Chandrashekhar (Mullick)/Part6/Chapter 3

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CHAPTER III.
THE SOVEREIGN REDUCED TO A COWRIE.

MIR KASIM’s army had retreated after its defeat in the battle of Katwa His broken fortunes further broke on the field of Gheria. Again the Mussalman army was scattered before the British power like dust before the hind. The remnants sought their safety at Udaynala. They entrenched themselves there for checking the progress of the British forces.

Mir Kasim had gone there in person. While there, one Syed Amir Hossein went to him and brought word that a prisoner was extremely anxious for an interview. The prisoner had some important information to give, but the person would not disclose it to any one excepting to His Highness.

“What is he?” asked Mir Kasim.

“She is a woman come from Calcutta," answered Amir Hossein. “Mr. Warren Hastings has sent her with a letter. She is not a regular prisoner. Your humble servant has taken the letter as it was sent before the war. If he is guilty of any impropriety, he awaits your Highness’ pleasure.” With these words, Amir Hossein read over the letter to the Nawab.

Warren Hastings wrote as follows :—

“I do not know this woman. She came to me in great distress and said that she was alone and helpless in Calcutta, and that if I sent her to you she would be saved. War is about to break out, but my nation has no quarrel with women, therefore I send this woman to you. I know nothing about her, good, bad or indifferent.”

After hearing the letter, the Nawab ordered the woman to be brought to him. Syed Amir Hossein went out and fetched her. The Nawab found she was Kulsam.

“What do you want, slave?" said the Nawab fiercely. “Do you wish to die?”

Kulsam calmly fixed her eyes on the Nawab and said, “Nawab, where is your Begum, can you tell me? Where is Dalani Bibi?" The tone and manner of Kulsam made Amir Hossein apprehensive, and he left the place bowing.

“You shall soon go where that vile sinner is,” said Mir Kasim.

“Yes, I and you too I suppose," said Kulsam, “I have come here for that purpose. On my way I heard that a rumour had been going round that Dalani Begum has committed suicide. Is that true?”

“Suicide!” cried the Nawab. “No, she has been punished under royal warrant. You are the abettor of her crime, you shall bedevoured by dogs.”

Kulsam flung herself on the ground and set up anagonized wail of lamentation. She abused the Nawab with whatever came uppermost. At the noise, soldiers, ministers, attendants, guards and all the rest, rushed in. One of them tried to lift Kulsam by her hair but the Nawab stopped him—he had been amazed. The man let go his hold of her. Then Kulsam began, “It is well, you are all here. I will unfold a strange tale, listen. I know the order for my death will be soon passed, but after I leave this world no one will know of it. Therefore, listen to it now.”

“Listen; over the Provinces of Bengal and Bihar, reigns a fool of a Nawab named Mir Kasim. He had a Begum named Dalani; she was the sister of Gurgan Khan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nawab’s army.”

No one made any further attempt to seize her after that. Every one began to look at one another’s face. Their curiosity grew apace. The Nawab also did not speak. Kulsam went on,

“Gurgan Khan and Dalani concerted a plan and left Ispahan for Bengal in search of employment. When Dalani entered Mir Kasim’s household as a slave, the brother and sister had bound themselves to a compact for mutual support.”

Then she related in detail all the occurrences of the night when she and Dalani went to Gurgan’s house. She also repeated the conversation between Dalani and Gurgan Khan which she had heard from the former. Then she described their return to the fort, their shutting out, the ascetic’s help, their abode in Protap‘s house, the attack of the English, the mistaken apprehension of Dalani for Shaibalini, their confinement in the boat, the death of Amyatt and others, their flight with Foster, and lastly, Foster’s desertion of Dalani on the bank of the Ganges. After relating all these she wound up in the following words :—

“The devil was in me at the time I have no doubt; otherwise why should I forsake the Begum at such a moment? Touched with compassion at the sufferings of the wicked Englishman I felt towards him—— I thought—— never mind, it does not matter. I was confident that the Government boat which was coming behind would pick up the Begum, otherwise why should I let her go. But I have got my deserts for my folly. For soon after I earnestly entreated Foster to put me down on the shore, but he refused. On reaching Calcutta I beseeched everyone I met to send me here, but no one paid any heed. Then I was told that Mr. Hastings was a very kind-hearted man. I went to him, fell at his feet and wept. B.y his favour alone I am here to-day. Now I am ready. You can give your orders for my death. I have no desire to live.”

After delivering herself thus, Kulsam began to weep. On a costly throne, buried in a profusion of jewels flashing out their thousand beams, the Nawab of Bengal sat with down—cast looks. The sceptre of his extensive empire was slipping from his grasp—his best efforts could not keep it. But that unconquerable empire which could be governed without the least trouble—where was that empire gone? He had neglected the flower and cherished the thorn. Kulsam was right—the Nawab of Bengal was a fool.

Addressing the nobles the Nawab said, “Now listen to me all of you. This kingdom is not fit to be governed by me What this slave has said is perfectly true——the Nawab of Bengal is a fool. You can guard and defend these provinces if you can, I am off. I will go in hiding among the women at Rhotasgarh, or I will renounce the world and go out as a fakir.” In delivering these words, his powerful frame shook like a piece of bamboo fixed in a current. Choking his tears, Mir Kasim went on, “Listen my friends, if I am not killed by the English or their creatures like Shiraj-ud-dowla, then bury me by the side of Dalani’s grave-this is my request to you. I cannot speak further; you can now go. Nay, I would ask you to carry out an order of mine——I should like to see Taqui Khan once more.”

“Ali Ibrahim Khan!” called out the Nawab.

Ali Ibrahim Khan answered to the call. “I have not got another friend like you in this world,” said the Nawab. “This is my request to you—bring Taqui Khan to me.”

Ali Ibrahim Khan made his salute and going out of the tent mounted his horse and rode away.

“Is any one else willing to serve me?” enquired the Nawab.

Everyone responded, and awaited his pleasure with folded hands. “Can any of you bring that man Foster to me?” asked the Nawab.

“I will start for Calcutta at once to rind him out,” said Amir Hossein.

The Nawab remained absorbed in thought for a while and then continued, “ And that woman Shaihalini? Could any of you bring her to me?”

“By this time,” said Mahammad Irfan with folded hands, “she must have gone back to her home. I will go and fetch her.” Irfan took his leave preliminary to his departure.

“Could any of you,” further inquired the Nawab, “find out the ascetic who gave shelter to the Begum at Monghyr?”

“If it pleases Your Highness,” said Irfan, “I will go to Monghyr for him after finding out Shaibalini."

"How far is Gurgan Khan?” he inquired last of all.

“We hear that he is coming to Udaynala with the army,” said the ministers, “but he has not arrived yet.”

“Army, army, whose army!” muttered the Nawab to himself.

Someone whispered, “His.”

The ministers took their leave.

Then the Nawab rose from his jewelled throne, threw his diamond head-gear at a distance, tore off the pearl-strings from his neck, flung away the jewelled dress from his body, and rolling on the ground wept aloud, “Dalani, Dalani, O my Dalani !”

Such is the glory of a Nawah of this mundane world.