Vision





I

When I was a very young wife, I gave birth to a dead child, and came
near to death myself. I recovered strength very slowly, and my eyesight
became weaker and weaker.

My husband at this time was studying medicine. He was not altogether
sorry to have a chance of testing his medical knowledge on me. So he
began to treat my eyes himself.

My elder brother was reading for his law examination. One day he came
to see me, and was alarmed at my condition.

"What are you doing?" he said to my husband. "You are ruining Kumo's
eyes. You ought to consult a good doctor at once."

My husband said irritably: "Why! what can a good doctor do more than I
am doing? The case is quite a simple one, and the remedies are all well
known."

Dada answered with scorn: "I suppose you think there is no difference
between you and a Professor in your own Medical College."

My husband replied angrily: "If you ever get married, and there is a
dispute about your wife's property, you won't take my advice about Law.
Why, then, do you now come advising me about Medicine?"

While they were quarrelling, I was saying to myself that it was always
the poor grass that suffered most when two kings went to war. Here was
a dispute going on between these two, and I had to bear the brunt of it.

It also seemed to me very unfair that, when my family had given me in
marriage, they should interfere afterwards. After all, my pleasure and
pain are my husband's concern, not theirs.

>From that day forward, merely over this trifling matter of my eyes, the
bond between my husband and Dada was strained.

To my surprise one afternoon, while my husband was away, Dada brought a
doctor in to see me. He examined my eyes very carefully, and looked
grave. He said that further neglect would be dangerous. He wrote out a
prescription, and Dada for the medicine at once. When the strange
doctor had gone, I implored my Dada not to interfere. I was sure that
only evil would come from the stealthy visits of a doctor.

I was surprised at myself for plucking up courage speak to my brother
like that. I had always hitherto been afraid of him. I am sure also
that Dada was surprised at my boldness. He kept silence for a while,
and then said to me: "Very well, Kumo. I won't call in the doctor any
more. But when the medicine comes you must take it."

Dada then went away. The medicine came from chemist. I took it--
bottles, powders, prescriptions and all--and threw it down the well!

My husband had been irritated by Dada's interference, and he began to
treat my eyes with greater diligence than ever. He tried all sorts of
remedies. I bandaged my eyes as he told me, I wore his coloured
glasses, I put in his drops, I took all his powders. I even drank the
cod-liver oil he gave me, though my gorge rose against it.

Each time he came back from the hospital, he would ask me anxiously how
I felt; and I would answer: "Oh! much better." Indeed I became an
expert in self-delusion. When I found that the water in my eyes was
still increasing, I would console myself with the thought that it was a
good thing to get rid of so much bad fluid; and, when the flow of water
in my eyes decreased, I was elated at my husband's skill.

But after a while the agony became unbearable. My eyesight faded away,
and I had continual headaches day and night. I saw how much alarmed my
husband was getting. I gathered from his manner that he was casting
about for a pretext to call in a doctor. So I hinted that it might be
as well to call one in.

That he was greatly relieved, I could see. He called in an English
doctor that very day. I do not know what talk they had together, but I
gathered that the Sahib had spoken very sharply to my husband.

He remained silent for some time after the doctor had gone. I took his
hands in mine, and said: "What an ill-mannered brute that was! Why
didn't you call in an Indian doctor? That would have been much better.
Do you think that man knows better than you do about my eyes?"

My husband was very silent for a moment, and then said with a broken
voice: "Kumo, your eyes must be operated on."

I pretended to be vexed with him for concealing the fact from me so
long.

"Here you have known this all the time," said I, "and yet you have said
nothing about it! Do you think I am such a baby as to be afraid of an
operation?"

At that be regained his good spirits: "There are very few men," said he,
"who are heroic enough to look forward to an operation without
shrinking."

I laughed at him: "Yes, that is so. Men are heroic only before their
wives!"

He looked at me gravely, and said: "You are perfectly right. We men are
dreadfully vain."

I laughed away his seriousness: "Are you sure you can beat us women even
in vanity? "

When Dada came, I took him aside: "Dada, that treatment your doctor
recommended would have done me a world of good; only unfortunately. I
mistook the mixture for the lotion. And since the day I made the
mistake, my eyes have grown steadily worse; and now an operation is
needed."

Dada said to me: "You were under your husband's treatment, and that is
why I gave up coming to visit you."

"No," I answered. "In reality, I was secretly treating myself in
accordance with your doctor's directions."

Oh! what lies we women have to tell! When we are mothers, we tell lies
to pacify our children; and when we are wives, we tell lies to pacify
the fathers of our children. We are never free from this necessity.

My deception had the effect of bringing about a better feeling between
my husband and Dada. Dada blamed himself for asking me to keep a secret
from my husband: and my husband regretted that he had not taken my
brother's advice at the first.

At last, with the consent of both, an English doctor came, and operated
on my left eye. That eye, however, was too weak to bear the strain; and
the last flickering glimmer of light went out. Then the other eye
gradually lost itself in darkness.

One day my husband came to my bedside. "I cannot brazen it out before
you any longer," said he, "Kumo, it is I who have ruined your eyes."

I felt that his voice was choking with tears, and so I took up his right
hand in both of mine and said: "Why! you did exactly what was right.
You have dealt only with that which was your very own. Just imagine, if
some strange doctor had come and taken away my eyesight. What
consolation should I have had then? But now I can feel that all has
happened for the best; and my great comfort is to know that it is at
your hands I have lost my eyes. When Ramchandra found one lotus too few
with which to worship God, he offered both his eyes in place of the
lotus. And I hate dedicated my eyes to my God. From now, whenever you
see something that is a joy to you, then you must describe it to me; and
I will feed upon your words as a sacred gift left over from your
vision."

I do not mean, of course, that I said all this there and then, for it is
impossible to speak these things an the spur of the moment. But I used
to think over words like these for days and days together. And when I
was very depressed, or if at any time the light of my devotion became
dim, and I pitied my evil fate, then I made my mind utter these
sentences, one by one, as a child repeats a story that is told. And so
I could breathe once more the serener air of peace and love.

At the very time of our talk together, I said enough to show my husband
what was in my heart.

"Kumo," he said to me, "the mischief I have done by my folly can never
be made good. But I can do one thing. I can ever remain by your side,
and try to make up for your want of vision as much as is in my power."

"No," said I. "That will never do. I shall not ask you to turn your
house into an hospital for the blind. There is only one thing to be
done, you must marry again."

As I tried to explain to him that this was necessary, my voice broke a
little. I coughed, and tried to hide my emotion, but he burst out
saying:

"Kumo, I know I am a fool, and a braggart, and all that, but I am not a
villain! If ever I marry again, I swear to you--I swear to you the most
solemn oath by my family god, Gopinath--may that most hated of all sins,
the sin of parricide, fall on my head!"

Ah! I should never, never have allowed him to swear that dreadful oath.
But tears were choking my voice, and I could not say a word for
insufferable joy. I hid my blind face in my pillows, and sobbed, and
sobbed again. At last, when the first flood of my tears was over, I
drew his head down to my breast.

"Ah I " said I, "why did you take such a terrible oath? Do you think I
asked you to marry again for your own sordid pleasure? No! I was
thinking of myself, for she could perform those services which were mine
to give you when I had my sight."

"Services! " said he, "services! Those can be done by servants. Do you
think I am mad enough to bring a slave into my house, and bid her share
the throne with this my Goddess?"

As he said the word "Goddess," he held up my face in his hands, and
placed a kiss between my brows. At that moment the third eye of divine
wisdom was opened, where he kissed me, and verily I had a consecration.

I said in my own mind: "It is well. I am no longer able to serve him in
the lower world of household cares. But I shall rise to a higher
region. I shall bring down blessings from above. No more lies! No
more deceptions for me! All the littlenesses and hypocrisies of my
former life shall be banished for ever!"

That day, the whole day through, I felt a conflict going on within me.
The joy of the thought, that after this solemn oath it was impossible
for my husband to marry again, fixed its roots deep in my heart, and I
could not tear them out. But the new Goddess, who had taken her new
throne in me, said: "The time might come when it would be good for your
husband to break his oath and marry again." But the woman, who was
within me, said: "That may be; but all the same an oath is an oath, and
there is no way out." The Goddess, who was within me, answered: "That
is no reason why you should exult over it." But the woman, who was
within me, replied: "What you say is quite true, no doubt; all the same
he has taken his oath." And the same story went on again and again. At
last the Goddess frowned in silence, and the darkness of a horrible fear
came down upon me.

My repentant husband would not let the servants do my work; he must do
it all himself. At first it gave me unbounded delight to be dependent
on him thus for every little thing. It was a means of keeping him by my
side, and my desire to have him with me had become intense since my
blindness. That share of his presence, which my eyes had lost, my other
senses craved. When he was absent from my side, I would feel as if I
were hanging in mid-air, and had lost my hold of all things tangible.

Formerly, when my husband came back late from the hospital, I used to
open my window and gaze at the road. That road was the link which
connected his world with mine. Now when I had lost that link through my
blindness, all my body would go out to seek him. The bridge that united
us had given way, and there was now this unsurpassable chasm. When he
left my side the gulf seemed to yawn wide open. I could only wait for
the time when he should cross back again from his own shore to mine.

But such intense longing and such utter dependence can never be good. A
wife is a burden enough to a man, in all conscience, and to add to it
the burden of this blindness was to make his life unbearable. I vowed
that I would suffer alone, and never wrap my husband round in the folds
of my all-pervading darkness.

Within an incredibly short space of time I managed to train myself to do
all my household duties by the help of touch and sound and smell. In
fact I soon found that I could get on with greater skill than before.
For sight often distracts rather than helps us. And so it came to pass
that, when these roving eyes of mine could do their work no longer, all
the other senses took up their several duties with quietude and
completeness.

When I had gained experience by constant practice, I would not let my
husband do any more household duties for me. He complained bitterly at
first that I was depriving him of his penance.

This did not convince me. Whatever he might say, I could feel that he
had a real sense of relief when these household duties were over. To
serve daily a wife who is blind can never make up the life of a man.

II

My husband at last had finished his medical course. He went away from
Calcutta to a small town to practise as a doctor. There in the country
I felt with joy, through all my blindness, that I was restored to the
arms of my mother. I had left my village birthplace for Calcutta when I
was eight years old. Since then ten years had passed away, and in the
great city the memory of my village home had grown dim. As long as I
had eyesight, Calcutta with its busy life screened from view the memory
of my early days. But when I lost my eyesight I knew for the first time
that Calcutta allured only the eyes: it could not fill the mind. And
now, in my blindness, the scenes of my childhood shone out once more,
like stars that appear one by one in the evening sky at the end of the
day.

It was the beginning of November when we left Calcutta for Harsingpur.
The place was new to me, but the scents and sounds of the countryside
pressed round and embraced me. The morning breeze coming fresh from the
newly ploughed land, the sweet and tender smell of the flowering
mustard, the shepherd-boy's flute sounding in the distance, even the
creaking noise of the bullock-cart, as it groaned over the broken
village road, filled my world with delight. The memory of my past life,
with all its ineffable fragrance and sound, became a living present to
me, and my blind eyes could not tell me I was wrong. I went back, and
lived over again my childhood. Only one thing was absent: my mother was
not with me.

I could see my home with the large peepul trees growing along the edge
of the village pool. I could picture in my mind's eye my old
grandmother seated on the ground with her thin wisps of hair untied,
warming her back in the sun as she made the little round lentil balls to
be dried and used for cooking. But somehow I could not recall the songs
she used to croon to herself in her weak and quavering voice. In the
evening, whenever I heard the lowing of cattle, I could almost watch the
figure of my mother going round the sheds with lighted lamp in her hand.
The smell of the wet fodder and the pungent smoke of the straw fire
would enter into my very heart. And in the distance I seemed to hear
the clanging of the temple bell wafted up by the breeze from the river
bank.

Calcutta, with all its turmoil and gossip, curdles the heart. There,
all the beautiful duties of life lose their freshness and innocence. I
remember one day, when a friend of mine came in, and said to me: "Kumo,
why don't you feel angry? If I had been treated like you by my husband,
I would never look upon his face again."

She tried to make me indignant, because he had been so long calling in a
doctor.

"My blindness," said I, "was itself a sufficient evil. Why should I
make it worse by allowing hatred to grow up against my husband?"

My friend shook her head in great contempt, when she heard such old-
fashioned talk from the lips of a mere chit of a girl. She went away in
disdain. But whatever might be my answer at the time, such words as
these left their poison; and the venom was never wholly got out of the
soul, when once they had been uttered.

So you see Calcutta, with its never-ending gossip, does harden the
heart. But when I came back to the country all my earlier hopes and
faiths, all that I held true in life during childhood, became fresh and
bright once more. God came to me, and filled my heart and my world. I
bowed to Him, and said:

"It is well that Thou has taken away my eyes. Thou art with me."

Ah! But I said more than was right. It was a presumption to say: "Thou
art with me." All we can say is this: "I must be true to Thee." Even
when nothing is left for us, still we have to go on living.

III

We passed a few happy months together. My husband gained some
reputation in his profession as a doctor. And money came with it.

But there is a mischief in money. I cannot point to any one event; but,
because the blind have keener perceptions than other people, I could
discern the change which came over my husband along with the increase of
wealth.

He had a keen sense of justice when he was younger, and had often told
me of his great desire to help the poor when once he obtained a practice
of his own. He had a noble contempt far those in his profession who
would not feel the pulse of a poor patient before collecting his fee.
But now I noticed a difference. He had become strangely hard. Once
when a poor woman came, and begged him, out of charity, to save the life
of her only child, he bluntly refused. And when I implored him myself
to help her, he did his work perfunctorily.

While we were less rich my husband disliked sharp practice in money
matters. He was scrupulously honourable in such things. But since he
had got a large account at the bank he was often closeted for hours with
some scamp of a landlord's agent, for purposes which clearly boded no
good.

Where has he drifted? What has become of this husband of mine, --the
husband I knew before I was blind; the husband who kissed me that day
between my brows, and enshrined me on the throne of a Goddess? Those
whom a sudden gust of passion brings down to the dust can rise up
again with a new strong impulse of goodness. But those who, day by day,
become dried up in the very fibre of their moral being; those who by
some outer parasitic growth choke the inner life by slow degrees,--such
wench one day a deadness which knows no healing.

The separation caused by blindness is the merest physical trifle. But,
ah! it suffocates me to find that he is no longer with me, where he
stood with me in that hour when we both knew that I was blind. That is
a separation indeed!

I, with my love fresh and my faith unbroken, have kept to the shelter of
my heart's inner shrine. But my husband has left the cool shade of
those things that are ageless and unfading. He is fast disappearing
into the barren, waterless waste in his mad thirst for gold.

Sometimes the suspicion comes to me that things not so bad as they seem:
that perhaps I exaggerate because I am blind. It may be that, if my
eyesight were unimpaired, I should have accepted world as I found it.
This, at any rate, was the light in which my husband looked at all my
moods and fancies.

One day an old Musalman came to the house. He asked my husband to visit
his little grand-daughter. I could hear the old man say: "Baba, I am a
poor man; but come with me, and Allah will do you good." My husband
answered coldly: "What Allah will do won't help matters; I want to know
what you can do for me."

When I heard it, I wondered in my mind why God had not made me deaf as
well as blind. The old man heaved a deep sigh, and departed. I sent
my maid to fetch him to my room. I met him at the door of the inner
apartment, and put some money into his hand.

"Please take this from me," said I, "for your little grand-daughter, and
get a trustworthy doctor to look after her. And-pray for my husband."

But the whole of that day I could take no food at all. In the
afternoon, when my husband got up from sleep, he asked me: "Why do you
look so pale?"

I was about to say, as I used to do in the past: "Oh! It's nothing ";
but those days of deception were over, and I spoke to him plainly.

"I have been hesitating," I said, "for days together to tell you
something. It has been hard to think out what exactly it was I wanted
to say. Even now I may not be able to explain what I had in my mind.
But I am sure you know what has happened. Our lives have drifted
apart."

My husband laughed in a forced manner, and said: "Change is the law of
nature."

I said to him: "I know that. But there are some things that are
eternal."

Then he became serious.

"There are many women," said he, "who have a real cause for sorrow.
There are some whose husbands do not earn money. There are others whose
husbands do not love them. But you are making yourself wretched about
nothing at all."

Then it became clear to me that my very blindness had conferred on me
the power of seeing a world which is beyond all change. Yes! It is
true.
I am not like other women. And my husband will never understand me.

IV

Our two lives went on with their dull routine for some time. Then there
was a break in the monotony. An aunt of my husband came to pay us a
visit.

The first thing she blurted out after our first greeting was this:
"Well, Krum, it's a great pity you have become blind; but why do you
impose your own affliction on your husband? You must get him to another
wife."

There was an awkward pause. If my husband had only said something in
jest, or laughed in her face, all would have been over. But he
stammered and hesitated, and said at last in a nervous, stupid way: "Do
you really think so? Really, Aunt, you shouldn't talk like that"

His aunt appealed to me. "Was I wrong, Kumo?"

I laughed a hollow laugh.

"Had not you better," said I, "consult some one more competent to
decide? The pickpocket never asks permission from the man whose pocket
he is going to pick."

"You are quite right," she replied blandly. "Abinash, my dear, let us
have our little conference in private. What do you say to that?"

After a few days my husband asked her, in my presence, if she knew of
any girl of a decent family who could come and help me in my household
work. He knew quite well that I needed no help. I kept silence.

"Oh! there are heaps of them," replied his aunt. "My cousin has a
daughter who is just of the marriageable age, and as nice a girl as you
could wish. Her people would be only too glad to secure you as a
husband."

Again there came from him that forced, hesitating laugh, and he said:
"But I never mentioned marriage."

"How could you expect," asked his aunt, "a girl of decent family to come
and live in your house without marriage? "

He had to admit that this was reasonable, and remained nervously silent.

I stood alone within the closed doors of my blindness after he had gone,
and called upon my God and prayed: "O God, save my husband."

When I was coming out of the household shrine from my morning worship a
few days later, his aunt took hold of both my hands warmly.

"Kumo, here is the girl," said she, "we were speaking about the other
day. Her name is Hemangini. She will be delighted to meet you. Hemo,
come here and be introduced to your sister."

My husband entered the room at the same moment. He feigned surprise
when he saw the strange girl, and was about to retire. But his aunt
said: "Abinash, my dear, what are you running away for? There is no
need to do that. Here is my cousin's daughter, Hemangini, come to see
you. Hemo, make your bow to him."

As if taken quite by surprise, he began to ply his aunt with questions
about the when and why and how of the new arrival.

I saw the hollowness of the whole thing, and took Hemangini by the hand
and led her to my own room. I gently stroked her face and arms and
hair, and found that she was about fifteen years old, and very
beautiful.

As I felt her face, she suddenly burst out laughing and said: "Why!
what are you doing? Are you hypnotising me?"

That sweet ringing laughter of hers swept away in a moment all the dark
clouds that stood between us. I threw my right arm about her neck.

"Dear one," said I, "I am trying to see you." And again I stroked her
soft face with my left hand.

"Trying to see me? " she said, with a new burst of laughter. "Am I like
a vegetable marrow, grown in your garden, that you want to feel me all
round to see how soft I am?"

I suddenly bethought me that she did not know I had lost my sight.

"Sister, I am blind," said I.

She was silent. I could feel her big young eyes, full of curiosity,
peering into my face. I knew they were full of pity. Then she grew
thoughtful and puzzled, and said, after a short pause:

"Oh! I see now. That was the reason your husband invited his aunt to
come and stay here."

"No!" I replied, "you are quite mistaken. He did not ask her to come.
She came of her own accord."

Hemangini went off into a peal of laughter. "That's just like my aunt,"
said she. "Oh I wasn't it nice of her to come without any invitation?
But now she's come, you won't get her to move for some time, I can
assure you!"

Then she paused, and looked puzzled.

"But why did father send me?" she asked. "Can you tell me that? "

The aunt had come into the room while we were talking. Hemangini said
to her: "When are you thinking of going back, Aunt? "

The aunt looked very much upset.

"What a question to ask!" said she, "I've never seen such a restless
body as you. We've only just come, and you ask when we're going back!"

"It is all very well for you," Hemangini said, "for this house belongs
to your near relations. But what about me? I tell you plainly I can't
stop here." And then she held my hand and said: "What do you think,
dear?"

I drew her to my heart, but said nothing. The aunt was in a great
difficulty. She felt the situation was getting beyond her control; so
she proposed that she and her niece should go out together to bathe.

"No! we two will go together," said Hemangini, clinging to me. The
aunt gave in, fearing opposition if she tried to drag her away.

Going down to the river Hemangini asked me: "Why don't you have
children? "

I was startled by her question, and answered: "How can I tell? My God
has not given me any. That is the reason."

"No! That's not the reason," said Hemangini quickly. "You must have
committed some sin. Look at my aunt. She is childless. It must be
because her heart has some wickedness. But what wickedness is in your
heart?"

The words hurt me. I have no solution to offer for the problem of evil.
I sighed deeply, and said in the silence of my soul: "My God! Thou
knowest the reason."

"Gracious goodness," cried Hemangini, "what are you sighing for? No one
ever takes me seriously."

And her laughter pealed across the river.

V

I found out after this that there were constant interruptions in my
husband's professional duties. He refused all calls from a distance,
and would hurry away from his patients, even when they were close at
hand.

Formerly it was only during the mid-day meals and at night-time that he
could come into the inner apartment. But now, with unnecessary anxiety
for his aunt's comfort, he began to visit her at all hours of the day.
I knew at once that he had come to her room, when I heard her shouting
for Hemangini to bring in a glass of water. At first the girl would do
what she was told; but later on she refused altogether.

Then the aunt would call, in an endearing voice: "Hemo! Hemo!
Hemangini." But the girl would cling to me with an impulse of pity. A
sense of dread and sadness would keep her silent. Sometimes she would
shrink towards me like a hunted thing, who scarcely knew what was
coming.

About this time my brother came down from Calcutta to visit me. I knew
how keen his powers of observation were, and what a hard judge he was.
I feared my husband would be put on his defence, and have to stand his
trial before him. So I endeavoured to hide the true situation
behind a mask of noisy cheerfulness. But I am afraid I overdid the
part: it was unnatural for me.

My husband began to fidget openly, and asked bow long my brother was
going to stay. At last his impatience became little short of insulting,
and my brother had no help for it but to leave. Before going he placed
his hand on my head, and kept it there for some time. I noticed that
his hand shook, and a tear fell from his eyes, as he silently gave me
his blessing.

I well remember that it was an evening in April, and a market-day.
People who had come into the town were going back home from market.
There was the feeling of an impending storm in the air; the smell of the
wet earth and the moisture in the wind were all-pervading. I never
keep a lighted lamp in my bedroom, when I am alone, lest my clothes
should catch fire, or some accident happen. I sat on the floor in my
dark room, and called upon the God of my blind world.

"O my Lord," I cried, "Thy face is hidden. I cannot see. I am blind.
I hold tight this broken rudder of a heart till my hands bleed. The
waves have become too strong for me. How long wilt thou try me, my God,
how long?"

I kept my head prone upon the bedstead and began to sob. As I did so, I
felt the bedstead move a little. The next moment Hemangini was by my
side. She clung to my neck, and wiped my tears away silently. I do not
know why she had been waiting that evening in the inner room, or why
she had been lying alone there in the dusk. She asked me no question.
She said no word. She simply placed her cool hand on my forehead, and
kissed me, and departed.

The next morning Hemangini said to her aunt in my presence : "If you
want to stay on, you can. But I don't. I'm going away home with our
family servant."

The aunt said there was no need for her to go alone, for she was going
away also. Then smilingly and mincingly she brought out, from a plush
case, a ring set with pearls.

"Look, Hemo," said she, "what a beautiful ring my Abinash brought for
you."

Hemangini snatched the ring from her hand.

"Look, Aunt," she answered quickly, "just see how splendidly I aim."
And she flung the ring into the tank outside the window.

The aunt, overwhelmed with alarm, vexation, and surprise, bristled like
a hedgehog. She turned to me, and held me by the hand.

"Kumo," she repeated again and again, "don't say a word about this
childish freak to Abinash. He would be fearfully vexed."

I assured her that she need not fear. Not a word would reach him about
it from my lips.

The next day before starting for home Hemangini embraced me, and said:
"Dearest, keep me in mind; do not forget me."

I stroked her face over and over with my fingers, and said: "Sister, the
blind have long memories."

I drew her head towards me, and kissed her hair and her forehead. My
world suddenly became grey. All the beauty and laughter and tender
youth, which had nestled so close to me, vanished when Hemangini
departed. I went groping about with arms outstretched, seeking to find
out what was left in my deserted world.

My husband came in later. He affected a great relief now that they were
gone, but it was exaggerated and empty. He pretended that his aunt's
visit had kept him away from work.

Hitherto there had been only the one barrier of blindness between me and
my husband. Now another barrier was added, --this deliberate silence
about Hemangini. He feigned utter indifference, but I knew he was
having letters about her.

It was early in May. My maid entered my room one morning, and asked me:
"What is all this preparation going on at the landing on the river?
Where is Master going?"

I knew there was something impending, but I said to the maid: "I can't
say."

The maid did not dare to ask me any more questions. She sighed, and
went away.

Late that night my husband came to me.

"I have to visit a patient in the country," said he. "I shall have to
start very early to-morrow morning, and I may have to be away for two or
three days."

I got up from my bed. I stood before him, and cried aloud: "Why are you
telling me lies?"

My husband stammered out: "What--what lies have I told you?"

I said: "You are going to get married."

He remained silent. For some moments there was no sound in the room.
Then I broke the silence:

"Answer me," I cried. "Say, yes."

He answered, "Yes," like a feeble echo.

I shouted out with a loud voice: "No! I shall never allow you. I shall
save you from this great disaster, this dreadful sin. If I fail in
this, then why am I your wife, and why did I ever worship my God?"

The room remained still as a stone. I dropped on the floor, and clung
to my husband's knees.

"What have I done?" I asked. "Where have I been lacking? Tell me
truly. Why do you want another wife?"

My husband said slowly: "I will tell you the truth. I am afraid of you.
Your blindness has enclosed you in its fortress, and I have now no
entrance. To me you are no longer a woman. You are awful as my God. I
cannot live my every day life with you. I want a woman--just an
ordinary woman--whom I can be free to chide and coax and pet and scold."

Oh, tear open my heart and see! What am I else but that, --just an
ordinary woman? I am the same girl that I was when I was newly wed, a
girl with all her need to believe, to confide, to worship.

I do not recollect exactly the words that I uttered. I only remember
that I said: "If I be a true wife, then, may God be my witness, you
shall never do this wicked deed, you shall never break your oath.
Before you commit such sacrilege, either I shall become a widow, or
Hemangini shall die."

Then I fell down on the floor in a swoon. When I came to myself, it was
still dark. The birds were silent. My husband had gone.

All that day I sat at my worship in the sanctuary at the household
shrine. In the evening a fierce storm, with thunder and lightning and
rain, swept down upon the house and shook it. As I crouched before the
shrine, I did not ask my God to save my husband from the storm, though
he must have been at that time in peril on the river. I prayed that
whatever might happen to me, my husband might be saved from this great
sin.

Night passed. The whole of the next day I kept my seat at worship.
When it was evening there was the noise of shaking and beating at the
door. When the door was broken open, they found me lying unconscious on
the ground, and carried me to my room.

When I came to myself at last, I heard some one whispering in my ear:
"Sister."

I found that I was lying in my room with my head on Hemangini's lap.
When my head moved, I heard her dress rustle. It was the sound of
bridal silk.

O my God, my God! My prayer has gone unheeded! My husband has fallen!

Hemangini bent her head low, and said in a sweet whisper: "Sister,
dearest, I have come to ask your blessing on our marriage."

At first my whole body stiffened like the trunk of a tree that has been
struck by lightning. Then I sat up, and said, painfully, forcing myself
to speak the words: "Why should I not bless you? You have done no
wrong."

Hemangini laughed her merry laugh.

"Wrong!" said she. "When you married it was right; and when I marry, you
call it wrong! "

I tried to smile in answer to her laughter. I said in my mind: "My
prayer is not the final thing in this world. His will is all. Let the
blows descend upon my head; but may they leave my faith and hope in God
untouched."

Hemangini bowed to me, and touched my feet. "May you be happy," said I,
blessing her, "and enjoy unbroken prosperity."

Hemangini was still unsatisfied.

"Dearest sister," she said, "a blessing for me is not enough. You must
make our happiness complete. You must, with those saintly hands of
yours, accept into your home my husband also. Let me bring him to you."

I said: "Yes, bring him to me."

A few moments later I heard a familiar footstep, and the question,
"Kumo, how are you ? "

I started up, and bowed to the ground, and cried: "Dada! "

Hemangini burst out laughing.

"You still call him elder brother?" she asked. "What nonsense! Call him
younger brother now, and pull his ears and cease him, for he has married
me, your younger sister."

Then I understood. My husband had been saved from that great sin. He
had not fallen.

I knew my Dada had determined never to marry. And, since my mother had
died, there was no sacred wish of hers to implore him to wedlock. But
I, his sister, by my sore need bad brought it to pass. He had married
for my sake.

Tears of joy gushed from my eyes, and poured down my cheeks. I tried,
but I could not stop them. Dada slowly passed his fingers through my
hair. Hemangini clung to me, and went on laughing.

I was lying awake in my bed for the best part of the night, waiting with
straining anxiety for my husband's return. I could not imagine how he
would bear the shock of shame and disappointment.

When it was long past the hour of midnight, slowly my door opened. I
sat up on my bed, and listened. They were the footsteps of my husband.
My heart began to beat wildly. He came up to my bed, held my band in
his.

"Your Dada," said he, "has saved me from destruction. I was being
dragged down and down by a moments madness. An infatuation had seized
me, from which I seemed unable to escape. God alone knows what a load I
was carrying on that day when I entered the boat. The storm came down
on river, and covered the sky. In the midst of all fears I had a secret
wish in my heart to be drowned, and so disentangle my life from the knot
which I had tied it. I reached Mathurganj. There I heard the news which
set me free. Your brother had married Hemangini. I cannot tell you
with what joy and shame I heard it. I hastened on board the boat again.
In that moment of self-revelation I knew that I could have no happiness
except with you. You are a Goddess."

I laughed and cried at the same time, and said: "No, no, no! I am not
going to be a Goddess any longer I am simply your own little wife. I am
an ordinary woman."

"Dearest," he replied, "I have also something I want to say to you.
Never again put me to shame by calling me your God."

On the next day the little town became joyous with sound of conch
shells. But nobody made any reference to that night of madness, when
all was so nearly lost.



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