Chandra Shekhar/Part 2/Chapter 8
the strange ways of sin.
ike the Mahomedan girls, Shaibalini had also been peeping through the slightly opened door of her room. All the three were women and so all of them were affected with the feeling of curiosity which is common to their class. Again, all the three were sick with fear, and it is the characteristic of fear that it excites in one, the desire of repeatedly seeing the object of fear. Shaibalini, therefore, had seen every thing from start to finish. When all left, Shaibalini found that she was alone in that house, and began to reflect. She thought within herself, "What should I do now; I am alone, but what need I fear in that? I have nothing on earth to be afraid of. There is nothing more horrible than death itself, and what can there be to frighten a soul that always seeks death? But then, why that death does not come upon me? It is very easy to commit suicide—is it actually so? Stay! Let me consider. I had been on the river for many days, but could I drown myself in the water on any day? If I had stolen away from the boat in the night, when all fell asleep, and plunge into the water, who could detect me? Yes,I would have been detected—the sentinels on the boat used to keep watch by night. But then, I made no attempt. I had the will but I did not try to give effect to it. Even then I had hope, and no one can court death when there is hope. But what hope is there for me to-day? This is verily the day when I should take leave of this world. But Pratap has been taken away in chains—I can not die till I come to know of his fate. Why should I be at all anxious to know of it? Let it be what it will—it concerns me not. I am a sinner in his eyes—what, then, is Pratap to me? I know it not, but this much I know that he is the blazing fire and I am the charmed fly—in the long and dreary path of this world he is to me summer's first flash of lightning—he is my death. Oh, why did I get away with an alien? Oh, why did I not return home with Sundari?"
Shaibalini slapped her forehead in repentance, and began to weep. The house at Bedagram, once her home, came into her recollection. The memory of the familiar spot by the side of the wall of the compound, where Shaibalini had planted with her own hands the Karabi tree, came into her mind—how the topmost branch of that tree, once her object of love and care, towering above the wall, used to swing to and fro with the red flowers on it, as if, anxious to touch the blue vault of the sky—how sometimes bees and little birds used to come and rest on it! The sacred Tulashi—the neat and clean space around it—the pet cat, the talking bird in the cage and the stalwart mango tree by the side of the house—all appeared in her mind one by one in the vividness of reality. Thousand other things came into her recollection. Oh, how agreeable was her situation when from the roof of her house, at Bedagram, she used to see every evening various delightful and charming aspects of the blue serene sky; how pleasant it was for her to fill everyday, for Chandra Shekhar's use, at the time of worship, the flower basket with numerous sweet-scented, snow-white blooming flowers, moistened by her with pure water! Again, how happy was she when she used to breathe every evening the gentle, refreshing, fragrant breeze on the mounds of the familiar Bhima tank; how charming were the gleaming wavelets she used to see there—how captivating was the flowing melody of the cuckoo from the trees around! Shaibalini breathed a deep sigh. She thought, "It was my hope that I would see Pratap if I would only get away from home; I thought that I would again return to the factory at Purandarpur, which is close to Pratap's house, and from the window of my room I would make Pratap a captive to my glance. Then, at an opportune moment I would give Foster the slip and throw myself at Pratap's feet. I was a bird in the cage and so I knew nothing of the ways of this world. I did not know that man proposes and God disposes. Again, I did not know that the cage of the English was made of steel and it was beyond my power to break through it. Oh, in vain have I brought disgrace upon me—I have lost my caste and spoiled my future life!"
Strange, it did not occur to wicked Shaibalini that there is nothing like success or failure in respect of sin—rather failure is better than success; but a day came when she realised this truth—a day came when she prepared herself to sacrifice even her life for her redemption. Had that not been the case, we would not have introduced to our readers this sinful character.
Shaibalini continued to reflect as before. She said, "My future life? Ah me, its prospects were marred on the very day I first saw Pratap. God, who can read through our minds, must have ordained my damnation on that very day. Even in this world I am in hell—my mind is hell itself; or why am I suffering so much pain and affliction? If it is not so, how is it that I passed this long time with Foster, who is verily my eyesore? Nor is that all. Perhaps evil betides all that is good and dear to me. It is, perhaps, on my account that Pratap is now in danger—oh! why did I not put an end to my life?" Shaibalini began to weep again. After a while she wiped away her tears. She contracted her eyebrows and began to bite her lips; for a time her smiling lily-like face wore the fearful appearance of an angry snake. "Why did I not put an end to my life?" repeated Shaibalini, and took off from her waist a bagnet, which contained a sharp pointed knife. She then took the knife in her handand began to feel its sharp edge with her finger. She said, "Did I carry this knife with me in vain? Why have I not so long pierced my wretched heart with it? Why? Only because I lost myself in the fascination of my hopes. But now!" Forthwith, as she concluded, Shaibalini placed on her breast the fore-end of the knife. She kept it there in that position, and said within herself, "On another day I placed this knife in the very same way on the breast of sleeping Foster. On that day I could not stab him to death for want of courage, and this day too my heart fails to commit suicide. The dread of this knife subdued even wicked Foster—he had felt that if he would enter into my cabin, this knife would either end his life or mine. The fear of this knife brought under restraint the turbulent Englishman, but my unruly heart has not yielded to its influence. Should I commit suicide now? No, not to-day. If I must die, I shall court death when I go back to Bedagram. I shall not end my life till I meet Sundari and tell her that although I have lost my caste and have been excommunicated from society, I am not guilty of a particular crime. And he—who is my husband—what shall I say to him at the time of my death? Oh! I cannot think of it. The very thought of it gives me unbearable pain—it makes me feel, as if, countless scorpions are stinging me, and liquid fire is flowing through all my veins? I have forsaken him because I am not worthy of him. Has that pained him in any way? Has he lamented for me? Perhaps not—I am not near and dear to him. His books are all in all with him. He then cannot lament for me. Oh, I wish someone would come from Bedagram and tell me so, and also report to me as to how he is doing and what he is about! I have never loved him and I will never love him, yet if I have hurt his feelings, I have undoubtedly made the burden of my sins heavier. I earnestly desire to tell him one thing—but Foster is dead and who will bear testimony to what I intend to say? Oh! who will believe me?" Shaibalini then laid herself on the bed she was sitting upon, and remained absorbed in thoughts, as before. She fell asleep early in the morning, and saw many unpleasant dreams in her sleep. When she woke up, the sun had risen far above the horizon and its shooting rays had made their ways into the room through the opened window. What Shaibalini saw before her, when she opened her eyes, startled, frightened and paralysed her. She saw Chandra Shekhar!