Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 17

 

CHAPTER XVII.

VIRA PANCHAMI.[1]


After bowing down to Saileshwara, Jagat Singha and Bimala set out for Garmandaran, in an alarmed spirit. After proceeding in silence for some time, the Prince said,

"Bimala, I am curious about one thing. I don't know what you will say, when you hear it."

?"What is it, Sir?"

Prince.   "I am convinced you can never be a maid-servant."

"And why should you think so, pray," asked Bimala with a smile.

Prince.   "There is some very particular reason why the daughter of Virendra Singha cannot be the daughter-in-law of the lord of Abnir. It is a very great secret. You could not possibly know it, if you were no better than a maid-servant."

"You have guessed right, Sir," said Bimala with a sigh. "I am not a maid-servant, although behave like one, as my bad luck would have it; but why do I blame my luck? It has not been so bad either."

The Prince perceived that the topic had awakened grief in the mind of Bimala. He accordingly dropped it.

"Prince," went on Bimala, "one day I will let you know who I am—but not now. But what noise is that? Is some one dogging us?"

The sound of human steps was now distinctly heard; it also appeared as if two men had been whispering to each other. They had then walked a mile.

"I begin to fear greatly," said the Prince. "I'll go and look out."

Saying this, the Prince retraced his steps some way, and also looked aside, but saw no one. He returned and said to Bimala,

"I fear some body is following us. Let's talk cautiously."

They went on, talking in an almost inaudible tone. Now they came up to the castle.

"How will you enter the castle now?" asked the Prince; "the gate must be shut at this late hour."

"Content you, Sir," replied Bimala. "I provided for that when I came out."

"Is there any secret passage?" asked the Prince laughing.

"Where the thief is," returned Bimala laughing, "there's the breach."

"Bimala," said the Prince after a pause, "I needn't go any farther. I'll wait in the mangoe wood by the castle. I beseech you, do you earnestly implore your companion in my name. I long to bless my eyes once more with a sight of her,—be it after a fortnight; a month—or even a year."

"Yonder mangoe grove is not solitary enough. Pray, Sir, come with me."

Prince.   "How far?"

Bimala.   "Into the castle."

The Prince mused a little, and then said, "No, Bimala, I may not do this. I never will enter the castle without the permission of its lord."

"What do you fear, Sir?" asked Bimala.

"Princes"—replied he haughtily-—"Princes never fear to go any where. But, pray, consider whether it becomes the son of Abnir's lord to steal into the castle without the express knowledge of its master."

"It is I," said Bimala "who am taking you in."

"I beseech you," returned the Prince, "don't you think I am slighting you as a maid-servant, if I enquire what right you have to welcome me into the castle."

"You will not go" asked Bimala—"unless you know my right?"

"Never"—was the answer.

Bimala bent to the Prince's ear and said something.

"Proceed, madam, so please you," said the Prince.

"I am a maid-servant, Prince," said Bimala, "and should be commanded."

"What you will," said the Prince.

The way they were then following led to the gate of the castle; on its side was the mangoe-wood, which was invisible from the main entrance. If you wanted to go where the Amodara flowed behind the castle, you must walk through this wood. Bimala now left the highway, and entered the wood, accompanied by the Prince.

After entering it, they heard the sound of the breaking of dry leaves, and of human steps.

"Again!" said Bimala.

"Once more stay a little," said the Prince; "I will look about."

He drew his sword, and went in the direction of tho sound; but could see nothing. Underneath the mangoe-wood, such dense thickets were formed by the exuberance of various wild shrubs and plants, and such a gloom was spread by the trees, that the Prince could no where see far before him. He thought it not impossible that the sounds had proceeded from some animals treading upon the dry leaves. Whatever it might be, thinking it expedient to dispel his doubts, he got up to the top of a tree, and began to survey round. After a long while, he espied the moonlit turbans of two men, whose persons were hid in the deep gloom formed by the boughs of some tall mangoe tree.

The Prince marked well and was perfectly satisfied as to the presence of the men. He also carefully marked the tree, so as to preclude the chance of his missing it on his return. Then softly coming down, he came up to Bimala, and related all that he had seen.

"If I had two spears now!" said he.

"What will you do with spears, pray?" asked Bimala.

Prince.   "Then I could ascertain who these men were. The signs bode no good. From the turbans, I think the rascally Pathans have been following us with some evil intent."

Immediately the remembrance of the dying steed at the road-side, the turban, and the traces of horse's hoofs flashed upon Bimala's mind.

"Please stay here then," said she; "I'll bring you the spears presently."

Saying this, she hastened to the base of the castle. A window of the room below that in which she had made her toilet in the evening, faced the mangoe-wood. She got up to the window, and taking out a key from her garment, turned it in a lock which was attached to the door-case. Then grasping a bar, she pushed the window in the direction of the wall. By the power of strange art, the window together with the door-case and the bars entered an opening in the wall, and a passage stood ready open for the entrance of Bimala. After entering the room, she pulled out the door-case, and the window was again placed in its former site. Bimala turned the key in another lock on the inner side, similar to the other one, and the window was fast established in its place, defying all attempts at opening it from the outside.

With hasty steps, Bimala went to the arsenal, where she said to the guard,

"Never tell any one of what I ask from you. Let me have two spears. You shall get them back."

What will you do with spears, mother, I pray?"

"To-day I celebrate the Vira-Panchami rite,—which blesses the woman celebrating it with a heroic son. The ceremony requires the worship of weapons. I am desirous of getting a son. Don't tell it to any one."

The guard understood as he was made to understand. All the servants in the castle paid her implicit obedience; and the man, without another word, went in and brought out two sharpened spears.

With her former speed, Bimala returned to the window, with the spears, opened the window as before, and hurried forth to Jagat Singha.

Whether through the excitement of hurry, or feeling secure in the thought that she should be by, and return immediately, Bimala did not lock the passage, when going out; and this afforded entrance to danger. An armed man stood behind a mangoe tree very close to the window. He perceived this error; but did not stir so long as Bimala was not out of sight. When she had disappeared, he left his sounding shoes, and by soft steps neared the entrance; and casting a glance within to see if any one was there, and seeing none, noiselessly glided in. He then entered the castle by the door of the room.

On the other side, the Prince took the spears from Bimala, and, as before, ascended the tree. He then looked at the other tree which he had marked; but now saw only one turban;—the second person had disappeared. Then holding one spear in his left hand, he took the other in the right, and aiming at the turban, sent the weapon after it, with all the mighty energy of his arm. Anon a powerful rustling of the leaves was heard, and then the heavy fall of some thing. The turban was no more there;—the Prince concluded that his unerring aim had dislodged the person from his boughy station, and brought him low.

Jagat Singha speedily descended and came to the wounded person. He saw that an armed Musalman soldier was lying as if dead; the spear had penetrated beside one of his eyes.

The Prince looked attentively and found that life was quite extinct. The spear had entered beside his eye, and went right through the brain. Taking out a note which was enclosed in his amulet, Jagat Singha came to the moonlight and read it. It ran:—

"The followers of Katlu Khan shall obey the orders of the bearer, on sight of this note.

Katlu Khan."

Bimala had only heard the noise, but could not understand what it meant. The Prince came to her, and related all.

"Alas!" exclaimed she, "beshrew me if I would ever have fetched you the spears, Prince, had I known this. I am a great sinner, and shall hardly be able to expiate the deadly sin I have been guilty of to-night, for a long time to come."

"What room for regret," replied the Prince, "in destroying our enemies? Such an act is righteous."

"Let warriors think go," returned Bimala; "we are women."

"Prince," said she after a pause, "there's harm in further delay. Pray, come, let's enter the castle. I have left the door open."

Hastily coming to the foot of the castle, Bimala entered in, followed by the Prince. While he was entering, his heart trembled and his feet shook. What could it bode to one a single hair of whose head would not be thrown off its accumstomed position in the face of innumerable odds;—what did it bode to him while entering into this mansion of joy?

Bimala shut the door in the same way, and then led the Prince to her bed-room. "I shall be back in a moment," said she. "If you please, for a while sit on this couch. If your mind is not otherwise engaged, pray, Sir, remember that the seat of the Deity was merely a banian leaf."[2]

She went out, and after a little while, opened the door of an adjoining chamber. "Noble Prince," said she from the room, "will you please step in and hear a word?"

Again the Prince's heart trembled!—perhaps, it gave no uncertain sound! He rose up from the couch, and went to Bimala.

Anon she darted out like lightning; the Prince found himself in a perfumed chamber;—a silver lamp was burning. In a corner was a veiled woman;—she was none other than Tilottama.

 

 

  1. This word is compounded of वीर (hero) and पञ्चमी (the fifth day of the full or the new moon). There is no such rite mentioned in the Shastras.
  2. The Shastra has it that at the reign of chaos, Vishnu reposed on a banian leaf.