BUBBLES OF THE FOAM
So Life's sad Sunset prizes What Life's gay Dawn despises, And always Winter wise is When Summer is no more: While Love than lightning fleeter Turns all he touches sweeter, To leave it incompleter Behind him, than before.
Years, looking forward, all too slow, Yet looking back, too fast, What is your joy, what is your woe, But scented ash that used to glow, A sandalwood of long ago, A camphor of the past?
BUBBLES OF THE FOAM
TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT
F. W. BAIN
What! Mortal taste Immortal? Earth, kiss Heaven? Confusion elemental!, ah! beware!
WITH A FRONTISPIECE
METHUEN & CO. LTD. 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON
First Published in 1912
PAGE I. A SPOILED CHILD 1
II. THE THIRST OF AN ANTELOPE 27
I. A DAPPLED DAWN 29
II. A GLAMOUR OF NOON 63
III. THE DESERT AND THE NIGHT 89
Four things are never far from you, in old Hindoo literature: underfoot, all round you, or away on the horizon, there they always are: the Forest, the Desert, the River, and the Hills.
It is never very easy, to understand the Past that really is a past: and the age of Forests, like that of chivalry, is gone. But in the case of ancient India, the chief obstacle to understanding arises from our bad habit of always looking at the map with the North side up. Why this inveterate apotheosis of the North? Would you understand the old Hindoos, you must turn the map of India very nearly upside down, so as to get Peshawar at the bottom, and the Andaman Islands exactly at the top. And then, history lies all before you, right side up, and you get your intellectual bearings, and take in the early situation, at a glance. Entering, like those old nomads, through the Khaibar, you find yourself suddenly in the Land of Streams: and as you drift along, you go, simply because you must, straight on, down the River "ganging on" (Ganga) towards the rising sun, "ahead," (which is the Sanskrit term for East,) all under the colossal wall of Hills, the home of Snow, where the gods live, on your left (uttara, the North, the heights;) while on the South, (the right hand, dakshina, the Deccan) you are debarred, not by Highlands, but by two not less peremptory rebutters: first, by the Desert, Marusthali, the home of death: and then again, a little farther on, by the Forest of the South: the vast, mysterious, impenetrable Wood, of which the Ramayana preserves for us the pioneering record and original idea, with its spell of the Unknown and the Adventure (like the Westward Ho! of a later age) with its Ogres and its Sprites, its sandal trees and lonely lotus-tarns, its armies of ugly little ape-like men, and its legendary Lanka (Ceylon) lost in a kind of halo of shell-born pearls, and gems, and their Ten-headed Devil King, Rawana, away, away, at the very end of all: so distant, as to be little more than mythical, little better than a dream. No! Those who wish to see things with the eyes of old Hindoos must not begin, as we did, and do still, with Ceylon, and the adjacent coasts of Coromandel and Malabar. That is the wrong, the other end: it is like starting English history from "the peak in Darien."
But our particular concern, in these pages, is with the Desert. The conventional notion of a desert, as a colourless and empty flat of sand, is curiously unlike the thing itself, which is a constantly changing, kaleidoscopic sea of colour, made up of rainbow stripes, black, golden, red, dazzling white, and blue, with every kind of lights and shadows, strange hazes, transparencies, and gleams. True, the ground you actually tread upon is bare: but it is clothed with raiment woven by that magic artist, Distance, out of cloud and heat and air and sky. And so, when these old Hindoo people came to make a closer acquaintance with the Desert, so dangerous to enter, so difficult, as Mahmood subsequently found, to cross, they discovered, that over and above the plain prosaic danger, this Waste of Sand laid, like a very demon, goblin snares for the unwary traveller's destruction, in the form of its Mirage. Ignorant of "optical phenomena," they gazed at this strange illusion, these phantom trees and water, these mocking semblances of cities that vanished as you reached them, with astonishment, and even awe. It struck their imagination, and they gave to it a name scarcely less poetical than the thing: calling it "deer-water," or the "thirst of the antelope." Nor was this all. For the apparition was a kind of symbol, made as it were expressly for their own phenomenology: it contained a moral meaning that harmonised precisely with all their philosophical ideas. What could be a better illustration of that MAYA, that metaphysical Delusion, in which all souls are wrapped, which leads them to impute Reality to the Phantasms, the unsubstantial objects of the senses, and lures them on to moral ruin as they wander in the waste? And accordingly, we find the poets constantly recurring to this thirst of the gazelle, as an emblem of the treacherous and bewildering fascination of the fleeting shadows of this lower life (ihaloka;) the beauty that is hollow, the Bubble of the World. And thus, Disappointment is of the essence of Existence: disappointment, which can only come about, when hopes and expectations have been founded on a want of understanding (awiweka;) a blindness, born of Desire, that sets and keeps its unhappy victims hunting, in vain, for what is not to be found.
[Footnote 1: I am told, by a pundit in these matters, that the term is found at least as early as Patanjali (the Mahabhashya;) that is probably, the latter half of the second century B.C.: and hence, it must have originated long before.]
Especially, essentially, in love: love, which has its origin in Dream, its acme in Ecstasy, and its catastrophe in Disillusion: love, which is life's core and kernel and epitome, the focus and quintessence of existence. A life that is without it has somehow missed its mark: it is meaningless and plotless, "a string of casual episodes, like a bad tragedy." For what, after all, is Love? Who has given an account of it? Plato's fable, which makes Love the child of Satiety and Want, or Poverty and Plenty, is a pretty piece of fancy: it is clever: but like mathematics, an explanation of the brain rather than the heart. Something is missing. For Plato, almost always delicate and subtle, is never tender: the reason is, that he was atrophied on the feminine side: he does not consequently understand sex, being himself only half a man: that is, only man and nothing more. But all the really great imaginative men are bi-sexual: they have a large ingredient of woman in their composition, which gives to their divination an extra touch of something that others cannot reach. And so, with equal poetry, yet with a pathos infinitely deeper, our Milton makes Love the child of Loneliness: a parentage evinced by the terrible melancholy of Love when he cannot find his proper object, and the blank desolation and despair of the frightful void and blackness left behind, when he has lost it. But now, it is just this intolerable loneliness which makes him idealise the commonplace, and see all things in the light of his own yearning, creating for himself visions of unimaginable happiness, which presently vanish, to resolve his Eden into nothing, and leave him, with no companion but the horror of his own intensified isolation, in the sand. A situation, which hardly any lover that really is a lover can endure, without going mad. They are very shallow theologians, who by way of pandering to sentimental prejudices make the essence of the Deity to consist in Love. Poor Deity! his life would be a Hell, past all human imagination: an everlasting Loneliness, with no prospect of release. For it is precisely to escape from this hell that so many forlorn lovers take refuge in the tomb: a resource not available to those who cannot die. Death is not always terrible: sometimes he is kind.
[Footnote 2: In his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce.]
* * * * *
Such then is the theme of Bubbles of the Foam: a little love-story, whose title, like that of all her elder sisters, has in the original a double application, by reason of the ambiguity of the last word, to Love, and to the Moon. We might also render it, A Heavenly Bubble, or, Love is a Bubble, or Nothing but a Bubble, or A Bubble of the World, thinking either of Love or the Moon. For the Moon, like the goddess of Love, rose originally from the sea: and they retain traces of their origin, both in their essence and their appearance. For what is more like a great Foam-Bubble than the Moon? and what is more like the delusion of love than a bubble of the foam, so beautiful in its play of colour, while it endures: so evanescent, so hollow, leaving behind it when it bursts and disappears nothing but a memory, and a bitter taste of brine? And as love is but a bubble, so are all its victims merely bubbles of a bubble: for this also is mirage.
[Footnote 3: I was sorely tempted to give it the title of Mere Foam: which, if the reader would kindly understand mere in its German, its Russian, its Latin, and its ordinary English sense, would be an exact translation. But it has an unfortunate suggestion (meerschaum) which made it impossible.]
Mirage! mirage! That is the keynote of the old melancholy Indian music; the bass, whose undertone accompanies, with a kind of monotonous solemnity, all the treble variations in the minor key. The world is unreal, a delusion and a snare; sense is deception, happiness a dream; nothing has true being, is absolute, but virtue, the sole reality; that which most emphatically IS, attainable only through knowledge, the great illuminator, the awakener to the perception of the truth. We move, like marionettes, pulled by the strings of our forgotten antenatal deeds, in a magic cage, or Net, of false and hypocritical momentary seemings: and bitter disappointment is the inevitable doom of every soul, that with passion for its guide in the gloom, thinks to find in the shadows that surround it any substance, any solid satisfaction; any permanent in the mutable; any rest in the ceaseless revolution; any peace which the world cannot give. Who would have peace, must turn his back upon the world; it lies the Other Way. Three are the Ways: the Way of the World, the Way of Woman, the Way of Emancipation.
[Footnote 4: Sat. The thesis of Socrates, that virtue is knowledge: probably borrowed, by steps that we cannot trace, through Pythagoras or "Orpheus" from the East.]
Does anyone in Europe care about this last, this Way of Emancipation? No: it is Liberty that preoccupies the European, who about a century ago seemed, like the old Athenian, suddenly to catch sight of Liberty in a dream. And yet, who knows? For Europe also is disappointed: there seems, after all, to be something lacking to this Liberty, something wrong. With her Utopias ending in blind alleys, or issues unforeseen: with her sages discovered to be less sages than they seemed: with her Science turning superstitious, her Literature wallowing in the gutter, and her women descending from the pedestal of sex to play the virago in the contamination of the crowd: with so many other things, not here to be considered, to raise a doubt, whether this Liberty is taking her just where she wished to go, what wonder if even Europe should begin to meditate on means of emancipation, even if only from vulgarity, and steal a furtive glance or two towards the East, to see, whether, by diligently raking in the ashes of ancient oriental creeds, she might not discover here and there a spark, at which to rekindle the expiring candle of her own. For there seems to be some curious indestructible asbestos, some element of perennial, imperturbable tranquillity and calm, away in India, which is conspicuous only by its absence, in the worry of the West. Where does it come from? What does it consist in? Is there a secret which India has discovered, which Europe cannot guess? Is there anything in it, after all, but barbaric superstition, destined to fade away and disappear, in the sunrise of omniscience?
[Footnote 5: [Greek: honar heleutherias horhontas. Plutarch.]]
I cannot tell: but well I recollect a fugitive impression left on me by an early morning in Benares, now many years ago. I threaded its extraordinary streets, narrower than the needle's eye, and crowded with strange, lithe, nearly naked human beings, with black, straight, long wet hair, and brown shining skins, jostled at every step by holy bulls or cows, roaming at their own sweet will with large placid lustrous eyes, in an atmosphere heavy with the half-delicious, half-repulsive odour of innumerable flowers, mostly yellow, that lay about everywhere in heaps, fresh and rotten, till I came out finally upon the river bank. A light steamy mist, converted by the low sun's horizontal rays into a kind of reddish-golden veil, hung in the quiet air, lending an almost magical effect to the long row of great temples, whose steps run down into the river, along the northern bank: half of them in ruins, and looking as if they must presently slide away into the water and disappear. And as I floated slowly down, I watched with curiosity, half wondering if I was dreaming, the throng of devotees, sitting, lying, gliding here and there, like an antique procession on an old Greek frieze or vase; some muttering and praying, others bathing, others again standing motionless as statues in the stream, buried in a sort of samadhi meditation: every outline of every attitude, in that clear Indian air, as sharp as if cut with scissors out of paper. And lying close beside, cheek by jowl with the bodies still alive, the ashes of dead bodies just burned or still burning on the Ghat. Life and Death touching, running into one another, and nobody amazed: all as it should be, and a matter of course!
England and India, bureaucracy, democracy, sedition, education, politics and Durbars:—the world with all its tumult and its roaring passes clean over their heads, unheeded, unobserved: for them the noise and bustle do not matter, do not trouble: they do not hear, they do not listen, they do not even care. It is curious, this peace, this indifference, this calm: it does not seem reality; it is like a thing looked at in a picture, like a dream. And, somehow, as I gazed at it, mechanically there came into my mind, as it were of its own accord, a story I had read in some old navigator's "yarn," of the albatross, sleeping on the great South Sea, in the fury of a storm, with its head beneath its wing.
A SPOILED CHILD
A SPOILED CHILD
A bow to the mystical evening dance of the Rider on the Mouse, who whirling round his elephant trunk, smeared with wet vermilion, suddenly shoots it straight up into the purple sky, and stands for a single instant still, poised in the yellow twilight, as if to make a coral handle for the white umbrella of the laughing Moon.
[Footnote 6: Ganesha.]
There is, in the western quarter, a land of lonely desolation, that resembles a very sea, but of sand instead of brine, and rightly named Marusthali, being a very home of death, sending back to the midday sun rays hotter than his own, and challenging the midnight sky, with silent ashy laughter, as though to say: What am I but the rival and reflection of thyself, with bones instead of stars, and tracks of wasted skeletons instead of a Milky Way. And there, upon a day, it came about that Maheshwara was roaming with Parwati in his arms. And as they floated swiftly on, over the dusty waste, they watched their own huge shadows sweeping like the forms of clouds across the burning sand, exactly underneath, for it was noon: and the surface of the desert shook and quivered in the stillness, as if the wind, asleep, had, like a tired traveller, sought refuge from the fury of the sun above their heads. And all at once, the Daughter of the Snow exclaimed: See, there is the mirage! Let us descend, and sit for a little while upon the sand: for I love to watch this wonder, which resembles in its far faint blue the colour of a dream. And accordingly, to do her pleasure, Maheshwara sank softly to the earth, settling on it like a cloud gently resting on a hill.
So as they looked, after a while, that slender goddess said again: Surely it is a shame, and well may the poor antelopes be mistaken and deceived. For who could believe yonder water to be only an illusion? And when the eyes of even gods are bewildered by the cheat, how much more the eyes of thirsty and unreflecting little deer!
Then the Moony-crested deity said slowly: O Daughter of the Snow, thy own reflection on this beautiful illusion is the truth. And yet, well were it for the world, were its illusion limited only to its eyes, not extending, as it actually does, to its understanding also. For this deceptive picture on the sand is far inferior in power and importance to the bewildering delusion of this world below, fluttering about whose shifting dancing light, like moths about a wind-blown torch, men singe their silly souls, and burning off their wings, drop helpless, maimed and mutilated, into the black gulf of birth and death, and lose emancipation; till, after countless ages, their wings begin to sprout and grow again, under the influence of works. Yet they who after all emerge, and soar away, unburdened even by an atom of the guilt that weighs them down, and brings them back into the vortex of rebirth, are very few. And yonder bones, now lying in the sand, could they but rise and speak, would be a proof of what I say.
And the goddess looked, and saw, close by, a little heap of bones, that lay half-buried in the sand. And she said with curiosity: Whose are the bones, and how are they a proof of thy consideration?
And Maheshwara replied: These are bones, not of a man, but of a camel, that perished in the desert long ago. For into this body of a camel fell the soul of which I spoke, in punishment of crimes committed in the birth before, in the body of a man; who, blinded by passion, slew three of his fellow mortals; as, if thou wilt, I will tell thee while we sit, watching the illusion of the senses, that so closely represents the illusion of the souls of the lovers in the tale.
Know, then, that once upon a time, long ago, all the gods had assembled in the hall of Indra's palace, to listen to a singing competition that took place among the Gandharwas. And all sat listening attentively, till at length, all at once, came a pause in the performance. And in the silence, while all the heavenly singers rested, it so fell out, by the decree of destiny, that the flowery-arrowed god, striving to recollect a cadence that had pleased him, hummed it, as well as he could, over again, aloud; and like the unskilful imitator that he was, played havoc with his model, stumbling at the quarter tones, and singing fiat. And out of delicacy and politeness, the gods all turned away their faces, hiding their smiles, except Brahma, whose face never moved. But Kamadewa, looking up suddenly, caught the vestige of a smile, hovering, just before it disappeared, on the corner of the lips of Saraswati, as if it were unwilling to leave a resting-place so unutterably sweet as that lovely lady's mouth. And instantly, he turned red and pale alternately, with rage that followed shame: so little does he who delights in making others blush like doing it himself. And suddenly taking fire, he cried aloud: Ha! dost thou turn me into ridicule, O thou malapert blue-stocking? Then will I curse thee for thy pains. Fall instantly into a lower birth, and suffer anguish in the form of a mortal woman, for thy presumption and ill-mannered mirth.
[Footnote 7: i.e. the god of love, Kamadewa.]
[Footnote 8: It would have been useless for Brahma to turn away his face, since he has four; one on every side.]
[Footnote 9: Kupandita, the exact equivalent of our word. Saraswati is the Hindoo Pallas Athene; with this distinction in her favour, that she is as gentle as the Greek lady is the reverse. The flava virago of Ovid becomes in India a lotus white and pure as her own celestial smile.]
And instantly, all the other gods, hearing him, broke out into a very storm of indignation. And buzzing like infuriated bees around one who seeks to rob them of their honey, they swarmed about that god of love, exclaiming all together: What! shall Heaven be bereft, even for a very little while, of the very crest-jewel of its brow, because of thy loss of self-control, and a fault on her part which was not a fault at all, but only the appropriate reproof of thy ill-advised endeavour to play the musician without possessing the necessary skill? And there arose a tumult in the hall; and finally, they made me arbitrator to settle the dispute, knowing that Ananga was afraid of me, as well might he be. And so, after all were silent, I spoke. And I said, very slowly: O bender of that bow, whose string is a row of bees, thou art surely altogether inexcusable, first for thy singing, and secondly for thy loss of temper, and finally for thy curse. For who could be so harsh as to strike Saraswati, even with a shirisha petal? But now, the mischief is utterly beyond repair, and once spoken, the curse cannot be recalled. And whether she will or no, she must now go to earth, and leave us for a time, till thy curse has spent its force. And yet, for all that, it is not right that the doer of injustice such as thine should escape scot-free. Therefore now I will give thee curse for curse, and thou shalt eat the fruit of thy own tree. Fall then, immediately into the body of a man, and suffer that mortality which thou hast laid upon Saraswati. And thy fortune shall be interwoven with her own, so that thy curse shall be determined by the quality and period of hers.
[Footnote 10 Because Maheshwara had burned him, on a previous occasion, with fire from his eye.]
[Footnote 11: In these and similar ideas, the Hindoos resembled the ancient Romans: the letter was decisive and irremediable, uti lingua nuncupassit, ita jus esto.]
And then, as he listened to my doom, Kamadewa turned paler than the ashes to which I had reduced him long ago, finding himself punished for his insolence by me, for the second time. But the gods all exclaimed, with approbation and delight: Victory to Maheshwara! who has once more bitten the biter, and condemned him, by a sentence even more merciful than he deserved. For what could be more intolerable than even Heaven without Saraswati, unless it be the curse that is about to produce such a melancholy condition of affairs?
And then, those two deities disappeared suddenly from Heaven, and descended to be born as man and woman on the earth.
[Footnote 12: This exordium, which has points of resemblance with that of the insufferable Bana's Harsha-charita, is only the Hindoo method of declaring that the two characters presently to be brought upon the scene are mortal incarnations of love and charm: as we call a man, an Adonis, or a woman, a Venus.]
Now just at that very moment, it happened, that there were living in the desert two Rajpoots of the race of the Moon; and the name of the one was Bimba, and that of the other, Jaya. And Saraswati was born as the daughter of the wife of Bimba, while Kamadewa was born as the son of the wife of Jaya. Now Bimba was a king: and Jaya was his cousin on the mother's side. And very soon afterwards, Jaya set upon his cousin, laying claim to the throne, and driving him away, took his kingdom, and kept it for himself. And he caught the wife of Bimba, and put her to death, as he would have done also with her daughter and her husband. But Bimba succeeded in escaping with his daughter, and ran away and hid himself. So Jaya remained in triumph, reigning over the kingdom, whose capital stood on the very spot on which we are sitting now. For the kingdoms of the earth come and go upon it, like the shadows of the clouds: and they grow up suddenly like grass, and perish a little later, and vanish clean away, leaving behind them absolutely nothing but mounds, such as those now lying all about thee, and fragments of recollections, and half-forgotten names, like the dreams of the night which morning obliterates and drives away, vaguely hanging in its memory like wreaths of mist curling and twisting on the black still surface of a pool in some dark valley screened from the early sun by one of thy father's peaks.
[Footnote 13: i.e. the disc of the moon, and victory. Pronounce Jaya to rhyme with eye.]
[Footnote 14: i.e. the Himalaya.]
And of all the elements that made up Java's good fortune, there was not one which filled him with such pride and exultation as his son. And he looked upon him as the very fruit of his birth in visible form, little dreaming, that could he but have looked into the future, and seen what was coming, he would rather have deemed himself more fortunate to live and die without any son at all, than to have begotten such a son as he actually had. For sons resemble winds, which sometimes lift their families like clouds to heaven, and sometimes dash them to the earth, like hail.
For having waited so long to get a son at all, till hope was all but gone, the joy of both his parents, when he actually arrived, was so extravagantly great, that they could not make too much of him. And as he grew up, they spoiled him so completely, by the want of all discretion in their admiration and the flattery of their affectionate caresses, that after a while he became utterly intolerable, even to themselves. And this came about, not only by reason of their own foolishness, but also by the very disposition and qualities of that son himself. For he was so marvellously beautiful, that every time they saw him, they could hardly believe their own eyes, and were ready to abandon the body out of joy. And in the intoxication of delight they gave him the name of Atirupa, which was no more than he deserved. And he became a byword and a wonder in the world, till the heart of his mother almost broke with the swelling of its own pride. For nothing like him had ever been seen by anybody, even in a dream, since his beauty did not in the least resemble that of other men, but hovered as it were half-way between one sex and the other, as if the Creator when he made him, unable to decide, whether to make of him a man or a woman, had combined, by some miracle of omnipotence and skill, the fascinations of the two. For though he was tall, and strong, yet strange! his body and his limbs were rounded, and delicately shaped, and slender, with soft and tender hands and feet that were almost too small, even for a girl: and as he moved, he fell as if by accident into attitudes that as it were imitated unconsciously the careless grace of Shri, caught unaware when she thinks that there is nobody to look at her, and carved by a cunning sculptor in stone upon a temple wall; so that the eyes of all followed him as if against their will, drawn to him by an involuntary admiration that they could not understand, not realising that in his case only, the beauty of their own sex was reinforced, and as it were, reduplicated with the magic of a spell, by the mysterious and additional fascination of the other. And his face was so strange that whoever saw it, started, and fell, after a little while, into a kind of dream. And yet this was not merely by reason of its beauty, though that beauty was excessive, resembling a vision seen suddenly in the water by a Dryad, musing at midnight by a moonlit pool, with eyes that resembled the reflections of the shadows of the lotuses, and eyebrows that met together, in the middle of his brow, each drawn exactly in imitation of the other, like a lotus-fibre half in and half out of water, and lips that were almost too red, resembling that love-sick nymph's own pair of bimba lips, mirrored in the clear black water, and dying to be kissed by others like themselves. But wonderful! the Creator had put into his face some ingredient of recollection, so that without knowing why, every beholder found himself plunged, as it were, into the agitation of dreamy reminiscence, and said within himself: Ha! now, somewhere or other, in this birth or another, I have seen that miracle of a face before. And each went away with a heart that was unwilling to depart, haunted as it were by dim desire for something he knew not what stirring in the depths of his memory, that he could not remember and yet had not forgotten, like the thirst for the repetition of the sweetness of a bygone dream. And all the more, because his voice resembled a music that was playing a melody suggested by the theme of his face. For it was low and soft, like that of a woman, and yet deep, like that of a man: and it seemed to be made of sound stolen from the pipe of Krishna, in order to enable it itself to steal away the senses of the world: so that as he spoke, the listener gradually grew bewildered by its tone, resembling a tired traveller, falling little by little unconsciously to sleep as he sits in the murmur of a mountain stream. And whenever he chose, he could cajole his hearer, and make him do almost anything whatever, so hard was it to resist the irresistible persuasion that lurked, like the caressing touch of a gentle woman's hand, in the tone of that quiet and insinuating voice.
[Footnote 15: i.e. of extraordinary and surpassing beauty. Pronounce Uttirupa.]
[Footnote 16: The Hindoo Aphrodite.]
[Footnote 17: There is here an untranslateable play on bimba, the fruit, (as we say, cherry lip) and pratibimba, a reflection in the water.]
[Footnote 18: All this depends on an elaborate play on the double meaning of Smara, a name for the God of Love, which means memory as well as love.]
And yet, all this beauty was nothing but a mask, and a lie: and so far from expressing the nature of that soul which it covered and disguised, it actually added evil to its original defect; and he resembled a bamboo, looking like a very incarnation of loveliness and symmetry outside, and singing in the wind, and yet absolutely hollow and without a heart, within. For from the very moment he was born, he did exactly as he pleased, and nothing else, being as capricious as the breeze that blows only as it chooses. For beginning with his parents, nobody ever crossed him, or placed any obstacle whatever in the path of his desires, which grew up accordingly like a very rank jungle impervious to the light, in which his will wandered like a wild young tiger-cub, wayward, and passionate, and absolutely uncontrolled. And he gave in to others, and was guided by them, in one point only, and that was in their extravagant admiration of himself. For finding others worship him, he fell in with their opinion, and followed their example: and became as it were the devotee at the shrine of his own beauty, making it a deity to which every other thing or body was only fitted to be sacrificed. And he filled his rooms with mirrors of many colours, made of crystal and lapiz-lazuli, and polished gold and silver, and the water of tanks whose slabs were of marble of every variety of hue; and he used to sit alone, when he had nothing else to do, for hours, watching his own image that seemed to offer him reciprocally worship as he watched it, as if it were doubtful which of the two, the reality or its reflection, was the deity, and which the devotee.
And gradually the world with all its objects came to appear in his eyes as nothing but a playground, and all its men and women merely his own animated toys. And from being utterly indifferent to everything but his own momentary pleasure and caprice, he became, little by little, first callous to the sufferings of others, and finally positively cruel, finding his amusement in making others victims to his own peremptory desires. And his appetite, like a fire, grew with the fuel that it fed upon, till it resembled voracity, and an intolerable thirst for more. But as long as he remained still a child, the fire, remaining as it were without its proper aliment, lay hidden: till he grew into a man. And then, all at once, it blazed out furiously like a very conflagration, striking terror into all the subjects of the kingdom, and threatening to consume them all, like forest trees and grass.
For whereas, till then, the fury of his self-will had been scattered, for want of concentration on one object only, manhood, like a flash of lightning, suddenly revealed to him that very object, in the form of woman: and he discovered, in the storm of his delight, that women were the very victims for whom he had been blindly groping in the darkness all his life. And he threw himself upon them, like a prey, finding with intoxication that the Creator had framed him as a weapon constructed wholly for their destruction. And he said to himself, in triumph: I am, as it seems, a magnetic gem, omnipotent and irresistible, to whose attraction the entire sex succumbs inevitably, like grass. And this opinion was justified by the conduct of the women themselves. For every woman that set eyes on him, no matter who she was, fell instantly, like a stone dropped into a well without a bottom, into the abyss of infatuation, and utterly forgot not only her relations and her home, but her honour and herself and everything in the three worlds, seized as it were by the very frenzy of devotion, and anxious only to immolate herself as a victim on the altar of his divinity. And strange! though he treated them all as more worthless than grass, throwing them away almost in the instant that he saw them, not one of them all ever took warning by the fate of her predecessors: and so far were they from shunning him as the common enemy of their entire sex, that on the contrary, they seemed to struggle with one another for the prize of his momentary affection, the more, the more openly he derided them; as if even his derision and the cheapness in which he openly held them, increased the power of his charm. Ha! very wonderful is the contradiction in the heart of a woman, and bitter the irony of the Creator that fashioned it out of so curious an antagonism! For she flies to the man who makes light of her, as if pulled by a cord; while she utterly despises the man who thinks himself nothing in comparison with her: saying as it were, by her own behaviour, that she is absolutely worthless in her own esteem.
[Footnote 19: Yoga. The germ of truth, and it is a large one, in the philosophy of Yoga is the doctrine, which is proved by all experience, that concentration is the secret of mastery.]
So then, after a while, the heart of King Jaya broke within him. For he became odious in the eyes of all his subjects by reason of the behaviour of his son, who paid no more regard to his admonitions than a mad elephant does to a rope of grass. And he died, consumed by the two fires of a burning fever and a devouring grief: and his wife followed him through the flames of yet another fire, as if to say: I will die no other death than his own.
And when the funeral obsequies had been completed, there came a day, soon after, when Atirupa was sitting in his palace, with some of his attendants round him, gazing at his own image, that was reflected in a tiny mirror set on his finger in a ring. And he was plunged in the contemplation of himself, shadowed by a melancholy that arose, not from grief at the loss of his parents, but dejection caused by the gloom of the period of mourning: and as he sat, he said within himself: I am losing time, and growing old, and letting the opportunity slip by me unimproved, and this bloom of mine is wasted, and, as it were, lying idle, for want of its proper mirror, which is not this ring, but a pair of new eyes, which would look back at my own, not as this does, vacantly and without a soul, but lit up by the soft lustre of passion and admiration. And all at once, he started up, and exclaimed aloud: What! do ye all sit easily, when I am dying for lack of recreation? Know ye not that even the jackal is in danger, when the lion is left without a prey? Even now I am debating with myself, whether it would not be a good thing to have one of you chosen by lot, and trampled by an elephant, to be a lesson to the rest.
And then, as they all gazed at him with anxiety, each fearing for himself, he looked at their confusion, as if with enjoyment, and said again: What, with so many idle all about me, am I, forsooth, to sit waiting, for fortune to come to me, like an abhisarika, of her own accord? Nay, it were well enough, could I even see coming towards me an abhisarika of any kind. But the women of this city grow, as it seems, older and more ugly every day: for I have skimmed its cream, and now nothing is left but curd, and dregs, and whey, and like the ocean after its churning, all its treasures are exhausted, leaving nothing but crocodiles and monsters, and bitterness, and brine.
So then, wishing to cajole him, one of them replied: Maharaj, were this city as full of beauties as the very sea of gems, how could any one of them come to thee in broad daylight? For is it not laid down in all the Shastras, that even an abhisarika, were she dying for her lover, must notwithstanding observe times and seasons, choosing for her expedition only proper opportunities, such as are afforded by a winter night, or a dense fog, or the confusion caused by a whirlwind or an earthquake or an uproar, or a revolution in the state, or an illness of the king, or a festival, when all the citizens are drunk, or sleeping, or when the city is on fire. But as it is, not one of these occasions is present, to enable her to come to thee escaping observation. And a woman of good family is very different from a dancing girl. For when she leaves her home, on such an assignation, she wraps herself up, disguising her identity, and creeps along timidly making herself small, wishing even darkness darker, in addition to the screen provided by all the other circumstances that favour her attempt.
[Footnote 20: There is a ludicrous pedantry about the elaborate categories of Hindoo sages: they make grammatical rules even for every department of erotics: as if it were necessary for ladies to learn the grammar of the subject, before they could make love!]
And Atirupa said: There is no difficulty in this: for could I think that there was even one woman in the city awaiting such an opportunity, who was worthy of it, I would very soon oblige her, by burning the city to the ground, reducing it to ashes for her convenience and my own.
And all at once, one answered from behind, who had entered as he spoke, unobserved: Ha! Maharaj, then, as it seems, I am come in the very nick of time, to save thy city from such a miserable end.
And Atirupa turned, and exclaimed joyfully: Ha! Chamu, art thou returned? I was beginning to think thee lost, like a stone dropped to the very bottom of the sea. And Chamu said: Thou art right: for I am like the oyster, and contain a pearl.
[Footnote 21: Pronounce Chummoo.]
And he looked at Atirupa, and laughed, rubbing his hands together, with cunning in his eyes, that resembled those of a weasel. And he said: Maharaj, as I entered, I heard thee wishing for Shri to visit thee in the form of an abhisarika; and lo! here she is, in my form. And do not despise her, on account of my deformity: for Shri is a lady, and capricious, and comes in strange disguises. Thou knowest, that the city being dismal by reason of the obsequies, I seized my opportunity, and went away on a visit to my maternal uncle, who lives far off in a village in the wood that lies in the eastern quarter. And on my journey back, I lost my way in the wood, and went astray: and finally, growing very tired, I lay down in a thicket. And as I rested, after a while, I heard voices coming in my direction. And lying hidden, I looked out, and watched the speakers, till one of them, as I think, caught sight of my face among the trees, and took fright at its ugliness, and went away with his companion. And afterwards I rose myself and came away; and now, here I am.
[Footnote 22: The goddess of Fortune and Beauty. She is the very incarnation of the abhisarika, since she comes of her own accord.]
And Atirupa looked at him, with disappointment: and he said: O Chamu, is this thy story, and is this all?
And Chamu laughed softly, and he said: Maharaj, he is a sage, who knows where to stop. But I will have compassion on thy curiosity, and this much I will tell thee in addition, that one of the speakers was a woman. And yet I am not sure about it, for if there is another woman like her in the three worlds, I will cut off my own head, and give to thee as a footstool, since it is fit for absolutely nothing else. And even as it is, I think, after all, that I must have fallen asleep in the clump of bushes, and seen her in a dream: compounding for myself a vision out of old memories of Apsarases and Yakshinis, and Nagas, and fragments of old fairy tales and stories that my mother told me long ago, when I was a child.
And Atirupa looked at him with surprise: and he said: Chamu, this is very strange, and thou art not like thyself. Hast thou been eating poppy, or art thou only drunk with wine? For it is no ordinary vision that could turn thee into a poet. Come now, go on. Describe for me the beauty that has awoken such emotion in a soul as dull and muddy as thy own.
[Footnote 23: Ahiphena, "snake-foam," said by Udoy Chand Dutt in his Materia Medica Indica to be derived from the Arabic afyoon, as it was apparently unknown in India before the Musulman invasion.]
And Chamu said: O Maharaj, who can describe the indescribable? There are things that cannot be described, but only seen: hardly even then to be believed, when gazed at by the eye. Can anything imitate and reproduce the beauty of the blue lotus, but the pool in which it is reflected? The wandering wind may carry, like myself, its fragrance to a distance, but cannot perform the work that belongs only to the mirror of the pool. So take counsel of the wind, and go thyself, and become the pool.
And Atirupa laughed joyfully, and he exclaimed: O Chamu, thou art certainly bewitched, and this wood-nymph has cast over thee a spell: turning thee into a very breeze of sandalwood from Malaya.
And Chamu said: Laugh, Maharaj: and as I told thee it would be, so it is: thou dost not believe. But when thou hast seen her eyes, and when thou hast heard her voice, and when thou hast gazed at her, as I did, coming straight towards thee, walking, thou wilt laugh no longer: for the scorn incarnate in the pride of her great breast will make thee giddy, and the roundness of her hips will steal thy heart and burn it to a cinder, and the jingle of her anklets will haunt thy ears, as it does mine, like the sound of a stream, keeping time to the dance of her two little feet as they come towards thee, till thou wilt find thyself wishing that some strange magic might keep on drawing thee back for ever, so only that thou couldst go on gazing, as she kept on coming, like an everlasting incarnation of the rapture of anticipation of touching and caressing what it maddens thee to see. Maharaj, I tell thee, that were the three great worlds but one colossal oyster shell, she is its very pearl. And like a cunning diver, I have been down into the sea, and seen it, and now I can take thee where it is, to see it for thyself. And as I think, thou wilt discover, she is a quarry to thy taste, who will save thee from the necessity of seeking for others in the ashes of thy town.
THE THIRST OF AN ANTELOPE
Gazelle, gazelle, dost understand Why the old skulls grin in this silent land? My feet are fleet, and I drink at will, There is something blue in the distance still.
But the old skulls grin in the silent waste, Gazelle, gazelle, make haste, make haste! I travel fast, and I fear no ill, There is something blue in the distance still.
The old skulls grinned in the silent sand, They beckoned her like a bony hand: Gazelle, gazelle, hast drunk thy fill? Is there something blue in the distance, still?
A DAPPLED DAWN
A DAPPLED DAWN
Now in the meanwhile Bimba, when his cousin drove him off his throne, had fled away to the eastern quarter, taking his daughter with him. And he took up his home in the forest, and there he lived, in a little hut on the side of a hill, just where the desert ended, and the trees of the wood began, having fallen from the state of a King to that of a fugitive and a hunter, living by the chase and the fruits of the forest trees, and drinking streams instead of wine. And so he continued to live, year by year, mourning for his wife, and bitterly hating his cousin, disgusted with the world, with no companion but his daughter. And gradually, as time went on, he utterly forgot his kingdom and all his former life, growing ever fonder of the forest that he lived in, and saying to himself: Now is the wood become my wife, since my other wife is gone. And the only thing that matters now is the daughter that she left behind, as if to keep my memory green of what she was herself. So now, then, I will change her name, lest some day in the future it should betray her to my cousin: for her name would be a clue, leading to her destruction. And as a rule, to lose a name is the same thing as to disappear, and die, and be forgotten. So she shall die, as Alipriya, to be reborn as Aranyani. And what does the title matter? For the bees will love her just as well, by one name as the other.
[Footnote 24: An untranslateable play on dari, wood, and sundari, a beautiful woman.]
[Footnote 25: Alipriya, "beloved of the bees," a name of the trumpet flower, Bignonia suaveolens. Aranyani, a forest goddess, nymph, or dryad. Pronounce Urrun-nyani.]
So then Aranyani grew up alone with her father in the forest, with her identity disguised, turned as it were from a queen into a woodman's daughter, and lying hidden and unknown, like a pearl in an ocean shell. And yet she resembled fire, that refuses to be concealed, betraying its true nature through no matter what envelops it, and shining through, by chinks and holes, the wrapping that would hide it, even when it does not burn. For brought up in the forest though she was, and half alone, since her father often left her by herself, all day long, yet strange to say! the rudeness of her wild condition ran over her, leaving her soul untouched, like the water running in crystal drops that beautify but do not wet the neck of a royal swan. And one day she was discovered like a treasure in the wood by a band of hermits' daughters, that were roaming at a distance from the hermitage, away in the forest's heart. And those daughters of the sages all fell suddenly in love with her at once, not only for her eyes, that reminded them of the deer that were their playmates in their home, but still more for the strange and wild sweetness of her soul, that resembled absolutely nothing but itself. And every now and then, they used to come and play with her, when they rambled in the wood, telling her innumerable stories which they heard from their fathers, those mines of sacred wisdom. And then, very soon, those daughters of the hermits found, to their amazement, that they resembled fools, pouring water into a well. For she remembered everything when she had only heard it once, and meditating over it alone, not only squeezed out of its mango all the juice which it contained, but planted its kernel like a seed of heavenly wisdom in her heart, and watering it with her own imagination, turned it presently into a new and strange tree, loaded with peculiar flowers and fruits of its own: so that as she grew gradually up, she resembled a receptacle of the essence of old lore, mixed with a native and original savour of herself. Ha! very wonderful indeed are the influences that rise up out of a former birth, since even in this lower form of a hunter's daughter the nature of that incomparable goddess overflowed, like a holy sap in the dark heart of a forest tree, and welled out abundantly, till it covered the coarse bark with fragrant buds and shoots, and flowers of immortal scent and hue. For her body kept pace with the progress of her soul, as if out of rivalry and jealousy unwilling to lag behind it, in the acquisition of ornaments and graces. And having no other models, it found itself obliged to imitate the objects that made up the atmosphere and soil in which it grew: till at last the deer and the blue lotuses gazed upon her eyes, and the red fruits and gunja berries at her lips, and the creepers at her arms, with envy and amazement: and the tamala shadows turned pale when they looked at her hair, and the trunks of the nyagrodha trees despaired, gazing at the curve of her waist as it sank into the outline of her heavy hips, and the swans and the elephants blushed with shame to see her walk, and the gourds swelled till they burst with jealousy, unable to rival the protuberance of those two disdainful sisters, her inimitable breasts, and the bees grew mad, as if intoxicated with honey sweeter than their own, at the fragrance that floated from the flower of her mouth.
[Footnote 26: Ekashrutadhara. This word exhibits the opinion entertained by the Hindoos as to the close connection existing between a powerful intellect and a retentive memory. Such a quality indicates the highest kind of pundit: and it should be recollected that Saraswati is the divinity of wisdom, the pundit par excellence.]
And then strange! just at the very moment when she turned from a child into a woman, there came over her a change, that resembled the presence of a single overhanging cloud in the ruby crystal of a clear pale dawn. For though her father told her something of her story and his own, yet he never told her all, whetting all the more her curiosity by what he did not tell, which like a hidden secret she strove to discover for herself by means of the careless hints that fell every now and then from his mouth unawares, like clues. And the thought that she was the daughter of a King flitted in her mind, and appeared to disappear continually, coming and going, as often as she sat musing in the twilight, like the bats in the shadows of the surrounding dusk. And she mixed this conviction with the rosy hope of the dawn of her own maidenhood, and with visions which she would blush like that dawn to avow even to herself, and with fictions of her own imagination that was filled with old legends and stories, and she brooded over a future that was suggested by the past till it turned into a dream, half pleasant and half melancholy for want of its unlikelihood, that haunted her, and never left her, resembling the colour of the blue shadow that hovers on the pure snow of thy father's western slopes, just before the coming of the early sun. For though she was unaware of it herself, she was plunged in the loneliness of sex, arising from the dim yearning of her as yet untouched affection, and longing for the thing that every maiden waits for, like the night, in the form of a lover, to burst out suddenly into red emotion and an ecstasy of joy. And sometimes, as she sat alone dreaming, and gazing as she loved to do out into the desert, that stretched away below the hill she lived on towards the setting sun, visions of the kings and princes and lovers of her stories assembling in crowds at her own Swayamwara, floated with indistinct and unimaginable beauty in the blue haze of the sand, with an intoxicating fascination that almost took away her breath, till she was amazed and even frightened to find her own heart furiously beating, and shaking into agitation the wave of that bosom which there was nobody to see, as if it was ashamed of her and angry with itself.
[Footnote 27: Sc. the Himalaya.]
[Footnote 28: The old epics are full of stories of these gatherings, held to enable the daughters of Kings to choose their own husbands. The story of the marriage in Herodotus, about which Hippocleides did not care, is one of the few parallels in the west.]
And yet, with the exception of her father, she had never seen any man but one, who entered into her forest life merely like one of its trees, for she had been accustomed to see him, every now and then, ever since she was a child. And this was a young woodman, who lived a long way off in the wood. And he used to go hunting with her father, who had found him in the forest: and he came every now and then to see them, since her father was pleased with him, for his good nature and simplicity, resembling as it did the clearness of a stream. And he was as tall as a shala tree, and very strong, and very brown and hairy, and though his name was Babhru, yet her father always called him Bruin, and Aranyani knew him first only by the nickname: for when she was a child, he used to play with her, as often as he came. And so as she grew up, she looked upon him always with the eyes of a child, never even dreaming that her own alteration might produce any alteration in himself: as it did. For little by little, as her beauty grew, so did his affection; till at last it turned into a passionate devotion, that remained notwithstanding absolutely pure, and free from any taint of evil, like the soil in which it grew. And finally, he could not keep away from her. And he came oftener and oftener to see them, till her father was on the very point of forbidding him to come. And then, suddenly, Babhru asked him, to give Aranyani to him as a wife.
[Footnote 29: Tawny: reddish brown. Pronounce Bub-bhroo.]
[Footnote 30: Achcha, a corruption of Riksha, just as we say "Bruin" instead of "Bear."]
And Bimba looked at him, as if struck by the very thunderbolt of astonishment, for though he was fond of Babhru, yet the idea of such a son-in-law was so outrageous that it had never even occurred to him at all. And like a flash of lightning, he suddenly became aware of his daughter's own attraction, and the danger of the proximity of butter to the fire. And though utterly despising Babhru for a son-in-law, he could not tell him why. Therefore he banished him altogether, and not only would not give him Aranyani, but actually forbad him to see her any more: as it were returning upon Babhru the thunderbolt that had fallen on himself: so that that unhappy son-in-law came within a little of abandoning the body, for grief and amazement, and remorse, at ever having asked a question that had produced so terrible a consequence, the very opposite of that at which it aimed. For even to forsake the society of Bimba was a grief to him, since he loved him and looked up to him as a dog does to his master. But the thought of losing that of Aranyani was exactly like a sword driven through the very middle of his heart. And leaving it behind him, as it were, together with his reason that abandoned him, he went away hanging down his head, alone.
But unable to endure separation, yet unwilling to disobey Bimba, he used to come stealthily and lie lurking in the bushes, watching, to catch sight of Aranyani. And sometimes, seizing his opportunity, when he knew that her father was away, he would creep out, trembling like a coward, and speak to her. And Aranyani, displeased at him for coming to see her without her father's knowledge or permission, and not reciprocating his passion in the least, yet partly out of pity, and partly out of kindness arising from recollection of his playing with her in the past, and it may be, partly just a very little pleased with his honest admiration, and willing to waste a little of her time in teasing him, for want of a better lover, would sometimes talk to him a little, and laugh at him and tell him stories, and send him away more utterly infatuated, and more happy, and more miserable than ever, after making him promise never to come again. And every time he promised, and went away only to return again immediately, simply because he could not help it: dreading her reproof every time he dared to come, yet ready for all that to risk his life a hundred times over, only to bask once more in the nectar of the sunshine of that reproof. For the words of the straw, promising not to answer to the call of the amber that attracts it, are void of meaning, and perish in the very moment of their utterance, like pictures drawn on the surface of a running stream.
So, then, there came a day, when Bimba went away to hunt in the forest, leaving Aranyani alone at home. And on that morning, she was sitting by herself in her customary seat, on the trunk of a fallen tree, gazing, with her chin resting on her hand, away over the desert, that lay before her like an incarnation of the colour of vague youth-longing, ending in a blue dream. And wholly intent on her own thoughts, she remained sitting absolutely still, totally unconscious of all around her, as if her soul, in imitation of what it gazed at, had become the exact mirror of the silent desert's inarticulate and incommunicable dream. And yet, from time to time, a smile stole into her lips of its own accord, as if betraying against her will some sweet and secret hoard of delicious joy within, that she strove in vain to hide. And every now and then her eyes grew a little brighter, and there came a flush over her face, and a little tremor ran as it were all over her, like the ripple that comes and goes upon the bosom of a lake, stirred by a play of wind.
So as she sat, it happened, that Babhru came slowly through the wood, looking for her, and knowing her customary haunts. And suddenly catching sight of her sitting, he hesitated for a moment, and then came quietly and stood behind her, a little way off: half-pleased that she did not see him, and a little bit afraid of the moment when she should. And there he remained silent, yet with a heart beating so violently that it shook him till he trembled, gazing with ecstasy and adoration at the outline of her throat and her chin, and the corner of her lips, which he could only just see, round the curve of her cheek. And after a little while, longing to see more of those lips, he leaned eagerly forward, and put out one foot without looking where it fell; and stepping on a dry twig, it broke with a snap.
And at the sound, instantly she started up, and looked round, as if in terror. And strange! when she saw him, there came into her face surprise and displeasure, that were mingled with relief, and even disappointment, as if she had expected, and hoped, and yet even feared, to see someone else. And while she gazed silently at him in confusion, Babhru said sadly: Aranyani, of what or of whom didst thou think, so intently, as to be unaware of my approach? For thy lips seemed to me to be smiling, as if with anticipation, and very sure I am that it was not at the thought of me or my coming that they smiled.
And Aranyani blushed, and instantly frowned, at her own involuntary blush. And she said, as if haughtily: O Babhru, what are my thoughts to thee? And are they thy servants? And what right hast thou to be jealous of my thoughts, who hast not even the title or permission to be here at all? Didst thou not promise not to come again? and yet here thou art for all that, watching to surprise my very thoughts, while all the while I do not think of thee at all. Yet even so, here there is certainly no rival to thyself. And Babhru said bitterly: Rivals could not make the matter worse, since by thy own confession thou dost not think of me at all. Even without rivals, I am utterly rejected and despised, by thee and by thy father. Then she said kindly: Nay, Babhru, not by me. Thou art for me, just what thou always wert, before. And Babhru said: Alas! that is my very grief. For I would have thee not the same, but something more. Then said Aranyani: What more, O Babhru? And he looked at her sadly, and said: Dear Aranyani, couldst thou not love me just a very little? And she laughed, and said: Poor Bruin, do I then not love thee very well? And Babhru said with emphasis: Love! Thou dost not so much as understand the meaning of the word.
And she looked at him for a moment, with eyes whose expression he could not comprehend, and she drew a deep breath, and turned away. And she said lightly: Do I not? then thou shalt tell me all about it: for I will allow thee to stay with me, for a very little while, just to show thee, that I love thee a very little. Sit down, then, beside me, and look not so melancholy, or I shall begin to think, to love is to be wretched: whereas I had imagined, in my innocence, the very contrary. And Babhru said: Thou art utterly deceived: for love is misery. And she laughed, and exclaimed: Why, then, I am better as I am, without it. What! wouldst thou have me miserable? And he said: Well can I tell thee from experience, that every lover must be miserable, when, like myself, he cannot gain his object. And now I could almost wish evil to thy father, since he it is who stands, like a cloud, between me and the moon of my desire. And she said: What is this much-desired moon? And he said: Thou knowest very well, it is thyself: and I long to have thee for my wife, and live with thee alone, for ever and ever, in the wood.
Then said Aranyani: O Bruin, it may be, the attainment of thy desire might sorely disappoint thy expectation, after all: since many times, those who have risen to the very summit of the mountain of their hopes have found themselves miserably deceived, and fallen suddenly to the very bottom of despair with a crash, like Chandana. And Babhru said: Who was Chandana? And he said within himself: Let her tell me about Chandana or anybody else, so only that I can cheat her into allowing me to sit here, and watch her lips moving, and look into her eyes.
And Aranyani said: Babhru, thou art so simple, and thy soul is like crystal, so that I can see into thy secret thoughts without needing to be enlightened by thy voice. Didst thou not say to thyself: I care absolutely nothing for Chandana, so only that I may listen while she talks? And Babhru hung his head, with a blush. And Aranyani clapped her hands in triumph, and exclaimed: See! O Bruin, thou art guilty. Yet despair not, for thou shalt hear all about Chandana, just the same. Know, that long ago, there was a King, who had innumerable wives, and fifty sons, of whom this very Chandana was one. Now all these sons lived in anxiety, saying to themselves: Which of us all will be the heir to the throne, and succeed our father when he dies? So they remained, rivals, and each had his eyes fixed upon the others, fearing to be supplanted. So Chandana's case was worse than thine, O Bruin, since thou art without a rival. And then, after a while, that old King, out of all his fifty sons, chose this very Chandana for his heir; and appointed him yuwaraja, with all the proper ceremonies. So when they were completed, that overjoyed yuwaraja ran, fresh from the installation, to the awarodha, to tell his mother of his triumph, and increase it by her praises. But he found her, to his amazement, all in tears, and as dismal as if he had come only to tell her of his death. So he said: Mother, what is the reason of such misery, on such a day of exultation? Should the gloom continue, while the sun is rising? But his mother looked sourly at him, and she said: Fool! thy rising sun is setting: thou art out, in thy quarters, and mistakest west for east: and soon enough, it will be night for thee. And Chandana said: I do not understand thee. Then said his mother: The King thy father discovered, long ago, the elixir of life: and even now he has been living for fifteen hundred years. And this is a jest that he plays, now and then, for his own amusement, making one of his innumerable sons his heir. For all his heirs die before him, as thou wilt also, never even reaching so much as the very first step of that throne that lures them on and hangs always just before them, like a bundle of hariali grass held by a crafty rider on a stick before the nose of the deluded beast of burden that carries him along. Thine is only the phantom of a sun that will presently go down and disappear, leaving the true sun, thy father, still in the very blaze of noon.
[Footnote 31: i.e. "little king," Prince of Wales or Dauphin. The story is a piece of old folklore, and one version may be found in Somadewa.]
[Footnote 32: The women's apartments, or gynaeceum.]
So as he listened, the face of that unhappy Chandana fell. And he went away, and sank, just as his mother told him, into the night of melancholy; and abandoning his royal condition, he became a pilgrim, and died after many years at a very holy bathing-place, at last. But his father went on reigning, making his sons, one after another, yuwaraja, exactly as before.
So, then, when Aranyani ended, Babhru said with a smile: Aranyani, thy story is foolish, and altogether wide of the mark, and it brings me consolation rather than reproof. For very certainly thy father is not a King, and has not an elixir, and will not live for ever. And when he dies, thou wilt no longer be able to escape me, for we shall be alone together in the wood.
Then said Aranyani: Babhru, thy confidence is very positive; and yet, who knows? Who knows what may happen in the future? Count not, O Bruin, with such ignorant presumption on finding me for ever at thy mercy in the wood: even after the disaster, which ought not to have occurred to thee, even in a dream. And even if my father be, as thou sayest, not a King, I say, who knows? And all at once, she turned half round, facing him directly as he sat beside her, with malice and provocation in her eyes. And she said: Babhru, how if a King's son were suddenly to come into the wood, and carry me away, as many stories tell of others? Did not Dushmanta discover Shakuntala, in exactly such a wood? But thou wilt say, she was more beautiful than I. And Babhru said gloomily: I will say nothing of the kind: for thou art far more beautiful than Shakuntala or anybody else. Then said Aranyani: Thou seest. So nothing is wanted to make my case tally with her own, save only the King's son. And is not the world full to the very brim, of Kings and their sons? And Babhru exclaimed with a groan: Alas! Aranyani, thou art wounding my very heart, and this is the very thing of which I am afraid. For thy only preservation is, that this is a wood, into which nobody ever comes. And all day long I tremble, lest in very truth some stranger should come into the wood and see thee, and spread abroad the news of thy existence, like the wind which carries everywhere the scent of a lotus, till at length the bees come to plunder it of the honey it contains. Then, indeed, all would be over, for thee as for me.
And Aranyani said, with mischief: O Bruin, what then? Wilt thou deny his flower to the bee, and is not the true and proper place of every flower either the wilderness, its origin, or the head of a King, its destiny and end?
And once again, Babhru uttered a groan, and he exclaimed: Aranyani, thy words are torture, and nothing whatever but the echo of my own fears. But this much I will tell thee, on my own part: that the King who shall come to carry thee away will do well to beware. For if I know it, and find him in the wood, he will never leave it, either with thee or without. And he looked away, with ferocity in his eyes and in his teeth, not perceiving that Aranyani turned paler as he spoke. And presently she said, in a low voice: Surely this love must be an evil thing, if these are its results. And now for the very first time, I see, that thou art well named, O Bruin, and in very truth, a bear. What! wouldst thou actually slay the poor King's son who had never done thee any harm, simply for seeking me? And Babhru said sternly: What harm could he do me greater than robbing me of thee? But let him only come, and see!
And Aranyani said slowly: O thou rude, and fierce, and love-bewildered Babhru, dost thou not know, that only he is virtuous, who is so far from revenging an injury that he returns it, on the contrary, by a benefit, as Bhrigu did: whose story would be a lesson to thee, of which thou standest in sore need. And Babhru said: I care not a straw, either for Bhrigu or anybody else: and if, in this matter, he could be of any other opinion than my own, I tell thee beforehand, that thy Bhrigu is a fool.
And Aranyani laid her hand upon his arm, and said very gently: On the contrary, he was a sage: sit still, and listen, while I tell thee all about him. Long ago there arose among the sages a dispute, as to which was the greatest of the gods. And some said, the Grandfather, and others, the Moony-crested, and others, the husband of Shri. And finding that they could not agree, for all their disputing, they came to the conclusion, to settle the matter by experiment. And they chose from among them Bhrigu, and sent him away, to put the gods to the test. So Bhrigu went accordingly, and after a while, he fell in with Brahma. And drawing near that four-faced god, he neither saluted him, nor performed a pradakshina, but went up without ceremony and accosted him, with rude familiarity. Thereupon Brahma, in great wrath at his insolence, and on the very point of cursing that deliberately ill-mannered sage, was nevertheless appeased by him, by means of excuses and apologies. And so, leaving him appeased, Bhrigu proceeded further on, and coming to Kailas, enquired for Maheshwara. But the Moony-crested god, informed of his arrival, sent him out a message, bidding him go away again, and saying: I have no leisure, since I am at this very moment busy playing with my other half, the Daughter of the Snow. And going away accordingly, Bhrigu came upon the Lord Wishnu, lying fast asleep. And instantly he awoke him, by giving him a kick upon the breast, so hard, that he injured his own foot. Then that husband of Shri, rising up politely, said to him with concern and compassion in his voice: O Bhrigu, surely thou hast hurt thy own foot: for the kick was very severe. And as a rule, a blow hurts the giver more than the receiver. And sitting down beside him, that compassionate deity took the foot upon his lap, and began very gently to shampoo it, continuing till all the pain was gone. Then said Bhrigu: What god is greater than this god? For who but a god, and the very highest, would requite an unprovoked assault by tenderness, and pity, and oblivion of his own wrong? Surely this is the badge of Deity in its very essence, that, like sky-crystal, is pure, and absolutely transparent, and utterly without a flaw?
[Footnote 33: i.e. Brahma, Shiwa, and Wishnu respectively.]
[Footnote 34: By moving round him, keeping him on the right: an established form of adoration.]
[Footnote 35: This curious and very beautiful legend may be found in the Puranas.]
And Babhru listened in silence, and when she ended, he said slowly: Aranyani, dost thou then imagine, that the deity, so tolerant of injury to himself, would have been equally long-suffering and indifferent, had Bhrigu or any other, fool or sage, attempted to rob him of Shri, and deprive him of his wife?
And Aranyani laughed and said: But I am not thy wife, O Babhru, yet. Thou art anticipating. And Babhru said: Alas! no. But at least, if thou art not yet my wife, thou art not any other man's: nor, if I can prevent it, shalt ever be. And she said: Babhru, thou art utterly intolerable, and a tyrant: and at this rate, I shall without a doubt die unmarried, if all the sons of Kings who may come to seek me in the wood are to be slain by thee. And much I fear, that the wood will come to rival even Kurukshetra, with all its heroes lying dead in heaps, except thyself.
[Footnote 36: The scene of the great battle in the Mahabharata, where all the heroes killed each other.]
And Babhru said without a smile: Aranyani, thou art laughing at a thing which, for all that, is very solemn, and very simple: for very sure it is, that whoever would deprive me of thyself must either slay me first, or die himself. And she said: Poor Bruin, this alone is very sure, that love must be a very demon, since he has filled thee with such a raging thirst for the slaughter of the sons of Kings. But come now, I will tell thee a better way: and that is, to kill me: for so wilt thou effectually circumvent and cheat all these love-sick and imaginary Kings, at a single blow: if, as it seems, I am to be a cause of strife and bloodshed, as long as I am alive.
And he looked at her fixedly, and said: Jest not with my devotion, for it may be, thou art nearer the truth than thou imaginest. Will any King whatever love thee half as well as I do? Yet thou wilt not love me, and as I think, it is because I am not on the level of thy thoughts, and not a King. Then she laughed, and exclaimed: Alas! poor Bruin, thou art mad: for all these Kings are only dreams, yet art thou as savage as if they were actually before thee in a row. And he said: Aye! only dreams: and yet the dreams are earnest, and are thine. Kings are the very matter of thy dreams. Is not this the subject of thy reveries as thou gazest at the sand? Ha! am I right? Dost thou never long for some King's son to come and fill thy life with joy, and deliver thee from the monotony of this wood, and thy father, and myself? Am I not below thee, in thy estimation? Then for what canst thou long, but for thy peer?
[Footnote 37: It should be remembered by the English reader that "sons of Kings" are more numerous, in India, than in the West. All Rajpoots are sons of Kings: and Aranyani herself a Rajpootni. To marry a King's son would be for her, not merely a desire, but a duty: an affair of caste. All this flavour evaporates in a translation.]
And he looked keenly at Aranyani, and as her eyes met his, she wavered, a very little, and looked away, and said: Alas! poor Babhru, thy love is jealousy, which makes thee so sharp-sighted, that thou seest things that are not there. So trouble not thy foolish head about anything so slight and insignificant as the subject of my dreams, otherwise thou wilt place thyself on the level of the zanies of Chincholi. And he said: Thou speakest the very truth: I am the very type of a fool, striving to reach what is above him and beyond his reach, even when he stands on tiptoe: and that is, the level of thy thoughts. And Aranyani said: See now, I said well, thou art the very fellow of the sages of Chincholi: a city, into which on a day there came a certain sanctimonious ascetic, called Pinga, from the colour of his hair. And arriving at the square before the palace of the King, he sat down in its middle, and spreading out his left hand open before him, he looked intently at its palm. And so he continued, wrapt in the contemplation of his hand, paying absolutely no regard to anything around him, till night. And this he did every day, all day long, till at length he became the very target of the curiosity of the people of the town, who crowded round him in a throng, disputing as to the meaning of his singular behaviour, and all maintaining opposite opinions. And one said: This ascetic is undoubtedly pondering on the Panchatantra. And another: Beyond a doubt, the holy man is meditating on Death. And yet another: Is not this an ascetic? And of what should he meditate but the five fires? But a pundit passing by, said: His meditation can be of nothing but the syllogism and its members. Thereupon another said: Is it not the left hand? Then his thoughts are of the Shakti. And a wag among them said: Aye! For of what do all these holy men perpetually think, but of the five arrows of the God of Love? And a Brahman said: Thou art altogether out in thy conjecture, for he meditates on nothing but the sheaths of the soul. And a Gawali shouted: The sage is considering devoutly the parts of the cow. For what is holier than a cow? And there arose such an uproar in the city that the citizens all came to blows, dividing into factions, around him, while all the time he sat peacefully just as if nobody was there, gazing at his hand. And finally the King sent officers to say to him: Depart quickly from the city, for thy presence is a cause of sedition. Thereupon Pinga said: Interrupt my meditation, and I will curse the city, so as to deprive it of both sun and rain. So fearing his curse, the King had recourse to diplomacy. And he sent his purohita at night, who secretly induced that obstinate ascetic to go away, of his own accord, by giving him a lakh. And as he slowly went out of the city, his chela said to him aside: Master, what was the subject of thy meditation: for I am curious to know? Then that crafty ascetic suddenly laughed like a hyaena. And he said: I meditated about absolutely nothing but my own hand. And now, this is a lesson to thee. For such is the nature of fools, who comprehend least of all what is absolutely simple, and see last of all what is lying before their nose. And whoever knows this possesses treasure inexhaustible, and is master of the world.
[Footnote 38: The point of these interpretations depends on the number five, which enters into all of them.]
[Footnote 39: There is a play here on wama, which means the left hand and a beautiful woman.]
And Babhru watched her intently, as she spoke, and when she ended, he said suddenly and abruptly: Aranyani, thou art deceiving me. And she said: How, O Babhru? And he said: Thou art this morning totally unlike thyself: for thy customary melancholy is absent, and thou art strange, and elated, and agitated, and as it seems to me, thou art telling me idle stories, like one that listens all the while to something else, as it were in a hurry merely to throw me off the scent, and hide from me a secret, and amuse me like a child. And somehow or other, I feel as if there were a wall between us, this morning, which was never there before. Aye! I am sure, I know not how, thou art playing as it were a part, to cast a mist before my eyes, and hide from me some agitation in thy soul.
And Aranyani laughed, and blushed, and frowned, and finally she said: Babhru, thy love is a disease, which fills thy head with nightmare, and thy eyes with phantoms born of suspicion in thy soul. And he said: Alas! thy own behaviour gives the lie to thee. Thou art not like thyself, and I am right. And now, then, I will tell thee, in return for thy stories, one myself; but unlike them, mine shall be very sad, and very true.
And Aranyani turned, and looked at him with anxiety in her eyes: and she said: O Babhru, a story, and from thee! what is it? And he said: Dost thou remember, a little while ago, when we wandered, the last time I saw thee, in the wood? And she said: Yes. Then he said: Dost thou recollect, how all at once I stopped thee, and turned back with thee, and left thee so abruptly? And shall I tell thee, why? And Aranyani gazed at him, turning a little paler, without speaking. Then he said: Know, that as we went, I looked, and suddenly I saw before me in the bushes, what was unseen by thee, the face of a man. And as I saw it, I shuddered, for his eyes were fixed on thee, with astonishment, and evil admiration. And instantly I turned, and took thee home, and left thee, and hurried back to find him: but he was gone. I hunted everywhere, but he was gone. And ever since, I cannot even sleep, for thinking of this man, and of his eyes, which haunt me, as they gloated on thee, like a terror, bidding me beware, and saying as it were: Ha! Ha! thy treasure is discovered. And I resemble one, whose buried hoard of gold has been seen by other eyes; and hardly do I dare to be away from thee, not as before, merely for love of thee, but for fear, lest, on returning, I should find my treasure gone.
And all at once, he burst into a sob; and he rose, and took a step or two away from her. And Aranyani rose also, and she said with agitation: O Babhru, what was he like, this man? Was he tall and powerful, like thee? And Babhru said: Nay, he was a little ugly man, with weasel eyes. And Aranyani laughed, as if with relief. And she exclaimed: O Babhru, what is this? Is this a man of whom to be afraid? What! shall I fall a victim to this little man with weasel eyes, who hides in bushes? Be under no concern, for so much I will tell thee, that not even a hundred such pigmies shall ever carry me away.
And Babhru said sadly: Alas! Aranyani, thou dost not understand: and like the flower in thy hair, thou art utterly ignorant of thy own attraction. And exactly such a man as this, whom thou despisest, is the most dangerous of all. Dost thou think, if once through his agency the world should suddenly become aware of what this wood contains, it would long remain unvisited by others? It was not the face of the intruder that I feared, but his tongue, which, could I but have caught him, I would have cut out of his throat, to keep it from betraying thy existence to the world outside.
And as he looked towards her, with tears in his eyes, all at once Aranyani changed colour, turning suddenly paler, as if her heart, appalled by the apparition of some menace in his words, had summoned to its assistance all the blood in her face. And after a while she said: Babhru, thou art ill, and thy unfortunate affection not only makes thee overestimate my value, but even leads thee to alarm thyself and me, by creating imaginary fears. And moreover, come what may, the mischief, if any mischief is, is done, and the tongue that is thy bugbear is safe and at a distance in its owner's head, talking, very probably, of anything but me. But now, while we ourselves are talking, time has fled, and it is nearly noon; for the shadows are at shortest; and now, I dare not let thee stay here any longer; as indeed, I was to blame, in allowing thee to stay at all; and better had it been for both of us, it may be, hadst thou never come. And should my father suddenly return, and find thee, it would be worse. Why need I tell thee what thou knowest very well? And what good can come to thee, by longing for what is forbidden? Thou dost only add fuel to the flame of thy fever, which I, did I do my duty, ought rather to quench, by pouring over it the cold water of distance and separation. But my compassion for thee fights with my obedience to my father, for I am only a woman after all, and very weak; and it may be, I love thee just a very little. So be content with all that I can give thee, and do not come again, but recover from thy fears, and forget me. I cannot be thy wife, but I wish thee well. And now goodbye, and go away.
So as she stood, dismissing him, Babhru turned without a word, and went away into the wood, very slowly, while she watched him go. And she put both her hands behind her head, and stood looking after him, absolutely still. And as fate would have it, he turned round, just before he passed out of sight, and looked back, and saw her standing, gazing after him with a smile, with every outline of her round and slender woman's form standing out sharp as the moon's rim, as if on purpose to intoxicate his eye, against the background of the distant sand, like a threefold incarnation of his inaccessible desire, and his disappearing happiness, and his irrevocable farewell, in a feminine shape. And all at once he came back to her with hurried steps. And he reached her, and fell down before her, and seized a corner of her red garment that was loose, and kissed it. And then he started up. And he said, in a voice that shook, with tears stealing from his eyes: Well I understand that I am looking at thee, for the very last time.
And then he turned, and went away very quickly, without looking round: while she stood in agitation, looking after him, till he disappeared among the trees.
A GLAMOUR OF NOON
A GLAMOUR OF NOON
So she stood, a long while, gazing in the direction of his departure, touched by his emotion into an emotion, that was more than half compassion, of her own, and sorry, yet fearing above all things to see him return. And then at last, as if satisfied that he was actually gone, she turned away. And she murmured to herself: Alas! poor Babhru, hadst thou but known how near thy fear came to the very truth, I doubt whether I could ever have got thee to go away at all. And even as it is, it is a wonder that he has not actually discovered what his jealousy prompted him to guess: and all the while I trembled, feeling a very culprit, so accurately did he probe my soul, and see into my heart. And wonderful exceedingly is the sagacity of love, that discerns, from the very faintest indications, what would escape all other eyes! And yet, for all his acuteness, how little did he dream, that I knew, by experience, what love is, better, far better, than himself. He knew that I deceived him, but did not know, how far. And after all, what shadow of a right has he, to claim my affection for himself? But now he has had his turn, and all that I could give him: and now, then, it is my turn, and it is time, and it is noon.
And then, all at once, Babhru, and everything concerning him, vanished clean out of her mind. And strange! she changed, as if by magic, in an instant, into another woman. For as she stood, unconsciously she smiled, and the smile ran, as it were, over her whole body with a sudden wave of delicious agitation, and from a woman that she was, lording it, as if with a sense of superiority, she turned into a child, trembling all over with the excitement of anticipation. And she looked very carefully all round her, as if to make sure of being unobserved; and all at once, she ran very quickly away into the wood, turning her back on Babhru, down the hill towards the sand. And coming at length to a little clump of trees, she stopped abruptly, and clapped her hands. And at that very instant, as if he had been waiting for the signal, Atirupa issued from the trees. And Aranyani ran towards him, breathless, half with running, and half with the agitation of the joy of reunion, and threw herself into his arms, with a cry.
And then, for a while, that pair of lovers did nothing but kiss each other all over, with kisses that followed one another like raindrops in a storm. And after a while, he said: Dear Aranyani, thou art very late, and like the little rogue thou art, hast kept me waiting, as I think, on purpose, to make thy value greater, and increase my thirst, till I had almost determined, in despair, to go away. And Aranyani said, playfully: What! couldst thou not wait for me a little while, and am I not worth waiting for, at all? And he kissed her very carefully on both eyes, and he said: Indeed thou art. Then she said softly: And dost thou then imagine that delay is any easier to me than to thyself? Know, that I had difficulty, in coming even when I did. For I had first to get rid of someone else, in order to come at all. And Atirupa said: Thy old lover, of whom thou hast told me? Then she said: Thou sayest well, my old lover, who loves me, as I think, far better than thou dost, and almost as much as I love thee. But alas! for him, since I love him not again; and well will it be, for me, if in thy case also, love is not wholly on one side. Say, dost thou love me, even half as much as I love thee? And Atirupa said, with a smile: Nay, if I must believe thee, it is impossible.
And she gazed at him with insatiable eyes, and she said with a sigh: Yes, it is impossible. And yet, strange! it is not yet a week, since I came upon thee in the wood for the very first time, thinking, as I saw thee, that the very god of love had, somehow or other, dropped out of heaven, and wandering about on earth, had lost his way in our wood, only for my destruction; to consume me, like lightning irresistible, only by a look: and turn me suddenly from free into a slave, the property of another, who is master of her body and her soul. And yet, only this very morning did I learn, how nearly I had lost thee: since thy servant that saw me in the wood, and was the cause of thy coming, came within an ace of perishing himself, before he ever got away to tell. And Atirupa said: How? And Aranyani told him. And then she said: And now I fear for thee also: for should Babhru chance to see thee, his reason will desert him. And I tremble to think of thy encounter, with such a giant as is he. And yet I know not what to do. For he will surely come across thee, sooner or later, as indeed it is marvellous that he has not done already: since thou comest daily to me in the wood.
And Atirupa laughed, and he said: Fear nothing, O thou with the eyes of a gazelle: for it may be he himself, that would suffer most by our meeting. Then said Aranyani: It is exactly this I fear. For I would not have thee harm him, even though my fear is all for thee. And Atirupa said: There is a very easy way to solve this difficulty, and deprive thee of all cause of fear, which has not yet occurred to thee. And Aranyani said: What is that? And Atirupa said: It is only in this wood that we could ever meet each other. But what if thou shouldst come away with me, O thou delicious little slave, leaving the wood behind thee, to a place he cannot reach?
And then, Aranyani started, and looked at him with eyes that were filled with timidity and dismay, as if she hardly understood. And after a while, she said: What! come away with thee! it is impossible. And she gazed at him in terror, while Atirupa looked at her steadily, with caressing impenetrable eyes. And he murmured to himself: Now, then, I have startled my beautiful and timid fawn, but the seed is for all that sown in her beating heart. And now, then, we shall see, whether I can get her, by persuasion and caresses and cajolery, to come away of her own accord; or whether, as I do not wish, I shall have to carry her off by force. For she will be far sweeter if she yields herself, even though reluctant, than if I have to make her come away, whether she will or no. And presently he said gently: Dear Aranyani, dost thou imagine that either I can live without thee, or remain for ever in thy wood? For even as it is, I have been living in the wood, on thy account, for many days, at a distance from my capital, neglecting all my state affairs; and long ago my ministers must have wondered, what can have become of me. So of two things, one is absolutely necessary: and either thou must come away, or we must part.
And Aranyani looked at him steadily, turning very pale. And she murmured in bewilderment: Part! Thou and I! And Atirupa said: Dear, thou seest, the very notion makes thee pale. Then what will it be to part, in reality? Couldst thou endure to live without me? Or can I live for ever in the wood? Then what remains but this alone, to leave the wood thyself, and come with me, since there is absolutely no other way?
And Aranyani drew herself away, out of his arms; and she stood, looking down upon the ground, silent, and very pale: while Atirupa watched her, standing still, with eyes that never left her for an instant. And after a while, he said again: Dear Aranyani, couldst thou actually think, it could continue thus for ever, or that I could remain for ever, as I am doing now, camping in the wood, and coming every day to see thee?
And Aranyani sighed, and she said very slowly, still looking at the ground: I know not, for I have thought of absolutely nothing, since I saw thee, but thyself; and that was enough for me, and more; since my soul was so full that it had room for nothing else. And all the past had vanished, and the future did not matter, swallowed up in the present which was ecstasy, and intoxication, and thou. How could I think of anything at all? And now thou hast suddenly awaked me from a dream, which in my folly I had imagined would never have an end, but last for ever. And lo! it is gone, and all is over, and finished, almost before it has begun.
And Atirupa said in a whisper: Say rather, O Aranyani, that the dream is only just beginning.
And she answered angrily: Dost thou think it then so easy for a flower to consent to be torn up by the roots, and carried from its home no matter where? For like a flower I am rooted in this wood, where I have lived and grown since the beginning, with my father and the trees, and the creepers, and the deer. And now thou hast placed thyself, with a sudden flash of lightning, in opposition to it all; and thou wouldst make me choose, threatening to go away and leave me, unless I sacrifice it all, to go into the darkness, I know not where, with thee. Dost thou think the choice is easy which will utterly destroy me, whichever way it falls? Thou art the cause of all, and resemblest a knife, that bids me to consent and rejoice, while it cuts my heart in two, possessing absolutely no heart whatever of its own.
And Atirupa said gently: Alas! Aranyani, thou art utterly unjust, and this was my very fear, that when I offered thee to choose between the wood, which is thy past, and myself, who am thy future, I should seem to thee utterly of no account, and light in the balance, weighed against what I asked thee to resign. I say, thou blamest me unjustly, when I am absolutely blameless, unless indeed it be a fault, to love thee, for which not I, but thyself, or rather the Creator is to blame, for making thee exactly what thou art. Who can blame the butter for melting in the flame, or make it a crime in the ocean, for rising in tumult and agitation at the sight of the tender digit of the moon? Is it my fault, if I must go away, since after all my kingdom is in need of me, and even as it is, I have remained here too long, and all on thy account? And what can I do but ask thee to come with me, since unless we are to part, there is absolutely nothing else to do? And does not every maiden do the same? Did not Shakuntala abandon her home and her relations in the forest, to follow King Dushmanta? And did not even the Daughter of the Snow abandon, not only her father, but even her own body, for the sake of the Moony-crested god? And art thou fearful, O thou intoxicating child, to go into the dark? But what will darkness matter? nay, will not the dark itself become nectar, provided I am there? Or rather, will not the darkness be still darker, and gloomier, and blacker, if I go away and leave thee by thyself?
And Aranyani stood for a moment, when he ended; and then all at once she sank down upon the ground, and hid her face in her two hands, and began to sob. And after a while she said in agitation: What hast thou done to me? For till I saw thee, I was happy; and now I am torn by thee utterly in two. For I cannot bear to part either with thee, or with my father and my home. And now I could wish never to have seen thee, and well had it been, if thy servant never had set eyes on me, to tell thee, and bring thee to the wood. Why hast thou come hither to destroy me? For all has come about exactly as Babhru said and feared, when he foretold that thy coming would be my utter ruin.
And Atirupa listened, and he murmured to himself: She has fallen into the snare, by avowing her vacillation, and allowing herself to debate, instead of repudiating my proposal: and now it will be my own fault, if I cannot turn the scale in my own favour, by playing on her agitated heart. And he said coldly: Ha! then, as I thought, it is Babhru who causes all the trouble; and he it is, whom thou art so unwilling to resign.
And instantly Aranyani started up, and exclaimed with vehemence and indignation: What! dost thou taunt me, dost thou actually dare to taunt me, with Babhru, whom I have sacrificed without a thought to thee? Alas! poor Babhru. Little does he resemble thee, for so far from taking me away, he would live at my bidding even in a desert, and give up a hundred kingdoms, if he had them, for my sake. And Atirupa said: Then be it as thou wilt, for I will not be his rival. Go with him to thy desert, and I will go to mine.
And he turned, as if to go away in anger. But as he went, Aranyani sprang towards him with a shriek. And she seized him by the arm, and shook it passionately, exclaiming: Away with Babhru! O forgive me, for I am mad, and I know not what I say or do. What is Babhru in comparison with thee? Only be not angry, and do not go, do not leave me, for thy going is my death. And she clutched him, and caught him by the neck, and drawing his face violently down to her, she began to kiss him without ceasing, mingling the rain of her kisses with the shower of her tears. And after a while, she drew back, and holding his neck very tightly with her left arm, she gazed intently at his face, as if in meditation, drawing her finger slowly all around it, and over each eyebrow, and round and round his mouth, over and over again. And then all at once she threw her right arm also round his neck, and hid her face upon his breast, exclaiming, while her own breast beat like a wave upon his heart: Either thou never shouldst have come, or shouldst never go away.
And Atirupa stood quietly, supporting her in his arms, and allowing her to do with him exactly as she pleased. And finally, he stroked her hair gently with his hand, and murmured to himself: Now very soon, I think, she will consent, as it were without consenting, to come away, after a little coaxing. And he said aloud: Dear Aranyani, it is not I that am tearing thee in two, as thou sayest: but it is rather thou thyself that art pulling thy soul to pieces, utterly without a cause. Truly wonderful is love, that fills his victims with fears that are absurd, and makes them see before them dangers that do not exist at all!