A Roland for His Oliver.
Nagendra’s soul was not haunted by any such ambitions. He was content with the surplus profits from his landed estates, which he did not invest in trade or even Government paper, but hoarded in a safe. By slow degrees he amassed a small fortune, and when Samarendra’s growing impecuniosity forced him to ask his brother for a loan of Rs. 2,000, it was readily granted on a mere note of hand. In less than six months the borrower died and, after waiting as long, Nagendra pressed his sister-in-law for payment of the debt. She referred him to her brother, Priyanath Guha, who, she said, was manager of what property she had left. This man was a scoundrel of the deepest dye, and Samarendra, who was fully aware of the fact, never allowed him inside the house. After his death Priya made himself so useful to the widow that she invited him to live in her house and trusted him implicitly. When the neighbours learnt this arrangement they whispered that the poor woman would inevitably be reduced to beggary.
Nagendra reluctantly applied to Priya for a refund of the loan, producing Samarendra’s note of hand, which was about a year overdue. After examining it, Priya said:—
“The matter is simple enough. My sister must repay you; but you know the muddle in which her husband’s affairs were left, and I’m sure you won’t refuse to renew the bond.”
Nagendra replied that he would gladly give his sister any reasonable time to discharge her debt.
“Very well,” rejoined Priya. “What do you say to my renewing this note of hand for six months, with 12 per cent. interest?”
“I have no objection,” said Nagendra, “but you must satisfy me first that you hold a general power of attorney to act for her.”
“Oh, you doubt my word,” sneered Priya, “but I don’t blame you; such is the way of the world.”
So saying he took a registered power of attorney out of his sister’s strong box, which Nagendra saw entitled him to transact any business whatever relating to her estate. He handed the bond to Priya and asked him to endorse the conditions agreed on. While doing so Priya looked up. “Have you any objection,” he asked, “to my antedating the renewal a week or so. The fact is, Baisakh 12th has always been a lucky day in my family and I should like to date my endorsement then.”
“Just as you like,” answered Nagendra indifferently; and after reading the endorsement through very carefully he took the note of hand away without saluting Priya.
Not hearing from him when the note matured, Nagendra called at his sister’s house and pressed Priya, whom he found there, for payment of the Rs. 2,000 and interest.
Priya gazed at him with feigned astonishment “What loan are you talking about?” he asked.
Nagendra attempted to jog his memory, but he stoutly denied having renewed any note of hand which purported to have been executed by Samarendra. When the document was shown him, he boldly declared that the endorsement was a forgery, and further that the handwriting on the note of hand itself was not Samarendra’s. Nagendra stood aghast for awhile and, on regaining his wits, he said, “I ought to have known better than trust a haramzada like you!”