Kopal-Kundala/The Meeting of the Two Wives

Chapter VIII.

The Meeting of the Two Wives.

Kopal-Kundala left the house and entered the forest. She first went to the broken house, and there she saw the Brahman. Had it been day she could have seen that his face was very pale. The Brahman said to Kopal-Kundala, "The Kapálik may come here, it is better not to say anything here. Come to another place."

In the forest there was a narrow space surrounded by trees; it was clear in the middle, and a path issued from it. The Brahman took Kopal-Kundala there. When they were both seated, the Brahman said, "First of all, I must make myself known. You can yourself judge how far I am to be believed. When you were returning with your husband from the country of Hidgellee, one night by the way you met a Mussulman girl. Do you remember that?"

Kopal-Kundala said, "The one who gave me the ornaments?"

The Brahman said, "I am she."

Kupal-Kundala was exceedingly startled.

Lutufonissa, seeing her astonishment, said, "There is more to astonish you. I am your co-wife."[1]

Kopal-Kundala, in amazement, said, "What is that?"

Lutufonissa then related the events of her past life in succession; her marriage, the destruction of her caste, her being abandoned by her husband, Dacca, Agra, Jahangir, Meheronissa, her leaving Agra, her living in Septogram, her meeting with Nobokumar, Nobokumar's conduct, her coming in disguise the evening before to the jungle, her meeting with the Hom devotee—she told all. At this moment Kopal-Kundala asked, "With what purpose did you wish to come in disguise into our house?"

Lutufonissa said, "In order to separate you and your husband for ever."

Kopal-Kundala began to ponder, and said, "How would you have accomplished that?"

Lutufonissa. For the present I should have caused your husband to doubt your chastity. But there is no necessity to speak of that, as I have abandoned that course. Now if you act according to my advice, my wish will be accomplished through you, and it will be to your benefit.

Kopa. Whose name did you hear in the month of the Homkári?

Lu. Your name. To find out if he was sacrificing for your good or your evil, I made him an obeisance and sate near him. I sate there till his rites were finished. At the end of the sacrifice I asked him the meaning of the sacrifice in which your name occurred. After some talk with him, I came to know that the object of the sacrifice was to injure you. That, too, was my object, and I told him so. There and then we bound ourselves to aid one another, and, in order to take counsel better, he took me into the broken house. Then he told me of his wish, namely, your death. But I did not wish for that. I have committed nothing but evil in this birth, but I have not become so utterly vile as to encompass the death of an innocent girl. I did not agree to it. At that moment you came up. I fancy you must have heard something.

Kopa. I heard some discussion of that sort.

Lu. The man, thinking me senseless and foolish, wished to instruct me. Knowing what would happen at last, and intending to put you on your guard, I took and concealed you in the forest.

Kopa. After that, why did you not return?

Lu. He said much, and a relation of all the details occupied a long time. You know the man well. Can't you guess?

Kopa. My old guardian the Kapálik.

Lu. Yes. The Kapálik told me of everything, first his finding you on the sea-shore, his bringing you up there, Nobokumar's arrival, and your flight with him. What happened after your flight, that too he related. You don't know all that, and I will tell you at length for your information.

Lutufonissa then proceeded to tell of the Kapálik's falling from the hill, the breaking of his arms, and his dream. Hearing of the dream, Kopal-Kundala started and shuddered, and became as restless as lightning. Lutufonissa went on, "The Kapálik's firm resolve is to carry out the behest of Bhobani. As he has lost the strength of his arms, he must have the aid of another. Thinking me to be a Brahman youth, he told me all in the hope of my helping him. Hitherto I have not agreed to this wickedness. I cannot be certain of my evil heart, but I think I should never consent. Nay, it is my intention to oppose this resolve, and it was with this intention that I have come to see you. But I am not altogether disinterested in this matter. I give you your life. You must do something for me."

Kopal-Kundala said, "What shall I do?"

Lu. Give me too my life—abandon your husband.

Kopal-Kundala for a long time said nothing. After a long silence she said: "If I leave my husband, where am I to go?"

Lu. To a foreign country—far away. I will give you a large house, I will give you wealth, I will give you male and female slaves; you will live like a queen.

Kopal-Kundala again pondered. She saw every part of the world with the eyes of her mind, but nowhere could she see anybody. She gazed into her own heart, she could not see Nohokumar there; then why should she stand in the way of Lutufonissa's pleasure? She said to Lutufonissa—

"I cannot now understand whether you have done me a benefit or not. I have no need of a fine house, wealth, property, male and female slaves. Why should I stand in the way of your happiness? Let your wish be accomplished; from to-morrow you will hear nothing of her who stands in your way. I was a denizen of the forests, and will again become one."

Lutufonissa was astonished, as she had not expected so speedy a consent. She was charmed, and said, "Sister, may you live for ever! You have given me my life. But I will not let you go unprotected. To-morrow morning I will send you a faithful and very intelligent handmaiden of mine. Go with her. In Burdwan a lady of very high rank is my friend; she will satisfy all your wants."

Lutufonissa and Kopal-Kundala were so engaged in their conversation, that they could not at all perceive the obstacle in front of them. They did not see that the Kapálik and Nobokumar were standing at the end of the jungle path, which led out of their place of refuge, and were gazing on them with fierce glances.

Nobokumar and the Kapálik had only observed them, but unfortunately from such a distance they could not hear a single word of their conversation. If man's eyes and ears could go equally far, who can say whether the current of his unhappiness would be decreased or enhanced? People say that the mechanism of the world is wonderfully contrived.

Nobokumar saw that Kopal-Kundala's tresses were hanging loose. When Kopal-Kundala was not his, then she used not to bind up her hair. Again he saw that those tresses, falling on the young Brahman's back, had mingled with his hair that also hung down his limbs. Kopal-Kundala's tresses were so abundant, and they were both seated so close together in order to talk in a low voice, that Kopal-Kundala's hair spread right over Lutufonissa's back. They did not notice this; but Nobokumar, seeing it, gently sank on the ground.

Seeing this, the Kapálik opened a cocoa-nut vessel that hung from his waist, and said, "Child! you are losing your strength, drink this sovereign medicine; it is the gift of Bhobani. By drinking it you will get strength."

The Kapálik held the vessel near Nobokumar's lips. He absently took a draught, and satisfied his burning thirst. Nobokumar did not know that this sweet beverage was exceedingly strong wine prepared by the Kapálik's own hands. Immediately on drinking he regained his strength.

On this side Lutufonissa continued to speak to Kopal-Kundala in a low voice as before.

"Sister! I have no power to recompense you sufficiently for your action; but I shall be happy so long as you always recollect me. I have heard that you bestowed on a poor person the ornaments I gave you. I have now nothing with me. Thinking it might be necessary yesterday, I put a ring in my hair, but by God's favour it was not necessary for that evil purpose. Do you keep this ring. Hereafter, when you look on it, think of your Mussulman sister. To-day, if your husband asks you where you got the ring, say that Lutufonissa gave it to you." With these words, Lutufonissa took from off her finger a ring of great value and put it in Kopal-Kundala's hand. Nobokumar saw this also; the Kapálik had hold of him, and seeing him tremble again, he made him drink another draught of wine. The wine mounted to Nobokumar's brain, and began to destroy his nature, even uprooting the very seeds of his affection.

Kopal-Kundala took leave of Lutufonissa and went towards her house. Then Nobokumar and the Kapálik, unseen by Lutufonissa, began to follow Kopal-Kundala.

  1. A first wife calls her husband's second wife her sotin.