Then the Brahmin woke up, for he saw that he was in evil case. The spirit of the British raj was falling like a blight and a pestilence upon the means by which he had lived, drying up the fountains of religious revenue and slowly but surely blighting the luxuriance of that pious liberality which always took the form of feeding holy men. He found that he must work for his bread whether he liked it or not, and the only implement of secular work that would not soil his priestly hand was the pen. And this was already taken up by the Purbhoo, who carried himself haughtily under the new regime and showed no mind to make way for the holier man. Hence sprang those bitter enmities and jealousies which have done so much to lighten the difficulties of our position.
The British Government has often been accused of acting on the maxim, Divide et impera. It is a libel. We do not divide, for there is no need. Division is already there. We have only to rejoice and rule. How well and justly we rule all the world knows, but only the initiated know how much we owe to the fact that the talents and energies which would otherwise be employed in thwarting our just intentions and phlebotomising the ryot are largely preoccupied with the more useful work of thwarting and undermining each other.
What could a collector do single-handed against a host of clerks and subordinate magistrates and petty officials of every grade, all armed with the awfulness of a heaven-born sanctity, all hedged round with the prestige of an ancient supremacy, endowed with a mole-like genius for underground work which the Englishman never fathoms, and all leagued together to suck to the uttermost the life blood of those inferior castes which were created expressly for their advantage?
He is working in a foreign language, among customs and ways of thought which it takes a lifetime to understand: they are using their mother tongue and handling matters that they have known from childhood. He cannot tell a lie and is ashamed to deceive: they are trained in a thrifty policy which saves the truth for a last resort in case everything else should fail. He would be helpless in their hands as a sucking child. But he knows they will do for him what he cannot do for himself. The Purbhoo will lie in wait for the Brahmin, and the Brahmin will keep his lynx eye on the Purbhoo. And woe to the one who trips first. So the collector arranges his men with judicious skill to the fostering of each other's virtue, and the result is most gratifying. The country blesses his administration, and his subordinates are equally surprised and delighted at their own integrity.
I speak of a wise and able administrator. There are men in the Indian Civil Service who are neither wise nor able, and some who are not administrators at all, having most unhappily mistaken their vocation. When such a one becomes collector of a district his chitnis, or chief secretary, sees that that tide in the affairs of men has come which, "taken at the flood, leads on to fortune," and his caste-fellows all through the service are filled with unholy joy. But he does nothing rash or hasty. Wilily and patiently he goes to work to make his own foundation sure first of all. He studies his chief under all conditions, discovers his little foibles and vanities and feeds them sedulously. He masters codes, rules and regulations, standing orders, precedents and past correspondence, till it is dangerous to contradict him and always safe to trust him. In every difficulty he is at hand, clearing away perplexity and refreshing the "swithering" mind with his precision and assurance. He becomes indispensable. The collector reposes absolute confidence in him and is proud to say so in his reports.
Then the chitnis, if he is a Brahmin, addresses himself to the task of eliminating the Purbhoo from the service, or at least depriving him of place and power. It is a delicate task, but the Brahmin's touch is light. He never disparages a Purbhoo from that day; "damning with faint praise" is safer and as effectual. He practises the charity which covereth a multitude of faults, but he leaves a tag end of one peeping out to attract curiosity, and if the collector asks questions, he is candid and tells the truth, though with manifest reluctance. Then he grapples with the gradation lists, which have fallen into confusion, and puts them into such excellent order that the collector can see at a glance every man's past services and present claims to promotion. And from these lists it appears that clearly, whenever any vacancy has to be filled, a Brahmin has the first claim. And so, as the shades of night yield to the dawn of day, the Purbhoo by degrees fades away and disappears, and the star of the Brahmin rises and shines everywhere with still increasing splendour.
But the Purbhoo possesses his soul in patience, and keeps a note of every slip that the Brahmin makes. For the next chitnis may be a Purbhoo, and then the day of reckoning will come and old scores will be paid off. The Brahmin knows that too, and the thought of it makes him walk warily even in the day of his prosperity. Thus our administration is saved from utter corruption.