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The Black Hole of Calcutta page 3

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Threats, however, had no effect upon Mr. Holwell, for, as he says, "at that juncture I should have esteemed death the greatest favour the tyrant could have bestowed upon me." To all the nawab's inquiries concerning the treasure, Mr. Holwell replied that there was no truth in the information about it; or that, if there were hidden treasure, he had no knowledge of it. Whenever Mr. Holwell reverted to the horrors of the night and the assurance of safety which had been given by the nawab, the latter refused to discuss the matter, but renewed his inquiries about the treasure.

The tyrant displayed the utmost callousness for the sufferings of the survivors, and paid no more concern to the treatment of the dead. The bodies were roughly dragged from the Black Hole, and thrown promiscuously into a rude trench dug close to the castle wall. The English survivors of inferior rank were granted their freedom, but their property was confiscated.

Failing to derive any satisfaction regarding the treasure from Mr. Holwell, the nawab had him sent, with three of his unfortunate companions, as a prisoner to Murshidabad. There, fettered with chains, he was lodged in a cow-house, where he remained for some time, finally gaining his freedom on the intercession of the widow of Aliverdi Khan, whom Siraj ud Daula had succeeded as nawab.

The tragedy of the Black Hole was soon to be avenged. Tidings of the event did not reach Madras until the 16th of August, but immediately they arrived all other considerations were set aside in order that the nawab should be punished.

Robert Clive was given charge of a force of 900 Europeans and 1,500 Sepoys, and with the support of Admiral Watson and his squadron he successfully attacked the scanty garrison which the nawab, on returning to his capital, had left behind to defend Calcutta, and recaptured the fort.

Siraj ud Daula, on hearing of Olive's success, promptly marched on the fort at the head of a large but ill-disciplined irregular army, but Clive surprised and defeated him by a cleverly planned night attack.

Later the nawab's forces were again defeated at Plassey, but even before the battle had been decided Siraj ud Daula mounted his camel and took to ignominious flight. He made his way to Rajmahal, where he was recognised by a peasant, whom he had once sentenced to be tortured, and who revealed his presence to some soldiers.

The nawab was seized and brought back to Murshidabad, where Mir Jaffier, whom Clive had appointed to succeed Siraj ud Daula, had him imprisoned. It is said that Mir Jaffier would have spared the life of the prisoner, but his son Meeran ordered the guards to put him to death in his cell, and on the following morning the mangled remains of the tyrant of the Black Hole were placed on an elephant and exposed to the view of the people.

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