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Bengal Dacoits and Tigers/Dacoit Stories/An Unfaithful Servant

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AN UNFAITHFUL SERVANT

A rich zemindar named Bose lived in Lucknow. He had emigrated there from Bengal, acquired land there, and studied the language until he could speak Urdu like a Hindustanee. He became so much a native of Lucknow that, when business took him down to Calcutta, he felt himself a foreigner and stranger in Bengal.

His wife was an invalid and, as the years told on her, he had frequently to take her to Calcutta for medical advice and treatment. Their only child was a daughter who was the darling of their household. The second favourite in the family was a boy called Ram, who though really a servant was treated like a son of the house and both Mr. and Mrs. Bose were very fond of him.

When quite a small boy, Ram had been taken into service in the Bose menagé; and as his parents were both dead and he was remarkably quick and intelligent, the zemindar took a fatherly interest in the lad and had him taught to read and write. The teacher thought so highly of Ram's intellect that he was taught one subject after another by his indulgent master, and when he grew older, was especially educated and trained for estate work. When his education was finished he was appointed to be confidential clerk and cashier, and gradually grew to know as much of Bose's money affairs as the zemindar did himself. Whenever the rich man went on his estate, Ram went with him. At times of collection, Ram had the office of counting the silver and locking it up in the cash box. Frequently thousands of rupees passed through his hands in this way, and he alone always knew what amount of money the cash box contained.

One year, Bose and the faithful Ram had been round the zemindari, collecting rents; and, as many who had been in arrears paid up, they returned with a larger sum of money than usual. This was locked up in the cash box and Bose told his wife in Ram's hearing that next day he should deposit it in the bank. The cash box was always kept at night on a table by the zemindar's bed-side.

The Boses had a large house in Lucknow and it was nearly always full, as Mrs. Bose was fond of company and they invariably had a number of relatives and friends staying with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bose slept upstairs in a large south room, which opened into another large room alongside of it. The only furniture in their room was their two beds and a table which stood between the beds to hold the cash box and a lantern.

The night of the zemindar's return, his wife could not sleep. She had been ill and she counted the hours as the night wore on. The light of the lantern showed her husband's sleeping form, the naked sword which always hung at his bedpost, and the bare white-washed walls of the room. As she lay awake, Mrs. Bose thought she heard a noise at the door leading into the other room. The noise came again and she listened intently. Some one opened the door and then shut it. Mrs. Bose kept still, listened and watched. Some one again opened and shut the door gently, then again and again. It struck Mrs. Bose that this was being done to ascertain whether the inmates of the room were asleep or awake. She continued to keep perfectly still.

Now the door was pushed wide open and Ram entered, and closed the door softly behind him. When Mrs. Bose saw him enter, her first thought was that he was the bearer of some bad news, and she very nearly asked him what was the matter. But his stealthy movements made her feign sleep and see what he was about; and as he approached her bed on tiptoe, she closed her eyes and lay as if peacefully sleeping. He stood beside the bed apparently watching her. Mrs. Bose's nerves were tingling with fear, and it took all her powers of self-control to keep her eyes closed and her breath steady. Just as the effort seemed more than she could keep up, Ram moved away from her bed.

Through her eye-lashes she watched him creep noiselessly to the table and examine the cash box. Then he returned to the side of her bed and coughed. Mrs. Bose again succeeded in keeping perfectly still and he moved round to his master's bedside. Here he stood motionless for some seconds and then unfastened the sword. The zemindar was sleeping heavily and as he detached the sword Ram smiled to himself as if everything was very satisfactory. He grasped the sword in his right hand and made a trial stroke. Then, smiling again, he lifted the curtain of the zemindar's bed with his left hand.

Mrs. Bose felt sure that his motive was murder as well as robbery, and she now shrieked loudly for aid. At the first sound of her voice Ram dropped the sword and fled from the room. His wife's

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piercing screams of "Murder! Help!" woke the zemindar, but by the time he understood what had taken place Ram had let himself out of the house and was gone.

When morning came the police were informed and the zenindar offered a handsome reward for the arrest of Ram; but though the police hunted in Lucknow and elsewhere and also searched the village where Ram's relatives lived, no one knew anything of him and he was never again heard of in Lucknow.

Some years after, the old zemindar died and one of the last remarks he made was: "I should like to know what has happened to poor Ram." He had never forgotten his affection for his old protege, and had quite forgiven him for his ungratefulness.

 

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