Chandra Shekhar/Part 6/Chapter 3
the emperor and his wealth
ir kashim's army retreated from Katwa after being beaten there by the English, and as hard luck would have it, they sustained another defeat at Gheria—the Mahamedans were again routed and scattered all around by the English, like dust before a strong gale. The remains of the vanquished force rallied together and took shelter at Udyanalla. There, the Mahamedans were now making trenches to check the advance of the English.
Mir Kashim appeared there in person. After his arrival there, one of his officers, Syed Amir Hossain, brought to the Nawab's notice that a prisoner was most anxiously soliciting an interview with him—that the prisoner had something very important to communicate to the Nawab and was quite unwilling to give it out before any other person.
Mir Kashim enquired, "Who is that person?"
"The prisoner is a woman," replied Amir Hussain. "She comes from Calcutta. Mr. Warren Hastings sent her here with a letter; in reality, she is not a prisoner. My humble-self received the letter, because it had reached me before the war broke out—if I have done wrong by doing so, I am here before your majesty to receive any punishment that your royal~self may desire to inflict on me."
After this, Amir Hossain read out to the Nawab the letter, he had received from Warren Hastings. It ran as follows:—
"I do not know who this woman is; she appeared before me in a piteous condition and begged to be sent to the Nawab, as she was quite helpless in Calcutta and had no other means to have recourse to. War, it seems, will soon break out between you and ourselves, but the people of our race have no quarrel with women and I, therefore, send her to you. I know nothing beyond what I have already said."
After hearing the letter, the Nawab ordered the woman to be brought before him. Syed Amir Hossain went out and after a while returned with the woman. The Nawab saw that she was no other than Kulsam herself. He was violently annoyed and asked,
"What do you want, wretched slave—death?"
Kulsam looked the Nawab in the face and for a time remained staring at him. She then said in a stern voice, "Nawab! Where is your Begum—where is Dalani Biby gone?"
The fearless manner in which Kulsam addressed herself to the Nawab surprised and, to some extent, frightened Amir Hossain—he made a profound bow to the Nawab and retired from the place. Mir Kashim then said,
"You will be soon sent to the place where that wicked soul now rests."
Sterner than before, Kulsam replied, "Yes, I shall be, but you too shall have to follow her—it is for this reason why I have come to you. On my way here, I heard that Dalani Begum had committed suicide—tell me, is it true?"
"Suicide"! replied the Nawab in astonishment. "She was doomed to death by royal orders. You were her accomplice in all her crimes—I will see that you are torn off into pieces by dogs—"
Kulsam could bear no more—she threw herself down on the floor and burst into a wail. She then began to scold and abuse the Nawab in no measured language. Hearing her, the guards, the officers of the state and the Nawab's personal attendants, came there in all haste—one of them ran towards Kulsam and, but for the Nawab, would have lifted her up by the hair; the Nawab was taken aback and so, he forbade the man to molest her. Kulsam then said,
"It is good that you all have come here—I will now unfold to you a thrilling story. The Nawab will immediately order my death—no body will come to know of the story, if I do not relate it to you before my death; so, you all listen to me. There is a foolish ruler of Bengal and Behar, named Mir Kashim. He had a Begum whose name was Dalani—she was the sister of the Nawab's commander-in-chief, Gurgan Khan."
Hearing this, no one again meddled with Kulsam—all who were present there, began to look at each other's face, in surprise—a feeling of curiosity was roused in them. The Nawab too remained silent—Kulsam, in continuing her story, said,
"Gurgan Khan and Daulatunnesa left together Ispahan and came to Bengal to earn their livelihood. When Dalani entered Mir Kashim's palace, as a slave girl, both the brother and the sister promised to help each other up."
After this, Kulsam related to them, in detail, what happened on the night, she and Dalani Begum had called at the commander-in-chief's place. She had heard from Dalani all about the conversation the Begum had with Gurgan Khan, on that fatal night and so, could tell her hearers all about it; she also related how the Begum had been prevented by the commander-in-chief from re-entering the castle—how the strange hermit had come to their help—how they had got shelter in Pratap's house—how Dalani had been carried away from there by the English, who had mistaken her for Shaibalini and lastly, how after Amyatt's death, Dalani had been cast on the isolated bank of the Ganges by wicked Foster. She then said,
"There is no doubt that Satan had come upon me, at that moment, or why should I leave the Begum alone? The pains and sufferings of that wicked Englishman had moved me, and I—but let that go; it was my belief that the Nawab's boat was coming after us and that the Begum will be taken on it, or why should I leave her alone there? But, I have been sufficiently punished for my folly. To speak the truth, immediately after the Begum had left us, I entreated and implored Foster to also drop me down—but he did not do so. On my arrival at Calcutta, I asked every man I came across with, there, to send me back here, but nobody took pity on me. Later on, I came to know that Warren Hastings is always kind to the needy and the distressed—I went to him and fell at his feet, with the prayer, that I might be sent back here. It is through his kindness that I have come here and you can now put an end to my life—I have no desire to live in this world any more."
So saying, Kulsam began to weep.
On that immensely rich and gorgeous throne, bedecked with jewels, casting on all sides their lustre in innumerable beams and rays, was seated the Nawab of Bengal, with down-cast eyes. The sceptre of his vast kingdom was about to slip out of his hand—it could not be retained in spite of all possible endeavours, but where was now that unconquerable kingdom, which would have remained his without any effort whatsoever?
The Nawab had taken care of the thorn instead of the rose—Kulsam had truly said—"The ruler of Bengal is a fool."
The Nawab then said to the noblemen of his court, "Listen to me, it is beyond my power to retain this kingdom any more. The slave girl has truly said, that the ruler of Bengal is a fool. If you can save this kingdom from ruin, good and well—I shall take leave of you all and quit this place; I shall either take shelter within the female quarters in the castle at Ruhidas, or lead the life of a mendicant."
The Nawab paused for a while—his strong and majestic body began to shake with emotion—he controlled his tears with much effort and again said, "Listen to me, my faithful friends! if the English kill me, like Seerajuddaulah, do not fail to bury me by the side of the grave of my dear and devoted Dalani—remember this is my last request to you. I cannot speak any more—you may now leave me alone; but before you go away, do something for me—I like to see that Taki Khan once. Ali Ibrahim Khan! I have no better friend than yourself, in this world—it is my request to you, that you should anyhow bring before me that treacherous Mahammad Taki." Ibrahim Khan saluted the Nawab and coming out of the Durbar-tent, mounted on his horse and rode away.
The Nawab then said, "Is there any one else, who is willing to help me?"
All present, folded their hands out of reverence and stood before the Nawab to receive orders.
The Nawab said,
"Can any one of you bring Foster before me?"
"I will forthwith start for Calcutta to find out Foster," said Amir Hossain respectfully.
The Nawab paused for a while and then said,
"As for Shaibalini? Can any one manage to bring her here?"
"She must have returned to Bedagram by this time," submitted Mahammad Irfan, with folded hands. "I will go and bring her here."
After this the Nawab said,
"Can any one find out the hermit, who gave shelter to Dalani Begum at Murshidabad?"
"If you desire, I can go to Monghyr for the hermit after I have found out Shaibalini," replied Mahammad Irfan with a respectful bow.
The Nawab then inquired, "How far is Gurgan Khan now?"
One of the councillors said, "It is reported that he is marching towards Udayanalla with his main »force—but he has not yet arrived here."
The Nawab thereupon muttered,
"Force! Force! whose force is it?"
"It is his, after all", whispered some one.
The councillors now took leave of the Nawab. Just as they left, the Nawab rose from his brilliant throne of gold, threw away from his head the crown with its glittering diamonds, tore off the beautiful necklace of pearls, and cast aside all other valuables from his person; he then threw himself down on the floor and cried out, "Oh, my beloved Dalani! where are you now?"
Such is the worthlessness of regal pomp, in this world.