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Chandra Shekhar/Part 1/Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III

lawrence foster

Decorative T from Chandra Shekhar.pngHE East India Company had a silk factory at Purandarpur, a village very close to Bedagram. Lawrence Foster was in charge of that factory. When young, Lawrence was disappointed in his love for Mary Foster and came to Bengal as a servant of the East India Company. As Englishmen now-a-days become affected with various diseases when they come to India, so, in former times the Indian atmosphere used to disease their mind with a lust for plunder. After his arrival in India, Foster soon fell a victim to this evil influence. Mary's image, therefore, disappeared from his mind's eye. Once he had been to Bedagram on some business—his eyes fell upon the smiling lily-like Shaibalini, in the waters of the Bhima. Shaibalini ran away at the sight of a whiteman, but Foster returned to the factory reflecting all the way. Thinking on and on, he at last decided that dark eyes were prettier than pale-blue eyes and black hairs were finer than brown ones. All on a sudden, the idea crossed his mind that in the troubled sea of the world, woman is, as it were, a raft and that every man should seek her help. Those Englishmen are indeed very clever, who take Bengalee beauties as companions of their life and thus save the clergyman's dues. Many Bengalee girls have been seduced to worship English profligates for money—may not Shaibalini be tempted to do so? Foster, accompanied by a native officer of the factory, came to Bedagram again and both of them remained concealed in a bush. The officer saw Shaibalini and marked out her house.

Bengalee children, as a class, get frightened at the very mention of a bugbear but there are such naughty children too as would like to see it. So it happened with Shaibalini. At first she, as usual in those days, used to run away breathless whenever she met Foster. Afterwards some one told her, "The Englishman does not swallow a man alive—he is a curious animal—just look, at him once." Shaibalini did so—she found that the Englishman really did not swallow her alive. Since then Shaibalini never ran away at the sight of Foster and gradually grew bold enough to speak with him. This is known to our readers.

In an inauspicious moment Shaibalini came into this world and in an inauspicious moment Chandra Shekhar accepted her hand. We shall gradually say what Shaibalini was, but however that may be, Foster's attempts did not succeed.

Later on, Foster unexpectedly received an order from Calcutta, that as another man had been appointed for the factory at Purandarpur, he was to leave for Calcutta immediately—he would be deputed on a special duty. The man who was to relieve him, came along with the order. Foster, therefore, had to start for Calcutta forthwith.

Shaibalini's beauty had completely captivated Foster's mind. He could feel that he was to leave the place giving up the hope of getting Shaibalini in this life. In those days, the Englishmen who came to live in Bengal were incapable of two things only—they would never plead inability and could never overcome temptations. They could under no circumstance make up their mind to say that they had failed to do a thing and so they must desist from it, and they would never admit that a certain thing was wrong and should not, therefore, be undertaken at all. In this world, there was, perhaps, never seen a class of men more powerful, and self-indulgent than those who laid the foundation of British rule in India. Lawrence Foster was a man of that type. He did not restrain his lust—in those days the word religion was extinct among Englishmen in Bengal. Foster did not even think of consequences—he said within himself, "Now or never"—and made for Bedagram with a palanquin, some porters and a few servants of the factory, fully armed, on the night previous to the day he was to start for Calcutta. On that very night, the inhabitants of Bedagram heard with fear that Chandra Skekhar's house was being looted by Dacoits. Chandra Shekhar was not at home. He had gone to Murshidabad and had not yet returned. The villagers hearing the noise, the shrieks and the reports of guns left their bed, came out and saw that Chandra Shekhar's house was being plundered—there were many torch-lights. No body came forward to the rescue. They saw, from a distance, that the Dacoits, after plundering the house, came out one by one; they also saw, in astonishment, that some porters came out of the house with a palanquin on their shoulders. Its shutters were closed—the Sahib of the Purandarpur factory was himself following it very closely. At this sight, every one turned aside quietly, in fear.

When the plunderers had left, Chandra Shekhar's neighbours entered into his house and found that very few articles had been taken away. But, Shaibalini was not there! Some said, "She must have hid herself somewhere and will soon return." The old men, however, said, "She will never return—even if she does, Chandra Shekhar will not take her in. She must have gone in the palanquin we have seen." Those who expected that Shaibalini would soon return, waited and waited for her till they grew tired and sat down. Sitting there for a long time, they began to doze, and at last left the place in disgust. Sundari, the young lady whom we have already introduced, left last of all. She was the daughter of one of Chandra Shekhar's neighbours. She stood in the relation of a cousin to him, and was Shaibalini's constant companion. We shall have occasion to speak of her hereafter, and hence this introduction.

Sundari waited for Shaibalini the whole night. She returned home in the morning and began to weep.

 

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