44. VIRTUE VINDICATED
She fled to the court wailing loudly. But even there, intoxicated not only with wine, but even more by his power and influence, Kichaka followed her and kicked her in the presence of all with abusive words. Everyone was afraid of the all-powerful commander-in-chief and no one was bold enough to oppose him. Draupadi could not bear the sorrow and anger she felt at the thought of her helplessness under the intolerable insult offered to her. Her deep distress made her forget the danger that would befall the Pandavas if they were discovered prematurely. She went that night to Bhima and waking him up, gave vent to her agonized sense of wrong. After telling him how brutally Kichaka had pursued and insulted her, she appealed piteously to Bhima for protection and revenge. She said in a voice choked with sobs: "I cannot bear this any longer. You must kill this wretch at once. For your sake, to help you keep your promise, I serve in a menial office and even prepare sandal paste for Virata. I have not minded it, I, who have till now served only you or Mother Kunti, whom I love and honor. But now, I have to serve these wretches, fearful every moment of some disgraceful outrage. Not that I mind hard work, see my hands." And she showed her hands, which were cracked and stained with menial tasks. Bhima respectfully carried her hands to his face and eyes, and speechless with sorrow and pity and love, he dried her tears. Finally he found his voice, and said thickly: "I care not for the promise of Yudhishthira or the advice of Arjuna. I care not what may happen but I will do as you say. I will kill Kichaka and his gang here and now!" and he rose. But Draupadi warned Bhima not to be hasty. They talked it over and finally decided that Kichaka should be beguiled to come alone at night to a retired spot in the dancing hall where he should find waiting for him Bhima disguised as a woman, instead of Draupadi. Next morning, Kichaka renewed his hateful attentions and vaingloriously said to Draupadi: "O Sairandhri, I threw you down and kicked you in the presence of the king.