Stories of Bengalee Life/The Wiles of a Pleader/Chapter 1

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SUBODH Chandra Haldar had been practising as a pleader for four years now, but still he did not seem to be getting on well. At the time he took his degree in law, all his friends were unanimous in their opinion that he was a clever man and would rise in his profession quickly. But alas, they have proved false prophets. Yet, it cannot be said that this failure was due to his lack of learning or his want of tact. A graduate of the University—the different letters of the alphabet at the tail of his name bore testimony to his academical knowledge. Then, he was tactful beyond his years. Soon after he obtained his degree, he decided to go and start practice at the district bar of Dinajshahi. He had heard that there was plenty of legal work to be had there, and also that the local bar was not a strong one in point of ability. Before leaving Calcutta, he went to pay his respects to a vakil living at Bhowanipur, who had known Subodh for a number of years and was kind to him. Subodh carried a small canvas bag with him and after exchanging the usual salutations, he said to the vakil—

"Will you do me a favour, Sir?"

"what is it?"

"I have got some little presents for you here in this bag. Will you be good enough to accept them?"

This excited the old gentleman's curiosity not a little. "What is it, Subodh?" he enquired,—"What have you brought for me?"

Subodh opened the bag and drew out of it a new chapkan of shining black alpacca and a brand new shamla. Placing the articles before the vakil, he said—"Do me the favour to accept these as presents."

The gentleman was rather taken aback at this unexpected proposal and said—"Well, but what is the meaning of it?"

Subodh replied smiling—"My motives are not at all disinterested. I shall expect something in return from you also."

"Pray speak out. I don't understand you, Subodh. what can I do for you?"

Subodh said—"Kindly take these and let me have in return your old chapkan and shamla, if you don't mind."

The veteran pleader began to see light. He burst out laughing and said—"Bravo Subodh, a fine idea this, to be sure."

"Thanks very much"—said Subodh.—"You see, the position is this. I am going to try my luck in a town where I am a perfect stranger. That alone is damaging enough. Added to this, if the clients were to see me clad in a new chapkan and shamla they would at once discover that I am only a raw recruit. Who do you think would come near me then?"

The vakil was much amused and said—"Quite right, Subodh, you are perfectly right. Let me assure you that you would rise in your profession—and that, quickly. We want such acute men at the bar—we really do."

Subodh returned home in high spirits with an old chapkan and shamla in his bag. With a view to further conceal his youthfulness, he next went to a Kaviraj and bought a phial of medicated oil for applying to his forelocks and turning the hair grey. But in a moment of weakness he confided the secret to his wife. The next day he heard that the cat had knocked the bottle down from the table where it stood and all the contents were spilt on the floor.

But alas, how hard the times have become! A man such as this had been attending the Bar Library of Dinajshahi for four long years and still the clients were keeping their distance.

Subodh's house stood in a much frequented street of the town. It was a small two-storied building with a little compound in front and a gate just bordering the street. The rent of the house has remained unpaid for three or four months. The modi has run up a bill close on a hundred rupees. The Marwari who supplied him with clothes has stopped any further credit. The landlord, the modi, the Marwari have begun to grow rather impertinent to Subodh of late. Although Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) has withheld her favours from Subodh all these years, the goddess of children has been very good to him. He has had two daughters and a son born to him at Dinajshahi. He has also secured the friendship of a brother pleader, Jagat Prasanna Babu. Jagat's father was a local pleader before him and some of the old clients have not deserted the son.