At His Feet.
A seed sown in a field germinates without any extraneous aid. When it becomes a germ, no one knows and no one sees. But, when once the seed is sown, wherever the sower may be, it gradually grows from a germ to a tree, and raises its head aloft. Today the tree is only the size of a finger, and can just be seen; gradually and imperceptibly it grows; first it is half a cubit high, then a cubit, then two cubits; still it can be scarcely observed, except by one who has some particular object in doing so. A day, a month, a year, rolls by, gradually the eye falls upon it; it is no longer a thing that can be disregarded; gradually the tree becomes large, and its shade destroys other trees—in short, the field becomes one huge tree.
In such a way had Lutufonissa's love grown. At first, when one day she suddenly met the object of her love, she did not particularly notice any feeling of love; but it was then that the seed germinated. After that there was no further meeting, but again and again she thought of that absent face, and experienced a certain pleasure in painting it on the canvas of her memory. The seed had sprouted; love for the object had sprung up. The peculiarity of the heart is this, that the more some mental work is mastered, the greater is the liking for such work. Lutufonissa every moment thought of that form, and a fierce desire to see it sprung up within her; at the same time the stream of her natural affection became uncontrollable. Even her desire for the throne of Delhi seemed a matter of no moment to her. The throne appeared to her to be surrounded by heaps of fire caused by the arrows of Cupid. Kingdom, capital, throne—she abandoned all, and hastened to look on her darling. That darling was Nobokumar.
For these reasons Lutufonissa was not unhappy on hearing the words of Meheronissa that destroyed her hopes; for these reasons, on coming to Agra, she made no attempt to preserve her property; for these reasons she took leave of the king for ever.
Lutufonissa came to Septogram, and took up her abode in a large house near the high road, in the middle of the city. Those who passed saw that the house had been suddenly filled with male and female slaves, adorned with gold-embroidered clothes. The decoration of the various rooms was very charming. Fragrant perfumes, scents, and flowers shed joy on every side; articles of various sorts, inlaid with gold, silver, and ivory, sparkled everywhere for the adornment of the house. In one of these decorated rooms Lutufonissa was seated with her face bent downwards; on a separate seat was Nobokumar. Lutufonissa had already seen Nobokumar once or twice in Septogram, and how far her desire had been fulfilled thereby will be seen from to-day's conversation.
Nobokumar was silent for a moment, and said, "Then I am off now. Do not send for me again."
Lutufonissa said, "Don't go; wait a little longer: I have not finished what I had to say."
Nobokumar waited another moment or two, but Lutufonissa said nothing. After a little Nobokumar asked, "What else do you want to say?" Lutufonissa made no reply—she was silently weeping.
Nobokumar seeing this, got up. Lutufonissa seized his cloth. Nobokumar said in a tone of slight vexation, "Why don't you speak?"
Lutufonissa said, "What do you want? Is there nothing you desire in the whole world? Wealth, prosperity, honour, love, pleasure, sport,—all that the world calls happiness I will give you. I ask for nothing in return; I only desire to be your slave; to be your wife, I ask not for such greatness,—only your slave!"
Nobokumar said, "I am a poor Brahman, and shall be nothing else in this birth. I cannot take your money and goods and become a Mussulmani's paramour."
A Mussulmani's paramour! Nobokumar had not yet found out that this woman was his wife. Lutufonissa remained with her head bent down. Nobokumar loosed his cloth from her grasp, but she again seized it. "Well, let that pass. If such is the will of God, I will drown my desires in bottomless waters. I wish nothing else but that you should now and again come this way; look on me as your slave, and now and again show yourself,—I will only satisfy my eyes."
Nob. You are a Mussulman—another's wife—there is sin even in such acquaintance with you. I shall never see you again. There was silence for a moment; a storm was raging in Lutufonissa's heart; she retained motionless as a stone image. She let go Nobokumar's cloth, and said, "Go."
Nobokumar moved to go. He had not gone a step or two, when suddenly, like a tree up-rooted by the wind, Lutufonissa fell at his feet. She clung round his legs with the creepers of her arms, and said in piteous tones—
"Merciless one! For you I have given up the throne of Agra. Do not forsake me!"
Nobokumar said, "Return to Agra, and give up all hopes of me."
"Never in this life!" Lutufonissa stood up like an arrow and proudly said, "In this life I will never give you up!" Raising her head, and slightly curving her neck, the enchantress of kings stood with her large eyes fixed on Nobokumar. Again flashed forth the light of that ancient divine pride which had melted away in the fire of her heart—that invincible mental power which had not shrunk from the task of ruling the empire of India,—that power again arose in her body, shattered with love. The veins in her forehead swelled, and showed beautiful lines; her lustrous eyes began to flash like the ocean waters sounding in the rays of the sun; her nostrils quivered; as the swan, sporting on the stream, floats with neck curved against the opposing current, as the trodden snake lifts its crest, so stood the mad Mussulman girl, raising her head. She said, "Not in this life. You will be mine, and mine only."
Looking on the form of that angry snake, Nobokumar was frightened. He had never seen Lutufonissa's unspeakable charms as he now saw them. But that beauty was enchanting like the lightning that precedes the thunder-bolt; seeing it he feared. Nobokumar was moving away, when suddenly he remembered another brilliant form. One day Nobokumar, vexed with his first wife, Podmaboti, had been about to drive her out of the sleeping chamber. The girl of twelve years had then proudly turned on him and stood upright; even so had her eyes lighted up; just so had the lines stood out on her forehead; just so had her nostrils quivered; just so had her head shaken. For a long time he had not remembered that form, now he remembered it,—he at once perceived the likeness. Torn with doubts, and in a trembling voice, he softly said, "Who are you?"
The Mussulman girl's eyes grew larger still as she replied, "I am Podmaboti."
Not waiting for a reply, Lutufonissa went away; and Nobokumar, thoughtful and somewhat terrified, went to his house.