The Ladies Continue Their Journey
We left the Mrs.’ Peile and Wood and the severely injured doctor hiding in a village. A young boy had fashioned a wooden pipe for the doctor so he could just drink, and Dr. Batson, hiding in the nude, refused to meet them, sending over a wine glass and some senna to relieve the suffering of Dr. Wood. The party was still barely out of Delhi and their journey to Karnal was still uncertain of success.
After a night’s rest in an open field on a bed of straw provided to them by the villagers, Mrs. Wood rose early and went in search of Dr. Batson. Unfortunately, he had already been moved on an no one could tell her where to, so she returned the her little party. Worse news followed – the villagers as those Batson had encountered, were given to believe that anyone caught harbouring fugitives would be destroyed. Quarrel after quarrel ensued, some wanted to continue hiding the ladies, others were for turning them out – until finally Mrs. Peile took the decision, and, on the 14th of May under a scorching sun, they set out, carrying Doctor Wood between them. Through the day they walked, rested when they could and then walked some more until at 2am they could not move any further. They had had nothing to eat or drink the whole day and finally even their will power gave out. Crawling under brushwood, well sheltered by trees, the Woods laid down, while Mrs. Peile keeping watch. She had not long to wait.
Presently she heard horses hooves – a great many of them – and without much delay, they were found out by troopers of the 2nd Irregular Cavalry, proceeding on furlough from Punjab to Agra. The men insisted they would not harm them – but as there were three of them, it was impossible to take them to Agra. They did however provide them with water, chapattis and some sugar, the most food they had had in so many days. After many entreaties, the troopers unloaded a baggage pony, and placed Mrs. Wood on it, while the doctor was settled onto a horse – a fine white Arab. There was no conveyance for Mrs. Peile but she settled herself in front of the one the troopers, the one “who had acted kindly towards us.” And so they rode away – back to Delhi.
Early in the morning, the troopers set the party down, promising to send word if they could get them through the city undetected. However now accustomed to treachery, the ladies decided that staying where they were was probably much worse than retracing their steps again. As soon as the cavalry was out of sight, they walked away as swiftly as the could, reaching Alipore early in the morning on the 16th. Here they hid themselves under some trees near a walled garden, close the side of the road. The doctor was by this time too ill to move. Expecting him to die at any moment, “it was a matter of consultation, in the event of his expiring, what we two helpless ladies could do to inter his body, so as to preserve it from insult from the natives and the voracity of the jackals and vultures…” Doctor Wood however did not die.
Allipore was situated only 12 miles from Delhi, no great distance considering they had been on the road for five days. The next day, they struggled on, first only 2 further miles to the next village, where although refused entrance they were given some milk – a man accompanied them to their next hiding place ( under a bridge) but it was only a short rest – hassled by some villagers, they continued on, resting by the side of a well. So it continued until finally, chased as it were from pillar to post, they fugitives finally took refuge in a large hole in the middle of field. Here, in their miserable state, they remained until nightfall.
The next day, they reached the village of Balghur – and eventually, on the orders of Rani Mungla Dabee, they were permitted to stay the night. The next day they moved on to another village.
On the 18th they received word that a fellow fugitive was in Balghur – it proved to be Major Paterson and shortly after, word came that another man had also turned up. Much to Mrs. Peile’s delight, it was her husband.
“They were both so altered in appearance that it was some little time before I recognised them; the former wearing very old clothing, the latter dressed as a table servant. Their poor feet were literally bleeding from the rough stones and thorns, and were most frightfully swollen.” But they were alive.
The Troubles of Captain Peile
Leaving his wife and the Woods, on what he thought was a safe road out of Delhi, Peile returned to the quarter guard of his regiment. There he found Lieutenant-Colonel Knyvett and Ensign Gambier of the 38th, Lieutenant Addington of the 74th and several others, all without a plan. One by one, they shifted off for themselves, leaving the Kynvett, Gambier and Peile on their own. Reasoning with the men was useless, but Peile decided, just for honours sake, to at least save his regiment’s colours. Requesting Kynvett’s permission, he set off on horseback with Gambier to find the sentry.
The sentry was less than forthcoming, refusing to give up the colours unless Knyvett himself came and gave the order. But Knyvett was long gone, and when Peile turned around, to his great astonishment, he found that Gambier had taken flight, hurrying off to Meerut.
Determined to make one more attempt, Peile dismounted and having called some still loyal men together, they entered the house in a body, which at least had the effect of convincing the sentry to give up the colours. Satisfied, Peile went back outside – only to find his “groom had decamped, taking his horse, and what was almost worse to him, a large quantity of cheroots…”
Unable to carry the colours on foot, Peile gave them back to the sentry. As he came outside again, a trooper took aim. He fired and missed, the ball going through Peile’s basket helmet. As he was in close range, Peile now drew his own pistol and shot the man dead. Another trooper now levelled his musket at him, but it was knocked aside by a sepoy of Peile’s company who had stood by him the whole evening – and he now ran his bayonet through the trooper.
His men now crowded around him, bidding Peile to run across the parade ground – but to stay away from the lines as the 74th and the 54th were busily killing any Christian they found. He took their advice and ran eventually finding himself in the Company Gardens.
He must have been there at the same time as his wife; but in the dark and with the excitement all around them, they missed each other. Peile was discovered hiding under some brushwood by a band of miscreants who dragged him out, stripped him of his ring, studs and clothes, and left him in nothing but his undershirt and his socks. So completely convinced the man had money on him, they “threw him down, and while one man knelt on his chest, another, having torn off the sleeve of his shirt, attempted to strangle him with it.” Captain Peile fell into unconsciousness.
When he came to, Peile managed to crawl his way to the cross roads of the city and the cantonment, where by chance, a government servant took pity on him and brought him to a police house where he provided him with a little clothing and allowed him to sleep on the ground in some straw.
At day break Peile had no choice but to leave. Barefoot, he covered the 12 miles to Allipore in a matter of hours, arriving there at 10 in the morning. Between being attacked by plunderers, and then aided by friendly villagers who gave him some food and a little more clothing, he managed to struggle onwards, helped in one village as quickly has he was turned away from the next, until at last, a farmer took pity on him and let him hide in under his roof.
After a stay of a few days, spent intermittently being hidden by the farmer in fields and sheds and even at one point conversing with cavalry men of the 3rd who were looking for 2 officers they were determined to kill – Peile was not one of them, so they spared his life.
Six days after his escape from Delhi, Peile was informed by men of the 4th Company 38th Light Infantry – who were passing by the village on their way home, having stocked themselves up with cart loads of plunder – that they had passed 2 ladies and the doctor sahib of the 38th on the road, Peile was now determined to be on his way. The farmer was very upset at his determination but gave him some clothes and 1 rupee and then accompanied him with eight armed men to the Karnal road, where “with tears in the old man’s eyes, he bid (him) farewell.”
In the village of Rani Mungla Dabi he met Major Paterson – and shortly after his wife.
Major Paterson and the Brandy
It was the havildar major of his own regiment that hid Major Paterson of the 54th NI in the ice pits outside the city and another sepoy then sent him food and water for another three days. Of the supplies sent was a box of cheroots and bottle of brandy. Thinking that the brandy unless diluted with water might render him “incapacitated”, sitting as he was with barely and clothes under a hot sun, he requested the bringer of the goods to procure him a bottle of champagne instead!
“..and to the great delight of the major, he espied in the distance the faithful messenger returning with three bottles under his arm. He was not long in opening one, and with the avidity of one whose parching thirst had almost driven him to despair,, greedily drank its contents to the last drain. He was not destined, however to enjoy a second draught, for the noise of the bottle being open attracted the notice of some workmen, who proceeded to the spot, and forthwith regaled themselves with the exhilarating wine when they again resumed their occupation…”
Tanked up with Dutch courage, Major Paterson commenced his journey to Karnal. He met with luck on his road in the form of a yogi who, under promise of ample reward, consented to dress the major in his own clothes and conduct him safely to Amballa.
Thus disguised, with ash sprinkled in his hair and his skin darkened with dye, the journey continued without mishap – until the fourth day. Reaching a village where they hoped to find some refreshment, the party was set upon by armed men who very quickly had realised the Paterson was in fact a European. Stripping him of his clothes and finding the their disappointment he had no money, they proceeded the beat him violently with sticks, striking him viciously on the head. The poor yogi faired no better.
The attack over, Major Paterson managed to drag himself to Balghur. Taken in and cared for, he received a note from Mrs. Peile, inquiring about her husband.
On the 18th of May, the party resumed their journey to Karnal which they reached on the 222nd having met with no further trouble but were showered with kindness in the villages they passed through. Upon arriving, the hound news that Mrs. Patersons wife and family had reached Simla safely and the Peile’s little son was alive and well in Meerut. It would be two months before it was safe enough for him to be sent to his parents. Doctor Wood survived his injury although much disfigured. Like the doctor, Captain Peile obtained a sick certificate – for them at least the mutiny was over. They remained in Simla until it was safe to travel to England.
Some were not so fortunate, Lieutenant Willoughby who had survived being blown up in the Magazine would be murdered in the village of Koondhera with four of his companions- on the same road Lieutenant Vibart would take with his party, as they crept away from Metcalfe House on the 11th of May. Their tale will take us back to Harchandpur and the interesting story of how Meerut finally came to the rescue.