Lakshman was too stunned to reply immediately. "Urmila- please don't. I did not mean to hurt you. Take back your pledge"
"I will, Lord- when you return after fourteen years" replied Urmila.
A distant gong announced it was the last prahar of the afternoon. Lakshmana could sense brother Rama's footsteps outside.
"It's time for me to leave, Urmila" Lakshmana announced gently.
A sobbing Urmila fell at his feet. "Fourteen years is a long time, Lord. How can I live without you?"
"As I am going to live without you, dearest" Lakshama replied tenderly, bending down and lifting her. "Duty beckons us now Urmilla. I have to do mine as you have to do yours."
"I have one more request, Urmila.....which will ease all the hardships of the next fourteen years. Will you do it for me?" asked Lakshmana
"Command me, lord" replied Urmila unable to stop crying.
Lifting her face, Lakshmana wiped her tears with his fingers. "Will you promise never ever to shed tears in the next fourteen years? Of course, I will relieve you once I return and you can cry all you want"
Urmila's response was to sob harder.
Lakshmana shook his head. He placed his hand on her head by way of blessing and turning around, began to leave.
Urmila shook herself. What was happening to her? Couldn't she give a better send-off to her husband- something that will relieve him from worrying about her? She hastily wiped her tears and composed herself.
Lakshmana was nearly at the door.
"Aryaputra" she called out. Her voice was still quavering.
Lakshmana froze. He was not prepared to take any more sentimental mush from her.
"Aryaputra" Urmila began, walking towards him. His back was still turned towards her.
"Aryaputra, I have heard that rakshasis roam around in the forests. They are capable of assuming forms of beautiful women and lure innocent men. If by chance, some such rakshasi tries to flirt with you, do not forget you have a wife at home."
Lakshmana smiled and turned around.
He put his hand on her shoulder and said solemnly, "I won't. In fact, I will chop off her nose and bring it to you as a souvenir. Happy?"
Urmila smiled and held back the tears that were threatening to burst.
Lakshmana gave her one last look and was gone through the door.