The Home and the World/Chapter 9
For a time I was utterly at a loss to think of any way of getting that money. Then, the other day, in the light of intense excitement, suddenly the whole picture stood out clear before me.
Every year my husband makes a reverence-offering of six thousand rupees to my sister-in-law at the time of the Durga Puja. Every year it is deposited in her account at the bank in Calcutta. This year the offering was made as usual, but it has not yet been sent to the bank, being kept meanwhile in an iron safe, in a corner of the little dressing-room attached to our bedroom.
Every year my husband takes the money to the bank himself. This year he has not yet had an opportunity of going to town. How could I fail to see the hand of Providence in this? The money has been held up because the country wants it,—who could have the power to take it away from her to the bank? And how can I have the power to refuse to take the money? The goddess revelling in destruction holds out her blood-cup crying: 'Give me drink. I am thirsty.' I will give her my own heart's blood with that five thousand rupees. Mother, the loser of that money will scarcely feel the loss, but me you will utterly ruin!
Many a time, in the old days, have I inwardly called the Senior Rani a thief, for I charged her with wheedling money out of my trusting husband. After her husband's death, she often used to make away with things belonging to the estate for her own use. This I used to point out to my husband, but he remained silent. I would get angry and say: 'If you feel generous, make gifts by all means, but why allow yourself to be robbed?' Providence must have smiled, then, at these complaints of mine, for tonight I am on the way to rob my husband's safe of my sister-in-law's money.
My husband's custom was to let his keys remain in his pockets when he took off his clothes for the night, leaving them in the dressing-room. I picked out the key of the safe and opened it. The slight sound it made seemed to wake the whole world! A sudden chill turned my hands and feet icy cold, and I shivered all over.
There was a drawer inside the safe. On opening this I found the money, not in currency notes, but in gold rolled up in paper. I had no time to count out what I wanted. There were twenty rolls, all of which I took and tied up in a corner of my sari.
What a weight it was. The burden of the theft crushed my heart to the dust. Perhaps notes would have made it seem less like thieving, but this was all gold.
After I had stolen into my room like a thief, it felt like my own room no longer. All the most precious rights which I had over it vanished at the touch of my theft. I began to mutter to myself, as though telling mantrams: Bande Mataram, Bande Mataram, my Country, my golden Country, all this gold is for you, for none else!
But in the night the mind is weak. I came back into the bedroom where my husband was asleep, closing my eyes as I passed through, and went off to the open terrace beyond, on which I lay prone, clasping to my breast the end of the sari tied over the gold. And each one of the rolls gave me a shock of pain.
The silent night stood there with forefinger upraised. I could not think of my house as separate from my country: I had robbed my house, I had robbed my country. For this sin my house had ceased to be mine, my country also was estranged from me. Had I died begging for my country, even unsuccessfully, that would have been worship, acceptable to the gods. But theft is never worship,—how then can I offer this gold? Ah me! I am doomed to death myself, must I desecrate my country with my impious touch?
The way to put the money back is closed to me. I have not the strength to return to the room, take again that key, open once more that safe,—I should swoon on the threshold of my husband's door. The only road left now is the road in front. Neither have I the strength deliberately to sit down and count the coins. Let them remain behind their coverings: I cannot calculate.
There was no mist in the winter sky. The stars were shining brightly. If, thought I to myself, as I lay out there, I had to steal these stars one by one, like golden coins, for my country,—these stars so carefully stored up in the bosom of the darkness,—then the sky would be blinded, the night widowed for ever, and my theft would rob the whole world. But was not also this very thing I had done a robbing of the whole world,—not only of money, but of trust, of righteousness?
I spent the night lying on the terrace. When at last it was morning, and I was sure that my husband had risen and left the room, then only with my shawl pulled over my head, could I retrace my steps towards the bedroom.
My sister-in-law was about, with her brass pot, watering her plants. When she saw me passing in the distance she cried: 'Have you heard the news, Chota Rani?'
I stopped in silence, all in a tremor. It seemed to me that the rolls of sovereigns were bulging through the shawl. I feared they would burst and scatter in a ringing shower, exposing to all the servants of the house the thief who had made herself destitute by robbing her own wealth.
'Your band of robbers,' she went on, 'have sent an anonymous message threatening to loot the treasury.'
I remained as silent as a thief.
'I was advising Brother Nikhil to seek your protection,' she continued banteringly. 'Call off your minions, Robber Queen! We will offer sacrifices to your Bande Mataram if you will but save us. What doings there are these days!—but for the Lord's sake, spare our house at least from burglary.'
I hastened into my room without reply. I had put my foot on quicksand, and could not now withdraw it. Struggling would only send me down deeper.
If only the time would arrive when I could hand over the money to Sandip! I could bear it no longer, its weight was breaking through my very ribs.
It was still early when I got word that Sandip was awaiting me. To-day I had no thought of adornment. Wrapped as I was in my shawl, I went off to the outer apartments.
As I entered the sitting-room I saw Sandip and Amulya there, together. All my dignity, all my honour, seemed to run tingling through my body from head to foot and vanish into the ground. I should have to lay bare a woman's uttermost shame in sight of this boy! Could they have been discussing my deed in their meeting place? Had any vestige of a veil of decency been left for me?
We women shall never understand men. When they are bent on making a road for some achievement, they think nothing of breaking the heart of the world into pieces to pave it for the progress of their chariot. When they are mad with the intoxication of creating, they rejoice in destroying the creation of the Creator. This heart-breaking shame of mine will not attract even a glance from their eyes. They have no feeling for life itself,—all their eagerness is for their object. What am I to them but a meadow flower in the path of a torrent in flood?
What good will this extinction of me be to Sandip? Only five thousand rupees? Was not I good for something more than only five thousand rupees? Yes, indeed! Did I not learn that from Sandip himself, and was I not able in the light of this knowledge to despise all else in my world? I was the giver of light, of life, of Shakti, of immortality,—in that belief, in that joy, I had burst all my bounds and come into the open. Had anyone then fulfilled for me that joy, I should have lived in my death. I should have lost nothing in the loss of my all.
Do they want to tell me now that all this was false? The psalm of my praise which was sung so devotedly, did it bring me down from my heaven, not to make heaven of earth, but only to level heaven itself with the dust?
'The money, Queen?' said Sandip with his keen glance full on my face.
Amulya also fixed his gaze on me. Though not my own mother's child, yet the dear lad is brother to me; for mother is mother all the world over. With his guileless face, his gentle eyes, his innocent youth, he looked at me. And I, a woman,—of his mother's sex,—how could I hand him poison, just because he asked for it?
'The money, Queen!' Sandip's insolent demand rang in my ears. For very shame and vexation I felt I wanted to fling that gold at Sandip's head. I could hardly undo the knot of my sari, my fingers trembled so. At last the paper rolls dropped on the table.
Sandip's face grew black.... He must have thought that the rolls were of silver.... What contempt was in his looks. What utter disgust at incapacity. It was almost as if he could have struck me! He must have suspected that I had come to parley with him, to offer to compound his claim for five thousand rupees with a few hundreds. There was a moment when I thought he would snatch up the rolls and throw them out of the window, declaring that he was no beggar, but a king claiming tribute.
'Is that all?' asked Amulya with such pity welling up in his voice that I wanted to sob out aloud. I kept my heart tightly pressed down, and merely nodded my head.
Sandip was speechless. He neither touched the rolls, nor uttered a sound.
My humiliation went straight to the boy's heart. With a sudden, feigned enthusiasm he exclaimed: 'It's plenty. It will do splendidly. You have saved us.' With which he tore open the covering of one of the rolls.
The sovereigns shone out. And in a moment the black covering seemed to be lifted from Sandip's countenance also. His delight beamed forth from his features. Unable to control his sudden revulsion of feeling, he sprang up from his seat towards me. What he intended I know not. I flashed a lightning glance towards Amulya,—the colour had left the boy's face as at the stroke of a whip. Then with all my strength I thrust Sandip from me. As he reeled back his head struck the edge of the marble table and he dropped on the floor. There he lay awhile, motionless. Exhausted with my effort, I sank back on my seat.
Amulya's face lightened with a joyful radiance. He did not even turn towards Sandip, but came straight up, took the dust of my feet, and then remained there, sitting on the floor in front of me. O my little brother, my child! This reverence of yours is the last touch of heaven left in my empty world! I could contain myself no longer, and my tears flowed fast. I covered my eyes with the end of my sari, which I pressed to my face with both my hands, and sobbed and sobbed. And every time that I felt on my feet his tender touch trying to comfort me my tears broke out afresh.
After a little, when I had recovered myself and taken my hands from my face, I saw Sandip back at the table, gathering up the sovereigns in his handkerchief, as if nothing had happened. Amulya rose to his seat, from his place near my feet, his wet eyes shining.
Sandip coolly looked up at my face as he remarked: 'It is six thousand.'
'What do we want with so much, Sandip Babu?' cried Amulya. 'Three thousand five hundred is all we need for our work.'
'Our wants are not for this one place only,' Sandip replied. 'We shall want all we can get.'
'That may be,' said Amulya. 'But in future I undertake to get you all you want. Out of this, Sandip Babu, please return the extra two thousand five hundred to the Maharani.'
Sandip glanced enquiringly at me.
'No, no,' I exclaimed. 'I shall never touch that money again. Do with it as you will.'
'Can man ever give as woman can?' said Sandip, looking towards Amulya.
'They are goddesses!' agreed Amulya with enthusiasm.
'We men can at best give of our power,' continued Sandip. 'But women give themselves. Out of their own life they give birth, out of their own life they give sustenance. Such gifts are the only true gifts.' Then turning to me, 'Queen!' said he, 'if what you have given us had been only money I would not have touched it. But you have given that which is more to you than life itself!'
There must be two different persons inside men. One of these in me can understand that Sandip is trying to delude me; the other is content to be deluded. Sandip has power, but no strength of righteousness. The weapon of his which rouses up life smites it again to death. He has the unfailing quiver of the gods, but the shafts in them are of the demons.
Sandip's handkerchief was not large enough to hold all the coins. 'Queen,' he asked, 'can you give me another?'
When I gave him mine, he reverently touched his forehead with it, and then suddenly kneeling on the floor he made me an obeisance. 'Goddess!' he said, 'it was to offer my reverence that I had approached you, but you repulsed me, and rolled me in the dust. Be it so, I accept your repulse as your boon to me, I raise it to my head in salutation!' with which he pointed to the place where he had been hurt.
Had I then misunderstood him? Could it be that his outstretched hands had really been directed towards my feet? Yet, surely, even Amulya had seen the passion that flamed out of his eyes, his face. But Sandip is such an adept in setting music to his chant of praise that I cannot argue; I lose my power of seeing truth; my sight is clouded over like an opium-eater's eyes. And so, after all, he gave me back twice as much in return for the blow I had dealt him,—the wound on his head ended by making me bleed at heart. When I had received Sandip's obeisance my theft seemed to gain a dignity, and the gold glittering on the table to smile away all fear of disgrace, all stings of conscience.
Like me Amulya also was won back. His devotion to Sandip, which had suffered a momentary check, blazed up anew. The flower-vase of his mind filled once more with offerings for the worship of Sandip and me. His simple faith shone out of his eyes with the pure light of the morning star at dawn.
After I had offered worship and received worship my sin became radiant. And as Amulya looked on my face he raised his folded hands in salutation and cried Bande Mataram! I cannot expect to have this adoration surrounding me for ever; and yet this has come to be the only means of keeping alive my self-respect.
I can no longer enter my bedroom. The bedstead seems to thrust out a forbidding hand, the iron safe frowns at me. I want to get away from this continual insult to myself which is rankling within me. I want to keep running to Sandip to hear him sing my praises. There is just this one little altar of worship which has kept its head above the all-pervading depths of my dishonour, and so I want to cleave to it night and day; for on whichever side I step away from it, there is only emptiness.
Praise, praise, I want unceasing praise. I cannot live if my wine-cup be left empty for a single moment. So, as the very price of my life, I want Sandip of all the world, to-day.
When my husband nowadays comes in for his meals I feel I cannot sit before him; and yet it is such a shame not to be near him that I feel I cannot do that either. So I seat myself where we cannot look at each other's face. That was how I was sitting the other day when the Bara Rani came and joined us.
'It is all very well for you, brother,' said she, 'to laugh away these threatening letters. But they do frighten me so. Have you sent off that money you gave me to the Calcutta bank?'
'No, I have not yet had the time to get it away,' my husband replied.
'You are so careless, brother dear, you had better look out......'
'But it is in the iron safe right inside the inner dressing-room,' said my husband with a reassuring smile.
'What if they get in there? You can never tell!'
'If they go so far, they might as well carry you off too!'
'Don't you fear, no one will come for poor me. The real attraction is in your room! But joking apart, don't run the risk of keeping money in the room like that.'
'They will be taking along the Government revenue to Calcutta in a few days now; I will send this money to the bank under the same escort.'
'Very well. But see you don't forget all about it, you are so absent-minded.'
'Even if that money gets lost, while in my room, the loss cannot be yours, Sister Rani.'
'Now, now, brother, you will make me very angry if you talk in that way. Was I making any difference between yours and mine? What if your money is lost, does not that hurt me? If Providence has thought fit to take away my all, it has not left me insensible to the value of the most devoted brother known since the days of Lakshman.
'Well, Junior Rani, are you turned into a wooden doll? You have not spoken a word yet. Do you know, brother, our Junior Rani thinks I try to flatter you. If things came to that pass I should not hesitate to do so, but I know my dear old brother does not need it!'
Thus the Senior Rani chattered on, not forgetting now and then to draw her brother's attention to this or that special delicacy amongst the dishes that were being served. My head was all the time in a whirl. The crisis was fast coming. Something must be done about replacing that money. And as I kept asking myself what could be done, and how it was to be done, the unceasing patter of my sister-in-law's words seemed more and more intolerable.
What made it all the worse was, that nothing could escape my sister-in-law's keen eyes. Every now and then she was casting side glances towards me. What she could read in my face I do not know, but to me it seemed that everything was written there only too plainly.
Then I did an infinitely rash thing. Affecting an easy, amused laugh I said: 'All the Senior Rani's suspicions, I see, are reserved for me,—her fears of thieves and robbers are only a feint.'
The Senior Rani smiled mischievously. 'You are right, sister mine. A woman's theft is the most fatal of all thefts. But how can you elude my watchfulness? Am I a man, that you should hoodwink me?'
'If you fear me so,' I retorted, 'let me keep in your hands all I have, as security. If I cause you loss, you can then repay yourself.'
'Just listen to her, our simple little Junior Rani!' she laughed back, turning to my husband. 'Does she not know that there are losses which no security can make good, either in this world or in the next?'
My husband did not join in our exchange of words. When he had finished, he went off to the outer apartments, for nowadays he does not take his mid-day rest in our room.
All my more valuable jewels were in deposit in the treasury in charge of the cashier. Still what I kept with me must have been worth thirty or forty thousand. I took my jewel-box to the Bara Rani's room and opened it out before her, saying: 'I leave these with you, sister. They will keep you quite safe from all worry.'
The Bara Rani made a gesture of mock despair. 'You positively astound me, Chota Rani!' she said. 'Do you really suppose I spend sleepless nights for fear of being robbed by you?'
'What harm if you did have a wholesome fear of me? Does anybody know anybody else in this world?'
'You want to teach me a lesson by trusting me? No, no! I am bothered enough to know what to do with my own jewels, without keeping watch over yours. Take them away, there's a dear, so many prying servants are about.'
I went straight from my sister-in-law's room to the sitting-room outside, and sent for Amulya. With him Sandip came along too. I was in a great hurry, and said to Sandip: 'If you don't mind, I want to have a word or two with Amulya. Would you....'
Sandip smiled a wry smile. 'So Amulya and I are separate in your eyes? If you have set about to wean him from me, I must confess I have no power to retain him.'
I made no reply, but stood waiting.
'Be it so,' Sandip went on. 'Finish your special talk with Amulya. But then you must give me a special talk all to myself too, or it will mean a defeat for me. I can stand everything, but not defeat. My share must always be the lion's share. This has been my constant quarrel with Providence. I will defeat the Dispenser of my fate, but not take defeat at his hands.' With a crushing look at Amulya, Sandip walked out of the room.
'Amulya, my own little brother, you must do one thing for me,' I said.
'I will stake my life for whatever duty you may lay on me, sister.'
I brought out my jewel-box from the folds of my shawl and placed it before him. 'Sell or pawn these,' I said, 'and get me six thousand rupees as fast as ever you can.'
'No, no, Sister Rani,' said Amulya, touched to the quick. 'Let these jewels be. I will get you six thousand all the same.'
'Oh, don't be silly,' I said impatiently. 'There is no time for any nonsense. Take this box. Get away to Calcutta by the night train. And bring me the money by the day after to-morrow positively.'
Amulya took a diamond necklace out of the box, held it up to the light and put it back gloomily.
'I know,' I told him, 'that you will never get the proper price for these diamonds, so I am giving you jewels worth about thirty thousand. I don't care if they all go, but I must have that six thousand without fail.'
'Do you know, Sister Rani,' said Amulya, 'I have had a quarrel with Sandip Babu over that Rs. 6,000 he took from you? I cannot tell you how ashamed I felt. But Sandip Babu would have it that we must give up even our shame for the country. That may be so. But this is somehow different. I do not fear to die for the country, to kill for the country,—that much Shakti has been given me. But I cannot forget the shame of having taken money from you. There Sandip Babu is ahead of me. He has no regrets or compunctions. He says we must get rid of the idea that the money belongs to the one in whose box it happens to be,—if we cannot, where is the magic of Bande Mataram?'
Amulya gathered enthusiasm as he talked on. He always warms up when he has me for a listener. 'The Gita tells us,' he continued, 'that no one can kill the soul. Killing is a mere word. So also is the taking away of money. Whose is the money? No one has created it. No one can take it away with him when he departs this life, for it is no part of his soul. To-day it is mine, to-morrow my son's, the next day his creditor's. Since, in fact, money belongs to no one, why should any blame attach to our patriots if, instead of leaving it for some worthless son, they take it for their own use?'
When I hear Sandip's words uttered by this boy, I tremble all over. Let those who are snake-charmers play with snakes; if harm comes to them, they are prepared for it. But these boys are so innocent, all the world is ready with its blessing to protect them. They play with a snake not knowing its nature, and when we see them smilingly, trustfully, putting their hands within reach of its fangs, then we understand how terribly dangerous the snake is. Sandip is right when he suspects that though I, for myself, may be ready to die at his hands, this boy I shall wean from him and save.
'So the money is wanted for the use of your patriots?' I questioned with a smile.
'Of course it is!' said Amulya proudly. 'Are they not our kings? Poverty takes away from their regal power. Do you know, we always insist on Sandip Babu travelling First Class? He never shirks kingly honours,—he accepts them not for himself, but for the glory of us all. The greatest weapon of those who rule the world, Sandip Babu has told us, is the hypnotism of their display. To take the vow of poverty would be for them not merely a penance,—it would mean suicide."
At this point Sandip noiselessly entered the room. I threw my shawl over the jewel-case with a rapid movement.
'The special-talk business not yet over?' he asked with a sneer in his tone.
'Yes, we've quite finished,' said Amulya apologetically. 'It was nothing much.'
'No, Amulya,' I said, 'we have not quite finished.'
'So exit Sandip for the second time, I suppose?' said Sandip.
'If you please.'
'And as to Sandip's re-entry....'
'Not to-day. I have no time.'
'I see!' said Sandip as his eyes flashed. 'No time to waste, only for special talks!'
Jealousy! Where the strong man shows weakness, there the weaker sex cannot help beating her drums of victory. So I repeated firmly: 'I really have no time.'
Sandip went away looking black. Amulya was greatly perturbed. 'Sister Rani,' he pleaded, 'Sandip Babu is annoyed.'
'He has neither cause nor right to be annoyed,' I said with some vehemence. 'Let me caution you about one thing, Amulya. Say nothing to Sandip Babu about the sale of my jewels,—on your life.'
'No, I will not.'
'Then you had better not delay any more. You must get away by tonight's train.'
Amulya and I left the room together. As we came out on the verandah Sandip was standing there. I could see he was waiting to waylay Amulya. To prevent that I had to engage him. 'What is it you wanted to tell me, Sandip Babu?' I asked.
'I have nothing special to say—mere small talk. And since you have not the time....'
'I can give you just a little.'
By this time Amulya had left. As we entered the room Sandip asked: 'What was that box Amulya carried away?'
The box had not escaped his eyes. I remained firm. 'If I could have told you, it would have been made over to him in your presence!'
'So you think Amulya will not tell me?'
'No, he will not.'
Sandip could not conceal his anger any longer. 'You think you will gain the mastery over me?' he blazed out. 'That shall never be. Amulya, there, would die a happy death if I deigned to trample him under foot. I will never, so long as I live, allow you to bring him to your feet!'
Oh, the weak! the weak! At last Sandip has realized that he is weak before me! That is why there is this sudden outburst of anger. He has understood that he cannot meet the power that I wield, with mere strength. With a glance I can crumble his strongest fortifications. So he must needs resort to bluster. I simply smiled in contemptuous silence. At last have I come to a level above him. I must never lose this vantage ground; never descend lower again. Amidst all my degradation this bit of dignity must remain to me!
'I know,' said Sandip, after a pause, 'it was your jewel-case.'
'You may guess as you please,' said I, 'but you will get nothing out of me.'
'So you trust Amulya more than you trust me? Do you know that the boy is the shadow of my shadow, the echo of my echo,—that he is nothing if I am not at his side?'
'Where he is not your echo, he is himself, Amulya. And that is where I trust him more than I can trust your echo!'
'You must not forget that you are under a promise to render up all your ornaments to me for the worship of the Divine Mother. In fact your offering has already been made.'
'Whatever ornaments the gods leave to me will be offered up to the gods. But how can I offer those which have been stolen away from me?'
'Look here, it is no use your trying to give me the slip in that fashion. Now is the time for grim work. Let that work be finished, then you can make a display of your woman's wiles to your heart's content,—and I will help you in your game.'
The moment I had stolen my husband's money and paid it to Sandip, the music that was in our relations stopped. Not only did I destroy all my own value by making myself cheap, but Sandip's powers, too, lost scope for their full play. You cannot employ your marksmanship against a thing which is right in your grasp. So Sandip has lost his aspect of the hero; a tone of low quarrelsomeness has come into his words.
Sandip kept his brilliant eyes fixed full on my face till they seemed to blaze with all the thirst of the mid-day sky. Once or twice he fidgeted with his feet, as though to leave his seat, as if to spring right on me. My whole body seemed to swim, my veins throbbed, the hot blood surged up to my ears; I felt that if I remained there, I should never get up at all. With a supreme effort I tore myself off the chair, and hastened towards the door.
From Sandip's dry throat there came a muffled cry: 'Whither would you flee, Queen?' The next moment he left his seat with a bound to seize hold of me. At the sound of footsteps outside the door, however, he rapidly retreated and fell back into his chair. I checked my steps near the bookshelf, where I stood staring at the names of the books.
As my husband entered the room, Sandip exclaimed: 'I say, Nikhil, don't you keep Browning among your books here? I was just telling Queen Bee of our college club. Do you remember that contest of ours over the translation of those lines from Browning? You don't?
- 'She should never have looked at me,
- If she meant I should not love her,
- There are plenty .... men you call such,
- I suppose ...... she may discover
- All her soul to, if she pleases,
- And yet leave much as she found them:
- But I'm not so, and she knew it
- When she fixed me, glancing round them.'
'I managed to get together the words to render it into Bengali, somehow, but the result was hardly likely to be a "joy for ever" to the people of Bengal. I really did think at one time that I was on the verge of becoming a poet, but Providence was kind enough to save me from that disaster. Do you remember old Dakshina? If he had not become a Salt Inspector, he would have been a poet. I remember his rendering to this day....
'No, Queen Bee, it is no use rummaging those bookshelves. Nikhil has ceased to read poetry since his marriage,—perhaps he has no further need for it. But I suppose 'the fever fit of poesy,' as the Sanskrit has it, is about to attack me again.'
'I have come to give you a warning, Sandip,' said my husband.
'About the fever fit of poesy?'
My husband took no notice of this attempt at humour. 'For some time,' he continued, 'Mahomedan preachers have been about stirring up the local Mussulmans. They are all wild with you, and may attack you any moment.'
'Are you come to advise flight?'
'I have come to give you information, not to offer advice.'
'Had these estates been mine, such a warning would have been necessary for the preachers, not for me. If, instead of trying to frighten me, you give them a taste of your intimidation, that would be worthier both of you and me. Do you know that your weakness is weakening your neighbouring zamindars also?'
'I did not offer you my advice, Sandip. I wish you, too, would refrain from giving me yours. Besides, it is useless. And there is another thing I want to tell you. You and your followers have been secretly worrying and oppressing my tenantry. I cannot allow that any longer. So I must ask you to leave my territory.'
'For fear of the Mussulmans, or is there any other fear you have to threaten me with?'
'There are fears the want of which is cowardice. In the name of those fears, I tell you, Sandip, you must go. In five days I shall be starting for Calcutta. I want you to accompany me. You may of course stay in my house there,—to that there is no objection."
'All right, I have still five day's time then. Meanwhile, Queen Bee, let me hum to you my song of parting from your honey-hive. Ah! you poet of modern Bengal! Throw open your doors and let me plunder your words. The theft is really yours, for it is my song which you have made your own—let the name be yours by all means, but the song is mine.' With this Sandip struck up in a deep, husky voice, which threatened to be out of tune, a song in the Bhairavi mode:
- 'In the springtime of your kingdom, my Queen,
- Meetings and partings chase each other in their endless hide and seek,
- And flowers blossom in the wake of those that droop and die in the shade.
- In the springtime of your kingdom, my Queen,
- My meeting with you had its own songs,
- But has not also my leave-taking any gift to offer you?
- That gift is my secret hope, which I keep hidden in the shadows of your flower garden,
- That the rains of July may sweetly temper your fiery June.'
His boldness was immense,—boldness which had no veil, but was naked as fire. One finds no time to stop it: it is like trying to resist a thunderbolt: the lightning flashes: it laughs at all resistance.
I left the room. As I was passing along the verandah towards the inner apartments, Amulya suddenly made his appearance and came and stood before me.
'Fear nothing, Sister Rani,' he said. 'I am off to-night and shall not return unsuccessful.'
'Amulya,' said I, looking straight into his earnest, youthful face, 'I fear nothing for myself, but may I never cease to fear for you.'
Amulya turned to go, but before he was out of sight I called him back and asked: 'Have you a mother, Amulya?'
'No, I am the only child of my mother. My father died when I was quite little.'
'Then go back to your mother, Amulya.'
'But, Sister Rani, I have now both mother and sister.'
'Then, Amulya, before you leave to-night, come and have your dinner here.'
'There won't be time for that. Let me take some food for the journey, consecrated with your touch.'
'What do you specially like, Amulya?'
- Of the Ramayana. The story of his devotion to his elder brother Rama and his brother's wife Sita, has become a byword.