Kopal-Kundala/With the Kapálik

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Chapter VI.

With the Kapálik.

Nobokumar entered the hut, and, closing the door, buried his head in his hands. He did not quickly raise his head again.

"Is this a goddess, a human being, or merely the Kapálik's magic?" Nobokumar breathlessly commenced to revolve this matter in his mind, but could make nothing of it.

Owing to his reverie, Nobokumar had not noticed another wonder. Before his arrival a piece of wood was burning in the hut. Then afterwards, late at night, when he remembered that he had not performed his evening rites—then, giving up all anxiety on account of water, he understood the extraordinary aspect of the affair. There was not only a light, but rice and other things ready for cooking. Nobokumar was not astonished—he thought that this, too, must be the Kapálik's work—in such a place there was no cause for astonishment. After performing his evening rites he cooked the rice and other eatables in an earthen vessel he had found in the hut and satisfied his hunger.

The next morning he rose from his bed of skins, and went towards the sea-shore. Thanks to his wanderings of the day before, he knew his way to-day without much difficulty. There he performed his morning rites and waited. For whom was he waiting? How strong Nobokumar's hope was that the enchantress he had before seen would again come there, I cannot say, but he could not leave that place. He waited long, but no one came there. Then Nobokumar began to wander in every direction, keeping close to that place, but his search was fruitless. He could not even perceive a trace of the presence of any human being. He again returned and sate down in the same place. The sun set, and darkness came on. In despair Nobokumar returned to the hut. Returning from the sea-shore at evening Nobokumar saw that the Kapálik was seated in silence on the ground inside the hut. Nobokumar at once wished him good evening, but the Kapálik made no reply.

Nobokumar said, "Why have I been deprived up till now of the pleasure of seeing my lord?" The Kapálik said, "I was engaged in the performance of a peculiar vow."

Nobokumar spoke of his desire to go home, and said, "I don't know the way, and have no expenses. I was in hopes of seeing my master and obtaining suitable instructions from him."

The Kapálik simply said, "Come with me." And with this word the ascetic got up. Nobokumar followed him in the hopes of finding some means of getting home.

The light of evening had not yet faded away. The Kapálik went in front, and Nobokumar behind. Suddenly Nobokumar felt a soft touch on his back, and turning round, he was transfixed by what he saw—that sylvan goddess form, with thick and luxuriant tresses hanging to her ankles! noiseless and motionless as before! Whence had that sudden apparition come behind him? Nobokumar saw that the woman had her finger on her lips, and understood that she was forbidding him to speak. Nor was there much necessity for such prohibition, for what was Nobokumar to say? There he stood, filled with astonishment. The Kapálik went on in front, and saw nothing of all this. When they were out of his hearing, the woman said something in a soft voice, and these were the sounds that entered Nobokumar's ear—

"Where are you going? Do not go—return—flee!"

Having said this, the speaker disappeared without waiting for a reply. For some moments Nobokumar stood dumfoundered. He was eager to follow the woman, but he could not make out in what direction she had gone. He thought, "Whose magic is this? or am I under a delusion? These words indicate danger, but danger of what? Tantriks can accomplish everything—then why should I flee? Where am I to flee to?"

Nobokumar was thus pondering, when he saw that the Kapálik had missed him and was returning. The Kapálik said, "Why are you delaying?" When a man is in doubt what to do, he goes wherever he happens to be first called. On the Kapálik calling a second time, Nobokumar followed him without a word.

Going some distance he saw a hut with a dead wall (you might call it a hut or a small house, but we need not concern ourselves with that). Behind it was the sandy beach of the sea. The Kapálik was taking Nobokumar past the hut to the shore, when like an arrow the woman he had seen before swiftly passed by his side, and whispered in his ear as she passed—"Flee, even now—don't you know that the Tantrik's worship consists of human flesh?"

The sweat came out on Nobokumar's brow. Unfortunately the Kapálik overheard these words, and said—"Kopal-Kundala!"

To Nobokumar the voice sounded like thunder, but Kopal-Kundala made no reply.

The Kapálik seized Nobokumar's hand and began to drag him along. At the murderer's touch Nobokumar's blood coursed through his veins with a hundred-fold more violence. His lost courage returned, and he said—"Release my hand."

The Kapálik made no reply. Again Nobokumar asked, "Where are you taking me to?"

The Kapálik said, "To the place of sacrifice." "Why?" said Nobokumar. "To slay you," replied the Kapálik.

Nobokumar pulled away his hand with all the strength he could muster, and such was the force he used, that any ordinary person would have been felled to the earth, much less could have held him. But the Kapálik did not even move a muscle. Nobokumar's wrist remained in his grasp, and he felt as if his bones were broken. Nobokumar followed the Kapálik like one on the point of death.

On coming to the sand Nobokumar saw that a large wood fire was burning as on the day before. Round about were strewn the things required for a Tantrik's pooja, and among them a human skull full of wine; but there was no corpse. Nobokumar inferred that he was to be the corpse.

Some dry and tough stalks of creepers were already collected there, and the Kapálik commenced to bind Nobokumar firmly. Nobokumar struggled with all his might, but his struggles were of no avail whatever. He found that, old as he was, the Kapálik had the strength of a mad elephant. Seeing Nobokumar's struggles, the Kapálik said, "Fool, why do you struggle? your birth is to-day fruitful; this ball of flesh of yours will be devoted to the worship of Durga; what greater piece of luck can befall a man like you?"

The Kapálik tied Nobokumar firmly, and flung him on the sand; and then commenced to perform the rites preliminary to sacrifice.

The dry creeper-stalks were very tough— the fetters were very firm—death was near! Nobokumar consigned his soul to the mercy of his tutelary god. First he thought of his native land, and his happy home; then, as the faces of his father and mother far away came into his recollection, he shed one or two tears, which were sucked in by the sand. When the Kapálik had finished the rites preliminary to sacrifice, he left his seat to get a good sword. But, strange to say, he could not find it where he had left it. He was a little astonished, as he well remembered having put it in its proper place that afternoon. He had not removed it since; then where had it gone? The Kapálik looked for it here and there, but could not find it. Then he went towards the hut above-mentioned, and called Kopal-Kundala. But, though he called again and again, Kopal-Kundala gave no answer. Then the Kapálik's eyes became red, and his eyebrows were knitted. As he ran towards the house, Nobokumar seized the opportunity and tried once more to burst his fetters asunder, but his efforts were of no avail.

At this moment there was a tender footstep close by on the sand; it was not the Kapálik's footstep. Nobokumar looked round and saw that enchantress—Kopal-Kundala! A sword was swinging in her hand.

Kopal-Kundala said, "Quiet, do not speak. The sword is with me; I have stolen it."

So saying Kopal-Kundala quickly began to cut Nobokumar's fetters with the sword, and in a moment released him. "Flee," she said; "follow me, I will show the way."

So saying, Kopal-Kundala went like an arrow showing the way. Nobokumar leapt along behind her.