A Brahman’s Curse.
Despite his lack of training Samarendra Babu had great capacities for business, and seldom lost a chance of profit-making. He saw that people around him stood in constant need of funds to defray the cost of religious and family rites, and were ready to pay 60 per cent for loans—at least they undertook to do so. It occurred to him that if he lent money on unimpeachable security at something under the market rates, he could not fail to make a large fortune. Soon after he had set up as a banker, the neighbours flocked to him for advances, which he granted only to such as could offer substantial security; his charges by way of interest being 30 to 40 per cent. He also started a business in lending ryots rice for their seed-grain and support till the harvest should be reaped. It is needless to add that his clients paid heavily for this accommodation. So rapidly did his dealings increase that he sought an agent to represent him at the district headquarters; and particularly to buy up defaulters’ estates at the auctions which are held periodically under Government auspices. His choice fell upon one Bipinbehari Bhur, who had a widespread reputation for acuteness. It was not belied. In less than a year Bipin had secured for his master estates yielding a net income of nearly Rs. 1,200, which had cost a mere song at auction. Samarendra Babu never failed to reward him for such bargains. On one occasion he had such a slice of luck that it is worth while to narrate it in some detail.
He had just retired to rest for the night, when a servant knocked at the door to say that Bipin had come on very urgent business. Samarendra Babu went downstairs to his parlour, clad in a wrapper, to find his agent pacing up and down in evident agitation. After the usual compliments had been exchanged, he asked why Bipin had called so late.
“I have bad news for you, Mahasay,” was the reply. “You remember buying the Shibprakash estate at last auction? Well, that property may slip through your fingers.” He paused to watch the effect of the announcement on his master, and then went on: “The late proprietor has lodged an objection to its sale, on the ground that no arrears were due, producing a receipt to substantiate his contention. The Collector has just called on us to show cause against the cancellation of the sale and will take the case up the day after to-morrow.”
Samarendra was thunderstruck by this information, the Shibprakash estate being one of the best bargains he had ever got. After pondering a while, he asked, “What would you advise me to do? I am afraid it is hopeless to contend against a receipt in full!”
Bipin was not so easily disheartened. He replied, “Let us consult our pleader, Asu Babu, who is sure to have some plan for upholding the sale. He won’t ask more than Rs. 100, which is not a tenth of the annual profits for Shibprakash.” This course commended itself to Samarendra, who sent his headman back to Ghoria, promising to follow next day, with the necessary sinews of war. He arrived betimes at Bipin’s house there, and took him to the Bar Library, where Asu Babu was sure to be found when not engaged in Court. A few minutes later the limb of the law came in, and asked what business brought Samarendra to Ghoria.