Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Tales of Bengal by S. B. Banerjea

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and the Distributed Proofreaders Team



S. B. Banerjea

Edited by

Francis Henry Skrine.


I. The Pride of Kadampur
II. The Rival Markets
III. A Foul Conspiracy
IV. The Biter Bitten
V. All's Well That Ends Well
VI. An Outrageous Swindle
VII. The Virtue of Economy
VIII. A Peacemaker
IX. A Brahman's Curse
X. A Roland for His Oliver
XI. Ramda
XII. A Rift in the Lute
XIII. Debenbra Babu in Trouble
XIV. True to His Salt
XV. A Tame Rabbit
XVI. Gobardhan's Triumph
XVII. Patience is a Virtue


That "east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet,"
is an axiom with most Englishmen to whom the oriental character seems
an insoluble 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 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-selection, gave the invaders an easy victory over the
negroid hunters and fishermen who peopled India. All races of Aryan
descent exhibit the same characteristics. 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; varna 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 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 Hindustan witnessed a conflict between the
religious and secular arms. Brahminism had the terrors of 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. Ritual becomes increasingly
elaborate: metaphysical dogma grows too subtle for a layman's
comprehension. Commercialism 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 Christianity. 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 Dhyan or formula for contemplating her glories, is a tissue
of unspeakable obscenity. Most Hindus are Saktas, 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 received Brahminism in
a corrupt and degenerate form. According to legend, King Adisur,
who reigned there in the ninth century of our era, imported five
priests from Kanauj to perform indispensable 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 invasion of India: the
second was inspired by religion. 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 instincts; within a century of
the founder's death his successors had conquered Central Asia, and
gained a permanent footing in Europe. In the tenth century 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 element 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 population,
represent compulsory conversions effected between the thirteenth
and seventeenth centuries. Eight hundred years of close contact have
abated religious 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 political 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 essentials 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 elements in society to his
side and linked them in the bonds of sympathy.

Religion in its highest phase is coloured by mysticism which
seeks emblems of the hidden source of harmony in every form of
life. Anthropomorphic conceptions are laid aside; ritual is abandoned
as savouring of magic; hierocracy as part of an obsolete 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
influence incarnate as Rama, and rehandled Valmiki's great epic, the
Ramayana, in the faint rays of Christian 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 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
England. 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 buffetings
with resignation: while Rama reigns all is well.

If the hereditary principle were sound, the Empire cemented together by
Akbar's statecraft might have defied aggression. His successors were
debauchees or fanatics. They neglected the army; a recrudescence of
the nomad instinct sent them wandering over India with a locust-like
horde of followers; Hindus were persecuted, and their temples were
destroyed. So the military castes whose religion was threatened, rose
in revolt; Viceroys threw off allegiance, 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
Indian commerce, in which our ancestors were victorious 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 administration 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 L241,000,000, is an
unmixed benefit. The empire exports food and raw materials, robbing
the soil of priceless constituents, and buys manufactured goods which
ought to be produced at home. Foreign commerce is stimulated by the
home charges, which average L18,000,000, and it received an indirect
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 L32,000,000, 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. Banerjea'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 (barbarians); and it keeps
orthodox Hindus in a state of suppressed revolt. One centre of the
insidious 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 universal. 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. Mystical 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 reverence 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 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 Bengal. 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 another 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 Prance was undergoing. Zemindars were presented with
the land for which they had been mere rakers-in of revenue. It was
parcelled out into "estates," which might be bought and sold like
moveable property. A tax levied at customary 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
increment from tillers of the soil. In 1765 the land revenue amounted
to L3,400,000, of which L258,000 was allotted to zemindars. A century
afterwards their net profits were estimated at L12,000,000, 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 depends, into conflict with
crude animal instincts. In days of American slavery the planter's
interest prompted him to treat his human cattle with consideration,
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 Robert 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 policemen. The Lieutenant-Governor
of Eastern Bengal does justice to a much-abused service in his
Administrative Report for 1907-8. His Honour "believes the force to be
a hard-working body of Government servants, the difficulties, trials,
and even dangers of whose duties it is impossible for the public at
large really to appreciate". He acknowledges that "India 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 experience 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 introduction of 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
sweetness 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" 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-control. Technical education is still in its infancy; and
the aesthetic instinct which lies dormant in every Aryan's brain is
unawakened. A race which invented the loom now invents nothing but
grievances. In 1901 Bengal possessed 69,000 schools and colleges,
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, unmitigated by the social instinct. Nor is the
training of covenanted civilians more satisfactory. In 1909 only 1 out
of 50 selected candidates presented himself 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.

Agriculture.--Seventy-two per cent. of the 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
agriculture 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 L25,000,000 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 Raiffeisen 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 bought many thousands of little iron sugar mills,
placed on the market a generation back by some English speculators,
and will adopt any improvements 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 injunction "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," 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 boundless charity. There are no poor laws,
and the struggle for life is very severe; yet the aged and infirm,
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 advance 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
feigning 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 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 Panohayat (a
committee of five which arbitrates in private disputes). 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 advantage 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 unfavourably 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 community numbering 50,000,000 for inherited
defects. Difference of environment and social customs will account
for the superior virility of Europeans as compared with their distant
kinsmen whose lot is cast in the sweltering tropics. But no one who
has 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 Vidyasagar 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
English 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 Mohammadan 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 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 occasion
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 premature 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 contain 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
recognised no community can eradicate the vices of superstition.

The "unrest" of which we hear so much finds no echo in Mr. Banerjea's
pages. It is, indeed, confined 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
appealing 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 grovel before the goddess
Kali. But the unrest 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 diastole; alternations of day and night, of season
and tide, are reflected in the history of our race. Progress
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 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 susceptible of control by enlightened will-power. Will peace
be restored by the gift of constitutional government at a crisis when
the august Mother of Parliaments 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 Dals--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. Skrine.


The Pride of Kadampur.

Kadampur is a country village which is destitute of natural
or artificial attractions and quite unknown to fame. Its census
population is barely 1,500, four-fifths of whom are low-caste Hindus,
engaged in cultivation and river-fishing; the rest Mohammadans, who
follow the same avocations but dwell in a Para (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 residence, 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 Mahals
(wings)--the first inhabited by men-folk; the second sacred to the
ladies and their attendants. Behind it stood the kitchen; and the
Pujardalan (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 conversation,
card-playing, and chess. Among the group assembled, one crisp afternoon
in February, was an old gentleman, called Shamsundar Ghosh, and known
to hosts of friends as "Sham Babu". He was head clerk in a Calcutta
merchant's office, drawing Rs. 60 a month (L48 a year at par),
which sufficed for the support of his wife and a son and daughter,
respectively named Susil and Shaibalini. After a vain attempt 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 flocked 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.

"True," observed Sham Babu, "but 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 Rs. 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 material; and as for labour, all you have
to do is to order some of your ryots (tenants) who are behindhand
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 begar (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 allotted, besides tolls on the usual scale. At least Rs. 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 starting a bi-weekly market on a vacant plot measuring
one Bigha (one-third of an acre), known as the Kamarbari (Anglice,
"Abode of Blacksmiths"). On an auspicious day towards the end of April,
he inaugurated the new enterprise with some ceremony. His own ryots
were enjoined to attend; shopkeepers, hucksters, and fishermen who
had hitherto gone much further afield, came in considerable numbers;
and business was amazingly brisk. Zemindars (landed proprietors)
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
market. Kumodini Babu, however, began to reap where he had sown in
less than a fortnight. Not an inch of space in the Karmarbari remained
unoccupied; 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 comparative
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 after a heavy day at office.

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

"Because the moon can't do otherwise," she answered, with a faint
smile. "But, joking apart, I want 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, suggested 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 evening he called
on Kumodini Babu, whom he found reading the Mahabharata (an epic
poem). After dwelling now on this matter, now on that, he asked

"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 the B.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 promising
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 elaqa
(lit. jurisdiction). If you approve, I will gladly be your spokesman
with her family."

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 survival of the tribal organisation which
preceded the family almost everywhere. According to tradition, a King
of Bengal named Adisur imported five Brahmans, 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 companions 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 Hundred". The ancient Greeks reckoned
their neighbours beyond the Hellenic pale as "barbarians". So Brahmans
and Kayasthas of Central Bengal styled their congeners north of the
Ganges Rarh, 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 reflecting 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 reply, "and personally I
am above these old-fashioned prejudices. My daughter-in-law may be
Dakhin Rarhi, 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 Dena Paona
(a word answering to our 'settlements')?"

"Ram, Ram!" exclaimed Kumodini Babu. "Am 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 Kumodini Babu was not averse to the match,
but his face fell on 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 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 regarding the marriage ceremonies. It passed
off without a hitch, and the purohit (family priest) fixed Sravan
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 relatives. 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 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, expressing 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 Ghaneshyam Babu's heart by a personal appeal, but the
anger caused by his want of brotherly feeling prevailed. 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 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 rumination, before separating with emphatic
acknowledgments 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
(bau) distributes cooked rice (bhat) with her own hands to bidden
guests, in token of her reception into her husband's family and
clan. Kumodini Babu had requisitioned an immense supply of dainties
from local goalas (dairymen) and moiras (confectioners) with a view
to eclipsing all previous festivals of the kind.

Early in the morning of the Bau-Bhat day a palanquin 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, 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 supervision 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 Kayasthas 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 Babu'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 Ramani'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 lathials (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, 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, brinjals (egg-plants), and a lot of other

"Why don't you attend Ramani Babu's market?"

"Because it does not pay me to go there."

"So you used to take your vegetables to Ramani 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 viciously.

"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 thoroughly frightened. "I am
a very poor man, and Ramani Babu is my father and mother. He cannot
object 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 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 amplifications, of course. Kumodini Babu heard
that his rival had arrested a hundred frequenters of his market 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 interior 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.

Meantime Ramani Babu's market bailiff was not idle. Knowing that
he had acted illegally, he resolved to "square" the executive. So,
one evening, he persuaded 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-Inspector, 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

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 Ramani 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 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 perpetrated
under the pretence of law.

One evening, while Kumodini Babu was conning the Mahabharata (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 constable 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 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 prostration 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, releasing the
prisoner on personal recognisance of Rs. 10,000 and two sureties of
Rs. 5,000. The necessary security was immediately forthcoming, and
Kumodini Babu found himself temporarily a free man, after enduring
nearly forty-eight hours of unspeakable misery in the station lock-up.

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 committed 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 forthcoming, 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 severe strictures on the local police, and even suggested
their prosecution. Thus, after weeks of agonising suspense and an
expenditure on legal fees running into thousands of rupees, Kumodini
Babu was declared 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 administration. 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 downcast 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, vis., on the 28th January, March, June and September. Any one
failing to do so before sunset on these dates becomes a defaulter,
and his estate is put up to auction in order to satisfy the demand,
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 kist (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.

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 nothing if the annual rains should fail, or there be
an excess 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 Mahajan (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 vegetables 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 moneylender. At this crisis
he received a written notice ordering him to attend Ramani Babu's
kucheri (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,
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 n the objector to
produce his receipt. This was not forthcoming for the simple reason
that Ramani had mislaid it. He asked the bailiff to show him the
ledger account, and after spelling through the items laboriously
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 dakhilas (rent receipts) which landlords
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 declined 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 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 Ramani 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 Ramani 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 administered
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.

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

"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 evidence 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, haramzudu (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 obsequious crowd, and at length he fell senseless on the floor.

"Look, he is shamming," observed Ramani Babu; "drag 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 demanded, and once more he
feebly protested that he could not discharge them. Thereon Ramani
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 Ramani
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 Ramani Babu ordered his hut
to be levelled with the ground and pulse to be sown on its site,
as a punishment 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 Ramani Babu and his servants at the police station and intended
going to Ghoria, next day, to complain 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 departure 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 Ramani 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 clubmen employed by Ramani 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
unfolded 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 fortnight,
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
hearing 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,
inasmuch 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 conviction 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 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 relatives 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 information against Karim.

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 ignominiously 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 instigated 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 Ramani 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.

In due course the charge preferred by Sadhu against Ramani 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! (justice!). 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 confession, whatever may
happen to me. I was sent for about a month ago by my landlord Ramani
Babu, who ordered me to insult some woman of Sadhu's household, in
order that he might be excommunicated. 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 Ramani Babu, he sent me in charge of a Barkamduz (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 closely about my 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
evidence 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 entirely
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 Ramani Babu and his bailiff, Srikrishna, for
conspiring to charge an innocent man with murder. Both were brought
to trial and, despite the advocacy of a Calcutta barrister, they each
received a sentence of six months' rigorous imprisonment. Justice,
lame-footed as she is, at length overtook a pair of notorious


The Biter Bitten.

Babu Chandra Mohan Bai, 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 mysteries. But wealth conceals every defect, and no one troubled
to inquire into Chandra Babu's antecedents. 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 Kadampur. When people learnt that
a new Shylock was at their service, they flocked to him in times of
stress. His usual rate of interest being only 5 per cent, per mensem,
he cut into the business of other moneylenders, and in four or five
years had no serious 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 tejarati business
(loans of rice, for seed and maintenance during the "slack" months,
repaid in kind, with heavy interest, after the harvest). Although few
Khataks (customers) were able to extricate their property from his
clutches or clear off their debit balances, Chandra Babu continued 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 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 unlucky. 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 badmash (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 high dudgeon, inviting Chandra Babu to do his worst, and the latter
forthwith concocted a scheme of vengeance 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, induced him to make a false return of service. In
due course the suit came on for hearing, and as the defendant was of
course absent, it was decreed against him ex parte. Execution being
also granted, Santi accompanied 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 childhood 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 asked Santi whether the debtor did not owe a bill
of costs. The manager referred to his books and declared that Rs. 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 remarked 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
developments. Presently the door was forced open, and a crowd poured
into the room. Chandra Babu's hiding place was soon discovered by
the dacoits (gang robbers), who dragged him out by the legs and
demanded his keys on pain of instant death. Seeing a rusty talwar
(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 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 Khataks (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 extorted from us Rs. 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 Rs. 6,250 you
owe us."

Thereon the dacoits counted out cash to that amount and no more,
which was placed in bags containing Rs. 1,000 each, ready for
removal. Chandra Babu heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that he had
got off rather cheaply, but his troubles were not 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 recovering 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. The whole
of Kadampur and Simulgachi are clamouring 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 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 dispersed, well satisfied with their
night's work.

Chandra Babu's neighbours made no sign until the dacoits were well
out of hearing, when they flocked in to unloose his bonds and offer
hypocritical condolences. 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 statement, they endeavoured to secure additional
evidence, but Chandra Babu was so cordially disliked, and the 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 puja
or namaz (Mohammadan prayers) according to the religion they severally


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 attains 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 offered 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 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
Government 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 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". Samarendra 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 explanation. Samarendra was speechless. After waiting 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 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, however brilliant their acquirements may be. Poor
Samarendra 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 pakka dekha (betrothal)
should be celebrated on 12th November at Kumodini 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 prepare
curries, pillaos and sweetmeats under the supervision 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 conducted to
seats, where a plentiful supply of tobacco 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 respectfully. He took up some dhan, durba and
chandan (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 Rs. 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 Rs. 50 for the priest and servants of his
household. A feast followed on the same scale as the previous one.

Kumodini Babu's family priest decided that Asar 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 subsequent 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 conducted her to another room where a janti
(instrument 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 partaking
of it they were dismissed with a largesse of one rupee each. During
the next two days presents continued 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. Amarendra Babu had resolved to marry his son in a style 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 dowry. All
agreed that Rs. 2,000 worth of ornaments; Rs. 1,001 in cash; Rs. 500
for Barabharan (gifts to a bridegroom); and Rs. 500 for Phulsajya
(lit. a bed of flowers) would be sufficient. Thus Kumodini Babu
provided Rs. 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 constables 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 shortcomings
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 sat with eyes fixed steadily on the
ground, while his friends squatted round and cracked jokes at his
expense. He smiled, but modestly implored them not to put him out of
countenance. The Lagna (auspicious 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 examining 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
Rs. 4,000 in cash, Rs. 2,000 in respect of Barabharan and Phulsajya
and Rs. 4,000 worth of jewellery--Rs. 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 Rs. 1,001 was
all he could afford, Amarendra Babu's indignation knew no bounds. He
demanded Rs. 5,000, declaring that if it were not paid on the nail,
he would take his son away! The 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. Kumodini
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 unexpected
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 (confectioners) 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 something 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."

"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 position 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." He ran to the inner apartments, and communicated Sham
Babu's offer to his near relatives. This unexpected solution of the
dilemma filled them with surprise; 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 astounding 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 Satpak (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 bridegroom were conducted to an inner
apartment. Susil 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 Sasil and Basumati to his own
home, where the Bau-Bhat ceremony 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 Outrageous Swindle

Amarendra Babu had expected Kumodini Babu to run after him,
with entreaties to return and the promise of a note of hand for
Rs. 4,000. Disappointment 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 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 intelligent 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 phulsajya Rs. 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 referring to a
panjika (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 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, presently
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 bharis (forty-eight ounces), and their
total value, at Rs. 20 per bhari, 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. Jogesh at once fell in with the suggestion,
and this tradesman, on arrival, valued them at Rs. 2,700.

Rashbehari Babu's scepticism vanished, and he assented to his
nephew's whispered hint that they need not ask Jogesh to produce
the barabharan. He, however, 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 Rs. 800 for the two. Amarendra'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 Rashbehari
Babu remained behind at Jogesh's to receive the cash. On mentioning
this little formality he was assured that the sum of Rs. 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 explanation. He
sat in the parlour, in evident expectation 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 Rs. 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, whatever 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 inquiries 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 Rs. 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 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 determined 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-Bhat ceremony performed. But Jogesh was on the alert;
he managed to communicate 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

Book of the day: