HOW BAHADUR SHAH PROCLAIMED HIS EMPIRE 39
ON THE WAY TO CAWNPORE 54
A WOMAN INTERVENES 72
THE WELL 91
TO LUCKNOW 110
WHEREIN A MOHAMMEDAN FRATERNIZES WITH A BRAHMIN 131
A LONG CHASE 151
WHEREIN FATE PLAYS TRICKS WITH MALCOLM 169
A DAY'S ADVENTURES 190
THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM 210
THE MEN WHO WORE SKIRTS 227
WHY MALCOLM DID NOT WRITE 247
AT THE KING'S COURT 268
IN THE VORTEX 290
THE EXPIATION 309
_The Red Year_
THE MESHES OF THE NET
On a day in January, 1857, a sepoy was sitting by a well in the
cantonment of Dum-Dum, near Calcutta. Though he wore the uniform of John
Company, and his rank was the lowest in the native army, he carried on
his forehead the caste-marks of the Brahmin. In a word, he was more than
noble, being of sacred birth, and the Hindu officers of his regiment, if
they were not heaven-born Brahmins, would grovel before him in secret,
though he must obey their slightest order on parade or in the field.
To him approached a Lascar.
"Brother," said the newcomer, "lend me your brass pot, so that I may
drink, for I have walked far in the sun."
The sepoy started as though a snake had stung him. Lascars, the
sailor-men of India, were notoriously free-and-easy in their manners.
Yet how came it that even a low-caste mongrel of a Lascar should offer
such an overt insult to a Brahmin!
"Do you not know, swine-begotten, that your hog's lips would contaminate
my lotah?" asked he, putting the scorn of centuries into the words.
"Contaminate!" grinned the Lascar, neither frightened nor angered. "By
holy Ganga, it is your lips that are contaminated, not mine. Are not the
Government greasing your cartridges with cow's fat? And can you load
your rifle without biting the forbidden thing? Learn more about your own
caste, brother, before you talk so proudly to others."
Not a great matter, this squabble between a sepoy and a Lascar, yet it
lit such a flame in India that rivers of blood must be shed ere it was
quenched. The Brahmin's mind reeled under the shock of the retort. It
was true, then, what the agents of the dethroned King of Oudh were
saying in the bazaar. The Government were bent on the destruction of
Brahminical supremacy. He and his caste-fellows would lose all that made
life worth living. But they would exact a bitter price for their fall
from high estate.
"Kill!" he murmured in his frenzy, as he rushed away to tell his
comrades the lie that made the Indian Mutiny possible. "Slay and spare
not! Let us avenge our wrongs so fully that no accursed Feringhi shall
dare again to come hither across the Black Water!"
The lie and the message flew through India with the inconceivable speed
with which such ill tidings always travels in that country. Ever north
went the news that the British Raj was doomed. Hindu fakirs, aglow with
religious zeal, Mussalman zealots, as eager for dominance in this world
as for a houri-tenanted Paradise in the next, carried the fiery torch of
rebellion far and wide. And so the flame spread, and was fanned to red
fury, though the eyes of few Englishmen could see it, while native
intelligence was aghast at the supineness of their over-lords.
* * * * *
One evening in the month of April, a slim, straight-backed girl stood in
the veranda of a bungalow at Meerut. Her slender figure, garbed in white
muslin, was framed in a creeper-covered arch.