Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 13

 

CHAPTER XIII.

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PRESENTING THE RING.


When Bimala had gone out, seated alone in her chamber, Tilottama began to indulge in melancholy as well as cheerful reflections. That a way was now opened for her speedy deliverence from the clutches of the fiend, almost engrossed her thoughts—the thought that Bimala loved her more than life, that she owed her expected deliverence to Bimala, came repeatedly before her mind and increased her delight. Then she thought, "And where shall I direct my steps when I go out? Alas! where is my father's roof now." Anon the tears trickled down her cheeks. When other anxieties had been stifled, another troubled her mind: "The Prince then is safe. But where is he? How is he? Is he too a captive?" The thought brought tears to her eyes. "Lack-a-day! the Prince is a captive for me. Shall I be able to requite him by laying down my life at his feet? Ah! what shall I do for him?" Again thought she, "Is he in prison? What is the prison like? Can none go there? What can he be thinking now, sitting in his prison? Is he remembering such a one as Tilottama? Oh yes! Am I not the cause of his present distress? I don't know what lots of names he is calling me." Again thought she, "And how so? Why should I think so? Does he know how to call any one names? No, no, that can't be. But the fear is, he may have forgotten me; or banished me from his thoughts for being an inmate of the Yavan." "No, no," she went on, "why will he do so? I am a mere captive in the fortress even as he is. Why then will he despise me? If he do so, in spite of this, I will take hold of his feet and explain it to him. Will he not be satisfied? By all means, he will. If he will not, I will die before him. Formerly they used to go through the fiery ordeal; it is not so now in this Kali[1] age. Never mind, what if I throw myself before him in the fire?" "Ah! when shall I see him?" she continued; "how shall he get free? What purpose is served by my deliverance? Wherefrom has my step-mother procured this ring? Could this serve to deliver him? What if I send this ring to him? Who will come to take me out? Cannot any means be found through him? But how shall I ask him about it? Shall I not be able to see the Prince once more?" She again thought, "Ah! how shall I ask for an interview with him? How open my lips to him, in his presence? By what words shall I relieve this wretched heart?"

Tilottama thought incessantly.

A maid-servant entered. Tilottama asked her,

"What o'clock is it?"

"'Tis struck twelve," was the answer.

Tilottama waited for the disappearance of the menial. When she had gone out after doing what she came for, Tilottama took the ring and issued from the room. She then became subject to apprehensions; her feet trembled; her heart quaked; her face grew blank; she advanced one pace and receded another. By degrees, summoning courage, she reached so far as the gate of the inner apartment. The inmates, the eunuchs, the negro-slaves,—all were knee-deep in merriment; nobody saw her; and if any did, he did not care to notice her. But it seemed to Tilottama as if she was marked by every one. She however got courage to proceed to the gate. There the guards who had been making merry over 'potations pottle-deep,' were either asleep, or awake but insensible, or half insensible: no body marked her. One person only was standing at the gate; he too was dressed like a guard. On seeing Tilottama, he said,

"Have you got a ring, madam?"

In a flurry, Tilottama presented the ring given by Bimala. The man carefully examined it and showed her another on his finger.

"Come with me, madam, no fear," said he.

Tilottama followed him in agitation. The guards in the other parts of the fort were as lax as those who guarded the inner apartment. More particularly, as the gates were thrown open that night to all, no one said any thing to the pair. The guard crossed many a threshold, many a room, many a yard, and at last reached the main gate of the fortress. He then said,

"Where would you go?"

Tilottama could not bring to mind the instruction of Bimala; she first remembered Jagat Singha. She burned to say, "take me to the Prince;" but shame, her former enemy, prevented her, and the words stuck in her throat. The guard again asked, "Where shall I take you?"

Tilottama could say nothing, she was almost out of herself; her heart trembled she knew not why; her eyes failed to see; her ears to hear; she knew not what escaped her lips; a faint sound like Jagat Singha entered the guard's ear.

"Jagat Singha is in prison now," said he; "no one can go there; but I have been ordered to take you wherever you should like to go. Come along, madam."

The guard re-entered the fort. Unconscious of what she was about or where she was going, she turned and followed her guide, like a puppet in pulling wires. The man found that the guards of the prison were not lax like those belonging to the other parts of the fort; here the men were watching in their posts.

"Where is the Prince?" asked the guide.

The man addressed pointed with his finger.

"Is the prisoner awake or asleep?" asked the guide to the guard of the prison. The man went up to the gate and returned.

"I have received the answer of the prisoner," said he. "He is awake."

"Please open the door to me," said the bearer of the ring; "this lady will go in to see the prisoner."

"How is that?" said the guard in surprise. "Don't you know there is no such order?"

The guide showed him the ring of Osman. The man bowed low, and opened the door.

The Prince was lying upon a common four-footed bed. On hearing the sound preceding from the door, he looked at it curiously. Tilottama neared the door but could approach no further. Her feet could not do their office; she took hold of the door, and stood there.

"What's this?" asked the bearer of the ring, seeing Tilottama pause. "Why do you stop here?"

Still Tilottama could not go.

"If you don't wish to enter in" said the man, "please return then; this is not the time to linger here."

Tilottama prepared to return; but she could not go that way either. What could she do? The guard was impatient. While vacillating thus, Tilottama unconsciously advanced a foot, and was in the room.

No sooner she saw the Prince, than she was again deprived of farther motion. She held by the wall and paused near the door, hanging down her head.

The Prince could not at first recognise Tilottama. He was surprised to see a woman. Seeing her pause near the wall, without approaching him, he was still more surprised. He rose from his bed and approached the door; he saw, and—he recognised.

For a moment their eyes met; anon Tilottama's were cast to the ground; her body slightly inclined forwards as if seeking the feet of the Prince.

He drew back a little, and anon Tilottama stood like one spell-bound and motionless as a statue; her bosom which but an instant before had bloomed like a lotus, became suddenly withered.

"Virendra Singha's daughter?" said the Prince.

Tilottama felt as if a dagger had entered her vitals. "Virendra Singha's daughter?" Is that the present address?

Has Jagat Singha forgotten the very name of Tilottama? Both remained silent for a while.

"Why here?" asked the Prince.

"Why here?" What a question! Tilottama's head became dizzy;—on all sides, the room, the bed, the lamp, the walls, all began to turn round; she supported herself by leaning her head against the wall.

For a long while, the Prince stood for reply; but who would reply? Seeing no chance of it, he said,

"You are suffering much. Return, and forget the past."

All doubts were now dispelled from Tilottama's mind; she fell down upon the ground, like a leaf torn from its parent tree.

 

 

  1. Hindu chronologers divide the ages of the world into four periods, the Kali juga being the last.