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by [?]

Great is the justice of the
White Man–greater the power of a lie.
Native Proverb.

This is your English Justice, Protector of the Poor. Look at my back and loins which are beaten with sticks–heavy sticks! I am a poor man, and there is no justice in Courts.

There were two of us, and we were born of one birth, but I swear to you that I was born the first, and Ram Dass is the younger by three full breaths. The astrologer said so, and it is written in my horoscope–the horoscope of Durga Dass.

But we were alike–I and my brother who is a beast without honour–so alike that none knew, together or apart, which was Durga Dass. I am a Mahajun of Pali in Marwar, and an honest man. This is true talk. When we were men, we left our father’s house in Pali, and went to the Punjab, where all the people are mud-heads and sons of asses. We took shop together in Isser Jang–I and my brother–near the big well where the Governor’s camp draws water. But Ram Dass, who is without truth, made quarrel with me, and we were divided. He took his books, and his pots, and his Mark, and became a bunnia–a money-lender–in the long street of Isser Jang, near the gateway of the road that goes to Montgomery. It was not my fault that we pulled each other’s turbans. I am a Mahajun of Pali, and I always speak true talk. Ram Dass was the thief and the liar.

Now no man, not even the little children, could at one glance see which was Ram Dass and which was Durga Dass. But all the people of Isser Jang–may they die without sons!–said that we were thieves. They used much bad talk, but I took money on their bedsteads and their cooking-pots and the standing crop and the calf unborn, from the well in the big square to the gate of the Montgomery road. They were fools, these people–unfit to cut the toe-nails of a Marwari from Pali. I lent money to them all. A little, very little only–here a pice and there a pice. God is my witness that I am a poor man! The money is all with Ram Dass–may his sons turn Christian, and his daughter be a burning fire and a shame in the house from generation to generation! May she die unwed, and be the mother of a multitude of bastards! Let the light go out in the house of Ram Dass, my brother. This I pray daily twice–with offerings and charms.

Thus the trouble began. We divided the town of Isser Jang between us–I and my brother. There was a landholder beyond the gates, living but one short mile out, on the road that leads to Montgomery, and his name was Muhammad Shah, son of a Nawab. He was a great devil and drank wine. So long as there were women in his house, and wine and money for the marriage-feasts, he was merry and wiped his mouth. Ram Dass lent him the money, a lakh or half a lakh–how do I know?–and so long as the money was lent, the landholder cared not what he signed.

The People of Isser Jang were my portion, and the landholder and the out-town was the portion of Ram Dass; for so we had arranged. I was the poor man, for the people of Isser Jang were without wealth. I did what I could, but Ram Dass had only to wait without the door of the landholder’s garden-court, and to lend him the money; taking the bonds from the hand of the steward.

In the autumn of the year after the lending, Ram Dass said to the landholder: ‘Pay me my money,’ but the landholder gave him abuse. But Ram Dass went into the Courts with the papers and the bonds–all correct–and took out decrees against the landholder; and the name of the Government was across the stamps of the decrees. Ram Dass took field by field, and mango-tree by mango-tree, and well by well; putting in his own men–debtors of the out-town of Isser Jang–to cultivate the crops. So he crept up across the land, for he had the papers, and the name of the Government was across the stamps, till his men held the crops for him on all sides of the big white house of the landholder. It was well done; but when the landholder saw these things he was very angry and cursed Ram Dass after the manner of the Muhammadans.