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Chandra Shekhar/Part 5/Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER III

the dance

 Decorative S from Chandra Shekhar.pngarupchand and his brother Mahatab-Chand Jagatsetts were residing in their palatial residence, at Monghyr. Within that magnificent mansion, there were burning, on that night, a thousand lamps of dazzling brilliancy. The countless rays of those brilliant lights were being most charmingly reflected by the dazzling ornaments of the dancing girl, within the marble hall. The flow of water is most effectually arrested by a barrier of water itself, and so brilliancy is best retained by a bright object. The shooting beams from those glowing lamps were, therefore, glittering in a most beautiful and striking manner on the bright marble pillars—the gorgeous Musnad, with its sparkling jewels and golden embroidery—the most artistically carved scent receptacles of every shape and variety, set with brilliants of the first water, and lastly on the charming necklaces of large and well-shaped pearls of the purest colour, which adorned the princely hosts. In the midst of that dazzling magnificence, was issuing forth the sweet and melodious voice of the dancing girl. The splendour of the glowing lights and the sweet flow of that delicious music, produced a most harmonious combination of brilliancy and sweetness. When the moon appears on the blue sky of the night—when the sparkling waters of the Ganges under her silvery radiance, being stirred by the gentle breeze, breaks into ripples, which too sparkle in that beautiful light, or when the most pleasant and life-giving southern breeze enhances the refreshing beauty of a silvery night, we notice the same striking combination of brilliancy and sweetness. Again, when the long golden rays of the morning sun, slowly and gently unfold the petals of the budding lilies, smiling on the blue transparent waters of a pond—when those gentle and slanting beams light up each particle of water on the green leaves of the lotus stalk, and strike, so to speak, the morning notes of the aquatic birds, or inspire the gay and frolicsome cuckoo of the spring to pour forth upon this world a flood of melody, we notice that very charming combination of brilliancy and sweetness. Then again, when beautiful glances flash like the inconstant streaks of lightning from the dark blue eyes of a bashful beauty, floating like two charming lilies, in the tears of farewell or affected displeasure, or when your sweet-heart, waving her earrings, pours into your ears extremely pleasant and sweet epithets, we notice the same combination of brilliancy and sweetness. Lastly, when the sparkling Champagne glitters in a transparent flask, or when in the brilliant light of a chain of glowing lamps, a sweet damsel, gorgeously bedecked with jewels and draperies, sings merrily, we observe the very same striking combination of brilliancy and sweetness. Such a combination was effected, that night, in the palatial residence of the Setts’, but it had no effect on the minds of the two princely brothers—Gurgan Khan was the sole object of their thought.

At the time we are speaking of, the devastating fire of war had blazed forth in Bengal. Even before he received any intimation from the Council at Calcutta, Ellis had attacked the Nawab's Fort, at Patna, and taken it by storm. But subsequently, an army was sent there by the Nawab, which effecting a junction with the Mahamedan fighters there, retook the fort. Ellis and his men fell into the hands of the Mahamedans, and were brought to Monghyr, as prisoners of war. After that, both sides were preparing for a struggle, in right earnest. Gurgan Khan was conferring with the Jagatsetts on that momentous subject—the dance was merely an excuse for their meeting; neither the Jagatsetts nor Gurgan Khan were enjoying it. Their indifference to music, on such an occasion, was by no means unnatural; for, who organizes such a meeting for the sake of dance and music?

Gurgan Khan arrived at a final decision—he thought that when war would exhaust both the parties, he would defeat both the Nawab and the English, and install himself on the Guddee of Bengal. But the first thing that was required for the accomplishment of such an object, thought Gurgan Khan, was to keep the soldiers of the Nawab absolutely under his own control. The soldiers, however, would not fight for him unless he could win them over by money. But it was impossible for him to have sufficient funds unless the Sett Plutuses would come to his help. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary for Gurgan Khan to take the Jagatsetts into his confidence, and have with them a conference on that subject. On the other hand, the Nawab too knew it very well that any side to which these two immensely rich brothers would lend their support, would ultimately become victorious. He also knew that the Jagalsetts were not his well-wishers at heart; for his treatment towards them had been other than good. He was, out of suspicion, detaining them at Monghyr almost like prisoners. The Nawab was in fact, devising means to imprison them within the Castle, knowing it for certain that they would, whenever opportunity will present itself, go over to the side of his enemies. The Jagatsetts had come to know of the Nawab's intention. They had not done anything against Mir Kashim so long out of fear only. But they now realised that their deliverance would be impossible unless they combined with Gurgan Khan—their, as well as Gurgan Khan's object being the complete overthrow of Mir Kashim. But lest the Nawab would suspect Gurgan Khan if he would meet them without any occasion for it, they had got up the dance, and invited Gurgan Khan to be present on the occasion, along with the other high officials of the Nawab.

Gurgan Khan had come there with the Nawab's permission, but he did not take his seat with the other officials—he managed to keep himself a little aloof from them. The princely hosts were often coming and conversing with him in the very same way as they were doing with their other guests; but their conversation with Gurgan Khan was carried on in an inaudible voice. It was something like this:—

Gurgan Khan. I intend to start a factory jointly with you. Are you ready to be my partners?

Mahatabchand. With what end in view?

Gurgan Khan. To bring the big factory at Monghyr to a dead-lock.

Mahatab. Yes, I am quite willing to be your partner—unless we start a business like that we can, by no means, hope to avert our ruin.

Gurgan Khan. If you agree to my proposal you shall have to supply the necessary capital, and I shall combine with it my labour to carry on the business.

At this moment the dancing girl, Mania Bai, sang, "Oh thou knowest tricks well . . ." This brought a smile into Mahatabchand's lips, and he carelessly enquired, "Whom does she mean? Let it go—now, to what we were saying—we are quite willing to accept your conditions, provided our capital is quite secure with the interest thereon and we are not involved in any difficulty hereafter."

Thus, while the dancing girl was entertaining the assembled guests with a rich variety of Indian tunes, Gurgan Khan and the Jagatsetts were discussing their plans in words which were intelligible to themselves alone. When everything was settled, Gurgan Khan said,

"Have you heard that a new merchant is starting lots of factories in this country?"

Mahatab. No. Is he a native of this country or a foreigner?

Gurgan Khan. Yes, a native.

Mahatab. Where are his factories?

Gurgan Khan. In all the places between Monghyr and Murshidabad. He is establishing factories wherever there is a hill, a jungle or a waste land.

Mahatab. Is he a big capitalist?

Gurgan Khan. He is not as yet, but it is not possible to say what he will be in the future.

Mahatab. With what factory does he carry on transactions?

Gurgan Khan. With the big factory at Monghyr.

Mahatab. Is he a Hindoo or a Musalman?

Gurgan Khan. A Hindoo.

Mahatab. What's his name?

Gurgan Khan. Pratap Roy.

Mahatab. Where does he come from?

Gurgan Khan. From the neighbourhood of Murshidabad.

Mahatab. I have heard his name—he is an ordinary man.

Gurgan Khan. By God, he is a dangerous man.

Mahatab. What has led him to plunge into this affair?

Gurgan Khan. He bears a severe grudge against the Calcutta Factory.

Mahatab. We must bring him over to our side—what can buy him up?

Gurgan Khan. It is not possible to answer this question till we come to know what has set him to this work. If he has undertaken it on mercenary considerations, it will not take much time to win him over; but if there be anything else at the bottom?

Mahatab. What else can it be? What is it that has stirred up so much enthusiasm in him?

At that moment the dancing girl was singing "Oh that fair and sweet face. . . ."

Hearing her Mahatabchand said,

"Is it so—whose fair face is it?"

 

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