Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 21

 

CHAPTER XXI.

THE RENCOUNTER.


When Bimala entered and informed Jagat Singha of the impending calamity, he could not at first believe her. But the noise and din just then bursting upon their ears, at once dispelled his doubts.

"Pray, Sir, devise some instant means of escape, or we perish here!"

For a moment Jagat Singha was plunged in thought.

"What's Virendra Singha doing?" asked he.

"He's a captive in the hands of the enemy," answered Bimala.

Tilottama uttered a faint shriek and sank down senseless on the couch.

Jagat Singha turned pale. "Help, help! ho!" he exclaimed; "look to Tilottama."

Instantly Bimala took a vessel containing rose-water, and began to sprinkle it over Tilottama's mouth, neck and forehead;— as well as to fan her with a troubled heart. The uproar drew nearer and nearer.

"There they come, Prince," cried out Bimala. "How shall we save ourselves?"

"God of Heaven!" exclaimed Jagat Singha, his eyes flashing fire. "Is this thy will? Am I destined at such a moment of peril to remain cooped up here with women!"

This hurt the pride of the haughty Bimala.

"And what's the earthly need, Prince?" retorted she, her eyes filling with tears. "If I can do no better I will at least die by the side of Tilottama."

The Prince was touched. "How can I go," replied he, "leaving Tilottama in this plight? I will also die for her sake."

The fearful cry approached nearer every moment;—the clang of arms also now became audible."

"Tilottama Tilottama!" exclaimed Bimala, "O! why are you senseless at such a moment! How shall I save you!"

Tilottama opened her eyes. "Tilottama has revived," said Bimala "Prince! Prince! there's time yet to save her."

"Nothing in heaven and earth," said he, "can avail us here. Could we yet leave the room, I could probably take you out of the castle. But, alas! Tilottama is helpless! Bimala, look! there they ascend the stairs. I will first lay down my life,—but the regret is that I shan't be able to save you even at such a cost."

In a twinkling Bimala took up Tilottama and said,

"Very well Sir, I’ll carry Tilottama."

?In an instant Bimala and Jagat Singha reached the door, when four Pathan soldiers swiftly ran up.

"’Tis too late, Bimala," said Jagat Singha. "Fall back behind me."

Seeing their prey before them, the men set up their war-cry of Allalla ho, and leapt forward like devils. The arms around their loins rang as they descended. Their cry had scarcely died away when the sword of Jagat Singha was planted deep in the breast of one of them. The man expired, crying frightfully. Before the Prince could extricate his weapon, the spear-point of another Pathan ran towards his neck; but before it could alight, swift as lightning, with his left hand he arrested its course, and with one thrust of that same spear, prostrated his adversary. In a moment, the two remaining Pathans simultaneously aimed their blows at Jagat Singha’s head; but without pausing to take breath, he lopped off the fore-arm of one, but could not parry the blow of the other,—which without alighting on his head, inflicted a severe blow on his shoulder. On receiving the wound, the Prince grew doubly frantic, like a tiger smitten by the hunter's arrow; and scarcely had the Pathan attempted to strike again, when with both hands grasping his bloody weapon with his whole strength and spirit, the Prince leapt forward and by one blow severed the head of his enemy with the turban on. Meanwhile the man who had lost his arm, drew out a sharp dagger from his waist by the left hand, and aimed at the Prince's body. As the latter was descending from his leap, the poniard went deep into his spacious arm. Considering the wound as nothing more than the pricking of a needle, he administered such a tremendous kick to the man's waist as fairly flung him at a distance. The Prince hastened to cut off the Pathan's head, when with the terrible cry of Allalla ho, countless Pathans began to stream into the chamber. He now perceived that further fighting could only end in his certain destruction.

His body was dripping with blood, and he was being fast enfeebled by loss of blood.

Tilottama was still lying senseless in the lap of Bimala, who was weeping. Her clothes were drenched with the Prince's blood.

The chamber was now full of Pathans.

Supporting himself on his sword, the Prince took breath for a moment.

"Slave" exclaimed a soldier, "surrender yourself. We will not take your life."

This added fresh fuel to the expiring fire; the prince leapt forward like a flame and cutting off the man's head, placed it beneath his feet. Then flourishing his weapon in the air, he called out,

"Ye Javanas[1]! see how a Rajpoot dies."

His sword played like lightning. Perceiving that regular fighting was no longer possible, he determined to die after slaying as many of the enemy as possible. With this view, he dived into the thick of the hostile force, and with both hands holding his sword with an iron grasp, began to deal incessant blows, without in the least heeding his own safety. One—two—three,—every blow either prostrated or mutilated a Pathan. Blows now began to pour in upon him like hail. His arms grew fainter and fainter from bleeding; his head became dizzy; his eyes grew dim; his ears could hear only an indistinct noise.

"None shall take the Prince's life,—the tiger must be caged alive."

The Prince could hear no more. Osman Khan had spoken these words.

The Prince's arms relaxed and hung loosely down; from his grasp, his sword fell down with a clang. He fell senseless over the body of a Pathan slain by him.

Some twenty Pathans rushed to rob the gem which crested the Prince's turban, but Osman Khan said in a voice of thunder,

"Don't touch the Prince, on peril of your lives."

All desisted. Osman Khan and another soldier took up the Prince and laid him on the couch. It was a moment before that Jagat Singha indulged in the fond hope of one day sitting on that couch in company with Tilottama after their nuptials. That couch now became his bed of arrows (Sarasayyá).[2]

After setting down Jagat Singha, Osman enquired,

"Where are the women?"

Osman did not see Bimala and Tilottama. When the soldiers rushed into the room the second time, she read the future; and finding no other means, had hidden herself with Tilottama under the couch.

"Where are the women?" said Osman not finding them. "Search through the castle. The attendant woman is fearfully clever; and I shall be ill at ease should she escape. But have a care. Let no rudeness be shown to Virendra's daughter."

Some of the soldiers went to the other parts of the castle: one or two began to look about the room. After searching ?in other directions, one of them took a lamp and looked under the couch. Discovering the object of his search, the man said,

"They are here, Sir."

"Are they?" enquired Osman Khan eagerly.

Answer.   "Yes, Sir, they are."

Osman's countenance brightened.

"Come out," said he, "no fear."

Bimala first came out and then bringing out Tilottama, made her sit down. The latter was reviving, and could therefore sit up.

"Where are we?" she slowly asked Bimala.

"Never fear," whispered Bimala into her ear, "just veil yourself.

"May it please Your Excellency" said the man who had discovered the women, "I have discovered the women."

"You are asking for a reward," said Osman. "What's your name?"

"My name is Karim Baksh," replied the man. "But no one knows me by that name. Formerly I was in the Mogal army, and people call me ‘the Mogal officer,’ by way of jest."

Bimala shuddered. Abhiram Swami's astrological calculation came to her recollection.

"Well, I’ll remember," said Osman.

 

 

  1. A term of contempt to distinguish foreigners,—who were considered as impure.
  2. It is a classical image.