India - Victor Surridge

How the Sepoys Gave Themselves Up to the Devil

"The reign of the British Raj shall be a hundred years." So ran the prophecy. How it originated—whether Hindú or Mussulman first uttered it—no man knew. Mysterious and authorless, it had taken root among the people; to remote distances of the sacred land it had been borne, as it were, upon the wings of the wind, and all classes of the native community confidently awaited its fulfilment. Plassey, said they, had been fought in 1757; the centenary of this glorious victory should see the downfall of their white rulers. To the native mind there was nothing improbable in such a proposition. The history of India from its very earliest days had been a grim record of invasions and conquests, of transient empires and of short-lived dynasties. Why should it be otherwise with the British? What peculiar virtue was in their sceptre that they should endure whilst others passed away? To this conundrum the intelligent Hindú could find no satisfactory answer—save in the ancient prophecy; and dreamily repeating these mystic syllables to himself, he was wont to await the future with philosophic calm.

The cycle of years was accomplished. Dawned the year that was to see the end of British rule. And certainly if ever a year were propitious for the loss of our Indian Empire it was the ill-fated 1857. A multitude of disintegrating influences were at work. All over the country were murmurs of a vague unrest. It was an era of change. The old order was passing away and in its place the ideas and civilisation of the West were slowly taking root. Railways were beginning to link city with city; the telegraph now flashed its messages over the whole peninsula. It is not altogether to be wondered at if the natives regarded such changes with suspicion. They were more than content to live and to die as their fathers had lived and died before them. For it was their great fear that with the customs of the West would come also the religions. They had a horror of being turned into Christians in spite of themselves, so to speak. And so they had come to regard every change and innovation as an insidious device to lure them from their creed.

Yet we must not forget that the great Mutiny, when it came, was a purely military revolt. The native princes stood loyally by us; the people remained wonderfully calm. What it might have developed into had things gone otherwise it is difficult to say, but certain it is that amongst races so widely separated by language and by creed there could be no united action. The nations of Europe have far more in common with each other than have the dwellers in the provinces of India.

Why did the Sepoys revolt? What was the reason of their mad and fanatical outburst? Perhaps the blind old King of Delhi supplied the most convincing answer to this query when he remarked, "I don't know; I suppose my people gave themselves up to the devil!" There were, however, other influences at work. Let us remember that the Sepoy, or native soldier, is arrogant and superstitious to a degree. He has countless whims and prejudices connected with his religion, and upon these we were constantly stepping with heavy-footed directness. Discontent had long been spreading in their ranks. They had conquered India for the British, was their cry; why should they not conquer it for themselves? From a certain point of view this argument was not without reason. Thanks to the almost criminal neglect of the military authorities, the Indian army had been reduced to perilously weak proportions: in the whole of India there were only thirty-eight thousand white soldiers as compared with two hundred thousand highly trained Sepoys, while in Bengal there were scarcely any white troops at all. Discipline had been allowed to grow ominously lax. For many months mutiny had been in the air. From village to village had passed the mysterious chupatti—a small cake of unleavened bread—together with the sinister message, "Sub lal hojaega" ("Everything will become red"). What precisely was meant by these chupatties nobody knew. To the headman of each village they were sent, and he was enjoined to prepare a similar cake and to forward it to the nearest hamlet. Our officers smiled scornfully at what they considered a silly and superstitious practice. But it was evident that some strange secret was in their midst, of which they were entirely in ignorance. The mine had been prepared and made ready; the tiniest spark would cause it to explode. That spark was supplied by the affair of the greased cartridges.

But it is not within the province of this book to set forth a detailed analysis of the various causes which led up to and produced the great Mutiny. From the vague phantasmagoria of events previous to the outbreak, three pictures stand out vividly. Like the solemn preliminary chords of an orchestra announcing its theme before plunging into a tornado of passionate harmonies, they seem to give us a striking insight into what the Mutiny was, and how it originated.

The first scene shows us the banqueting chamber of the East India Company in London. A great feast is in progress. It is a farewell dinner to the newly appointed Governor-General before he sets sail for the East. The superstitious may derive a melancholy satisfaction from the fact that Charles John, Viscount Canning, was the thirteenth holder of this illustrious office; yet few men have added more lustre to the British name in India.

The feast is drawing to an end, the familiar toasts have been duly honoured, and the new Governor-General rises to address the company. It is a wise and statesmanlike speech, but one sentence stands out from all others by reason of the emphasis and prophetic fervour with which it is uttered: "I wish," says Lord Canning, "for a peaceful term of office; but I cannot forget that in the sky of India, serene as it is, a small cloud may arise, no larger than a man's hand, but which, growing larger and larger, may at last threaten to burst and overwhelm us with ruin."

A note, ominous in its intensity, has been struck. Almost it seems as if the highly strung, sensitive soul of the Governor-General has heard from afar the low whispers of corning storm.

Such, then, is our first picture. "The Prophecy" might be its title. But the banqueting chamber with its lights and glittering splendour quickly fades away, and in its stead a massive edifice, built after the Oriental manner, arises before us. It is the Artillery Arsenal at Dumdum, near Calcutta. Here cartridges are busily being manufactured for the new Enfield rifle. For the old infantry musket, "Brown Bess" of glorious memory, has had its day; an improved firearm with a grooved bore is to take its place. The new weapon requires a lubricated cartridge, and hundreds of native workmen are being employed in their manufacture.

It is a hot and oppressive day. One of the workmen, a Hindú of low caste, leaves his task in order to quench his thirst. He sees a Sepoy standing near and addresses him. "Give me, I pray you," he says, "a draught of water from your lotah"  (drinking vessel). But the man addressed is a Brahmin of the highest class. He looks with contempt upon the workman. "Nay", is his reply; "shall I let my lotah be defiled by the lips of one of your lowly caste?" The other flushes angrily. "You think too much of your caste," he sneers. "But wait a little: the Sáhiblogue will soon make high and low caste on an equality; cartridges smeared with beef fat and hog's lard are being made up in the magazine, which all Sepoys will be compelled to use." The Brahmin listens dumfounded. Horror and dismay, for the moment, root him to the ground. Then with a wild cry of anger he hastens to inform his comrades. Beef fat and hog's lard! Was there ever a more villainous mixture! To both Hindi and Muhammadan it is equally obnoxious. For to the Hindú all cattle are sacred; while the Muhammadan regards the pig with loathing and disgust. Like wildfire the news spreads. From station to station flies the rumour; and at night the Sepoys hold secret meetings to discuss the coming evil. For if these cartridges come into general use, every Sepoy, be he Hindú or Mussulman, will be inevitably defiled. "It is another plot," cry the excited soldiery, "to break down the sacred barriers of caste, and to make us all infidels!"

The cloud, "small as a man's hand," is already darkening the heavens.

The third picture is dated three months later. The scene is the parade ground at Barrackpur, where the men of the 84th Native Infantry are clustered confusedly together in various stages of undress. All are in a state of intense excitement, for an extraordinary incident is going forward. About thirty yards in front of the quarter-guard, which, unlike the rest of the regiment, is drawn up in regular order, struts and swaggers a drunken Sepoy. His name, Mungul Pandy, is destined to achieve notoriety, for every mutinous Sepoy was henceforward dubbed a "Pandy."

"Come out you blackguards," he screams shrilly; "turn out all of you, the English are upon us. Through biting these cartridges we shall all be made infidels!"

A ripple of excitement goes through the Sepoy ranks and the packed masses sway convulsively to and fro. Suddenly an English adjutant gallops on to the parade ground. He rides straight at Mungul Pandy, who, steadying himself with an effort, raises his musket and fires. Horse and rider crash headlong to the ground, but it is the steed alone that has been hit. The rider struggles dizzily to his feet, only to be cut down by the mutineer's sword. Now a sergeant appears, red-faced and panting, for he has been running two miles along a dusty road. He, in his turn, is laid low by Pandy's blade. With what excitement do the Sepoys view the conflict! Two British officers lie bleeding in the dust, struck down by a comrade's sword. Their emotion is too deep for words.

But the news of the revolt has spread. Other officers are hastening to the scene. The colonel, not much of a man in a crisis, blinks at Pandy through his glasses, and orders the quarter-guard to arrest him. Not a man stirs—they are all in sympathy with the mutineer; and the bewildered officer retires to report the matter to his superior. But the valiant General Hearsey is already here. Riding on to the parade ground, with his two sons behind him as aides, he takes in the situation at a glance. Mungul Pandy raises his weapon at his approach. "Have a care, general," somebody calls, "his musket is loaded." "Damn his musket!" is the laconic reply, and the intrepid warrior rides resolutely forward, telling his son to put the beggar to death somehow if he himself should fall. The officer of the quarter-guard finds himself confronted by the cocked pistol and gleaming eyes of the general. It is a potent argument. Discipline instinctively reasserts itself before that terrible gaze, and the guard steps forward as one man. Mungul Pandy looks despairingly around, at the stern, inexorable face of the general, at his quailing comrades, and recognises that the game is up. A quick movement of his musket, a hurried thrusting of his naked toe into the trigger, and he falls self-shot. Seven days later, having partially recovered of his wound, he was hanged.

The pictures vanish; the prelude is ended; and the grim story of the Mutiny is still before us. We have heard the solemn warning of the statesman, we have marked the uprising of the cloud and its rapid obscuring of the heavens. Slow, heavy raindrops have begun to fall, but the storm is not yet. Banks of inky vapour are still piling themselves on the horizon, the atmosphere grows steadily in gloom and oppression, and all nature seems to hold its breath to await the coming outburst. Fortunate, indeed, was it for us that the Mutiny did not break out simultaneously all over the country. The Sepoys had planned a general uprising for 31st May, but owing to the impatience of several regiments this date was anticipated in a number of cases. So that instead of one tremendous explosion there were, so to speak, a series of minor ones; and terrible as these were in their effect, they were not nearly so destructive. The Military Authorities had time, after the first outbreak, to disband and disarm many suspected regiments, and thus were able to avert not a few, otherwise inevitable, calamities. This policy of nipping rebellion in the bud might have been rendered much more effective. But there were many officers who still placed implicit trust in the men they commanded. Whatever other regiments might mutiny, their men, said they, would ever remain loyal. Alas for such misplaced devotion! The very officers who so persistently shut their eyes to the coming storm were usually the first to fall beneath the vengeful daggers of their beloved Sepoys. Thus were many lives wasted, many dreadful tragedies enacted, which a little prudence, a little foresight, would have most surely prevented.

It was at Meerut that the first real mutiny occurred. There, eighty-five men of the 3rd Native Cavalry resolutely declined even to touch the cartridges served out to them, and this in spite of the fact that the cartridges were of the old and familiar pattern. They were tried by court-martial and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. A few days later a painful ceremony took place. In front of the whole military force of the station the men were publicly degraded. Their badges and medals, records of long and faithful service in the past, were torn off, their uniforms stripped from them, and heavy irons were riveted on to their limbs.

To the Sepoys, who looked on, these disgraced and manacled men were so many heroes and martyrs; they were sacrificing themselves for their customs and their creed. Around the camp-fires that night there was much whispering and muttering. Their comrades' unhappy fate had fired the Sepoys' blood; they thirsted for immediate vengeance. How could they wait until the thirty-first to mutiny while the eighty-five "martyrs" were languishing in gaol? Was not the morrow Sunday? Would not the white Sáhibs go unarmed to church? What a glorious opportunity to murder them all!

It is to be wondered if the men who on that historic Sabbath evening sounded the call to church parade knew that they were ringing in a great and terrible mutiny. For no sooner had the bells aroused the echoes with their peaceful chimes than the 3rd Native Cavalry arose in open revolt. With brandished swords and loud exultant cries they rode tumultuously toward the gaol. Quickly the doors were battered in, and the eighty-five prisoners triumphantly liberated. Meanwhile the 11th and 20th Native Infantry regiments fell into rank. "For God's sake, sir," gasped a scared-looking European sergeant to Colonel Finnis, "fly! the men have mutinied!" Fortunately the commandant of the 11th was built of sterner stuff. Instead of taking the sergeant's advice, he made a resolute attempt to calm the excited Sepoys. Other officers joined him, and for the space of an hour this handful of brave men kept the regiment steady. But the shadows of evening were perceptibly lengthening. What would happen when darkness fell? Finnis left his own regiment to go to the assistance of the officers of the 20th. Plainly it was impossible to keep the men in hand much longer. As he leaned forward to address them a fresh tremor of excitement convulsed the ranks. There were savage calls from the rear, while the men in front fingered their muskets ominously. Suddenly an irregular volley rang out upon the still night air; a zigzag sheet of flame leapt from the Sepoys' guns, and valiant Colonel Finnis fell dying to the ground. The Mutiny had claimed its first victim.

That night pandemonium reigned. It seemed as if all the devils in hell had broken loose in Meerut. The miserable white residents were dragged from their hiding-places, chased and chivied along the streets, and barbarously mutilated and slain. Neither age nor sex was spared. The city was turned into a shambles. It was a truly piteous and tragic spectacle that the sun arose upon next morning. The whole of Meerut was a study in black and red—black where the raging fires had scorched and charred the dwellings; red where the blood of murdered Englishmen, their wives and their little ones, had stained it a ghastly hue.

And, oh, the pity of it! It is terrible to think how easily the Mutiny might have been suppressed. Meerut was the only station in India where the white soldiers actually outnumbered the Sepoys. Yet during the whole of that dreadful night, with the shrieks of our dying countrymen ringing constantly in our ears, we did nothing. How incredible it seems! While the European residents were being butchered, General Hewitt, the only man who had the power to save them, sat inert. The general was equally indolent next day. He made no attempt to punish the mutineers. He permitted them to march away triumphantly to Delhi. And yet he had ample means at his disposal to scatter them like chaff before the wind.

In the royal palace at Delhi the last descendant of the great Moghul emperors lived in lonely state. This aged pensioner of the British—broken, feeble, and infirm—was now made the puppet of the mutineers. They came galloping up the streets of the city and clamoured at the palace gates. "We have slain all the English at Meerut," they yelled. "We have come to fight for the Faith." Upon a long pole they brandished a pale and bloody head—it was that of Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner at Delhi. The old king hesitated and hung back, then he yielded to their cries. The corpse of a dead dynasty had been galvanised into a ghastly semblance of life!

There were no white troops in Delhi. The garrison consisted of three Sepoy regiments, who quickly joined the mutineers. Many of the British officers and residents were murdered, a few escaped to take refuge on the historic Ridge outside the city. The most heroic incident of the day was the blowing up of the great powder magazine. It was garrisoned by Lieutenant Willoughby and eight European soldiers. Let us try to conjure up the scene. As soon as the news of the revolt reaches them, the gallant nine close and barricade the gates. Ten pieces of artillery are placed to command the enemy's approach. In the name of the King of Delhi they are summoned to surrender. Grimly they refuse. Then ensues a fierce assault upon the walls which the tiny band defend with desperate courage. One by one they fall, and the swarming hordes outside cannot be kept for ever at bay. Already they are breaking in upon them. But the enemy shall not seize the magazine—that at all events is certain; Lieutenant Willoughby waves his hand, and a soldier named Scully, who is standing with a lighted port-fire in his hand, acts fearlessly upon the signal. He touches a fuse with the flame, and lo! a terrific explosion rends the air. The great magazine has been blown into a million fragments.

Hundreds of the enemy were slain, but by some miracle Lieutenants Willoughby and Forrest escaped. Scorched and blackened they managed to make their way to the survivors on the Ridge. History records no more sublime instance of courage and self-sacrifice than this feat of the dauntless nine.

Outbreaks of mutiny at the various military centres were now fast occurring. Let us turn to Cawnpur, where the saddest scenes in all the grim drama of the Mutiny were enacted. The station was in charge of Sir Hugh Wheeler, a gallant soldier, but seriously handicapped by age. No longer did the fiery blood of youth run in his veins; the caution and timidity which comes with advanced years now impaired his faculty for command. Thus several fatal mistakes were made which a younger and more far-seeing man would most certainly have avoided.

There were four Sepoy regiments stationed at Cawnpur with a mere handful of Englishmen to control them. But it was not the Sepoys alone that the British had most cause to dread. Not far from the city stood a fair and stately palace, the residence of a wealthy native prince. Náná Sáhib was the adopted son of the last Peshwá of the Maráthás. The liberal pension which he had enjoyed during his father's lifetime had ceased on the Peshwá's death; and for this reason the Náná's heart was black with hatred against the British. Outwardly, however, he was all smiles and fair words, and so implicitly did Wheeler trust him that when the Mutiny occurred he made over the treasury to his safe-keeping. General Wheeler was, alas! most weakly credulous. For long he refused to believe that mutiny was threatening; and when he could no longer shut his eyes to the truth, he devised an extraordinary scheme for the safeguarding of his countrymen.

Upon the open plain, some six miles distant from the city, he caused some slender mud walls to be erected. Two fragile buildings were put up within the enclosure, and ten light guns mounted to defend it. This entrenchment was designed as a refuge if the danger should come. The Náná's minister beheld the building of the shelter with polite amusement.

"What do you call that place you are making out on the plain?" he inquired of an officer. "You ought to call it the 'Fort of Despair.'"

"No, no," was the Englishman's plucky retort; "we'll call it the `Fort of Victory.'"

Had General Wheeler so chosen, he could have occupied a "Fort of Victory" far worthier the name. For the magazine at Cawnpur was a large and massive enclosure, excellently adapted for defence. It was richly supplied with guns; it contained an almost inexhaustible supply of ammunition. Yet, for some wholly unaccountable reason, the general preferred to neglect this stronghold for the miserable mud erection on the plains.

And so the ill-fated white garrison, consisting of four hundred and sixty-five men, seventy of whom were invalids, with two hundred women and as many children, crept out of the city to take shelter within this wretched travesty of a fort. They did not even take the trouble to blow up the magazine. The great store of guns and ammunition was left behind for their enemies to use against them!

On the night of 4th June came the long-expected revolt. The Sepoys rushed wildly to seize the magazine and to pillage the treasury. In spite of the gallant efforts of their officers to bring them to reason, they plunged headlong into a fierce carnival of blood. Murder, naked and unashamed, stalked abroad through the streets of the city. Trembling families who had neglected to take refuge in Wheeler's mud fort were dragged from their hiding-places and put to shameful deaths. When the mad orgie was over, the Sepoys gathered up their plunder and marched off, with drums beating and colours flying, to Delhi. Would that they had been allowed to reach their destination! It was, however, no part of Náná Sáhib's scheme to accompany the mutineers to Delhi. He was convinced that the sands of British rule were fast running out. He was determined to raise up for himself a mighty princedom at Cawnpur. But before he could accomplish this a few preliminaries were necessary. The entire European garrison must be wholly exterminated, and all symbols of their authority utterly destroyed. So with bribes and cajolery the Sepoys were persuaded to return. They were promised a gorgeous feast of blood.

Náná Sáhib appears to have been an authority on the etiquette of murder. His most fiendish cruelties were invariably graced with the airy politeness of a master of deportment. Now, with a quaint formality, he informed the white troops that he was about to attack their position. The garrison set their teeth grimly and waited for him to begin.

Around the frail mud-walls which enclosed the immortal garrison the Sepoys gathered with relentless determination. They had been paid to do their work thoroughly and well. There was no limit to the guns which they were able to bring to bear on the position; had they not the whole of the magazine at their disposal! So began a tornado of shot and shell, which lasted without cessation for twenty-one days. The shells tore through the defences as if they had been paper. There was no cover, no pretence of shelter, from the constant hail of lead. Around the well, which constituted the garrison's sole water supply, the Sepoy shot fell thickest. To attempt to draw water from it meant almost certain death. Yet, during the long siege, there was never a lack of volunteers for the perilous task, but scarcely a drop of water was drunk but was stained with a hero's blood.

How the British defended their position so long is a source of perpetual wonder. But the garrison was made up of no ordinary men. It was largely composed of officers of the mutinous regiments—men who were accustomed to face danger and death in their most sinister forms. They were now fighting for their Queen, their country, and their womenkind—all that life held most dear—and they fought as never men have fought before or since. There were also eighty Sepoys included in the garrison. For wheresoever the Mutiny broke forth there was always to be found a small band of loyal soldiers—a faithful few, who, hearkening not to the fiery words of the agitator, attached themselves with renewed fidelity to their white masters.

We will not dwell too long upon the story of the siege. Who shall describe the unutterable sufferings of the women during this period? It is well for man that he is a fighting animal, for the zest of conflict will sustain him in his bitterest hours. But with women it is otherwise. They cannot participate in the martial ardour of the men. Here, at Cawnpur, they could only cluster miserably together, to suffer in silence the dull agony of suspense, until such time as the death of their loved ones should render life both meaningless and void. There were infants born during those terrible days. Poor children! Unhappy mothers! What must their agonies have been!

How eagerly the garrison looked out for the help that never came! The days lengthened into weeks, but from the outside world came no tidings of succour or encouragement. Still the siege went on, still with heroic fortitude the British clung to their blood-stained patch of earth. But the end could not be long delayed. Food supplies were entirely exhausted; half the garrison were dead; many were wounded and sick; all were unspeakably weary. Then it was that Náná Sáhib made his devilish offer. He was, said he, tired of the stubborn conflict. He bitterly deplored the inconvenience which the British had sustained. He offered all those who were willing to lay down their arms a safe passage down the river to Allahabad, and ventured politely to congratulate them that their sufferings were now over.

The men would have liked to fight on to the bitter end. But there were the women and children to be considered. Death for all was inevitable if the defence were prolonged. Much as they distrusted the Náná, there was, nevertheless, a slender chance of escape if they accepted his offer. So it was agreed that the British were to be allowed to march out under arms, with sixty rounds of ammunition to each man, that carriages were to be provided for the wounded, the women, and the children, and that boats duly stocked with food were to be supplied for the journey.

Let us try to picture briefly to ourselves the last act of the drama.

On top of a tiny Hindú temple abutting on the banks of the Ganges sits Tantia Topi, Prime Minister to His Highness the Náná. The date is the 27th of June 1857. The minister casts a complacent eye upon the elaborate preparations he has made, and then, turning, gazes expectantly towards the distant plain. Presently a cloud of dust becomes visible. Ere long it resolves itself into the semblance of marching men and swinging palanquins. The garrison of four hundred and sixty-five souls has begun its last momentous journey. There is no military precision in their advance. The men, jaded and ill, stumble along anyhow. Nor is there music to stir their blood and quicken their steps. No sound is heard save the cries of the native bearers as they groan in monotonous cadence with each swing of the palanquins. A vast multitude has gathered to watch the march down to the river—a concourse of silent spectres who await, motionless and impassive, the tragedy's culminating scene. Presently the procession reaches the river-side, where forty ungainly, straw-roofed boats are moored. With difficulty the wounded are carried on board, the women and children take their places, and the men scramble in after them. Thus far Tantia Topi has watched the embarkation in silence. Then he turns and gives a signal.

Suddenly the shrill note of a bugle rings out on the morning air. Ere its last echoes have died away the river-side scene has undergone a swift and terrible change. The thatched roofs of the boats are blazing furiously, while from the rebel soldiers, concealed in the thick undergrowth, comes a murderous storm of bullets. Náná Sáhib is accomplishing by treachery what force has failed to effect. Many of the unhappy fugitives are struck dead by the flying shot, some try to escape by swimming, some stand resolutely and return the enemy's fire. Three of the boats manage to push out into mid-stream, and drift slowly with the tide. Two are carried by the currents over to the opposite shore, where a horde of Sepoys are waiting to massacre the crews. The third continues its perilous course down-stream under a constant hail of lead. Mean-while the Sepoys have ceased their fire, and all who have survived the massacre—one hundred and twenty-five in number—are roughly dragged ashore.

Massacre at Cawnpore


The fate of General Wheeler has been vividly described by a native witness—a half-caste Christian woman:

"General Wheeler," she said, "came last in a palkee. They carried him into the water near the boat. I stood close by. He said, 'Carry me a little farther towards the boat.' But a trooper said, 'No, get out here!' As the general got out of the palkee, head foremost, the trooper gave him a cut with his sword through the neck, and he fell into the water. My son was killed near him. I saw it, alas! alas! Some were stabbed with bayonets, others cut down. Little infants were torn in pieces. We saw it, we did! and tell you only what we saw. Other children were stabbed and thrown into the river. The school-girls were burnt to death. I saw their clothes and hair catch fire."

But what became of the single drifting boat? It had neither oars nor food; the flying bullets had smashed its rudder. But by a curious chance it contained all the choicest spirits of the garrison, and it now set off on one of the strangest and most thrilling voyages that have ever been chronicled. There is no space here to recount its wild adventures and hairbreadth escapes. Only four out of the hundred passengers survived to tell the story. The rest, after enduring incredible hardships, fell again into the cruel clutches of Náná Sáhib, for whose prisoners there was only one fate—and that was death.

The prisoners, who consisted entirely of women and children, were triumphantly inspected by Náná Sáhib and locked up in a gloomy chamber. There they were kept for several weeks, during which time their numbers were swelled, by the arrival of fresh prisoners, to a total of two hundred and eighteen in all. The Náná was in no hurry to slaughter them, but the near approach of the valiant Havelock with an avenging force hastened his action. On 15th July the edict went forth for massacre. First the men—six in all, including a small boy, proud for the moment to be numbered with the "men"—were called out and shot. Then the Náná commanded the Sepoys to shoot through the windows into the closely packed masses of women. But even the Sepoys hardened as they were to the Náná's atrocities—could not bring themselves to murder the women in cold blood. They contented themselves with firing a single volley over their heads. Other instruments were quickly found. Five brutal-looking natives—each armed with a glittering tulwar—entered the crowded chamber, closing the door carefully behind them. To the listeners outside came the sound of low wailings, of running feet, and the dull thuds of the butchers' swords. Presently the door opened, and one of the murderers came forth brandishing a broken sword. Quickly borrowing a fresh blade, he resumed his ghastly task. A few minutes later he reappeared, again for the purpose of providing himself with another sword. And so the work of carnage went on. To picture the terrible scene within the room baffles the imagination. The mind instinctively recoils from a scene at once so hideous and appalling. It was dark when the five men—their garments dripping red with their victims' blood—crept shamefacedly from the chamber of horrors. They locked the door behind them, and went to report to the Náná that his will had been accomplished.

Next morning the bodies were taken out, stripped, and thrown into a well. In many the spark of life still lingered, but living and dead were remorselessly cast together into the pit. To-day the figure of an angel in marble keeps guard over this terrible spot. On the pedestal the following inscription may be read:

Sacred to the perpetual memory of the great company of Christian people, chiefly women and children, who, near this spot, were cruelly massacred by the followers of the rebel Náná Doondoo Punth, of Bithoor, and cast, the dying and the dead, into the well below, on the 15th day of July, 1857.