On the night of that day, Debendra Datta, alone, in disguise, excited by wine, went to Hira's house in search of Kunda Nandini. He looked in the two huts, but Kunda was not there. Hira, covering her face with her <em>sari</em>, laughed at his discomfiture. Annoyed, Debendra said, "Why do you laugh?"
"At your disappointment. The bird has fled; should you search my premises you will not find it."
Then, in reply to Debendra's questions, Hira told all she knew, concluding with the words, "When I missed her in the morning I sought her everywhere, and at last found her in the Babu's house receiving much kindness."
Debendra's hopes thus destroyed, he had nothing to detain him; but the doubt in his mind was not dispelled, he wished to sit a little and obtain further information. Noting a cloud or two in the sky he moved restlessly, saying, "I think it is going to rain."
It was Hira's wish that he should sit awhile; but she was a woman, living alone; it was night, she could not bid him stay, if she did she would be taking another step in the downward course. Yet that was in her destiny.
Debendra said, "Have you an umbrella?" There was no such thing in Hira's house. Then he asked, "Will it cause remark if I sit here until the rain is past?"
"People will remark upon it, certainly; but the mischief has been done already in your coming to my house at night."
"Then I may sit down?"
Hira did not answer, but made a comfortable seat for him on the bench, took a silver-mounted <em>huka</em> from a chest, prepared it for use and handed it to him.
Debendra drew a flask of brandy from his pocket, and drank some of it undiluted. Under the influence of this spirit he perceived that Hira's eyes were beautiful. In truth they were so--large, dark, brilliant, and seductive. He said, "Your eyes are heavenly!" Hira smiled. Debendra saw in a corner a broken violin. Humming a tune, he took the violin and touched it with the bow. "Where did you get this instrument?" he asked.
"I bought it of a beggar."
Debendra made it perform a sort of accompaniment to his voice, as he sang some song in accordance with his mood.
Hira's eyes shone yet more brilliantly. For a few moments she forgot self, forgot Debendra's position and her own. She thought, "He is the husband, I am the wife; the Creator, making us for each other, designed long ago to bring us together, that we might both enjoy happiness." The thoughts of the infatuated Hira found expression in speech. Debendra discovered from her half-spoken words that she had given her heart to him. The words were hardly uttered when Hira recovered consciousness. Then, with the wild look of a frantic creature, she exclaimed, "Go from my house!"
Astonished, Debendra said, "What is the matter, Hira?"
"You must go at once, or I shall."
"Why do you drive me away?" said Debendra.
"Go, go, else I will call some one. Why should you destroy me?"
"Is this woman's nature?" asked Debendra.
Hira, enraged, answered: "The nature of woman is not evil. The nature of such a man as you is very evil. You have no religion, you care nothing for the fate of others; you go about seeking only your own delight, thinking only what woman you can destroy. Otherwise, why are you sitting in my house? Was it not your design to compass my destruction? You thought me to be a courtezan, else you would not have had the boldness to sit down here. But I am not a courtezan; I am a poor woman, and live by my labour. I have no leisure for such evil doings. If I had been a rich man's wife, I can't say how it would have been."
Then Hira softened; she looked full at Debendra and said: "The sight of your beauty and your gifts has made me foolish, but you are not to think of me as a courtezan. The sight of you makes me happy, and on that account I wished you to stay. I could not forbid you; but I am a woman. If I were too weak to forbid you, ought you to have sat down? You are very wicked; you entered my house in order to destroy me. Now leave the place!"
Debendra, taking another draught of brandy, said: "Well done, Hira! you have made a capital speech. Will you give a lecture in our Brahmo Samaj?"
Stung to the quick by this mockery, Hira said, bitterly: "I am not to be made a jest of by you. Even if I loved so base a man as you, such love would be no fit subject for a jest. I am not virtuous; I don't understand virtue; my mind is not turned in that direction. The reason I told you I was not a courtezan is because I am resolved not to bring a stain upon my character in the hope of winning your love. If you had a spark of love for me, I would have made no such pledge to myself. I am not speaking of virtue; I should think nothing of infamy compared with the treasure of your love; but you do not love me. For what reward should I incur ill-fame? For what gain should I give up my independence? If a young woman falls into your hands, you will not let her go. If I were to give you my worship, you would accept it; but to-morrow you would forget me, or, if you remembered, it would be to jest over my words with your companions. Why, then, should I become subject to you? Should the day come when you can love me, I will be your devoted servant."
In this manner Debendra discovered Hira's affection for himself. He thought: "Now I know you, I can make you dance to my measure, and whenever I please effect my designs through you."
With these thoughts in his mind, he departed. But Debendra did not yet know Hira.