Indian Ghost Stories by S. Mukerji
THE STARVING MILLIONAIRE.
"I had expected as much" said Mr. Anderson bitterly, as he left the Railway Station.
"I would go to Captain Fraser and beg for some dinner. He is the only man who has got a family here and will be able to accommodate us" said he to his wife, and so off they started for a five mile run to the Cantonments. There was some trouble with the car on the way and they were detained for about an hour, and it was actually 8-30 in the evening when the Andersons reached Captain Fraser's place. Why, instead of going home from the Railway Station, Mr. Anderson went to Captain Fraser's place he himself could not tell.
When the Andersons reached Captain Fraser's place at half past eight in the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Fraser had not come back from the club. But they were expected every minute. It was in fact nine when the Captain and his wife turned up in a Hackney Carriage. They were surprised to see the Andersons. They had heard the story told by Atkins at the club. Anderson gave them his version. Of course, Captain Fraser asked them to stay to dinner. He said "I am very sorry I am late, but it could not be helped. When returning from the club my horse was alarmed at something. The coachman lost control and there was a disaster. But, thank God, nobody is seriously hurt."
Their carriage had, however, been so badly damaged that they had to get a hackney carriage to bring them home.
In India, specially in June, they are not particular about the dress. So Captain Fraser said they would sit down to dinner at once and, at a quarter after nine they all went in to dine. The Khansama stared at the uninvited guests. He knew that something had gone wrong with Anderson Saheb.
The soup was the first thing brought in and the trouble began as soon as it came. Captain Fraser's Khansama was an old hand at his business, but somehow he made a mess of things. He got so nervous about what he himself could not explain that he upset a full plate of soup that he had brought for Mr. Anderson not exactly on his head, but on his left ear.
Well the reader would understand the situation. There was a plateful of hot soup on Mr. Anderson's left ear. The soup should have got cold, because it had waited long for the Captain's return from the club, but the cook had very prudently warmed it up again and it had become very warm indeed. Mr. Anderson shouted and the Khansama let go the plate. It fell on the table in front of Mr. Anderson on its edge and rolled on. Next to Mr. Anderson was Mrs. Fraser, and there was a glass of iced-water in front of her. The rolling soup plate upset the glass, and the water and the glass and the plate all came down on Mrs. Fraser's lap, the iced-water making her wet through and through. She was putting on a muslin gown. She had to go and change. Mrs. Anderson at this point got up and said that they would not spoil the Frasers' dinner by their presence. She said that the curse of the Indian Fakir was on them and if they stayed the Frasers would have to go without dinner. Naturally she anticipated that some further difficulty would arise there when the next dish was brought in. The Frasers protested loudly but she dragged Mr. Anderson away. She had forgotten that she had had her lunch and her husband had not.
While going in their motor car from Mr. Fraser's house to their own they had to pass a bazaar on the way. In the bazar there was a sweetmeat shop. Mr. Anderson, whose condition could be better imagined than described asked his chauffeur to stop at the sweetmeat shop. It was a native shop with a fat native proprietor sitting without any covering upon his body on a low stool. As soon as he saw Mr. Anderson and his wife he rushed out of his shop with joined palms to enquire what the gentleman wanted. Mr. Anderson was evidently very popular with the native tradesmen and shop-keepers.
This shop-keeper had special reason to know Mr. Anderson, as it was the latter's custom to give a dinner to all his native workmen on Her Majesty's birthday, and this particular sweetmeat vendor used to get the contract for the catering. The birthday used to be observed in India on the 24th May and it was hardly a fortnight that this man had received a cheque for a pretty large amount from Mr. Anderson, for having supplied Mr. Anderson's native workmen with sweets.