"I have had no peace of mind, Amulya," I said to him, "ever since I sent you off to sell my jewels."
"Why, Sister Rani?"
"I was afraid lest you should get into trouble with them, lest they should suspect you for a thief. I would rather go without that six thousand. You must now do another thing for me--go home at once, home to your mother."
Amulya produced a small bundle and said: "But, sister, I have got the six thousand."
"I tried hard to get gold," he went on, without replying to my question, "but could not. So I had to bring it in notes."
"Tell me truly, Amulya, swear by me, where did you get this money?"
"That I will not tell you."
Everything seemed to grow dark before my eyes. "What terrible thing have you done, Amulya?" I cried. "Is it then ..."
"I know you will say I got this money wrongly. Very well, I admit it. But I have paid the full price for my wrong-doing. So now the money is mine."
I no longer had any desire to learn more about it. My very blood-vessels contracted, making my whole body shrink within itself.
"Take it away, Amulya," I implored. "Put it back where you got it from."
"That would be hard indeed!"
"It is not hard, brother dear. It was an evil moment when you first came to me. Even Sandip has not been able to harm you as I have done."
Sandip's name seemed to stab him.
"Sandip!" he cried. "It was you alone who made me come to know that man for what he is. Do you know, sister, he has not spent a pice out of those sovereigns he took from you? He shut himself into his room, after he left you, and gloated over the gold, pouring it out in a heap on the floor. 'This is not money,' he exclaimed, 'but the petals of the divine lotus of power; crystallized strains of music from the pipes that play in the paradise of wealth! I cannot find it in my heart to change them, for they seem longing to fulfil their destiny of adorning the neck of Beauty. Amulya, my boy, don't you look at these with your fleshly eye, they are Lakshmi's smile, the gracious radiance of Indra's queen. No, no, I can't give them up to that boor of a manager. I am sure, Amulya, he was telling us lies. The police haven't traced the man who sank that boat. It's the manager who wants to make something out of it. We must get those letters back from him.'
"I asked him how we were to do this; he told me to use force or threats. I offered to do so if he would return the gold. That, he said, we could consider later. I will not trouble you, sister, with all I did to frighten the man into giving up those letters and burn them--it is a long story. That very night I came to Sandip and said: 'We are now safe. Let me have the sovereigns to return them tomorrow to my sister, the Maharani.' But he cried, 'What infatuation is this of yours? Your precious sister's skirt bids fair to hide the whole country from you. Say Bande Mataram and exorcize the evil spirit.'
"You know, Sister Rani, the power of Sandip's magic. The gold remained with him. And I spent the whole dark night on the bathing-steps of the lake muttering Bande Mataram.
"Then when you gave me your jewels to sell, I went again to Sandip. I could see he was angry with me. But he tried not to show it. 'If I still have them hoarded up in any box of mine you may take them,' said he, as he flung me his keys. They were nowhere to be seen. 'Tell me where they are,' I said. 'I will do so,' he replied, 'when I find your infatuation has left you. Not now.'
"When I found I could not move him, I had to employ other methods. Then I tried to get the sovereigns from him in exchange for my currency notes for six thousand rupees. 'You shall have them,' he said, and disappeared into his bedroom, leaving me waiting outside. There he broke open my trunk and came straight to you with your casket through some other passage. He would not let me bring it, and now he dares call it his gift. How can I tell how much he has deprived me of? I shall never forgive him.
"But, oh sister, his power over me has been utterly broken. And it is you who have broken it!"
"Brother dear," said I, "if that is so, then my life is justified. But more remains to be done, Amulya. It is not enough that the spell has been destroyed. Its stains must be washed away. Don't delay any longer, go at once and put back the money where you took it from. Can you not do it, dear?"
"With your blessing everything is possible, Sister Rani."
"Remember, it will not be your expiation alone, but mine also. I am a woman; the outside world is closed to me, else I would have gone myself. My hardest punishment is that I must put on you the burden of my sin."
"Don't say that, sister. The path I was treading was not your path. It attracted me because of its dangers and difficulties. Now that your path calls me, let it be a thousand times more difficult and dangerous, the dust of your feet will help me to win through. Is it then your command that this money be replaced?"
"Not my command, brother mine, but a command from above."
"Of that I know nothing. It is enough for me that this command from above comes from your lips. And, sister, I thought I had an invitation here. I must not lose that. You must give me your prasad 26 before I go. Then, if I can possibly manage it, I will finish my duty in the evening."
Tears came to my eyes when I tried to smile as I said: "So be it."
26 Food consecrated by the touch of a revered person.