Chandra Shekhar/Part 6/Chapter 5
to bedagram again
He again entered into his once-abandoned home after a long, long time. He saw that his house had become more hideous than wilderness itself. There was almost no straw on the roofs of his thatched houses—most of it had been carried away by storms; the roofs of some houses had come down and the straw on them, had been eaten up by cattle—all the bamboos of those fallen houses had been taken away by the neighbours, to be used as fuel. The courtyard had overgrown with weeds—reptiles of every description were found to crawl about most freely within it. The doors and windows of the houses had been stolen away by thieves. All the rooms were found open—not a single article was found within them—some had been taken away by burglars and some had been removed by Sundari, to be carefully preserved in her own house. The rains had free access into the rooms and had made them quite damp with moisture—the house was full of filth and dirt. Rats, bats and cockroaches were found to parade within the house, in gangs. After many long and weary days, Chandra Shekhar again entered into that house with Shaibalini and cast a deep sigh. He looked around and noticed the spot where he had burnt into ashes his valuable treasure of old books. He then called out,
Shaibalini did not make any reply; she sat at the entrance of the house and was gazing at the stalwart Karabi, as if, it resembled a phantom, which she had seen, in a dream, in by-gone days. She did not say a word in reply to Chandra Shekhar's numerous questions—she was looking about, with her eyes unusually expanded and with a meaningless smile on her lips—she once laughed aloud and pointed out something with her finger.
In the meanwhile, the news spread in the neighbourhood, that Chandra Shekhar had returned with Shaibalini. Many were coming to see them—Sundari came first of all.
Sundari did not know that Shaibalini had gone mad. She first of all, made obeisance to Chandra Shekhar, whose garb of an ascetic surprised her. She then looked at Shaibalini and said to Chandra Shekhar,
"After all, you have done well in bringing her back—everything will be all right, if she would undergo a penance."
But Sundari was astonished to see that, unlike Hindu women, Shaibalini neither moved away nor drew her veil, and began to laugh at Sundari, although her husband, Chandra Shekhar, was there. Sundari thought that it was a fashion which Shaibalini must have learnt from her English companions. So thinking, she went up and took her seat by Shaibalini—but she took every care that even her cloth may not come in contact with that of Shaibalini; for, she had lost her caste. She then said with a smile,
"Look here, can you recognise me?"
"Yes, I can," replied Shaibalini. "You are Parbati."
"What a pity!" exclaimed Sundari. "You have forgotten me so soon?"
"Why should I forget you, dear?" said Shaibalini vacantly. "Don't you remember I beat you black and blue, when you spoiled my dinner by touching my dishes? Parbati—my sweet sister! just sing a song.
My heart's cherished secret is that,
Where is the maid on gallant's lap?
Where is the moon within clouds' wrap?
Vain, oh vain, is my covert-craft!
You see, Parbati, I am miserably confused—I feel, as if, some one is absent—he was here, but now he is not—some one is expected, but he does not turn up—I have come somewhere, but I feel I have not—I want some one, but I know him not."
Sundari was taken aback and she looked Chandra Shekhar in the face, anxious to know what the matter was. Chandra Shekhar called her near him. He then whispered into her ears that Shaibalini had gone mad. Sundari now understood everything. She remained absolutely silent for a time. First of all, her eyes looked a bit brighter with moisture—they then became wet, and finally, tears came out of them in torrents—Sundari began to weep. Blessed are women in this world! This Sundari, on another occasion, had sincerely wished for Shaibalini's death—she had prayed that Shaibalini's boat might sink with her; but now, none felt more than Sundari for Shaibalini.
After a while, Sundari wiped away her tears and again took her seat by Shaibalini. Slowly and gradually she drew Shaibalini into a conversation—slowly and gradually she began to remind her of the things of the past—but poor Shaibalini could not recollect anything. Shaibalini had not lost her memory altogether, or how could she recollect the name of Parbati? But her brain was so deranged, that everything got confused within her. She remembered Sundari, but she could not recognise her.
First of all, Sundari sent Chandra Shekhar to her own place, for a bath and breakfast. She then set herself to make that almost dilapidated house fit for Shaibalini's habitation—one by one, all her neighbours came to assist her; necessary articles were forthcoming from all sides.
On the other hand, Pratap returned home from Monghyr, after he had stationed his armed men at the right places. On his return there, he heard that Chandra Shekhar had come back—he, therefore, immediately left for Bedagram to meet him.
On that very day, a little before Pratap's arrival, Ramananda Swami appeared there. Sundari heard with great pleasure that Chandra Shekhar would administer medicine to Shaibalini according to the great Swami's instructions. An auspicious hour was fixed for the purpose.