Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part3/Chapter 3

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CHAPTER III.
THE STRANGE FREAK.

AFTER enquiring of Gurgan Khan about sundry affairs the Nawab said——

“Rupture with the English seems to he the best course.To my mind Amyatt should be arrested before hostilities begin as he is my chief enemy. What do you say?”

“I am always ready for War,” said Gurgan Khan. “But an ambassador is inviolable and any ill-treatment of him will brand us with breach of faith. Moreover——”

“Last night,” interrupted the Nawab, “Amyatt attacked the house of a certain person in the town and forcibly carried the inmates away; why should I not punish a man who commits a crime within my dominions?—maybe he is an ambassador.”

“If he has done so, then certainly he is punishable. But how shall I arrest him?”

“Why, send some sepoys and guns to his house forthwith and have him arrested with all his party.”

“They are not in the town. They left at noon today.”

“How is that?——without giving any notice?”

“One Mr. Hay has been left behind to send the information.”

“What is the cause of this sudden departure without our permission? This is certainly an affront to us and they must have done it deliberately.”

“Last night some one killed the Englishman in charge of their boat of arms. Amyatt says our men have done it, hence he went away in anger. He says, life is unsafe in this place.”

“Do you know who has done it?”

“A man by name Protap Roy.”

“Extremely well done! When I find him I will reward him, where is he?”

“They have all been taken away under arrest; whether they have gone in the Eng1ishmen’s company, or have been sent to Patna, I am not sure.”

“ Why didn't you inform me about these things before?”

“ I have just now heard.”

This was false. Gurgan Khan knew everything from start to finish. Amyatt could on no account have left Monghyr without his permission. But Gurgan Khan had two objects in view: First, it was better Dalani should be out of Monghyr; next, it was desirable to keep Amyatt in hand a little——he might be of service later on.

The Nawah dismissed Gurgan Khan from his presence. While the latter retired the Nawab threw a furtive glance at him as if to say, “I will keep my own counsel for the present—you'are my chief weapon in the war; once it is over, I will pay off the debt of Dalani’s wrong with your blood.”

The Nawab then sent for the Chief Secretary and passed an order to the following effect :—

That a mandate should go to Mahammed Taqui Khan at Murshidabad to arrest Amyatt as soon as his boat reached Murshidabad and send his prisoners to the Nawab. It must be further noted that the matter is to be managed by skill, and not by open violence. The mandate should go via land route in the hands of a courier, so that it might reach beforehand.

On his return to the harem, the Nawab sent for Shaibalini again. “Just now,” said he, “your husband’s release cannot be effected. The Englishmen have started with him for Calcutta. I have sent orders to Murshidabad, they will be arrested there, you can now.”

Shaibalini broke in, and with folded hands said, “You will pardon the volubility of a woman’s tongue—could not they be captured if men were despatched now?”

“A handful of men will not do to capture the Englishmen, and a big boat is necessary to send more men with arms. The Englishmen are sure to reach Murshidabad before we can come up to them. Then again, who knows they would not kill the prisoners when they should find preparations going on for a serious struggle? There are clever officers at Murshidabad, they will manage the business by skill.”

Shaibalini knew her pretty face had stood her in good stead. Her handsome looks had procured the faith of the Nawab on her words and made him exceptionally kind, else why should he take the trouble of explaining so much? She felt emboldened, and with folded palms resumed——

“If you have been so very gracious to this helpless woman, you will kindly excuse another prayer of hers. My husband’s rescue is very easy. He is a brave man himself and if he had been armed the Englishmen could never have arrested him. Even now, if he gets arms, no one will he able to keep him under confinement. If some one could carry arms to him, not only would he extricate himself, but his companions as well.”

“You are a mere girl,” said the Nawab with a smile, “you do not know the English, who will dare carry arms to him in the Englishmen’s boat?”

“With your leave I will go myself,” softly muttered Shaibalini with down-cast looks.

The Nawab burst out into a loud laugh. At the sound of the laugh Shaibalini contracted her eyebrows and said, “My Lord! If I do not succeed, I shall die; no one will be the worse for it. But if I do succeed, then the object of both will have been gained.”

The frowning beauty of Shaibalini’s face convinced the Nawab that she was not an ordinary woman. “Let her die,” he said to himself, “if she will. What is that to me? If she succeeds, well and good; if not, Mahammad Taqui will finish the business at Murshidabad.” Then aloud he asked Shaibalini, “Will you go alone ? ”

“I am a woman, I cannot go alone. If you are so kind, then give me a serving-maid and a guard to accompany me.”

The Nawab thought for a while and sent for a trusty, srong, and courageous eunuch. The eunuch came and mde his bow. Addressing him the Nawab said, “Take Hindu maid-servant and go with this lady. Take any weapons she wants. Go to the overseer of boats and get a fast craft, and with these start for Murshidabad at once.”

“What particular work have I got to accomplish?” asked Masibuddin.

“Do whatever this lady asks you to,” said the Nawab.

“You shall respect her as a Begum. Should you come across Delani Begum, bring her with you.”

Then they both made their bow to the Nawab after the customary style and took their leave. Shaibalini imitated the eunuch and backed out with receding steps, touching the ground with her hand to make her salaam. The Nawab laughed.

While Shaibalini was going out the Nawab cried out to her, “Madam, remember, if you are ever in trouble, come to Mir Kasim.”

Shaibalini again made her bow and said to herself, “Certainly I shall come to you; may be, I shall come to you with Rupasi for a decision as to who should have Protap for her hushand.”

Masibuddin secured the serving-maid and the boat. According to Shaibalini’s instructions, he took muskets, shot, powder, pistols, swords, and daggers. He could not venture to enquire why they were taken and thought, "She must be a second Chand Sultana.”[1]

That very night they started in the boat.

  1. A heroic Queen of Ahmednagar who defended her capital against the forces of the Mogul Empire. Clad in complete armour she fought sword in hand at the breach made by the Mogul artillery and was killed fighting. Vide "A Noble Queen,” by Meadows Taylor.