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Chandra Shekhar/Part 3/Chapter 6

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they floated away on the wide and wavy stream of the Bhagirathi, now flashed with the silvery hue of the shining moon ...."

 

CHAPTER VI

along deep waters.

 Decorative P from Chandra Shekhar.pngratap and Shaibalini now came to at a great distance. What a charming sight it was! What a pleasant journey it was for them, through that sea of happiness! Their eyes fell upon the beauties of the deep blue vault of the sky overhead, as they floated away on the wide and wavy stream of the Bhagirathi, now flashed with the silvery hue of the shining moon, flowing incessantly through innumerable countries, for endless time. At the sight of this grand spectacle, Pratap thought within himself, "Alas! why is not man privileged to glide through the deep bosom of that yonder sea above? Why is not man able to break through those waves of clouds? What pious deed can achieve for me a life which is privileged to swim in that sea? To swim?—What a trifle it is to swim in these earthly rivers! Since the day of my birth, I have been swimming in the ruffled sea of life—pushing waves upon waves, and being myself tossed about by them, like a straw. After this, who would care to swim in the rivers of this world?" Shaibalini thought that the river she was swimming in had a bottom, but the sea of her trouble was unfathomable!

Whether you care for the, beauties of nature or not, they will not let you go unmoved and unimpressed by their charms—beauties never pass unnoticed. It does not matter in what sea you may happen to swim, the beauty of the blue water does not lose its charms—the string of wavelets is not torn—the stars overhead shine with usual brilliancy—the trees on the bank wave and swing as before, and the shooting beams of the moon play on the water as usual. Such is the beautiful tyranny of Nature! Like an affectionate mother she is always anxious to fondle and caress.

All these Pratap could see, but Shaibalini's eyes were blind to them. The pale and emaciated white face which she had seen on the top of the Budgerow, exclusively occupied her mind, and she was swimming but mechanically. But there was no rest—both of them were experts in swimming. Pratap was taking great delight in swimming along the placid waters of the flowing Bhagirathi—his heart was simply overflowing with joy. He called out in an affectionate and cheerful voice,

"ShaibaliniShai!"

This warm and loving address thrilled Shaibalini through and through—her heart beat violently within her. In their younger days, Pratap took delight in calling her, "Shai" or "Sai*," and it was after a long, long time that he again addressed her in that sweet familiar mode! The fleeting away of time cannot be measured by months or years. Its flow is swift or tardy as our situation is pleasant or unpleasant. To Shaibalini, the few days she had not been greeted by Pratap in that fond and affectionate manner, appeared to be as long as the great interval between two ages. Shaibalini was overpowered with emotion, and she closed her eyes, as she was gliding away through that vast sheet of water; she asked the moon and the stars over her head, to bear witness to what had fallen from Pratap's lips. She then said, with her eyes closed as before,

"Pratap, why even to day the silvery beams of the moon should smile upon the waters of the Ganges?"

Pratap. Shai! We are safe now—no one is pursuing us.

Shaibalini. Let us then get up on the bank.

Pratap. Shai!

Shaibalini. What will you say, Pratap?

Pratap. Do you still remember?

Shaibalini. What is it, Pratap?

Pratap. Do you remember that never-to-be-forgotten-day, when we both swam in the river as we do now?

Shaibalini made no answer. A large piece of wood was floating away close to them; Shaibalini caught hold of it, and said to Pratap,

"Hold it—it shall bear your weight. Take some rest."

Pratap did so, and said, "Do you remember that on that occasion I sank into the water to drown myself, but you could not?"

"Yes I do," replied Shaibalini. "But if you had not again addressed me in that fond affectionate manner, I would have here paid off the debt I owe you. Why have you revived in me the happy memories of a pleasant past by your affectionate call?"

Pratap. Then, you know that I can drown myself here, if I like?

"Why, Pratap? Let us get up on the bank," said Shaibalini in great anxiety.

Pratap. I won't get up—I will die here.

Pratap left the support.

Shaibalini. Why do you say so, Pratap?

Pratap. It is no joke—I will surely drown myself here. Let me have your hand.

Shaibalini. What do you want of me, Pratap? I will do anything you like, for your sake.

Pratap. First make a promise to me, and then I shall get up.

Shaibalini too now left the support. In her eyes, the stars ceased to shine, the moon grew pale and sickly, and the blue water of the river seemed to blaze like blue fire. She saw, as if Foster had come and stood before her in a threatening attitude, with a sword in hand. Pratap and Shaibalini were swimming side by side, close to each other. The heart-rending conversation between them was going on in the midst of the pattering noise of the breaking ripples. The smiling image of the glorious moon could then be seen most charmingly reflected in the fine particles of water which were shooting up in silvery fountains on all sides. This again, was the beautiful tyranny of Nature! Shaibalini, who could not speak for a time, at last said, almost suffocated under the pressure of a painful anxiety,

"What promise, Pratap?"

Pratap. Promise on the sacred waters of the Ganges

Shaibalini. What right has a sinner like me to swear in the name of the holy Ganges?

Pratap. Then swear in the name of Religion—

Shaibalini. Ah, I have fallen from it long ago.

Pratap. Will you then swear by me?

Shaibalini. Come nearer, and let me have your hand.

Pratap came closer to Shaibalini, and took her hand in his, after a long, long time. It then became very difficult for them to swim. They again caught hold of the support.

Shaibalini then said, "Now I am ready to swear anything you like. Pratap, after what a long time I clasp your hand in mine!"

Pratap. Swear by me, or I will drown myself here. What is this life for? Who will willingly bear the burden of a sinful life? What can be more desirable than to lay down that burden on the sacred bosom of the flowing Bhagirathi, under the silvery radiance of the glorious moon?

The moon was then smiling overhead.

Shaibalini. I swear by you—tell me what I am to do.

Pratap. Swear—swear by me—that you shall be responsible for my weal and woe, yea, for my life and death.

Shaibalini. Yes, in your name I promise that throughout my life I will unswervingly act up to your wishes.

Pratap then demanded a most painful promise. To Shaibalini it was very cruel and severe—its fulfilment was beyond her powers, yea, it meant her death. She recoiled from it, and said,

"Pratap, is there a second person in this world who is as miserable as myself?"

Pratap. It is me, Shaibalini!

Shaibalini. You have wealth—you have strength—you have ambition—you have fame—you have friends and then you have Rupashi. What have I as my own, Pratap?

Pratap. Nothing—then come, let us both drown ourselves here.

Shaibalini reflected for a moment. As the result of her thought, the current of her life began to run, for the first time, in the opposite direction. She thought within herself, "What harm is there if I die? But, why should Pratap die for me?" She then said to Pratap,

"Let us get up on the bank."

Pratap left the support, and sank into the water. Even then Pratap's hand was in Shaibalini's clasp. She pulled Pratap by his hand, and he got up. Shaibalini then said,

"Pratap, I will swear. But just think for a moment, you are going to deprive me of all that I have in this world. I don't want you, but why should I give up your thought?"

Pratap took away his hand, but Shaibalini grasped it again. Then in a deep sombre voice, clear and distinct, although affected by emotions, Shaibalini began to speak. She said,

"Pratap, clasp my hand firmly. Listen, I swear by you that I am responsible for your life and death. In your name I promise that I shall not think of you henceforth. I shall sacrifice all my happiness to control my mind. From this day, Shaibalini will be dead, though alive."

Shaibalini took away her hand from Pratap's clasp, and also left the support. Pratap then said to her, in a voice of deep emotion,

"Shaibalini, let us now get up on the bank."

They both got up. Walking up a little distance, they took a turn at the bend of the river. The little boat which Shaibalini had brought with her from the Nawab, was not far off. They both got up on it, and set out forthwith. Neither of them could see that Ramananda Swami was observing them very closely.

Shaibalini lost her suit against Rupashi, even before she could file her plaint in the royal court of the Nawab.

 

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