Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 10
PREPARATION AFTER CONSULTATION.
In the evening of the day following that on which Abhiram Swami drove out Bimala, she was making her toilet in her chamber. A woman of five and thirty, and engaged in that sort of thing? And why not so? Does youth pass away with any particular age? Never. Youth only passes away with beauty and love: she that has no beauty, is old in the very flower of youth; she who has it, is blessed with a perpetual youth; she whose mind is unknown to love and joy, is never young; she who has experienced them, never old. To that day, Bimala's body seemed filled with genial humors, and her mind overflowed with love and the ideas and desires which love inspires. Moreover, advance of age serves but to mellow beauty—a remark the truth of which the reader will be all the readier to allow, if he happen to be a little advanced in age.
What man that saw the beauty of her cherry-ripe lips, crimsoned with the color of the betel, could say that he did not look upon a youthful lady? Who, after seeing the quick side-glances of her expansive eyes, shaded with kajjala, could say that the woman was not younger than a damsel of twenty-five? What a lovely pair of eyes! So gracefully drawn out, so lustrous, so quick-glancing! The eyes of some women unmistakably show that they are ambitious, and that they are ever eager to tread 'the primrose path of dalliance.' Bimala's eyes were of this kind. I tell the reader that Bimala was youthful;— nay, she may more justly he considered as enjoying a perpetual youth. Who that witnessed the melting softness of her skin, over which shone her champaka-like complexion, could honestly say that a girl of 'sweet sixteen' was mistress of a softer person than she? Who that saw the small, beautiful ringlet which, escaping from behind her ear, had fallen on her cheek in happy negligence, could affirm that a young female's hair had not fallen on a young female's cheek! Courteous reader, kindly do comply with our request; open your mind's eye, and lo! look where seated before her glass, Bimala is dressing her hair—look how taking before her yon thick lock in her left hand, she is applying the comb to it—look at the supressed smile with which she is contemplating her youthful charms in the glass. Ah! Listen to the faint, mellifluous strains which are flowing from her lips at intervals. Nay, should you feel inclined, you are at liberty to feast your eyes with a sight of the voluptuous grandeur of her well-formed bust; then candidly say whether they are Time-conquering or not. Having seen and heard all this, now say what youthful woman is more captivating to your fancy?
Having woven her hair, Bimala did not tie up the braid into a knot, but let it hang at length behind her back. She then wiped her face with a handkerchief soaked in fragrant waters; again stained her lips with a betel containing fragrant spices; and then donned a pearl-studded kanchali. All the parts of her body she decked with golden and jewelled ornaments; but on second thought, she put off some of them. She next wore the curiously embroidered clothes and the coral-studded slippers; and about her well-arranged hair wound the precious pearl chain given to her by the Prince.
When the dressing was over, Bimala went to Tilottama'a chamber. On seeing her dress, Tilottama was surprised.
"What's the matter, Bimala?" she asked with a laugh. "Why in this dress?"
"That's no concern of yours," Bimala said.
Tilottama. "In sober truth, say;—where are you going?"
Bimala. "And who, my dear, has told you that I'm going out at all?"
Tilottama was abashed. Perceiving her confusion, Bimala said, kindly smiling,
"I'm going far."
Tilottama's countenance expanded with joy, like a full-blown lotus.
"Pray, where are you going?" she asked Bimala in a soft tone.
Tilottama fixed her eyes on her face.
"Listen, then," said Bimala, and taking hold of Tilottama's hand, she drew her to the window.
"I'm going to the temple of Saileshwara; there to meet with a certain Prince."
Tilottama's frame was convulsed with some powerful emotion; she made no reply.
Bimala went on,
"I had a talk with Abhiram Swami. In the opinion of the holy father, your marriage with Jagat Singha can never take place; your father will spurn such a proposal. Should this matter reach his ears, I will thank my stars, if I can escape disgrace and punishment."
"Why go then?" With a down-cast face, Tilottama faintly uttered these words;
"Why go then?"
Bimala. "Why? Have I not promised the Prince that I will see him to-night, and acquaint him with our name and lineage? What he will do with the mere knowledge of us, I can't tell. But let me now make ourselves known to him, leaving him to do what he thinks best under the circumstances. If the Prince really loves you—"
Before she could finish, Tilottama gagged her mouth with her cloth.
"I am ashamed to hear your words," said she. "You may go wherever you like; but you shall not speak of me to any one or to me of any one."
Bimala again laughed. "Who then told you to plunge into this ocean in this girlish age?" said she.
"Off!" exclaimed Tilottama. "I won't hear you any more."
Bimala. "Then I shan't go to the temple?"
Tilottama. "Am I forbidding you to go any where? You may go wherever you will."
"Then I must not go," said Bimala laughing.
"Go," said Tilottama, looking down.
Bimala again laughed. After a while she said, "I go. Don't you sleep till my return."
A smile was also visible on Tilottama's lips;—it seemed to say, "How can I?" Bimala understood this. When about to depart, placing one hand on Tilottama's shoulder, with the other, she took hold of her chin, and for sometime studied her face, sanctified by the presence of sincere love. She then kissed it with affection. When she was going away, Tilottama espied a tear standing on her eyes.
Now Ashmani came to the door of the chamber and said to Bimala,
"Master calls you."
Tilottama, hearing this, came forward, and said in Bimala's ear,
"Change your dress before you go."
"Never fear," replied Bimala.
Bimala then went to Virendra Singha's bed-chamber. Virendra was reposing; one maid-servant was shampooing his legs; another was fanning him. Approaching the couch, Bimala said, "What's your will, Sir?"
Virendra Singha raised his head, and asked in surprise,
"Bimala, are you going out on some errand?"
"Yes, Sir," replied she, "but pray, what's your will?"
Virendra. "How's Tilottama doing? She was in a bad state of health. Has she come all right now?"
Bimala. "Yes, Sir, she has."
Virendra. "Do you fan me for a small while; let Ashmani bring Tilottama here." The woman who was fanning, went out.
Bimala directed Ashmani by a sign to wait outside. Virendra said to the other maid-servant,"Lachmani, go, prepare some betels and bring them here."
The woman who was shampooing went away.
Virendra. "Bimala, why are you with this dress on, to-day?"
Bimala. "I have some business."
Virendra. "What is it. I must know it"
Bimala. "Hear then, Sir."
Saying this, she began to gaze at Virendra with eyes which resembled the field of Cupid.
"Hear then, Sir," said she. "I am an adultress; now I go to the appointment."
And anon she darted off.
- The pungent and aromatic leaf of the Piper Betel, enclosing the areca-nut, catechu, caustic lime and spices, is universally chewed by the natives of the East.
- A kind of collyrium, composed of oil and lamp-black.
- Michelia champaka.
- A garment worn tight by Hindustani and Musalman women over their breast.