Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 15

 

CHAPTER XV.

DIGGAJA'S COURAGE.


With hasty steps Bimala soon left the village of Garmandaran behind her. The night was pitch dark;—she walked cautiously by the help of the star-light. On entering the field, she was rather alarmed; her companion was noiselessly following her, without wasting a single word. At such a moment, the human voice is cheering and welcome. Bimala therefore asked Gajapati,

"Gallant, what are you thinking about?"

"I say, the utensils," said the gallant. Without returning any reply, Bimala laughed in her sleeve.

After a while Bimala again opened her lips.

"Diggaja, do you fear ghosts?" asked she.

"Ram! Ram! Ram!"[1] exclaimed he. "Take the name of Ram," and drew a yard nearer to Bimala.

"This way is fearfully infested by ghosts," said she, encouraged by her success. Diggaja came up and caught hold of the flowing end of Bimala's sheet.

"The other day," continued Bimala "we were returning after worshipping Saileshwara,—when what should we see but a frightful shape under the banian tree at the road-side?"

From the pull at her dress, Bimala perceived that the Brahmin was shaking like an aspen leaf, and saw that if she went further, he would be deprived quite of his motion. She accordingly desisted, and said,

"Can you sing, gallant?"

"Yes, I can," replied Diggaja. For breathes there a gallant to whom the 'concord of sweet sounds' is a sealed book?

"Pray, then sing a song."

Diggaja began:—

"The hour was ill, I tell thee, sweet,
   My Shyam[2] when I did see,
Perch'd on a bough of Kadamba;[3]
   'Twas then all o'er with me."

Hearing the preternatural sound, a cow which was reposing at the road aide and chewing the cud, fled for life.

The song however went on,

"My race that day I stain'd, my love,
   To follow Shyam alone—
That crested buck holding the reed:
   I'm gone, my girl, I'm gone.
"He laughs and talks and laughs and talks;
   'Milk-maid, my aunty dear,'
Says he, 'thy pitcher, lass, ha! ha!
   In faith, I'll throw down here'."

Diggaja could sing no longer; all of a sudden his ear was bewitched. Like the symphony breathed by 'harps angelical,'— nectarous, enchanting strains suddenly entered his ear; Bimala herself had begun to sing in the full compass of her voice.

The 'enchanting ravishment' begot of the seven notes flooded the still expanse of the nightly firmament. The sounds mounted the wings of the cool summer breeze and went away.

Diggaja listened with bated breath. When Bimala had finished, he said,

"Again."

Bimala.   "What again?"

Diggaja.   "Pray, sing another dear song."

Bimala.   "What shall I sing?"

Diggaja.   "Sing a Bengali air."

"I will." Saying this, Bimala began to sing again.

While thus engaged, she felt a strong pull at the border of her dress. She turned round and saw that Gajapati had well nigh come upon her heels, and held fast the flowing end of her sheet, as if his life had depended upon it.

"What is the matter?" asked Bimala in surprise. "Is the ghost out again?"

The Brahmin could not speak, but pointed with his finger,

"There!"

Bimala looked at the direction in silence. Deep and hard breathings entered her ear, and she espied something near the road.

Summoning up courage, she drew nigh and discovered a handsome and well caparisoned horse lying on the ground, gasping for life.

Bimala resumed her journey; but the sight of the well-furnished steed filled her with apprehensions. For a long while she remained silent. After walking a mile, Gajapati again pulled at her.

"What?" asked Bimala.

Gajapati held up some object to her.

"This is a soldier's turban," said she, and was again plunged in thought.

"The turban," said she to herself, "belonged to the same person that the steed belonged to? No, not so. The turban is a foot-soldier's."

Now the moon arose. Bimala was still more lost in thought. After a long while, Gajapati mustered courage and asked her, "Fair one, why do you speak no more?"

"Do you see any marks on the road?"

Gajapati looked attentively at the way.

"Yes, I see the hoof-marks of many horses."

Bimala.   "That's like a sensible man! Do you understand anything from it?"

Diggaja.   "No."

Bimala.   "Yonder a dead horse, there a soldier's turban, here the hoof-marks of so many horses;—can't you understand anything from all these? But to whom am I speaking!"

Diggaja.   "What's the matter, I pray?"

Bimala.   "Just now many soldiers have passed this way."

"Let us then walk a little slow" said Gajapati with fear, "to allow them time to get far ahead of us."

"Numskull!" exclaimed Bimala, laughing. "What do you speak of their getting ahead of us? Don't you see the direction ?to which the front of the hoof-marks points? These soldiers have gone to Garmandaran," and Bimala was sad.

Presently the white grandeur of the temple of Saileshwara rose to the view. Bimala reflected that there was no necessity of the Brahmin's seeing the Prince;—nay, it was rather calculated to produce evil; and she was thinking how to get rid of him, when Gajapati himself furnished the cue.

The Brahmin again drew near Bimala's back, and caught hold of her apparel.

"What again?" asked she.

"How far is it to that?"

Bimala.   "To what?"

Diggaja.   "To that banian tree?"

Bimala.   "Which banian tree, mean you?"

Diggaja.   "Where yon espied the other day?"

Bimala.   "Espied what?"

Diggaja.   "It must be nameless at night."[4]

Understanding how matters stood, Bimala availed herself of the opportunity, and uttered in a deep voice,

"Oh!"

"What's the matter, I beseech you?" enquired the Brahmin, with consternation.

Bimala with her finger pointed at the banian tree near Saileshwara's temple, and said in a hushed voice,

"Yonder's the banian tree."

Diggaja did not move an inch more; in fact he was utterly incapable of proceeding any farther; and trembled like an aspen leaf.

"Come along," said Bimala.

"I shan't go any farther," replied the Brahmin, trembling.

"I too am affrighted," said she.

The Brahmin now advanced a foot, ready to bolt.

Bimala looked at the tree and descried some white object beneath it. She knew that Saileshwara's bull[5] used to lie there; but said to Gajapati,

"Take the name of your guardian god, Gajapati. What do you see under the tree?"

"Help! O! help! my God!" exclaimed Diggaja, and off he bolted. Blessed with long legs, in a trice he left a mile behind him.

Bimala knew the nature of Gajapati sufficiently well to infer that he would go straight to the castle gate;—so that without any misgivings on that head, she proceeded in the direction of the temple.

Bimala had considered everything before she came out, except one:

Had the Prince come?

The thought rendered her extremely uneasy. She saw that the Prince had given no certain assurance of his coming; but had only said, "Here you will find me; if you don't, we shall never meet again." In such a case, the probability of his not coming was very great.

If he had not come, then so much trouble had been taken in vain.

"Ah! why didn't I think of this before?" said she to herself. "Why again did I drive away the Brahmin? How shall I return alone this night? Saileshwara, thy will be done!"

To ascend the temple, you had to pass underneath the banian tree. As Bimala was passing that way, she found that the bull was not there, nor was the white object which she had descried. She was rather surprised; for had the bull strayed, it must have been somewhere in the plain.

Bimala looked at the trunk of the tree, when it appeared to her as if she could see only part of the white dress of a man stationed on the other side. This increased her terror; with hurried steps she went towards the temple, ascended the steps by leaps, and vigorously rapped at the door.

It was shut.

"Who's there?"—was the question from within in a deep voice.

"Who's there?"—reverberated the empty vault.

Mustering courage with might and main, Bimala replied,

"A way-worn woman."

The door opened.

A lamp was burning within; in front of her stood a tall man, with the sheathed sword in his hand.

Bimala saw and recognised,

Prince Jagat Singha.

 

 

  1. The uttering of the name of the great hero of the Solar race is supposed to scare away ghosts.
  2. Another name of Krishna.
  3. Naucleus Kadamba.
  4. The prevailing superstition is, that the mention of ghosts at night brings them to the spot. This also holds in case of serpents.
  5. Maheshwara rides on a bull. Saileshwara, as an image of that god, had a bull consecrated to him.