91.THE DEATH OF KARNA
After the great Duhsasana's death, the army's hope rests solely on you. You must now bear the full burden. Like the gallant warrior you are, seek single combat with Arjuna, and win eternal glory on earth or the soldier's heaven!" At these words, Karna recovered his courageous spirit. With eyes red with wrath and unshed tears, he bade Salya drive the chariot towards Arjuna. "Enough of fighting," said Aswatthama addressing Duryodhana earnestly. "Let us terminate this disastrous enmity. Beloved friend, make peace with the Pandavas. Stop the battle." "What? Did you not hear the words that the stubborn Bhima uttered when like a ravening beast, he drank human blood and danced over my brother's mangled body? What talk can there be now of peace? Why do you speak vain words!" said Duryodhana. Saying thus, he ordered a fresh disposition of the forces, and gave the command for attack. Then followed a great battle. The son of Surya sent a dazzling arrow, which spat fire and made for Arjuna, like a serpent with its flaming double-tongue out. Then Krishna, Arjuna's charioteer, at the nick of time, pressed the vehicle down five fingers deep in the mud, so that the serpent shaft just missed Partha's head but struck off his helmet! Arjuna was red with shame and anger and he fixed a dart on his bow to make an end of Karna. And Karna's fated hour was come, and as had been foretold, the left wheel of his chariot suddenly sank in the bloody mire. He jumped down on the ground to lift the wheel up from the mud. "Wait a minute!" he cried. "My chariot has sunk in the ground. Great warrior as you are, and knowing dharma as you do, you would certainly not take unfair advantage of this accident. I shall presently set my car right and give you all the battle you want." Arjuna hesitated. Karna was now somewhat perturbed on account of the mishap. He remembered the curse that had been pronounced on him, and again appealed to Arjuna's sense of honor. Krishna intervened. "Ha, Karna!" be exclaimed, "it is well that you too remember that there are things like fairplay and chivalry! Now that you are in difficulty, you remember them indeed. But when you and Duryodhana and Duhsasana and Sakuni dragged Draupadi to the Hall of Assembly and insulted her, how was it you forgot them utterly? You helped to inveigle Dharmaputra, who was fond of play but was unskilled at it, to gamble, and you cheated him. Where had your fairplay hidden itself then? Was it fairplay to refuse to give to Yudhishthira his kingdom when according to the pledge the twelve years of forest life and the thirteenth year incognito were duly completed? What had happened to the dharma you appeal for now?