By half-past five on that memorable twenty-third of June the battle was over—the battle that gave Britain immediately the wealthiest province of India and, indirectly, the mastery of the whole of that vast Empire. The loss to the British was only twenty-three killed and fifty wounded.
Clive rested for a while in Sirajuddaula’s tent, where he found on his inkstand a list of thirteen courtiers whom, even in that moment of dire extremity, he had condemned to death. From a prisoner it was learned that the Nawab had escaped on a camel with two thousand horsemen, fleeing toward Murshidabad. All day he had been in a state of terror and agitation. Deprived of his bravest officer Mir Madan, betrayed by his own relatives, the wretched youth had not waited for the critical moment. Himself carried to his capital the news of his defeat.
Orders were given to push on that night to Daudpur, six miles north of Plassey. But some time was occupied by Clive’s commissariat in replacing their exhausted bullocks with teams captured in the Nawab’s camp. Meanwhile Clive sent Eyre Coote forward with a small detachment to keep the enemy on the run. Among those who accompanied him was Desmond, with Bulger and Mr. Toley. Desmond hoped that he might overtake and capture Monsieur Sinfray, from whom he thought it likely he might wrest information about Mrs. Merriman and her daughter. Diggle had made use of Sinfray’s house; it was not improbable that the Frenchmen knew something about the ladies. As for the seamen, they were so much disgusted at the tameness of the enemy’s resistance that they were eager for anything that promised activity and adventure. Their eagerness was no whit diminished when Desmond mentioned what he had in his mind.
“By thunder, sir,” said Bulger, “give me the chanst and I’ll learn the mounseer the why and wherefore of it. And as for Diggle—well, I may be wrong, but I’ll lay my share o’ the prize money out o’ the Good Intent that he’s hatchin’ mischief, and not far off neither. Show a leg, mateys.”
Before Major Coote reached Daudpur he was overtaken by a horseman bearing a message from Clive.
“A job for you, Burke,” said the major, after reading the note. “Mr. Clive is annoyed at the Nawab’s escape and thinks he may give us trouble yet if he can join hands with Law and his Frenchmen. I am to send you ahead to reconnoiter. You’ve been to Murshidabad, I think?”
“No, only to Cossimbazar, but that is not far off.”
“Well, you know the best part of the road, at any rate. The colonel wants you to go with a small party to Murshidabad and find out whether the Frenchmen have come within reach. You’ll have to go on foot: take care you don’t get into trouble. Pick your own men, of course. You must have a rest first.”