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Title: A Syrup of the Bees
Author: Bain, F. W. (Francis William), 1863-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Syrup of the Bees" ***

                          A SYRUP OF THE BEES


                             BY F. W. BAIN

    _Love was the wine, and Jealousy the lees,
    Bitter of brine, and syrup of the bees._






    And I rove on the breeze with the world of bees
      like the shadow of a bee:
    For a dead moonflower which the worms devour
      is the tomb of the soul of me.

    O the hum of the bees in the mango trees
      it murmurs _taboo! taboo!_
    _Should a dead moonflower which the worms devour
      smell sweet as the mangoes do?_

    What! shall I deem my flower a dream
      when I do find, each morn,
    Wet honey sips left on my lips,
      and in my heart, a thorn?


The Young Barbarians, when Rome's ecclesiastical polity got hold of
them, were persuaded by their anxious foster-mother to sell their
Scandinavian birthright of imagination for an unintelligible, theopathic
mess of mystic Græco-Syrian pottage. But the "demons," though driven
generally from the field, lurked about in holes and corners, watching
their opportunity. They took refuge in bypaths, leaving the high road:
they lay in ambush in a thicket, whence nothing ever could dislodge
them: that of fairy tales and fables.

In India, the "demons," _i.e._ the fairy tales and fables, have never
had to hide. But the fairy tales of India differ from the fairy tales of
England, much as their fairies do themselves. The fairies of Europe are
children, little people: and it is to children that fairy stories are
addressed. The child is the agent, as well as the appeal. In India it is
otherwise: the fairy stories are addressed to the grown-up, and the
fairies resemble their audience: they are grown up too. They form an
intermediate, and so to say, irresponsible class of beings, half-way
between the mortals and the gods. These last two are very serious
things: they have their work to do: not so the fairies, who exist as it
were for the sake of existence--"art for art's sake"--and have nothing
to do but what people who have nothing to do always do do--to get
themselves and other people into mischief. They are distinguished by
three noteworthy characteristics. In the first place, they are
_possessors of the sciences, i.e._ magic, and this it is which gives
them their proper name (_Widyádhara_),[1] which is almost equivalent to
our _wizard_. Secondly, every Widyádhara can change his shape at will
into anything he pleases: they are all _shape-changers_ (_Kámarupa_).
And finally, their element is air: they live in the air, and are thus
denominated _sky-goers, sky-roamers, air-wanderers_, in innumerable
synonyms. These are the peculiar attributes of the fairies of Ind.

[Footnote 1: Some kindly critics of these stories have objected to the
W, here or elsewhere. The answer to this is, that European scholars have
taught everybody to pronounce everything wrong, by _e.g._ introducing
into Sanskrit a letter that it does not contain. There is no V in
Sanskrit, nor can any Hindoo, without special training, pronounce it: he
says, for instance, _walwe_ for _valve_.]

Like many other persons in India (and out of it) who are far from being
either fairies or wizards, they are extraordinarily touchy, and
violently resentful of scorn or slight: things not nice to anybody, but
the Wizards are not Christians, and generally take dire revenge. A very
trifling provocation will set them in a flame. The Widyádharí lady is
jealousy incarnate. Jealousy, be it noted, is a thing that many people
much misunderstand. Ask anyone the question, where in literature is
jealousy best illustrated, and ninety-nine people in a hundred will
reply, Othello. But, as Pushkin excellently says, Othello is not
naturally a jealous man at all: he is his exact antipodes, a confiding,
unsuspicious nature.[2] Jealousy not only distrusts on evidence; it
distrusts before evidence and without it; it anticipates evidence and
condemns without a trial: it does not wait even for "trifles light as
air," but constructs them for itself out of nonentity. Its essence is
causeless and irrational suspicion. Your true jealous nature never
trusts anything or anybody for an instant. Othello is of noble soul: no
jealous man ever was or could be. With women, it is not quite the same;
but even here, real nobility of character excludes the possibility of
jealousy, because it trusts, until it is deceived, and then its glass is
shattered, and its love gone beyond recall: sympathy is annihilated.
Compare Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth: the one, the noblest, the
other, the meanest creature that ever sat upon a throne. Mary trusted
even Darnley till she discovered that he was beneath every sentiment but
one: Good Queen Bess never trusted anyone at all. _Mauvaise espèce de

[Footnote 2: This "detached reflection" of Russia's national poet is
endorsed by Dostoyeffsky, the greatest master of jealousy that the world
has ever seen.]

And so, they are not much to be depended on, these Wizards; anybody
taking up with one of them, male or female, had better be careful. You
can never tell where you are with them; their affection is unstable;
they are fickle, as might be expected from creatures of the air: their
feelings are as variable as their shapes. They can be just as hideously
ugly as unimaginably beautiful. The stories that deal with them contain
a moral entirely in harmony with all Indian ideas: it is a mistake not
to stick to your own caste. When two of different castes are thrown
together, the trouble inevitably begins. The gipsies, who came
apparently from Sind, brought this notion into Europe, in a form not
previously familiar to it. That difference of kind is insurmountable, is
the fundamental axiom of Indian theory and practice. The owl to the owl,
the crow to the crow: otherwise, Nemesis and catastrophe. _A Syrup of
the Bees_[3] is another instance.

[Footnote 3: The title has a secondary meaning (with reference to its
place in the series), _she that is loaded with the nectar of Maheshwara,
i.e._ the moon that he wears.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Everywhere to-day we hear people singing a very different song: from all
sides is dinned into our ears the cant of humanity, "our common
humanity." In the meantime, men differ in many ways more than they
agree, and the differences of humanity are practically far more vital
than the common base. Just as, though all men have weight, yet
gravitation simply by reason of its universality does not constitute an
element of politics, and is altogether a negligible quantity, fact
though it be, so is it with humanity: the generic identity is nothing,
the peculiar distinctions all. The world is not like a plain, but an
irregular region such as that of the Alps or Himalaya, consisting of
inaccessible peaks that separate deep valleys, at the bottom of which
live parcels of humanity drowned in thick fogs or mists of totally
different colours and intensities, that distort and transmogrify
everything they see: so that if here and there any single individual
succeeds in climbing, by dint of toil or special circumstances, to the
tops, where in the clear ether all the situation lies spread out in its
truth before his eye, he will find that he has thereby only cut himself
absolutely off from communion and sympathy, not only with the denizens
of his own valley, but that of all the others too. From that moment he
ceases to be intelligible to the rest. No reasoning of his can ever
touch them, or succeed in opening their eyes, because their error is not
one of reason, but of perception: they cannot, because they do not, see
things as he sees them: the mists,[4] with all their refraction and
delusive transformation, are always there. Say what he will, he will not
awake them: he will gain nothing in return for all his efforts but
ridicule, abuse, or neglect. So Disraeli, in his generation, seemed to
himself to be like one pouring, from a golden goblet, water upon sand.
To be above the level of humanity is to be counted, till after you are
dead, as one who is below.

[Footnote 4: No mere learning will remove them. Pundits, as a rule, end
where they began, "lost in the gloom of uninspired research."]

And this is the exact condition in the India of to-day. The irony of
fate has thrown together, as though by some vast geological convulsion,
the dwellers in two valleys, one of whom sees everything through, so to
say, a red mist, and the other through a blue: they move about and mix
in a way together, totally unable to see things in the same light: and
all the while this melancholy cuckoo-cry of _common humanity_ fills the
air with its reiteration, and people persist in handling the situation
with a wilful and almost criminal determination to ignore what stares
them in the face, and by so doing, still further accentuate the very
thing they will not see. If you take two men who are infinitely far from
being brothers, and forcibly unite them, on the pretext that they are,
you will produce by irritation an enmity between them that would never
have existed, had they been let alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

I stood, a little while since, on the very edge of a plateau, that fell
down sheer four thousand feet or more, into the valley of Mysore. Far in
the distance to the north, the dense dark green forest jungle stretched
away like a carpet, intersected here and there by Moyar's silver
streams, with here and there a velvet boss, where a rounded hill stood
up out of the plain. That carpet, as it seemed from the height, so
uniform and close in its texture, is made of great trees, under which
wander wild elephants in herds. To right and left, the valley ran both
ways out of sight, like a monster chasm with one side removed. And in
the air below, above, around, light wreaths and ragged fragments of
cloud and mist floated and streamed and drifted, casting the most
beautifully deep blue shifting shadows not only on the earth, but on the
air, like waterfalls of colour, half hiding and half framing the distant
view, and cutting the sunlight into intermittent fountains of a golden
semi-purple rain that fell and changed, now here, now there, now, as you
looked upon them, gone, now suddenly shooting out elsewhere to transform
every colour that they touched into something other than it was, like a
magic show suddenly thrown out by the Creator in the silent and
unfrequented solitude of his hills, for sheer delight and as it were
simply for his own amusement, not caring in the least whether there
might be any eye open to catch and worship such a beautiful profusion of
his power, or not. For, strange! the spell and mysterious appeal of all
such momentary glimpses lies, not in what you see, but in what you do
not hear: it is the dead silence, the stillness, that by a paradox seems
to be the undertone, or background, of moving mist and lonely mountain

So as I stood, gazing, there came suddenly from the east, a whisper, a
mutter; a low sound, that suggested a distant mixture of wind and sea.
And I turned round, and looked, and I saw a sight that I never shall see
again; such a sight as a man can hardly expect to see twice, in the time
of a single life. Rain--but was it rain?--rain in a terrific wall, a
dark precipice of appalling gloom, rain that rose like a colossal
curtain from earth to heaven and north to south, was coming up the
valley straight towards me, and it struck me, as I saw it, with a thrill
that was almost dread. That was what the people saw, long ago, when the
Deluge suddenly came upon them. It came on, steadily, swiftly, like a
thing with orders to carry out, and a purpose to fulfil, cutting the
valley athwart with the edge of its solid front, sharp as that of a
knife laid on a slice of bread: a black ominous mass of elemental
obliteration, out of which there came a voice like the rushing of a
flood and the beating of wings, mixed with a kind of wail, like the
noise of the cordage of a ship, in a gale at sea. It blotted out
creation, and in the phrase of old Herodotus, day suddenly became night.
A moment later, I stood in whirling rain and fog that made sight useless
a yard away, as wet as one just risen from the sea, with a soul on the
very verge of cursing the Creator, for so abruptly dropping the curtain
on his show: forgetting, in my ingratitude, first, the favour he had
done me; secondly, how many were those who had not seen; lastly, and
above all, that it was the very dropping of that stupendous curtain that
gave its finishing touch and climax to the show. For he knows best,
after all. Introduce into Nature were it but a single atom of stint, of
parsimony, of preservation, of regret for loss; and the power, and with
it, the sublimity of the infinite is gone. Were Nature to pose, to
attitudinise for contemplation, even for the fraction of a second, she
would annihilate the condition on which reposes all her charm. Ruthless
destruction, even of her own choicest works, is the badge of her
inexhaustible omnipotence: add but a touch of pity, and you fall back to
the littleness and feebleness of man.

And I mused, as I departed: how can that be communicated to others,
which cannot even be described at all? And if so, in the things of the
body, how much more with the things of the soul? Who shall convey to the
souls that stumble and jostle in the foggy valleys, any glimpse of the
visions, denied to them, above; any spark of comprehension of the things
that they might discern, on the tops of the pure and silent hills, that
stand uncomprehended, kissing heaven above the fog?

POONA, 1914







_The three worlds worship the sound of the string that twanged of old
like the hum of bees[5] as it slipped from faint Love's faltering hand
and fell at his feet unstrung, the bow unbent and the shaft unsped, as
if to beg for mercy from that other shaft of scorching flame that shot
from the bow-despising brow of the moony-crested god._

[Footnote 5: The bowstring of Love's bow is made of a line of bees. Love
was reduced to ashes by fire from Shiwa's extra eye, for audaciously
attempting to subject that great ascetic to his own power.]

Far down in the southern quarter, at the very end of the Great Forest,
just where the roots of its outmost trees are washed by the waves of the
eastern sea, there was of old a city, which stood on the edge of land
and water, like as the evening moon hangs where light and darkness meet.
And just outside the city wall where the salt sand drifts in the wind,
there was a little old ruined empty temple of the Lord of the Moony
Tire, whose open door was as it were guarded by two sin-destroying
images of the Deity and his wife, one on the right of the threshold and
the other on the left, looking as if they had suddenly started asunder,
surprised by the crowd of devotees, to make a way between. And on an
evening long ago, when the sun had finished setting, Maheshwara was
returning from Lanká to his own home on Kailás, with Umá in his arms. So
as he went, he looked down, and saw the temple away below. And he said
to his beloved: Come, now, let us go down, and revisit this little
temple, which has stood so long without us. And it looks white in the
moon's rays, as if it had turned pale, for fear that we have forgotten

So when they had descended, Maheshwara said again: See how these two
rude and mutilated effigies that are meant for thee and me stand, as it
were, waiting, like bodies for their souls. Let us enter in, and occupy,
and sanctify these images,[6] and rest for a little while, before
proceeding to thy father's peaks. And if I am not mistaken, our presence
will be opportune, and this deserted temple will presently be visited by
somebody who stands in sore need of our assistance, which as long as
they remain untenanted these our images cannot give him, since they have
even lost their hands.[7] And accordingly they entered, each into his
own image, and remained absolutely still, as though the stone was just
the stone it always was, and nothing more. And yet those stony deities
glistened in the full moon's light, as though the presence of deity had
lent them lustre of their own, that laughed as though to say: See, now
we are as white as the very foam at our feet.

[Footnote 6: The real divinity of a Hindoo temple is not the images
outside on its walls, but the symbol (whatever it be) inside.]

[Footnote 7: A common feature throughout India. Everywhere they went,
the devotees of the Koràn used to smash and maim the Hindoo idols.]

So as they stood, silent, and listening to the sound of the sea, all at
once there came a man who ran towards them. And taking off his turban,
he cast it at the great god's feet, and fell on his face himself. And
after a while, he looked up, and joined his hands, and said: O thou
Enemy of Love, now there is absolutely no help for me but in the sole of
thy foot. For when the sun rose this morning, the Queen was found lying
drowned, and all broken to pieces, in the sea foam under the palace
wall. And when they ran to tell the King, they found him also lying
dead, where he sleeps on his palace roof that hangs over the sea, with a
dagger in his heart. And the city is all in uproar, for loss to
understand it, and Gangádhara the minister has made of me a victim, by
reason of an old grudge. And now my head will be the forfeit, unless I
can discover the guilty before the rising of another sun. And thou who
knowest all things, past, present, or to come, art become my only
refuge. Grant me, of thy favour, a boon, and reveal to me the secret,
for who but thyself can possibly discover how the King and Queen have
come to this extraordinary end.

So as he spoke, gazing as if in desperation at Maheshwara, all at once,
as if moved to compassion, that image of the Deity turned from the wall
towards him, and nodded at him its stony head: so that in his terror
that unhappy mortal nearly left his own body, and fell to the ground in
a swoon. And Maheshwara gazed at him intently, as he lay, and put him,
by his _yoga_,[8] asleep. And the Daughter of the Snow said softly: O
Moony-crested, who is this unlucky person, and what is the truth of this
whole matter, for I am curious to know? And Maheshwara said slowly: O
Snowy One, this is the chief of the night watch of the city; and be
under no alarm. For while he sleeps, I will reveal the truth to him, in
a magic dream: making him as it were a third person, to overhear our
conversation. And I will do the same to the prime minister, so that in
the morning, finding their two dreams tally, he will gain credit and
save his life. Thereupon Párwatí said again: O Lord of creation, save
mine also. For I am as it were dying of curiosity, to hear how all this
came about.

[Footnote 8: What we should call, in such a case, mesmerism: the power
of concentrated will. There is something in it, after all.]

So then, after a while, that omniscient Deity said slowly: All this has
come about, by reason of a dream. And Gauri said: How could a dream be
the cause of death, both to the King and Queen? Then said Maheshwara:
Not only is there danger in dreaming, but the greatest. Hast thou not
seen thy father's woody sides reflected in the still mirror of his own
tarns? And the goddess said: What then? And Maheshwara said: Hast thou
not marked how the reflection painted on the water contains beauty,
drawn as it were from its depths, greater by far than does the very
thing it echoes, of which it is nothing but an exact copy? And Párwatí
said: Aye, so it does. Then said Maheshwara: So it is with dreams. For
their danger lies in this very beauty, and like pictures upon quiet
water, which contains absolutely nothing at all, below, they show men,
sleeping, visions of unrealisable beauty, which, being nothing whatever
but copies of what they have seen, awake, possess notwithstanding an
additional fascination, not to be found in the originals, which fills
them with insatiable longing and an utter contempt of all that their
waking life contains, as in the present instance: so that they sacrifice
all in pursuit of a hollow phantom, trying to achieve impossibility, by
bringing mind-begotten dream into the sphere of reality, whither it
cannot enter but by ceasing to be dream. But the worst of all is, as in
this King's case, when dreaming is intermingled with the reminiscences
of a former birth: for then it becomes fatality. And Párwatí said: How
is that? Then said Maheshwara: Every soul that is born anew lies buried
in oblivion, having utterly forgotten all its previous existence, which
has become for it as a thing that has never been. And yet, sometimes,
when impressions are very vivid, and memory very strong, here and there
an individual soul, steeped as it were in the vat of its own experience,
and becoming permanently dyed, as if with indigo, will laugh, so to say,
at oblivion, and carry over indelible impressions, from one birth to
another, and so live on, haunted by dim recollections that throng his
memory like ghosts, and resembling one striving vainly to recall the
loveliness and colour of a flower of which he can remember absolutely
nothing but the scent, whose lost fragrance hangs about him, goading
memory to ineffectual effort, and thus filling him with melancholy which
he can never either dispel or understand.

So as he spoke, there came past the temple door a young man of the
Shabara caste, resembling a tree for his height, carrying towards the
forest a young woman of slender limbs, who was struggling as he held
her, and begging to be released; to which he answered only by laughing
as he held her tighter, and giving her every now and then a kiss as he
went along, so that as they passed by, there fell from her hair a
_champak_ flower, which lay on the ground unheeded after they
disappeared. And the Daughter of the Mountain exclaimed: See, O
Moony-crested, this flower laid as it were at thy feet as a suppliant
for her protection: for this is a case for thy interference, to save
innocence from evil-doing.

And Maheshwara looked at her with affection in his smile. And he said:
Not so, O mountain-born: thou art deceived: since this is a case where
interference would be bitterly resented, not only by the robber, but his
prey: for notwithstanding all her feigned reluctance, this slender one
is inwardly delighted, and desires nothing less than to be taken at her
word. For this also is a pair of lovers, who resemble very closely those
other lovers, whose story I am just about to tell thee: as indeed all
lovers are very much the same. For Love is tyranny, and the essence of
the sweetness of its nectar is a despotic authority that is equally
delicious to master and to slave. For just as every male lover loves to
play the tyrant, so does every woman love to play the slave, so much,
that unless her love contains for her the consciousness of slavery, it
is less than nothing in her own eyes, and she does not love at all. And
know, that as nothing in the world is so hateful to a woman as force,
exerted on her by a man she does not love, so nothing fills her with
such supreme intoxication as to be masterfully made by her lover to go
along the road of her own inclination, since so she gets her way without
seeming to consent, and is extricated from the dilemma of deciding
between her scruples and her wish. For indecision is the very nature of
every woman, and it is a torture to her, to decide, no matter how. And
even when she does decide, she does so, generally as a victim, driven by
circumstances or desperation, and never as a judge, as in the case of
both those women who determined the destiny of this dead King, the one
deciding in his favour, precisely because he would allow her no choice,
and the other very much against him indeed: and yet both, so to say,
without any good reason at all. For women resemble yonder waves of the
sea, things compounded of passion and emotion, with impulses for
arguments, and agitation for energy, for ever playing, fretting and
moaning with laughter and tears of brine and foam: and like feminine
incarnations of the instability of water, one and the same essence
running through a multitude of contradictory and beautiful qualities and
forms: being cold and hard as ice, and soft and white as snow, and still
as pools, and crooked as rivers, now floating in heaven like clouds and
mists and vapours, and now plunging, like cataracts and waterfalls, into
the abyss of hell. Is not the same water bitter as death to the drowning
man, and sweeter than a draught of nectar, saving the life of the
traveller dying of thirst in the desert sand.

So, now, listen, while I tell thee the story of this King.

And as he began to speak, the wind fell, and the sea slumbered, and the
moon crept silently further up and up the sky. And little by little, the
dark shadows stole out stealthily, moving as it were on tiptoe, and hung
in corners, here and there, like ghosts about the little shrine, before
which the sleeping man lay white in the moon's rays, as still as if he
were a corpse. And the deep tones of the Great God's voice seemed like a
muttered spell, to lull to sleep the living and assemble the dead to
hear, with demons for _dwárapálas_ at the door of an ashy tomb.




Know, then, that this King, who was found dead in the early morning,
with a dagger in his heart, was named Arunodaya.[9] For his father said,
when he was born: This son is, as it were, the sunrise of our hopes. And
yet, by the decree of destiny, it turned out altogether contrary to his
expectation. For as it happened, his father, in whose family it was an
hereditary custom to have only one queen at a time, grew gradually tired
of his only wife. But being as cowardly in crime as he was weak in
constancy, he did not dare to bring about his wishes by any violence or
practice of his own, but lay as it were in wait, for some suitable
opportunity or occasion to present itself, by means of which he might
succeed in getting rid of her, without incurring any blame, or running
any risk. For such souls as his was, think to throw dust in the eyes of
Chitragupta,[10] not knowing that he does but add cowardice to the total
of their guilt.

[Footnote 9: (Pronounce _daya_ as _die_, with accent on preceding _o_.)
It means _the rising of red dawn_.]

[Footnote 10: The Recorder, who keeps account of all the sins that each
soul must answer for, at the end of every birth.]

So while he waited, time went on, and year succeeded year. And little by
little he and his queen grew gradually older, and his son changed slowly
from a boy into a man.

And then, at last, one day it happened, that the King and Queen were
sitting together on the palace roof. And all at once, the Queen started
to her feet with a cry. And as the King looked towards her, with wonder
and curiosity, she said slowly: Aryaputra,[11] know, that I have
suddenly recollected my former birth. And now, I long to tell thee all
about it; and yet I am afraid. For this is the law, that if anybody
suddenly remembers his former birth, and tells it to another, that very
moment he must die. And if I die, I must leave thee: for if not, what
could death do to me, since that is the only thing in the three worlds
of which I am afraid?

[Footnote 11: i.e. _son of a nobleman_, the term used by a queen in
addressing her husband.]

So as she looked at him, with regret and affection in her eyes--for she
was as devoted to her husband as if he had been worthy, as indeed he was
utterly unworthy, of her devotion--all at once the King's heart leaped
in his breast. And he said to himself: Ha! Here, as it seems, is that
very opportunity, for which I have been waiting all these years: till I
thought that my soul would almost part from my body, for sheer
impatience and disgust. And in an instant, he also sprang to his feet,
exclaiming as he did so, with an ecstasy that was only half feigned:
Strange! can it be? For I, too, have suddenly remembered my former
birth: as if this recollection of thine had been the spark required, to
set fire to the memory of my own. So now, then, let us very quickly tell
each other all, and so take leave together of these miserable bodies,
into which we must, beyond a doubt, have fallen, by reason of a curse.

So then, deceived by the display of his hypocritical affection, the
Queen told him very quickly all that she recollected of her former
birth. And when she had finished, the King looked at her steadily for a
while, and his face fell. And he said, with difficulty: Alas! alas! I
was utterly mistaken: and as I think, I took fire falsely, out of
sympathy with thee. And now I have fallen unwittingly into an
irreparable disaster. For as to my own former birth, I remember
absolutely nothing about anything at all.

So as he spoke, he looked at the Queen, and their eyes met. And in that
instant, she understood; and caught, like a flash of lightning, the
falsehood in his soul. And she gazed at him, for a while, fixedly, with
eyes that resembled an incarnation of scrutiny that was mingled with
reproach, till all at once he turned away, unable to endure the
detection of his own baseness, reflected as it were in the calm mirror
of her own pure gaze. And after a while, she said slowly: Son, not of a
noble, but an outcast, know, that thou hast doomed not me only, but
thyself. And now, because thou hast betrayed me to my death, thy son
also shall die as I do, and on the very same spot, by the agency of one
who stands to him in the very same relation that I do to thee: and the
husband shall pay for the wife. And the consequence of works shall dog
thee, in the form of the total extinction of thy race. But as for me,
now I see only too clearly that this birth has been a blunder, and a
punishment, and a delusion, resembling a scene played upon a stage,
whose king turns out, when the curtain falls, to be but a sorry rascal
after all. And all the while, I have given my devotion to the wrong
husband, and like a foolish benefactor, have wasted alms on a pitiful
impostor. I feared, but one short moment since, to leave thee, and to
part from thee; but now, thou hast suddenly changed regret into relief.
See, whether separation will be thy blessing or thy curse.

So as she spoke, she tottered, and her soul suddenly left its body,
which sank to the ground abandoned, like a creeper that collapses when
the trunk it clung to falls, and saying as if to mock him: Seek now for
the core that is gone, within the hollow husk.


So then, when her funeral obsequies were over, that widowed King,
strange to say! fell into melancholy, deceiving all his subjects, as if
by express design. For they pitied him exceedingly, each saying to the
other: See, now, how this good Queen's death has robbed this poor
deserted King as it were of his own soul: as well, indeed, it might. For
she was a _patidewatá_,[12] and a Sawitri, not only in her name, but in
her nature, and rather than outlive him, preferred to go before.
Whereas, on the contrary, that King's decline arose, not from regret,
but from remorse, mixed with anxiety and the apprehension of his coming
doom. For this is the way of the weak, that they yield to evil impulse,
and yet repent of their own doings, taking fright at the sight of them,
as soon as they are done, and discovering the terrible consequences of
works, too late. For a deed that is done, is divided from what it was,
before it was done, by all eternity, in the fraction of a second: as
this King found to his cost. For even as he gazed at the body of his
queen, lying dead on the floor beside him, remorse rose up as it were
out of her body and took him by the throat. And at that moment, he would
have thrown away his kingdom like a blade of grass, to bring her back to
life. And his longing to get rid of her changed, like a flash of
lightning, into a passionate yearning to repossess her, dead. And he
said to himself, as he looked at her: Where in the world shall I find
another resembling her in the least degree, and what shall I do, to save
myself from the ripening of her curse? For destiny listens in silence to
the prayers of a pure woman, and she, beyond all doubt, was one.

[Footnote 12: i.e. _a wife who makes a god of her husband_: the highest
of all possible praises. Sawitri is the Hindoo Alcestis.]

So then, from that very moment, every thought of replacing her by
another queen abandoned him, as if her life, in leaving her, had drawn
with it his own. And all his taste for life at all, and all desires
whatever, suddenly left him in a body, as if out of disgust at his
behaviour. And he sank into despair, and pined and waned like an old
moon, and grew gradually dimmer, and thinner, and more gloomy, till
there was hardly anything left of him at all, but skin and bone. And
finally, seeing its opportunity, a burning fever arising from a chill
entered in and took possession of all his limbs, as if to give him a
foretaste of the flames of his own pyre.

And then at last, perceiving that Yama had caught him in his noose, and
finding himself in the mouth of death, he summoned his prime minister,
together with his son. And when they came, he said to them: Since I am
on the very point of following my wife, as, had I gone before her, she
would have followed me, _sati_[13] that she was, there is no time to
lose. Do thou, my son, get married, as quickly as thou canst, for the
god of death has clutched us both, as if he was in a hurry, just at the
very moment when we were thinking of procuring thee a wife. And as it
is, I am sore afraid of going to meet my ancestors, who will angrily
reproach me for placing them in jeopardy, by neglecting to provide for
them in time. And when they ask me, saying: Where is thy son's son? what
answer shall I make? And therefore, O my minister, I leave this son of
mine and his marriage as a deposit in thy hands, which I shall require
of thee in the other world. Postpone all other policy to the duty of
finding him a wife: and if thou canst, let her resemble his mother, that
was mine.

[Footnote 13: _Sati_, which means _a good woman_, is always understood
by Europeans to refer to what is only the last manifestation of her
quality, the burning herself on her dead lord's pyre. But the term does
not necessarily contain any reference to that stern climax of her

So having spoken, in a little while he died, leaving everybody in his
kingdom wondering at his affection for his wife. For nobody knew the
truth, which was as it were burned up and utterly annihilated by the
fires that consumed the body of his wife and his own. And he left behind
him a reputation for fidelity that was absolutely false. For none but
the Deity can penetrate the disguise of hypocrisy. And yet, though he
deceived all the subjects in his kingdom, he did not succeed in blinding
the eyes of Dharma,[14] who caught his soul in his noose, and doomed it,
for his treachery, to be born again in the body of a worm.

[Footnote 14: Another name for Yama, the god of death, which we may here
take as equivalent to "Justice."]


So, then, when his funeral obsequies were over, and the due time
prescribed by the _shastras_ had elapsed, his son Arunodaya mounted the
throne, and became king in his room.

And no sooner was the crown placed upon his head, and the water
sprinkled over him, than the prime minister, who was named Gangádhara,
came to him privately, and said: Maháráj, now there is yet another
ceremony which remains as it were crying to be performed, with the least
possible delay; and that is thy own marriage. And now it is for thee and
me to seek out some maiden that will make a royal match for thee, and
lead her round the fire, and so let thy father's spirit rest. And there
cannot be any difficulty at all. For all the neighbouring kings, who
possess daughters, are watching thee like clouds around a mountain top,
ready to rain daughters as it were upon thy head; since thou art
superior in power to them all. And as for the daughters, the painters,
and the rumours of thy beauty, have turned them all into so many
_abhisárikas_, dying to run into thy arms without waiting to be asked;
and the only danger is, that all but the one on whom thy choice shall
fall will immediately abandon the body, out of jealousy and despair, as
soon as it is made. For everybody knows that even Ananga and Rati[15]
were envious of thy father and thy mother; of whom thou art compounded
into an essence twice as powerful as either was alone, so that not a day
passes but my spies bring me news of miserable women who have deserted
the body of their own accord, finding themselves, by reason of their
caste or condition, cut off from all hope of ever becoming thy wife.

[Footnote 15: _i.e._ the God of Love and his principal wife.]

Then said Arunodaya: O Gangádhara, I am ready to marry in a moment any
one of them: and yet, as I think, I shall never marry anyone at all. And
Gangádhara said: Maháráj, thou speakest riddles, and I am slow to
understand. And Arunodaya looked at him with a smile. And he said:
Gangádhara, it is proper that a minister should know all his master's
secrets, and now that thou art my minister, I will tell thee mine, and
make thee my confidant in everything, as expediency demands. For then
only will the business of our policy run on smoothly, when we pull
exactly together, like a pair of bullocks in a cart. And whether it be
with the women as thou sayest, or not, there is a difficulty, unknown to
thee, on my part. Then said the minister: What is that? And Arunodaya
said: I am already more than half married, and, as it were, bound, by an
indissoluble pledge, to an undiscoverable beauty; and unless she can be
found, I am, as I told thee, likely to remain unmarried for the
remainder of my life.

Then said the prime minister: Maháráj, everything can be found by one
who looks for it in the proper place. And if thy beauty be discoverable,
I will undertake to find her, at the forfeit of my head. And who, then,
is she? Give me at least a clue; and thou shalt see, that maybe she is
not hidden so very far away, after all.

And Arunodaya said: I will marry no other woman but the wife of my
former birth. For I dream of her, and as it seems to me, have dreamed of
her, and nothing else, ever since I was born. And so, now, I have
revealed to thee a secret, which I never told to anyone but thee: and I
leave thee to judge, whether she is able to be found, or not. And if
thou canst show me that any one of these kings' daughters was my wife
before, I will marry her again: but this is the indispensable condition;
and no matter who she may be, the woman who does not fulfil it must
marry some one other than myself. And now, go: and when thou hast
meditated sufficiently on the matter, return to me at dawn, and take
counsel with me, as to what is to be done. For, as thou seest, this
marriage of mine is not likely to be easily achieved. And I resemble one
searching on the seashore for a grain of sand, dropped there in the dead
of night, a hundred years ago.


So then, that astounded prime minister gazed at Arunodaya for a while in
silence, and took his dismissal, and went away like a man in a dream.
And when he reached his home, he sat for a long time musing, like a
picture painted on a wall. And then, all at once, he began to laugh. And
he exclaimed: Ha! this, then, was the secret, and now at length I begin
to understand, and all is explained. For this young king
_brahmachári_,[16] little as he suspects it, has been under my eye ever
since he was born. And this, then, was the reason why he was perpetually
wandering about alone, and lying for hours gazing at the lotuses in the
forest pools, or looking at the sea-waves, like a rock on the shore,
differing totally from all others of his kind, who as a rule resemble
_must_ elephants, in utterly refusing to have anything to do with
dancing girls or women of any kind, as it were wilfully contradicting
the design of the Creator, who beyond a doubt formed him on purpose to
prevent Rati and Priti[17] from quarrelling, by providing a second body
for their common lord. And all the while I took him for a very _yogi_,
he was, as it turns out, dreaming, not of emancipation, but this wife of
his former birth: and hard as it is, I think that even emancipation
would, of the two, be easier to attain. Well might he say, that she was
difficult to find. For who ever got at the wife of his former birth,
except in a dream. Aye! this is an obstacle to his marriage indeed, that
even the Lord of the Elephant-Face would be puzzled to surmount or

[Footnote 16: As we might say, _bachelor_, but the Hindoo
expression is stricter, meaning, _one who has taken a vow of

[Footnote 17: The two wives of Love.]

And after a while, he said again: Is it a mere fancy? Or can it be, that
he really is haunted by some dim recollection of his former wife, since
beyond a doubt the influences of pre-existence do sometimes persist, and
like ships, sail without sinking over the dark ocean of oblivion, from
one birth-island to another? And what, then, is she like? For could I
only discover what she looks like in his dreams, it might be that by
policy or stratagem I could make shift to find her, or somebody so like
her that he would never know the difference. I will go to him to-morrow
and ask him to describe her, and he cannot well refuse. For how can he
expect me to discover her, unless I know what she is like? Or can it be,
that he does not even know himself? That would be better still. For
then, if, with the assistance of the astrologers, I can manage to devise
a scheme, so as to persuade him that I have lit upon that which he is
looking for, how could he detect the imposition? There are only too many
kings' daughters who would think that the very fruit of their birth was
gained, by practising so innocent a deception as to pass for the wife of
his former birth in order to become in very truth his wife in this. And
if I cannot succeed in some dexterous trick of substitution, I shall be
almost ready to abandon the body myself, for sheer exasperation. For
even apart from the necessity of getting him married, there is not one
of the surrounding kings who is not ready to throw a crore of gold
pieces at my head, if only I will even promise to become his partisan
against all the rest, and marry Arunodaya to some daughter of his own.
Out upon it, that with kings' daughters lying thick as lotuses all round
him, and ready and even eager to be plucked, this unhappy longing of the
king for an unattainable _párijáta_ flower should make them all of no
more value than withered leaves! O Rider on the Mouse,[18] come to my
assistance, for without thy help we shall all be swallowed by calamity,
in the form of the utter extinction of this perverse king's kingdom and
his race.

[Footnote 18: _i.e._ Ganesha.]


Now, just at this very moment, it happened, by the decree of destiny,
that one of the kings of the Widyádharas,[19] who was rightly named
Mahídhara, for his home was on a mountain top that stood in a far-off
island beyond the rising sun, was holding a _swayamwara_ for all his
hundred daughters. And for ninety-nine days each daughter chose her
husband, one a day, from out of the suitors who flocked to the marriage
in such numbers that the sky looked like a cart-wheel, with lines of
Widyádharas assembling from all directions, like vultures, for its
spokes. And finally the hundredth day, and with it, the turn of the
youngest daughter came, to choose.

[Footnote 19: See Preface.]

Now this daughter resembled a thorn, fixed by the Creator in the hearts
of all her sisters, causing perpetual irritation, like a rebel chief in
a united kingdom. For she stood aloof from them all, like a little
finger that somehow or other refuses to bend into the closed hand, being
not only the youngest, but the smallest, and the most perverse, and the
loveliest of all, putting not only all her sisters but every other
Widyádhari to the necessity of acknowledging, sore against their will,
that the presence of her beauty robbed them of their own, reducing them
to confusion, like so many impostors confronted by the true heir. And
her nature was so totally dissimilar to that of everybody else, that she
resembled a thing made by the Creator standing as it were upon his head,
out of the essence of contradiction: since none of her own family could
ever tell what she would or would not say, or do, or even where she was.
And even her beauty was as wayward as she was herself. For one of her
eyebrows was always as it were on the tiptoe of surprise, arrogantly
arching a little higher than the other; and her eyes were very long,
with corners that looked as if they were on the very point of turning
upwards, which none the less they never did, as if expressly to
disappoint and deride the expectation they aroused, and keep it hovering
for ever in an agony of suspense. And her lips always seemed to smile
even when they were not smiling, and her head was almost, always poised
a very little on one side, looking as if it were listening for the
far-off mutter of the mischief that lay as it were slumbering in the
thunder-cloud hanging low in the heaven of her huge dark eyes, whose
lashes resembled the long grass that fringes the edge of a forest pool.
And her limbs were so slender, and her colour was so pale, in the shadow
of the masses of her sable hair, that had it not been for the indigo of
her lotus eyes and the vermilion of her lips, she would have resembled a
marble incarnation of the beauty of death, or a wraith of mist touched
as it hovers in a dark valley by the ashy beam of a waning moon. And,
strange! her spell seemed made of moods that always changed, yet never
varied, compounded half of shy timidity, and half of proud disdain, like
an atmosphere of paradoxical fascination, formed of the rival fragrances
of sandalwood and camphor, translated into the language of the soul.

So then, as those Widyádhara suitors waited in the hall, standing round
in a ring, she came in slowly, with the garland of choosing in her hand.
And beginning with the first she came to, she walked very deliberately
all round that circle of excited wooers, going from one to the next in
order, and examining each in turn. And in the dead silence, there was
absolutely nothing heard but the faint clash of her golden anklets, as
she moved round slowly on little hesitating feet, that trod as it were
on everybody's heart. And as she went, those suitors, as she came to
them and passed them, turned gradually from dark to pale, and then again
to black, like the buttresses on the king's high road, when torches pass
along.[20] And every Widyádhara's soul abandoned, so to say, his body,
on finding that she left him to go on to the next, dooming him as it
were to death by carrying further the fatal wreath.

[Footnote 20: This is from Kalidas.]

So, then, having given to all, as if by way of boon, a bitter glimpse of
beauty mixed with a momentary ray of hope, dashing the cup from each
one's lip just as it thought it was going to taste, she came to the very
end. And then, she stopped dead. And she looked at them all, for a
single moment, over the wreath they all desired, and she raised it to
her lips, as if to scent its fragrance, saying as it were to all: Very
sweet indeed is the thing beyond your reach. And then, with a little
pout, she put it round her own neck. And she said, in the Arya metre:

    Tell me, O breeze, is there syrup for the bees?
    Only, alas! when kind flowers please.

And then, she went away, leaving all her lovers as it were in the lurch,
like a flock of _Chakrawákas_ when the sun has disappeared.


And they all stood, when she had gone, gazing at one another in silence,
as motionless as though they had been painted on the walls that stood
behind them. And then they all exclaimed, as if with a single voice:
What! is not one of us all fit for this fastidious beauty's taste? And
instantly that ring of disappointed suitors broke up as they flew away,
and vanished like a mist, for in their fury they would not even so much
as wait to take leave of her father, counting it as it were a crime in
him to be father of such a daughter, and to have lured them into shame.

And seeing them go, Mahídhara went himself to the apartments of his
daughter. And he said to her in dudgeon: Out on thee! Makarandiká;[21]
for here have all the Widyádharas become my bitter enemies by reason of
this insult. Has thy reason left thee? Or where wilt thou find a
husband, if not even one of all the kings of the Widyádharas can please
thy foolish fancy? Dost thou not understand, that a daughter who is not
married disgraces her father's house?

[Footnote 21: i.e. _one made of the honey or syrup of flowers_. (Note,
that the first syllable rhymes with _luck_, and the third with _fund_.)]

Then said Makarandiká: Dear father, I am far too ugly to be married. And
Mahídhara laughed, and he said: What new caprice is this? Thou ugly!
Why, if thou art too ugly, being far the most beautiful of all, what of
thy sisters, whose beauty all united is not equal to thy own, and yet
have they all chosen? And Makarandiká laughed, and she exclaimed: What!
can it be? What! shall the most beautiful of all be content with others'
leavings, and choose only out of what they have all rejected? As if the
whole world were not full to the very brim of husbands! Shall my choice
be the refuse? Moreover, I do not want a Widyádhara for a husband at
all. And Mahídhara said, with amazement: And why not a Widyádhara? Then
said Makarandiká: Widyádharas are fickle, and roaming about in the air,
come across all sorts of other women and make love to them, deceiving
their own wives. But I will marry only such a husband as never will
deceive me.

Then said her father, smiling: But, O thou very jealous maiden, where
wilt thou discover him? For did not even Indra himself play Sachi false?
Or dost thou think that mortal men are always constant, when even gods
are not? Choose, if thou wilt, a mortal for thy husband, only to
discover that Widyádharas are not more treacherous than they are. Thy
husband will deceive thee, as it may be, no matter what his birth.

And lo! as he looked at her, jesting, he saw her suddenly turn paler,
and still paler, as if the very thought resembled poison in her ears.
And she said in a low voice: Better never to be married at all, than
marry a deceiver: better far for me, and better far for him. And her
father exclaimed, in astonishment: What! O Makarandiká! thou hast not
even got a husband as yet at all; yet here thou art already, jealous
without a cause! What will it be, when thou art actually married? Truly
I fear for thy unhappy husband, whoever he may be. And yet, be very
careful. Bethink thee, O daughter, that if thou dost choose a mortal, it
will be at the cost of thy condition. For any Widyádharí becoming the
wife of a mortal man loses all her magic sciences, and is levelled with

And Makarandiká said with scorn: Thy warning is unnecessary, and there
is not any risk. For it will be long before I place myself in danger of
any such description from a husband of any kind.


So that haughty beauty spoke, ignorant of the future, not dreaming that
her destiny in the form of a mortal husband was just about to laugh her
vaunt to scorn. And leaving her father abruptly, she rose up into the
air, and began to fly swiftly like a wild white swan away towards the
western quarter, looking down upon the sea, that resembled a blue mirror
of the sky that stretched above it, with foaming waves in place of
clouds, and water instead of air: saying to herself: Only let me get
away, where not a Widyádhara of them all is to be seen. And the wind
caressed her limbs like a lover, stealing embraces as she went along,
and whispering in the shell of her little ear: Be not alarmed, O vagrant
beauty, if I reveal thy outline to the whole world, for there is nobody
by to see. And she watched the sun go down before her, and went on all
night long, with no companion but the new moon that sank into the sea in
a little while, as if ashamed to rival her, leaving her alone with
night. And at last, when dawn was just breaking, she saw below her this
very temple, standing alone on the sandy shore between the forest and
the sea. And a little further on, the King's palace was standing up like
a tower, reddened by the young sun's rays. So, feeling tired, she
swooped down, to rest for a little while. And she settled on the edge of
the palace roof, taking the form of a snowy bird, with a ruddy bill and
legs, as if to mock and imitate the colour of the sun.

And at that very moment, Arunodaya came out upon the roof, with his
prime minister behind him, like Winter following the god of Spring. And
the very instant she set eyes on him, she became as it were a target for
Love's arrow, as if, although invisible, he were there beside his
friend.[22] And she fell suddenly in love with the young king as he came
towards her, and shook with such agitation, that she came within a very
little of falling straight into the sea. And she murmured to herself,
with emotion: Can this be a second dawn[23] appearing just to confound
the other? Or can it be Kámadewa, in a body more beautiful than his own?
But if so, where is Rati? Or am I only dreaming, having fallen unawares
asleep, thinking of husbands and my father's words?

[Footnote 22: _i.e._ Spring, who is Love's companion.]

[Footnote 23: This is an allusion to the King's name (see note, _ante_)
the point of which will presently appear.]

So as she spoke, Arunodaya looked towards her, and presently he said
aloud: See, Gangádhara, how yonder snowy sea-bird has come to me as it
were for refuge, tired beyond a doubt by some long journey across the
sea! Let us not go too near it, lest out of fright it may take to
flight, before its wings are rested. And he sat down a little way off,
on the very edge of the terrace, keeping his eye on Makarandiká, who
laughed at his words in her sleeve, saying softly to herself: There is
no fear, O handsome stranger, that I shall fly away, since thy arrival,
so far from scaring me away, has nailed me to the spot. And the prime
minister said meanwhile: Maháráj, here I am, according to thy
appointment, to discuss thy marriage with thee, where nobody can
overhear. And know, that since thou art absolutely bent on marrying no
other than the wife of thy former birth, I do not despair of finding
her, if she is able to be found. But who can find anything, unless he
knows what it is like? For if not, he will not know that he has found
it, when it lies before his eyes. So tell me, to begin with, what this
wife of thine resembles; and then I will set to work and find her,
without the loss of any time.

Then Arunodaya said slowly: O Gangádhara, how can I tell thee what I do
not know myself? And Gangádhara said, in wonder: Maháráj, it cannot be.
How will thou recognise her, not knowing what she looks like? And
Arunodaya said again: I shall know her in an instant, the moment I set
eyes on her. For at the very sight of her, love, that depends on the
forgotten associations of a previous existence, will suddenly shoot up
in the darkness of my heart, like flame. For this is the only proof, and
no other is required. And yet, there is something else, to give me as it
were a clue. For though, strive as I may, I cannot even guess what she
was like, yet my memory, as it seems, is not absolutely blank. For I
remember, that she was the daughter of a pandit, and maybe herself a
pandit; and I seem to listen in a dream, whenever I think about her, to
the noise of innumerable pandits, all shouting at the same time some
name that I can never catch, mingling with the roar of the waves of the

And when he ended, Gangádhara stared at him, in utter stupefaction,
saying within himself: Beyond a doubt, this King is mad. And presently
he said aloud: O King Arunodaya, who ever heard of a woman, suited for a
king's wife, who had anything to do with pandits? What is there in
common between pandits and the wives of kings? Certainly, thou art
doomed to live and die unmarried: for a beauty who is a pandit is not to
be found in the three worlds.


Then said Arunodaya: Gangádhara, who knows? But be that as it may, this
is absolutely certain, that I will not marry any woman who was not the
wife of my former birth. And so, if thou canst find her, well. And if
not, then thy prophecy will be true, for I shall live and die without a

And Gangádhara went away again, more at a loss than he was before. And
when he reached his home, all at once he began to laugh, as if his
reason had left him. And he said to himself: Ha ha! Out on this unhappy
King, who hears the noise of pandits in the roaring of the sea! Why,
even Maheshwara himself could not find a shout of laughter, to match the
absurdity of this extraordinary jest. And he went on laughing all day
long, till his family grew frightened and summoned the physicians,
saying: He is possessed.

And meanwhile Makarandiká remained upon the terrace, watching Arunodaya,
as if fascinated by a snake. And as she listened to their conversation,
her heart beat with such exultation that it shook her like wind. And she
said to herself: Surely I am favoured by the deity. Well was it for me,
that I scorned to choose a husband from among those miserable Widyádhara
kings: for had I done so, I should have missed the very fruit of my
birth. And now, by the favour of Ganapati, I have come here in the very
nick of time: and I know all. And no other than myself shall be his
wife. And indeed, beyond a doubt I was the very wife he looks for, since
everything corresponds, and exactly as he said; love has suddenly burst
out flaming in my heart, at the very first sight of him, suddenly
recollecting its old forgotten state. But whether I was his wife or not,
in any other birth, I will very certainly become his wife in this. And
all the symptoms conspire in my favour.

For not only is my right eye throbbing, but I actually stumbled in
ignorance on his very name, before I ever heard it. And now, I will, as
Gangádhara said, set to work immediately without losing any time: for I
know, as they do not, exactly what his wife is like. And now, everything
will turn out well, so long as he never discovers in his life that I
overheard him, on this terrace, before he ever saw me. And that cannot
be, for he never can learn it from anyone but me.

So as she spoke, Arunodaya suddenly recollected the coming of the bird,
and looked round, and rejoiced, to find that it was still there. And he
said aloud, as if expressly to chime in with her thoughts: Ha! so, then,
thou art not gone, as I feared. O sea-bird, from what far-off land art
thou arrived? For none of the birds that haunt my palace resemble thee
in the least degree. Art thou also looking for thy mate, as I am? Or
hast thou lost thy way, blown by the winds over the home of monsters and
of gems?

And instantly the bird replied: O King Arunodaya, not so: for I am
looking neither for a mate nor a way: but have come here expressly, sent
by the god, to tell thee how to find thy own mate, and thy own way.

And then, as Arunodaya started to his feet, scarcely crediting his own
ears, she went on with that human voice: Listen, and do not interrupt,
for I have overstayed my time, obliged to wait till thy conversation
ended and thy minister was gone, and I have far to go. And tell me,
first. Is there a little ruined temple, near thy city on the north,
standing alone upon the shore? And Arunodaya said: There is. Then said
Makarandiká: Then it all corresponds, and tallies exactly with my
instructions. For only last night, as the sun was going down, I passed
by a lonely island in the middle of the sea. And there in the evening
twilight, I saw the Lord of Obstacles dancing all alone, throwing up his
trunk that was smeared with vermilion into the purple sky. And he called
to me as I was going by, and said: Carry for me a message to King
Arunodaya, for thou wilt see his palace in the morning, standing up out
of the sea, ruddy as my trunk in the early dawn. And tell him that I am
pleased with his resolute perseverance: and by my favour he shall find
the wife of his former birth. Let him go at midnight, on the fifteenth
day of the light half of this very moon, into the ruined temple that
stands on the shore of the sea, and I will put something in it that will
fill his heart with joy.

And then, she rose from the terrace, and flew away across the sea: while
Arunodaya stood still, gazing after her in wonder, till she dwindled to
a speck and disappeared.

And then, he drew a long breath, and murmured to himself: Am I asleep or
dreaming? Or can it really be, that the very Lord of Obstacles has been
listening to my prayers, as well he might, considering their number, and
taking pity on his devotee, has revealed to me the secret, by the means
of this white bird: wishing to show Gangádhara, as if in jest, how
easily the Deity laughs at obstacles that seem absolutely
insurmountable, even to such a minister as mine?


So then he waited, with a soul that almost leaped from his body with
impatience, for the wax of the moon, which seemed to stand still, as if
on purpose to destroy him. And he sent, in the meanwhile, a message to
Gangádhara, saying: Everything is easy to those favoured by the Deity.
And I have found what I was seeking, even without thy assistance, as I
will prove to thee, by ocular demonstration, on the day of the full

And as he listened, Gangádhara was so utterly confounded, that he could
hardly understand. And finally, he said to himself: Beyond a doubt, this
kingdom will presently be ruined, for the King is out of his mind. And
now I begin to perceive, that it will become my duty to remove him from
the throne, in favour of his maternal uncle, who is waiting and watching
to devour him like a crab,[24] if only he can find his opportunity. Or
is it only, after all, a device, to marry some girl that he has set his
heart on, without consulting either policy or me? If so, let him beware!
for he shall do penance for despising me, in full. But let me wait, in
any case, for the moon to grow round. Yet what can the Lord of Herbs[25]
have to do with this matter, unless he possesses a medicine suited to
the King's disease?

[Footnote 24: The crabs of Ceylon (presumably the same as those of
southern India, whose shores I do not know) are the most extraordinary
things I ever saw. They run like the wind, and jump, over immense spaces
and chasms, from rock to rock, better than any horse.]

[Footnote 25: _i.e._ the moon.]

So then, at last, when the moon had gathered up all his digits but the
last, as soon as he rose, Arunodaya went out of his palace to wander on
the shore, with no companion but his sword. For he said to himself: What
if it were all but a dream or a delusion? Then, were it to be known, I
should become a very target for the ridicule of all the people in the
city. So it is better to keep the secret to myself. And he roamed about
the sand of the shore, near the temple, for hours, ready to curse both
sun and moon together, the one for his delay in going down, and the
other for taking such a time to climb into the sky. And finally, unable
to wait any longer, he went directly, long ere midnight, to the temple,
and stood for a while, exactly where yonder sleeper lies now, as if
making up his mind. And at last, he came up between us, and peeped in,
with a beating heart, and saw absolutely nothing inside, but emptiness
and dark. And presently he said: Has that Lord of Obstacles deceived me,
or is it too soon, for his present to arrive? And how will she come? Yet
if that sea-bird was either a liar or a dream, it will be time enough to
go away, before dawn returns, at any hour of the night. And he sat down
at my feet, leaning his back against me, and looking out to sea, over
which the moon was slowly climbing, exactly as it does to-night. And
worn out with agitation, and fatigue, and suspense, he went off to sleep
unawares. And he looked as he lay in the moonlight like the God of Love
resting, after he had conquered the three worlds.


So then, when at last he woke, he lay for a little while puzzled, and
trying to remember where he was, and why. And so as he lay, he heard
suddenly behind him in the temple the faint clash of anklets, saying to
him as it were: Thou art sleeping, but I am waiting. And like a flash of
lightning, his memory returned; and he started to his feet, and turned,
and looked in at the temple door.

And lo! when he did so, there, in a ray of moonlight that fell in
through the ruined wall, and clung to her affectionately, as though to
say: Here hiding in this dark cave have I suddenly fallen on my
sixteenth digit that was wanting to complete my orb: there stood a young
woman, looking like the feminine incarnation of the realisation of his
longing to find the wife of his former birth. And she was leaning
against the wall, half in and half out of the shadow, with her head
thrown back against it, so that her left breast stood out in the light
of the moon as if to mock it, leaving the other dark: and the curve of
her hip issued from the shadow and again was lost in it, like that of a
wave that rises from the sea. And he saw her eyes shining, as they gazed
at him in curiosity, like stars in a moonless night reflected in a pool,
whose light serves only to make the darkness it is lost in more visible
than before. And her attitude gave her the appearance of a statue fixed
upon the wall, that had suddenly emerged from it, and taken life, half
doubtful, by reason of timidity, whether she should not re-enter it
again. And she was dressed, like Jánaki, when the Ten-headed Demon
seized her, in a robe of yellow silk, with golden bangles, and golden
anklets, and a necklace of great pearls around her neck, like a row of
little moons formed out of drops of the lunar ooze: and in her hair,
which shone like the back of a great black bee, was a single champak
blossom, that resembled an earthly star shedding fragrance as well as
light. And her red lips looked as if the smile that was on the very
point of opening like a flower had been checked in the very act, by the
hesitation springing from a very little fear.

And Arunodaya gazed at her in silence, exactly as she did at him. And
after a while, he murmured aloud, as if speaking to himself: Can this be
in very truth the wife of my former birth, or only a thing seen in a

And when he spoke, she started, and moved a very little from the wall,
with one hand resting still against it, as if it was her refuge. And she
said, in a low voice: I thought the dreamer was myself. Art thou some
deity come to tempt me, and where am I, if it is reality and not a
dream? And Arunodaya said: It is not I that am the deity, but thou. For
who ever saw anything like thee in the world? And yet if thou art Shri,
where is Wishnu? or if Rati, where is Love?

And she looked at him steadily, and after a little while, she said with
a sigh: Alas! thou hast spoken truly: where is Love?[26] What! can it
be? and dost thou not remember me? And Arunodaya said: How could I
remember what I never saw before in my life? Then she said: What does
this life matter? Hast thou then so utterly forgotten everything of the
life before?

[Footnote 26: _Love_, in Sanskrit, means also _recollection_.]

And as he gazed at her in perplexity, all at once she started from the
wall and ran towards him, clapping her hands, and laughing, with her
bangles and anklets and her girdle clashing, as if keeping time with her
movements, and exclaiming: The forfeit! the forfeit! I have won! I have
won! And he said, smiling as if against his will: What forfeit? What
dost thou mean? And for answer, she threw herself into his arms, and
began to kiss him, laughing in delight, and crying out: I said it, I
said it. I have remembered, and thou hast forgotten. Did I not tell
thee, thus it would be, when we met again in another birth? Come, cudgel
thy dull memory, and listen while I help thee; and after, I will exact
from thee the forfeit that we fixed. And Arunodaya said again: What
forfeit? For I remember absolutely nothing of it all. And she said: Out
on thee! O thou of no memory at all. What! is thy little pandit all
forgotten? What! hast thou forgotten, what as I think could never be
forgotten, how all the pandits shouted together at our marriage? And he
exclaimed: Ha! pandits! Then she said: Ah! Dost thou actually begin to
recollect? then I have hopes of thee. But as to the forfeit, wilt thou
actually persist in obstinately forgetting all about it? Must I actually
tell thee, and art thou not utterly ashamed? Art thou not ashamed, after
all thy protestations, to look me in the face?

And as she gazed, with eyes filled to the brim with passionate affection
that was not feigned, straight into his own, holding him with soft arms
that resembled creepers, and as it were caressing him with the touch of
her bosom and the perfume of the honey of her lips and her hair, taking
him as it were prisoner by the sudden assault of irresistible flattery
in the form of her own surrender, Arunodaya's head began to spin, lost
as he was in a whirlpool of bewilderment springing half from her
beauty's intoxicating spell, and half from ineffectual striving to
recall at her bidding what she said, so that in his perplexity he could
not even comprehend whether he recollected anything or not. And he
murmured to himself: Surely she must be the wife I was looking for, for
who else can she be? and certainly she is beautiful enough to be
anybody's wife. And as he hesitated, balanced in the swing of
indecision, she began to draw her forefinger over his eyebrows, each in
turn, saying in a whisper: _Aryaputra_,[27] this was the forfeit. Give
me thy hand, and shut, for a while, thy eyes. And as he did so, saying
to himself: Now I wonder what she will give me: all at once he uttered a
cry of pain. For she had taken his little finger with her teeth, and
bitten it hard. And as his eyes flew open, as it were of their own
accord, she said, with a frown and a smile mixed together: Why didst
thou forget me? Was it not agreed between us that the forgotten should
exact from the forgetter whatever penalty he chose?

[Footnote 27: A name given only by a wife to her husband, implying the

And at the reproach in her eyes, the heart of Arunodaya began as it were
to smite him, saying: Surely thou art but churlish in returning her
affection, and refusing to remember her: for she is well worthy to be
remembered. And being totally unacquainted with woman, and her
sweetness, and her snare, his youth and his sex began as it were to side
with her against his reason and his doubt, saying to his soul: What more
canst thou possibly require in a wife, than such an incarnation of charm
and affection and intoxicating caress. And all at once, he took her and
drew her towards him with one arm about her slender waist, that a hand
might have grasped, and the other round her head, and he began to kiss
her as fast as he could, with kisses that she returned him till her
breath failed. And after a while, he said, in a low voice: Who art thou
in this birth, if as thou sayest, I was thy husband in the last? And
hast thou fallen from the sky? For thou art altogether too different
from the others, to be but a woman.[28] And what is thy name?

[Footnote 28: The English reader may be puzzled by the difficulty: how a
Widyádharí could ever be a woman. But it is very simple on Hindoo
principles. Widyádharas are constantly falling into human bodies by
reason of curses, or guilt contracted.]

Then said Makarandiká: Thou art not absolutely wrong: for I am not a
woman of the earth, but a Widyádharí, by name Makarandiká. And by and
bye I will tell thee all about myself, and my coming here, to rediscover
and regain thee; and learn of thee thine. But in the meanwhile, come
outside this gloomy temple into the moonlight, where I can see thee. And
she drew him out of the temple, and as they stood, looking at one
another, she said: Dost thou know, that I am paying a great price for
thee? See, a little while ago, I came hither flying through the air. And
as I came, I said to myself, with regret: I am flying for the very last
time: for to-morrow I shall forfeit all my magic sciences, by marrying a
mortal. And as my resolution wavered, at that very moment, I arrived,
and saw thee, lying asleep in the moonlight, at the feet of Maheshwara
yonder on the wall. And instantly, I exclaimed: Away with these
miserable sciences, for what are they worth in comparison with him, or,
worse, without him?

And Arunodaya exclaimed: What! wilt thou sacrifice all thy condition as
a Widyádharí for such a one as me? Out, out, upon such a price, for such
a worthless ware!

And for answer, she took his hand, and put it on her heart, looking at
him with eyes that shone not only with moonlight, but with a tear. And
Arunodaya said, with emphasis: Thou must be my wife: for how could I
think, having seen thee, of any other woman in the world, even in a

And as he spoke, he started, almost uttering a cry. For suddenly she
clenched the hand she held with a grip that almost hurt it, and he felt
the heart it lay on suddenly leap, as it were, and stop. And as he
looked at her in wonder, he saw her turning paler and paler, till she
seemed in that white moonlight about to become a stone image, in
imitation of ours, just behind her, on the wall.

And he said in alarm: Art thou ill, or suffering, or what? Or dost thou
regret thy sciences? And then, all at once, she laughed, and said: My
sciences? Nay, nay, it is not that, of which I am afraid. Come, it is
nothing, and what am I but a fool? Let us go now to thy palace: and see,
I will exert my power, for the very last time, in thy favour, and carry
thee through the air. And she sat down on the step, saying: Come, thou
art rather a large and a clumsy baby: yet sit thou on my lap. And she
took him in her arms, and rose with him into the air, and they floated
over the sea towards the palace, resembling for the moment myself and
thee roaming in the sky.

And as they went, Arunodaya said within himself: Surely I am only
dreaming; and of what is this Widyádharí made, that has claimed me for
her own? Is it fire or something else?

But Makarandiká, as they floated, said to herself in ecstasy and
exultation: Now, then, I have got him, and it will be my own fault, if I
cannot so utterly bewitch him, as to cause him to forget all about his
former wife, and take me, as why should I not have been? for her. And
what do I care for her? For she may be the wife of that birth, but I am
the wife of this. And why should the wife of the present count for less
than the wife of the past?




Now, in the meanwhile, it happened, that when all the other Widyádhara
would-be bridegrooms had broken up and gone away in wrath, disgusted at
being turned to shame by Makarandiká's rejection, there was one who went
away with a heart that was more than half broken, for Makarandiká was
dearer to him than his own soul. And he would have given the three
worlds to have had the precious garland put round his own neck. And when
all was over, he took himself off, and remained a long while buried in
dejection on the slopes of the Snowy Mountain, pining like a
_chakrawáka_ at night-time for his mate, and striving to forget
her,--all in vain: for his name was Smaradása,[29] and his nature like
his name. And at last, unable to endure the fiery torture of separation
any longer, he said to himself: I will return, on the pretext of paying
a visit to her father; and there, it may be, I shall at least get a
sight of her. And who knows but that she may change her mind? for women
after all are not like rocks, but skies. And at the thought, hope
suddenly arose, reborn in his heart. For disconsolate lovers are like
dry chips or straws, easily taking fire, and tossed here and there by
the gusts of hope and desperation.

[Footnote 29: i.e. _the slave of love, or recollection_.]

So as he thought, he did. But when he arrived at Mahídhara's home, and
inquired about her, he received an answer that struck him like a
thunderbolt. For Mahídhara said: As for Makarandiká, she has utterly
disappeared, having gone somewhere or other, nobody knows where. And if,
as I conjecture, she is looking for a husband among mortals, who will
never even dream of any other woman than herself, she will not soon
return. For it will be long before she finds him.

And then, that unhappy Smaradása said to himself: I will find her, no
matter how long it may take me, if at least she is able to be found. So
after meditating for a while, he went away to seek assistance from the
brother of the Dawn. And he said to him: O Garuda,[30] I am come to thee
for refuge. And it is but a little thing that I ask, and very easy, for
the Lord of all the birds of the air. There is a Widyádhari named
Makarandiká, who is dearer to me than life itself. Help me, if thou
wilt, to discover where she is: for she has disappeared, without leaving
any trace.

[Footnote 30: The King of Birds. (The final _a_ is mute.)]

Thereupon Garuda said: Stay with me for a little in the meanwhile, till
I see what I can do. And he summoned all the sea-birds and the vultures
in the world; and said to them: Go to the eight quarters of heaven, and
find out what has become of Makarandiká, a Widyádharí who is lost.

So then, after a few days, they returned. And their spokesman, who was a
very old vulture named Dirghadarshi,[31] said: Lord, this has been a
very simple thing. For some of my people saw her, a little while ago,
flying westwards. And following her track, on thy order, they saw her
sitting on the palace roof of King Arunodaya, who has married her, and
made her his queen.

[Footnote 31: i.e. _long-sighted_.]

And instantly, hearing this news, which pierced his ear like a poisoned
needle, Smaradása uttered a loud cry, and fell down in a swoon: so great
was the shock, that turned in the twinkling of an eye all the love in
his soul to jealousy and hate. And when, with difficulty, he came to
himself, he hurried away so fast that he forgot even to worship Garuda.
But that kindly deity only laughed, and forgave him, saying: Well might
he forget not me only, but everything in the three worlds, on learning
that his love was lying in somebody else's arms.

But Smaradása summoned instantly all his brother suitors. And he told
them all about it, and he said: This matter is no longer what it was.
For if she flouted us all, by refusing to choose a husband from among
us, yet no one could compel her, since she did but exercise the
privilege of all kings' daughters. But now, not only has she placed this
mortal above us all, but by marrying beneath her caste, she has degraded
all the Widyádharas at once, and broken the constitution of the
universe. Therefore she deserves to be punished. Moreover, she is at our
mercy, since she has lost all her magic sciences, by marrying a man.

So then, when they had all unanimously pronounced her worthy of death,
one suggesting one death, and another another, Smaradása said
scornfully: What is the use of putting her to death? For death is
absolutely no punishment at all, since she will abandon one body only to
enter another. Rather let us find some punishment suited to her crime,
and worse than any death. And the best way would be, to contrive some
means of making her behaviour recoil upon her own head. And this could
be done, if only we could get this husband she has chosen to desert her
for another. For as a rule, a rival is like _kálakuta_ poison to every
woman: and she is not only jealous, but as it were jealousy itself. And
thus she would become her own punishment. But first let us discover all
about her: for then we can determine how to go to work.

So, when they all consented, Smaradása went back to Garuda, and he said:
O Enemy of Snakes, do me one more favour, and I will trouble thee no
more. Find out for me only, how matters stand with her husband and
herself: since her independent conduct is a matter of concern to all the
Widyádharas, of whom she is one.

And Garuda said: Smaradása, this commission is very different from the
first. For if I am not mistaken, the Widyádharas mean mischief, and it
is no business of mine. And yet, I will not do thee kindness by halves:
but let this be the last. So after meditating for a while, he sent for
the crows. And he said to them: Crows, you know everything about
everybody, and see the world, and fly about the streets of cities, and
eat the daily offerings,[32] and listen to all the scandal of the
bazaars, and penetrate even into the palaces of kings. Go, then, to the
city of Arunodaya, and spy about and listen, and bring back a full
account of all you can discover, about him and his wife.

[Footnote 32: _Balibúk, an eater of daily offerings_, is a common
epithet of the crow.]

And, after a week, the crows returned. And their spokesman, who was
called Kálapaksha,[33] said: Lord, this King and Queen are never apart,
being as inseparable as Ardhanári.[34] And as for Makarandiká, it is
clear that she is a _patidewatá_, who loves her husband more than her
own soul. And though he has nothing to do with any woman but herself,
yet something is wrong, though we cannot discover what it is. But the
citizens think that she is jealous, because she suspects that he is
always dreaming, not of her, but the wife of his former birth.

[Footnote 33: Meaning either _black-wings, the dark half of the lunar
month_, or _time-server_.]

[Footnote 34: The combined form of Maheshwara and his "other half."]

And as Smaradása listened, he exclaimed in delight: Ha! what difficulty
is there in doing a thing which is half done already? For this is a
situation which will ripen almost without assistance, resembling as it
does a balance already trembling, in which the addition of a single hair
will turn the scale. And it wants only a touch, for Makarandiká to turn
her suspicions into certainties of her own accord. And thus she will
become the instrument of her own torture, and expiate her error, the
victim of her own choice, with nobody but herself to blame. For she was
a Widyádharí, and is absolutely inexcusable.


And meanwhile Makarandiká, ignorant and careless of all that was
occurring in that world of the Widyádharas which she had thrown away
like a blade of grass, and utterly forgotten, was living like a siddhá
in a moon without a spot, having, so to say, attained emancipation in
the form of the husband of her own choice. And for his part, Arunodaya,
having lit upon the very wife of his former birth, contrary to
expectation, and married her again, lived with her like one plunged for
an instant in an ocean of intoxication, salt as her beauty[35] and
infinite as her devotion, and unfathomable as her eyes. And for a while,
he seemed to be the very image of a bee drowned in the honey of a red
lotus, or a _chakora_ surfeited with the beams of a young moon. And in
order to make up to Makarandiká, and console her for the loss of her
power of flying through the air, which of all her sciences she most
regretted, he built for her innumerable swings, with gold and silver
chains, and one, that she loved the best, on the very roof she first
arrived on. And she used to pass her time in it, whenever she had
nothing else to do, swinging softly to and fro, and looking across the
sea; tasting, by means of the swing and her own imagination, some
vestige of her lost equality with all the birds of heaven. And though
she never so much as whispered it aloud, yet sometimes, her unutterable
longing to possess once more that power which she had lost for ever, as
she watched the sea-birds flying, brought tears into her eyes, which she
never let Arunodaya see.

[Footnote 35: A play on words, _salt_ and _beauty_ being the same

And yet, though she had utterly lost all her magic sciences, she still
retained the whole of that other magic, which the Creator has not
limited only to Widyádharís, of feminine fascination. And like the moon,
she was a very bundle of bewitching arts,[36] whose potency was doubled
by the intensity of her affection for her lord. For a woman who does not
feel affection for her own husband resembles a sunset from which the sun
and all his redness are withdrawn.

[Footnote 36: _Kalá_ means _arts_ as well as _digits_.]

And she was, moreover, so absolutely bent upon erasing from his
recollection every vestige of the dim image of the wife of his former
birth, for whom she had substituted herself, like a new moon eclipsing
an old one, that she thought of nothing else: and the thought of this
former wife resembled a thorn that was fixed ineradicably in her own
heart. And she busied herself all day and night, in occupying his whole
attention, and laying snares for his soul, by dancing, and singing, and
telling him innumerable stories, and making as it were slaves of all his
senses, enthralling his eyes with the variety of her beauty, and
captivating his ears with the sorcery of her voice, and chaining his
desires to herself by never-ending wiles of caressing attention, in the
form of embraces of soft arms, and kisses like snowflakes, and glances
shot at him out the very corner of her eye, enveloping him with such a
mist of the essence of a woman's sweetness as to keep him from seeing
any other thing at all. For her Widyádharí nature gave to all her
behaviour grace that was far beyond the reach of any ordinary mortal,
and she seemed like an incarnation of femininity, divested of all the
grossness and clumsy imperfection that it carries when mixed with the
element of death, so that her touch seemed softer, and her step seemed
lighter, and her outline rounder, and her smile far sweeter and her
passion purer, and her whole love ecstasy deeper and truer than any
woman's could ever be.

But as for the prime minister, when he came, according to agreement, and
Arunodaya showed her to him on the day of the full moon, he was so
utterly bewildered by the very sight of her that she turned him as it
were to stone. And after staring at her in stupefaction, being wholly
bereft of appropriate speech, and as it were deserted by his reason,
which lay prostrate at her little golden-bangled feet, he went away in
silence. And after a long while, he said to himself as he sat alone:
Beyond a doubt, this inexplicable King has somehow or other managed to
find a very miracle of a queen, as far as beauty goes. For her very
ankles alone, are enough to drive a lover mad, and worth more than the
whole body of any other woman; so that whoever began to look at her,
beginning with her feet, would never get any higher, but remain for ever
worshipping their slender and provoking curve, with a thirst that was
never quenched. She must be Rati or Priti, fallen, nobody knows how,
into a mortal birth, and leaving Kama in despair. And yet, whether she
be, as he supposes, the very wife of his former birth, or not, I am
irretrievably disgraced. For he has managed this matter all alone,
without so much as consulting me. And thus, not only have I lost my
opportunity, of taking as it were tribute from all the surrounding
kings, but I am very much mistaken if some of them, or even all, will
not take umbrage at the slight put upon all their daughters by this
unrelated queen,[37] and band together, and suddenly attack him,
bewildered as he is by her disastrous intoxication; and so, the kingdom
will be uprooted, since he is likely to be so entirely wrapped up in her
that he will think of nothing else. And it may be that he will discover
in the future that he has lost more, by disregarding his prime minister,
than he has gained, by marrying even for the second time the wife of his
former birth. And if, as I suspect, this is all but a trick, time will
show up the imposture, and then it will be my turn. For if ever he
should discover she has cheated him, all the coquetry and coaxing in the
world will not keep him from abhorring her, for stealing his affection,
and diverting it away from its proper object, to herself. For as a rule,
men object to being cheated, even to their own advantage, since the
cheater seems to argue that the cheated is a fool. But in the meantime I
must wait, since it is useless to do anything, till the charm has lost
its magic by dint of repetition. For beauty resembles amber: it
attracts, but does not hold: and like a razor, loses virtue every time
that it is used: till at last, it becomes altogether blunt, and
impotent, and without either edge or bite. And then, unless I am very
much mistaken, this lovely false wife of his previous existence will
find, that she has to reckon with a formidable rival, in his
recollection of the true.

[Footnote 37: Every reader of Scott will recall the "kinless loons."]


But Arunodaya, careless of his minister, gave himself up a willing
captive to the witchery of his Widyádharí wife. And for a time, her task
was very easy. For owing to his inexperience, he resembled a child, and
every woman was to him an illusion, and a mystery, so that he would have
sunk under the spell, even had it been less potent than it actually was.
And Makarandiká was as it were his _dikshá_,[38] incarnate in a form of
more than mortal fascination: and like a priestess she took him by the
hand and led him into the _garbha_[39] of that strange temple built not
of stone, but of the materials of elementary infatuation, and made him
perform, so to say, a _pradakshina_ round the image of the divinity[40]
of which she was herself a bewildering and irresistible incarnation. And
lost in the adoration of a neophyte, he lay like a drunken bee in a
lotus-cup, rolling in honey, and forgetting utterly not only his kingdom
and its affairs, but everything else in the three worlds.

[Footnote 38: _i.e._ initiation.]

[Footnote 39: The Greek [Greek: adyton], or sanctuary.]

[Footnote 40: The Hindoo shrine, says Mr. A. K. Coomaraswamy, is
essentially a place of pilgrimages and circumambulations, to which men
come for _darshan_, to "see" the god.]

And yet, strange! there lay all the while lurking in the recesses of his
soul a vague misgiving, mixed with a faint and unintelligible
dissatisfaction, resembling a taste of something bitter in the draught
of his infatuation, and an ingredient that qualified and just prevented
his gratification from reaching its extreme degree, of ecstasy without
alloy. And yet he hardly dared to acknowledge it, even to himself,
accusing himself of ingratitude and treachery, and saying to his own
soul: How is it possible to requite such infinite affection, and
devotion, and service, and beauty, by returning nothing in exchange for
it all but suspicion, and distrust, and doubt? For even if she were not
the very wife of my former birth, what could I possibly wish for, more?
And yet, it is very strange. For notwithstanding all she does, she does
not seem to reach and satisfy the craving for recognition in my heart,
which obstinately refuses to corroborate her asseverations: nor do I
ever feel that confidence and certainty, arising from the depths of
recollection, which, if she really were my former wife, surely I ought
to feel. Is it my fault, or hers? Alas! instead of meeting her half-way,
I am oppressed with what is very nearly disappointment, and feel almost
like a dupe, that have allowed myself to fall into the snare of beauty,
so as to yield to another what should belong to one alone. Little indeed
would she have to complain of in the warmth of my return, had she just
that one thing that she lacks, the stamp of genuine priority: for then
she would get in full the very thing I long to give her.

Aye! I am as it were dying to do, the thing I cannot do, and divided
from supreme bliss by a partition composed of the most exasperating
inability to know for certain, what all the time may after all be true.
For if she is only playing a part not really hers, how in the world did
she discover the way to take me in, by exhibiting a knowledge of those
very same dim vestiges of recollection which I have never told to anyone
but my own prime minister? And very sure I am, that it was not he who
told her, since he almost lost his reason with astonishment, and
admiration that was mixed with envy and annoyance, when her beauty
struck him dumb. So after all, perhaps I am mistaken, and only torturing
myself for nothing. Out on me, if what she says be really true! for then
indeed I deserve something even worse than death, for treating her with
such monstrous ungenerosity. Can it be that her memory is truer and
stronger, putting mine, for its fidelity, to utter shame? Or why, again,
should I struggle any longer against conviction, and persevere in
longing for what I have not got? Who knows whether even if I actually
got it, I should be any better off than I actually am? Could the very
wife of my former birth be a better wife than this? Is not this wife
just as good as any wife could ever be? Does she not as it were combine
the virtues of even a hundred wives? Yet if she be not the true, can it
be that the other is even now upbraiding me, somehow, somewhere, for
falling with such inconstancy straight into another's snares, and
wasting on a stranger the love that belongs to her? Alas! alas! Why did
the Creator make my memory too strong for blank oblivion, and yet so
feeble as to leave me without a proof, and plunge me in such perplexity
in this matter of a wife?


So then, time passed, and these two lovers lived together, she in the
heaven of having discovered the very fruit of her birth, and he half in
heaven and half outside, hovering for ever between delight and
discontent, balanced in a swing of hesitation between assertion and
denial, that like that other swing of hers was hardly ever still. And
little by little, as surfeit brought satiety, and custom wore away the
bloom of novelty, and familiarity began to rob her beauty of the edge of
its appeal, and emotion lost, by repetition, its sincerity, and
passion's fire began to cool, and the flood of desire to ebb, then
exactly as that cunning Gangádhara foretold, the doubt that, like a
seed, lay waiting in his soul began, seeing its opportunity, to swell
and grow, till there came to be no room for any feeling but itself. And
unawares, he used to sit gazing at her, with eyes that did not seem to
see her, as if continually striving to compare her with some other thing
that was not there, till under their scrutiny she shrank away and left
them, unable to endure, turning away a face that became paler and ever
paler, half with apprehension of discovery, and half with jealousy and
resentful indignation: for only too well her heart understood what was
passing in his soul, though he never dared to tell her, out of shame at
having to confess, that in return for the free and absolute gift of her
soul, he was yielding her only a fragment of his own, and even that,
with suspicion and reluctance: converting the very completeness of her
surrender into an argument against her, as if she did from policy alone
what came from the very bottom of her heart. And he seemed to her to say
by his behaviour: Did she not throw herself into my arms uninvited,
without even waiting to be asked, of her own accord, like an
_abhisáriká_, and could such a one as this be really the wife that I was
looking for? Does it become a maiden, even a Widyádharí, to be bolder
than a man? And why is it, that for all that she can say, and all that
she can do, she never can succeed in arousing any corresponding
sympathy, or producing a conviction that we ever met before? And is this
the union I expected, devoid of that overwhelming mutual recognition
that would leap like fire out of the darkness of oblivion, if the
associations of a previous existence were really there?

So she would sit thinking, and watching him furtively, sitting in her
swing, and swaying gently to and fro, gazing out over the sea. And she
used to say sadly to herself: Now, as it seems, all my endeavours have
been fruitless; for do what I can, all my labours are unavailing. And I
have given myself away, and sacrificed all my magic sciences, for
nought. For it is clear that he cares for absolutely nothing, in
comparison with this dream of this wife of his previous birth. And yet
what could she, or any other wife whatever, give to him, or for him,
more than I have given. What! is the wife of the present birth so
absolutely less than nothing, compared with the wife of the past? What!
has not one birth the same value as another? And if she was the wife of
that birth, then I am the wife of this. Very sure I am, that she cannot
love him as well as I. Have I not become, from a Widyádharí, a mortal,
solely on his account. And yet, who knows? For it may be, I am
impatient, and am hoping to succeed, too soon; anticipating, and
expecting to pluck the flower of his full affection before the seed that
I have sown has had full time to grow. Well then, I will water it, and
watch it, and let it ripen. And I will strive, in the very teeth of his
prepossession, to overcome his stubborn recollection, and uproot it, not
by ill-humour or peevish premature despair, but by flooding him with all
the sweetness that I can. Yes, I will conquer him by becoming so utterly
his slave, that for very shame he will find himself obliged to sacrifice
his dream to me.


So then, as she said, she did. And making herself as it were of no
account, and utterly disregarding the absence of reciprocal affection in
a soul that held itself as it were, with obstinacy, aloof, she set
herself to thaw his ice by a constancy of service that resembled the
rays of a burning sun. And she met all his suspicion and his scrutiny by
such invariable tenderness, and with such a total absence of even the
shadow of complaining or reproach, that his heart began, as if against
its will, to melt, unable to hold out against the steady stream of
affectionate devotion, welling from an inexhaustible spring. And little
by little, he began to say to himself as he watched her: Surely it were
a crime to doubt her any longer. For such an irresistible combination of
unselfishness and beauty could not possibly flow from any other source
than the unconscious reminiscence of old sympathies, and adamantine
bonds, forged and welded in a previous existence. For she gives and has
given all, in return for almost nothing, resembling a mother rather than
a wife; and so far from resenting any lack of confidence, she makes up
for all that I do not give her, by increasing the quantity and quality
of her own, as if she had incurred an obligation to myself, in some
former and forgotten state, which she was never able to repay. And what
proof other than this could I demand? And if this good fortune of mine,
in her form, be not the reward of works, done in that birth which I
struggle to remember, what else can it be?

So then at last, there came a day, when they sat together in the
twilight on the palace roof, watching the moon, that wanted only a
single digit, rising like a huge nocturnal yellow sun, looking for the
other that had sunk to flee, far away on the eastern quarter, on the
very edge of the sea, which seemed for fear to tremble like an
incarnation of dark emotion, while a lunar ray, like a long pale narrow
finger, ran over straight towards them, stepping from wave to wave, and
seeming to say with silent laughter: Like me on the surge of the deep's
desire, love bridges over the waves of time. What is the tide without
me, but the livery of death?

And as she gazed, the eyes of Makarandiká shone, for very excess of
happiness, and there came into each a crystal tear, that caught and
reflected the moon's ray, like a twin imitation of himself. And as she
looked, she murmured: Now at last, as I think, the victory is all but
mine, for I have never brought my husband yet so near the very edge of
love's unfathomable deep, as I have to-day. And now, with just one more
effort, he will fall into the bottomless abysses of my soul, and I shall
have him for my own. Strange! that she did not understand, she was
herself tottering on the very brink of a fatal gulf that would swallow
her up for ever, and plunge her, by a single step, into the mouth of

For even as she spoke, she turned, and looked for a single instant, with
unutterable affection, into her husband's face. And then, she said
aloud: _Aryaputra_, dost thou know, of what I am now thinking? And he
said: No. Then she said: How short a time it seems, since I settled on
that parapet in the form of a sea-bird, and saw thee first: and yet, the
difference is eternity!


And then, the very instant she had spoken, recollection suddenly rushed
across her: and she knew, like a flash of lightning, that she had
uttered her own doom. And as she gazed at him with eyes, whose love
suddenly turned to terror, Arunodaya, all at once, started to his feet.
And he exclaimed: Ha! wert thou the bird? Ha! now, at last, I
understand. So this, then, was the means of thy discovery, and the
origin of thy deceit, thy listening to the conversation of my minister
and me? And all thy story was a lie, and thou thyself art nothing but a
liar and a cheat. And like a worm, that is hidden in the recesses of a
flower, thou hast placed thyself on a king's head, being only fit to be
cast away and trodden underfoot: as I myself will tread thee, and cast
thee away like a blade of grass, fit only to be burned. And I will sweep
the very shadow of thy memory from my heart, into which thou hast
wriggled, by treachery and fraud, to the prejudice of its proper owner,
the true wife of my former birth.

So as he spoke, with eyes that consumed her, as it were, with the fire
of their hatred and contempt, she stood for a single instant still,
stupefied and aghast, shrinking from his fury, and confessing by her
confusion her inability to clear herself of the charge he brought
against her, looking like a feminine incarnation of the acknowledgment
of guilt. But as he ended, the thought of the rival whom he cast into
her teeth entered her heart like the stab of a poisoned sword. And as he
looked at her, all at once he saw her change. And the fierce fire of his
own emotion suddenly died away, annihilated as it were and turned in a
trice to ashes as he watched her, by the intensity of hers. For from
crouching as she was, she slowly stood erect, becoming so ashy pale that
life seemed on the very point of leaving her a thing composed of snow
and ice in the white rays of the moon. And she looked at him with eyes,
in which the love of but a moment since had frozen into a glitter, as
though the blood that filled her heart had suddenly turned to venom that
was black instead of red. And so she stood for a moment, and then all at
once she leaped at him and clutched him by the hand, with fingers that
shut upon it and squeezed into it like teeth. And she said, with
difficulty, as if the breath were wanting to make audible the words:
Dost thou repay me thus? And have I thrown away my state of a
Widyádharí, and all my magic sciences, for such a thing as thee, and
this? And have I sacrificed a countless host of suitors, who would have
given the three worlds for a single glance of my eye, for thee to
trample on my beauty and my affection, counting it all as absolutely
less than nothing, in comparison with another who is nothing but a
dream? Make, then, the very most of all the sweetness and the love that
she will give thee; for mine thou hast lost, and it is dead, and it is
gone. See, whether the affection of the wives of thy future and thy past
will make up to thee for that of thy wife of the present, which thou
hast despised, and outraged, and mangled and annihilated, and wilt never
see again.

And she turned, abruptly, and looked for a single instant away across
the sea. And she said: I cannot leave thee as I would have done, for I
have lost my power of flying through the air. But bid adieu to the wife
of the present, and sing hey! for the wife of the past.

And as she spoke, her voice shook. And she went away very quickly into
the palace, and left him there on the roof alone.


Now in the meanwhile, the prime minister was well-nigh at his wits' end.
For ever since his marriage, Arunodaya had entirely neglected his
kingdom and his state affairs, throwing upon Gangádhara the burden of
them all. And this would have been exactly to his taste, in any other
circumstances but those in which it happened: since it was just the very
marriage itself which occasioned all his anxiety and care.

And one day as he sat alone, musing in his garden, at last he could
contain himself no longer, but broke out into exclamations, imagining
himself alone. And he said: Ha ha! now, as I feared, this lunatic of a
King and his mad marriage are about to bring destruction on this kingdom
and myself. And as to my own part, it would be bad enough alone, that I
should have lost not only crores of treasure, which I could easily have
gained, but also the opportunity of making favourable political
alliances with the strongest of the other kings. But even worse things
are impending over the kingdom and myself. For not one only, but all the
kings together are collecting to attack us, considering themselves
slighted; and as I am made aware, by means of my own spies, the King's
maternal uncle is in league with them in secret, hoping by the ruin of
his nephew to secure the kingdom for himself. And between them, I also
shall be crushed, since they consider me as one with the King my master;
and it will all end in my losing, not only my property, but my office
and my life: since I cannot even get this King to listen, were it only
with one ear, to any business at all: and without him, there is nothing
to be done. Thus I myself, and he, and his kingdom, will all go together
to destruction, like sacrifices offered to his idol, in the form of his
wife. And yet there is something unintelligible even in his relations
with his wife, which even my spies are unable to detect. For though the
King and Queen are never separate, even for a moment, yet they do not
seem to be at one: and though he has got, as it seems, exactly what he
wanted, yet he does not appear to be content. Something, beyond a doubt,
is wrong, though nobody can discover what it is. And in the meantime, we
shall all presently discover something else, that we are all involved in
a common catastrophe: and very soon, it will be too late, even to hope
to take any measures whatever against it at all. For as a rule, delay is
fatal at any time: but above all now. And I cannot see any other way
than to throw in my lot with the King's maternal uncle, and so save the
kingdom and myself, at the King's expense. And if I do, he will have
absolutely nobody to blame but himself, for having scouted me and my
policy, and like a mad elephant rather than a king, imagined that he was
at liberty to marry anyone he chose, behaving just as if he were a
subject, and not a king with political necessity to consider, before any
private inclination. And now, could I only discover some means of
bringing it about, I should be more than half resolved to oust this
unmanageable King from his throne. But the difficulty is, how to get rid
of him and his strange windfall of a queen, without incurring suspicion
and the blame of the bazaar. For I can get no satisfactory solution of
this mystery, even from my spies.

So as he spoke, all at once a voice fell out the air upon his head, as
if from the sky. And it said: O Gangádhara, there are ready to assist
thee other and far better spies than thy own.


And as Gangádhara started, and looked up in wonder, he saw Smaradása
just above him, hovering in the air. And that celestial roamer descended
gently, and stood upon the ground beside him. And he said to the prime
minister, who humbly bowed before him: Gangádhara, I am Smaradása, a
king of the Widyádharas, and I have come to let thee know so much as may
be necessary, and tell thee in this matter what to do: which is, to sit
with thy hands folded, like an image of Jinendra on a temple wall, for a
very little while, and the conclusion will arrive of itself, without thy
interference: since others are concerned as well as thou, in punishing
this king, and his outcast of a queen, who like a wheel has left the
track, and run out of her proper course, downhill.

And Gangádhara said: My lord, I am favoured by the very sight of thee:
and I am curious to know all the circumstances of this extraordinary
matter, if it be permitted to such a one as me.

And Smaradása said: O Gangádhara, creatures of every kind fall into
disaster by reason of their own characters and actions, and this is such
a case. And there is no necessity for thee to be acquainted with any of
the particulars, since curiosity is dangerous, and those who pry into
the business of their superiors run the risk of getting into trouble,
which they might have avoided had they been discreet. So much only will
I tell thee, that this queen's independent behaviour is on the eve of
giving birth to its own punishment, which will in all probability
involve in it that of her silly lover as well as her own. And the
Widyádharas have fixed upon thee, to be an agent in bringing it about.
And I bring thee a commission, which if thou dost refuse, evil will come
upon thee, very soon, and very sudden, and very terrible. But as I
think, thou wilt undertake it, seeing that the result will tally
precisely with objects of thy own. For as I said, spies better than thy
own have had their eyes on thee and all the others, unobserved.

Then Gangádhara trembled, and he said: This servant of thine is ready to
do anything, no matter what.

And Smaradása said: There is little to be done, and it will be very
easy. Know, as it may be that thou knowest already, that Arunodaya
desires nothing in the world so much, as to recollect the incidents of
his previous existence: since this is what perpetually troubles him,
that he seems to be hovering for ever on the very brink of grasping
recollection, which nevertheless invariably slips from his grasp:
leaving him in such a state of irritated longing and disappointment,
that to quench it, he would give the three worlds. Go, then, to
Arunodaya, and give him this fruit. And say to him this: Maháráj, one of
the neighbouring king's ministers, whom I have recently befriended, sent
me this fruit, with its fellow, brought to him by a traveller from
another _dwipa_.[41] And such is their virtue that whoever eats one,
just before he goes to sleep, will dream, all night long, of the very
thing that he most desires. And so, wishing to test it, I ate one; and
that night I saw in my dreams such mountains of gold and gems, that even
Meru and the ocean could not furnish half the sum of each. And now I
have brought thee the other, thinking that the experience might amuse
thee: and now it is for Maháráj to judge. And when he hears, Arunodaya
will think the fruit to be no other than the very fruit of his own birth
in visible form before his eyes. For it will enable him to realise his
desire, and discover the events of his former birth.

[Footnote 41: (Pronounce _dweep_)--a far-off continent or island.]

And Gangádhara took the fruit into his hand, and looked at it
attentively, resembling as it did a pomegranate, but smaller. And the
smell of it was so strong, and so strange, and so delicious, that it
seemed to say to its possessor: Refrain, if you can, from tasting, what
tastes even better than it smells. And then, he shuddered, and he raised
his eyes, and looked steadily at Smaradása: and he said: Is it poison?

And that crafty Widyádhara laughed, and he said: Nay, O Gangádhara: it
is exactly what I told thee to say, and thy account will be the very

Then said Gangádhara again: But if this is so, how can Arunodaya's
eating it advantage either thee or me?

And Smaradása said: Gangádhara, it is dangerous for anybody, and much
more for this King, to recollect his former birth, even in a dream.
Beware of eating it thyself: for it is tempting. But now, mark very
carefully what I have to say. See, when thou dost give it him, and tell
him, that the Queen is by. I say, mark well, that at the time of thy
telling, she overhears thee: and beware, at thy peril, of forgetting
this condition, for in it will all the poison of the fruit be contained;
and without it, it is naught.

Then said Gangádhara: I do not understand.

And Smaradása laughed, and he said: Gangádhara, no matter: for thy
understanding is not an essential condition of success. But be under no
concern: for Arunodaya will not die of poison, and the fruit is free of
harm. For poison of the body is a very clumsy contrivance, and one
suited only to mortals who are void of the sciences, not knowing how or
being able, like Widyádharas, to work indirectly by poisoning the soul.


So then, Gangádhara did very carefully just as he was told. And
everything came about exactly as Smaradása had predicted. For the soul
of Arunodaya almost leaped out of his body with delight, in anticipation
of the satisfaction of his curiosity, by making trial of the fruit;
while the lips of Makarandiká grew whiter, and shut closer, at the sight
of it, as if it contained her rival in its core.

And that very night, Arunodaya went up upon his palace roof, according
to his custom, to sleep. And he took with him the fruit, which he
carried in his hand, not being willing to let it out of sight for a
moment, for fear that Makarandiká might steal it, in order to thwart his
expectation, and prevent him from having as it were an assignation with
any other woman, even in a dream. And as it happened, that night a
strong wind was blowing from the east, and the waves of the sea broke
against the rocks of the palace foot, as if they were endeavouring to
move it from its place.

And while Arunodaya threw himself upon his bed, Makarandiká went and
sat, a little way away, in her swing, that rocked and swayed to and fro
in the wind, looking out across the sea, with gloom in her eyes: and
casting, every now and then, glances at him as he lay, out of the corner
of her eye, that seemed as it were to say to him: Beware! And like her
body, her soul was tossed to and fro in the swing of unutterable longing
and despair. And she said to herself: Even in my presence, which he
absolutely disregards, he is preparing for a meeting in his dreams with
this wife of his former birth. And at the thought, she frowned, and
turned paler, clutching tighter unawares the chains of her swing, and
setting her teeth hard, and casting at Arunodaya, lying in his couch, as
it were daggers, in the form of dark menace from eyes that were filled
with misery and pain. And the moon in the first quarter of its wane
seemed as it were to say to her: See, thy power is waning, exactly like
my own.

And in the meanwhile, Arunodaya took his fruit and ate it, and lay down,
with a soul so much on tiptoe with desire and agitation that sleep
seemed to fly from him as if on purpose, out of sympathy with her. And
for a long while he tossed to and fro upon his bed, listening to the
roar of the waves and the wind. And so as he lay, little by little he
grew quiet, and sleep stole back to him silently and took him unaware.
And his soul flew suddenly into the world of dreams, leaving Makarandiká
alone in the darkness, awake in her swing.


But Arunodaya fell into his dream, to find himself walking in a row of
kings, into a vast and shadowy hall. And as they went, that hall
re-echoed with a din that resembled thunder: and he looked, and lo! that
hall was as full of pandits as heaven is of stars, all dressed in white
with their right arm bare, and each so exactly like the other that it
seemed as though there was but one, reflected by the innumerable facets
of a mirror split to atoms, all shouting together, each as loud as he
could bawl: See, see, the suitor kings, coming to marry the pandit's
daughter! Victory to Sarojiní, and the lucky bridegroom of her own

And as Arunodaya looked and listened, all at once there rushed upon his
soul as it were a flood of recollection. And he exclaimed in ecstasy:
Ha! yes, thus it was, and I have fallen back, somehow or other, into the
bliss of my former birth. And there once more, I see them, the pandits
and the hall, exactly as they were before, all shouting for Sarojiní.
Aye! that was the very name, which all this time I have been struggling
to remember. And strange! I cannot understand, now that I recollect it,
how I should ever have forgotten it, even for a single instant. But
where then is she, this Sarojiní, herself?

So as he spoke in agitation, he looked round as if to search, and his
heart began to beat with such violence that he stirred as he slept upon
his couch. And at that moment, there suddenly appeared to him a woman,
coming slowly straight toward him, followed by her maid. And as she
came, she looked at him intently, with huge, bewildering, gazing eyes
that seemed to fasten on his soul, filled as they were with an
unfathomable abyss of melancholy, and longing, and dim distance, and
dreamy recognition, and wonder, and caressing tenderness, and reproach.
And her body was straight and slender, and it swayed a little as she
walked, like the stalk of the very lotus whose name she bore, as if it
were about to bend, unable to support the weight of the beautiful
full-blown double flower standing proudly up above it in the form of her
round and splendid breast. And she was clothed in a dusky garment
exactly matching the colour of her hair, which clung to her and wrapped
her as if black with indignation that it could not succeed in hiding,
but only rather served to display and fix all eyes upon the body that it
strove to hide, adding as if against its will curve to its curves and
undulation to all its undulations, and bestowing upon them all an extra
touch of fascination and irresistible appeal, by giving them the
appearance of prisoners refusing to be imprisoned and endeavouring to
escape. And as it wound about her, the narrow band of gold that edged it
ran round her in and out, exactly like a snake, that ended by folding in
a ring around her feet. And she held in her right hand, the arm of which
was absolutely bare, an enormous purple flower, in which, every now and
then, she buried, so to say, her face, all except the eyes, which she
never took from Arunodaya, even for a single instant. And she seemed to
him, as he watched her, like a feminine incarnation of the nectar of
reunion, after years of separation, raised into a magic spell by an
atmosphere of memory and mystery and dream.

So as he gazed, lost in a vague ocean of intoxication, all at once her
attendant maid, who seemed for her boldness and her beauty like a man
dressed in woman's clothes, or some third nature that hovered between
the two, came out before her mistress. And she seized by the hand a
suitor king, and led him up to Sarojiní, and said to him aloud: O King,
listen and reply to the question that the husband of Sarojiní must
answer well.

And as she spoke, Sarojiní withdrew her eyes from Arunodaya, and let
them rest for a moment on the king that stood before her. And she said
in a low voice, that sounded in the sudden stillness of that hall like
the note of a _kokila_ lost in the very heart of a wood: Maháráj, say:
should I choose the better, or the worse?[42]

[Footnote 42: This cannot be expressed in English with the point of the
original, because the word expressing preference means also _bridegroom_

And that unhappy king said instantly: The better.

Then said Sarojiní: O King, I am unfortunate indeed, in losing thee.

And instantly, she turned her eyes back upon Arunodaya, and at that
moment, all the pandits in the hall began to shout: Sarojiní, Sarojiní,
_jayanti_! And as he listened, lo! she and her eyes, and the hall with
all its pandits, wavered, and flickered, and danced before his eyes, and
went out and disappeared. And the clamour and the tumult of the pandits
changed, and altered, and melted into the roar of the waves and the
wind. And in a frenzy of terror lest the dream should have concluded, he
woke with a cry, and raised his head from its pillow, and opened his
eyes; and they fell straight upon Makarandiká, who was looking at him
fixedly, sitting in her swing.

And suddenly she said to him: Of what art thou dreaming? And he
answered: Of pandits. And immediately, his head fell back upon its
pillow, and his soul sank back into his dream.


But Makarandiká started, and she exclaimed within herself: Pandits! Ha!
Then, as it seems, he really is dreaming of the things of his former
birth. And her eyes grew darker as she watched him, sitting in her
swing, very still, with one foot upon the ground. And all at once, she
left the swing, and came to him very quickly, and knelt, sitting upon
her feet, upon the ground, beside him, gazing at him in silence as he
slept, with eyes that never left his face for even a single instant.

But the soul of Arunodaya, leaving his body lying on the couch, flew
back like a flash of lightning eagerly to his dream. And once more he
found himself in that hall, with all its pandits shouting, just as if he
had never left it to awake. And lo! the eyes of Sarojiní were fastened
on his own, as if with joy; and in his relief, occasioned by sudden
freedom from the fear of the dream having reached its termination, and
the recovery of those eyes, his heart was filled with such a flood of
ecstasy that, all unaware, he laughed in his sleep. And in the meantime,
that unabashed and clever maid came forward, and seized by the hand
another king, and led him forward like the last. And she said, exactly
as before: King, listen and reply to the question that the husband of
Sarojiní must answer well.

And then once more, the eyes of Sarojiní lingered for a little on those
of Arunodaya, and left him, as if reluctant to depart, and rested, as if
carelessly, upon that second king. And she said in the silence that
waited, as it were, for her to speak: Maháráj, say, shall I choose the
greater or the less?

And that unhappy king hesitated for an instant; and he said: The less.

Then said Sarojiní: Alas! O King, once more I am unfortunate: for I
should be inexcusable, in choosing thee.

And instantly, she turned, and her eyes met those of Arunodaya, waiting
in the extremity of agitation, with a glance that seemed to say to him:
Be not afraid. And as he sighed in his sleep, for delight, lo! once
again, she and her eyes, and the pandits, and the shouting, and the
hall, shivered, and wavered, and receded into the darkness, and went out
and disappeared. And the din of the triumph of the pandits changed and
altered and ended in the roar of the waves and the rushing of the wind.
And once more he awoke and opened his eyes: and lo! there just in front
of him was Makarandiká, with eyes that gazed, as if with wrath, straight
into his own.

And when she saw his open, she said in a low voice, very slowly: Of what
wert thou dreaming? And Arunodaya murmured: Of pandits. And instantly,
he closed his eyes, as if to shut her from his soul. And then, he forgot
her in an instant, and flew back, as if escaping from a pursuer, into
his dream.


But Makarandiká's face fell. And after a while, he began to laugh, with
laughter that quivered, as if it hesitated between agony and scorn. And
she exclaimed: Pandits! Does anybody laugh, as he did in his sleep, who
dreams of pandits? What has laughter such as his to do with pandits?
Nay, he is trying to hide from me a secret, not knowing, that in the
absence of his soul, his body is playing traitor to him against his
will. Ah! well I understand, he closed his eyes, to keep me on the
outside of his soul, which he opens in the sweetness of a dream to
someone else. So, now, let him beware. And she drew still closer to his
side, and leaned over him, with her eyes fixed upon his lips, and a
heart that beat with such agitation that she pressed one hand upon her
breast, as if to bid it to be still, lest its throbbing should rouse him
from his sleep.

And as she gazed, there came over her soul such a sense of desolation,
mixed with the fire of jealousy, and wrath at her own inability to
follow him into his dream and snatch him for her own from everybody
else, that her breath was within a little of stopping of its own accord.
And she yearned to find, as it were, a refuge, in tears that refused to
flow, and her head began to spin. And all at once, a shudder that was
half a sob shook her as she kneeled, mixed with an almost irresistible
desire to clasp him in her arms, and claim him for what he actually was,
her husband, and the only lord without a rival of her own miserable
heart. And a fever that turned her hot and cold by turns began to hurry
through her limbs. And she murmured to herself, without knowing what she
said: Shall he leave me here, deserted, alone in the darkness of this
palace and the night? to meet in a dream where I cannot follow him the
wife I cannot oust from his soul? Who knows? It may be that at this very
moment, they are laughing me to scorn, locked in each other's arms.

And so as she continued, gazing at him with a soul set as it were on
fire by suspicion and images of her own creating, and a heart stung by
the viper of recollection, and yet, strange! swelling with a passionate
and hopeless yearning for his affection to return, meanwhile, the soul
of Arunodaya, all heedless of the passion that menaced his abandoned
body, lay, as it were, drowned in the honey of his dream. And once
again, amid the tumult of the pandits, the eyes of Sarojiní were drawing
his soul towards her own, as if with cords, woven of the triple strands
of colour and reminiscence and the intensity of a love that was returned
tenfold. And so as he lay, conscious of absolutely nothing but the abyss
of those unfathomable eyes, all at once that shameless maid came forward
yet again, and took the hand of yet another king, and said as before:
King, listen and reply to the question that the husband of Sarojiní must
answer well.

And Sarojiní, hearing her speak, drew her eyes away sadly from
Arunodaya, and turned them slowly on that waiting king. And she said:
Maháráj, say, shall I choose the bitter or the sweet?

And then, that miserable king, as if he feared the fate of his
predecessors, stood for a while in silence. And he said at last: The

Then said Sarojiní: King, beyond all doubt my crimes in a former birth
are bearing fruit, in depriving me of such a husband as thyself.

And instantly, all the pandits broke into a shout, and as they did so,
she shot at Arunodaya a glance that seemed as it were to say to him: Be
patient, for thy turn also will presently arrive.

And at that very moment, something took him as it were by the throat.
And as the dream suddenly went out and disappeared, he awoke, in the
roar of the waves and the wind, to find that Makarandiká had her hand
upon his breast, to wake him from his dream. And she said absolutely
nothing. But her eyes were fixed upon his own, filled to the very brim
with entreaty, and affection, and terror and grief, and despair.

And seeing her, he frowned, as if the very sight of her was poison to
his soul. And he shut his eyes, and fell back upon his pillow, to go
back to his dream.


But Makarandiká shrank from the glance that he cast upon her, exactly as
if he had struck her in the face with his clenched hand. And she turned
suddenly white, as if the marble floor she sat on had claimed her for
its own. And all at once she fell forward, and remained, crouching, with
her face upon her hands, like a feminine incarnation of Rati when she
saw Love's body burned to ash. And time passed, while the moon looked
down at her as if with pity, wondering at her stillness, and saying as
it were in silence: Can it be that she is dead? And then, suddenly,
Arunodaya laughed aloud in his sleep, and he murmured, as if with
affection: Sarojiní, Sarojiní.

And then, Makarandiká looked up quickly. And lo! there came over her a
smile, like that of one suddenly rejoicing at the arrival of unexpected
opportunity. And all at once she stood erect, as if all her agony had
been changed in a moment to resolution. And she looked down at him as he
slept, and she said, very slowly: Ah! lover of Sarojiní, dost thou leave
me, as it were, spurned from thee with aversion, alone on the roof of
thy palace, to spend thy time with her? What! shall the wife of this
birth sit, weeping as it were outside the door, while she embraces thee
within? Ah! but thou hast forgotten, that if I cannot enter, at least I
can interrupt thee, since I am mistress of the dream.

And she put her hands up to her head, and undid the knot of her braided
hair. And she took from it, as it fell around her, as if to shroud her
action in the darkness of a cloud, a long thin dagger,[43] that
resembled a crystal splinter of lightning picked up on a mountain peak,
and shone in the moon's rays like a streak of the essence of vengeance
made visible to the eye. And she went close up to him, and remained
standing silent, watching his face turned upwards as he lay before her,
with a smile on her lips that resembled the gleam of her own dagger, as
it waited in her trembling hand.

[Footnote 43: "Did not Windumatí slay Widuratha the Wrishni with a
stiletto that she had hidden in her hair?" (_Harsha charita_).]


But in the meanwhile Arunodaya fled as it were from Makarandiká to take
refuge in his dream. And he found Sarojiní as it were waiting for him
with anxiety, with eyes that seemed to say to him: Amidst all this
tumult of the pandits, thou and I are as it were alone together. And it
seemed to Arunodaya as he watched her, that her lips moved, and were
striving to say to him something, that by reason of the distance and the
shouting, he could not understand. And in his delight, he began to laugh
in his sleep, and murmur back to her in answer: Sarojiní, Sarojiní. And
filled with unutterable desire to approach her, and take her in his
arms, he was on the very point of rushing forward, urged by the
irritation of an impatience that was becoming unendurable, when once
again that maid devoid of modesty came straight towards him, and almost
broke his heart in two by taking by the hand not himself, but the king
who stood beside him. And as he muttered to himself: Out on this
interloping king, who comes between me and my delight! beginning to
tremble all over as he lay, that maid said again: King, listen and reply
to the question that the husband of Sarojiní must answer well.

And Sarojiní turned half towards him, leaving as it were her eyes
behind, fastened still on Arunodaya, as if unable to bear again the pain
of separation, and calling as it were to him, from over the sea of time.
And then she said, as if her words were meant for him alone! Maháráj,
Maháráj, say, shall I choose the past or the present, the living or the

And then, ere that unhappy king could answer, Arunodaya leaped towards
her, while all his body quivered as he lay upon his bed, as if
struggling in desperation to accompany his soul. And he cried out, not
only with his soul, but his body: Sarojiní, Sarojiní, never shall thou
choose, since I will not leave the choice to thee at all. Dead or
living, I am thine and thou art mine. And as she threw herself into his
arms, he caught her, and pulled her to his breast, while she put up her
face to him, as if dying to be kissed.

And then, strange! that face suddenly eluded him, with a derisive sneer.
And his ears rang with a din composed of the shouting and laughter of
pandits, mingled with the roar of the wind and the sea. And she and the
dream together suddenly went out and disappeared. And he saw her face,
for the fraction of a second, change, as if by magic, into the face of
Makarandiká, pale as ashes: and then, something suddenly ran into his
heart like a sword. And his soul abandoned his body, with a sharp cry,
never to return.


So then, the very moment it was done, Makarandiká woke, herself, as it
were, from a dream. And horror at her own action, as if it had waited
till the very moment when it should be unavailing, suddenly flowed in
upon her soul. And as she gazed at Arunodaya, lying still in the
moonlight with her dagger in his heart, and found herself with
absolutely no companions but the dead body, and the darkness, and the
wind and the waves, alone on that palace roof, she murmured to herself,
as if she hardly understood: What! can this be of my doing? What! have I
actually slain the husband of my own choice, jealous of his very dreams?

And she stood, for a little while, with one hand upon her head, and
then, she uttered a scream. And she seized him by the hand, and shook it
violently, as if endeavouring to wake him and recall him from a dream,
in which she herself had buried him for ever, cutting off its
termination, and prisoning his soul in an everlasting dungeon, like a
stone dropped beyond recovery, fallen with a hollow echo into the black
darkness of a well.

And lo! that shriek reverberated as it were in heaven, and was answered
by a peal of laughter that fell on her from the sky. And she looked up
into the air, and saw, hovering in rows above her, all those Widyádhara
suitors whom she had rejected long ago, gazing down at her with faces
that were distorted with malice and derision. And as she stood,
confounded, with their laughter ringing in her ears, Smaradása swooped
towards her, and called to her ironically: Ha! Makarandiká the scornful,
how is it with thy mortal husband? How could he prefer another to such a
beauty as thyself?

And Makarandiká gazed at them all for an instant, with eyes that exactly
resembled those of a fawn, on the very verge of escaping from its
pursuers by leaping from a cliff. And her reason fled away from her, as
if anticipating her own flight. And strange! at that moment, as if
bewildered by her own deed and the very sight of those Widyádharas of
whom she had been one, she utterly forgot for an instant that she
herself was no longer a Widyádharí, and had lost her own power of flying
through the air. And she made a bound to the edge of the parapet, and
leaped off, thinking to fly over the sea, and escape, and be at rest.
But instead of flying, she fell, and was broken to pieces at the bottom
of the wall, in the foam of the waves that were also broken, at the foot
of the palace rock.

       *       *       *       *       *

So then, when at last Maheshwara ended, the Daughter of the Mountain
asked eagerly: But, O thou of the Moony Tire, tell me, how as to the
dream. Was it the very truth, and Sarojiní the very wife of his former

And Maheshwara said slowly: Nay, O Snowy One, not at all. For it was not
even a true dream. For if it had really been a dream, it would not have
continued, as it actually did, in spite of its interruptions. But the
whole was a delusion, and a contrivance of the Widyádharas, who lured
his soul out of his body by means of a magic drug, and acted all before
him, exactly like a play. For the Widyádharas were the pandits, and the
great hall was nothing whatever but the sky. And the noise was nothing
whatever but that of the wind and waves, and Sarojiní herself was
Makarandiká's own sister, who hated her for her beauty, which was
greater than her own. And as for Makarandiká, she was all the time her
own rival; for she herself, and no other, was the real wife of his
former birth.

And the Daughter of the Mountain started, and she uttered a little cry.
And she exclaimed: Ah! no! O Moony-crested, it cannot be. Surely thou
art only jesting? What! was their happiness divided from them by so thin
a wall as that? What! when they would have given, each his soul, to know
it? Alas! alas! what cruelty of the Creator, to bring the cup of
happiness as it were to their very lips, without allowing them to taste!
simply by reason of a film of utter darkness, that prevented them from
seeing it was actually there!

And after a while, that Lord of Creatures said slowly: O Daughter of the
Mountain, yet for all that it was true. And many a traveller crosses
over seas and years of separation, surmounting every peril, to perish at
the very last moment, when the ecstasy of reunion is almost in his
grasp, on the step of his own door. And be not thou hasty to lay cruelty
to the door of the Creator, who is absolutely blameless in the matter,
seeing that all these and similar misfortunes come about, as the
necessary consequence of works. And though the extremity of happiness,
arising from mutual recognition, was divided from Arunodaya and
Makarandiká by a screen thinner than the thickness of a single hair,
they could not reach it, for thin as it was, that screen had been
erected by their own wrong-doing, and was nothing whatever but the doom
pronounced against themselves by their own misbehaviour in a former
birth. And thus it came about, that Makarandiká played the part of
Arunodaya's former wife, never even dreaming that she was only claiming
to be what she actually was: while Arunodaya shrank, in his ignorance,
from the very wife whom he would have given the three worlds to
discover, in pursuit of a phantom, that was substituted for her by his
own unilluminated longing for a treasure that, all unaware, he held
already in his hand. For souls that wander to and fro in the waste of
the world's illusion resemble chips tossing aimlessly up and down on the
heaving waves of time, driving about at random they know not how or
where, under a night that has no moon, in an ocean without a shore: for
whom the very quarters of heaven are lost in an undistinguishable
identity, and even distance and proximity are but words without a sense.

So, now, let us leave these our images to become once more, by our
departure, nothing but the stony guardians of this empty shrine. And
to-morrow Gangádhara will learn, by listening to the story of yonder
sleeper, what Smaradása meant, and unriddle his enigma of the poisoning
of the soul.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Syrup of the Bees" ***

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