True to His Salt.
Hiramani did not forget the thrashing given her by Debendra Babu for failing to cause a rupture between the Basu brothers. She took a vow of vengeance and laid in wait for an opportunity of fulfilling it. Meeting him one day in the village street, she asked with an air of mystery:—
“Have you heard the news?”
“What’s that?” replied Debendra Babu carelessly.
“It concerns the woman Siraji,” she whispered.
All Debendra Babu’s fears revived; he exclaimed: “Speak plainly, what is the matter?”
“The matter stands thus. You know that her case was hushed up by the police? Well, I hear on good authority that the District Magistrate has received an anonymous letter relating the real cause of her death and has ordered a fresh investigation. So I am afraid you will soon be in hot water again. As I am your well-wisher in spite of the cruel treatment I have received, I think it my duty to warn you of this new danger.”
Hiramani spoke in faltering accents and wiped away an imaginary tear with the corner of her cloth.
“How did yon learn all this?” asked Debendra Babu in deep anxiety.
“I got the news only last night from the wife of the new Sub-Inspector who has come here on transfer. On paying my respects to her, I was told in confidence that her husband had orders to make a searching inquiry into the cause of Siraji’s death.”
Debendra Babu saw that his secret was at the woman’s discretion. He answered in an apologetic tone: “It was certainly foolish of me to lose my temper with you, but I had some provocation. Forgive me, and let bye-gones be bye-gones. Whom do you suspect of sending the anonymous letter?”
Hiramani bit her lips; she knew the author, who was none other than herself, and replied: “It might have been written by Jadu Babu; but I suspect his brother Nalini, who is as venomous as a snake and hates you mortally”.
Debendra Babu stamped his foot in annoyance and, after musing awhile, asked, “What would you advise me to do?”
Hiramani wagged her head sententiously. “Babuji, I am afraid you are in a serious scrape. The matter has gone too far to be hushed up a second time. You cannot do anything directly without increasing the suspicion which attaches to you; but I will watch events and keep you informed of all that happens at the police station. You know I have friends there.”
Debendra Babu was profuse in his thanks. He pressed a couple of rupees into the old woman’s willing palm, saying: “Hiramani, I see that you are really my well-wisher. Come to my house as often as you like; and if you have anything particular to say to me, I shall always be glad to hear it—and grateful too.”
Then the pair separated, and Hiramani took advantage of the Babu’s invitation by visiting his daughter Kamini that very evening.