Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 5

 

CHAPTER V.

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THE WIDOW.


WHERE is Tilottama? Ah! where the fatherless, forlorn girl? Where is Bimala? Whence had Bimala come to the place of execution? Where did she go after that grim proceeding?

Why did not Virendra Singha seek an interview with his beloved daughter in his last moments? Why did his wrath kindle at the simple mention of her name? Why had he exclaimed, "I have no daughter!" Why had he flung away Bimala's letter without even perusing it? Ah! why? Bring but your recollection Virendra's rebuke of Katlu Khan and see what a terrible thing had taken place.

"You have stained me and mine." had roared out the chained lion.

Do you ask where Tilottama and Bimala are? Search the seraglio of Katlu Khan and you will find them.

'Tis the way of the world! Such is the inexorable turning of Fortune's wheel! Youth, beauty, sincerity, purity—all, all are crushed out by its relentless pressure.

Katlu Khan had made a rule that whenever any beautiful woman should be taken captive in the capture of any village or fort, she should be sent for his pleasure. The day after the capture of Garmandaran, he went to the place and was engaged in disposing of the prisoners, in placing a garrison there and that sort of thing. On seeing Bimala and Tilottama among his captives, he forthwith sent them to enrich his harem. He was afterwards engrossed with other matters. He had heard that the Rajpoot army on hearing of the captivity of their leader, lay close, meditating an attack. He was therefore engaged in providing means for expelling them in case of an attack, and could not consequently find time to enjoy the company of his new slaves.

Bimala and Tilottama were kept in seperate chambers. Reader, no use of casting a look where the tender, youthful, fatherless girl is rolling in the dust, her person covered with dust. What is the good of doing that? Who will now cast a glance at Tilottama? When decked in bud and blossom, the fresh shrub waves a welcome to the Spring, who does not court it for its fragrance? And in a summer-storm, when down it goes with the tree round which it has entwined its embraces, who goes to it, leaving the up-rooted trees? The woodman takes away the wood only, the shrub he tramples under foot.

Come, reader, let's go elsewhere. Let's look in where with the flowing end of her cloth over her eyes sits the dusty, grave, mourning widow, instead of the active, clever, gay and sportive Bimala.

Is this Bimala?

Bimala! where is that dressing of your hair? Why is your head so full of dust? Where is your curiously embroidered sheet? Where is your kanchali sparkling with gems? What's this? Why is your cloth so dirty? Why with this short cloth on, pray? Where have gone those ornaments—those pendants that ever ?and anon longed to kiss your cheeks? Why are your eyes swollen? Ah! where that side-glance? Wherefore is this wound in your forehead? Who has drawn the blood there?

All this has but one answer: Bimala is a widow now. She was waiting for Osman.

Osman was a person of whom the Pathans might justly be proud. He had entered war as a profession and accordingly did not hesitate to do any thing which promised to bring martial success. But when the exigencies of war were at an end, he never allowed the least unnecessary outrage to be committed on the vanquished. Had not Katlu Khan himself reduced Bimala and Tilottama to that pass, they would never have been captives through Osman's hands. It was through his kindness that Bimala succeeded in seeing her husband before his death. When afterwards Osman came to learn that she was the wife of Virendra Singha, his kind heart at once melted. He was the nephew of Katlu Khan; and had leave to go everywhere in tho inner apartments. This has already been seen. But the threshold of Kutlu's seraglio none could cross—not even his own sons—not even Osman. But he was the right hand of Katlu. It was owing to his strength of arms that Katlu Khan had advanced so far as the shores of the Amodara. Consequently the inmates obeyed Osman even as they did Katlu himself; and it was for this that none hindered Bimala from seeing her husband that morning before his execution.

Two days after this, she gave her remaining ornaments to the maid-servant appointed to serve her. "What's your will, Madam," asked the woman.

"Pray, do you go to Osman, as you did yesterday," said Bimala. "Tell him that I beg him to see me once more. This is my last request; I will not ask for a like favor again."

The maid-servant did so. Osman said, "There's danger to both of us in my going there. Tell her to see me in my lodgings."

"How can I go?" asked Bimala.

"He has said he would provide for that," returned the menial.

At night-fall one of Aesha's maid-servants came in and after talking something with the eunuchs, who guarded the interior, took Bimala to Osman.

"What more do yon require of me, pray?" asked Osman.

"A trifle," said Bimala. "Is the Rajput Prince, Jagat Singha, alive?"

Os.   "Yes, he is."

Bi.   "Is he a captive?"

Os.   "He is a captive but not in prison now. He is bed-ridden because of his wounds."

"Every one connected with these wretched women is destined to fare ill!" exclaimed she. "The hand of God is in all this. Should he recover, pray, do you, Sir, give him this letter. At present let it remain with you. This is my request."

Osman returned the note and said, "Excuse me; I may not do this. In whatever case the Prince may be, he is to be considered a captive now. It is improper to take any letter to such a person without first reading its contents; moreover this is against the orders of my master."

"Believe me, Sir," replied Bimala "it contains nothing which you can take exception to; you may without scruple convey it. And talk you of your master, Sir? You are your own master."

"In other things," said Osman, "I can act against the wishes of my uncle; but not in this. I perfectly believe you when you say the letter is quite harmless, so far as we are concerned;—but I can not break the rule for its sake. I am powerless to serve you in this matter."

"Well then, you may read it," said Bimala sadly.

Osman took the letter and began to read it.