In tlir waning li^lit of the faded evening.
Devendra Nath Ghose.
K. M. Bagchi
Messrs. P. M. Bagchi &
19, Guloo Ostagar's Lane, Calcutt*.
All rights reserved.
Kishory Mohan Bagchi
India Directory Press,
38/1, Musjidbari Street, Calcutta.
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.
1 8th August, [ Charu Chandra Palit.
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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 ?"
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
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
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
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.
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 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.
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
rcould not bring themselves to control her. The boat
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-
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
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
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
plants overgrowing the downward slope, there is plenty
of waterside shrubs comprising bushes and flowering
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
by this time if she had been put back on the reverse
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
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.
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-
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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-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
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.
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
As soon as he left his skin-bed the next morning, he
struck for the sea-coast. The previous day's outing
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 ?"
"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
"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
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/'
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
The voice fell upon Nabokumar's ear with the
detonation of a thunder. But Kapalkundala did not
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
Nabokumar again. "To the place of worship" answered
"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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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'
"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
"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
"Oh 1 yes, I am."
"Of what sect F k
\ "Of Rahri sect."
"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
"Native village ?"
"Of what branch of Kulins ?"
"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
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
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 ."
"Well and good. But when the people would come
and ask whose wife she is what answer would you
Nabokumar mused again and added "You must tell
me that and I will say to each and every one accor-
"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
"Be pleased then to come with us" urged Nabo-
"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
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
In the holy shrine.
The Adhicary hastened back to Nabokumar at day*
break and found that he did never take his bed for the
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
' 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
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
"I am not sure how far it is." said he "But more
possible than not it is close by."
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ?"
"Why ? What above all things sends you on the
thought of a wife?"
"The Bengalee always regards his wife as an un-
"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
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
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.
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
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
"The room next to this.'*
"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
"Is she the non-pareil beauty" asked Moti.
"When you see, you will guess it" replied Nabo-
"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,
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"My dearest" answered the Mussalmani mistress.
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-
The beggar was stupefied. He pitched his aspira-
tion a point higher and in a trice added "Of course
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.
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
-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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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*
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
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 ?"
"The philosopher's stone turns the rusty bars of
iron into gold/*
41 What of that ?"
"Women have, too, their philosopher's stone/
"What is it ?"
"Man. The forest-maid with his touch blossoms
into a full-blown house-wife. You have touched that
Then she hummed in the following air in a tuneful
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
* 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
"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
"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
Shyamasundari hid her face with her cloth and
shook with laughter.
"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.
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&
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
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
by passion approached his father to have the engage-
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.
"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
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*
"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
"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.
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
"If he is not a handsome person ?" interrogated
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
into an Omrah whether he would not look all the more
"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
"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."
iThe way Akbar Shah broke up the conspiracy is
described in history. So it is out of plaee to give an
When the messenger was sent away with a reward,
Moti read out the letter to Peshman.
"Good Heavens ! Any means now ?" exclaimed
"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
"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
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
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
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-
"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
"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
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
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
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 * . > * *
"Fear of widowhood" put in Moti after a little
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
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."
"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
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.
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
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
"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 ?"
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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-
blooded vein in the heart of the granite."
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 ?"
"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.
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
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
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
the glorious position of a wife but the mere situation of
"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
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
throne of Agra for your sake. You must not leave
"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
"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-
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
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
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 ?"
"Let me start then. Sec neither m:m nor maid
Peshman timorously added '"If you pardon your
slave, then she may ask one thing."
"What is your object ?"
"Final separation between Kapalkundala and her
husband for the present. He shall be made mine
"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
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
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."
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
"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
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
"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
"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 ?*
"I never think that way. But bad people may
badly speak of you."
' fc Let them say as they like. The taint shall never
"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
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"
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"Have you heard the conversation passing between
us T querried the Brahmin-attired person again.
All on a sudden did Kapalkundala regain her lost
"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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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-
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
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
-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
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
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-
"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
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
"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 *
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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,
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-
"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
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
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
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
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
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
Kapalkundala took leave of Luthfunnisha and went
homeward. Subsequently, Nabokumar and the Kapa-
lik followed her along an alley, unobserved by Luth-
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
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.
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.
The Kapalik again administered him some wine.
"Is there any more delay ?" asked Nabokumar
"'What is the use of any more delay V chimed in
"Kapalkundala" issued the thundering voice of
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
Where last rites are paid to the
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)
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
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"
"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
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
"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
"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 ?