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Chandra Shekhar/Part 2/Chapter 1



Part II







Decorative N from Chandra Shekhar.pngO, the bird won't dance. Now tell your story, said Dalani Begum, and pulled the peacock that did not dance by its tail-coverts. She then took off from her hand the diamond bracelet, and put it round the neck of another peacock. She next squirted the face of a parrot with rose-water. The parrot chidingly cried out, "slave." Dalani herself had taught the bird this word of reproach.

Close by, a maid-servant was trying to make the birds dance. To her Dalani had said, "Now, tell your story."

Kulsam said, "It is nothing more than this. Two boats loaded with arms have arrived at the Ghat. An Englishman is in charge of them; those two boats have been seized by our men. Ali Ibrahim Khan is of opinion that the boats should be allowed to pass. If they are detained under arrest, a quarrel with the English will unnecessarily arise. But Gurgan Khan says that let a quarrel arise if it will—the boats must not be let off."

Dalani. To what place are the arms being sent?

Kulsam. To the factory at Azimabad. If war be inevitable, it shall first break out there. The English are sending arms there so that they may not be dislodged from that place all on a sudden. This is the rumour in the castle.

Dalani. But why does Gurgan Khan want to keep the boats under arrest?

Kulsam. He says that it will be very difficult to win the battle if the enemies. are allowed to grow in strength. Ali Ibrahim Khan, however, thinks that whatever we may do, we shall never be able to defeat the English in a fight—so we must not quarrel with them. Why should we then provoke a battle by arresting the boats? In fact, his words are very true. There is no escaping out of the hands of the English. I fear, the scene of what happened to Seerajuddaulla is going to be re-enacted.

Dalani remained absorbed in meditation for a long time. At last she said, "Kulsam, can you make bold to perform a daring deed?"

Kulsam. What's it? Am I to eat a Hilsa fish or take a bath in cold water?

Dalani. Stop, thou naughty fool. It is no joke. If the Nawab comes to know of it, he will throw both of us under the feet of an elephant.

Kulsam. But can he know of it at all? I have stolen much essence and scented water, gold and silver, but just say,who has come to know of it? It seems to me that in the case of men, the two eyes are given only to beautify the head—they don't see anything with them. I don't remember to have ever seen a man detecting the trickery of a woman.

Dalani. Fool! I don't mean the eunoch attendants. The Nawab is certainly not like ordinary men. What can he not know and understand?

Kulsam. What can I not hide and conceal? Now, what am I to do?

Dalani. Only a letter shall have to be sent to the Commander-in-chief.

Kulsam remained silent in surprise. Dalani asked, "What do you say to this?"

Kulsam. Who will address the letter?

Dalani. I myself.

Kulsam. How is it? Have you run mad?

Dalani. Almost.

For a time both of them remained seated in silence. Finding them so, the two peacocks got up, each on their own resting rod, and the parrot began to cry aloud in vain. The other birds turned their attention to their foods.

A little after Kulsam said, "The task is light—if a eunoch attendant be given something he will forthwith carry the letter to the proper quarter. But it is at the same time very difficult—if the Nawab comes to know of it, both of us shall be put to death. However that may be, it is your business and you understand it better—I am your servant and I must obey you. Let me have the letter and something in cash.

Kulsam left with the letter. This letter formed the thread by which God knitted together the fates of Dalani and Shaibalini.


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