Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 16

 

CHAPTER XVI.

IN PRESENCE OF SAILESHWARA.


On entering the temple, Bimala sat down to rest a little. She then bowed down her head to Saileshwara and next bowed to the Prince. For some time, both remained silent, not knowing how to express their minds, each to the other. Both of them were confused. How to introduce the conversation!

Bimala, who was a consummate adept in the peace and war relative to such matters, said with a smile,

"Through the grace of Saileshwara, Prince, I have found you here; I was frightened to come across the plain at night;—now I revive courage in seeing you, Sir."

"All's well with you?" asked the Prince.

The object of Bimala was first to ascertain whether the Prince was really attached to Tilottama—and then to speak of other matters. She accordingly said,

"Yes, Sir, it is for the good of us that I have come to worship Saileshwara. Now I understand that the god is quite satisfied with your worship alone—and will not accept mine. I shall therefore return with your permission."

Prince.   "Very well; but you shouldn't go alone; I must convey you home."

Bimala saw that the Prince had not devoted all his time to the exercise of his arms.

"And why shouldn't I go alone, I pray?" asked she.

Prince.   "There are dangers in the way."

Bimala.   "Then I will go to Maharaja Man Singha."

"Why so?" enquired the Prince.

Bimala.   "Why? I have a suit to bring forward to him. The General he has appointed is unable to remove the fears of our way; he is incapable of destroying his enemies."

"The General will reply," said the Prince laughing, "that the destruction of foes even the gods are not equal to;—what is man? Witness, that enemy whom Mahadeva had reduced to ashes in the Grove of austerities,—'tis only a fortnight since the same Manmatha[1] has created strange disturbance in this his very temple. Such prowess!"

"At whom was the disturbance aimed, I pray?" asked Bimala, with a smile.

"At the General himself," replied the Prince.

"Why," said Bimala "will the Maharaja believe in so impossible a thing?"

Prince.   "I have a witness."

Bimala.   "And who is such a witness, Sir?"

Prince.   "You, good-natured—"

Bimala interposed by saying,

"Your humble servant is very ill-natured; call me Bimala, if you please."

"Bimala is my witness."

Bimala.   "No, Bimala will never give such evidence."

Prince.   "Indeed, most probable. She that can in no more than a fortnight forget her promise,—she can never prove a true witness!"

Bimala.   "Sir, kindly put me in mind of my promise."

"To tell me the name and lineage of your companion."

"Prince" said she, suddenly changing her tone of raillery for one of profound earnestness, "Prince, I hesitate to satisfy your curiosity, lest it should not be for your peace of mind."

The Prince mused for a while; he too renounced the light vein.

"Bimala," said he, "is the discovery of her name and lineage calculated to render me unhappy?"

"Yes, Sir," replied Bimala.

"Come what will," said the Prince, after reflecting sometime, "do you satisfy my longing. Nothing can possibly be more harassing than the intolerable suspense which I am suffering. If what you apprehend turn out to be true, that even would be preferable to my present misery, for then I shall be able to console my mind with something. Bimale! I havn't come to you, prompted by mere curiosity;—no, now I have no time to indulge in curiosity. Within this whole fortnight I have known no other bed than my steed's back. It is because my mind is exceedingly restless that I have sought you."

It was to extort this confession that the previous endeavours of Bimala were made. With the view of extorting something more, she said,

"Prince, you are well versed in political morality. Pray, consider whether you should, in this time of war, suffer your mind to be absorbed in the contemplation of a lady hard to obtain? For the good of both, I conjure you to try to forget my companion. No doubt, you will succeed in the excitement of fight."

"Ah! whom shall I forget?" replied the Prince, his nether lip showing a smile significant of his mental disquiet, "whom shall I forget? The image of your companion has engraven itself deep on my mind at first sight; this heart can never get rid of it, without being reduced to ashes. People call me stone-hearted; you know what is engraved on stone perishes with the stone itself. What do you speak of fight, Bimale? Ever since I saw your companion, in fight only I have been engaged. Whether in the field or in camp, I have never for a moment been able to forget that countenance. When the Pathan had raised his sword to cut off my head, my first thought was that if I then fell, I should never see her again—that our first sight was destined to be our last. Bimale, where shall I go to see your companion?"

What need of further confession. Bimala said,

"My companion you will find at Garmandaran;—the lovely Tilottama, daughter of Virendra Singha."

Jagat Singha felt as if an adder had stung him. He hung down his head and supported himself on his sword.

"Your words have, after all, proved true," said he, with a sigh, after a long pause. "Tilottama is not destined to be mine. I go to the field—there to drown all hopes of my future happiness in the enemy's blood."

Bimala was touched by the Prince's grief. "If true affection met with its reward in this world, noble Prince, you certainly deserved the hand of Tilottama. And why do you at once give way to despair, Sir? To-day, Fortune is adverse, tomorrow, she may be friendly."

Sweet is the voice of Hope; in the darkest day, she whispers soft into man's ear, "The cloud and the storm will not endure for ever; why then are you cast down? Listen to my words." Hope spoke through Bimala's mouth, "Why are you cast down? Listen to my words."

Jagat Singha listened to the voice of Hope. Who can know the Divine Will? Who can read beforehand the decrees of Fate? What is impossible under the sun? What impossibilities have not taken place in this world?

Yes, the Prince listened to Hope.

"To-day my mind is exceedingly restless;—I am incapacitated quite to judge the right course. What Fate has decreed must happen afterwards, for who can control Fate? Now I can only express my mind. Here, before the holy presence of Saileshwara, I vow never to accept the hand of any one save Tilottama's. I implore you to speak to your companion all that I have said. Pray, tell her that I long to see her once more only. I swear never to ask for this boon again."

Bimala's countenance beamed with joy.

"How shall you, Sir, get the reply of my companion?"

"I cannot venture to trouble you again and again," answered the Prince, "but if you see me once again in this temple, I shall rest your debtor. Some time or other, you may expect a return from Jagat §ingha."

"Prince," replied Bimala, "I am your servant; but I greatly fear to come alone at night by this road. It is only because my promise had to be fulfilled, that I have come to-night. Now the country is infested by the enemy; I shall be exceedingly afraid to come again."

"If you shouldn't think it wrong," said the Prince, after reflecting a little, "I can go along with you to Garmandaran. I'll wait at some fit place, where you will bring me her mind."

"Come then, Sir," replied Bimala delightfully.

They were about to sally out, when they heard the sounds of cautious steps outside the temple.

"Have you brought a companion with you?" demanded the Prince, with a little surprise.

"Oh no," said Bimala.

"Whose steps can we have heard then? I am afraid somebody outside has overheard our conversation."

He thereupon came out and went all round the temple, but found none.

 

 

  1. The God of love was reduced to ashes by Siva, for his having audaciously disturbed the devotions of the latter. He was, however, again restored to life.