"Let me just go and see what is the matter," I pleaded. "It may
be something urgent."
"No, no," my sister-in-law insisted. "Our Chota Rani was making
a heap of cakes last night. I'll send some to the Inspector, to
keep him quiet till you're ready." With this she pushed me into
my room and shut the door on me.
I had not the power to resist such tyranny - so rare is it in this
world. Let the Inspector while away the time eating cakes. What
if business is a bit neglected?
The police had been in great form these last few days arresting
now this one, now that. Each day some innocent person or other
would be brought along to enliven the assembly in my office-room.
One more such unfortunate, I supposed, must have been brought in
that day. But why should the Inspector alone be regaled with
cakes? That would not do at all. I thumped vigorously on the
"If you are going mad, be quick and pour some water over your
head - that will keep you cool," said my sister-in-law from the
"Send down cakes for two," I shouted. "The person who has been
brought in as the thief probably deserves them better. Tell the
man to give him a good big helping."
I hurried through my bath. When I came out, I found Bimal
sitting on the floor outside.  Could this be my Bimal of
old, my proud, sensitive Bimal?
What favour could she be wanting to beg, seated like this at my
As I stopped short, she stood up and said gently with downcast
eyes: "I would have a word with you."
"Come inside then," I said.
"But are you going out on any particular business?"
"I was, but let that be. I want to hear ..."
"No, finish your business first. We will have our talk after you
have had your dinner."
I went off to my sitting-room, to find the Police Inspector's
plate quite empty. The person he had brought with him, however,
was still busy eating.
"Hullo!" I ejaculated in surprise. "You, Amulya?"
"It is I, sir," said Amulya with his mouth full of cake. "I've
had quite a feast. And if you don't mind, I'll take the rest
with me." With this he proceeded to tie up the remaining cakes
in his handkerchief.
"What does this mean?" I asked, staring at the Inspector.
The man laughed. "We are no nearer, sir," he said, "to solving
the problem of the thief: meanwhile the mystery of the theft
deepens." He then produced something tied up in a rag, which
when untied disclosed a bundle of currency notes. "This,
Maharaja," said the Inspector, "is your six thousand rupees!"
"Where was it found?"
"In Amulya Babu's hands. He went last evening to the manager of
your Chakna sub-office to tell him that the money had been found.
The manager seemed to be in a greater state of trepidation at the
recovery than he had been at the robbery. He was afraid he would
be suspected of having made away with the notes and of now making
up a cock-and-bull story for fear of being found out. He asked
Amulya to wait, on the pretext of getting him some refreshment,
and came straight over to the Police Office. I rode off at once,
kept Amulya with me, and have been busy with him the whole
morning. He refuses to tell us where he got the money from. I
warned him he would be kept under restraint till he did so. In
that case, he informed me he would have to lie. Very well, I
said, he might do so if he pleased. Then he stated that he had
found the money under a bush. I pointed out to him that it was
not quite so easy to lie as all that. Under what bush? Where
was the place? Why was he there? - All this would have to be
stated as well. 'Don't you worry,' he said, 'there is plenty of
time to invent all that.'"
"But, Inspector," I said, "why are you badgering a respectable
young gentleman like Amulya Babu?"
"I have no desire to harass him," said the Inspector. "He is not
only a gentleman, but the son of Nibaran Babu, my school-fellow.
Let me tell you, Maharaja, exactly what must have happened.
Amulya knows the thief, but wants to shield him by drawing
suspicion on himself. That is just the sort of bravado he loves
to indulge in." The Inspector turned to Amulya. "Look here,
young man," he continued, "I also was eighteen once upon a time,
and a student in the Ripon College. I nearly got into gaol
trying to rescue a hack driver from a police constable. It was a
near shave." Then he turned again to me and said: "Maharaja, the
real thief will now probably escape, but I think I can tell you
who is at the bottom of it all."
"Who is it, then?" I asked.
"The manager, in collusion with the guard, Kasim."
When the Inspector, having argued out his theory to his own
satisfaction, at last departed, I said to Amulya: "If you will
tell me who took the money, I promise you no one shall be hurt."
"I did," said he.
"But how can that be? What about the gang of armed men?..."
"It was I, by myself, alone!"
What Amulya then told me was indeed extraordinary. The manager
had just finished his supper and was on the verandah rinsing out
his mouth. The place was somewhat dark. Amulya had a revolver
in each pocket, one loaded with blank cartridges, the other with
ball. He had a mask over his face. He flashed a bull's-eye
lantern in the manager's face and fired a blank shot. The man
swooned away. Some of the guards, who were off duty, came
running up, but when Amulya fired another blank shot at them they
lost no time in taking cover. Then Kasim, who was on duty, came
up whirling a quarterstaff. This time Amulya aimed a bullet at
his legs, and finding himself hit, Kasim collapsed on the floor.
Amulya then made the trembling manager, who had come to his
senses, open the safe and deliver up six thousand rupees.
Finally, he took one of the estate horses and galloped off a few
miles, there let the animal loose, and quietly walked up here, to
"What made you do all this, Amulya?" I asked.
"There was a grave reason, Maharaja," he replied.
"But why, then, did you try to return the money?"
"Let her come, at whose command I did so. In her presence I
shall make a clean breast of it."
"And who may 'she' be?"
"My sister, the Chota Rani!"
I sent for Bimala. She came hesitatingly, barefoot, with a white
shawl over her head. I had never seen my Bimal like this before.
She seemed to have wrapped herself in a morning light.
Amulya prostrated himself in salutation and took the dust of her
feet. Then, as he rose, he said: "Your command has been
executed, sister. The money is returned."
"You have saved me, my little brother," said Bimal.
"With your image in my mind, I have not uttered a single lie,"
Amulya continued. "My watchword __Bande Mataram__ has been
cast away at your feet for good. I have also received my reward,
your __prasad__, as soon as I came to the palace."
Bimal looked at him blankly, unable to follow his last words.
Amulya brought out his handkerchief, and untying it showed her
the cakes put away inside. "I did not eat them all," he said.
"I have kept these to eat after you have helped me with your own
I could see that I was not wanted here. I went out of the room.
I could only preach and preach, so I mused, and get my effigy
burnt for my pains. I had not yet been able to bring back a
single soul from the path of death. They who have the power, can
do so by a mere sign. My words have not that ineffable meaning.
I am not a flame, only a black coal, which has gone out. I can
light no lamp. That is what the story of my life shows - my row
of lamps has remained unlit.
- - -
30. Sitting on the bare floor is a sign of mourning, and so, by
association of ideas, of an abject attitude of mind. [Trans.].
I returned slowly towards the inner apartments. The Bara Rani's
room must have been drawing me again. It had become an absolute
necessity for me, that day, to feel that this life of mine had
been able to strike some real, some responsive chord in some
other harp of life. One cannot realize one's own existence by
remaining within oneself - it has to be sought outside.
As I passed in front of my sister-in-law's room, she came out
saying: "I was afraid you would be late again this afternoon.
However. I ordered your dinner as soon as I heard you coming.
It will be served in a minute."
"Meanwhile," I said; "let me take out that money of yours and
have it kept ready to take with us."
As we walked on towards my room she asked me if the Police
Inspector had made any report about the robbery. I somehow did
not feel inclined to tell her all the details of how that six
thousand had come back. "That's just what all the fuss is
about," I said evasively.
When I went into my dressing-room and took out my bunch of keys,
I did not find the key of the iron safe on the ring. What an
absurdly absent-minded fellow I was, to be sure! Only this
morning I had been opening so many boxes and things, and never
noticed that this key was not there.
"What has happened to your key?" she asked me.
I went on fumbling in this pocket and that, but could give her no
answer. I hunted in the same place over and over again. It
dawned on both of us that it could not be a case of the key being
mislaid. Someone must have taken it off the ring. Who could it
be? Who else could have come into this room?
"Don't you worry about it," she said to me. "Get through your
dinner first. The Chota Rani must have kept it herself, seeing
how absent-minded you are getting."
I was, however, greatly disturbed. It was never Bimal's habit to
take any key of mine without telling me about it. Bimal was not
present at my meal-time that day: she was busy feasting Amulya in
her own room. My sister-in-law wanted to send for her, but I
asked her not to do so.
I had just finished my dinner when Bimal came in. I would have
preferred not to discuss the matter of the key in the Bara Rani's
presence, but as soon as she saw Bimal, she asked her: "Do you
know, dear, where the key of the safe is?"
"I have it," was the reply.
"Didn't I say so!" exclaimed my sister-in-law triumphantly.
"Our Chota Rani pretends not to care about these robberies, but
she takes precautions on the sly, all the same."
The look on Bimal's face made my mind misgive me. "Let the key
be, now," I said. "I will take out that money in the evening."
"There you go again, putting it off," said the Bara Rani. "Why
not take it out and send it to the treasury while you have it in
"I have taken it out already," said Bimal.
I was startled.
"Where have you kept it, then?" asked my sister-in-law.
"I have spent it."
"Just listen to her! Whatever did you spend all that money on?"
Bimal made no reply. I asked her nothing further. The Bara Rani
seemed about to make some further remark to Bimala, but checked
herself. "Well, that is all right, anyway," she said at length,
as she looked towards me. "Just what I used to do with my
husband's loose cash. I knew it was no use leaving it with him -
his hundred and one hangers-on would be sure to get hold of it.
You are much the same, dear! What a number of ways you men know
of getting through money. We can only save it from you by
stealing it ourselves! Come along now. Off with you to bed."
The Bara Rani led me to my room, but I hardly knew where I was
going. She sat by my bed after I was stretched on it, and smiled
at Bimal as she said: "Give me one of your pans, Chotie darling -
what? You have none! You have become a regular mem-sahib. Then
send for some from my room."
"But have you had your dinner yet?" I anxiously enquired.
"Oh long ago," she replied - clearly a fib.
She kept on chattering away there at my bedside, on all manner of
things. The maid came and told Bimal that her dinner had been
served and was getting cold, but she gave no sign of having heard
it. "Not had your dinner yet? What nonsense! It's fearfully
late." With this the Bara Rani took Bimal away with her.
I could divine that there was some connection between the taking
out of this six thousand and the robbing of the other. But I
have no curiosity to learn the nature of it. I shall never ask.
Providence leaves our life moulded in the rough - its object being
that we ourselves should put the finishing touches, shaping it
into its final form to our taste. There has always been the
hankering within me to express some great idea in the process of
giving shape to my life on the lines suggested by the Creator.
In this endeavour I have spent all my days. How severely I have
curbed my desires, repressed myself at every step, only the
Searcher of the Heart knows.
But the difficulty is, that one's life is not solely one's own.
He who would create it must do so with the help of his
surroundings, or he will fail. So it was my constant dream to
draw Bimal to join me in this work of creating myself. I loved
her with all my soul; on the strength of that, I could not but
succeed in winning her to my purpose - that was my firm belief.
Then I discovered that those who could simply and naturally draw
their environment into the process of their self-creation
belonged to one species of the genus "man", - and I to another. I
had received the vital spark, but could not impart it. Those to
whom I have surrendered my all have taken my all, but not myself
My trial is hard indeed. Just when I want a helpmate most, I am
thrown back on myself alone. Nevertheless, I record my vow that
even in this trial I shall win through. Alone, then, shall I
tread my thorny path to the end of this life's journey ...
I have begun to suspect that there has all along been a vein of
tyranny in me. There was a despotism in my desire to mould my
relations with Bimala in a hard, clear-cut, perfect form. But
man's life was not meant to be cast in a mould. And if we try to
shape the good, as so much mere material, it takes a terrible
revenge by losing its life.
I did not realize all this while that it must have been this
unconscious tyranny of mine which made us gradually drift apart.
Bimala's life, not finding its true level by reason of my
pressure from above, has had to find an outlet by undermining its
banks at the bottom. She has had to steal this six thousand
rupees because she could not be open with me, because she felt
that, in certain things, I despotically differed from her.
Men, such as I, possessed with one idea, are indeed at one with
those who can manage to agree with us; but those who do not, can
only get on with us by cheating us. It is our unyielding
obstinacy, which drives even the simplest to tortuous ways. In
trying to manufacture a helpmate, we spoil a wife.
Could I not go back to the beginning? Then, indeed, I should
follow the path of the simple. I should not try to fetter my
life's companion with my ideas, but play the joyous pipes of my
love and say: "Do you love me? Then may you grow true to
yourself in the light of your love. Let my suggestions be
suppressed, let God's design, which is in you, triumph, and my
ideas retire abashed."
But can even Nature's nursing heal the open wound, into which our
accumulated differences have broken out? The covering veil,
beneath the privacy of which Nature's silent forces alone can
work, has been torn asunder. Wounds must be bandaged - can we not
bandage our wound with our love, so that the day may come when
its scar will no longer be visible? It is not too late? So much
time has been lost in misunderstanding; it has taken right up to
now to come to an understanding; how much more time will it take
for the correcting? What if the wound does eventually heal? - can
the devastation it has wrought ever be made good?
There was a slight sound near the door. As I turned over I saw
Bimala's retreating figure through the open doorway. She must
have been waiting by the door, hesitating whether to come in or
not, and at last have decided to go back. I jumped up and
bounded to the door, calling: "Bimal."
She stopped on her way. She had her back to me. I went and took
her by the hand and led her into our room. She threw herself
face downwards on a pillow, and sobbed and sobbed. I said
nothing, but held her hand as I sat by her head.
When her storm of grief had abated she sat up. I tried to draw
her to my breast, but she pushed my arms away and knelt at my
feet, touching them repeatedly with her head, in obeisance. I
hastily drew my feet back, but she clasped them in her arms,
saying in a choking voice: "No, no, no, you must not take away
your feet. Let me do my worship."
I kept still. Who was I to stop her? Was I the god of her
worship that I should have any qualms?
Come, come! Now is the time to set sail towards that great
confluence, where the river of love meets the sea of worship. In
that pure blue all the weight of its muddiness sinks and
I now fear nothing - neither myself, nor anybody else. I have
passed through fire. What was inflammable has been burnt to
ashes; what is left is deathless. I have dedicated myself to the
feet of him, who has received all my sin into the depths of his
Tonight we go to Calcutta. My inward troubles have so long
prevented my looking after my things. Now let me arrange and
After a while I found my husband had come in and was taking a
hand in the packing.
"This won't do," I said. "Did you not promise me you would have
"I might have made the promise," he replied, "but my sleep did
not, and it was nowhere to be found."
"No, no," I repeated, "this will never do. Lie down for a while,
"But how can you get through all this alone?"
"Of course I can."
"Well, you may boast of being able to do without me. But frankly
I can't do without you. Even sleep refused to come to me, alone,
in that room." Then he set to work again.
But there was an interruption, in the shape of a servant, who
came and said that Sandip Babu had called and had asked to be
announced. I did not dare to ask whom he wanted. The light of
the sky seemed suddenly to be shut down, like the leaves of a
"Come, Bimal," said my husband. "Let us go and hear what Sandip
has to tell us. Since he has come back again, after taking his
leave, he must have something special to say."
I went, simply because it would have been still more embarrassing
to stay. Sandip was staring at a picture on the wall. As we
entered he said: "You must be wondering why the fellow has
returned. But you know the ghost is never laid till all the
rites are complete." With these words he brought out of his
pocket something tied in his handkerchief, and laying it on the
table, undid the knot. It was those sovereigns.
"Don't you mistake me, Nikhil," he said. "You must not imagine
that the contagion of your company has suddenly turned me honest;
I am not the man to come back in slobbering repentance to return
ill-gotten money. But..."
He left his speech unfinished. After a pause he turned towards
Nikhil, but said to me: "After all these days, Queen Bee, the
ghost of compunction has found an entry into my hitherto
untroubled conscience. As I have to wrestle with it every night,
after my first sleep is over, I cannot call it a phantom of my
imagination. There is no escape even for me till its debt is
paid. Into the hands of that spirit, therefore, let me make
restitution. Goddess! From you, alone, of all the world, I
shall not be able to take away anything. I shall not be rid of
you till I am destitute. Take these back!"
He took out at the same time the jewel-casket from under his
tunic and put it down, and then left us with hasty steps.
"Listen to me, Sandip," my husband called after him.
"I have not the time, Nikhil," said Sandip as he paused near the
door. "The Mussulmans, I am told, have taken me for an
invaluable gem, and are conspiring to loot me and hide me away in
their graveyard. But I feel that it is necessary that I should
live. I have just twenty-five minutes to catch the North-bound
train. So, for the present, I must be gone. We shall have our
talk out at the next convenient opportunity. If you take my
advice, don't you delay in getting away either. I salute you,
Queen Bee, Queen of the bleeding hearts, Queen of desolation!"
Sandip then left almost at a run. I stood stock-still; I had
never realized in such a manner before, how trivial, how paltry,
this gold and these jewels were. Only a short while ago I was so
busy thinking what I should take with me, and how I should pack
it. Now I felt that there was no need to take anything at all.
To set out and go forth was the important thing.
My husband left his seat and came up and took me by the hand.
"It is getting late," he said. "There is not much time left to
complete our preparations for the journey."
At this point Chandranath Babu suddenly came in. Finding us both
together, he fell back for a moment. Then he said, "Forgive me,
my little mother, if I intrude. Nikhil, the Mussulmans are out
of hand. They are looting Harish Kundu's treasury. That does
not so much matter. But what is intolerable is the violence that
is being done to the women of their house."
"I am off," said my husband.
"What can you do there?" I pleaded, as I held him by the hand.
"Oh, sir," I appealed to his master. "Will you not tell him not
"My little mother," he replied, "there is no time to do anything
"Don't be alarmed, Bimal," said my husband, as he left us.
When I went to the window I saw my husband galloping away on
horseback, with not a weapon in his hands.
In another minute the Bara Rani came running in. "What have you
done, Chotie darling," she cried. "How could you let him go?"
"Call the Dewan at once," she said, turning to a servant.
The Ranis never appeared before the Dewan, but the Bara Rani had
no thought that day for appearances.
"Send a mounted man to bring back the Maharaja at once," she
said, as soon as the Dewan came up.
"We have all entreated him to stay, Rani Mother," said the Dewan,
"but he refused to turn back."
"Send word to him that the Bara Rani is ill, that she is on her
death-bed," cried my sister-in-law wildly.
When the Dewan had left she turned on me with a furious outburst.
"Oh, you witch, you ogress, you could not die yourself, but needs
must send him to his death! ..."
The light of the day began to fade. The sun set behind the
feathery foliage of the blossoming __Sajna__ tree. I can see
every different shade of that sunset even today. Two masses of
cloud on either side of the sinking orb made it look like a great
bird with fiery-feathered wings outspread. It seemed to me that
this fateful day was taking its flight, to cross the ocean of
It became darker and darker. Like the flames of a distant
village on fire, leaping up every now and then above the horizon,
a distant din swelled up in recurring waves into the darkness.
The bells of the evening worship rang out from our temple. I
knew the Bara Rani was sitting there, with palms joined in silent
prayer. But I could not move a step from the window.
The roads, the village beyond, and the still more distant fringe
of trees, grew more and more vague. The lake in our grounds
looked up into the sky with a dull lustre, like a blind man's
eye. On the left the tower seemed to be craning its neck to
catch sight of something that was happening.
The sounds of night take on all manner of disguises. A twig
snaps, and one thinks that somebody is running for his life. A
door slams, and one feels it to be the sudden heart-thump of a
Lights would suddenly flicker under the shade of the distant
trees, and then go out again. Horses' hoofs would clatter, now
and again, only to turn out to be riders leaving the palace
I continually had the feeling that, if only I could die, all this
turmoil would come to an end. So long as I was alive my sins
would remain rampant, scattering destruction on every side. I
remembered the pistol in my box. But my feet refused to leave
the window in quest of it. Was I not awaiting my fate?
The gong of the watch solemnly struck ten. A little later,
groups of lights appeared in the distance and a great crowd wound
its way, like some great serpent, along the roads in the
darkness, towards the palace gates.
The Dewan rushed to the gate at the sound. Just then a rider
came galloping in. "What's the news, Jata?" asked the Dewan.