In Times of Peril
G. A. Henty
Part 4 out of 6
something to eat, and some clothes? Then, if they are not too tired, they
will perhaps not mind sitting up an hour or two and giving us the news
from the outside world."
Daylight was breaking before Ned and Dick--who had, at Colonel Inglis'
suggestion separated, Ned going to the colonel's room, while Dick formed
the center of a great gathering in a hall below, in order that as many
might hear the news as possible--brought to a conclusion the account of
Havelock's advance, of the awful massacre of Cawnpore, of the fresh
risings that had taken place in various parts of India, of the progress of
the siege of Delhi, and the arrival of reinforcements from China and
England. With daybreak, the cannon, which had tired at intervals through
the night, began to roar incessantly, and shot and shell crashed into the
"Is this sort of thing always going on?" Dick asked in astonishment.
"Always," was the answer, "by day, and four nights out of five. We have
not had so quiet a time as last night for a week. Now I will go and ask
the chief to which garrison you and your brother are to be assigned."
THE BESIEGED RESIDENCY.
The Warrener's were taken to Gubbins' house, or garrison, as each of these
fortified dwellings was now called; and the distance, short as it was, was
so crowded with dangers and disagreeables that they were astonished how
human beings could have supported them for a month, as the garrison of
Lucknow had done. From all points of the surrounding circle shot and shell
howled overhead, or crashed into walls and roofs. Many of the enemy's
batteries were not above a hundred yards from the defenses, and the
whistling of musket-balls was incessant.
Here and there, as they ran along, great swarms of flies, millions in
number, rose from some spot where a bullock, killed by an enemy's shot,
had been hastily buried, while horrible smells everywhere tainted the air.
Running across open spaces, and stooping along beneath low walls, the
Warreners and their conductor, Captain Fellows, reached Gubbins' house.
Mr. Gubbins himself--financial commissioner of Oude, a man of great
courage and firmness--received them warmly.
"You will find we are close packed," he said, "but you will, I am sure,
make the best of it. I am glad to have you, for every man is of value
here; and after the bravery you have shown in coming through the enemy's
lines you will be just the right sort of men for me. I think you will find
most room here; I lost two of my garrison from this room on the 20th, when
we had a tremendous attack all round."
The room was small and dark, as the window was closed by a bank of earth
built against it on the outside. It was some fourteen feet by eight, and
here, including the newcomers, eight men lived and slept. Here the
Warreners, after a few words with those who were in future to be their
comrades, threw themselves down on the ground, and, in spite of the din
which raged around them, were soon fast asleep.
It was nearly dark when they awoke, and they at once reported themselves
to Mr. Johnson--a police magistrate, who was the senior officer of the
party in the room--as ready to begin duty.
"You will not be on regular duty till to-night," he replied. "Altogether,
there are about forty men in the garrison. Eight are always on duty, and
are relieved every four hours. So we go on every twenty hours. Only half
our set go on duty together, as that gives room for those who remain. Two
came off duty at eight this morning, four are just going on. You will go
on with the two who came off this morning, at midnight. Besides their
sentry work, of course every one is in Readiness to man the walls at any
moment in case of alarm, and a good deal of your time can be spent at
loopholes, picking off the enemy directly they show themselves. One of the
party, in turn, cooks each day. Besides the fighting duty, there is any
amount of fatigue work, the repairing and strengthening of the defenses,
the fetching rations and drawing water for the house, in which there are
over fifty women and children, the burying dead cattle, and covering blood
and filth with earth. Besides defending our own post, we are, of course,
ready to rush at any moment to assist any other garrison which may be
pressed. Altogether, you will think yourself lucky when you can get four
hours' sleep out of the twenty-four."
"Are our losses heavy?" Ned asked.
"Terribly heavy. The first week we lost twenty a day shot in the houses;
but now that we have, as far as possible, blocked every loophole at which
a bullet can enter, we are not losing so many as at first, but the daily
total is still heavy, and on a day like the 20th we lost thirty. The enemy
attacked us all round, and we mowed them down with grape; we believe we
killed over a thousand of them. Unfortunately, every day our losses are
getting heavier from disease, foul air, and overcrowding; the women and
children suffer awfully. If you are disposed to make yourselves useful
when not on duty, you will find abundant opportunity for kindness among
them. I will take you round the house and introduce you to the ladies,
then you can go among them as you like."
First the Warreners went to what, in happier times, was the main room of
the house, a spacious apartment some thirty-five feet square, with windows
opening to the ground at each end, to allow a free passage of air. These,
on the side nearest the enemy, were completely closed by a bank of earth;
while those on the other side were also built up within a few inches of
the top, for shots and shell could equally enter them. The Warreners were
introduced to such of the garrison as were in, the greater part being at
work outside the house repairing a bank which had been injured during the
day. Then Mr. Johnson went to one of the rooms leading off the main
apartment. A curtain hung across it instead of a door, and this was now
drawn aside to allow what air there was to circulate.
"May I come in?" he asked.
"Certainly, Mr. Johnson," a lady said, coming to the entrance.
"Mrs. Hargreaves, let me introduce the Messrs. Warreners, the gentlemen
who have so gallantly come through the enemy's lines with the message.
They are to form part of our garrison."
The lady held out her hand, but with a slight air of surprise.
"I suppose our color strikes you as peculiar, Mrs. Hargreaves," Ned said,
"but it will wear off in a few days; it is iodine, and we are already a
good many shades lighter than when we started."
"How silly of me not to think of that," Mrs. Hargreaves said; "of course I
heard that you were disguised. But please come in; it is not much of a
room to receive in, but we are past thinking of that now. My daughter,
Mrs. Righton; her husband is with mine on guard at present. These are my
daughters, Edith and Nelly; these five children are my grandchildren. My
dears, these are the Messrs. Warreners, who brought the news from General
Havelock. Their faces are stained, but will be white again in time."
The ladies all shook hands with the Warreners, who looked with surprise on
the neatness which prevailed in this crowded little room. On the ground,
by the walls, were several rolls of bedding covered over with shawls, and
forming seats or lounges. On the top of one of the piles two little
children were fast asleep. A girl of six sat in a corner on the ground
reading. There were two or three chairs, and these the ladies, seating
themselves on the divan, as they called the bedding, asked their visitors
Mrs. Hargreaves was perhaps forty-five years old, with a pleasant face,
marked by firmness and intelligence. Mrs. Righton was twenty-five or
twenty-six, and her pale face showed more than that of her mother the
effects of the anxiety and confinement of the siege. Edith and Nelly were
sixteen and fifteen respectively, and although pale, the siege had not
sufficed to mar their bright faces or to crush their spirits.
"Dear me," Nelly said, "why, you look to me to be quite boys; why, you
can't be much older than I am, are you?"
"My dear Nelly," her mother said reprovingly; but Dick laughed heartily.
"I am not much older than you are," he said; "a year, perhaps, but not
more. I am a midshipman in the Agamemnon. My brother is a year older than
I am, and he is gazetted to the Sixty-fourth; so you see, if the times
were different, we should be just the right age to be your devoted
"Oh, you can be that now," Nelly said. "I am sure we want them more than
ever; don't we, mamma?"
"I think you have more than your share of servants now, Nelly," replied
her mother. "We are really most fortunate, Mr. Johnson, in having our ayah
still with us; so many were deserted by their servants altogether, and she
is an admirable nurse. I do not know what we should do without her, for
the heat and confinement make the poor children sadly fractious. We were
most lucky yesterday, for we managed to secure a dobee for the day, and
you see the result;" and she smilingly indicated the pretty light muslins
in which her daughters were dressed. "You see us quite at our best," she
said, turning to the boys. "But we have, indeed," she went on seriously,
"every reason to be thankful. So far we have not lost any of our party,
and there are few indeed who can say this. These are terrible times, young
gentlemen, and we are all in God's hands. We are exceptionally well off,
but we find our hands full. My eldest daughter has to aid the ayah with
the children; then there is the cooking to be done by me, and the room to
be kept tidy by Edith and Nelly, and there are so many sick and suffering
to be attended to. You will never find us all here before six in the
evening; we are busy all day; but we shall always be glad to see you when
you can spare time for a chat in the evening. All the visitors we receive
are not so welcome, I can assure you;" and she pointed to three holes in
the wall where the enemy's shot had crashed through.
"That is a very noble woman," Mr. Johnson said, as they went out. "She
spends many hours every day down at the military hospital where, the
scenes are dreadful, and where the enemy's shot and shell frequently find
entry, killing alike the wounded and their attendants. The married
daughter looks after her children and the neatness of the rooms. The young
girls are busy all day about the house nursing sick children, and yet, as
you see, all are bright, pleasant, and the picture of neatness, marvelous
contrasts indeed to the disorder and wretchedness prevailing among many,
who might, by making an effort, be as bright and as comfortable as they
are. There are, as you will find, many brilliant examples of female
heroism and self-devotion exhibited here; but in some instances women seem
to try how helpless, how foolish a silly woman can be. Ah," he broke off,
as a terrific crash followed by a loud scream was heard, "I fear that
shell has done mischief."
"Mrs. Shelton is killed," a woman said, running out, "and Lucy Shelton has
had her arm cut off. Where is Dr. Topham?"
Mrs. Hargreaves came out of her door with a basin of water and some linen
torn into strips for bandages just as the doctor ran in from the Sikh
Square, where he had been attending to several casualties.
"That is right," he nodded to Mrs. Hargreaves; "this is a bad business, I
"All hands to repair defenses!" was now the order, and the boys followed
Mr. Johnson outside.
"The scoundrels are busy this evening," he observed.
"It sounds like a boiler-maker's shop," Dick said; "if only one in a
hundred bullets were to hit, there would not be many alive by to-morrow
"No, indeed," Mr. Johnson replied; "they are of course firing to some
extent at random, but they aim at the points where they think it likely
that we may be at work, and their fire adds greatly to our difficulty in
setting right at night the damage they do in the daytime."
For the next four hours the lads were hard at work with the rest of the
garrison. Earth was brought in sacks or baskets and piled up, stockades
repaired, and fascines and gabions mended. The work would have been hard
anywhere; on an August night in India it was exhausting. All the time that
they were at work the bullets continued to fly thickly overhead, striking
the wall of the house with a sharp crack, or burying themselves with a
short thud in the earth. Round shot and shell at times crashed through the
upper part of the house, which was uninhabited; while from the terraced
roof, and from the battery in the corner of the garden, the crack of the
defenders' rifles answered the enemy's fire.
By the time that the work was done it was midnight, and the Warreners'
turn for guard. They had received rifles, and were posted with six others
in the battery. There were three guns here, all of which were loaded to
the muzzle with grape; three artillerymen, wrapped in their cloaks, lay
asleep beside them, for the number of artillerymen was so small that the
men were continually on duty, snatching what sleep they could by their
guns during the intervals of fighting. The orders were to listen
attentively for the sound of the movement of any body of men, and to fire
occasionally at the flashes of the enemy's guns. The four hours passed
rapidly, for the novelty of the work, the thunder of cannon and crackling
of musketry, all round the Residency, were so exciting that the Warreners
were surprised when the relief arrived. They retired to their room, and
were soon asleep; but in an hour the alarm was sounded, and the whole
force at the post rushed to repel an attack. Heralded by a storm of fire
from every gun which could be brought to bear upon the battery, thousands
of fanatics rushed from the shelter of the houses outside the
intrenchments and swarmed down upon it. The garrison lay quiet behind the
parapet until the approach of the foe caused the enemy's cannon to cease
their fire. Then they leaped to their feet and poured a volley into the
mass. So great were their numbers, however, that the gaps were closed in a
moment, and with yells and shouts the enemy leaped into the ditch, and
tried to climb the earthwork of the battery. Fortunately at this moment
the reserve of fifty men of the Thirty-second, which were always kept
ready to launch at any threatened point, came up at a run, and their
volley over the parapet staggered the foe. Desperately their leaders
called upon them to climb the earthworks, but the few who succeeded in
doing so were bayoneted and thrown back into the ditch, while a continuous
musketry fire was poured into the crowd. Over and over again the guns,
charged with grape, swept lines through their ranks, and at last,
dispirited and beaten, they fell back again to the shelter from which they
had emerged. The Thirty-second men then returned to the brigade messroom,
and the garrison of the fort were about to turn in when Mr. Gubbins said
"Now, lads, we have done with those fellows for to-day, I fancy. I want
some volunteers to bury those horses which were killed yesterday; it's an
unpleasant job, but it's got to be done."
The men's faces testified to the dislike they felt for the business; but
they knew it was necessary, and all made their way to the yard, where,
close by the cattle, the horses were confined. The boys understood at once
the repugnance which was felt to approaching this part of the fort. The
ground was covered deep with flies, who rose in a black cloud, with a
perfect roar of buzzing.
Lucknow was always celebrated for its plague of flies, but during the
siege the nuisance assumed surprising proportions. The number of cattle
and animals collected, the blood spilled in the slaughter-yard, the
impossibility of preserving the cleanliness so necessary in a hot climate,
all combined to generate swarms of flies, which rivaled those of Egypt.
The garrison waged war against them, but in vain. Powder was plentiful,
and frequently many square yards of infected ground, where the flies
swarmed thickest, would be lightly sprinkled with it, and countless
legions blown into the air; but these wholesale executions, however often
repeated, appeared to make no impression whatever on the teeming armies of
Their task finished, the fatigue party returned to their houses, and then
all who had not other duties threw themselves down to snatch a short
sleep. In spite of a night passed without rest, sleep was not easily
wooed. The heat in the open air was terrific, in the close little room it
was stifling; while the countless flies irritated them almost to madness.
There was indeed but the choice of two evils: to cover closely their faces
and hands, and lie bathed in perspiration; or to breathe freely, and bear
the flies as best they might. The former alternative was generally chosen,
as heat, however great, may be endured in quiet, and sleep may insensibly
come on; but sleep with a host of flies incessantly nestling on every
exposed part of the face and body was clearly an impossibility.
That day was a bad one for the defenders of Gubbins' garrison, for no less
than twelve shells penetrated the house, and five of the occupants were
killed or wounded. The shells came from a newly erected battery a hundred
and fifty yards to the north. Among the killed was one of Mrs. Righton's
children; and the boys first learned the news when, on rising from a
fruitless attempt to sleep, they went to get a little fresh air outside.
Edith and Nelly Hargreaves came out from the door, with jugs, on their way
to fetch water.
The Warreners at once offered to fetch it for them, and as they spoke they
saw that the girls' faces were both swollen with crying.
"Is anything the matter, Miss Hargreaves?" Ned asked.
"Have you not heard," Edith said, "how poor little Rupert has been killed
by a shell? The ayah was badly hurt, and we all had close escapes; the
shells from that battery are terrible."
Expressing their sorrow at the news, the boys took the jugs, and crossing
the yard to the well, filled and brought them back.
"I wish we could do something to silence that battery," said Dick;" it
will knock the house about our ears, and we shall be having the women and
children killed every day."
"Let's go and have a look at it from the roof," replied Ned.
The roof was, like those of most of the houses in the Residency, flat, and
intended for the inmates to sit and enjoy the evening breeze. The parapet
was very low, but this had been raised by a line of sandbags, and behind
them five or six of the defenders were lying, firing through the openings
between the bags, in answer to the storm of musketry which the enemy were
keeping up on the post.
Stooping low to avoid the bullets which were singing overhead, the
Warreners moved across the terrace, and lying down, peered out through the
holes which had been left for musketry. Gubbins' house stood on one of the
highest points of the ground inclosed in the defenses, and from it they
could obtain a view of nearly the whole circle of the enemy's batteries.
They were indeed higher than the roofs of most of the houses held by the
enemy, but one of these, distant only some fifty yards from the Sikh
Square, dominated the whole line of the British defenses on that side, and
an occasional crack of a rifle from its roof showed that the advantage was
"What do they call that house?" Ned asked one of the officers on the
"That is Johannes' house," he answered. "It was a terrible mistake that we
did not destroy it before the siege began; it is an awful thorn in our
side. There is a black scoundrel, a negro, in the service of the king of
Oude, who has his post there; he is a magnificent shot, and he has killed
a great number of ours. It is almost certain death to show a head within
the line of his fire."
"I wonder we have not made a sortie, and set fire to the place," said Ned.
"The scoundrels are so numerous that we could only hope to succeed with
considerable loss, and we are so weak already that we can't afford it. So
the chief sets his face against sorties, but I expect that we shall be
driven to it one of these days. That new battery is terribly troublesome
also. There, do you see, it lies just over that brow, so that the shot
from our battery cannot touch it, while it can pound away at our house,
and indeed at all the houses along this line."
"I should have thought," Dick said, "that a rush at night might carry it,
and spike the guns."
"No; we should be certain to make some sort of noise, however quiet we
were. There are six guns, all loaded at nightfall to the muzzle with
grape; we know that, for once they fancied they heard us coming, and they
fired such a storm of grape that we should have been all swept away;
besides which, there are a large number of the fellows sleeping round; and
although sometimes the battery ceases firing for some hours, the musketry
goes on more or less during the night."
The Warreners lay wistfully watching the battery, whose shots frequently
struck the house, and two or three times knocked down a portion of the
sandbag parapet--the damage being at once repaired with bags lying in
readiness, but always under a storm of musketry, which opened in the hopes
of hitting the men engaged upon the work; these were, however, accustomed
to it, and built up the sandbags without showing a limb to the enemy's
"There were two children killed by that last shot," an officer said,
coming up from below and joining them; "it made its way through the earth
and broke in through a blocked-up window."
"We must silence that battery, Ned, whatever comes of it," Dick said in
his brother's ear.
"I agree with you, Dick; but how is it to be done? have you got an idea?"
"Well, my idea is this," the midshipman said. "I think you and I might
choose a dark night, as it will be to-night. Take the bearings of the
battery exactly; then when they stop firing, and we think the gunners are
asleep, crawl out and make for the guns. When we get there we can make our
way among them, keeping on the ground so that the sentry cannot see us
against the sky; and then with a sponge full of water we can give a
squeeze on each of the touchholes, so there would be no chance of their
going off till the charges were drawn. Then we could make our way back and
tell Gubbins the guns are disabled, and he can take out a party, carry
them with a rush, and spike them permanently."
"Capital, Dick; I'm with you, old boy."
"Now let us take the exact bearings of the place. There was a lane, you
see, before the houses were pulled down, running along from beyond that
corner nearly to the guns. When we get out we must steer for that, because
it is comparatively clear from rubbish, and we ain't so likely to knock a
stone over and make a row. We must choose some time when they are pounding
away somewhere else, and then we shan't be heard even if we do make a
little noise. We will ask Mrs. Hargreaves for a couple of pieces of
sponge; we need not tell her what we want them for."
"And you think to-night, Dick?"
"Well, to-night is just as likely to succeed as any other night, and the
sooner the thing is done the better. Johnson commands the guard from
twelve to four, and he is an easy-going fellow, and will let us slip out,
while some of the others wouldn't."
SPIKING THE GUNS.
As soon as night fell a little procession with three little forms on trays
covered with white cloths, and two of larger size, started from Gubbins'
house to the churchyard. Mr. and Mrs. Hargreaves, and Mrs. Righton and her
husband, with two other women, followed. That morning all the five, now to
be laid in the earth, were strong and well; but death had been busy. In
such a climate as that, and in so crowded a dwelling, no delay could take
place between death and burial, and the victims of each day were buried at
nightfall. There was no time to make coffins, no men to spare for the
work; and as each fell, so were they committed to the earth.
A little distance from Gubbins' house the procession joined a larger one
with the day's victims from the other parts of the garrison--a total of
twenty-four, young and old. At the head of the procession walked the Rev.
Mr. Polehampton, one of the chaplains, who was distinguished for the
bravery and self-devotion with which he labored among the sick and
wounded. The service on which they were now engaged was in itself
dangerous, for the churchyard was very exposed to the enemy's fire, and--
for they were throughout the siege remarkably well-informed of what was
taking place within the Residency--every evening they opened a heavy fire
in the direction of the spot where they knew a portion of the garrison
would be engaged in this sad avocation. Quietly and steadily the little
procession moved along, though bullets whistled and shells hissed around
them. Each stretcher with an adult body was carried by four soldiers,
while some of the little ones' bodies were carried by their mothers as if
alive. Mrs. Hargreaves and her daughter carried between them the tray on
which the body of little Rupert Righton lay. Arrived at the churchyard, a
long shallow trench, six feet wide, had been prepared, and in this, side
by side, the dead were tenderly placed. Then Mr. Polehampton spoke a few
words of prayer and comfort, and the mourners turned away, happily without
one of them having been struck by the bullets which sang around, while
some of the soldiers speedily filled in the grave.
While the sad procession had been absent, the boys had gone to Mrs.
Hargreaves' room. The curtain was drawn, and they could hear the girls
"Please, Miss Hargreaves, can I speak to you for a moment?" Ned said. "I
would not intrude, but it is something particular."
Edith Hargreaves came to the door.
"Please," Ned went on, "will you give us two good-sized pieces of sponge?
We don't know any one else to ask, and--but you must not say a word to any
one--my brother and myself mean to go out to-night to silence that battery
which is doing such damage."
"Silence that battery!" Edith exclaimed in surprise. "Oh, if you could do
that; but how is it possible?"
"Oh, you dear boy," Nelly, who had come to the door, exclaimed
impetuously, "if you could but do that, every one would love you. We shall
all be killed if that terrible battery goes on. But how are you going to
"I don't say we are going to do it," Ned said, smiling at the girl's
excitement, "but we are going to try to-night. We'll tell you all about it
in the morning when it is done; that is," he said seriously, "if we come
back to tell it. But you must not ask any questions now, and please give
us the pieces of sponge." Edith disappeared for a moment, and came back
with two large pieces of sponge.
"We will not ask, as you say we must not," she said quietly, "but I know
you are going to run some frightful danger. I may tell mamma and Carrie
when they come back that much, may I not? and we will all keep awake and
pray for you tonight--God bless you both!" And with a warm clasp of the
hands the girls went back into their room again.
"I tell you what, Ned," the midshipman said emphatically, when they went
out into the air, "if I live through this war I'll marry Nelly Hargreaves;
that is," he added, "if she'll have me, and will wait a bit. She is a
brick, and no mistake. I never felt really in love before; not regularly,
At any other time Ned would have laughed; but with Edith's farewell words
in his ear he was little disposed for mirth, and he merely put his hand on
Dick's shoulder and said:
"There will be time to talk about that in the future, Dick. There's the
battery opening in earnest. There! Mr. Gubbins is calling for all hands on
the roof with their rifles to try and silence it. Come along."
For an hour the fire on both sides was incessant. The six guns of the
battery concentrated their fire upon Gubbins' house, while from the walls
and houses on either side of it the fire of the musketry flashed
unceasingly, sending a hail of shot to keep down the reply from the roof.
On their side the garrison on the terrace disregarded the musketry fire,
but, crowded behind the sandbags, kept up a steady and concentrated fire
at the flashes of the cannon; while from the battery below, the gunners,
unable to touch the enemy's battery, discharged grape at the houses
tenanted by the enemy's infantry. The Sepoys, carefully instructed in our
service, had constructed shields of rope to each gun to protect the
gunners, but those at the best could cover but one or two men, and the
fire from the parapet inflicted such heavy losses upon the gunners that
after a time their fire dropped, and an hour from the commencement of the
cannonade all was still again on both sides. The Sepoy guns were silenced.
It was now ten o'clock, and the Warreners went and lay down quietly for a
couple of hours. Then they heard the guard changed, and after waiting a
quarter of an hour they went out to the battery, having first filled their
sponges with water. There they joined Mr. Johnson.
"Can't sleep, boys?" he asked; "those flies are enough to drive one mad.
You will get accustomed to them after a bit."
"It is not exactly that, sir," Ned said, "but we wanted to speak to you.
Dick and I have made up our minds to silence that battery. We have got
sponges full of water, and we mean to go out and drown the priming. Then
when we come back and tell Mr. Gubbins, I dare say he will take out a
party, make a rush, and spike them."
"Why, you must be mad to think of such a thing!" Mr. Johnson said in
"I think it is easy enough, sir," Ned replied; "at any rate, we mean to
"I can't let you go without leave," Mr. Johnson said.
"No, sir, and so we are not going to tell you we are going," Ned laughed.
"What we want to ask you is to tell your men not to fire if they hear a
noise close by in the next few minutes, and after that to listen for a
whistle like this. If they hear that they are not to fire at any one
approaching from the outside. Good-by, sir."
And without waiting for Mr. Johnson to make up his mind whether or not his
duty compelled him to arrest them, to prevent them from carrying out the
mad scheme of which Ned had spoken, the Warreners glided off into the
They had obtained a couple of native daggers, and took no other arms. They
did not take off their boots, but wound round them numerous strips of
blanket, so that they would tread noiselessly, and yet if obliged to run
for it would avoid the risk of cutting their feet and disabling themselves
in their flight. Then, making sure that by this time Mr. Johnson would
have given orders to his men not to fire if they heard a noise close at
hand, they went noiselessly to the breastwork which ran from the battery
to the house, climbed over it, and dropped into the trench beyond.
Standing on the battery close beside them, they saw against the sky the
figure of Mr. Johnson.
"Good-by, sir," Ned said softly; "we will be back in half an hour if we
Then they picked their way carefully over the rough ground till they
reached the lane, and then walked boldly but noiselessly forward, for they
knew that for a little way there was no risk of meeting an enemy, and that
in the darkness they were perfectly invisible to any native posted near
the guns. After fifty yards' walking, they dropped on their hands and
knees. Although the guns had been absolutely silent since their fire
ceased at ten o'clock, a dropping musketry fire from the houses and walls
on either side had, as usual, continued. This indicated to the boys pretty
accurately the position of the guns. Crawling forward foot by foot, they
reached the little ridge which sheltered the guns from the battery in
The guns themselves they could not see, for behind them was a house, and,
except against the sky line, nothing was visible. They themselves were, as
they knew, in a line between Gubbins' house and any one who might be
standing at the guns, so that they would not show against the sky. They
could hear talking among the houses on either side of the guns, and could
see the light of fires, showing that while some of their enemies were
keeping up a dropping fire, others were passing the night, as is often the
native custom, round the fires, smoking and cooking. There was a faint
talk going on ahead, too, beyond the guns; but the enemy had had too
severe a lesson of the accuracy of the English rifle-fire to dare to light
a fire there.
Having taken in the scene, the boys moved forward, inch by inch. Presently
Ned put his hand on something which, for a moment, made him start back; an
instant's thought, however, reassured him; it was a man, but the hardness
of the touch told that it was not a living one. Crawling past it, the lads
found other bodies lying thickly, and then they touched a wheel. They had
arrived at the guns, and the bodies were those of the men shot down a few
hours before in the act of loading.
Behind the guns a number of artillerymen were, as the boys could hear,
sitting and talking; but the guns themselves stood alone and unguarded. A
clasp of the hand, and the boys parted, one going, as previously arranged,
each way. Ned rose very quietly by the side of the gun, keeping his head,
however, below its level, and running his hand along it until it came to
the breech. The touch-hole was covered by a wad of cloth to keep the
powder dry from the heavy dew. This he removed, put up his hand again with
the wet sponge, gave a squeeze, and then cautiously replaced the covering.
Dick did the same with the gun on the right, and so each crept along from
gun to gun, until the six guns were disabled. Then they crawled back and
joined each other.
A clasp of the hands in congratulation, and then they were starting to
return, when they heard a dull tramp, and the head of a dark column came
along just ahead of them. The boys shrank back under the guns, and lay
flat among the bodies of the dead. The column halted at the guns, and a
"Is the colonel here?"
"Here am I," said a voice from behind the guns, and a native officer came
[Illustration: THE WARRENERS DROWNING THE PRIMING OF THE SEPOY GUNS.]
"We are going to make an attack from the house of Johannes. We shall be
strong, and shall sweep the Kaffirs before us. It is the order of the
general that you open with your guns here, to distract their attention."
"Will it please you to represent to the general that we have fought this
evening, and that half my gunners are killed. The fire of the sons of
Sheitan is too strong for us. Your excellency will see the ground is
covered with our dead. Bring fire," he ordered, and at the word one of the
soldiers lighted a torch made of straw, soaked in oil, which threw a lurid
flame over the ground. "See, excellency, how we have suffered."
"Are they all dead?" asked the officer, stepping nearer.
The boys held their breath, when there was a sharp cracking of musketry,
the man with the torch fell prostrate, and several cries arose from the
column. The watchers on the roof of Gubbins' house had been quick to
discern their enemy.
"Move on, march!" the officer exclaimed hastily, "double. Yes, I see, it
is hot here; but when we have attacked, and their attention is distracted,
you may do something."
So saying, he went off at a run with his regiment.
The boys lost no time in creeping out again, and making the best of their
way back; once fairly over the crest, they rose to their feet and ran down
toward the intrenchment. As they neared this Ned whistled twice. The
whistle was answered, and in a minute hands were stretched down to help
them to scramble over the earthwork.
"All right," Ned said to Mr. Johnson; "the guns are useless, and weakly
guarded. There are lots of infantry on both sides, but some of them will
be drawn off, for they are going to make an attack from Johannes' house.
Where is Mr. Gubbins?"
"He has just made his rounds," Mr. Johnson said; "I will take you to him."
Mr. Gubbins was astonished when he heard from the boys that they had been
out, and rendered the guns temporarily useless. "You were wrong to act
without orders," he said, "but I can't scold you for such a gallant
action. We must act on it at once. I would send for a reinforcement, but
we must not lose a moment. If the attack from Johannes' house begins
before our attack, the artillerymen will prepare for action, and may
discover that the breeches of their guns are wet. Call up every man at
once, Mr. Johnson, and let them fall in on the battery; and do you," he
turned to another, "run down to the Sikh Square and Martinière garrison,
and warn them that a great attack is just going to be made. Tell them that
we are making a sortie, and ask them to bring every rifle to bear on the
houses to the left of the guns, so as to keep down the infantry fire
In two minutes every man of the garrison was assembled in the battery,
even those from the roof being called down.
"Bring a dark lantern," Mr. Gubbins said; "it may be useful. Now, lads, we
are going to spike the guns; they have been rendered useless, so we have
only got to make a dash for them. The moment they are in our possession,
you, Mr. Johnson, with ten men, will clear the house immediately behind
it, and look for the magazine. Mr. Leathes, you, with fifteen men, will
move to the right a little; and you, Mr. Percival, with your command, to
the left. Do not go far, but each carry a house or two, set them on fire,
and fall back here when you hear the bugle. I have got the hammer and
spiking nails. Now, as quietly as you can till you hear that we are
discovered, and then go with a rush at the guns."
In fact, they had gone very few paces before there was a shout in the
enemy's line. The noise of so many men stumbling over the _débris_ of
leveled houses was heard in an instant in the night air.
"Forward!" Mr. Gubbins shouted; "don't fire, give them the bayonet."
At a charge the little party rushed along. They were in the lane now, and
were able to run fast. The shout had been followed by a shot, then by a
dozen others, and then a rapid fire broke out from the houses and walls in
They were still invisible, however, and the balls whistled overhead. They
heard the voice of the officer at the guns shout to his men:
"Steady; don't fire till they are on the crest, then blow them into dust."
They topped the crest and rushed at the guns.
"Fire!" shouted the officer, but a cry of dismay alone answered his words,
and in a moment the British rushed on to the guns, and bayoneted the
astonished and dismayed enemy.
Then they separated each to the work assigned to them, while Mr. Gubbins,
with a man with the lantern, went from gun to gun and drove a nail down
the touchhole of each. Then he followed into the house behind. Here a
short but furious fight had taken place. The Sepoys lodged there fought
desperately but unavailingly. A few leaped from the windows, but the rest
were bayoneted. The fight was stern and silent; no words were spoken, for
the Sepoys knew that it was useless to ask for quarter; the clashing of
sabers against muskets, an occasional sharp cry, and the sound of the
falling of heavy bodies alone told of the desperate struggle.
It ended just as Mr. Gubbins entered.
"Look about," he said; "they must have a magazine somewhere here; perhaps
a large one."
There was a rapid search.
"Here it is," Ned said, as he looked into a large outhouse behind the
building. "There are some twenty barrels of powder and a large quantity of
shot and shell."
"Break open a barrel, quick!" Mr. Gubbins said. "Mr. Johnson, I will do
this with the Warreners. Do you line that low wall, and keep back the
pandies a minute or two; they will be on us like a swarm of bees. Run into
the house," he said to Dick, as Mr. Johnson led his men forward to the
wall, "you will see a bucket of water in the first room. Bring it here
quick. Now then," he said, "empty this barrel among the others; that's
right, smash in the heads of three or four others with this hammer. That's
right," as Dick returned with the water. "Now fill your cap with powder."
Dick did so, and Mr. Gubbins poured some water into it, stirred them
together till the powder was damped through, and with this made a train
some five feet long to the dry powder.
The party at the wall were now hotly engaged with a mass of advancing
"Fall back, Mr. Johnson, quickly. Sound the retreat, bugler. Go along,
lads; I'll light the train."
He waited until the last man had passed, applied a lighted match to the
train, which began to fizz and sputter, and then ran out and followed the
rest, shutting the door of the magazine as he went out, in order that the
burning fuse should not be seen.
By this time the houses on either side were alight, and the whole party
were returning at a double toward the intrenchments.
As they neared the lines the enemy swarmed out from their cover, and the
head of the reinforcements were pouring out through the house into the
battery, when the earth shook, a mighty flash of fire lit the sky; there
was a roar like thunder, and most of the retreating party were swept from
their feet by the shock, while a shower of stones and timber fell in a
wide circle. They were soon up again, and scrambled over the earthworks.
For a minute the explosion was succeeded by a deathlike stillness, broken
only by the sound of the falling fragments; then from the whole circle of
the British lines a great cheer of triumph rose up, while a yell of fury
answered them from the enemy's intrenchments.
"Any loss?" was Mr. Gubbins' first question.
"No one killed," was the report of the officers of the three sections.
Four of the men stepped forward; two were slightly wounded only; two were
seriously hit, but a glance showed that the wounds were not of a nature
likely to be fatal.
"Hurrah! my lads," Mr. Gubbins said cheerily; "six guns spiked, our
garrison freed from that troublesome battery, a lesson given to the enemy,
and I expect a few hundred of them blown up, and all at the cost of four
"Well done, indeed," a voice said; and General Inglis, with two or three
of his officers, stepped forward. "Gallantly done; but how was it that the
guns were silent? you could hardly have caught them asleep."
"No, sir," Mr. Gubbins said; "the gentlemen who brought in the message
from General Havelock, two days ago, went out on their own account, and
silenced the guns by wetting the priming."
A suppressed cheer broke from the whole party; for until now only Mr.
Johnson and those on guard with him knew what had happened, and the
silence of the guns had been a mystery to all.
"Step forward, young gentlemen, will you?" General Inglis said. "You have
done a most gallant action," he went on, shaking them by the hand, "a most
gallant action; and the whole garrison are greatly indebted to you. I
shall have great pleasure in reporting your gallant conduct to the
commander-in-chief, when the time comes for doing so. I will not mar the
pleasure which all feel at your deed by blaming you for acting on your own
inspiration, but I must do so to-morrow. Good fortune has attended your
enterprise, but the lives of brave men are too valuable to allow them to
undertake such risks as this on their own account. And now that I have
said what I was obliged to say, I ask you all to give three cheers for our
gallant young friends."
Three hearty cheers were given, and then the general hurried off to
superintend the preparations for the defense of the quarter threatened by
the attack from Johannes' house, if indeed that attack should not be
postponed, owing to the discouragement which the blow just inflicted would
naturally spread. Surrounded by their comrades, the Warreners re-entered
"What was that terrible explosion?" "What has happened?" was asked by a
score of female voices as they entered.
"Good news," Mr. Gubbins said; "you can sleep in peace. The guns of the
battery which has annoyed us are all spiked, and their magazine blown up,
and all this without the loss of a man, thanks to the Warreners, who went
out alone and disabled all the guns, by wetting the primings. All your
thanks are due to them."
There was a general cry of grateful joy; for since the battery had begun
to play upon the house, no one had felt that his own life or the lives of
those dearest to him were safe for a moment. All were dressed, for in
these times of peril no one went regularly to bed; and they now crowded
round the boys, shaking them by the hand, patting them on the shoulders,
many crying for very joy and relief.
Mrs. Hargreaves was standing at the door, and the boys went up to her. She
drew back the curtain for them to enter; for, sure that the boys intended
to carry out some desperate enterprise, none of her family had even lain
down. Mr. Hargreaves and Mr. Righton followed them in.
"We were all praying for you," she said simply, "as if you had been my own
sons; for you were doing as much for me and mine as my own could have
done;" and she kissed both their foreheads.
"I think, Mrs. Hargreaves," said Dick, with the demure impudence of a
midshipman, "that that ought to go round."
"I think you have fairly earned it, you impudent boy," Mrs. Hargreaves
Mrs. Righton kissed Dick tearfully, for she was thinking that, had the
battery been silenced only one day earlier, her little one would have been
saved. Edith glanced at her mother, and allowed Dick to kiss her; while
Nelly threw her arms round his neck and kissed him heartily, telling him
he was a darling boy.
Ned, who possessed none of the impudence of his brother, and who was
moreover at the age when many boys become bashful with women, contented
himself with shaking hands with Mrs. Righton and Edith, and would have
done the same with Nelly, but that young lady put up her cheek with a
"I choose to be kissed, sir," she said; "it is not much kissing that we
get here, goodness knows."
A SORTIE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
The night passed off without the expected attack from Johannes' house, the
rebels being too much disconcerted by the destruction of the battery, and
the loss of so many men, to attempt any offensive operations. The
destruction of the house behind the guns, and of all those in its
vicinity, deterred them from re-establishing a battery in the same place,
as there would be no shelter for the infantry supporting the guns; and
after the result of the sortie it was evident to them that a large force
must be kept in readiness to repel the attacks of the British.
For a few days life was more tolerable in Gubbins' garrison; for although
shot and shell frequently struck the house, and batteries multiplied in
the circle around, none kept up so deadly and accurate a fire as that
which they had destroyed.
The Warreners took their fair share in all the heavy fatigue work, and in
the picket duty in the battery or on the roof; but they enjoyed their
intervals of repose, which were now always spent with Mr. Hargreaves'
Mr. Hargreaves was collector of a district near Lucknow, and was high in
the Civil Service. He was a fit husband for his kindly wife; and as Mr.
Righton was of a cheerful and hopeful disposition, the boys found
themselves members of a charming family circle. Often and often they
wished that their father, sister, and cousin could but join them; or
rather, as Ned said, they could join the party without, for no one could
wish that any they loved should be at Lucknow at that time.
One evening late they were sitting together in a group outside the house,
the enemy's fire being slack, when Mr. Johnson came up from the battery to
Mr. Gubbins, who formed one of the party.
"I am afraid, sir, they are mining again; lying on the ground, we think we
can hear the sound of blows."
"That is bad," Mr. Gubbins said; "I heard this afternoon that they believe
that two mines are being driven from Johannes' house in the direction of
the Martinière, and the brigade messhouse; now we are to have our turn,
eh? Well, we blew in the last they tried, and must do it again; but it is
so much more hard work. Now, gentlemen, let us see who has the best ears.
Excuse us, Mrs. Hargreaves, we shall not be long away."
On entering the battery they found the men on guard all lying down
listening, and were soon at full length with their ears to the ground. All
could hear the sound; it was very faint, as faint as the muffled tick of a
watch, sometimes beating at regular intervals of a second or so, sometimes
ceasing for a minute or two.
"There is no doubt they are mining," Mr. Gubbins said; "the question is,
from which way are they coming."
None could give an opinion. The sound was so faint, and seemed to come so
directly from below, that the ear could not discriminate in the slightest.
"At any rate," Mr. Gubbins said, "we must begin at once to sink a shaft.
If, when we get down a bit, we cannot judge as to the direction, we must
drive two or three listening galleries in different directions. But before
we begin we must let Major Anderson, of the Royal Engineers, know, and
take his advice; he is in command of all mining operations."
In ten minutes Major Anderson was on the ground.
"The fellows are taking to mining in earnest," he said; "this is the third
we have discovered to-day, and how many more there may be, goodness only
knows. I think you had better begin here," he said to Mr. Gubbins. "You
have got tools, I think. Say about six feet square, then two men can work
at once. I will be here the first thing in the morning, and then we will
look round and see which is the likeliest spot for the fellows to be
working from. Will you ask your sentries on the roof to listen closely to-
night, in order to detect, if possible, a stir of men coming or going from
any given point."
Picks and shovels were brought out, the garrison told off into working
parties of four each, to relieve each other every hour, and the work
began. Well-sinking is hard work in any climate, but with a thermometer
marking a hundred and five at night, it is terrible; and each set of
workers, as they came up bathed in perspiration, threw themselves on the
ground utterly exhausted. Mr. Hargreaves and a few of the elders of the
garrison were excused this work, and took extra duty on the terrace and
The next day it was decided that the enemy were probably working from a
ruined house near their former battery, and a gallery was begun from the
bottom of the shaft. This was pushed on night and day for three days, the
workers being now certain, from the rapidly increasing sound of the
workers, that this was the line by which the enemy was approaching. The
gallery was driven nearly twenty yards, and then three barrels of powder
were stored there, and the besieged awaited the approach of the rebels'
The Sepoys had now erected batteries whose cross fire swept the ground
outside the intrenchments, so that a sortie could no longer be carried out
with any hope of success. Had it been possible to have attempted it, a
party would have gone out, and driving off any guard that might have been
placed, entered the enemy's gallery and caught them at their work. A
sentry was placed continually in the gallery, and each hour the sound of
the pick and crowbar became louder.
On the fifth day the engineers judged that there could not be more than a
yard of earth between them. The train was laid now, and a cautious watch
kept, until, just at the moment when it was thought that an opening would
be made, the train was fired. The earth heaved, and a great opening was
made, while a shower of stones flew high in the air. The enemy's gallery
was blown in, and the men working destroyed, and a loud cheer broke from
the garrison at the defeat of another attempt upon them.
The month of August began badly in Lucknow. Major Banks, the civil
commissioner named by Sir Henry Lawrence to succeed him, was shot dead
while reconnoitering from the top of an outhouse. The Reverend Mr.
Polehampton, who had been wounded at the commencement of the siege, was
killed, as were Lieutenants Lewin, Shepherd, and Archer.
On the 8th large bodies of Sepoys were observed to enter the city, and on
the 10th a furious attack was made all round the British line. Every man
capable of bearing arms stood at his post, and even the sick and wounded
crawled out of hospital and took posts on housetops wherever they could
fire on the foe. The din was prodigious--the yells of the enemy, their
tremendous fire of musketry, the incessant roar of their cannon, but they
lacked heart for close fighting.
Frequently large bodies of men showed from behind their shelter, and,
carrying ladders, advanced as if with the determination of making an
assault. Each time, however, the withering fire opened upon them from the
line of earthworks, from the roof of every house, and the storm of grape
from the batteries, caused them to waver and fall back. Each fresh effort
was led by brave men, fanatics, who advanced alone far in front of the
rest, shrieking, "Death to the infidel!"
But they died, and their spirit failed to animate their followers. Only
once or twice did the assailing parties get near the line of
intrenchments, and then but to fall back rapidly after heavy loss.
Day after day the position of the besieged grew more unendurable. The
buildings were crumbling away under the heavy and continued fire; and as
one after another became absolutely untenable, the ladies and children
were more closely crowded in those which still offered some sort of
shelter. Even death, fearful as were its ravages, did not suffice to
counteract the closeness of the packing. Crowded in dark rooms, living on
the most meager food--for all the comforts, such as tea, sugar, wine,
spirits, etc., were exhausted, and even the bread was made of flour
ground, each for himself, between rough stones--without proper medicines,
attendance, or even bedding; tormented by a plague of flies, sickened by
disgusting smells, condemned to inaction and confinement, the women and
children died off rapidly, and the men, although better off with regard to
light and air, sickened fast. Half the officers were laid up with disease,
and all were lowered in health and strength.
On the 18th, as the Warreners had just returned from a heavy night's work,
strengthening the defenses, and burying horses and cattle, a great
explosion was heard, and one of those posted on the roof ran down
"To arms! they have fired a mine under the Sikh Square!"
Every man caught up his rifle and rushed to the spot. The mine had carried
away a portion of the exterior defense, and the enemy, with yells of
triumph, rushed forward toward the opening. Then ensued a furious _mêlée_;
each man fought for himself, hand to hand, in the breach; Mussulmen and
Englishmen struggled in deadly combat; the crack of the revolver, the thud
of the clubbed guns, the clash of sword against steel, the British cheer
and the native yell, were mingled in wild confusion. While some drove the
enemy back, others brought boxes and beams, fascines and sandbags, to
repair the breach. The enemy were forced back, and the British poured out
with shouts of triumph.
Our men's blood was up, and they followed their advantage. Part of the
engineers, ever on the alert, joined the throng with some barrels of
powder, and the enemy were pushed back sufficiently far to enable some of
the houses, from which we had been greatly annoyed by the enemy's
sharpshooters, to be blown up.
This success cheered the besieged, and on the 20th, when it was discovered
that the enemy were driving two new mines, a fresh sortie was determined
The garrison of Gubbins' house had now less cover than before, for the
building had been reduced almost to a shell by the enemy's fire, and all
the women and children had the day before been removed to other quarters.
The Residency itself was a tottering mass of ruins, and this also had been
emptied of its helpless ones, who were crowded in a great underground room
in the Begum Khotee. It is difficult to form an idea of the storm of shot
and shell which swept the space inclosed within the lines of defense, but
some notion may be obtained from the fact that an officer had the
curiosity to count the number of cannon balls of various sizes that fell
on the roof of the brigade messhouse in one day, and found that they
amounted to the almost incredible number of two hundred and eighty. Living
such a life as this, the Warreners were rejoiced when they received
orders, with ten of the other defenders of the ruins of Gubbins' house, to
join in the sortie on the 20th of August. About a hundred of the garrison
formed up in the Sikh Square, and at the word being given dashed over the
stockade and intrenchment, and made a charge for Johannes' house. This had
throughout the siege been the post from which the enemy had most annoyed
them, the king of Oude's negro in particular having killed a great many of
our officers and men. It was from this point that the mines being driven,
and it was determined at all hazards to destroy it.
The rush of the British took the enemy by surprise. Scarce a shot was
fired until they had traversed half the distance, and then a heavy fire of
musketry opened from all the houses held by the enemy. Still the English
pushed on at full speed, without pausing to return a shot. With a cheer
they burst into the inclosure in which the house stood, and while half the
party entered it and engaged in a furious combat with those within, the
others, in accordance with orders, pressed forward into the houses beyond,
so as to keep the enemy from advancing to the assistance of their friends,
thus caught in a trap. The Warreners belonged to the party who advanced,
and were soon engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy. Scattering
through the houses, they drove the Sepoys before them. The Warreners were
fighting side by side with Mr. Johnson, and with him, after driving the
enemy through the next house, they entered an outhouse beyond it.
Mr. Johnson entered first, followed by Ned, Dick being last of the party.
Dick heard a sudden shout and a heavy blow, and rushed in. Mr. Johnson lay
on the ground, his skull beaten in with a blow from the iron-bound staff
of a dervish, a wild figure with long hair and beard reaching down to his
waist. Dick was in time to see the terrible staff descend again upon Ned's
head. Ned guarded it with his rifle, but the guard was beaten down and Ned
stretched senseless on the ground. Before the fakir had time to raise his
stuff again, Dick drove his bayonet through his chest, and the fakir fell
prostrate, his body rolling down some steps into a cellar which served as
As he fell Dick heard a fierce growl, and a bear of a very large size, who
was standing by the fakir, rose on his hind legs. Fortunately Dick's rifle
was still loaded, and, pointing it into the fierce beast's mouth, he
fired, and the bear rolled down the wooden steps after his master.
Throwing aside his rifle, Dick turned to raise his brother. Ned lay as if
Dick leaped to his feet, and ran out to call for succor. He went into the
house, but it was empty. He rushed to the door, and saw the rest of the
party in full retreat. He shouted, but his voice was lost in the crackle
of musketry fire. He ran back to Ned and again tried to lift him, and had
got him on his shoulders, when there was a tremendous explosion. Johannes'
house had been blown up.
Following close upon the sound came the yells of the enemy, who were
flocking up to pursue the English back to their trenches. Escape was now
hopeless. Dick lowered Ned to the ground, hastily dragged the body of Mr.
Johnson outside the door, and then, lifting Ned, bore him down the steps
into the cellar into which the fakir and the bear had fallen. He carried
him well into the cellar, took away the wooden steps, and then, with great
difficulty, also dragged the bodies of the fakir and the bear further in,
so that any one looking down into the hole from the outside would observe
Then, as he lay down, faint from his exertions, he could hear above the
tread of a great number of men, followed by a tremendous musketry fire
from the house. Once or twice he thought he heard some one come to the
door of the outhouse; but if so, no one entered.
Beyond rubbing Ned's hands, and putting cold stones to his forehead, Dick
could do nothing; but Ned breathed, and Dick felt strong hopes that he was
only stunned. In a quarter of an hour he showed signs of reviving, and in
an hour was able to hear from Dick an account of what had happened, and
where they were.
"We are in a horrible fix this time, Dick, and no mistake; my head aches
so, I can hardly think; let us be quiet for a bit, and we will both try to
think what is best to be done. There is no hurry to decide. No one is
likely to come down into this place, but we may as well creep well behind
this pile of wood and straw, and then we shall be safe."
Dick assented, and for an hour they lay quiet, Ned's regular breathing
soon telling his brother that he had dropped off to sleep. Then Dick very
quietly crept out again from their hiding-place.
"It is a grand idea," he said to himself; "magnificent. It's nasty,
horribly nasty; but after three weeks of what we have gone through in the
Residency one can see and do things which it would have made one almost
sick to think of a month back; and as our lives depend upon it we must not
stand upon niceties. I wish, though, I had been brought up a red Indian;
it would have come natural then, I suppose."
So saying, he took out his pocket-knife, opened it, and went to the body
of the dead fakir. He took the long, matted hair into his hand with an
exclamation of disgust, but saw at once that his idea was a feasible one.
The hair was matted together in an inextricable mass, and could be trusted
to hang together.
He accordingly set to work to cut it off close to the head; but although
his knife was a sharp one it was a long and unpleasant task, and nothing
but the necessity of the case could have nerved him to get through with
At last it was finished, and he looked at his work with complacency.
"That's a magnificent wig," he said. "I defy the best barber in the world
to make such a natural one. Now for the bear."
This was a long task; but at last the bear was skinned, and Dick set to to
clean, as well as he could, the inside of the hide. Then he dragged into a
corner and covered up the carcass of the bear and the body of the fakir,
having first stripped the clothes off the latter, scattered a little straw
over the bear's skin, and then, his task being finished, he crept behind
the logs again, lay down, and went off to sleep by the side of Ned. It was
getting dark when he awoke. Ned was awake, and was sitting up by his side.
Outside, the din of battle, the ceaseless crack of the rifle, and the roar
of cannon was going on as usual, without interruption.
"How do you feel now, Ned?" Dick asked.
"All right, Dick. I have got a biggish bump on the side of my head, and
feel a little muddled still, but that is nothing. I can't think of any
plan for escaping from this place, Dick, nor of getting hold of a
disguise; for even if we could get out of this place and neighborhood we
must be detected, and in this town it is of no use trying to beg for
shelter or aid."
"It is all arranged," Dick said cheerfully. "I have got two of the best
disguises in the world, and we have only to dress up in them and walk
Ned looked at Dick as if he thought that he had gone out of his mind.
"You don't believe me? Just you wait, then, two minutes, till I have
dressed up, and then I'll call you;" and without waiting for an answer,
Dick went out.
He speedily stripped to the waist, rubbed some mud from the damp floor on
his arms, wound the fakir's rags round his body with a grimace of disgust,
put the wig on his head--his hair, like that of all the garrison, had been
cut as close to the head as scissors would take it--shook the long,
knotted hair over his face and shoulders--behind it hung to the waist--
took the staff in his hand, and called quietly to Ned to come out. Ned
crept out, and remained petrified with astonishment.
"The fakir!" he exclaimed at last. "Good heavens, Dick! is that you?"
"It's me, sure enough," Dick said, taking off his wig. "Here is a wig in
which the sharpest eyes in the world could not detect you."
"But where--" began Ned, still lost in surprise.
"My dear Ned, I have borrowed from the fakir. It was not quite a nice
job," he went on, in answer to Ned's astonished look, "but it's over now,
and we need not say any more about it. The hair and rags are disgustingly
filthy, there is no doubt about that. Their late owner never used a comb,
and was otherwise beastly in his habits; still, old man, that cannot be
helped, and if you like, when we once get out of the town, we can put them
in water for twenty-four hours, or make a sort of oven, and bake them to
get rid of their inhabitants. Our lives are at stake, Ned, and we must not
"Right, old boy," Ned said, making a great effort to overcome his first
sensation of disgust. "As you say, it is a trifle. You have hit upon a
superb idea, Dick, superb; and I think you have saved our lives from what
seemed a hopeless scrape. But what is your other disguise?"
"This," Dick said, lifting the bear's skin. "I can get into this, and if
we travel at night, so that I can walk upright, for I never could travel
far on all-fours, I should pass well enough, as I could lie curled up by
your side in the daytime, and no one will ask a holy fakir any troublesome
questions. I don't think you could get into the skin, Ned, or I would
certainly take the fakir for choice; for it will be awfully hot in this
"I don't mind doing the fakir a bit," Ned said. "Fortunately the sun has
done his work, and the color of our skins can be hidden by a good coat of
dirt, which will look as natural as possible. Now let us set about it at
It took an hour's preparation; for, although Ned's toilet was quickly
made, needing in fact nothing but a coating of mud, it took some time to
sew Dick up in the skin, the opening being sewn up by means of the small
blade of the knife and some string. It was by this time quite dark, and
the operation had been completed so perfectly that once Ned was dressed
they had no fear whatever of interruption.
"Now, Ned, before we go I will set fire to the straw. I don't suppose any
one will go down and. make any discoveries, but they may be looking for
wood, so it's as well to prevent accidents. We will throw that big piece
of matting over the opening in the floor, so the light won't show till we
get well away."
He ran down the ladder, struck a match, lit the straw, and then ran
quickly up again. The mat was dragged across the opening, and then the
boys went boldly out into the yard, Ned striding along, and Dick trotting
on all-fours beside him. The night was dark, and although there were many
men in the yard, sitting about on the ground round fires, no one noticed
the boys, who, turning out through a gateway, took the road into the heart
OUT OF LUCKNOW.
One hundred yards or so after starting the disguised fakir and his bear
entered a locality teeming with troops, quartered there in order to be
close at hand to the batteries, to assist to repel sorties, or to join in
attacks. Fortunately the night was very dark, and the exceedingly awkward
and unnatural walk of the bear passed unseen. Over and over again they
were challenged and shouted to, but the hoarse "Hoo-Hac," which is the cry
of the fakirs, and the ring of the iron-bound staff with its clanking
rings on the ground, were a sufficient pass.
Ned guessed, from the fact of their having been met with so close to the
fort, that the fakir and his bear would be well known to the mutineers;
and this proved to be the case.
Several of the men addressed him, but he waved his arm, shook his head
angrily, and strode on; and as fakirs frequently pretend to be absorbed in
thought, and unwilling to converse, the soldiers fell back. Beyond this,
the streets were deserted. The most populous native quarter lay far away,
and few of the inhabitants, save of the lowest classes, cared to be about
the streets after nightfall.
The instant that they were in a quiet quarter Dick rose on to his feet.
"My goodness," he whispered to Ned, "that all-fours' work is enough to
break one's back, Ned."
They now struck sharply to the left, presently crossed the wide street
leading from the Cawnpore Bridge, and kept on through quiet lanes until
they came to the canal. This would be the guide they wanted, and they
followed it along, taking nearly the route which General Havelock
afterward followed in his advance, until they came to a bridge across the
canal. Once over, they were, they knew, fairly safe. They kept on at a
rapid walk until well in the country, and then sat down by the roadside
for a consultation as to their best course of proceeding. The lads were
both of opinion that the dangers which would lie in the way of their
reaching Cawnpore would be very great. This road was now occupied by great
numbers of troops, determined to bar the way to Lucknow against General
Havelock. They had advanced without question, because it was natural that
Sepoys should be making their way from Cawnpore to Lucknow; but it would
not be at all natural that a fakir should at this time be going in the
opposite direction. Moreover--and this weighed very strongly with them--
they knew that General Havelock would advance with a force wholly
inadequate to the task before him; and they thought that even should he
succeed in getting into Lucknow, he would be wholly unable to get out
again, hampered, as he would be, with sick, wounded, women, and children.
In that case he would have to continue to hold Lucknow until a fresh
relieving force arrived, and the lads had already had more than enough of
the confinement and horrors of a siege such as that of Cawnpore.
Animated by these considerations, they determined to push to Delhi, where
they hoped that they might arrive in time to see the end of the siege, at
whose commencement they had been present.
No suspicion would be likely to be excited by their passage through that
line of country, which, indeed, would be found altogether denuded of the
enemy's troops, for all the regiments that had mutinied along this line
had marched off, either to Delhi or Lucknow, and the country was in the
hands of the zemindars, who would neither suspect nor molest a wandering
fakir. It certainly was unusual for a fakir to be accompanied by a bear,
but as the fakir they had killed had a bear with him, it was clearly by no
means impossible. Dick protested that it was absolutely essential that
they should walk at night, for that he would be detected at once in the
"I vote that we walk all night, Ned, and make our thirty-five or forty
miles, then turn in, hide up all day. In the evening when it gets quite
dusk, we can go into the outskirts of a village. Then you will begin to
shout, and I will lie down, as if tired, by you. They will bring you lots
of grub, under the idea that you will give them charms, and so on, next
day. When the village is asleep, we will go on. You can easily ask for
cloth--I am sure your rags are wretched enough--and then I can dress at
night, after setting out from each village, in native dress, for it would
be awful to walk far in this skin; besides, my feet are as uncomfortable
This plan was agreed upon, and they struck across country for the main
Delhi road, Dick slipping out of his bear's skin, and simply wearing it
wrapped loosely round him.
The Warreners had been accustomed to such incessant labor at Lucknow that
they had no difficulty in keeping going all night. As day was breaking
they retired into a tope of trees and threw themselves down, Dick first
taking the precaution to get into the bear's skin and lace it up, in case
of surprise. It was of course hot, but at least it kept off flies and
other insects; and as it was quite loose for him, it was not so hot as it
would have been had it fitted more tightly. The lads were both utterly
fatigued, and in a very few minutes were fast asleep.
It was late in the afternoon before they awoke, and although extremely
hungry, they were forced to wait until it became dusk before proceeding on
At the first village at which they arrived they sat down near the first
house, and Ned began to strike his staff to the ground and to shout "Hoo-
Hac" with great vehemence. Although the population were for the most part
Mussulmen, there were many Hindoos everywhere scattered about, and these
at once came out and formed a ring round the holy man. Some bore torches,
and Dick played his part by sitting up and rocking uneasily, in the manner
of a bear, and then lying down and half-covering his face with his paw,
went apparently to sleep.
"The servant of Siva is hungry," Ned said, "and would eat. He wants
cloth;" and he pointed to the rags which scarce held together over his
shoulder. Supplies of parched grain and of baked cakes were brought him,
and a woman carried up a sick child and a length of cloth. Ned passed his
hand over the child's face, and by that and the heat of her hand judged
that she had fever. First, after the manner of a true fakir, he mumbled
some sentence which no one could understand. Then in silence he breathed a
sincere prayer that the child might be restored to health. After this he
bade the mother give her cooling drinks made of rice water and acid fruit,
to keep her cool, and to damp her hands and face from time to time; and
then he signified by a wave of his hand that he would be alone.
The villagers all retired, and the lads made a hearty meal; then taking
what remained of the food, they started on their night's journey, pausing
in a short time for Dick to get out of his skin, and to wrap himself from
head to foot in the dark blue cotton cloth that the woman had given.
"I felt like an impostor, getting that cloth under false pretenses, Dick."
"Oh, nonsense," Dick said. "The woman gave it for what the fakir could do,
and I am sure your advice was better than the fakir would have given, so
she is no loser. If ever we come on one of these sort of trips again we
will bring some quinine and some strong pills, and then we really may do
Dick took no pains about coloring his face or hands, for both were burned
so brown with exposure to the sun that he had no fear that a casual glance
at them at night, even in torchlight, would detect that he was not a
"Now, Ned, I promised to stop for twenty-four hours, if you liked, to soak
that head of hair in a pond; what do you say?"
"No," Ned said; "it is terribly filthy, but we will waste no time. To-
morrow, when we halt, we will try and make an oven and bake it. I will try
to-morrow to get a fresh cloth for myself, and throw these horrible rags
away. Even a fakir must have a new cloth sometimes."
They made a very long march that night; and had the next evening a success
equal to that of the night before. Another long night-tramp followed, and
on getting up at the end of the day's sleep Ned collected some dry sticks
and lit a fire. Then he made a hole in the ground, and filled it with
glowing embers. When the embers were just extinct he cleared them out,
took off his wig, rolled it up, and put it into the hot oven he had thus
prepared, and covered the top in with a sod. Then carefully looking to see
that no natives were in sight, he threw away his old rags, and Dick and he
enjoyed a dip in a small irrigation tank close to the wood. After this Ned
again smeared himself over with mud, and sat down in the sun to dry. Then
he dressed himself in the cloth that had been given him the night before,
opened his oven, took out the wig, gave it a good shake, and put it on,
saying, "Thank God, I feel clean again; I have had the horrors for the
last three days, Dick."
In the three nights' journey the boys had traveled a hundred and eleven
miles, and were now close to Ferruckabad, a town of considerable size.
They pursued their usual tactics--entered it after dusk, and sat down near
the outskirts. The signal calls were answered as before, and a number of
the faithful gathered round with their simple offerings of food.
As they began stating their grievances, Ned as usual warned them off with
a brief "to-morrow" when he saw outside the group of Hindoos two or three
These moved closely up, and contemplated the wild-looking fakir, with his
tangled hair and his eyes peering out through the tangle. One of them
looked at the bear for some time attentively, and then said:
"That is no bear; it is a man in a bear's skin."
Ned had feared that the discovery might be made, and had from the first
had his answer ready.
"Fool," he said in a loud, harsh voice, "who with his eyes in his head
supposed that it was a bear? It is one who has sinned and is under a vow.
Dogs like you know naught of these things, but the followers of Siva
"Do you call me a dog?" said the Mussulman angrily, and strode forward as
if to strike; but Ned leaped to his feet, and twirling his staff round his
head, brought it down with such force on the soldier's wrist that it
nearly broke the arm. The Hindoos began to shout "Sacrilege!" as the
Mussulman drew his pistol. Before he could fire, however, his comrades
threw themselves upon him. At this time it was the policy of Hindoos and
Mussulmans alike to drop all religious differences, and the troopers knew
that any assault upon a holy fakir would excite to madness the Hindoo
The furious Mohammedan was therefore dragged away by his fellows, and Ned
calmly resumed his seat. The Hindoos brought a fresh supply of food for
the holy man expiating his sin in so strange a way, and then left the
fakir to his meditation and his rest.
Half an hour later the Warreners were on their way, and before morning
congratulated themselves upon having done more than half of the two
hundred and eighty miles which separate Lucknow from Delhi. The remaining
distance took them, however, much longer than the first part had done, for
Dick cut his foot badly against a stone the next night, and was so lamed
that the night journeys had to be greatly shortened. Instead, therefore,
of arriving in eight days, as they had hoped, it was the 3d of September--
that is, thirteen days from their start--before they saw in the distance
the British flag flying on the watch tower on the Ridge. They had made a
long detour, and came in at the rear of the British position. On this side
the country was perfectly open, and the villagers brought in eggs and
other produce to the camp.
Upon the 25th of August the enemy had sent a force of six thousand men to
intercept the heavy siege train which was on its way to the British camp
from the Punjaub. Brigadier-General Nicholson, one of the most gallant and
promising officers of the British army, was sent out against them with a
force of two thousand men, of which only one-fourth were British. He met
them at Nujufghur and routed them, capturing all their guns, thirteen in
number. A curious instance here occurred of the manner in which the least
courageous men will fight when driven to bay. The army of six thousand men
had made so poor a fight that the British loss in killed and wounded
amounted to only thirty-three men. After it was over it was found that a
party of some twenty rebels had taken shelter in a house in a village in
the British rear. The Punjaub infantry was sent to drive them out, but its
commanding officer and many of its men were killed by the desperate
handful of mutineers. The Sixty-first Queen's was then ordered up, but the
enemy was not overpowered until another officer was dangerously wounded
and many had fallen. Altogether the victory over this little band of men
cost us sixteen killed and forty-six wounded--that is to say, double the
loss which had been incurred in defeating six thousand of them in the
open. The result of this engagement was that the road in the rear of the
British camp was perfectly open, and the Warreners experienced no
hindrance whatever in approaching the camp.
Dick had, after crossing the Oude frontier, left his bear's skin behind
him, and adopted the simple costume of a native peasant, the blue cloth
and a white turban, Ned having begged a piece of white cotton for the
purpose. Traveling only at night, when the natives wrap themselves up very
much, there was little fear of Dick's color being detected; and as he kept
himself well in the background during the short time of an evening when
Ned appeared in public, he had passed without attracting any attention
The Warreners' hearts leaped within them on beholding, on the afternoon of
the 3d of September, a party of British cavalry trotting along the road,
two miles from camp.
"It is the Guides," Ned said. "We know the officer, Dick. Keep on your
disguise a minute longer; we shall have some fun."
Ned accordingly stood in the middle of the road and shouted his "Hoo-Hac!"
at the top of his voice.
"Get out of the way, you old fool," the officer riding at its head said,
as he drew up his horse on seeing the wild figure, covered with shaggy
hair to the waist, twirling his formidable staff.
Ned stopped a moment. "Not a bit more of an old fool than you are
yourself, Tomkins," he said.
The officer reined his horse back in his astonishment. He had spoken in
English unconsciously, and being answered in the same language, and from
such a figure as this, naturally petrified him.
"Who on earth are you?" he asked.
"Ned Warrener; and this is my brother Dick;" and Ned pulled off his wig.
"By Jove!" the officer said, leaping from his horse; "I am glad to see
you. Where on earth have you come from? Some one who came up here from
Allahabad had seen some fellow there who had come down from Cawnpore, and
he reported that you had gone on into Lucknow in disguise, and that news
had come you had got safely in."
"So we did," Ned said; "and as you see, we have got safely out again. We
left there on the night of the 20th."
"And what was the state of things then?" Lieutenant Tomkins asked. "How
long could they hold out? We know that it will be another three weeks
before Havelock can hope to get there."
"Another three weeks!" Ned said. "That is terrible. They were hard pushed
indeed when we left; the enemy were driving mines in all directions; the
garrison were getting weaker and weaker every day, and the men fit for
duty were worked to death. It seems next to impossible that they could
hold out for another four or five weeks from the time we left them; but if
it can be done, they will do it. Do you happen to have heard of our
"The man that brought the news about you said he was all right and hearty,
and the troop was doing good work in scouring the country round Cawnpore.
Now will you ride back and report yourself to General Wilson?" So saying,
he ordered two of the troopers to dismount and walk back to camp.
Ned had thrown down the wig when he took it off; but before mounting Dick
picked it up, rolled it up into a little parcel, and said:
"It is my first effort in wig-making, and as it has saved our lives I'll
keep it as long as I live, as a memento; besides, who knows? it may be
useful again yet."
Quite an excitement was created in the camp behind the Ridge by the
arrival of the Guide cavalry with two Englishmen in native dress, and the
news that they were officers from Lucknow quickly spread.
The cavalry drew up at their own lines, and then dismounting, Lieutenant
Tomkins at once sent an orderly to the general with the news, while the
boys were taken inside a tent, and enjoyed the luxury of a bath, and a
message was sent round to the officers of the regiment, which rapidly
resulted in sufficient clothes being contributed to allow the boys to make
their appearance in the garb of British officers.
A curry and a cup of coffee were ready for them by the time they were
dressed, and these were enjoyed indeed after a fortnight's feeding upon
uncooked grain, varied only by an occasional piece of native bread or
cake. The hasty meal concluded, they accompanied Lieutenant Tomkins to the
They were most cordially received by General Wilson; and omitting all
details, they gave him an account of their having been cut off during a
successful sortie from Lucknow, and having made their way to Delhi in
disguise. Then they proceeded to describe fully the state of affairs at
Lucknow, a recital which was at once interesting and important, inasmuch
as though several native messengers had got through from Lucknow to
General Havelock, as none of them carried letters--for these would have
insured their death if searched--they had brought simply messages from
General Inglis asking for speedy help, and their stories as to the
existent state of things in the garrison were necessarily vague and
The most satisfactory portion of the boys' statement was, that although
the garrison were now on short rations, and that all the comforts, and
many of what are regarded as almost the necessaries of life, were
exhausted, yet that there was plenty of grain in the place to enable the
besieged to exist for some weeks longer.
"The great fear is that some essential part of the defense may be
destroyed by mines," Ned concluded. "Against open attacks I think that the
garrison is safe; but the enemy are now devoting themselves so much to
driving mines that however great the care and vigilance of the garrison,
they may not be always able to detect them, or, even if they do so, to run
counter-mines, owing to the numerical weakness of our force."
"Thanks for your description, gentlemen; it throws a great light upon the
state of affairs, and is very valuable. I will at once telegraph a
_resumé_ of it to the central government and to General Havelock. The
pressing need of aid will no doubt impress the Calcutta authorities with
the urgent necessity to place General Havelock in a position to make an
advance at the earliest possible moment. He will, of course, communicate
to Colonel Warrener the news of your safe arrival here. You have gone
through a great deal indeed since you left here, while we have been doing
little more than hold our own. However, the tide has turned now. We have
received large reinforcements and our siege train; and I hope that in the
course of a fortnight the British flag will once again wave over Delhi. In
the meantime you will, at any rate for a few days, need rest. I will leave
you for a day with your friends of the Guides, and will then attach you to
one of the divisional staffs. I hope that you will both dine with me to-
That evening at dinner the Warreners met at the general's table General
Nicholson, whose chivalrous bravery placed him on a par with Outram, who
was called the Bayard of the British army. He was short of staff officers,
and did not wish to weaken the fighting powers of the regiments of his
division by drawing officers from them. He therefore asked General Wilson
to attach the Warreners to his personal staff. This request was at once
complied with. Their new chief assured them that for the present he had no
occasion for their services, and that they were at liberty to do as they
pleased until the siege operations began in earnest. The next few days
were accordingly spent, as Dick said, in eating and talking.
Every regiment in camp was anxious to hear the tale of the siege of
Lucknow, and of the Warreners' personal experience in entering and leaving
the besieged Residency; and accordingly they dined, lunched, or
breakfasted by turns with every mess in camp. They were indeed the heroes
of the day; and the officers were much pleased at the simplicity with
which these gallant lads told their adventures, and at the entire absence
of any consciousness that they had done anything out of the way. In fact,
they rather regarded the whole business as two schoolboys might regard
some adventure in which they had been engaged, Dick, in particular,
regarding all their adventures, with the exception only of the sufferings
of the garrison of Lucknow, in the light of an "immense lark."
In the meantime, the troops were working day and night in the trenches and
batteries, under the directions of the engineer officers; and every heart
beat high with satisfaction that, after standing for months on the
defensive, repelling continual attacks of enormously superior numbers, at
last their turn had arrived, and that the day was at hand when the long-
deferred vengeance was to fall upon the bloodstained city.
THE STORMING OF DELHI.
On the morning of the 8th of September the battery, eight hundred yards
from the Moree gate of Delhi, opened fire, and sent the first battering
shot against the town which had for three months been besieged. Hitherto,
indeed, light shot, shell, and shrapnel had been fired at the gunners on
the walls to keep down their fire, and the city and palace had been
shelled by the mortar batteries; but not a shot had been fired with the
object of injuring the walls or bringing the siege to an end.
For three months the besiegers had stood on the offensive, and the enemy
not only held the city, but had erected very strong works in the open
ground in front of the Lahore gate, and had free ingress and egress from
the town at all points save from the gates on the north side, facing the
British position on the Ridge. During these three long months, however,
the respective position of the parties had changed a good deal. For the
first month the mutineers were elated with their success all over that
part of India. They were intoxicated with treason and murder; and their
enormous numbers in comparison with those of the British troops in the
country made them not only confident of success, but arrogant in the
belief that success was already assured. Gradually, however, the failure
of all their attempts, even with enormously superior forces, to drive the
little British force from the grip which it so tenaciously held of the
hill in front of Delhi, damped the ardor of their enthusiasm. Doubts as to
whether, after all, their mutiny and their treachery would meet with
eventual success, and fear that punishment for their atrocities would
finally overtake them, began for the first time to enter their minds.
Quarrels and strife broke out between the various leaders of the movement,
and pitched battles were fought between the men of different corps. Then
came pestilence and swept the crowded quarters. A reign of terror
prevailed throughout the city; the respectable inhabitants were robbed and
murdered, shops were burst open and sacked, and riot and violence reigned
The puppet monarch, terrified at the disorder that prevailed, and finding
his authority was purely nominal--the real power resting in the hands of
his own sons, who had taken a leading share in getting up the revolt, and
in those of the Sepoy generals--began to long for rest and quiet. The
heavy shell which from time to time crashed into his palace disturbed his
peace, and, through his wives, he secretly endeavored to open negotiations
with the British. These overtures were, however, rejected. The king had no
power whatever, and he and his household were all concerned in the
massacres which had taken place in the palace itself.
It was then, by an army which, however small, was confident of victory,
against one which, however large, was beginning to doubt that final
success would be theirs, that the siege operations began on the morning of
the 8th of September. Thenceforth the besiegers worked night and day.
Every night saw fresh batteries rising at a distance of only three hundred
yards from the walls; fifteen hundred camels brought earth; three thousand
men filled sandbags, placed fascines, and erected traverses for the guns.
The batteries rose as if by magic. The besieged viewed these preparations
with a strange apathy. They might at the commencement of the work have
swept the ground with such a shower of grape and musketry fire that the
erection of batteries so close to their walls would have been impossible;
but for the first three nights of the work they seemed to pay but little
heed to what we were doing, and when at last they awoke to the nature of
our proceedings, and began a furious cannonade against the British, the
works had reached a height that afforded shelter to those employed upon
them. Each battery, as fast as the heavy siege guns were placed in
position, opened upon the walls, until forty heavy guns thundered
The enemy now fought desperately. Our fire overpowered that of the guns at
the bastions opposed to them; but from guns placed out in the open, on our
flank, they played upon our batteries, while from the walls a storm of
musketry fire and rockets was poured upon us. But our gunners worked away
unceasingly. Piece by piece the massive walls crumbled under our fire,
until, on the 13th, yawning gaps were torn through the walls of the
Cashmere and Water bastions. That night four engineer officers--Medley,
Long, Greathead, and Home--crept forward and examined the breaches, and
returned, reporting that it would be possible to climb the heaps of
rubbish and enter at the gaps in the wall. Orders were at once issued for
the assault to take place at daybreak next morning.
The assaulting force was divided into four columns; the first, composed of
three hundred men of the Seventy-fifth Regiment, two hundred and fifty men
of the First Bengal Fusiliers, and four hundred and fifty men of the
Second Punjaub Infantry--in all one thousand men, under Brigadier-General
Nicholson, were to storm the breach near the Cashmere bastion. The second
column, consisting of two hundred and fifty men of the Eighth Regiment,
two hundred and fifty men of the Second Bengal Fusiliers, and three
hundred and fifty men of the Fourth Sikh Infantry, under Colonel Jones,
Q.B., were to storm the breach in the Water bastion. The third column,
consisting of two hundred men of the Fifty-second Regiment, two hundred
and fifty men of the Ghoorka Kumaan battalion, and five hundred men of the
First Punjaub Infantry, under Colonel Campbell, were to assault by the
Cashmere gate, which was to be blown open by the engineers. The fourth
column, eight hundred and sixty strong, was made up of detachments of
European regiments, the Sirmoor battalion of Ghoorkas, and the Guides. It
was commanded by Major Reed, and was to carry the suburb outside the
walls, held by the rebels, called Kissengunge, and to enter the city by
the Lahore gate. In addition to the four storming columns was the reserve,
fifteen hundred strong, under Brigadier Longfield. It consisted of two
hundred and fifty men of the Sixty-first Regiment, three hundred of the
Beloochee battalion, four hundred and fifty of the Fourth Punjab Infantry,
three hundred of the Jhind Auxiliary Force, and two hundred of the
Sixtieth Rifles, who were to cover with their fire the advance of the
storming column, and then to take their places with the reserves. This
body was to await the success of the storming column, and then follow them
into the city, and assist them as required. The cavalry and the rest of
the force were to cover the flank and defend the Ridge, should the enemy
attempt a counter attack.
Precisely at four o'clock on the morning of the 14th, the Sixtieth Rifles
dashed forward in skirmishing order toward the walls, and the heads of the
assaulting columns moved out of the batteries, which had until this moment
kept up their fire without intermission.
The Warreners were on duty by the side of General Nicholson; and
accustomed as they were to danger, their hearts beat fast as they awaited
the signal. It was to be a tremendous enterprise--an enterprise absolutely
unrivaled in history--for five thousand men to assault a city garrisoned
by some thirty thousand trained troops, and a fanatical and turbulent
population of five hundred thousand, all, it may be said, fighting with
ropes round their necks.
As the Rifles dashed forward in front, and the head of the column
advanced, a terrific fire of musketry broke out from wall and bastion,
which the British, all necessity for concealment being over, answered with
a tremendous cheer as they swept forward. Arrived at the ditch there was a
halt. It took some time to place the ladders, and officers and men fell
fast under the hail of bullets. Then as they gathered in strength in the
ditch there was one wild cheer, and they dashed up the slope of rubbish
and stones, and passed through the breach.
The entrance to Delhi was won.
Scrambling breathlessly up, keeping just behind their gallant general, the
Warreners were among the first to win their way into the city.
An equally rapid success had attended the assault upon the breach in the
Water bastion by the second column. Nor were the third far behind in the
assault through the Cashmere gate, But here a deed had first to be done
which should live in the memories of Englishmen so long as we exist as a
As the head of the assaulting column moved forward a little party started
at the double toward the Cashmere gate. The party consisted of Lieutenants
Home and Salkeld, of the Royal Engineers, and Sergeants Smith and
Carmichael, and Corporal Burgess, of the same corps; Bugler Hawthorne of
the Fifty-second regiment; and twenty-four native sappers and miners under
Havildars Mahor and Tilluh Sing. Each of the sappers carried a bag of
powder, and, covered by such shelter as the fire of the Sixtieth
skirmishers could give them, they advanced to the gate. This gate stands
close to an angle in the wall, and from the parapets a storm of musketry
fire was poured upon them. When they reached the ditch they found the
drawbridge destroyed, but crossed in single file upon the beams on which
it rested. The gate was of course closed, but a small postern-door beside
it was open, and through this the mutineers added a heavy fire to that
which streamed from above. The sappers laid their bags against the gate,
and slipped down into the ditch to allow the firing party to do their
work. Many had already fallen. Sergeant Carmichael was shot dead as he
laid down his powder bag; Havildar Mahor was wounded. As Lieutenant
Salkeld tried to fire the fuse he fell, shot through the arm and leg;
while Havildar Tilluh Sing, who stood by, was killed, and Ramloll Sepoy
was wounded. As he fell Lieutenant Salkeld handed the slow match to
Corporal Burgess, who lit the fuse, but fell mortally wounded as he did
so. Then those who survived jumped, or were helped, into the ditch, and in
another moment a great explosion took place, and the Cashmere gate blew
into splinters, killing some forty mutineers who were behind it. Then
Lieutenant Home, seeing that the way was clear, ordered Bugler Hawthorne
to sound the advance, and the assaulting column came rushing forward with
a cheer, and burst through the gateway into the city.
Of the six Englishmen who took part in that glorious deed only two lived
to wear the Victoria cross, the reward of valor. Two had died on the spot,
and upon the other four General Wilson at once bestowed the cross; but
Lieutenant Salkeld died of his wounds, and Lieutenant Home was killed
within a week of the capture of the city. Thus only Sergeant Smith and
Bugler Hawthorne lived to wear the honor so nobly won.
General Nicholson, who was in general command of the whole force,
concentrated the two columns which had entered in a wide open space inside
the Cashmere gate, and then swept the enemy off the ramparts as far as the
Moree bastion, the whole of the north wall being now in the possession of
our troops. Then he proceeded to push on toward the Lahore gate, where he
expected to meet Major Reed with, the fourth column. This column had,
however, failed even to reach the Lahore gate, the enemy's position in the
suburb beyond the wall proving so strong, and being held by so numerous a
force, that, after suffering very heavily, the commander had to call back
his men, his retreat being covered by the cavalry.
Thus, as General Nicholson advanced through the narrow lane between the
wall and the houses, the column was swept by a storm of fire from window,
loophole, and housetop--a fire to which no effective reply was possible.
Then, just as he was in the act of cheering on his men, the gallant
soldier fell back in the arms of those behind him, mortally wounded. He
was carried off by his sorrowing soldiers, and lingered until the 26th of
the month, when, to the deep grief of the whole army, he expired.
It being evident that any attempt to force a path further in this
direction would lead to useless slaughter, and that the place must be won
step by step, by the aid of artillery, the troops were called back to the
A similar experience had befallen the third column, which had, guided by
Sir T. Metcalfe, who knew the city intimately, endeavored to make a
circuit so as to reach and carry the Jumma Musjid, the great mosque which
dominated the city. So desperate was the resistance experienced that this
column had also to fall back to the ramparts. The reserve column had
followed the third in at the Cashmere gate, and had, after some fighting,
possessed itself of some strong buildings in that neighborhood, most
important of which was a large and commanding house, the residence of
Achmed Ali Khan; and when the third column fell back Skinner's house, the
church, the magazine, and the main-guard were held, and guns were planted
to command the streets leading thereto. One cause of the slight advance
made that day was, that the enemy, knowing the weakness of the British
soldier, had stored immense quantities of champagne and other wines, beer,
and spirits in the streets next to the ramparts, and the troops--British,
Sikhs, Beloochees, and Ghoorkas alike--parched with thirst, and excited by
the sight of these long untasted luxuries, fell into the snare, and drank
so deeply that the lighting power of the force was for awhile very
On the 15th the stubborn fighting recommenced. From house to house our
troops fought their way; frequently, when the street was so swept by fire
that it was impossible to progress there, making their way by breaking
down the party walls, and so working from one house into another. During
this day guns and mortars were brought into the city from our batteries,
and placed so as to shell the palace and the great building called the
The next morning the Sixty-first Regiment and the Fourth Punjaub Rifles
made a rush at the great magazine, and the rebels were so stricken by
their rapidity and dash that they threw down their portfires and fled,
without even once discharging the cannon, which, crammed to the muzzle
with grape, commanded every approach. Here one hundred and twenty-five
cannon and an enormous supply of ammunition fell into our hands, and a
great many of the guns were at once turned against their late owners.
So day by day the fight went on. At night the sky was red with the flames
of burning houses, by day a pall of smoke hung over the city. From either
side cannon and mortars played unceasingly, while the rattle of musketry,
the crash of falling houses, the shrieks of women, the screams of
children, and the shouting of men mingled in a chaos of sounds. To the
credit of the British soldier be it said, that infuriated as they were by
the thirst for vengeance, the thought of the murdered women, and the heat
of battle, not a single case occurred, so far as is known, of a woman
being ill-treated, insulted, or fired upon--although the women had been
present in the massacres, and had constantly accompanied and cheered on
the sorties of the mutineers. To the Sepoys met with in Delhi no mercy was
shown; every man taken was at once bayoneted, and the same fate befell all
townsmen found fighting against us. The rest of the men, as well as the
women and children, were, after the fighting was over, permitted to leave
the city unmolested, although large numbers of them had taken share in the
sack of the white inhabitants' houses, and the murder of every Christian,
British or native, in the town. It would, however, have been impossible to
separate the innocent from the guilty; consequently all were allowed to go
From the time that the British troops burst through the breaches, an
exodus had begun from the gates of the town on the other side, and across
the bridge over the Jumna. Our heavy guns could have destroyed this
bridge, and our cavalry might have swept round the city and cut off the
retreat on the other side; but the proverb that it is good to build a
bridge for a flying foe was eminently applicable here. Had the enemy felt
their retreat cut off--had they known that certain death awaited them
unless they could drive us out of the city, the defense would have been so
desperate that it would have been absolutely impossible for the British
forces to have accomplished it. The defense of some of the Spanish towns
in the Peninsular war by the inhabitants, lighting from house to house
against French armies, showed what could be effected by desperate men
lighting in narrow streets; and the loss inflicted on our troops at
Nujufghur by twenty Sepoys was another evidence of the inexpediency of
driving the enemy to despair. As it was, the rebels after the first day
fought feebly, and were far from making the most of the narrow streets and
strongly-built houses. No one liked to be the first to retreat, but all
were resolved to make off at the earliest opportunity. Men grew
distrustful of each other, and day by day the desertions increased, the
resistance diminished, and the districts held by the rebels grew smaller
and smaller. It is true that by thus allowing tens of thousands of rebels
to escape we allowed them to continue the war in the open country, but
here, as it afterward proved, they were contemptible foes, and their
defeat did not cost a tithe of the loss which would have resulted in their
extermination within the walls of Delhi.
Up to the 20th the palace still held out. This was a fortress in itself,
mounting many cannon on its walls, and surrounded by an open park-like
space. On that morning the engineers began to run a trench, to enable a
battery to be erected to play upon the Lahore gate of the palace. Before,
however, they had been long at work, a party of men of the Sixty-first,
with some Sikhs and Ghoorkas, ran boldly forward, and taking shelter under
a low wall close to the gate, opened fire at the embrasures and loopholes.
The answering fire was so weak that Colonel Jones, who was in command of
the troops in this quarter--convinced that the report that the king with
his wives and family, and the greater part of the garrison of the palace,
had already left was true--determined upon blowing in the gate at once.
Lieutenant Home was appointed to lead the party told off for the duty,
which was happily effected without loss. The British rushed in, and found
three guns loaded to the muzzle placed in the gateway, but fortunately the
Sepoys who should have fired them had fled.
The news that the palace was taken spread rapidly, and there was a rush to
share in the spoil. But few of the enemy were found inside; these were at
once bayoneted, and then a general scramble ensued. The order had been
given that no private plundering should be allowed, but that everything
taken should be collected, and sold for the general benefit of the troops.
Orders like this are, however, never observed, at any rate with portable
articles; and Sikhs, Ghoorkas, and British alike, loaded themselves with
spoil. Cashmere shawls worth a hundred pounds were sold for five
shillings, silk dresses might be had for nothing, and jewelry went for
less than the value of the setting.
The same day the headquarters of the army were removed to the palace of
Delhi. As the Union Jack of England ran up the flagstaff on the palace so
lately occupied by the man crowned by the rebels Emperor of India, the
seat and headquarters of the revolt which had deluged the land with blood,
and caused the rule of England to totter, a royal salute was fired by the
British guns, and tremendous cheers arose from the troops in all parts of
The raising of that flag, the booming of those guns, were the signal of
the deathblow of the Indian mutiny. Over one hundred thousand rebels were
still in arms against the British government, but the heart of the
insurrection was gone. It was no longer a war, it was a rebellion. There
was no longer a head, a center, or a common aim. Each body of mutineers
fought for themselves--for life rather than for victory. The final issue
of the struggle was now certain; and all the native princes who had
hitherto held aloof, watching the issue of the fight at Delhi, and
remaining neutral until it was decided whether the Sepoys could pluck up
the British flag from the Ridge, or the British tear down the emblem of
rebellion from above the palace of Delhi, hesitated no longer, but
hastened to give in their allegiance to the victorious power.
Nothing has been said as to the part the Warreners bore in that fierce six
days' fighting. They did their duty, as did every other man in the British
army, but they had no opportunity for specially distinguishing themselves.
As staff officers, they had often to carry messages to troops engaged in
stubborn fight, and in doing so to dash across open spaces, and run the
gantlet of a score of musket balls; both, however, escaped without a
scratch. They had not been present on the occasion of the taking of the
palace, for they had been at early morning on the point of going in to the
headquarters for orders, when Captain Hodgson came out. They had dined
with him on the day previous to the assault, and he came up them now.
"Now," he said, "I am just going on an expedition after your own hearts,
lads. We have news that the king and queen have stolen away, and have gone
to the palace at the Kotub Minar. I am going with my troops to bring them
in. Would you like to go?"
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