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    Chapter 54

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    Chapter 55
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    Do not undervalue the headache. While it is at its sharpest it seems a
    bad investment; but when relief begins, the unexpired remainder is worth
    $4 a minute.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    A comfortable railway journey of seventeen and a half hours brought us to
    the capital of India, which is likewise the capital of Bengal--Calcutta.
    Like Bombay, it has a population of nearly a million natives and a small
    gathering of white people. It is a huge city and fine, and is called the
    City of Palaces. It is rich in historical memories; rich in British
    achievement--military, political, commercial; rich in the results of the
    miracles done by that brace of mighty magicians, Clive and Hastings. And
    has a cloud kissing monument to one Ochterlony.

    It is a fluted candlestick 250 feet high. This lingam is the only large
    monument in Calcutta, I believe. It is a fine ornament, and will keep
    Ochterlony in mind.

    Wherever you are, in Calcutta, and for miles around, you can see it; and
    always when you see it you think of Ochterlony. And so there is not an
    hour in the day that you do not think of Ochterlony and wonder who he
    was. It is good that Clive cannot come back, for he would think it was
    for Plassey; and then that great spirit would be wounded when the
    revelation came that it was not. Clive would find out that it was for
    Ochterlony; and he would think Ochterlony was a battle. And he would
    think it was a great one, too, and he would say, "With three thousand I
    whipped sixty thousand and founded the Empire--and there is no monument;
    this other soldier must have whipped a billion with a dozen and saved the

    But he would be mistaken. Ochterlony was a man, not a battle. And he
    did good and honorable service, too; as good and honorable service as has
    been done in India by seventy-five or a hundred other Englishmen of
    courage, rectitude, and distinguished capacity. For India has been a
    fertile breeding-ground of such men, and remains so; great men, both in
    war and in the civil service, and as modest as great. But they have no
    monuments, and were not expecting any. Ochterlony could not have been
    expecting one, and it is not at all likely that he desired one--certainly
    not until Clive and Hastings should be supplied. Every day Clive and
    Hastings lean on the battlements of heaven and look down and wonder which
    of the two the monument is for; and they fret and worry because they
    cannot find out, and so the peace of heaven is spoiled for them and lost.
    But not for Ochterlony. Ochterlony is not troubled. He doesn't suspect
    that it is his monument. Heaven is sweet and peaceful to him. There is
    a sort of unfairness about it all.

    Indeed, if monuments were always given in India for high achievements,
    duty straitly performed, and smirchless records, the landscape would be
    monotonous with them. The handful of English in India govern the Indian
    myriads with apparent ease, and without noticeable friction, through
    tact, training, and distinguished administrative ability, reinforced by
    just and liberal laws--and by keeping their word to the native whenever
    they give it.

    England is far from India and knows little about the eminent services
    performed by her servants there, for it is the newspaper correspondent
    who makes fame, and he is not sent to India but to the continent, to
    report the doings of the princelets and the dukelets, and where they are
    visiting and whom they are marrying. Often a British official spends
    thirty or forty years in India, climbing from grade to grade by services
    which would make him celebrated anywhere else, and finishes as a
    vice-sovereign, governing a great realm and millions of subjects; then he
    goes home to England substantially unknown and unheard of, and settles
    down in some modest corner, and is as one extinguished. Ten years later
    there is a twenty-line obituary in the London papers, and the reader is
    paralyzed by the splendors of a career which he is not sure that he had
    ever heard of before. But meanwhile he has learned all about the
    continental princelets and dukelets.

    The average man is profoundly ignorant of countries that lie remote from
    his own. When they are mentioned in his presence one or two facts and
    maybe a couple of names rise like torches in his mind, lighting up an
    inch or two of it and leaving the rest all dark. The mention of Egypt
    suggests some Biblical facts and the Pyramids-nothing more. The mention
    of South Africa suggests Kimberly and the diamonds and there an end.
    Formerly the mention, to a Hindoo, of America suggested a name--George
    Washington--with that his familiarity with our country was exhausted.
    Latterly his familiarity with it has doubled in bulk; so that when
    America is mentioned now, two torches flare up in the dark caverns of his
    mind and he says, "Ah, the country of the great man Washington; and of
    the Holy City--Chicago." For he knows about the Congress of Religion, and
    this has enabled him to get an erroneous impression of Chicago.

    When India is mentioned to the citizen of a far country it suggests
    Clive, Hastings, the Mutiny, Kipling, and a number of other great events;
    and the mention of Calcutta infallibly brings up the Black Hole. And so,
    when that citizen finds himself in the capital of India he goes first of
    all to see the Black Hole of Calcutta--and is disappointed.

    The Black Hole was not preserved; it is gone, long, long ago. It is
    strange. Just as it stood, it was itself a monument; a ready-made one.
    It was finished, it was complete, its materials were strong and lasting,
    it needed no furbishing up, no repairs; it merely needed to be let alone.
    It was the first brick, the Foundation Stone, upon which was reared a
    mighty Empire--the Indian Empire of Great Britain. It was the ghastly
    episode of the Black Hole that maddened the British and brought Clive,
    that young military marvel, raging up from Madras; it was the seed from
    which sprung Plassey; and it was that extraordinary battle, whose like
    had not been seen in the earth since Agincourt, that laid deep and strong
    the foundations of England's colossal Indian sovereignty.

    And yet within the time of men who still live, the Black Hole was torn
    down and thrown away as carelessly as if its bricks were common clay, not
    ingots of historic gold. There is no accounting for human beings.

    The supposed site of the Black Hole is marked by an engraved plate. I
    saw that; and better that than nothing. The Black Hole was a prison--a
    cell is nearer the right word--eighteen feet square, the dimensions of an
    ordinary bedchamber; and into this place the victorious Nabob of Bengal
    packed 146 of his English prisoners. There was hardly standing room for
    them; scarcely a breath of air was to be got; the time was night, the
    weather sweltering hot. Before the dawn came, the captives were all dead
    but twenty-three. Mr. Holwell's long account of the awful episode was
    familiar to the world a hundred years ago, but one seldom sees in print
    even an extract from it in our day. Among the striking things in it is
    this. Mr. Holwell, perishing with thirst, kept himself alive by sucking
    the perspiration from his sleeves. It gives one a vivid idea of the
    situation. He presently found that while he was busy drawing life from
    one of his sleeves a young English gentleman was stealing supplies from
    the other one. Holwell was an unselfish man, a man of the most generous
    impulses; he lived and died famous for these fine and rare qualities; yet
    when he found out what was happening to that unwatched sleeve, he took
    the precaution to suck that one dry first. The miseries of the Black
    Hole were able to change even a nature like his. But that young
    gentleman was one of the twenty-three survivors, and he said it was the
    stolen perspiration that saved his life. From the middle of Mr.
    Holwell's narrative I will make a brief excerpt:

    "Then a general prayer to Heaven, to hasten the approach of the
    flames to the right and left of us, and put a period to our misery.
    But these failing, they whose strength and spirits were quite
    exhausted laid themselves down and expired quietly upon their
    fellows: others who had yet some strength and vigor left made a last
    effort at the windows, and several succeeded by leaping and
    scrambling over the backs and heads of those in the first rank, and
    got hold of the bars, from which there was no removing them. Many
    to the right and left sunk with the violent pressure, and were soon
    suffocated; for now a steam arose from the living and the dead,
    which affected us in all its circumstances as if we were forcibly
    held with our heads over a bowl full of strong volatile spirit of
    hartshorn, until suffocated; nor could the effluvia of the one be
    distinguished from the other, and frequently, when I was forced by
    the load upon my head and shoulders to hold my face down, I was
    obliged, near as I was to the window, instantly to raise it again to
    avoid suffocation. I need not, my dear friend, ask your
    commiseration, when I tell you, that in this plight, from half an
    hour past eleven till near two in the morning, I sustained the
    weight of a heavy man, with his knees in my back, and the pressure
    of his whole body on my head. A Dutch surgeon who had taken his
    seat upon my left shoulder, and a Topaz (a black Christian soldier)
    bearing on my right; all which nothing could have enabled me to
    support but the props and pressure equally sustaining me all around.
    The two latter I frequently dislodged by shifting my hold on the
    bars and driving my knuckles into their ribs; but my friend above
    stuck fast, held immovable by two bars.

    "I exerted anew my strength and fortitude; but the repeated trials
    and efforts I made to dislodge the insufferable incumbrances upon me
    at last quite exhausted me; and towards two o'clock, finding I must
    quit the window or sink where I was, I resolved on the former,
    having bore, truly for the sake of others, infinitely more for life
    than the best of it is worth. In the rank close behind me was an
    officer of one of the ships, whose name was Cary, and who had
    behaved with much bravery during the siege (his wife, a fine woman,
    though country born, would not quit him, but accompanied him into
    the prison, and was one who survived). This poor wretch had been
    long raving for water and air; I told him I was determined to give
    up life, and recommended his gaining my station. On my quitting it
    he made a fruitless attempt to get my place; but the Dutch surgeon,
    who sat on my shoulder, supplanted him. Poor Cary expressed his
    thankfulness, and said he would give up life too; but it was with
    the utmost labor we forced our way from the window (several in the
    inner ranks appearing to me dead standing, unable to fall by the
    throng and equal pressure around). He laid himself down to die; and
    his death, I believe, was very sudden; for he was a short, full,
    sanguine man. His strength was great; and, I imagine, had he not
    retired with me, I should never have been able to force my way. I
    was at this time sensible of no pain, and little uneasiness; I can
    give you no better idea of my situation than by repeating my simile
    of the bowl of spirit of hartshorn. I found a stupor coming on
    apace, and laid myself down by that gallant old man, the Rev. Mr.
    Jervas Bellamy, who laid dead with his son, the lieutenant, hand in
    hand, near the southernmost wall of the prison. When I had lain
    there some little time, I still had reflection enough to suffer some
    uneasiness in the thought that I should be trampled upon, when dead,
    as I myself had done to others. With some difficulty I raised
    myself, and gained the platform a second time, where I presently
    lost all sensation; the last trace of sensibility that I have been
    able to recollect after my laying down, was my sash being uneasy
    about my waist, which I untied, and threw from me. Of what passed
    in this interval, to the time of my resurrection from this hole of
    horrors, I can give you no account."

    There was plenty to see in Calcutta, but there was not plenty of time for
    it. I saw the fort that Clive built; and the place where Warren Hastings
    and the author of the Junius Letters fought their duel; and the great
    botanical gardens; and the fashionable afternoon turnout in the Maidan;
    and a grand review of the garrison in a great plain at sunrise; and a
    military tournament in which great bodies of native soldiery exhibited
    the perfection of their drill at all arms, a spectacular and beautiful
    show occupying several nights and closing with the mimic storming of a
    native fort which was as good as the reality for thrilling and accurate
    detail, and better than the reality for security and comfort; we had a
    pleasure excursion on the 'Hoogly' by courtesy of friends, and devoted
    the rest of the time to social life and the Indian museum. One should
    spend a month in the museum, an enchanted palace of Indian antiquities.
    Indeed, a person might spend half a year among the beautiful and
    wonderful things without exhausting their interest.

    It was winter. We were of Kipling's "hosts of tourists who travel up and
    down India in the cold weather showing how things ought to be managed."
    It is a common expression there, "the cold weather," and the people think
    there is such a thing. It is because they have lived there half a
    lifetime, and their perceptions have become blunted. When a person is
    accustomed to 138 in the shade, his ideas about cold weather are not
    valuable. I had read, in the histories, that the June marches made
    between Lucknow and Cawnpore by the British forces in the time of the
    Mutiny were made weather--138 in the shade and had taken it for
    historical embroidery. I had read it again in Serjeant-Major
    Forbes-Mitchell's account of his military experiences in the Mutiny
    --at least I thought I had--and in Calcutta I asked him if it was true,
    and he said it was. An officer of high rank who had been in the thick of
    the Mutiny said the same. As long as those men were talking about what
    they knew, they were trustworthy, and I believed them; but when they said
    it was now "cold weather," I saw that they had traveled outside of their
    sphere of knowledge and were floundering. I believe that in India "cold
    weather" is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through
    the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which
    will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy.
    It was observable that brass ones were in use while I was in Calcutta,
    showing that it was not yet time to change to porcelain; I was told the
    change to porcelain was not usually made until May. But this cold
    weather was too warm for us; so we started to Darjeeling, in the
    Himalayas--a twenty-four hour journey.
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