In June 1717, Kyffin made known to the Council at Bombay his wish to retire, and William Gyfford was appointed to succeed him as soon as the monsoon would permit. So in due course of time, Gyfford and his wife went to Anjengo; but in spite of his resignation, Kyffin stuck to his office, and evidently viewed Gyfford with unfriendly eyes. In the following April, intelligence reached the Council at Bombay that Kyffin had had dealings with the Ostenders, and had been 'very assisting' to them; so a peremptory order went down from Bombay, dismissing him from the Company's service, if the report of his assisting the Ostenders was true. If the report was not true, no change was to be made. A commission to Gyfford to assume the chiefship was sent at the same time. Interlopers and Ostenders, he was told, were not to receive even provisions or water. So Kyffin departed, and Gyfford reigned at Anjengo in his stead.
But the follies of Kyffin had roused a feeling against the English that was not likely to be allayed by Gyfford, who exceeded Kyffin in dishonesty and imprudence. He threw himself into the pepper trade, using the Company's money for his own purposes, and joined hands with the Portuguese interpreter, Ignatio Malheiros, who appears to have been a consummate rogue. Before long, religious feeling was aroused by the interpreter obtaining possession of some pagoda land in a money-lending transaction. Gyfford also aroused resentment by trying to cheat the native traders over the price of pepper, by showing fictitious entries in the factory books, and by the use of false weights.
The only thing wanting for an explosion was the alienation of the Mahommedan section, which before long was produced by chance and by Gyfford's folly. It happened that some Mahommedan traders came to the fort to transact business with Cowse, who had resumed business as a private merchant; but he was not at leisure, so they went to the interpreter's house, to sit down and wait. While there, the interpreter's 'strumpet' threw some hooli powder on one of the merchants. Stung by the insult, the man drew his sword, wounded the woman, and would have killed her, if he and his companions had not been disarmed.
Gyfford, when they were brought before him, allowed himself to be influenced by the interpreter, and ordered them to be turned out of the fort, after their swords had been insultingly broken over their heads. The people of Attinga flew to arms, and threatened the fort. For some months there were constant skirmishes. The English had no difficulty in defeating all attacks, but none the less trade was brought to a standstill; so Mr. Walter Brown was sent down from Bombay to put matters straight. Poola Venjamutta, who had all the time kept himself in the background, was quite ready to help an accommodation, as open force had proved useless.
Things having quieted down, Gyfford, 'flushed with the hopes of having Peace and Pepper,' devoted himself to trade. He had at this time a brigantine called the Thomas, commanded by his wife's brother, Thomas Cooke, doing his private trade along the coast. The year 1720 passed quietly. Force having proved unavailing, the Attinga people dissembled their anger, and waited for an opportunity to revenge themselves. So well was the popular feeling against the English concealed, that Cowse, with his long experience and knowledge of the language, had no suspicions.
There had been an old custom, since the establishment of the factory, of giving presents yearly to the Rani, in the name of the Company; but for some years the practice had fallen into abeyance. Gyfford, wishing to ingratiate himself with the authorities, resolved on reviving the custom, and to do so in the most ceremonious way, by going himself with the presents for seven years. Accordingly, on the 11th April, 1721, accompanied by all the merchants and factors, and taking all his best men, about one hundred and twenty in number, and the same number of coolies, Gyfford started for Attinga, four miles up the river. Here they were received by an enormous crowd of people, who gave them a friendly reception.
The details of what followed are imperfectly recorded, and much is left to conjecture, but Gyfford's foolish over-confidence is sufficiently apparent. In spite of their brave display, his men carried no ammunition. Poola Venjamutta was not to be seen. They were told he was drunk, and they must wait till he was fit to receive them. He was apparently playing a double part, but the blame for what followed was afterwards laid on his rival, Poola Cadamon Pillay.
Cowse's suspicions were aroused, and he advised an immediate return to Anjengo, but Gyfford refused to take the advice. He is said to have struck Cowse, and to have threatened with imprisonment. The Rani also sent a message, advising a return to Anjengo. It was getting late, and to extricate himself from the crowd, Gyfford allowed the whole party to be inveigled into a small enclosure. To show his goodwill to the crowd, he ordered his men to fire a salvo, and then he found that the ammunition carried by the coolies had been secured, and they were defenceless. In this hopeless position, he managed to entrust a letter addressed to the storekeeper at Anjengo, to the hands of a friendly native. It reached Anjengo at one o'clock next day, and ran as follows:--
"Captain Sewell. We are treacherously dealt with here, therefore keep a very good look-out of any designs on you. Have a good look to your two Trankers,/9/ We hope to be with you to-night. Take care and don't frighten the women; we are in no great danger. Give the bearer a Chequeen."/10/But none of the English were to see Anjengo again. That night, or the next morning, a sudden attack was made, the crowd surged in on the soldiers, overwhelmed them, and cut them to pieces. The principal English were seized and reserved for a more cruel death.In the confusion Cowse, who was a favourite among the natives, managed to disguise himself, got through the crowd, and sought to reach Anjengo by a little frequented path. By bad luck he was overtaken by a Mahommedan merchant who owed him money. Cowse offered to acquit him of the debt, but to no purpose. He was mercilessly killed, and thus the debt was settled. 'Stone dead hath no fellow,' as the chronicler of his death says. The rest of the English were tortured to death, Gyfford and the interpreter being reserved for the worst barbarities. Ignatio Malheiros was gradually dismembered, while Gyfford had his tongue torn out, was nailed to a log of wood, and sent floating down the river.
It is easy to picture to one's self the consternation in Anjengo, that 12th April, when soon after midday, Gyfford's hasty note was received; and the same evening, when a score of wounded men (topasses) straggled in to confirm the worst fears; 'all miserably wounded, some with 12 or 13 cutts and arrows in their bodyes to a lower number, but none without any.' Gyfford had taken away all the able men with him, leaving in the fort only 'the dregs,' old men, boys, and pensioners, less than forty in number. At their head were Robert Sewell, who describes himself as Storekeeper, Captain and Adjutant by order of Governor Boone; Lieutenant Peter Lapthorne, Ensign Thomas Davis, and Gunner Samuel Ince.
The first three of them were absolutely useless, and Gunner Ince, whose name deserves to be remembered, was the only one of the four who rose to the situation. His first care was for the three English women, whose husbands had just been killed. By good fortune there happened to be in the road a small country ship that had brought a consignment of cowries from the Maldives. Mrs. Gyfford, for the third time a widow, Mrs. Cowse with four children, and Mrs. Burton with two, were hastily put on board, and sailed at once for Madras.
No mention appears of Mrs. Gyfford having any children with her, but she carried off the factory records and papers, and what money she could lay her hands on. She was no longer the confiding girl who had given herself to Governor Harvey eleven years before. She had learned something of the world she lived in, and intended to take care of herself as well as she could. She even tried to carry off Peter Lapthorne with her, but Sewell intervened and prevented it. So giving him hasty directions to act as her agent, she passed through the dangerous Anjengo surf and got on board. A letter to her from Lapthorne, written a few weeks later, relates that the only property he could find belonging to her were 'two wiggs and a bolster and some ophium' in the warehouse.
Having got rid of the white women, Sewell and his companions set to work to hold the fort against the attack that was inevitable. From the old records we get an idea of what the fort was like. As designed by Brabourne, it covered a square of about sixty yards each way, but this did not include the two Trankers, palisaded out-works, alluded to in Gyfford's note. Ten years before, the attention of the Council at Bombay had been drawn to the bad condition of the
"Fort house, being no more then timber covered with palm leaves (cajanns) so very dangerous taking fire," and the chief of the factory was ordered to build "a small compact house of brick with a Hall, and conveniencys for half a dozen Company's servants. And being advised that for want of a necessary house in the Fort, they keep the Fort gate open all night for the guard going out and in, which irregularity may prove of so pernicious consequence as the loss of that garrison, especially in a country where they are surrounded with such treacherous people as the Natives and the Dutch," it was ordered that a "necessary house over the Fort walls" should be built, and the gates kept locked after 8 o'clock at night.How far these orders had been carried out does not appear; but the Company's goods were still kept in a warehouse outside the walls; some of the Company's servants also had houses outside, and the palm-leaf roofs were still there.For garrison they only had about thirty-five boys and pensioners, 'whereof not twenty fit to hold a firelock,' and for want of a sufficient garrison, it was necessary to withdraw from the Trankers, which were thought to be so important for the safety of the place. Desperate as was the outlook. Gunner Ince exerted himself like a man, animating everybody by his example. By his exertions, seven hundred bags of rice, with salt fish for a month, and the Company's treasure were got in from the warehouse, and an urgent appeal was sent to Calicut.
The surgeon had been killed with Gyfford; they had no smith or carpenter or tools, except a few hatchets, and the Attinga people swarming into Anjengo burned and plundered the settlement, forcing a crowd of women and children to take refuge in the small fort. Though no concerted attack was made at first, the assailants tried with fire arrows to set fire to the palm-leaf roofs, which had to be dismantled; and all through the siege, which lasted six months, the sufferings of the garrison were increased by the burning rays of a tropical sun or the torrential rains of the monsoon.
On the 25th April, they were cheered by the arrival of two small English ships from Cochin, where the intelligence of the disaster had reached; and received a small reinforcement of seven men with a consignment of provisions. A message of condolence also had come from the Rajah of Quilon, who offered to receive the women and children, so one hundred and fifty native women and children, widows and orphans of the slain, were sent off. On the 1st May, an ensign and fifty-one men, collected by Mr. Adams from Calicut and Tellicherry, joined the garrison, and gave some relief from the constant sentry duty that was necessary.
The enemy, meanwhile, had contented themselves with harassing the garrison by firing long shots at them; but it was rumoured that the Rajah of Travancore was sending troops, and then they would have to sustain a serious attack. Gunner Ince, on whom the whole weight of the defence rested, let it be known that in the last extremity he would blow up the magazine. It is cheering to find that there was at least one man who was prepared to do his duty. Sewell and Lapthorne got drunk, and joined with the warehouseman, a Portuguese named Rodriguez, in plundering the Company's warehouse and sending goods away to Quilon; the soldiers followed the example, and plundered the rooms inside the fort, while the late interpreter's family were allowed to send away to Quilon effects to the value of one hundred thousand fanams, though it was known that the Company had a claim on him for over two-thirds of the amount, on account of money advanced to him. Davis was dying of a lingering illness, to which he succumbed in the beginning of July.
On the 24th June, a vigorous attack was made on the fort from three sides at once. On one side the enemy had thrown up an entrenchment, and on the river side they had effected a lodgment in Cowse's house, a substantial building close to the wall of the fort. This would have soon made the fort untenable, so a small party was sent to dislodge the occupants. At first they were repulsed, but a second attempt was successful. Marching up to the windows, 'where they were as thick as bees,' they threw hand grenades into the house, which was hurriedly evacuated; numbers of the enemy leaping into the river, where some of them were drowned. Ince then bombarded them out of the entrenchment, and the attack came to an end.
Several of the garrison were wounded, but none killed; but what chiefly mortified them was that the arms of the men slain with Gyfford were used against them. After this the land blockade lingered on, but no very serious attack seems to have been made. A second reinforcement of thirty men was sent down by Adams from Calicut, and the Rani and Poola Venjamutta sent 'refreshments,' and promised that the attacks of their rebellious subjects should cease. The Rani also wrote to the Madras Council, and sent a deputation of one hundred Brahmins to Tellicherry, to express her horror of the barbarities committed by her people, and her willingness to join the Company's forces in punishing the guilty.
Intelligence of the disaster at Anjengo did not reach Bombay till the beginning of July. The monsoon was in full force, and no assistance could be sent till it was over. Men and supplies were gathered in from Carwar and Surat, and on the 17th October Mr. Midford, with three hundred men, reached Anjengo. His report on the state of affairs he found there makes it a matter of surprise that the place had not fallen. The safety of the fort had been entirely due to Gunner Ince. Sewell's behaviour was that of a fool or a madman. Together with Lapthorne, he had set the example of plundering the Company, and their men had done as much damage as the enemy. Sewell, as storekeeper, had no books, and said he never had kept any. Lapthorne had retained two months' pay, due to the men killed with Gyfford, and asserted his right to it.
Much of the Company's treasure was unaccounted for, and Mrs. Gyfford had carried off the books. Midford sent Sewell and Lapthorne under arrest to Bombay, where they were let off with a scolding, and proceeded to restore order. The Rani and Venjamutta were friendly, but told him he must take his own vengeance on the Nairs for their inhuman action. So he commenced a series of raids into the surrounding country, which reduced it to some sort of subjection. Soon there came an order for most of his men to be sent back to Bombay, where warlike measures against Angria were on foot. A cessation of arms was patched up, and Midford installed himself as chief.
He proved to be no honester than his predecessors. He monopolized the pepper trade on his own private account, making himself advances out of the Company's treasury. In less than a year he was dead, but before his death Alexander Orme,/11/ then a private merchant on the coast, was sent to Anjengo as chief of the factory, at the special request of the Rani. Before long, Orme had to report to the Council that there were due to the Company from Gyfford's estate 559,421 fanams, and that 140,260 gold fanams had disappeared during Midford's chiefship which could not be accounted for. Midford had also drawn pay for twenty European soldiers who did not exist. The Council ascribed Midford's misdeeds to his 'unaccountable stupidity,' and the Directors answered that 'the charges against Mr. Midford are very grievous ones.'
In September 1722, the Council received from Orme a copy of the treaty he had made with the Rani. The following were the chief provisions. The ringleaders in the attack on Gyfford were to be punished and their estates confiscated; all Christians living between Edawa and Brinjone were to be brought under the Company's protection; the Rani was to reimburse the Company for all expenses caused by the attack on Anjengo; the Company was to have exclusive right to the pepper trade, and were empowered to build factories in the Rani's dominions wherever they pleased; the Rani was to return all arms taken in the late out-break, and to furnish timber to rebuild the church that had been burned. The treaty was guaranteed by the Rani's brother, the Rajah of Chinganatta. By the Directors it was received with mixed feelings.
"Last years Letters took some notice about the Affair at Anjengo, We had not then the Account of the Treaty Mr. Orme made with the Queen of Attinga and King of Chinganetty, We are sorry to find it included in the Treaty, That We must supply Souldiers to carry on the War against her rebellious Subjects for which she is to pay the Charge, and in the Interim to pawn Lands for answering principal and Interest, because it will certainly involve us in a trouble if We succeed, and more if We dont, add to this, the variable temper and poverty of those people may incline them to refuse to refund, and in time they may redemand and force back their Lands, If the Articles are fully comply'd with they seem to be for the Companys benefit, But We fear we shall have the least Share of it, To what purpose is her Grant to Us of all the Pepper in her Countrey, If Our unfaithful people there get all for themselves and none for Us, as you Charge Mr. Midford with doing, We dont want an Extent of Lands, if We could but (obtain) pepper cheap and sufficient, And what benefit will it be to Us, to have the liberty of building Factorys, which in Event is only a Liberty to lavish away Our Money, and turning Quick Stock into dead, unless you could be morally certain it would be worth while to get a small residence in the King of Chengenattys Countrey, where it is said the Dutch make great Investments of Peice Goods cheaper and better, than they used to do at Negapatam, and therefore have deserted it, We consider further, if such Goods as are proper for Our Europe Market were procurable, how comes it We have had none hitherto, It is true We have had Cloth from Anjengo good of the Sorts, but Invoiced so dear that We forbad sending more unless to be purchased at the prices We limited, since then We have heard no more about it, But we are told it is Traded in to Bombay to some profit, What profit will the putting the Christians between Edova and Brinjohn under Our Jurisdiction yeild to Us, and what Security can you have that the King of Chenganattys Guarranteeship will answer and give full satisfaction, These are what appear to Us worthy your serious and deliberate consideration to be well thought of before you come to a determination What Orders to give, We find by your Consultations in January 1722/23 You had sent down Treasure to Anjengo, to enable the Chief to levy Souldiers to revenge the Murder of the English, since you could not spare Forces which as there exprest is absolutely necessary, for else the Natives will have but contemptible thoughts of the English, who will then loose their Esteem, had We ever found a benefit by their Esteem, something might be said for it, But in the present Case We fear We shall buy Our Esteem at too dear a Rate, We should be extreamly glad to be mistaken and to find in effect what your 120th Paragraph says in words, that you hope to make it a Valuable Settlement."/12/
We left Mrs. Gyfford flying from Anjengo in a small country ship, with two other English women and six children. The misery that the three poor widows must have endured for a month, crowded into a small country boat, without preparation or ordinary comforts, at the hottest time of the year, must have been extreme. On the 17th May, the fugitives landed at Madras. The Council there granted them a compassionate allowance, of which Mrs. Gyfford refused to avail herself. After a time she made her way to Calcutta and joined her father's family, leaving with an agent in Madras the Anjengo factory books, which, after repeated demands, were surrendered to the Madras Council.
From Madras to Calcutta she was pursued by the demands of the Bombay Council. The books had been restored at Madras, and the Bengal Government extracted Rs.7312 from her; but in reply to further demands, she would only answer that she was 'an unfortunate widow, struggling with adversity, whose husband had met his death serving our Honourable Masters,' and that it was shameful to demand money from her, when she herself was owed large sums by the Company. She could only refer them to her agents at Madras and Anjengo. Still, she was in a considerable dilemma, as she could not get out of the country without a full settlement of accounts, and, if resistance was carried too far, her father might be made to suffer.