sun. And just in front of him there stood a little
hut, buried in the blossom of the malati
And in its doorway was standing a young Brahman woman,
with a pitcher on her head. And she beckoned to
him with a smile, and he looked, and lo! it was Natabhrukuti.
Then moved as if against his will, on feet that carried
him towards her as it were of their own accord, he
approached her. And as he drew nearer, there came
from that creeper a wave of perfume, resembling that
of jasmine, but sweeter, and so pungent that it entered
like fire into his soul. And then she lifted
the pitcher from her head, and set it down upon the
ground, and caught him by the hand, and drew him within
the hut. And there she cast herself into his
arms, whispering in his ear, very low, so as to caress
it as she spoke with her lips: My father is away,
and now we are alone, and the day is all before us.
Come now, what shall I do for thy delight? And
she ran and shut the door; and then, taking from a
chest rich clothes and splendid jewels, she began
to put them on, saying as she did so: See! am
I becoming more fit to be thy queen? And he watched
her, stupefied, like one in a dream, and all the while
she bathed him with intoxicating side glances shot
like arrows from the bow of her arching brows.
And at last, she came slowly towards him, walking on
tiptoe, and attitudinising, placing herself exactly
in the posture in which he had seen her first among
the poppies on the wall, with one hand on her hip.
And she said, lifting her brow, with a smile that stole
his reason: Now, then, the idol is ready for
the devotee. And at that moment the door opened,
and an old Brahman entered through it. And he
said slowly: Abandoned daughter, that hast forgot
thy duty in thy passion for this King’s son,
become what thou hast represented, an idol of stone
on the wall of a ruined temple far away; and thou
her guilty lover, fall into another birth, and be
separated from thy guilty love.
And then, Aja heard no more. The world whirled
around him; the blackness of night closed over his
soul; he uttered a terrible cry, and fell to the ground
in a swoon.
And when he came to himself, he was back again among
the poppies in the tamala wood. And he
was lying on the ground, with Natabhrukuti bending
over him, holding him by the hand, with anxiety in
her eyes. And instantly he started up, and seizing
his sword, stood gazing at her with stupefaction.
And he said to himself: Am I dead or dreaming?
And what does it all mean? Is it a delusion of
the Creator, or a mirage and a madness of the desert,
out of which I have never yet escaped at all?
Aye! beyond a doubt, I am wandering still in the waste
of sand, raving mad, and dying; and haunted by phantoms
that are the premonitors of approaching death.