2 JANUARY 1932, Page 15

The Last Song


[Translated from the Original Bengali by Bhabam Bhattacharya.]

IN the kingdom of Bhoja, the girl who went every morning to sing in the temple was a forest waif. Acharya, the musical instructor, said : " Once, at daybreak, a strange tune reached my ears. When, basket in hand, I went to pluck flowers in the woods, I found the baby under a parul plant."

Afterwards Acharya reared up the baby, who became to him dear as tambura, his musical instrument. Song came from her throat even before speech came from her lips.

Then Acharya lost his voice ; he was short of sight. His adopted daughter took care of him as though he were a child.

Youths came from far and near to hear her sing. Acharya saw them and his heart trembled ; for he knew that when the stem becomes loose the flower drops off.

The girl said : " I cannot live a moment away front you."

Acharya caressed her.

" The song that has left me has found expression in you," he said. " If I lose you, all my life's labour will have been in vain."

On a full moon night in the month of phalgun, when spring had come upon the earth, Kumarasen, the thief pupil of Acharya, made obeisance to his preceptor and said : " I have won Madhabi's heart. If you give your permission, sir, we shall wed."

There were tears in Acharya's eyes. " Fetch my tambura," he cried ; " and you two sit in front of me like a King and Queen."

Acharya took his tambura and began to sing. "I am singing the last song of my life," he said.

He sang the first line, but could not go on : the tune began to tremble like flowers heavy with drops of rain. At last he handed the tambura to Kumarasen and said : " Take my instrument." Then lie put Madhabi's hand on the hand of Kumarasen and said : " Take thou my life." And lie added " You two sing out my song to the end."

Madhabi and Kumara began to sing. It was as though the sky and the moon had joined their voices.

At this moment a royal messenger knocked at the door. Trembling, Acharya stood up and asked : " What is the King's pleasure ? "

The messenger replied : " Your daughter has been favoured by fortune. The King has summoned her." Acharya said : " Summoned her ? What for ? "

" To-morrow morning the princess will start for Kambhoja, where her husband lives. Your daughter will accompany her as a lady-in-waiting."

In front went the peacock-shaped palanquin of the princess. It was covered by satin and surrounded by armed guards. Madhabi's palanquin followed behind. From her eyes no tear came, but a glint of light flashed from them as from a sun-baked desert.

By the wayside, the figure of Acharya lay motionless on the dust like a broken twig of the asivatha tree. Beside him stood Kumarasen, tall and silent. Birds were singing in the woods and the wind was delirious with the fragrance of mango blossoms,