Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part3/Chapter 5

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CHAPTER V.
LAUGHING.

ON returning to the barge Amyatt said to Galstaun, “This woman was crying alone on the sandy plain. She does not understand my language nor do I understand hers, you had better question her.”

Galstaun was about equally learned with Amyatt, but he had a high reputation among his own people for his proficiency in Hindustani, and he asked, “Who are you?”

Shaibalini did not answer, she wept on.

“Why do you weep?”

Still Shaibalini did not answer, but wept on.

“Where is your home?”

She was silent as before.

“Why have you come here?”

She continued in the same state.

Galstaun owned, himself defeated. Failing to extract any answer from her, the Englishmen bade her go away. She did not understand that even, and would not move but kept standing.

“She does not understand our words,” said Amyatt, “nor do we understand hers. From her dress she appears to be a Bengali woman. Just call a Bengali and ask him to question her.”

The servants of Englishmen are as a rule Bengali Mahomedans. Amyatt called one of his servants and told him to speak to her.

“Why do you weep?” asked the servant. Shaibalini burst out into a maniacal laughter. The servant explained to the Englishmen that she was mad.

Then the Englishmen said, “Ask her what she wants.”

The servant did as directed.

“I am hungry,” said Shaibalini in reply. After the servant had explained to the Englishmen, Amyatt said, “Give her something to eat.”

It was with too glad a heart that the servant took her; to the boat reserved for cooking. With a glad heart, because Shaibalini was exceedingly handsome. But she would not take anything. “Do take something please.” urged the servant. “I am a Brahmin woman,” demurred Shaibalini, “how can I take food touched by you?" [1]

The servant went away and informed the Englishmen about the matter. “Isn’t there any Brahmin in any of the boats?” enquired Amyatt.

“There is a Brahmin sepoy,” said the servant, “and there is a Brahmin prisoner also.”

“If any of them has got boiled rice, let her have some,” said the Englishmen.

At first the servant took her to the sepoy. The sepoy had nothing to give. Then he took her to the boat where the Brahmin prisoner had heen kept.

The prisoner was Protap Roy. In a small skiff Protap Roy was alone. Sentries were mounting guard fore, aft and all, and inside there was darkness.

“Ho, Brahmin, are you there?” shouted the servant.

“What do you want?” asked Protap.

“Have you got any rice left in your pot?”

“Why?”

“A Brahmin woman is fasting, can you let her have some? ”'

Protap also had no rice left. But he did not acknowledge it and said, “Yes, I can. Ask somebody to take of my handcuffs.”

The servant asked one of the sentries to remove the handcuffs. “Get me the order first,” objected the latter.

The servant went away to procure the necessary order. Who ever took the trouble of bothering himself so much for a stranger? Particularly, Peer Bux was an Englishman’s servant, and he would not willingly do a good turn to anybody if he could help it. Of all the different varieties of people inhabiting this globe, the Massalman servants of Englishmen are about the worst lot. But in this instance Peer Bux had some object. He thought that when this woman had taken her food, he would take her to the servants quarters. He was very eager to purchase her good—will by looking after her meal. Shaibalini remained standing on the deck of Protap’s boat, while the servant went away to get the order from Mr. Amyatt. She stood with her veil on.

A pretty face is all-conquering. Especially, when "the owner of it happens to be a young girl it at once becomes a weapon of the surest execution. Amyatt found that this gentoo woman was a matchless beauty; over and above, he felt a little compassion for her when he heard about her madness.

So he sent orders to the officer of the guard to take off Protap’s manacles and to allow Shaibalini to go inside the boat.

The servant brought a light. The sentry took off Protap’s handcuffs. The latter warned the servant not to enter his boat,[2] and with the help of the light made a pretence of turning out the rice into a platter. His object was escape.

Shaibalini went into the hoat, the sentries were mounting guard outside, so that the interior was not visible to them. On entering the cabin she approached Protap and removing her veil sat down.

When the first shock of surprise had been over Protap found Shaibalini biting her underlip; a light glow of joy had suflused her countenance, and her face bore the impress of calm determination. Protap confessed to himself, she is indeed a tigress worthy of a tiger!

In a very low voice Shaibalini whispered in his ear, “Wash your hands. Do you take me for a miserable suppliant for boiled rice?”

Protap did as suggested. While he was thus engaged, Shaibalini continued in the same tone——

“Now get off. The small boat you will find on turning the bend is for you.”

"You should go first,” suggested Protap in a similar voice, “otherwise you will get into trouble.”

“Be off with you, quick. Once the handcuffs are on flight will be impossible. Be quick, jump into the water. Don’t delay, for once let me guide you. They know me as insane, I will jump into the water first, you will follow to my rescue.”

With these words she gave a loud laugh and immediately after exclaimed with a broad grin, “I won’t take the rice.” The very next moment she came out weeping and cried, “Alas! they have made me eat rice defiled by a Mahomedan’s touch. O mother Ganges! take me,” and she leapt into the current.

“What is up, what is up?” screamed Protap and came out of the boat. The sentry stepped in front and tried to stop him. “Scoundrel!” cried Protap, “A woman is being drowned and you are quietly looking on,” and he gave him a kick which sent him spinning out of the boat. The sepoy fell from larhoard. “O save a woman,” cried Protap, and jumped into the water from port. The accomplished swimmer Shaibalini went on in advance, Protap followed.

“The prisoner has fled," bawled out the sentry aft and lifted his gun to aim at Protap. At that time Protap was swimming.

“Don't you fret yourself,” cried back Protap, “ I am not going to escape. I want to pull this woman out. How can I bear to see a woman kill herself before my eyes? My dear man you are a Hindu, have a care before you kill a Brahmin!” [3] The sepoy lowered his gun.

At that time Shaibalini was swimming along the hindmost boat. As her eyes fell on it, she suddenly gave a start. It was the very same boat in which she had lived sometime with Foster.

For a while she kept gazing at it in a tremble. She saw in the moonlight an Englishman lying in a half recliuing posture on a small bed on the roof of the boat. The rays of the moon had fallen on his face. Shaibalini recognised Lawrence Foster and gave a loud scream.

Foster also gazed at the swimming woman for sometime and recognised Shaihalini. “There, seize her, seize her!” loudly cried Foster, “she is my mistress.” Foster was now sickly, emaciated, weak, bed-ridden and incapable of locomotion.

At the sound of his voice four or five men leapt into the water to catch Shaibalini. Protap was then far ahead of them. “Catch her, catch her,” they cried out to him, “Mr. Foster will reward you.” Protap said to himself, “I also have rewarded Mr. Foster once before, and I have a mind to reward him again.” Aloud he cried back to them, “ I will catch her, you can get out.”

They all turned back relying on his word. Foster had no idea that the man in front was Protap. His brain was yet in a muddle on account of his recent illness.


  1. According to the caste rules of the Hindus a Brahmin cannot take food touched by a non—Hindu.
  2. It is a defilement for a Mahomedan to enter a Hindu's place of eating or cooking-place
  3. For a Hindu to kill a Brahmin is an unpardonable offence.