jueves, 4 de junio de 2009

Imperial romances for the young

Just after daybreak there was a dull, deep report, and a cloud of gray smoke rose over the city. Nana Sahib had ordered the great magazine to be blown up, and had fled for his life to Bithoor. Well might he be hopeless.
He had himself commanded at the battle of the preceding day, and had seen eleven thousand of his countrymen, strongly posted, defeated by a thousand Englishmen. What chance, then, could there be of final success? As for himself, his life was a thousandfold forfeit; and even yet his enemies did not know the measure of his atrocities. It was only when the head of the British column arrived at the Subada Khotee that the awful truth became known. The troops halted, surprised that no welcome greeted them. They entered the courtyard; all was hushed and quiet, but fragments of dresses, children's shoes, and other remembrances of British occupation, lay
scattered about. Awed and silent, the leading officers entered the house, and, after a glance found, recoiled with faces white with horror. The floor was deep in blood; the walls were sprinkled thickly with it.

Fragments of clothes, tresses of long hair, children's shoes with the feet still in them--a thousand terrible and touching mementos of the butchery which had taken place there met the eye. Horror-struck and sickened, the officers returned into the courtyard, to find that another discovery had been made, namely, that the great well near the house was choked to the brim with the bodies of women and children. Not one had escaped.

On the afternoon of the 15th, when the defeat at Futtehpore was known, the Nana had given orders for a general massacre of his helpless prisoners. There, in this ghastly well, were the remains, not only of those who had so far survived the siege and first massacre of Cawnpore, but of some seventy or eighty women and children, fugitives from Futteyghur. These had, with their husbands, fathers and friends, a hundred and thirty in all, reached Cawnpore in boats on the 12th of July. Here the boats had been fired upon and forced to put to shore, when the men were, by the Nairn's orders, all butchered, and the women and children sent to share the fate of the prisoners of Cawnpore.

Little wonder is it that the soldiers, who had struggled against heat and fatigue and a host of foes to reach Cawnpore, broke clown and cried like children at that terrible sight; that soldiers picked up the bloody relics--a handkerchief, a lock of hair, a child's sock sprinkled with blood--and kept them to steel their hearts to all thoughts of mercy; and that, after this, they went into battle crying to each other: "Remember the ladies!" "Remember the babies!" "Think of Cawnpore!"
Henceforth, to the end of the war, no quarter was ever shown to a Sepoy.

G. A. Henty

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