91.THE DEATH OF KARNA
WHEN Drona died, the princes of the Kaurava army installed Karna as Generalissimo. Karna stood up in his gorgeous war chariot driven by Salya. The dauntless confidence of his bearing and his great renown as a warrior heartened the Kauravas. The battle again began. Readers of the stars were consulted and the Pandavas chose the propitious hour for grim battle. Arjuna led the attack on Karna, supported by Bhimasena immediately behind his chariot. Duhsasana made a concentrated attack on Bhima and sent a shower of arrows at him. Bhima chuckled and said to himself. "I have this wretch now safe in my hands. I shall today redeem my promise to Draupadi. Too long has my oath waited for performance." As Bhima thus bethought himself of what Duhsasana had done to Draupadi, the anger within him blazed up uncontrollably and throwing down all his weapons, he jumped from his chariot and leapt upon Duhsasana like a tiger on its prey, hurled him down and broke his limbs. "Wicked beast, is this the wretched hand that held Draupadi by the hair? Here, I tear out the root from your body. If there be any here wishing to help you, let him come forward and try!" Glaring hatefully at Duryodhana as he roared this challenge, Bhimasena tore Duhsasana's arm out and threw the bleeding limb on the battlefield. And then he fulfilled the terrible oath he had taken thirteen years before. He sucked and drank the blood from his enemy's body like a beast of prey and danced on the bloody field, mad with passion. "I have done it!" he roared. "The oath I swore against this great sinner has been redeemed. It only remains to redeem my oath as regards Duryodhana. The sacrificial fire is ready. Let that victim also prepare." The scene made everyone shudder. Even great Karna was shaken as he saw Bhima in this ecstasy of wrath. "Do not flinch," said Salya to Karna. "It does not befit you to show any sign that may be mistaken for fear. When Duryodhana stands quivering in despair; it is not right that you also should lose heart.