It is needless to say that when the news of Surja Mukhi's flight had spread through the house, people were sent in great haste in search of her. Nagendra sent people in all directions, Srish Chandra sent, and Kamal Mani sent. The upper servants among the women threw down their water-jars and started off; the Hindustani <em>Durwans</em> of the North-West Provinces, carrying bamboo staves, wearing cotton-quilted chintz coats, clattered along in shoes of undressed leather; the <em>khansamahs</em>, with towel on the shoulder and silver chain round the waist, went in search of the mistress. Some relatives drove in carriages along the public roads. The villagers searched the fields and <em>gháts</em>; some sat smoking in council under a tree; some went to the <em>barowari puja</em> house, to the verandah of Siva's temple, and to the schools of the professors of logic, and in other similar places sat and discussed the matter. Old and young women formed a small cause court on the <em>gháts</em>; to the boys of the place it was cause of great excitement; many of them hoped to escape going to school.
At first Srish Chandra and Kamal Mani comforted Nagendra, saying, "She has never been accustomed to walk; how far can she go? Half a mile, or a mile at the most; hence she must be sitting somewhere near at hand, we shall find her immediately."
But when two or three hours had passed without bringing news of Surja Mukhi, Nagendra himself went forth. After some stay in the broiling sun he said to himself, "I am looking here, when no doubt she has been found by this time;" and he returned home. Then finding no news of her he went out again, again to return, and again to go forth. So the day passed.
In fact, Srish Chandra's words were true--Surja Mukhi had never walked; how far could she go? About a mile from the house she was lying in a mango garden at the edge of a tank. A <em>khansamah</em> who was accustomed to serve in the women's apartment came to that place in his search, and recognizing her, said, "Will you not please to come home?"
Surja Mukhi made no answer.
Again he said, "Pray come home, the whole household is anxious."
Then, in an angry voice, Surja Mukhi said, "Who are you to take me back?"
The <em>khansamah</em> was frightened; nevertheless he remained standing.
Then Surja Mukhi said, "If you stay there I shall drown myself in the tank."
The <em>khansamah</em>, finding he was unable to do anything, ran swiftly with the news to Nagendra. Nagendra came with a palanquin for her; but Surja Mukhi was no longer there. He searched all about, but found no trace.
Surja Mukhi had wandered thence into a wood. There she met an old woman who had come to gather sticks. She had heard of a reward being offered for finding Surja Mukhi, therefore on seeing her she asked--
"Are you not our mistress?"
"No, mother," replied Surja Mukhi.
"Yes, you must be our mistress."
"Who is your mistress?"
"The lady of the Babu's house."
"Am I wearing any gold ornaments that I should be the lady of the Babu's house?"
The old woman thought, "That is true," and went further into the wood gathering sticks.
Thus the day passed vainly; the night brought no more success. The two following days brought no tidings, though nothing was neglected in the search. Of the male searchers, scarcely any one knew Surja Mukhi by sight; so they seized many poor women and brought them before Nagendra. At length the daughters of respectable people feared to walk along the roads or on the <em>gháts</em>. If one was seen alone, the devoted Hindustani <em>Durwans</em> followed, calling out "<em>Ma Thakurani</em>," and, preventing them from bathing, brought a palki. Many of those who were not accustomed to travel in a palki seized the opportunity of doing so free of expense.
Srish Chandra could not remain longer. Returning to Calcutta, he began a search there. Kamal Mani, remaining in Govindpur, continued to look for the lost one.