An Unfinished Song/Chapter 21

CHAPTER XXI

Happiness at last, my father willing, but the doctor had not come and I could not communicate the good news to him. It was a moonlight night, and I seated myself in the garden, anxiously looking down the road. He was coming now, and I went to meet him. By the time I reached the road, however, he had gone so far ahead, he saw me not. I followed him, but lost sight of him at a turning. I became anxious and climbed up an elevation to see where he had gone. Just then a girl came to me with a flower basket in her hand. It was Prabha, a friend of my early life who had been one of my little schoolmates at Babu Krishna Mohan's school. I greeted her, and she replied, "When did you come? I only arrived myself to-day. I plucked these flowers for you and wish to present them to you now."

I answered, "I am in a difficulty. I wish to speak to him, but cannot find him."

"Come to my place," she said.

Then her younger brother came along on horseback. Prabha asked,

"Do you know where the doctor is?"

"Yes, I do," came the reply. "If you will mount my horse, Moni, I will show you where he is."

I mounted the horse and it ran off like lightning. It ascended a high rocky plain. I tried to check it, but it flew on like Pakshiraja. I thought I should fall to the ground. Then a camel came down the road. The driver saw my danger and jumped down to stop my horse, but it had already stopped. I got down. It was dark now, night had come, and I found myself in an unknown and desolate place. I could not return home because I could not find my way. I walked up the road, but it became narrower and narrower as I proceeded, and there were high walls of earth on either side of it. At the end of the lane there was a small cottage. I entered it. In it was an old lady with a calm, sweet face. She spoke to me and bade me enter: "Come in, little mother, come. Where are you going? Come and sit down."

"I have lost my way," I replied, but she did not seem to hear me.

"Come and sit down and take a little coffee," she continued. "Do you see my garden in front of the house? I planted coffee there with my own hands."

A lamp was burning in the room. Ornaments and garments were scattered on the floor around the lamp.

"Why are these things lying here?" I questioned.

"She has gone away. She promised to come back; so far she has not come, but she will be here presently."

"Who?"

"My daughter-in-law; she is beautiful as the golden moon."

I saw she was a maniac. She had lost her daughter-in-law, and now she awaited her return, keeping her ornaments and garments scattered in the room with her. I felt sad to see all this, and my eyes filled with tears.

The old lady continued, "Mother, who are you? Are you my daughter-in-law? Have you come at last? He has gone into exile, and has not yet returned."

My heart felt as if it were breaking, and tears flowed from my eyes. And then I awoke and found myself still weeping. I looked at my watch. Scarcely half-an-hour had elapsed since the doctor's departure, and I might not have slept more than five minutes, but the heavy load of despair that had weighed on my mind before I went to sleep had awakened with me. I was as sad as ever. I stood by the window pondering over the fate that was before me. If I told Chotu everything in the hope that he would rescue me, might I not find myself mistaken? He might not after all be the good man I supposed him to be. In reality I did not know anything about him. Perhaps Chotu loved me still and would insist on marrying me. My heart felt doubly sad as this thought suggested itself. I looked up to the sky in supplication, I pleaded with the Divine Mother to save me. It was the time of sunset, the clouds were gloriously tinted, and a magnificent spectacle it was to see the great masses of cloud, overspread with all the colours of the rainbow, ever changing as the moments passed; rose, violet, yellow, green, and crimson softly mingling their shades until the heavens appeared like a coloured mountain range. Red clouds bordered with blue and white shaded with black, grey softly tinged with rose, an exquisite blending of each colour with another.

One colour ever shaded with another, "Yes, such," I murmured, "are the ways of this world, never a smile without a tear, no happiness without an equal portion of sorrow. I wish some God would change this law, and make mankind happier." And yet why should I lament? What was I after all but an atom in the great ocean of life?

I found myself seated at the piano before I knew it. I began to play unconsciously, I knew not why, the song that was so near my heart:

"Alas, we met
When moon and stars had faded,
Spring-time had fled and flowers withered lay
Garland in hand through the dark night I awaited
The bridegroom who would come when all was bright and gay.
Then the house would be filled with fragrance and soft music,
And the mellow flute the tune of Sahana would play."

This was all I knew of the song, and I sang it over and over again. Suddenly, I heard some one singing behind me, finishing the song:

"Alas, it came, the longed-for moment auspicious,
But I saw him not then, for heavy with sleep were my eyes.
I wreathed not his brow at the moment the gods had selected.
I woke from my sleep, and lo, dark and cold were the skies,
And faded the wreath. I hung on his neck the dead garland,
While my heart throbbed with pain and heavy my bosom with sighs.
Alas, we met
When moon and stars had faded,
Spring-time had fled and flowers withered lay."

The music sent a magic feeling through my being. I was absorbed by it. I looked not at the singer, but played till the sweet song was finished. When at last I did look there came upon me again that strange sensation when the past was merged in the present and the present in the past, when childhood and youth were blended, and I knew myself only as the little girl who had learned to love Chotu when he taught her at his uncle's Patshala. Was it really he? "Are you Chotu, are you Chotu?" Once again these words come to my lips, but, alas! again as before to remain unspoken.

I heard footsteps—my father was coming. I rose to greet him and stood still with bashfulness. My father entered and called out cheerfully, "Ah, you, Binoy Krishna! Moni, do you not recognise him? He is Chotu."

Was I dreaming still? Could this be really true?