Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part3/Chapter 6
SWIMMING IN DEEP WATER.
BOTH had swam off pretty far. What a lovely sight! What an ocean of felicity they were swimming in! Floating on the bosom of the inﬁnite-embracing ample-breasted, ripple-tossed, azure—hued river, and bathed in a sea of moonlight, Protap’s eyes fell on the inﬁnite Cerulean deep above, and he began to muse. Why is man not destined to swim in that ocean? Why is he not permitted to cleave those billows of clouds? What merit in an antecedent life can secure for me an ethervsailing existence? Swimming? How unproﬁtable to swim in this mundane river! Ever since my birth I have been swimming in the inexorable ocean of time dashing wave against wave and ﬂoating about like a straw from billow to billow. What more swimming after that! Shaibalini was thinking-this water has got its bottom, but I have been ﬂoating on fathomless waters.
Whether you fancy or no, Nature must have her way and beauty will not be concealed. Whatever sea you might swim in, the beauty of the blue waters will not tarnish, the chain of ripples will not be broken, the stars will shimmer to the “last syllable of recorded time,” the trees on the banks will sway in their wonted style, and the moonbeams will wanton in the water as ever. Oh, the tyranny of Nature! Like the fond mother she is ever ready to fondle you.
Such were the impressions on Protap’s mind, but not so on Shaibalini’s. The sickly emaciated white face which she had seen on the boat, was haunting her mind. She was swimming like an automatic doll; she had no peace. Both were clever in swimming, but in that swimming the sea of ecstasy was brimming over in Protap.
“Shaibalini—Sai!” cried Protap. She startled, and her heart ﬂuttered. In her childhood Protap used to address her as “Sai.” Again that endearing address came. Oh, what an age! Can time be measured by years? No, it is the mood of the moment which furnishes its true estimate. Those few years, when Shaibalini had not heard that sound, seemed a cycle to her. Now at that sound she closed her eyes in that immeasurable multitude of waters; at heart she invoked the moon and the stars and with her eyes shut she said, “ Protap, why this moonlight ﬂicker even to-day on the slender stream of the river?” 
“The moon, you say ?—no, the sun is up. Sai, we are now safe, no one is pursuing us.”
“Then come let us get up on the shore. Sai?”
“Do you remember?”
“How another day we swam like this."
Shaibalini did not reply. A big log was ﬂoating by and she caught hold of it. “Hold and rest,” said Shaibalini, “it will bear your weight.” Protap laid hold of it and said, “Do you remember how you could not sink, but I sank ?” “Yes, I do,” said Shaibalini.
“If you had not called me again by that name tonight, I would have made amends for it. Oh! why did you call me by that name?”
"Then you know very well that I can drown myself if I choose.”
Shaibalini was frightened and said, “Why Protap, why should you drown yourself? Come let us get up on the bank.”
“I am not going to do it. I am determined to die to-day.”
Protap loosed his hold of the log.
“I am serious. I will surely die——it all depends on you.”
“What do you want, Protap? Tell me, I will do whatever you wish.”
"First make a solemn promise, then I will get out.”
"What promise, Protap?”
Shaibalini also let go her hold of the log. In her eyes the stars died out, the moon wore a dun complexion, the blue water of the Ganges began to burn like blue ﬁre, and Foster came and stood before her with a naked sword. “What promise, Protap?” she repeated panting.
Both had left the log and were swimming side by side. In the bubbling, purling waters this awful conversation was going on and amidst the surrounding, scattering spray the moon was smiling. Oh, the tyranny of Nature!
“What promise, Protap?” again asked Shaibalini.
“Swear by these waters of the Ganges."
“What is the Ganges to me?”
“Then swear by your religion—”
“What religion have I got?”
“Then swear by me.”
“Come closer, give me your hand.”
Protap drew near; after an age he took her hand in his. It became very hard for them to keep themselves aﬂoat. They caught hold of the log again.
“Now go on,” said Shaibalini. “I am ready to swear anything you ask me to. Oh! after how long, Protap?”
“Swear by me, or I die. What is this life worth? Who cares to carry the burden of this sinful existence! What greater happiness than to lay down the load of this life in such a moonlight on the bosom of this placid Ganges!”
The moon was smiling overhead.
“I swear by you," said Shaibalini. “What shall I say?”
“Swear; touch me and swear that you are responsible for my life and death, my weal and woe.”
“I swear by you—Whatever you should decide for me I would abide by during the rest of my life.”
Protap suggested a terrible promise. It was an extremely difficult promise for Shaibalini; it was extremely hard and its fulﬁlment was impossible; it meant practically her destruction. Shaibalini could not make the promise and said, “Protap, who in this world is so miserable as I?”
“Why, I myself.”
“You have got wealth, you have got power, fame, friends, and hope; you have got your Rupasi; what have I got, Protap?
“Nothing. Then let us both sink.”
Shaibalini pondered for a while, and in the result adverse waves were tossed up for the first time in the stream of her life! “What harm if I die?” she thought, “but why should Protap die for me?” Then aloud she said, “Come let us get up on the bank.”
Protap left the support of the log and sank. His hand lay yet enclasped in hers; she gave a jerk and Protap came up.
“Yes, I will swear,” gasped Shaibalini. “But just consider, you are taking away my all. I do not want you, but why should I be made to forego all thought of you?”
Protap snatched away his hand; Shaibalini took it again. Then in a very deep, distinct voice hoarse with tears she began to speak, and said, “Protap, hold my hand ﬁrm. Listen Protap, I touch you and swear——I am responsible for your life and death, for your weal and woe. Listen Protap, I swear by you. From to-day I will forget you, from to-day I bid adieu to all happiness, from to-day I will curb my mind, to-day Shaibalini dies.”
Shaibalini drew her hand away and left the log.
“Come,” said Protap in a husky voice, “let us get up on the bank.”
Both got up on the bank.
They cleared the bend on foot. A skiff lay close by. Both got into it and pushed off. None of the two knew that Ramananda Swami had been keenly watching them. The men in the English boat thought that the prisoner had escaped. They went in pursuit, but the skiff soon went out of sight.
Before the plaint against Rupasi was filed, Shaibalini had lost her case.
- Shaibalini means to say, “Why, stir up the sweet memories of childhood in my withered heart," but Protap thought that Shaibalini had mistaken the rising sun for the moon and hence the reply, "The moon you say, etc."
- For the allusion see page 80, lines 22-24.