In the absence of Nagendra and Surja Mukhi from their spacious home, all was darkness therein. The clerks sat in the office, and Kunda Nandini dwelt in the inner apartments with the poor relations. But how can stars dispel the darkness of a moonless night?
In the corners hung spiders' webs; in the rooms stood dust in heaps; pigeons built their nests in the cornices and sparrows in the beams. Heaps of withered leaves lay rotting in the garden; weeds grew over the tanks; the flower-beds were hidden by jungle. There were jackals in the court-yard, and rats in the granary; mould and fungus were everywhere to be seen; musk-rats and centipedes swarmed in the rooms; bats flew about night and day. Nearly all Surja Mukhi's pet birds had been eaten by cats; their soiled feathers lay scattered around. The ducks had been killed by the jackals, the peacocks had flown into the woods; the cows had become emaciated, and no longer gave milk. Nagendra's dogs had no spirit left in them, they neither played nor barked; they were never let loose; some had died, some had gone mad, some had escaped. The horses were diseased, or had become ill from want of work; the stables were littered with stubble, grass, and feathers. The horses were sometimes fed, sometimes neglected. The grooms were never to be found in the stables. The cornice of the house was broken in places, as were the sashes, the shutters, and the railings. The matting was soaked with rain; there was dust on the painted walls. Over the bookcases were the dwellings of insects; straws from the sparrows' nests on the glass of the chandeliers. In the house there was no mistress, and without a mistress paradise itself would be a ruin.
As in an untended garden overgrown with grass a single rose or lily will bloom, so in this house Kunda Nandini lived alone. Wherever a few joined in a meal Kunda partook of it. If any one addressed her as house-mistress, Kunda thought, "They are mocking me." If the <em>Dewan</em> sent to ask her about anything her heart beat with fear. There was a reason for this. As Nagendra did not write to Kunda, she had been accustomed to send to the <em>Dewan</em> for the letters received by him. She did not return the letters, and she lived in fear that the <em>Dewan</em> would claim them; and in fact the man no longer sent them to her, but only suffered her to read them as he held them in his hand.
The suffering felt by Surja Mukhi was endured in equal measure by Kunda Nandini. Surja Mukhi loved her husband; did not Kunda love him? In that little heart there was inexhaustible love, and because it could find no expression, like obstructed breathing it wounded her heart. From childhood, before her first marriage, Kunda had loved Nagendra; she had told no one, no one knew it. She had had no desire to obtain Nagendra, no hope of doing so; her despair she had borne in silence. To have striven for it would have been like striving to reach the moon in the sky. Now where was that moon? For what fault had Nagendra thrust her from him? Kunda revolved these thoughts in her mind night and day; night and day she wept. Well! let Nagendra not love her. It was her good fortune to love him. Why might she not even see him? Nor that only: he regarded Kunda as the root of his troubles; every one considered her so. Kunda thought, "Why should I be blamed for all this?"
In an evil moment Nagendra had married Kunda. As every one who sits under the upas-tree must die, so every one who had been touched by the shadow of this marriage was ruined.
Then again Kunda thought, "Surja Mukhi has come to this condition through me. Surja Mukhi protected me, loved me as a sister; I have made her a beggar by the roadside. Who is there more unfortunate than I? Why did I not die by the roadside? Why do I not die now? I will not die now; let him come, let me see him again. Will he not come?" Kunda had not received the news of Surja Mukhi's death, therefore she thought, "What is the use of dying now? Should Surja Mukhi return, then I will die; I will no longer be a thorn in her path."