When we returned to Cawnpore, although we had been barely two months away, we found it much altered. Many of the burnt-down bungalows were being rebuilt, and the fort at the end of the bridge of boats had become quite a strong place. The well where the murdered women and children were buried was now completely filled up, and a wooden cross erected over it. I visited the slaughter-house again, and found the walls of the several rooms all scribbled over both in pencil and charcoal. This had been done since my first visit in October ; I am positive on this point. The unfortunate women who were murdered in the house left no writing on the walls whatever. There was writing on the walls of the barrack-rooms of Wheeler’s entrenchment, mostly notes that had been made during the siege, but none on the walls of the slaughter-house. As mentioned in my last chapter, we only halted one day in Cawnpore before crossing into Oude, and marching to Oonao about the 10th of February, we encamped there as a guard for the siege-train and ordnance-park which was being pushed on to Lucknow.
While at Oonao a strange thing happened, which I shall here set down. Men have such busy lives in India that many who may have heard the story at the time have possibly forgotten all about it, while to most of my home-staying readers it will be quite fresh.
Towards the end of February, 1858, the army for the siege of Lucknow was gradually being massed in front of the doomed city, and lay, like a huge boa-constrictor coiled and ready for its spring, all along the road from Cawnpore to the Alumbagh. A strong division, consisting of the Forty-Second and Ninety-Third Highlanders, the Fifty – Third, the Ninth Lancers, Peel’s Naval Brigade, the siege-train, and several batteries of field-artillery, with the Fourth Punjab Infantry and other Punjabee corps, lay at Oonao under the command of General Sir Edward Lugard and Brigadier Adrian Hope. We had been encamped in that place for about ten days, – the monotony of our lives being only occasionally broken by the sound of distant cannonading in front – when we heard that General Outram’s position at the Alumbagh had been vigorously attacked by a force from Lucknow, sometimes led by the Moulvie, and at others by the Begum in person. Now and then somewhat duller sounds came from the rear, which, we understood, arose from the operations of Sir Robert Napier and his engineers, who were engaged in blowing up the temples of Siva and Kalee overlooking the ghats at Cawnpore ; not, as some have asserted, out of revenge, but for military considerations connected with the safety of the bridge of boats across the Ganges.
During one of these days of comparative inaction, I was lying in my tent reading some home papers which had just arrived by the mail, when I heard a man passing through the camp, calling out, ” Plum-cakes ! plum-cakes ! Very good plum-cakes ! Taste and try before you buy ! ” The advent of a plum-cake wallah was an agreeable change from ration-beef and biscuit, and he was soon called into the tent, and his own maxim of “taste and try before you buy ” freely put into practice. This plum-cake vendor was a very good-looking, light-coloured native in the prime of life, dressed in scrupulously clean white clothes, with dark, curly whiskers and mustachios, carefully trimmed after the fashion of the Mahommedan native officers of John Company’s army. He had a well-developed forehead, a sliglitly aquiline nose, and intelligent eyes. Altogether his appearance was something quite different from that of the usual camp-follower. But his companion, or rather the man employed as coolie to carry his basket, was one of the most villainous-looking specimens of humanity I ever set eyes on. As was the custom in those days, seeing that he did not belong to our own bazaar, and being the non – commissioned officer in charge of the tent, I asked the plum-cake man if he was provided with a pass for visiting the camp ? ” Oh yes, Sergeant sahib,” he replied, ” there’s my pass all in order, not from the Brigade – Major, but from the Brigadier himself, the Honourable Adrian Hope. I’m Jamie Green, mess-khansama(butler) ‘ of the late (I forget the regiment he mentioned), and I have just come to Oonao with a letter of introduction to General Hope from Sherer sahib, the magistrate and collector of Cawnpore. You will doubtless know General Hope’s handwriting.” And there it was, all in order, authorising the bearer, by name Jamie Green, etc. etc., to visit both the camp and outpost for the sale of his plum-cakes, in the handwriting of the brigadier, which was well known to all the non-commissioned officers of the Ninety- Third, Hope having been colonel of the regiment.
Next to his appearance what struck me as the most remarkable thing about Jamie Green was the purity and easy flow of his English, for he at once sat down beside me, and asked to see the newspapers, and seemed anxious to know what the English press said about the mutiny, and to talk of all subjects connected with the strength, etc., of the army, the preparations going forward for the siege of Lucknow, and how the newly-arrived regiments were likely to stand the hot weather. In course of conversation I made some remarks about the fluency of his English, and he accounted for it by stating that his father had been the m.ess-khdnsama of a European regiment, and that he had been brought up to speak English from his childhood, that he had learned to read and write in the regimental school, and for many years had filled the post of mess-writer, keeping all the accounts of the mess in English. During this time the men in the tent had been freely trying the plum-cakes, and a squabble arose between one of them and Jamie Green’s servant about payment. When I made some remark about the villainous look of the latter Green replied : ” Oh, never mind him ; he is an Irishman, and his name is Micky. His mother belongs to the regimental bazaar of the Eighty-Seventh Royal Irish, and he lays claim to the whole regiment, including the sergeant-major’s cook, for his father. He has just come down from the Punjab with the Agra convoy, but the commanding officer dismissed him at Cawnpore, because he had a young wife of his own, and was jealous of the good looks of Micky. But,” continued Jamie Green, ” a joke is a joke, but to eat a man’s plum-cakes and then refuse to pay for them must be a Highland joke ‘ ” On this every man in the tent, appreciating the good humour of Jamie Green, turned on the man who had refused payment, and he was obliged to fork out the amount demanded. Jamie Green and Micky passed on to another tent, after the former had borrowed a few of the latest of my newspapers. Thus ended my first interview with the plum-cake vendor.
The second one was more interesting, and with a sadder termination. On the evening of the day after the events just described, I was on duty as sergeant in charge of our camp rear-guard, and at sunset when the orderly-corporal came round with the evening grog, he told us the strange news that Jamie Green, the plum-cake v:allah, had been discovered to be a spy from Luckuow, had been arrested, and was then undergoing examination at the brigade-major’s tent; and that it being too late to hang him that night, he was to be made over to my guard for safe custody, and that men had been warned for extra sentry on the guard-tent. I need not say that I was very sorry to hear the information, for, although a spy is at all times detested in the army, and no mercy is ever shown to one, yet 1 had formed a strong regard for this man, and a high opinion of his abilities in the short conversation I had held with him the previous day; and during the interval I had been thinking over how a man of his appearance and undoubted education could hold so low a position as that of a common camp-follower. But now the news that he had been discovered to be a spy accounted for the anomaly.
It would be needless for me to describe the bitter feeling of all classes against the mutineers, or rebels, and for anyone to be denounced as a spy simply added fuel to the flames of hatred. Asiatic campaigns have always been conducted in a more remorseless spirit than those between European nations, but the war of the Mutiny, as I have before remarked in these reminiscences, was far worse than the usual type of even Asiatic fighting. It was something horrible and downright brutalising for an English army to be engaged in such a struggle, in which no quarter was ever given or asked. It was a war of downright butchery. Wherever the rebels met a Christian or a white man he was killed without pity or remorse, and every native who had assisted any such to escape, or was known to have concealed them, was as remorselessly put to death wherever the rebels had the ascendant. And wherever a European in power, either civil or military, met a rebel in arms, or any native whatever on whom suspicion rested, his shrift was as short and his fate as sure. The farce of putting an accused native on his trial before any of the civil officers attached to the different army – columns, after the civil power commenced to reassert its authority, was simply a parody on justice and a protraction of cruelty. Under martial law, punishment, whether deserved or not, was stern but sharp. But the civilian officers attached to the different movable columns for the trial of rebels, as far as they came under my notice, were even more relentless. No doubt these men excused themselves by the consideration that they were engaged in suppressing rebellion and mutiny, and that the actors on the other side had perpetrated great crimes.( It must also he remembered that these officials knew much more of the terrible facts attending the Mutiny – of the wholesale murder (and even worse) of English women and the slaughter of English children – than the rank and file were permitted to hear ; and that they were also, both from their station and their experience, far better able to decide the measures best calculated to crush the imminent danger threatening our dominion in India.) So far as the Commander-in-Chief was concerned. Sir Colin Campbell was utterly opposed to extreme measures, and deeply deplored the wholesale executions by the civil power. Although as a soldier he would have been the last man in the country to spare rebels caught with arms in their hands, or those whose guilt was well known (and I know for certain that he held the action of Major Hodson with regard to the Delhi princes to have been justifiable), I well remember how emphatically I once heard him express his disgust when, on the march back from Futtehghur to Cawnpore, he entered a mango-tope full of rotting corpses, where one of those special commissioners had passed through with a movable column a few days before.
But I must return to my story. I had barely heard the news that Green had been arrested as a spy, when he was brought to my guard by some of the provost-marshal’s staff, and handed over to me with instructions to keep him safe till he should be called for next morning. He was accompanied by the man who had carried his basket, who had also been denounced as one of the butchers at Cawnpore in July, 1857. And here I may state that the appearance of this man certainly did tally with the description afterwards given of one of these butchers by Fitchett, an Eurasian drummer attached to the Sixth Native Infantry which mutinied at Cawnpore, who embraced the Mahommedan religion to save his life, and was enrolled in the rebel force, but afterwards made his escape and presented himself at Meerut for enlistment in the police levy raised in October, 1858. What I am relating took place in February, 1858, about eight months before the existence of Fitchett was known to the authorities. However, when it was discovered that Fitchett had been serving in one of the mutineers’ regiments, he was called on to say what he knew about the Cawnpore massacre, and I remember his statement was considered the most consistent of any of the numerous narratives published about it. Fitchett alleged that the sepoys of the Sixth -Native Infantry and other regiments, including the Nana Sahib’s own guard, had refused to kill the European women and children in the Bibi-ghur and that five men were then brought by a slave-girl or mistress of the Nana to do it. Of the five men employed, two were butchers and two were villagers, and the fifth man was “a stout bilaitee(foreigner – An Afghan) with very hairy hands.” Fitchett further described one of the butchers as a tall, ugly man, very dark, and very much disfigured by smallpox, all points that tallied exactly with the appearance of this coolie. I don’t suppose that Fitchett could have known that a man answering to his description had been hanged, as being one of the actors in the Cawnpore tragedy, some eight months before, for I don’t recollect ever having seen the matter which I am relating mentioned in any newspaper.
But to proceed with my own story. My prisoners had no sooner been made over to me, than several of the guard, as was usual in those days, proposed to bring some pork .from the bazaar to break their castes, as a sort of preparation for their execution. This I at once denounced as a proceeding which I certainly would not tolerate so long as I held charge of the guard, and I warned the men that if any one attempted to molest the prisoners, I should at once strip them of their belts, and place them in arrest for disobedience of orders and conduct unworthy of a British soldier, and the better-disposed portion of the guard at once applauded my resolution. I shall never forget the look of gratitude which came over the face of the unfortunate man who had called himself Jamie Green, when he heard me give these orders. He at once said it was an act of kindness which he had never expected, and for which he was truly grateful ; and he unhesitatingly pronounced his belief that Allah and his Prophet would requite my kindness by bringing me safely through the remainder of the war. I thanked my prisoner for his good wishes and his prayers, and made him the only return in my power, viz., to cause his hands to be unfastened to allow him to perform his evening’s devotions, and permitted him as much freedom as I possibly could, consistent with safe custody. His fellow-prisoner merely received my kindness with a scowl of sullen hatred, and when reproved by his master, I understood him to say that he wished for no favour from infidel dogs ; but he admitted that the sergeant sahib deserved a Mussulman’s gratitude for saving him from an application of pig’s fat.
After allowing my prisoners to perform their evening devotions, and giving them such freedom as I could, I made up my mind to go without sleep that night, for it would have been a serious matter for me if either of these men had escaped. I also knew that by remaining on watch myself I could allow them more freedom, and I determined they should enjoy every privilege in my power for what would certainly be their last night on earth, since it was doubtful if they would be spared to see the sun rise. With this view, I sent for one of the Mahommedan shopkeepers from the regimental bazaar, and told him to prepare at my expense whatever food the prisoners would eat. To this the man replied that since I, a Christian, had shown so much kindness to a Mussulman in distress, the Mahommedan shopkeepers in the bazaar would certainly be untrue to their faith if they should allow me to spend a single pie from my own pocket.
After being supplied with a savoury meal from the bazaar, followed by a fragrant hookah, to both of which he did ample justice, Jamie Green settled himself on a rug which had been lent to him, and said ” Shook’r Khooda ! (Thanks be to God),” for having placed him under the charge of such a merciful sahib for this the last night of his life ! ” Such,” he continued, ” has been my kismut, and doubtless Allah will reward you. Sergeant sahib, in his own good time for your kindness to his oppressed and afflicted servant. You have asked me to give you some account of my life, and if it is really true that I am a spy. With regard to being a spy in the ordinary meaning of the term, I most emphatically deny the accusation. I am no spy; but I am an officer of the Begum’s army, come out from Lucknow to gain reliable information of the strength of the army and siege-train being brought against us. I am the chief engineer of the army of Lucknow, and came out on a reconnoitring expedition, but Allah has not blessed my enterprise. I intended to have left on my return to Lucknow this evening and if fate had been propitious, I would have reached it before sunrise to-morrow, for I had got all the information which was wanted ; but I was tempted to visit Oonao once more, being on the direct road to Lucknow, because I was anxious to see whether the siege-train and ammunition -park had commenced to move, and it was my misfortune to encounter that son of a defiled mother who denounced me as a spy. A contemptible wretch who, to save his own neck from the gallows (for he first sold the English), now wishes to divert attention from his former rascality by selling the lives of his own countrymen and co-religionists; but Allah is just, he will yet reap the reward of his treachery in the fires of Jehunnum.( This very man who denounced Jamie Green as a spy was actually hanged in Bareilly in the following May for having murdered his master in that station when the Mutiny first broke out.)
” You ask me,” continued the man, ” what my name is, and state that you intend to write an account of my misfortune to your friends in Scotland. Well, I have no objection. The people of England, – and by England I mean Scotland as well – are just, and some of them may pity the fate of this servant of Allah. I have friends both in London and in Edinburgh, for I have twice visited both places. My name is Mahomed Ali Khan. I belong to one of the best families of Rohilcund, and was educated in the Bareilly College, and took the senior place in all English subjects. Prom Bareilly College I passed to the Government Engineering College at Roorkee, and studied engineering for the Company’s service, and passed out the senior student of my year, having gained many marks in excess of all the European pupils, both civil and military. But what was the result ? I was nominated to the rank of jemadar of the Company’s engineers, and sent to serve with a company on detached duty on the hill roads as a native commissioned officer, but actually subordinate to a European sergeant, a man who was my inferior in every way, except, perhaps, in mere brute strength, a man of little or no education, who would never have risen above the grade of a working-joiner in England. Like most ignorant men in authority, he exhibited all the faults of the Europeans which most irritate and disgust us, arrogance, insolence, and selfishness. Unless you learn the language of my countrymen, and mix with the better-educated people of this country, you will never understand nor estimate at its full extent the mischief which one such man does to your national reputation. One such example is enough to confirm all that your worst enemies can say about your national selfishness and arrogance, and makes the people treat your pretensions to liberality and sympathy as mere hypocrisy. I had not joined the Company’s service from any desire for wealth, but from the hope of gaining honourable service ; yet on the very threshold of that service I met with nothing but disgrace and dishonour, having to serve under a man whom I hated, yea, worse than hated, whom I despised. I wrote to my father, and requested his permission to resign, and he agreed with me that I, the descendant of princes, could not serve the Company under conditions such as I have described. I resigned the service and returned home, intending to offer my services to his late Majesty Nussir-ood-Deen, King of Oude; but just when I reached Lucknow I was informed that his Highness Jung Bahadoor of Nepal, who is now at Goruckpore with an army of Goorkhas coming to assist in the loot of Lucknow, was about to visit England, and required a secretary well acquainted with the English language. I at once applied for the post, and being well backed by recommendations both from native princes and English officials, I secured the appointment, and in the suite of the Maharaja I landed in England for the first time, and, among other places, we visited Edinburgh, where your regiment, the Ninety-Third Highlanders, formed the guard of honour for the reception of his Highness. Little did I think when I saw a kilted regiment for the first time, that I should ever be a prisoner in their tents in the plains of Hindustan ; but who can predict or avoid his fate ?
” Well, I returned to India, and filled several posts at different native courts till 1854, when I was again asked to visit England in the suite of Azeemoolla Khan, whose name you must have often heard in connection with this mutiny and rebellion. On the death of the Peishwa, the Nana had appointed Azeemoolla Khan to be his agent. He, like myself, had received a good education in English, under Gunga Deen, head-master of the Government school at Cawnpore. Azeemoolla was confident that, if he could visit England, he would be able to have the decrees of Lord Dalhousie against his master reversed, and when I joined him he was about to start for England, well supplied with money to engage the best lawyers, and also to bribe high officials, if necessary. But I need not give you any account of our mission. You already know that, so far as London drawing-rooms went, it proved a social success, but as far as gaining our end a political failure ; and we left England after spending over £50,000, to return to India via Constantinople in 1855. From Constantinople we visited the Crimea, where we witnessed the assault and defeat of the English on the 18th of June, and were much struck by the wretched state of both armies in front of Sebastopol. Thence we returned to Constantinople, and there met certain real or pretended Russian agents, who made large promises of material support if Azeemoolla could stir up a rebellion in India. It was then that I and Azeemoolla formed the resolution of attempting to overthrow the Company’s Government, and, Shook’r Khooda ! we have succeeded in doing that ; for from the newspapers which you lent me, I see that the Company’s raj has gone, and that their charter for robbery and confiscation will not be renewed. Although we have failed to wrest the country from the English, I hope we have done some good, and that our lives will not be sacrificed in vain ; for I believe direct government under the English parliament will be more just than was that of the Company, and that there is yet a future before my oppressed and downtrodden countrymen, although I shall not live to see it.
” I do not speak, sahib, to flatter you or to gain your favour. I have already gained that, and I know that you cannot help me any farther than you are doing, and that if you could, your sense of duty would not let you. I know I must die ; but the unexpected kindness which you have shown to me has caused me to speak my mind. I came to this tent with hatred in my heart, and curses on my lips ; but your kindness to me, unfortunate, has made me, for the second time since I left Lucknow, ashamed of the atrocities committed during this rebellion. The first time was at Cawnpore a few days ago, when Colonel Napier of the Engineers was directing the blowing up of the Hindoo temples on the Cawnpore ghat, and a deputation of Hindoo priests came to him to beg that the temples might not be destroyed. ‘ Now, listen to me,’ said Colonel Napier in reply to them ; ‘ you were all here when our women and children were murdered, and you also well know that we are not destroying these temples for vengeance, but for military considerations connected with the safety of the bridge of boats. But if any man among you can prove to me that he did a single act of kindness to any Christian man, woman, or child, nay, if he can even prove that he uttered one word of intercession for the life of any one of them, I pledge myself to spare the temple where he worships.’ I was standing in the crowd close to Colonel Napier at the time, and I thought it was bravely spoken. There was no reply, and the cowardly Brahmins slunk away. Napier gave the signal and the temples leaped into the air ; and I was so impressed with the justness of Napier’s remarks that I too turned away, ashamed.”
On this I asked him, ” Were you in Cawnpore when the Mutiny broke out ? ” To which he replied : ” No, thank God ! I was in my home in Rohilcund ; and my hands are unstained by the blood of any one, excepting those who have fallen in the field of battle. I knew that the storm was about to burst, and had gone to place my wife and children in safety, and I was in my village when I heard the news of the mutinies at Meerut and Bareilly. I immediately hastened to join the Bareilly brigade, and marched with them for Delhi. There I was appointed engineer-in-chief, and set about strengthening the defences by the aid of a party of the Company’s engineers which had mutinied on the march from Roorkee to Meerut. I remained in Delhi till it was taken by the English in September. I then made my way to Lucknow with as many men as I could collect of the scattered forces. We first marched to Muttra, where we were obliged to halt till I threw a bridge of boats across the Jumna for the retreat of the army. We had still a force of over thirty thousand men under the command of Prince Feroz Shah and General Bukht Khan. As soon as I reached Lucknow I was honoured with the post of chief-engineer. I was in Lucknow in November when your regiment assisted to relieve the Residency. I saw the horrible slaughter in the Secundrabagh. I had directed the defences of that place the night before, and was looking on from the Shah Nujeef when you assaulted it. I had posted over three thousand of the best troops in Lucknow in the Secundrabagh, as it was the key to the position, and not a man escaped. I nearly fainted ; my liver turned to water when I saw the green flag pulled down, and a Highland bonnet set up on the flag-staff which I had erected the night before. I knew then that all was over, and directed the guns of the Shah Nujeef to open fire on the Secundrabagh. Since then I have planned and superintended the construction of all the defensive works in and around Lucknow. You will see them when you return, and if the sepoys and artillerymen stand firmly behind them, many of the English army will lose the number of their mess, as you call it, before you again become masters of Lucknow.”
I then asked him if it was true that the man he had called Micky on our first acquaintance had been one of the men employed by the Nana to butcher the women and children at Cawnpore in July ? To this he replied :
” I believe it is true, but I did not know this when I employed him ; he was merely recommended to me as a man on whom I could depend. If I had known then that he was a murderer of women and children, I should have had nothing to do with him, for it is he who has brought bad luck on me ; it is my kismut, and I must suffer. Your English proverb says, ‘ You cannot touch pitch and escape defilement,’ and I must suffer ; Allah is just. It is the conduct of wretches such as these that has brought the anger of Allah on our cause.”
On this I asked him if he knew whether there was any truth in the report of the European women having been dishonoured before being murdered. ” Sahib” he replied, ” you are a stranger to this country or you would not ask such a question. Anyone who knows anything of the customs of this country and the strict rules of caste, knows that all such stories are lies, invented to stir up race-hatred, as if we had not enough of that on both sides already. That the women and children were cruelly murdered I admit, but not one of them was dishonoured; and all the sentences written on the walls of the houses in Cawnpore, such as, ‘ We are at the mercy of savages, who have ravished young and old,’ and such like, which have appeared in the Indian papers and been copied from them into the English ones, are malicious forgeries, and were written on the walls after the re-occupation of Cawnpore by General Outram’s and Havelock’s forces. Although I was not there myself, I have spoken with many who were there, and I know that what I tell you is true.”
I then asked him if he could give me any idea of the reason that had led the Nana to order the commission of such a cold-blooded, cowardly crime. “Asiatics,” he said, “are weak, and their promises are not to be relied on, but that springs more from indifference to obligations than from prearranged treachery. When they make promises, they intend to keep them ; but when they find them inconvenient, they choose to forget them. And so it was, I believe, with the Nana Sahib. He intended to have spared the women and children, but they had an enemy in his zenana in the person of a female fiend who had formerly been a slave-girl, and there were many about the Nana (Azeemoolla Khan for one) who wished to see him so irretrievably implicated in rebellion that there would be no possibility for him to draw back. So this woman was powerfully supported in her evil counsel, and obtained permission to have the English ladies killed ; and after the sepoys of the Sixth Native Infantry and the Nana’s own guard had refused to do the horrible work, this woman went and procured the wretches who did it. This information I have from General Tantia Topee, who quarrelled with the Nana on this same matter. What I tell you is true : the murder of the European women and children at Cawnpore was a woman’s crime, for there is no fiend equal to a female fiend ; but what cause she had for enmity against the unfortunate ladies I don’t know – I never inquired.”
Those of my readers who were in India at the time may remember that something about this slave-girl was said in all the native evidence collected at the time on the subject of the Cawnpore massacre.
I next asked Mahomed Ali Khan if he knew whether there was any truth in the stories about General Wheeler’s daughter having shot four or five men with a revolver, and then leaped into the well at Cawnpore. “All these stories,” was his answer, “are pure inventions with no foundation of truth. General Wheeler’s daughter is still alive, and is now in Lucknow ; she has become a Mussulmanee, and has married according to Mahommedan law the man who protected her; whether she may ever return to her own people I know not.”
In such conversation I passed the night with my prisoner, and towards daybreak I permitted him to perform his ablutions and morning devotions, after which he once more thanked me, and prayed that Allah might reward me for my kindness to his oppressed servant. Once, and only once, did he show any weakness, in alluding to his wife and two boys in their faraway home in Rohilcund, when he remarked that they would never know the fate of their unfortunate father. But he at once cheeked himself, saying, ” I have read French history as well as English ; I must remember Danton, and show no weakness.” He then produced a gold ring which was concealed among his hair, and asked me if I would accept it and keep it in remembrance of him, in token of his gratitude. It was, he said, the only thing he could give me, as everything of value had been taken from him when he was arrested. He went on to say that the ring in question was only a common one, not worth more than ten rupees, but that it had been given to him by a holy man in Constantinople as a talisman, though the charm had been broken when he had joined the unlucky man who was his fellow-prisoner. I accepted the ring, which he placed on my finger with a blessing and a prayer for my preservation, and he told me to look on it and remember Mahomed Khan when I was in front of the -fortifications of Lucknow, and no evil would befall me. He had hardly finished speaking when a guard from the provost-marshal came with an order to take over the prisoners, and I handed this man over with a sincere feeling of pity for his fate.
Immediately after, I received orders that the division would march at sunrise for Lucknow, and that my party was to join the rear-guard, after the ammunition-park and siege-train had moved on. The sun was high in the heavens before we left the encamping-ground, and in passing under a tree on the side of the Cawnpore and Lucknow road, I looked up, and was horrified to see my late prisoner and his companion hanging stark and stiffened corpses ! I could hardly repress a tear as I passed. But on the 11th of March, in the assault on the Begum’s Kothee, I remembered Mahomed Ali Khan and looked on the ring. I am thankful to say that I went through the rest of the campaign without a scratch, and the thoughts of my kindness to this unfortunate man certainly did not inspire me with any desire to shirk danger. I still have the ring, the only piece of Mutiny plunder I ever possessed, and shall hand it down to my children together with the history of Mahomed Ali Khan.

Few things over this –
1. Why did such a high ranking official who was visibly known both in India and England go on a spying mission? The chances that many of the high ranking British officers would have identified him are very high.
2. This story is presented as a humane intercourse between two antagonists. Are we sure of that? How much of it is fact and how much, fiction? For, since the attack is on Lucknow and the Engineer-in-Chief of Lucknow is in their custody, why did the author not alert the authorities to extract critical information from him regarding the defences thereby reducing their losses?
3. Mohammed Ali Khan knows the British in and out. Do you expect him to call a lowly sergeant as Sahib?

But whatever, this is a very fine and soft piece of prose to read.

Advertisements