Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 19

 

CHAPTER XIX.

THE LOVER AND HIS LASS.


When Bimala saw that the clever Osman was away, she revived courage, for now she could hope to regain her freedom by dint of her cleverness. She anon fell to thinking how to effect it.

After the sentinel had remained standing for sometime, Bimala began to converse with him. Sentinel or Pluto's messenger,—who can ever willingly abstain from conversing with a fair woman? At first Bimala talked on various indifferent matters; gradually she introduced a variety of questions regarding the guard's name, country, home, employment, happiness and misery. The man was highly satisfied with the display of so much interest in him and his on the part of Bimala. Seeing the opportunity, she began to take out sharpened arrows from her quiver. On the one hand, her honied converse,—on the other, the unerring discharge of the flowery arrows;—these conspired to usher in the 'melting mood.' When Bimala perceived from the guard's manner that his ruin was not distant, she said in a soft, sweet tone,

"O! I am strangely afraid, Shaikhji. Will you kindly sit by me?"

The guard was in ecstacies,—he came up and sat beside Bimala. After a little talk on other matters, Bimala saw that her medicine had begun to work, for ever since he had sat by her, the guard was casting his glances 'frequent and full' at her.

"Shaikhji, I see you are perspiring awfully; if you do but once release my hands, I can fan you a little—after that, you can bind me again."

Not a drop of perspiration was visible on the guard's forehead; but Bimala must undoubtedly have seen it, why else should she say so? Further, to be fanned by such a hand! To whom is it given to enjoy such a luxury? Reflecting thus, the sentinel immediately loosened her hands.

Bimala fanned the guard a little with her sheet, and then without the least let or hinderance wore it over her body. The guard could not think of re-binding her, and there was indeed a particular reason for this. When instead of serving as a cord, the sheet graced Bimala's person, her charms began to burn the brighter—those charms at sight of which in the glass, Bimala had smiled in the morning, struck the guard dumb.

"Shaikhji," said she, "dosn't your wife love you?"

"Why should you think so?" asked the Shaikhji.

"Only if she did," said Bimala, "how could she in such a spring time (then the dog-star was raging, about to usher in the wet season!) endure the absence of such a husband?"

A deep sigh was the answer!

The arrows were flying out incessantly from Bimala's quiver.

"Shaikhji, I feel shame to confess it, but were you my husband, I would never suffer you to go to war."

The sentinel again sighed. Bimala went on,

"O that you were my husband!" and here she too fetched a little sigh, at the same time casting a side-glance full of love. The sentinel was wrought up beyond bearing. By degrees, he drew nearer and nearer to Bimala, who imitated him. Their bodies now came into actual contact; the guard was all excitement!

Bimala placed her silken-soft hand in that of the sentinel; the man was ravished!

"I am ashamed to speak thus," said Bimala, "but if you go away victorious, will you remember me any more?"

Guard.   "Shall I ever forget you?"

Bimala.   "Shall I open to you my heart?"

Guard.   "Do so,—Prithee speak out."

Bimala.   "No, I shan't. What will you think when you come to hear it?"

Guard.   "No, no; speak out, I beseech you. Take me but your bond-slave."

Bimala.   "I am very anxious to fly with you, and stain the name of this cursed husband."

Again the same side-look darting love. The guard cut capers for very joy.

Guard.   "Eh? Will you do so?"

Diggaja, come and see there are other sensible people like you under the sun!

"I shall be really delighted to go," said Bimala, "if you kindly take me with you."

"Shall I not take you? I shall ever rest your slave."

"O how can I requite your boundless love! A trifle as it is, pray accept it."

Thereupon she took the gold chain from off her neck, and placed it on that of the sentry. The man was at once carried up to the seventh heaven! Bimala went on,

"Our shāstras declare that when one person places her garland on another person's neck,—this constitutes marriage."

The guard's teeth stared as he laughed.

"Ha! then we have been married sure," exclaimed he.

"To be sure," said Bimala, and seemed plunged in thought.

"What are you thinking about, eh?" enquired the guard.

Bimala. "No, I am not destined for happiness—meseems your people will never be able to take the castle."

"Never doubt it; by this time the castle is almost ours."

"Oh no"—said Bimala; "there's a very particular secret about this matter."

"What's it, pray?" enquired the sentry.

"I reveal it to you, if you can compass the capture of the castle."

The sentinel prepared to listen with parted lips; Bimala feigned disinclination to speak out.

"What's the matter, eh?" impatiently asked the sentinel

"You don't know," said Bimala "that Jagat Singha is lying close to the castle with ten thousand men. Knowing that you would come here secretly, he had laid an ambush before you came. Now he wont stir, but when victory shall make you repose in fancied security, he will come up and surround you."

The sentry was struck dumb.

"How's that?" exclaimed he.

Bimala.   "These tidings are not unknown to any of the inmates, and I have also heard them."

The guard was in raptures.

"My soul! this day you have made me. I'll go and tell it to the general. By bearing such important news, I shall earn a reward. Stay you here; I'll be back soon."

There was not a shadow of doubt in his mind as to the fidelity of Bimala.

"But will you come back?" asked she.

Guard.   "Presently."

Bimala.   "O forget me not."

Guard.   "Never, never."

Bimala.   "Nay, I conjure you by my life."

"Why do you fear?" said the sentry and off he went.

No sooner was he out of sight than Bimala slipped away;—thus verifying the saying of Osman, "there's danger only in the eyes of Bimala."