Lutufonissa came to her house, and calling Pesmon with a cheerful face, took off her jewels and ornaments. She took off her clothes, embroidered with gold, pearls, and other precious stones, and said to Pesmon, "Do you take these clothes."
Pesmon, on hearing this, was a little astonished, as the clothes had quite lately been made at an enormous expense. She said, "Why do you give me the clothes? What is the news to-day?"
Lutufonissa said, "It is good news."
Pe. That I can understand. Have you got rid of the obstacle Meheronissa?
Lu. Yes. Now I have no anxiety on that score.
Pesmon evinced great joy, and said, "Then I am now the servant of the Begum."
Lu. If you wish to be the Begum's servant, I will tell Meheronissa.
Pe. What! you say there is no probability of Meheronissa becoming the king's Begum?
Lu. I did not say so; I said I had no anxiety on that score.
Pe. Why no anxiety? If you are not the sole queen in Delhi, then all is in vain.
Lu. I will have no connection with Agra.
Pe. What! I cannot understand. Then what is this good news? please explain.
Lu. The good news is this, that I am leaving Agra for ever.
Pe. Where are you going?
Lu. I will go and live in Bengal. If possible, I will become some gentleman's wife.
Pe. This is a new jest; but it makes me shudder to hear it.
Lu. I am not jesting. I am really leaving Agra. I have already taken leave of the king.
Pe. Why have you formed this evil resolution?
Lu. It is not an evil resolution. I have been about Agra for a long time, and with what result? My desire for pleasure has always been strong from my childhood. It was to satisfy that thirst that I left Bengal and came here. To purchase this jewel what wealth have I not given? What evil actions have I not committed? And the objects for which I have done all this,—which of them have I not attained? I have drunk to the dregs the cup of riches, prosperity, wealth, grandeur, and fame. And what have I got by all this? To-day, sitting here and counting over the days in my mind, I can say that I have not been happy for a single day; not for a single instant have I experienced any enjoyment. I have never been satisfied: my thirst only increases. If I try, I can acquire more wealth and more riches, but for what? If there were happiness in all this, then in so many days I should have been happy for one day at least. This desire for pleasure is like a mountain-stream,—first a thin, clear stream, issuing from a solitary spot, it conceals itself in its own womb, no one knows it; of itself it makes a trickling sound, and no one hears it. Gradually, as it flows, its body increases, and it becomes more muddy; and not only that,—then again the wind blows, waves are formed, and crocodiles and alligators live in it. Its size increases further, the water becomes still muddier, it gets brackish; sandy barren islands appear on its bosom, the current becomes gradually slower; then where does that muddy river conceal itself? Who can say?
Pe. I cannot make anything out of that. Why do you not take pleasure in all this?
Lu. I have at last understood the reason. On my way back from Orissa I felt on one night that pleasure which I have not felt by sitting three years in the shade of the royal favour. That has made me understand.
Pe. Understand what?
Lu. All this time I have been like a Hindu idol, adorned with gold and jewels outside, but inside stone. I have wandered about in the fire in search of sensual pleasure, but I have never touched the fire. Now let me see if by searching I can find in the stone a heart of blood and veins.
Pe. I cannot understand anything of this either.
Lu. In this Agra have I ever loved anybody?
Pe. (softly.) Not a single one.
Lu. Then if I am not made of stone, what am I?
Pe. Then if you want to love now, why don't you do so?
Lu. I do want to; and that is the reason I am leaving Agra.
Pe. What is the necessity of that? Are there no people in Agra, that you should go to a country of barbarians? Why do you not love him who loves you? whether in beauty, riches, wealth, or aught else, who is greater than the King of Delhi?
Lu. When the sun and moon remain in the sky, why does water fall?
Lu. It is the decree of fate.
Lutufonissa did not tell her everything outright. Fire had entered the stone; the stone was being melted.