Haridasi <em>Boisnavi</em>, returning to the garden-house, suddenly became Debendra Babu, and sat down and smoked his <em>huka</em>, drinking brandy freely at intervals until he became intoxicated.
Then Surendra entered, sat down by Debendra, and after inquiring after his health, said, "Where have you been to-day again?"
"Have you heard of this so soon?" said Debendra.
"This is another mistake of yours. You imagine that what you do is hidden, that no one can know anything about it; but it is known all over the place."
"I have no desire to hide anything," said Debendra.
"It reflects no credit upon you. So long as you show the least shame we have some hope of you. If you had any shame left, would you expose yourself in the village as a <em>Boisnavi</em>?"
Said Debendra, laughing, "What a jolly <em>Boisnavi</em> I was! Were you not charmed with my get-up?"
"I did not see you in that base disguise," replied Surendra, "or I would have given you a taste of the whip." Then snatching the glass from Debendra's hand, he said, "Now do listen seriously while you are in your senses; after that, drink if you will."
"Speak, brother," said Debendra; "why are you angry to-day? I think the atmosphere of Hembati has corrupted you."
Surendra, lending no ear to his evil words, said, "Whose destruction are you seeking to compass by assuming this disguise?"
"Do you not know?" was the reply. "Don't you remember the schoolmaster's marriage to a goddess? This goddess is now a widow, and lives with the Datta family in that village. I went to see her."
"Have you not gone far enough in vice? Are you not satisfied yet, that you wish to ruin that unprotected girl? See, Debendra, you are so sinful, so cruel, so destructive, that we can hardly associate with you any longer."
Surendra said this with so much firmness that Debendra was quite stunned. Then he said, seriously: "Do not be angry with me; my heart is not under my own control. I can give up everything else but the hope of possessing this woman. Since the day I first saw her in Tara Charan's house I have been under the power of her beauty. In my eyes there is no such beauty anywhere. As in fever the patient is burned with thirst, from that day my passion for her has burned within me. I cannot relate the many attempts I have made to see her. Until now I had not succeeded. By means of this <em>Boisnavi</em> dress I have accomplished my desire. There is no cause for you to fear. She is a virtuous woman."
"Then why do you go?" asked his friend.
"Only to see her. I cannot describe what satisfaction I have found in seeing her, talking with her, singing to her."
"I am speaking seriously, not jesting. If you do not abandon this evil purpose, then our intercourse must end. More than that, I shall become your enemy."
"You are my only friend," said Debendra; "I would lose half of what I possess rather than lose you. Still, I confess I would rather lose you than give up the hope of seeing Kunda Nandini."
"Then it must be so. I can no longer associate with you."
Thus saying, Surendra departed with a sorrowful heart.
Debendra, greatly afflicted at losing his one friend, sat some time in repentant thought. At length he said: "Let it go! in this world who cares for any one? Each for himself!"
Then filling his glass he drank, and under the influence of the liquor his heart quickly became joyous. Closing his eyes, he began to sing some doggerel beginning--
<blockquote> "My name is Hira, the flower girl."
Presently a voice answered from without--
<blockquote> "My name is Hira Malini.
He is talking in his cups; I can't bear to see it."
Debendra, hearing the voice, called out noisily, "Who are you--a male or female spirit?"
Then, jingling her bangles, the spirit entered and sat down by Debendra. The spirit was covered with a <em>sari</em>, bracelets on her arms, on her neck a charm, ornaments in her ears, silver chain round her waist, on her ankles rings. She was scented with attar.
Debendra held a light near to the face of the spirit. He did not know her.
Gently he said, "Who are you? and from whence do you come?" Then holding the light in another direction, he asked, "Whose spirit are you?" At last, finding he could not steady himself, he said, "Go for to-day; I will worship you with cakes and flesh of goat on the night of the dark moon."
[Footnote 10: At the time of the dark moon the Hindus worship Kalee and her attendant spirits.]
Then the spirit, laughing, said, "Are you well, <em>Boisnavi Didi</em>?"
"Good heavens!" said the tipsy one, "are you a spirit from the Datta family?" Thus saying, he again held the lamp near her face; moving it hither and thither all round, he gravely examined the woman. At last, throwing down the lamp, he began to sing, "Who are you? Surely I know you. Where have I seen you?"
The woman replied, "I am Hira."
"Hurrah! Three cheers for Hira!" Exclaiming thus, the drunken man began to jump about. Then, falling flat on the floor, he saluted Hira, and with glass in hand began to sing in her praise.
Hira had discovered during the day that Haridasi <em>Boisnavi</em> and Debendra Babu were one and the same person. But with what design Debendra had entered the house of the Dattas it was not so easy to discover. To find this out, Hira had come to Debendra's house; only Hira would have had courage for such a deed. She now said:
"What is my purpose? To day a thief entered the Datta's house and committed a robbery--I have come to seize the robber."
Hearing this, the Babu said: "It is true I went to steal; but, Hira, I went not to steal jewels or pearls, but to seek flowers and fruits."
"What flower? Kunda?"
"Hurrah! Yes, Kunda. Three cheers for Kunda Nandini! I adore her."
"I have come from Kunda Nandini."
"Hurrah! Speak! speak! What has she sent you to say? Yes, I remember; why should it not be? For three years we have loved each other."
Hira was astonished, but wishing to hear more, she said: "I did not know you had loved so long. How did you first make love to her?"
"There is no difficulty in that. From my friendship with Tara Charan, I asked him to introduce me to his wife. He did so, and from that time I have loved her."
"After that what happened?" asked Hira.
"After that, because of your mistress's anger, I did not see Kunda for many days. Then I entered the house as a <em>Boisnavi</em>. The girl is very timid, she will not speak; but the way in which I coaxed her to-day is sure to take effect. Why should it not succeed? Am I not Debendra? Learn well, oh lover! the art of winning hearts!"
Then Hira said: "It has become very late; now good-bye," and smiling gently she arose and departed.
Debendra fell into a drunken sleep.
Early the next morning Hira related to Surja Mukhi all that she had heard from Debendra--his three years' passion, and his present attempt to play the lover to Kunda Nandini in the disguise of a <em>Boisnavi</em>.
Then Surja Mukhi's blue eyes grew inflamed with anger, the crimson veins on her temples stood out. Kamal also heard it all.
Surja Mukhi sent for Kunda Nandini, and when she came said to her--
"Kunda, we have learned who Haridasi <em>Boisnavi</em> is. We know that he is your paramour. I now know your true character. We give no place in our house to such a woman. Take yourself away from here, otherwise Hira shall drive you away with a broom."
Kunda trembled. Kamal saw that she was about to fall, and led her away to her own chamber. Remaining there, she comforted Kunda as well as she could, saying, "Let the <em>Bou</em> (wife) say what she will, I do not believe a word of it."