Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part4/Chapter 4

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CHAPTER IV.
THE BOAT SANK.

"Shaibalini,” cried Chandrashekhar.

Shaibalini sat up and began to stare at Chandrashekhar. Her head swam and she fell down knocking her face against his feet. Chandrashekhar lifted her up and seated her with the support of his body.

Shaibalini wept and loudly wept. she fell at Chandrashekhar’s feet and cried, “Tell me, what is to become of me now.”

“Why did you want to see me?” asked Chandrashekhar. Shaibalini dried her eyes and stanching her tears calmly said, “I think my days are numbered.” She shuddered; the dream came back to her. For a brief space she kept silent, the palm of her hand clapped on her forehead, and again went on, “I am sure, I shall not live long.” “ Before my death I felt a longing to see you once again. Who will believe it—and why? She who had gone astray and left her husband, how could she feel any longing to see that husband again?"

She ended with a bitter laugh of intense anguish.

“I don’t distrust your words,” said Chandrashekhar, “I know you were forcibly carried away?”

“That is not true; I came away with Foster out of my own free will. Before Foster attacked the house he had sent me word.”

Chandrashekhar dropped his head in shame. He gently laid her down again. Then he quietly got up, and while turning back he said in a soft and sweet voice, “Pursue your expiation for twelve years. If at the end of that time both of us happen to be alive, we shall meet again. Thus far now.”

“Sit down once more,” she appealed with folded hands. “Perhaps I am not destined to accomplish the expiation.” Again that dream came to her and again she appealed, “ Do sit down p1ease—let me look on you for a while.”

Chandra shekhar resumed his seat.

“Is there any sin in suicide?” asked Shaibalini. She had been gazing intently at Chandrashekhar, and her bright lotus-like eyes were swimming with tears.

“Yes, there is. Why do you want to die?”

Shaibalini again shuddered and said, “Oh! I can not die, I shall fall into that hell.”

“By your expiation, I am sure you will be saved from this hell.”

“But what is the expiation to save oneself from this mental hell?”

“What do you mean?”

“The gods are in the habit of frequenting this hill. I do not know what they have done to me; day and night I am dreaming of hell.”

Chandrashekhar saw that Shaibalini’s eyes had been set in a stare on the further end of the cave, as if they were straining after some distant object. He found her thin face had dried up, the eyes were swelling out, the lids were fixed, her nostrils contracted and dilated alternately, a thrill was passing through her frame and she was trembling all over.

“What are you gazing at?” asked Chandrashekhar.

Shaibalini remained speechless and kept staring as before.

“Why are you frightened?” again asked Chandrashekhar.

She sat as one struck to stone. Chandra shekhar was amazed and in silence he gazed for a while at Shaibaiini’s face.

He could not make out anything. Suddenly Shaihalini gave a hideous scream and cried, “Lord! save me, save me; thou art my husband, who can do it, if not thou!” and she fainted on the ground.

From a neighbouring spring Chandrashekhar fetched water and sprinkled her face. He fanned her with his wrapping scarf, and after a time Shaibalini recovered her senses. She sat up and wept in silence.

“What were you staring at?” asked Chandrashekhar.

“Oh, that hell!” cried Shaibalini.

Chandrashekhar found that Shaibalini had begun to suffer the agonies of hell even in this very life.

“ I cannot die,” she said after a short silence, “I am in dread of a terrible hell. I am sure to, go there as soon asI die, therefore I must live. But how shall I live for twelve years all alone? Conscious or unconscious, I see nothing but hell.”

“You need not be frightened,” said Chandrashekhar.

“Fasting and mental suffering are the root of your present distemper. The physicians call it nervous disorder. Go to Vedagram and build yourself a hut at one end of the village. Sundari will be able to look after you there and place you in the hands of a doctor. All of a sudden Shaibalini closed her eyes. At the further end of the cave it seemed to her, as if the figure of Sundari, carved out of stone, stood with uplifted finger. Shaibalini found that Sundari had grown very tall, and gradually she grew up to the height of a palm-tree. She looked terrible; suddenly a hell was created there; again that same putrid smell, that same fearful crackling of fire, the same heat, the same cold, the same wilderness of serpents and the same sky darkened with the same hideous worms. In that hell the ghouls descended carrying ropes of thorns and canes of scorpions in their hands; they bound Shaibalini with the rope and dragged her along striking her all the while with the scorpion—canes. The stony Sundari tall as a palm-tree, raised her arm and cheered them on. “Lay on, lay on; I dissuaded her, I went to the boat to turn her back, she did not listen. Strike, strike, strike as much as you can, I am a witness to her sin, oh, beat her, beat her.” With folded hands, her face upturned and with streaming eyes, Shaibalini implored her to desist, but Sundari would not relent and only cried out, “Strike, strike, strike the unchaste one. I am chaste, but she is not; lay on, lay on.” Again her face withered up, again her dilated eyes were fixed in a stare, and Shaibalini remained as one spell-bound. Chandrashekhar grew anxious and knew that the symptoms boded no good.

“Shaibalini, come with me,” said Chandrashekhar.

At first Shaibalini did not hear him. Then Chandrashekhar caught her with his hands, and shaking her once or twice, repeated, “Come with me.”

Suddenly Shaibalini stood up and in a scared voice cried, “Come, come, come; be quick, let us leave this place at once.” With these words she quickly ran towards the mouth of the cave. Without waiting for Chandrashekhar, she walked with rapid steps, and in her haste the flints in the cave hurt her feet in the dim light. Presently she slipped her foot and fell down senseless. Her speech was gone and Chandrashekhar found that she had again swooned.

Then Chandrashekhar took her up in his arms, and going out of the cave carried her to a spot where an exiguous rill silently welled out of the hill-side.

The sprinkling of water on her face and the free air of the open space soon brought her round, and opening her eyes she asked, “Where am I?"

“I have brought you out of the cave,” replied Chandrashekhar.

Shaibalini shuddered and was again terrified. “Who are you?” she asked. Chandrashekhar grew concerned and said, “Why do you behave like that? Can't you make me out, I am your husband?”

Shaibalini laughed out a loud ha, ha, and reciting the following rhyme :—-

“My husband is a golden bee,
From flower to flower about he roams.
Hast strayed I ween unknowingly

Dear love, ’mong prickly cactus blooms.”

Said, “Are you Lawrence Foster?”

Chandrashekhar found that the divinity whose presence makes the human frame so charming had left Shaibalini; a fearful madness was possessing her golden temple. Chandrashekhar wept, and with soft accents and an unspeakable tenderness he again cried out, "Shaibalini!”

Again Shaibalini laughed out and said, “Who is Shaibalini?Wait, wait. There was a little girl, her name was Shaibalini, and there was a little boy, his name was Protap. One night the boy was changed into a serpent and went to the woods, the girl followed as a frog and the serpent swallowed it up. I have seen this with my own eyes. I say Englishman, are you Lawrence Foster?"

With a voice quivering with emotion Chandrashekhar pathetically cried out, “O my spiritual guide! what is this, what have you done!”

Shaibalini started singing-

“What hast thou done, friend of my soul,
By catching the thief who stole my heart?
The river of love without control,

Has flooded its banks though far apart.”

“Who is this heart thief?” she raved on. “ It is Chandrashekhar. Who was caught ?——Chandrashekhar. Who was swept away?———Chandrashekhar. What are the two banks?—I cannot say.” Then turning to Chandrashekhar she asked, “ Do you know Chandrashekhar?”

“I am Chandrashekhar myself,” said Chandrashekhar in reply.

Like a tigress, at one bound she fastened herself to his neck, and without uttering another word began to weep. Oh how long she wept! Chandrashekhar’s back, throat, breast, dress and arms, were all flooded. Chandrashekhar also wept.

“I will go with you,” said Shaibalini weeping.

“Then come,” said Chandrashekhar.

“You will not beat me, will you?” asked Shaibalini.

“No, certainly not,” said Chandrashekhar.

Chandrashekhar elaborated a sigh and stood up. Shaibalini also rose. With a mournful countenance Chandrashekhar went in advance, the maniac followed. She laughed, wept and sang, as suited her fancy.