Page:Chandrashekhar (1905).djvu/35

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
25
CHANDRASHEKHAR.

number of black beards[1] in the boat, she pulled her veil. The owners of the beards gazed at her in silence.

Shaibalini’s food was cooking on an alluvial plat. She was still observing Hindu customs—-a Brahmin was cooking. One cannot transform oneself into a Saheb’s wife in the course of a single day. Foster knew that if Shaibalini did not escape or commit suicide, she must one day sit at table and relish Mahomedan cooking as a delicacy. But where was the hurry now? If he tried to force her hand, everything would be spoiled. With this idea, he had engaged a Brahmin cook for her, according to the suggestion of his servants. The Brahmin was cooking and a servant-woman standing by helped him. The barber-woman walked up to the latter and asked, “My friend, where are you coming from?”

The servant-woman got angry, specially as she received her wages from an Englishman and answered sharply, “What business have you to enquire, hussy? We are coming from Hilli, Delhi, or Mecca, if that will suit you.”[2]

The barber-woman was put out of countenance and said, “It is not that; I mean I am a barber by profession, and I am asking if any lady in your boat would like to have my services.”

The servant-woman was mollified, and said, “Very well, I will go and enquire.” With these words she went to ask Shaibalini if she would like to paint her feet with lacdye.[3] Shaibalini had been devising schemes for

  1. They are the Mahomedan boatmen
  2. This is a medley of the names of possible and impossible places.
  3. This practice of painting the feet with lacdye is common with the Hindu married women of Bengal. It is done by painting the fringe of the soles about an inch deep including the nails as a personal decoration.