they apprehend such an enquiry to be the precursor of some oppression. The unwillingness of the owners to part with them. In several instances the owners of old MSS., when they came to learn that I had sure knowledge of their possession, fell prostrate at my feet with tears in their eyes and implored me not to impose an income tax on them for keeping these books! It was difficult on my part to convince them of the reason why I wanted the MSS. The rustic villagers of Eastern Bengal especially I found very unwilling to part with the books in their possession. In the village of Rājbāri in Tipperah I found a whole poem of Mahābhārata by Nityānanda Ghosh, the reputed predecessor of Kāshi Dās, copied about three hundred years ago, lying in the house of an illiterate washerman. I offered him a reasonably large sum for the book, but he declined to sell it. A fortnight after this refusal, his house was burnt and the rare old MS. with it!
While Sanskrit MSS. generally bear bark covers, the bulk of Bengali MSS. are found inside wooden covers decorated with various artistic engravings or with paintings and designs showing Pauranic models. They are tied with strong twine and I often came across MSS. from two to three hundred years old, with no sign of having been opened for a century and a half. The yellow paper, on which the books were written was specially prepared with arsenic and other ingredients as a preventive against old insects. The story of an old woman and her MS. In a village on the border-land of Sylhet, fatigued by a walk of 18 miles without food, I approached the house of a milkman where it had been reported there was an old MS. One of her near relations introduced me to the old woman of the house who was the owner of the book and she agreed to show it to me. I found it under a heap of flowers and Bel leaves, for it used to be worshipped daily in the house. I showed the old woman my sacred thread and gained permission to touch the book. While I was untying the cover, the old woman was clamouring at the highest pitch of her voice, warning me to be careful and expressing her doubt that I would be able to tie the covers again as tightly as they were before. I did not pay any heed to her words, but opened the MS. and took my notes from it. When, however, I had finished my work and was about to fasten it again, the old woman cried out that the binding was not tight enough. I applied all my might, but the ancient milkman who had tied it more than a century before, must have been a veritable rustic Samson, as the impression of the cord on the wooden covers of the book indicated; and how could I, a frail mortal, cope with that giant's might and fit the cord on his lines! ‘It is loose’, ‘it is loose’, she cried, till she became fierce, and my palms were torn and bleeding in