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Chandra Shekhar/Part 4/Chapter 1

 

CHANDRA SHEKHAR

Part IV

THE PENANCE

 

 

CHANDRA SHEKHAR

CHAPTER I

what pratap did

 Decorative P from Chandra Shekhar.pngratap was a Zemindar and a plunderer too. At the time of which we are speaking, almost all the Zemindars of this country were plunderers. Darwin has said that man has sprung originally from the monkey tribe. If people do not take offence or get annoyed at this theory, we may, perhaps, reasonably hope that no Zemindar of the present generation will be displeased with us for our remarks regarding their ancestry. To speak the truth, it does not seem to be in any way dishonourable or inglorious for a man to have descended from an ancient stock of plunderers; for elsewhere we find that many people of such a lineage occupy the highest position in society, so far as family prestige is concerned. The descendants of the famous plunderer, Timour, had risen to the highest social eminence in the whole world. In England, those who desire to indulge in family pride call themselves descendants of the Norman or the Scandinavian sea-robbers. In ancient India, the Kouravas enjoyed the highest social rank and status, and they were but plunderers—they had attempted to rob King Birat's cows. There are only a very few Zemindar families in Bengal who have to some extent such family reputation.

But then, Pratap was not exactly a plunderer of the type of the ancient Zemindars. He sought and employed the services of robbers and plunderers, only when it was necessary either for the security of his own property or for the submission of a wicked and unyielding enemy. He did so, not to rob people of their properties or to unnecessarily oppress them, but, in fact, only to protect the feeble and the oppressed. Pratap was now about to have recourse to such means once again.

On the morning of the very night Shaibalini stole away from the boat, Pratap was delighted to find that Ramcharan had come there; but he became anxious for not finding Shaibalini in the boat. He waited for her a while, and when she did not turn up, he began to search for her. He made a search on the bank of the river till the day had far advanced, but did not find her. In despair, Pratap concluded that Shaibalini must have drowned herself in the river. He could feel that it was no longer impossible for her to commit suicide in that way.

Pratap at first thought that he was the cause of Shaibalini's death, but he also felt that he had never deviated from the path of virtue and trodden on that of sin, and the cause for which Shaibalini had put an end to her life was more than what he could remove. So Pratap did not find any reason to blame himself. He blamed Chandra Shekhar a little for having married Shaibalini. Again, he became a little angry with Rupashi—why had she been married to him instead of Shaibalini? He became a bit more angry with Sundari; for if she had not set Pratap to Shaibalini's rescue, he would have had no occasion to swim with her along the waters of the Ganges, and so she would not have died. But Pratap became most angry with Foster; for if he had not caused Shaibalini to desert her husband's home, all this would not have happened at all. Then again, if the English had not come out to India, Shaibalini would not have fallen into Foster's hands, and so an irresistible feeling of hatred for the English sprang up in Pratap's mind. Pratap decided that he would again get hold of Foster, and put an end to his sinful life. This time, he would burn into ashes Foster's dead body, or he would again escape death—if he would bury him he might rend his way out of the grave. He also decided that it was highly desirable to drive the English 'out' of Bengal; for there might be many more Fosters among them.

Pratap returned to Monghyr in that small boat, meditating all the way. He entered into the Castle and found that preparations for war against the English were being made there with ardent zeal and enthusiasm. Pratap was much gratified at this. He thought within himself, "Will not the Nawab be able to drive the devils out of Bengal? Would not Foster be seized? It is the duty of every man to help the Nawab in this matter, to the extent of his capacity. Even the squirrels[1] could bridge up the sea, can I not render any assistance? What can I do? I have no trained soldiers—I have only Lathials and gangs of plunderers at my beck and call; can they be of any service? The work of pillage, if not anything else, can be carried on with them. With their help I shall be able to plunder any village that will render help to the English. Wherever I shall find provisions of the enemies, I shall plunder them. I shall take to pillaging whenever I shall find their transport in course of being taken from one place to another. In this way I shall be able to do the Nawab much good. The victory in an open engagement is but an ordinary means of destroying the enemies. To barricade the enemy at their back and to obstruct them in their attempts to collect provisions are the principal expedients to ensure success in war. I shall do all that lies in my power so far as these two stratagems are concerned. But then, why should I do so much? There are many reasons for it. In the first place the English have brought about Chandra Shekhar's complete ruin; secondly Shaibalini has met death on their account; thirdly they had imprisoned me; and lastly they have done and are still doing such mischief to others. I shall, therefore, give effect to my designs against them.

Pratap won over the leading officials of the Nawab by flattery, and through them obtained an interview with the Nawab. What talk he had with the Nawab, no one came to know. After the interview Pratap left for his own native village.

Rupashi was relieved of her anxiety for Pratap, on his return home, after a long time. But she was much mortified at the news of Shaibalini's death. Sundari came to see Pratap when she heard he had come back. She was extremely grieved to hear that Shaibalini was no more. But she said, "Shaibalini has now become happy. How can I have the front to deny that, for her, death was by all means better than life?"

Pratap again left home. Soon after his departure, the news widely spread throughout the length and breadth of the country that Pratap Roy had been collecting together all the plunderers and Lathials of the places between Monghyr and Cutwa.

Gurgan Khan became anxious at this report.

 

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  1. It is said that the squirrels helped Rama to build that vast causeway, by which he crossed the sea to invade Ceylon, to rescue his good queen Sita from the hands of the wicked Rakshasa-king Ravana.