An Unfinished Song

by Swarnakumari Ghosal

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Chapter XVII

I have had many and great struggles in my life, but they have not overpowered me as this one did. I felt as if I were facing a great danger, standing alone in the dark while sharp weapons were aimed at me from every direction. Overcome by anguish, I prostrated my sorrow-stricken soul at the feet of the Divine Mother.

"Oh, Mother of Mercy," I pleaded, "open up the earth before me that I may bury myself therein."

And lo, the Mother took compassion upon me and sent redress, for while I was still praying a servant announced my father's arrival. There was hope, there was light. Father had come to the rescue. He had previously written that he would come, but I had not expected him so soon.

He had gone to my sister's room and I went there to greet him, but when I approached the door, I became so frightened, thinking of what had happened, I dared not go further. From the room came angry voices. My father seemed in a passion of rage and was remonstrating with my sister. I knew that all this was on my account, and remained standing on the threshold. They did not notice me.

"I tell you," I heard my father say, "it is a wonder to me that I have not gone mad over all I have heard. You tell me that Moni herself broke off the engagement, but it is being whispered about that he found the girl wanting in goodness and modesty and therefore refused to marry her. What am I to say to that?"

"It is false," replied my sister emphatically.

"False, of course it's false! How many girls are there that possess the inborn humility and modesty that Moni has."

"Yes, that is true, but I meant even more. Mr. Roy has never said unkind things about Moni. He is even now willing to marry her."

"Willing to marry her! Do you think I will give my daughter to that man?"

"But try and be calm, father, and you will see that all scandal will immediately be averted if she marries him."

"Whatever people may say, whatever scandal and disgrace there may be, it is certain I will never give my child to that wicked man."

"But, father, you do the man injustice, you do not know him. I am certain these reports do not come from him."

But my father's anger was not pacified, he continued as before: "He is a scoundrel. He feels humiliated because our Moni will not marry him, and to save himself he has circulated these reports, and I am to give my girl to him? Never! I will take Moni home with me to-night. I will myself secure a bridegroom for her, one whom I can trust. I want no more of your English courtships."

My sister urged him to remain at least for a day or two, but my father would listen to no entreaties. That very night we left for Dacca. I was happy when I stepped into the train, I felt a burden taken from me. I committed myself entirely to my father's care, and oh, how peaceful it felt, but, alas! I was awakened from my dream too soon; this is a world that envies us repose and peace.

When we were on board the steamer passing along the river Padma father suddenly said:

"Do you remember Chotu?"

"Yes, father, I do."

"His mother wishes to make you her daughter-in-law, and I, too, would like to take Chotu as my son. It is not every day such a desirable bridegroom is to be had. If fortune favours us, we will celebrate the marriage with as little delay as possible after we arrive at Dacca."

I felt like one struck by lightning. I remembered the time when being married to Chotu was the one vision of my youthful life, but now!


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