The Steam House

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The Steam House
'The Steam House' by Léon Benett 018.jpg
Author Jules Verne
Original title La Maison à vapeur
Illustrator Léon Benett
Country France
Language French
Series The Extraordinary Voyages #20
Genre Adventure novel
Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Hardback)
OCLC 2653988
Preceded by Tribulations of a Chinaman in China
Followed by Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon

The Steam House (French: La maison à vapeur) is an 1880 Jules Verne novel recounting the travels of a group of British colonists in the Raj in a wheeled house pulled by a steam-powered mechanical elephant. Verne uses the mechanical house as a plot device to have the reader travel in nineteenth-century India. The descriptions are interspersed with historical information and social commentary.

The book takes place in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against British rule, with the passions and traumas aroused still very much alive among Indians and British alike. An alternate title by which the book was known - "The End of Nana Sahib" - refers to the appearance in the book of the historical figure—Rebel leader Nana Sahib—who disappeared after the crushing of the rebellion, his ultimate fate unknown. Verne offers a fictional explanation to his disappearance.


Part 1[edit]

In summer 1866, in Aurangabad, British colonial government announces bounty on the head of Nana Sahib, who is supposed to be hiding in that presidency. Nana Sahib, disguised as a sage stalks and kill the man who claims to know face of Nana Sahib. Nana Sahib escapes from Aurangabad same night and taking his brother Bala Rao and followers, hidden in Ajanta and Ellora caves respectively, retreats to Vindhiyanchal mountains to hide from colonial forces.

Nana Sahib, along with his brother and followers hides in various small fortresses called Pals, and mostly inside Pal of Tandil. His brother Bala Rao, who is extremely similar to Nana sahib in physical appearance, inquires about the inhabitants of fortress and learns from locals that none except local outlaws, insurgents and a mad woman knows about the place. The mad woman is known as Rowing Flame as she carries a burning torch and roams the wilderness in valley of Narmada. The locals respect the mysterious lady and feed and cloth her. From this hiding place, Nana Sahib launches an underground movement and secretly visit local chieftains for persuading them for a rising.

Meanwhile, in Calcutta, a group of Europeans is planning for a voyage through India. The group consist of Banks, a railroad engineer, Maucler, the French adventurer and narrator for most part of the story, Captain Hood; a hunter craving for his half century of tigers, retired Colonel Sir Edward Munro, whose motive behind joining this expedition is to find and kill Nana Sahib to avenge his Wife, who supposedly died in the Cawnpore massacre. Servants accompanying them are Sargent McNeil, Munro's faithful servant. Fox is the faithful servant of Captain Hood and fellow hunter, who has killed 37 tigers. Monsieur Parazard; a Negro cook of French origins, Storr, a British Engine driver, Kilouth; an Adivasi coal shover and Gotimi; the faithful Indian servant of Colonel Munro.

Banks, the Engineer introduces the machine he invented, a Steam powered mechanical elephant, which pulls two comfortable carriages having all the comforts of a 19th-century house. The machine, can walk across land and float across rivers using embedded Peddle wheels. The steam elephant is named as Behemoth and together with two carriages, it is called the Steam House. First carriage is used by the gentlemen while the other is reserved for servants. They start from Calcutta, and travelling around the French town of Chandannagar, and Burdawan, Patna and Chitra, reach Gaya, where they visit various Hindu and Buddhist temples and bathing Ghat. On the way to Banaras are interrupted by Hindu fanatics who consider the Steam House to be chariot of their deity. Banks frightens them away by directing steam exhaust at them. In Banaras, Banks and Maucler notice a man spying on them but resolve not to tell Colonel. From Banaras,they travel to Allahabad, where they learn that Nana sahib has been declared dead after an skirmish in the defiles of Satpuda. Colonel Munro is shocked by this news, as he wanted to take revenge himself. After Munro's request, they decides to pass through Kanpur, where an emotional Colonel visits his old house and the well which is supposedly the grave of Mrs Munro and other victims of the massacre. The group decides to journey towards norther forest and pass the Monsoon season there, hunting wild animals. In the way to Terai, they defeat 3 elephants of an arrogant Gujarati Prince in a competition with Behemoth. Near Terai, they are caught in a violent thunderstorm and Gautami narrowly survives after being thunderstruck. The man who was spying on Steam House meets Nana in Bhopal and informs him of further plans of inhabitants of Steam House. Nana orders his faithful follower Kalagni to infiltrate Steam House and lure them near Nana Sahib's hiding place. While returning to their hiding place, Near the Pal of Tandil, they are ambushed by British forces, who were directed unwittingly by the madwoman Rowing Flame. A body matching the description of Nana Sahib is found and he is declared dead by the British authorities.

Part 2[edit]

The inhabitants of Steam House camp on a plateau in Terai. During a hunting expedition, they rescue Mathias Van Guitt, an Animal purveyor from his own trap. They visit kraal of Van Guitt, where Colonel Munro is saved from a poisonous snake by one of Van Guitt's servant, Kalagni. The Steam House dwellers frequently visit the kraal and invite Van Guitt to the Steam House. Van Guitt try to capture animals, while inhabitants of Steam House hunt animals. One night when they are visiting Kraal,when Tigers and other Predatory animals attack the kraal. Protagonists narrowly escape death as many Indian servants are killed. The buffaloes are either killed by animals or driven away into jungle. Consequently, Van Guitt ask protagonists to drag his caravan of cages to nearest railway station, After reaching station and loading his cargo, Van Guitt and protagonists part their ways. Protagonists employ Kalagni as guide and servants and head for Bobay through Central India. During journey through jungles they encounter a herd of monkeys and a grain transport caravan. Kalagni meet an old acquaintance in the caravan and chat mysteriously with him. On their way to Jabalpur in the jungle, they are cornered and attacked by a herd of elephants which results in loss of second carriage. To escape from the herd, Banks drives Steam House into lake Puturia. All the food and provision is lost with second carriage and after sometime, the fuel is exhausted, resulting in Steam House floating in the middle of the lake. Kalagni volunteers to swim to shore and fetch help. Colonel Munro, suspecting him, sends his faithful servant Gautami with him. Both swim to shore while the steam House slowly drift in the fog. As soon as they reach the shore, Kalagni meets a follower of Nana, Nassim and tries to attack Goumi, who swiftly escape. With morning breeze, the Steam House drifts towards bank. as protagonists land, they are attacked by a group of men led by Kalagni and Nassim attack and kidnap Colonel Munro, leaving others bonded with ropes. Colonel Munro is taken to an abandoned fort, where Nana Sahib shows up and reveals the reality of the news of his death.The dead person who was identified as Nana Sahib was actually his look alike brother Balao Rao. Due to their physical similarity, the British authorities mistook Balao Rao as Nana Sahib. Nana Sahib proclaims death for Colonel Munro To avenge death of his brother, members of the royal family of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II and other victims of British suppuration of Indian Rebellion of 1857. Colonel Munro is tied on the mouth of a large cannon to, to be blown at sunrise. Nana leaves for a meting in nearby village. Near dawn, Munro is rescued by Goumi, who had hid himself inside the cannon after running away from Lake Puturia and overhearing plans of rebels. As they are escaping, they encounter Rowing Flame. Colonel Munro recognizes her as his wife Lady Munro, but she being lost her sanity, dont recognize him and refuses to go with him and sparks from her torch causes the canon to go off. Munro and Goumi escape with Lady Munro while the people in the fort are confused. But soon they are spotted by Kalagni and his men and encounter Nana Sahib on his way back to fort. Goumi and Munro quickly overpowers Nana and his assistant. As they are being chased by the men led by Kalagni, they are rescued by other protagonists riding on Behemoth. They take Nana sahib as prisoner and as they are chased through jungle. Capt Hood and Sgt. McNeil shoot down many of adversaries, including Kalagni. As they near towards a military outpost, Banks supercharges the boiler and protagonists escape the Behemoth, leaving bounded Nana Sahib inside the machine. As the men approach the machine, the boiler bursts, leaving everyone near it dead' although Nana's body is not found. Protagonists are rescued by the stationed regiment as rest of the insurgents fled to inner country. They head for Mumbai via railway and than to Calcutta. In care of Colonel Munro, Lady Munro regains her sanity and memory. When Munro tell Hood that about not being able to achieve his target of killing 50 tigers, Hood replies that Kalagni was his 50th tiger.

Alternative titles[edit]

The novel is usually published in two volumes or parts.

  • Demon of Cawnpore (Part 1 of 2)
  • Demon of the Cawnpore (Part 1 of 2)
  • Steam House (Part I) The Demon of Cawnpore
  • Steam House (Part II) Tigers and Traitors
  • Tigers and Traitors (Part 2 of 2)
  • Tigers and Traitors, Steam House (Part 2 of 2)
  • The End of Nana Sahib

See also[edit]

External links[edit]