Page:Chandrashekhar (1905).djvu/105

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
95
CHANDRASHEKHAR.

which Victor Hugo has described, greed or desire seems to form the essential constituent of its nature. It lives in very clear crystal water. On the floor of its habitation beautiful red ochre and other minerals softly shine refulgent with a tender and delicate light. How many precious pearls and corals spread their lustre in the interior!—but it sucks human blood. No sooner a person charmed with the beauty of its habitation enters it, than the hundred-armed monster puts forth its arms one by one and seizes its prey; once caught, there is no escape. With its hundred arms and thousand ligaments, it embraces its victim, and then the monster applies its thousand blood-sucking discs to the body of the hapless being and drinks up his blood.

Considering herself unequal to the combat, Shaibalini retired from the field. She had her apprehensions lest Protap should try to find her out when he came to know of her escape. For this reason, without stopping at a nearer place, she walked as far as her legs could carry. Not very far, she spied the ranges of hills which girdle India like a waist-band. To avoid observation, she did not attempt the hill during day-time and lay concealed in a wood. The whole day passed without food; evening went away; now it will be dark, and then the stars will appear by degrees. In darkness Shaibalini began her ascent. Her feet were lacerated with the splinters of rock in the obscurity. No passage could be found through the low shrubs and creepers, and their thorns, the edges of broken twigs, and the ends of root stumps, tore her hands and feet and caused them to bleed. Shaibalini’s atonement had begun.

But Shaibalini was not sorry for it. Out of her own free-will she had chosen this atonement. Of her own