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Full text of "Bankims Kapalkundala"

In tlir waning li^lit of the faded evening. 



BANHM'S 

KAPALKUNDALA. 



Translated 

BV 

Devendra Nath Ghose. 



I'nblished by 

K. M. Bagchi 

of 
Messrs. P. M. Bagchi & 

19, Guloo Ostagar's Lane, Calcutt*. 



1919- 

All rights reserved. 



Printed by 
Kishory Mohan Bagchi 

at the 
India Directory Press, 

38/1, Musjidbari Street, Calcutta. 



FOREWORD. 

Kapalkundala is unquestionably one of many master- 
pieces of Bankim Chandra and this fact, I think, will 
be deemed a sufficient apology for bringing it out in 
an English garb. Besides the style, perhaps the most 
perfect in our language, the masterly delineation of 
human character and sentiment, the beauty of its des- 
criptive passages, the high imaginative colouring and 
the sombre back-ground lend to this romance a sin- 
gular place among the lictions of Bengal, if not, of the 
world. Such a work should be the common property 
of man. It is, indeed, impossible to transfer the graces 
of style and diction from owe language to another as 
much of the spirit is lost with the translation. 
However, the task l ^rc imposed upon the transla- 
tor has been to convey, through the medium of the most 
wide-spread language in the world, something of Mhe 
beauties of the original work. The main charm centres 
in the character of Kapalkundala around whom the 
whole plot gravitates. Such a character is unique in its 
creation, perhaps, unparalleled in any literature. She 
was indeed, a child of nature, as Miranda or Sakuntala 
was, though she was something different from either. 
Miranda and Sakuntala knew the ways of the world 
but she \vas naturally ignorant of them. The warm 
passion of love was singularly wanting in her. WUeu 
she met Kabokumar she felt for him not what 
Miranda felt for Fardinand or Sakuntala for Dassanto 



but she felt foi him, what a kind-hearted woman 
feels for a benighted traveller. Even her married 
life brought no change. Nature gave her the 
best education the endless sea, the vast sk>% the 
Abroad and general air enlarged hex heart. She was all 
sacrifice without the faintest tinge of selfishness in her, 
The only human training she received was that 
imparted by the Kapalik and Adhicary and that was 
-complete self-abnegation. Such a flower will jjrow 
best by the sea-side in the open air and sun-shine. It 
must wither when transplanted to the flower-pot of the 
hot-house of an artificial society with all its formalities 
and hypocrisies, and so the story ended in a tragedy. 
The translator is aware of the many imperfections in 
his work and as it has been hurried through the press, 
he craves the indulgence of his readers, for any errors 
that might have crept into it. 



CALCUTTA. } 

1 8th August, [ Charu Chandra Palit. 

1919. J 



KAPALKUNDALA. 



PARTI 

CHAPTER I 



At the Estuary of the Ganges* 

Nearly two hundred and fifty years have passed 
away since the grey hours of one Magh morning saw a 
passenger-boat making her way up the river on her 
voyage back from the Saugor Islands. It was usual at 
that time for such boats to sail in strong parties on 
account of the scare of the Portuguese and other pirates. 
But these passengers had no companion-boats. The 
reason was that a thick fog had overspread the horizon 
towards the latter part of the night. The crew, having 
lost their bearings, drifted a far long way from the 
little flotilla. Now there was no knowing which direction 
she was making for. Most of the people on board 
were asleep. Only an old man and a youth lay awake, 
the former conversing with the latter. The former 
for a moment broke off and addressed one of the crew : 
**Boatman, what distance can you cover this day F" 



"I can hardly say" replied the boatman after a 
short indecision. 

The interrogator took offence and began railing at 
the boatman "What is in the hands of Providence, Sir" 
chipped in, the youth, "can't be foretold by the wise, 
fef iless by a simpleton. You must not bother over 
that." 

"Not bother !" echoed back the other furiously. 
^What do you mean ? The fellows forcibly cut away 
paddy from some twenty odd bighas of my land and 
what my children would live upon the whole year ?" 

This news he received from the fresh arrivals not 
before he had come out to the Saugor Islands. "So I 
observed already" rejoined the youngman, "when yon 
have none other guardian left home, it was wrong of 
you to venture out." 

"Not venture !" snapped the old man as sharply 
as before. "Three quarters of my life have been spent 
and only the fourth is left. Now or never to work 
for one's next life." 

4 'If I have read the scriptures aright," added the 
youth, ''the merits of pilgrimages accruing to after-life 
are equally within the reach of those who stay at 
home." 

"Why did you stir out then ?" returned the old man. 
4 'So I told you at the very outset", replied the other, "I 
had a great mind to have a look at the sea. So I came*' 
Then he exulted half to himself 4< Ah ! what a sight 1 
This is never to be forgotten in ages of the soul's 
migrations". 



KAPALKUNDALA. 3 

"From afar, as on a wheel of iron, slender * 

All blue with tamarisks and palms extended, 

Outshines the briny oceans' margin yonder, 

Like streak of rust-mark with the wheel-rim blended." 

The elderly man's ear was not following the poetry 
.but he was listening raptly to the conversation passing 
among the crew. 

4i Eh, brother, our folly is looking the bigger" spoke 
one of the crew to the other " Are we out on the open 
sea now, or in what corner of the globe the boat has 
got to, can't understand" The speakers voice had the 
ring of a great fright. The old man scented some danger 
ahead and nervously enquired * k Bo*atman, is anything 
the matter ?" The man addresssed to did not answer. 
But the young blood waited not for the reply. He 
came out into the bare open and saw the day was 
dawning. The heavy pall of a thick mist lay over 
everything. The stars, the moon, the sky, the coast- 
line were all blotted out. He understood that tli9 crew 
had lost all directions. They were not certain which 
way they were steering the boat. They feared they 
would perish in the boundless open sea. 

A screen hung out in front as cold protector and 
the passengers were quite in the dark about all this. 
But the young man knew the plight and explained 
to the old man the whole thing in detail. Then 
arose a great uproar aboard. Of the female passengers 
some awoke "at.the sound of ithe conversation and no 

* From Robi Datt. 



4 KAPALKUNDALA. 

sooner had their earc caught the remark than they set 
up a loud wail. "Row shoreward, row shoreward, row 
shoreward/' vociferated the elderly man. 

The youth smiled softly; and put in "where is 
the shore ? If we could but know this, how would 
I the danger arise ?" 

Now louder grew the hub-bub. The youth quieted 
them down somehow and said "Have no fear. The 
day has broken and the sun rises within two odd hours. 
The boat can never sink by that period. Now stop 
rowing and let her go adrift. Next when the sun breaks 
through, we would lay our heads together". 

The crew approved of this bit of advice and acted 
accordingly. 

All boathands sat stockstiil. The passengers 
ate their hearts out in an agony of suspense. The 
wind blew a gentle sigh. The shake of the boat was 
scarcely felt on account of the smooth * glassy sea. 
However, they felt sure that their last hour had struck. 
Silently did men say their prayers and loudly did wo- 
men raise a babel of cries uttered in vocal contortions 
of different keys. One of them had given a watery 
grave toher babe in the deep water of the Bay she 
had dropped her child but could not rescue it she of 
all others did not weep. 

While in this nervous mood of expectancy, they 
guessed it to be nine o'clock. At that time the crew all 
on a sudden shouted out at the top of their lungs the 
naiues of the five Pirs of water -and ^kicked up a row. 
All on board burst in one voice "What, what is up ?" 



KAPALKUNDALA. 5 

All the boathands cried out in a chorus "The sun has 
appeared. Land ahoy." Every body crawled out into 
the open space and began to observe the locality and the 
surroundings. They saw the sun had come out and the 
mist rolled away like a curtain before the sun revealing 
all sides in their naked clearness. The sun shone pretty 
above the horizon line. The water on which the boat 
floated was not the sea but the estuary of a river though 
the same expanse was scarcely observable any where 
else. One side of the river was within easy reach it 
was twenty-five yards more or less from where the 
boat lay. But the coast-line was hardly visible on the 
opposite side. Every other way besides, shimmered the 
wild waste of water in the glare of the brilliant sun and 
sweeping off immeasurably melted into the misty sky- 
line. The adjacent water had a turbid appearance as is 
usually noticeable in river water though the same looked 
blue at a distance. They felt certain that they had 
drifted down into the deep blue sea. But by some 
stroke of good luck they were pretty near the land. So 
they screwed up some courage. They calculated the 
direction from the sun's position. The fringe of the 
frontal ground was easily concluded to be the western 
seaboard. At a close range from where the boat 
floated was the mouth of another river pouring its gurg- 
ling flow of gold into the channel. Innumerable water- 
birds of diverse description were playing joyously on 
the broad patch of sand that lay on the southern side 
of the estuary. This stream now takes the name of the 
Rasulpur river. 



CHAPTER II 



On the coast. 

The first impulses of elation being over, the crew 
proposed that as there was still time for the tide to 
come, the passengers in the meantime might cook and 
dine on the sands before them and with the rising tide 
might start on the way home. The men fell in with 
the suggestion. Then the boatmen having secured the 
boat along the bank, the men landed. They had had 
their dips in the water before they attended to their 
morning ceremonies. 

After bath before starting kitchen- work another 
difficulty .presented itself in the shape of the absence 
of any fuel on board. Every one was loth to fetch fire- 
wood from the high bank on account of tigerscare. 
At last the dread of sheer starvation staring them in 
the face, the old man proposed to the previously 
mentioned youth "Nabokumar, my boy, we so many 
people would die, if you can not cast about for any 
means." 

Nabokumar reflected a few seconds and replied 
"All right, I shall go. Let a man bear me company 
with a wood-cutting knife and an axe." 
No body, however, responded to the call. 
With the words "The affair would be squared up 

at the meal-time", Nabokumar girded up his loins and 

axe in hand, set out in search of fuel. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 7 

When Nabokumar ascended the higher ridges 
of the river slope, his wandering eye conld not 
see any vestige of human habitation within the 
whole stretch of ground. It was but a weald, 
though the wood consisted neither of stately trees 
nor dense brushwood. Only at intervals, shrubs grew 
up in circular forms and covered the ground. As 
Nabokumar could not find there any firewood proper 
" to fell, he wandered on to the remoter reaches of the 
upland in quest of any suited to his purpose. At last 
he found out a fellable tree and provided himself with 
the necessary fuel. The transport of the load seemed 
another uphill task. Nabokumar was not born of a 
poor parentage. So he was not inured to such hard 
jobs. Besides, he had not considered the question in all 
its bearings before he started on his mission. Now the 
carrying of the wooa proved a sharp work. However 
Naboku<nar was not a man to shirk a task to which he 
had set his hand because of its arduous nature. Therefore, 
he trudged along with the bundle over a certain dis- 
tance and when he grew tired, he rested at stages 
and again proceeded. He plodded his way back in 
this way. 

This delayed Nabukumars' return. On the other hand 
his companions felt nervous as there had been none of 
the noticeable signs of his return. They feared Nabo- 
kumar had been killed by a tiger. The allowable time- 
limit being over, they came to that positive conclusion. 
Still no body ventured to go up the bank and advance 
a few paces in search of Nabokumar. 



8 KAPALKUNDALA, 

The passengers were indulging in such idle 
thoughts when the terrible moan of rushing tide was 
audible in the water. The crew fully knew it to be the 
on-rush of the coining tide. Besides, they knew that 
with the flood-tide, the heaving water dashed against 
the coastline with such a fury that any boat happening 
to lie on the coastal water was sure to be smashed to 
smithereens. So with great bustle they unfastened 
the mooring and made for the midstream. No sooner 
was the boat untied than the river-fringe was flooded 
over. The passengers could scarcely find time to spring 
on to the boat's side when the rice and grain deposited 
on the margin were clean washed-away. To add to 
their misfortunes, the crew were not skilled boatmen. 
They could not steady the boat. So the boat was 
pitched into the Rasulpur river-channel with the vio- 
lence of the current. One of the passengers cried 
'Nabokumar is left behind." O:ie of the crow replied 
"Alas ! Is your Nabokumar alive ? Us is safe in the 
stomach of a jackal." 

So the boat was being rushed up the Rasulpur river 
by the rapid current. But as it would be an arduous 
task tc get the boat downstream afterwards, the crew 
were trying their level best to emerge from the river. 
Even in that cold month of Magh sweat started out 
and trickled down their brows. Though they forced 
their way back from the river-channel with such 
exertion, yet no sooner did the boat come out than she 
was caught up by the more violent stream outside. The 
boat shot up due north like an arrow and the crew 



KAPALKUNDALA. 9 

rcould not bring themselves to control her. The boat 
never returned. 

By the time the current slackened down so as to 
let the boat being tackled, the passengers were carried 
over a longdistance past the mouth of the Rasulpur 
river. Now the question whether they wonld retrace 
their course furnished food for discussion. We 
ought to say here that Nabokumars' fellow-passengers 
' were all his neighbours but none his kinsmen. They 
concluded that they would have to await another 
low-tide to come back. Then night would fall when 
further navigation would be impossible and they would 
have to wait for another hightide. This meant starva- 
tion for each and all throughout the period. Thus 
two days' privations would bring them within an 
ace of death. The more so, when the crew remained 
obduratei; and would obey no orders. They asser- 
ted that Nabokumar had been killed by a tiger. 
This was possible. If so, then what would all their 
worries avail ? 

Concluding thus, the people thought it judicious 
to get back homeward without Nabokumar. Nabo- 
kumar was thus left to his fate in the howling sea- 
side wilderness. 

If at this, any body sets his face against be-stirring 
himself in search of fire-wood to save others from 
starvation, he deserves the world's ridicule. Let 
those people whose nature it is to send out their bene- 
factors into exile ply their "dirty work" all the while ; 
but men who run about to collect fire- wood for others 



io KAPALKUNDALA. 

must do the same, Over and again, whatsoevertimes 
they are banished from their hearth-stone. Because 
you are bad makes for no reason why I should not 
be good. 



CHAPTER III. 



In Solitude. 

Not far off from the place where Nabokumar was 
cast away, now stand two straggling villages under 
the names of Daulatpur and Dariapur. But at that 
period of which we are speaking, there could scarcely 
be visible any signs of human habitation. It was all 
woodland. The part of this countryside was not so as 
other parts of Bengal which are usually flat. An un- 
broken range of sand-dunes traversed the whole stretch 
of ground lying between the mouth of the Rasulpur 
river and the Subarnarekha. If the series of the sand- 
elevations would have been a little bigger in height, 
these might have claimed the appellation of a chain of 
sandhills. Now people call these the Baliari. The 
white cliffs of the Baliari or sandhills appear unusually 
bright under the hot meridian sun. No tall trees grow 
on those heights. Shrubs and undergrowths abound at 
the feet of these sand-mounds though the arid desolate 
belt and summit generally emit a white glow. Of the 



KAPALKUNDALA. i< 

plants overgrowing the downward slope, there is plenty 
of waterside shrubs comprising bushes and flowering 
creepers. 

At such an unpleasant spot was Nabokumar aban- 
doned by his companions. The first thing that struck! 
his eye, on return to the riverside with the load of 
wood, was the absence of the boat at the water edge. 
Though a sudden great fear immediately sent a shiver 
into his heart, it looked next to impossible that he could 
be ever forsaken there by his fellow-travellers. An im- 
pression gained upon him that due to the swamping of 
the down by the hightide they might have taken the 
boat to some secure place and so they would find 
him out in no time. Fed "by this hope, he sat down and 
lay in wait for some time. But neither the boat came nor 
did 4 the men put ip their appearance. Nobokamar's little 
mary craved for food and drink. Unable to wait any 
longer, he wandered over the river-fringe hunting for 
the boat. But the boat could not be found any where. 
So the retraced his steps and came back to the start- 
ing ground. Though till then he could not see the 
boat he laboured under the delusion that the boat 
might have been carried away by the tide-stream and 
so they would be late in getting back against current. 
Even when the tide ebbed he thought the boat could 
not return owing to violence of the stream against 
which she could hardly make any headway. Now she 
might come back as the tide was out. But now the 
ebb-tide settled into a slacker stream, the day declined 
and the sun went down. The boat would have returned 



W KAPAJLKUNDALA. 

by this time if she had been put back on the reverse 

f course. 

Then he concluded either the boat was wrecked by 
the violence of the tidal water or he was left to his fate 
in this lonely place by his fellow-passengers. 

Nobokumar saw no village there the place without 
shelter, without men, without food, without drink. The 
river water tasted bitter brine and his heart was being 

'rent under the agony of hunger and thirst. He found 
not the shelter that could save him from the biting cold 
nor had he sufficient clothing on. He had the gloomy 
prospect of lying down for the night on the icy-cold- 
wind-swept river bank under the canopy of the unkind 
sky, unsheltered and unprotected. During night there 
was the chance of his meeting tigers and bears. In any 
case death was certain. 

Owing to the restlessness of mind Nabokumar could 
not sit still on one spot for a considerable time. He left 
the fore-shore, clambered up and wandered aimless- 
ly. Gradually the colour faded out from the sky and 
darkness fell. The stars came out in the frosty sky 
overhead as silently as they used to do in his native 
clime. Now this wooded country-side was hushed in 

l darkness the sky, the field, the sea were all bathed in 
a stillness punctuated with the dull continuous roar of 
the sea and the occasional howling of wild beasts 
rising above all this. Still in that darknoss did Nabo- 
kumar tramp around these sand-dunes under the bleak 
sky. Up hill and down dale, now at the foot of the 
sandhills and then on their crests did he ramble about 



KAPALKUNDALA. 15 

ceaselessly. At every step of this aimless ramble had 
he the chance of an attack from the wild beasts. But 
he had the same fear even when he placed himself 
on one spot. Nabokumar grew footsore and fatigued 
with such wandering. He had been fasting all day and 
so he became all the more weary. He sat down at a 
certain place supporting his back against a sand-mound 
and remembered his cosy bed at home. When a man 
broods in an exhausted condition of his mind and body, 
sleep sometimes steals a march and closes his drooping 
eyelids. Thus Nabokumar blooded and glided into a 
vague sort of forgetfulness. Perhaps, had this not been 
the order of things, then men in all ages could ill-stand 
the stress and strain of domestic troubles. 



CHAPTER IV 



On the top of a sand-hill. 

It was deep into night when Nabokumar awoke. 
He wondered that till then he was not killed by a tiger. 
He gave all sides his searching-glances, to be sure 
whether a tiger was stalking him or not. Suddenly he 
espied before him the glimmer of a light at a long dis- 
tance. To guard against delusion, he strained his eyes 
after it. The orb of light grew by degrees in magnitude 
and brightness and he concluded it to be a fire-light. 
No sooner did Nabokumar conclude this, than his hope 
of life revived. No such light -was possible * without 
man because it was not the season of forest-lire. Xobo- 
kumar started to his feet. He ran towards the direc- 
tion of the light. Once he thought "Is the glow of 
light a will-o'-the-wisp ? It might be so. But 
what life is saved if anybody lacks courage to con- 
front the danger 1" Prey to such thoughts, he moved 
forward with a brave heart aiming at the light. Trees, 
creepers and sandheaps obstructed him at every step. 
He trampled under feet plants and trailers, crossed 
over sand-dunes and walked onward. When he drew 
near the light, he saw a fire burning at the pretty 
altitude of a small sand-elevation and the picture of a 
man sitting on the top silhouetted against the sky-line 
in the glow. Resolved to approach the man seated 
on the hill-crest, Nabokumar pressed on with uuslack- 



KAPALKUNDALA. 15 

ened pace. At last he began to ascend the sand 
hill. Then he felt a bit nervous. However, he went 
on throngh the work with unshaken limbs. On nearing 
the man squatted there, his flesh creeped at what his 
eyes met with. He was indecisive whether to advance 
or withdraw. 

The man seated on the height was absorbed in 
meditation with closed eyes. So he could not observe 
Nabokumar at first. Nabokumar saw the man on the 
verge of fifty. He could not perceive whether the 
man had any cloth on or not He had a tiger-skin 
wrapped round his loins that reached to his knee and 
a string of Rudrakha round his neck. His big broad 
face was overgrown with shaggy hair and surmounted 
with a crown of matted locks. 

A fire glowed before him the same that acted 
the lodestar to Nabokumar to guide his steps there. 
An offensive smell stinked into his nostrils and he made 
out the reason when he happened to glance at the 
mans' seat. The man of ir/atted locks sat on a headless 
corpse in a state of disintegration. He grew all the 
more alarmed when he detected a skull lying before 
him with some crimson liquid in the hollow. Around 
him were strewn about here and there bones whitened 
in the sand. Even the string of Rudrakha suspended 
round his neek had small bones fastened between them 
at intervals. Nabokumar was rooted to the spot spell- 
bound. He could not decide whether to move before 
or behind; He had heard of Kapaliks and he knew the. 
man to be a Kapalik. 



1 6 KAPALKUNDALA. 

When Nabokumar arrived, the Kapalik was so muck 
engrossed either with worship or contemplation that 
he paid no attention to Nabokumar. After a long time^ 
he enquired in Sanskrit "who are you ?" 
"A Brahmin" replied Nabokumar. 
"Wait" rejoined Kapalik and then slipped into his- 
work which pre-occupied him. Nabokumar stood on 
his legs all the while. 

Thus half the watch of the night passed away. At 
last, the Kapalik left his seat and said to Nabokumar 
in Sanskrit as before "Follow me." 

It might be safely said that, at a time other than this, 
jNabokumar could hardly persuade himself to follow 
the Kapalik. But he was more dead than alive with 
hunger and thirst. So he said "I am under your Emi- 
mence 1 orders. But I am overcome with hunger and 
thirst. So kindly tell me where to get my food and 
drink." 

"You are sent by Bhairobi" returned the Kapalik,, 
"Follow me and you will be satisfied." 

Nabokumar went behind *the Kapalik. The two to- 
gether walked a weary long distance. But none spoke 
on the way. At last they reached a hut overtopped 
with leaf-thatched cover. Kapalik was the first to 
go inside and then invited Nabokumar within. He 
struck a light in a way mysterious to Nabokumar and 
enkindled a piece of wood. With the aid of light Nabo- 
J^umar saw the cottage entirely built of Keya leaves. 
.. Within it were a few pieces of tiger-hides, a pitcher of 
water and some fruits and vegetables. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 17 

After lighting fire, the Kapalik said "You may help 
yourself to the fruits and vegetables. Drink the water 
from the pitcher in cup which ) T OU must make of tree- 
leaf and sleep, if you so mind, on the tiger-skin. Stay 
secure and have no fear from tiger. You shall meet me 
later on. Never leave this cottage until I see you again." 

With these words, the Kapalik went away. Nabo- 
kumar having for his repast the few fruits and vege- 
tables, and for his drink, the brackish water, was might- 
ily pleased. He made his bed on the tiger-skin and 
after the day's troubles and worries fell into a sletp. 



CHAPTER V 



On the sea side. 

As soon as Nabokumar left his bed the next morn- 
ing, he, as a matter of course, worried himself over 
going home ; the more so, as the presence of the 
KapalSk boded evil. But, for the nonce, how was he to 
get out of this trackless forest ? How would he strike 
out tile right path that would take mm home? The 
Kapalik was sure to know the way. Would he not, 
Jf asked, give him the direction ? However, the Kapa- 
fik, so far he marked him, never showed in his manners 
anything wrong. Then why was he on earth to be 
afraid of him ? On the other hand, the Kapalik warned 
him against leaving the cottage till the next meeting and 
that, if he now ran counter to his wishes, it might upset 
him. Xabokumar had heard that Kapaliks were capable 
of impossible feats. Then it was wrong of him to show 
any insubordination. After much anxious consideration, 
Nabokumar made up his mind, for the present, to remain 
within the cottage-bounds. 

But by degrees, the day wore on. Still there was 
no sign of the Kapalik's return. Previous day's fast 
added to the privation all this time sharpened his 
hunger. The little store of fruits and vegetables had 
^>een eaten up overnight and now the hunger threatened 
* to kill him in the event'jof his not leaving the hut- 
quest of fresh fruits and vegetaWes. Before 



KAPALKUNDALA. 19 

the day faded away, hunger drove Nabokumar outdoor 
to seek out fruits, if he could find any. 

Nabokumar wandered in and out between these 
neighbouring sand-dunes in search of fruit. He tried the 
fruits of one or two trees growing on the sands and 
found the fruit of only one tree had the delicious taste 
of almond. With these he satisfied his hunger. 

The aforesaid sandhills were of small width and so 
Nabokumar surmounted these obstacles by a short de- 
tour. Then he entered a dense sandless forest^ Those 
who, ever, for a short time have travelled an unknown 
wooded terrain know that the sense > is confused almost 
immediately amidst the pathless forest-tract. The sanie? 
happened to Nabokumar, After walking forward a 
little distance, he failed to pick out the way that led 
him there from the hermitage. The deep roll of rushing 
water met his ear and he learnt it to be the roar of the 
sea. Soon after, -which looked too sudden for him, he 
emerged from the forest-belt and saw the vision of the 
spreading sea before him. His heart thrilled with wild 
delights at the sight of the ever-stretching circle of deep 
blue water. He advanced and rested on the sandy 
beach. The foaming, blue, ever-spreading sea sprawled 
out before him. So far his eye could strike stretched 
away, bothways, the foam-line of the sea-surf cast up by 
the breaking splashing waves. The snowy foam-streaks 
were left deposited on the golden-yellow sands like a 
mass of milk-white flower garlands worked into fantastic 
shapes and figures. The waves break|pg in foam aj 
thousand piaces amidst the blue circle of w&& served 



zo KAPALKUNDALA. 

meet decorations for the love-locks of the wood-tressed 
earth. If ever, there be the possibility of a fierce gale 
through whose violence the myriads of stars are 
displaced from their sockets and tossed up in the 
blue dome of the sky then it might conjure 
up the image of that breaking dashing sea. At this 
time, a portion of the saphire water shone like liquid 
gold in the mellow tints of the setting sun. At a far-ofi" 
end a European merchant-man with her bulging white 
sails loqjjed like a monster bird skipping over the sur- 
face of the water. 

Nobokumar had no idea of the measure of time he 
sgfent in observing the beauty of the sea. Afterwards 
"grey-hooded" evening came and at once settled over 
the dark blue water. Then Xobokumar awoke to his 
sense and the idea was brought home to his mind of 
finding out the cottage. He drew a deep sigh and 
rose to his feet. No reason could be ascribed why he 
drew that sigh. But who could say there might not 
arise some happy thoughts in his mind of his joys in 
the days before ? As he stood up he wheeled round 
moving his back upon the sea. No sooner did he jerk 
his head than behold ! A beautiful silhouette the de- 
lightful phantom of a radiant female form standing on 
the sandy fringe of the booming sea greeted his eyes 
in the waning light of the faded evening. The rich mass 
of her dishevelled hair fell in disordered profusion 
Across her back and floating in clustering waves reached 
down below hr waist-line. From amidst the dark 
silken tresses shone out an exquisite face that looked 



KAPALKUNDALA. 21 

the beautiful painting framed in a fine setting. The 
face though partly hid under the thick heavy curis 
appeared like the envious gleams that lace the severing 
clouds. The glance of her big bright eyes was very 
quiet, very soft, very deep, .though full of brilliance, 
shining like the streaks of moon-light playing across 
the glassy sea. The luxuriant tresses enveloped her 
neck and shoulders. Though the shoulders were fully 
concealed, the transparent colour of her arms, however, 
gleamed through the dense locks. The feminine figure 
was wholly denuded of any of the artificialities. The 
subtle charm pervading the beautiful figure can not be 
described in words. The happy graceful effects were 
heightened by the bold contrast of the rich complexion, 
which shone like the faint glow of a half-moon, to the 
raven-black of the dark hair, and, any attempt at con- 
veying an adequate impression of the liquid graces, would 
fall far short of the reality if not actually perceived on 
the thundering sea-coast in the purple haze of grey 
twilight. Nabokumar stood root-bound at the sudden 
appearance of such a joyful vision in the midst of 
wilderness. His speech lost its articulation and he 
looked agape quivering with admiration. The maiden 
also stood standstill fixing the winkless steadfast gaze 
of her big wide eyes on Nabokumar's face. The differr 
ence between the two lay in the fact that Nabokumar 
had the startled look of a man lost in wonder while 
the damsel's stare showed no such evidence though it 
had the troubled air of anxiety in it. 

Subsequently on this lonely sea-coast both kepton 



22 KAPALKUNDALA. 

looking into each other's face. After a long time, the 
sweet tremulous voice of the damsel was heard softly 
enquiring "Traveller, have you lost your way ?" and at 
that musical voice all the magic wizardry was touched. 

The flute of her treble voice swept a touch on a 
chord in Nobokumar's heart. At times, the wonderful 
gear of the heart-strings goes out of tune in such a way 
that with all our efforts no music can be struck out of 
them, though the defect can be remedied at the fine 
touch of a single word or the soft voice of a woman* 
Then everything becomes full of harmony and life an 
un-ending flow of music. The voice sent a drift into 
Nabokumar's ear in such sweet strains. 

The melody rose in symphony and thrilled a music 
into Xabokumar's ear "Traveller, have you lost your 
way ?" The meaning failed him and he found no 
word of reply. The melody struck the air awhirl 
thrilling in wild ecstacy, floated through the evening 
sea-breeze that rustled in tree-leaves and died away 
in faint thin cadence until lost into the tumult of 
the sea. 

The sea-girt earth was enchanting the woman 
enrapturing the voice thrilling and the tune ran its 
whole gamut on heart's vibrating strings. 

The maiden receiving no reply said "Follow." With 
these words, she moved forward with such light gait 
as could scarcely be visible. Like a fleecy cloud sent 
adrift by a gentle sigh of the spring, she advanced 
with slow, easy and unperceived steps with Nabokumar 
following behind mechanically like a doll working on 



KAPALKUNDALA. 23 

spring-hinges. At one stage, the path wound round a 
copse and when Nobokumar was opposite to the thicket 
that intercepted his view, the fair guide gave him a 
sip and was lost sight of. Nabokumar hardly cleared 
the brushwood, when the cottage sprang to his eye. 



CHAPTER VI 



In the Kapalik's company. 

On entering the hut Xabokumar closed the door 
and sat down with the head on his hand. He did lot 
lift his head for a long time. 

"Is she a goddess ? or a woman in flesh and blood ? 
or a phantom of the Kapalik's creation ?" wrr the 
thoughts uppermost in his mind as he sat immobile. 
He was at his wit's end. 

Xabokumar was far too much occupied witii his 
own thoughts to see any other object. A bg of 
wood was burning in the cottage since before his 
return. Afterwards, when far into night, it occurred 10 
him that till then he had not performed his evening 
ceremonies, he struck up a truce with his cogitation iv 
order to find out water. It was only then that the 
oddity forced itself upon his mind. Besides fire, there 
were rice and many other sundry things for the prepa- 
ration of a meal. Nabokumar was not astonished at 
the sight of these as he believed them to be also the 
work of the Kapalik and at such a place as this it did 
not set him moping over it. Having finished the 
evening ceremonies, Nabokumar cooked the little rice 
in an earthen poti he found in the hut and had his 
repast. 

As soon as he left his skin-bed the next morning, he 
struck for the sea-coast. The previous day's outing 



KAPALKUNDALA. 25 

helped him in feeling his way before him with less 
difficulty. He performed his morning ceremonies there 
and stayed in a mood of expectancy. Whom did he 
expect ? We are not sure how far the thought gained 
its ascendancy in Nabokumar's mind that the previously 
seen apparition would visit the place again but anyhow 
he could not leave the ground. However, no body came 
even when the day was far spent. Then Nabokumar 
fell into strolling through the grounds. The search 
f 'ed but fruitless. 

He could not detect any trace of human footsteps, 
He came back again and sat himself down on the same 
spot. The sun went down and the shadows of evening 
were falling fast. Nabokumar, crestfallen, retraced his 
way to the habitation. On his return from the sea-side 
m the evening, he found the Kapalik silently squatted 
on the cottage floor. He first of all enquired about his 
health but the Kapalik made no rejoinder. 

"Why was I denied your grace' visit all this time ?" 
asked Xabokumar. 

"I was engaged in my worship" replied the Kapalik. 
Nabokumar made the proposal of return to his 
homelands. "Neither do I know the way nor have I the 
means" added he "but I counted on you as the line of 
Action may be settled as soon as I see your worship 
again." 

"Follow me" simply said] the Kapalik. With this 
word, the hermit got up on his legs. Nabokumar, also, 
expecting that some feasible means of his return home 
might be devised, followed him. j 



26 KAPALKUNDALA. 

The glow did not depart from the western sky, 
when Xabokumar was following the Kapalik who led 
the way. He, suddenly, felt the touch of some soft hand 
on his back and turning round stopped short at what he 
saw. It was the same wood-nymph with the glorious 
crown of rich silken tresses that clustered around 
her back as speechless and immoveable as before. 

From whence could the figure unexpectedly glide 
out behind him ? Xabokumar saw the girl had a finger- 
tip placed across her lips. He understood that the 
damsel warned him against the danger of speech. Was 
there any necessity for caution ? He stood there agape 
wondering all the while. The Kapalik could not observe 
any of the enactments of this silent drama. So he 
moved onward. When they were out of the Kapalik's 
hearing, the maiden spoke something in zm undertone. 
The words audible to Xabokumar were "Whither are 
you going ? Desist get back flee." 

Scarcely had the words issued from her lips when 
the fair speaker slipped away without waiting to hear 
the reply. Nabokumar stood there for sometime as one 
obsessed of a ghost. He yearned to follow in her wake. 
But he failed to strike the line of her escape. He 
thought within himself "Whose phantasy is this ? or is 
it the creation of my own mind ? what I heard is 
certainly frightful. But what the deuce do I care to 
be afraid of ? Kapaliks can work miracles. Then shall 
I fly ? or why shall I fly ? when I lived the other 
day I must also live this [day. The Kapalik is but a 
man, so I am too/' 



KAPALKUNDALA. 27 

Nabokumar was meditating thus when he observed 
the Kapalik getting back as he could not see Naba- 
kutnar behind. "What makes you tarry ?" asked 
the Kapalik. The Kapalik having re-iterated the 
question, Nabokumar without a word followed him* 
After walking a little distance Xabokumar's eyes 
rested on a cottage encircled with a mud-wall. The 
tenement struggled betweeh the debatable styles of 
a cottage and a small house. But with this we have 
310 concern. Yonder over across the back-ground 
gleamed the rolling sand-downs. The Kapalik was 
leading Nabokumar to the sands along the edge of this 
hut. At this moment the previously seen damsel ran 
past Nabokumar with the quickness of an arrow. When 
alongside with him, she whispered into his ears "Escape 
yet. Don't you know Tantrick's rituals lose their 
merits if not supplemented by human flesh ?" 

Sweat started out on Nabokumar's forehead. As 
ill-luck would have it, the maiden's admonition entered 
the Kapalik's ear. "Kapalkundala" broke forth the 
Kapalik. 

The voice fell upon Nabokumar's ear with the 
detonation of a thunder. But Kapalkundala did not 
answer. 

The Kapalik conducted Nabokumar grasping him 
by his hand. The man-slayers' touch sent Nabo- 
kumai's blood coursing through his veins with a 
thousand-fold pulsation and his lost courage revived. 
"Leave off my hand" said Nabokumar. The Kapalik 
made no reply* "Where do you lead me to ?" asked 



28 KAPALKUNDALA. 

Nabokumar again. "To the place of worship" answered 
the Kapalik. 

"Why" added Nabokumar. 

"For immolation" joined the Kapalik. With a 
violent tug did Nabokumar pull out his hand. The force, 
with which Nabokumar jerked his hand, might have 
run an ordinary man down to the earth instead of 
allowing him to retain the hold on his hand. But not a 
part of the Kapalik's body bent and Nabokumar's hand 
was left in his grip as in a vice. The impact rebounded 
upon Nabokumar's system and sent a rattle through his 
bones. Nabokumar saw that strength would not avail 
but trick might serve the purpose. He allowed himself 
to be dragged along with the conclusion "Well, let me 
watch the flow of events." 

When Nabokumar was led on to the central ground 
on the sands, he saw a log of wood crackling there as 
on the previous night. On all sides were arranged 
things adapted to the requirements of the Tantrick rites 
of worship including a human skull filled in with Ashab 
or wine. Only a human corpse was Wanting. He 
guessed his body would furnish the corpse. 

A small stack of dry stout plants and creepers was 
piled up there from before-hand. The Kapalik began to 
bind Nabokumar tightly with these. Nabokumar exerted 
every ounce of his whole strength but his strength did 
not stand him in good stead. Nabokumar gained the 
belief that even at such an advanced age, the Kapalik 
could muster the strength of a mad elephant. Finding 
Nabokumar use violence, the Kapalk said "Fool, why 



KAPALKUNDALA. 29 

do you pull your weight ? The mass of your mortal 
flesh shall furnish the sacrifice for the Bhairobi worship/ 
What a better luck than this can a man of your run 
expect ?" 

After fastly securing Nabokumar, the Kapalik laid 
him down on the sands and set himself to attend 
to the preparatory rites of worship. In the meantime 
Nabokumar tried to burst the bonds. But the dry 
creepers proved too strong and the knots too firm 
and he saw death before him. He resigned his soul 
to the sacred feet of his cherished god. The visions 
of his native land and his blessed home and the 
images of his long-lost parents passed before his mind 
in quick succession and a drop or two of scalding tears 
trickled down to the earth to be soaked into the- 
parched sea-sands. Having finished the preliminary 
rites, the Kapalik left his seat to get his execution- 
axe. But he could not find the axe where it was kept. 
What a surprise ! The Kapalik wondered a bit. He 
was cocksure that he brought the axe in the afternoon, 
put it at the right place and did not remove it any- 
where else. Then what became of the axe ? He 
conducted a hurried search here and there. But the 
axe could not be traced. Then feeing the hut, he called 
out to Kapalkundala but despite repeated calls no 
answer came. Then the Kapalik's eyes inflamed and 
his eye-brows contracted. He hastened to the cottage- 
side. At the interval, Nabokumar made another 
attempt at bursting the binding creepers but that 
effort, too, shared its former fate. 



30 KAPALKUNDALA. 

At that time, hushed footfalls were beared pattering 
0n the sands not the heavy footsteps of the Kapalik. 
Nabokumar looked up the direction and saw the same 
enchantress Kapalkuudala with the axe flourishing in 
her hand. 

"Silence" enjoined Kapalkundala. "speak not the 
axe is with me I secreted it". 

With these words Kapalkundala deftly set her 
hand to cutting open the creepers that made up 
Nabokumar's bondage. In a brace of seconds, she 
freed him and exhorted "Escape follow me I shall act 
the guide". Scarcely the words died on her lips 
when she vaulted forward and sped away like a bolt 
directing the way. Nabokumar. at a jump raced 
after her. 



CHAPTER VII. 



In Quest. 

On the otherhand, the Kapalik, after having had 
some hunting for the axe within the cottage-bounds, 
found neither the axe nor Kapalkundala. So he has- 
tened back to the sands in a suspicious mood of mind. 
On his return he could not see Nabokumar there. At 
this, his astonishment grew intense. Soon after, his 
wandering eyes lighted on the broken bonds of cree- 
pers* Then the conviction was borne in upon him 



KAPALKUNDALA. 31 

and he started out in search of Nabokumar. But it 
was impossible to make out in such a wilderness either 
the path or the direction the run-aways had taken. The 
visibility being low owing to darkness, he could ntt 
spot either of tbem. He moved about for sometime 
aiming at the sound of voice. But the voice was not 
audible everytimc. So with the object of a close 
survey of the outlying grounds he mounted the 
crest of a sand-hill of a higher elevation. The Kapalik 
climbed the height from one side. He did not know 
that the base of the sand mound on the opposite side 
was worn-out and loose with rivulets of water running 
down in the rains. Xo sooner had the Kapalik got on 
the summit than the crown of the sand-hill in its 
tumble-down condition gave way under the heavy 
weight of his body and came down with a terrific crash. 
The falling debris dragged down the Kapalik along with 
it like a wild buffalo torn from its crest. 



CHAPTER VIII 



In Shelter. 

Under the wing of the inky darkness of the moonless 
night, both ran into cover of the wood at their top-most 
speed. The wood path was unknown to Nabokumar 
and he had no other choice left him than to follow the 
lead of that fair guide of sixteen summers. This, too, 
was writ on my brow by that unknown scribe thought 
he within himself. The reflection betrayed Nabokumar's 
ignorance that the Bengalee is always the slave 
and never the master of circumstances. If he evei 
knew this, he would never have felt either sick or 
sorry for it. On they travelled, they gradually slacke- 
ned their paces. The gloom enveloped everything 
under its deep fold. Only at places the chalky crests 
of sand-dunes seldom loomed sentinel-like under, the 
star-lit night. At odd intervals, in the tiny glow of 
the fire-flies, the tall trees of the forest stood out in 
their ghostly outlines against the dark blue sky. 

Nabokumar in company of Kapalkundala arrived at 
a lonely recess in the wood. The turret of a temple was 
descried in the foreground through the forest gloom. Near 
the temple was, also, visible a house with a brick wall 
around it. Advancing, Kapalkundala knocked at tho door 
in the wall and after short sharp raps came out a man's 
voice from inside "I presume you are Kapalkundala". 
"Openthe door please" chimed in, Kapalkundala. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 33 

The speaker came down and unfastened the door. 
The man who threw open the door looked either the 
care-taker or the owner of the edifice raised to the 
Goddess inside, and appeared to have been on the wrong 
side of fifty. Kapalkundla with both hands drew the 
thin-haired head of the man near her lips and explained 
in a whispering word or two the plight of the stranger. 
The proprietor or the Adhicary of the shrine placing 
the head on his hand revolved the question in his 
mind for a long time. 

"It is a serious affair" observed the man at length. 
"The saintly man can work miracles. However, 
through the grace of the Mother Goddess no misfortunes 
can befall you. Where is the man ?" 

"Come in" trilled out Kapalkimdala to Nabokumar. 
Thus invited, Nabokumar who kept himself well under 
cover slipped into the house. 

"Hide your head for the night here" said the 
Adhicary to him. "Before the day breaks to-morrow 
I shall put you on the Midnapore highway." 

The Adhicary in course of conversation gathered 
that Nabokumar till then had not had a mor&el of 
food. So he bustled himself arranging for Nabokumar's 
repast. But Nabokumar showed his disinclination 
to have had any food at all and simply prayed for 
the resting place. The Adhicary made Nabokumar's 
bed in his own kitchen-room. After Nabokumar had 
laid himself down to rest, Kapalkundala was making 
herself ready to get back to the sea-shore. 



34 KAPALKUNDALA. 

The Adhicary eyeing her affectionately said "Don't 
go. Rest a while. I have a request. 11 

" What you mean?' 1 

"Smce these eyes saw you, I have begun to call 
you mother and I can swear by the feet of the Goddess 
that I love you more than my own mother. Won't you 
keep my request ?" 

"Certainly, I will." 

"My only request is that you must not get back 
there any more." 

4 Why T 

"If you go, you are undone." 

"That I know too." 

"Then what makes you question again." 

"Where am I to go, if not there ?" 

"Go forth into otherland in company of this 
stranger." 

Kapalkundala remained silent* 

* What gives you furiously to think over it, mother ?* 
asked the Adhicary. 

"When yonr disciple came, you urged the immora- 
lity of my accompanying, as a young maid, another 
yoimg man. Bnt why do you tell me to do so again ?" 

"Then your life was not in jeopardy. Besides, the 
opportunity, which was lacking then, might prove 
golden now. Come, let us have the sanction of our 
Mother. 

Saying this, the Adhicary holding a lighted lamp in 
his hand issued forth and went over to the temple 
porch and opened the door. Kapalkundala, also, went 



KAPALKUNDALA. 35 

behind him. Inside the temple was established the fright- 
ful Goddess Kali of the height and measure of a human 
figure. Both bent low before her in deep reverence. 
The Adhicary, after going through the holy preliminaries 
and reciting incantations in invocation of the deity, took 
a trident leaf from the flower stand and placing it at 
the feet of the Goddess looked intently on it. 
Shortly after, the Adhicary remarked to Kapalkundala 
"Look, mother, the Goddess has accepted the offering as 
the trident leaf has not dropped down. The idea with 
which the offering has been made is sure to materialise 
favourably. Go forthwith this foreigner with a light heart, 
But I know the manners and conduct of the worldly 
people. If J T OU literally prove a dead weight round 
his neck, then a blush might rise to the cheeck of #iis 
stranger to have a young girl by him in society. Besides, 
the world might treat you contemptuously. You say this 
man is a Brahmin and I see, too, he has a sacred thread 
around his neck. If this man takes you home after 
marriage then it is happy and good. Otherwise I can 
never advise you to bear him company." 

Kapalkundala slowly drawled out the word' 
"M-a-r-r-i-a-g-e." t 

"I heard the word 'Marriage' from your lips" went 
on she, "but have never understood the honest meaning 
of the expression. What's to be done ?" 

The Adhicary gave a silent and slight laugh and 
said "To woman wedlock is but a stepping stone 
to the soul's flight to holihead and for this she is 



3 6 K AP ALKUND ALA . 

called the better-half of man. Even, the Mother of 
the Universe is Shiva's married wife." 

The temple-keeper thought he explained everything 
and Kapalkundala thought he understood everything. 

"Let it be as you say" added Kapalkundala. "But 
my heart is loth to let him severely alone as he 
brought me up by hand for so long a time/' 

"You don't know why he reared you." 

After this, the Adhicary or temple-keeper made a 
feeble attempt at making a half-hearted exposition to 
Kapalkundala as to the relation of woman to the 
Tantrick rites of worship. Though Kapalkundala could 
not take in all this, still a chill gripped her heart. 

"Let me be led to the marriage altar then" stam- 
m&ed out she. 

Afterwards, both went out of the temple. The 
temple-keeper, making Kapalkundala wait in a room, 
approached Xabokumar's bed and sat at the head of 
the bed-stead. 

"Sir" enquired he "are you asleep ?" 

Nabokumar was not in a mood to fall into a sleep. 
* He lay brooding over his own condition. 

"Np, Sir" answered he. 

Sir, I have turned in here" resumed the Adhicary 
"to gather your particulars. May I ask if you are a 
Brahmin ?" 

"Oh 1 yes, I am." 
"Of what sect F k 
\ "Of Rahri sect." 



KAPALKUNDALA. 37 

"I, too, belong to the Rahri order of Brahmins. So, 
please, never take me for a Brahmin that came of the 
Uriya stock. By family pedigree, I am a first-rate 
Kulin though, for the present, I have taken refuge 
under the foot-stool of the Mother Goddess. Yottr 
name please" 

"Nabokumar Sharma." 

"Native village ?" 

"Saptagram." 

"Of what branch of Kulins ?" 

"Bandoghati." 

"How many times did you marry 1" 

"For the first time." 

Nabokumar did not lay bare his whole heart. In 
fact, he had no wife at all. He married Padmabati, 
the daughter, of Ram Govinda Ghosal. After marriage 
Padmabati stayed at her father's place for a short time 
and at times visited her father-in-law's house. Her 
father had been on a holy pilgrimage to Puri with 
the whole family when she was barely thirteen. At 
this time, the Pathans who were expelled from Bengal 
by Akbar found an asylum in Orissa. Akbar had quite a 
tough job to quell them. The Moghuls and Pathans had 
been on their war-path when Ram Govinda Ghosal was 
getting back from Orissa. On the way he fell into 
the hands of the Pathans, who, j|t that "tin*, wfcre 
in the habit of trampling AtaSwhe codes of war 
etiquette and so used violence'^ innocent passers to 
squeeze out money. Ram Govinda was of choleric 
temper so he abused the Pathans. The up-shot was 



38 KAFALKUNDALA. 

that he with the whole family was thrown into prison* 
At last he and the family changed faith and were 
released on their apostacy. Though Ram Govinda 
and the family returned home unhurt, they were 
treated as outcasts by the relation and society. 
Nabokumar's father was living and he discarded 
his danghter-in-law as well as her father who had 
cast away the faith. Nabokumar did not any more 
set his eyes on his wife. Renounced by the relation 
and society, Ram Govinda could not hold his head 
high in his native village for long. What with 
these grounds and what with his high ambition 
to secure some fat billet through royal favour 
did Ram Govinda move to Rajmahal with his 
family and settled there. Having turned renega- 
des, he and the family adopted Mussulmun names. 
Since they repaired to Rajmahal, Nabokumar had no 
means of knowing the whereabouts of either the wife 
or the father and so far he received no news about 
them. Nabokumar was reluctant any more to take to 
second wife. For this, we are entitled to say that 
Nabokumar had no wife at all. Adhicary was not 
aware of all this. He concluded that there might be 
fco harm for a Kulin's son to be a polygamist. 

**I came to tell you one thing." he spoke aloud. This 
gflrl wHo saved yotolife has sacrificed her own life for 
other's good* ThAijhfy man under whose protection 
she lives Is a horrmDdpg. If she goes back she needs 
must share the same fate as you were almost doing. May 
I ask whether you can suggest any way out of this P 



KAPALKUNDALA. 39 

Nabokumar sat up on the bed-stead. 

"I, too, feared that." said he "You know everything 
so you can suggest the means. If my self-immolation 
can repay any thing, I am ready to sacrifice myself. 
I have so made up my mind as to return to the man- 
slayer and surrender myself to htm. In that case her 
life may be spared." 

The Adhicary laughed silently. 

ir Ybu are insane." said he "What would this result 
in ? The flame of your life would be put out though it 
would not extinguish the wrath of the personage. It 
admits but of one solution." 

"What is it ?" 

"It means her flight with you. But that, too, is a 
risky adventure. If you tarry in my place any longer, 
you are sure to be apprehended in a day or two. That 
saintly man frequents this holy shrine. So it portends 
misfortunes to Kapalkundala." 

"What risk is there" returned Nabokumar quick 
with eagerness "in her escape with me ?" 

"You don't know this girPs parents and lineage 
whose wife she is and of what character ? Would you 
take her as your companion ? Granting you take her 
as your companion in life, would you shelter her under 
your paternal roof ? Besides, if you refuse her any 
asylum where would this orphan go ?" 

Nabokumar reflected for som^me and joined "I 
shall not let the grass grow 'Irouar my feet to be of 
any service to my saviour. She shall find a place in the 
inner ring of my family ." 



40 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"Well and good. But when the people would come 
and ask whose wife she is what answer would you 
give ?" 

Nabokumar mused again and added "You must tell 
me that and I will say to each and every one accor- 
dingly/' 

"Good. But how is it possible for a young man and 
a young maid to go together alone on a fortnight's 
journey ? what will men say to all this ? How would 
you explain it to your friends and relatives ? Besides, 
when I have called this girl my mother, does it behove 
me to pack her off to a far-off country in company 
of stranger ?" 

The prince of match-makers was not ill-adept in 
match-making. 

"Be pleased then to come with us" urged Nabo- 
kumar. 

"Indeed ! Then who would offer Pujah to the 
Goddess Bhowani ?" 

Nabokumar was at a quandary and replied "Can't 
you point then to any solution to this riddle ?" 

"There may be one and only one solution that 
waits upon your generosity ." 

"What might it be ? In what do I not acquiesce in ? 
Please tell me the way out." 

"Listen. She is the daughter of a Brahmin father. 
In her infancy, she was carried away by the wicked 
pirates but was abandoned on the sea-coast due to 
ship-wreck, You will have the details from her later on. 
Chance had given her over to the Kapalik who nursed 



KAPALKUNDALA. 41 

and tended her so that his ritualism might attain its 
fruition. He could, by this time, have encompassed 
his own end but affection forged a fetter that held him 
with a hand of iron. Marry her and take her home so 
that none will have their say. I shall conduct the 
marriage according to scriptural rites." 

Nabokumar rose on his legs and paced up and 
down with quick steps silently. 

"Take your bed now" resumed the Adhicary after 
a brief interval. "I shall wake you up early to-morrow 
morning. If you like, you may go alone. I shall 
place you on the Midnapore high-way." 

With these words, the Adhicary took leave. While 
retiring, he thought within "Is it that I have forgotten 
the ways of marriage negotiations in Western Bangal ? n 



CHAPTER IX. 



In the holy shrine. 

The Adhicary hastened back to Nabokumar at day* 
break and found that he did never take his bed for the 
night. 

"What is advisable now ?" asked he. 

"From this day forward'' said Nabokumar "she 
shall be made and remain my lawful wife. If the act 
needs the renunciation of the world I am ready to do 
so for her sake. Who will give her hand away in 
marriage ?" 

The face of the man of the first-rate match-making 
abilities beamed up with joy. 

"After so long, O Mother of the Creation, perhaps, 
my hapless daughter's star has risen" thought the 
Adhicary within himself. 

"I shall bestow her upon you in the marriage 
ceremony" said he aloud. Then the Adhicary re-entered 
his bed-room. An old piece of cloth wrapped some 
ancient worm-e&en palm-leaves. Within it was pre- 
served an astrological record of the stellar movements 
and positions. He drew up a chart, made minute cal- 
culations and then came out and said "Though the day 
is not auspicious enough for nuptials, yet there can 
be no harm in disposing of her hand in marriage. I 



KAPALKUNDALA. 45 

shall hand her to you in the twilight moments and 
you shall have only to keep fasting the whole day. 
Do the sacred family rites at home. I have a place 
where I can hide you for a day only. If he happens to 
look in here in the course of day-light hours, he shall 
have no scent of you. After the marriage is over, you 
can, with your wife, leave the place next morning." 

Nabokumar agreed to the proposal. Shastric 
observances were followed as far as practicable in the 
circumstances. On the border line between light and 
darkness did Nabokumar lead to the marriage altar the 
ascetic girl, nursed by the Kapalik. So far no news 
reached them of the Kapalik. The following morning, 
the trio prepared for the journey. It had been settled 
that the Adhicaty would accompany them as far as the 
Midnapore high-road. Against departure, Kapal- 
kundala went to make her last obeisance to the 
Goddess Kali. After she had devotedly bowed down 
her head, she took a trident leaf, whole and unbroken, 
from the flower basket and placing it at the feet of the 
idol, intently gazed down at it. The leaf dropped 
down. Kapalkundala was intensely religious. She was 
horror-struck to see the trident leaf slip away from 
the feet of the holy figure and so informed the Adhicary 
who was aggrieved to hear of it, 

"Now there is no help for it." said he "You have been 
united in holy bonds so you must follow your husband 
to the funeral pyre if it is so needed. (9 forth 
silently." 



44 KAPALKUNDALA. 

All of them moved noiselessly forward. The 
morning waxed hot when they arrived . at the 
Midnapore high-road. Here the Adhicary bade farewell 
to the party whereupon Kapalkundala burst into a 
rain of tears. The only friend, she had in this wide 
world over, was taking his final leave. The Adhicary 
also felt a mist rising over his eyes. He brushed 
the tears from Kapalkundala's eyes and whispered 
into her ears "Mother, you know, through the grace 
of the Mother of the Universe, your son stands 
in no need of wealth. Both the high and low 
of the Hijli country-side bow their knees to the 
Goddess and send in their offerings. Give your 
husband what I have tied to your cloth-end and tell 
him to hire a palanquin for you and ever and always 
remember your son." 

The Adhicary retired from the scene with streaming 
eyes. Kapalkundala, as well, went her way with her 
sight bedimmed with tears. 



PART II. 



CHAPTER L 



On the highway 

On his arrival at Midnapore, Nabokumar engaged 
a maid-servant, an escort and palanquin bearers for 
Kapalkundala through Adhicary's money and sent her 
away on the road before him in the palanquin. He, 
himself, tramped along on account of the scantiness 
of his purse. He felt much fatigued on account of 
the worries of the day before, and so the palanquin 
bearers out-distanced him a long way after mid-day 
meal. Gradually the evening drew near. The wintry 
sky was littered over with light-grey clouds that threat- 
ened rain. By degrees, the evening wore away into night 
that was settling down upon the earth with the mantle 
of darkness closing in upon everything. A thin rain 
began to fall in drib drabs. Nabokumar bustled forward 
to join Kapalkundala. He had the firm conviction that 
he would meet with her at the first road-side inn but 
so far no inn fell upon his eyes. The night was deepening. 
Nabokumar threw in an extra energy into his gait. 
Suddenly his feet came upon something hard and 
uneven. The thing crashed into splinters under the 
weight of his body and a dry crackle leapt to his 
ears. He stopped short and then moved onward 
again. Again the same crack met his ears. He 
picked up the trarapled-down things and found them 



48 KAPALKUNDALA. 

appearing .like pieces of broken bed-stead. Even 
when the sky is cloudy it never gets dark enough for 
material things not to be seen lying in front in the open. 
A large object lay on the ground in front of him and he 
felt it to be the broken part of palanquin boards. Scarcely 
had he perceived this than a suspicion crossed his mind 
that Kapalkundala might be in danger. He hastened 
towards the direction of the travelling palanquin 
when his feet touched some objects of a different cate- 
gory. It was like the soft touch of a human body. He 
sat down and moved his hand across the surface of 
the object. The impression gained confirmed his suspi- 
cion. The touch felt cold and icy and brought along 
with it the perception of some liquid flow. He felt 
for the pulse but could not find any as life had been 
extinct. He surveyed the thing in the darkness with 
increased attention and thought he heard some brea- 
thing sound. If the breath is left then why the pulse 
does not beat ? Is it a sickman ? He put his hand 
near the nose but perceived no respiration. Then 
where did the sound come from ? Might be some living 
humanity happens to be here. Thinking thus he 
enquired at the top of his voice. "Is there any living 
man here ?" 

Softly a murmuring answer came "yes," 

"Who are you ?" asked Nabokumar. 

"Who are you ?" echoed back the reply. 

The voice seemed to be the voice of a woman, 
Quick with eagerness Nabokumar querried "Are you 
Kapalkundala ?" 



KAPALKUNDALA. 49 

' k l don't know who is Kapalkundala." replied the 
woman. "lam a traveller and have been robbed of my 
Kundalas (ear-pendants), for the present, by the high 
way robbers." 

Nabokumar \vas somewhat flattered with the joke 
in the form of a pun and asked "What is the matter 
with you ?" 

"The robbers smashed my palanquin" said the 
answering voice "and killed a bearer as the rest stam- 
peded. Ths rascals carried away all the ornaments I 
had on my person and tied me to the palanquin." 

Nabokumar saw through the haze of darkness that 
actually a woman remained there bound up with the 
palanquin. He undid the fastenings with quick fingers 
and interrogated "Can you rise ?" 

"One stroke fell upon me." said the woman "So 
I feel a burning pain in my leg. But, I think, with a 
little help I can rise on my legs." 

Nabokumar stretched a helping hand. The woman 
got up with the assistance. 

"Can'you walk ?" enquired he. 

6 *Have you seen any other traveller coming behind 
you !" brusquely asked the woman without answering 
the question ? 

u No" replied Nabokumar. 

"How far is the inn ?" questioned the woman 
again ? 

"I am not sure how far it is." said he "But more 
possible than not it is close by." 



50 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"What goodjis there in sitting on alone on^ such a 
wild heath in darkness ?" added the woman. "It is 
better, certainly, to.follow you into the inn. I think I 
can walk over the distance if I get any support." 

4 'It is foolish to fight shy in the hour of danger" 
joined he. "Please lean on my shoulder and move 
along." 

The woman did not play the fool. She walked 
forward with Nabokumar's assistance. As a matter of 
fact, the" inn stood at an easy distance. In those 
days, the robbers feared not to ply their dirty trade 
at a close radius from the inn. Before it was long, 
Nabokumar arrived at the estaminet followed by 
the woman. He found Kapalkundala placed at 
the same inn where her people appointed a room 
for her. He engaged the adjoining room for his 
companion and lodged her in it. At his bidding, the 
land-lady brought in a lamp. When the flood of light 
fell upon the person of his fair companion, he was 
startled to find her an uncommon beauty. Like the 
full-coursed river overflowing its bank in the rains, 
the profuse full-blown graces of her exquisitely 
modelled youthful figure threw in an indescribable 
charm and created an atmosphere of loveliness around 
her. 



CHAPTER II. 



At the inn. 

If this woman happened to have been reproachless- 
]y beautiful then I might venture the remark "Gentle- 
man reader, she is as much beautiful as your sweet- 
heart, and, fair reader, she is just your shadow reflect- 
ed in your looking glass." This would have been pen- 
pourtraying to its finish. Unfortnnately she was not 
a faultless beauty. So I have to resist the tempta- 
tion. The reason in saying that she was not a 
perfect beauty is, first, she was a trifle taller than 
the average medium figure, secondly, her upper 
und lower lips slightly curled up inwards, and, 
thirdly, she had not a complexion of cream-and-rose. 
Though comparatively of a taller height, her body 
was full of a buxom bosom and her limbs showed 
perfect fulness and rotundity. As in the rains the 
cringing creeper sways majestically with its green 
gorgeous foliage, so her form displayed all the infinite 
graces on account of the lusty fulness of life. As a 
matter of course, 'her figure, though, to some degree, 
a, shade taller in size, looked all the more resplendent 
because of its full-blooded roundnes^. Amongst 
the class of beauties of the really milk-and-rose 
style, some wears the hue of the liquid silver of 



52 KAPALKUNDALA. 

the full moon and some the colour of the russet- 
tinted dawn. She had none of the complexions 
of the above two categories, so we can never say 
she had actually any brilliancy of skin though in 
magic effects her charms played no less a potency. 
She was a little darker. But that never suggests 
the blackness, of which Shyama's mother or 
Shyama, the good-looking, is the type. The 
transpareiicy of her skin had- as much sparkle 
as the glow of the dissolved gold. If the white 
splendour of the full-moon or the first flush of the 
saffron-coloured dawn be taken the criteria of the 
skin of the dainty eves, then the refreshing yellow-and- 
green of the new shafts of mango blossoms shooting 
up in the divinest of seasons may be made the com- 
paring standard of this damsel's complexion. If 
amongst readers there might be many who are chival- 
rous enough to press the claims of the olive-corn- 
plexioned beauties to the fore-front, and, also, as 
chance would have it, there might be anyone whose 
smitten soul has been left to the care of a dark-skinned 
witch, then the latter in any case can never be called 
colour-blintL If any body is oflended at this, let 
him paint before his mind's eye the dark silky locks 
kissing the bright forehead like the deep rows of black 
bees lining the new-blown mango blossoms let him 
imagine the pair of arched eye-brows under a shapely 
fore-head, as beautiful as a three-quarter silvery moon, 
overblown by ringlets Let him idealise the smooth 
velvety cheeks of the rich mellowed hues of goldea 



KAPALKUNDALA. 53 

mangos let him pourtray a couple of small thin red 
lips like two streaks of scarlet, and, it is then, that he 
might have the impression of this fair stranger as the 
queen of beauty. Her eyes, though not wide, were 
full of brilliance and fringed with bowed lashes. 
The glance was steady but keen and searching* 
When the eyes are fixed upon you, you, at once, feel 
that this woman is probing the bottom of your heart. 
By degrees, the glaring intensity is apt to melt and the 
looks soften and become mellifluously affectionate. 
Sometimes, again, they bespeak certain languor and 
lassitude, born of voluptuous abandonment, appearing 
the soft dreamy bed of the blind baby-god with bow 
and arrows. At times, the eye-balls expand and dilate 
hot with desires full of amorous coyness. Again, they 
shoot up, at intervals, some sinister side-long glances 
resembling vivid flashes amidst dark clouds. 

The face was lit up with two fine expressions first, 
the forcefulness of an all-mastering intelligence, 
secondly, an over-weening conceit. So, when she 
chanced to stand up imperiously and bend her 
swan-neck, she looked the right royal type of the 
feminist. She passed her seven-and-twenty sum- 
mers she the torrential river of the rich, ripe, golden 
autumn that has but set in. Her charms flowed and 
sparkled full to the brim, ready to break over the 
contents* The ripening fulness of those graces was 
more soul-enrapturing than the colour, tbe eye and 
all else besides* In her youthful sleekness, the whole 
frame coloured and quivered with a virility Hke*tfifi 



54 KAPALKUNDALA. 

autumnal river sheening and shimmering under the 
gentlest sigh of a wind and the graceful rippling spread 
out the charms in all their shifting colours and 
contours. 

Nabokumar with eager eyes was gazing upon this 
glorious form with all the changing shades of beauties. 
The fair creature caught sight of Xabakumar's hard 
stare and watchful speculating eyes. 

"What do you look into intently?" asked she 
"My beauty ?" 

Nabokumar was gentle-born. He felt awkward 
and hung down his head in shame. 

Seeing him silent, she archly remarked "Have 
jfou not ever seen a woman ? Or you think me an 
extraordinary beauty ?" 

Naturally, this might have amounted to a reproach. 
But the radiant smile that accompanied the words, 
took off the biting sting. So it savoured more of a jest 
than anything else. Nabokumar saw her tongue had 
sharp edges. Then why should lie not reply her 
sharp remark ? 

"I have seen many a woman" answered he "but 
never such a beautiful one." 

The woman boastfully asked "Not a single one ?" 

The soft sweet charms of Kapalkundala floated 
before Nabokumar's mind, and, he, too, proudly return- 
ed *Not a single one I No I can never say that." 

"So for so good" rejoined the woman. "Is she 
your wife ?" 



KAPALKUNDALA. 

"Why ? What above all things sends you on the 
thought of a wife?" 

"The Bengalee always regards his wife as an un- 
surpassed beautiy." 

"I am a true-born Bengalee. But you, too, speak 
the Bengali dialect. To what country else do you 
belong then ?" 

The damsel glanced at her own style of dress and 
said "As ill-luck would have it, this hapless self is 
not a Bengalee woman but an up-country Mussalmani." 

Nabokumar eyed her up and down and saw the 
dress exactly suited the up-country fashion, though 
she was speaking the Bengali as much chastely as a 
born Bengalee. 

After a short spell the young woman resumed 
"Sir, you have gathered all the information about me 
by parry of words. Now be pleased to let me know 
your own particulars. May I enquire the place where 
that incomparable beauty rules the house-hold ?" 

"Saptagram is ray native land" replied Nabokumar. 

The foreigner added no answer. Suddenly she 
bent her head and plied her fingers brightening up the 
lamp-light. 

Shortly after, without raising her head, she softly 
broke in "The servant's name is Moti. May I have 
the pleasure of knowing your name ?" 

"Xabokumar Sharma" said Nabokumar. 

The light was blown out by a deep sigh and a hush 
fell in the room. 



CHAPTER HI. 



Meeting with the beautiful woman* 

Nabokumar ordered the inn-keeper for another 
light He had heard a deep sigh before another light 
was brought in. A few minutes later, a Mussulman 
in servant's livery made his appearance. At his sight, 
the foreigner burst out "Eh ! What made you delay 
so much ? Where are others gone ?" 

"The palanquin bearers were all drunk" meekly 
joined the servant "and as I had to collect them 
together, I lagged behind. Afterwards, the broken 
palanquin and your disappearance frightened us out 
of our wits. Some men are left on the spot and others 
conducting the search in different directions. I turned 
in in this quarter on a scent." 

"Conduct them before me" rang out the silver voice 
of Moti. 

The servant made a deep bow and retired. The 
fair stranger remained seated for sometime, resting the 
head on her hand. Nabokumar asked leave to with- 
draw and then Moti shook herself as if coming out 
of a reverie. Without relinquishing her previous pose f 
sfca asked "Where are you going to put up for the 
night ?" 

"The room next to this.'* 



KAPALKUNDALA. 57 

"I saw a palanquin there. Have you any companion 
with you ?" 

u My wife is with me/' 

It gave another opportunity of showing Motf s vein 
of humour. 

"Is she the non-pareil beauty" asked Moti. 

"When you see, you will guess it" replied Nabo- 
kumar. 

"May these eyes see her ?" 

(In thoughtful air) ''What harm is there ?" 

"Then be pleased to show me this favour. My 
curiosity to see this peerless beauty has been piqued 
to the extreme. I shall carry the tale to Agra but 
it is not befitting the time good-bye for the present. 
I shall send you information afterwards." 

Nabokumar left the place. Soon after, a troop of 
retainers with a retinue of servants and servant-maids, 
with kits, and bags and baggages appeared on the 
-scone. A palanquin, too, accompanied them with a 
chamber-maid inside it. 

Later on, the news reached Nabokumar u The 
mistress has remembered you." Nabokumar re- 
appeared before Moti. He saw a new departure this 
time. Moti changed and made a fresh toilet. She 
put on her embroidered garments splashed with gold 
and pearls and garnished her unadorned figure with 
ornaments. The enamel-works of diamonds, rubies 
and other precious stones on the gold ornaments worn 
on every available inch of space on the bodythe 
side-locks, the braided knot, the brow, the temple, 



58 KAPALKUNDALA. 

the ears, the neck, the bosom, the arms and the 
shoulders glinted in ten thousand glittering points' 
and dazzled the eyes of Nabokumar. Like the count- 
less stars bespangling the sky, the innumerable gems 
setting off the exquisite charms and contours of the 
splendid figure heightened the effects which blended 
in a harmonising whole were thrown off into boldest 
relief. 

u Sir, let me be conducted and introduced to your 
wife" said Moti to Nabokumar. 

''There is no use wearing jewelleries like that" 
joined Nabokumar. "Of ornaments my wife has none 
afall." 

"But what does it matter if I deck my person to 
display my jewellery ? Women possessing jewelleries 
can not help making a show of them. Let us go 
now." 

Xabokumar showed her the way. The woman 
who had ridden the palanquin also accompanied them. 
Her name was Peshman. Kapalkundala was seated 
alone on the wet ground of the shop-room. The faint 
glimmer of a lamp-light made the darkness visible 
only. Her rich mass of untied hair fell in a heap and 
darkened her back. At the first sight, the feeble ray 
of a faint smile glistened in the eyes and flickered: 
on the lips of Moti. To get a closer view, did Moti 
hold aloft the light and bring it near Kapalkundala's 
face and then the flicker of the smile fled away. Moti's 
expressions hardened up in a rigid setting and she 
gazed on throbbing with admiration, holding her 



KAPALKUNDALA. 59 

bated breath in aesthetic enjoyment. None spoke 
Moti charmed and spell-bound and Kapalkundala 
touched with surprise. Afterwards Moti began to 
pull off the ornaments from her own person. She 
denuded her body of all the jewelleries and pro- 
ceeded to place these one by one on Kapalkundala's 
person. Kapalkundala did not speak a word all this 
time. 

"What you mean by all this ?'' exclaimed Nabo- 
kumar in wonder. But Moti made no rejoinder. 

After finishing the work on hand, Moti said "You 
told me a perfect truth. Such a flower never blooms 
in a king's garden. The regret is I can not show this 
blooming beauty in the capital. These jewelleries are 
befitting such a frame- work. So I set these on her. 
You, too, I hope, will be-deck her person, at times, with 
these and remember this sharp-tongued stranger/' 

Xabokumar was amazed and said "How is it 7 
These jewelleries are worth a king's ransom. How 
can I accept these ?" 

* Through Providence 7 kindness, I have more of 
these and I shall never have the occasion to miss them*. 
If I feel any happines in embellishing her what on 
earth might be the reason of your objecting ?" 

With this, Moti left the place in company of her 
dressing maid. When they had reached some removed 
ground Pesbman asked Moti "Dear Lady, who is 
he ?" 

"My dearest" answered the Mussalmani mistress. 



CHAPTER IV. 

In the palanquin. 

Now let us have the story of the ornaments. Moti 
made a present of an ivory box inlaid with silver 
for the preservation of ornaments. The robbers carried 
off only a small booty they laid their violent hands 
on the articles she had near her person but nothing 
more than these. Xabokumar left one or two orna- 
ments on Kapalkundala's body and put away the rest 
in the jewel-box. Moti left for Burdwan the next morn- 
ing and Nabokumar with Kapalkundala went forth 
towards Saptagram. Placing Kapalkundala in the 
palanquin, Nabokumar put the jewel-box with her. 
The beavers, as a matter of course, trotted off at a 
fast pace and left Nabokumar a long way behind. 
Kapalkundala opened the palanquin doors and looked 
about enjoying the landscape. A beggar espied her and 
followed the palanquin droning piteously for alms. 

"I have nothing with me" said Kapalkundala u So 
what can I give you ?" 

The beggar pointed to one or two ornaments 
Kapalkundala had on and said "How strange, mother ! 
Pearls and diamonds gleam and glitter on your person 
and you have nothing to give away ?" 

"Are you satisfied if you get these ?" asked Kapal- 
Itundala. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 6r 

The beggar was stupefied. He pitched his aspira- 
tion a point higher and in a trice added "Of course 
I do." 

Without a second thought, Kapalkundala gave away 
the jewel-box with all the jewelleries into the beggar's 
hands. She even tore off a few ornaments she had on 
her and made a gift of these. The beggar stared for a 
moment, with those droll expressions peculiar to the class. 
The servants and servant-maids did not have a scent 
of all this. The beggar's bewildered expression was, 
however, of a moment's duration. Immediately he 
gave his furtive glances all the country round and at a 
bound ran off with the ornaments. 

"What made the beggar dash away for his dear 
life ?" thought Kapalkundala. 



CHAPTER V. 



In his native land. 

Xabokumar returned home with Kapalkundahu 
He had no father though he had his widowed mother 
and two sisters. The first sister was also a widow 
and we shall have no occasion to introduce our 
gentle reader to her. The second one was Shyama- 
sundari. She had her husband alive though she 
looked a widow to all intents and purposes as she had 
been married to a high-class Kulin. She alone will 
make her appearance in our midst once or twice. We 
are not sure how far Xabokumar's relations would 
have been satisfied if he chanced to marry an ascetic 
girl and carried her home in a changed set of circums- 
tances. After all, Nabokumar encountered no difficulty 
in this respect as every body despaired of his return. 

On return home, his erstwhile companions bruited 
it far and wide that Nabokumar was killed by a tiger. 
The gentle reader may think that these people who 
bore the hall-mark of veracity invented the story 
according to their own beliefs and opinions. If this 
be his honest opinion, then he does a grave injustice 
to the fantastic inventiveness of these wise acres. Of 
the returned pilgrims, many made solemn affirmations 
that they saw with their own eyes Nabokumar run 



KAPALKUNDALA. 63 

-into the jaw of the tiger. At times, long winded frothy 
debates were held as to the size of the tiger. Some 
.asseverated that the tiger measured twelve feet but 
others negatived the idea and solemnly affirmed that 
the beast measured close upon one-and-twenty feet* 
Our previous acquaintance, the old pilgrim, said "It 
seems I have had a clean shave. The tiger took Its 
first spring towards me but I showed him a clean pair 
of heels. Anyhow, Nabokumar was not such a daring 
spirit so he could not make off." 

When all these versions reached the ears of Xabo- 
kumar's mother and relations they set up such a howl 
us raged with unabated fury for days end-on. Xabo- 
kumar's mother was stricken down with grief at the 
news of the bereavement of her only son. Just at this 
.psychological moment the son made his way buck home 
with his newly married wife. Now there was none in 
the whole countryside who dared raise issues on the 
topics of his bride's caste and origin ! Every body 
was overjoyed to see him come back. Xabokumar's 
mother gave the bride a hearty reception and after 
the performance of the requisite after-marriage cere- 
monies carried her home shoulder-high. His joy 
passed all bounds on seeing Kapalkundala warmly 
received within his home circle. Even when he won 
Kapalkundala's hand he betrayed not the least sign 
of joy or affection fearing a cold shoulder might be 
given the party at home which might serve the damper. 
Still the thoughts of Kapalktindala filled his whole mental 
horizon. This was the only consideration weighing 



64 KAPALKUNDALA. 

with Nabokutnar that explained his shyness to 
in with the offer of the preferred hand of Kapal- 
kimdala that precluded his utterance of a single 
endearing term for a single time to Kapalkundala even 
when he got back home after marriage and, lastly, that 
prevented the smallest wave to ruffle the calm surface 
of his rising sea of love and affection. But the fear 
that haunted him all this time was now gone for ever. 
As a rushing stream gathering its volume before 
an obstacle in its path crashes down with redoubled 
fury when that impediment is dislodged so the grow- 
ing enthusiastic love of Nabokumar surged and broke 
over all restraints. These pregnant feelings of afiec- 
tion though not often expressed in words could be 
read in Nabokumar's glistening ardent gaze upon 
Kapalkundala every time she chanced to cross his 
line of vision in his constant vis i1s to Kapalkundala 
on the pretext of urgency on the most trivial grounds 
in his hovering around Kapalkundala without any 
occasion for it in his attempts at driving at the topic 
of Kapalkundala in the midst of conversation without 
any necessity for it in his ceaseless efforts to en- 
compass Kapalkundala with all the comforts and well- 
being of home-life and, in fine, in his halting gait 
of walk due to the distraction of his mind. Even his 
tone of life underwent*. some change. An air of serious- 
ness settled in place of buoyant sportiveness vivacity 
supplanted languor and Nabokumar's face brightened 
up at all times with joy. The heart being the main- 
spring of love, it blossomed into greater and nobler 



KAPALKUNDALA. 65 

things. His love grew for all others his tolerance 
extended to the undesirables his heart overflowed 
with the milk of human kindness towards all mankind 
the earth appeared the creation for piety and goodness 
and everything looked joyful and radiant. Such is 
love. It gives its colouring to everything. It sweetens 
harshness turns iniquity into virtue gives a halo to 
unholiness and ushers light into darkness. But what 
about Kapalkundala ? In what mood is she now ? 
Well, reader, let us go and have a look at her. 



CHAPTER VI. 



In domestic seclusion. 

Every body is aware that Saptagram was a city of 
considerable importance in her past days. Once she 
formed the trysting ground of maritime traders of 
every clime from Java to Rome. But her old splen- 
dours were much on the wane between the Bengali 
loth and nth centuries. Its main reason was that 
the river that washed the edge of the city was shrunk 
up in its channel so that sailing crafts of hrger draughts 
could not push up well within her harbour. So she 
lost much of her commercial importance, A city of 
commercial greatness loses everything with the loss 
of her commercial glory. Such was the case with 
Saptagram. 

Hooghly, in the nth century, was leaping into 
existence and fame as her rival with all her nascent 
glories. The Portuguese established their business 
houses there which drew the wealth and opulence of 
Saptagram. But till then Saptagram was not shorn 
of all the vestiges of her fallen greatness. She still 
for med the headquarters of Fouzdars and other impor- 
tant Government officials though a lur&e area of the 
city lost much of her attractiveness and, being un- 
inhajpited, gradually wore the aspect of a village. 



KAPALKUNDALA* 67 

Nabokumar's house was situated in an out-of-the- 
way nook on the periphery of Saptagram. The 
streets in her much ruined state were sequestered and 
overgrown with shrubs and trailers. -In the back- 
ground of Nabokumar's dwelling place lay a thick 
forest. A small stream ran across a mile's distance 
in the fore-ground that meandering its course 
around a small field entered the wood. The house 
was brick-built though on an all-round consideration 
it did not rise much above the common-place. Al- 
though double-storied, it was not enormously high 
and so could not have any pretension to a mansion. 
Its specimen height can, now-a-days, be seen in the 
basement in many instances. 

Two young women stood on the house-top and 
were viewing the country round below. The house was 
framed in a beautiful setting. It was evening and 
the landscape was really beautiful and fascinating. 
Close by, lay the dense woodland with the innumer- 
able feathered choristers singing their piping chorus 
inside with the rivulet flowing at a distance, looking 
a thin silver ribbon. Yonder across the grounds 
unrolled the panoroma of landscape and town where 
gleamed ten thousand edifices of the vast city the 
windows and casements of which were thronged with 
citizens eager to have an airing in the soft breeze of 
the fresh spring. Far away on the otherside, were 
the shadows of the evening thickening over the broad 
water of the Bhagirathi crowded with sailing smacks. 

Of the young women on the terrace, the comptexipa 



68 KAPALKUNDALA. 

of one had the gleam of the moon-shine. Her figure 
was half-concealed amidst her loose dark tresses. 
The other dark-skinned and of clear-cut features was 
neither just in nor well out of her gushing sixteen. She 
was thin and small. Her small ringlets were blown- 
over the upper half of her tiny face like the petals of 
a full-blown lotus encircling the cup in the centre. 
Her eyes were large and of a mild white as of the fish. 
Her tiny fingers were enmeshed in her companion^ 
flowing mass of curling hair. Our presumption is at 
par that the reader has recognised the girl with the 
tint of the silver moon-beam to be our Kapalkundala. 
We may let him understand, besides, that the dark- 
complexioned one is her sister-in-la\v, ShyaiYuisunari. 

Shyamasundari was addressing her brother's wife 
at times as 'Bow' (brother's wife), sometimes endearing- 
ly as sister and at other times as Mrino. The name 
Kapalkundala was a bit horrible so women-folk called 
her Mrinmoyee. We, too, shall hence forward call her 
by this name though not too often. Shyamasundari 
was reciting verses from a nursery poem : 

They say the lotus-queen that veils her 

face when falls the night 
Makes buds to ope and bees to flee as her 

dear lord's in sight. 
With leaves spread-out to the tree the 

woodland creeper flies, 
So the river stream when comes the 

flood to the ocean hies* 



KAPALKUNDALA. 69 

O, what a shame the bashless lily blooms 

when the moon doth shine, 

And the newly wedded bride, her wedlock 

o'er, does for her husband pine. 

Shyamusundari. "Would you lead an ascetic's 
single life all your days ?" 

"Why ? what asceticism do I practise ?" replied 
Mrinmoyee. 

Shyamasundari with both hands lifting Mrinmoyee's 
rich curling locks exclaimed "Would you never gather 
this heap of hair in a knot ?" 

Mrinmoyee with a soft smile gently extricated her 
hair from Shyama's clutches. 

"Well and good" continued Shyamasundari "Do but 
fulfil my wishes. Once attire yourself after the style 
of our household women. How long, Oh God, would 
you play the ascetic ?" 

"I had ever been an ascetic girl before I fell in with 
this son of a Brahmin/' 

"Now you must forego that." 

"Why forego ?" 

"Why ? would you see ? I will break your 
asceticism. Do you know what a philosopher's 
stone is ?" 

"No" 

"The philosopher's stone turns the rusty bars of 
iron into gold/* 

41 What of that ?" 

"Women have, too, their philosopher's stone/ 



70 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"What is it ?" 

"Man. The forest-maid with his touch blossoms 
into a full-blown house-wife. You have touched that 
stone." 

Then she hummed in the following air in a tuneful 
voice : 

I shall bind thy ample locks of hair 
And give thee shining robe to wear ; 
Your braid shall shine with flowers fresh, 
A tiara shall thy temple grace ; 
There shall be a girdle for thy waist, 
For ears, a pair of pendants best ; 
Nut, leaf and betel spices sweet, 
Sandal and ingredients meet, 
Delicious shall thy cup overflow ; 
Thy ruddy lips shall ruddier glow. 
There shall, a boy, as bright as gold 
And fair, as doll, thy arms enfold ;- 
And, I am sure, such a sight as this 
Will fill your heart with joy and bliss. 

"Well, now I understand. Granted, I have touched 
the philosopher's stone and in contact with it have 
turned into gold ; granted, I have braided the hair 
and stuck up flower in the braided knot ; granted, I 
have dangled the waist-band on the loin and hung up 
ear-rings in the ear ; granted, I have used plenty of 
sandal, kunkum, chooa, betel and betel- nut and am 
delivered even of the precious sweet boy babe ; 
granted, it gave a fillip to my pleasures. After all, do 
these make up happiness V 



KAPALKUNDALA. 71 

* Answer if the flower has any joy in its bloom." 
a Men are delighted to see it. But what does it 
matter to the flower ?" 

Shyama's looks fell and dark shadows flitted across 
her face. Like the petals of a lotus blown by 
the morning wind, her big blue eyes stared hard and 
twinkled. 

"What has jt to do with flower ?" echoed she "That 
I can never say. I never grew up into a flower that 
blossomed. But if ever I could be a rose-bud like you, 
then perhaps I would have a taste of the thrill of 
delights in the blossom." 

Seeing her silent, Shyama continued "Well and 
good. But if it does not follow, then let me hear your 
idea of happiness." 

Mrinmoyee bethought herself a while and said "I 
can not explain it. Perhaps I would have been happy 
if I could but wander through the sea-side wilderness." 

Shyamasundari was no little disconcerted to hear 
this. That their care and good treatment bestowed no 
benefits upon Mrinmoyee stung her and ruffled her 
temper. 

"Is there any means of return ?" asked she. 

"No. Not any." 

"Then what you propose ?" 

Adhicary used to say "We do as we are ordained 
to do." 

Shyamasundari hid her face with her cloth and 
shook with laughter. 



72 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"As you please, your most Noble Eminence" added 
she, "What is the conclusion ?" 

Mrinmoyee heaved a heavy sigh and rejoined. 
*Let God's will be done. Come what may." 

u What ? What else in store ? There are brighter 
and happier days for you. Why } r ou drew that sigh ?" 

"Hear me." proceeded Mrinmoyee. "Just l^fr-e we 
left the place on the day I started fortli with my 
husband I went to place the trident leaf at Bhowani's 
feet as I used to undertake no work until I had done 
the same. The trident leaf used to stick up if the 
work in hand was sure to prosper and it shook and 
fell if the work was to end in a fiasco. I had my 
misgivings with regard to my adventure into a 
foreign land in company of a foreigner and so visited 
the Goddess to read the auguries. Mother Goddess 
let fall the trident leaf and so I am afraid what the 
future may bring forth/' 

Mrinmoyee ended. A shudder crept into Shyama 
and she gave a start. 



PART JII. 



CHAPTER I. 



In the long past 

When Nabokumar left the inn with Kapalkimdala, 
Mod also bowled off towards Burdwan along a different 
route. Let us have a resume of her early career so 
long she is on the high-way. Moti had an erratic 
career and her character though stained with dark 
vices was as well adorned with great virtues. A review 
of such a character may net bore the reader. 

The time, her father embraced Musalman faith, 
her Hindu name was converted into Luthfunnishar 
She never assumed the name Moti in any part of her 
life. But she might have had recourse to the name 
when she happened to travel incognito in foreign lands. 
Her father came to Dacca and took service under 
Government. The place was, however, too full of his 
countrymen. It ill-becomes almost every gentleman 
to live and move in a community wherefiom he has 
been black-balled. As a matter of course, when he won 
some feathers in his cap of success under the subadar 
he provided himself with credentials from many Omrahs 
who were his friends and made for Agra. Merits 
were sure to have been unearthed by Akbar and so 
his merits were rewarded. Luthfunnisha's father in 
a' surprisingly short time gathered more leaves to h& 



76 KAPALKUNDALA. 

laurel and was reckoned as one of the most powerful 
Omrahs of the realm. On the other hand, Luthfunnisha 
was fast coming of age. On her advent into Agra, 
she received her lessons in Persian, Sanskrit, dance, 
music, wit and what not and became accomplished 
in all these. She was in no time looked upon as the 
first and foremost amongst the first-rate beauties as 
well as the 'blue-stockings' of the capital. As ill-luck 
would have it, her education was ill-grounded in religion 
and was not of a piece with her proficiency in other 
branches of knowledge. When Luthfunnisha blossomed 
into her glorious womanhood she showed signs of an 
unbridled temper. She had no control over her 
passions far less any inclination for it. She set 
her mind upon any work without arguing its pros 
and cons and did what pleased her. She did right 
when her heart took fancy for it and did wrong when 
it pleased her passing whim. So Luthfunnisha 
imbibed all the vices as the fruit of her unlicensed 
youthful follies. Her first husband was alive so none 
of the Omrahs consented to marry her. Marriage, too, 
had not its much attractiveness for her. She thought 
she found no earthly necessity in clipping short the 
wings of the dallying amorous bee sipping from flower 
to flower. The first whisperings culminated in a 
deep-mouthed public scandal. Her father was annoy- 
ed and she was expelled from her father's residence. 
The heir-apparent, Selim, was 1 one of those upon 
whom her favours were bestowed in secret. Selim, 
however, could not make Luthfunnisha an inmate of 



KAPAfitUNDALA. 77 

his harem lest his actions cast a blot on the family 
escutcheon of an Omrah and he, himself, incurred the 
flaming wrath of his imperial father. Now the 
moment proved opportune. Sellings chief Begum was 
the sister of Mansinha, the Rajput chief. The prince 
gave Luthfimnisha the situation of the first maid-of- 
honour to the Begum. Luthfimnisha publicly showed, 
herself, as the maid to the Begum, while in secret 
was in liasion with the heir-apparent. 

It can be easily imagined that a woman of the 
intellectual stamp of Luthf unnisha could shortly win 
the heart of the prince. She gained such an unrivalled 
ascendency over Selim's mind as made her cocksure 
that she bade fair to be Selim's prospective chief 
Begum at the right moment. Not only was Luth- 
funnisha cocksure about it but all the palace house-hold 
thought it a possibility. Luthfimnisha bore her 
charmed existence under the spell of such golden 
dreams when one day she received a rude awakening. 
Meherunnisha, the daughter of Khowja Ayesh 
(Aktimud-daulah), Akbar's High Treasurer, held the 
first rank amongst Moslem beauties. The Chan- 
cellor of Exchequer one day invited Selim and other 
shining lights to a dinner at his residence. That day 
Selim saw Meherunnisha for the first time. At the 
first sight he lost his heart and confic] 
soul to her care. What followed^ 
every reader of the Indian Hjj 
Treasurer's daughter was, bef 
powerful Omrah named Sher 




78 KAPALKUNDALA. 

by passion approached his father to have the engage- 
ment cancelled. 

The result was that he met with a stern rebuff from 
his impartial father. But his ardour received a 
temporary set-back only. Being disarmed for sometime 
he did not give up the game. Though Meherunnisha 
was married off to Slier Afgan Luthfunnisha, however, 
looked through Selim's soul as if in a mirror and she 
knew it for certain that the fate of one thousand- 
fold stout-hearted Slier Afgan was sealed for ever. 
With the death of Akbar his life would be violently 
cut short and Meherunnisha would perforce be made 
the Begum wife of Selim. Luthfannisha gave up the 
idea of the throne as a thing not worth a moment's 
purchase The days of Akbar, the glory of the Moghul 
race of emperors, were drawing to a close. The glaring 
sun that shed its effulgence over the sweep of the 
country from the Brahmaputra to Turkistan was on 
its decline. Luthfunnisha at this time planned a bold 
coup to assert her personality. 

The Begum of Selim was the sister of Mansinha, 
the Rajput chief and Khasru was her son. One day 
Luthfunnisha was conversing with her on the topic 
of Akbar's illness and was congratulating her on her 
being a Badsha's wife. 

"Life's highest ambition may be attained" retorted 

the mother of Khasru "in the exalted position of a 

Badshah's wife but the mother of a Badsha is the 

i highest of all." At this the fertile mind of astute 

Luthfimnisha formed u daring scheme. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 79 

"Why not let it be so ?" replied she "This, too, 
is under your thumb/* 

"What is it ?" asked the Begum. 

"Have the kindness to bestow the throne on 
Khasru" archly added the sly schemer. 

The Begum made no reply. Xo further issue was 
raised on the same topic on the same day but none 
forgot about it. That the son should sit on the throne 
instead of the father was not after the liking of the 
Begum but Selim 1 s affection towards Meherunnisha 
was as much gall and wormwood to Luthfunnisha as 
, to the Begum herself. Why she, the sister of Mansinha 
would brook the bondage of an upstart Turkoman's 
daughter ? Luthfunnisha had also a deep motive to 
be an instigator to the scheme. The same question 
cropped up on a dificrent day and the two came to a 
decision. It could never be canvassed an impossi- 
bility to place Khasru on Akbar's throne to the exclu- 
sion of Selim. Luthfunnisha impressed this fact on 
the Begum's mind. 

"The Moghul empire lias been won by the Rajput 
sword" exhorted she "and Mansinha, the maternal 
uncle of Khasru, is the noblest of the Rajput race. 
Also Khan Ajim, Khasru' s father-in-law, is the Prime 
Minister and head of the Moslems. If the two pull 
together on his behalf, who would not follow the 
suit ? "On whose support else can the prince 
.count to seize the throne ? It rests on you to make 
Mansinha pull his whole weight into the boat and 



8o KAPALKUNDALA. 

it remains with me to bring over Khan Ajim and other 
Mahomedan Omrahs to our side. With your benedic- 
tion I am sure to succeed but the dread is lest Khasni 
on his accession to the throne drives this miscreant 
out of the Palace." 

The Begum divined the lady-in-waiting's motive. 
A happy genial smile relaxed her expressions and 
she said "Any Omrah of Agra in whose household 
you choose to be a mistress shall accept your hand 
in marriage. Your husband shall be created a 
Manshabdar and shall command 5000 horse." 

Luthfunnisha was mightily pleased. This also 
was her heart's choice. If she was to be an obscure 
harem woman in the palace what joy was there for 
the flirting flapper who won't come Happing any more. 
If she was to buy this at the cost of shackling her 
liberty, then what happiness could there be in her 
serfdom to Meherunnisha, her friend since the time 
they were lasses. Rather is it a tiling of greater honour 
to be the supreme ruler of a minister's household. 
So this did not hold out sufficient bait to lure Luth- 
funnisha into the marrying business. Besides, her 
ruling idea was to avenge the wrong she suffered at 
the hands of Selim, the more so as he overlooked her 
claims upon his affection and hankered so much after 
Meherunnisha. Khan Ajim and other Omrahs of Agra 
and Delhi were under great obligation to Luthfaimisha. 
So it did not appear strange that Khan Ajim would 
bestir himself in the interest of his son-in-law. He 
and the rest of the party agreed to the proposal* 



KAPALKUNDALA. 81 

"Suppose the scheme fizzles out through any in- 
opportuneness" said Khan Ajim to Meherunnisha "then 
it might not offer us any chance of escape. Therefore 
it is meet that we should have at least some loop-holes 
of retreat." 

"What is your advice V asked Luthfunnisha. 

"There is no shelter other than Orissa" said Khan 
Ajim "where the Moghal grip is not so tight. The 
army of Orissa should be brought under our palm 
anyhow. As your brother is a Manshabdar in Orissa, 
I shall proclaim it to-morrow that he has been 
wounded in a battle there. Start positively next day 
ostensibly to visit him and return quickly after fulfilling 
the mission so far you think it feasible." Luthfunnisha 
consented to this proposal. The reader saw her 
when she was journeying back from her visit to Orissa. 



CHAPTER II. 



At the parting of ways. 

The day Moti or Luthfannisha as she was called 
bade farewell to Nabokumar, she started out on her 
journey towards Burdwan. She could not reach her 
destination the same day. So she stopped at a wayside 
inn. Towards the evening when she sat tete-a-tete 
with her Peshman or chamber-maid she suddenly asked* 
"Peshman, how did you see my husband ?" 

Peshman was a little taken aback at the abrupt 
question and replied "What to see other than a plain 
man ?" 

"If he is not a handsome person ?" interrogated 
Moti again. 

Peshman developed a great aversion for Nabo: 
kunup. She had an eye on the ornaments Moti 
gave away to Nabokumar and was anxiously look- 
ing forward to the day when she would get the 
same on her mere asking for them. That hope was 
blighted now. So she came to hate both Kapalkundala 
and her husband. Accordingly on her mistress ques- 
tioning her on the subject she retorted, "Gainly or^ 
ungainly is all the same for a poor Brahmin." 

Moti took in the significance of the maid's observa- 
tion and hilariously said ' If the poor Brahmin blossoms 



KAPALKUNDALA. 83 

into an Omrah whether he would not look all the more 
handsome F 

"What a new idea F 

"Why ? Don't you remember the Begum's promise 
that my husband shall be created an Omrah when 
Khasru becomes the Badsha F 

Know it I do, of course. But what earthly reason 
is there that your former husband shall be made an 
Omrah F 

"Besides, what other husband have I got F 

"I mean the prospective new husband" 

Moti jestfully added "It is a wicked thing for a 
chaste woman like me to be in possession of two 
husbands ! who goes there F 

Peshman happened to recognise the man, whom' 
Moti challenged, to be a creature of Khan Ajim of 
Agra. Both looked flurried. Peshman called in the 
man who came forward, saluted Luthfunnisha and 
handed in a letter to her. Moreover, he said "I was 
carrying the letter to Orissa because of its urgency/' 

The reading of the missive gave a death-blow to 
Moti's high hopes and cherished aspirations of life. 
The letter ran as follows : 

"Our energies are of no avail. Even on death-bed 
Akbar Shah defeated our ends by his art and sagacity. 
Hfs soul has passed away into eternity. Under his 
orters Prince Selim has assumed the title of Jehangir 
Shah. You need not worry yourself about Khasru* 
Come back posthaste with a view to baffle any design 
of hostility towards you on the occasion." 



84 KAPALKUNDALA. 

iThe way Akbar Shah broke up the conspiracy is 
described in history. So it is out of plaee to give an 
account here. 

When the messenger was sent away with a reward, 
Moti read out the letter to Peshman. 

"Good Heavens ! Any means now ?" exclaimed 
Peshman. 

"Every thing has gone by board now." 

Peshman. (Thoughtfully) "But what a harm can 
there be ? You shall be as you had been. The inmate 
of a Badsha^s harem is far more powerful than the 
sovereign queen of any other land." 

(With a slight laugh) "That can never be a 

B possibility any longer. I can not live any more in the 

Palace as Meherunnisha shall be married to Jehangir in 

a short time. I know Meherunnisha from her nursery 

days and once she is an inmate of the harem, Jehangir 

shall be a Badshah in name. It will be an open secret 

. to her that I once stood between her and the throne. 

Xfeen what will be my condition ?" 

Peshman was -about to burst into tears. 

"Alas !* what should be done then ?" cried out she. 

"There is one hope yet how is Meherunnisha 
inclined towards Jehangir?" said Moti "As for her 
singleness of purpose, if she has actually set her heart 
upon her husband and has no affection for Jehangir, 
then Jehangir despite slaying one hundred Sher AJgrfns 
must fail to^ecure Meherunnisha. But if Meherunnisha 
takes a fancy to Jehangir, then everything is given up 
for lost." 



KAPALKUNDALA. 85 

"How are you to understand Meherunnisjia's 
heart ?" enquired Peshman. 

*Is any feat impossible with Moti ?" joined Moti 
with a smile "My friendship with Meherunnisha is as 
old as our childhood. I shall proceed to Burdwan 
to-morrow and stay with her for two days." 

"Supposing Meherunnisha does not love the 
Badshah, what happens then ?* 

"I heard ray father say 'Things should be done as 
judged on the spot by the test of circumstances.' " 

Both remained silent for sometime. A thin smile 
curled the lips of Moti. 

* fc What makes you laugh" interrogated Peshman, 

"Some new impulses are coming" answered Moti. 

"What new impulses ?" 

Moti did not speak that to Peshman. We, too, 
shall not speak that to the reader. This should be told 
later on. 



CHAPTER III. 



In her rival's house. 

Sher Afgan, at this time, was working under the 
Subadar of Bengal as the chief functionary of Burdwan 
and was living in that far-off station. On reaching 
Burdwan, Moti went straight to Sher Afgan's quarters. 
Sher Afgan with the whole family warmly received 
her and made her lodge with them. Moti was much 
known to them since the time Sher Afgan and his wife 
resided in Agra. A jolly good friendship existed 
between her and Meherunnisha. 

Eventually both played each other's rival in their 
game of high stakes for the throne of Delhi and the 
empire. Now when united together, Meherunnisha 
thought within herself "Who is destined to wield the 
first power in India ? Providence knows, Selim knows 
and if anybody else knows it is this Luthfunnisha. 
Let me see if she gives me to understand a bit of her 
mind. Moti, too, had a mind to gauge Meherunnisha's 
feelings. 

Meherunnisha at that time won a celebrity as the 
first in beauty and talent in India. As a matter of 
fact, a woman of her calibre is such a rarity in this 
world. It is an admitted fact with every historian 
that she stands out pre-eminent in the historical group 



KAPALKUNDALA. $7 

of celebrated beauties. Scarcely any even among 
contemporary men could hold his own with or excel 
her in either artistry or knowledge whatsoever. Meher- 
unnisha was unsurpassed in dance and music and had 
the added charms of her skill in painting and verse- 
writing. Her wit had a greater fascination than her 
beauty. Moti, too, was no lesser an ability. These 
two witches set their wits to-day to know each other's 
minds. Meherunnisha was at her easel with paint 
and brusli in her private appartments with Moti chew- 
ing betel, looking over Meherunnisha's shoulder and 
poring over the drawing. 

"How do you judge the drawing ?*" asked Meher- 
unnisha. 

"It is what your painting always looks like" replied 
Moti. "It is a regret that no one is as much finished 
an artist as you are." 

"Even if it be the fact, what causes the regret T 

"If any one else could have your painting skill then 
the likeness of your face might have been preserved." 

"The entombing earth shall preserve the impress 
of my face." Meherunnisha made this remark in a 
somewhat serious air. 

Sister, what makes you awfully of a bad humour 
to-day ?" 

"Where is the lack of humour $ But how can I 
forget even the thought of your leaving me to-morrow 
morning ? Why should I not have the added pleasure 
of your few day's extended stay ?" 

"Who lacks the taste for pleasure !. If it he in my 



$& KAPALKUNDALA. 

power, why do I leave you ? But I am other's 
subordinate how can I stay further ?" 

4r You have only the ashes of your former affection 
left for me. Otherwise you could have remained 
anyhow. When you have come, why can't you 
lengthen the stay ?" 

"I have had my say. My brother is a Manshabdar 
in the Moghul Army. He was severely wounded in 
an 'engagement with the Pathans in Orissa and his 
life was in jeopardy. I had heard the unwelcome news 
and with the Begum's permission came out on a 
visit to him. I delayed much in Orissa and it ill- 
behoves me to delay any longer. I did not see you 
for long so I came and spent a few days with you." 

"What is the approximate date you gave the Begum 
in your time-table to reach back ?" 

Moti understood it to be the tanut flung out by 
M ehenmnisha. She was no match for Meherunnisha in 
tilting polished and pointed home thrusts. However, she 
did not blanch at the banter and stood her ground well* 

"Is it possible to fix an exact date in a three 
month's return journey ?" replied Moti "I am already 
belated and any more delay may cause displeasure." 

4< Whose displeasure you risk ? Prince's or his chief 
Begum's !" added Meherunnisha with her world- 
bewitching smile. * 

"Why do you shame this shameless woman" 
rejoined Moti with a little confusion "I may incur the 
displeasure of both." 

I&skfthe reason why you don't publicly 



KAPALKUNDALA. 89 

assume the role of the Begum ? I heard that Prince 
Selim shall marry you and make you his beloved 
Begum. When does it come off ?" 

"I am always at other's command. Why am I to 
forego the little liberty I have ? As a maid to the 
Begum I came out to Orissa but as the Begum of Selim 
I could never visit Orissa." 

44 What urgency can there be for the prospective 
Begum of the Delhi Emperor to come out to Orissa ?" 

"I can never boast that I am in the running for the 
chief Begumship of the Delhi Emperor. None but 
Mehenmnisha alone is worthy enough to be the 
deserving consort to the Delhi Lord in this wide land 
of Hindustan." 

Meherunnisha hung down her head. 

"'Sister, I can never persuade myself that you made 
the remark either to offened me or to probe my heart" 
added she after a brief respite "But I beg of you, when 
you speak, never to lose sight of the fact that I am the 
married wife of Sher Afgan nay, the whole-heartedly 
ever faithful bond-slave to Sher Afgan." 

Brazen Moti took the reproof with a good grace as 
it rather gave her the opportunity. 

"I know it for certain that you are a devoted wife" 
urged Moti "and on that score I ventured to broach 
the subject before you under some pretext. My object 
is simpty to let you know that Selim has not forgotten 
the glamour of your charms as yet. Beware." 

"Now the whole thing has cleared up. But what 
do I care F * . > * * 



90 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"Fear of widowhood" put in Moti after a little 
hesitation. 

With these words did Moti look hard and steady 
in the face of Meherunnisha but failed to detect any 
trace be-speaking either joy or terror. 

Meherunnisha took up the cue and joined in a high 
tone of bold hauteur "Fear of widowhood ! Slier Afgan 
is not too weak to defend himself. The more so as in 
the empire of Akbar the son even can not murder an 
innocent man with impunity." 

"Of course ! But the recent despatches from Agra 
advise that Akbar Shah died and Selim has ascended 
the throne. Who now shall curb the Delhi Lord ?" 

Meherunnisha heard not a syllable more. Her 
whole frame shook and quivered. She again dropped 
down her head and a flood of tears streamed down 
I from her eyes % 

"What makes you weep ?" enquired Moti. ; '< ' 

Meherunnisha gave a sigh and vented her feelings 
"Selim is installed on the throne of Delhi but where 
am I ?" 

It'served Moti's purpose. "Have you not wiped 
off the Prince's image as yet from your heart ? n 
added she. 

Meherunnisha felt a lump coming to her throat 
and she groaned "Whom shall I forget ? I can forget 
my ownself rather than forget the Prince. But look 
feere, sister, you have been all at once let into the 
secret of my heart and you must swear on oath that 
you shall not breathe a syllable of it into other's ears." 



KAPALKUNDALA. 91 

"Good. Your wishes shall be respected" said Moti 
"But when Selim will hear that I came to Burdwan 
and enquire what you said about him what answer 
shall I make ? 

Meherunni sha mused a little and then replied as 
an after-thought "Tell this that Meherunnisha shall 
worship him in her heart of hearts and, if needed, 
shall sacrifice herself in his interest. But she can 
never dishonour herself and shall always stand up for 
her rights and dignity. So long her husband is alive 
she will never show her face to the Lord of Delhi. 
Besides, if her husband is killed by the Emperor's own 
hand then there can never be the chance any more 
of her union with her husband's murderer on this side 
of the grave." 

After this peroration, Meherunnisha rose on her legs 
and left the place. Moti was electrified at this revela- 
tion. But it was she who scored the success. Moti 
caught Meherunnisha tripping though the latter could 
not have an inkling of the hopes and aspirations that 
surged in the mind of the former. She who by her 
own resourcefulness afterwards won the overlordship 
over the Lord of Delhi now admitted the defeat. The 
reason is Meherunnisha bubbled with love and affec- 
tion while Moti was a self-seeking adventuress. Moti 
knew perfectly well the strange composition of human 
heart. Her conclusion on the premises supplied by 
Meherunnisha proved too true afterwards. She gaifced 
by the conviction that Meherunnisha bore no tinsel 
affection for Jehangir, So despite her bold front and 



92 KAPALKUNDALA. 

fierce talk, her frigidity was sure to thaw one day when 
the time struck. The Emperor, if needs be, would 
perforce gain his objective* 

Moti's hopes and disires were all blasted at this 
decision. But did this make her cross-grained all the 
more ? Far from this. Rather she felt some jubilation. 
Whence this unnatural pleasurable feeling came Moti 
failed to realise first. She started out and moved 
along the road to Agra. Few days were spent on the 
journey and in these few days she understood the 
mood of her mind. She dimly awakened to the 
glimmerings of her first consciousness that she was 
beginning to recover her soul. 



CHAPTER IV. 



In the palace. 

Moti reached Agra. We have no more necessity 
of calling her Moti as the new impulse complete!)' 
chastened her soul. 

'^SBe was given an audience with Jeh^igir ^who 
a^^usual warmly received and quetlfcfael fcer on 
her brother's health and the comfcofts "of her journey* 
What Luthftmuisha had told Meherunnisfti.came out 



KAPALKUNDALA. 93 

true. At the name Burdwan in the midst of other 
topics Jehangir enquired what Meherunnisha said 
about him during her two day's stay with her. Luth- 
runnisha with an open mind gave him a true story of 
Meherunnisha's affection for him. Then the Emperor 
dropped into a sort of blissful forgetfulness and a blank 
pause ensued. One or two large drops of tears rolled 
down from his big eyes. 

"Your Majesty" broke in Luthfunnisha 4 'the slave 
has carried you the happy tidings. Why no orders have 
issued till now for her reward ?" 

The Badshah smiled and joined "Dearest, your 
ambition is boundless." * 

"Your Majesty, why this charge is laid at this 
slave's door ?" 

"The Delhi Emperor has placed his body and soul 
at your feet and still you press for further reward !" 

"Women have many desires" added Luthfunnisha 
laughingly. 

"What more desire you have ?" 

"Let the royal orders be forthcoming first t^t the 
slave's prayer shall be granted." 

"Provided the royal duty is not hampered." 

"The Delhi Lord's work can never suffer on the 
score of a single poor sguL" 

agree. Now let me hear the proposition." 
^d to marry." *' * 

Jehangir bitinto a salvo of laughter. * 

'This p a riovll sort of desire" said he. "Has the 
negotiation ended in a compact anywhere ?" 



94 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"Yes. Only the royal assent is wanting. No 
contract is valid without the royal warrant." 

"What is the use of my permission ? Whom you 
mean to help afloat in the ocean of bliss ?" 

"Because the slave has served her Emperor she can 
never be held unchaste. The slave craves permission 
to marry her own husband," 

"Indeed ! What would be the fate of this old slave 
then ?" 

"He shall be left to the care of Meherunnisha, the 
prospective mistress of Delhi." 

"Who is this Delhi mistress Meherunnisha ?" 
"She who is in the running." 

Jehangir thought that Luthfunnisha must have been 
boldly confident that Meherunnisha was the Empress 
elect of Delhi. As she had quite a way to go with the 
chance of being jockeyed out of the objects of her 
ambition she wished in disgust to retire.from her harem 
life. This feeling sorely pressed down upon Jehangir's 
heart and he remained silent. 

"Dpe,s your Majesty veto this proposal ?" 
"I can not withold my assent. But where is the 
necessity of marrying a husband ?" 

"Ill-starred as I am, the husband of my first 
marriage sought a divorce from me. Now he shall 
dare not forsake His Majesty's slave-girL" 

The Badshah had a jocund laugh whiph shortly 
stiffened down into a rigid expression. * 

"My darling, you are given a *carte .blanche 7 " 
'joined he "If you have the inclination, then follow the 



KAPALKUNDALA. 95 

bend of it. But why are you to leave me for good ? Do 
the sun and moon not shine in the same firmament ? 
Do the twin buds never flower on the same stalk ?" 

Luthfunnisha focussed the full glare of her large 
wide eyes on the Badshah and rejoined "The tiny 
flowers may bloom but the twin lilies can never 
blossom on the same stem ! Why am I to remain 
a prickly thorn at the base of your jewelled 
throne ?" 

Luthfunnisha retired into her own apartments. 
She did not explain to Jehaugir the cause that 
furnished the motive power. Jehangir was satisfied 
with the surface view of the question as he never 
cared to look a little lower down than the surface. 
Luthfunnisha had the heart of an adamant. The 
fascinating graces of the royal debonair Selim failed 
to entrap her mind. Marble-hearted as she was, a 
worm now began eating into that unimpressionable 
heart. 



CHAPTER V. 



In her own apartments, 

On entering her apartments, Luthfunnisha called 
out to Peshman who helped in undressing her. She 
got out of her immensely rich gold-braided garment 
wrought with pearls, diamonds and rubies and said to 
Peshman "Take this, dress." 

Peshman wondered not a little. The dress was 
recently made to order at an enormous cost. 

"Why this dress to me ?" asked Peshman "What is 
to-day's report ?" 

"It is re-assuring news, indeed !" 

"This is but too evident. Are you relieved of 
Meherunnisha incubus ? 

"Yes, now I have no more anxiety in that quarter." 

Peshman made an exhibition of great delight and 
said "Then I count a maid to the Begum." 

64 If you want to be the Begum's maid then I shall 
speak to Meherunnisha about that." 

"Why ? You say that Meherunnisha is out of the 
running for the Badsha's Begumship." 

"I never spoke that sort of stuff. What I said is I 
have no more anxiety on that head." 
' "Why no more anxiety ?" snarled Peshman crossly 
"Everything is thrown overboard if you fail to be the 
Delhi mistress." 



KAPALKUNDALA. 97- 

"I must cut off all connections with Agra." 
'Why ? Alack ! I am too much a goose to grasp 
the situation. Let me have a full significance of to* 
day's happy tidings." 

"The joyful news is that I leave Agra for good." 
"Where do you go then ?" 

"I shall move down and settle in Bengal. If I can, 
I shall marry a gentleman." 

u What a huge joke ! I simply shudder at the idea." 
"I don't jest. But I am, in all earnest, quitting Agra 
and have said au revoir to the Badshah." 
"What an evil idea has possessed you ?" 
"Not an evil idea, to be sure ! I sauntered through 
the prime of my life in Agra but what is the result ? 
The thirst for pleasure grew into a passion with me 
since my childhood. To slake the thirst I left Bengal 
and came up here. What treasures did I not sacrifice, 
to purchase the trash ? what dark and shady tricks did 
I stick at ? what ends I strove for were not encom- 
passed ? I had a surfeit of all these wealth, power, 
glory, fame. But what did these lead to ? Sitting,, 
this day here, I can make a mental reckoning of every 
day as it passed out but I can make bold to say that I 
neither felt happy for a single day nor enjoyed un- 
alloyed happiness for a single moment. The thirst 
was never quenched rather it grew and quickened. I 
can add to my hordes that are reckoned in millions and 
amass greater fortunes for the mere striving for it. 
But what for ? If the true happiness lay in thes% 
I could have been happy even for a day in all this long 

7 



98 KAPALKUNDALA. 

weary period ! The yearning for pleasure is like a 
thin mountain stream. The clear slender rivulet at 
first issues out from the secret spring, lies hidden in 
its own bowels and no body knows about it. It bubbles 
and gurgles and no body hears it. On it courses down, 
the volume increases and the muddier it grows. This 
does not exhaust the whole story. Sometimes, again, 
the wind blows, lashes angry waves, and, sharks, croco- 
diles and other sea-monsters make their home therein. 
Farther the size grows, the water becomes all the 
more muddy and it tastes brine. Myriads of desolate 
dreary islets spring into existence in the river channel, 
the movement becomes sluggish and then the body 
of the river with all the mud and dirt loses itself into 
the wide deep ocean where who can say ?" 

"This too passes my wit. What makes the reason 
that all this palls upon your senses ? 

This puzzle why 1 have grown up blase has been 
solved at last. The pleasure I experienced though 
for a single night on my way back from Orissa, by far 
and away, out-measures the giddy round of pleasures, 
I tasted at a three year's stretch, under the shadow of 
the palace. This is the key to the problem." 

"What is the explanation ?" 

**I looked so long like the Hindu idol. The get- 
up is of gold and jewel though the interior is hewn 
out of the hard stone. For the sake of my sense- 
pleasures I sported with fire though I touched not 

Jthe flame. Now let me see if I can seek out a full- 
SP 
blooded vein in the heart of the granite." 



KAPALKUNDALA. 99 

u This, too, is all an unintelligible jargon to me" 

"Have I ever loved any one in Agra ? 

(In an undertone) "None ?" 

"Then what am I if not a stone ?" 

"If you now be pleased to bestow your heart on 
any one why don't you do so ?" 

"This, too, is in my mind. That is why I am bent 
upon quitting Agra." 

"What necessity is there of doing things like that ? 
Is there none to woo in Agra that you will go down 
into the land of savages ? Why not set your heart on 
the man who now loves yon ? What a greater lord is 
there on the earth than the Delhi Emperor in grace, 
in wealth, in power and all else besides ?" 

"Why does water run down the lower incline 
despite the sun and moon's gravitation ?" 

Why r 

"It is the scroll of fate !" 

Luthfunnisha did not open out her whole mind. 
The fire entered into the marble soul and was dissolv- 
ing it into fluid. 



CHAPTER VI. 



Down at the feet 

When the seed is sown in the soil, it germinates 
of itself. As the sprout shoots up, no body cares to 
know and see it. But once the seed is strewn, 
it sends its roots into the ground and bursts into 
a shaft of sprout which forces its way upward 
independent of the human agency To-day the 
plant's growth is but of a few inches and no body 
cares to look upon it. It grows up by degrees. 
Gradually the shooting sprout increases and it measures 
half a cubit, one cubit and so on up through all scales of 
progressive increase. Still if it lacks any body's interest 
then no body casts his eyes upon it. The days roll 
into month and months lapse into year when, it 
attracts men's eyes. There can no more be the talk of 
inattention any longer. By degrees the tree grows 
and its shadow destroys other trees, or, it might be, 
it favours the growth of weeds and tares. 

Luthfunnisha's love had a similar developement. 
One day, all on a sudden, did she come across the man 
after her fancy when she had hardly the conscious- 
ness of the first birth of the tender sentment. But 
the sprout burst into a rank life at that very instant. 
Afterwards she had no other occasion of meeting 
him. But in his absence, she had occasional peeps 



KAPALKUNDALA. loi 

into his face from her minds' eye and enjoyed a 
sensuous pleasure in indulging the reminiscences 
which were dyed deep on her heart's tablet. The 
seed burst into a green sprout. The nebulous affection 
took colour and form. The nature of thought is to 
move along worn-out grooves which are the lines of 
least resistance until the work by its frequency 
developes into a habit. Luthfunnisha had always this 
beautiful penumbra before her mind's eye. She deve- 
loped strong desires for an interview and the flow of 
kindred passions and inclinations grew violent pari 
passu. The bigger thought of the Delhi throne grew 
small before it. The throne appeared to have been 
surrounded by flames set alight by Cupid's arrows. 
The ideas of throne, capital and the empire were 
knocked on the head and she hastened down to have 
a look at the object of her hearts' desire. For this 
Luthfunnisha did not feel sick at heart at Meher- 
nunisha's words and thoughts at which her high 
ambition and splendid enthusiasm went up into thin 
air. For this, on her return to Agra, she gave not an 
ounce of thought to safeguard her interests and for this 
she took her farewell leave of the Badshah. 

Luthfunnisha reached Saptagram. She fixed her 
habitation in a mansion inside the town at the farthest 
corner from the street. All at once, the pheno- 
menon of a splendid house thronged with troops of 
servants and lackeys in their brilliant uniforms of 
Trraided gold and silver burst upon the view and 
arrested the attention of the passers-by. Every 



102 KAPALKUNDALA. 

appartment had costly furniture in it. Perfumes, 
perfumed waters and flower-vases with flowers on them 
scented the atmosphere. Furniture inlaid with gold, 
silver and ivory and other valuable odds and ends 
displayed the splendour and samptuousness. In such a 
gilded chamber amidst a blaze of colour and decoration 
sat Luthfunnisha with a dejected look with Nabokumar 
on a separate seat In Saptagram Nabokumar had 
utmost one or two interviews with Luthfunnisha. How 
far was Luthfunnisha successful in her objective is 
given out in to-day's conversation." 

"Then let me say good-bye" said Nabokumar after a 
brief silence "Don't remember me any more." 

"Please do not go now" joined Luthfunnisha "Would 
you, if you don't mind, wait a little longer as I have 
not said everything I have a mind to ?" 

Nabokuniar waited for sometime more but Luth- 
funnisha did not speak a word. 

"Have you any thing to say ?" added Nabokumar 
shortly after. Lutfimnisha gave no reply. She was 
weeping silently. On seeing her weep Nabokumar 
rose to his feet whereupon Luthfunnisha caught hold 
of the hem of his cloth. He was somewhat annoyed 
at this and exclaimed "Ah ! What do you mean ?" 

What do you want ?" demanded Luthfunnisha. 
*Have you nothing to desire in this world ? I shall 
give you wealth, honour, love, wit, mirth and jollity and 
everything else that make up happtaess on this earth 
without wishing a return for the same. What I wish is 
simply to be a seryent-maid to you. I don't long for 



KAPALKUNDALA. 103 

the glorious position of a wife but the mere situation of 
a house-maid." 

"I am a poor Brahmin and shall always remain a 
poor Brahmin" protested Nabokumar with vehemence. 
"I shall never stand the ugly name of a Javan woman's 
favourite by accepting the gift of your preferred wealth 
and property." 

A Javan woman's secret -lover ! Nabokumar did 
not know yet that the woman was his married wife. 
Luthfunnisha sank down crestfallen when Nabokumar 
extricated the cloth-end from her grasp. 

Luthfunnisha again clutched the hc'ti of his cloth 
and said. "Well, let that pass. If it is so ordained, I 
shall tear out my heart-strings and fling ihcm into fire. 
I don't crave anything more than that you would fain 
pass this way at odd intervals, look up as towards a 
house-maid, and ray eyes shall be feasted on the sight," 

"You are a Javon woman a second man's wife and 
a guilt shall be fastened upon me by such an intimacy 
with you. This is the last of such meetings between 
you and me." 

A brief silence ensued. A tempest was raging in 
Lutfunnisha's heart. She sat motionless like a statue 
carved in marble. She let go the cloth-end of Nabo- 
kumar and said "Walk out." 

Nabokumar walked forward and, 
or .four steps when, all on a 
a tree blown off by a tornado 
kumars' feet. She clasped the : 
and piteotasly cried out 




104 KAPALKUNDALA. 

throne of Agra for your sake. You must not leave 
me." 

"Go back to Agra again and give up the hope on 
me" said Naboktimar emphatically. 
"Not in this life." 

Luthfunnisha stood up straight like a bolt and 
haughtily said "I will never abandon your hope m 
this life." Drawing up to her full height, she slightly 
bent her swan neck and fixing the big 'steadfast eyes 
on Nabokumar's face threw herself in the right royal 
style. That fire of inflexible hauteur that grew less 
under the soft mellowed warmth of her heart's flame 
again flared up that invincible iron-will that daunted 
not at the attempt at grasping the sceptre of the 
Empire of Hindustan that indomitable energy again 
quickened up the feeble framework of her love- 
smitten soul. The nerves swelled out on her forehead 
and drew out a fine tracery. The bright eyes 
shone like the glassy sea lighted up by a brilliant sun. 
The nostrils dilated and throbbed. As the goose 
sporting along tho current straightens up its neck and 
throws out its head threatening men and tilings 
blocking its way as the down-trodden serpent stands 

erect spreading out its hood so this furious Javan 

woman proudly stood up towering her head in an 

imperious air; 

"Not in this Kfer-you shall be made mine" ex- 

dairaed she in her rick ringing voice. 

Nabolronla* r wj$ terror-stricken at gazing upon 

this aqgiy ' aprpettf^ke form- The glory of Luth- 



KAPALKUNDALA. 105 

funnisha's charm that spread out now had never 
before been eyed by Nabokumar. That beauty had the 
fatal fascination of the deadly lightening flash. It 
struch a chill into his heart. Nabokumar was about 
to wa]k out when the vision of a similar picture of 
haughty pose darted across his mind. Nabokumar, one 
day, being offended at the conduct of Padmabati, his 
first wife, tried to force out her ejection from the bed- 
chamber. The twelve year girl similarly wheeled 
round facing him with a bold look of defiance, simi- 
larly her eyes burnt, similarly her nostrils expanded and 
vibrated and similarly her head leaned back in a 
fine throw. That figure was a past memory. It 
now flashed in upon his mind and the parity at once 
strucli him. Nabokumar had the shadow of a suspicion 
and he in a hesitatingly soft voice enquired "Who are 
you ?" 

The eye-balls of the Javan woman expanded to a 
greater extent and she replied "I am Padmabati." 

Without waiting for the answer, Luthfunnisha 
hurried away from the scene. Nabokumar, too, being a 
bit frightened, wended his way home, his brain busy 
with thoughts. 



CHAPTER VII. 



On the outskirt of the city. 

Luthfunnisha entered another chamber and closed 
the door. For full two days she cloistered herself 
inside the room. In these two days she determined 
the course she would follow. She arrived at a con- 
clusion and set her mind upon it. The sun went 
low. Luthfunnisha began preparing her toilet with 
Peshman's help. It was a strange toilet as it hid no 
evidence of a female make-up. She looked up the 
dress in the mirror and asked ''How no\v, Posh* 11:^1 ? 
Do you recognise me ?" 

"Impossible." 

"Let me start then. Sec neither m:m nor maid 
follows me." 

Peshman timorously added '"If you pardon your 
slave, then she may ask one thing." 

"What ?" 

"What is your object ?" 

"Final separation between Kapalkundala and her 
husband for the present. He shall be made mine 
afterwards,'' 

"Would your ladyship just think over the project 
in its every possible light ? the dense jungle the 
approaching night and your lonely position ? 

But, without a Vord whatsoever, Luthfunnisha 



KAPALKUNDALA. 107 

tripped forth silently. She directed her steps towards 
the lonely wooded outskirt of Saptagram wherein 
Nabokumar lived. Night had come ere she reached 
the place. The reader may have some recollec- 
tion of the thicket which lay at a short distance 
from Nabokumar's dwelling place. When she gained 
the skirt of the forest-belt, she sat herself down 
beneath a tree. She sat on there for a considerable 
length of time, meditating the adventure she was 
embarking upon. Chance, however, brought her some 
fortuitious help. 

Luthfimiiisha could heat from her seat under the 
tree a dull continuous murmur that was maintained 
in its uniform key and seemed to issue from human 
throat. She started to her feet, looked about and saw 
shafts of light that cat the darkness of the wood. 
Luthfunnishii could outmatch a man in boldness so 
she guided her legs towards the place where the light 
burnt. First she reconnoitered the ground from be- 
hind the tree and observed that the light that shone 
was but the flame of the sacrificial fire and the voice 
she heard was the sound of incantation. She distin- 
guished a sound in the midst of chants which she 
deciphered to be a name. At the mention of the name 
Luthfunnisha approached the man who was feeding the 
sacrificial fire and seated herself in proximity to him. 

Let her be seated there for the present. But as 
the reader has not heard of Kapalkundala, for a long 
time, we must needs enquire her "goings on." 



PART IY. 



CHAPTEK I. 



lii bed -chamber. 

It took Luthfunnisha almost a year to complete 
lier return journey to Agra and thence to move down to 
Saptagram where Kapalkundala lived over a year as 
Nabokumar's wife. The same evening, when Luth 
funnisha was out on her excursion amidst the wood, 
Kapalkundala sat in her bed-room in an abstracted 
mood of mind. She was not the self-same Kapalkundala 
whom the reader saw on the sea-beach, unadorned, 
with her loose curls flowing down her waist. The 
prophecy of Shyamasundari has materialised and the 
hermit girl with the touch of the philosopher's stone 
has bloomed into a full-fledged housewife. 

Now the mass of her raven-dark hair that once 
hung out in heavy serpent-like coils, sweeping down 
her waist-line, has been gathered up and twisted in a 
massive knot that perched high on the back of her 
head. The braiding of locks even was worked up 
into an elaborate art-work and the fine skilled designs 
and figures displayed in the pleating spoke highly of 
Shyamasundari's finished style of hair-dressing. Every 
detail was faithfully attended to. Even the chaplet 
of flowers that encircled, like a coronet, the base of her 
braided coil, was not lost sight of. The unbiaided locks 



1 1 2 K AP ALKUNDALA . 

of loose hair maintained not a uniform level of height 
on the crown of her head because of their crispness. So 
these ringlets showed themselves in small dark waves 
on the surface. The face is no longer half-concealed 
amidst her thick folds of hair. Rather it shone out 
bright and radiant. Only at places, the loosened stray 
locks caked on to parts bedewed with moisture. The 
skin displayed the same colour the silver grey of a 
half-moon. Now gold ear-rings suspended from her 
ears and a gold necklace hung round her neck. The 
brightness of the gold rather than paling before the 
lustre of the skin gained in effect like the night- 
flowers adding to the charms of the sweet earth bathed 
in a flood of the weird mellow light of a quarter moon. 
The figure was draped in a piece of white cloth which 
appeared a milky cloud sailing in the silvery sky 
flooded with the splendours of a glorious moon. The 
skin showed the same gleam of moon -shine though 
it looked to have acquired a darker tinge than before 
like a speck of black cloud gathering in some distant 
corner of the far-off horizon. Kapalkundala was not 
seated alone, having Shyamasundari by her side. 
We shall narrate a portion of the conversation passing 
between them to our reader. 

"How long will the brother-in-law stay here V 
enquired Kapalkundala. 

"He leaves to-morrow evening" replied Shyama- 
sundari. "Alas ! If I could but root up the medicinal 
plant to-night, I would have scored a success over him 
in taming him into . submission. But what indignities 



KAPATJCUNDALA. 113 

did I not suffer because of my last night's escapade ! 
So how can I go out this night also F 

"Does it not yield tha same effect, if pulled out, at 
daytime ?" 

"How can it be of the same virtue if up-rooted 
during day-light hours ? It must be taken out just at 
midnight, in loose hair, if it is to have any etticacy at 
all. Well, sister, that cherished hope of my heart 
shall never have its realisation." 

"Right. I have myself seen the plant at day-time, 
to-day, and have, besides, seen the jungle it grows in. 
You must needs make no stirring to-night. I alone 
would bring you the plant." 

"Our mind is not a clean slate, so we must take 
stock of our experience. What has happened one day 
may not happen over again. You must not go out at 
night-time anymore." 

"You have no reason to have any anxiety on that 
score. You might have heard that night-walk grew 
up into a habit with me since my clftldhood and you 
must bear in mind that, if it had not been the case, I 
would never have come into your midst, and these 
eyes could not have shone upon you." 

"It is due to no fear that I say that. Does it behove 
a house-hold maid or wife to wander in wood and forest 
at night-time ? When we received that sharp rebuke 
despite our combined moves the other day, think, what 
it would come to, if you venture out alone at night f 

"What harm is there ? Do you imagine I would 
count a lost character for my mere night outing ?* 



ii4 KAPALKUNDALA. 

"I never think that way. But bad people may 
badly speak of you." 

' fc Let them say as they like. The taint shall never 
touch me." 

"We can't pass things to drift that way, as any ill- 
talk about you, will cut us to the quick." 

"Let not yourselves be so touchy." 

"I can stand even that much. But why should you 
make my brother unhappy ?" 

Kapalkundala cast a significant glance of her big 
bright eyes towards Shyamasundari and said "*If it 
destroys his peace of mind, then there is no help for 
it. If I could but know that wedlock is a serfdom, 
I would never have suffered myself to be led to the 
marriage altar then !" 

What followed then grew distasteful to Shyama- 
sundari. So she left the place and went about her 
own work. Kapalkundala, as well, busied herself in 
doing the daily round of her household duties. Having 
finished her day-work, she left the house in quest of 
the drug. The first watch of the night passed away. It 
was moonlight then. Nabokumar was seated in a 
room in the front wing of his house, so he could 
clearly see, through the window-bars, Kapalkundala 
steal away from it. No sooner he saw this than he 
went out and, going forward at quick step, grasped her 
by her arm. Mrinmoyee turned back and questioned 
"What is the matter r 

"Where are you going" asked Nabokumar. He 
had not the slightest ring of reproof in his voice. 



K APALKUNDALA. 115 

"Shyamasimdari wants to charm her husband," 
replied Kapalkundala '-so I am going to search the 
drug." 

fci Good" added Nabokumar in his former silky voice. 
"You had already been out overnight. What is the use 
of going over again to-night ?" 

"I could not find it out last night. So I would 
essay my second try this time." 

"Very well," said Nabokumar in his blandest tone 
"You might as well conduct the search at day-time." 
His voice was full of pathos. 

"The day-light finding won't give the desired effect" 
-rejoined Kapalkundala. 

"What necessity is there for your drug-searching? 
Just tell me the name of the plant and I shall bring 
you the tiling/' 

'I know the plant but do not know the name* 
Besides, if you root it up, it won't serve the purpose. 
It is for women to pull it out in loose hair. So you 
should not put a spoke into other's wheel." "Kapal- 
kundala had a tone of displeasure in her words. 

Nabokumar made no further objection and added 
"Move on. I shall accompany you." 

Kapalkundala with a touch of swagger replied 
"Come and see with your own eyes if I hold not the 
plighted troth." 

Nabokumar could not speak a word more. With 
a sigh he dropped down Kapalkundala's hand and got 
back home. Kapalkundala alone went on her way 
and entered the wood. 



CHAPTER II. 



In the wood. 

A little mention has been made before of the 
wooded character of this side of Saptagram. A thick 
forest lay at a short distance from the village. Kapa!- 
kundala wended along a narrow sylvan alley to hunt 
out the drug. The night was sweet and cool and an 
unearthly stillness hung in the air. In the vernal 
nightsky was the cold shining moon cleaving her 
way silently athwart the fleecy clouds. The forest 
trees and creepers were shimmering noiselessly in 
the cold moonlight on the earth below. Smoothly 
did tree-leaves reflect the moon-beam and softly did 
milk white flowers put forth their blossoms inside the 
shrubs and foliage. The whole country-side was bathed 
in a gracious peace. The atmospheric closeness was 
hardly punctuated with the occasional wing-flutter of 
'birds disturbed in their night-roosts with the crackle 
of a dead leaf falling down on the earth with the 
whish of the serpent kind crawling amidst dry leaves 
lying about underneath and with the faint barking of 
some night dogs at a far-off distance. It was not that 
no wind was blowing it was the soft, refreshing, 
Tippling breath of the spring. It was as much soft 
and silent a$ shook the top-leaves of trees, tossed the 
verdure and foliage bowing down to the eartlj, 



KAPALKUNDALA. 1 1/ 

and drifted the b roken vapoury clouds scudding along 
the deep blue nightsky. The soft touch of that 
gentle sigh of wind was only awakening in one's mind 
the reminiscences of the past happiness experienced 
with such an association. 

The remembrance of Kapalkundala slowly and 
gradually flew back to her jolly good old days and 
was reviving the past with all its realism. She re- 
membered the surf-touched cool sea-breeze that play- 
fully shook her dishevelled hair on the sand-dunes 
of the Bahari. She gazed into the unrelenting blue 
of the sky and recollection brought back to her mind 
the cameo-cut impressions of the boundless stretch of 
the sea resembling the vast deep azure of the sky over- 
head. With a heart heavy with such reflections did 
Kapalkundala walk onward. 

In her distracted mood of mind she never gave a 
thought either to the object of her mind or the scene 
of her action. The track she was following proved 
gradually impassable. The forest grew denser and the 
moon-beam was almost entirely intercepted by the 
thickly interlaced branches and leaves making an arch- 
way above until by degrees the narrow pathway was 
blotted out from her eyes. Through the uncertainty 
of the forest-path, Kapalkundala awoke from her deep 
reverie and the real conception of the truth was burnt 
into her soul. She cast up her eyes on all sides and 
saw a light burning in the distant reaches of that thicket* 
Luthfunnisha, too, had similarly observed this glow 
of light before. Kapalkundala, as a result of her past 



1 1 8 KAPALKUNDALA. 

habits, was always bold and on the tip-toe of curiosity 
on such occasions. So she slowly headed towards 
the glimmering light. No body could be found there 
where the fire was glowing. But at a few yard's 
distance stood a dilapidated house which was invisible 
from a distance on account of the forest shadows. 

The house, though brick-built, was very mean and 
ordinary, and consisted of one room only. The sound 
of hushed human voices was heard issuing from it. 
Kapalkundala with cat-like paces approached the outer 
wall and, no sooner she gained it, than it appeared two 
men were conversing in whisper. At first she could 
not make out anv meaning from the indistinct words 

* o 

but, afterwards, her repeated efforts set an edge on 
her hearing and she read the following conversation. 

"Death is my objective*' said one voice "But in 
case, you don't agree, I can't bring myself to help you. 
I also don't want any assistance from you in the ful- 
filment of my design." 

"I, too, never count a well-wisher" replied the other 
voice. "But I wish her rather to be sacked and packed 
off, for good, to some distant place than to be myself 
an abettor in her murder. On the other hand, I shall 
oppose the act," 

"Thou art foolish and insensate," joined the first 
voice "so I must impart some wisdom to you. Now 
give me your, undivided attention as I shall unfold some 
deep-hidden secret. Meanwhile, go out and have a 
searching glance, all around, as I seem to hear human 
respiration." 



K AP ALKUNDALA. 1 1 9 

As a matter of fact, Kapalkundala stood almost in 
touch with the house-wall, posing her fine head intently 
to catch the faint sound inside and breathed deep and 
hard like a tiny pair of bellows out of white-hot eager- 
ness and terror. 

At the companion's behest, one of the plotters 
came out and at once perceived Kapalkundala who 
also distinctly saw the person's contour and lineaments 
in the clear moon-light in the glade. Hardly could 
she make out whether her spirit lifted or fell at the 
sight- She found the stranger in Brahmin-garb in 
dhoti and the exterior well-covered under a muslin. 
The Brahmin looked of tender age with the 
down of youth hardly visible on the upper lip. The 
face was exceedingly beautiful as beautiful as that 
of a woman but unlike women it was full of glowing 
spirit and pride. The hair, quite unusual with men 
showed no sign of a razor's touch and being undipped, 
as with women, crowded upon the muslin and be- 
spread the back, the shoulder, the arm and, least of all, 
the bosom. The forehead was broad and high, though 
a bit swollen with a solitary vein showing out in the 
middle the eyes full of brilliance as of lightning 
flashes and a long "drawn sword in the hand. But 
amidst all this colouring, gleamed a spectre of fright- 
fulness, as if, a black gaunt shadow of a dark, sinister 
design lent its pigment to the lustrous gold of the 
skin. The glance, keen as a knife-blade, cut into 
Kapalkundala's heart. Both stared on at each other's 
face for sometime. Kapalkundala was the first to 



1 20 KAPALKUNDALA. 

flutter her eyelids and, with the frst flutter, the 
stranger asked "Who are you ?" 

If a year ago, the same question would , have been 
put to Kapalkundala in the forest of Hijli, then her 
response would have been quick and pertinent. But 
she now partook of the character of a gentle-born 
house- wife. So she could not make any immediate 
rejoinder. 

The Brahmin-looking person seeing Kapalkundala 
demur added in a grave tone "KapaKkimdala, what has 
brought you to this deep part of the forest in this dead 
of night?" 

She was in wild stupefaction to hear her name on 
the lips of an unknown night-walker and looked a bit 
scared. So no instantaneous reply issued from her 
lips. 

"Have you heard the conversation passing between 
us T querried the Brahmin-attired person again. 

All on a sudden did Kapalkundala regain her lost 
speech. 

"I, too, am asking you the same question" said ?he 
without answering the querry. "What a dark plot 
were you two hatching at this depth of night in this 
depth of forest?" 

The man with the Brahmin's appearance remained 
mute and silent, for a short while, his mind lost in 
thoughts. Suddenly, a new scheme seemed to evolve- 
itself in his mind congenial to his purpose. He 
advanced and grasped Kapalkundala's arm and under 
his firm grip led off her to a place, a little removed from 



KAPALKUNDALA. 121 

the dilapidated house. But Kapalkundala, indignantly, 
tore herself away from his clutch whea the Brahmin- 
guised man brought his mouth near Kapalkundala's 
^ar and spoke in a soft undertone "Have no fear. I 
am not a man." 

Kapalkundala was all the more startled at this. 
She partly believed the words though the words 
could not carry their full weight with hen She 
followed the person in Brahmin's habit and when the 
two reached a spot from where the house was lost 
to sight, the latter whispered into the former's ear 
"Do you want to hear what a yarn we were spinning ? 
It concerned you only/' 

This whetted Kapalkundala's eagerness and she 
said "Yes." 

"Wait here till I return" joined the other. 

Then the sham Brahmin retraced his steps towards 
the ruined house while Kapalkundala. was left seated 
there alone. But what she saw and heard excited 
sorre fear within her. While seated alone, in the dark 
deep forest, her anxiety waxed intensified. Because, 
who could divine the motive why the false man left 
her seated there alone ? Might be, she was kept there 
waiting to give the masqueraded Brahmin the facility 
for the execution of his dark sinister design I On the 
other hand the disguised Brahmin was overdue to re- 
^nter his appearance. So Kapalkundala could not 
wait any longer. She rose to her feet and quickened 
lier steps to get back home. 

At that time black rolling clouds gathered in the 



122 KAPALKUNDALA. 

horizon. The lowering sky took on a leaden hue that 
drew its drab lines across everything. The insufficient 
light that struggled into the wood through the inter- 
stices of luxuriant foliage grew smaller and it could 
scarcely direct Kapalkundala on to the track. So 
she could not tarty a moment longer. She went her 
way back in hurried steps in order to issue out of 
the forest. While on the retreat, she thought she 
heard a second man's foot-falls behind. But on look- 
ing back, her eyes could not peer through the thick 
cloak of gathering gloom. She believed the Brahmin- 
garbed person to have been dogging her steps. So she 
left the forest-belt and re-entered the previously spoken 
wood-path. The place was less dark here and so a 
man happening to be in the line of vision was sure to 
be discerned. But so far nothing was visible. Accord- 
ingly she acclerated her speed. But again the shadow- 
ing footsteps distinctly struck her ear. The skj r was 
thickly overcast and the dark grey thunder-clouds 
looked all the more threatening. Kapalkundala threw 
in an extra ounce of energy into her gait. Before 
the gleam of the house-top sticking across the ground 
met her eyes, the storm burst with the savage snarl 
of a tornado and rain began in torrents. Kapalkundala 
dashed forward. She guessed from the footsteps be- 
hind that the other man also ran. The thunder-storm 
had pursued its mad career over her head, before she 
reached the door-step. Thunder clapped and the air 
vibrated with the crash of terrific electric discharges. 
The sky opened sheets of flame that played in zigzag 



KAPALKUNDALA. 123 

way and the rain continued its pourings. Saving her 
skin anyhow, Kapalkundala regained her homestead. 
She bounded across the yard and lightly jumped on 
to the house-terrace. The door of the room stood ajar, 
so she burst inside. No sooner she wheeled her back, 
facing the inner-yard, to close the door, than it 
appeared she saw a big burly man standing at the 
centre of the quad rangle. At this moment, the 
lightning flashed once for all and under the solitary 
gleam of that light she recognised the man. The man 
was no other than the former Kapalik who dwelt upon 
the lonely sea- shore. 



CHAPTER III. 



In dream. 

Slowly and silently Kapalkundala closed the door 
slowly and silently she crept into the bedroom 
and slowly and noiselessly she laid herself down on 
the bed-stead. Man's mind is like a boundless ocean. 
What man is there who can count the tumbling, rollick- 
ing waves that are whipped into fury by the storm 
and wind raging across its breast ? Who could reckon, 
then, the endless waves that tossed and swelled on 
the storm-swept ocean-like mind of Kapalkundala ? 

Nabokumar did not come into the inner-appart- 
ments that night through heart-sickness. So Kapal- 
kundala lay alone in her bed-room though sleep did 
never visit her eyes. She seemed to see around her, in 
the midst of darkness, that terrible face, surmounted 
by a crown of matted locks tossed up by the high wind 
and drenched in the rain that dribbled from it. Her 
mind retrospected the past events, chapter by chapter, 
as ,they happened, and dangled before her vision, the 
sloventy treatment she accorded to the Kapalik on 
the eve of her departure the fiendish acts he used 
to perpetrate in the sea-side wilderness his Bhairobi 
worship and Nabokumar's bondage and she gave an 
involuntary start. Her thoughts flew backward again 



KAPALKUNDALA. 125 

across space ahd time and recalled the same night's 
ineicteats Shyama's feverishness for the drug Nabo- 
kumar's warning Kapalkundala's admonition the 
weird moon-light beauty in the shaded glade the 
gathering gloom under the forest-trees the chance 
companion in the forest purview and the strange 
commingling of a shapely form with the leering spectre 
of horridness in him. 

When tae first glitter of the radiant dawn embla- 
zoned the east em sky, did Kapalkundala fall into a 
light sleep and in that short light sleep she saw 
dreams. It appeared she was out in a pleasure-boat 
on a joy-row across the bosom of the previously seen 
cean. The boat was gaily dressed with bunting, and 
pennons of gold and yellow flew from the peak, 
bow and port. The oarsmen rowed merrily with 
flower garlands festooned round their necks and sang 
jolly tunes of the amorous ditties of Radha Shyam. 
The sun was raining down liquid gold from the 
western sky and under the sunny shower of that 
golden cascade the sea smiled and gaily rippled by. 
Clouds scudded along the sky steeped and refreshed 
in the riotous profusion of the sparkling light and 
colour. In the midst of such 
rollicking jollity, the sun suddenly 
ame up. Dark blue clouds 
everything was kicked up intojj 
turned the head of the boat 
which way to steer her as the 
They stopped singing and tord 




126 KAPALKUNDALA. 

garlands. Flags of yellow and gold were rent through 
and the flag-staff crashed overboard. Wind rose, 
mountain-high waves leapt into fury, and out of this 
tumult of elements, a bulky man of matted locks came 
forward and, seizing one side of Kapalkundala's boat, 
was about to hurl her into the mid-ocean. At this 
psychological moment, the same person of graceful 
mien tinged with a grim humour depicted on every 
line of the face and dressed in a Brahmin's guise 
.appeared on the scene and held fast the boat. 

"Whether I shall rescue or drown you" asked he. 

"Drown me" issued from the lips of Kapalkundala. 

The seeming Brahmin gave a shove to the boat 
And the boat got her voice and spoke "I can't carry this 
load any further. Let me go deep down into the 
bowels of the earth." 

With these words, the boat flung away Kapal- 
kundala into water and went down into the pit far 
into the earth below. 

Dripping in perspiration, Kapalkundala startled out 
*f her dream and rubbed her eyes. It was dawn and 
the window stood wide open. Puffs of balmy, soft 
spring breeze came stealing into the room through 
the window Bars, Wild birds of the wood were 
singing their joyous carols amidst tree-branches 
rocked by the whld. Sundry lovely wood trailers 
laden with sweet-scented flowers traced a natural 
trellies-work arouiud . the window casement and were 
gently gesticulating Jbe/ore it. Kapalkundala, through 
her tender womanly jtature was engaged in arranging 



KAPALKUNDALA. 127 

the blossoms in a bunch and patting the blooms in 
places when lo ! a missive came out from their midst. 
Kapalkundala was brought up under, Adhicary's tute- 
lage and so she learned to read. She read the contents 
.as follows : 

"Please see the last night's Brahmin boy, after 
evening, to-night. You shall hear important things 
which you want to." 

One in Brahmin's disguise. 



CHAPTER IV. 



At the tryst. 

The same day until sundown, was Kapalkundala 
taken up, in thinking out the reasonableness of her 
meeting with the masqueraded Brahmin. She never 
paused over the profanoness of the thought for a faithful 
wife to visit, at night-time, a strange man which goes, 
always, without a social warrant. The basic idea of 
her mind was that so long there is the purity of pur- 
pose such an action can never be judged impious- 
The social claim of intercourse exclusively between 
men or women is as much a legitimate natural right as 
between men and women specially when the Brahmin- 
dressed youth is of uncertain description. So her 
qualms were set at rest. But whether such a meeting 
would produce beneficial or baneful results gave an 
uncertain outlook to the whole affair that made her 
indecisive. First, the Brahmin-like boy's conversation, 
then the Kakalik's appearance and, lastly, the dream 
all these conjoined to confirm her suspicion that she 
might have some smack of the danger that cast its 
shadows before. The flutter of a suspicion as to the 
existence of a connecting link between the advent of 
the Kapalik and some sort of evil-doing looked to 
have f ome substratum of truth. The young boy of a 
seeming Brahmin appeared to be the Kapalik's associate 



KAPALKUNDALA. 129 

and the adventure of an interview might have all the 
risk of ensnaring her into a trap deeply laid in the 
plot. Did not the disguised Brahmin clearly tell her, 
the other day, that the conspiracy was set on foot 
against her alone ? Besides, it can be suggestive 
of the beginning of the end. The man with whom 
the Brahmin-looking boy was in secret conversation 
appeared to have been the Kapalik. This is the sure 
indication that they were plotting, either, somebody's 
murder, or, transportation. Whose it might be ? When 
she was the subject of all these secret plottings and 
machinations, then her death or transportation was 
certainly being contemplated. Come what may ! Then 
the dream ! but wh.it is the significance* of it? In 
vision she saw the Brah:ain-guised boy rush forward 
to save her in the supreme moment of crisis and the 
dream now looks to have all the appearance of a reality. 
"Drown me" said she in dream to the masqueraded 
Brahmin. Is she to re-iterate the same in actuality ? 
Oh, no ! the votary-loving Bhowani graciously sent 
instructions for her preservation and the Brahmin- 
garbod youth volunteered to her rescue. Now, in 
case of refusing the help, she is sure to be drowned. 
Therefore Kapalkundala mada it a point |o see the 
young man. It is under doubt - whether a sane^tian 
would have similarly concluded. But we have nothing 
to do with sane conclusions. Kapalkundala had no 
wisdom of a wise-woman and so she had not a wise 
woman's counsel all to herself. She came by her . 
conclusion like a young woman eager after the curi*us 



130 ' KAPALKUNDALA. 

like a girl bewitched by a finely moulded form with 
a dark sinister air hanging about him like a Sannyasi- 
trained girl used to rove gaily amidst wild landscapes 
at night like a holy woman actuated under deep 
reverential feelings towards Bhowani and like an 
insect on the eve of its headlong plunge into the 
shooting flame of a burning fire. Kapalkundala finished 
her household work and set out towards the forest 
after night-fall. She had stined the lamp flame before 
she went out and the lamp burnt all the brighter. 
Scarcely she left the room when the light went out. 
She had forgot one thing before she started on her 
parlous errand. What could be the place the imposter 
of a Brahmin fixed as the meeting ground in the 
letter ? So she came back and searched the place high 
and low where she put the letter. But, alas ! no 
letter could be found there. It occured to her that 
in order to keep it on her person she had tucked it up in 
her pleated hair. Accordingly, she ran her finger nails 
in and around her braided knot. When her finger tips 
did not come across it, she unloosened her hair. 
However, the letter remained untraced as before. 
Then she rummaged every part of the house but still 
it could no^bqt found. At last, when she lost every 
traotf* of it, she thought she might see him where they 
had met before. Due to the lack of spare moments, 
she could not arrange the mass of her hair. Thus, 
she went forth, as with her unmarried days before, 
her figure within her rich glorious hair that liuwg 
dowit* all around, in wavy curls about her. 



CHAPTER V. 



On the door-step* 

When towards evening, Kapalkundala was engaged 
in doing her round of house-hold duties, the letter, 
loosening from its hold in the braided hair, fell on to the 
ground. Anyhow she was unaware of the incident. 
But Nabokumar saw the letter slipping down to 
the floor from her hair which set him wondering. 
When Kapalkundala was called away by some other 
work, he picked up the missive and read over it. The 
reading suggested the same conclusion "You will hear 
of things you, yesterday, wanted to." What is it ? 
Is it a love affair ? Is the Brahmin-looking person, 
the secret lover, of Mrinraoyee ? The story pointed 
to a single moral to the man who never knew over- 
night's occurrence. 

As when a devoted wife in practising the Suttee, 
or, for some other reasons, mounts her funeral pyre 
and sets fire to it with her own hands, then, 
first, the rolling volume of smoke iftaWfes a jgurtain 
all around, puts out the sight and blots out every- 
thing. Then, by degiees, the fire-logs begin to burn 
and crackle, the sharp tongues of flame begin to loll 
out from underneath and lick the body at places, and, 
afterwards, when the fire bursts with a terri^c roar 



132 KAPALKUNDALA. 

into a huge ring of flame, it envelopes the quick body 
and all else besides. Lastly, the leaping flames soar 
heavenward, enliven the horizon and reduce all and 
sundries to ashes. 

Nabokumar had a similar taste of sensation when 
he finished the letter. First, he could not clearly 
define it, but, next moment, dark suspicion which 
always flutters like an owl in twilight, crossed his mind, 
and, finally, the dim outlines took shape and form of 
the burning truth which left a stinging smart behind. 
Men's minds are so moulded that they are unable to 
bear extremes of pleasure and pain. First, the dense 
smoke and fume sorrounded Nabokumar, then, the 
lire set his soul alight and, lastly, the flame burnt 
out his heart-string. He had already marked Kapal- 
kundala's rebelliousness in many respects. Besides, 
inspite of all his warnings, she always went out 
alone of her own free will and choice and deported 
irresponsibly with each and everybody* Moreover, 
she never cared to mind his words and would rather 
move about, unattended, in his nightly wanderings 
amidst forest and wilderness. Other people might 
have their suspicions, but, Nabokumar, apprehen- 
ding, that tmce the green-eyed jealously is aroused, 
it? torment will be as much a hellish fire as the 
never-quenching stinging bite of a scorpion, never 
harboured any distrust about the good conduct of 
Kapalkundala for a single day. He would never 
have entertained such a feeling even this day. But 
these were no mere doubts any longer that 



KAPALKUNDALA. 133 

-crystalised in unchallenged hard facts. He sat 
mute and alone for sometime and wept hot tears of 
sorrow. The free vent of tears brought him some 
relief and. then, he settled his line of action. He 
determined in his mind that he would throw up no 
hints to Kapalkundala, but would, rather, follow 
her, when in the evening, she would go out into the 
forest, see with his own eyes her sinful enactments 
and then, at last, violently cut short his own miserable 
existence. He would kill his ownself rather than 
communicating anything to Kapalkundala. What other, 
alternative was left open to him ? He was unable to 
muster sufficient strength to bear the fardels of 
humanity any longer. 

Having thus made up his mind, he fixed his eyes 
upon the back-exit of the house on the look-out for 
Kapalkundala's outing. Kapalkundala, as usual, went 
out and after she had traversed some distance, Nabo- 
kumar also left the house and followed her. But 
she was seen retracing her steps again to have a look 
at the previously spoken lost letter whereupon Nabo- 
kumar gave her a slip. Afterwards, when Kapalkundala 
walked out of the house for the last time and crossed 
over some ground forward, did Nabokujnar issue out 
of the back-door to do his shadowing work. Just at 
this moment, the outline of a big bulky man was 
thrown up against the doorway darkening the threshold* 
What that man might be and what business had he 
to let fall his shadow across the door-step, Nabokumar 
had no mind to enquire, lea^t of all, he scarcely 



134 KAPALKUNDALA. 

bestowed even a look upon him. All he bustled about 
was to follow Kapalkundala with his eyes. So he 
gave the big man a big push in his breast in order to 
clear his \vay though the big push could scarcely shove 
him an inch. 

"What are you ? Get you gone. Make room for me" 
burst from Nabokumar's lips. 

"Who am I ?" exclaimed the stranger "Don't you 
know me ?" 

The deep bass voice had the resonance of the sea. 
Nabokumar looked up and saw him, his former acquaint* 
ance, the Kapalik, with a crown of matted locks trail- 
ing down on all sides. Nabokumar was startled but 
not frightened. 

A ray of hope darted across Nabokumar's face and 
he, immediately, asked "Is Kapalkundala going out to 
see you V 

"Oh ! No" answered the Kapalik. 

The last ray of hope had departed before it gleamed 
and dark shadows flitted across Nabokumar's face. 

"Don't cross my path anymore" uttered Nabo- 
kumar. 

"I will let you pass" said the Kapalik "but you 
must hear me, first, what I shall speak to you." 

"Words I have none with you" cried out Nabo- 
kumar. "Do you hover after me to take my life again ? 
Slay me this time and I shall not any more thwart 
you. Now, wait here till I come back. Why did I 
not give up my mortal flesh to appease gods ? As 
I have sowed so I reap now. She who preserved the 



KAPALKUHDALA. 135 

sacred flame of my life is extinguishing it now. 
Kapalik, you must not distrust me any longer. No 
sooner I get back than I will surrender my body to 
you." 

"I have looked in here" said the Kapalik "not for 
your annihilation as this is never the will of 
Bhowaui. I have called at this quarter to settle 
some old accounts which must needs have your 
approval. Lead me into the house, first, and listen 
what I say to you. 

"Not now" joined Nabokumar *I shall lend you 
my ears afterwards. Wait here for the present and 
let me come back after despatch of some urgent work." 

"My son, I know everything. You are going to 
follow that miscreant. I know perfectly well where 
she will go. I will take you with me there and show 
you over the place. Now hear what I say and take 
no fright on any account.* 

**I have no longer any fear from you. Come along." 

Then, Nabokumar took the Kapalik inside his house 
and gave him a small mat to sit upon. Having seated, 
himself near him, he said "Just begin * 



CHAPTER VI. 



In conversation. 

Having taken his seat, the Kapalik showed Nabo- 
kumar his two hands which were broken. 

The reader may remember that the same night 
when Nabokumar fled from the sea-shore in company 
of Kapalkundala, the Kapalik, in hunting down 
the couple, fell from the cre^t of a sand -hill. In 
course of his fall to the earth, he tried to save his 
body by clutching the ground with his two hands. 
Thus he saved his body but could not save his arms 
which were fractured. He narrated the whole story 
to Nabokumar in detail and then said U I feel not 
much difficulty in going through my daily necessary 
work though I possess no strength in them. They 
are of no service to me, even, in collecting dry sticks 
of wood." 

Afterwards, he said "At the moment, I fell to the 
earth, I could not feel that my hands were fractured 
though the body was uninjured, as I swooned away 
at the time. First I lay in a perfect comatose 
state which was later on broken by half-conscious states. 
I have no clear recollection how long I lay in 
this condition but at its rough guess it might be 
estimated at two nights and one day. It was in the 



KAPALKUNDALA. 137 

morning that I came to. Exactly before this, I 
had a dream, "As if Bhowani* and at this stage a 
shudder passed through his framework "as if Bhowani 
appeared in flesh and form before me and brow-beat 
and chid me. She then said 'Wretch, you hindered 
the true and right form of my worship through the 
uncleanliness of your soul. You did not so long 
worship me with this maid's blood owing to your 
ulterior evil purpose. So through this girl, the merits 
of your previous good acts will be destroyed. I shall 
never more accept any oiTcrings from youV* 

Then I sobbed aloud and rolled at the feet of the 
Mother who was then pleased to say 'Gentleborn, I 
prescribe the only means of atonement for you. I want 
you to sacrifice that Kapalkundala before me. Wor- 
ship me not till you have fulfilled your mission'." 

It is unnecessary to narrate here, how and when, I 
recovered. But, no sooner had I become a convalescent 
than I set about to carry out the orders of Bhowani. 
Then, I found that I had not a baby's strength left 
in my arms and that my labours can never fructify 
with a pair of powerless hands. So I must needs 
have a helpmate. But the work of religious merits 
is not the forte of the average people, now-a-days, the 
more so, in this iron age, when men do not make it 
their worth while to come of any service to the work- 
ing out of a noble mission for fear of punishment as 
their acts are calculated to be judged prejudicially by 
the biased minds of authorities. After a prolonged 
search, I have discovered this wretch's habitation. 



138 KAPALKUNDALA. 

But due to no strength in ray arms, I could not fulfil 
the words of Bhowani. I am in the habit of perform- 
ing my rites according to Tantrick rules in order to 
attain my ends. Last night, when I kept alight the 
sacrificial fire, I saw with my own eyes Kapalkundala, 
with love warm upon her, in flirtation with a young 
Brahmin. This evening, too, is she going out to see 
him. If you have a mind to look on at the scene, 
you can co:iie off with me and I will show you over 
the place." My son, Kapalkundala is worth sacrificing. 
I will slay her in obedience to Bhowani's call. She 
has, besides, proved faithless to you, so she is punishable 
with death before your eyes. Give me the necessary 
help by seizing this miscreant and conducting her 
to the sacrificial ground. Slay her, therefore, with 
your own hand and this will wash the sin you 
committed before God and men. By this, you will 
earn religious merits of a far-reaching character the 
girl accused of her marriage infidelity shall meet with 
her condign punishment and, lastly, it will furnish a 
fitting denouement to a work of noble revenge." 

The Kapalik finished his speech but Nabokumar 
niade no reply. Tho Kapalik watched this muteness 
in Nabokumar and urged "My son, do you wish to 
see, now, what I promised to show you over ?" 

Reeking in perspiration, Nabokumar followed the 
Kapalik. 



CHAPTER VIL 



Greeting with co-wife. 

Kapalkundala, coining out of the house, entered 
the wood. First, she went inside the ruined house 
where she had met the Brahmin boy. If it would 
have been day-light, she could have seen the pallor 
on his face. The made-up Brahmin said faintly to 
Kapalkundala, *As the Kapalik might turn up here, 
we should not have any talk at this place. So, let us 
go somewhere else." 

Amidst the greenery, was some clean space with 
trees on all sides and a track issuing out of it. The 
youth in Brahmin's attire took Kapalkundala there 
and, both having seated, said "Let me open my own 
story first. This will enable you to judge how far 
my words are faithfully correct. When, in company 
of your husband, you were coming from the Hijli 
side, you met with a Javan woman on the way. Do 
you remember that V 

Kapalkundala "She who gave me ornaments ?" 

"Yes, I am she." 

Kapalkundala was much astonished- Luthfunnisha 
marked her astonishment and said "There is reason 
of a greater wonder I am your husband's co-wife." 
Kapalkundala was lost in wonder and cried "How 
is it ?Hfc 



140 KAPALKUNDALA. 

Luthfunnisha, then, recounted the full chapter of 
her past career, incident by incident. She spoke every- 
thing marriage ostracism divorce by husband 
Dacca Agra Jehangir Meherunnisha quitting of 
Agra living in Saptagram meeting with Nabokumar 
Nabokumar's treatment last night's incognito visit to 
the wood and chance acquaintance with the sacrificial 
Brahmin. Now Kapalkundala asked "With what 
object did you wish to visit our house ?* 

"To separate you from your husband." 

Kapalkundala fell into a thoughtful air and enquired 
"How could you gain your end ?" 

"At present, I would have engrafted a doubt on 
your husband's mind as to your fidelity. But truce 
to such a talk as I have forsaken that path. Now, if 
you follow my advice, then, through you alone I may 
attain my object, while at the same time, you will be 
benefited." 

"What name did you hear issue from the sacrificial 
Brahmin's throat ?" 

"It is yours. I bowed to him and sat down to 
divine his motive, good or bad, in kindling the sacri- 
ficial fire. When the ceremony ended, I asked him 
by trick of words, why he offered sacrifices in your 
name. A few minute's conversation convinced me that 
to harm you was the object of his sacrifice. I was, 
also, similarly disposed and I let him know this. 
Immediately, we struck up an agreement for mutual 
help and co-operation. Then he conducted me inside 
the broken house for special instruction where he 



KAPALKUNDALA. 141 

expressed his real motive. Your death is his object but 
I shall reap no benefit from it. I have committed dajk 
deeds all my life but I have not so far advanced on that 
sinful path as to cause death of a guileless innocent girl 
without any ground whatsoever. So I did not fall 
in with his view. At this moment you came on the 
spot and, might be, you heard some thing." 

'*! heard some discussion of that sort." 

"That man took me for a fool and offered me some 
advice, I placed you in hiding in the forest in order 
to know the trend of the whole thing and give you 
proper intimation. 1 ' 

"But why did you not come back again ?" 

"He said many things and so it delayed me to hear 
his detailed story. You are sure to know him per- 
fectly well. Cam you guess who he might be ?" 

"My former patron, the Kapalik. ' 

u My faith ! He it is." 

'He gave me a detailed account of how he obtained 
you on the sea-side your up-bringing there Nabo- 
kumar's appearance and your flight with him. Be- 
sides, he told me what happened after you had fled 
with Nabokumar. You don't know what it is all this 
but I will tell you everything in detail." After this, 
Luthfunnisha told her every thingthe Kapalik's fall 
from the hill-top his fracture of arms and the dream. 
Kapalkundala was electrified to hear the dream and a 
galvinistic shock ran through her heart 

Lutfunnisha continued. "The Kapalik is bent 
upon carrying out the orders of Bhowani, But, 



142 KAPALKUNDALA. 

without strength in his arms, he stands in need of a 
second man's help. He knew me for a Brahmin boy 
and so he told me everything, I never had been 
a party to his evil motive though I can not believe 
my tempestuous mind. I can dare say I shall never 
agree to his proposal. On the other hand, I shall 
make every endeavour to thwart his purpose. I pro- 
posed this meeting in order to let you know everything, 
though I have not done this from a selfless pious motive. 
You must do something for me in return for the life 1 
give you back." 

"What can I do for you ?" answered Kapal- 
kundada. 

"Save me forsake your husband.*' 
Kapalkundala did not speak for a length of time. 
Then, she added '-Where shall I go by renouncing 
my husband ?" 

"Into an unknown country far away. 1 shall give 
you palace wealth servants and servant-maids sind 
you will spend your days like a princess." 

Kapalkundala again set about thinking. Her mind's 
eye swept all over the wide wide world but could not 
see any familiar face there. She looked into her heart 
but, strange ! she could not find Nabokumar there. 
Then why on earth should she be a thorn in the path 
of Luthfunnisha's happiness ? 

So she said to Luthfunnisha "1 can't realise now 
whether you have bestowed any benefit upon me. I 
don't care for your palace wealth land servants 
and servant-maids. But why should I stand in the 



KAPALKUNDALA. 143 

way of your happiness ? God speed you success ! 
From to-morrow, you shall hear no more of this 
wrong-doer. A forest-wanderer had I been and a 
forest-wanderer shall I be." 

Luthfunnisha was struck to hear this as she never 
looked for such a prompt assent. Charmed with the 
reply, she began "Sister, live long ! you have given 
me a new life. But I shall never allow you to go away 
in a helpless condition. Go forth with a trusty clever 
servant whom I shall send you to-morrow morning. 
There is a lady friend of mine who holds a high position 
in Burdwan. She will supply your every want and 
aecessity." 

Luthfunnisha and Kapalkundala were so deep in 
conversation that they could not look there were 
breakers ahead. Neither of them could see that 
Nabokumar and the Kapalik, standing by the path- 
way that ran from the sheltering place, were darting 
tierce glances at them. 

Nabokumar and the Kapalik simply looked on at 
them as, unfortunately, due to distance, they could not 
hear a word of the conversation. If men's ears could 
hear as much as men's eyes can see, who knows 
whether the load of human misery would have become 
all the more light or heavy I This Dearth is God's 
strange handiwork. '^i^k^li 

Nabokumar saw that KapallrimMps untied hair 
fell across her back in profusia^p^ used to never 
braid her hair only when she w^^Sjjl own. Besides, 
he saw her mass of hair, sweepi^ : ^j|Bie back of. the 



144 KAPALKUNDALA. 

Brahmin y'outh, intermingled with his side-locks. At 
this, his knees involuntarily bent together and, slowtly 
and gradually, he sat himself down on the earth. 

When the Kapalik jnotjced it, he took out a cocoa- 
nut shell that was fastened on his girdle and said u My 
son, you are losing strength. Drink this heroic medi- 
cine which is BhowanPs offering as this will restore 
your strength." 

The Kapalik held up the vessel near Nabokumar's 
lips whereupon he drank oil the contents at a draught 
and thus quenched his thirst. He knew not that the 
sweet drink was brewed by the Kapalik's own hands 
and so was a wine of terrible strength. The 
stimulant gave him power. 

On the otherhand, Luthfunnishu softly said to 
Kapalkundala, "Sister, it is not in my power to requite 
the good you have done me. But I will think it a 
happiness if I get a niche in your heart. I have heard 
the ornaments, I made you a present of, you have- 
given to the poor. 1 have nothing valuable on my 
person now. i have brought a ring concealed under 
the hair of my head with some ulterior object for to- 
morrow's use. But, God willing, I am spared the 
'of it. Keep this ring ~ treat it as a souvenir 

! -remember your Javau sister afterwards. If hus- 
' band questions you, to-day, about this ring tell him you 
have received -it from Luthfunnisha. So saying, 
Lutiifunnisha took out a costly ring from her finger and 
handed it to Kapalkundala. Nabokumar saw all this 
and, though ipcter the firm grip of the Kapalik, he 



KAPALKUNDALA. 145 

trembled from head to foot. The Kapalik gave him 
another dose of that strong new wine which directly 
went up to his head. The wine killed all his best 
instincts and put out the little spark of humanity left in 
him. 

Kapalkundala took leave of Luthfunnisha and went 
homeward. Subsequently, Nabokumar and the Kapa- 
lik followed her along an alley, unobserved by Luth- 
funnisha. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



Homeward. 

Slowly and wearily Kapalkundala turned her steps 
homeward. Slowly and wearily she plodded her way 
back. The reason was she had been wrapt up in deep 
thought and meditation. The news of Luthfunnisha 
wrought a change in the stream of her thoughts. She 
was ready for self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice for whom ? 
for Luthfunnisha ? Oh, No ! 

Kapalkundala was by nature endowed with a 
Tantrtck's instincts. As the Tantrick always feels 
remorseless in sacrificing other's lives to earn the good 
graces of the Kalika, so Kapalkundala was ever ready 
to lay down her own life for the same purpose. It was 
not like the Kapalik that her whole existence was 
treated a^ a mere abstraction for the attainment of 
divine favour. But the perception of the practice of 
piety and devotion to the Divine Energy as manifest in 
Kalika with her oNvn eyes and ears, by night and day, 
as her habitual religious observances inspired 
f onsiderable portion of her reverential feelings 
vards the deity. She conceived the idea of Kali as 
the ruler of the creation and the bestower of salvation. 
Imbued wittfsoft lender feelings, she could not bear 
to see the altar of the goddes dyed red in human blood. 
But, in no other particulars, would she permit of any 



KAPALKUNDALA. 147 

breach of observance. That goddess -the ruler of 
the universe the dispenser of joys and sorrows and 
the giver of final beatitude now bade her in a dream 
to sacrifice her own life. Why would she not carry 
out her behest ? 

You or I do not court death. We are happy despite 
what we say to the contrary in a fit of petulance. 
We move in grooves and spin in this world in quest 
of happiness and not of sorrow. If ever the conse- 
quences of our action defeat our expectations we bawl 
out life is a misery. Then the conclusion is that 
sorrow is an exception and not the rule. You and I 
enjoy happiness and that happiness binds us to the 
world and makes us loth to leave it. Love is the 
strongest bond of life. But Kapalkundala had not 
that binding in fact she had no binding at all. What 
else was there, then, to hold her back ? 

That thing is irresistible in its course which knows 
no check. When a stream leaps down from the 
mountain side who is there to stem its flow ? ' Once 
the air is set in motion who can prevent its blowing. 
When Kapalkundala lost the equanimity of her mind 
who would restore its equilibrium ? When once the 
young tusker gets infuriated who can quiet it down ? 

Kapalkundala questioned her heart "Why should 
I not consecrate this fleshy body at the feet of $p 
Goddess ? What shall I do with this gross mass male 
up of five elements ? She put the question but could 
not receive any clear reply. Our body has a tie of 
its own even when life loses all its bindings. 



148 KAPALKUNDALA. 

Kapalkundala moved onward, her heart heavy with 
gloomy thoughts. When human mind is under the 
sway of some powerful emption that blots out the 
sense-perception of the outer world, then preternatural 
things sometime visualise before the eyes. Such was 
the case with Kapalkundala. 

She seemed to hear a voice from above "My child, 
let me show the way." 

Kapalkundala startled and cast her eyes heaven- 
ward. She seemed to see a figure in the sky of the 
colour of newly-formed clouds. Drops of blood were 
seen dribbling from the human heads strung round the 
neck human 'hands dangling from the waist a human 
skull in the left handblood streaming down the 
body forehead beaming with an ineffable lustre 
and a young moon shining at the corner of the 
brilliant eyes as if the goddess Bhairobi was beckon- 
ing Kapalkundala by raising her right hand. Kapal- 
kundala proceeded with her face turned upward to- 
wards the apparition that wore the complexion of 
new cloulds and sped along the sky in front of her. 

That vision set off with a garland of human skwllsr 
sometimes hid under clouds and at other times sprang 
to her eyes. 

This was seen neither by Nabokumar nor th 
Kapalik. Nabokumar under the influence of wine that 
aroused his passion grew impatient at the slow step 
of Kapalkundala and broke forth "Kapalik !" 

"Anything the matter 1* asked the Kapalik. 

"Give me more drink" said Nabokumar. 



KAPALKUNDALA. 149 

The Kapalik again administered him some wine. 

"Is there any more delay ?" asked Nabokumar 
.again. 

"'What is the use of any more delay V chimed in 
the Kapalik. 

"Kapalkundala" issued the thundering voice of 
Nabokumar. 

Kapalkundala started at the sound. Of late, no 
body called her by that name. She turned sharply 
round and stood facing him at which Nabokumar and 
the Kapalik came before her. She could not recognise, 
at first, any of them and said "What are you ? Are 
you the messengers of death ?" 

But the next moment she recognised them and 
uttered u No, No ! Father, Have you come to 
sacrifice me :" 

Nabokumar caught hold of Kapalkundala with a 
firm grasp. But the Kapalik in a tender trembling 
voice said "My child, follow us." 

So saying, he led off the party in the direction of 
the burning ground. Kapalkundala raised her face 
skyward and looked up where she had seen that fright* 
ful form speeding along the sky. Here she saw again 
that apparition in female form drunk with war-passion 
and mad for affray, a peal of laughter breaking from her 
lips, and with a long trident directing her on to the pathr 
way followed by the Kapalik. Kapalkundala, as one 
infatuated by destiny, silently went behind the 
Kapalik* Nabokumur, as before, held her fast by he* 
Jhand and went 



CHAPTER IX. 

Where last rites are paid to the 
departed humanity. 

The moon went down leaving the world to dark- 
ness. The Kapalik conducted Kapalkundala to the 
place of worship on a sand-bank bordering on the 
Ganges. In front of it lay another sand- ridge of a 
bigger size where stood the burning ground. 

Very little water enterdinto the deep ravine between 
the two ridges at flood time so much so that it was left, 
high and dry, when the stream flowed back. Now there 
was no water in it. 1 The side of the burning ground 
facing the Ganges was high and precipitious so that 
any one trying to land into the river risked a fall into 
the deep water below. Besides, these sand-banks 
gradually worn away at the base by the wind-swept 
waves,breaking against their sides,sometimes, gave way 
and slipped down into the river depth. There was 
no light on the place of worship where a little fire was , 
glowing on a piece of wood and the faint glimmer ^f 
that light only intensified the horrors of the dimly 
seen burning ground. Near by, was every arrange- 
ment for worship, sacrifice and sacrificial fire. The 
broad expanse of the Ganges spread out like a vast 
sheet through !he darkness. The summer (Chaitra) 



KAPALKUNDALA. 151 

wind swept over its breast with violence and the waves, 
leaping into fury, dashed against the bank, breaking 
in sheets of spray that leaping down ran past 
murmering thousand songs. Carrion-beasts of various 
.description sent up their loud wails across the burning 
ground disturbing the voices of the calm night. 

Kapalik made Nabokumar and Kapalkundala sit on 
mats of sacrificial grass in the appointed places and set 
about his worship according to Tantrick rites. At the 
right moment, the Kapalik ordered Nabokumar to fetch 
Kapalkundala after giving her a dip in the Ganges. 
So he led Kapalkundala by her hand across the burn- 
ing ground for a bath. Human bones lying about 
whitened in the sand pricked into their feet. A pail 
full of water broke against the feet of Nabokumar 
and water bursting from it ran down the plane. A 
dead body lay close by as the wretch h^d beed denied 
his last rites. The legs of both as they approached 
came in contact with it Kapalkundala went past 
while Nabokumar trampled it. Carrion-beasts collected 
round it some made at them, on their encroachment, 
while the rest kicked up a noise and fled. Kapal- 
kundala felt Nabokumar's hand tremble on her as she 
\vas, herself, without a tinge of fear or tremor. 
% fc *Are you afraid ?" asked she. 

The fumes of wine were gradually working off in 
Nabokumar's brain and he gravely replied ''Afraid, 
Mrinmonyee ? far from it." 

"Why do you tremble, then ?" 

The question was framed in a voice that can only 



KAPALKUNDALA. 

proceed from a woman's throat that tone can only 
issue out from a woman's lips when her heart flows out 
in tender passions at the sight of other's sufferings. 
Who knew such a voice would come up the throat of 
Kapalkundala at the last hour on the burning ground ? 
"Not in fear I tremble in rage because I can not weep" 
said Nabokumar. 

"Why do you weep ?" 

The voice had the same tremolo in it. 

"Why do I weep ? how would you know it, Mrin- 
moyee ?" returned Nabokumar "Had you ever upon 
you the infatuation of the glamour of a charming 
beauty ?" 

As he spoke, his voice was stifled with agon) T . 

"Did you ever come to the burning ground" went 
on he again "to pluck out your heart and fling it into 
fire ?" So saying, he wept aloud and broke down at 
the feet of Kapalkundala. 

"Mrinmoyee Kapalkundala ? just save me. I roll 
.at your feet tell me once you are true to your love 
tell me that and I will carry you home on my breast." 

Kapalkundala raised Nabokumar by his hand and 
in a soft voice enquired "Why did you not ask me 
that before ?" 

The moment, these words were said, they stepped 
tipon the brink 'of the precipice. Kapalkundala 
stood in the front with her back upon the river that 
flowed only one step behind. The tide had set in now 
and she stood on the top of a sand-mound and spoke 
never asked me that ?" 



K APALKUNDALA. 1 53 

Nabokumar, like a maniac, cried out a l have lost my 
-senses. How could I ask you ? speak Mrinmoyee ! 
- speak speak - speak save me and let us go 
home." 

"I shall answer what you asked me" said Kapal- 
kundala. "She whom you saw to-night is Padmabati, I 
never became faithless. What I tell you is a perfect truth. 
But I shall never return home. I have come to offer 
my body as sacrifice at the feet of Bhowani and do 
it I must. Go homeI must die -and do not weep 
for me." 

"No Mrinmoyee - No" ejaculated Nabokumar as he 
held forth his powerful arms to clasp her to his bosom 
but he missed her on this side of the grave. A big wave 
<lriven by a gust of the summer wind came tumbling on 
at the foot of the bank where Kapalkundala stood and, 
struck by it, the top came down with a crash and fell 
into the river dragging Kapalkundala with it. The noise 
of the land-slip met the ear of Nabokumar who ako 
saw Kapalkundala disappear under water. Quick as 
.a flash, Nabokumar plunged into the water. He was 
not a bad swimmer so he swam long and hard in 
Search of Kapalkundala. He could not find her, so lie 

v Jiimseff never rose. 

Tossed, up and down, by a high summer wind that 
blew across the river, the bodies of Kapalkundala 

, <and Nabokumar floated down the stream of the ever- 
flowing Ganges where who can say ? 

"THE END.