Page:Chandrashekhar (1905).djvu/178

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

His prayer over, while his eyes sank earthwards, their glance wandered beyond the tent. Quite unexpectedly he found a man with matted locks, clad in a crimson cloth, with a white beard and besmeared with holy ashes, standing with his gaze fixed upon him. Foster's eyes were held captive by that gaze. Gradually his mind was overpowered by it, the eyes fell, and a heavy drowsiness paralysed his body, It seemed to him as if the lips of the being in matted locks moved in a mutter. Then a deep voice like the rumble of rain-clouds entered his ears and Foster heard as if some one was saying, “I will save you from the death by dogs, answer me truly. Are you Shaibalini’s lover?”

For once Foster directed his eyes to the begrimed maniac and said, “No, I am not.”

Every one heard the words, “No, I am not Shaibalini’s lover.”

In that same thundering voice again came another question. Whether it was the Nawab, Chandrashekhar, or some body else who asked it, Foster could not make out; he only heard a question uttered in a deep tone—“Then why did Shaibalini stay in your boat?” “I was bewitched by Shaibalini’s beauty,” answered Foster in a loud voice, “and bore her off by force from her home. I kept her in my boat. I was under the impression that she had an attachment for me, but I found quite the reverse——she owned a decided aversion. At our first meeting in the boat she took out a knife and threateningly said to me, ‘If you enter my cabin then this knife will put an end to us both. You must look upon me as if I were your mother.’ I could not approach her after that, neither did I touch her.” Everyone present heard the above.

“How could you manage to make her eat food prepared by an outcast?” asked Chandrashekhar.