Chandra Shekhar/Part 6/Chapter 2
the fatal order
he struggle between the Nawab and the English now commenced. With it, began Mir Kashim's fall. At the very outset, Mir Kashim was defeated at the battle of Katwa. After that, Gurgan Khan's treachery gradually became manifest. The hopes which the Nawab had centered in Gurgan Khan, now completely vanished away. At this critical juncture, the Nawab was every day losing his self-possession. He made up his mind to put to death all the English prisoners. He began to ill-treat everyone. While he was in this pitiable plight, Makammad Taki's letter about Dalani reached his hands—it added fuel to the fire. The English played false with him—his commander-in-chief was appearing to be untrustworthy—the Goddess of Fortune, presiding over his kingdom, seemed to have deserted him, and was he to believe, above and over all these, that Dalani too was faithless? The Nawab could endure no more. He wrote to Mahammad Taki, "You need not send Dalani here—put an end to her life with poison."
Mahammad Taki himself went to Dalani with the Nawab's cruel letter. Dalani was surprised to see Mahammad Taki before her. She lost her temper and said, "What is this, sir? Why are you insulting me in this way?" Mahammad Taki slapped his forehead in pretended grief and cunningly said, "Ah me! the Nawab is displeased with you."
Dalani smiled contemptuously and said, "Who brings you this news?"
"If you will not believe me," said Mahammad Taki, "please read the royal message".
Dalani. Then you have not been able to read it aright.
Mahammad Taki then handed over to Dalani the Nawab's letter, bearing the state seal. Dalani read it and threw it away; she laughed and said, "This is a forged letter. Why are you playing tricks with me? Is it because you want to die?"
Mahammad Taki. You need not be afraid of your life—I can save you.
Dalani. Oh, I see you have some motive—you have come to frighten me with a forged letter Mahammad Taki. Then let me tell you the real story. I wrote to the Nawab that you had beeh living in Amyatt's boat as his mistress; hence the fatal order.
Hearing this, Dalani contracted her eye-brows; her broad forehead, which was hitherto without a furrow, now shrunk into wrinkles, as if, the placid bosom of the Ganges was suddenly stirred up into ripples. Mahammad Taki was frightened at this sight. Dalani then asked in a dignified voice, "Why did you write so?" Mahammad Taki related to her everything and when he finished, Dalani said, "Let me see the royal message again." He again handed over to her the Nawab's letter. She read it through and through and examined it very closely—she was convinced that it was really the Nawab's message. She, therefore, asked, "Where is poison?" Dalani's words surprised Mahammad Taki beyond measure. The coward said, "What will you do with poison?"
Dalani. What is the Nawab's order?
Mahammad Taki. He has commanded me to put an end to your life with poison.
Dalani. Then, where is poison?
Mahammad Taki. Do you really think of taking poison?
Dalani. Why should I not obey the order of my royal master?
Mahammad Taki was put to shame. He said, "What has been has been, you shall not have to take poison. I shall devise some means to save your life."
Dalani's eyes flashed fire. She rose up and striking a dignified attitude said, "The man or woman who stoops so low as to live on the mercy of a moral wreck of your stamp, is even worse than your wicked-self—better give me poison."
Mahammad Taki gazed at Dalani. He found that she was a faultless creation of beauty and charmingly young. The river of her beauty was then just being filled up by the exuberant flood of youth, and her beautiful mould was about to attain its perfection, under the vivifying influence of the sweet spring of life. It seemed as if spring and autumn had combined together to produce the matchless charm, she wore about her. He thought within himself, "The beautiful lady, I am now beholding before me, is panting under grief, but how sweet and pleasant it is to feast my eyes on her beauty! Oh, my God! why have you made sorrow so charmingly beautiful? What shall I do with this distressed girl of matchless beauty—this torn flower in the bloom of fragrance—this joyous boat in the midst of the battering waves—oh, where shall I keep her?" Satan whispered into Taki's ears, "Within your own heart."
Mahammad Taki then said to Dalani, "Listen to my advice, fair lady, dedicate your life in love to me—you shall not have to take poison."
Hearing these rude words, Dalani—we feel ashamed to say—gave a kick to Mahammad Taki. The villain, however, did not give her poison and slowly left the room, casting askance glances at her, as he went out.
Dalani then threw herself on the floor, overpowered with grief and emotion. She wept bitterly and exclaimed, "Oh thou mighty king of kings—my life's beloved lord—my all in all, what a cruel sentence have you passed on your faithful and devoted Dalani! You want me to end my life with poison—why should I not, if you desire it? To me, your love is nectar and your displeasure the bitterest venom in the world—when you have been annoyed with me, I have already taken poison—is venom more tormenting than your displeasure? Oh mighty king—light of the world—God's trusted representative—incarnation of justice and mercy—my only stay in life—where are you now? I shall, in obedience to your command, take poison with joy and alacrity, but it is my only regret that you will not be before me to see it."
A maid-servant, named Kariman, used to attend on the Begum, at Murshidabad. Dalani called the maid before her. She then gave all her ornaments to the woman and said, "Secretly, Kariman, very secretly, get me such a medicine from the physician as I may fall asleep never to rise again. Sell these ornaments to pay the apothecary's bill—the balance, whatever it may be, you may take for yourself."
Kariman saw that Dalani's eyes were full of tears and she could at once understand what Dalani had meant. At first she refused, but Dalani repeatedly offered her inducements and the foolish woman, at last, agreed to carry out the order for lucre.
The apothecary gave a medicine. Forthwith, one of Mahammad Taki's attendants ran to his master and reported, "Just now Kariman has bought poison from Hakim Mirza Habib."
Mahammad Taki caught hold of Kariman immediately. She made a confession of the whole thing and said that she had already handed over the poison to Dalani Begum. Thereupon, Mahammad Taki came to Dalani in all haste, and he found that the Begum was seated on the floor, with folded hands and up-turned eyes—an incessant and unbroken stream of tears from her beautiful expanded eyes was drenching her cloth—an empty cup was lying before her—Dalani had taken the poison!
Mahammad Taki anxiously enquired, "What was in that cup?"
"Poison," replied Dalani. "I am not a traitor like you—I always take delight in obeying my master's command. It is now your duty to take what is still left in the cup and follow me."
Mahammad Taki did not say a word—he remained standing, quite motionless. Slowly and gradually Dalani laid herself down on the floor. She closed her eyes—everything became dark—Dalani left this cruel world for ever!