Stories of Bengalee Life/Swift Retribution/Chapter 6

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VI

It was dusk. The Doctor was sitting inside his house, surrounded by his wife and daughters. The false accusation against his sons, the disgrace and the insult he had suffered, had cast a gloom over the household.

The hours wore on. No arrangements were being made to cook the evening meal. Nobody had any appetite. The Doctor himself was suffering from a head-ache. He was lying down on a sofa. His daughter was applying eau-de-cologne and water to the handkerchief with which his head was bandaged. His daughter-in-law was fanning him.

Somebody was heard shouting outside, "Doctor Babu—Doctor Babu—"

The servant Shew Ratan went out to see who it was. He returned and said—"There is somebody who wants you to go and see a patient, Sir."

"Tell him I am unwell this evening. He should fetch some other doctor,"—said Babu Hara Govind.

"Yes, sir,"—and the servant went out.

Half-an-hour passed. Again there was a shout—"Doctor Babu—Doctor Babu."

Shew Ratan went out again. Coming back, he said—"The same man has returned, Sir. He says he wouldn't leave this time without seeing you."

"All right. Show him in,"—said the Doctor with some annoyance.

The ladies retired. The man entered, bowing ceremoniously.

"We are in great distress, Sir. It is a bad case,"—the man said.

"Who is ill?"

The man stood speechless, fixing his gaze on the floor.

"Who is ill? What's the trouble?"—The Doctor repeated.

"I hardly know what to say, Sir."

The Doctor was not a little astonished at this mysterious reply. "Who are you, please?"—he said.

"I am the writer-constable at the thana. My name is Hara Dhan Sircar. The Daroga is very ill. He is extremely sorry and repentant for all that has happened to-day. Is he past forgiveness?"

"What is he suffering from?"—enquired Babu Hara Govind.

"He has a great pain in his chest and the head. Do come, Sir, and forget the past."

"There are other doctors besides me in this town. Go to one of them."

The writer-constable then drew out of his pocket a hundred rupees in silver and currency notes. Placing the amount near the Doctor Babu's feet, he said—"Have mercy, Sir."

The sight of the money highly offended the Doctor. "Have you come to tempt me with money?"—he said angrily.—"Do you suppose that everybody is as money-grabbing as the Police? I wouldn't come for a lakh of rupees even. Take yourself off, Sir, at once."

The writer-constable then gathered up the money and departed.

The clock struck nine. The Doctor's wife said to her husband—"Will you drink a little milk? Shall I boil some for you?"

"Yes, thanks,—if you don't mind,"—said the Doctor.

The lady went into the kitchen and lighted a fire. When the milk had nearly boiled, the rumbling of a carriage was heard stopping at the back door. The next moment a young lady, accompanied by her maid, entered.

"Who are you, madam?"—asked the Doctor's wife.

"She is Daroga Badan Babu's wife, madam"—replied the maid-servant.

"I am the person you are looking for,"—the Doctor's wife said. The young lady came inside the kitchen and stooping down, caught hold of the feet of her hostess.

The Doctor's wife was greatly embarassed. "What is all this?"—she demanded in an astonished voice.

"Madam, my husband is dying."

"Is he so very ill, then?"

"Yes, madam. Your husband says, why don't we send for some other doctor. But madam, no other doctor would do him any good because they would not be able to diagnose the case properly. My husband drank something here which caused this illness."

"Drank something here?"—exclaimed the Doctor's wife.—"He didn't drink anything."

"Yes, he did,"—said the young lady. "Would you kindly take me to your husband so that I may tell him everything? I wouldn't hesitate to speak to him at this crisis, though I am a stranger."

The lady of the house took her visitor to the Doctor.

"Have mercy on my husband, Sir. Save his life,"—said the young lady entreatingly.

The Doctor's wife then explained everything.

"Drank something here!"—said the Doctor with surprise. "What did he drink?"

"He was telling me that when searching your dispensing room, Sir, he found a bottle labelled brandy—and he drank some of its contents, thinking it was brandy. But now he fears that it wasn't brandy at all."

"A bottle labeled brandy?一wait a minute"—and the Doctor disappeared. He went into his dispensing room and examined the bottle.

Returning to the room he exclaimed—"Good God! He has poisoned himself, madam."

Tears began to flow down the cheeks of the disconsolate woman.

"Have you come in a gharry, madam?"

"Yes, Sir, I have."

"Then I am going to the thana in your gharry. You please wait here till I send it back to you."—Saying so, the Doctor hurriedly got together some surgical appliances and a chest of medicines, and was ready to depart.

"Do you think, Sir, that my husband will be saved?"—asked the young lady in a voice choked with sobs.

"It all depends on Providence, madam"—and the Doctor shot out of the room.

He spent the night at the thana, attending on his patient. The Daroga was saved.

In due time the European Assault Case was decided. The two sons of the Doctor were acquitted, as no witnesses could identify them. The others got six months hard labour each.