Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part2/Chapter 1



“No, the bird will not dance. Now for your news.”

With these words Dalani Begum gave a tug at the tail of a refractory peacock. Unclasping a diamond bracelet from her wrist, she fastened it round the neck of another peacock and scattered a rose-spray over the bill and eyes of a foul-mouthed cockatoo. The cockatoo retaliated shrieking out, “slave.” This term of abuse Dalani had herself taught the bird.

At hand a serving-maid was trying to make the birds dance; to her Dalani had said, “Now for your news.”

“The news is not much," began Kulsam. “Two cargo-boats laden with arms have landed. An Englishman is in charge. These boats have been seized. Ali Ibrahim Khan is of opinion that they should be allowed to proceed. For no good there will be war with the English if their progress is obstructed. Gurgan Khan maintains—let there be war, if necessary, he will not release the boats.”

“Where are these arms going to?”

“To the factory at Patna. If war should break out, it would first break out there. To guard against sudden dispossession the English are sending arms. This is rife within the fort.”

“But why does Gurgan Khan want to capture the boats?”

“He says that if so much arms are allowed to collect there, it will be difficult to defeat the English. The enemy should not be allowed to grow strong. Ali Ibrahim Khan is of opinion that, whatever we might do we could not defeat the English. Therefore, it is better we should not go into war. If that be so, why bring about war by seizing the boats? That in the main is no doubt true; there is no escaping the hands of the English. I am afraid the scenes of Nawab Serajudowlla’s time will be acted over again.”

Dalani remained buried in thought for a time, and ultimately said, “Kulsam, are you game for a dangerous adventure?”

“What is it? Have I got to eat the Hilsa fish [1], or take a plunge in cold water?"

“Go to, it is no joke. If it reaches the Nawab’s ears, then both of us will be trampled under elephant’s feet.

“If it reaches his ear, then! Why, I have made away with so much attar, rosewater, gold and silver, and yet no one has been able to know of it. My idea is that the eyes of man have been put in his head as a mere decoration, he cannot see with them. Why, when has a man been able to detect awoman’s guile? I have not seen such a case.”

“Tut! I am not talking of the eunuch guards The Nawab is not like other men; what can escape his notice?”

“But what is there which I cannot hide? What do you want me to do?”

“A letter has got to be taken to Gurgan Khan.”

Kulsam remained mute in astonishment.

“What do you say to it? ” asked Dalani.

“Who will send the letter?”

“I. ”

“What, have you gone mad?”


Both sat silent for a time. The two peacocks finding them speechless perched upon their respective roosts. The Cockatoo set up a stupid scream. The remaining birds busied themselves in pecking their rations. “The deed is very simple,” said Kulsam after a time. “If a eunuch is tipped a bit, he will carry the letter at once. But that is very risky. Should the Nawab come to know, then both of us would be killed. However, you know your own business best, I am a mere servant. Let me have the letter and——some cash.”

Kulsam then went away with the letter. Providence made this letter the thread which knitted the destiny of Dalani and Shaibalini together.

  1. The Hilsa fish is hard to digest