44. VIRTUE VINDICATED
Draupadi was too shy to speak of this to Sudeshna or to others. She gave out that her husbands were Gandharvas who would mysteriously kill those who tried to dishonor her. Her good conduct and lustre made every one believe in her story about the Gandharvas. But Kichaka was not to be frightened so easily and he sought persistently to seduce Draupadi. His persecution became so intolerable that at last she complained of it to Queen Sudeshna, and implored her protection. Kichaka, of course, had greater influence over his sister, and he shamelessly confided to her his unlawful passion for her maid and sought her aid to compass his wish. He represented himself as dying of desire. "I am so full of torment," he said, "that from the time I met your maid, I do not get any sleep or rest. You must save my life by managing somehow to make her receive my advances favorably." The queen tried to dissuade him but Kichaka would not listen. And finally Sudeshna yielded. Both of them decided upon a plan to entrap Draupadi. One night, many sweetmeats and intoxicating drinks were prepared in the house of Kichaka and a great feast was arranged. Sudeshna called Sairandhri to her side and handing her a beautiful golden jug bade her go and bring her a jug of wine from Kichaka's house. Draupadi hesitated to go to the house of the infatuated Kichaka at that hour and begged hard that someone else of her many attendants might be sent, but Sudeshna did not listen. She pretended to be angry and said sharply: "Go, you must. I can not send anyone else," and poor Draupadi had to obey. Draupadi's fears were justified. When she reached Kichaka's house, that wretch, maddened with lust and wine, began to pester her with urgent entreaties and solicitations. She rejected his prayers and said: "Why do you, who belong to a noble royal family, seek me, born of a low caste? Why do you take to the wrong path? Why do you approach me, a married lady? You will perish. My protectors, the Gandharvas, will kill you in their anger." When Draupadi would not yield to his entreaties, Kichaka seized her by the arm and pulled her about. But putting down the vessel she carried, she wrenched herself free and fled, hotly pursued by the maddened Kichaka.