Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 11

 

CHAPTER XI.

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CHANGING THE ROOM.


According to his word, Osman came in the evening and said,

"Do you wish to send a reply, Prince?"

The Prince had written a reply, which he now handed to Osman.

Osman took it.

"Please excuse me, Sir," said he; "but we make it a point never to allow one inmate of the fort to send any note to another, unless we first satisfy ourselves as to its contents."

"It is needless to say it," replied the Prince rather sadly. "You can read the letter, Sir, and then send it, if yon like."

Osman opened and read the letter. It contained simply the following lines:—

"Ill-fated woman! I will not forget your request. But if you really loved your husband, you must follow him, and thereby wipe out the stain that has attached itself to your name.

Jagat Singha."

"Prince!" said Osman after reading the note, "you are very cruel."

"Certainly not more than the Pathan, Sir," replied the Prince drily.

Osman's countenance reddened; he said rather harshly,

"The Pathans may not have behaved with you so very shabily, after all, Sir."

The Prince was at once angry and ashamed.

"No, Sir" said he; "I speak not of myself. You have treated me very kindly, sure, and although you have taken me captive, you have given me my life; you have effected the recovery from serious illness of one who had been destroying your forces. He who should be loaded with chains, and confined in a dungeon, lives in a perfumed chamber, through your kindness. What more can you do, Sir? But what I say is this; you are laying me under embarassing obligations; I do not see the end which all this comfort points to. If I am a prisoner, send me to gaol, Sir; release from this net of kindness; but if I am not a prisoner, what's the use of keeping me in this golden cage, pray?"

"Prince," replied Osman with composure, "why are you so impatient for evil? Evil requires no courting;—it comes of itself."

"The Rajputs," replied the Prince haughtily, "consider it no evil to exchange this flowery bed of yours for one of stone."

"It would not matter much" said Osman "if Misfortune had no greater terrors than the stone-bed."

The Prince eyed Osman keenly and said,

"When I have failed to chastise Katlu Khan, to me the executioner's axe is no evil."

"Take care, Sir," said Osman. "The Pathans are no babblers."

"General!" said the Prince with a scornful laugh, "if you have come to cow me, you will not succeed."

"No, Sir," replied Osman; "we know each other too well to waste words. I have come to you on some particular business.'

"Let me hear it, Sir,"—said the Prince, rather surprised.

"The proposal which I make,—is made under the express orders of Katlu Khan. Please to bear this in mind."

Prince.   "Very well."

Os.   "The strife between the Rajputs and the Pathans is injuring both parties."

Prince.   "Our object is to make root and branch work of the Pathans."

"True" replied Osman; "but Sir, consider the chance of destroying us without at the same time undergoing destruction yourselves. You, for one, can testify whether the captors of Garmandaran are so utterly weak."

A slight smile appeared on the lips of Jagat Singha.

"I grant them skill."

"Whatever it be," Osman went on; "it's not my object to praise self. It will never be easy for the Pathans to live in Orissa, if they are at daggers-drawn with the Emperor. But, depend upon it, Sir, he will never succeed in subjecting them. Don't tax me with national vanity; you are well conversant with political matters. Consider what a long way off Orissa is from Delhi. Suppose that the Emperor succeeds in bringing the Pathans under his yoke through the arms of Man Singha; how long will his banners float in Orissa? As soon as he turns his back, all the possessions of the Emperor in Orissa will slip from his grasp. Did not Akbar conquer the country before? But how long did it pay him tribute? And if he succeed in taking it again, it can but end in a like result. He may once more send his forces, and once more conquer the province; but again will the Pathans be free. The Pathans are not Bengalis, mind; they never have bowed down the knee to any one, they never will, so long as a single Pathan breathes. That is certain. Where then is the necessity of deluging the earth with the blood of Rajpoots and Pathans?"

"And what would you propose, Sir?" asked Jagat Singha.

"I propose nothing" said Osman; "but my master proposes peace."

Jagat.   "And what kind of peace?"

Os.   "Let both of us concede a little. The Nabab Katlu Khan is ready to relinquish what be has possessed himself of in Bengal; let Akbar waive his claims to Orissa, and, withdrawing his troops, desist from any future warfare. He is not a whit the loser by this bargain; the Pathans indeed might, to a certain extent, be considered as losers. We are parting with that which we have made ourselves masters of by our own exertions, Akbar is only parting with what he could not make his own."

"Good and well" replied the Prince. "But why do you speak this to me? The man to make peace and war is Maharaja Man Singha; you should send an envoy to him."

"We did so, good Prince," returned Osman. "Unfortunately for us some body had reported to him that the Pathans have taken your Highness' life. Through grief and anger at this report, the Maharaj would listen to no proposal of peace. He did not believe in the assurances of our envoy. But if you, Sir, personally propose the terms to him, he may consent."

The Prince fixed his look on Osman and said,

"Be plain, Sir, I beseech you. When the Maharaja may believe it at sight of my handwriting, why do you wish me to go personally?"

Os.   "The thing is this. The Maharaja is not very well informed of our strength; you will be able to enlighten him on that point; and we hope a good deal from your kind intercession. A letter cannot do as much. One of the first results of the peace will be your Highness' release; the Nabab has accordingly thought that you would try to bring about this treaty."

Prince.   "I do not refuse to go to my father."

Os.   "I am glad of it, Sir; but I must provide one thing. If you don't succeed in concluding the peace we offer, will you kindly pledge us your word to come back into the fort."

Prince.   "And how can you be sure that I shall return if I promise?"

"Yes, Sir, I am sure" replied Osman with a smile. "That a Rajput is true to his word is a well-known fact."

"Very well, Sir," said the Prince complacently; "I engage to come back alone into the fort, soon after seeing my father."

Os.   "Kindly promise one thing more and you oblige us completely. Promise that you will bring forward the terms offered by us, when you see the Maharaja."

"Worthy general" replied the Prince, "excuse me, Sir, I cannot promise this. The Emperor has appointed us to subjugate the Pathans; and to subjugate them is our only duty; he has not appointed us to conclude peace, and peace we shall never conclude. Nor will I ever propose such a thing."

Osman's face showed expressions both of satisfaction and regret.

"Prince," said he, "you have replied like a Rajput, but consider there is no other way of your getting free."

Prince.   "And what's my freedom to the Emperor, pray? The Rajput race has many a Prince like me."

"Prince," said Osman with sorrowful earnestness; "take my advice, Sir; resign your present purpose."

Prince.   "And why so,?"

Os.   "To be plain, it is only in the hope of inducing you to bring about his end that the great Nabab has, up to this time, shown you such consideration. If you set your face against his object, he will be very severe upon you, Sir."

Prince.   "On that key again? Did I not a moment before ask you to take me to prison?"

Os.   "Young Prince! it would be lucky indeed for you if that only satisfied the Nabab."

The Prince frowned.

"If it doesn't, I will increase Virendra Singha's bloody torrent." His eyes flashed fire.

"I go then"—replied Osman. "I have done my duty. You will learn Katlu Khan's intention by some messenger."

A messenger came after a while. He was dressed like a soldier; he was of a rank above that of the foot-soldier. Ho had with him four armed foot-soldiers.

"What's your message?"—asked the Prince.

"You will have to change your quarters, Sir," said the man.

"I am ready, Sir, proceed," said the Prince and followed him.