ahead, counselled the party not to proceed farther without consulting Hardeo Buksh. A messenger was despatched to him at once, while we continued on our journey to the mouth of the Slowly the long line of strag- Ramganga, there to await his

reply. On our way down we were joined by a party of three or four officers of the 10th, who had been rescued by a few Sikhs of that regiment and hurried away out of danger when the revolt broke out on the night of the 3rd. They had seized a boat and waited for some time in the hope of picking up other stragglers; but when none appeared, had cast off, falling in with us, as has been said, near Singhirampur. They told us that they had been fired upon and driven off by their own men, and owed their lives to the four Sikhs who had rescued them. Of the fate of their brother officers, from whom they got separated in the confusion, they could give us no information, and concluded that they must have fallen victims to the fury of the rebels.

On reaching the Ramganga, the boats were fastened on the low-lying banks facing the frowning heights of Kusumkhor on the opposite shore, there to await Hardeo Buksh's answer, and to take counsel as to what we had better do next. As Hardeo Buksh lived fifteen miles from where we were, some precious hours were lost. During the interval we watched the movements of the Kusumkhor villagers, who were assembled in considerable numbers, actively engaged in making preparations to oppose our progress. The delay sorely tried the patience of the party, for every moment lost multiplied our dangers and made the chances of escape more difficult, if not impossible; and the majority chafed under the ordeal and raised loud protests against the

folly of sacrificing the chance of reaching Cawnpore and trusting to Hardeo Buksh and his undisciplined villagers for protection.

Probyn, to whose safety Hardeo Buksh was pledged, remained firm, as he relied implicitly on the promise of the Rajput chief, and he counselled the party to be patient and not reject the protection offered, but to join him and proceed up the river to his garhi, and wait there till the storm blew over, when we could return to Fatehgarh. Feeling, however, ran high, and the recollection of the terrible massacres that had been perpetrated recently in all directions had shaken our confidence. The fugitives, who numbered nearly 200, refused to believe that Hardeo Buksh could be trusted, if attacked by disciplined sepoys, to risk his all in our defence, and, with the exception of about 40, elected to proceed to Cawnpore, preferring to face the dangers rather than abandon the certainty of finding safety there. (A few words in anticipation will tell the tale of the fate of those unhappy souls, who, after encountering much difficulty and danger, succeeded in reaching Cawnpore, only, alas! to fall into the hands of the Nana. He captured the boats opposite Bithur, and conveyed the fugitives prisoners to Cawnpore, where he placed them in confinement in the Savada Koti, almost within sight of Wheeler's intrenchment. It is said that the safety of their lives was solemnly promised by the notorious ruffian

and he massacred every soul in cold blood, casting the bodies of the dead and dying into a well in the compound. On the recapture of the station by General Havelock the bodies were found and exhumed.)

before the party surrendered, place, and was in consequence then unassailable, and in the dry season was capable of offering considerable resistance to undisciplined matchlockmen, but was of no value against guns and trained troops. The accommodation available within the enclosure was poor and limited, affording no comfort and but little shelter to our party. A couple of rusty old ship's carronades of ancient design and a supply of ammunition were unearthed from remote fields and mounted in front of Hardeo Buksh's dwelling. To judge from their appearance, they dangerous to the users than they would have proved to an enemy; nevertheless, the prestige of guns was great. top (gun) possessed a moral value which was not to be despised. It was dreaded by the sepoy and the rabble

To return to my narrative. After our separation we few followed the fortunes of Probyn and trekked up the Ramganga, a small stream capable of navigation by boats of light draught only the passage, therefore, was slow and tedious. On arrival at Dharampur we were met by Hardeo Buksh, and by him escorted to the garhi (intrenched fort), where in times of danger the chief could muster 500 men or more of his retainers in defence of the stronghold. The sight of the defences was by no means reassuring. They consisted of an irregular low bund, which in times of flood kept the waters out of the

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BACK IN FATEHGARH.

A very short stay sufficed to discourage the party, and the conviction grew that Hardeo Buksh had undertaken more than he could perform, although the brave Thakur put on a firm front and determined to meet his fate like a true Rajput. The discomfort experienced by the ladies and children, coupled with the growing feeling of insecurity, developed dissatisfaction, and numerous were the regrets expressed at the terrible blunder that had been committed in not risking the passage to Cawnpore. We had

thus, as we thought, sacrificed certain safety, and placed ourselves in hopeless jeopardy in miserable Dharampur. Happily, at this juncture, the gratifying and surprising intelligence was brought to us that the 10th were holding out loyally, and that all was quiet at Fatehgarh. This was indeed a totally unlooked - for turn of events. Probyn at once determined to return to the station, to ascertain in person the true state of affairs. He was joined by the three refugee officers of the 10th. From them we after

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