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"Vrihadaswa said, 'Beholding the agitation of the virtuous and wise Nala, Kesini returned unto Damayanti and related everything unto her. And thereupon Damayanti with a sorrowful heart and eager to behold Nala, again despatched Kesini to her mother, asking her to say on her behalf: Suspecting Vahuka to be Nala, I have tried him in various ways. My doubt now only relates to his appearance. I intend to examine him myself. O mother, either let him enter the palace, or give me permission to go to him. And arrange this with the knowledge of my father or without it. And thus addressed to Damayanti, that lady communicated unto Bhima the intention of his daughter, and upon learning it the king gave his consent. And, O bull of the Bharata race, having obtained the consent both of her father and mother, Damayanti caused Nala to be brought to her apartments. And as soon as he saw Damayanti unexpectedly, king Nala was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, and bathed in tears. And that best of women, Damayanti, also, upon beholding king Nala in that condition, was sorely afflicted with grief. And, O monarch, herself clad in a piece of red cloth, and wearing matted locks, and covered with dirt and dust, Damayanti then addressed Vahuka, saying, 'O Vahuka, hast thou ever seen any person acquainted with duty, who hath gone away, deserting his sleeping wife in the forest? Who, except the virtuous Nala, could go away, deserting in the woods, his dear and unoffending wife overcome with fatigue? Of what offence was I guilty in the eyes of that monarch since my early youth that he should go

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away deserting me in the woods while asleep overcome with fatigue? Why should he whom I formerly chose in preference to the gods themselves abandon his ever-devoted and loving wife who had become the mother also of his children? Before the fire, and in presence also of the celestials, he had taken my hand, vowing, 'Verily I will be thine.' Oh, where was that vow when he deserted me. O represser of foes.' While Damayanti was saying all this, tears of sorrow began to flow plentifully from her eyes. And beholding her thus afflicted with grief, Nala also, shedding tears, black of those of the gazelle with extremities of reddish hue, said, 'O timid one, neither the loss of my kingdom nor my desertion of thee was my act. Both were due to Kali. And, O foremost of virtuous women, lamenting for me day and night, and overcome with sorrow, thou hadst in the woods cursed Kali, and so he began to dwell in my body, burning in consequence of thy curse. Indeed burning with thy curse, he lived within me like fire within fire. O blessed girl, that our sorrows might terminate, that wretch have I overcome by my observances and austerities. The sinful wretch hath already left me, and it is for this that I have come hither. My presence here, O fair lady, is for thy sake. I have no other object. But, O timid one, can any other woman, forsaking her loving and devoted husband, ever choose a second lord like thee? At the command of the king, messengers are ranging this entire earth, saying, 'Bhima's daughter will, of her own accord, choose a second husband worthy of her.' Immediately on hearing this, the son of Bhangasura hath arrived here.' Hearing these lamentations of Nala, Damayanti, frightened and trembling, said with joined hand, 'It behoveth thee not, O blessed one, to suspect any fault in me. O ruler of the Nishadhas, passing over the celestials themselves, I choose thee as my lord. It was to bring thee hither that the Brahmanas had gone out in all directions, even to all the sides of the horizon, singing my words, in the form of ballads. At last, O king, a learned Brahmana named Parnada had found thee in Kosala in the palace of Rituparna. When thou hadst returned a fit answer to those words of his, it was then, O Naishadha, that I devised this scheme to recover thee. Except thee, O lord of earth, there is no one in this world, who in one day can clear, O King, a hundred yojanas with horses. O monarch, touching thy feet I can swear truly that I have not, even in thought, committed any sin. May the all-witnessing Air that courseth through this world, take my life, if I have committed any sin. May the Sun that ever courseth through the sky take my life, if I have committed any sin. May the Moon, that dwelleth within every creature as a witness, take my life, if I have committed any sin. Let the three gods that sustain the triple worlds in their entirety, declare truly, or let them forsake me today.' And thus addressed by her, the Wind-god said from the sky, 'O Nala, I tell thee truly that she hath done no wrong. O king, Damayanti, well guarding the honour of thy family, hath enhanced it. Of this we are the witnesses, as we have been her protectors for these

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three years. It is for thy sky that she hath devised this unrivalled scheme, for, except thee, none on earth is capable of travelling in a single day a hundred yojanas. O monarch, thou hast obtained Bhima's daughter, and she hath also obtained thee. Thou needst not entertain any suspicion but be united with thy partner.' And after the Wind-god had said this, a floral shower fell there and the celestial kettle-drum began to play, and auspicious breezes began to blow. And beholding those wonders, O Bharata, king Nala, the represser of foes, cast away all his doubts in respect of Damayanti. And then that lord of earth, remembering the king of serpents, wore that pure garment and regained his native form. And beholding her righteous lord in his own form, Bhima's daughter of faultless limbs embraced him, and began to weep aloud. And king Nala also embraced Bhima's daughter devoted to him, as before, and also his children, and experienced great delight. And burying her face in his bosom, the beauteous Damayanti of large eyes began to sigh heavily, remembering her griefs. And overwhelmed with sorrow, that tiger among men stood for some time, clasping the dust-covered Damayanti of sweet smiles. And, O king, the queen-mother then, with a glad heart, told Bhima all that had passed between Nala and Damayanti. And the mighty monarch answered, 'Let Nala pass this day in peace, to-morrow I shall see him after his bath and prayers, with Damayanti by his side.' And, O king, they passed that night pleasantly, in relating to each other the past incidents of their life in the forest. And with hearts filled with joy, the princess of Vidarbha and Nala began to pass their days in the palace of king Bhima, intent upon making each other happy. And it was in the fourth year (after the loss of his kingdom) that Nala was re-united with his wife, and all his desires gratified, once more experienced the highest bliss. And Damayanti rejoiced exceedingly in having recovered her lord even as fields of tender plants on receiving a shower. And Bhima's daughter, thus recovering her lord, obtained her wish, and blazed forth in beauty, her weariness gone, her anxieties dispelled and herself swelling with joy, ever like a night that is lit by the bright disc of the moon!"

Next: Section LXXVII