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Surendranath Banerjea
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 118 pages of information about Tales of Bengal.

CHAPTER XV

A Tame Rabbit.

When a penniless Hindu marries into a wealthy family he is sorely tempted to live with, and upon, his father-in-law.  But the ease thus secured is unattended by dignity.  The gharjamai, “son-in-law of the house,” as he is styled, shocks public opinion, which holds it disgraceful for an able-bodied man to eat the bread of idleness.  Pulin incurred a certain degree of opprobrium by quartering himself on Debendra Babu; neighbours treated him with scant courtesy, and the very household servants made him feel that he was a person of small importance.  He bore contumely with patience, looking forward to the time when Debendra Babu’s decease would give him a recognised position.  His wife was far more ambitious.  She objected strongly to sharing her husband’s loss of social standing and frequently reproached him with submitting to be her father’s annadas (rice-slave).

So, one morning, he poured his sorrows into Nalini’s sympathetic ear.

“Mahasay,” he said, “you know that people are inclined to blame me for living in idleness, and I do indeed long to chalk out a career for myself.  But I don’t know how to set about it and have no patron to back me.  Do you happen to know of any job which would give me enough to live on?  Salary is less an object with me than prospects.  I would gladly accept a mastership in some high school.”

“You are quite right in seeking independence,” replied Nalini, “and I shall be glad to help you.  But lower-grade teachers are miserably paid, and their prospects are no better.  It is only graduates who can aspire to a head-mastership.  Are you one?”

“No, sir, but I passed the F.A. examination in 1897.”

“Ah, then, you are a Diamond Jubilee man—­that’s a good omen,” rejoined Nalini, with a shade of sarcasm in his voice.  “What were your English text-books?”

“I read Milton’s Absalom and Achitophel, Dryden’s Holy Grail, and many other poems, but I’m not sure of their titles after all these years.”

Nalini suspected that his friend’s English lore was somewhat rusty.  In order to test him further, he asked, “Can you tell me who wrote ’Life is real, life is earnest,’—­that line applies to you!”

Pulin fidgeted about before answering.  “It must have been Tennyson—­or was it Wordsworth?  I never could keep poetry in my head.”

Nalini thought that an F.A. might have remembered Longfellow’s Psalm of Life, but he refrained from airing superior knowledge.

“Do you know any mathematics?” he inquired.

“Mathematics!” replied Pulin joyously.  “Why, they’re my forte—–­I am quite at home in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.  Please ask me any question you like.”

“Well, let us have Prop. 30, Book I. of Euclid.”

Pulin rattled off Proposition 13 of that book, without the aid of a diagram.  Nalini now saw that the young man’s mental equipment was of the slenderest description.  He said, “Well, you may call on me another day, when I may be able to tell you of some vacancy”.

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