An Unfinished Song

by Swarnakumari Ghosal

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Chapter VI

It turned out as my sister had foretold. He came and himself spoke of what had happened.

"You heard what the doctor told me, did you not, Moni?" For the first time he addressed me in the familiar way. Perhaps he felt it would be improper to address me with the respectful pronoun after his offer of marriage yesterday, or perhaps he considered it his lawful right to do so.

I replied by a nod.

He continued, "I am afraid you think I have done something very scandalous. I am very sorry, but the truth is there was nothing serious—it was only a flirtation, and that is a matter of everyday occurrence in England."

I felt indignant but suppressed my feeling and replied calmly,

"But from what I heard the doctor say it seems to have been exactly the reverse."

"Oh, that meddlesome fellow, he is an out-and-out hypocrite. Anything about other people, and he makes a mountain out of a molehill."

I could conceal my indignation no longer.

"If a man is a hypocrite because he champions the cause of a helpless, forsaken girl, then what name is to be applied to one who betrays the girl who trusted him? Is he to be styled a man of honour?"

I felt my words to be very trenchant, and I regretted them when I saw the effect they had upon him. He kept silent for a while. When he spoke again it was with firmness.

"I have not betrayed her. On the contrary I should have done so if I had married her. I could never have loved her."

"Then, why this engagement?"

"There was no formal betrothal, but, but—there was a mistake. However, the fault was not mine. I had not thought it necessary to speak to you on this subject, but since you have heard of it, in part anyway, it is perhaps better I should tell you all."

Needless to say what he told me of the English girl made her appear as one who had sinned greatly against the existing rules of Society. He spoke in his own defence. She had constantly sought him, had invited him repeatedly to her house, and acted like one afflicted if he did not go as often as she wished. If she went anywhere, she asked him to accompany her, and so forth. It would have been ungracious on his part to refuse her requests. In this way he fell into a trap, but as soon as he saw that she wished to marry him, he became less marked in his attentions towards her.

This was his side of the story, but it failed to have the intended impression upon me. I only pitied the unfortunate girl the more, nor did it increase my respect for her accuser.

"But why did you allow her to be deceived?" I observed. "What may have been a mere flirtation to you, was evidently to her the expression of deep-rooted feeling. Your amusement was her sorrow. Such being the case you were in duty bound to marry her."

"Do you hold that because a man makes a mistake in an unfortunate moment he should on that account ruin his whole life? If I had married her, I should not only have made my own life miserable, but would have dragged others down with me. Do you not understand that this marriage would have been a great blow to my parents and relatives? I should have been lost to my country for ever, and in the end what would she have gained, for whose sake all this sacrifice would have been incurred? Would her life not have been unhappy as well? Since I did not love her, I could not have made her happy. In the face of all this, do you still hold I should have married her?"

This argument seemed true, but there was one point still unexplained. "Why does she still expect to be married to you? You should at least have had a final explanation with her, and asked her to release you from your word."

"I thought I had given sufficient explanation, but if there is still any doubt in her mind, the news of my marriage will make her position clear to her."

How cruel those last words sounded, how extremely repugnant it all seemed to me. She loved him, she still hoped to be married to him, and now she was to realise the situation through the news of his marriage. Oh, what agony, what heart-burning would she not endure! What claim had I on him? Had she not loved him first, had he not been bound to her before he had seen me? Could I have the heart to ruin her life? These thoughts revolved in my mind and excited my nerves, and my feeling was in my voice when I spoke.

"I do not know whether you have acted rightly or otherwise. It is not for me to judge you, the great God will do that. But let me assure you I will not place myself as a barrier in the way of the girl who loves you."

My words seemed to startle him, he stood like one struck dumb, he had evidently not expected this reply. It took him some time to master his agitation. I saw he struggled to suppress his anger as he spoke.

"You charge me with having practised deception. However that may be, I have certainly not deceived you. But you have deceived me, you have played with me, you never loved me, and yet you did everything to make me think so. If you had ever truly cared for me, you would not now wish to break off with me for so trivial a reason. You would rather pity me in my misery. Oh, my God, must I live to bear this?"

Then we remained silent, both he and I. The minutes wore by, but neither spoke. My sister came to our rescue. She entered the room and greeted Mr. Roy, which greeting having been returned he said,

"I have to go to the interior this evening in connection with a case. I may have to remain there for more than a week. I hope I shall hear from you."

He then rose and held out his hand to bid me farewell. Once more he spoke to me, his voice was low and sad, it was almost pitiable to hear him.

"I have no more to say. My life, my death, are both in your hands. Consider this before you act further."

With these words he left the room.

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