Mr. Barton, whose health had been on the decline some weeks past, and whose term of service in India nearly expired, declared that he would no longer remain in the country, and obtained leave of absence to proceed to Bombay, in anticipation of finally leaving for Europe. Mrs. Barton, always nervous, became alarmed for her personal safety, and urged their immediate departure with much vehemence, and it was arranged that they should start at once for Rutlaum en route for the sea coast, and that Miss Effingham should remain and see everything packed up and the servants sent on, then follow herself and overtake them at Rutlaum, where they were to make a halt for a few days. Several other families also left about the same time, for the tide of mutiny and rebellion was now sweeping like the red pestilence through the whole of the North West provinces. Mohow, Indore, Meidpoore, Mundasore, Neemuch and other places of greater or lesser note, had already become the scene of many a bloody drama and fiendish outrage. In fact, whenever native troops had been located, ruin and desolation reigned triumphant. Public edifices were thrown down, Bungalows burned and the Bazaars plundered, while helpless and unprotected Europeans, irrespective of sex or age, were seized, and after suffering the most brutal indignities, ruthlessly slaughtered by the fanatical and blood-thirsty native soldiery.
Goolampore and its immediate vicinity, up to the present period, had remained in perfect tranquility. The native mind was apparently undisturbed by the great convulsions that were now shaking, to its very centre, the supremacy of British power in India; but it was only the lull before the storm, which was so soon to burst and fall like a thunderbolt on the hitherto peaceful station.
The Brigade here consisted of the following troops: One troop of European horse artillery, one regiment of native cavalry, and two battalions of Sepoys. This force was commanded by a Brigadier of the Bengal army; but, having been on the staff for many years, was unequal to an emergency like the present, and such was his belief in the loyalty of the men under his command, that he refused to listen to the reports made to him from time to time by his staff, and others well qualified to give an opinion on the matter, until it was too late and many valuable lives had been sacrificed.
The evening was clear and calm, countless stars studded the dark purple vault of heaven. The young moon shed her silvery light o’er lake and mountain, the atmosphere was no longer influenced by the stifling heat of the scorching sun; a deliciously cool breeze wafted from the ocean that rolled into the Gulf of Cambay, and washed the shores of the Goozeratte, played and rustled among the leaves of the trees and flowers, imparting to the senses a delicious feeling of relief and delight.