There could no longer be any doubt about it that Kusum loved the doctor. Chanchal was only surmising, she did not know how the matter stood. It was evident that Kusum had broken off the engagement with Romanath herself; why should he have objected to so favourable a match?
As long as there is no moonlight the stars appear bright enough, but let the moon come and the stars grow dim. Kusum might have admired Romanath as long as she did not know the doctor, but it was evident now that she had become attached to the latter, otherwise why should she have become so flurried at the mere mention of his name? Poor Romanath, how sorry I felt for him!
Thus through the long hours of the night these thoughts passed through my brain. How fortunate Kusum was. Was I getting jealous of her? Perhaps. People say there is always a certain amount of jealousy in love. Could I consider myself of a different mould from women generally? Jealousy, if such it was, impressed me as a very harmless feeling, it died away in a sigh, it left no malice behind it. How could I indeed allow such a feeling to spring up, for surely Kusum was not guilty of any wrong, she had not robbed me of anything? What I never possessed could not be taken from me. If he loved her, it was through her own deserts, and if he did not love her, it did not necessarily follow that he should bestow his love on me. The strangest part of it all was, that I began to love Kusum, for whom I had not so far cherished even friendship. The feeling became so strong, I felt I must draw her towards me, and acting on the impulse I rose from my bed with the intention of writing to her, but as I sat down at my desk I thought better of it. What would Kusum think of me? How absurd I would appear in her eyes.
When my sister saw me the next morning she addressed me cheerfully,
"Do you know that he is coming here?"
My heart began to beat rapidly. "When?" I asked.
"To-morrow, to the tennis party. You do not speak of your sorrow, but the way in which you are getting more emaciated every day brings the tears to my eyes."
I became embarrassed, so even my sister had noticed it.
"Becoming emaciated! That is all nonsense."
"Why do you grieve so," replied my sister, "over a trifling mistake?"
I started, it was clear she was not speaking of the doctor.
Mv sister continued. "There is no doubt about the fact that he loves you. He met my husband the other day and himself broached the subject. He said he was mortified by your behaviour, and though there was pressure brought to bear on him from another direction to marry a certain young lady, he had not pledged himself. If you will consent even now he is ready to sacrifice everything. He will come to-morrow, now see that you don't get into a misunderstanding again. You both care for each other, why so much fuss over a little difference?"
My head reeled. I knew it was impossible for me to love him. Then marry him—never. I calmly replied:
"He will have to make no sacrifice on my account. Why have you renewed this affair? I cannot marry him."
"You are too fastidious about a word," replied my sister. "Just because he has used the word 'sacrifice' you take offence."
"You are mistaken, sister, I have taken no offence. I do not love him, and I do not think he loves me. Why should I accept a sacrifice from one for whom I do not care? If he did, he would not speak of sacrifice."
My sister laughed and said,
"I cannot overcome your argument, Moni, but he will come to-morrow, and he will be able to meet your logic and soothe your troubled feelings."
I saw she did not understand me yet, and I therefore tried to explain.
"Didi, you are really making a mistake. I do not feel offended. On the contrary, I am glad to think that he may have found another. A great responsibility has been taken from me. I always knew I could not love this man, and now I see he does not love me either, and yet I am supposed to be the cause of his unhappiness. It is a wrong way of reasoning."
My sister became annoyed with me again.
"Moni, I have never before seen a girl so selfish as you are. You have a set notion in your mind that he does not love you, and you are holding on to it as if it were a treasure. However, all will be settled to-morrow. Let there be an interview, and then let us know the result."
I tried to remonstrate with my sister, I pleaded with her.
"I cannot see him, sister, believe me, I cannot. No, tell him I am ill."
"I cannot do that, Moni. My husband has asked him to come, and has given him to understand that you have no further objection to the marriage, and now you say you will not see him. This is really too bad."
"What can I do? If I meet him, I shall only have to say the same thing over again to him. Believe me, Didi, I can never marry this man."
"Do you know that people are already laughing about us? Do you realise what that means to us and to you more particularly? Do you think you are acting wisely?"
"I cannot love him."
"You are an extraordinary girl. Only a few days back you loved him so ardently, and now you declare you can never love him. Never mind, don't give way to foolish notions. Once you are married, you will understand that you do love him."
My sister's persistence drove me almost to despair.
"Sister, I implore you, do not force me to see him. I do not understand everything. I thought for a while that I loved him, but I know better now. If I marry him, two lives will be made miserable."
"Then do exactly as you think best for yourself. I have no more to say. I have never yet seen such an obstinate girl."
And my sister walked away angry and excited to a high degree.
1 - Respectful form of addressing elder sister.