Haridasi <em>Boisnavi</em>, having left the house of the Datta family, went to Debipur. At this place there is a flower-garden surrounded by painted iron railings. It is well stocked with fruit trees and flowering shrubs. In the centre is a tank, upon the edge of which stands a garden-house. Entering a private room in this house, Haridasi threw off her dress. Suddenly that dense mass of hair fell from the head; the locks were borrowed. The bust also fell away; it was made of cloth. After putting on suitable apparel and removing the <em>Boisnavi</em> garments, there stood forth a strikingly handsome young man of about five and twenty years of age. Having no hair on his face he looked quite a youth; in feature he was very handsome. This young man was Debendra Babu, of whom we have before had some slight knowledge.
Debendra and Nagendra were sprung from the same family, but between the two branches there had been feud for successive generations, so that the members of the Debipur family were not on speaking terms with those of Govindpur. From generation to generation there had been lawsuits between the two houses. At length, in an important suit, the grandfather of Nagendra had defeated the grandfather of Debendra, and since that time the Debipur family had been powerless. All their money was swallowed up in law expenses, and the Govindpur house had bought up all their estates. From that time the position of the Debipur family had declined, that of the other increased, the two branches no longer united.
Debendra's father had sought in one way to restore the fallen fortunes of his house. Another zemindar, named Ganesh, dwelt in the Haripur district; he had one unmarried daughter, Hembati, who was given to Debendra in marriage. Hembati had many virtues; she was ugly, ill-tempered, unamiable, selfish. Up to the time of his marriage with her, Debendra's character had been without stain. He had been very studious, and was by nature steady and truth-loving. But that marriage had been fatal to him. When Debendra came to years of discretion he perceived that on account of his wife's disposition there was no hope of domestic happiness for him. With manhood there arose in him a love for beauty, but in his own house this was denied to him; with manhood there came a desire for conjugal affection, but the mere sight of the unamiable Hembati quenched the desire. Putting happiness out of the question, Debendra perceived that it would be difficult to stay in the house to endure the venom of Hembati's tongue. One day Hembati poured forth abuse on her husband; he had endured much, he could endure no more, he dragged Hembati by the hair and kicked her. From that day, deserting his home, he went to Calcutta, leaving orders that a small house should be built for him in the garden. Before this occurred the father of Debendra had died, therefore he was independent. In Calcutta he plunged into vicious pursuits to allay his unsatisfied desires, and then strove to wash away his heart's reproaches in wine; after that he ceased to feel any remorse, he took delight in vice. When he had learned what Calcutta could teach him in regard to luxury, Debendra returned to his native place, and, taking up his abode in the garden-house, gave himself up to the indulgence of his recently acquired tastes. Debendra had learned many peculiar fashions in Calcutta; on returning to Debipur he called himself a Reformer. First he established a <em>Brahmo Samaj</em>; many such Brahmos as Tara Charan were attracted to it, and to the speech-making there was no limit. He also thought of opening a female school; but this required too much effort, he could not do it. About widow marriage he was very zealous. One or two such marriages had been arranged, the widows being of low caste; but the credit of these was due, not to him, but to the contracting parties. He had been of one mind with Tara Charan about breaking the chains of the zenana; both had said, "Let women come out." In this matter Debendra was very successful, but then this emancipation had in his mind a special meaning.
When Debendra, on his return from Govindpur, had thrown off his disguise and resumed his natural appearance, he took his seat in the next room. His servant, having prepared the pain-relieving <em>huka</em>, placed the snake in front of him. Debendra spent some time in the service of that fatigue-destroying goddess, Tobacco. He is not worthy to be called a man who does not know the luxury of tobacco. Oh, satisfier of the hearts of all! oh, world enchantress! may we ever be devoted to thee! Your vehicles, the <em>huka</em>, the pipe, let them ever remain before us. At the mere sight of them we shall obtain heavenly delight. Oh, <em>huka</em>! thou that sendest forth volumes of curling smoke, that hast a winding tube shaming the serpent! oh, bowl that beautifies thy top! how graceful are the chains of thy turban; how great is the beauty of thy curved mouthpiece; how sonorous the murmur of the ice-cool water in thy depths! Oh, world enchantress! oh, soother of the fatigues of man, employer of the idle, comforter of the henpecked husband's heart, encourager of timid dependents, who can know thy glory! Soother of the sorrowing! thou givest courage to the timid, intellect to the stupid, peace to the angry! Oh, bestower of blessings, giver of all happiness, appear in undiminished power in my room! Let your sweet scent increase daily, let your cool waters continue to rumble in your depths, let your mouthpiece ever be glued to my lips!
Pleasure-loving Debendra enjoyed the favour of this great goddess as long as he would, but yet he was not satisfied; he proceeded to worship another great power. In the hand of his servant was displayed a number of straw-covered bottles. Then on that white, soft, spacious bed, a gold-coloured mat being laid, a spirit-stand was placed thereon, and the sunset-coloured liquid goddess poured into the power-giving decanter. A cut-glass tumbler and plated jug served as utensils for worship. From the kitchen a black, ugly priest came, bearing hot dishes of roast mutton and cutlets to take the place of the sacred flowers. Then Debendra, as a devoted worshipper, sat down to perform the rites.
Then came a troop of singers and musicians, and concluded the ceremonies with their music and songs.
At length a young man of about Debendra's age, of a placid countenance, came and sat with him. This was his cousin, Surendra. Surendra was in every respect the opposite of Debendra, yet the latter was much attached to his cousin; he heeded no one in the world but him. Every night Surendra came to see him, but, fearing the wine, he would only sit a few minutes.
When all were gone, Surendra asked Debendra, "How are you to-day?"
"The body," replied Debendra, "is the temple of disease."
"Yours is, especially," said his cousin, "Have you fever to-day?"
"Is your liver out of order?"
"It is as before."
"Would it not be better to refrain from these excesses?"
"What, drinking? How often will you speak of that? Wine is my constant companion," said Debendra.
"But why should it be?" replied Surendra. "Wine was not born with you; you can't take it away with you. Many give it up, why should not you do so?"
"What have I to gain by giving it up? Those who do so have some happiness in prospect, and therefore give it up. For me there is no happiness."
"Then to save your life give it up."
"Those to whom life brings happiness may give up wine; but what have I to gain by living?"
Surendra's eyes filled with tears. Full of love for his friend, he urged:
"Then for my sake give it up."
Tears came into the eyes of Debendra as he said: "No one but yourself urges me to walk in virtuous paths. If I ever do give it up it will be for your sake, and--"
"If ever I hear that my wife is dead I will give up drink. Otherwise, whether I live or die, I care not."
Surendra, with moist eyes, mentally anathematising Hembati, took his leave.