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.