Skip to main content

Full text of "Tales of Bengal"

See other formats




X 4 



"^ 



^^ 



Si 



U 



*av» 




SiJ^C^N 






\ 8 



W r ' 







<3 



* 



— < a '^r--.* 



SDITEK* B^ 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

RiVbvSIDE 



TALES OF BENGAL 



Works by the 

Sister Nivedita of Hamakrishna-Vivekananda 

(MARGARET E. NOBLE). 

AN INDIAN STUDY OF LOVE AND 
DEATH. 

Crown 8vo, 2s. net. 

CRADLE TALES OF HINDUISM. 

With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo 5s. net. 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO., 
London, New York, Bombay, and Calcutta. 



TALES OF BENGAL 



BY 



S. B. BANERJEA 



EDITED BY 

FRANCIS HENRY SERINE 

INDIAN CIVIL SERVICE (RETIRED) 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 
NEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA 

1910 



G130S 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

I. The Pride of Kadampur - - 1 

II. The Eival Markets ------- 15 

III. A Foul Conspiracy - - - - 24 

IV. The Biter Bitten - - ... 38 
V. All's Well that Ends Well 47 

VI. An Outrageous Swindle - 59 

VII. The Virtue of Economy 71 

VIII. A Peacemaker - - ----- 81 

IX. A Brahman's Curse - 91 

X. A Roland for his Oliver 107 

XI. Ramda - - 115 

XII. A Rift in the Lute - ... 124 

XIII. Debendra Babu in Trouble - - - 134 

XIV. True to his Salt- - 145 
XV. A Tame Rabbit - ... - 157 

XVI. Gobardhan's Triumph - - - ... 174 

XVII. Patience is a Virtue ... - - 179 

v 



INTKODUCTION. 

That << east is east, and west is west, and never the 
twain shall meet," is an axiom with most English- 
men to whom the oriental character seems an insol- 
uble enigma. This form of agnosticism is unworthy 
of a nation which is responsible for the happiness of 
300,000,000 Asiatics. It is not justified by history, 
which teaches us that civilisation is the result of the 
mutual action of Europe and Asia ; and that the 
advanced races of India are our own kinsfolk. 

The scene of Mr. Banerjea's tales has been won 
from the sea by alluvial action. Its soil, enriched 
by yearly deposits of silt, yields abundantly without 
the aid of manure. A hothouse climate and regular 
rainfall made Bengal the predestined breeding-ground 
of mankind ; the seat of an ancient and complex 
civilisation. But subsistence is too easily secured in 
those fertile plains. Malaria, due to the absence of 
subsoil drainage, is ubiquitous, and the standard of 
vitality extremely low. Bengal has always been at 

vii 



viii INTRODUCTION 

the mercy of invaders. The earliest inroad was 
prompted by economic necessity. About 2000 B.C. 
a congeries of races which are now styled " Aryan" 
were driven by the shrinkage of water from their 
pasture-grounds in Central Asia. They penetrated 
Europe in successive hordes, who were ancestors of our 
Celts, Hellenes, Slavs, Teutons and Scandinavians. 
Sanskrit was the Aryans' mother-tongue, and it 
forms the basis of nearly every European language. 
A later swarm turned the western flank of the 
Himalayas, and descended on Upper India. Their 
rigid discipline, resulting from vigorous group-selec- 
tion, gave the invaders an easy victory over the 
negroid hunters and fishermen who peopled India. 
All races of Aryan descent exhibit the same char- 
acteristics. They split into endogamous castes, each 
of which pursues its own interests at the expense of 
other castes. From the dawn of history we find 
kings, nobles and priests riding roughshod over a 
mass of herdsmen, cultivators and artisans. These 
ruling castes are imbued with pride of colour. The 
Aryans' fair complexions differentiated them from 
the coal-black aborigines ; vama in Sanskrit means 
"caste" and "colour". Their aesthetic instinct 
finds expression in a passionate love of poetry, and 
a tangible object in the tribal chiefs. Loyalty is 



INTRODUCTION ix 

a religion which is almost proof against its idol's 
selfishness and incompetence. 

Caste is a symptom of arrested social development ; 
and no community which tolerates it is free from the 
scourge of civil strife. Class war is the most salient 
fact in history. Warriors, termed Kshatriyas in 
Sanskrit, were the earliest caste. Under the law of 
specialisation defence fell to the lot of adventurous 
spirits, whose warlike prowess gave them unlimited 
prestige with the peaceful masses. They became 
the governing element, and were able to transmit 
their privileges by male filiation. But they had to 
reckon with the priests, descended from bards who 
attached themselves to the court of a Kshatriya 
prince and laid him under the spell of poetry. 
Lust of dominion is a manifestation of the Wish to 
Live ; the priests used their tremendous power for 
selfish ends. They imitated the warriors in forming 
a caste, which claimed descent from Brahma, the 
Creator's head, while Kshatriyas represented his 
arms, and the productive classes his less noble 
members. 

In the eleventh century B.C. the warrior clans 
rose in revolt against priestly arrogance : and Hin- 
dustan witnessed a conflict between the religious 
and secular arms. Brahminism had the terrors of 



x INTRODUCTION 

hell fire on its side ; feminine influence was its 
secret ally ; the world is governed by brains, not 
muscles ; and spiritual authority can defy the mailed 
fist. After a prolonged struggle the Kshatriyas were 
fain to acknowledge their inferiority. 

When a hierocracy has been firmly established its 
evolution always follows similar lines. Eitual be- 
comes increasingly elaborate : metaphysical dogma 
grows too subtle for a layman's comprehension. Com- 
mercialism spreads from the market to the sanctuary, 
whose guardians exploit the all-pervading fear of the 
unknown to serve their lust of luxury and rule. 

Brahminism has never sought to win proselytes ; 
the annals of ancient India record none of those 
atrocious persecutions which stained mediaeval Chris- 
tianity. It competed with rival creeds by offering 
superior advantages : and the barbarous princes of 
India were kept under the priestly heel by an appeal 
to their animal instincts. A fungoid literature of 
abominations grew up in the Tantras, which are 
filthy dialogues between Siva, the destroying influence 
in nature, and his consorts. One of these, Kali by 
name, is the impersonation of slaughter. Her shrine, 
near Calcutta, is knee-deep in blood, and the Dhydn 
or formula for contemplating her glories, is a tissue 
of unspeakable obscenity. Most Hindus are Saktas, 



INTRODUCTION xi 

or worshippers of the female generative principle : 
happily for civilisation they are morally in advance of 
their creed. But it is a significant fact that Kali is 
the tutelary goddess of extremist politicians, whose 
minds are prepared for the acceptance of anarchism 
by the ever-present ideal of destruction. 

It was Bengal's misfortune that its people re- 
ceived Brahminism in a corrupt and degenerate 
form. According to legend, King Adisur, who 
reigned there in the ninth century of our era, im- 
ported five priests from Kanauj to perform indispens- 
able sacrifices. From this stock the majority of 
Bengali Brahmins claim descent. The immigrants 
were attended by five servants, who are the reputed 
ancestors of the Kayasth caste. In Sanskrit this 
word means " Standing on the Body," whence 
Kayasths claim to be Kshatriyas. But the tradition 
of a servile origin persisted, and they were forbidden 
to study the sacred writings. An inherited bent 
for literature has stood them in good stead : they 
became adepts in Persian, and English is almost 
their second mother-tongue to-day. Kayasths figure 
largely in Mr. Banerjea's tales : their history proves 
that the pen is mightier than the sword. 

Economic necessity was the cause of the first in- 
vasion of India : the second was inspired by religion. 



xii INTRODUCTION 

The evolution of organised creeds is not from simple 
to complex, but vice versa. From the bed-rock of 
magic they rise through nature-worship and man- 
worship to monotheism. The god of a conquering 
tribe is imposed on subdued enemies, and becomes 
Lord of Heaven and Earth. Monotheism of this 
type took root among the Hebrews, from whom 
Mohammed borrowed the conception. His gospel 
was essentially militant and proselytising. Nothing 
can resist a blend of the aesthetic and combative in- 
stincts ; within a century of the founder's death 
his successors had conquered Central Asia, and gained 
a permanent footing in Europe. In the tenth cen- 
tury a horde of Afghan Moslems penetrated Upper 
India. 

The Kshatriya princes fought with dauntless 
courage, but unity of action was impossible ; for the 
Brahmins fomented mutual jealousies and checked 
the growth of national spirit. They were subdued 
piecemeal; and in 1176 a.d. an Afghan Emperor 
governed Upper India from Delhi. The Aryan ele- 
ment in Bengal had lost its martial qualities ; and 
offered no resistance to Afghan conquest, which was 
consummated in 1203. The invaders imposed their 
religion by fire and sword. The Mohammadans of 
Eastern Bengal, numbering 58 per cent, of the 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

population, represent compulsory conversions effected 
between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
Eight hundred years of close contact have abated re- 
ligious hatred ; and occasional outbursts are due to 
priestly instigation. Hindus borrowed the Zenana 
system from their conquerors, who imitated them in 
discouraging widow-remarriages. Caste digs a gulf 
between followers of the rival creeds, but Mr. 
Banerjea's tales prove that a good understanding is 
possible. It is now imperilled by the curse of politi- 
cal agitation. 

In 1526 the Afghan dynasty was subverted by a 
Mongol chieftain lineally descended from Tamerlane. 
His grandson Akbar's reign (1560-1605) was India's 
golden age. Akbar the Great was a ruler of the 
best modern type, who gave his subjects all the es- 
sentials of civilisation. But he knew that material 
prosperity is only the means to an end. Man, said 
Ruskin, is an engine whose motive power is the soul ; 
and its fuel is love. Akbar called all the best ele- 
ments in society to his side and linked them in the 
bonds of sympathy. 

Religion in its highest phase is coloured by mysti- 
cism which seeks emblems of the hidden source of 
harmony in every form of life. Anthropomorphic 
conceptions are laid aside ; ritual is abandoned as 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

savouring of magic ; hierocracy as part of an obso- 
lete caste system ; metaphysical dogma because the 
Infinite cannot be weighed in the balances of human 
reason. The truce to fanaticism called by Akbar 
the Great encouraged a poet and reformer named 
Tulsi Dasa (1532-1623) to point a surer way to 
salvation. He adored Krishna, the preserving influ- 
ence incarnate as Rama, and rehandled Valmiki's 
great epic, the Ramayana, in the faint rays of Chris- 
tian light which penetrated India during that age of 
transition. Buddha had proclaimed the brotherhood 
of man ; Tulsi Dasa deduced it from the fatherhood 
of God. The Preserver, having sojourned among 
men, can understand their infirmities, and is ever 

i 

ready to save his sinful creatures who call upon him. 
The duty of leading others to the fold is imposed on 
believers, for we are all children of the same Father. 
Tulsi Dasa's Ramayana is better known in Bihar and 
the United Provinces than is the Bible in rural Eng- 
land. The people of Hindustan are not swayed by 
relentless fate, nor by the goddess of destruction. 
Their prayers are addressed to a God who loves his 
meanest adorer ; they accept this world's bufferings 
with resignation : while Rama reigns all is well. 

If the hereditary principle were sound, the Empire 
cemented together by Akbar's statecraft might have 



INTRODUCTION xv 

defied aggression. His successors were debauchees 
or fanatics. They neglected the army ; a recrudes- 
cence of the nomad instinct sent them wandering 
over India with a locust-like horde of followers ; 
Hindus were persecuted, and their temples were de- 
stroyed. So the military castes whose religion was 
threatened, rose in revolt ; Viceroys threw off alle- 
giance, and carved out kingdoms for themselves. 
Within a century of Akbar's death his Empire was 
a prey to anarchy. 

India had hitherto enjoyed long spells of immunity 
from foreign interference. Her people, defended 
by the Himalayan wall and the ocean, were free to 
develop their own scheme of national life ; and world- 
forces which pierce the thickest crust of custom, 
reached them in attenuated volume. Their isolation 
ended when the sea was no longer a barrier ; and 
for maritime nations it is but an extension of their 
territory. A third invasion began in the sixteenth 
century, and has continued till our own day. The 
underlying motive was not economic necessity, nor 
religious enthusiasm, but sheer lust of gain. 

In 1498 Vasco da Gama discovered an all-sea 
route to India, thus opening the fabulous riches of 
Asia to hungry Europe. Portuguese, Dutch, French 
and English adventurers embarked in a struggle for 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

Indian commerce, in which our ancestors were victo- 
rious because they obtained the command of the sea, 
and had the whole resources of the mother-country 
at their back. 

Westerners are so imbued with the profit-making 
instinct that they mentally open a ledger account in 
order to prove that India gains more than she loses 
by dependence on the people of these islands. It 
cannot be denied that the fabric of English admin- 
istration is a noble monument of the civil skill and 
military prowess developed by our race. We have 
given the peninsula railways and canals, postal and 
telegraph systems, a code of laws which is far in 
advance of our own. Profound peace broods over 
the empire, famine and pestilence are fought with 
the weapons of science. It would be easy to pile 
up items on the debit side of our imaginary cash- 
book. Free trade has destroyed indigenous crafts 
wholesale, and quartered the castes who pursued 
them on an over-taxed soil. Incalculable is the 
waste of human life and inherited skill caused by 
the shifting of productive energy from India to 
Great Britain, Germany and America. It cannot 
be said that the oversea commerce, which amounted 
in 1907-8 to £241,000,000, is an unmixed benefit. 
The empire exports food and raw materials, robbing 



TNTBODUCTION xvii 

the soil of priceless constituents, and buys manu- 
factured goods which ought to be produced at home. 
Foreign commerce is stimulated by the home charges, 
which average £18,000,000, and it received an in- 
direct bounty by the closure of the mints in 1893. 
The textile industry of Lancashire was built upon 
a prohibition of Indian muslins : it now exports yarn 
and piece goods to the tune of £32,000,000, and 
this trade was unjustly favoured at the expense of 
local mills under the Customs Tariff of 1895. But 
there are forces in play for good or evil which cannot 
be appraised in money. From a material point of 
view our Government is the best and most honest 
in existence. If it fails to satisfy the psychical 
cravings of India there are shortcomings on both 
sides ; and some of them are revealed by Mr. Baner- 
jea's tales. 

Caste. — As a Kulin, or pedigreed Brahmin, he 
is naturally prone to magnify the prestige of his 
order. It has been sapped by incidents of foreign 
rule and the spread of mysticism. Pandits find 
their stupendous lore of less account than the literary 
baggage of a university graduate. Brahmin pride 
is outraged by the advancement of men belonging to 
inferior castes. The priesthood's dream is to regain 
the ascendancy usurped by a race of Mlecchas 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

(barbarians) ; and it keeps orthodox Hindus in a 
state of suppressed revolt. One centre of the in- 
sidious agitation is the fell goddess Kali's shrine near 
Calcutta ; another is Puna, which has for centuries 
been a stronghold of the clannish Maratha Brahmans. 
Railways have given a mighty impetus to religion 
by facilitating access to places of pilgrimage ; the 
post office keeps disaffected elements in touch ; and 
English has become a lingua franca. 

While Brahminism, if it dared, could proclaim a 
religious war, it has powerful enemies within the 
hierarchy. A desire for social recognition is uni- 
versal. It was the Patricians' refusal to intermarry 
with Plebeians that caused the great constitutional 
struggles of Ancient Rome. Many of the lowest 
castes are rebelling against Brahmin arrogance. 
They have waxed rich by growing lucrative staples, 
and a strong minority are highly educated. Mysti- 
cal sects have already thrown off the priestly yoke. 
But caste is by no means confined to races of Indian 
blood. What is the snobbery which degrades our 
English character but the Indo-German Sudra's rever- 
ence for his Brahmin? The Europeans constitute 
a caste which possesses some solidarity against 
" natives," and they have spontaneously adopted 
these anti-social distinctions. At the apex stand 



INTRODUCTION xix 

covenanted civilians ; whose service is now practically 
a close preserve for white men. It is split into the 
Secretariat, who enjoy a superb climate plus Indian 
pay and furlough, and the " rank and file " doomed 
to swelter in the plains. Esprit de corps, which is 
the life-blood of caste, has vanished. Officers of the 
Educational Service, recruited from the same social 
strata, rank as << uncovenanted " ; and a sense of 
humiliation reacts on their teaching. 

The Land. — In 1765 Clive secured for the East 
India Company the right of levying land-tax in Ben- 
gal. It was then collected by zemindars, a few of 
whom were semi-independent nobles, and the rest 
mere farmers of revenue, who bid against one an- 
other at the periodical settlements. Tenant right 
apart, the conception of private property in the soil 
was inconceivable to the Indian mind. Every one 
knows that it was borrowed by English lawyers from 
the Roman codes, when commercialism destroyed 
the old feudal nexus. Lord Cornwallis's permanent 
Settlement of 1793 was a revolution as drastic in its 
degree as that which France was undergoing. Ze- 
mindars were presented with the land for which they 
had been mere rakers-in of revenue. It was par- 
celled out into " estates," which might be bought and 

sold like moveable property. A tax levied at custom- 

b * 



xx INTRODUCTION 

ary rates became " rent " arrived at by a process of 
bargaining between the landlord and ignorant rustics. 
The Government demand was fixed for ever, but no 
attempt was made to safeguard the ryot's interests. 
Cornwallis and his henchmen fondly supposed that 
they were manufacturing magnates of the English 
type, who had made our agriculture a model for the 
world. They were grievously mistaken. Under the 
cast-iron law of sale most of the original zemindars 
lost their estates, which passed into the hands of 
parvenus saturated with commercialism. Bengal is 
not indebted to its zemindars for any of the new 
staples which have created so vast a volume of 
wealth. They are content to be annuitants on the 
land, and sub-infeudation has gone to incredible 
lengths. Most of them are absentees whose one 
thought is to secure a maximum of unearned incre- 
ment from tillers of the soil. In 1765 the land 
revenue amounted to £3,400,000, of which £258,000 
was allotted to zemindars. A century afterwards 
their net profits were estimated at £12,000,000, 
and they are now probably half as much again. The 
horrible oppression described by Mr. Banerjea is 
impossible in our era of law-courts, railways and 
newspapers. But it is always dangerous to bring 
the sense of brotherhood, on which civilisation 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

depends, into conflict with crude animal instincts. 
In days of American slavery the planter's interest 
prompted him to treat his human cattle with con- 
sideration, yet Simon Legrees were not unknown. 
It is a fact that certain zemindars are in the habit 
of remeasuring their ryots' holdings periodically, and 
always finding more land than was set forth in the 
lease. 

The Police. — A pale copy of Sir Kobert Peel's 
famous system was introduced in 1861, when hosts 
of inspectors, sub-inspectors and head constables 
were let loose on Bengal. The new force was highly 
unpopular, and failed to attract the educated classes. 
Subaltern officers, therefore, used power for private 
ends, while the masses were so inured to oppression 
that they offered no resistance. There has been a 
marked improvement in the personnel of late years ; 
and Mr. Banerjea's lurid pictures of corruption and 
petty tyranny apply to a past generation of police- 
men. The Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal 
does justice to a much-abused service in his Adminis- 
trative Eeport for 1907-8. His Honour " believes 
the force to be a hard-working body of Government 
servants, the difficulties, trials, arid even dangers of 
whose duties it is impossible for the public at large 
really to appreciate ". He acknowledges that " India 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

is passing through a period of transition. Old pre- 
possessions and unscientific methods must be cast 
aside, and the value of the confession must be held 
at a discount." Bengal policemen fail as egregiously 
as their British colleagues in coping with professional 
crime. Burglary is a positive scourge, and the 
habit of organising gang-robberies has spread to 
youths of the middle class. 

Education. — Though Mr. Banerjea has no experi- 
ence of the inner working of our Government offices, 
he speaks on education with an expert's authority. 
Lord Macaulay, who went to India in 1834 as legal 
member of Council, was responsible for the introduc- 
tion pf English as the vehicle of instruction. He 
had gained admission to the caste of Whigs, whose 
battle-cry was "Knowledge for the People," and his 
brilliant rhetoric overpowered the arguments of 
champions of oriental learning. Every one with a 
smattering of Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian, regrets the 
fact that those glorious languages have not been 
adequately cultivated in modern India. Bengali is a 
true daughter of the Sanskrit ; it has Italian sweet- 
ness and German capacity for expressing abstract 
ideas. No degree of proficiency in an alien tongue 
can compensate for the neglect of the vernacular. 
Moreover, the curriculum introduced in the " thirties " 



INTKODUCTION xxiii 

was purely academic. It came to India directly 
from English universities, which had stuck fast in 
the ruts of the Renaissance. Undue weight was 
given to literary training, while science and technical 
skill were despised. Our colleges and schools do not 
attempt to build character on a foundation of useful 
habits and tastes that sweeten life ; to ennoble ideals, 
or inspire self-knowledge, self-reliance, and self-con- 
trol. Technical education is still in its infancy; and 
the aesthetic instinct which lies dormant in every 
Aryan's brain is unawakened. A race which in- 
vented the loom now invents nothing but grievances. 
In 1901 Bengal possessed 69,000 schools and col- 
leges, attended by 1,700,000 pupils, yet only one 
adult male in 10 and one female in 144 can read 
and write ! The Calcutta University is an examining 
body on the London model. It does not attempt to 
enforce discipline in a city which flaunts every vice 
known to great seaports and commercial centres, un- 
mitigated by the social instinct. Nor is the training 
of covenanted civilians more satisfactory. In 1909 
only 1 out of 50 selected candidates presented him- 
self for examination in Sanskrit or Arabic ! Men go 
out to India at twenty-four, knowing little of the 
ethnology, languages or history of the races they are 
about to govern. 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

Agriculture. — Seventy-two per cent, of Bengalis 
live by cultivating the soil. The vast majority are 
in the clutches of some local Shylock, who sweeps 
their produce into his garners, doling out inadequate 
supplies of food and seed grain. Our courts of law 
are used by these harpies as engines of oppression ; 
toil as he may the ryot is never free from debt. The 
current rates of interest leave no profit from agri- 
culture or trade. Twelve to 18 per cent, is charged 
for loans on ample landed security ; and ordinary 
cultivators are mulcted in 40 to 60. A haunting 
fear of civil discord, and purblind conservatism in 
the commercial castes, are responsible for the dearth 
of capital. India imports bullion amounting to 
£25,000,000 a year, to the great detriment of 
European credit, and nine-tenths of it is hoarded in 
the shape of ornaments or invested in land, which 
is a badge of social rank. Yet the Aryan nature is 
peculiarly adapted to co-operation. If facilities for 
borrowing at remunerative rates existed in towns, 
agricultural banks on the Schulze-Delitzsch and 
Eaiffeisen systems would soon overspread the land. 
Credit and co-operative groupings for the purchase 
of seed, fertilisers and implements, are the twin 
pillars of rural industry. Indian ryots are quite as 
receptive of new ideas as English farmers. They 



INTKODUCTION xxv 

bought many thousands of little iron sugar mills, 
placed on the market a generation back by some 
English speculators, and will adopt any improve- 
ments of practical value if the price is brought within 
their slender means. 

The revolution which began a decade ago in 
America has not spread to Bengal, where the 
average yield of grain per acre is only 10 bushels 
as compared with 30 in Europe. Yet it has been 
calculated that another bushel would defray the 
whole cost of Government ! Bengalis obey the in- 
junction "increase and multiply" without regard for 
consequences. Their habitat has a population of 
552 per square mile, and in some districts the ratio 
exceeds 900. Clearly there is a pressing need of 
scientific agriculture, to replace or supplement the 
rule-of-thumb methods in which the ryot is a past 
master. 

The Bengali Character. — Mr. Banerjea has lifted 
a corner of the veil that guards the Indian's home 
from prying eyes. He shows that Bengalis are men 
of like passions with us. The picture is perhaps 
overcharged with shade. Sycophants, hustlers and 
cheats abound in every community ; happily for the 
future of civilisation there is also a leaven of true 
nobility : " The flesh striveth against the spirit," 



xxvi INTEODUCTION 

nor does it always gain mastery. Having mixed with 
all classes for twenty eventful years, and speaking 
the vernacular fluently, I am perhaps entitled to hold 
an opinion on this much-vexed question. The most 
salient feature in the Indian nature is its bound- 
less charity. There are no poor laws, and the 
struggle for life is very severe ; yet the aged and in- 
firm, the widow and the orphan have their allotted 
share in the earnings of every household. It is a 
symptom of approaching famine that beggars are 
perforce refused their daily dole. Cruelty to children 
is quite unknown. Parents will deny themselves 
food in order to defray a son's schooling-fees or marry 
a daughter with suitable provision. Bengalis are 
remarkably clannish : they will toil and plot to ad- 
vance the interests of anyone remotely connected with 
them by ties of blood. 

Their faults are the outcome of superstition, slavery 
to custom, and an unhealthy climate. Among them 
is a lack of moral courage, a tendency to lean on 
stronger natures, and to flatter a superior by feign- 
ing to agree with him. The standard of truth and 
honesty is that of all races which have been ground 
under heel for ages : deceit is the weapon of weaklings 
and slaves. Perjury has become a fine art, because 
our legal system fosters the chicane which is innate 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

in quick-witted peoples. The same man who lies 
unblushingly in an English court, will tell the truth 
to an assembly of caste-fellows, or to the Panchayat 
(a committee of five which arbitrates in private dis- 
putes). Let British Pharisees study the working of 
their own Divorce and County Courts : they will not 
find much evidence of superior virtue ! As for 
honesty, the essence of commercialism is "taking ad- 
vantage of other people's needs," and no legal code 
has yet succeeded in drawing a line between fair 
and unfair trade. In India and Japan merchants 
are an inferior class ; and loss of self-respect reacts un- 
favourably on the moral sense. Ingratitude is a vice 
attributed to Bengalis by people who have done little 
or nothing to elicit the corresponding virtue. As a 
matter of fact their memory is extremely retentive 
of favours. They will overlook any shortcomings in 
a ruler who has the divine gift of sympathy, and 
serve him with devotion. Macaulay has branded 
them with cowardice. If the charge were true, it 
was surely illogical and unmanly to reproach a com- 
munity numbering 50,000,000 for inherited defects. 
Difference of environment and social customs will 
account for the superior virility of Europeans as com- 
pared with their distant kinsmen whose lot is cast 
in the sweltering tropics. But no one who has 



xxviii INTBODUCTION 

observed Bengali schoolboys standing up bare-legged 
to fast bowling will question their bravery. In fact, 
the instinct of combativeness is universal, and among 
protected communities it finds vent in litigation. 

Englishmen who seek to do their duty by India 
have potential allies in the educated classes, who 
have grafted Western learning on a civilisation much 
more ancient than their own. Bengal has given 
many illustrious sons to the empire. Among the 
dead I may mention Pandits Ishwar Chandra Vidy- 
asagar and Kissari Mohan Ganguli, whose vast 
learning was eclipsed by their zeal for social service ; 
Dr. Sambhu Chandra Mukharji, whose biography I 
wrote, in 1895 ; and Mr. Umesh Chandra Banarji, a 
lawyer who held his own with the flower of our Eng- 
lish bar. A Bengali Brahmin is still with us who 
directs one of the greatest contracting firms in the 
empire. How much brighter would India's outlook 
be if this highly-gifted race were linked in bonds of 
sympathy with our own ! 

The women of the Gangetic delta deserve a better 
fate than is assigned to them by Hindu and Moham- 
madan custom. They are kept in leading-strings 
from the cradle to the grave ; their intellect is 
rarely cultivated, their affections suffer atrophy from 
constant repression. Yet Mr. Banerjea draws more 



INTBODUCTION xxix 

than one picture of wifely devotion, and the instinctive 
good sense which is one of the secrets of feminine 
influence. Women seldom fail to rise to the occa- 
sion when opportunity is vouchsafed them. The late 
Maharani Surnomoyi of Cossimbazar managed her 
enormous estates with acumen ; and her charities 
were as lavish as Lady Burdett-Coutts's. Toru Dutt, 
who died in girlhood, wrote French and English 
verses full of haunting sweetness. It is a little pre- 
mature for extremists to prate of autonomy while 
their women are prisoners or drudges. 

Superstition. — Modes of thought surviving from 
past ages of intellectual growth are the chief obstacles 
in the path of progress. Mr. Banerjea's tales con- 
tain many references to magic — a pseudo-science 
which clings to the world's religions and social 
polity. It is doubtful whether the most civilised of 
us has quite shaken off the notion that mysterious 
virtues may be transmitted without the impetus of 
will-power. Latin races are haunted by dread of the 
Evil Eye; advertisements of palmists, astrologers 
and crystal-gazers fill columns of our newspapers. 
Rational education alone enables us to trace the 
sequence of cause and effect which* is visible in every 
form of energy. Until this truth is generally recog- 
nised no community can eradicate the vices of 
superstition. 



xxx INTKODUCTION 

The "unrest" of which we hear so much finds no 
echo in Mr. Banerjea's pages. It is, indeed, con- 
fined to a minute percentage of the population, even 
including the callow schoolboys who have been 
tempted to waste precious years on politics. The 
masses are too ignorant and too absorbed by the 
struggle for existence to care one jot for reforms. 
They may, however, be stirred to blind fury by ap- 
pealing to their prejudices. Therein lies a real 
danger. Divergence of religious ideals, to which I 
have already alluded, accounts for the tranquillity 
that prevails throughout Bihar as compared with the 
spirit of revolution in Bengal proper. The microbe 
of anarchy finds an excellent culture-ground in minds 
which grove] before the goddess Kali. But the un- 
rest cannot be isolated from other manifestations of 
cosmic energy, which flash from mind to mind and 
keep the world in turmoil. Every force of nature 
tends to be periodic. The heart's systole and dia- 
stole; alternations of day and night, of season and 
tide, are reflected in the history of our race. Pro- 
gress is secured by the swing of a giant pendulum 
from East to West, the end of each beat ushering in 
drastic changes in religion, economics and social 
polity. It is probable that one of these cataclysmic 
epochs opened with the victories wrested from 



INTRODUCTION xxxi 

Russia by Japan. The democratic upheaval which 
began five hundred years ago is assuming Protean 
forces ; and amongst them is the malady aptly styled 
" constitutionalitis " by Dr. Dillon. The situation in 
India demands prescience and statecraft. Though 
world-forces cannot be withstood, they are suscept- 
ible of control by enlightened will-power. Will 
peace be restored by the gift of constitutional govern- 
ment at a crisis when the august Mother of Parlia- 
ments is herself a prey to faction? It is worthy of 
note that the self-same spirit has always been rife 
in Bengal, where every village has its Dais — local 
Montagues and Capulets, whose bickerings are a 
fertile source of litigation. 

Mr. Banerjea's tales were written for his own 
countrymen, and needed extensive revision in order 
to render them intelligible to Western readers. I 
have preserved the author's spirit and phraseology ; 
and venture to hope that this little book will shed 
some light on the problem of Indian administration. 

Francis H. Serine. 



THE PEIDE OF KADAMPUB. 

Kadampur is a country village which is destitute of 
natural or artificial attractions and quite unknown 
to farne. Its census population is barely 1,500, four- 
fifths of whom are low-caste Hindus, engaged in 
cultivation and river-fishing ; the rest Mohamma- 
dans, who follow the same avocations but dwell in 
a Pdrd (quarter) of their own. The Bhadralok, or 
Upper Crust, consists of two Brahman and ten 
Kayastha (writer-caste) families. Among the latter 
group Kumodini Kanta Basu's took an unquestioned 
lead. He had amassed a modest competence as 
sub-contractor in the Commissariat during the second 
Afghan War, and retired to enjoy it in his ancestral 
village. His first care was to rebuild the family re- 
sidence, a congenial task which occupied five years 
and made a large hole in his savings. It slowly grew 
into a masonry structure divided into two distinct 
Mahdls (wings) — the first inhabited by men-folk ; the 
second sacred to the ladies and their attendants. 

Behind it stood the kitchen ; and the Pujarddldn 

1 



2 TALES OF BENGAL 

(family temple) occupied a conspicuous place in front, 
facing south. The usual range of brick cattle-sheds 
and servants' quarters made up quite an imposing 
group of buildings. 

Villagers classed amongst the gentry are wont to 
gather daily at some Chandimandap (a rustic temple 
dedicated to the goddess Durga, attached to most 
better-class houses). Kumodini Babu's was a favourite 
rendezvous, and much time was killed there in con- 
versation, card-playing, and chess. Among the group 
assembled, one crisp afternoon in February, was an 
old gentleman, called Shamsundar Ghosh, and known 
to ho^ts of friends as " Sham Babu ". He was head 
clerk in a Calcutta merchant's office, drawing Es. 60 
a month (£48 a year at par), which sufficed for the 
support of his wife and a son and daughter, respec- 
tively named Susil and Shaibalini. After a vain at- 
tempt to make two ends meet in expensive Calcutta, 
he had settled down at the outskirts of Kadampur, 
which has a railway station within half an hour's 
run of the Metropolis. Sham Babu's position and 
character were generally respected by neighbours, 
who nocked to his house for Calcutta gossip. 

On this particular occasion talk ran on Kadampur 
requirements, and somebody opined that another 
tank for bathing and drinking purposes ought to be 
excavated at once ; he did not say by whom. 



THE PKIDE OF KADAMPUE 3 

" True," observed Sham Babu, " bat a market is 
still more necessary. We have to trudge four miles 
for our vegetables and fish, which are obtainable in 
a more or less stale condition only twice a week. If 
one were started here, it would be a great boon to 
ten villages at least." Kumodini Babu assented, 
without further remark, and the subject dropped. 

It came up again on the following Sunday, when 
Kumodini Babu said to his friend : — 

" I have been thinking about your idea of a 
market in this village, and should like, if possible, to 
establish one myself. How much would it cost me ? 
As an old commissariat contractor, I am well up in 
the price of grain, fodder and ghi (clarified butter 
used in cooking), but I really know very little about 
other things." 

The confession elicited a general laugh, and Sham 
Babu replied, " It will be a matter of Es. 200 ". 

"Two hundred rupees! Surely that is far too 
much for a range of huts." 

" True enough. Your own bamboo clumps, straw- 
stacks and stores of cordage would provide raw ma- 
terial ; and as for labour, all you have to do is to 
order some of your ryots (tenants) who are behind- 
hand with their rent to work for you gratis." 

"That would be contrary to my principles. How 

are these poor people to live while engaged in 

1 * 



4 TALES OF BENGAL 

begdr (forced labour) on my behalf ? They must be 
paid." 

"Very well, then, let us set apart Rs. 20 to meet 
the cost of market buildings. But, for the first few 
weeks, you will have to buy up the unsold stock of 
perishable goods brought by Farias (hucksters) ; you 
must patronise the shopkeepers who open stalls 
for selling grain, cloth, confectionery, tobacco and 
trinkets. Once these people find that they are making 
fair profits they will gladly pay you rent for space al- 
lotted, besides tolls on the usual scale. At least Ks. 
180 must be set apart for these preliminary expenses." 

Kumodini Babu never did anything in haste. A 
fortnight elapsed ere he announced to the neighbours 
gathered in his Chandimandap that he intended start- 
ing a bi-weekly market on a vacant plot measuring 
one Blgha (one-third of an acre), known as the 
Kamarbari (Anglice, "Abode of Blacksmiths"). On 
an auspicious day towards the end of April, he in- 
augurated the new enterprise with some ceremony. 
His own ryots were enjoined to attend ; shopkeepers, 
hucksters, and fishermen who had hitherto gone much 
further afield, camein considerable numbers ; and busi- 
ness was amazingly brisk. Zemindars (landed pro- 
prietors) generally have to wait for months and 
spend money like water before they gain a pice 
(a bronze coin worth a farthing) from a new 



THE PEIDE OP KADAMPUB 5 

market. Kumodini Babu, however, began to reap 
where he had sown in less than a fortnight. Not an 
inch of space in the Karnarbari remained unoccu- 
pied ; his Hat-Gomastha, or bailiff, levied rent and 
tolls for vendors, at whose request the market was 
proclaimed a tri-weekly one. His fame as a man 
of energy and public spirit spread over ten villages, 
whose people felt that he was one who would give 
them good counsel in times of difficulty. 

There is some truth in the notion that fortune's gifts 
seldom come singly. Kumodini Babu's success in a 
business venture was immediately followed by one 
in his domestic affairs. It fell out in this wise. Sham 
Babu's daughter, Shaibalini, was still unmarried, 
though nearly thirteen and beautiful enough to be 
the pride of Kadampur. Money was, indeed, the 
only qualification she lacked, and Sham Babu's com- 
parative poverty kept eligible suitors at a distance. 
For three years he had sought far and wide for a son- 
in-law and was beginning to fear that he might, after 
all, be unable to fulfil the chief duty of a Hindu 
parent. One evening his wife unexpectedly entered 
the parlour where he was resting s after a heavy day 
at office. 

" Why has the moon risen so early? " he asked. 

"Because the moon can't do otherwise," she an- 
swered, with a faint smile. " But, joking apart, I want 



G TALES OF BENGAL 

to consult you about Saili. Our neighbour Kanto 
Babu's wife called on me just before you returned 
from Calcutta, and, after beating about the bush, sug- 
gested Kumodini Babu's younger son, Nalini, as a 
suitable match for her." 

Sham Babu's face wore a worried look. 

" Surely that would be flying too high for such as 
us," he rejoined. "The Basus are comparatively 
rich, and very proud of their family which settled 
here during the Mughal days (i.e., before British 
rule, which in Bengal date from 1765). Young 
Nalini is reading for his B.A. examination and 
wants to be a pleader (advocate). Kumodini Babu 
would hardly allow his son to marry the daughter of 
a poor clerk." 

" Still, there is no harm in trying," remarked the 
wife. "If you don't feel equal to approaching him, 
there's Kanto Babu who would do so. It was his 
wife who broached the subject to me, which makes 
me think that they have been discussing it together." 

"An excellent idea," exclaimed Sham Babu. "I'll 
go to him at once." And taking his stick, he set out 
for Kanto Babu's house, which was barely fifty yards 
off. In half an hour he returned to gladden his wife 
with the news that their neighbour had consented to 
act as a go-between. 

Kanto Babu was as good as his word. That very 



THE PRIDE OF KADAMPUR 7 

evening he called on Kumodini Babu, whom he found 
reading the Mahdbhdrata (an epic poem). After dwell- 
ing now on this matter, now on that, he asked casu- 
ally :— 

" Have you never thought of getting Nalini married ? 
He is over twenty, I believe." 

" My wife has been urging me to look out for a 
wife for him, but in my opinion he is too young for 
such responsibilities. Better wait till he has passed 
theB.A. examination." 

"Your wife's idea is sounder than yours, if I 
may be permitted to say so. Just think of the awful 
temptations to which unmarried students are exposed 
in that sink of profligacy, Calcutta ! How many pro- 
mising lads have succumbed to them, wrecking their 
own lives and causing bitter grief to their parents ! ' ! 

Kumodini Babu started. " You surprise me ! I 
had no idea that Calcutta was as bad as you paint it. 
We must certainly get Nalini married at once. I 
wonder whether you know of a likely match for him. 
I don't care about money, but " 

" That I do," interrupted Kanto Babu. " There's 
Sham Babu's daughter, Shaibalini. What a pretty 
creature she is ; modest, loving and kind-hearted ! 
You won't find her equal in this eldqa (lit. jurisdiction). 
If you approve, I will gladly be your spokesman with 
her family." 



8 TALES OF BENGAL 

Kumodini Babu mused awhile before answering. 
"I know Shaibalini well by reputation, and she is all 
you describe her. Sham Babu, too, comes of excellent 
lineage, though he is not a Zemindar, and depends on 
service. I should not object to marrying Nalini with 
his daughter. But wait a bit : what gotra (clan) does 
he belong to ? " 

"I believe he is a Dakhin Rarhi," answered Kanto 
Babu. 

"But I am an Uttar Rarhi," remarked Kumodini 
Babu. " Is not that a fatal objection ? " 

For the benefit of non-Hindu readers I may explain 
that Kayasthas are split into clans — probably a sur- 
vival of the tribal organisation which preceded the 
family almost everywhere. According to tradition, a 
King of Bengal named Adisur imported five Brah- 
mans, and as many Kayastha servants from Kanauj 
in Upper India. From the latter are descended 
the Ghosh, Basu, Mitra, Guha, and Datta families. 
The first four are generally recognised as Kulin (Angl., 
"aristocratic") Kayasthas, while the Dattas and 
seven other families are known as Sindhu Maulik — 
"coming of a good stock". Adisur and his com- 
panions found 700 Brahmans and the same number 
of Kayasthas already established in Bengal. These 
are the supposed ancestors of a large number of 
Kayastha families still termed Saptasati, " the Seven 



THE PEIDB OF KADAMPUE 9 

Hundred ". The ancient Greeks reckoned their neigh- 
bours beyond the Hellenic pale as "barbarians". 
So Brahmans and Kayasthas of Central Bengal 
styled their congeners north of the Ganges Bdrh, 
or " uncivilised ". The epithet survives in Uttar 
(north) and Dakhin (south) Rarhi, but has lost its 
offensive meaning. Barendra is another phrase for 
the inhabitants of a tract north of the Ganges, which 
answers to the modern districts of Rajshahi, Pabna, 
and Bogra. 

Kanto Babu was evidently perplexed ; but after re- 
flecting for a short time he asked, " Now why should 
such a trifling matter cause any trouble whatever ? 
The time has long since passed away when arbitrary 
difference of clan was considered a bar to marriage 
among Kayasthas." 

"You are quite right," was Kumodini Babu's re- 
ply, "and personally I am above these old-fashioned 
prejudices. My daughter-in-law may be Dakhin 
Karhi, Banga-ja, or Barendri for all I care, provided 
she be comely, well-mannered and come of good 
stock. But will Sham Babu be equally tolerant ? " 

"That I can't say until I have, consulted him," 
answered Kanto Babu. " One thing more I must 
know. What is your idea of Dend Pdona (a word 
answering to our ' settlements ')?•" 

" Ram, Ram ! " exclaimed Kumodini Babu. " Am 



10 TALES OF BENGAL 

I the man to sell my son for filthy lucre ? I hear that 
Calcutta folks occasionally do so, but I am quite 
opposed to the custom. Should Sham Babu agree 
to this match, I will make no stipulations whatever 
as to a money payment. He is in very moderate 
circumstances, and may give whatever he chooses. 
Please see him at once and let me have his decision." 

Kanto Babu promised to do so and withdrew, 
inwardly chuckling over his diplomacy. 

Sham Babu called on him the same evening to 
learn its issue. He was delighted to find that Kumo- 
dini Babu was not averse to the match, but his face 
fell pn hearing of the difference of clan. Observing 
his agitation, Kanto Babu observed gently, "I don't 
see why a matter, which is not even mentioned in 
our Shastras (holy books), should cause one moment's 
hesitation. Pluck up your courage, man, and all will 
go well." 

" Perhaps so," murmured Sham Babu. " But I do 
stand in awe of the Samaj " (a caste-assembly which 
pronounces excommunication for breaches of custom). 

" That's all nonsense ! Look at our friend Kunjalal 
Babu who has just married his son to a Barendri 
girl. Is he an outcast ? Certainly not. It is true 
that the ultra-orthodox kicked a bit at first ; but they 
all came round, and joined in the ceremony with 
zest. I can quote scores of similar instances to 



THE PKIDE OF KADAMPUB 11 

prove that this prejudice against marrying into a 
different clan is quite out of date." 

Sham Babu had nothing to urge in opposition to 
these weighty arguments. He promised to let Kanto 
Babu have a definite reply on the morrow and kept 
his word. Having endured a curtain lecture from 
his wife, who proved to him that an alliance with the 
Basu family offered advantages far outweighing the 
slight risk there was of excommunication, he 
authorised Kanto Babu to assure Kumodini Babu 
that the proposed match had his hearty approval. 
Once preliminaries were satisfactorily settled, all 
other arrangements proceeded apace. The Paka 
Dekha is a solemn visit paid by males of the future 
bridegroom's family to that of his betrothed, during 
which they are feasted and decide all details regard- 
ing the marriage ceremonies. It passed off without 
a hitch, and the purohit (family priest) fixed Sr van 
17th as an auspicious day for consummating the 
union. Thenceforward preparations were made for 
celebrating it in a manner worthy of the esteem in 
which both families were held. 

Kumodini Babu issued invitations to all his rela- 
tives. Chief amongst these was a younger brother, 
Ghaneshyam Basu by name, who practised as a 
pleader (advocate) at Ghoria, where he had built a 
house after disposing of his interest in the family 



12 TALES OF BENGAL 

estate to Kumodini Babu. This important person 
was asked to supervise the ceremonies, inasmuch 
as Kumodini Babu's increasing age and infirmities 
rendered him unfit to do so efficiently, while his eldest 
son, yclept Jadu Babu, had barely reached man's 
estate. The letter of invitation referred incidentally 
to the difference of clan as a matter of no importance. 
Kumodini Babu's disappointment may be conceived 
when he got an answer from his younger brother, ex- 
pressing strong disapproval of the match and ending 
with a threat to sever all connection with the family 
if it were persisted in ! The recipient at first thought 
of running up to Ghoria, in view of softening Ghane- 
shyam Babu's heart by a personal appeal, but the 
anger caused by his want of brotherly feeling pre- 
vailed. Kumodini Babu and his wife agreed that 
matters had gone too far to admit of the marriage 
being broken off. If Ghaneshyam did not choose to 
take part in it, so much the worse for him ! 

Soon after dusk on Sravan 17th, Nalini entered his 
palanquin, arrayed in a beautiful costume of Benares 
silk. The wedding procession set out forthwith, amid 
a mighty blowing of conch-shells and beating of 
drums. At 8 p.m. it reached the bride's abode, where 
her family, with Sham Babu at the head, were ready 
to receive them. An hour later Nalini was conducted 
to the inner apartments, where the marriage ceremony 



THE PEIDE OF KADAMPUR 13 

began. It lasted until nearly eleven o'clock, when 
the young couple were taken to the Basarghar, or 
nuptial apartment. During these rites the men-folk 
were perhaps more pleasantly engaged in doing ample 
justice to a repast provided for them in the outer 
rooms. Then they chewed betels in blissful rum- 
ination, before separating with emphatic acknowledg- 
ments of the hospitality they had enjoyed. 

On the following afternoon both bridegroom and 
bride were taken in palanquins to Kumodini Babu's 
house, where she instantaneously won every heart by 
her grace and beauty. Two days later the Bau-Bhat 
ceremony was held. This is a feast in the course of 
which the bride (bait) distributes cooked rice (bhdt) 
with her own hands to bidden guests, in token of her 
reception into her husband's family and clan. Kumo- 
dini Babu had requisitioned an immense supply of 
dainties from local godlas (dairymen) and moiras (con- 
fectioners) with a view to eclipsing all previous 
festivals of the kind. 

Early in the morning of the Bau-Bhat day a palan- 
quin was carried into Kumodini Babu's courtyard ; 
and who should emerge from it but Ghaneshyam 
Babu ! He ran up to his brother, who was sitting 
with some neighbours in the parlour, and, clasping his 
feet, implored forgiveness. Kumodini Babu's heart 
leaped for joy. Tenderly did he embrace the penitent, 



14 TALES OF BENGAL 

who admitted that his peace of mind had fled from 
the moment he penned that cruel letter. He now 
saw the absurdity of his prejudices, and begged 
Kumodini Babu to forget his unbrotherly conduct. 
It is needless to add that the prayer was cordially 
granted and that Ghaneshyam Babu received a 
blessing from his elder brother. Thanks to his super- 
vision the Bau-Bhat feast passed off at night without 
the slightest contretemps. Ten years later people 
still dwelt on the magnificent hospitality they had 
received, and held Kumodini Babu up as a model to 
fathers-in-law. In order that all classes might rejoice 
with, him, he remitted a year's rent to every ryot, 
besides lavishing considerable sums on Brahmans and 
poor folk. The more enlightened section of Kayas- 
thas were unanimous in pronouncing him to be a true 
Hindu, on whose descendants the gods on high would 
pour down their choicest blessings. There were 
others, however, whose malignity found material to 
work on in his disregard of caste prejudices. 



THE RIVAL MARKETS. 

The immediate success of Kumodini Balm's market 
caused infinite annoyance to Ramani Babu, who 
owned one long established in the neighbourhood. 
Hucksters and country-folk found the tolls levied 
there so much lighter, that the attendance at Ram- 
ani's fell off grievously. It is well known that when 
a new market is started, proprietors already in the 
field endeavour to break it up with the aid of paid 
Idthidls (clubmen). If, as often happens, the daring 
speculator be a man of substance, he employs similar 
means in his defence. Free fights occur on market- 
days, ending in many a broken head — sometimes in 
slaughter. The battle is directed by Gomasthas 
(bailiffs) on either side, with the full knowledge of 
their masters, who keep discreetly aloof from the 
fray. 

Ramani Babu did not foresee that his property 
would be injured by the new venture, and allowed it 
to be firmly established without striking a single 
blow. Finding a lamentable decrease in his receipts, 

15 



16 TALES OF BENGAL 

he ordered the bailiff to "go ahead," and took an 
early train for Calcutta in order to set up an alibi in 
case of legal proceedings. A day or two later his 
bailiff, attended by six or seven men armed with iron- 
shod bamboo staves, assembled at the outskirts of 
Kumodini Babu's market, on a spot where four 
roads met. 

Ere long a cart was descried approaching from 
eastwards, whose driver bawled snatches of song 
and puffed his hookah between whiles. When it 
reached the crossing, the bailiff shouted : — 
" Stop ! whither so early, friend?" 
",To market," the man replied carelessly. 
" Whose market ? " 

" The new one, started by Kumodini Babu." 
"What have you got in those baskets of yours? " 
" Oh, sweet potatoes, brinj&ls (egg-plants), and a lot 
of other vegetables." 

" Why don't you attend Eamani Babu's market ? " 
" Because it does not pay me to go there." 
" So you used to take your vegetables to Kamani 
Babu's market? " 

" Yes ; but there are hardly any customers left. 
Now please let me go ; the sun is high up." 
" So you won't obey me!" 

" No ! " roared the carter, prodding his oxen vici- 
ously. 



THE RIVAL MARKETS 17 

" Stop a minute, I tell you ! Whose ryot (tenant) 
are you ? " 

" Ramani Babu's." 

" What, you are his ryot and yet are acting against 
his interests? If he hears of your perfidy he will 
certainly turn you out of his estate ! " 

"Why should he?" asked the fellow, now thor- 
oughly frightened. " I am a very poor man, and 
Ramani Babu is my father and mother. He cannot ob- 
ject to my selling a few vegetables wherever I please." 

" But he does object," rejoined the bailiff sternly. 
" What's your name and residence ? " 

" Sadhu Sheikh, of Simulgachi." 

" Now, do you know who I am ? " 

"No-o," replied Sadhu, hesitatingly. 

" I am Ramani Babu's new bailiff, sent with these 
men to see that his market is well attended." 

Sadhu' s tone completely changed. " Salam, Babu," 
he whined. " I did not know who you were. Please 
let me pass or I shall be too late." 

"Not so fast, friend," shouted the bailiff. "Once 
for all, are you going to obey me or not ? " 

Sadhu prodded his bullocks into a lumbering 

canter ; but the bailiff gave a signal to his clubmen, 

who ran after him, dragged him out of the cart, and 

thrashed him soundly. Then two of them escorted 

him, with his wares, to their master's market, which 

9. 



18 TALES OF BENGAL 

was being held about three miles away. The bailiff 
waited at the crossing for new arrivals. They were 
not long in coming. A fishwoman, heavily laden, 
passed by. He hailed her, and on learning whither 
she was bound, ordered his men to drag her to their 
master's market, which they did, despite the volume 
of abuse which she hurled at their heads. In this 
manner some half a dozen deserters were captured 
and escorted to the old market. 

The story of his tyranny spread like wildfire 
through neighbouring villages, with many amplifica- 
tions, of course. Kumodini Babu heard that his 
rival .had arrested a hundred frequenters of his mar- 
ket and was about to destroy the shelters he had 
erected for salesmen. This information filled him 
with anxiety and, after consulting friends, he lodged 
a complaint at the police station. In the remote in- 
terior of Bengal policemen are all-powerful. They 
usurp authority to which they are not entitled by 
law, and use it for private ends. All classes go in 
perpetual fear of them; for, by a stroke of the pen, 
they can ruin reputations and defeat justice. No one 
has recourse to their dreaded agency who can avoid 
doing so or has the means of gratifying their greed. 
By giving a handsome douceur to the Sub-Inspector, 
Kumodini Babu obtained a promise of support, which 
he was simple enough to rely upon. 



THE KIVAL MAEKETS 19 

Meantime Eamani Babu's market bailiff was not 
idle. Knowing that he had acted illegally, he resolved 
to " square " the executive. So, one evening, he per- 
suaded his master to accompany him to the police 
station, provided with a bundle of ten-rupee currency 
notes. After discussing commonplaces with the 
Sub-Inspector, they adjourned to an inner room, 
where they induced him to take their side — for very 
weighty reasons. 

Matters now began to look ugly for Kumodini 
Babu. Every vendor who approached his market was 
intercepted. He implored the help of the Sub-In- 
spector, who, however, observed a strict neutrality, 
hinting that the complainant was at liberty to defend 
himself with the aid of clubmen. But Kumodini 
Babu was a man of peace, and finding the policeman 
something less than lukewarm, he resigned himself 
to the inevitable. 

His evil star continued to prevail, for, soon after 

these untoward events, it brought him into collision 

with the police. In consequence of an understanding 

with Bamani Babu, the Sub-Inspector took to buying 

provisions from the few shopkeepers who still attended 

Kumodini Babu's market and referring them to him 

for payment. His constables, too, helped themselves 

freely to rice and vegetables without even asking the 

price, and had their shoes blacked gratis by Kumodini 

2* 



20 TALES OF BENGAL 

Babu's muchis (leather-dressers). His bailiff put up 
with their vagaries, until the shopkeepers came in a 
body to say that unless they were stopped, the market 
would be entirely deserted. The luckless Zemindar 
was staggered by the tale of oppression. He paid for 
every article extorted by the police, but strictly forbade 
the vendors to give any further credit. The Sub- 
Inspector was deeply incensed in finding this source 
of illicit profit cut off, and his vengeance was per- 
petrated under the pretence of law. 

One evening, while Kumodini Babu was conning 
the Mahdbhdrata (an ancient epic) in his parlour, 
the Sub-Inspector came in, armed with a search 
warrant issued by the Deputy Magistrate of Ghoria, 
which he showed the astonished master of the house. 
A charge of receiving stolen property brought against 
him was indeed a bolt from the blue ; but when 
Kumodini Babu regained his scattered wits, he told 
the Sub-Inspector scornfully that he might search 
every hole and corner of his house. For half an hour 
the police were occupied in turning his furniture and 
boxes topsy-turvy ; and at last the Sub-Inspector 
went alone into a lumber-room, while his head con- 
stable kept Kumodini's attention fixed on the contents 
of an almeira (ward-robe) which he was searching. 
Shouting, "I have found the property ! " he emerged 
from the room with a box containing various articles 



THE RIVAL MARKETS 21 

of gold and silver, which he said were hidden under 
some straw. On comparing them with a list in his 
possession he declared that they exactly tallied with 
property reported as part of the spoils of a burglary in 
the neighbouring village. In vain Kumodini Babu 
protested his entire innocence and asked whether he, 
a respectable Zemindar, was likely to be a receiver of 
stolen goods. He was handcuffed and taken to the 
police station on foot, while the Sub-Inspector followed 
in a palanquin. Kumodini Babu's women-folk filled 
the house with their lamentations ; and his eldest son, 
Jadu Nath, was the first to recover from the prostra- 
tion caused by sudden misfortune. He had a pony 
saddled and galloped to the railway station, whence he 
telegraphed to his uncle, Ghaneshyam Babu, the 
pleader, "Father arrested: charge receiving stolen 
goods ". Ghaneshyam arrived by the next train, and 
after hearing the facts returned to Ghoria, where he 
applied to the Deputy Magistrate for bail. There was 
a strong disinclination to grant it, owing to the gravity 
of the charge ; but finally an order was issued, re- 
leasing the prisoner on personal recognisance of 
Rs. 10,000 and two sureties of Rs. 5,000. The neces- 
sary security was immediately forthcoming, and 
Kumodini Babu found himself temporarily a free 
man, after enduring nearly forty-eight hours of un- 
speakable misery in the station lock-up. 



22 TALES OF BENGAL 

In due course his case came on for hearing before 
the Deputy Magistrate. Ghaneshyam Babu secured 
the services of a fighting member of the Calcutta bar 
and was indefatigable in his efforts to unearth the 
nefarious plot against his brother. Proceedings 
lasted for four days in a court packed with spectators. 
The Sub-Inspector and his accomplices told their story 
speciously enough. A burglary had really been com- 
mitted and the jewellery found in Kumodini Babu's 
outhouse was proved to have been part of the stolen 
goods. The issue was — who placed them there ? 
On this point the Sub-Inspector's evidence was not 
by any means satisfactory. He finally broke down 
under rigorous cross-examination, and was forced to 
admit that it was quite possible that some one acting 
on his behalf had hidden the property in Kumodini 
Babu's lumber-room. The battle of the markets was 
related in all its dramatic details. Shopkeepers and 
ryots alike, seeing that justice was likely to prevail, 
came forward to depose to acts of tyranny by 
Ramani Babu's servants and their allies, the police, 
Evidence of the prisoner's high character was forth- 
coming, while his age and dignified bearing spoke 
strongly in his favour. The Magistrate saw that 
he had been the victim of an abominable conspiracy 
and released him amid the suppressed plaudits of 
the audience. His reasons for discharge contained 



THE EIVAL MARKETS 23 

severe strictures on the local police, and even sug- 
gested their prosecution. Thus, after weeks of agonis- 
ing suspense and an expenditure on legal fees running 
into thousands of rupees, Kumodini Babu was de- 
clared innocent. He took the humiliation so much 
to heart, that he meditated retiring to that refuge 
for storm-tossed souls, Benares. But Ghaneshyam 
Babu strongly dissuaded him from abandoning the 
struggle, at least until he had turned the tables 
on his enemies. So Kumodini Babu moved the 
District Magistrate to issue process against Ramani 
Babu and the Sub-Inspector. He met with a refusal, 
however, probably because the higher authorities 
thought fit to hush up a glaring scandal which might 
" get into the papers," and discredit the administra- 
tion. Ramani Babu, therefore, was not molested, 
but his accomplice was departmentally censured, 
and transferred to an unhealthy district. Kumodini 
Babu also thought of discontinuing the market which 
had been the fount and origin of his misfortunes. 
Here again his brother objected that such a course 
would be taken to indicate weakness and encourage 
further attacks. His advice was followed. The new 
market throve amazingly, while Ramani Babu's was 
quite deserted. 



A FOUL CONSPIRACY. 

On a certain morning in February Ramani Babu 
sprung a mine on his tenants by circulating a notice 
among them to the effect that they would have to pay 
up every pice of rent on or before the 10th prox. 
Some hastened to discharge their liabilities, while 
others ran about asking for loans or sat with down- 
cast eyes, unable to decide what course to take. The 
English reader is perhaps unaware that every Bengal 
landowner is required to pay revenue to Government 
four times a year, viz., on the 28th January, March, 
June and September. Any one failing to do so be- 
fore sunset on these dates becomes a defaulter, and his 
estate is put up to auction in order to satisfy the de- 
mand, however small it may be. Property worth 
many thousands of rupees has often been sold for 
arrears of eight annas (a shilling) or even less. The 
near approach of these hist (rent) days is of course a 
period of great anxiety to landlords ; some of whom 
are forced to borrow the necessary amount on the 

security of their wives' ornaments. 

24 



A FOUL CONSPIRACY 25 

On March 28th, 18 — , Ramani Babu had to pay 
about Rs. 10,000 as land revenue ; but his ryots' crops 
had failed, owing to want of rain, and by the end of 
February he had been able to realise only Rs. 1,000, 
the greater portion by threats of force. The Indian 
peasant's lot is not a happy one. He depends solely 
on the produce of the soil, which yields little or noth- 
ing if the annual rains should fail, or there be an ex- 
cess of moisture. Millions of cultivators never know 
what it is to have a good, solid meal. In order to 
meet the landlord's demands they have recourse to a 
Mahdjan (moneylender) whose exactions leave them a 
slender margin for subsistence. But religion and ages 
of slavery render them submissive creatures. They 
murmur only when very hard pressed. 

Sadhu Sheikh, of Simulgachi, lived by raising vege- 
tables for sale in Kumodini Babu's market, until 
he was forbidden to do so by Ramani Babu's clubmen. 
Failing this resource, he abandoned the little trade ; 
and thus got deeper into the books of his money- 
lender. At this crisis he received a written notice 
ordering him to attend Ramani Babu's kacheri (office) 
on 17th March without fail. A visit to the local 
moneylender was fruitless and only led to a hint that 
old scores must be cleared off. So Sadhu returned 
home crestfallen and determined to abide by his fate. 
On obeying the summons, he found Ramani Babu 



26 TALES OF BENGAL 

sitting in his office to receive rent, which was brought 
him by a crowd of dejected-looking ryots. A great 
hubbub was going on ; one Bemani insisting that he 
had paid up to date while Ramani Babu's gomastha 
(bailiff) stoutly denied the assertion and called on the 
objector to produce his receipt. This was not forth- 
coming for the simple reason that Bemani had mis- 
laid it. He asked the bailiff to show him the ledger 
account, and after spelling through the items labori- 
ously be found that not a pice stood to his credit, 
although he had paid nearly sixty rupees since the 
last hist (rent) day. There are few who understand 
the value of the ddkhilas (rent receipts) which land- 
lords are compelled by law to give them. The little 
slips of paper are lost or destroyed, with the result 
that many ryots have had to pay twice over. Bemani 
vainly invoked Allah to witness that he had discharged 
his dues ; the bailiff ordered him to pay within twenty- 
four hours on pain of severe punishment. Goaded 
to fury by this palpable injustice the poor man de- 
clined to do anything of the kind. At this stage 
Ramani Babu intervened : — 

" You son of a pig, are you going to obey my orders 
or not?" 

"No, I have paid once, and I won't pay again," 
yelled Bemani, thoroughly roused. 

Ramani Babu beckoned to a stalwart doorkeeper 



A FOUL CONSPIKACY 27 

from the Upper Provinces, who was standing 
near. 

" Sarbeshwar, give this rascal a taste of your 
Shamchand (cane) ! " 

He was zealously obeyed and poor Bemani was 
thrashed until he lay writhing in agony on the 
ground. After taking his punishment he rose, and 
looking defiantly at Eamani Babu said : — 

"You have treated me cruelly; but you will find 
that there is a God who watches all our actions. He 
will certainly deal out retribution to you ! ' He then 
turned to go. 

"I see you are not yet cured," exclaimed Eamani 
Babu. " Let him have another dose of Shamchand." 

"Yes, go on ! " roared Bemani, "beat me as much 
as you please ; you'll have reason to repent sooner 
or later ! " With this remark he stood erect, looking 
fearlessly at his tormentors. Sarbeshwar adminis- 
tered another welting, which drew blood at every 
stroke but was borne without sound or movement. 
When the doorkeeper stopped for want of breath, 
Bemani cast a look of scorn at Ramani Babu and 
strode out of the house in silence, -full of rage. 

Presently another disturbance was heard. One of 
the ryots had paid his rent in full but declined to 
add the usual commission exacted by the bailiffs, who 
fell on him in a body and pummelled him severely. 



28 TALES OF BENGAL 

Sadhu witnessed these horrors from a corner of 
the room and inwardly besought Allah to save him 
from the clutches of those demons. But Srikrishna, 
who was the bailiff of his circle, happened to see him 
and asked whether he had brought his rent. Sadhu 
got up, salamed humbly, and replied, " Babuji, you 
know my present circumstances well". "Answer 
yes or no," thundered Srikrishna, "I have no time 
to listen to your excuses." 

" Your servant is a very poor man," continued 
Sadhu, shaking from head to foot. 

"Who is this person?" inquired Ramani Babu. 

"This is Sadhu Sheikh, of Simulgachi," was the 
bailiff's reply, "the very same rascal who gave evi- 
dence against your honour in that faujdari (criminal) 
case." 

"Is that so?" roared Ramani Babu. "And the 
son of a pig owes me rent ? " 

"Now, please, do not abuse me, Babuji," protested 
Sadhu, " only listen to my tale for one minute ! " 

" What, you dare to bandy words with me, har- 
amzddd (bastard)?" shouted Ramani Babu, rising 
from his seat. " Doorkeeper, let him have fifty cuts, 
laid on hard ! " 

Swish, swish, swish, sounded the nimble cane, and 
made a grey pattern on Sadhu's naked flesh. His 
screams and prayers for mercy were mocked by the 



A FOUL CONSPIKACY 29 

obsequious crowd, and at length he fell senseless on 
the floor. 

" Look, he is shamming," observed Bamani Babu ; 
"dra^ him outside and souse him with water until 
he comes to." The command was obeyed, and when 
Sadhu was able to sit up he was brought back to the 
dreaded presence. Again his arrears of rent were de- 
manded, and once more he feebly protested that he 
could not discharge them. Thereon Bamani Babu 
ordered him to be hung up. Forthwith, a dozen 
eager hands were laid on him, a rope was passed under 
his armpits, and the free end thrown over a rafter of 
the office. By this means he was hauled from the 
ground and swung suspended, a butt of sarcasm 
and abuse for Bamani Babu's myrmidons. After 
enduring this humiliation for an hour or so, he was 
let down and a final demand made on him for the 
arrears of rent. On his again asserting inability 
Bamani Babu ordered his hut to be levelled with the 
ground and pulse to be sown on its site, as a punish- 
ment for his disobedience. He was then allowed to 
leave the scene of his misery. 

On reaching home he found Bemani seated in the 
porch, in expectation of his arrival. His fellow- 
victim said that he had lodged an information against 
Bamani Babu and his servants at the police station 
and intended going to Ghoria, next day, to complain 



30 TALES OF BENGAL 

to the Deputy Magistrate. Would Sadhu help him 
by giving evidence? he asked. "That I will," was 
the reply, " but I must first consult Jadunath Babu, 
who, I am sure, will help me." After Bemani's de- 
parture Sadhu went to his protector and told the 
story of his sufferings in full. Jadunath Babu bade him 
be of good cheer ; for he would do all in his power to 
bring Kamani Babu to justice. Sadhu was comforted 
by this promise. He returned home and soon forgot 
all his sorrows in sleep. 

About midnight he was aroused by voices in his 
yard, and, sallying forth, discovered a gang of club- 
men employed by Kamani Babu, in the act of tearing 
the roof from his hut. Remonstrance was met by 
jeering and threats of violence ; so the luckless man 
stood helplessly under a neighbouring tamarind tree, 
while his house was reduced to a heap of bamboos and 
thatch. The material was taken away in carts, the 
site dug up, and pulse sown thereon. Thus not a trace 
of Sadhu's home was left. He passed the remaining 
hours of the night under the tree ; and early next 
morning he called on Jadu Babu, to whom he un- 
folded the story of this latest outrage. His patron 
boiled over with indignation. He sent Sadhu to the 
police station, in order to lay an information against 
his persecutors, promising to give him a house and 
land to compensate his losses. In less than a fort- 



A FOUL CONSPIRACY 31 

night, the injured man was installed in a new hut 
and in possession of enough land to support him 
comfortably. Then he settled down, with heartfelt 
prayers for Jadu Babu's long life and prosperity. 
He even sent for his wife and a young sister-in-law, 
who had been staying with her brother near Calcutta. 
Meantime Bemani had taken out a summons for 
causing grievous hurt against Ramani Babu and 
his servants. When the case came on for hear- 
ing before a Deputy Magistrate at Ghoria, all the 
accused pleaded " not guilty ". They could not deny 
the fact that he had been beaten within an inch of 
his life, but alleged provocation on his part, inas- 
much as he had fomented a rebellion among the 
ryots. Jadu Babu was not idle. He provided the 
complainant with first-rate legal advice and paid all 
the expenses of adducing witnesses. Emboldened by 
his support, at least a dozen of Ramani Babu's ryots 
who were present while he was being thrashed, came 
forward to give evidence of the brutal treatment he 
had received and to deny the counter charge brought 
by the defendants. Thus the case ended in the con- 
viction of Ramani Babu and three of his servants, 
who were sentenced to fines aggregating Rs. 200. 
Then the charges preferred by Sadhu were taken up 
by the Deputy Magistrate. As they were of a far 
graver character, the barrister brought from Calcutta 



32 TALES OF BENGAL 

by Ramani Babu obtained a week's adjournment in 
order to procure rebutting evidence. 

At this time the Muharram festival was in full 
swing. Sadhu was too busy in getting up his case 
to take part in it ; but he sent his wife to some rela- 
tives at Ghoria, while his young sister-in-law, who 
was suffering from, fever, remained at home. He 
was aroused one night by loud screams coming from 
the hut occupied by this girl. On running out to see 
what was the matter, he fell into the arms of a 
stranger who was crossing his yard in a desperate 
hurry. A struggle ensued, but the intruder managed 
to escape, not before Sadhu had recognised him as a 
ryot of Ramani Babu, named Karim. On asking 
his sister-in-law what had happened, the poor girl 
told him with many sobs that a man had broken 
into the hut, and awakened her by seizing her throat, 
but had been scared away by her screams. As soon 
as day dawned, Sadhu ran to the house of Karim's 
uncle, in the hope of finding him there. The uncle, 
however, declared that Karim had been absent since 
the previous evening, and on learning the grave 
charge preferred by Sadhu, he begged with folded 
hands that the scandal might be stifled, at any cost, 
for the sake of both families. Sadhu would promise 
nothing, but for obvious reasons he laid no informa- 
tion against Karim. 



A FOUL CONSPIRACY 33 

Two days later he was engaged on his evening 
meal, when a Sub-Inspector appeared. After asking 
whether his name was Sadhu, the policeman slipped 
a pair of handcuffs on his wrists and turned a deaf 
ear to his bewildered request for information as to 
the charge preferred against him. Thus he was ig- 
nominiously taken to the station lock-up, followed by 
a crowd, whom he begged to inform Jadu Babu 
of his trouble. The latter was speedily fetched by a 
compassionate neighbour, and, after conversing with 
the police officer, he told Sadhu that he was actually 
charged with murder ! Karim's uncle had informed 
the police that, his nephew having disappeared since 
the day of the alleged trespass, he suspected Sadhu 
of foul play. An inquiry followed which led to Sadhu' s 
transfer to the district jail. 

Jadu Babu was certain that his enemy had in- 
stigated the charge, and knew that he was quite 
capable of suppressing Karim in order to get Sadhu 
into trouble. He was advised by friends whom he 
consulted not to poke his nose into so ugly an affair : 
but his sense of justice prevailed. He went to 
Ghaneshyam Babu, whom he> told the whole 
story related by Sadhu. On learning that Eamani 
Babu was implicated, the pleader saw an opportunity 
of wreaking vengeance on the persecutor of his brother. 

Gladly did he undertake the prisoner's defence. 

3 



34 TALES OF BENGAL 

In due course the charge preferred by Sadhu against 
Raniani Babu was heard by a Deputy Magistrate. 
With Ghaneshyam Babu's aid, the complainant proved 
it up to the hilt, and all concerned were heavily fined. 
Soon afterwards Sadhu himself appeared before the 
Deputy Magistrate to answer a charge of murder. The 
circumstantial evidence against him was so strong 
that he was committed to the Sessions Court. When 
brought up for trial there, he astounded his backers 
by pleading guilty and offering to point out the 
spot where he had buried Karim's corpse. The case 
was forthwith adjourned for a local inquiry ; and the 
European District Superintendent of Police took 
Sadhu to the place indicated, where he had the soil 
turned up in all directions without result. Sadhu 
admitted that he was mistaken and piloted the police 
to another spot, where they again failed to discover 
any trace of the missing man. On these facts being 
reported to the judge, he fixed the morrow for final 
hearing. 

At 11 a.m. he took his seat on the bench in a Court 
packed with eager spectators, and was reading a 
charge to the jury, strongly adverse to the prisoner, 
when an uproar was heard outside. Proceedings 
were suspended while the judge sent an usher to 
ascertain the cause ; but ere he returned, half a dozen 
men burst into the courtroom crying Dohai I (justice !). 



A FOUL CONSPIKACY 35 

Jadu Babu, who was one of the intruders, signalled 
the others to be silent, and thus addressed the judge 
with folded hands : — 

" Your Honour, the dead has come to life ! Here 
is Karim, who was supposed to have been murdered ! ' : 

There was a tremendous sensation in Court. When 
it subsided the judge thrust aside his papers and asked 
for evidence as to Karim's identity, which was soon 
forthcoming on oath. Then he ordered him to be 
sworn, and recorded the following deposition : — 

" Incarnation of Justice ! I will make a full con- 
fession, whatever may happen to me. I was sent 
for about a month ago by my landlord Kamani Babu, 
who ordered me to insult some woman of Sadhu's 
household, in order that he might be excommuni- 
cated. In fear of my life I consented to do so, and 
that very night I broke into the hut where Sadhu's 
sister-in-law lay asleep. Her cries attracted Sadhu, 
who grappled with me in his yard. However, I 
managed to escape, and on reporting my failure to 
Eamani Babu, he sent me in charge of a Barkand&z 
(guard) to Paliti, which is ten coss (20 miles) away. 
There I was confined in a Kacheri (office building) 
until yesterday, when I got away after nightfall. I 
had to pass through Ghoria Bazar, on my way home 
this morning, and there I ran up against Jadu Babu, 

who stopped and questioned me closelv about my 

3* 



36 TALES OF BENGAL 

movements. . There was nothing for me but to make 
a clean breast of everything. He took me to a babu's 
house where he was staying, and thence brought me 
to your honour's presence." 

Karim's confession took every one by surprise, and 
it was corroborated by Jadu Babu in the witness- 
box. The judge then asked Sadhu why he pleaded 
guilty. 

" Incarnation of Justice," was the reply, " it was 
the Daroga Babu (Sub-Inspector of Police) who 
frightened me into making a confession. He told 
me again and again that he had quite enough evi- 
dence to hang me, and advised me to escape death 
by admitting the charge of murdering Karim. 
While I was shut up alone in jail, I had no one to 
consult or rely on. Through fear, my wits en- 
tirely left me and I resolved to obtain mercy by 
making a false confession." 

These circumstances, strange as they may appear 
to the Western reader, were no novelty to the Sessions 
Judge. In charging the jury, he commented severely 
on the conduct of the station police and directed 
them to return a verdict of not guilty, which they 
promptly did. 

Ghaneshyam Babu did not let the matter drop. He 
moved the District Magistrate to prosecute Eamani 
Babu and his bailiff, Srikrishna, for conspiring to 



A FOUL CONSPIEACY 37 

charge an innocent man with murder. Both were 
brought to trial and, despite the advocacy of a Cal- 
cutta barrister, they each received a sentence of 
six months' rigorous imprisonment. Justice, lame- 
footed as she is, at length overtook a pair of notorious 
evil-doers. 



THE BITEK BITTEN. 

Babu Chandra Mohan Eai, or Chandra Babu, as 
he was usually called, was a rich banker with many 
obsequious customers. He was a short choleric man, 
very fond of his hookah, without which he was rarely 
seen in public. He had no family, except a wife who 
served . him uncomplainingly, and never received a 
letter or was known to write one except in the course 
of business. His birthplace, nay his caste, were mys- 
teries. But wealth conceals every defect, and no 
one troubled to inquire into Chandra Babu's antece- 
dents. This much was known — that he had come 
to Kadampur fifteen years before my tale opens with 
a brass drinking-pot and blanket, and obtained a 
humbly-paid office as a clerk under a local Zemindar. 
In this capacity he made such good use of the means 
it offered of extorting money that he was able to set 
up as a moneylender at Simulgachi, close to Kad- 
ampur. When people learnt that a new Shylock 
was at their service, they nocked to him in times of 
stress. His usual rate of interest being only 5 per 

38 



THE BITEK BITTEN 39 

cent, per mensem, he cut into the business of other 
moneylenders, and in four or five years had no seri- 
ous competitor within a radius of four miles from 
Kadampur itself. Once master of the situation he 
drew in his horns, lending money only to people who 
could give ample security in land, government papers, 
or jewellery. He also started a tcj&rati business 
(loans of rice, for seed and maintenance during the 
" slack " months, repaid in kind, with heavy interest, 
after the harvest). Although few Khdtaks (customers) 
were able to extricate their property from his clutches 
or clear off their debit balances, Chandra Babu con- 
tinued to be in great request. He was heard to 
boast that every family in or near Kadampur, except 
the Basus, were on his books. The rapid growth of 
his dealings compelled him to engage a gomastha 
(manager) in the person of Santi Priya Das, who had 
been a village schoolmaster notorious for cruelty. 
The duties of his new office were entirely to Santi 
Priya's liking, and he performed them to Chandra 
Babu's unqualified approval. 

On a certain morning in late August, Chandra 
Babu sat in his office to receive applications for 
money or grain. One of his customers named Karim 
Sheikh came in and squatted close to the door, after 
salaming profoundly. On seeing him Chandra Babu 
at once remembered that his bond had run out on 



40 TALES OF BENGAL 

15th July, and that he owed nearly Rs. 100, principal 
and interest. He therefore addressed the newcomer 
in accents of wrath. " What do you want here, you 
son of a pig? " 

"Babuji," pleaded Karim, "my stars are un- 
lucky. You know how wretched the rice harvest 
has been." 

" Yes, we know all that," replied Santi, who sat 
near his master. " It's the old story, when people 
who can pay won't pay. Have you brought the 
money, eh ? " 

Karim was obliged to confess he had not. 

" Then why have you come here ? " roared Chandra 
Babu. "To show your face, I suppose. "We see 
hundreds of better-looking fellows than you daily. 
You have got to pay up at once, you badm&sh 
(rascal)." 

Karim's wrath was stirred by this expression. He 
replied, " Now, Babu, don't be abusive ; I won't stand 
it". 

" What, do you want to teach me manners, Maulvie 
Saheb (doctor learned in Mohammadan law) ? " asked 
Chandra Babu sarcastically. 

An exchange of compliments followed which were 
not altogether to Shylock's advantage, and at length 
he roared, "Get out of this office, you rascal, and look 
out for squalls ! I'll sell you up ! " Karim left in 



THE BITER BITTEN 41 

high dudgeon, inviting Chandra Babu to do his worst, 
and the latter forthwith concocted a scheme of ven- 
geance with his manager. 

Next day Santi obtained a summons against Karim 
from the Munsiff (civil judge of first instance) of 
Ghoria and, by bribing the court process-server, in- 
duced him to make a false return of service. In due 
course the suit came on for hearing, and as the de- 
fendant was of course absent, it was decreed against 
him ex parte. Execution being also granted, Santi ac- 
companied the court bailiff to Karim's house, where 
they seized all his movable property and carried it 
off to the Court, leaving him in bewilderment and 
tears. He was unable to tear himself away from his 
gutted home but sat for hours under a tree hard by, 
pondering on his ill-fortune. Not until the sun had 
set and village cattle began to file in from pasture, did 
he cast one lingering look on the scene of his child- 
hood and walk away with a sigh, whither no one 
cared to inquire. 

A week later, however, Karim strode into Chandra 
Babu's office attended by two friends, and counted 
out ten ten-rupee notes, which he handed to the 
moneylender, with a peremptory request to release his 
chattels at once. Chandra Babu was greatly surprised 
by the turn matters had taken, but he was not the 
man to let property slip from his clutches. So he 



42 TALES OF BENGAL 

asked Santi whether the debtor did not owe a bill 
of costs. The manager referred to his books and 
declared that Es. 33 8. 0. were still due. Karim 
planked down the money without further ado and 
asked for a receipt, which Santi reluctantly gave him. 
Then he again demanded the immediate release of his 
property. On receiving an evasive answer, he re- 
marked that Chandra Babu would hear from him 
shortly and left the office. 

About a month later, Chandra Babu was aroused 
from sleep in the dead of night by shouts coming from 
his inner courtyard. He jumped up and popped his 
head out of the window, but withdrew it hastily on 
seeing twenty or thirty men running about his 
premises, with lighted torches, and shouting — " Loot ! 
loot ! ' Paralysed by fear, he crawled under the bed 
and lay in breathless expectation of further develop- 
ments. Presently the door was forced open, and a 
crowd poured into the room. Chandra Babu's hid- 
ing place was soon discovered by the dacoits (gang 
robbers), who dragged him out by the legs and de- 
manded his "keys on pain of instant death. Seeing a 
rusty talwdr (sword) flourished within an inch of 
his throat, the unhappy man at once produced them, 
whereon the dacoits opened his safe and took out 
several bags of rupees. Then at a signal from their 
sardar (leader), they bound Chandra Babu hand and 



THE BITEE BITTEN 43 

foot and squatted round him in a circle. The sardar 
thus addressed him : — 

" Babuji, do you know us ? " 

"How can I know you?" groaned their victim. 
"Your faces are blackened and concealed by your 
turbans. Gentlemen, I implore you to spare my life ! 
I never injured any of you." 

"Indeed!" replied the sardar sarcastically; "you 
have been the ruin of us all. Look you, Chandra 
Babu, we are all Khdtaks (customers) of yours whom 
you have fleeced by levying exorbitant interest on 
loans and falsifying our accounts. It's no use going 
to law for our rights; you are hand in glove with 
the civil court amla (clerks) and peons (menials) and 
can get them to do whatever you wish. So we have 
determined to take the law into our own hands. We 
have made up our accounts and find that you have ex- 
torted from us Es. 5,000, over and above advances of 
rice and cash with reasonable interest. Now we're 
going to help ourselves to that sum, besides damages 
at four annas in the rupee (twenty-five per cent.). 
This makes just Es. 6,250 you owe us." 

Thereon the dacoits counted out cash to that 
amount and no more, which was placed in bags con- 
taining Es. 1,000 each, ready for removal. Chandra 
Babu heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that he had 
got off rather cheaply, bat his troubles were not 



44 TALES OF BENGAL 

at an end. The sardar came close to him and 
asked : — 

" Look at me carefully : do you know me? " 

"No baba, but you are my son. Pray, spare my 
life ! See, I am half dead already and ruined as 
well ! " 

" I am Karim Sheikh," said the sardar impressively. 

" So you are," replied Chandra Babu, after recover- 
ing from his intense surprise; "but why have you 
turned dacoit? " 

"It was owing to your oppression, which drove 
me from my house, and deprived me of the means 
of livelihood. All my companions here have been 
beggared by you, and scores of other families too. 

i 

The whole of Kadampur and Simulgachi are clamour- 
ing for your blood, and Allah has appointed me to 
be the minister of his vengeance. Time was when 
I had to cringe to you, just as you are doing to me, 
but never did I receive mercy from you. Now the 
tables are turned. I might kill you, and who would 
dare to inform the police folk ? " (Here Karim made 
a vicious prod with his talwar, which passed within 
half an inch of the terror-stricken victim's throat.) 
" I might put you out of caste by slaying one of your 
cows and forcing you to eat its flesh. You deserve 
all this and more — but we will be merciful. Swear 
by your goddesses Kali and Durga that you will 



THE BITEE BITTEN 45 

never in future demand more than four annas in the 
rupee yearly for loans of money or rice. Swear that 
you will never again bribe the amla or peons of the 
Courts ; swear that you will never again falsify the 
accounts of your Khataks." 

Chandra Babu took the oaths demanded with an 
appearance of unction and then implored his captors 
to release him. 

"Wait a minute," was Karim's reply, "we must 
collect our belongings." 

So saying he ordered the dacoits to extinguish 
their torches and follow him with the bags of money. 
He led them to a ravine on the river bank, about a coss 
(two miles) distant, where the spoil was equitably 
divided according to a list of names and amounts 
due in Karim's possession. Then after arranging for 
alibis in case of criminal proceedings, the band dis- 
persed, well satisfied with their night's work. 

Chandra Babu's neighbours made no sign until the 
dacoits were well out of hearing, when they nocked 
in to unloose his bonds and offer hypocritical condol- 
ences. The village Chaukidar (watchman) was sent 
off to the police station, and next day arrived the 
Sub-Inspector with a posse of constables to investigate 
the dacoity. After recording the complainant's state- 
ment, they endeavoured to secure additional evidence, 
but Chandra Babu was so cordially disliked, and the 



46 TALES OF BENGAL 

dacoits' vengeance so dreaded, that not a soul came 
forward to corroborate his story. Karim was arrested, 
with half a dozen accomplices named by Chandra 
Babu. They had no difficulty in proving that they 
were attending a wedding ceremony five miles away 
on the night of the alleged dacoity. So the case was 
reported to headquarters as false ; and Chandra Babu 
escaped prosecution for deceiving the police, by giving 
a heavy bribe to the Sub-Inspector. 

His evil star continued in the ascendant. About 
a week afterwards, he discovered a heavy deficit in his 
cash book, kept by Santi Priya, which that rascal 
failed to explain, and next day the trusty manager did 
not attend office. Indeed he has never been heard 
of since. This new calamity was Chandra Babu's 
"last straw". He hastened to realise outstanding 
debts and left the village, bag and baggage, to the 
intense relief of its inhabitants, who celebrated his 
exit by offering pujd or namaz (Mohammadan prayers) 
according to the religion they severally professed. 



ALL'S WELL THAT END'S WELL. 

Every good Hindu feels bound to get his daughter 
or sister, as the case may be, married before she at- 
tains puberty. Rich people find little difficulty in 
securing suitable matches for their girls ; but Babu 
Jadunath Basu, widely known as " Jadu Babu," was 
not blessed with a large share of this world's goods ; 
and his sister Basumati was close on her teens. The 
marriage-broker had certainly suggested more than 
one aspirant for her hand, but they were not to Jadu 
Babu's liking. As years rolled by, his anxiety 
deepened into despair. A match was at length of- 
fered which was passably good, although it did not 
answer Jadu Babu's expectations. He learnt from 
private inquiry that the boy proposed bore a good 
character, never mixed with doubtful associates, and 
had no constitutional defect. Hindu parents are 
very careful to ascertain the health of a suitor, and 
should they suspect any inherited disease, such as 
consumption, they reject him remorselessly. It must 

not be supposed that such lads are always doomed to 

47 



48 TALES OF BENGAL 

celibacy, for their unsoundness may be hidden or 
counterbalanced by a substantial money payment. 

Jadu Babu found out that the boy had matriculated 
at Calcutta and was attending the second year class 
at a Metropolitan College ; more important still, his 
father, Amarendra Babu, had money invested in Gov- 
ernment paper, besides a substantial brick house — 
qualifications which augured well for his sister's 
wedded happiness. The next step was to invite his 
own father, Kumodini Babu, to come from Benares 
and help him to clinch matters. The old man 
pleaded that he had done with the world and all its 
vanities ; so Jadu Babu had to make a pilgrimage to 
the Holy City, where he induced Kumodini Babu to 
return home with him. Three days later the pair 
went to Calcutta with two friends, in order to make 
the suitor's acquaintance. They were welcomed by 
Amarendra Babu, who at once sent for his son. The 
boy came in with eyes fixed on the ground and shyly 
took a seat near Kumodini Babu. He underwent a 
severe scrutiny, and at last the old man broke silence 
by asking the lad his name. Being informed that 
it was Samarendra Nath, he inquired the names of 
his father and grandfather, which were promptly 
given. 

"Good boy," observed Kumodini Babu, "the 
times are so completely out of joint that youths are 



ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 49 

ashamed to utter their father's name, let alone their 
grandfather's. Where are you studying ? " 

"At the Metropolitan Institution," was the reply. 

" An excellent college," said Kumodini Babu ; then 
after a whispered consultation with Jadu Babu, he 
said, "I am delighted with Samarendra's modesty 
and good manners, and have no objection whatever 
to giving my daughter to him in marriage — provided 
Prajapati (the Lord of All) causes no hitch ". Samar- 
endra thought that his ordeal was over, but he was 
mistaken. One of Kumodini Babu's friends, who 
happened to be a Calcutta B.A., would not lose the 
opportunity of airing his superior learning. 

" What are your English text-books? " he asked. 

"Blackie's Self-culture, Helps' Essays, Milton's 
Paradise Lost, and Tennyson's Enoch Arden" gabbled 
Samarendra in one breath. 

"Very good, now please fetch your Paradise Lost." 

The boy disappeared, returning shortly with a 
well-thumbed volume, which the B.A. opened and 
selected Satan's famous apostrophe to the Sun for ex- 
planation. Samarendra was speechless. After wait- 
ing for a minute, the B.A. asked what text-book he 
studied in physics and was told that it was Ganot's 
Natural Philosophy. He asked Samarendra to describe 
an electrophone, whereon the lad began to tremble 

violently. Kumodini Babu had pity on his confusion 

4 



50 TALES OF BENGAL 

and told him to run away. Needless to say he was 
promptly obeyed. 

It has become a Calcutta custom for possible 
fathers-in-law to cross-examine suitors on their text- 
books ; but few boys are able to satisfy the test, how- 
ever brilliant their acquirements may be. Poor Sam- 
arendra was too overwhelmed with the strangeness 
of his position to do himself justice. 

When the elder folks were quite alone they plunged 
into business. Kumodini Babu sounded his host as 
to dena paona (settlements) on either side ; but the 
latter courteously left them entirely to his discretion. 
It was settled that Basumati's pdkkd dekhd (betrothal) 
should be celebrated on 12th November at Kumo- 
dini Babu's, and that of Samarendra's at his father's, 
two days later. 

Basumati being an only daughter, Kumodini Babu 
determined to conduct her marriage on a magnificent 
scale. In anticipation of the betrothal feast, he 
brought three Brahman cooks from Calcutta to pre- 
pare curries, pillaos and sweetmeats under the super- 
vision of the ladies of his household. 

At length the auspicious day came round. At 
5 p.m. Amarendra Babu, with half a dozen friends, 
arrived at Kumodini Babu's house from Calcutta. 
They were received with great courtesy and con- 
ducted to seats, where a plentiful supply of tobacco 



ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 51 

and betel awaited them. At half-past seven, Jadu 
Babu presented the bride-elect to her future family. 
She looked charming in a Parsi shawl and Victoria 
jacket, decked out with glittering jewels, and sat 
down near Amarendra Babu, after saluting him re- 
spectfully. He took up some dhdn, durba and chan- 
dan (paddy, bent grass and sandal-wood paste) and 
blessed her, presenting her at the same time with 
a gold chur (bracelet). After again saluting him, 
the timid girl was led back to the inner apartments. 
Then the guests were taken to a large hall where 
supper was ready for their delectation. Full justice 
was done to the repast ; and after it was over, they 
washed their hands in the yard and smoked or 
chewed betel in perfect bliss until half-past ten. 
Then Amarendra Babu asked leave to return by the 
last train, declining hospitality for the night on the 
plea of previous engagements. While saying "good- 
bye " he called Jadu Babu aside and thrust Es. 30 
into his hands, to be distributed among the guru 
(spiritual guide), purohit (family priest), and servants. 
Two days afterwards, Kumodini Babu and his son 
went to Calcutta for the boy's betrothal. He blessed 
Samarendra, presenting him with a gold mohur (an 
obsolete coin worth sixteen rupees) besides Es. 50 
for the priest and servants of his household. A feast 

followed on the same scale as the previous one. 

4* 



52 TALES OF BENGAL 

Kumodini Babu's family priest decided that X.sar 
28th would be a lucky day for the wedding, which 
was to be held at the bride's great-uncle's house in 
Calcutta. Early on the 26th, the Gaihalud (turmeric 
smearing) ceremony took place. Amarendra Babu 
rubbed his son's body with a mixture of turmeric 
and oil and despatched a supply to Kumodini Babu 
by his own barber, with injunctions to have it applied 
to his daughter's person before 9 a.m., because sub- 
sequent hours would be inauspicious. On the 
barber's arrival, the ladies of Kumodini Babu's 
household anointed Basumati with turmeric and oil 
and clad her in a gorgeous wrapper. Then they con- 
ducted her to another room where a jdnti (instru- 
ment for cracking betel-nuts) was given her and 
certain nitkits (minor ceremonies) were performed. 

At 11 a.m. the presents given on the occasion of 
the turmeric-smearing (gaihalud) were brought by 
twenty servants who were regaled with a feast made 
ready in anticipation of their arrival. After partak- 
ing of it they were dismissed with a largesse of one 
rupee each. During the next two days presents con- 
tinued to pour in from relatives of both families. 

At length the fateful 28th Asar dawned, bringing 
a mighty commotion in the respective houses. 
Shouts and laughter echoed from every side. Amar- 
endra Babu had resolved to marry his son in a style 



ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 53 

which, sooth to say, was far above his means, hoping 
to recoup himself from the large cash payment which 
he expected from Kumodini Babu. On his side the 
latter had consulted relatives as to the proper dowr}'. 
All agreed that Es. 2,000 worth of ornaments ; Es. 
1,001 in cash ; Es. 500 for Barabharan (gifts to a bride- 
groom) ; and Es. 500 for Phulsajya (lit. a bed of 
flowers) would be sufficient. Thus Kumodini Babu 
provided Es. 4,001 and imagined that he was acting 
generously. 

At 7.30 p.m. the bridegroom's procession was 
formed. A Sub-Inspector of Police and three con- 
stables led the way, followed by a band of music. 
Next came a carriage and four conveying Samarendra, 
his younger brother, and the family priest. Carriages 
belonging to Amarendra Babu's friends, and some 
hired ones full of invited guests, brought up the rear. 
When a start was made, the little police force hustled 
vehicles out of the way and even stopped tram-cars 
when necessary ; while the band tortured selections 
from Handel and Beethoven to the intense delight of 
passers-by, many of whom paused to criticise short- 
comings in the procession among themselves. In 
about an hour it reached its destination, where 
Kumodini Babu's uncle received the guests. The 
family barber carried Samarendra in his arms to a 
chair which had been provided for him. There he 



54 TALES OF BENGAL 

sat with eyes fixed steadily on the ground, while his 
friends squatted round and cracked jokes at his ex- 
pense. He smiled, but modestly implored them not 
to put him out of countenance. The Lagna (auspici- 
ous time) was determined to be 9.30 ; meanwhile the 
guests sat on carpets or chairs, beguiling the delay 
with hookahs. 

While mirth was at its height, strange things were 
happening in a private room adjoining. Soon after 
arriving, Amarendra Babu asked Kumodini Babu and 
Jadunath to display the presents destined for the 
young couple. They took him into a room where all 
were set forth to the best advantage. After examin- 
ing them in silence awhile, Amarendra Babu kicked 
the nearest contemptuously aside, remarking that 
they were " mere rubbish ". In point of fact he fully 
expected Kumodini Babu to give Es. 4,000 in cash, 
Es. 2,000 in respect of Barabharan and Phulsajya and 
Ks. 4,000 worth of jewellery— Es. 10,000 in all. To 
judge by the ornaments shown him, the total dowry 
would be barely half as much and he could not help 
expressing disappointment. On asking Kumodini 
Babu what he intended paying down in cash, and 
learning that Es. 1,001 was all he could afford, Amar- 
endra Babu's indignation knew no bounds. He de- 
manded Es. 5,000, declaring that if it were not paid 
on the nail, he would take his son away ! The 



ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 55 

wretched father implored twelve hours' delay, but 
was told in as many words that his promise could 
not be relied on. The deadlock soon got wind, and 
Amarendra Babu's action was severely commented 
on by the guests, but he remained obdurate. Ku- 
modini Babu's uncle ran to a wealthy acquaintance 
for a loan of Rs. 4,000, but was told that so large a 
sum was not available at short notice. On his return, 
Amarendra Babu delivered his ultimatum — Rs. 4,000 
cash to be paid forthwith ; and finding that it was 
hopeless to expect so much, he hailed a cab, hurried 
Samarendra into it, and drove home in high dudgeon, 
followed by all his relatives and friends. This unex- 
pected calamity brought mourning into a house of 
mirth ; people spoke in whispers ; and anguish left its 
mark on every face. 

Sham Babu was supervising the Haluikars (con- 
fectioners) when the awful news reached his ears. 
For a few minutes he stood transfixed to the spot ; 
but ere long a happy thought struck him. He clapped 
his hands in silent glee, and ran to an inner room, 
where Kumodini Babu lay groaning on the bare floor, 
guarded by his son who feared that he would do some- 
thing rash. 

" Mahasay," he said soothingly. " Do not take on 
like this ! God's ways are inscrutable ; perchance He 
has broken the match off for your daughter's good." 



56 TALES OF BENGAL 

" Yes, God's will be done," replied Kumodini Babu 
in sepulchral tones. " We are but His instruments." 
Then after a pause he added, "What I dread most 
is loss of caste". 

" Who will dare to excommunicate you for such a 
trifle ? " asked Sham Babu indignantly. 

" Alas, you know too well that my family's posi- 
tion in society is terribly compromised. A marriage 
postponed is a marriage lost ! " groaned Kumodini 
Babu. 

"But why should it be postponed?" was Sham 
Babu's eager question. " I have a proposal to make, 
if you will only give it a moment's thought." 

Kumodini Babu looked up, and a ray of hope dried 
his tears ; he waited anxiously for further particulars. 

"You know my son Susil, I suppose? He is just 
sixteen and has passed the Entrance Examination." 

"Yes, yes," answered Kumodini Babu. "He is a 
fine lad, obedient and well-mannered. But what has 
he got to do with our present fix ? " 

" Will you give your daughter to him in marriage ? 
I will not ask a single pice as dowry." 

Kumodini Babu sprang to his feet and embraced 
Sham Babu with fervour, saying, " You have saved 
my life. Personally, I should be delighted to have 
Susil as a son-in-law, but you must let me consult 
my son and wife." 



ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 57 

He ran to the inner apartments, and communicated 
Sham Babu's offer to his near relatives. This unex- 
pected solution of the dilemma filled them with sur- 
prise ; and a loud clamour of voices echoed through 
the house. Finally all, without exception, agreed that 
the match would be an excellent one. Kumodini 
Babu brought news of its acceptance to Sham Babu, 
and it spread among the wedding guests, who were 
loud in their praises of his true Hindu spirit. 

Sham Babu went into the courtyard where Susil 
sat talking with some other boys about the astound- 
ing piece of good fortune which awaited him. That 
he, the son of a humble clerk, should espouse the 
daughter of a Zemindar was more than his wildest 
dreams had anticipated. He joyfully accompanied 
Sham Babu to a room, where he was clad in silken 
attire, and thence to the hall, where he was solemnly 
inducted into the empty bridegroom's chair amid 
the acclamations of the assembled guests. As the 
Lagna (auspicious time) had not run out the actual 
marriage ceremony began forthwith. Basumati was 
given away by her father ; while the ladies performed 
Satpdk (lit. going round seven times — a ceremony 
without which a Hindu marriage is not binding) and 
other minor ceremonies with zest. After all had been 
well and duly gone through, the bride and bride- 
groom were conducted to an inner apartment, Susil 



58 TALES OF BENGAL 

underwent the customary "chaff" from the ladies, 
which he bore with great good humour and was at 
last left alone with his young companion for life ; 
while some of the fair guests sang wedding songs 
to the intense delight of their friends. Nor were the 
men-folk idle. They sat down to a sumptuous feast 
prepared for the recreant bridegroom's family, nor 
did they separate till daybreak. 

At 3 p.m. on the morrow Sham Babu took Susil and 
Basumati to his own home, where the Bau-Bhdt cere- 
mony was performed in grand style. It was attended 
by all their caste-fellows, who were loud in extolling 
his magnanimity. Sham Babu accepted their praises 
meekly, remarking that he had done nothing more 
than his duty, by neglecting which he would have 
rendered himself accountable to God. 



AN OUTKAGEOUS SWINDLE. 

Amarendea Babu had expected Kumodini Babu to 
run after him, with entreaties to return and the 
promise of a note of hand for Bs. 4,000. Disappoint- 
ment became downright wrath when he heard that 
his son's prospective bride had been forthwith 
married to another boy. After pondering awhile on 
this grievance, he sent an anonymous letter to Sham 
Babu's employers, to the effect that their clerk was 
robbing them right and left and running a business 
of his own with their money, under a fictitious name. 
They had implicit confidence in his honesty, and the 
only action they took was to hand the scrawl to him 
with a remark that they hoped he would discover and 
prosecute the writer. 

Meanwhile Amarendra Babu cast about him for a 
suitable match for his son. Hearing of a likely girl 
from the marriage-broker, he visited her parents, who 
accepted his overtures with alacrity. The young 
lady's father, Jogesh by name, was a commission 
agent, whose regular earnings did not exceed thirty 

59 



60 TALES OF BENGAL 

rupees a month ; but he lived in such style that 
his neighbours believed him to be comfortably off. 
Amarendra Babu, too, was deceived by appearances, 
while the girl, who was exhibited to him, seemed in- 
telligent and pretty. On his side, Jogesh knew his 
visitor to be a house-owner of some means ; and 
learning from him that his son was a second-year 
student, he gladly consented to the match. The pair 
next broached a delicate question, that of dowry. 
Amarendra Babu had learnt by bitter experience of 
the folly of pitching expectations too high. He told 
Jogesh that he should be quite satisfied with 
Rs. 4,001, viz., ornaments 2,000, barabharan and phul- 
sajya Us. 500 each, and cash Rs. 1,001. On Jogesh's 
expressing willingness to provide that amount, the 
purohit (family priest) was sent for who, after re- 
ferring to a panjiha (almanac), announced that Sraban 
20th would be an auspicious day for the marriage. 
They then separated with many protestations of 
mutual good-will. 

Meantime Jogesh made minute inquiries as to 
Amarendra Babu's position and the health of his 
son. Their result was satisfactory enough ; not so 
the fiasco related in my last chapter, which reached 
him with amplification, and made him resolve that 
Amarendra Babu should not play such tricks on him. 
He ordered no ornaments for his daughter, because 



AN OUTRAGEOUS SWINDLE 61 

he had little cash or credit, but simply borrowed 
Rs. 300 to meet absolutely necessary expenses. On 
the afternoon of Sraban 20th he called in half a dozen 
city roughs, armed them with thick sticks, and plied 
them with spirits, telling them on no account to 
appear in the public apartments of his house until 
they received a signal agreed on. 

At seven o'clock Amarendra Babu, with his son 
and an uncle named Rashbehari, arrived at Jogesh's 
house in a second-class cab. No procession attended 
them, partly because the last had cost so much money, 
partly owing to the fear that another hitch might 
cover them with ridicule. After exchanging hearty 
salutations with Jogesh, they asked him to exhibit 
the ornaments prepared for the bride-elect. He took 
them to a side room and left them there a while, pre- 
sently introducing a well-dressed man as his family 
goldsmith. The latter unlocked a tin box which he 
was carrying and took out a number of glittering 
gold trinkets, one by one. After examining them 
carefully, Amarendra Babu asked him to weigh them, 
which he did, proving that their weight exceeded 120 
bhdris (forty-eight ounces), and their total value, at 
Rs. 20 per bhdri, no less than Rs. 2,400. This was 
far more than he had bargained for, and Amarendra 
Babu was highly delighted ; but his uncle insisted on 
sending for his own goldsmith to weigh the ornaments. 



62 TALES OF BENGAL 

Jogesh at once fell in with the suggestion, and this 
tradesman, on arrival, valued them at Bs. 2,700. 

Eashbehari Babu's scepticism vanished, and he as- 
sented to his nephew's whispered hint that they need 
not ask Jogesh to produce the barabharan. He, how- 
ever, insisted on satisfying them as to its worth and 
placed in their hands a heavy gold watch by McCabe, 
with an albert chain, equally ponderous ; and assured 
them that he had paid Bs. 800 for the two. Amar- 
endra's joy was perhaps excessive, and when the 
lagna (auspicious time) came round, he permitted the 
marriage to be celebrated. Every ceremony went 
off without a hitch, and the evening closed in feasting 
and mirth. 

On the following afternoon Amarendra Babu took 
the bridegroom and bride with the box of ornaments 
to his own home, while Bashbehari Babu remained 
behind at Jogesh's to receive the cash. On mention- 
ing this little formality he was assured that the sum 
of Bs. 1,001 had been duly counted out to his nephew ; 
so he took his leave. When he reached home, he 
discovered the dirty trick that had been played by 
Jogesh. Amarendra stoutly denied having received 
any cash ; and the tin box was proved to contain 
only fragments of brick neatly wrapped in paper, 
and covered with pink cotton wool. 

The pair of dupes hurried to Jogesh's house for an 



AN OUTEAGEOUS SWINDLE 63 

explanation. He sat in the parlour, in evident ex- 
pectation of their arrival, and asked with an air of 
unconcern what was the matter. 

"You son of a pig!" roared Amarendra Babu, 
shaking his clenched fist close to Jogesh's nose. " Tell 
me where are the ornaments — where is the cash? " 

" Why, did you not take away a box full of 
trinkets? and you must admit that the Es. 1,001 
were handed you in a cotton bag." 

This impudence was too much. Both uncle and 
nephew fell upon Jogesh and belaboured him sorely 
with their shoes. He did not retaliate, but consoled 
himself with the thought that he had done his duty, 
to God and society, by marrying his daughter, what- 
ever fate might await him. After vowing to bring a 
suit against the swindler, Amarendra Babu and his 
uncle left the premises and did what they would 
have done much earlier had they not been in such a 
desperate hurry to marry the lad. They made in- 
quiries as to Jogesh's position and soon discovered 
that he was a man of straw, quite unworthy of powder 
and shot. They learned, too, that he had hired Es. 
3,000 worth of trinkets for one night from a goldsmith, 
who never let them out of his possession. From a 
wealthy neighbour he had borrowed a McCabe's watch 
and chain, also for one night only. His arrangements 
made with a gang of city roughs, in order to prevent 



64 TALES OF BENGAL 

the marriage being broken off, also came to light. 
Amarendra Babu saw that he had been dealing with 
a cunning and desperate man and prudently deter- 
mined to give him a wide berth in future. But his 
daughter was in Amarendra Babu's clutches, and she 
was forced to expiate the sins of her father. The 
luckless girl was kept on very short commons and 
locked into a dark room when she was not engaged in 
rough household work. Contrary to custom, she was 
not sent to her father's house three days after the 
marriage ; nor was the Bau-Bhdt ceremony performed. 
But Jogesh was on the alert ; he managed to com- 
municate with her by bribing a maid-servant, and 
one morning Amarendra Babu's household discovered 
that the half-starved bird had flown. 

A year passed away without news of the truants ; 
but, one evening, Amarendra Babu was sitting in his 
parlour, spelling out a spicy leader in the Indian Mirror, 
when, to his unqualified amazement, Jogesh stepped 
in and unbidden took a seat. Amarendra Babu's 
first impulse was to shout for help and eject the in- 
truder with every species of ignominy, but second 
thoughts are proverbially peaceful. 

" This Jogesh," he reflected, " must be a very 
smart fellow, or he would never have taken us all in 
as he did. It is better to be on the side of the sacri- 
ficial knife than the goat that awaits its stroke. 



AN OUTRAGEOUS SWINDLE 65 

Why should I not hear what he has to say ? He 
would not have come here without some excellent 
reason — perhaps he wants to pay up part of his debt 
to me, or maybe he has some scheme with money in 
it to unfold. He'll certainly try to overreach me 
again ; but then once bitten twice shy. I'll be on my 
guard." Then with an attempt at irony he asked: — 

" What brings you of all people to my house ? Have 
you got another daughter to marry ? " 

Had Amarendra Babu observed the gleam which 
shot from Jogesh's shifty eyes, he would have kicked 
him out at once, but he waited for a reply, which 
came in honeyed accents : — 

" Now, Babuji, please don't rake up old stories ; 
what is done cannot be undone. You, as a father, 
ought to excuse little subterfuges, contrived in order 
to get a daughter off one's hands. I was so anxious 
to ally myself with your distinguished family that I 
did sail rather near the wind. But I have come to 
offer you some amends by putting you on a really 
good thing." 

Amarendra Babu's cupidity was excited by these 
words. He asked with apparent indifference : " Well, 
let me hear more of your famous plans, and mean- 
time I'll call for a hookah ". 

Jogesh was overjoyed by the success of his ma- 
noeuvres. He answered, punctuating his sentences 

5 



66 TALES OF BENGAL 

by inhaling fragrant Bhilsi, " You have heard of 
Campbell & Co., the big cooly recruiters of Azimganj ? 
Well, they have an agency in Calcutta for supplying 
emigrants to Mauritius, Trinidad, and other outland- 
ish places ; and it is run by one Ganesh Sen who is a 
close friend of mine. He tells me that a number of 
sub-contracts will be given out to-morrow, and I have 
made up my mind to apply for one. Ganesh Babu is 
sure to come to terms with me ; and I know a very 
smart sarddr (ganger) who will supply me with any 
number of coolies I want. But I shall take care to 
keep a large margin between the rate per head, at 
which they will be delivered to Campbell & Co., and 
that which my sardar will receive. All this will be 
clear profit." 

" It seems a good speculation," said Amarendra 
Babu musingly, "but I should like to have further 
particulars. What do you expect to make per head 
delivered; and what capital will be required?" Jo- 
gesh pulled out a paper covered with calculations, 
and proved to his host's satisfaction that as much 
as B.S. 5 might be expected on each cooly. As for 
capital, a few hundreds would be needed in the first 
instance as an advance to the sardar, and other sums 
later, to provide outfits for the coolies according to 
law. Campbell & Co. settled the accounts of sub- 
contractors monthly, s.o that Amarendra would not 



AN OUTRAGEOUS SWINDLE 67 

have to wait long for his money. Jogesh con- 
cluded by urging his baibdhik (father of a son-in-law) 
to call with him on Messrs. Campbell & Co.'s Cal- 
cutta manager, who would corroborate his statements. 
Amarendra Babu thought that there would be no 
harm in going into matters further. He fixed 4 p.m. 
on the following day for a visit to 809 Strand, where 
Campbell & Co.'s branch offices were said to be 
located. 

On arriving there punctually, he was met by 
Jogesh, who took him through a courtyard where 
twenty or thirty coolies were squatting, shepherded 
by a stalwart Mohammadan, wearing a blue turban, 
who was introduced as Salim Sardar, his ganger. 
Pushing through the little crowd, they entered a 
well-furnished office, where several clerks sat writing 
busily. One of them looked up when Jogesh said : 
" Ganesh Babu, I have brought you my baibdhik, 
who is thinking of joining me in a sub-contract". 

The manager, for such he was, received Amarendra 

Babu politely and said that he would gladly come 

to terms with them. He then produced a written 

contract in duplicate on stamped paper, by which 

the partners agreed to furnish at least 1,000 coolies 

monthly, during the emigration season, at rates which 

left a net profit of Rs. 5 per head, to be shared equally 

between them. After reading both documents over 

5* 



68 TALES OF BENGAL 

twice, Amarendra Babu executed them, as did Jogesh ; 
and the former took possession of his copy. On re- 
turning home with his new partner, he entered on a 
discussion as to ways and means. It was agreed that 
he should advance Bs. 5,000 for preliminaries, which 
he did a week later, raising the amount on a mortgage 
of his Calcutta house property. Everything went 
swimmingly at first ; Jogesh calling daily to report 
progress ; and a month later he burst into Amarendra 
Babu's parlour, with a cash-book and bundle of cur- 
rency notes. The latter learnt to his intense delight 
that his share of the profits amounted to Bs. 1268 12. 
4. which was promptly paid him. Two or three 
days afterwards Jogesh again called to tell him that 
an opportunity of making Bs. 10,000 net had occurred 
owing to the pressing demand for cooly freight from 
a ship which was lying half-empty, and costing large 
sums for demurrage. Bs. 10,000 must be forthcoming 
at once for advances and perhaps special railway 
trucks, but Amarendra Babu might calculate on re- 
ceiving 100 per cent, in three weeks at the latest. 
Such a chance of money-making was not to be lost. 
Amarendra Babu rushed off to his broker and sold 
nearly all his Government paper for Bs. 10,000 in 
cash, which he handed to Jogesh, against a formal 
acknowledgment. 

Seeing nothing of his partner for several days, 



AN OUTKAGEOUS SWINDLE 69 

Amarendra called to inquire how the new contract 
fared and was thunderstruck to find Jogesh's house 
locked up. Hastening to Campbell & Co.'s Strand 
offices, he saw a notice " to let " exhibited there. 
This spectacle confirmed his worst fears — he had 
been twice swindled outrageously. His only hope 
lay in the scoundrel's arrest ; so he laid an informa- 
tion at the police station, and a clever detective was 
told off to investigate the charge. Strange was the 
story which came to light. No such firm as " Camp- 
bell & Co." existed; Ganesh Babu and Salim Sardar 
were both accomplices of Jogesh, who had rented an 
office on the Strand for one month at Es. 300 which 
was never paid. He had also engaged twenty or 
thirty loafers at 4 annas (4d.) a head to personate 
coolies for a couple of hours. This part of the in- 
quiry was satisfactory enough — for the police ; not 
so the efforts they made to trace Jogesh and his ac- 
complices. From that day to this nothing has been 
heard of them. 

Amarendra Babu never recovered from this crush- 
ing blow. The loss of nearly Es. 14,000 is a very 
serious matter for any one of moderate means ; to 
him it was doubly grievous, for he worshipped money 
and valued nothing but success. By constantly 
brooding on his misfortunes and folly he developed 
symptoms of madness and was at times so violent 



70 TALES OF BENGAL 

that his relatives were obliged to confine him in a 
dark room. One afternoon he eluded their vigilance 
and hurried to the office of "Campbell & Co." on 
the Strand. After gazing for several minutes at the 
empty building, he heaved a deep sigh, ran across 
the road, and sprang into the Eiver Hughli. The 
undercurrent sucked his body in, and it was never 
recovered. Perhaps Mother Ganges was loath to 
keep a carcase so tainted in her bosom, and so 
whirled it southwards to the ocean. 



THE VIBTUE OF ECONOMY. 

Sham Babu was a clerk of nearly thirty years' stand- 
ing, and the approach of old age made him anxious to 
escape from the daily grind of business. He asked per- 
mission to resign, which was reluctantly granted ; his 
employers signifying their appreciation of his faithful 
service by granting him a pension of Es. 30 a month 
and offering to provide for any of his relatives who 
might be fit for clerical work. Sham Babu thanked 
them warmly and retired to his native village, with 
the intention of passing the evening of life in peace. 
He had always lived well within his means. People 
who were thrice as rich could not imagine how he 
contrived to bring up a family on the salary which 
he was known to enjoy. Some folks insinuated that 
he had made money by giving his son in marriage to 
Kumodini Babu's daughter, never remembering that 
a dowry is reserved for the bride's benefit, while the 
cash payment made to a father-in-law barely suffices 
to meet the expenses of elaborate nuptial ceremonies. 

Others hinted that he had waxed rich on illicit com- 

71 



72 TALES OF BENGAL 

missions — another charge which was quite without 
foundation. Sham Babu was strictly honest, and 
besides, the opportunities within the reach of clerks 
employed by a private firm are not worth men- 
tioning. 

After settling down at Kadampur he cudgelled his 
brains for some means of increasing his slender 
resources. Friends advised him to try farming, 
or start a business in lending grain to cultivators. 
Neither trade was to his liking. Clerks are of little 
use outside their own sphere ; and Sham Babu was 
too soft-hearted to succeed as a village Shylock. A 
matter of pressing importance was to establish his 
son Susil, who had passed the First Arts examination 
and was hanging about the Government offices at 
Ghoria, in the hope of securing a post. Sham Babu 
took advantage of his late employer's offer and sent 
the young man off to Calcutta armed with a sheaf of 
certificates. To his great delight, Susil was appointed 
clerk on Rs. 25 — a magnificent start, which relieved 
his father's most pressing anxiety. 

Sham Babu had begun life with a small patrimony 
which was slowly increased by savings from his 
monthly pay. He was worth nearly Rs. 10,000, the 
whole of which was lent by him to a trader named 
Gopal Datta, certified by Sham Babu's brother-in-law 
Hari to be thoroughly trustworthy. This Gopal 



THE VIKTUE OF ECONOMY 73 

dealt in jute ; and being a man of great daring, he 
speculated so successfully with Sham Babu's money 
that, within three or four years, he amassed a fortune 
of two lakhs (£13,333). He paid 12 per cent, inter- 
est on the loan regularly, which made a comfortable 
addition to Sham Babu's pension. 

It was the latter's habit to visit his Calcutta rela- 
tives at least once a month. So, one day in June, 
18 — , he went to Hari Babu's house with the inten- 
tion of passing the night there. His brother-in-law 
was absent and not expected till the morrow ; but Sham 
Babu was welcomed by the ladies of the family, who 
made all arrangements for his comfort. In the 
evening he sat in the Baitakhana (parlour) reading 
the Bhagavat Gita (a mystical poem). A carriage drove 
up to the door whence alighted Kamanath Babu, 
who was Gopal's younger brother. After the usual 
compliments had been exchanged, Sham Babu asked 
what business his visitor was engaged in. 

"I have started as a broker in jute and oil-seeds," 
was the reply. 

" I hope you will do as well as Gopal," said Sham 
Babu, " but I suppose you have joined him? " 

"Certainly not," replied Ramanath impulsively; 
then he checked himself, as though he had said too 
much. 

Sham Babu was astonished by the tone adopted by 



74 TALES OF BENGAL 

his visitor. He asked, " Why, what's the matter with 
Gopal, nothing wrong I hope and trust ? " 

" No, not exactly ; hut I'm in a hurry to-day, you 
must excuse my taking leave." 

Sham Babu, however, would not be put off with 
vague insinuations. He said, " I must ask you, Rama- 
nath, to be more precise. .You know your brother has 
borrowed Es. 10,000 from me on a mere note of 
hand, and I am naturally very anxious to learn the 
truth." 

Earnanath Babu paused for a few seconds before 
replying. " It is a fact that my brother's speculations 
have been unfortunate of late. He certainly made 
a good deal of money at one time, but sunk the bulk 
of it in bricks and mortar, which you know are not 
easily turned into liquid capital. You, as a large 
creditor, ought to be told how the land lies." 

" This is the first I have heard of Gopal's diffi- 
culties," groaned Sham Babu. 

"Yes, because no one troubled himself to tell you 
the truth ; but I can assure you that Gopal's liabilities 
are something awful, and it is quite possible that he 
may have to take insolvency proceedings." 

" You don't say so ! What shall I do ? If Gopal 
becomes bankrupt, I shall be utterly ruined." 

" Well, I cannot advise you fully," replied Eamanath 
Babu, " but forewarned is forearmed. If I were in your 



THE VIKTUE OF ECONOMY 75 

shoes I would certainly call in my loan." Thereon he 
took leave. 

Sham Babu passed a restless night, dreaming of 
the debtor's jail and a starving family. On Hari 
Babu's return, next morning, he related the purport 
of his conversation with Bamanath. His host said : 
" You should not attach too much importance to such 
tittle-tattle. Bamanath has had a quarrel with his 
brother about family matters, and he is not at all 
averse to doing him a bad turn." Sham Babu was 
not satisfied with this explanation. He answered : — 
" I can hardly believe Bamanath capable of telling 
deliberate lies, which must inevitably be detected." 

" Perhaps not. It is quite possible that Gopal may 
be in temporary straits. But can you point to a 
single merchant among your acquaintances whose 
career has been uniformly prosperous? There are 
ups and downs in commerce, which no one can avoid. 
Mark my words, Gopal will soon pull himself together 
again ! " 

Sham Babu was by no means convinced by his 
brother-in-law's optimism. He remarked, "In any 
case I ought not to allow my loan to stand without 
some tangible security. Gopal has house property 
in Calcutta, I believe? " 

"To be sure he has. There is his new house at 
Entally, which must have cost Bs. 20,000; and 



76 TALES OF BENGAL 

another in Barabazar, letting at Rs. 3,000. Just cal- 
culate what this property must be worth. If I 
doubted Gopal's solvency, do you suppose I would 
have lent him Es. 20,000 on his note of hand ? " 

Sham Babu was quite reassured. He came to the 
conclusion that Ramanath had attempted to injure 
his own brother, and returned home with a firm 
resolve to disregard such scandalous talk in future. 

About three months afterwards he met Ramanath 
Babu quite casually in Harrison Road and, in the 
course of conversation, the latter asked whether he 
had called in his loan to Gopal. 

"I have done nothing of the kind," was the curt 
reply. ," My brother-in-law tells me that he is quite 
solvent." 

" It was just like him to say so — the selfish fellow ! 
I am sorry to say that my brother has lost heavily 
by speculating in jute and is, in fact, a ruined man. 
If you don't believe me, ask Hari Babu again and 
you will see what tune he sings. Perhaps you don't 
know that he has called in his loan of Rs. 20,000?" 

"That is certainly strange," replied Sham Babu 
with tears in his voice. " He never breathed a word 
of any such intention to me." 

" Hari Babu is your brother-in-law," continued 
Ramanath, " but Gopal is my own brother. Is it 
likely that I would injure his reputation gratuitously ? 



THE VIETUE OF ECONOMY 77 

No ; you are an old friend whom I cannot allow to 
be ruined without a word of warning. If you do not 
choose to act upon it, so much the worse for you." 

Sham Babu was now convinced that no time was 
to be lost in demanding proper security for the loan. 
He went straight to his brother-in-law, to whom he 
repeated the information which he had received. 

Hari Babu shook his head sadly. "Yes," he said, 
" I am afraid there is some truth in it. Gopal is in 
temporary difficulties ; but you need not be anxious. 
I will get him to give you a mortgage on landed pro- 
perty worth much more than his debt to you." 

Sham Babu felt somewhat reassured, but there was 
a point to be cleared up. 

"One word more," he said, "have you called in 
your loan of Es. 20,000?" 

Hari Babu looked at him suspiciously. " Who told 
you so? " 

" I heard it from a reliable source." 

"It must have been Bamanath, who is always 
seeking to make mischief. Well, yes, I did ask Gopal 
to repay me, not that I distrusted him but because I 
wanted to invest the money in land." 

Sham Babu felt indignant at the man's gross sel- 
fishness, but he concealed his feelings and merely 
remarked that he would not leave Calcutta till the 
mortgage was settled. Next morning he insisted on 



78 TALES OF BENGAL 

Hari Babu accompanying him to GopaTs house at 
Entally. They found the debtor apparently in high 
spirits, although he admitted that certain speculations 
had turned out badly. When pressed by Sham Babu 
to repay the loan, he asked for time, pleading that 
his whole capital was locked up. Sham Babu, how- 
ever, was obdurate, and with his brother-in-law's help 
he brought such pressure to bear on Gopal that the 
latter sulkily agreed to give him a mortgage on an 
ancestral estate in the Mufassil (interior of Bengal). 
Sham Babu stuck closely to him until the bargain 
had been fulfilled, and managed matters so ex- 
peditiously that the mortgage deed was drawn up, 
executed, and registered in a week. Though he had 
now something tangible to rely on in case of accidents 
still he was not happy, for Gopal discontinued pay- 
ing interest on the loan and he did not dare to 
press him, lest he should precipitate a crash. 

Misfortunes never come singly. Soon after settling 
this unpleasant affair, Sham Babu was laid low by 
fever ; and doctor's bills trenched sadly on his slender 
resources. Susil, too, the hope of the family, caught 
a mysterious disease and was absent from office so 
long that his employers were obliged to replace him. 
For the first time in his life, the poor old father felt 
the pinch of want, but he bore up bravely hoping for 
better times, When he was able to crawl about 



THE VIKTUE OF ECONOMY 79 

again, he applied to his old employers for work of any 
kind, but learnt to his sorrow that they intended 
winding up the business and were not able to increase 
their establishment. Sham Babu scanned the ad- 
vertisement columns of the daily paper and answered 
many offers of employment, learning, on each occasion, 
that he was far too old to fill the coveted post. 

One evening he sat in his parlour brooding over the 
many misfortunes which encompassed him. A dis- 
tant connection named Srish Babu came in and, 
hearing that his host sorely needed work, said : — 

" I am going to start a business in country produce 
and shall want several experienced clerks. I must 
provide for relatives first and strangers afterwards. 
Now, would you be inclined to come to me as manager, 
on Rs. 75 a month to begin with?" 

Sham Babu jumped at the offer, which would re- 
store him to comparative affluence, and it was agreed 
that he should enter on his new duties in three weeks. 
A month passed by without news from his relative, 
and meantime Sham Babu received a tempting offer 
of employment. Before deciding what to do he 
wrote to Srish Babu, informing him of the fact and 
asking whether he could rely on him. A reply came 
to the effect that he might do as he pleased, but that 
the business in country produce, which he was to 
manage, would positively be started in. a, fortnight. 



80 TALES OF BENGAL 

After another month of suspense, Sham Babu learnt 
that Srish's bubble had been pricked, and that he 
had levanted, no one knew whither, to escape a swarm 
of creditors. 

The poor old man was now on his beam-ends. 
The only course open to him was to sue Gopal for 
arrears of interest and foreclose his mortgage. After 
a year and a half's attendance in divers civil courts 
and spending his last rupee on lawyers' fees, he ob- 
tained a decree. When, however, he tried to exe- 
cute it, it turned out that the estate on which he had 
a lien was a joint family possession, with the shares 
so inextricably mixed up that he could neither trace 
the property mortgaged to him nor discover who was 
liable for the proportion of profit derived from it. As 
well poke one's fingers into a hornet's nest as into a 
joint family estate ! Sham Babu was glad to accept 
an offer of Es. 5,000 from Gopal's co-sharers, in re- 
turn for a surrender of his claims. Despite his heavy 
loss, enough remained to preserve him from penury ; 
and he was even able to start Susil in a small way of 
business. Great is the virtue of economy ! 



A PEACEMAKEE. 

Young Samarendra Dass of Calcutta hoped to enter 
Government service as a Sub-Deputy Magistrate ; but 
this ambition was thwarted by the sudden decease of 
his father, who left a widow and two sons entirely 
unprovided for. After dutifully performing the srddh 
(funeral rites), he waited on the dead man's uncle, 
Eashbehari Babu by name, with a request that he 
would support the little family until the sons were in 
a position to do so. No good Hindu in comfortable 
circumstances ever turns a deaf ear to such appeals. 
Eashbehari Babu at once invited the trio to take up 
their abode with him. Having no nearer relatives, he 
had resolved to leave his whole fortune to Samarendra 
and his brother Nagendra ; and long before his 
nephew's death he had executed a will to that effect, 
which for obvious reasons was kept a profound secret. 
The young men were, therefore, ignorant of the bril- 
liant prospects in store for them, and worked hard to 
prepare themselves for earning a livelihood. Sama- 
rendra was soon provided with a post as clerk, which 

81 6 



82 TALES OF BENGAL 

yielded enough to provide the cost of his father's 
funeral ceremony and also enabled him to pay 
Nagendra's school fees. 

One evening Bashbehari Babu went to bed supper- 
less, complaining of indisposition. At midnight, 
Samarendra was awakened by his groans and found 
him writhing in agony on the floor. A doctor was 
summoned in hot haste ; but ere his arrival the poor 
old man had expired in Samarendra's arms. His case 
was diagnosed as one of failure of the heart's action. 

Samarendra and his mother were prostrated by 
this sudden calamity ; but there is no time to be lost 
in hot weather. Calling in three or four neighbours, 
they h'ad the body carried to Nimtala Ghat for cre- 
mation. Sufficient money was given to the Muchis 
(low-caste men who serve as undertakers) for pur- 
chasing an abundant supply of fuel and ghi (clarified 
butter) with which a chilla (pyre) was constructed. 
After the corpse had been laid reverently thereon, 
Samarendra performed Mukhagni ("putting fire in 
its mouth," the duty of the eldest son or nearest 
relative). Fire was then applied on four sides, and 
when the body had been reduced to ashes, Sama- 
rendra bathed in the Ganges with his companions, 
and returned home with wet clothes, shouting 
" Haribol ! " (a cry used at funerals). 

Next day Samarendra discovered the dead man's 



A PEACEMAKER 83 

keys, one of which opened a drawer where Rashbehari 
Babu kept his private papers. Among them was a 
will, which made himself and his brother sole heirs 
to the deceased's estate. He ran with the glad news 
to his mother, who, in the exuberance of her joy, vowed 
to offer a sumptuous pujd at Kali Ghat temple after 
the srddh had been duly performed. 

Rashbehari Babu left landed property yielding an 
annual income of Rs. 1,200, besides Rs. 10,000 depos- 
ited in a Calcutta bank, and a substantial house. 
His estate was worth not less than Rs. 40,000 — a 
lucky windfall for the penniless brothers. It is need- 
less to add that the testator's srddh was celebrated 
with great pomp, which over, Samarendra applied for 
and obtained probate of the will. A sudden change 
from dependence to comparative wealth is trying 
to the best-balanced character. Samarendra's head 
was turned by the accession of fortune ; he began to 
give himself airs in dealing with acquaintances, and 
was not over-kind to his mother, who bore her suffer- 
ings patiently. 

A landed proprietor holds service in contempt. 
Samarendra at once resigned his post and settled 
down at Ratnapur, where Rashbehari Babu had 
owned a house and the bulk of his estate was situ- 
ated. Soon afterwards he yielded to the repeated 

advice of his mother by marrying the daughter of a 

6* 



84 TALES OF BENGAL 

caste-fellow, endowed with goods on a par with her 
husband's new position. 

His brother Nagendra passed the Entrance Ex- 
amination, but failed to secure a First Arts certificate. 
This rebuff so disheartened him that he gave up all 
idea of continuing the University course and returned 
to Ratnapur with the intention of living in idleness 
on his property. In vain did Samarendra point out 
the advantages of a degree. Nagendra declared that 
such distinctions were beyond his reach. Sudden 
wealth, in fact, was injurious to both of them. 

Two uneventful years passed away. Samarendra's 
wife was the mother of an idolised boy and was her- 
self adored by her mother-in-law, who never allowed 
her to do any manner of household work. The result 
was that her temper changed for the worse. "When 
the old lady fell ill, the young one made horrible 
messes of her curry and rice. If her husband ventured 
to remonstrate, she silenced him with abuse, and even 
emphasised her remarks with a broomstick. 

Samarendra, in fact, was completely under his 
wife's thumb. Her word was law in the household ; 
her mother-in-law a mere cypher, who found both 
husband and wife perpetually leagued against her. 
Shortly after his arrival at Ratnapur, Nagendra es- 
poused the daughter of Kanto Babu, a Zemindar 
residing in the neighbourhood. At first Samarendra's 



A PEACEMAKEE 85 

wife received the new-comer graciously enough ; but 
finding that she was of a submissive disposition, she 
soon began to lord it over her sister-in-law. Nagendra 
sympathised heartily with his young wife, but had 
such a horror of family quarrels that he was very 
loath to intervene on her behalf. One evening, how- 
ever, he ventured on a word of reproof, which was 
received with angry words and threats of his eldest 
brother's vengeance. 

Next day Samarendra called him into the parlour, 
and, after they were seated, said : " I hear you have 
been rude to Barabau (the elder wife). Is that so ? " 

Nagendra raised his hands in wonder. " No, 
brother, it was she who showed disrespect to me, 
simply because I objected to her bullying my wife." 

"Do you mean to say that Barabau has lied?" 
thundered Samarendra. His brother was nettled by 
the tone adopted. He replied hotly, " Yes, she has 
lied!" 

" What !" asked Samarendra beside himself with 
indignation. "Is my wife a liar and are you a 
Judisthir?" (the elder of the five Pandav brothers, 
heroes of the Mahabharata). "You are a creature 
without shame ! " So saying, he shook his fist at Na- 
gendra who started from his seat as if to attack him. 
Luckily a respectable neighbour came in at the very 
nick of time and separated the would-be combatants, 



86 TALES OF BENGAL 

On the morrow, Nagendra told his brother curtly 
that these perpetual bickerings must be avoided at 
all cost, and that the only course open to them was 
to separate. Samarendra raised not the slightest 
objection, and from that day forward two distinct 
establishments were set up in the same house. It 
only remained to divide the estates equally, and as a 
preliminary step Nagendra asked for accounts dur- 
ing the last three years. They were furnished in a 
few weeks, and he spent several nights in examining 
them carefully, taking lists of defaulters in order to 
verify them by independent inquiry. 

While returning home, one evening, from supper at 
a frierid's house, he met a Mohammadan ryot who, 
according to the accounts, was heavily in arrears of 
rent. He paused and, after acknowledging the man's 
salam, remarked that he ought to make an effort to 
pay a part at least of what was due. The ryot stood 
aghast with surprise, but invoked Allah to witness 
that he had paid up every pice, adding that he 
held Ddkhilas (rent receipts) from Bara Babu (the elder 
brother) which would prove his assertion. Nagendra 
asked him to call next day with the receipts in 
question. 

When the man presented himself, Nagendra, in his 
brother's presence, asked for the arrears of rent shown 
in the jamti iv&sil bdqi (accounts). Again the ryot 



A PEACEMAKER 87 

affirmed that he owned nothing and appealed to the 
Bara Babu for corroboration. Samarendra was taken 
aback. 

" Yes," he stammered, " you did pay me something 
about a month ago." 

" Why do you say ' something,' Babu? You know 
quite well that I discharged my rent in full ; and what 
is more I have receipts." So saying he untied a knot 
in his gamcha (wrapper) and extracted some greasy 
papers, which he nourished in Samarendra's face, 
shouting, " Will you swear by your gods that these 
are not in your writing?" 

Nagendra took the receipts, which bore his brother's 
signature. The latter looked somewhat sheepish as 
he answered : " My memory failed me ; I now re- 
collect receiving our rent from you ". 

Nagendra turned sharply on his brother with the 
question : " Then why did you not enter these re- 
ceipts in your karcha (cash-book) ? " 

" I'm sure I don't know," was the reply ; " probably 
I forgot to do so." 

Though Nagendra said nothing at the time, his 
doubts of Samarendra's probity became certainties. 
From that day onward he was indefatigable in study- 
ing the copy of the siah (rent-roll) furnished him, 
the cash-book, and statement of arrears. Figures set 
down in these accounts were checked by private 



88 TALES OF BENGAL 

inquiries among the ryots themselves. Then the truth 
dawned on Nagendra, that his brother had misappro- 
priated large sums, which should have been paid to 
him, and concealed his fraud by falsifying the Zem- 
indari papers. After preparing a list of defalcations, 
he showed it to his brother and asked for an explana- 
tion. None was forthcoming ; nay, Samarendra made 
his case worse by flying into a passion and ordering 
him out of the room. He went straight to Kanto 
Babu for advice, and was told that the only course 
open to him was to sue his brother for recovery of 
the amount wrongfully appropriated. He resolved 
to do so forthwith. 

On the self-same night his wife, after discussing 
household affairs with him as usual, asked casually 
why he had paid her father a visit. He told her 
everything that occurred without reserve. The 
young lady listened with breathless attention, but 
heaved a deep sigh on learning that he intended suing 
his elder brother. Nagendra paused and asked what 
was on her mind. 

"My lord," was her reply, "I am only a woman, 
knowing nothing of the world except things within 
my sphere. Any attempt on my part to meddle in 
business matters may seem extremely presumptuous. 
But this is such a grave and risky matter that I can- 
not help speaking out. If you file a suit against your 



A PEACEMAKEB 89 

brother, he will of course defend himself ; for to lose 
it would ruin him in purse and honour. It will drag 
on for months. If you get a decree, the defendant 
will appeal to the Sub-Judge, and eventually to the 
High Court. To fight your way step by step will 
cost a fortune ; and even should you win all along 
the line, the lawyers will not leave you enough to 
keep body and soul together. How can a small 
estate like yours bear the costs of both sides ? So in 
my humble opinion it would be much better to allow 
your brother to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. Make up 
your mind, from this day forward, to look carefully 
after your interests, and you may rest assured that 
your brother will never try any such tricks again." 

Nagendra listened with open mouth to this dis- 
course, and when his wife had done speaking, he em- 
braced her fondly again and again, murmuring : — 

" My dearest love, I never knew your real worth 
till now. The Goddess of Wisdom has chosen you 
as her messenger and has convinced me that law- 
suits are luxuries which only the rich folk can enjoy 
— not people in my position. I will certainly see 
your father to-morrow and tell him my resolve to 
take no steps whatever against Samarendra." 

A Hindu wife is her husband's truest friend ; ever 
eager to share his sorrows and to proffer sound ad- 
vice in times of difficulty. Yet these sweet, unselfish 



90 TALES OF BENGAL 

creatures are systematically libelled by men who 
owe everything to them. It was soon noised abroad 
that Nagendra's wife had saved him from inevitable 
ruin. Everyone praised her common-sense — not 
excepting Samarendra and his wife, who thencefor- 
ward treated her with more consideration. Nagendra, 
therefore, began to hope that peace and unity would 
again rule the family. 



A BEAHMAN'S CUKSE. 

Despite his lack of training Samarendra Babu had 

great capacities for business, and seldom lost a 

chance of profit-making. He saw that people around 

him stood in constant need of funds to defray the 

cost of religious and family rites, and were ready to 

pay 60 per cent, for loans — at least they undertook 

to do so. It occurred to him that if he lent money 

on unimpeachable security at something under the 

market rates, he could not fail to make a large fortune. 

Soon after he had set up as a banker, the neighbours 

flocked to him for advances, which he granted only 

to such as could offer substantial security ; his 

charges by way of interest being 30 to 40 per cent. 

He also started a business in lending ryots rice for 

their seed-grain and support till the harvest should 

be reaped. It is needless to add that his clients paid 

heavily for this accommodation. So rapidly did his 

dealings increase that he sought an agent to represent 

him at the district headquarters ; and particularly 

to buy up defaulters' estates at the auctions which 

91 



92 TALES OF BENGAL 

are held periodically under Government auspices. 
His choice fell upon one Bipinbehari Bhur, who had 
a widespread reputation for acuteness. It was not 
belied. In less than a year Bipin had secured for 
his master estates yielding a net income of nearly 
Us. 1,200, which had cost a mere song at auction. 
Samarendra Babu never failed to reward him for 
such bargains. On one occasion he had such a slice 
of luck that it is worth while to narrate it in some 
detail. 

He had just retired to rest for the night, when a 
servant knocked at the door to say that Bipin had 
come on very urgent business. Samarendra Babu 
went- downstairs to his parlour, clad in a wrapper, 
to find his agent pacing up and down in evident 
agitation. After the usual compliments had been 
exchanged, he asked why Bipin had called so 
late. 

" I have bad news for you, Mahasay," was the reply. 
" You remember buying the Shibprakash estate at 
last auction ? Well, that property may slip through 
your fingers." He paused to watch the effect of the 
announcement on his master, and then went on : 
" The late proprietor has lodged an objection to its 
sale, on the ground that no arrears were due, produc- 
ing a receipt to substantiate his contention. The 
Collector has just called on us to show cause against 



A BRAHMAN'S CURSE 93 

the cancellation of the sale and will take the case 
up the day after to-morrow." 

Samarendra was thunderstruck by this informa- 
tion, the Shibprakash estate being one of the best 
bargains he had ever got. After pondering a while, 
he asked, " What would you advise me to do? I am 
afraid it is hopeless to contend against a receipt in 
full!" 

Bipin was not so easily disheartened. He replied, 
" Let us consult our pleader, Asu Babu, who is sure 
to have some plan for upholding the sale. He 
won't ask more than Es. 100, which is not a tenth 
of the annual profits for Shibprakash." This course 
commended itself to Samarendra, who sent his head- 
man back to Ghoria, promising to follow next day, 
with the necessary sinews of war. He arrived be- 
times at Bipin's house there, and took him to the Bar 
Library, where Asu Babu was sure to be found when 
not engaged in Court. A few minutes later the limb 
of the law came in, and asked what business brought 
Samarendra to Ghoria. 

After hearing the story of Shibprakash and its 
vicissitudes of ownership, he asked: — 

" How much will you pay me if I win your 
case?" 

Glancing at Bipin, Samarendra answered hesitat- 
ingly, " Well, I might go as far as fifty rupees ". 



94 TALES OF BENGAL 

"Nonsense," was the rejoinder. "I won't take 
a pice less than Es. 100." After several minutes 
wasted on haggling, it was agreed that Asu Babu 
should be paid Es. 40 on the nail and Es. 35 more 
if he won the suit. The pleader pocketed this first 
instalment, and assured Samarendra that he would 
prove the sale to have been perfectly valid. Then 
the trio separated, Samarendra returning to Bipin's 
house where they passed the day in forming plans for 
further purchases. 

At 10.30 on the morrow, both attended at the 
Collectorate and found that the Shibprakash objec- 
tion stood first for hearing. It was opened by the 
appellant's pleader, who rose armed with a huge ac- 
count book and bundle of receipts, in order to prove 
that his client owed nothing to Government, and that 
the sale proceedings were a blunder from beginning 
to end. Asu Babu waited till his turn came, and then 
informed the Collector that he would find, on ex- 
amining his books, that the appellant was Rs. 1 11. 0. 
in arrears at the date of the sale. The Collector 
ordered his head clerk to produce the ledger account 
of payments on account of the Shibprakash estates, 
and, sure enough, they showed a short payment of 
the amount stated. This was a thunderbolt for the 
appellant, whose pleader vainly tried to pick holes 
in the accounts, but was at last obliged to confess 



A BRAHMAN'S CURSE 95 

that a mistake had been made. The only course open 
to him was to sue for mercy. The Collector, however, 
was inexorable, and indeed he had no power to miti- 
gate the Draconian law of sale. That of Shibprakash 
was duly confirmed, and its new owner adjourned to 
the bar library to settle matters with his pleader. The 
meeting was joyful indeed. After congratulating Asu 
Babu on his unexpected success, Samarendra asked 
how he had managed it. The pleader at first refused 
to gratify his curiosity, but yielded to entreaty. " The 
tiger has a jackal," he said, " and I, who cannot stoop 
to dirty tricks myself, have a certain mukhtidr (the 
lowest grade of advocates) who is hand-in-glove with 
all the amlas (clerks) and can twist them round his 
finger — for a consideration. I gave him Rs. 10 out of 
the advance money and promised as much more if 
he could persuade the Collectorate clerks to cook the 
appellant's accounts, so as to show a short payment. 
You see how well he has succeeded, and now I think 
the least you can do is to refund the douceur to me." 
Samarendra agreed and handed Asu Babu Rs. 55, 
prophesying that he would have a brilliant career at 
the bar. 

He had to stop for a fortnight or 1 so at Ghoria, in 
order to get possession of his purchase from the Collect- 
orate ndzir (bailiff) who, according to custom, planted 
a bamboo thereon, as a symbol of its transfer. While 



96 TALES OF BENGAL 

waiting for this formality he attended another sale 
for arrears of revenue, in the hope of picking up some 
profitable bargains. He was not disappointed. The 
last lot was the whole of Jayrampur, a small village 
quite close to his house, inhabited by hardworking 
and submissive ryots, who paid their rent punctually. 
Samarendra was all agog when the nazir read out 
the names of its proprietors, the amount of arrears, 
and the boundaries, calling on the crowd to bid. A 
dead silence followed, which was at last broken by a 
timid offer of Ks. 1,000. Samarendra promptly bid 
Ks. 6,000, which he knew was hardly three years' 
purchase of the net rental, and the rise was so tre- 
mendous that it choked off all competition. Jayram- 
pur was knocked down to him ; but his exultation 
was tempered by the discovery that he had not nearly 
enough to meet the amount of earnest money which 
had to be paid down at once. A mukhtidr came to 
his aid by whispering offers of a loan, and the requisite 
amount was forthcoming in five minutes, on Sama- 
rendra's giving his note of hand with a bonus of 10 
per cent, payable next day. 

His star continued to be in the eleventh heaven ; 
for this was one of a series of profitable purchases. 
In seven or eight years he owned estates yielding an 
income of Es. 8,000, while his dealings in grain pro- 
duced half as much again. 



A BRAHMAN'S CURSE 97 

Samarendra's ambition rose with growing prosper- 
ity. Visions of a title hovered in his brain, and being 
a man of resource, he hit upon an ingenious method 
of converting them into realities. Close to his house 
there was an extensive bil (marsh) peopled in season 
by swarms of wild-duck, teal and snipe. It was 
visited occasionally by Europeans from Calcutta, who 
are always on the alert for a day's sport, but they 
were inconvenienced by the total lack of accom- 
modation. So Samarendra built a neat bungalow, 
equipped it with European furniture, and placed an old 
Khdnsdmd (Mohammadan butler) in charge, who was 
versed in all the customs of Sdheb-log (Englishmen). 
This menial had orders to report the arrival of white 
visitors and offer them hospitality. His courtesy 
was highly appreciated, and there was scarcely a 
Sunday during the cold weather which did not bring 
a couple of sportsmen to the bungalow. Samarendra 
attended personally to their comforts, thus making 
many friends. Through their influence he secured 
carte blanche in the matter of guns and ammunition— 
a boon which seldom falls to the lot of middle-class In- 
dians. At their request he subscribed to various Euro- 
pean clubs, winning the reputation of being " not half 
a bad sort of fellow ". All this hospitality, however, 
was terribly expensive, and it soon exceeded Sama- 
rendra's income. But he went on spending money 

7 



98 TALES OF BENGAL 

like water, in the assurance that one day it would 
yield a golden return. 

On a bright morning, in January, 18 — , he was sit- 
ting in his bungalow, in the hope of welcoming guests, 
when a European entered it, attended by two order- 
lies ; and seeing a well-dressed Indian, was about 
to retire. Samarendra introduced himself as the 
local Zemindar and offered to send a shikari (game- 
keeper) with the visitor in order to show him some 
sport. His overtures were gratefully received, and 
the European, on returning at noon with a heavy bag, 
was delighted to find an appetising tiffin ready for his 
acceptance. Samarendra kept out of the way until 
it was' finished, and then asked whether his guest 
had enjoyed himself. The latter was profuse in 
thanks and, ere leaving for the neighbouring railway 
station, asked whether he could be of any service, 
tendering a card inscribed, "Mr. Charles Bernardson, 
Indian Civil Service ". He was none other than the 
Chief Secretary to Government. 

Such an acquaintance was not to be lost sight of. A 
week later Samarendra went to Calcutta and called 
on Mr. Bernardson at his chambers in the United 
Service Club. He was received, so to speak, with open 
arms, questioned about crops, crime, sport, and other 
commonplace topics, and again assured that Mr. 
Bernardson would serve him in any way within his 



A BEAHMAN'S CUESE 99 

power. The latter hint was promptly taken. On re- 
ceiving permission to quit the great man's presence 
he timidly suggested that he would like to be an 
Honorary Magistrate. Mr. Bernardson took note of 
the wish, and a few weeks later the Gazette announced 
Samarendra's nomination to the Ghoria Independent 
Bench, with power to try cases singly. 

The next point was to attract the attention of the dis- 
trict authorities. Samarendra pored over the Penal 
and Procedure Codes, took lessons in law from Asu 
Babu, and soon mastered the routine of a petty Court 
of Justice. He never missed any sitting of the Bench 
and signalised himself by a rigorous interpretation of 
the law. Offenders had short shrift from him ; and the 
police moved heaven and earth to get their cases dis- 
posed of in his Court. His percentage of convictions 
was larger than that of any honorary magistrate. Such 
zeal deserved a suitable reward, and it soon attracted 
the attention of the authorities. On New Year's Day, 
189 — , the Calcutta Gazette came out with its usual list 
of honours, amongst which was seen a Eai Bahadur- 
ship for Samarendra. This dignity answers to the 
English knighthood, and it is usually made an excuse 
for rejoicings shared by all classes. Samarendra, 
however, thought it unnecessary to waste money on 
junketings. He preferred subscribing to movements 
favoured by the " little tin gods " of Darjiling. 



100 TALES OF BENGAL 

Towards the end of the same year, he was accosted, 
while leaving Court one afternoon, by a chuprdssi 
(orderly) attached to the magistrate-collector's person, 
who salamed obsequiously and said that the Bara 
Saheb wished to see him at once. Hastening to the 
district chief's bungalow he was graciously received, 
and in the course of conversation a remark fell 
from the great man's lips, which made the blood 
course wildly through his veins. It seemed that a 
fund had been started in Calcutta for the purpose of 
erecting some permanent memorial to the late Vice- 
roy, and a hint was thrown out that if Samarendra 
subscribed liberally, he might possibly find himself 
gazetted a " Raja Bahadur ". He assured the magis- 
trate that the Memorial Fund would receive a hand- 
some donation from him and asked for a few days in 
order to decide the amount. 

On returning home, he made a rough calculation of 
his assets and liabilities. The latter amounted to 
nearly a lakh of rupees (£6,666), or about five times 
his net annual income. Common prudence suggested 
that he ought not to increase the burden ; but ambi- 
tion prevailed, and the only question which Samar- 
endra set himself was, " What is the least amount 
I can decently give?" After thinking over pros and 
cons for a whole night, he decided that Rs. 10,000 
would be enough ; raised that sum at 12 per cent, by 



A BEAHMAN'S CURSE 101 

mortgaging some landed property, and sent it with 
a flowery letter to the District Magistrate, as a 
humble donation to the Viceroy's Memorial Fund. 

A few days later Samarendra was preparing for a 
visit to his favourite rest-house, in the vague hope that 
Mr. Bernardson might turn up again, when a strange 
Brahman entered the courtyard and thus addressed 
him : — 

" Sir, you are an Amir, and I am a beggar. I have 
a request to make." 

" Cut it short," replied Samarendra testily. " Come 
to the point — what do you want ? " 

" Sir, I have a grown-up daughter who positively 
must be married ; but I cannot raise a sufficient 
dowry. Will your honour give me a trifle towards 
making one up? " 

" No, I won't ; if you belonged to this village you 
would know that I cannot afford to fling money about. 
My expenses are enormous ! " 

"Now, please, don't refuse me, Rai Bahadur; 
surely you can spare a couple of rupees to a poor 
Brahman ! " 

Samarendra was exasperated by the man's impor- 
tunity. He replied sharply, " You and your kind seem 
to think that I am Kuver (the God of Wealth) incar- 
nate, who is able to satisfy every human need ! I 
won't give you anything ! " 



102 TALES OF BENGAL 

" Only one rupee, Bai Bahadur," pleaded the Brah- 
man with folded hands. 

"No! no! Get out of my house at once!" bel- 
lowed Samarendra ; then turning to his doorkeeper, 
he ordered him to " run the fellow out of the yard by 
the neck ". 

The Brahman was deeply incensed. Drawing 
himself up to his full height, he looked scornfully at 
Samarendra, and said : — 

" Babu, you dare to order me, a Brahman, to be 
ejected with violence from your house. Is there no 
religion left in this world? Mark my words, a 
day is coming when you will be poorer even than 
myself. I have spoken." Then he strode out of 
the courtyard in high dudgeon. Samarendra merely 
laughed aloud and hurled mocking epithets after 
his retreating figure, to which no reply was vouch- 
safed. 

Next morning he received a letter from the District 
Magistrate which filled him with mingled joy and 
terror. It contained a curt request to call at once 
on a matter of great importance. He drove to the 
great man's bungalow arrayed in his best, but was 
kept waiting for nearly a quarter of an hour in the 
porch. When he was ushered into the magistrate's 
study he saw intuitively that something was wrong. 
His salam was returned by a mere inclination of 



A BEAHMAN'S CUESE 103 

the head and a request to be seated. Then the 
Magistrate spoke in tones of chilling politeness : — 

" Eai Bahadur, I've sent for you to say that a sub- 
scription of Es. 10,000 is wholly unworthy of your 
position. If you wish, I will send it to the Secretary 
of the Memorial Fund ; but I warn you plainly that 
the most you can expect in return is an expression of 
the Lieutenant-Governor's thanks in the Gazette. I 
could not possibly recommend you for a title for such 
a paltry sum." 

Poor Samarendra's heart beat more loudly than the 
clock on the magistrate's mantelpiece. He stam- 
mered out: "I need only assure your honour that I 
have given as much as I could afford ; but if your 
honour thinks the amount insufficient — er — er — er — 
I am quite willing to give — twice as much". So 
saying he awaited a reply in trembling apprehension. 
It was satisfactory. 

" Now, Eai Bahadur, you are talking sense. Send 
me Es. 10,000 more for the fund and I'll undertake 
to submit your name to Government for a Eajaship. 
It will be just in time for the New Year's Gazette. 
Now you may take leave." 

Samarendra bowed himself out with precipitation 
and, on returning home, sent for his factotum, Bipin, 
to whom he related this momentous interview, with 
an injunction to raise Es. 10,000 more by hook or by 



104 TALES OF BENGAL 

crook. Bipin shook his head ominously and feared 
that no moneylender would advance any consider- 
able sum on estates already over-burdened. However, 
he promised to do his best and negotiated so success- 
fully that Rs. 10,000 were procured at 24 per cent, in 
less than a week. This additional subscription was 
gracefully acknowledged by the District Magistrate, 
and a fortnight later Samarendra's drooping spirits 
were revived by the appearance of a notification in the 
Gazette thanking him warmly for his " munificence 
and public spirit ". There was nothing for it but to 
count the days of the expiring year. 

On 31st December, 189 — , his impatience could 
brook no further delay. Hurrying to Calcutta by train, 
he sent a trusty servant to the Government printing- 
office with orders to obtain the earliest copy of the 
Gazette at any price. He slept not a wink on that 
fateful night and rose betimes to intercept the mes- 
senger. 

At last the bulky document was thrust into his 
hands. He unfolded it with trembling fingers and 
glanced downwards through an interminable list of 
newly-made Maharajas, Nawab Bahadurs, Raja 
Bahadurs, and Rajas — in the hope of finding his own 
name. Alas, it was conspicuous by its absence. Oh, 
the pangs of hope deferred and wounded pride ! 
Death seemed to Samarendra preferable to a life of 



A BKAHMAN'S CUBSE 105 

poverty and despair. He returned home crestfallen 
and nursed his disappointment until it landed him in 
a severe attack of brain fever. As soon as he felt 
strong enough to leave the house, he drove to the 
magistrate's house for explanation and comfort. He 
was courteously received, but the Chief hinted that 
there might be a hitch about the title, as he himself 
had enemies in the Secretariat, who would be glad 
of an opportunity of placing him in a false position. 
He counselled patience and expressed a conviction 
that the birthday Gazette would contain the notifica- 
tion so ardently desired. 

This was comforting, but Samarendra resolved to 
push his own interests. He remembered the pro- 
mises made by Mr. Bernardson and took the next 
train to Calcutta in order to secure his influence. On 
reaching the Secretariat he learnt, with deep annoy- 
ance, that Mr. Bernardson had taken sick leave to 
England and was not likely to return. So the only 
course open was to wait for 24th May. Again he 
was disappointed, the list of birthday honours ignor- 
ing him completely. Samarendra had not even the 
resource of consulting the official who had lured him 
into extravagant expenditure. I'he District Magis- 
trate was transferred to a distant and unhealthy part 
of the province, and his successor disclaimed all know- 
ledge of the bargain. 



106 TALES OF BENGAL 

Samarendra's long suspense and repeated disap- 
pointments told severely on his health. He neglected 
business, leaving everything in the hands of Bipin, who 
was more anxious to feather his own nest than ex- 
tricate his master from difficulties ; so the interest in 
mortgages fell into arrears. One creditor bolder than 
the rest sued him and foreclosed ; then others were 
encouraged to attack the ruined man. In less than a 
year, Samarendra was stripped of every bigha (one- 
third of an acre) of land he once possessed, and at- 
tachments galore were issued against his moveable 
property. Too late did he see the depths of folly 
into which he had fallen. 

Grief and despair brought on a second attack of 
brain fever, which exhausted his failing strength. 
After tossing for several weeks in delirium he regained 
sense only to feel assured that the end of all worldly 
ambition was fast approaching. Then he remem- 
bered the Brahman's curse, and knowing that it was 
the cause of all his misfortunes he endeavoured to 
make some reparation ; but the holy man was not to 
be found. One evening he fell into a deep slumber 
from which he never awoke, leaving a wife and several 
helpless children in comparative penury. Then a 
hush fell on the land, and people whispered that 
Brahmateja (the power of Brahmans) was by no 
means extinct. 



A ROLAND FOR HIS OLIVER. 

Nagendra's soul was not haunted by any such am- 
bitions. He was content with the surplus profits 
from his landed estates, which he did not invest in 
trade or even Government paper, but hoarded in a 
safe. By slow degrees he amassed a small fortune, 
and when Samarendra's growing impecuniosity 
forced him to ask his brother for a loan of Rs. 2,000, 
it was readily granted on a mere note of hand. In 
less than six months the borrower died and, after 
waiting as long, Nagendra pressed his sister-in-law 
for payment of the debt. She referred him to her 
brother, Priyanath Guha, who, she said, was manager 
of what property she had left. This man was a 
scoundrel of the deepest dye, and Samarendra, who 
was fully aware of the fact, never allowed him inside 
the house. After his death Priya made himself so 
useful to the widow that she invited him to live in 
her house and trusted him implicitly. When the 
neighbours learnt this arrangement they whispered 
that the poor woman would inevitably be reduced to 
beggary. 

107 



108 TALES OF BENGAL 

Nagendra reluctantly applied to Priya for a refund 
of the loan, producing Samarendra's note of hand, 
which was about a year overdue. After examining 
it, Priya said : — ■ 

" The matter is simple enough. My sister must 
repay you ; but you know the muddle in which her 
husband's affairs were left, and I'm sure you won't 
refuse to renew the bond." 

Nagendra replied that he would gladly give his 
sister any reasonable time to discharge her debt. 

" Very well," rejoined Priya. " What do you say to 
my renewing this note of hand for six months, with 
12 per cent, interest ? " 

"I have no objection," said Nagendra, "but you 
must satisfy me first that you hold a general power 
of attorney to act for her." 

" Oh, you doubt my word," sneered Priya, 
"but I don't blame you; such is the way of the 
world." 

So saying he took a registered power of attorney 
out of his sister's strong box, which Nagendra saw 
entitled him to transact any business whatever re- 
lating to her estate. He handed the bond to Priya 
and asked him to endorse the conditions agreed on. 
While doing so Priya looked up. "Have you any 
objection," he asked, " to my antedating the renewal a 
week or so. The fact is, Baisakh 12th has always 



A ROLAND FOE HIS OLIVER 109 

been a lucky day in my family and I should like to 
date my endorsement then." 

"Just as you like," answered Nagendra indiffer- 
ently; and after reading the endorsement through 
very carefully he took the note of hand away without 
saluting Priya. 

Not hearing from him when the note matured, 
Nagendra called at his sister's house and pressed 
Priya, whom he found there, for payment of the Rs. 
2,000 and interest. 

Priya gazed at him with feigned astonishment. 
" What loan are you talking about? " he asked. 

Nagendra attempted to jog his memory, but he 
stoutly denied having renewed any note of hand 
which purported to have been executed by Samar- 
endra. When the document was shown him, he 
boldly declared that the endorsement was a forgery, 
and further that the handwriting on the note of hand 
itself was not Samarendra's. Nagendra stood aghast 
for awhile and, on regaining his wits, he said, "I 
ought to have known better than trust a haramzddd 
like you ! " 

" Now don't descend to personalities," rejoined 
Priya. " I can prove that the endorsement could 
not have been executed by me ; and the whole trans- 
action looks fishy." 

This was too much for Nagendra, who lost his 



110 TALES OF BENGAL 

temper and abused the scoundrel roundly. They 
separated with threats of mutual vengeance. 

On the morrow, Nagendra instructed a pleader to 
file a suit against his sister for recovery of the prin- 
cipal and interest due on the promissory note. 
When it came on for hearing before the Subordinate 
Judge, Nagendra Babu was dumbfoundered by hear- 
ing the defendant's pleader aver that the endorse- 
ment could not possibly be genuine, inasmuch as 
his client was fifteen hundred miles from Katnapur 
at the alleged date of execution. He then placed 
Priya in the box, to swear that, on Baisakh 12th, he 
was at Lahore, in order to give evidence in a civil suit. 
All doubt vanished in the Sub Judge's mind when 
the pleader handed him a document bearing the seal 
of the Chief Court of the Punjab, certifying that 
Priya had been in attendance on that day. He dis- 
missed the suit with costs against Nagendra, and 
remarked that this palpable forgery cast discredit 
on the whole transaction. 

It was a wise man who said that we hate our 
enemies less for the harm they have done us than for 
the harm we have done them. Priya was not con- 
tent with depriving Nagendra of his dues ; he resolved 
to injure him more materially. About a month after 
his unlucky lawsuit, Nagendra learnt quite by accident 
that one of his estates named Lakhimpur had been 



A ROLAND FOR HIS OLIVER 111 

notified for sale for arrears of land revenue amounting 
to Rs. 197 odd. The Naib (manager), on being asked 
to account for this, laid all the blame on the ryots, 
who, he said, would not be made to pay their rent 
and thus deprived him of the means of satisfying the 
Government demand. Nagendra rebuked him for 
gross negligence and failing to report the matter, for, 
he added, the arrears would have been paid from his 
own pocket. He at once dismissed the Naib from 
his employ and hastened to Ghoria, where he in- 
structed a pleader named Asu Babu to petition the 
collector for leave to make good the arrears on Lak- 
himpur. The request was perforce rejected. Lak- 
himpur was put up for sale and Nagendra ascertained 
that the purchaser was a man of straw representing 
Priya himself. He endured the loss of a valuable 
property, resolving to be even some day with his 
enemy. 

On the following night he was about to retire to 
bed, when the Lakhimpur Naib burst into the parlour 
and clasped his master's feet which he bedewed with 
tears. Nagendra shook him off roughly and asked 
how he dared to intrude upon him. 

"Mahasay," whined the Naib, "I want to make 
a clean breast of my misdeeds. It was Priya who 
persuaded me to withhold the revenue due on Lak- 
himpur, by promising me a reward of Rs. 2,000 if 



112 TALES OF BENGAL 

the estate was auctioned. Now that he has got pos- 
session of it, he refuses to carry out his bargain and 
actually offers me Rs. 20, saying that I deserved no 
more. The black-hearted villain ! Now I am come to 
implore forgiveness of my sin and to make amends 
for it." 

Nagendra was amazed by the fellow's villainy and 
impudence. He reflected, however, that nothing was 
to be gained by kicking him out of the house, while 
his offer of reparation was not to be despised. He 
replied, "You have been faithless to your salt; but 
I will pardon you on one condition that you help me 
to regain my estate, lost through your treachery". 

" That I will," protested the Naib. " Only let me 
have Rs. 300 in currency notes of one hundred rupees 
each, previously recording the numbers. I swear by 
Mother Kali, not only to pay the arrears of revenue 
but to get the sale quashed." Nagendra at first 
thought that to do so would be only throwing good 
money after bad ; but the man was terribly in earnest, 
and evidently hostile to their common enemy. He 
opened his safe and handed the Naib the amount 
he asked, after carefully taking the numbers of the 
notes. 

At the same hour on the morrow, the Naib returned 
in high glee to say that the business had been satis- 
factorily concluded. All Nagendra had to do was to 



A ROLAND FOR HIS OLIVER 113 

file a petition praying for the cancellation of the sale, 
and it could not fail to be granted. On being asked 
how he had contrived to evade the law, the Naib 
went on : — 

" I will tell you the whole truth, Mahasay, only 
concealing names ; for the people, who helped me ex- 
tracted an oath that I would keep them a profound 
secret. I went straight from your house last night 
to that of an office tout, who is a precious rascal, but 
tolerated because he is in some way related to the 
Collectorate head clerk. On hearing my story he said 
he thought the matter could be settled, and asked me 
to meet him at 1 p.m. under a Nim tree north of the 
Collectorate, when he would bring a man to me who 
was able to do all we wished. I was punctual to the 
minute, and sure enough the tout came with one of 
the Collectorate clerks. I asked him whether it 
would not be possible so to manipulate the accounts 
of Lakhimpur, as to show that all Government revenue 
had been paid prior to the alleged default. The clerk 
at first refused to have hand in such a transaction, as 
it would be too risky ; but when I produced my cur- 
rency notes he thought the job might be attempted, 
and added that some of the Treasury amlas (clerks) 
would have to be squared as well as himself. I there- 
upon handed him Rs. 300, saying that it was enough 

to discharge the revenue due on Lakhimpur and 

8 



114 TALES OF BENGAL 

leave more than Bs. 100 to divide as bakshish (gra- 
tuity). He said that he would do his best and made 
me swear never to divulge his name. We then 
separated, and only two hours ago the tout came to 
my house with the news that the accounts had been 
corrected." 

Nagendra was delighted on hearing these clever 
tactics and straightway ordered his pleader, Asutosh 
Sen, widely known as Asu Babu, to file a petition 
praying for the cancellation of the sale. It came in 
due course before the Collector for hearing. He 
called for the accounts, which fully substantiated the 
petitioner's statements. After hearing the arguments 
of Priya's representative the Collector said that he 
was fully satisfied that a mistake had been made, and 
called on the head clerk to explain the non-entry of 
a payment made before the due date. That officer 
laid the whole blame on an unfortunate apprentice, 
who was promptly dismissed. The sale was declared 
null and void, and Nagendra regained his own to the 
intense disgust of the rascally Priya. 



KAMDA. 

Nagendra Babu was now the wealthiest man in 
Ratnapur. Puffed up by worldly success, he began 
to treat his neighbours arrogantly and, with one ex- 
ception, they did not dare to pay him back in his 
own coin. Ramdas Ghosal, known far and wide as 
Ramda, flattered or feared no one. Having a little 
rent-free and inherited land, he was quite indepen- 
dent of patronage. Ramda was " everyone's grand- 
father," a friend of the poor, whose joys and sorrows 
he shared. He watched by sick-beds, helped to carry 
dead bodies to the burning-ghat, in short did every- 
thing in his power for others, refusing remuneration 
in any shape. He was consequently loved and re- 
spected by all classes. Ramda was the consistent 
enemy of hypocrisy and oppression — qualities which 
became conspicuous in Nagendra Babu's nature under 
the deteriorating influence of wealth. He met the 
great man's studied insolence with a volley of chaff, 
which is particularly galling to vain people because 

they are incapable of understanding it. 

115 8* 



116 TALES OF BENGAL 

Nagendra Babu did not forget the Brahman's pre- 
sumption and determined to teach him a lesson. So, 
one day, he sent him a written notice demanding the 
immediate payment of arrears of rent due for a few 
bighas (one-third of an acre) of land which Ranida 
held on a heritable lease. As luck would have it the 
crops had failed miserably, and Ramda was unable to 
discharge his debts. On receiving a more peremptory 
demand seven days later, he called on Nagendra Babu, 
whom he thus addressed : — 

" Why, Nagen, what's the matter with you? You 
are plaguing me to death with notices, yet you must 
be aware that I can't pay you a pice at present." 

" Thakur," replied Nagendra Babu in stern accents, 
" I will listen to none of your excuses. Do you mean 
to tell me that you decline to discharge your arrears ? ' 

"I never said that," protested Ramda; "but you 
must really wait till the beginning of next year. My 
cold weather crops are looking well ; and " 

" No, that won't do at all. If you do not pay up 
in a week, I will certainly have recourse to the civil 
court." 

"Do so by all means if your sense of religion 
permits," rejoined Ramda, leaving the parlour in 
smothered wrath. 

When the week of grace had expired, Nagendra 
Babu filed a suit in the local MunsifFs Court against 



EAMDA 117 

his defaulter. As soon as the fact was bruited abroad 
a universal protest was roused against Nagendra 
Babu's harshness. Some of the village elders remon- 
strated with him, but were told to mind their own 
business ; whereon they laid their heads together and 
subscribed the small sum due from the Brahman. A 
deputation of five waited on him with entreaties to 
accept it, but he refused to take the money on any 
other footing than a loan. So Kamda paid his ar- 
rears and costs into Court, to the plaintiff's intense 
annoyance. 

Samarendra Babu had left his wife and children 
in comparatively poor circumstances ; for, after dis- 
charging his debts, they had barety Es. 300 a year to 
live on. The widow declined to seek Nagendra 
Babu's help, even if she were reduced to beg in the 
streets. After her brother's imprisonment, she had 
no one to manage her little property which, as a 
Purdanashin (lit. "one sitting behind the veil"), she 
was unable to do herself. After mature reflection 
she sent for Ramda, who had known her from infancy. 
He obeyed the summons with alacrity and gave the 
poor woman sound advice regarding the direction 
of the Zemindary. By acting on it she was able 
to increase her income and live in tolerable com- 
fort. Observing that Ramda was a frequent visitor, 
Nagendra Babu hinted to his sister-in-law that, if 



118 TALES OF BENGAL 

she cared for her reputation, she would not be so 
thick with him. She flared up instantly. " I will 
talk to any of my friends I please," said she, " and 
you shan't poke your nose into my affairs ! ' : 

"Very well," replied Nagendra angrily, "but you 
may rely on my making it hot for that old scoundrel 
shortly ! " 

This threat was of course repeated to Bamda, who 
merely laughed. As far as he was concerned Nagen- 
dra might act as he pleased. 

A few days afterwards the bailiff of Nagendra Babu's 
estate, known as Lakhimpur, called on Bamda with a 
verbal request that he should surrender his ancestral 
tenure and, meeting with a curt refusal, left the house 
threatening all sorts of evil consequences. Next day, 
indeed, Bamda received a notice from Nagendra Babu, 
calling on him to show cause against the cancellation 
of his lease on the ground that, by mismanaging the 
land, he had rendered it unfit for cultivation. Bamda 
called some of his neighbours together, to whom he 
exhibited the document. They expressed the greatest 
indignation and assured him that they would spend 
their last rupee in defending his interests. Bamda 
gave them a heartfelt blessing and promised a divine 
reward for their sympathy. 

Calling on Samarendra's widow the same day, he 
was distressed to find that she had received a similar 



EAMDA 119 

notice, which aimed at robbing her of a small estate, 
on the ground that it had been surrendered by her 
husband in part payment of his debt to Nagendra 
Babu. She knew nothing of any such arrangement 
and assured Kamda that, if the property was lost, her 
income would fall to little more than Es. 100, mean- 
ing starvation for herself and little ones. Her trusty 
counsellor told her not to lose heart, for she might 
rely on his help. 

In due course the suit against Bamda came on for 
hearing before the Miinsiff. His pleader established 
by documentary evidence that the tenure was one 
without any condition whatever ; while the neigh- 
bours came forward to prove that the land in dispute 
had been admirably tilled. The plaintiff, therefore, 
was non-suited, with costs. The very same result 
attended Nagendra Babu's action against his sister- 
in-law, whose case excited universal sympathy. He 
lost heavily in purse and left the Court with a ruined 
reputation. It was natural that a man so evil- 
minded should regard Kamda as the author of mis- 
fortunes due to his own wicked nature. He plotted 
the poor Brahman's destruction, but no effectual 
means of compassing it suggested itself. 

As days and weeks wore on, his despondency be- 
came deeper and, one evening, while sitting with 
the Lakhimpur bailiff, he asked whether there was 



120 TALES OF BENGAL 

any remedy which would restore his peace of mind. 
The cunning rascal said nothing at the time ; but at 
a late hour on the morrow he came to Nagendra 
Babu's house with a large bottle hidden under his 
wrapper. It contained some light brown fluid, which 
the bailiff poured into a tumbler. Then adding a 
small quantity of water, he invited his master to 
swallow the mixture. A few minutes after doing so, 
the patient was delighted to find that gloomy thoughts 
disappeared as if by magic. An unwonted elation of 
spirits succeeded ; he broke into snatches of song, to 
the iutense surprise of the household ! His amateur 
physician left the bottle, advising him to take a 
similar dose every night ; and Nagendra Babu fol- 
lowed the prescription punctiliously, with the best 
effect on his views of life. After finishing the bottle 
he asked for another, which was brought to him 
secretly. It had a showy label reading, " Exshaw 
No. 1 Cognac ". Nagendra Babu's conscience accused 
him of disobeying the Shastras ; but the die was cast. 
He could no longer exist without a daily dose of the 
subtle poison ; and gradually increased it to a tumbler- 
ful, forgetting to add water. 

His faithful wife did her best to wean him from 
the fatal habit. She even ventured to abstract his 
brandy bottle and dilute its contents. On being de- 
tected, she underwent a personal correction which 



KAMDA 121 

was not soon forgotten. The poor creature, indeed, 
underwent every sort of humiliation from her worth- 
less husband, which she bore in silence, hoping that 
time would bring him to his senses. 

Drunken men are proverbially cunning. After 
brooding long over his supposed grievances Nagendra 
matured a scheme of revenge. He intercepted Eamda, 
one afternoon, on his way to visit Samarendra's widow, 
and, affecting sincere penitence for the injury he had 
endeavoured to work, he invited the unsuspecting 
Brahman into his sitting-room. Once inside, he sud- 
denly thrust a brass vessel into his visitor's hand and 
dragged him into the yard, shouting " Thief ! thief ! " 
The Lakhimpur bailiff, who was sitting on the veran- 
dah, also laid hands on Eamda and, with the aid of 
two up-country servants, he was dragged to the police 
station, too bewildered to resist. On their way thither 
they met one of Nagendra's neighbours named Harish 
Chandra Pal, who stopped them and asked what was 
the matter. On learning particulars of the charge, 
he saw how the land lay, and resolved to defeat an 
infamous plot. So waiting till the little crowd was 
out of sight, he ran back to Nagendra's house and 
whispered to him that the bailiff had sent for more 
property, in order that the case against Eamda might 
look blacker. Nagendra handed him a fine muslin 
shawl and loin-cloth, and a set of gold buttons, adding 



122 TALES OF BENGAL 

that he would follow in half an hour in order to 
depose against the thief. On reaching the police 
station, Harish found the Sub-Inspector recording the 
statements of the witnesses. He looked on in silence 
until Nagendra arrived. Then he asked the Sub- 
Inspector : " Do these people mean to say that the 
brass vessel belongs to Nagendra Babu ? " 

" Certainly," was the reply. " Here are three wit- 
nesses who have identified it." 

" Well, that's strange," said Harish ; then producing 
the shawl and loin-cloth he said : " These are mine, 
but if you ask Nagen Babu he will tell you a different 
story ". 

"But they are mine!" roared Nagendra, "and 
part of the stolen property." 

"Dear me," said Harish, "perhaps you will say 
that these buttons are yours too? " 

" Of course they are," was the rejoinder. 

"Now, Sub-Inspector Babu," said Harish, "you 
must see that Nagendra Babu is subject to strange 
hallucinations since he has taken to drink. He fancies 
that he is the god of wealth personified, and that 
everything belongs to him. I am quite certain that 
Ramda has been falsely charged with stealing a brass 
vessel which is his own property." 

The Sub-Inspector evidently thought so too. He 
called the prosecutor into an inner room. What passed 



KAMDA 123 

between them there was never known ; but presently 
the Sub-Inspector returned to the office and ordered 
the prisoner to be at once released. Eamda was truly- 
grateful to Harish Pal for having so cleverly saved hirn 
from ruin, and the whole story soon became common 
property. Nagendra overheard his neighbours whis- 
pering and pointing to him significantly, and village 
boys called him ill-natured nicknames in the street. 
His irritation was increased by recourse to the brandy 
bottle, and he vented it on his luckless wife. She 
suffered so terribly that, one morning, Nagendra found 
her hanging from a rafter in his cowshed. This 
suicide was the last straw. Nagendra saved himself 
from prosecution for murder by a heavy bribe, and 
got leave from the police to burn his wife's body. 
But so universally was he execrated that not a man 
in the village would help him to take her body to the 
burning-ghat. In dire despair he humbled himself 
so far as to implore Bamda's assistance. The mag- 
nanimous Brahman forgot his wrongs and cheerfully 
consented to bear a hand. Others followed his ex- 
ample, and thus Nagendra was able to fulfil the rites 
prescribed by religion. The lesson was not altogether 
lost on him. The scales fell from his eyes ; he dis- 
missed the rascally servant, who had led him from 
the path of duty, and foreswore his brandy bottle. 



A RIFT IN THE LUTE. 

Nalini Chandra Basu worked hard for the B.L. 
degree, not to fill his pockets by juggling with other 
people's interests, but in order to help the poor, who 
are so often victims of moneyed oppression. After 
securing the coveted distinction, he was enrolled as 
a pleader of the Calcutta High Court and began to 
practise there, making it a rule to accept no fees from 
an impoverished client. But two years of constant 
attendance at Court convinced Nalini that Calcutta 
had far too many lawyers already. He therefore re- 
moved to Ghoria, knowing that he would find plenty 
of wrongs to redress there. About a month after his 
arrival, a Zemindar of Kadampur, named Debendra 
Chandra Mitra, sued one of his ryots for ejectment 
in the local Munsiff's Court. Nalini espoused the 
defendant's cause and showed so stout a fight that 
the case was dismissed with costs. Debendra Babu 
was deeply offended with the young pleader, and de- 
termined to do him a bad turn if possible. 

About a week later Nalini got a telegram from 

124 



A EIFT IN THE LUTE 125 

Benares announcing his mother's death. He promptly 
donned the customary Kacha (mourning-cloth) and 
hurried home, only to find his brother, Jadunath 
Babu, already in possession of the sad news ; and 
they went to Benares to comfort their stricken 
father. 

After the customary month of mourning Jadu 
Babu made preparations for celebrating the srddh on 
a grand scale, by giving presents to distinguished 
Brahmans, feasting his relatives, and distributing 
alms to the poor. No money was spared in order to 
keep his mother's memory green. The family's posi- 
tion would have been most enviable, but for a slight 
unpleasantness which was created by some of the 
villagers. Debendra Babu, who had been waiting 
for an opportunity of revenge, went from house to 
house urging his neighbours not to participate in the 
srddh, on the score that Nalini had married into 
a strange clan and was ipso facto an outcast. Jadu 
Babu was stung to the quick on learning these ma- 
chinations. He consulted Nalini as to the best 
method of parrying them, and was consoled by his 
brother's assurance that it would be quite easy to 
win over his opponents except, perhaps, Debendra 
Babu himself. 

When the time for distributing Samajik (gifts) 
came round, Jadu Babu sent one to every caste-fellow 



126 TALES OF BENGAL 

in the village, but all returned them without a word 
of explanation. Nalini was not so much distressed 
as he by the rebuff. He advised an attempt to pacify 
Debendra Babu ; which failing, he would put his 
scheme into execution. The two brothers, therefore, 
called on their enemy, and falling at his feet, im- 
plored him to say how they had offended him. 

"You are much better off than I am," replied 
Debendra Babu sarcastically ; " it would be pre- 
sumptuous for me to consort with such people. You 
remember the old fable of the earthen pot and brass 
vessel?" 

" Mahasay," pleaded Jadu Babu, "we are young 
enough to be your sons. If we have unwittingly 
caused you offence, we beg to be forgiven." 

" You have learnt how to talk sweetly enough," 
rejoined Debendra Babu. "Nalini fancies himself a 
Ldt (lord) or bddshdh at the very least. What times 
we live in ! The young have no respect whatever 
for their seniors ! " 

" Nalini is hardly more than a boy," said Jadu 
Babu with folded hands. " I am sure he had not the 
slightest intention of hurting your feelings." 

"What's the use of talking nonsense?" growled 
Debendra Babu. " Go away ! " and he pointed to the 
door. 

The brothers did not stir ; but Jadu Babu asked, 



A RIFT IN THE LUTE 127 

" So you won't overlook our faults, or even tell us 
what they are? " 

" Well, if you will have it," replied Debendra Babu 
in measured accents, " Nalini is an outcast ; and no 
respectable Kayastha can take part in your mother's 
srddh." 

Jadu Babu fairly lost his temper. He exclaimed : 
" If there is a flaw in my sister-in-law's pedigree, what 
is to be said of people who visit women of alien re- 
ligions, take food from their hands, and tipple strong 
liquor with them ? " 

This was a home thrust. Debendra Babu was well- 
known to be carrying on an intrigue with a Moham- 
madan woman, named Seraji, but as he was well-to- 
do, no one had dared to propose his excommunica- 
tion. He started from his feet in an outburst of 
fury. 

"What! you have the audacity to lecture me — a 
wretched brat like you? Leave my house at once." 
So saying he flounced into his inner apartments ; 
while the brothers went away rather crestfallen. 

After returning home Nalini disclosed his famous 
scheme for circumventing the boycott, which Jadu 
Babu heartily approved. To every Samajik they 
added an envelope containing a new ten-rupee note 
and sent them round to their caste-fellows. The 
sight of money banished prejudices ; one and all 



128 TALES OF BENGAL 

received the gifts, and some were so shameless as to 
hint that similar largesse would be acceptable to their 
uncles or cousins. 

Debendra Babu was deeply annoyed by the success 
of the strategy. He swore a mighty oath not to rest 
until he had destroyed the Basu family root and 
branch. After a good deal of thought he matured a 
plan which was to be executed through a notorious 
widow belonging to the village. This creature, Hira- 
mani by name, had passed middle life and lived on a 
little money left by her husband, in a hut close to De- 
bendra's residence. People used to say that God had 
created her a female by oversight, for she had every 
bad quality which a man could possess. She was noted 
for the fact that misfortune invariably fell on a house 
which she honoured with her intimacy. People were 
very shy indeed of inviting her. 

One bright afternoon Hiramani called at the Basus 
and started a conversation with the wives of Jadu and 
Nalini by inquiring about their household affairs, and 
offering advice which is generally acceptable if seldom 
acted on. While they sat talking Jadu Babu's eldest 
boy came to his mother, whimpering : — 

" Chota Kdkd (my young uncle) has whipped me 
because an inkpot of his slipped from my hand, while 
I was playing with it, and got broken ! " 

"He served you rightly, naughty boy ! " observed 



A EIFT IN THE LUTE 129 

his mother administering a sharp slap which sent 
the child off bellowing loudly. 

Hiramani remarked, " You ought not to beat him 
for so trivial a fault". 

" That's a terrible boy," explained the mother. 
" He is up to all manner of tricks, and if he is not 
checked, he will grow up a regular Badmdsh." 

" God forbid ! " remarked Hiramani ; " but has he 
not been too cruelly used by his uncle ? You must 
have noticed the welts on his naked back. I 
counted five as broad as my forefinger. How could 
a grown-up man torture a child like that?" — and 
she looked meaningly at her hostess. 

The mother was evidently impressed by these 
words. She undertook to speak to Nalini about his 
treatment of her son. Hiramani was delighted to 
see that the poison was beginning to work. She went 
straight from the Basils' house to Debendra Babu and 
reported her success. He praised her warmly, pre- 
sented her with a rupee, and offered further instruc- 
tions. 

Hiramani soon became a regular visitor of the Basu 
ladies. She lost no opportunity , of poisoning the 
mind of Jadu Babu's wife, by retailing Nalini's ini- 
quities. At the outset her insinuations were disre- 
garded ; but in time the elder wife fell so completely 

under Hiramani's influence as to accept her stories as 

9 



130 TALES OF BENGAL 

gospel truth. One day, indeed, she ventured to ask 
her husband to separate from his brother and, on 
meeting with a peremptory refusal, declared that she 
would take no food while Nalini remained in the 
house. Finding that she really meant to carry out 
this awful threat, Jadu Babu apparently yielded, pro- 
mising to eject his brother. When the villagers saw 
Hiramani so thick with the Basu ladies, they pro- 
phesied ill-luck for the family, and on learning Jadu 
Babu's resolve they remarked that the old woman 
had not belied her reputation. As for Nalini, he 
knew that something was in the wind, but care- 
fully avoided broaching the subject to his brother, 
lest he should widen the breach. Like a sacrificial 
goat, he waited for the stroke to fall on his devoted 
head. Shortly afterwards, Jadu Babu told his wife 
to make arrangements for setting up a separate es- 
tablishment. Her heart leapt for joy. She cooked 
twice the number of dishes usually prepared for her 
husband's midday meal, and anxiously waited for him 
in her kitchen. 

Jadu Babu went about his duties as usual, never 
mentioning the coming separation to Nalini. After 
bathing at 11 A.M. he took Nalini into the latter's 
kitchen, and asked his sister-in-law to give them some- 
thing to eat. The pair sat down to a hastily-prepared 
repast, Jadu Babu chatting and joking with his 



A RIFT IN THE LUTE 131 

brother according to his wont. After dinner he 
took his betel box and adjourned to the parlour 
for rumination and a siesta. Nalini and his wife 
were surprised by Jadu Babu's behaviour. They 
dared not ask him why he had invited himself to 
eat with them, but waited anxiously for further 
developments. 

Meanwhile the elder wife was eating her heart with 
vexation and forming resolutions to give her hus- 
band a curtain lecture. But he slept that night in 
the parlour and on the morrow took both meals with 
Nalini. When a woman fails to gain her object she 
is apt to take refuge in tears, which are generally 
enough to force a mere man to bend to her wishes. 
Jadu's wife watched for an opportunity of having it 
out with her husband. On finding him alone, she 
burst into lamentations, beating her heart and praying 
that God would put an end to her wretched life. He 
calmly asked what was the matter and, on receiving 
no reply, went to bed. Presently she asked, " What 
has induced you to put me to shame?" Jadu 
Babu pretended ignorance, and thus made her only 
the more angry. 

"Oh, you Neka" (buffoon), she groaned, "didn't 

you swear to separate from Nalini, and have you not 

taken all your meals with him ever since ? Is that 

the action of a truthful man ? " 

9 * 



132 TALES OF BENGAL 

" Well, I should like to know how Nalini has 
injured rne? " 

" I say that he is your enemy ! " 

" Tut, tut, you ought to be ashamed of yourself ! 
Where could I find a brother so faithful and obedient 
as he ? You wish to live apart from him ? Very well ; 
I have made separate arrangements for you." Then 
in dispassionate tones Jadu Babu pointed out the 
treachery of Debendra and his parasite. The 
woman's eyes were opened. She fell at her husband's 
feet and implored his pardon. Then she suddenly 
rose, went across the courtyard to Nalini's room, and 
knocked at his door. He came out and, seeing his 
sister-in-law there at an unusual hour, asked anxi- 
ously whether Jadu was ill. She reassured him and 
took him by the hand to his brother, in whose pre- 
sence she asked him to forgive and forget the offence. 
Nalini was nothing loth ; and harmony was soon re- 
stored in the family. 

Meanwhile old Hiramani had not failed to report 
progress to her patron daily. He was delighted to 
think that the rift in the Basu lute was widening, 
and promised her a handsome reward when the 
estrangement should take place. 

On learning the failure of the plot, he paid Hiramani 
a surprise visit, abused her roundly, and, when she re- 
torted in the like strain, he administered a wholesome 



A EIFT IN THE LUTE 133 

correction with his shoe. On his departure she ran to 
Jadu Babu's house intending to have it out with his 
wife for her breach of faith . The doorkeeper, however, 
roughly denied her entrance ; and when she threatened 
to report him to his mistress, he ran her out by the 
neck. Hiramani went home in a state of impatient 
anger and despair, and for several days she dared not 
show her face in the village. The spell cast by her 
malice was broken. 



DEBENDEA BABU IN TROUBLE. 

One chilly morning in February a Mohammadan 
neighbour of Nalini's named Sadhu Sheikh burst 
into his parlour crying, " Chota Babu, Chota Babu 
(lit. ' little babu,' used for younger brother, to dis- 
tinguish him from the elder, styled ' bara babu '), 
Siraji is dying ! " 

" Who is she ? " asked Nalini looking up from a law 
book which he was studying. 

" Surely you know my sister, Chota Babu ? " 
" Yes, of course, what's the matter with her ? ' : 
" She has been ill for three days, with excruciating 
internal pains ; what am I to do, Babuji ? " 
"Who is treating her?" asked Nalini. 
" Abdullah has been giving her the usual remedies." 
" Why, he is a peasant and knows nothing of medi- 
cine. You should not have called him in." 

" Sir, we are poor folk. Abdullah is very clever 
and his fee is a mere trifle." 

" What drugs has he been administering? " 
" Homopotik (homoeopathic), they are called." 

134 



DEBENDEA BABU IN TKOUBLE 135 

" Now you had better return home at once to find 
out how she is progressing. Let me know if she 
grows worse and I will send Hriday Doctor. Don't 
trouble about his fees ; I will pay them myself. Why 
did you not come to me earlier? " 

Sadhu muttered some words, which Nalini could not 
distinguish, and left the room hurriedly. After wait- 
ing for an hour for news, Nalini threw a wrapper 
over his shoulders and went to Siraji's cottage. On 
nearing it he learnt from Sadhu's loud lamentations 
that she was beyond the reach of medicine ; so, after 
a few words of sympathy, he went home. 

Presently Sadhu sallied forth to ask the neighbours' 

help in carrying the dead body to burial. One and 

all refused to lay a hand on it because, they said, 

she had lived with an unbeliever. In dire distress 

Sadhu again appealed to Nalini, who summoned the 

chief inhabitants of the Musalmanpara (Mohammadan 

quarter) to his house and ordered them to take Siraji's 

body to the burial ground. They reluctantly agreed 

to do so, and assembled at Sadhu's cottage ; but at 

the last moment all of them refused to touch the 

corpse. Nalini was puzzled by their behaviour. He 

asked for an explanation, whereon the Mohammadans 

whispered together and nudged a grey-beard, who 

became their spokesman. 

"Mahasay," he said, " the fact is Siraji lived with 



136 TALES OF BENGAL 

Debendra Babu and was actually made enceinte by 
him. In order to save himself from exposure and 
shame, Debendra Babu got Abdullah to administer 
powerful drugs to the woman. After taking these 
she was attacked by violent pains in the abdomen 
and vomiting, which ended in her death. The Chau- 
kidar (village watchman) knows all the facts, and he 
is sure to give information to the police. You know, 
sir, that no one would dare to touch a corpse with- 
out their permission, if there is any suspicion of foul 

play." 

Nalini was greatly surprised ; he asked Sadhu 
whether the old man's words were true and, getting 
no reply except a significant silence, said: "You 
may now go about your business, but mind I shall 
expect you all to assemble here and carry Siraji to 
the burial ground as soon as the police give you leave 
to do so". 

There was a chorus of assent, and the crowd dis- 
persed. Nalini was about to return home too, when 
the Chaukidar came in and told him that he had re- 
ported Siraji's death to the Sub-Inspector of police, 
who had ordered him not to permit the corpse to be 
touched by any one until his arrival. 

About three o'clock on the same day Nalini heard 
that the police had come to investigate the cause of 
Siraji's death. He went at once to Sadhu's house, 



DEBENDKA BABU IN TKOUBLE 137 

where the Sub-Inspector was recording the state- 
ments of eye-witnesses. When Abdullah's turn came, 
the police officer surveyed him from head to foot, 
saying : — 

" I have heard of you before ; what is your occupa- 
tion ? " 

" Sir, I am a Hakim (doctor)." 

"Anything else? " 

" Yes, sir, I have a little cultivation and sometimes 
lend money." 

"Did you attend the deceased woman?" 

" Yes, I was called in by Sadhu a week ago, and 
treated her for fever." 

" A nice mess you have made of the case too ! 
Swear on the Quran that you gave her no poison or 
drug!" 

" Sir, I am ready to declare in the name of God 
and His Prophet that I gave her nothing but homo- 
potik, only nuxo bomicka (mix vomica) in doses which 
would not have harmed a baby." 

" Now, remember you are on your oath. Did you 
administer anything else ? " 

Abdullah's shaking limbs proved that he was ter- 
ribly apprehensive of evil consequences to himself. 
He muttered, " I gave her a little patal-jmce too ". 

" So I thought," said the Sub-Inspector. " Now 
all present will follow me." With the assistance of 



138 TALES OF BENGAL 

his constable and chaukidars, he led them to De- 
bendra Babu's house. The latter received them in 
his parlour. He affected to be surprised and shocked 
by the news of Siraji's death. 

" That is strange," retorted the Sub-Inspector. 
"Abdullah here has sworn that he poisoned her at 
your request." 

Debendra Babu became ashen pale, but he soon 
regained self-possession. Turning on Abdullah he 
shouted : — 

" How dare you say that I gave you any such 
orders? " 

" Babu," whined Abdullah, " I never said so. The 
Darogaji is mistaken." 

The Sub-Inspector perceived that, all the witnesses 
being tenants of Debendra Babu, there was no hope 
of getting them to stick to any statement inculpating 
him. He sulkily told the Mohammadans present 
that they might bury Siraji's corpse, and accompanied 
Debendra Babu to his house, where he was royally 
entertained till next morning. However, on taking 
leave, he hinted that enough evidence had been secured 
to warrant his reporting the case as one of causing 
abortion by means of drugs, and that the Pulis Saheb 
(District Superintendent) would probably order further 
investigation. Debendra Babu was seriously alarmed 
by the implied threat. Visions of jail — perchance 



DEBENDKA BABU IN TROUBLE 139 

transportation across the dark ocean — floated in his 
sensorium. He resolved to submit the case to an 
astrologer. 

Gobardhan Chakravarti was an old Brahman 
neighbour who lived by casting nativities, giving 
weather and crop forecasts, and prophesying good or 
evil things in proportion to the fee he received. De- 
bendra Babu paid him a visit next morning and was 
received with the servile courtesy due to a wealthy 
client. After beating about the bush for a while he 
said: "My fate just now seems very unpropitious ; 
when may I expect better times ? ' ' 

Gobardhan covered a slate with mysterious calcu- 
lations and, after poring over them for ten or fifteen 
minutes, he looked up with the remark : — 

" Your luck is really atrocious and has been so for 
more than three months." 

" Quite true, but what I want to know is — how 
long is this going to last ? " 

" I am afraid that you may expect one misfortune 
after another ; I can't quite see the end of your evil 
destiny." 

" Goodness gracious ! what shall I do ? Are there 
no means of conjuring it away ? " 

"Certainly, the Shastras prescribe certain Grahas- 
anti (propitiation of planets) processes, which will en- 
able you to counteract the influence of malign stars." 



140 TALES OF BENGAL 

The cunning bait was swallowed by Debendra 
Babu, who asked: "How much would these cere- 
monies cost? " 

After thinking out the maximum amount he could 
decently demand, the astrologer said : " About one 
hundred rupees ". 

" Oh, that's far too much," was the reply. " Do 
you want to ruin me ? Can't you do it for less ? " 

" Not a pice less. I could perform a jog (sacri- 
fice) for as little as ten rupees ; but such maimed 
rites are quite contrary to the Shastras." 

" Will you guarantee definite results for Rs. 100? " 
asked Debendra Babu anxiously. 

i 

" I promise nothing ; if you have faith in my cere- 
monies, you must pay me my own price ; if not — I 
leave you to Fate." 

" I have implicit faith in you," groaned Debendra 
Babu, who was now terribly alarmed, " and will pay 
you Rs. 100 to-morrow, but please don't delay ; the 
matter is very pressing." 

Gobardhan agreed to the proposal ; but seeing that 
his client was loth to go and evidently had some- 
thing on his mind, he remarked : — 

" When a wise man consults a physician, he always 
discloses his symptoms. You must be quite frank 
and tell me how your affairs have been progressing 
lately, in order that I may address my incantations 



DEBENDRA BABU IN TROUBLE 141 

to the proper quarter. Be sure that I will divulge 
nothing." 

Thus encouraged Debendra Babu revealed his 
relations with Siraji, confessed that he had bribed 
Abdullah to administer a powerful drug to her, and 
expatiated on the very awkward predicament in which 
her sudden death had placed him. 

Gobardhan listened with breathless attention and 
then remarked: "You have acted rightly in telling 
me the whole truth. I will perform a homa (burnt 
sacrifice) and verily believe that it will have the de- 
sired effect. Let me have Rs. 200 and I will set about 
it at once." 

Debendra Babu groaned inwardly at the thought 
of so heavy an expenditure ; but after all, the pro- 
spect of escaping deadly peril was well worth Rs. 
200. So he returned home and thence despatched 
the amount in currency notes to Gobardhan. 

The astrologer spent about Rs. 5 on ghi (clarified 
butter), rice, and plantains for his homa sacrifice, and 
completed it in three days. Then he called on the 
police Sub-Inspector, who received him cordially. 
After the usual compliments had been exchanged, 
Gobardhan asked how his host was faring. 

" Things are not going well with me," was the re- 
ply. " Most of the people in these parts are miserably 
poor ; and what I can extract from the well-to-do 



142 TALES OF BENGAL 

hardly suffices for my horse-keep. Thdkurji (a term 
used in addressing Brahmans), I want you to examine 
my palm and say when good times are coming for 
me." 

After poring over the proffered hand for fully a 
minute, muttering and shaking his head the while, 
Gobardhan said : " I am delighted to tell you that 
your good star is in the ascendant. Very soon you 
will make something handsome." 

" I wish I could think so ! " observed the policeman, 
" but it is impossible. I have only one likely case on 
my file, and prospects are not brilliant even in that 
quarter." 

Then, in answer to leading questions from Gobard- 
han, he told the story of Siraji's death — adding that he 
had decided to send Debendra Babu and Abdullah 
up for trial, but doubted whether he could adduce 
sufficient evidence to convict them of murder or any- 
thing like it. 

Gobardhan asked: "Now, why should you lose 
such a splendid opportunity of making money ? " and 
seeing the policeman's eyes twinkle, he went on, " Oh, 
you need not appear in this transaction yourself. I 
will do the needful. Tell me frankly — how much 
money would satisfy you?" 

"I could not run the risk of reporting the case as. 
false for less than Rs. 100." 



DEBENDRA BABU IN TROUBLE 143 

" That is too much," was the wily astrologer's 
reply. " Mention a reasonable sum, and I will see 
what can be done." 

" Well, I will take Rs. 75, and not a pice less ; and 
understand, if the money is not paid before this even- 
ing, I will send Debendra Babu up for trial." 

" Very good ; I will call on him at once and frighten 
him into paying up ; but I must have something for 
myself." 

" Certainly, if you can get Rs. 75 from the defendant 
you may keep Rs. 15 as commission." 

Gobardhan returned home, took the required 
amount from the Rs. 200 paid him by Debendra 
Babu, and handed it privately to the Sub-Inspector, 
who swore by all the gods that he would take no 
further steps against the inculpated men. 

Knowing well that the policeman would keep faith 
with a Brahman, Gobardhan went straight to De- 
bendra Babu with the glad news that the homa sacri- 
fice had been completely successful, and not a hair of 
his head would be injured. Debendra felt as though 
a mountain was lifted from his heart ; he stooped to 
wipe the dust from Gobardhan 's feet. 

On learning a few days later that the case had been 
reported to headquarters as false, he was firmly con- 
vinced that Gobardhan's magical rites had saved him 
from ruin, and presented him with a bonus of Rs. 50. 



144 TALES OF BENGAL 

Nalini Babu was not long in ascertaining how 
the land lay. He was exasperated by the sordid 
wrong-doing which reached his ears and resolved 
to report it to the District Magistrate. But in the 
end he kept silent, because Sadhu came to hirn with 
tearful eyes, saying that he had already suffered deep 
humiliation; and if old scandals were raked up, the 
community would certainly excommunicate him. 



TEUE TO HIS SALT. 

Hiramani did not forget the thrashing given her by 
Debendra Babu for failing to cause a rupture between 
the Basu brothers. She took a vow of vengeance 
and laid in wait for an opportunity of fulfilling it. 
Meeting him one day in the village street, she asked 
with an air of mystery : — 

" Have you heard the news ? " 

" What's that ? " replied Debendra Babu carelessly. 

"It concerns the woman Siraji," she whispered. 

All Debendra Babu's fears revived ; he exclaimed : 
" Speak plainly, what is the matter? " 

" The matter stands thus. You know that her 
case was hushed up by the police ? Well, I hear on 
good authority that the District Magistrate has re- 
ceived an anonymous letter relating the real cause of 
her death and has ordered a fresh investigation. So 
I am afraid you will soon be in hot water again. As 
I am your well-wisher in spite of the cruel treatment 
I have received, I think it my duty to warn you of 

this new danger." 

145 10 



146 TALES OF BENGAL 

Hiraniani spoke in faltering accents and wiped 
away an imaginary tear with the corner of her cloth. 
"How did you learn all this?" asked Debendra 
Babu in deep anxiety. 

"I got the news only last night from the wife of 
the new Sub-Inspector who has come here on trans- 
fer. On paying my respects to her, I was told in 
confidence that her husband had orders to make a 
searching inquiry into the cause of Siraji's death." 

Debendra Babu saw that his secret was at the 
woman's discretion. He answered in an apologetic 
tone: "It was certainly foolish of me to lose my 
temper with you, but I had some provocation. For- 
give me, and let bye-gones be bye-gones. Whom do 
you suspect of sending the anonymous letter?" 

Hiramani bit her lips ; she knew the author, who 
was none other than herself, and replied : " It might 
have been written by Jadu Babu ; but I suspect his 
brother Nalini, who is as venomous as a snake and 
hates you mortally". 

Debendra Babu stamped his foot in annoyance 
and, after musing awhile, asked, " What would you 
advise me to do? " 

Hiramani wagged her head sententiously. " Babuji, 
I am afraid you are in a serious scrape. The matter 
has gone too far to be hushed up a second time. You 
cannot do anything directly without increasing the 



TKUE TO HIS SALT 147 

suspicion which attaches to you ; but I will watch 
events and keep you informed of all that happens 
at the police station. You know I have friends 
there." 

Debendra Babu was profuse in his thanks. He 
pressed a couple of rupees into the old woman's will- 
ing palm, saying: " Hiramani, I see that you are 
really my well-wisher. Come to my house as often as 
you like ; and if you have anything particular to say 
to me, I shall always be glad to hear it — and grateful 
too." 

Then the pair separated, and Hiramani took advan- 
tage of the Babu's invitation by visiting his daughter 
Kamini that very evening. 

She was made welcome in the inner apartment 
and sat down for a long chat, in the course of which 
she asked after Kamini's husband. 

" He has gone out for a stroll," her hostess replied, 
" but I expect him back every minute." 

The words were hardly out of her mouth ere a 
young man came in hurriedly and, not noticing Hir- 
amani who sat in the shade, asked for a drink of 
water. Hiramani doubted not that he was Debendra 
Babu's son-in-law, Pulin by name, who had lately 
come to live with his wife's family. She introduced 
herself as a friend of his father-in-law's and, being 

very witty when she chose to exert herself, soon 

10* 



148 TALES OF BENGAL 

managed to make a favourable impression on the 
young man. He asked her to come again whenever 
she pleased, adding that he was generally at home 
after sunset. 

Hiramani had prepared the ground for a further 
attack. She left the house with a certainty that she 
had made a good impression. 

Thenceforward hardly a day passed without at 
least one visit to Debendra Babu's. Hiramani 
wormed all Kamini's little harmless secrets out of 
her and obtained enough knowledge of the girl's 
tastes and habits to serve her own designs. 

One day, finding herself alone with Pulin, she 
threw out dark hints against his wife's character. 
The young man's suspicion was excited. He pressed 
for more explicit information, but Hiramani shook 
her head mysteriously without replying. Pulin in- 
sisted on being told the truth, whereon Hiramani 
poured out a whispered story of Kamini's intrigues, 
mentioning names of male relatives who were known 
to frequent the house. Pulin was stung to the quick. 
Regardless of a stranger's presence, he called Kamini 
into the room, abused her roundly, and declared that 
he would never live with her again. Then gathering 
up a few belongings in a bundle, he quitted the house, 
leaving his wife in a flood of tears. Hiramani was 
overjoyed by the results of her machinations. She 



TRUE TO HIS SALT 149 

affected sympathy with the deserted wife, who was too 
young and innocent to suspect her of having caused 
the quarrel. 

Debendra Babu had a servant, Earn Harak by 
name, who had been in the family for nearly forty 
years and was treated as one of them. He had 
watched the growing intimacy between Hiramani and 
the young couple and, knowing the old woman's 
character well, endeavoured to counteract her evil in- 
fluence. Finding this impossible he sought Debendra 
Babu in the parlour, salamed profoundly, and stood 
erect, without uttering a word. His master asked, 
with some surprise, what he wanted. 

" Mahasay," replied Ram Harak, "have I not 
served you for two-score years with obedience and 
fidelity? Have you ever found me untrue to my 
salt?" 

" Certainly not ; I know you are a good and faithful 
servant." 

" Then, Mahasay, you ought to protect me against 
enemies of your house. That odious hag, Hiramani, 
has abused me foully." 

"Now, Ram Harak, it is you who are abusive. 
What have you done to offend her? " 

"You are my father and mother," replied Ram 
Harak with his eyes full of tears. " Let me explain 
fully. I have long since suspected Hiramani of 



150 TALES OF BENGAL 

making mischief in this house, and have kept a close 
watch on her movements. The very day of Pulin 
Babu's departure I overheard her whispering all 
manner of false insinuations against my young mis- 
tress. Then came the quarrel between husband and 
wife, which ended in Pulin Babu's leaving your house. 
After he had gone I ventured to remonstrate with 
Hiramani for poisoning jamai (son-in-law) Babu's 
mind against his wife; whereon she overwhelmed 
me with abuse and actually threatened to get me 
dismissed ! I want to know whether this woman is 
mistress of the family? Am I to have no redress? " 

" Leave all this to me, Earn Harak, and go to your 
work. I'll speak to Hiramani myself." 

" Babuji, you are treating the matter far too lightly. 
I would never have complained on my own account, 
but I cannot bear to see her plotting against your 
daughter's happiness, which she has, perhaps, de- 
stroyed for ever ! " 

Debendra Babu went into his inner apartments 
and, seeing Hiramani engaged in close conversation 
with his daughter, he asked her why she had used 
bad language to Ram Harak. The old woman 
beckoned him to come outside ; and after making 
sure that no one was listening, she poured into his 
ears a long tale of Ram Harak's misdoings. He was 
robbing his master, she declared, taking dasturi (com- 



TRUE TO HIS SALT 151 

mission on purchases) at twice the customary rates. 
What was far worse, the "faithful servant" had 
spoken freely of Debendra Babu's relations with 
Siraji in the village, and it was he who instigated the 
anonymous letter which was about to bring the police 
down on his master. Though all this was the purest 
fiction, Debendra Babu swallowed it greedily. He 
shouted for Ram Harak and, on the man's appear- 
ance, charged him with fraud and unfaithfulness to 
his salt. Ram Harak stood silent with folded hands, 
not deigning to exculpate himself, which so enraged 
Debendra Babu that he gave the poor old man a 
sharp blow on the head with his shoe, bidding him 
begone and never to cross his threshold again. Ram 
Harak went to his hut, collected his possessions in a 
bundle, and left the house where forty years of his 
life had been spent. Hiramani's plans of vengeance 
were prospering. 

Soon after these unpleasant events the new Sub- 
Inspector of police arrived at Debendra Babu's house 
with a warrant for his arrest, and took him to the 
station despite loud protests of innocence. There he 
applied for bail, which was of course refused, and he 
spent the night in the lock-up. Knowing well that 
he had a very bad case, he humbled himself so far as 
to send for Nalini, whom he implored with folded 
hands to save him from destruction. Nalini was 



152 TALES OF BENGAL 

deeply moved by his appeal. He heartily despised 
the fellow's unutterable baseness, but reflected that 
he had been an old friend of his father's. He under- 
took the prisoner's defence. 

In due course Debendra Babu, with Abdullah, was 
brought before the Deputy Magistrate of Ghoria on 
various grave charges. The evidence established a 
strong prima facie, case against both, and Nalini Babu 
reserved his defence. They were committed for 
trial. When the case came before the Sessions 
Judge the Government Pleader (public prosecutor) 
adduced many witnesses proving the prisoner's guilt, 
the last of whom was Hiramani, who admitted on 
cross-examination that she had caused the anonymous 
letter to be sent to headquarters, which led to the 
charge being reopened. She protested that she had 
done so from a feeling that so great a crime should not 
be hushed up. Nalini Babu, in his turn, put forward 
some witnesses for the defence ; but their statements 
were not of material advantage to the prisoner. It 
was, in fact, a losing game, but he played it manfully. 
After all evidence had been recorded, the Government 
Pleader was about to sum up for the prosecution, 
when the Court rose suddenly, as it was past five 
o'clock. 

Nalini was going homewards in the dusk, when he 
felt a hand laid timidly on his shoulder. Turning 



TRUE TO HIS SALT 153 

sharply round, he saw an old man standing by his 
side. On being asked his name and business, the 
newcomer whispered some information which must 
have interested Nalini greatly for he rubbed his hands, 
smiled, and nodded several times. After a few min- 
utes' talk the pair went together to a spot where a 
palanquin with bearers was waiting. Into it got 
Nalini and was carried off at a smart trot, while his 
companion hobbled behind. 

When the Court assembled next day Nalini thus 
addressed the judge : " May it please your honour, I 
have, by the greatest good luck, obtained certain evi- 
dence which will, I think, place this case in a new 
light ". On getting leave to adduce an additional wit- 
ness, he beckoned to an old man, standing at the back of 
the Court, who entered the witness-box and declared 
that his name was Ram Harak and that he was a dis- 
missed servant of the prisoner. This was a curious 
opening for a witness for the defence, and dead silence 
fell on the Court while Earn Harak proceeded to swear 
that it was he, and not Debendra Babu, who had been 
intimate with the deceased, and that she had poisoned 
herself to avoid excommunication. 

"Did she tell you so herself?" asked the judge 
sharply. 

" No, your highness ; I learnt this only yesterday 
from Maina Bibi, Karim's own sister; Piyari Bibi, 



154 TALES OF BENGAL 

Sadhu's daughter ; and Nasiban Bibi, his sister-in-law, 
who all lived with the deceased." 

The Government Pleader at once objected to this 
statement being recorded, as it was hearsay. Nalini, 
however, assured the judge that the eye-witnesses 
were in attendance, and called them, one by one, to 
give evidence. Passing strange was their story. On 
the evening of Siraji's death they found her writhing 
in agony on the floor and, on being questioned, she 
gasped out that she could bear her kinsfolks' tyranny 
no longer. They had just told her that she was to 
be excommunicated for intriguing with an infidel. 
So she had got some yellow arsenic from the domes 
(low-caste leather-dressers) and swallowed several 
tolas weight of the poison in milk. The other women 
were thunderstruck. They sat down beside her and 
mingled their lamentations until Siraji's sufferings 
ended for ever. They afterwards agreed to say noth- 
ing about the cause of her death for fear of the police. 
But Bam Harak had come to them privately and 
frightened them into promising to tell the whole 
truth, by pointing out the awful consequences of an 
innocent man's conviction. Their evidence was not 
shaken by the Government Pleader's cross-examina- 
tion, and it was corroborated by a dome, who swore 
that Siraji had got some arsenic from him a few days 
before her death, on the pretext that it was wanted in 



TRUE TO HIS SALT 155 

order to poison some troublesome village dogs. After 
consulting with the jury for a few minutes, the judge 
informed Nalini that his client was acquitted, and 
Debendra Babu left the Court, as the newspapers 
say, "without a stain on his character". Seeing 
Ram Harak standing near the door with folded 
hands, he clasped the good old man to his bosom, 
with many protestations of gratitude, and begged 
him to forgive the injustice with which he had been 
treated. 

When Ram Harak found himself alone with his 
master at the close of this exciting day, he repeated 
the vile insinuations which Hiram ani had made re- 
garding the daughter's character. Debendra Babu was 
highly indignant and vowed that the scandal-monger 
should never cross his threshold again. He then im- 
plored Ram Harak to trace his son-in-law, authoris- 
ing him to offer any reparation he might ask. The old 
man smiled, and left the house, but returned a quarter 
of an hour later with a Sanyasi (religious mendi- 
cant) who revealed himself as the missing Pulin. 
Debendra Babu received him with warm embraces 
and many entreaties for pardon ; while Pulin said 
modestly that he alone was to blame, for he ought 
not to have believed the aspersions cast on his wife by 
Hiramani, which led him to quit the house in disgust. 
He added that Ram Harak had found him telling his 



156 TALES OF BENGAL 

beads near a temple, and persuaded him to wait close 
at hand until he had opened Debendra Babu's eyes. 

Meanwhile the whole house echoed with songs and 
laughter. Debendra Babu rewarded Bam Harak's 
fidelity with a grant of rent-free land, and publicly 
placed a magnificent turban on his head. He resolved 
to celebrate his own escape from jail by feasting the 
neighbours. The entire arrangements were left in 
the hands of the two Basus, who managed matters so 
admirably that every one was more than satisfied 
and Debendra Babu's fame was spread far and wide. 
AVhen things resumed their normal aspect, he held a 
confab with the brothers as to the punishment which 
should be meted out to Hiramani, and it was unani- 
mously resolved to send her to Coventry. They, 
therefore, forbade the villagers to admit her into their 
houses, and the shopkeepers to supply her wants. 
Hiramani soon found Kadampur too hot to hold her 
and took her departure for ever, to every one's intense 
relief. 



A TAME EABBIT. 

When a penniless Hindu marries into a wealthy- 
family he is sorely tempted to live with, and upon, 
his father-in-law. But the ease thus secured is un- 
attended by dignity. The gharjamai, "son-in-law of 
the house," as he is styled, shocks public opinion, 
which holds it disgraceful for an able-bodied man to 
eat the bread of idleness. Pulin incurred a certain 
degree of opprobrium by quartering himself on De- 
bendra Babu ; neighbours treated him with scant 
courtesy, and the very household servants made him 
feel that he was a person of small importance. He 
bore contumely with patience, looking forward to the 
time when Debendra Babu's decease would give him 
a recognised position. His wife was far more ambi- 
tious. She objected strongly to sharing her husband's 
loss of social standing and frequently reproached 
him with submitting to be her father's annadds (rice- 
slave). 

So, one morning, he poured his sorrows into Nalini's 
sympathetic ear. 

157 



158 TALES OF BENGAL 

"Mahasay," he said, "you know that people 
are inclined to blame me for living in idleness, and 
I do indeed long to chalk out a career for myself. 
But I don't know how to set about it and have no 
patron to back me. Do you happen to know of any 
job which would give me enough to live on ? Salary 
is less an object with me than prospects. I would 
gladly accept a mastership in some high school." 

" You are quite right in seeking independence," 
replied Nalini, "and I shall be glad to help you- 
But lower-grade teachers are miserably paid, and 
their prospects are no better. It is only graduates 
who can aspire to a head-mastership. Are you one ? " 

"No, sir, but I passed the F.A. examination in 
1897." 

" Ah, then, you are a Diamond Jubilee man — that's 
a good omen," rejoined Nalini, with a shade of sar- 
casm in his voice. " What were your English text- 
books?" 

"I read Milton's Absalom and Achitophel, Dryden's 
Holy Grail, and many other poems, but I'm not sure 
of their titles after all these years." 

Nalini suspected that his friend's English lore was 
somewhat rusty. In order to test him further, he 
asked, " Can you tell me who wrote ' Life is real, life 
is earnest,' — that line applies to you ! " 

Pulin fidgeted about before answering. " It must 



A TAME BABBIT 159 

have been Tennyson — or was it Wordsworth ? I 
never could keep poetry in my head." 

Nalini thought that an F.A. might have remem- 
bered Longfellow's Psalm of Life, but he refrained 
from airing superior knowledge. 

" Do you know any mathematics ? " he inquired. 

"Mathematics!" replied Pulin Joyously. "Why, 
they're my forte — I am quite at home in arithmetic, 
algebra, and geometry. Please ask me any ques- 
tion you like." 

"Well, let us have Prop. 30, Book I. of Euclid." 

Pulin rattled off Proposition 13 of that book, with- 
out the aid of a diagram. Nalini now saw that the 
young man's mental equipment was of the slenderest 
description. He said, "Well, you may call on me 
another day, when I may be able to tell you of some 
vacancy ". 

Pulin, however, would take no denial. He became 
so insistent that Nalini reluctantly gave him a letter 
of introduction to Babu Kaliprasanna Som, Secretary 
of the Eamnagar High School, who, he said, was look- 
ing about him for a fourth master. Pulin lost no 
time in delivering it and was immediately appointed 
to the vacant post. 

English education in Bengal is not regarded as a 
key which opens the door of a glorious literature, but 
simply and solely as a stepping-stone in the path of 



160 TALES OF BENGAL 

worldly success. The Department seems to aim at 
turning out clerks and lawyers in reckless profusion. 
Moreover, academic degrees are tariffed in the mar- 
riage market. The "F. A." commands a far higher 
price than the "entrance-passed," while an M.A. 
has his pick of the richest and prettiest girls belong- 
ing to his class. Hence parents take a keen interest 
in their boys' progress and constantly urge them to 
excel in class. With such lessons ringing in his ears, 
the Bengali schoolboy is consumed with a desire to 
master his text-books. The great difficulty is to tear 
him away from them, and insist on his giving suf- 
ficient time to manly games. When a new teacher 
takes the helm, he is closely watched in order to test 
his competence. The older lads take a cruel pleasure 
in plying him with questions which they have already 
solved from the Dictionary. Pulin did not emerge 
from this ordeal with credit, and the boys concocted 
a written complaint of his shortcomings, which they 
despatched to the Secretary of the School Committee. 
The answer was a promise to redress their grievances. 
At 10.30 next morning Kaliprasanna Babu entered 
Pulin's classroom and stood listening to his method of 
teaching English literature. Presently one of the 
boys asked him to explain the difference between 
" fort " and " fortress ". After scratching his head for 
fully half a minute he replied that the first was a 



A TAME RABBIT 161 

castle defended by men, while the second had a female 
garrison ! The Secretary was quite satisfied. He 
left the room and sent Pulin a written notice of dis- 
missal. The latter was disheartened beyond measure 
by this unkind stroke of fortune. He shook the dust 
of Ramnagar from his feet and returned home to lay 
his sorrows before Nalini, seasoning the story with 
remarks highly derogatory to Kaliprasanna Babu's 
character. In order to get rid of an importunate 
suitor Nalini gave him another letter of introduction, 
this time to an old acquaintance named Debnath 
Lahiri who was head clerk in the office of Messrs. 
Kerr & Dunlop, one of the largest mercantile firms 
of Calcutta. Pulin was heartily sick of school- 
mastering, and the prospect of making a fortune in 
business filled his soul with joy. He borrowed Rs. 
30 from Debendra Babu and took the earliest train 
for Calcutta. On arriving there he joined a mess of 
waifs and strays like himself, who herded in a small 
room and clubbed their pice to provide meals. Then 
he waited on Debnath Babu, whom he found installed 
in a sumptuous office overlooking the river Hughli. 
The great man glanced at his credentials and, with 
an appearance of cordiality, promised to let him know 
in case a vacancy occurred in the office. For nearly 
a month Pulin called daily for news at Messrs. Kerr 

& Dunlop's, and generally managed to waylay the 

11 



162 TALES OF BENGAL 

head clerk, whose reply was invariably, " I have noth- 
ing to suit you at present ". 

One morning, however, he was stopped by the dar- 
wan (doorkeeper) who told him gruffly that the " Bara 
Babu did not like to have outsiders hanging about the 
office ". The baffled suitor reflected on his miserable 
position. He had just eleven rupees and two pice left, 
which he calculated would last him, with strict econ- 
omy, for another fortnight. When they were spent, he 
would have to return crestfallen to Kadampur. But 
could he face the neighbours' sneers, the servants' con- 
tumely — worse than all, his wife's bitter tongue ? No, 
that was not to be thought of. It were better to 
plunge into the river whose turbid waters rolled only 
a few feet away. 

Pulin was roused from this unpleasant train of 
thought by hearing his name pronounced. It came 
from a well-dressed man, who was just entering 
Messrs. Kerr & Dunlop's office, welcomed by a 
salam from the surly doorkeeper. Pulin was de- 
lighted to recognise in the stranger a certain Kisari 
Mohan Chatterji, who had taught him English in 
the General Assembly's College more than a decade 
back. In a few words he told his sad story and 
learnt that Kisari Babu had taken the same step as 
he himself contemplated, with the result that he was 
now head clerk in Messrs. Kerr & Dunlop's export 



A TAME KABBIT 163 

department. This news augured well for his own 
ambition, but poor Pulin was disgusted on hearing 
that no less than three vacancies had occurred in as 
many weeks, and that all had been filled by relatives 
of Babu Debnath Lahiri. Kisari Babu added : " A 
junior clerk is to be appointed to-morrow. Write out 
an application in your very best hand, with copies 
of your testimonials, and bring it to me here this 
evening at five. I'll see that it reaches our manager, 
Henderson Saheb." Pulin punctually followed his 
friend's advice, and dreamed all night of wealth be- 
yond a miser's utmost ambition. 

On arriving at Messrs. Kerr & Dunlop's office 
next morning he joined a crowd of twenty or thirty 
young men who were bent on a like errand. His 
spirits sank to zero, nor were they raised when after 
hanging about in the rain for nearly two hours the 
aspirants were told that the vacancy had been filled 
up. Thereupon the forlorn group dispersed, cursing 
their ill-luck and muttering insinuations against Mr. 
Henderson and his head clerk. Pulin, however, 
lingered behind. By tendering a rupee to the door- 
keeper he got a slip of paper and pencil, with which 
he indited a piteous appeal to Kisari Babu, and a 
promise that it should reach him. Presently his 
friend came out in a desperate hurry, with a stylo- 
graph behind his ear, and his hands laden with papers, 

11 * 



164 TALES OF BENGAL 

"It's just as I anticipated," he whispered to Pulin. 
" The head clerk has persuaded Henderson Saheb to 
bestow the post on his wife's nephew. But don't be 
disheartened. I will speak to our Saheb about you 
this very day. Come here. at five to learn the result." 

Pulin did so and was overjoyed to find that he had 
been appointed probationary clerk in the export de- 
partment on Bs. 20 per mensem, in supersession of 
Debnath Babu's nominee. 

On the morrow he entered on his new duties with 
some trepidation, but Kisari Babu took him under 
his wing and spared no pains to "teach him the 
ropes ". Pulin spent his evenings in furbishing up 
his English and arithmetic, mastered the whole art 
of book-keeping, and, being naturally intelligent, he 
soon had the office routine at his fingers' ends. He 
grasped the fact that a young man who wishes to 
succeed in life must make himself indispensable. In 
course of time Pulin's industry and trustworthiness 
attracted the attention of Mr. Henderson, who con- 
firmed him as clerk, with a salary of Bs. 35. 

But every cup has its bitter drop ; and Pulin's was 
the persistent enmity of the head clerk, who bore him a 
grudge for ousting his wife's nephew and seized every 
opportunity of annoying him. Leagued with the arch- 
enemy were two subordinate clerks, Gyanendra and 
Lakshminarain by name, who belonged to Debnath 



A TAME BABBIT 165 

Babu's gusti (family). This trio so managed matters 
that all the hardest and most thankless work fell to 
Pulin's lot. He bore their pin-pricks with equanimity, 
secure in the constant support of Kisari Babu. 

One muggy morning in August he awoke with a 
splitting headache, the harbinger of an attack of fever, 
and was obliged to inform the head clerk, by means 
of a note, of his inability to attend office. An answer 
was brought by Gyanendra to the effect that three 
days' leave of absence was granted, but that his work 
must be carried on by some other clerk. He was, 
therefore, ordered to send the key of his desk by 
the bearer. For three days the patient endured alter- 
nations of heat and cold ; but his malady yielded to 
quinine, and on the fourth he was able to resume 
work. 

Soon after reaching the office, he was accosted by 
one of the bearers, named Kamtonu, who told him 
that the Bam Saheb wished to see him at once. The 
moment he entered the manager's sanctum he saw 
that something unpleasant had occurred. Without 
wishing him good morning, as usual, Mr. Henderson 
handed him a cheque and asked sternly whether he 
had filled it up. Pulin examined the document, 
which turned out to be an order on the Standard 
Bank to pay Tarak Ghose & Co. Rs. 200, signed by 
Mr. Henderson. He was obliged to admit that the 



166 TALES OF BENGAL 

payee's name, as also the amount in words and figures, 
seemed to be in his handwriting. 

" Yes," rejoined the manager, " and the signature 
is very like my own ; but it is a forgery. Do you 
hear me, Babu, a Forgery ! " 

To Pulin's disordered senses the room, with its 
furniture and Mr. Henderson's angry face, seemed to 
be turning round. He gasped out, " I'm ill, sir ! " 
and sank into a chair. The manager mistook the 
remains of fever for a tacit admission of guilt. He 
waited till Pulin had regained a share of his wits and 
said gravely : " I did not think that one whom I 
trusted with my cheque-book would act thus. Now 
you will search your books, to see whether they con- 
tain a record of any payment of the kind, and return 
with them in half an hour. But I must warn }^ou 
that if this forgery is traced to you, I shall have to 
call in the police." 

Pulin staggered back to his room in despair and 
observed that Gyanendra and Lakshminarain, who 
sat at the next desk, were evidently enjoying his 
mental agony. Alas ! the books showed no trace of 
any payment to Tarak Ghose & Co. He wrung his 
hands in great distress and sat bewildered, until 
Ramtonu came to summon him to the manager's 
tribunal. In the corridor Ramtonu glanced round, 
to make sure that no one was within hearing, and 



A TAME BABBIT 1G7 

said, " Don't be afraid, Babuji. You did me a good 
turn, and I may be able to help you now." 

This Kamtonu was an office menial hailing from 
the district of Gaya, in Behar. He was an intelligent 
man, but rather unlicked, and was the butt of the 
younger clerks, who delighted in mocking his uncouth 
up-country dialect. Pulin, however, had never joined 
in "ragging" him, and, on one occasion, he lent 
Kamtonu Us. 7 for his wife, who was about to increase 
the population of Gaya. Gratitude for kindness is 
a marked trait in the Indian character, and Pulin 
bethought him of the old fable of the Lion and Mouse- 
He asked: "Why, what do you know about lekha- 
para (reading and writing) ? " 

" Never mind," rejoined Ramtonu. " We must not 
loiter, for we should be suspected of plotting together. 
Come to the Saheb's room. I shall be admitted, for 
he knows that I don't understand English. All I 
ask is that you will clasp your hands as a signal when 
I may come forward and tell my story." 

A European police officer was seated by Mr. Hender- 
son's side, engaged in writing from his dictation- 
They looked up, and the manager asked whether 
Pulin had found any record of the payment in 
dispute. 

On receiving a negative answer, he said: "Then 
I shall be obliged to hand you over to the police". 



168 TALES OF BENGAL 

Pulin clasped his hands in a mute appeal for mercy, 
whereon Ranitonu stepped forward. Carefully ex- 
tracting a folded sheet of foolscap from the pocket of 
his chapkan (a tight-fitting garment, worn by nearly 
all classes in full dress), he spread it out on the table 
and respectfully asked the manager to run his eye 
over it. 

" By Jove," remarked the latter, with great surprise, 
"here's some one has been copying my signature — 
and Pulin's writing" too ! " 

All eyes were now bent on the incriminating docu- 
ment. It was made up of many fragments of paper, 
carefully pasted on a sheet of foolscap, and bore the 
words,' " Tarak Ghose & Co., two hundred rupees, 
200," repeated at least twenty times. Below was 
"A. G. Henderson," also multiplied many-fold. The 
manager asked where Ranitonu had found the paper, 
and received the following answer : — 

" Your Highness, Pulin Babu here did not come to 
office on Monday ; and for the next few days his work 
was done by Gyanendra Babu, who got the keys of 
his desk. I knew that he and some other clerks 
detested Pulin Babu, so I watched their movements 
narrowly, to see whether they would try to get him 
into a scrape, and more than once I surprised Gyan- 
endra and Lakshminarain whispering together. On 
Tuesday neither of them left the office for lunch with 



A TAME KABBIT 169 

the other clerks, and I seized some pretext for enter- 
ing the room where they sit. Gyanendra roughly 
bade me begone ; so I went to the verandah outside 
and peeped through the jilmils (Venetian blinds) of 
a window close to their desk. Lakshminarain was 
copying some English words from a paper on his left 
side, while the other clerk looked on, nodding and 
shaking his head from time to time. After writing 
in this fashion for a while, Lakshminarain took a 
sheet of notepaper covered with writing and copied 
the signature many times, until both babus were satis- 
fied with the result. Then I saw Gyanendra unlock 
Pulin Babu's desk, take out a cheque-book, and hand 
it to the other man, who filled up the counterfoil and 
body of one blank cheque, glancing sometimes at the 
paper in front of him. He returned it to Gyanendra 
who placed it in a pocket-book. After tearing up 
the papers they had used and throwing them into the 
waste-paper basket, they left the room. I ran round, 
carefully avoiding them, picked the fragments of 
paper out of the basket, tied them in a corner of my 
cjamcha (wrapper), and left the office quickly, asking the 
doorkeeper what direction they had taken. When he 
said that they had turned northwards, I guessed that 
they were off to the Bank, in order to cash the cheque, 
and sure enough I overtook them not more than a 
rassi from the office. Following them at a little 



170 TALES OF BENGAL 

distance on the other side of the street, I saw them 
stop outside the Standard Bank and look anxiously 
around. Presently a schoolboy passed by, whom 
they hailed and, after talking for a while, Gyanendra 
handed him the cheque with a small linen money- 
bag, and pointed to the door of the Bank. The lad 
went inside, while both babus waited round the 
corner. In a short time he came out and handed 
the bag full of money to Gyanendra, who gave him 
something and hurried back to the office with his com- 
panion. Putting two and two together I felt assured 
that those clerks had forged the cheque ; and had 
I known where Pulin Babu lived, I would certainly 
have communicated my suspicions to him. Having to 
work without his help, I persuaded a student, who 
lodges near my quarters, to piece the scraps of paper 
together. It took him two hours to do so, and we 
then pasted them carefully on this sheet of foolscap. 
You will see, Saheb, that there are thirty-seven in all, 
and only three missing." 

The story made a deep impression on Mr. Hender- 
son and the Police Inspector, while Pulin was raised 
to the seventh heaven of delight by the thought that 
his innocence might yet be established. 

"Could you identify the boy?" asked the Euro- 
peans with one breath. 

"I don't know his name," was Kamtonu's re- 



A TAME BABBIT 171 

joinder; "but I think I could pick him out, for he 
passes this office daily on his way to and from school. 
But this is just the time when he goes home for 
tiffin. With your Highness's permission, I will 
watch for him in the street." 

" Do so by all means," was the Inspector's reply. 
"Meanwhile, I'll take down notes of your state- 
ment." 

Ramtonu went out and in a few minutes returned 
dragging with him triumphantly a well-dressed lad 
of fifteen, who seemed terribly alarmed by the com- 
pany into which he was thrust. The Inspector 
calmed his fears by assuring him that he would come 
to no harm if only he spoke the whole truth. " You 
have been unwittingly made the instrument of a 
forgery," he added, " and we want your help towards 
detecting it." The boy plucked up courage and 
answered every question put him quite candidly. 
His tale corroborated Eamtonu's in most particulars, 
with the addition that the tall babu had given him 
eight annas bakshish for cashing the cheque. He had 
not seen either of the men previously, but thought he 
should be able to recognise one of them owing to his 
unusual height. 

" Now, bearer," said Mr. Henderson, " go and fetch 
both the clerks ; bring in the tall one first, but keep 
an eye on the other outside and beyond earshot." 



172 TALES OF BENGAL 

Ranitonu left the room with alacrity and presently 
returned ushering Lakshrninarain into the dreaded 
presence. The newcomer was beside himself with 
terror ; and when he was identified by the schoolboy 
as one of the men who had employed him to cash the 
cheque, he did not wait to be asked for an explana- 
tion. Throwing himself at Mr. Henderson's feet he 
begged for mercy, promising to reveal the entire 
truth. The Inspector would make no promises but 
simply adjured him to make a clean breast of his 
share in the transaction. Lakshrninarain obeyed, 
and his statement, interrupted by many sobs, was duly 
recorded. His accomplice was next introduced. At 
first Gyanenclra was inclined to put a bold face on the 
matter, stoutly affirming that it was a put-up affair 
between Pulin and Ramtonu. When, however, the 
Inspector read out to him the deposition of the bearer 
and schoolboy, he saw that the game was up and 
confessed his misdoings, accusing the head clerk of 
having prompted them. The culprits were taken in 
a ticca gdr'i (four-wheeled cab) to the police station 
Pulin occupying the box, while Ramtonu ran behind. 

Well, to cut a long story short, the prisoners stuck 
to their confession and refunded their ill-gotten gains. 
They were duly committed to the High Court on 
charges of forgery and conspiring to accuse an in- 
nocent man of the like offence. They both pleaded 



A TAME KABBIT 173 

guilty, and the judge remarked that it was one of the 
worst cases of the kind he had ever tried. In pass- 
ing sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment on 
each prisoner, he added that they would have fared 
worse but for the patent fact that they had been 
made catspaws of by some one who kept in the back- 
ground. As there was no evidence against Debnath 
Babu, except that of accomplices, he was not prose- 
cuted ; but immediately after the trial, Messrs. Kerr 
& Dunlop dismissed him without notice. Kisari Babu 
was promoted to the vacant office of head clerk, 
while Pulin stepped into his friend's shoes. By un- 
failing application to duty, he won Messrs. Kerr & 
Dunlop's entire confidence, and in fulness of time 
succeeded Kisari Babu as head clerk. Ten or 
twelve years later, Pulin was rich enough to build 
a pahha (masonry) house at Kadampur, which far 
eclipsed his father-in-law's, and had a well-paid door- 
keeper in the person of Bamtonu. The once-despised 
gharjamdi took a leading position among the local 
gentry. 



GOBAKDHAN'S TKIUMPH. 

Jadu Babu's four-year-old daughter, Mrinalini, or 
Mrinu as she was called in the family, came to her 
mother one evening to say that her kitten was lost. 
In vain was she taken on the maternal lap, her tears 
gently wiped away, and all manner of pretty toys 
promised. Her little frame was convulsed with sobs, 
and she refused to be comforted. So her mother sent 
a maidservant to search for the plaything. The girl 
returned shortly and said that the kitten was cer- 
tainly not in the house. At this Mrinu howled more 
loudly than ever, bringing her father on the scene. 
He pacified the child by undertaking to produce her 
pet, and told the servants that the finder would be hand- 
somely rewarded. Meanwhile his wife was trying 
to keep Mrinu's attention engaged by telling her a 
long story, when she suddenly exclaimed, "What has 
become of your jasam (gold bracelet) ? " 

Mrinu replied, "I took it off to play with kitty 
and laid it down somewhere ". 

This was all the information she could vouchsafe 

174 



GOBARDHAN'S TRIUMPH 175 

in answer to repeated questions. The mother set her 
down and proceeded to search every hole and corner 
for the jetsam, but it was not to be found. Her hus- 
band was greatly alarmed on hearing of this un- 
toward event. The loss of Rs. 100, at which the 
trinket was valued, might have been borne ; but 
Hindus believe that misfortune invariably follows 
the loss of gold. He set all his servants and hangers- 
on to look for the jasam, but they were unsuccessful. 
In despair he hurried to Nalini for advice and was 
told to send for Gobardhan, which he promptly did. 

The astrologer listened attentively to his story and 
then asked whether Jadu Babu would try Bdti Chdld 
(divination by the bdta leaf), or some simpler method 
of discovering the lost jasam. On learning that the 
matter would be left entirely in his hands, he told 
Jadu Babu to collect all his servants in the parlour 
and let him have half a seer (1 lb.) of raw rice, with 
as many strips of banana leaf as there were servants. 
When all were assembled, Gobardhan thus addressed 
them, " Mrinu has lost her jasam, have any of you 
seen it? " The reply was a chorus of "Noes" with 
emphatic head-shakings. " Then none of you have 
stolen it ? " Again a volume of protestations. " Very 
well, then," said Gobardhan, " I must try the ordeal 
of chewed rice." After uttering many mantras (in- 
cantations) and waving his hand over the pile of 



176 TALES OF BENGAL 

grain and banana leaves, he dealt out a quotum of 
each to the servants. 

"Now," he said, "you will masticate the rice for 
a minute thoroughly and then drop the result on your 
leaves. I warn you that it will be deadly poison for 
the thief." All obeyed with alacrity, and Gobardhan, 
after examining the contents of each leaf, assured 
Jadu Babu that the jetsam had not been stolen. 

My readers who are versed in science will under- 
stand that, in point of fact, there is nothing magical 
about this rite, which is based on the circumstance 
that fear checks the flow of saliva. In all probability 
a thief would eject the rice absolutely dry. 

The inference was that the jasam had been mislaid ; 
and Jadu Babu asked whether Gobardhan's lore was 
equal to recovering it. 

"Possibly," answered the astrologer, "but it is 
not a case of Bati Chala; if you can guarantee me 
Ks. 10, I will perform Ndkha Darpan (literally ' nail- 
mirror'). Let me have an almanac, please, to find 
an auspicious day." 

After examining it and receiving a ten-rupee note 
from Jadu Babu, the astrologer said oracularly that 
he would return on the following afternoon, with a 
lad of twelve, who had been born under the Constel- 
lation of the Scales. 

At the appointed hour, Gobardhan came accom- 



GOBAEDHAN'S TEIUMPH 177 

panied by his acolyte, with whom he sat down at the 
Chandimandab (a shrine of the goddess Durga, found 
in most Hindu houses, which serves for social 
gatherings). Jadu Babu and the bhadra-lok (gentle- 
folk) took their seats there too, while the underlings 
formed a respectful half-circle in front. Adjuring all 
to keep perfect silence, he asked the lad to gaze into 
the nail on his own right index finger and tell the 
people what he saw there. After staring at it for a 
minute or so, the boy began to tremble violently and 
whispered : "I see a mango-tope (orchard) ; a little 
girl is playing with her kitten under the trees. Now 
I see her slipping a jasam from her arm, the kitten 
frisks about, and the child follows it ; now it disap- 
pears, and the child runs indoors." Then, raising 
his voice to a shrill scream, he pointed with his left 
hand to the north and asked : — 

"What are those animals which are prowling in 
the orchard ? Are they dogs ? No — they are jackals 
— one, two, three jackals ! They pounce on the 
kitten, and tear her limb from limb ! Now every- 
thing is growing hazy ; I can't see any more ! ' 

A thrill of fear ran through the audience, and one 
might have heard a pin drop. At length Gobardhan 
broke the silence : — 

"Let us go to the mango-tope north of this 

house," he said solemnly. 

12 



178 TALES OF BENGAL 

Thither they hurried and, after a few minutes' 
search, one of the maidservants cried out that she 
had found the jasam half-hidden by the gnarled roots 
of a tree. 

Jadu Babu was overjoyed by the recovery of his 
missing jewel, and pressed another fee of ten rupees 
on the astrologer. As for Gobardhan, his fame spread 
far and wide, and his hut was rarely without some 
client, eager to learn the future. 



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. 

Sadhu Sheikh of Simulgachi was not long in finding 
a husband for his half-sister, Maini Bibi. Before she 
was fourteen, a young farmer named Ramzan pro- 
posed for her hand, offering a den mohur of Rs. 100. 
The den mohur is a device recognised by Moham- 
madan law for protecting married women from cap- 
ricious repudiation. The husband binds himself to 
refund a fictitious dowry, generally far above his 
means, in case he should divorce his wife for no fault 
of hers. Ramzan was accepted by Sadhu, and the 
marriage was duly celebrated. Maini Bibi was a 
handsome girl ; but beauty was among the least of 
her gifts. She was sweet-tempered, thrifty, and 
obedient, winning sympathy on all sides. The one 
discordant note was struck by Ramzan's mother, 
Fatima Bibi by name, who took a violent dislike to 
the bride and evinced it by persistently scolding and 
ill-using her. Ramzan was completely under his 
mother's thumb and saw everything with her eyes. 

His love for Maini was slowly sapped by her innuen- 

179 12 * 



180 TALES OF BENGAL 

does, and he treated the poor girl with something 
worse than coldness. Maini, however, bore her hard 
lot without a murmur, hoping that time and patience 
would win back her husband's heart. 

On returning one evening from the fields, Ramzan 
was hailed by his mother who was evidently in a 
worse temper than usual. 

"Hi! Ramzan," she shrieked, "I am an old 
woman, and you, doubtless, find me an incumbrance. 
Speak out, my son ; you have only to say ' go,' and I 
will leave this house in half an hour." 

"Why, what's the matter, mother?" asked Eam- 
zan with open eyes. 

" Matter," she yelled. " Would you believe it, that 
black-faced daughter of a pig has actually abused me 
— me, your old mother ! " 

"What did she say?" rejoined Ramzan angrily. 

"My son," was the answer, "you know how she 
neglects household duties, leaving all the hard jobs to 
me. Well, this afternoon, I ventured on a word of 
remonstrance, and she actually abused me." And 
the old woman wiped her tears away with a corner 
of her cotton wrapper, adding with eyes cast heaven- 
wards, " Merciful Allah, to think that I should come 
to this in my old age ! " 

" But what did she say ? " repeated Ramzan 
wearily. 



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE 181 

" She told me to my face that I had forgotten to 
put salt into the curry ! " 

" That's hardly abusive," rejoined Ramzan. 

"You think so," shouted Fatima. "Now you're 
taking sides with her against your mother, who bore 
you. You will assuredly suffer in Jehannam (hell) 
for such a crime ! But I'll have it out with that 
she-devil ! " 

So saying, she dashed from the room to the kitchen, 
where the luckless Maini was cowering in anticipa- 
tion of a coming storm. She was not deceived. 
Fatima seized her by the hair and administered a 
sound thumping. 

Several days passed by, bringing no alleviation to 
her fate. But matters came to a crisis on a certain 
morning, owing to Ranizan's complaint that his wife 
had over-salted the curry. On tasting the food, 
Fatima burst into violent imprecations and "went 
for " her daughter-in-law, who took refuge in the neigh- 
bouring brushwood. At nightfall she crept back to 
the house and found Ramzan closeted with his mother. 
They were talking earnestly, but Maini could not dis- 
tinguish the purport of the conversation. It seemed 
to her that Fatima's voice was raised in entreaty, and 
Ramzan was objecting to some scheme proposed by 
her. She passed the night sleepless and in tears. 

Early next day Ramzan entered her room and said 



182 TALES OF BENGAL 

gruffly, " Get up, collect your chattels, and follow me. 
I arn going to take you back to Sadhu's." Maini 
obeyed without a word of remonstrance, and a quarter 
of an hour later the ill-assorted pair might have been 
seen walking towards Simulgachi. 

The rainy season was now in full swing, and their 
path lay across a deep nullah (ravine) through which 
mighty volumes of drainage water were finding their 
way to the Ganges. On reaching a bamboo foot- 
bridge which spanned it, Ramzan ordered his wife to 
go first. Ere she reached the opposite bank, he gave 
her a violent shove, which sent her shrieking vainly 
for help into the swirling torrent below. 

Hardly had Ramzan perpetrated this odious deed 
than he felt he would give his chances of bihisht (para- 
dise) to recall it. He ran along the bank shouting 
frantically, "Maini! Maini !' : Alas! her slender 
body was carried like a straw by the foaming water 
towards the Ganges and soon disappeared in a bend 
of the nullah. Then her murderer sat down and 
gave himself up to despair. But the sun was up ; 
people were stirring in the fields ; and so he slunk 
homewards. Fatima stood on the threshold and 
raised her eyebrows inquiringly ; but Ramzan thrust 
her aside, muttering, " It is done," and shut himself up 
in his wife's room. There everything reminded him 
of her ; the scrupulous neatness of floor and walls — 



PATIENCE IS A VIKTUE 183 

no cobwebs hanging from the rafters, the kitchen 
utensils shining like mirrors. He sat down and burst 
into a flood of tears. 

For several days he did not exchange a word with 
his accomplice, and dared not go to market lest his 
worst fears should be realised. Dread of personal 
consequences added new torture to unavailing remorse. 
Every moment he expected the red-pagried ministers 
of justice to appear and hale him to the scaffold. The 
position was clearly past bearing. So, too, thought 
Fatima, for she waylaid her son one afternoon and 
said : " Ramzan, I cannot stand this life any longer ; 
let me go to my brother Mahmud Sardar, the cooly- 
catcher ". 

"Go," he replied sullenly, and the old woman 
gathered up her belongings in a bundle and departed, 
leaving him to face the dark future alone. 

While brooding over his fate, he was startled by 
the sudden arrival of Sadhu. " Now I'm in for it," he 
thought and began to tremble violently while his 
features assumed an ashen hue. But Stidhu sat down 
by his side and said, "Ranizun, I've come about 
Maini ". 

" Then she's drowned ! " gasped Ramzan. " By 
Allah the Highest, I swear that I did my best to 
save her." 

"Hullo!" rejoined Sadhu with great surprise; 



184 TALES OF BENGAL 

"you must have been with her when she fell into 
the nullah." 

Ramzan bent his head in silence. After a few 
moments he looked up, clasped his hands, and 
said : — 

"Tell me the truth, Sadhu, is Maini alive?" 

" She is," was the reply. " On Thursday morning 
she came to our house dripping wet and quite ex- 
hausted, with a story that your mother had turned her 
out of doors and that she was on her way to live with 
us when, on crossing the Padmajali Nullah, her foot 
slipped and she fell into the water. She told us how, 
after being carried for nearly a gau-coss (lit. cow 
league, the distance at which a cow's lowing can 
be heard), she was swept by the stream against the 
overhanging roots of a pipal tree (ficus religiosa) and 
managed to clamber up the bank. But Maini never 
told us that you were with her. Why, Ramzan, you're 
quaking in every limb. I always suspected Maini 
had concealed the truth. Swear on the Quran that 
you did not try to drown her." 

Ramzan feebly protested innocence, and the two 
men sat awhile without speaking. 

At length Sadhu said : " I've come to make you a 
proposal. Young Esaf, the son of Ibrahim of our 
village, has fallen in love with Maini and wants to 
marry her. He is willing to pay the den mohur of 



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE 185 

Es. 100 which would be due from you in case of re- 
pudiation. Now we want you to divorce her." 

Eamzan was overcome by his wife's magnanimity, 
and the thought of losing her drove him to distrac- 
tion. " No ! " he shouted, " I won't divorce her. I'll 
fetch her back this very day ! " 

"That's quite out of the question," rejoined Sadhu. 
" Maini cannot bear her mother-in-law's cruelty, and 
I'm sure she'll never consent to live with you again. 
Besides, Esaf is a rich man and will make her happy. 
She shall marry him." 

" I say she shan't," said Eamzan emphatically. 

Sadhu got up and moved off, remarking, "Very 

well, I will go to the police station at once and 

charge you with attempting to kill her ! We shall 

soon worm the truth out of Maini, and get plenty 

•of eye-witnesses too." 

Eamzan was beside himself with terror. He fol- 
lowed Sadhu, clasped his feet, and groaned, " No, you 
won't do that ! I am ready to divorce Maini. Let 
Allah's will be done." 

" Ah," replied Sadhu, " so you can listen to reason 
after all. Come to our house to-morrow evening ; 
we will have witnesses ready, and Esaf will be there 
with the den mohur." 

Eamzan had a sleepless night and was too down- 
cast to work on the morrow. When evening came, 



186 TALES OF BENGAL 

he walked wearily to Simulgachi. There was quite 
a small crowd in Sadhu's courtyard. On one side 
sat Maini and some other women with faces closely 
covered ; Esaf and the witnesses were on the other. 
Between them was a mat, on which lay a bag full 
of money. Bamzan was received without salutations, 
and squatted down by Sadhu's side. 

Moslem husbands can get rid of their wives by re- 
peating the word talaq (surrender) thrice, in the pre- 
sence of witnesses. Every one expected him to utter 
the formula, which would release Maini from his 
power. However, he sat silent, with downcast eyes. 
After a minute or two, he rose and, looking steadily 
at Mami, was just about to speak, when she sprang 
forward, laid her hand on his arm, and said : " Surely 
you are not going to divorce me, your faithful wife, 
who loves you dearly and seeks only to make you 
happy ? What have I done to be treated thus ? " 

A murmur was heard in the assembly, but Sadhu 
raised his hand in token of silence. 

" Foolish girl ! " he exclaimed, " do you wish to 
return to a mother-in-law who hates and persecutes 
you ? Will Bamzan be able to protect you ? " Then 
lowering his voice, he added, " Is your life safe with 
those people ? " 

"Life and death," rejoined Maini, "are in Allah's 
hands. It is his will that we should fulfil our des- 



PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE 187 

tinies, and mine is to cling to my husband. I would 
not change him for Hatim Tai (a legendary hero, 
very rich and generous) himself ! " Then nestling 
closer to Ramzan, she pleaded in a voice of music, 
" Surely you don't want to get rid of me?" 

He was quite overcome and burst into tears. 

"No," he sobbed, "I will never separate from my 
treasure. Come back to me, and you need not fear 
my mother's tongue. She has left my house for good, 
and I swear by Allah, in the presence of all these 
people, that she shall not live with us again. You, 
Maini, shall be sole mistress of my house." 

Maini was overjoyed by this decision. She clapped 
her hands twice, and then, picking up the bag of 
money, said to the crestfallen Esaf, " Take back your 
rupees ; I am going home with my husband ". 

So speaking, she took Ramzan's hand and led him 
out of the house, while a great silence fell on the 
crowd, broken at length by many exclamations and 
a buzz of loud talk. My readers who know Maini's 
sweet nature will not be surprised to learn that her 
happiness was thenceforward without a single cloud. 



ABERDEEN : THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 



SOUTHERN REGIONAL L I B R A "Yii ib^im ^llTlil 




ii ii inn him 
AA 000 615 732 5