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VI. A Lotus of the Night

Then he said to himself: Though I cut off the tongue of this ill-omened Wairágí, yet he never told me my way. And he went on, sword in hand, along a silver path, among trees that resembled Rákshasas, for they let in through the hair of their branches the light of the moon, which peered down at him as if out of curiosity, and lit him on his way as if in admiration of his courage. And as he went, gradually the trees grew rarer, and at length he looked before him, and saw in a clear space a dark blue forest pool, studded with moon-lotuses, as if created to mock the expanse of heaven bespangled with its stars, a mirror formed by Wedasa f to reproduce another world below. And all about it flitted fireflies, looking like swarms of bees that had returned

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with torches, unable to endure separation at night from the lotus flowers which they loved all day.

And as he gazed into the water, he saw in its smooth mirror the image of a woman, dancing. And as she danced, her robes of the colour of grass fluttered in the wind produced by her own movement over the curves of her limbs; and drops of water sparkled in the moonlight like gems on her bosom, which rose and fell like a wave of the sea in and out of the shadow of her hair: for that hair resembled a mass of the essence of the blackness of night. And she chanted as she danced with a voice that sounded like a spell, and fanned the ear like a breeze from the Malaya mountain g. Then Umra-Singh raised his eyes, and saw the original of that water-painted woman-image, dancing on the other side of the pool.

Then she looked across and saw him, and their eyes met, travelling over the pool. And instantly she stopped her singing and dancing, and clapped her hands, and called to him like a Kokila: Come over to me, thou handsome stranger, for I am weary of dancing alone, and I have a question to

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ask thee. And she leaned against a tree and stood waiting, with one hand on the trunk of the tree and the other on her hip, and a heaving breast: and she looked like a feminine incarnation of the essence of the agitation of the ocean, stirred by the sight of the moon. And Umra-Singh looked at her, and said to himself: Certainly the daughters of Rákshasas are more dangerous than their fathers. And now it is well, that I am fenced by the blue eyes of Shrí like a suit of armour, otherwise the glances of this forest maiden would like an axe long ago have cleft my heart in two.

Then he went round the edge of the pool, and found her on the other side. And she beckoned to him as he drew near with a bangled hand, and moving lips, and eyes that shone in the moonlight like the eyes of a snake. And she came and stood before him, and put her hand on his shoulder with a touch like a leaf, and looked up into his face with a smile, and said: I am Ulupí, a Daitya's h daughter, and here I live in the forest alone, with none to whom to compare myself, save my own image in the water. Tell me, for thou hast seen

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other women, hast thou ever met with eyes more beautiful than mine? And Umra-Singh looked down into them as into two dark pools, and he felt them pounding his heart like a pair of fists i. And he said to himself: She may well ask, and now, but for one other pair, her eyes need fear no rivals. But he said to her: Beauty k, thine eyes are well enough: nevertheless the ocean has many gems, and doubtless each thinks itself the best: but the Koustubha l is above them all.

Then a cloud came over her face, and she flung away from him in disdain, and stood pouting like a child. And suddenly she turned again, and put up to her head the graceful creepers of her round arms, and undid the knot of her hair, and shook it. And it fell, like midnight, about those stars her eyes, and wrapped her all over like a veil, and rolled down round her feet and along the ground, like a black serpent. Then with her hand she put it away from her face, and shot through its meshes a subtle smile, and said: At least thou hast never seen the equal of my hair? And Umra-Singh felt

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her glance strike him like a thunderbolt out of a cloud. And he said to himself: Well may she ask; and now, if my soul were not already snared in the long lashes of the eyes of Slid, it would be netted like a quail in this extraordinary mass of never-ending hair. But he said: Beauty, lovely at night is the heaven with its stars, but lovelier still the dark blue sea, in which they are reflected, for it contains all their beauty, and adds another of its own.

Then Ulupí was very angry, and she stood with flashing eyes, swelling with rage. And suddenly she stooped, and gathered up her hair in her arm, and came up to Umra-Singh, and flung it round him like a noose, and whispered in his ear, with lips that caressed it as they moved: O foolish bee m, I am but a lotus of the night: yet why despise me, in comparison with the absent lotus of the day? It is hot and dusty, and I am cool and fragrant as the nectar of that moon in whose light I blow. And Umra-Singh trembled. For there came from her hair a strange wind, like a cloud of the sweet of a thousand scents, that lured his soul to listen and

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dream in the lulling murmur of her mouth. And as he closed his eyes for fear, he saw before him the blue scorn in the eyes of Shrí, and the sound of her laughter and the noise of the drums and the voices of the criers boomed in his ear, and drowned Ulupí's spell. And he shook himself free from her hair, and said: Beauty, I am a Rajpoot of the race of the Sun: what have I to do with a lotus of the moon?

Then Ulupí screamed, like a wounded elephant. And she seized him by the arm and shook him violently, and exclaimed: Hast thou a stone within thy breast, instead of a heart, that my beauty cannot touch thee? For I know that I am beautiful, and there is not beauty like mine in the three worlds. And Umra-Singh looked at her, and wondered, for her fury made her more lovely than before. And he said: O daughter of a Daitya, thou speakest the truth: yet a vessel that is full can hold no more, be the liquor what it may, and such is my heart. Let me now pass by thee, as undeserving thy regard: for I am bound for the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. Then said Ulupí, with a stamp of her foot: Fool! thou shalt never see that Lotus Land.

And she looked at him with a jeering laugh: and instantly she sat down, and wound herself up in

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her long hair, and began to weep. And as she wept, the tears ran down from her eyes like a river, and fell into the lake. Immediately the lake began to rise and swell, and flood the wood with water. And as Umra-Singh stood gazing at her with astonishment, he found himself standing in a vast marsh, with the trees of the forest for rushes. And he looked, and lo! suddenly that delusive daughter of a Daitya became a mist, and floated away over the water like vapour. And Umra-Singh heard her laughter dying away in the distance as she went, and he was left alone in the wood, with the water up to his waist.


56:f The Creator.

57:g From which the sandal wood comes.

58:h A kind of demon, 'a son of Diti.' (Pronounce dait- as white.)

59:i A reminiscence of Bhartrihari.

59:k Nothing can translate bálá. It means child, woman, beauty, beauté-de-diable.

59:l Wishnu's great breast-jewel (Kou as cow).

60:m This word here used may mean either a bee or a lover or a wanderer (bhramara).

Next: VIII. The Silver Swans