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IX. Recognition

And as he rose from the water, there rang in his ears, loud and clear, the sound of the beating of drums. And he listened, and heard the criers crying: Whatsoever high-caste man has been to the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, let him come to the King: he shall share the King's kingdom, and marry the King's daughter. And he looked round. Lo! he was standing in that very tank in Indirálayá, from which he had started, years before, to find the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. Then in his amazement, his flesh crept, and his hair stood on end. And he stood in the pool like a pillar of stone, with the water streaming from his body, and doubt bewildering his soul. And he said to himself: Is it indeed reality, or is it a dream? And what has become of the Land of the Lotus, and all my toil? For here I am in Indirálayá, and there are the very criers whom I left behind me, crying, and beating, just as they did before, their drums!

And then suddenly he uttered a shout, and exclaimed: Well, now I will go to the King, for the time has come to claim the reward. And he leaped out of the water, and ran up the steps like one that is mad, and went up to the criers, and said to them:

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[paragraph continues] Cease this useless crying, and this empty beating of drums, and take me quickly to the King, for I have seen that Lotus Land. And the criers did not recognise him, but they were full of joy at hearing his words: for their crying had made them weary of life. So as they were preparing to take him to the King, he clapped his hands, and said again: Quick! delay not! but make haste, great haste! or else my heart will break. For I endured separation, when union seemed at a distance, with ease: but now that the moment of re-union approaches, my heart is breaking: every moment seems an age: and if you delay long, I cannot endure. Then the criers made great haste, and brought him as quickly as possible to the King.

But when the King saw Umra-Singh, he looked at him narrowly, and knew him again, for all that he was changed. And he said to himself: Surely this is that very rogue, who came to me before to cheat me; and now, here he is again! And he said to Umra-Singh: I know thee, thou impostor. Beware! for this time thou shalt not escape. Then said Umra-Singh: King, be it as thou wilt. Only let me see thy daughter, and that quickly: for I have really seen that Lotus Land: thereafter deal with me as it may please thee best. And as he

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spoke, ungovernable impatience seized him: and he stamped his foot upon the ground, and tears came into his eyes, and suddenly he began to laugh. And the King looked at him with curiosity, and wondered at him: and he said to himself: Either this fellow is mad, or it is as he says, and he has really seen that Lotus Land. But he said again to Umra-Singh: Remember, if this time also thou art playing false, death is the reward. Umra-Singh said: Show me thy daughter, and put me then to any kind of death.

So the King sent for his daughter, and after a while, Shrí came in.

But when Umra-Singh saw her enter, he sobbed aloud, and strode towards her. And as she turned her eyes on him in fear, he plunged his fainting soul into their azure sea. And in an instant he forgot his journey and his toil, and obtained in that moment the nectar of emancipation from the hunger of longing, and the pain of separation, and the terror of untimely death. And Shrí looked at him, as he stood before her, and instantly she knew him again. And her heart beat in her bosom like a drum, and she was seized with trembling, and could not speak, for fear and doubt. For again the forgotten ties of her former birth fought for utterance

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in her soul, and yet she feared him for his insolence, and despised him for his poverty: for he was ten times leaner and more ragged than before. And long she looked at him without speaking. And then at last she found her voice, and spoke, and said slowly: What! is it thou, most doughty traveller? And hast thou made another story? Good it had better be, thy second tale, for never shalt thou live to make a third.

But Umra-Singh leaned towards her, with hungry eyes, for his soul yearned for the repetition of a forgotten past. And he looked at her long and wistfully, till her glance quailed, for her spirit was mastered by his courage and his love. And twice he strove to speak, and twice he failed, while great tears fell from his eyes upon the ground. And then at last, he became master of himself. And he said: Dear, now use me as thou wilt, and put me to any death. But tell me first, before I die: How comes it that I see thee here alive, and yet I saw thee, in that Lotus City, lying dead upon a couch, in the cold rays of the moon?

Then Shrí threw up her arms with a shriek. And she cried out: Ha! it is the truth: this man has really seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. And suddenly, the veil of oblivion was drawn for an

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instant, and she caught a glimpse of her former birth, and knew her husband again. And instantly she ran to him, and threw herself into his arms, and hung on his breast, and clung to him, like a jasmine creeper on a noble tree. And tears fell from her eyes like rain, and she laughed for joy, and caressed his face with her hand, and said: Brave heart, and didst thou dare to go alone to that distant Lotus Land? Thou art indeed my own husband, in this life as in the last. And now, after long separation, I have found thee for an instant, and thou hast me. Only seek as well again, and we shall meet once more, and taste yet another drop of the nectar of mutual enjoyment, before we die: for so it is decreed. I say, remember: we shall meet again.

Then she stood up, and pushed him back, so violently, that he nearly fell. And all they that stood by watched her and wondered. For as they gazed, she grew in beauty, like a waxing moon, and flashed like a great jewel, and dazzled the eyes of all like the brightness of a lamp: and the colour of her wondrous eyes shot from them and streamed about the room, and lit up its walls with glory like that of a setting sun. And seeing it, the King her father was full of joy, for he thought: Now she

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is going to be married, and I have attained the fruit of my birth. But the astrologers looked at each other in dismay, for they knew that she was about to die. So as they gazed, suddenly she drooped and fell, and lay before them on the floor, like a lotus smitten by the frost.

Then the astrologers said, gloomily: She has abandoned the body, and gone somewhere else. And the King, seeing her fall, and hearing them speak, lost his senses, and fell down beside her in a swoon. But Umra-Singh turned, and left the palace, and went out into the street.

Next: X. Separation