AND he lay all night, tossing on his bed of leaves: and in the morning, he rose before the sun, and went out. And as he stood watching the fish, raising their silver heads from the water to nibble the lotus stalks, he saw the chétí coming towards him, with a yellow flower of the shamí in her hand: and she resembled the very creeper itself, gifted with the power of motion. Then she came up to the King, and said: O King, my mistress sends her lord, by these unworthy hands, a flower, and if his slumber has been sweet, it is well with her.
Then the King said: Dear chétí, how can he sleep,
who sees just before him the end of his life? And she said: O King, is thy life so sweet to thee? Surely this very moon was new, when life was yet a thing of no value in thy eyes? Then the King said: Aye! but then I had never seen thy face. And the chétí laughed, and said: O King, but am I not a woman? And what are women in thy eyes? Then he said: What thou art, I care not: sure I am, that thou art not a woman. Or if thou art a woman, the Creator has surely formed two species of thy kind: in one, he put all other women; and in the other, thee alone. And she looked at him, with mischief in her eyes. And she said: And in which class did he place my mistress? But the King exclaimed: Out on thee, thou marble-hearted chétí! Canst thou not allow me to forget but for a moment, what I remember but too well? Then she said: But, O King, thou dost not well. Wilt thou leave my mistress for ever awaiting thy pleasure in this matter of thy marriage? And the King winced at her words, like a noble horse touched by the whip. And he said: Chétí, poison not the nectar of my dawn. Only too well I know that thou art right, and that my behaviour in this matter is not that of a gentleman a. And yet, for this,
thou art thyself to blame; and so is she. Could she not have chosen some other than thyself to do her errand? And yet, out on her, if she had! Then should I have missed the very kernel of the fruit of my birth. Alas! whichever way she chose, it was my ruin. Then said the chétí: That which is to be is known only to the deity. But thy duty to the Queen is very plain. And the King sighed. And he said: Hard is thy heart, and very fair thy form: sweet is thy voice, and bitter are thy words. To-morrow, I will do thy bidding and my duty, and pay a visit to the Queen, and consult with the astrologers and fix a day for the ceremony. But O! to-day let me see thee and hear thee to the full. Stay with me till the evening, that I may draw from thee strength to nerve me for the morrow.
Then she looked at him awhile, with kindly eyes: and then she said: O King, that which is written on the future by the deity, no man can erase, and no wisdom can avert. For once there was a king, with many queens. And among these, there was one, whose name was Shrí b; and the name was not appropriate, for she was the least beautiful of all.
[paragraph continues] But she was gentle, and small, and she thought nothing of herself: and the king loved her so passionately, that he would have given his kingdom, and his life, and all the riches of the three worlds, to save one hair from falling from her head. Now it happened, that one day a criminal was apprehended in a crime: and the king gave orders that he should instantly be put to death: and it was done. Then after a while, the priests came to him and said: O King, this man, that thy order put to death, was a Brahman c; and the gods are angry. And now, thy life and thy kingdom are in jeopardy: and unless they are appeased with a sacrifice, the gods will destroy us all. Then the king said: What sacrifice is necessary? And they said: That of the queen that loves thee, and that thou lovest, best. Then terror came into the king's heart. And he lied: and said: She of all my queens that loves me, and that I love, best, is Priyadarshiní:
and alas! she is the most beautiful of all. So they said: Very well. To-morrow morning, the sacrifice shall be performed. And they went away. And in the morning, all the people assembled in a vast crowd around the sacrificial stone, and the king sat near, upon his throne. And they led up the victim, covered with a veil: and the officiating priest stood ready with a knife. Then they took off the veil from the victim, and uncovered her: and the king looked, and saw, not Priyadarshiní, but Shrí.
And then, in agony, he bounded on his throne. And the world vanished from his sight, and he waved his hands, not knowing what he did. And he cried out, with a voice like a trumpet: Ah no! ah no! not Shrí: not Shrí. But the priest raised the knife. And as he did so, it caught in his garments, and fell to the ground. And in a moment he regained it, and raised it, and struck. But in that instant, the king threw himself like a tiger upon the body of his wife. And the knife fell, and pierced his heart.
And then Shrí rose, from under the body of the king. And she looked for a moment at the crowd around her, and sat down upon the ground, and took the king's head upon her lap, and fell upon
it, and followed him into the other world. Then dead silence fell upon the people, and they waited in fear. And at last the priest said: The sacrifice is complete, and the gods are appeased: for they have gained, not a life for a life, but two for one.
Then the chétí stopped. And she laid the flower at the King's feet, and turned to go. But the King shook with agitation. And his voice trembled, as he said: What! wilt thou go so soon, almost before thou hast arrived? O tell me another tale, that I may listen to thy voice. Or, if thou wilt, say no-thing: stand only where thou art, and let me watch thee: so shall thy brow, and thy smile, and the colour of thy dark blue eyes melt deep into my soul, and remain there fixed like a never-fading dye, to keep me from despair when thou art gone. Then she turned and stood. And suddenly she came up close to the King, and laid her hand upon his arm. And she said: O King, now I must go, for it is time. But wait: it may be that my mistress will send me back again: for there are matters to arrange for the morrow. And she smiled at the King, and went away quickly through the wood, while he stood motionless, and watched her as she went. And then he stooped, and picked up the flower. And he said: Shamí, thou hast, like me,
fire in thy heart d, and what thou art to the ashwattha, that is she who laid thee at my feet to me. Like thee, I needed but the touch of her hand to burst into a flame. And here I will await her, on the edge of the pool: and if she does not come, I will not live to see another dawn.
And he waited by the pool, getting up and sitting down in his impatience, and fixing his eyes on the place where the chétí had vanished in the wood. And meanwhile the hours followed one another, and the sun rose higher and higher in the sky. And the heat grew, till the lotuses shone like silver on the lake slumbering beneath them: and the fish slept in the water, and the birds upon the trees, and the bees grew tired of humming and lay drunken in the flowers, and the forest hushed as if it were buried in a swoon, and the leaves forgot to rustle on the boughs. And suddenly as he watched, the King
saw Madhupamanjarí reappear in the distance, there where she had gone away; and she stood for a moment like a picture on a wall, while the King gazed at her in an ecstasy, listening in the silence to the beating of his heart. Then, after a while, she broke the spell, and moved. And she came towards him very slowly, and stood before him. But she carried nothing in her hand. And she said: O King, my mistress wishes for a lotus, and has sent me to fetch it from her lord.
And the King looked at her, as she stood before him, with her eyes fixed upon the ground, and, her long lashes lying like shadows on her cheek. And his heart rose into his mouth, and he stood silent; and he tried to speak, but the words died upon his lips. So they two stood there in the forest, surrounded by the stillness. And at last the King spoke. And he said: Dear chétí, there is a thing that I would ask thee: but I am afraid. Then she said: What does the King fear? And she looked at him for a moment with a smile that vanished from her lips almost before it had appeared; and dropped her eyes. Then he said: Chétí, canst thou tell me, whether I am in love with thee, or not?
And as the King watched her, he saw the colour come and go upon her face. And at last she said,
slowly: How can the physician decide, who does not know the symptoms?
Then the King went up, and stood close to her. And he put his two hands behind him, and shut them together tight, and leaned towards her, and said: Therefore I ask thee, because I cannot tell, whether I am in love with thee, or not. For once before, I thought I was in love, but then I felt not as I do now. And if then, I was in love, I am not now; and if now, I was not, then. And it may be, thou canst tell me, for thou art very clever, as I am not. For when I see thee coming, darkness spreads over my eyes, and fire leaps and rushes through my frame. And the sound of thy voice makes me faint, and burns me like the touch of ice: and a shiver runs like a flame over my limbs, and a deafening noise booms in my ears, and I know not what I do. And tears stand in my eyes, and yet I wish to laugh for joy; and if I try to speak, my voice trembles, as it does now; and there comes into my throat a struggle, and an obstacle, and I try to breathe and cannot, and pain presses at my heart. And what else I feel, I cannot tell; but this I know, that when thou art with me, it is life, and when thou leavest me, it is death.
But Madhupamanjarí stood silent. And her lower
lip trembled, and a tear stood upon her lashes, and her breast heaved slowly up and down. And at last she raised her eyes, and smiled through her tears, and she said: O King, it is better that I should go: for these are words fitter for my mistress than for me.
And then the King drew a long breath, and he stood up. And he looked that way and this way: and he laughed. And he said: Thou hast driven me to desperation, and I care not. Lo! I am a man and a strong man, and thou art a woman, and but a small one. Hence thou shalt not go, for thou earnest away my life.
And suddenly, he seized her in his arms, and held her tight. And as he did so, she shrieked, and struggled. And half frightened, and half laughing, she exclaimed: Aryaputra e, let me go. Hast thou not guessed, that I am the Queen?
And the King started, and leaped into the air, as if a sword had been run into his heart. And as he stood astounded, Madhupamanjarí looked at him,
and almost against her will, began to laugh. And he stood gazing at her, first with amazement, and then with shame, and lastly with delight. And he exclaimed: Laugh as thou wilt, for thy laughter is music to my ear, and I care not, so long as thou art with me. But O thou delusive chétí, what is this? Was it not thou that wouldst not let me deceive the Queen? And yet what hast thou done to me?
And instantly, Madhupamanjarí stopped laughing, and tears fell instead from her eyes. And she looked at her husband with a smile; and suddenly she came to him and took him by the hand. And she led him away, and sat him down upon the steps, and said: Sit thou there, and I will tell thee. Then she knelt beside him on the right, and put his right hand round her, and took his left in her own. And she said: Foolish one, and didst thou think, because one was light as stubble, that all other women were the same? And didst thou also think, that thy life could be passed without the nectar of a woman? Listen now, and I will tell thee, what thou dost not know. For when my father sent to offer me to thee, I also sent my messenger, who brought to me thy portrait, and told me all about thee, and I loved thee long
before I ever saw thee. And I determined that it should be the same with thee: and I made thee long for me, not knowing who I was. And but one day I was weak, and that was the day I did not come to thee, and I passed it in weeping for thee, and to keep away was almost more than I could do. And now, I will show thee what thou hast never known, the sweetness of thy life. For when thou art joyous, I will double all thy joy: and when thou art sad, I will halve thy sorrow and remove it, and it shall be a joy to thee, deeper than joy. And when thou art well, I will surfeit thy soul with amusement and variety, and when thou art sick, I will nurse thee: and if thou art weary, thou shalt sleep upon my breast, and it shall be thy pillow: and night and day my spirit shall be with thee, and my arms around thee. And when thou dost not want me, I wit be absent; and when thou wishest me again, I will be there. And if I should die before thee, it is well, and thou shalt miss me: but if thou leavest me behind, then will I follow thee through the fire, for I will not live without thee, no, not even for a day. For like a dream, and like moonlight, and like a shadow, and the image on the surface of a pool, I must vanish into nothing, when that which gave me substance
and reality is gone. For what am I, but a double and a copy and an echo of a Being which is Thou? my duty and religion, to be thy Dhruwá and Arundhatí, thy Rati and thy Rádhá, thy Chakrí and thy Kshetrabhúmí, thy Shakti and thy Twin f? Churn me only with the mountain of thy love, and like the milky ocean, I will give thee up my essence, and show thee that a faithful wife is the butter of beauty, and wine of youth, and syrup of pleasure, and salt of laughter, born of the foam of the waves and the lather of the sea g. And I will be to thee a nectar and a camphor and a lotus and a sweet, and show thee the essence and the savour of thy life; and thou shalt own that without me
it was blank, and a word without a meaning, and a night without a moon.
And then the King took her head, and held it in his hands. And he looked into her eyes, and knew that her words were a confession of the truth. And suddenly, with a violent effort, he tore himself away from her, and stood up; for the passion of his joy was more than his heart could endure. And then in an instant he returned to her. And he said: Dear chétí, thou hast forgotten something. And she said: What? Then he said: Wilt thou not take a lotus for thy mistress from the pool?
Then Madhupamanjarí laughed with delight. And she said: O King, thou hast said well. And they turned together, and moved towards the pool. And as they went, the King looked at her, and trembled. And he said to himself: Still she has not kissed me: and it is still to come. Then they drew near to the pool; and they found a lotus growing at its edge. And the King said: Thou shalt pluck it, and I will hold thee in my arms,
lest thou shouldst fall into the water. And he took her in his arms; and they leaned over the pool. And Madhupamanjarí stretched out her hand to the lotus. Then the King whispered in her ear: See, I have brought thee to the water, that there might be two of thy faces instead of one. Now, which shall I kiss, and which will kiss me, the chétí or the queen?
And Madhupamanjarí plucked the lotus. And he turned towards him, and said: Both.
MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED
61:a anárya: an exact equivalent.
62:b The goddess of beauty.
63:c The most frightful penalties are laid, in Manu, upon those who slew Brahmans: under no circumstances whatever could the King put them to death. (It is a total misapprehension to ascribe these, and similar regulations, as is so often done, to the cunning and policy of the Brahmans. They were the repository of the religious welfare of the State, and they shared the superstition which made the killing of them a crime.) See e.g. Moore's Pantheon, p. 373.
66:d The primeval fire was generated by the friction of the shamí and ashwattha trees. Kalidas (Raghuwansha III. 9) calls the shamí 'abhyantaralínapáwakam,' i.e. that ' which has fire in its heart.'
69:e As much as to say, my husband. The word is used by ladies in addressing their lords.
72:f Dhruwá, 'thy polar star:' an allusion to the marriage ceremony, in which the bridegroom points out to his bride that star, the emblem of fidelity. Arundhatí, the 'patron-saint' of Hindoo marriages, the pattern of a perfect wife. Rati, the wife of Káma: Rádhá, Krishna's darling, the lovely milkmaid. The two last names are mystical: 'thy other half,' 'thy Self, in feminine form.' Chakrí, the bird that pines and dies without its mate: Kshetrabhúmí, an idea hardly intelligible save to a Hindoo. It means an exclusive possession, a thing to use and abuse, and a home: a sacred spot of mother earth and cultivable soil, whose memory is twined around the heart.
72:g A passage full of plays on words and mythological allusions.