Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 20

 

CHAPTER XX.

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THE FLICKERING LAMP.


Ever since Tilottama took leave of Aesha and went away with Ashmani, no body could tell where she was. No news could be had of Tilottama, Bimala, Ashmani, or Abhiramswami. When peace was concluded, feeling commiseration on Virendra Singha, for his sad end and the deplorable circumstances that had befallen his family, both parties agreed to search out Virendra's wife and daughter, and establish them in Garmandaran. Accordingly, Osman, Kwaja Isa, Mansingha and others, searched for them diligently; but beyond the fact of Tilottama's coming out from Aesha with Ashmani, none could learn anything. At length disappointed in his exertions, Mansingha placed a trustworthy follower of his, in Garmandaran, instructing him to "search for the wife and daughter of the deceased jaigirdar; and should he succeed in finding them out, to establish them in the castle, and go to him. He would reward the official, and give him a jaigir."

Having disposed of this matter, Mansingha prepared to go to Patna.

Whether the dying words of Katlu Khan had produced any change in Jagat Singha's mind, could not be known. True it is that he spared neither men nor money, to find the women out; but whether his efforts owed their origin to a mere remembrance of the past, to the same motives that influenced Mansingha and others, or to a revival of his former love, could not be known. Whatever the cause, his endeavours proved vain.

Mansingha's army began to break up the encampment. Next day they would march. The time for reading the note that had been attached to the reins of Jagat Sinhga's steed, came the day before the march. Eagerly opening it, the Prince read the following lines;

"If you righteously fear sin, if you fear a Brahmin's curse, please come here alone as soon as you read the contents. Thus much,

A Brahmin."

The Prince was taken with surprise. Once he thought, "This may be the artifice of an enemy. Should I go?" Next he remarked that the letter was written in pure Devanagari characters; and concluded it to be most likely as coming from a Brahmin. In a Rajput breast, the fear of a Brahmin's curse outweighs every other fear. The Prince accordingly decided on going. He directed his followers not to "wait for him, should he not join them before they marched. No matter if they went before: he could meet them at Burdwan or at Rajmahal." Having given these directions, he proceeded alone towards the sal forest. On reaching the gate of the ruined habitation, he (as before) fastened his charger to a sal tree. He looked around him, but found none. He then entered the ruin. There was the same grave on one side, and the funeral pyre on the other. A Brahmin sat upon the wood of the pyre. He had hung down his head, and was weeping.

"Is it you, Sir," asked the Prince, "that have desired me to come here?"

The Brahmin raised his face; the Prince saw it was Abhiramswami.

Wonder, curiosity and joy struggled in the Prince's bosom for mastery. He humbly saluted the Brahmin, and eagerly said,

"What shall I say to you, Sir, as to how much I have tried to see you? Pray, Sir, why here?"

Abhiramswami wiped his eyes, and said,

"For the present, I am living here."

The Prince had scarcely heard the Swami out, when he began to pile question upon question.

"Why have you wished to see me? Why, again, do you weep, Sir?"

"The reason why I have called you is also the reason of these tears. Tilottama is on her death-bed."

Slowly—gently—softly, sat down the warrior upon the ground. Then,

Remembrance waked with all her busy brain,
Swell'd in his bosom, and turned the past to pain."

The first sight at the temple—the vow in presence of Saileshwara—the true love tears at their first meeting with each other, in the chamber,—the incidents of that black night—the face of Tilottama in her swoon—her suffering in the den of the Yavan—his own heartless behavior in the prison—and finally her imminent death in this exile; the memory of all, all these at once dashed against the Prince's mind with the fury of a storm; the former fire blazed out with a tenfold fury, and spread itself into his vitals.

He sat mute for a long while; Abhiramswami went on,

"The day on which Bimala avenged her widowhood by slaying the Yavan, I fled with my daughter and grand-child; and roved from place to place secretely, for fear of the Musalmans. Tilottama's illness dates from that day. The cause of it you well know."

The iron entered Jagat Singha's soul.

"Ever since I have kept her in various places, and treated her in various ways. Having studied the Nidana,[1] from my youth upwards, I have treated many a disease; I know many an unknown medicine. But what can the doctor do for a patient suffering from a sorrow that has struck its roots deep into the heart? Seeing this place very solitary, we have been living in a retired part of this mansion, for a week or so. Providentially finding you here, I fastened the letter to the reins of your horse. I had always intended to bring you once more to Tilottama, to soothe her last moments, if I failed at last to cure her. It is for this that T wrote to you. Then I had not given up every hope of her recovery; I understood that if she did not get better in two days, she would die; it is for this reason that I advised you to read the note after two days. Now the worst is come. No farther hope remains of her life. Ah! the lamp is flickering."

He again wept. Jagat Singha was also weeping.

"You must not present yourself to Tilottama all of a sudden," continued the Swami; "lest her frail system should not be able to bear the excess of joy. I have ere this given her to understand that I had told you to come here, and that your coming was likely. I'll now go and inform her of your arrival; you may see her after."

Saying this, the ascetic directed his steps towards the inner apartment of the ruined building. Returning after a few moments, he said to the Prince,

"Come."

The Prince proceeded to the inner apartment with the ascetic. He saw that a room was entire. In it was an old, time-worn couch; on it lay the lean, yet still beauteous form of Tilottama. Still was she surrounded by the mild-gleaming lustre of her former beauty. There she lay in her loveliness, like the 'fairest of stars, that crowns the smiling morn with his bright circlet,' about to disappear from our blessed sight. Beside her, sat a widow, who was gently passing and repassing her hand over her body. She had no ornaments on her person; she was a dirty, forlorn widow. The Prince could not at first recognise her; and how could he? She that had been perpetually young, was now an old woman.

When the Prince came in and stood beside Tilottama's bed, her eyes were closed. Abhiramswami called her, saying,

"Tilottama, Prince Jagat Singha is come."

She opened her eyes, and gazed at the Prince; her look was soft and tender; there was not a shadow of rebuke in it. As soon as she saw the Prince, she cast her eyes down. By and bye, tears began to trickle down her cheeks, in a continuous stream. The Prince could not contain any longer; all bashfulness and reserve vanished; he threw himself down at the feet of Tilottama, and bedewed her flowery frame with his silent tears.

 

 

  1. Hindu Pathology.