What is this? Our Chakua sub-treasury looted! A remittance of seven thousand five hundred rupees was due from there to headquarters. The local cashier had changed the cash at the Government Treasury into small currency notes for convenience in carrying, and had kept them ready in bundles. In the middle of the night an armed band had raided the room, and wounded Kasim, the man on guard. The curious part of it was that they had taken only six thousand rupees and left the rest scattered on the floor, though it would have been as easy to carry that away also. Anyhow, the raid of the dacoits was over; now the police raid would begin. Peace was out of the question.
When I went inside, I found the news had travelled before me. "What a terrible thing, brother," exclaimed the Bara Rani. "Whatever shall we do?"
I made light of the matter to reassure her. "We still have something left," I said with a smile. "We shall manage to get along somehow."
"Don't joke about it, brother dear. Why are they all so angry with you? Can't you humour them? Why put everybody out?" "I cannot let the country go to rack and ruin, even if that would please everybody."
"That was a shocking thing they did at the burning-grounds. It's a horrid shame to treat you so. The Chota Rani has got rid of all her fears by dint of the Englishwoman's teaching, but as for me, I had to send for the priest to avert the omen before I could get any peace of mind. For my sake, dear, do get away to Calcutta. I tremble to think what they may do, if you stay on here."
My sister-in-law's genuine anxiety touched me deeply.
"And, brother," she went on, "did I not warn you, it was not well to keep so much money in your room? They might get wind of it any day. It is not the money--but who knows..."
To calm her I promised to remove the money to the treasury at once, and then get it away to Calcutta with the first escort going. We went together to my bedroom. The dressing-room door was shut. When I knocked, Bimala called out: "I am dressing."
"I wonder at the Chota Rani," exclaimed my sister-in-law, "dressing so early in the day! One of their Bande Mataram meetings, I suppose. Robber Queen!" she called out in jest to Bimala. "Are you counting your spoils inside?"
"I will attend to the money a little later," I said, as I came away to my office room outside.
I found the Police Inspector waiting for me. "Any trace of the dacoits?" I asked.
"I have my suspicions."
"Kasim, the guard."
"Kasim? But was he not wounded?"
"A mere nothing. A flesh wound on the leg. Probably self- inflicted."
"But I cannot bring myself to believe it. He is such a trusted servant."
"You may have trusted him, but that does not prevent his being a thief. Have I not seen men trusted for twenty years together, suddenly developing..."
"Even if it were so, I could not send him to gaol. But why should he have left the rest of the money lying about?"
"To put us off the scent. Whatever you may say, Maharaja, he must be an old hand at the game. He mounts guard during his watch, right enough, but I feel sure he has a finger in all the dacoities going on in the neighbourhood."
With this the Inspector proceeded to recount the various methods by which it was possible to be concerned in a dacoity twenty or thirty miles away, and yet be back in time for duty.
"Have you brought Kasim here?" I asked.
"No," was the reply, "he is in the lock-up. The Magistrate is due for the investigation."
"I want to see him," I said.
When I went to his cell he fell at my feet, weeping. "In God's name," he said, "I swear I did not do this thing."
"I do not doubt you, Kasim," I assured him. "Fear nothing. They can do nothing to you, if you are innocent."
Kasim, however, was unable to give a coherent account of the incident. He was obviously exaggerating. Four or five hundred men, big guns, numberless swords, figured in his narrative. It must have been either his disturbed state of mind or a desire to account for his easy defeat. He would have it that this was Harish Kundu's doing; he was even sure he had heard the voice of Ekram, the head retainer of the Kundus.
"Look here, Kasim," I had to warn him, "don't you be dragging other people in with your stories. You are not called upon to make out a case against Harish Kundu, or anybody else."