Amulya took a diamond necklace out of the box, held it up to the
light and put it back gloomily.
"I know," I told him, "that you will never get the proper price
for these diamonds, so I am giving you jewels worth about thirty
thousand. I don't care if they all go, but I must have that six
thousand without fail."
"Do you know, Sister Rani," said Amulya, "I have had a quarrel
with Sandip Babu over that six thousand rupees he took from you?
I cannot tell you how ashamed I felt. But Sandip Babu would have
it that we must give up even our shame for the country. That may
be so. But this is somehow different. I do not fear to die for
the country, to kill for the country - that much __Shakti__ has
been given me. But I cannot forget the shame of having taken
money from you. There Sandip Babu is ahead of me. He has no
regrets or compunctions. He says we must get rid of the idea
that the money belongs to the one in whose box it happens to be -
if we cannot, where is the magic of __Bande Mataram__?"
Amulya gathered enthusiasm as he talked on. He always warms up
when he has me for a listener. "The Gita tells us," he
continued, "that no one can kill the soul. Killing is a mere
word. So also is the taking away of money. Whose is the money?
No one has created it. No one can take it away with him when he
departs this life, for it is no part of his soul. Today it is
mine, tomorrow my son's, the next day his creditor's. Since, in
fact, money belongs to no one, why should any blame attach to our
patriots if, instead of leaving it for some worthless son, they
take it for their own use?"
When I hear Sandip's words uttered by this boy, I tremble all
over. Let those who are snake-charmers play with snakes; if harm
comes to them, they are prepared for it. But these boys are so
innocent, all the world is ready with its blessing to protect
them. They play with a snake not knowing its nature, and when we
see them smilingly, trustfully, putting their hands within reach
of its fangs, then we understand how terribly dangerous the snake
is. Sandip is right when he suspects that though I, for myself,
may be ready to die at his hands, this boy I shall wean from him
"So the money is wanted for the use of your patriots?" I
questioned with a smile.
"Of course it is!" said Amulya proudly. "Are they not our
kings? Poverty takes away from their regal power. Do you know,
we always insist on Sandip Babu travelling First Class? He never
shirks kingly honours - he accepts them not for himself, but for
the glory of us all. The greatest weapon of those who rule the
world, Sandip Babu has told us, is the hypnotism of their
display. To take the vow of poverty would be for them not merely
a penance - it would mean suicide."
At this point Sandip noiselessly entered the room. I threw my
shawl over the jewel-case with a rapid movement.
"The special-talk business not yet over?" he asked with a sneer
in his tone.
"Yes, we've quite finished," said Amulya apologetically. "It was
"No, Amulya," I said, "we have not quite finished."
"So exit Sandip for the second time, I suppose?" said Sandip.
"If you please."
"And as to Sandip's re-entry."
"Not today. I have no time."
"I see!" said Sandip as his eyes flashed. "No time to waste,
only for special talks!"
Jealousy! Where the strong man shows weakness, there the weaker
sex cannot help beating her drums of victory. So I repeated
firmly: "I really have no time."
Sandip went away looking black. Amulya was greatly perturbed.
"Sister Rani," he pleaded, "Sandip Babu is annoyed."
"He has neither cause nor right to be annoyed," I said with some
vehemence. "Let me caution you about one thing, Amulya. Say
nothing to Sandip Babu about the sale of my jewels - on your
"No, I will not."
"Then you had better not delay any more. You must get away by
Amulya and I left the room together. As we came out on the
verandah Sandip was standing there. I could see he was waiting
to waylay Amulya. To prevent that I had to engage him. "What is
it you wanted to tell me, Sandip Babu?" I asked.
"I have nothing special to say - mere small talk. And since you
have not the time . . "
"I can give you just a little."
By this time Amulya had left. As we entered the room Sandip
asked: "What was that box Amulya carried away?"
The box had not escaped his eyes. I remained firm. "If I could
have told you, it would have been made over to him in your
"So you think Amulya will not tell me?"
"No, he will not."
Sandip could not conceal his anger any longer. "You think you
will gain the mastery over me?" he blazed out. "That shall
never be. Amulya, there, would die a happy death if I deigned to
trample him under foot. I will never, so long as I live, allow
you to bring him to your feet!"
Oh, the weak! the weak! At last Sandip has realized that he is
weak before me! That is why there is this sudden outburst of
anger. He has understood that he cannot meet the power that I
wield, with mere strength. With a glance I can crumble his
strongest fortifications. So he must needs resort to bluster. I
simply smiled in contemptuous silence. At last have I come to a
level above him. I must never lose this vantage ground; never
descend lower again. Amidst all my degradation this bit of
dignity must remain to me!
"I know," said Sandip, after a pause, "it was your jewel-case."
"You may guess as you please," said I, "but you will get nothing
out of me.
"So you trust Amulya more than you trust me? Do you know that
the boy is the shadow of my shadow, the echo of my echo - that he
is nothing if I am not at his side?"
"Where he is not your echo, he is himself, Amulya. And that is
where I trust him more than I can trust your echo!"
"You must not forget that you are under a promise to render up
all your ornaments to me for the worship of the Divine Mother.
In fact your offering has already been made."
"Whatever ornaments the gods leave to me will be offered up to
the gods. But how can I offer those which have been stolen away
"Look here, it is no use your trying to give me the slip in that
fashion. Now is the time for grim work. Let that work be
finished, then you can make a display of your woman's wiles to
your heart's content - and I will help you in your game."
The moment I had stolen my husband's money and paid it to Sandip,
the music that was in our relations stopped. Not only did I
destroy all my own value by making myself cheap, but Sandip's
powers, too, lost scope for their full play. You cannot employ
your marksmanship against a thing which is right in your grasp.
So Sandip has lost his aspect of the hero; a tone of low
quarrelsomeness has come into his words.
Sandip kept his brilliant eyes fixed full on my face till they
seemed to blaze with all the thirst of the mid-day sky. Once or
twice he fidgeted with his feet, as though to leave his seat, as
if to spring right on me. My whole body seemed to swim, my veins
throbbed, the hot blood surged up to my ears; I felt that if I
remained there, I should never get up at all. With a supreme
effort I tore myself off the chair, and hastened towards the
From Sandip's dry throat there came a muffled cry: "Whither would
you flee, Queen?" The next moment he left his seat with a bound
to seize hold of me. At the sound of footsteps outside the door,
however, he rapidly retreated and fell back into his chair. I
checked my steps near the bookshelf, where I stood staring at the
names of the books.
As my husband entered the room, Sandip exclaimed: "I say, Nikhil,
don't you keep Browning among your books here? I was just
telling Queen Bee of our college club. Do you remember that
contest of ours over the translation of those lines from
Browning? You don't?
"She should never have looked at me,
If she meant I should not love her,
There are plenty ... men you call such,
I suppose ... she may discover
All her soul to, if she pleases,
And yet leave much as she found them:
But I'm not so, and she knew it
When she fixed me, glancing round them.
"I managed to get together the words to render it into Bengali,
somehow, but the result was hardly likely to be a 'joy forever'
to the people of Bengal. I really did think at one time that I
was on the verge of becoming a poet, but Providence was kind
enough to save me from that disaster. Do you remember old
Dakshina? If he had not become a Salt Inspector, he would have
been a poet. I remember his rendering to this day ...
"No, Queen Bee, it is no use rummaging those bookshelves. Nikhil
has ceased to read poetry since his marriage - perhaps he has no
further need for it. But I suppose 'the fever fit of poesy', as
the Sanskrit has it, is about to attack me again."
"I have come to give you a warning, Sandip," said my husband.
"About the fever fit of poesy?"
My husband took no notice of this attempt at humour. "For some
time," he continued, "Mahomedan preachers have been about
stirring up the local Mussulmans. They are all wild with you,
and may attack you any moment."
"Are you come to advise flight?"
"I have come to give you information, not to offer advice."
"Had these estates been mine, such a warning would have been
necessary for the preachers, not for me. If, instead of trying
to frighten me, you give them a taste of your intimidation, that
would be worthier both of you and me. Do you know that your
weakness is weakening your neighbouring __zamindars__ also?"
"I did not offer you my advice, Sandip. I wish you, too, would
refrain from giving me yours. Besides, it is useless. And there
is another thing I want to tell you. You and your followers have
been secretly worrying and oppressing my tenantry. I cannot
allow that any longer. So I must ask you to leave my territory."
"For fear of the Mussulmans, or is there any other fear you have
to threaten me with?"
"There are fears the want of which is cowardice. In the name of
those fears, I tell you, Sandip, you must go. In five days I
shall be starting for Calcutta. I want you to accompany me. You
may of course stay in my house there - to that there is no
"All right, I have still five day's time then. Meanwhile, Queen
Bee, let me hum to you my song of parting from your honey-hive.
Ah! you poet of modern Bengal! Throw open your doors and let me
plunder your words. The theft is really yours, for it is my song
which you have made your own - let the name be yours by all means,
but the song is mine." With this Sandip struck up in a deep,
husky voice, which threatened to be out of tune, a song in the
"In the springtime of your kingdom, my Queen,
Meetings and partings chase each other in their endless hide
And flowers blossom in the wake of those that droop and die in
In the springtime of your kingdom, my Queen,
My meeting with you had its own songs,
But has not also my leave-taking any gift to offer you?
That gift is my secret hope, which I keep hidden in the shadows
of your flower garden,
That the rains of July may sweetly temper your fiery June."
His boldness was immense - boldness which had no veil, but was naked
as fire. One finds no time to stop it: it is like trying
to resist a thunderbolt: the lightning flashes: it laughs at all
I left the room. As I was passing along the verandah towards the
inner apartments, Amulya suddenly made his appearance and came
and stood before me.
"Fear nothing, Sister Rani," he said. "I am off tonight and
shall not return unsuccessful."
"Amulya," said I, looking straight into his earnest, youthful
face, "I fear nothing for myself, but may I never cease to fear
Amulya turned to go, but before he was out of sight I called him
back and asked: "Have you a mother, Amulya?"
"No, I am the only child of my mother. My father died when I was
"Then go back to your mother, Amulya."
"But, Sister Rani, I have now both mother and sister."
"Then, Amulya, before you leave tonight, come and have your
"There won't be time for that. Let me take some food for the
journey, consecrated with your touch."
"What do you specially like, Amulya?"
"If I had been with my mother I should have had lots of Poush
cakes. Make some for me with your own hands, Sister Rani!"
- - -
25. Of the __Ramayana__. The story of his devotion to his
elder brother Rama and his brother's wife Sita, has become a
I LEARNT from my master that Sandip had joined forces with Harish
Kundu, and there was to be a grand celebration of the worship of
the demon-destroying Goddess. Harish Kundu was extorting the
expenses from his tenantry. Pandits Kaviratna and Vidyavagish
had been commissioned to compose a hymn with a double meaning.
My master has just had a passage at arms with Sandip over this.
"Evolution is at work amongst the gods as well," says Sandip.
"The grandson has to remodel the gods created by the grandfather
to suit his own taste, or else he is left an atheist. It is my
mission to modernize the ancient deities. I am born the saviour
of the gods, to emancipate them from the thraldom of the past."
I have seen from our boyhood what a juggler with ideas is Sandip.
He has no interest in discovering truth, but to make a quizzical
display of it rejoices his heart. Had he been born in the wilds
of Africa he would have spent a glorious time inventing argument
after argument to prove that cannibalism is the best means of
promoting true communion between man and man. But those who deal
in delusion end by deluding themselves, and I fully believe that,
each time Sandip creates a new fallacy, he persuades himself that
he has found the truth, however contradictory his creations may
be to one another.
However, I shall not give a helping hand to establish a liquor
distillery in my country. The young men, who are ready to offer
their services for their country's cause, must not fall into this
habit of getting intoxicated. The people who want to exact work
by drugging methods set more value on the excitement than on the
minds they intoxicate.
I had to tell Sandip, in Bimala's presence, that he must go.
Perhaps both will impute to me the wrong motive. But I must free
myself also from all fear of being misunderstood. Let even
Bimala misunderstand me ...
A number of Mahomedan preachers are being sent over from Dacca.
The Mussulmans in my territory had come to have almost as much of
an aversion to the killing of cows as the Hindus. But now cases
of cow-killing are cropping up here and there. I had the news
first from some of my Mussulman tenants with expressions of their
disapproval. Here was a situation which I could see would be
difficult to meet. At the bottom was a pretence of fanaticism,
which would cease to be a pretence if obstructed. That is just
where the ingenuity of the move came in!
I sent for some of my principal Hindu tenants and tried to get
them to see the matter in its proper light. "We can be staunch
in our own convictions," I said, "but we have no control over
those of others. For all that many of us are Vaishnavas, those
of us who are Shaktas go on with their animal sacrifices just the
same. That cannot be helped. We must, in the same way, let the
Mussulmans do as they think best. So please refrain from all
"Maharaja," they replied, "these outrages have been unknown for
"That was so," I said, "because such was their spontaneous
desire. Let us behave in such a way that the same may become
true, over again. But a breach of the peace is not the way to
bring this about."
"No, Maharaja," they insisted, "those good old days are gone.
This will never stop unless you put it down with a strong hand."
"Oppression," I replied, "will not only not prevent cow-killing,
it may lead to the killing of men as well."
One of them had had an English education. He had learnt to
repeat the phrases of the day. "It is not only a question of
orthodoxy," he argued. "Our country is mainly agricultural, and
cows are ..."
"Buffaloes in this country," I interrupted, "likewise give milk
and are used for ploughing. And therefore, so long as we dance
frantic dances on our temple pavements, smeared with their blood,
their severed heads carried on our shoulders, religion will only
laugh at us if we quarrel with Mussulmans in her name, and
nothing but the quarrel itself will remain true. If the cow
alone is to be held sacred from slaughter, and not the buffalo,
then that is bigotry, not religion."
"But are you not aware, sir, of what is behind all this?"
pursued the English-knowing tenant. "This has only become
possible because the Mussulman is assured of safety, even if he
breaks the law. Have you not heard of the Pachur case?"
"Why is it possible," I asked, "to use the Mussulmans thus, as
tools against us? Is it not because we have fashioned them into
such with our own intolerance? That is how Providence punishes
us. Our accumulated sins are being visited on our own heads."
"Oh, well, if that be so, let them be visited on us. But we
shall have our revenge. We have undermined what was the greatest
strength of the authorities, their devotion to their own laws.
Once they were truly kings, dispensing justice; now they
themselves will become law-breakers, and so no better than
robbers. This may not go down to history, but we shall carry it
in our hearts for all time ..."
The evil reports about me which are spreading from paper to paper
are making me notorious. News comes that my effigy has been
burnt at the river-side burning-ground of the Chakravartis, with
due ceremony and enthusiasm; and other insults are in
contemplation. The trouble was that they had come to ask me to
take shares in a Cotton Mill they wanted to start. I had to tell
them that I did not so much mind the loss of my own money, but I
would not be a party to causing a loss to so many poor
"Are we to understand, Maharaja," said my visitors, "that the
prosperity of the country does not interest you?"
"Industry may lead to the country's prosperity," I explained,
"but a mere desire for its prosperity will not make for success
in industry. Even when our heads were cool, our industries did
not flourish. Why should we suppose that they will do so just
because we have become frantic?"
"Why not say plainly that you will not risk your money?"
"I will put in my money when I see that it is industry which
prompts you. But, because you have lighted a fire, it does not
follow that you have the food to cook over it."
What is this? Our Chakua sub-treasury looted! A remittance of
seven thousand five hundred rupees was due from there to
headquarters. The local cashier had changed the cash at the
Government Treasury into small currency notes for convenience in
carrying, and had kept them ready in bundles. In the middle of
the night an armed band had raided the room, and wounded Kasim,
the man on guard. The curious part of it was that they had taken
only six thousand rupees and left the rest scattered on the
floor, though it would have been as easy to carry that away also.
Anyhow, the raid of the dacoits was over; now the police raid
would begin. Peace was out of the question.
When I went inside, I found the news had travelled before me.
"What a terrible thing, brother," exclaimed the Bara Rani.
"Whatever shall we do?"
I made light of the matter to reassure her. "We still have
something left," I said with a smile. "We shall manage to get
"Don't joke about it, brother dear. Why are they all so angry
with you? Can't you humour them? Why put everybody out?"
"I cannot let the country go to rack and ruin, even if that would
"That was a shocking thing they did at the burning-grounds. It's
a horrid shame to treat you so. The Chota Rani has got rid of
all her fears by dint of the Englishwoman's teaching, but as for
me, I had to send for the priest to avert the omen before I could
get any peace of mind. For my sake, dear, do get away to
Calcutta. I tremble to think what they may do, if you stay on
My sister-in-law's genuine anxiety touched me deeply.
"And, brother," she went on, "did I not warn you, it was not well
to keep so much money in your room? They might get wind of it
any day. It is not the money - but who knows..."
To calm her I promised to remove the money to the treasury at
once, and then get it away to Calcutta with the first escort
going. We went together to my bedroom. The dressing-room door
was shut. When I knocked, Bimala called out: "I am dressing."
"I wonder at the Chota Rani," exclaimed my sister-in-law,
"dressing so early in the day! One of their __Bande Mataram__
meetings, I suppose. Robber Queen!" she called out in jest to
Bimala. "Are you counting your spoils inside?"
"I will attend to the money a little later," I said, as I came
away to my office room outside.
I found the Police Inspector waiting for me. "Any trace of the
dacoits?" I asked.
"I have my suspicions."
"Kasim, the guard."
"Kasim? But was he not wounded?"
"A mere nothing. A flesh wound on the leg. Probably self-
"But I cannot bring myself to believe it. He is such a trusted
"You may have trusted him, but that does not prevent his being a
thief. Have I not seen men trusted for twenty years together,
"Even if it were so, I could not send him to gaol. But why
should he have left the rest of the money lying about?"
"To put us off the scent. Whatever you may say, Maharaja, he
must be an old hand at the game. He mounts guard during his
watch, right enough, but I feel sure he has a finger in all the
dacoities going on in the neighbourhood."
With this the Inspector proceeded to recount the various methods
by which it was possible to be concerned in a dacoity twenty or
thirty miles away, and yet be back in time for duty.
"Have you brought Kasim here?" I asked.
"No," was the reply, "he is in the lock-up. The Magistrate is
due for the investigation."
"I want to see him," I said.
When I went to his cell he fell at my feet, weeping. "In God's
name," he said, "I swear I did not do this thing."
"I do not doubt you, Kasim," I assured him. "Fear nothing. They
can do nothing to you, if you are innocent."
Kasim, however, was unable to give a coherent account of the
incident. He was obviously exaggerating. Four or five hundred
men, big guns, numberless swords, figured in his narrative. It
must have been either his disturbed state of mind or a desire to
account for his easy defeat. He would have it that this was
Harish Kundu's doing; he was even sure he had heard the voice of
Ekram, the head retainer of the Kundus.
"Look here, Kasim," I had to warn him, "don't you be dragging
other people in with your stories. You are not called upon to
make out a case against Harish Kundu, or anybody else."
On returning home I asked my master to come over. He shook his
head gravely. "I see no good in this," said he - "this setting
aside of conscience and putting the country in its place. All
the sins of the country will now break out, hideous and
"Who do you think could have ..."
"Don't ask me. But sin is rampant. Send them all away, right
away from here."
"I have given them one more day. They will be leaving the day
"And another thing. Take Bimala away to Calcutta. She is
getting too narrow a view of the outside world from here, she
cannot see men and things in their true proportions. Let her see
the world - men and their work - give her abroad vision."
"That is exactly what I was thinking."
"Well, don't make any delay about it. I tell you, Nikhil, man's
history has to be built by the united effort of all the races in
the world, and therefore this selling of conscience for political
reasons - this making a fetish of one's country, won't do. I know
that Europe does not at heart admit this, but there she has not
the right to pose as our teacher. Men who die for the truth
become immortal: and, if a whole people can die for the truth, it
will also achieve immortality in the history of humanity. Here,