The work required to be done in Calcutta was finished. The deed of gift was drawn up. In it special rewards were indicated for the <em>Brahmachari</em> and the unknown Brahman. The deed would have to be registered at Haripur, therefore Nagendra went to Govindpur, taking it with him. He had instructed his brother-in-law to follow. Srish Chandra had striven to prevent his executing this deed, also to restrain him from making the journey on foot, but in vain. His efforts thus defeated, he followed by boat; and as Kamal Mani could not endure to be parted from her husband, she and Satish simply accompanied him without asking any questions.
When Kunda saw Kamal Mani she thought that once more a star had risen in the sky. Since the flight of Surja Mukhi, Kamal's anger against Kunda had been inflexible; she had always refused to see her. But now, at the sight of Kunda's emaciated figure, Kamal's anger departed. She endeavoured to cheer her with the news that Nagendra was coming, which brought a smile to the girl's face; but at the news of Surja Mukhi's death Kunda Nandini wept.
Many fair readers will smile at this, thinking, "The cat weeps over the death of the fish." But Kunda was very stupid; that she had cause to rejoice never entered her head: this silly woman actually cried over her rival's death.
Kamal Mani not only cheered Kunda, she herself felt comforted. She had already wept much, and now she began to think, "What is the use of weeping? If I do, Srish Chandra will be miserable and Satish will cry. Weeping will not bring back Surja Mukhi." So she gave up weeping, and became her natural self.
Kamal Mani said to Srish Chandra, "The goddess of this paradise has abandoned it; when my brother comes he will have only a bed of straw to lie upon." They resolved to put the place in order; so the coolies, the lamp cleaners, and the gardeners were set to work. Under Kamal Mani's vigorous treatment the musk-rats, bats, and mice, departed squeaking; the pigeons flew from cornice to cornice; the sparrows fled in distress. Where the windows were closed, the sparrows, taking them for open doorways, pecked at them with their beaks till they were ready to drop. The women-servants, broom in hand, were victorious everywhere. Before long the place again wore a smiling appearance, and at length Nagendra arrived.
It was evening. As a river courses swiftly when at flood, but at ebb the deep water is calm, so Nagendra's violent grief was now changed into a quiet gravity. His sorrow was not lessened, but he was no longer restless. In a quiet manner he conversed with the household, making inquiries from each one. In the presence of none of them did he mention the name of Surja Mukhi, but all were grieved at the sorrow expressed by his grave countenance. The old servants, saluting him, went aside and wept. One person only did Nagendra wound. With the long-sorrowing Kunda he did not speak.
By the orders of Nagendra the servants prepared his bed in Surja Mukhi's room. At this order Kamal Mani shook her head. At midnight, when all the household had retired, Nagendra went to Surja Mukhi's chamber, not to lie down, but to weep. Surja Mukhi's room was spacious and beautiful; it was the temple of all Nagendra's joys, therefore he had adorned it with care. The room was wide and lofty, the floor inlaid with white and black marble, the walls painted in floral designs, blue, yellow, and red. Above the flowers hovered various birds. On one side stood a costly bedstead, beautifully carved and inlaid with ivory; elsewhere, seats in variously coloured coverings, a large mirror, and other suitable furniture. Some pictures, not English, hung upon the walls. Surja Mukhi and Nagendra together had chosen the subjects, and caused them to be painted by a native artist, who had been taught by an Englishman, and could draw well. Nagendra had framed the pictures handsomely, and hung them on the walls. One picture was taken from the Birth of Kartika: Siva, sunk in meditation, on the summit of the hill; Nandi at the door of the arbour. On the left Hembatra, finger on lip, is hushing the sounds of the garden. All is still, the bees hid among the leaves, the deer reposing. At this moment Madan (Cupid) enters to interrupt the meditation of Siva; with him comes Spring. In advance, Parvati, wreathed with flowers, has come to salute Siva. Uma's joyous face is bent in salutation, one knee resting on the earth. This is the position depicted in the painting. As she bends her head, one or two flowers escape from the wreaths fastened in her hair. In the distance Cupid, half hidden by the woods, one knee touching earth, his beauteous bow bent, is fitting to it the flower-wreathed arrow.
In another picture, Ram, returning from Lanka with Janaki, both sitting in a jewelled chariot, is coursing through the sky. Ram has one hand on the shoulders of Janaki, with the other is pointing out the beauties of the earth below. Around the chariot many-coloured clouds, blue, red, and white, sail past in purple waves. Below, the broad blue ocean heaves its billows, shining like heaps of diamonds in the sun's rays. In the distance, opal-crowned Lanka, its rows of palaces like golden peaks in the sun's light; the opposite shore beautiful with tamal and palm trees. In the mid distance flocks of swans are flying.
Another picture represents Subhadra with Arjuna in the chariot. Countless Yadav soldiers, their flags streaming out against the gloomy sky, are running after the chariot. Subhadra herself is driving, the horses grinding the clouds with their hoofs. Subhadra, proud of her skill, is looking round towards Arjuna, biting her lower lip with her ivory teeth, her hair streaming in the chariot-created wind; two or three braids moistened with perspiration lie in a curve on her temples.
In another, Sakuntala, with the desire of seeing Dushmanta, is pretending to take a thorn from her foot. Anasuya and Priamboda are smiling. Sakuntala, between anger and shame will not raise her face. She cannot look at Dushmanta, nor yet can she leave the spot.
In another, Prince Abhimaya, armed for battle, and, like the young lion, eager for glory, is taking leave of Uttora that he may go to the field. Uttora, saying that she will not let him go, is standing against the closed door weeping, with her hands over her eyes.
It was past twelve when Nagendra entered the room. The night was fearful. Late in the evening some rain had fallen; now the wind had risen and was blowing fiercely, the rain continuing at intervals. Wherever the shutters were not fastened they flapped to and fro with the noise of thunder-claps, the sashes rattling continuously. When Nagendra closed the door the noise was less noticeable. There was another door near the bedstead, but as the wind did not blow in that direction he left it open. Nagendra sat on the sofa, weeping bitterly. How often had he sat there with Surja Mukhi; what pleasant talks they had had! Again and again Nagendra embraced that senseless seat; then raising his face he looked at the pictures so dear to Surja Mukhi. In the fitful light of the lamp the figures in the pictures seemed to be alive; in each picture Nagendra saw Surja Mukhi. He remembered that one day she expressed a wish to be decked with flowers like Uma in the picture. He had gone forth, brought in flowers from the garden, and with them decked her person. What beauty decked with jewels had ever felt the pleasure felt by Surja Mukhi at that moment? Another day she had desired to drive Nagendra's carriage in imitation of Subhadra; whereupon he had brought a small carriage drawn by ponies to the inner garden. They both got in, Surja Mukhi taking the reins; like Subhadra, she turned her face towards Nagendra, biting her lower lip and laughing. The ponies, taking advantage of her inattention, went through an open gate into the road. Then Surja Mukhi, afraid of being seen by the people, drew her <em>sari</em> over her face, and Nagendra, seeing her distress, took the reins and brought the carriage back into the garden. They went into the chamber laughing over the adventure, and Surja Mukhi shook her fist at Subhadra in the picture, saying, "You are the cause of this misfortune."
How bitterly Nagendra wept over this remembrance! Unable longer to endure his suffering he walked about; but look where he would there were signs of Surja Mukhi. On the wall where the artist had drawn twining plants she had sketched a copy of one of them; the sketch remained there still. One day during the Dol festival she had thrown a ball of red powder at her husband; she had missed her aim and struck the wall, where still the stain was visible. When the room was finished, Surja Mukhi had written in one spot--
<blockquote>"In the year 1910 of Vikramaditya
This room was prepared For my Guardian Deity, my husband,
By his servant
Nagendra read this inscription repeatedly. He could not satisfy his desire to read it. Though the tears filled his eyes so that he could not see, he would not desist. As he read he perceived the light becoming dim, and found the lamp ready to expire. With a sigh he laid down; but scarcely had he done so ere the wind began to rage furiously. The lamp, void of oil, was on the point of extinction, only a faint spark like that of a firefly remained. In that dim light a remarkable circumstance occurred. Astonished by the noise of the shutters, Nagendra looked towards the door near the bed. In that open doorway, shown by the dim light, a shadowy form appeared. The shape was that of a woman; but what he saw further made his hair stand on end, he trembled from head to foot. The woman's face had the features of Surja Mukhi! Nagendra started to his feet and hastened to the figure. But the light went out, the form became invisible; with a loud cry Nagendra fell senseless to the ground.
When Nagendra recovered consciousness thick darkness filled the room. By degrees he collected his senses. As he remembered what had caused the swoon, surprise was added to surprise. He had fallen senseless on the floor, then whence came the pillow on which his head was resting? Was it a pillow? or was it the lap of some one--of Kunda Nandini?
To solve his doubt he said, "Who are you?" But the supporter of his head made no reply. Only a hot drop or two fell on his forehead, by which he understood that the person was weeping. He tried to identify the person by touch. Suddenly he became quite bewildered; he remained motionless for some moments, then with labouring breath raised his head and sat up. The rain had ceased, the clouds had disappeared, light began to peep into the room. Nagendra rose and seated himself. He perceived that the woman had also risen, and was slowly making towards the door. Then Nagendra guessed that it was not Kunda Nandini. There was not light enough to recognize any one, but something might be guessed from form and gait. Nagendra studied these for a moment, then falling at the feet of the standing figure, in troubled tones he said--
"Whether thou art a god or a human being, I am at thy feet; speak to me, or I shall die!"
What the woman said he could not understand, but no sooner had the sound of her voice entered his ear than he sprang to his feet and tried to grasp the form. But mind and body again became benumbed, and, like the creeper from the tree, he sank at the feet of the enchantress; he could not speak. Again the woman, sitting down, took his head upon her lap. When Nagendra once more recovered from stupor it was day. The birds were singing in the adjacent garden. The rays of the newly risen sun were shining into the room. Without raising his eyes Nagendra said--
"Kunda, when did you come? This whole night I have been dreaming of Surja Mukhi. In my dream I saw myself with my head on Surja Mukhi's lap. If you could be Surja Mukhi, how joyful it would be!"
The woman answered, "If it would delight you so much to see that unhappy being, then I am she."
Nagendra started up, wiped his eyes, sat holding his temples, again rubbed his eyes and gazed; then bowing his head, he said in a low voice--
"Am I demented, or is Surja Mukhi living? Is this the end of my destiny, that I should go mad?"
Then the woman, clasping his feet, wept over them, saying, "Arise, arise, my all! I have suffered so much. To-day all my sorrow is ended. I am not dead. Again I have come to serve you."
Could delusion last longer? Nagendra embraced Surja Mukhi, and laid his head upon her breast. Together they wept; but how joyous was that weeping!