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for the safety of Fortified Island. I Hatter myself it is needless to add anything further lo evince the necessity of some step being immediately taken to relieve this fort; nor will I relinquish the hope that I shall not be left to a capitulation, even though accompanied by the best terms, and originating in the most absolute necessity. Should this be received, please to fire two guns and lower the ensign. In any future notes, my private communications will be hy interlineations with lime juice, which a clear fire will bring to light.”.
Several officers, with every one of the non-commissioned offi. cers, and European privates, were now, more or less, afflicted by the scurvy; on its appearance, the surgeons pronounced vegetables and exercise to be the only things from which either prevention or cure could be expected : people were accordingly employed secretly to purchase a quantity of garden-seeds in the enemy's camp; which were portioned to the Europeans and sepoys, with an earnest exhortation to cultivate them for the preservation of life. This being actively pursued for some time, the fort and outworks exhibited a scene of verdure, but: from long confinement, and the indolence inseparable from scorbutic disorders, their minds lost the necessary energy, and sunk into a state of torpor inimical to exertion. In a few weeks both Europeans and sepoys gave up gardening, and the disease gaining strength, became dreadfully fatal. The gentlemen in the fort left nothing undone which even parental solicitude could have devised. They laboured with their own hands to supply the feeble Europeans with vegetables; and by example endeavoured to excite emula-" tion. They made skittle-grounds, and gave every encouragement to the exercise, by joining in it themselves. The few remaining horses of the cavalry were ordered out to accommodate such invalids as could be lifted up and keep their seat, by the assistance of supporters. These humane exertions were frequently efficacious, and reflect the highest honour on the officers; their conduct also exhibits a striking proof of the infinite advantage which may be derived from resolutely combating a disorder which inevitably destroys those who give way to it; for while the most dreadful mortality pervaded the native inhabitants and sepoys, only five out of thirty-five Europeans fell a sacrifice.
On the 4th of March, about four o'clock in the morning, the centries were alarmed by the firing of musketry at Fortified Island, and on the officers repairing immediately to the ramparts, it became evident that fortress was attacked by the enemy; the firing continued for some time, and then ceased. At sun-rise the officers discovered by their glasses about twenty men sitting in the veranda of a house on the summit of the hill; whom they concluded to be the garrison, which amounted to that number, who were supposed to have been seized and secured by the enemy. Soon after the English colours were hoisted, either with the hope of deceiving the garrison of Onore, or to decoy the vessels expected with a supply of provisions.
The treacherous veil was now withdrawn, and the capture of Fortified Island no longer admitted a doubt in the minds of the gentlemen at Onore that the fort would be attacked. The commanding officer therefore thinking it necessary to make these suspicions publicly known, dispatched Mr. Cruso to Mirza with a remonstrance on such shameful conduct. That gentleman entertaining no doubt of his personal security, proceeded to the enemy's trenches, where he was informed the caun had rode out: he went again the next morning, and after waiting some time was received in the durbar. Mr. Cruso, in the name of his commanding officer, informed Mirza he could not sufficiently express his astonishment at the sultaun's open violation of public faith, in having assaulted and taken Fortified Island; that the present visit to his durbar was not so much to know whether the fort of Onore was to be next attacked, as to give him notice, that as he fully expected such a treacherous attempt, so was he resolutely prepared to resist it. Extraordinary as it may appear to those unacquainted with the duplicity and chicanery of the Indian character, Mirza positively denied having attacked the island; and gravely replied, that the English officer commanding there had for some time given great disgust to his sepoys, by refusing them proper provisions, whilst he luxuriously feasted upon poultry and liquors sent from time to time for the use of the gentlemen at Onore. At the time his people were thus disaffected, this imprudent officer endeavoured to seduce the wife of a Naique, who was by caste a brahmin, and at length had recourse to violence. On this outrage the husband flew to his comrades, interested them and their jemautdar in his cause, and then went in a body to the officer's quarters; where remonstrating with a freedom which he construed into insolence, they were threatened with death. The aggrieved party had immediate recourse to arms, and attacked the officer, who was supported by half his garrison. This occasioned the irregular fire heard at Onore. While these mutual hostilities were pending, . one of the sultaun's boats accidentally passing Fortified Island, was hailed by the mutineers, who intreated to be taken on board. This being reported to Mirza, he sent over a messenger to the English officer to represent the folly of continuing at his post with only eleven men, recommending him to leave the island, and offering every accommodation in his camp, until an opportunity presented for proceeding to an English settlement. The officer declined quitting the island, but desired Mirza would send over a sufficient force to take charge of the fort; his request was complied with, and these were the men who had been seen from the ramparts of Onore. All this was related by Mirza in the gravest manner; and the jemautdar, the brahmin Naique and his wife, with five sepoys (tutored for the purpose, at the peril of their lives) were brought into the durbar, to corroborate Mirza's story. It is almost unnecessary to observe that the whole of this tale was a fabrication of the sultaun's officer to deceive the commandant.
To one so fertile at invention and villainous evasion as Mirza, Mr. Cruso could make no reply, except that he should repeat this extraordinary tale to the commanding officer at Onore, and took leave by observing, that as he was not a principal, it did not become him to discuss the subject; but he could not suppress an apprehension, that when he asserted at the English head-quarters, he had been told such a story by the officer in command of the sultaun's army, his own veracity would be called in question.
At this time captain Torriano received a letter from general MʻLeod, dated March 7th, 1784, on board the Chesterfield Indiaman off Onore, desiring to be informed of the state of the garrison,
and offering his best services. The sickness of the garrison, the late threatening combination, the debility of the Europeans, the treachery of the sultaun in the capture of Fortified Island, and beyond all, the general despondency which now prevailed, and would no doubt greatly increase when the general sailed, induced the commanding officer to wish for an honourable termination to his difficulties; he therefore resolved to profit by an opportunity so critically presented to convey a soldier's feelings, and accordingly sent a copy of the letter previously written to general M‘Leod, and already inserted.
A draft of this letter having been explained to Mirza by Mr. Cruso, he assented with much apparent satisfaction to its being sent off to the Chesterfield, but he took especial care it never should be delivered to the general; or if delivered and answered, he suppressed the answer. Deceitful as had been his conduct respecting the capture of Fortified Island, his behaviour with regard to the letter sent to general M‘Leod exceeded it in folly, cruelty, and duplicity. The falsehoods he permitted to be told in his durbar, by boatmen and messengers tutored for the purpose, who were supposed to have been employed in the delivery of the letter, and intrusted with a cool indifferent verbal answer, instead of a written reply to its interesting contents, were uttered before Mr. Cruso in the gravest manner possible. The stories fabricated on this occasion by Mirza and his colleagues, to answer their own wretched purpose, would astonish and disgust a generous Briton, unused to such chicanery. They occupy many pages in the journal, but the detail would now have little interest; it will suffice