Chandra Shekhar/Part 3/Chapter 2
the new acquaintance.
ow, Dalani's letter, which was carried by the good hermit, was duly laid before the Nawab. The Nawab thus came to know Dalani's whereabouts. Palanquins were sent to Pratap's house to bring Dalani and Kulsam.
The day had far advanced then. In that house there was none but Shaibalini. The Nawab's men saw her and concluded that she was the Begum.
Shaibalini heard that she was to go to the castle. All on a sudden an evil intention sprang up in her mind. The poets forget themselves in their eulogy of hope. And no doubt, hope is often the source of many pleasures and enjoyments of this world; but at the same time, it is hope which is the origin of sorrow and misery. All crimes are committed in the hope of gain. Only good works are done without any expectation of return. Those, who perform noble deeds for the golden prospects in heaven, cannot be said to have been doing good works. It was hope which completely captivated Shaibalini, and made her get into the Nawab's palanquin without any hesitation.
A eunuch attendant brought Shaibalini within the castle and ushered her into the Royal presence, in the Seraglio. The Nawab found to his surprise that she was not Dalani—he also noticed that even Dalani was not so striking a beauty as the fair stranger before him. In fact, he felt that in his harem there was no lady who wore so captivating a beauty! The Nawab asked,
"Who are you, fair lady?"
Shaibalini. I am a Brahmin's daughter.
Nawab. Why have you come here?
Shaibalini. The Royal attendants have brought me here.
Nawab. They have done so, mistaking you for the Begum. Why has not the Begum come?
Shaibalini. She is not there.
Nawab. Then, where is she gone?
When Golston and Johnson were leaving Pratap's house, with Dalani and Kulsam, Shaibalini had seen them. She did not know who the women were, and took them to be either maid-servants or dancing girls. But when the Nawab's men told her that the Begum was in Pratap's house and that she was being taken to the castle in obedience to the Royal command to bring the Begum, she at once understood that the Englishmen had taken away with them no other person than the Begum herself. Shaibalini was thinking what she should say.
"Have you seen the Begum?" inquired the Nawab impatiently, finding Shaibalini silent.
"Yes, I have," was Shaibalini's brief reply.
Nawab. Where did you see her?
Shaibalini. At the place where we had been last night.
Nawab. What place is that? Is it Pratap's house?
Shaibalini. Yes, if it pleases you.
Nawab. Do you know where the Begum has gone?
Shaibalini. Two Englishmen have taken her away.
"What do you say?" inquired the Nawab in painful surprise.
Shaibalini repeated what she had said. The Nawab was struck dumb in surprise and indignation. He began to bite his lips and pull up his beards in violent agitation. He ordered to summon Gurgan Khan before him. He then asked Shaibalini,
"Do you know why the Englishmen have taken away the Begum?"
Shaibalini. No, I do not.
Nawab. Where was Pratap at the time?
Shaibalini. He was in the house, and was also taken away.
Nawab. Was there any one else in the house?
Shaibalini. Yes, there was a servant—he too was taken away.
"Do you know why they were taken away?" again enquired the Nawab in an anxious tone.
Hitherto Shaibalini was telling the truth; now she began to tell lies. She said, "No."
Nawab. Who is Pratap Roy? Where does he come from?
Shaibalini gave Pratap's correct designation.
Nawab. What brought him here?
Shaibalini. He came here to enter into the Royal service.
Nawab. What is he to you?
Shaibalini. He is my husband.
Nawab. What is your name?
Shaibalini. My name is Rupashi.
Without the slightest difficulty or hesitation, wicked Shaibalini made this reply. She had come to the castle to utter this shameful lie.
The Nawab said, "I will see what can be done—you better go home now."
Shaibalini. I am now homeless—where shall I go?
The Nawab remained silent. After a while he said, "Then, where do you mean to go?"
Shaibalini. To my husband; do please send me to my lord. You are the king, pray listen to my complaint;—the English have taken away my husband by force; either deliver him from their hands or send me to him. If you pay no heed to my prayer and take no steps, I shall put an end to my life here before you.—I have come here with such a purpose.
Just then it was reported to the Nawab, that Gurgan Khan had come. The Nawab, while leaving the room to meet Gurgan Khan, said to Shaibalini,
"All right, you better wait here—I shall come back presently."