Hira had lost her place, but her relation with the Datta family was not ended. Ever greedy for news from that house, whenever she met any one belonging to it Hira entered into a gossip. In this way she endeavoured to ascertain the disposition of Nagendra towards Surja Mukhi. If she met no one she found some pretext for going to the house, where, in the servants' quarters, while talking of all sorts of matters, she would learn what she wished and depart. Thus some time passed; but one day an unpleasant event occurred. After Hira's interview with Debendra, Malati the milk-woman became a constant visitor at Hira's dwelling. Malati perceived that Hira was not pleased at this; also that one room remained constantly closed. The door was secured by a chain and padlock on the outside; but Malati coming in unexpectedly, perceived that the padlock was absent. Malati removed the chain and pushed the door, but it was fastened inside, and she guessed that some one must be in the room. She asked herself who it could be? At first she thought of a lover; but then, whose lover? Malati knew everything that went on, so she dismissed this idea. Then the thought flashed across her that it might be Kunda, of whose expulsion from the house of Nagendra she had heard. She speedily determined upon a means of resolving her doubt.
Hira had brought from Nagendra's house a young deer, which, because of its restlessness, she kept tied up. Malati, pretending to feed the creature, loosened the fastening, and it instantly bounded away. Hira ran after it.
Seizing the opportunity of Hira's absence, Malati began to call out in a voice of distress: "Hira! Hira! What has happened to my Hira?" Then rapping at Kunda's door, she exclaimed: "Kunda Thakurun, come out quickly; something has happened to Hira!"
In alarm Kunda opened the door; whereupon Malati, with a laugh of triumph, ran away. Kunda again shut herself in. She did not say anything of the circumstance to Hira, lest she should be scolded.
Malati went with her news to Debendra, who resolved to visit Hira's house on the following day, and bring the matter to a conclusion.
Kunda was now a caged bird, ever restless. Two currents uniting become a powerful stream. So it was in Kunda's heart. On one side shame, insult, expulsion by Surja Mukhi; on the other, passion for Nagendra. By the union of these two streams that of passion was increased, the smaller was swallowed up in the larger. The pain of the taunts and the insults began to fade; Surja Mukhi no longer found place in Kunda's mind, Nagendra occupied it entirely. She began to think, "Why was I so hasty in leaving the house? What harm did a few words do to me? I used to see Nagendra, now I never see him. Could I go back there? if she would not drive me away I would go." Day and night Kunda revolved these thoughts; she soon determined that she must return to the Datta house or she would die; that even if Surja Mukhi should again drive her away, she must make the attempt. Yet on what pretext could she present herself in the court-yard of the house? She would be ashamed to go thither alone. If Hira would accompany her she might venture; but she was ashamed to open her mouth to Hira.
Her heart could no longer endure not to see its lord. One morning, about four o'clock, while Hira was still sleeping, Kunda Nandini arose, and opening the door noiselessly, stepped out of the house. The dark fortnight being ended, the slender moon floated in the sky like a beautiful maiden on the ocean. Darkness lurked in masses amid the trees. The air was so still that the lotus in the weed-covered pool bordering the road did not shed its seed; the dogs were sleeping by the wayside; nature was full of sweet pensiveness. Kunda, guessing the road, went with doubtful steps to the front of the Datta house; she had no design in going, except that she might by a happy chance see Nagendra. Her return to his house might come about; let it occur when it would, what harm was there in the meantime in trying to see him secretly? While she remained shut up in Hira's house she had no chance of doing so. Now, as she walked, she thought, "I will go round the house; I may see him at the window, in the palace, in the garden, or in the path." Nagendra was accustomed to rise early; it was possible Kunda might obtain a glimpse of him, after which she meant to return to Hira's dwelling. But when she arrived at the house she saw nothing of Nagendra, neither in the path, nor on the roof, nor at the window. Kunda thought, "He has not risen yet, it is not time; I will sit down." She sat waiting amid the darkness under the trees; a fruit or a twig might be heard, in the silence, loosening itself with a slight cracking sound and falling to the earth. The birds in the boughs shook their wings overhead, and occasionally the sound of the watchmen knocking at the doors and giving their warning cry was to be heard. At length the cool wind blew, forerunner of the dawn, and the <em>papiya</em> (a bird) filled the air with its musical voice. Presently the cuckoo uttered his cry, and at length all the birds uniting raised a chorus of song. Then Kunda's hope was extinguished; she could no longer sit under the trees, for the dawn had come and she might be seen by any one. She rose to return. One hope had been strong in her mind. There was a flower-garden attached to the inner apartments, where sometimes Nagendra took the air. He might be walking there now; Kunda could not go away without seeing if it were so. But the garden was walled in, and unless the inner door was open there was no entrance. Going thither, Kunda found the door open, and, stepping boldly in, hid herself within the boughs of a <em>bakul</em> tree growing in the midst. Thickly-planted rows of creeper-covered trees decked the garden, between which were fine stone-made paths, and here and there flowering shrubs of various hues--red, white, blue, and yellow. Above them hovered troops of insects, coveting the morning honey, now poising, now flying, humming as they went; and, following the example of man, settling in flocks on some specially attractive flower. Many-coloured birds of small size, flower-like themselves, hovered over the blossoms, sipping the sweet juices and pouring forth a flood of melody. The flower-weighted branches swayed in the gentle breeze, the flowerless boughs remaining still, having nothing to weigh them down. The cuckoo, proud bird, concealing his dark colour in the tufts of the <em>bakul</em> tree, triumphed over every one with his song.
In the middle of the garden stood a creeper-covered arbour of white stone, surrounded by flowering shrubs. Kunda Nandini, looking forth from the <em>bakul</em> tree, saw not Nagendra's tall and god-like form. She saw some one lying on the floor of the arbour, and concluded that it was he. She went forward to obtain a better new. Unfortunately the person arose and came out, and poor Kunda saw that it was not Nagendra, but Surja Mukhi. Frightened, Kunda stood still, she could neither advance nor recede. She saw that Surja Mukhi was walking about gathering flowers. Gradually Nagendra's wife approaching the <em>bakul</em> tree, saw some one lurking within its branches. Not recognizing Kunda, Surja Mukhi said, "Who are you?"
Kunda could not speak for fear; her feet refused to move.
At length Surja Mukhi saw who it was, and exclaimed, "Is it not Kunda?"
Kunda could not answer; but Surja Mukhi, seizing her hand, said, "Come, sister, I will not say anything more to you!" and took her indoors.