In the Sleeping-chamber.
About a year had passed since Lutufonissa had reached Agra, and come from there to Septogram. Kopal-Kundala had for more than a year been Nobokumar's wife. The day Lutufonissa went to the jungle at evening, Kopal-Kundala was seated absently in her bed-chamber. She is not the same Kopal-Kundala that the reader has seen on the seashore, with her tresses tossed about, and limbs devoid of ornaments. Shamasoondri's prophecy has come true; by the touch of the touchstone the jogini has become a grihini; now those countless masses of hair, hanging to her ankles, and dazzling black as a swarm of bees, are bound up in a thick knot behind. The arrangement of the knot, too, evinces considerable skill, and a number of fine embroidered threads give evidence of Shamasoondri's skill in doing up hair. Neither have flowers been despised, for they encircle the knot on four sides like a crown. That part of the hair which is not inside the knot, does not lie in one uniform level on the top of the head, but, owing to its curliness, forms a series of small black waves. The face is no longer half-concealed by the mass of hair, but is a blaze of light and beauty, except that here and there a few tiny curls have escaped from their fetters, and moist with perspiration, adhere to the face. Her complexion is beautiful as the rays of the half-moon. Now golden ornaments are swinging from her ears; a golden necklace hangs on her throat. They are not paled by her colour, but are beautiful as a night-flower in the lap of earth, clothed with the light of the half-moon. She has on a white cloth, which is as beautiful as a thin white cloud in a sky lighted by the half-moon.
Though her complexion resembled the moonlight of the half-moon, still it appeared to be a little paler than before, as when a black cloud is seen in a corner of the sky. Kopal-Kundala was not sitting alone; the fair Shamasoondri was seated near her. They were talking together, and the reader must hear a portion of what they were saying.
Kopal-Kundala said, "How much longer will the son-in-law stay here?"
Shamasoondri said, "He is going to-morrow afternoon. Alas! if I could this night pluck the magic herb, I could bring him under my control, and so render my birth successful. I was cuffed and beaten with a broom yesterday because I went out, so how can I go out to-day?"
K. Why won't it do to pluck it in the daytime?
Sha. If you pluck it by day, why should it flower? It must be plucked with dishevelled hair, exactly at midnight. For this reason, brother, I must bury my wish in my heart.
K. Very well; to-day I recognised that plant, and I know the jungle in which it grows. You will not have to go to-day; I will go alone and bring the drug.
Sha. What has happened is past. Don't go out any more at night.
K. Why are you anxious on that account? You have heard that it has been my practice from a child to roam about at night. Just consider that, if such had not been my practice, I should never have seen you.
Sha. It was not from that fear I spoke; but is it proper for respectable young girls to wander about in the forest at night? I was severely blamed, even when we went together; and if you go alone, you will get into a terrible row.
K. Where's the harm? Do you, too, think that I shall become a bad character, because I go out of the house at night?
Sha. I don't think that; but evil people will say evil things.
K. Let them; that doesn't make me bad. Sha. Quite true. But if any one reproaches you, it will vex us.
K. Don't allow yourself to be vexed for so foolish a reason.
Sha. That I shouldn't; but why should you pain my brother?
K. Kopal-Kundala cast on Shamasoondri one of her bright affectionate glances, and said: "If he is pained by this, what am I to do? Had I known that marriage for a woman means slavery, I should never have married!"
After that Shamasoondri thought it better to say nothing further. She got up and went to her work.
Kopal-Kundala busied herself with the necessary household duties, and having completed them, she went out of the house in search of the medicine. Then it was more than one pahar of the night. The night was moonlight. Nobokumar was seated in the outer room, and saw from the window that Kopal-Kundala was going out. He, too, went out and seized Mrinomoi by the arm. Kopal-Kundala said, "What is it?" Nobokumar said, "Where are you going?"
There was no sound of rebuke in his voice.
Kopal-Kundala said, "Shamasoondri wants a drug for bringing her husband under her control, and I am going out to look for it."
Nobokumar said as tenderly as before, "Very well, you went once yesterday! Why again to-day?"
K. Yesterday I could not find it; I will look for it again.
Nobokumar said very mildly, "Wouldn't it do as well to look for it in the day-time?" Nobokumar's voice was full of love. Kopal-Kundala said, "The drug does not flower by day."
Mot. What is the use of your looking for the medicine? Tell me the name of the plant, and I will pluck and bring it for you.
K. I know the tree, if I see it; but I don't know its name. And it won't do for you to pluck it. A woman must pluck it with her hair all loose. Do not put any obstacle in the way of another's benefit.
Kopal-Kundala said this with some harshness. Nobokumar made no further objection. He said, "Come, I will go with you."
Kopal-Kundala said proudly, "Come; see with your own eyes if I am unworthy of confidence or not."
Nobokumar could say nothing further. With a sigh he let go Kopal-Kundala's hand, and returned to his house. Kopal-Kundala alone entered the forest.
- Brother is a term of endearment used by a girl to a friend.
- Literally, respectable daughters-in-law and daughters.