14. Gopa and Suddhodana Grieve
GOPA had awakened in the deep of night. A strange uneasiness possessed her. She called to her beloved, Prince Siddhartha, but there was no answer. She rose. She ran through the halls of the palace; he was nowhere to be found. She became frightened. Her maidens were asleep. A cry escaped her lips:
“Oh, wicked, wicked! You have betrayed me! You have allowed my beloved to escape!”
The maidens awoke. They searched every room. There was no longer any doubt: the prince had left the palace. Gopa rolled on the ground; she tore her hair, and her face bore the marks of her deep despair.
“He once told me that he would go away, far away, he, the king of men! But I never thought the cruel parting would come so soon. Oh, where are you, my well-beloved? Where are you? I can not forget you, I, who am forlorn, so forlorn! Where are you? Where are you? You are so beautiful! Your beauty is unrivalled among men. Your eyes sparkle. You are good, and you are beloved, my well-beloved! Were you not happy? Oh, my dear, my beloved, where have you gone?”
Her companions tried in vain to console her.
“Hereafter, I will drink only to quench my thirst, I will eat only to still my hunger. I will sleep on the bare ground, for crown I will wear a hermit’s braid, no more sweet-scented baths will I take, I will mortify my flesh. The gardens are bare of flowers and of fruit; the faded garlands are heavy with dust. The palace is deserted. No longer will it ring with the happy songs of yesterday.”
Mahaprajapati learned from one of her maidens of Siddhartha’s flight. She went to Gopa. The two women wept in each other’s arms.
King Suddhodana heard the lamentation. He asked the reason. A servant went to inquire and returned with this answer:
“My lord, the prince can not be found anywhere in the palace.”
“Close the gates of the city,” cried the king, “and search for my son in the streets, in the gardens, in the houses.”
He was obeyed, but the prince was nowhere to be found. The king broke down.
“My son, my only child!” he sobbed, and fell into a swoon. He was soon brought to, and he ordered:
“That horsemen be dispatched in all directions, and that they bring me back my son!”
In the meanwhile, Chandaka and the horse Kanthaka were slowly returning from the hermitage. As they approached the city, they both hung their heads in dejection. Some horsemen espied them.
“It is Chandaka! It is Kanthaka!” they cried, and they galloped their horses. ‘They saw that Chandaka was carrying the prince’s jewels. They asked, anxiously:
“Was the prince murdered?”
“No, no,” Chandaka quickly replied. “He entrusted me with his jewels that I might return them to his family. He has donned a hermit’s robe, and he has entered a forest where dwell some holy men.”
“Do you think,” said the horsemen, “that if we went to him, we could persuade him to return with us?”
“Your words would be futile. He is obdurate. He said, ‘I shall not return to Kapilavastu until I have conquered old age and death.’ And what he has said, he will do.”
Chandaka followed the horsemen to the palace. The king summoned him at once.
“My son! My son! Where has he gone, Chandaka?”
The equerry told him what the prince had done. The king grieved, yet he could not help admiring his son’s greatness.
Gopa and Mahaprajapati entered; they had heard of Chandaka’s return. They questioned him, and they learned of Siddhartha’s high resolve.
“O you who were my joy,” said Gopa through her tears, “you whose voice was so sweet, you who had such strength and such grace, such knowledge and such virtue! When you spoke to me, I thought I was listening to some lovely song, and when I leaned over you, I inhaled the perfume of all the flowers. Now I am far away from you, and I weep. What shall become of me, now, for he is gone, he who was my guide? I shall know poverty, for I have lost my treasure. He was my eyes; I can no longer see the light; I am blind. Oh, when will he return, he who was my joy?”
Mahaprajapati saw the jewels Chandaka had brought back with him. She stood looking at them a great while. She was weeping. Then, taking the jewels, she left the palace.
Still weeping, she walked through the garden until she carne to a pool. Once again, she looked at the jewels, then threw them into the water.
Kanthaka had returned to the stables. The other horses were happy at his return and neighed in a friendly manner. But he did not hear them; he did not see them. He was very sad. He whinnied pitifully once or twice, and, suddenly, fell dead.