IN TIMES OF PERIL
IN TIMES OF PERIL
G. A. HENTY
Life in Cantonments
Back Under the Flag
A Dashing Expedition
A Desperate Defense
Saved by a Tiger
The Besieged Residency
Spiking the Guns
A Sortie and its Consequences
Out of Lucknow
The Storming of Delhi
A Riot at Cawnpore
The Relief of Lucknow
A Sad Parting
The Last Capture of Lucknow
A Desperate Defense
Rest after Labor
LIFE IN CANTONMENTS.
Very bright and pretty in the early springtime of the year 1857 were the
British cantonments of Sandynugghur. As in all other British garrisons in
India they stood quite apart from the town forming a suburb of their
own. They consisted of the barracks and of a maidan or as in England it
would be called "a common" on which the troops drilled and exercised
and round which stood the bungalows of the military and civil officers of
the station of the chaplain and of the one or two merchants who
completed the white population of the place.
Very pretty were these bungalows built entirely upon the ground floor in
rustic fashion wood entering largely into their composition. Some were
thatched; others covered with slabs of wood or stone. All had wide
verandas running around them with tatties or blinds made of reeds or
strips of wood to let down and give shade and coolness to the rooms
therein. In some of them the visitor walked from the compound or garden
directly into the dining-room; large airy with neither curtains nor
carpeting nor matting but with polished boards as flooring. The
furniture here was generally plain and almost scanty for except at meal-
times the rooms were but little used.
Outside in the veranda is the real sitting-room of the bungalow. Here
are placed a number of easy-chairs of all shapes constructed of cane or
bamboo--light cool and comfortable; these are moved as the sun
advances to the shady side of the veranda and in them the ladies read
and work the gentlemen smoke. In all bungalows built for the use of
English families there is as was the case at Sandynugghur a drawing-
room as well as a dining-room and this being the ladies' especial
domain is generally furnished in European style with a piano light
chintz chair-covers and muslin curtains.
The bedroom opens out of the sitting-room; and almost every bedroom has
its bathroom--that all-important adjunct in the East--attached to it. The
windows all open down to the ground and the servants generally come in
and out through the veranda. Each window has its Venetian blind which
answers all purposes of a door and yet permits the air to pass freely.
The veranda in addition to serving as the general sitting-room to the
family acts as a servants' hall. Here at the side not used by the
employers the servants when not otherwise engaged sit on their mats
mend their clothes talk and sleep; and it is wonderful how much sleep a
Hindoo can get through in the twenty-four hours. The veranda is his
bedroom as well as sitting-room; here spreading a mat upon the ground
and rolling themselves up in a thin rug or blanket from the very top of
their head to their feet the servants sleep looking like a number of
mummies ranged against the wall. Out by the stables they have their
quarters where they cook and eat and could if they chose sleep; but
they prefer the coolness and freshness of the veranda where too they
are ready at hand whenever called. The gardens were all pretty and well
kept with broad shady trees and great shrubs covered by bright masses
of flower; for Sandynugghur had been a station for many years and with
plenty of water and a hot sun vegetation is very rapid.
In two of the large reclining chairs two lads of fifteen and sixteen
respectively were lolling idly; they had been reading for books lay open
in their laps and they were now engaged in eating bananas and in talking
to two young ladies some three years their senior who were sitting
working beside them.
"You boys will really make yourselves ill if you eat so many bananas."
"It is not that I care for them" said the eldest lad; "they are tasteless
things and a good apple is worth a hundred of them; but one must do
something and I am too lazy to go on with this Hindoo grammar; besides a
fellow can't work when you girls come out here and talk to him."
"That's very good Ned; it is you that do all the talking; besides you
know that you ought to shut yourselves up in the study and not sit here
where you are sure to be interrupted."
"I have done three hours' steady work this morning with that wretched
Moonshi Kate; and three hours in this climate is as much as my brain will
Kate Warrener and her brothers Ned and Dick were the children of the
major of the One Hundred and Fifty-first Bengal Native Infantry the
regiment stationed at Sandynugghur. Rose Hertford the other young lady
was their cousin. The three former were born in India but had each gone
to England at the age of nine for their education and to save them from
the effects of the climate which English children are seldom able to
endure after that age. Their mother had sailed for England with Dick the
youngest but had died soon after she reached home. Dick had a passion for
the sea and his father's relations having good interest had obtained for
him a berth as a midshipman in the royal navy in which rank he had been
serving for upward of a year. His ship being now in Indian waters a
month's leave had been granted him that he might go up the country to see
his father. The other lad had arrived from England three months before
with his sister and cousin. Major Warrener had sent for his daughter
whose education was finished to take the head of his house and as a
companion had invited Rose Hertford who was the orphan child of his
sister to accompany her. Ned who had been at Westminster till he left
England was intended for the Indian army. His father thought that it
would be well for him to come out to India with his sister as he himself
would work with him and complete his education to enable him to pass the
necessary examination--then not a very severe one--while he could be at
the same time learning the native languages which would be of immense
benefit to him after he had entered the army. Coming out as they had done
in the cold season none of the four exhibited any of that pallor and
lassitude which at any rate during the summer heats are the rule
throughout the Anglo-Indian community.
As Ned finished his sentence the sound of the tread of two horses was
heard along the road.
"Captains Dunlop and Manners" Dick exclaimed; "a shilling to a penny!
Will either of you bet girls?"
Neither his sister nor cousin replied to this offer; and the boys gave a
sly nod of intelligence to each other as two horsemen rode up to the
veranda and dismounted; throwing their reins to the _syces_ who whatever
the pace at which their masters ride run just behind in readiness to
take the horses should they dismount.
"Good-morning Miss Warrener; good-morning Miss Hertford: we have brought
you some interesting news."
"Indeed!" said the girls as they shook hands with the newcomers who were
two as good specimens of tall well-made sunburnt Anglo-Saxons as one
would wish to see. "What is it?"
"We have just got the news that a family of wild boars have come down and
are doing a lot of damage near Meanwerrie four miles off. I suppose they
have been disturbed somewhere further away as we have not heard of any
pig here for months; so to-morrow morning there is going to be grand pig-
sticking; of course you will come out and see the fun?"
"We shall be delighted" said Kate; but Rose put in: "Yes; but oh! how
unfortunate! it's Mrs. Briarley's garden party."
"That has been put off till next day. It is not often we get a chance at
pig and we have always got gardens. The two need not have interfered with
each other as we shall start at daylight for Meanwerrie; but we may be
out some hours and so it was thought better to put off the party to a day
when there will be nothing else to do."
"Hurrah!" shouted Dick; "I am in luck! I wanted above all things to see
a wild boar hunt; do you think my father will let me have a spear?"
"Hardly Dick considering that last time you went out you tumbled off
three times at some jumps two feet wide and that were you to fall in
front of a pig he would rip you up before you had time to think about it;
besides which you would almost certainly stick somebody with your spear."
"That was the first time I had ever been on a horse" he said; "will you
"No" said Ned; "I can ride fairly enough along a straight road but it
wants a first-rate rider to go across country at a gallop looking at the
boar instead of where you are going and carrying a spear in one hand."
"Do you think papa will ride?" Kate asked.
"I don't know Miss Warrener; the major is a famous spear; but here he is
to speak for himself."
Major Warrener was in uniform having just come up from the orderly-room.
He was a tall soldierly figure inclining to stoutness. His general
expression was that of cheeriness and good temper; but he was looking as
he drove up grave and serious. His brow cleared however as his eye fell
upon the group in the veranda.
"Ah! Dunlop brought the news about the boar eh?"
"You will take us with you?" the girls asked in a breath.
"Oh yes you shall go; I will drive you myself. I am getting too heavy
for pig-sticking especially with such responsibilities as you about.
There I will get out of this uniform; it's hot for the time of year. What
are you drinking? nothing? Boy bring some soda and brandy!"
Then producing his cigar-case he took a cheroot.
"Ag-low!" he shouted and a native servant ran up with a piece of red-hot
charcoal held in a little pair of tongs.
"There sit down and make yourselves comfortable till I come back."
The lads finding that their society was not particularly required
strolled off to the stables where Ned entered into a conversation with
the _syces_ as to the distance to Meanwerrie and the direction in which
that village lay. Like all Anglo-Indian children brought up in India the
boys had when they left India spoken the language fluently. They had
almost entirely forgotten it during their stay in England but it speedily
came back again and Ned at the end of three months' work found that he
could get on very fairly. Dick had lost it altogether.
When they went back to the veranda they found that the girls had gone
indoors and that their father was sitting and smoking with his brother
officers. When the lads came up the conversation ceased and then the
"It is as well the boys should know what is going on."
"What is it father?" Ned asked struck with the grave tone in which the
major spoke and at the serious expression in all their faces.
"Well boys for some months past there have been all sorts of curious
rumors running through the country. Chupatties have been sent round and
that is always considered to portend something serious."
"Do you mean the chupatties we eat--flat cakes father?"
"Yes Ned. Nobody knows who sends them round or the exact meaning of the
signal but it seems to be an equivalent for to 'prepare' 'make ready.'
Chupatties are quickly prepared; they are the bread eaten on a journey
and hence probably their signification. At any rate these things have
been circulated among the native troops all over the country. Strangers
are known to have come and gone and there is a general uneasy and
unsettled feeling prevalent among the troops. A ridiculous rumor has
circulated among them that the new cartridges have been greased with pig's
fat in order that the caste of all who put it to their lips might be
destroyed. To-day I have received news from Calcutta that the Nineteenth
native regiment at Berhampore has behaved in a grossly mutinous manner
and that it is feared the regiments at Barrackpore and Dumdum will follow
their example. The affair has been suppressed but there is an uneasy
feeling abroad and all the troops in Bengal proper appear tainted with
paltry disaffection. We have no reason for believing that the spirit has
spread to the northwest and are convinced that as far as our own regiment
is concerned they can be relied on; but the affair taken in connection
with the previous rumors is very strange and I fear that there are lots
of trouble ahead. I wish now that I had not had the girls out for another
year; but I could not foresee this and indeed until this morning
although there has been a good deal of talk we all hoped it would have
passed off without anything coming of it. One hopes still that it will
spread no further; but should it do so it is impossible to say what may
happen. All we have to do is to be watchful and to avoid with care
anything that can offend the men's prejudices. We must explain to the
native officers the folly of the greased cartridge story and tell them to
reassure the men. You don't see anything else to do Dunlop?"
"No major; I trust that the regiment is to be depended upon; it has
always been well treated and the men have seemed attached to us all. We
will do our best to reassure them; but if there is any insubordination I
hope that the colonel will give the men a lesson which will put an end to
the nonsense in the bud."
"Of course you will stay to tiffin?" the major said as the _kitmagar_ or
head servant announced that tiffin was ready.
"Many thanks major but we promised to tiff with Bullen and he would be
mad if we did not turn up. How are you thinking of going to-morrow? I
intend to drive over and send my horse on; so I can give one of your boys
a lift in my buggy."
"Thank you" the major said "that would suit us exactly. I shall drive in
my dog-cart which will carry four of us; and if you will take Dick that
will make it all right."
"What time do we start?"
"We are to be there by seven; we set it so late to give the ladies time to
breakfast comfortably before starting. I will call here at half-past six
for Dick; it will be all in my way. Good-morning."
Two minutes later the girls Ned and Dick came into the dining-room and
the party sat down to luncheon--a meal always called tiffin in India. It
is a great mistake to suppose that people in India cannot eat because of
the heat; in the extreme heat of summer their appetites do no doubt fall
off; but at other times they not only eat but eat more largely than is
good for them; and a good deal of the liver complaint which is the pest of
India is in no small degree due to the fact that the appetite being
unnaturally stimulated by hot and piquant food people eat more than in
such a climate as this can be properly digested. The meal consisted of
curries with which were handed round chutney and Bombay ducks--a little
fish about the size of a smelt cut open dried and smoked with
assafoetida giving it an intolerably nasty taste to strangers but one
which Anglo-Indians become accustomed to and like--no one knows why they
are called Bombay ducks--cutlets plantains sliced and fried
pomegranates and watermelons. They were waited upon by two servants both
dressed entirely in white but wearing red turbans very broad and
shallow. These turbans denoted the particular tribe and sect to which
their wearers belonged. The castes in India are almost innumerable and
each has a turban of a peculiar color or shape and by these they can be
at once distinguished by a resident. On their foreheads were lines and
spots of a yellowish white paint indicating also their caste and the
peculiar divinity to whose worship they were specially devoted. On their
feet they wore slippers and were as noiseless as cats in all their
movements. There are no better or more pleasant waiters in the world than
the natives of Hindostan.
Early as the hour named for the start would appear in England it was by
no means early for India where every one is up and about soon after
daylight--the morning hours up to eight o'clock being the most pleasant of
the whole day.
Kate and Rose were up and all had had "_chota hazaree_" (little
breakfast) by half-past six and were ready when Captain Dunlop drew up in
his buggy--a conveyance which will only hold two. The dog-cart was already
at the door and the whole party were soon in motion. On the road they
passed several of their friends for every one was going out to the hunt
and merry greetings were exchanged.
The scenery round Sandynugghur resembles that which is common to all the
great plains of India watered by the Ganges and Jumna. The country is for
the most part perfectly flat and cut up into little fields divided by
shallow ditches. Here and there nullahs or deep watercourses with
tortuous channels and perpendicular sides wind through the fields to the
nearest stream. These nullahs constitute the great danger of hunting in
the country. In the fields men may be noticed in the scantiest of attire
working with hoes among their springing crops; women wrapped up in the
dark blue calico cloth which forms their ordinary costume are working as
hard as the men. Villages are scattered about generally close to groves
of trees. The huts are built of mud; most of them are flat-topped but
some are thatched with rushes. Rising above the villages is the mosque
where the population are Mohammedan built of mud like the houses but
whitewashed and bright. The Hindoo villages generally but not always
have their temples. The vegetation of the great plains of India is not
tropical according to the ideas of tropical vegetation gathered from
British hothouses. There are a few palms and many bananas with their wide
leaves but the groves are composed of sturdy trees whose appearance at a
distance differs in no way from that of ordinary English forest trees.
Viewed closer the banian with its many stems is indeed a vegetable
wonder; but were it not for the villages and natives a traveler might
journey for very many miles across the plains of India without seeing
anything which would specially remind him that he was out of England.
There were a considerable number of traps assembled when Major Warrener
drew up and some eight or ten gentlemen on horseback each carrying a
boar-spear--a weapon not unlike the lance of an English cavalryman but
shorter in the handle. The riders were mostly dressed in coats of the
Norfolk jacket type and knee-breeches with thick gaiters. The material of
their clothes was a coarse but very strong cloth of native make gray or
brown in color. Some wore round hats and forage caps with puggarees
twisted round them.
A chorus of greeting saluted the party as they drove up.
"Well young ladies" the colonel said "so you have come out to see the
death of the boar
"'The boar the boar the mighty boar'
as the song says? So you are not going to take a spear to-day major?