Durgesa Nandini/Book 2/Chapter 7




I have already told yon, Prince, that a certain poor woman living in Garmandaran conceived by my father. Her fate singularly resembled my mother's. She also gave birth to a daughter; and on becoming a widow soon after, began, like my mother, to maintain herself and child by bodily labor. It is not necessarily the case that the product should resemble its source; the tender flowering plant is found in the bosom of mountains; the dark mine produces the burning gem. An 'earth-treading star' rose at the cottage of the poor woman. The daughter of the widow came to be recognised as a paragon in Garmandaran. Time performs wonders; Time blotted out the stain of the widow; many forgot that her daughter owed her birth to an unchaste sheet. Some did not know;—few or none of the inmates of the castle knew it. What more shall I say? That beauty became the mother of Tilottama.

When Tilottama was yet in her mother's womb, took place the principal event in my life,—growing out of this marriage. One day, about that time, father brought in his son-in-law to the cottage. He gave him out as his disciple; I got the true information from my espoused saint.

As soon as my eyes fell on him, my heart ceased to be mine. He came every day to father, and stayed long;—he talked of various things; he told stories. My rapt ear took in the honied strains,—mentally I sold myself off to him—body and soul; he too did not scorn me. In brief, we came to read each other's thoughts. I spoke with him; his whispering accents still sound in my ears like the music of the spheres.

Although I sold my heart cheap, still the wretched fate of mother was ever present to my mind; I declined to sell the jewel in my dower—virginity. But this in no way cooled his fervour. Father too had come to understand how matters stood. One day I overheard the following conversation between him and my lord.

'I shan't be able to remain anywhere, leaving Bimala,' said father. 'But if she become your wedded wife, then I will live with you. But if your intention be otherwise—'

'Sire!' interposed my lord, somewhat angrily, 'how shall I marry a Sudra woman?'

'And how could you marry the illegitimate girl?' said father sarcastically.

'I did not know that she was such, when I married her,' replied my lord, rather regretfully. 'But how can I marry a Sudri, having full knowledge of the fact? Moreover, your elder daughter, although natural, was not a Sudri.'

'You refuse to marry, then' said my father. 'Well, your visits are objectionable,—you need not come to the cottage. I will see you at your place.'

From that day, he discontinued his visits for a time. Daily I remained eagerly expecting his coming, but in vain. At length, (perhaps being unable to remain still) he again resumed his visits. During hie separation, I had known what a thing a lover is. Therefore, during his latter visits, I determined not to be so bashful as before. Father perceived this. One day, he called me and said, 'You see I have adopted the ascetic life; it is not possible for me to be always with you. I will go on travel. Where you will go when I leave you'

I fell to weeping, apprehensive of my separation from father. 'I will go with you' said I. Anon the thought of my lord occurred to my thoughts; and I said, 'Or I will remain alone as before at Benares.'

'No Bimala,' replied father, 'I have a better plan. I shall provide a good protection for you, when I go. You shall be an attendant of Man Singha's new queen.'

'O! do not leave me, Sir,' cried I.

'No, no,' replied he. 'At present I am not going any where. Do you now go to Man Singha's palace. I will be here for the present, and see you every day. I shall do the needful after satisfying myself as to your reception there.'

Prince, I became an inmate of your house. By this mœnuvre father removed me from the sight of his son-in-law.

Prince, I was an inmate of your father's palace for a long time. But you don't know it. Then you were a mere boy of ten years old, and lived with your mother at the palace at Abnir. It was then that I became engaged in tending your new step-mother, at Delhi. Countless women hung round the neck of Maharaja Man Singha, like flowers in a garland. Do you know all your step-mothers? Will you be able to remember Urmila—the daughter of the chief of Jodhpore? How shall I tell you of Urmila's kindness to me? She did not consider me as a maid-servant and attendant;—she looked upon me as an affectionate sister. Under her fostering care, I received a good education; it was through her kindness that I learnt embroidery; it was to please her that I learnt music and dancing. She herself taught me letters. That I am able to send you these lines is owing to the kindness of Urmila.

I reaped still better good fortune at the kind hands of Urmila,—she introduced me as favorably to the Maharaja as she loved me. I had attained some proficiency in music and dancing, and the Maharaja took delight in seeing and listening to my performance. Whatever may be the reason, he looked upon me as one belonging to his family. He revered my father, who came often to see me.

I was perfectly happy with the Princess; my only cause of sorrow was that he for whom I was prepared to give up everything, save my honor, could no longer be seen by me. Had he (on his part) forgotten me? No, Prince, do you remember the maid, Ashmani? It may be. I became intimate with Ashmani. I despatched her to bring news of husband. She brought me news of him. What shall I say how much be said in reply! I wrote to him per Ashmani. He replied. Thus passed day after day. Even while separated, we conversed with each other.

Three years passed away in this manner. When we did not forget each other after such a long seperation, we understood that our love was not shallow like moss but deep-rooted like the lotus. I don't know why but at last my lord lost all patience. One day he marred every thing. I was lying at night in my chamber alone, when waking suddenly, I saw a man at my head, in the glimmering light.

These words sweetly entered my ear—'My love, don't fear. I am your own.'

What could I reply? Meeting after three years! I forgot everything.

I caught hold of his neck and wept.

When my speech returned, I asked him, 'How have you come into the inner apartment?'

'Ask Ashmani' said he. 'I entered the palace with her as a water-carrier. Since then I have been hid.'

'What then now?' asked I.

'What?' replied he. 'What you will.'

I thought what I should do; what way to adopt.

My mind led me to the side which had been espoused by my feelings. I was thinking thus when suddenly the door of my room opened, and stood in my front—Maharaja Man Singha.

What need of details? My lord was made a prisoner. The Maharaja expressed his intention of punishing him by law. Perhaps you can guess what it was with me. Crying I fell down at the feet of Urmila; I frankly confessed my indiscretion; I took the burthen of every offence on my shoulders. On meeting father, I fell at his feet also. The Maharaja used to respect him, he reverenced him as his spiritual guide; of course (thought I) he would comply with his request. I exhorted, 'Consider the fate of your elder daughter.' I think father had concerted with the Maharaja; he turned a deaf ear to my entreaties, and angrily said, 'Wretch! you have at once bidden adieu to shame?'

With the view of saving me, Urmila interceded strongly with the Maharaja. He replied,

'I can forgive the thief, if he consent to marry Bimala.'

I becalmed myself, when I understood the intention of the Maharaja. My lord got wroth at the proposal and said,

'I shall ever remain a captive, I shall lay down my life, but I shall never marry a sudra girl. How can yon, being a Hindu, make such a request?'

'When I could' replied the Maharaja 'give my sister in marriage to the Prince, Selim, what wonder that I shall request you to marry the daughter of a Brahmin?'

But my lord did not consent. He said 'Maharaj, what is done, is done Do you kindly release me. I shall never name Bimala more.'

'What then is done by you to expiate your guilt?' replied the Maharaja. 'You will leave Bimala, and others will spurn her as a fallen woman!'

Still he held out. At length when the sufferings of durance 'vile' were no longer bearable, he half consented, and said, "If Bimala consent to live as a maid-servant, if she never in her life put me in mind of this marriage, if she never give herself out for my wedded wife, I can marry a Sudri,—else not."

With the greatest alacrity, I consented to do all this. I did not set a pin's fee on wealth and name, I was only mad for my lord. Both my father and the Maharaja consented; I came to my husband's roof in the guise of a maid-servant.

My husband had married me under compulsion. Who ever cherishes his wife with love, having married under such circumstances? I became the eye-sore of my husband after our marriage, and his former love at once vanished. He constantly took me to task, remembering the indignity he suffered from Man Singha. His scolding I accounted as love. In this way passed some time, but what's the use of mentioning all that? I have done with narrating my personal history; no more. In time I regained the affections of my husband; but he still maintained a feeling of bitter animosity against Abnir's lord. It was the will of Fate, else why would all this take place? But I have done. It is not only to fulfil my promise that I have written you. Many think that I lived at the house of the chief of Garmandaran, relinquishing my honor. When I am no more, you will wipe out that stain from my reputation. This has actuated me to write you.

In this letter I have only narrated what concerned myself; I have not once mentioned her for whom you are anxious. Think that her name has vanished from the face of the earth. Pray, forget that such a one as Tilottama ever breathed on earth."

Having read the letter through, Osman said, "Mother you have saved my life. I will requite you."

"Alas! what can you do for me now?" said Bimala with a sigh. "What can you do for me? Still one thing—."

"I will do that." said Osman. Bimala's eyes sparkled; she said, "Osman, what do you say? Why do you decieve this burnt heart?"

Osman took out a ring from his finger and said,

"Take this ring. Nothing can be done in a day or two. Katlu Khan's birth-day is about to come; there will be joy and revelry that day. The guards will be engrossed in pleasure. I will deliver you that night. Do you come to the gate of the inner apartment at midnight; there if any one shows you another ring like this, come out with him. I hope you will escape without obstruction. But all depends upon His will."

"God bless you," exclaimed Bimala. "What more shall I say?"

Her utterance was choked; she could say no more.

She was about to depart after offering him her benediction, when he said,

"I will warn you of one thing. Come alone. If you take another with you, your object will fail; nay, it may bring on danger."

Bimala understood that Osman was prohibiting her to take Tilottama. She thought within herself, "Well, if we can't come both, Tilottama alone will come." She then took leave of Osman.