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Then was committed that great crime, memorable for its
singular atrocity, memorable for the tremendous retribution by
which it was followed. The English captives were left at the
mercy of the guards, and the guards determined to secure them
for the night in the prison of the garrison, a chamber known
by the fearful name of the Black Hole. Even for a single
European malefactor, that dungeon would, in such a climate,
have been too close and narrow. The space was only twenty
feet square. The air-holes were small and obstructed. It was
the summer solstice, the season when the fierce heat of Bengal
can scarcely be rendered tolerable to natives of England by
lofty halls and by the constant waving of fans. The number
of the prisoners was one hundred and forty-six. When they
were ordered to enter the cell, they imagined that the soldiers
were joking; a.nd, being in high spirits on account of the
promise of the Nabob to spare their lives, they laughed and
jested at the absurdity of the notion. They soon discovered
their mistake. They expostulated; they entreated; but in
vain. The guards threatened to cut downlall who hesitated.
The captives were driven’ into the cell at the point of the
sword, and the door was instantly shut and locked upon them.

Nothing in history or fiction, not even the story which
Ugolino told in the sea of everlasting ice, after he had wiped
his bloody lips on the scalp of his murderer, approaches the
horrors which were recounted by the few survivors of that
night. They cried for mercy. They strove to burst the door.
Holwell who, even in that extremity, retained some presence of
mind, offered large bribes to the gaolers. But the answer was
that nothing could be done without the Nabob’s orders, that
the Nabob was asleep, and that he would be angry if anybody
woke him. Then the prisoners went mad with despair. They
trampled each other down, fought for the places at the windows,
fought for the pittance of water with which the cruel mercy of

the murderers mocked their agonies, raved, prayed, blasphemed,
c 3

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