WAR with the English had broken out and Mir Kasim’s downfall commenced. At the very outset he lost the battle of Katwa. Then Gurgan Khan’s treachery came to light. His last hope was gone. At this juncture his intellect began to give way. Mir Kasim made up his mind to massacre the English prisoners. His treatment of others became atrocious. As ill luck would have it, Mahammad Taqui sent the news about Dalani precisely at this moment. Clariﬁed butter was poured into the blazing ﬁre. The English were treacherous, the commander of his army seemed to be of doubtful integrity, the Goddess of Fortune was perfidious and to crown all Dalani had proved faithless. The cup was full Mir Kasim wrote back to Taqui Khan, “There is no need of sending Dalani to me, ﬁnish her with poison.”
Mahammad Taqui took the poison bowl with his own hand to Dalani. Dalani was astonished to ﬁnd him in her presence, and indignantly exclaimed, “What’s this my Lord ! Why this outrage on a lady’s privacy?”
“Fate!” cried Mahamrnad Taqui, clapping his hands on his forehead, “the Nawab is ungracious to you."
“Who told you so?” said Dalani with a smile.
“If you don’t believe me, you can see the order for yourself,” answered Mahammad Taqui.
“Then you must have misread it,” said Dalani.
Taqui handed over the order to her. After reading it Dalani smiled a little, and flinging away the paper said, “This is a forgery. Why this fun with me? Do you wish to die?"
“Don’t frighten yourself, I can save you,” said Taqui.
“Oh, I see!” cried Dalani, “you have got a design. You have come to frighten me with this forged letter.”
“Then listen,” said Taqui. “I wrote to the Nawab that you lived in Amyatt’s boat as his mistress. That is why this order has been issued.”
Dalani contracted her eyebrows. Like the ripples on the placid water of the Ganges, wrinkles gathered on her forehead; the string of thought was tied to the bow of her eyebrow and Mahammad Taqui felt the ground sliding from under him. “Why did you write that?” she asked. In reply Mahammad Taqui related everything from the beginning to the end.
“Come,” said Dalani, “let me see the order once more, please.”
Mahamrnad Taqui handed over the document again. After carefully perusing it she found it to be genuine and not forged. “Where is the poison?” she asked. Her words took Mahammad Taqui by surprise and he asked, “What do you want the poison for?”
“What does the order direct?"
“To administer poison to you.”
“Then let me have it."
“Do you seriously mean to take it?”
“Why not? It is the order of my King. VVhy shouldn’t I obey it?”
Mahammad Taqui felt in his heart of hearts as if he was dying for very shame and said, “What is done, can not be undone; you shall not have to take the poison, I will see to that.”
Dalani’s eyes ﬂashed ﬁre and straightening up her slender ﬁgure she stood up and said,
“Whoever takes the gift of life at the hand of such a vile wretch as you, is herself a greater wretch; come, let me have the poison.”
Mahammad Taqui gazed at Dalani in admiration Dalani, beautiful— Da1ani young——the stream of beauty just beginning to ﬁll up in the rainy torrent of youth, the full spring of youth opening in their fullest bloom her blossoming limbs. The spring had blended with the rainy season. The object of your desire is bursting in agony, but what a pleasure for you to look on! O God! why hast thou made sorrow so beautiful? This girl in distress, a blushing ﬂower driven by the wind, a pleasure boat tossed by billows—what shall a man do with her? - where keep her? The devil whispered in Taqui’s ear, “In the heart.”
“Listen my beautiful, follow me and you shall not have to take the poison,” said Taqui.
At this, we blush to write, Dalani gave Mahammad Taqui a kick.
Mahammad Taqui could not administer the poison, and throwing half-glances at Dalaui slowly turned back.
After he had left, Dalani ﬂung herself on the ground, and writhing in agony wept and exclaimed,
“O my King of Kings, Shah of Shahs, Padishah of Padishahs! what is the meaning of this order to your humble slave? Shall I take poison? If you order, why should I not? Your love is my nectar, your anger is my poison. When you are angry, then the poison has been taken. Is poison more painful than your displeasure? O monarch of monarchs, the light of the world, the sole hope of the destitute, the lord of the world, the vicegerent of God, the very ocean of kindness!—where are you now? When it is your order, I will take the poison with a smiling face, but you cannot stand by and look on, is my only regret.”
A serving-maid, by name Kariman, had been engaged to wait on Dalani. Summoning the maid to her presence, she gave all her jewels into her hands and said, “Go to the doctor quietly and get me a sleeping-draught; mind you, so that I might sleep for ever, never to wake again. Sell these and pay the doctor, the balance you can keep for yourself.”
From her tearful eyes Kariman understood everything. At ﬁrst she would not consent, but Dalani’s repeated urging, backed by a large sum of money, made the foolish tempted woman yield at last.
The doctor gave the potion. A peon privately informed Taqui that the slave Kariman had just purchased poison from Dr. Mirza Habib.
Taqui pressed Kariman hard and she confessed everything.
‘‘I have made over the poison to Dalani Begum,’ said Kariman.
Forthwith Mahammad Taqui went to Dalani. He found her resting on a seat with her hands folded, face upturned and eyes uplifted. The flood-gates had been let loose from her full, large, lotus-leaf eyes, the tears ran down her cheeks on to her dress, and an empty bowl stood in front. Dalani had drunk off the poison.
“ What is this bowl lying here?” asked Mahammad Taqui.
“That is the poison,” answered Dalani. “I am not a traitorous wretch like you—I obey the orders of my lord You ought to—come, drink the rest and follow me.”
Mahammad Taqui stood speechless. Slowly, slowly, Dalani laid herself down; her eyes closed, all became dark, and Dalani Begum passed away.