When, in the evening, the two gained self-control to talk together, Surja Mukhi related the affair of the marriage from beginning to end.
Astonished, Kamal Mani said--
"This marriage has been brought about by your exertions! Why have you thus sacrificed yourself?"
Surja Mukhi smiled, a faint smile indeed, like the pale flashes of lightning after rain; then answered--
"What am I? Look upon your brother's face, radiant with happiness, then you will know what joy is his. If I have been able with my own eyes to see him so happy, has not my life answered its purpose? What joy could I hope for in denying happiness to him? He for whom I would die rather than see him unhappy for a single hour; him I saw day and night suffering anguish, ready to abandon all joys and become a wanderer--what happiness would have remained to me? I said to him, 'My lord, your joy is my joy! Do you marry Kunda; I shall be happy.' And so he married her."
"And are you happy?" asked Kamal.
"Why do you still ask about me? what am I? If I had ever seen my husband hurt his foot by walking on a stony path, I should have reproached myself that I had not laid my body down over the stones that he might have stepped upon me."
Surja Mukhi remained some moments silent, her dress drenched with her tears. Suddenly raising her face, she asked--
"Kamal, in what country are females destroyed at birth?"
Kamal understanding her thought, replied--
"What does it matter in what country it happens? it is according to destiny."
"Whose destiny could be better than mine was? Who so fortunate as myself? Who ever had such a husband? Beauty, wealth, these are small matters; but in virtues, whose husband equals mine? Mine was a splendid destiny; how has it changed thus?"
"That also is destiny," said Kamal.
"Then why do I suffer on this account?"
"But just now you said you were happy in the sight of your husband's joyous face; yet you speak of suffering so much. Can both be true?"
"Both are true. I am happy in his joy. But that he should thrust me away; that he has thrust me away, and yet is so glad--"
Surja could say no more, she was choking. But Kamal, understanding the meaning of her unfinished sentence, said--
"Because of that your heart burns within you; then why do you say, 'What am I?' With half of your heart you still think of your own rights; else why, having sacrificed yourself, do you repent?"
"I do not repent," replied Surja. "That I have done right I do not doubt; but in dying there is suffering. I felt that I must give way, and I did so voluntarily. Still, may I not weep over that suffering with you?"
Kamal Mani drew Surja Mukhi's head on to her breast; their thoughts were not expressed by words, but they conversed in their hearts. Kamal Mani understood the wretchedness of Surja Mukhi; Surja Mukhi comprehended that Kamal appreciated her suffering. They checked their sobs and ceased to weep.
Surja Mukhi, setting her own affairs on one side, spoke of others, desired that Satish Babu should be brought, and talked to him. With Kamal she spoke long of Srish Chandra and of Satish, of the education of Satish and of his marriage. Thus they talked until far in the night, when Surja Mukhi embraced Kamal with much affection, and taking Satish into her lap kissed him lovingly.
When they came to part, Surja Mukhi was again drowned in tears. She blessed Satish, saying--
"I wish that thou mayst be rich in the imperishable virtues of thy mother's brother; I know no greater blessing than this."
Surja Mukhi spoke in her natural, gentle voice; nevertheless Kamal was astonished at its broken accents. "<em>Bon!</em>!" she exclaimed, "what is in your mind? tell me."
"Nothing," replied Surja.
"Do not hide it from me," said Kamal.
"I have nothing to conceal," said Surja.
Pacified, Kamal went to her room. But Surja Mukhi had a purpose to conceal. This Kamal learned in the morning. At dawn she went to Surja Mukhi's room in search of her; Surja Mukhi was not there, but upon the undisturbed bed there lay a letter. At the sight of it Kamal became dizzy; she could not read it. Without doing so she understood all, understood that Surja Mukhi had fled. She had no desire to read the letter, but crushed it in her hand. Striking her forehead, she sat down upon the bed, exclaiming: "I am a fool! how could I allow myself to be put off last night when parting from her?"
Satish Babu, standing near, joined his tears with his mother's.
The first passion of grief having spent itself, Kamal Mani opened and read the letter. It was addressed to herself, and ran as follows:
"On the day on which I heard from my husband's mouth that he no longer had any pleasure in me, that for Kunda Nandini he was losing his senses or must die--on that day I resolved, if I could find Kunda Nandini, to give her to my husband and to make him happy; and that when I had done so I would leave my home, for I am not able to endure to see my husband become Kunda Nandini's. Now I have done these things.
"I wished to have gone on the night of the wedding-day, but I had a desire to see my husband's happiness, to give him which I had sacrificed myself; also, I desired to see you once more. Now these desires are fulfilled, and I have left.
"When you receive this letter I shall be far distant. My reason for not telling you beforehand is that you would not have allowed me to go. Now I beg this boon from you, that you will make no search for me. I have no hope that I shall ever see you again. While Kunda Nandini remains I shall not return to this place, and should I be sought for I shall not be found. I am now a poor wanderer. In the garb of a beggar I shall go from place to place. In begging I shall pass my life; who wilt know me? I might have brought some money with me, but I was not willing. I have left my husband--would I take his money?
"Do one thing for me. Make a million salutations in my name at my husband's feet. I strove to write to him, but I could not; I could not see to write for tears, the paper was spoilt. Tearing it up, I wrote again and again, but in vain; what I have to say I could not write in any letter. Break the intelligence to him in any manner you think proper. Make him understand that I have not left him in anger; I am not angry, am never angry, shall never be angry with him. Could I be angry with him whom it is my joy to think upon? To him whom I love so devotedly, I remain constant so long as I remain on earth. Why not? since I cannot forget his thousand graces. No one has so many graces as he. If I could forget his numerous virtues on account of one fault, I should not be worthy to be his wife. I have taken a last farewell of him. In doing this I have given up all I possess.
"From you also I have taken a last farewell, wishing you the blessing that your husband and son may live long. May you long be happy! Another blessing I wish you--that on the day you lose your husband's love your life may end. No one has conferred this blessing on me."