Indian Ghost Stories by S. Mukerji
THE STARVING MILLIONAIRE.
Naturally he rushed out of his shop in that humble attitude. But in doing so he upset a whole dishful of sweets, and the big dish with the sweets went into the road-side drain. All the same the man came up and wanted to know the pleasure of the Saheb. Mr. Anderson told him that he was very hungry and wanted something to eat. "Certainly, Huzoor" said the Halw‚i (Indian Confectioner) and fussily rushed in. He brought out some native sweets in a "_dona_" (cup made of leaves) but as misfortune would have it Mr. Anderson could not eat anything.
There was any amount of petroleum in the sweets. How it got in there was a mystery. Mr. Anderson asked his chauffeur to proceed. For fear of hurting the feeling of this kind old Halw‚i Mr. Anderson did not do anything then; but scarcely had the car gone 200 yards when the "_dona_" with its contents untouched was on the road.
Mr. Anderson reached home at about half past ten. He expected to find no dinner at home. But he was relieved to hear from his bearer that dinner was ready. He rushed into his bath-room, had a cold bath and within five minutes was ready for dinner in the dining-room.
But the dinner would not come. After waiting for about 15 minutes the bearer (butler and foot man combined) was dispatched to the kitchen to enquire what the matter was. The cook came with a sad look upon his face and informed him that the dinner had been ready since 8-30 as usual, but as the Saheb had not returned he had kept the food in the kitchen and come out leaving the kitchen-door open. Unfortunately Mr. Anderson's dogs had finished the dinner in his absence, probably thinking that the master was dining out. In a case like this the cook, who had been in Mr. Anderson's service for a long time, expected to hear some hard words; but Mr. Anderson only laughed loud and long. The cook suggested that he should prepare another dinner, but Mr. Anderson said that it would not be necessary that night. The chauffeur subsequently informed the cook that the master and his wife had dined at Captain Fraser's, and finished with sweets at Gopal Halwai's shop. This explained the master's mirth to the cook's satisfaction.
What happened the next day to Mr. Anderson need not be told. It is too painful and too dirty a story. The fact remains that Mr. Anderson had no solid food the next day either. He thought he should die of starvation. He did not know how much longer the curse was going to last, or what else was in store for him.
On the morning of the third day the bearer came and reported that a certain Indian Fakir had invited Mr. Anderson to go and breakfast with him. How eagerly husband and wife went! The Fakir lived in a miserable hut on the bank of the river. He invited the couple inside his hut and gave them bread and water. Here was clean healthy looking bread after all, and Mr. Anderson never counted how many loaves he ate. But he had never eaten food with greater relish and pleasure in his life before. After the meal the Fakir who evidently knew Mr. Anderson said: "Saheb, you are a great man and a good man too. You are rich and you think that riches can purchase everything. You are wrong. The Giver of all things may turn gold into dust and gold may, by His order, lose all its purchasing capacity. This you have seen during the last two days. You have annoyed a man who has no gold but who has power. You think that the Deputy Commissioner has power--but he has not. The Deputy Commissioner gets his power from the King. The man whom you have offended got his power from the King of Kings.
"It is His pleasure that you should leave the station. The sooner you leave this place Saheb the better for you or you will starve. You can stay as long as you like here--but you will eat no food outside this hut of mine--you can try.
"You can go now and come back for your dinner when you require it--."
Mr. Anderson came back to the Fakir's cottage for his dinner, with his wife at nine in the evening.
Early, the next morning, he left the station and never came back.
Within a month he left India for good. The hospitable gentlemen of the station who had asked Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to have a meal with them will never forget the occasion.