PROLOGUE: THE STORMING OF SERINGAPATAM (1799)
3. CHAPTER III
I got to an open door, and saw the bodies of two Indians
(by their dress, as I guessed, officers of the palace)
lying across the entrance, dead.
A cry inside hurried me into a room, which appeared to serve as an armoury.
A third Indian, mortally wounded, was sinking at the feet of a man whose back
was towards me. The man turned at the instant when I came in, and I saw
John Herncastle, with a torch in one hand, and a dagger dripping with blood
in the other. A stone, set like a pommel, in the end of the dagger's handle,
flashed in the torchlight, as he turned on me, like a gleam of fire.
The dying Indian sank to his knees, pointed to the dagger in Herncastle's
hand, and said, in his native language--"The Moonstone will have its vengeance
yet on you and yours!" He spoke those words, and fell dead on the floor.
Before I could stir in the matter, the men who had followed me across
the courtyard crowded in. My cousin rushed to meet them, like a madman.
"Clear the room!" he shouted to me, "and set a guard on the door!"
The men fell back as he threw himself on them with his torch and his dagger.
I put two sentinels of my own company, on whom I could rely, to keep
the door. Through the remainder of the night, I saw no more of
Early in the morning, the plunder still going on, General Baird announced
publicly by beat of drum, that any thief detected in the fact, be he whom
he might, should be hung. The provost-marshal was in attendance,
to prove that the General was in earnest; and in the throng that followed
the proclamation, Herncastle and I met again.
He held out his hand, as usual, and said, "Good morning.
I waited before I gave him my hand in return.
"Tell me first," I said, "how the Indian in the armoury met his death,
and what those last words meant, when he pointed to the dagger in your hand."