Stories of Bengalee Life/The Wiles of a Pleader/Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV

His only decent cutcherry dress spoilt, Subodh did not know how to attend the private interview.

Bath and breakfast over, he called on a friend who was a Deputy Magistrate, told him every thing and asked for the loan of a suit.

The Deputy said—"Certainly Subodh Babu, I will lend you a suit with great pleasure. But what puzzles me is this. You gentlemen who belong to an independent profession, why should you lend yourself to all this tomfoolery? We are servants of the Government and have no choice but to submit. But you—why go out of your way to decorate your house, attend the durbar, go to the private interview and all that?"

Subodh Babu felt discomfited. He found his voice to say—"His Honour himself has asked me to the private interview. Would it be proper for me not to attend?"

The Deputy Magistrate suddenly recollected that he had acted very unwisely in saying all this to Subodh Babu. What if his friend should go to the Collector and report the conversation? He would get into trouble with the authorities for such disloyal sentiments. Consequently he hastened to reply—"Oh yes, certainly—you must go. As His Honour has condescended to ask you personally, you ought to go by all means. Excuse me a moment, I will get you the suit."

The private interview was over. The display of fire-works in the evening was also accomplished. At nine o'clock, Subodh covering his face up carefully with a shawl, called on Jagat Babu.

Jagat welcomed him saying—"Bravo Subodh, Bravo! Things are turning out exactly as you said. Did you speak to the L. G. about a Government pleadership?"

"Oh no, that would have spoilt everything. He would at once have suspected that my loyalty was merely make-believe. Every thing in good time, my boy."

"What is your next step then?"

"Have you got telegram forms?"

"Yes."

"Let me have some, please."

Jagat Babu did as he was requested.

Subodh explained saying—"We ought to send a report to the Bengalee, the Amrita Bazar Patrika and the Bande Mataram."

"What about?"

"All about myself, of course."

"That has been done. The Bengalee correspondent Sukumar Babu has mentioned you in his report of the durbar. He has added also that you were the only member of the bar to attend."

"But has he mentioned the cow-dung and water incident?"

"I don't think he has."

"That's the most important thing. Look at this, I have drafted a telegram giving the full details. I don't think Sukumar has reviled me enough in his telegram. That is of prime importance. The cow-dung incident and the welcome to Pandemonium is highly dramatic and would tickle people's imagination immensely. These ought to be especially mentioned."

Jagat Babu copied out the draft telegram and sent it off immediately. Subodh then bade him good night.

The next morning as Subodh just came out and sat in his office, two Sub-Inspectors of Police came and saluted him. One said—"Is it true, Sir, that when you were returning from the durbar yesterday, somebody emptied a pail of cow-dung and water over your head from the roof of the house opposite?"

"Yes, it was so."

This has reached the ears of the Sahibs. Should you like to prosecute this case, the Superintendent of Police has ordered us to render you every possible assistance. We will find out for you who the culprits are and who can depose as witnesses. Unfortunately this is not a case cognisable by the police. Had it been so, we would have arrested yesterday all the inmates of the house, young and old, and clapped them into hazat. You ought to file a petition of complaint this very day."

Subodh replied—"But I haven't seen any one. Against whom should I complain?"

"We will immediately get you the names of all the young boys in that house. Their father, the pleader, must have abetted the offence. You mention them all as accused persons. Leave it to us to procure evidence against each and all of them. We will get the case proved to the very hilt."

Subodh remained in thoughtful silence for a little while. At last he said—"Give my salaams to the Police Sahib, Darogaji, and tell him that I very much appreciate his kindness. But as I have seen none and shall be able to identify none, it is absolutely no use lodging a complaint."

The Darogas left, very much disappointed.

Subodh Babu then began to pull at his hooka vigorously and thought—"Poor boys!—They have done me a very good turn indeed. By this time the news is all over Calcutta with the morning papers, I believe. This will go a long way towards the fulfilment of my desire."

Subodh was right. Within three days the whole country rang with the news. The vernacular papers, copying the item from their English contemporaries (without acknowledgment) wrote long leading articles in terms not exactly complimentary to Subodh Babu. Some editors wrote—"Such traitors to the country should forthwith be placed outside the pale of society." One facetious writer published a poem entitled—"The purification of Subodh Babu." In it he said that cow-dung and water was a highly purifying agent of sin. The contamination resulting to Subodh Babu from shaking hands with Mr. Fuller at the durbar, has been washed clean with cow-dung and water. Prominent mention of Subodh Babu was made in the columns of the Englishman and other Anglo-Indian dailies also. These papers wrote—"There is no doubt that at the present moment there are thousands of educated natives in the New Province who are truly loyal to the British Government; but they dare not give expression to their real sentiments for fear of being molested by the budmashes." They praised Subodh Babu's courage of conviction. On the other hand things were pretty hot for poor Subodh at Dinajshahi. The pleaders in the Bar Library hourly passed the most offensive remarks in his hearing. During his absence one member enquired of Jagat Babu—"I say, what is your friend's motive in behaving like this? Does he want to become a Deputy Magistrate, or a Police Inspector, or what?"

Jagat Babu replied with evident annoyance—"Don't ask me, for I am as much puzzled as you are."

"But he is such a friend of yours;—you ought to know."

"Friend indeed! I refuse to recognise a man of such a disgraceful character as friend."

"Have you had no talk with him? what ever is the matter with him? Has he gone mad?"

"I have not been on speaking terms with him since that day"—replied Jagat, with much dignity.