Kopal-Kundala/At the Place of Ghosts
At The Place of Ghosts.
The moon set. The world was filled with darkness. The Kapálik took Kopal-Kundala to the spot which he had made his place of worship. On the bank of that Ganges was a large expanse of sand, and in front of it another larger expanse of sand. On this sand was the burning-ground. In both places there is a little water at the time of the tide, but none when it has ebbed. Now there was no water. That part of the burning-ground which was close to the river, was very high. To descend into the water, one must fall at once from the high bank into bottomless water. Moreover, the foundations of the bank underneath had been eaten away by the dashing of waves, driven by the ceaseless wind; from time to time pieces of earth would be dislodged and fall into the deep water. There was no light at the place of worship—only a bit of wood was burning, and in its light the burning-ground, dimly seen, looked all the more terrible. At hand were all the requisites for the worship, Hom rites, and sacrifice. The bosom of the broad river lay stretched in the darkness. The wind of the month of Cheitro was speeding along the bosom of the Ganges with terrific force, and the splashing sound caused by the waves dashing against the bank spread to the heavens. On the burning-ground itself could be heard now and again the hideous yells of animals devouring the corpses.
The Kapálik seated Nobokumar and Kopal-Kundala in a fitting place on a seat of kus grass, and commenced his worship in accordance with the rites of the Tantras. At the proper time he ordered Nobokumar to bathe Kopal-Kundala and bring her back. Nobokumar, holding Kopal-Kundala by the hand, led her across the burning-ground to bathe her. Bones began to stick in their feet. Nobokumar trod on and broke a funeral-pot full of water. Near it lay a corpse—wretched corpse!—no one had performed its last funeral rites. Both of them touched it with their feet. Kopal-Kundala went round it, Nobokumar trampled it beneath his foot. Wild animals were wandering about in all directions eating the corpses. At the approach of the human beings, they raised loud roars, some came to attack, while others fled away. Kopal-Kundala saw that Nobokumar's hand was trembling. Kopal-Kundala herself was fearless, motionless.
Kopal-Kundala asked, "Husband, are you afraid?" Nobokumar's intoxication from the wine was gradually becoming less. In a very grave voice he replied, "Afraid, Mrinomoi! No."
Kopal-Kundala asked, "Then why do you tremble?"
The voice with which Kopal-Kundala asked this question could only have issued from a woman's throat; such a voice is only possible when a woman's heart melts for another's pain. Who could know that such a voice would issue from Kopal-Kundala's throat on the burning-ground at the time of death?
Nobokumar said, "It is not fear. I cannot cry; through anger at this I am trembling."
Kopal-Kundala asked, "Why should you cry?"
Again that voice!
Nobokumar said, "Why should I cry? Do you wish to know, Mrinomoi? You have never seen and been maddened by beauty"——
As he spoke Nobokumar' s voice was choked with anguish.
"You have never come to tear out your own heart and fling it on the burning-ground." So saying Nobokumar suddenly shrieked and rolled in a fit of Weeping at Kopal-Kundala's feet."Mrinomoi!—Kopal-Kundala! Save me. Here I am at your feet. Say once that you are not faithless—say that once, and I will raise you to my heart and take you to my home again."
Kopal-Kundala took Nobokumar's hand and lifted him up. She said in a soft voice, "You have never asked me."
When these words were being spoken both had come to and were standing quite on the brink of the water; Kopal-Kundala in front, her back towards the river, the water a single step behind her. The tide had now begun to rise; Kopal-Kundala stood on a ridge, and replied, "You have never asked me."
Nobokumar spoke like a madman, "I am losing my senses, what shall I ask? Speak, Mrinomoi! speak—speak—speak—save me;—come home."
Kopal-Kundala said, "What you have asked, I will tell you. The person whom you saw to-day was Podmaboti. I am not faithless. This is the real truth. But I will not go home again. I have come to lay my body at Bhobani's feet, and I will certainly do so. Husband! Do you go home! I will die! Do not weep for me."
"No, Mrinomoi, no!" shouted Nobokumar, as he stretched out his arms to take Kopal-Kundala to his heart; but he never found her again. An enormous wave blown up by the Cheitro wind dashed against the bank beneath the spot where Kopal-Kundala was standing, and at that instant a piece of the bank broke and fell into the river with a loud crash, carrying Kopal-Kundala along with it.
Nobokumar heard the sound of the bank breaking, and saw Kopal-Kundala disappear. He instantly leapt into the water after her. Nobokumar was an expert swimmer, and for some time he swam in search of Kopal-Kundala. He did not ﬁnd her, nor did he himself rise again.
There in that endless Ganges stream, whirled about by the waves that were tossed by the spring wind, Nobokumar and Kopal-Kundala gave up this life.
Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson and Co.
Edinburgh and London.
- Cheitro. The latter half of March and the first half of April.