Hira has sold her precious jewel in exchange for a cowrie. Virtue may be preserved with much pains for a long time; yet a day's carelessness may lose it. So it was with Hira. The wealth to gain which she had sold her precious jewel was but a broken shell; for such love as Debendra's is like the bore in the river, as muddy as transient. In three days the flood subsided, and Hira was left in the mud. As the miser, or the man greedy of fame, having long preserved his treasure, at the marriage of a son, or some other festival, spends all in one day's enjoyment, Hira, who had so long preserved her chastity, had now lost it for a day's delight, and like the ruined miser was left standing in the path of endless regret.
Abandoned by Debendra, as a boy throws away an unripe mango not to his taste, Hira at first suffered frightfully. It was not only that she had been cast adrift by Debendra, but that, having been degraded and wounded by him, she had sunk to so low a position among women. It was this she found so unendurable. When, in her last interview, embracing Debendra's feet, she had said, "Do not cast me off!" he had replied, "It has only been in the hope of obtaining Kunda Nandini that I have honoured you so long. If you can secure me her society I will continue to live with you; otherwise not. I have given you the fitting reward of your pride; now, with the ink of this stain upon you, you may go home."
Everything seemed dark around Hira in her anger. When her head ceased to swim she stood in front of Debendra, her brows knitted, her eyes inflamed, and as with a hundred tongues she gave vent to her temper. Abuse such as the foulest women use she poured upon him, till he, losing patience, kicked her out of the pleasure-garden. Hira was a sinner; Debendra a sinner and a brute.
Thus ended the promise of eternal love.
Hira, thus abused, did not go home. In Govindpur there was a low-caste doctor who attended only low-caste people. He had no knowledge of treatment or of drugs; he knew only the poisonous pills by which life is destroyed. Hira knew that for the preparation of these pills he kept vegetable, mineral, snake, and other life-destroying poisons. That night she went to his house, and calling him aside said--
"I am troubled every day by a jackal who eats from my cooking-vessels. Unless I can kill this jackal I cannot remain here. If I mix some poison with the rice to-day he will eat it and die. You keep many poisons; can you sell me one that will instantly destroy life?"
The <em>Chandal</em> (outcast) did not believe the jackal story. He said--
"I have what you want, but I cannot sell it. Should I be known to sell poison the police would seize me."
"Be not anxious about that," said Hira; "no one shall know that you have sold it. I will swear to you by my patron deity, and by the Ganges, if you wish. Give me enough to kill two jackals, and I will pay you fifty rupees."
The <em>Chandal</em> felt certain that a murder was intended, but he could not resist the fifty rupees, and consented to sell the poison.
Hira fetched the money from her house and gave it to him. The <em>Chandal</em> twisted up a pungent life-destroying poison in paper, and gave it to her.
In departing, Hira said, "Mind you betray this to no one, else we shall both suffer."
The <em>Chandal</em> answered, "I do not even know you, mother."
Thus freed from fear, Hira went home. When there she held the poison in her hand, weeping bitterly; then, wiping her eyes, she said--
"What fault have I committed that I should die? Why should I die without killing him who has struck me? I will not take this poison. He who has reduced me to this condition shall eat it, or, if not, I will give it to his beloved Kunda Nandini. After one of these two are dead, if necessary I also will take it."