I could indulge in the luxury of a buggy and horse. I had a room in the best boarding house in Calcutta, in which lived young civilians or competition-wallahs as they were then styled, studying the languages prior to being drafted somewhere up-country, barristers, lawyers, merchants, and brokers. For this I paid Rs. 90 per month. My bearer, khit, and dhobi cost me a further Rs. 20—the two first Rs. 8 each and the latter Rs. 4. House-rent was ridiculously cheap in comparison with the rates of the present day. As far as I recollect, the biggest house in Chowringhee was obtainable for Rs. 400 or Rs. 450 at the outside. No. 3, London Street, where my Burra Sahib then lived, was only Rs. 300 a month. A horse and syce cost about Rs. 25 a month to keep, and everything else in proportion. People were then very simple and inexpensive in their tastes. There was not, I think, the same inclination to spend money, and, as a matter of fact, there were not so many opportunities of doing so. For one thing, there were no theatres and other places of amusement, and trips home and even to the hills were few and far between. Ladies in those days thought nothing of staying with their husbands in Calcutta for several consecutive years, and yet they lived happily and contentedly through it all. To wind up the situation as regards expenses, I should say roundly that they are now about double what they were then.
[Illustration: Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann Howrah Bridge from Calcutta side.]
[Illustration: View of Harrison Road from Howrah Bridge.]
I should just like to relate a little episode that occurred in my very early days in Calcutta, which nearly resulted disastrously for every one concerned. It will serve, amongst other things, to enlighten people of the present generation as to the wide difference that subsists between that time and the present in respect of the treatment of policy-holders generally by insurance companies. The firm with which I was then connected were agents of a Hongkong house, and one of our duties was to pay to the Universal Assurance Company, half-yearly, the premium on a policy on the life of a man who was staying in England. I forget exactly what the amount Was, but I recollect it was something considerable. One fine day I was startled beyond measure by the receipt of a notice from the then agents, Gordon Stewart & Co., to the effect that the days of grace having expired for payment of the premium, the policy in question under the rules had lapsed and had been consequently cancelled. My feelings can be better imagined than described, as I alone was responsible, and I was fully aware of the gravity of the position. I made a clean breast of the state of affairs to my Burra Sahib, and he instructed me to go straight over to the agents and explain matters, and at the same time authorised me to offer to pay anything they might see fit to impose