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Title: Told on the Pagoda - Tales of Burmah by Mimosa
Author: Chan-Toon, Mabel Mary Agnes Cosgrove, 1872-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Told on the Pagoda - Tales of Burmah by Mimosa" ***

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  TOLD ON THE PAGODA

  _TALES OF BURMAH_


  [Illustration]



  TOLD ON THE PAGODA

  _TALES OF BURMAH_


  By Mimosa


  ILLUSTRATED


  _LONDON_
  T. FISHER UNWIN
  1895



  _All rights reserved._



CONTENTS


                                            PAGE
  THE WOMAN, THE MAN AND THE NĀT               9
  A FABLE                                     23
  THE STOLEN TREASURE                         39
  THE VIGIL OF MAH MAY                        63
  THE PETITION TO THE KING                    85
  THE PRIEST'S PETITION                       99
  THE COMMAND OF THE KING                    117



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  1. A BURMESE VILLAGE GIRL                               _Frontispiece_
  2. PART OF THE PALACE OF THE KING, MANDALAY             _Facing p. 39_
  3. THE QUEEN'S MONASTERY                                _Facing p. 63_
  4. THE KING'S PALACE                                    _Facing p. 85_
  5. THE SHWAY DAGONE PAGODA                              _Facing p. 99_



THE WOMAN, THE MAN AND THE NĀT.


In every large tree there lives a Nāt, and it is a custom very
strictly adhered to that before any tree can be touched the permission
of the spirit must be asked and obtained.

Now a woodman cut down a tree one day without giving the Nāt who
resided in it the slightest warning, a proceeding which infuriated the
spirit exceedingly, and he determined to be revenged; so, taking upon
himself without delay the exact form and likeness of the woodman, he
gathered up a bundle of sticks and went in advance of him to his home,
in the brief warm gloom that precedes the fall of night. When he
reached the hut, that was as bare as a hermit's cell, thatched with
dunni leaves, and situated in one of the deepest recesses of the dense
sylvan growth, he placed the wood outside and went within. An oil lamp
stood on the wooden ledge of the entrance and threw a faint light on all
around. The wife of the woodcutter was busy boiling the evening rice, a
baby slept in its box-like cradle slung from a beam in the roof; a
little boy of five or six sat cutting plaintain leaves.

The Nāt greeted the woman; she answered him cheerily. Then he
squatted down on a piece of matting.

The rice being ready, the wife put it out on the plaintain leaves,
giving one to her supposed husband, one to the boy, and keeping the
other for herself. They ate together, and when they had finished drank
some water from the chatty standing near. Then they sat and smoked, and
talked together of the many little trifling events which went to make up
their world. The woman cleared away the remains of their meal, and took
out some betel chews and commenced to roll them, while the child slept
behind the purdah. About half an hour passed away thus, when lo! on the
stillness broke the voice of the woodman calling to his wife that he was
coming, saying that he had been delayed.

The woman heard in bewildered astonishment, then turned to the Nāt,
who apparently had not heeded the call, and asked him if she dreamt.

Then rising, she peered out into the gloom, just faintly relieved by the
rays of a young moon, and beheld the form of a woodcutter coming between
the trees, identically the same in figure and face as her husband who
was there beside her. The new-comer called her by her name again,
bidding her prepare something for him to eat, as he was tired and
hungry.

He threw the wood down that he carried, and entered, but staggered back
on seeing his counterpart squatting, quite at home, on the ground. The
woman looked from one to the other, and knew not what to do or think.

There was silence for a few moments. Then he who had come last asked,
when he had sufficiently recovered himself to speak--

"Who is this man who bears so strange a likeness to me?"

"I am the husband of this woman," answered the Nāt calmly, not even
removing his green-leaf cigar from between his lips.

"That cannot be," exclaimed the other indignantly, "because I am he."

The Nāt shook his head, and went on smoking.

The woodcutter, mad with anger and astonishment, turned excitedly to his
wife, and cried--

"Do you not know me, I, your husband, who left you only this morning? Do
you not know me, or do you forget so soon, that you accept a stranger in
my place?"

The woman looked from one to the other, and examined each carefully, and
was more puzzled than ever.

"Oh, wife, do you not know me, do you not know me?" moaned the woodman
in a grief-stricken voice.

The woman wrung her hands as she answered--

"I don't know if you are my husband; you are both so much alike that I
cannot tell." Then she broke down and wept.

And the Nāt hearing, smiled where he sat in the shadows.

After awhile the woman dried her tears, smoothed back her heavy masses
of black hair, and asked what was to be done.

They neither of them answered. Then she said, "Let us go and seek Manoo,
and abide by what he says."

Manoo was a very learned judge, who had been appointed, while still
quite young, Chief Justice of the King's Court, and was renowned for the
wise and prudent judgments that he invariably pronounced.

The Nāt objected to the proposition. Secretly he feared that Manoo
might perhaps guess his identity; but the woodman assented eagerly to
his wife's idea, and between them they overcame the other's dislike,
and the three started without delay, going through the forest between
the silvered line of palm-trees; the fire-flies danced before them, and
the bats flitted by like ghosts in the warm darkness. All that night and
part of the next they travelled, until they reached the Court of Manoo,
which was a large white building, supported by chunamed pillars, and
with many carved doors.

The judge himself, magnificently arrayed, sat upon a raised couch, that
was covered with scarlet satin, richly embroidered, and with a heavy
fringe of gold and jewels edging it.

The woman, the Nāt, and the woodman, leaving their shoes at the
gates, entered, and, seating themselves at a respectful distance on
separate pieces of matting, told their tale.

The judge listened in silence to the end; then he asked the woman if
her husband had any particular mark on him by which she could
distinguish him.

Her face lightened as she answered that he had a black mark on his back
and a red scar on his knee. Then Manoo had both men examined carefully,
but found that each had the same marks in the same places.

The woman became more hopelessly bewildered than ever, and knew not what
to make of the extraordinary circumstance; while the judge found himself
in a position of considerable difficulty.

He saw that he would have to consider the matter carefully for some
time; so he bade them go, and return on the following day at the same
hour.

Then he went home to his house, which was a gift from his royal master,
and was situated on a rocky promontory, with the sea rolling up almost
to the entrance. Seating himself alone in his study--the windows of
which looked out over the water to where a rich sunset glowed westward,
edging the waves with freckled lustre, and throwing purple, amber, and
azure lights over the white-crested waves--he became absorbed in deep
thought, as a result of which he came to a solution of the matter. On
the next day, therefore, when his three strange applicants presented
themselves before him, he had a wooden wheel brought into the room and
placed in the middle of the floor, saying at the same time--

"The man who shall go through the hole in that wheel will be a wonderful
man, and will be recognised as the real husband of this woman."

On hearing which the woodman protested, saying that it was impossible
for any human being to go through so small a space, that it was only
large enough to admit of an arm; and he grumbled greatly, saying that
the test was very unfair.

But Manoo bade him be patient and silent yet awhile. Then he turned to
the Nāt, and asked him what he thought. The Nāt, who was laughing
inwardly, at once replied that he could perform the task that the
woodcutter deemed impossible. The judge smiled a little complacently as
he bade him do it.

The Nāt immediately went to and fro through the hole with the
greatest ease, the woman looking on in speechless amaze.

Then said Manoo--

"I suspected yesterday that you were no mortal, but a visitor from the
Nāt country, and now I am, of course, convinced of it."

The Nāt hung his head, and the judge proceeded, saying--

"Why have you come from your own world, taking upon yourself this form
and shape, thereby causing so much pain and unhappiness to two innocent
people?"

The Nāt, seeing that he could no longer carry on his course of
deception, answered--

"In the season of the sun, and in that of the rain, for a greater time
than I can count, I have lived in a tree in the forest, where this
woodman comes every day. I troubled no one, and I was content till two
days ago, when he felled my home to the ground with neither warning
given to or permission asked of me. When other woodcutters have come,
they have and do always crave permission of the Nāt residing in the
tree to take from it even one branch. Therefore you must see that I
have had just cause to be angry."

Manoo then said that the woodman had certainly been wrong in the way he
had acted. Then, turning to the woman, he directed her and her husband
to hang up a dried cocoa-nut on the best side of their hut for the
Nāt to make his home in--an order which they promised to speedily
obey.

The Nāt said that he was satisfied with that arrangement.

Then the three, thanking the judge, withdrew and went homewards.

From that time forth all Burmese people hung, and still hang, dried
cocoa-nut in their houses for the spirits to dwell in.



A FABLE.


Two dogs walked in the jungle together. The day was intensely hot, the
rays of the sun, hardly tempered with any shade, fell through the
towering bamboos and palm-trees down on their tired heads.

They had come far; the way was very rough, the undergrowth very tangled
and dense. There seemed to be no end to it. Their vision in front was
obscured by the extraordinary wealth of orchids and green foliage that
was gracefully but thickly festooned from branch to branch.

Snakes glided away in the deep grass. Monkeys, squirrels, and birds of
all kinds contended for the undisputed possession of the different
trees.

"I am very tired; I don't think I can go much farther," said the lady
dog, who was small and delicate, to her companion.

"So also am I," was the answer.

"It was foolish ever to have come," grumbled the first.

"It was your fault," snapped the second.

"I did not say it wasn't, did I?" retorted the other, who, female-like,
had the last word.

Then they went on in silence for awhile. They both felt cross and
hungry; and when you are hungry and a dog bananas are not very
satisfying, and they were the only things near.

Presently they came to where a small stream flowed; the water was quite
warm, but they drank it and were grateful.

Then they rested, going on again just when the last rays of the sun
still showed above the dusky palm tops.

They hoped to reach a village before nightfall; but they were doomed to
be disappointed. There was not a sign of any habitation near when the
darkness began to close around. The stars twinkled brightly in a clear
violet sky of wondrous brilliancy. Close beside them was a tiger's
den--empty. They crept in and sank down, too weary to go further.

There were signs of its having been recently occupied, but they did not
heed them; and gnawed ravenously at some half-eaten bones that were
strewed about.

Then they curled themselves up in one corner and slept. After a few
hours the lady dog woke up and looked about her. Through the opening she
saw the moonlight falling on the country outside; everything was
strangely still, save for the distant cry of the jackal, and the healthy
snoring of her spouse, who reposed in the corner. She felt alarmed, she
could not exactly have told why, and awakened her companion, who
grumbled not a little at being thus rudely roused from his slumbers.

"Supposing," began his companion, not heeding his displeasure, "that the
tiger was to return."

"What!" cried the listener, sharply jumping up in extreme alarm at the
bare suggestion.

"Don't make that unearthly noise," said the lady, calmly. "I only said
_supposing_, and I was going to ask you what we should do in such a
case."

"Do! why, what could we do?--nothing, of course," was the somewhat
contemptuous reply.

Just then an ominous crackling of the branches outside made them prick
their ears. Creeping close to the opening, they looked out and saw in
the distance a large tiger coming towards them, a white light, clear
almost as the dawn, fell about him, showing his big head and striped
back. The watchers trembled exceedingly, and their teeth rattled.

"There is no time to be lost," exclaimed the lady in a hoarse whisper.
"We must trust to his never having seen any like us before, and we must
try and frighten him."

"Humbug and nonsense! Fancy our frightening a tiger," said the gentleman
dog with infinite scorn.

"Never mind, we'll try; you sit at the door while I remain in here. When
I roar--well, you'll see the effect."

The dog very unwillingly took up his position at the entrance to the
lair, and waited. In a second almost the great beast came slouching
along; his gleaming eyes glanced hither and thither, and there was blood
upon his mouth. Seeing the dog, he came to an abrupt pause, and stared,
then came a little nearer, but very cautiously.

Just then there came a cry from within, accompanied by the words, "I am
hungry, very hungry, and so are the little ones, they crave more tiger's
flesh; be quick and bring it."

The tiger, hearing, waited for no more, but turned and fled into the
night. He knew not what he had seen, but the words that he had heard had
turned him cold with fear.

He flew on away into the wood, not heeding where he went. Then, just as
the first rose flush of dawn overspread the sky, he sank down exhausted,
with a cold perspiration all over him. He fell into a troubled, weary
doze, from whence he was awakened by a banana dexterously aimed, hitting
him in the eye. Looking up he saw a brown monkey swinging itself on the
branch of a tree opposite, and regarding him with all that gleeful
self-satisfaction which a monkey is alone capable of.

"Well, my friend," it cried, mockingly, "what has put you out? You look
strangely pale and upset this morning."

"I have had sufficient cause," answered the tiger, rising and shaking
himself; "for when I went home last night I found it filled by the most
peculiar-looking animals that I have ever seen, who shouted for my
flesh."

The listener cocked its ugly little head on one side as it munched
bananas, and asked, "What were they like?"

"Don't ask me," exclaimed the tiger. "I was too frightened to see
anything save that they were white."

The monkey flung itself up higher among the boughs and laughed loudly
and long.

"If you don't stop that hideous noise I'll kill you," called out the
tiger very angrily, regardless of the fact that he could not get within
miles of his tormentor.

"Ha, ha! my friend," shouted the monkey, "the things that you were
frightened of were two poor lean dogs, that went by here yesterday. What
a great coward you are!"

"Coward or no coward, they would have killed me and eaten me."

"Eaten you! Oh, you great silly goose! With all your travels you don't
know any more than that dogs can't kill you. You can kill dogs."

"I don't believe you," protested the tiger stolidly.

"Don't then," said the monkey, laconically, as he turned a somersault.

There was silence for a while. The tiger sat down dejectedly while the
monkey watched him through the leaves and chuckled maliciously,
continuing to eat noiselessly as he watched.

Having once had sufficient himself, he was not indisposed to be a little
generous, so, taking some berries in one brown paw, he climbed down
nearer the ground, and tendered them to his melancholy friend as an
overture, saying as he did so--

"Eat and forget for awhile."

"I can never forget the loss of my dear home," was the melancholy reply.

"Nonsense," retorted the other one, who was practical, not sentimental,
and who had a hundred homes all equally comfortable in the forest.

"It's no nonsense," said the tiger, shaking his head.

"Well," exclaimed the monkey, after a few seconds, "if you really are
afraid to go back, which is ridiculous, I will come with you, for I fear
no dogs."

"I wouldn't trust you," replied the tiger, ungraciously. "You have
played me a scurvy trick or two before now."

The monkey became indignant, saying, "It is just like your mean,
suspicious nature to speak so to a friend who, out of pure good nature,
is willing to do you a turn. What motive can I have save generosity?--no
good can accrue to me personally."

The tiger grunted an unwilling assent, and began to think seriously of
accepting the offer.

"Well," he said at last, "if you will consent to be tied to my tail, and
to go in first to the den, my back being to you, and face the dog, I am
willing."

"Agreed," answered the monkey, who was an interfering little creature,
and was longing to have his finger in the pie.

So they went, the monkey tied to his friend's tail, chattering all the
way.

"Now," said the tiger, who was sullen and afraid as they came in sight
of his lair, "if you don't behave fairly to me I will murder you, that's
all."

"Never fear; I won't give you the opportunity of carrying out your
amiable intention, because I shall act only as your true friend,"
replied the monkey.

Then he pushed aside the thick-growing foliage and entered into the
cave, the tiger keeping as far away as possible, his hind-legs inside
and the rest of him out. The dogs were lying down, but roused
themselves on seeing their visitor.

"Well, monkey," shouted one, "so you have come at last, but that,"
looking behind him, "is a very lean tiger that you have brought. Why do
you do so when you know that we like them so sleek and fat, and----" but
the monkey heard no more. He was gone--jerked violently away by the
tiger, who, suspecting his fidelity all along, was convinced of his
perfidy by the words of the dog's greeting.

Away, away he sped, without turning back, over hill and dale, bump,
bump, bang, bang, went the poor monkey's body, while he vainly protested
his innocence in breathless, terrified shrieks. At last death came and
ended his pain.

The two dogs sat and watched them till their eyes grew tired.

They laughed greatly as one said to the other, "See what happened to the
monkey for interfering in other people's business."

[Illustration: PART OF THE PALACE OF THE KING, MANDALAY.]



THE STOLEN TREASURE.


In a lonely part of a large forest there dwelt four wise men of India
who owned a treasure consisting of gold, silver, and great jewels: like
all property it was a source of great anxiety to its owners, for they
always feared that it would be stolen from them. With that idea they
constantly watched it, counted it, and changed its hiding-place; burying
it sometimes under trees, or in a ruined well that stood not far
distant; at other times with them in the house.

For many long years they had kept it safely thus, so safely indeed that
gradually they grew a little less zealous in their guardianship: the
confidence born of long and unmolested peace made them somewhat
careless; and so in some inexplicable manner news of its existence
floated to the ears of a young man who dwelt in the town not so many
miles away, and he at once made up his mind that he would become
possessed of it. Being wise he only took counsel of himself, and bided
his time with much patience.

He made the acquaintance of the four recluses, and watched their
movements and studied their habits with much diligence. He was a
handsome, high-spirited youth, with manners that were frank and
engaging, and the old men liked to see him and talk to him, soon growing
to look forward to his visits.

Months passed, and he went to see them often. They conversed
unreservedly before him and trusted him as one of themselves.

As time passed and no opportunity of taking the treasure offered itself,
he began to be impatient, and was indeed almost reduced to despair when
he learnt, to his inexpressible pleasure, that they intended going on a
day's pilgrimage in the near future.

He laid his plans.

When the day came he rode to the forest on a pony, and, dismounting,
fastened it near by as was his custom, and went within. The garden, with
its moss-overgrown, decayed walls, was quite still save for the song of
the birds. The sun fell through the leaves of the trees and made
brilliant patches of light on the grass.

The rooms of the house were dark and cool and empty. There were the
broken remains of a meal and various things belonging to the absent
masters scattered about. The visitor looked round and about him
carefully, peering here and there, then, having quite satisfied himself
that only he and the feathered world shared the stillness, he smiled.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some hours later the pilgrims returned home: they had been far and were
wearied; they rested for awhile, then ate their evening meal and
prepared to make ready for the night. As was customary with them they
went to look at the treasure where they had put it in an upper room, to
find to their unspeakable horror and dismay that it was gone. They
looked on one another in mute amazement and despair; they beat their
breast; there were no words to describe what they felt in that hour when
they bewailed its loss in a helpless, hopeless way.

After awhile one of them said--

"He who has come here so many times of late with fair words and fairer
smiles, it is he who hath done this thing."

The others agreed that it was only he who could have, for no one else
had ever penetrated to their abode or shared their confidence. Too late
they bitterly rued having ever received the stranger.

They sat long that night talking. One said--

"We have no proof save our own conviction that he whom we met as a
friend and a brother has robbed us; therefore what can we do?"

The others answered him--

"We will seek the King, to our requests he has always leant a kind and
willing ear."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile homeward through the sultry night rode a horseman with a
heavy load.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the dawn broke, they who had been robbed set out together to seek
the Court of the King.

His Majesty, who was revered for his goodness, had one daughter who to a
keen intellect united great beauty, and was renowned throughout her
father's dominions and even in countries beyond the sea.

Whenever the King or his ministers were perplexed as to how to act in
any particular matter they invariably consulted the Princess, who on
each and all such occasions had guided them aright; while no chicanery
or fraud ever passed her undetected.

All that was brave, lofty, and good she admired, honoured, and followed.
All that was mean, low, and dishonest she abhorred.

United to a powerful mind were many womanly, gracious, and charitable
qualities, which made her beloved in humble circles as well as respected
in high ones.

Therefore when the four petitioners sought the King, it was with the
idea of humbly pleading for the Princess's assistance.

The King, who knew them, received them at once on their arrival and
listened to all that they had to say, agreeing with them in their
suspicions. He asked them, when he had heard their story, if they could
identify the property if they were to see it anywhere; to which they
answered, "Yes."

Then, bidding them rest and refresh themselves, he went himself to the
apartments of his daughter and told her the tale that he had heard. She
was very much interested, and gladly promised to do what she could,
telling her father that if the young man could be found and brought to
the palace she fancied that she could restore to them their lost goods.

Whereupon the King consulted the four, and a messenger was sent to
search and bring the young fellow with as little delay as possible. The
envoy of His Majesty found him whom they desired with but little
difficulty, who received the royal summons with much astonishment and
some fear. Instinctively he felt that it was with regard to the stolen
jewels that he was sent for, and he trembled not a little as he set out.

Were the theft ever to be discovered he knew full well that his
punishment would not be a light one. Almost he felt inclined to regret
that he had ever embarked on so hazardous a course, but then the memory
of the shining heaps of gold and silver and the glittering stones, and
all that they represented, came to him, and he laughed and shook off all
feelings of fear; for how, after all, he said to himself, could they
prove that it was he who was the thief?

When he arrived at the palace, therefore, he was quite light-hearted,
and walked through the lines of servants with a haughty, self-confident
air.

They ushered him through many halls and at last into a large and most
beautifully decorated apartment situated at the end of a long vista of
salons. The four walls had bas-reliefs of graceful figures of women in
coloured marble and uncut jewels. The hangings were of ivory satin,
embroidered with elephants and dragons in dead gold. From the ceiling
were suspended magnificent lamps of many finely blended colours. A large
fountain splashed softly near by; the floor was strewn with tiger
skins; the air was heavy with strong perfume; while the light from
without stole in subdued and cool through green blinds. But what riveted
the visitor's attention beyond all else was a couch of immense
dimensions stretching across the upper end of the room, reclining on
which amongst many cushions was a woman; overhead was a canopy of
fringed cloth supported by delicately chased silver poles inlaid with
turquoises. On a table of mother-of-pearl stood some cheroots and a
glass globe of water. Several attendants, gorgeously attired, lounged
near, and created a breeze with fans made of real roses.

The lady herself was very handsome, with a clear skin of an almost olive
colour, great eyes of a velvety darkness, and a soft, slow, sweet smile;
pearls clasped her throat, diamonds shone on her fingers, while gold
bracelets glittered on her slender bare ankles. She motioned her
somewhat bewildered visitor to seat himself near, and signed to the
attendants to withdraw.

He felt terribly nervous in the presence of this royal lady: she watched
him in silence for a few moments, fanning herself languidly the while;
she was uncertain as to how to open the conversation. He was very
handsome, certainly, she thought, as she looked, and with a figure as
lithe and graceful as that of a panther.

She raised herself a little and leant forward slightly; he started and
looked at her apprehensively.

"I suppose," she began, "that you are wondering why I sent for you?"

The tones of her voice were strangely liquid and clear.

The young man murmured something indistinctly in response.

She continued, "But for some time past, when the King and myself have
gone abroad, we have seen you often and have desired to know you."

The listener was trembling so with joy, relief, and surprise at hearing
such words, that he could find naught to say in reply.

Then she, perceiving his agitation, spoke to him gently and kindly for a
few minutes, in order to give him time to recover his self-possession.
Then, when he was more composed, she asked him many questions about
himself--questions which he gladly answered. Then after a while she bade
him go and to return on the morrow.

So he went from the seductive presence of the Princess with his head in
a whirl, and feeling as if he dwelt no longer on earth but in Nirvana.

On the morrow he returned, and for many days following, not a question
was ever asked. He was ushered always into the same room, where he was
greeted most graciously.

On the occasion of his fourth visit, after the Princess had conversed
with him on many subjects, she asked him somewhat suddenly if he was
betrothed or married.

And when he answered that he was not it seemed to him that she appeared
pleased. Then a long silence fell between them, which he of course did
not attempt to break.

"My friend," she said at last, and her manner was somewhat nervous and
embarrassed, "I am glad that your affections are not placed elsewhere,
because I myself, strange as it is for a woman to tell a man, desire to
wed with you. To my father's Court have come many who have sought my
hand in marriage, but in none have I seen those qualities which I admire
and esteem----" she paused.

The low, thrilling words stole on the listener's ear in sweet, subdued
cadence. Did he hear aright? He doubted it; he feared that he only
dreamt.

Then he looked at her where she sat, with her shimmering jewels glancing
a thousand hues, and his heart throbbed and his brain reeled, and he was
as if drunk with wine.

He knew not how to answer this beautiful, gracious lady.

How she must love him, he thought, when she could so stoop from her high
estate. He dropped on his knees before her. "Ah," he murmured, "where
could I find fitting expressions in which to tell you what I feel? Your
words have lifted me to complete Nirvana, I shall never dwell on earth
again. Speech is but a poor thing often, therefore I will not say much.
Deeds are best; it is by them, O Princess, that you shall read my
heart."

She smiled, and her eyes were softly tender as they met his.

"There is but one thing," she said, after a few moments; "my father must
not be told till after we are married; he would not sanction our union,
though he will forgive us afterwards. Therefore you must take me hence,
away from out the kingdom for some time; then, when my father's just
anger shall have faded, as it surely will, we will return together."

The young man listened in rapt attention, scarcely crediting even yet
his own great fortune.

"And yet I scarcely see," gravely pursued the Princess, after a short
silence, "how it can be managed."

She rose as she spoke and advanced to where a box of ivory, inlaid with
opals, stood, touched a spring and opened it.

"See," she cried, "this is all the money I own," taking in her hands a
few small worthless pieces of silver; "I have never required money till
now, all that I have ever wanted has been always beside me."

"Do not fear if it is only money that you need," answered the young man;
"for of that I have more than enough."

"Ah! is that so?" she exclaimed eagerly, turning to him a face of glad
surprise.

"At home," he continued, "I have much of jewels and gold which I got but
a little while back; sufficient to keep us in that luxury which is due
to your rank, for many a year to come."

"Go and fetch it," urged the Princess, "and return here at nightfall,
and I will go with thee to another life--a life of happiness such as
this world seldom holds."

Her great eyes glittered as she spoke.

He read in her words, her looks, and her gestures only the fond
impatience of a love long, secret, and denied.

He prostrated himself, and saying, "I will return at nightfall," left
her to hurry on his errand.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the early evening, when the darkness had only just fallen, he drove
in a carriage to the palace; he left it at a little distance from the
great gold entrance, and taking on his person much of his stolen
treasure, he was ushered into the Princess's room; the swinging lamps
were lit and shed a faint radiance on all around.

She was by herself, and greeted him in a manner that left nothing to be
desired.

Wishing to assure her of the existence of that money and those jewels
that he had spoken of, and feeling nervously elated, he drew from the
recesses of his turban and sash a handful of great stones, that were as
rivers of light; she gave a woman's delighted cry as she took them in
her hands.

He smiled, well pleased, and tendered a great ruby of wondrous size and
blood-red fire.

"These are but a few of what I have," he said.

"How rich you must be!" she exclaimed, "From whence did all these things
come?"

"Ah, Princess, what matter whence they came? Sufficient it is that now
they are yours."

As he spoke she, unseen by him, touched a gong of curious workmanship
that stood near.

Then she held the stones up to the light, praising their beauty and
worth, and asking many questions.

A short while passed and then a great door at the end of the room opened
and the King entered, followed by the four fakirs, and advanced to where
his daughter sat.

The young man's heart beat in alarm at the sight of those whom he had
robbed. And the Princess's first words did not tend to decrease the
feeling.

"Are these some of the treasures that you have lost?" she asked, handing
to the elder of the four the biggest of the diamonds and the rubies. He
took them in his hand, then passed them to the others, saying, at the
same time--

"These are ours."

"There stands the thief, then," said the Princess, pointing to the now
cowering shaking figure of the culprit, who looked piteously from one to
the other, feeling at the same time very enraged with himself for having
been so easily caught in the trap that had been laid for him. "It is for
you," continued the Princess, addressing herself to the four, "when your
entire treasure has been restored to you, to name his punishment."

The elder of them answered--

"We are so rejoiced to regain that which we had feared was lost for
ever, Princess, that we are willing that he should go forth unchastised;
his conscience, and what it will say to him, will be his punishment."

"That would be too light a sentence; for I doubt much if he has any
conscience," said the lady, as she seated herself.

"Then, Princess, will you relieve us by sentencing him yourself, as you
best will?" craved the four.

"No," she answered, "that I cannot do, I might be too harsh--I have
convicted him; let His Majesty, who is ever lenient, name his
punishment."

Then they all turned to the King, who said--

"I command that he be banished from this land for ever, and any property
that he has, or is likely to have, be confiscated."

[Illustration: THE QUEEN'S MONASTERY.]



THE VIGIL OF MAH MAY.


Mah May was a little Burmese girl who kept a small stall filled with
cheroots in one of the crowded many-coloured streets of Rangoon. There
she sat all through the sultry, languorous days smoking and waiting,
with philosophical calm, for customers; now and then a great, big,
well-fed looking Indian would stop and handle her goods, and, grumbling
perhaps a little, would eventually buy; or a lean Chinaman, in baggy
blue trousers, would pause and smile and talk awhile; or some little
naked child would come and beg one for nothing; or the black coolies,
their silver belts glittering in the sunlight, would cluster round and
bargain and quarrel among themselves, perhaps, in the end, throwing her
goods back to her with no very complimentary language; or a "Chetty,"[1]
airily attired in scanty white muslin, his shaved head protected by a
big cotton umbrella, would come and haggle over the annas as a poor
Burman would never dream of doing; then, again, a well-to-do woman of
her own race, dressed in silk, and with gold bracelets on her wrists,
would purchase, but they were always, as Mah May used to say with a
shake of her small head, the meanest of all.

  [1] Indian money-lender.

She was a bright little girl, though very poor; often hungry, and always
wretchedly clad.

For two years past she had squatted behind her tray, in the hot, hard,
cruel glare, when the sun beat on the flat-roofed white houses
mercilessly; when even the river, with its forests of ships, seemed to
cease to flow; when all things were gasping and weary and the gharry
wallahs slept soundly, and the poor lean ponies tried to flick the flies
off their backs with their tails; when the Indian shopkeepers stretched
themselves on wooden beds just in the shadow of their door-ways and
snored away, dreaming of rupees and curry; while only the pariah dogs
scratched and smelt in the road for something to eat. No one stirred;
the drowsy influence of the heat seemed universal. Or on the dull wet
days, when the sky was clouded and rain poured down, soaking everything
through and through, and the thin coloured dresses clung pitifully round
their owners' dark forms, and nobody had time to think of buying as
they passed on in the warm, damp, oppressive atmosphere. Still Mah May
sat, no matter what the season, rolling her cheroots, cutting betel
chews, and crooning some little song to herself. At mid-day she ate some
rice, and got a draught of water from a pump not far distant. Often some
one was kind, and gave her some fruit or a cake; oftener they were
unkind, but oftener still they were indifferent.

It was a hard life--very, and she was only seventeen. Yet was she
content. Nature had been her nurse. The sun and the rain had made her
what she was--a hardy, honest, upright little soul, envying and hating
no one.

When the shadows grew long and the green shutters of the shops closed,
Mah May rolled up her wares and wended her way homewards through the
noisy, many-hued crowds to a miserable wooden hut, which stood in dirty
yellow water, spanned by a rotten plank, and was situated in one of the
poorest and most squalid quarters of the town--a quarter in which
poverty, in its most hideous form, stalked. Half-clothed men, women and
children of all ages, dwelt together there, and kept life in them as
best they could.

In the huts there was scarce one piece of furniture, save perhaps a bed
or a roll of matting or a ragged purdah.

The scorpions, the white ants, and the great toads held high revel.
Amidst rows, hard words, evil things, cries of little children, and
growls of half-starved dogs Mah May dwelt, and was happy.

She did not know of any better life than hers. The day passed in the
fresh air under the changeless azure of the skies and the night curled
up in a corner of the hut, with the purple stars looking down through
some chink in the roof; and knowing of any other, it is doubtful if she
would have cared to exchange.

Mah Khine, a black-browed woman whom Mah May had lived with as long as
she could remember, was very good and kind to her in her own way; but
she had many children tugging at her skirt, and her life was a very hard
one. She was married to an Indian who had nearly all the faults of his
by no means faultless race; his past had been bad, his present was even
more so.

He counted the cost of anything, done or undone, as small if it only
brought in pice; pice sufficient to procure "toddy,"[2] the hot,
horrible, poisonous stuff kept in the little shop by a Chinaman in one
of the narrow, tortuous bye-lanes of the native quarter. To him it
mattered nothing that his children had oftentimes not enough to eat, and
that the lines about his wife's patient mouth deepened.

  [2] "Toddy" is composed of the juice of palms, and sold in those
        shops when fermented.

The passion for drink possessed him, to the exclusion of all other
feelings.

Stretched on a wooden settle in the crowded, dirty shop that abutted on
the still dirtier street, reeking with filth and smells, he passed his
time sunk in a semi-conscious stupor.

The proprietor looked upon Moulla Khan as one of the best customers he
had.

For him was his smile the sweetest, to him was he most accommodating in
the matter of money.

Of a day the frequenters of the place were comparatively few, but when
the night crept on, Pun Lun lit up his place with many sickly oil
lamps, whose light showed up the gaudy signboard with its ill-written
"Toddy Shop" on it, surrounded by a curious design in Chinese, and drew
the human moths round in dozens to smoke, drink, play, and talk. Indian,
Burmese, all countries were represented there in that crowded, noisy,
dirty place. The babel of many tongues broke on the ear afar off.

The neighbourhood was a notoriously bad one, so that the fighting and
sickening sound of blows that usually ended these gatherings of
convivial spirits excited no comment.

Even the deep groans from those who, wounded, lay helplessly for many
hours gained no sympathy or succour of any kind.

Often, but in vain, in the hot, sulphurous nights Mah Khine had found
her way there, and begged of the great coarse brute whom she called
husband to return with her, but for a long time past she had ceased to
plead, realising how useless it was.

And yet, strangely, with all his drunkenness and cruelty, the faithful
soul refused to desert or even see him as he really was. He had been the
chosen one of her girlhood, when she, young and pretty, had left her
people to wed this stranger out of India.

They had deemed her disgraced by the union.

They had been well-to-do people, and would have married her to one of
her own race.

Her life had held many bitter, unhappy years, but she was proud in her
way, and from her lips no word or moan had ever passed.

Children had come and multiplied, and though the wants of such people
are very few, often they had not the wherewithal to supply them.

But of late years things had been better, for Mah Khine, who had a keen
eye for business, had made and saved a little unknown to every one
except Mah May.

The money was kept buried away in a teak-wood box in a corner of their
damp, worm-eaten house.

Mah Khine's cherished ambition, trader that she was, was to open a
little shop, as many of her class did.

A little place filled with miscellaneous articles: pillows, lacquer
boxes, wooden trays, crockery, pewter pans, some sandals, and perhaps,
there was no knowing--that is, if she was lucky--some tameins and silk
potsos for the men.

There behind it the proud possessor, she dreamt that she would sit and
roll the cheroots and have her children by her, keeping an eye on the
younger as they played.

This picture Mah Khine often painted to herself; it was her ideal of
earthly bliss. She dreamt of it by day and night, but kept it locked up
in her own heart.

Anything that she could spare from what she made by washing the clothes
of her richer neighbours she put by so carefully, handling it so fondly,
storing it so cautiously: grimy brown pice, little silver pieces, one or
two soiled, crumpled notes, how often she looked at them and counted
them and took them in her lean brown hands! She would start out of her
sleep, fearing some one had stolen her treasure, that represented the
scraping together of two hard, long years.

There was some little history attached to every coin.

She remembered how each one was gained, every circumstance of toil or
sacrifice through which it was put by.

And not a soul knew, not a soul save Mah May and herself; Mah May she
could trust. Mah May loved her, and was as honest and true as a little
dog.

Mah Khine never left the box in the house with no one to mind it, for
fear it should be taken, though for two years gone by it had rested
securely and undisturbed in its hiding-place.

The knowledge of its existence, and what in the end it was to
accomplish, leant a courage to her to bear with the blows, the sickness,
and the abject poverty of her surroundings; it upheld her, it leant a
brightness to her eyes, a lightness to her feet when they would have
been otherwise pitifully weary. When she spoke there was oftentimes a
strange ring of gladness in her voice; for Hope, that wonderful
strengthener, dwelt with her.

So time went on, and it wanted but three months for the money to be
complete. They had been rarely lucky.

Mah May had sold well every day. Mah Khine had had much to do. A great
content abode with her. Even the morose, savage manner of her husband
troubled her but little.

The children flew at his approach, and hid behind the mud hill close by,
or their mother's ragged skirts, or anywhere they could, and she soothed
and comforted the little trembling ones as she best could, and on her
face was a happy smile.

"At last! at last!" she thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

One warm, clear night, when the sky glittered with stars, and a young
moon showed against it, Mah Khine made ready to take some silks that she
had been washing home. She had promised them, for it was the eve of a
great Buddhist feast. It was a long way for her to go, right across the
town, but she did not mind. So she cleared up the remains of their
evening rice, swept the floor with her straw besom, filled the
water-chatty standing in the corner afresh, bade Mah May to watch
carefully; and Mah May assured her, as she had often done before, that
if any one was ever to find out their secret, the money they should
never have, save they killed her first. So Mah Khine took up her bundle
and went forth into the radiance of the night.

Mah May looked after her until she was out of sight, and then squatted
down, smoking.

The hours went by; the lights were put out in the huts. Mah May felt
very sleepy and tired where she sat, but she was good--she remained
awake, staring out into space....

A tall, dark figure stood before her. It was Moulla Khan; he had not
been home for two days. His eyes were blood-shot, his turban
disarranged. He stood over her, and looked down at her. She trembled a
little; she feared him greatly. She stirred uneasily, but nevertheless
met his look without flinching.

He only uttered one word, and that in a voice which drink had rendered
hoarse and thick.

"Money." He spoke in Hindustani.

"I have none," she answered him in the same tongue.

He gave a sort of gurgling laugh.

"Look you," he muttered, "I know there is money hidden somewhere--pice
and annas and rupees--and I will have it; I know it, I tell you, I know
it."

"There is none," the girl replied. She had risen; she had her back to
the hole in the wall where the money was.

"Give it to me," he cried, in a voice of frantic rage.

"I do not know who has told you this thing," she said, "but it is not
true."

She felt chilly with fright. She knew that, once his suspicion aroused,
he would search till he found. She would be powerless to protect it.
Tears dimmed the fond eyes of the child. She knew, none better, all the
toil, privations, and hopes that lay in that poor little box.

Yet what could she do? She was so small and her strength so puny. If he
searched he would find it; its hiding-place was not so secure as to be
proof against those cruel fingers.

Though all Mah Khine's future lay there, she gave no sign of fear. She
kept her ground boldly. He shook her savagely, when she stood. She was
wondering who could have told him. She watched him with a dull,
throbbing brain move unsteadily round the wretched room, groping by the
light of the moon; feeling, feeling everywhere along the wall for holes;
turning over all the things; then, with a muttered word or two, out he
went on to the rafters, made of mud, behind, into a little piece of
ground; but there was nothing, nothing anywhere. Her breath came a
little quicker, a little more freely. Perhaps, after all--but, with a
bound, he was by her side. He nearly wrenched her slender, childish
wrists off. "It is there!" he cried in triumph.

She set her strong white teeth in his black arm; but with a brutal
gesture he flung her light weight from him. She fell with a dull, heavy
thud. He did not heed her for awhile, searching eagerly, thirstily, his
eyes glittering with cruel greed.

At last he drew it forth triumphantly, the poor little shabby
treasure-house, and took the money, letting some drop in his haste,
hiding it with trembling, feverish hands in his white linen jacket.

Then he put the box back, and turned to Mah May. He looked; she was very
still; he crept nearer and nearer, and his cowardly soul shrank within
him. The moonbeams had found her out and fell upon her thin, upturned
face. He peered round, he held his very breath; no one was stirring,
there was silence everywhere. His dark, acquiline face was as cunning as
that of any fox cub. He paused for a second or two. Then, as if a
sudden thought struck him, he gathered her up hastily in his arms.

She was a little heavy, but he was strong.

The river, that was drifting outward to the ocean, and the moon were the
only things that shared the secret of that night with him.

And they guard their secrets well.

       *       *       *       *       *

"If Mah May wanted the money, I would have given it to her, for I loved
her; she need not have left me," Mah Khine said, with a great sorrow and
sense of desolate despair in her heart, and tears in her honest eyes,
when Moulla Khan told his tale.

She never learnt different--she never will--unless, indeed, the day
dawns when the sea shall give up its dead.

[Illustration: THE KING'S PALACE.]



THE PETITION TO THE KING.


In the reign of King Mindoon, who was the father of King Theebaw, a
servant sent a petition to him in which he set forth that he had been
his humble and faithful servitor before his accession to the throne, but
now, although seven long years had gone by since then, he had remained
forgotten and unnoticed. Continuing in this strain for a space, he ended
with the following parable:--

In the Zita country there lived a King who had a son named Padoma, whom
he sent to Thakada to be educated, and with him he sent a young
attendant called Thomana.

For three years they stayed at Thakada, at the end of which period the
Prince, having completed his studies, prepared to return home; on their
way, travelling by easy stages, they paused at a small village situated
in deep-wooded lands, where a great feast was being held. Hundreds of
people had gathered there from all parts. A large tent was erected in
one part, where a banquet was spread, to partake of which they humbly
begged the Prince.

And he willingly accepted.

On the ground had been spread matting, on a part of which a gorgeously
embroidered scarlet cloth with a golden fringe was put for the Prince,
and a white one, less magnificently worked and with a silver fringe, for
his friend and attendant Thomana.

When they had seated themselves, the rest of the company did likewise,
remaining, however, at a distance, and separated by a cord.

Now Thomana was very learned in astrology, having read and thought
deeply on that subject, and he knew as soon as he saw the Prince seat
himself on the red cloth that he would become King upon that very day.

It was a brilliant assembly, every one clad in delicate silks of all
hues, and glittering with jewels. The feast lasted long, it seemed,
indeed, as if the constant succession of dishes was to be an endless
one. All were in the best of spirits, and laughed and talked greatly.

When the Prince had finished his repast, he was shown into an inner
tent, where a couch of the same royal colour had been placed, and in
front was a slightly raised platform of bamboo, draped with violet and
rose-pink satin, richly worked and lighted with lamps, that shed a
subdued radiance round and about the little graceful figures of several
dancing girls who had been bidden to dance for his royal highness.

Their dresses were so formed as to represent armour, and on their heads
were similar coverings. They performed peculiar, dreamy, kind of
movements, amidst a mist of varying hues. The Prince was much
interested, and postponed retiring until late.

Thomana, having bidden his royal master good-night, felt disinclined for
sleep, so, strolling into a park-like demesne that was adjacent, he
seated himself under a large tree, whose branches spread for a
considerable way, and became lost in thought.

It was a glorious night, with not a sound in the air save the soft whirr
of some purpled-eyed or golden-winged insect as it floated by in the
darkness. As he sat there musing on the events of the evening and the
future of the Prince, two large leaves fell from above into his hand:
one was old and withered, the other was fresh and green. "Ah," he
murmured, as he looked at them, "in the same way as an old and a young
leaf drops from the tree, so may a man full of years and one who is in
the morning of life die at the same time."

In the midst of his meditations, which lasted long, he became a
rahan,[3] and was taken from the garden to the Gandremadana Mountains.
At the same time a chariot of pearl, drawn by four pure white horses
with trappings of gold, was on its way to the Prince to carry him back,
as his father had died that day. Following the chariot came four
ministers and a train of Court officials, accompanied by soldiers.

  [3] "Rahan," _i.e._, one possessed of supernatural powers.

They awakened the sleeping Prince and acquainted him with their news.
Then, when he was prepared, he stepped into the chariot that was
waiting, and was borne with all speed to the palace, where he was
proclaimed King the following day with the utmost pomp, ceremony, and
rejoicings.

In his new life, and amidst his many duties and responsibilities, he
entirely forgot the existence of his attendant, who had been his
constant companion for three years; therefore his absence passed
unrecorded and unnoticed; for what the King forgets the courtiers must
never be unwise enough to remember.

At the end of thirty years, when the King was getting old, he remembered
Thomana, and wondered greatly where he might be. Whereupon he
immediately caused it to be made known throughout his dominions that he
would give a lac of rupees to any one who should give him any news of
his lost servant.

Now Thomana, owing to his great piety and powers of clairvoyance, became
aware immediately of the fact that his old master had recollected him,
and desired his presence. Therefore he went at once to the garden where
he had been seated before he attained his rahanship so many years
before. Close by the tree, under whose branches he had sat, were four
shepherd boys, their flocks grazing near, while they themselves talked
together of the big reward that the King had offered for news of his old
servant.

Thomana, coming through the leafy aisles, heard them, and accosted them,
declaring that he was the person whom the King desired. They rose and
glanced at him doubtingly.

"Let two of you," he said, "go to the palace and tell His Majesty, that
I await him here." To which they assented.

A short while passed, and then an immense carriage, glittering like gold
and silver in the sun, and followed by others less imposing, could be
seen coming rapidly along the white winding road. Pulling up at the
entrance, the King himself alighted, and came through the gates, that
were all brazen and blazoned, straight towards Thomana, his arms
outstretched to embrace him; but he whom he would have greeted so
cordially stopped him, saying--

"I am now a rahan; with men, their feelings, their passions, their brief
triumphs, and sorrows, likes and dislikes, I have no affinity." Then he
folded his arms and stood in silence.

His face was very cold and still.

The King, looking at him, saw that he was poorly clad, and bent, and
thin, and pressed him to return to the Court, where he promised him
money and many wives.

But the rahan answered--

"I do not need wealth, nor any of the poor fleeting pleasures that this
world can offer. Let your Majesty come with me instead, and visit my
abode of rest."

"What is it like, this place," inquired the King in wonder, "that it can
render its inhabitants indifferent to what we esteem the most desirable
of all things in this life?"

"It is situated far from here," replied Thomana, "and the approach to it
is a broad, long avenue of gorgeous blossoms, such as you have never
dreamed of, that bloom for ever, with a perfume that is at once dreamy,
drowsy, and infinitely sweet; vast sprays of water spring from the
mouths of silver dragons; over head the branches of trees interlace,
showing but a strip of blue sky through their quivering leaves. For
hours can you wander amongst these mazes of roses, this wonder of colour
and beauty. At the end of the grove is situated an immense tree, larger
than aught that you have seen and higher than any eye could reach. It is
surrounded by columns of marble that glow like jewels. Here the nāts
and fairies dwell, with nothing to disturb their seclusion and solitude
save the sound of falling waters and the song of birds. While over all
is cast such a spell as this life does not hold. Ah! beside the
perfection of that world, how poor and valueless are the things of this!
There one talks with the gods and dwells in worlds beyond the sun. There
is no room for regrets or for desires. There every one is beautiful,
therefore we do not covet beauty. There wealth is common to all,
therefore we do not desire it. There all are equal, and love and
goodness are the aim and end of all things. Come and see for yourself,"
he added.

And the King, marvelling greatly at what he had heard, went. And there,
in the midst of those divine surroundings, with naught to disturb the
mind from the good, he wandered, awed and silent, but not afraid. In
those cool, wide halls of bliss, all memories of grosser things and ways
faded into nothingness. He forgot his kingdom, and was by it forgot.

[Illustration: THE SHWAY DAGONE PAGODA.]



THE PRIEST'S PETITION.


It was the custom for the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ava to be
placed, while young, in a monastery with the priests, to be instructed
in a manner suitable to the position that he was destined to occupy.
Prince Min Goung, while a boy, was put under the special care of the
Phoongyee Shin Ah Tah Thaya--a prudent and learned man, who gave all his
time and wisdom to his pupil.

Min Goung was of a proud and wilful nature, and one who would not
willingly bend his haughty head to any yoke, however light and silken.

One day his reverend teacher punished him, for persistent bad writing,
somewhat severely--an act which he regretted afterwards, thinking,
perhaps, that he had been over harsh.

Time passed away. The King died, and the young Prince was crowned. Then
the priest began to fear that his former pupil might do him some harm,
for he imagined that he had never forgiven him the liberty he had taken
in chastising him. So he quitted his retreat, and fled to Prome for
safety. Disliking his enforced banishment, he determined to write and
crave for pardon; and in the course of his long appeal, written on palm
leaves, was the following story:--

"There was a king of Bayanathee, learned and merciful, who had a hundred
sons, each of whom, when old enough, was given into the hands of a
carefully selected instructor to be taught those subjects for which he
had the greatest taste. When each was grown up and had completed his
education, he was appointed a governor of a portion of the royal
dominions; and so ninety-nine of the Princes had been educated and been
presented to the King and received their appointments. Prince Thanwara
was the youngest of them, and was taken care of by a distinguished
minister, who began and continued his instruction in a way that was very
suitable to the quick natural intelligence of the boy; and when the time
came for Thanwara to go to his father, his teacher accompanied him.

"When they came before the King--who was seated on a throne of silver
and agate, with golden doors behind him--he asked his son if he had
learnt and completed the same course of studies as his elder brothers,
and the young Prince answered him--

"'I am sufficiently qualified, sire, to take upon me the same duties and
responsibilities as those of my brothers who have gone before.'

"The King was satisfied with the reply; and then, after a while, the
Prince and his tutor returned to their home.

"Talking to the tutor before he slept, Thanwara said--

"'If the King my father offers me the same position as he has bestowed
on my brothers, will it be well with me to accept it?'

"The teacher made answer thus--

"'If a man, O Prince, desires to partake of the Bandaya fruit, which
only grows in Nirvana, can he obtain it from its tree from the distance
of a hundred yujanas (eight hundred miles), or would he rather not stand
under the tree and take the fruit with a hooked bamboo? In the same
way, if you wish to sit on the throne it is best for you not to go from
here, but to remain in the shadow of the palace.'

"The prince listened, and then, when he had heard to the end, he said--

"'Then, my teacher, when to-morrow I go before my father, and he asks me
my desires, what shall I make reply?'

"'Ask of him to bestow on you the rents of the bazaars and the produce
or the royal gardens within the city gates.'

"'Of what benefit would such be to me?'

"'The greatest benefit, my son. For those who have money have power, of
which truth I will give you an illustration:--

"'A timid doe in the forest, when it once sees a leopard, will fly, and
hiding carefully, will not venture to stir out again for many days and
nights; but on the other hand, retiring as it is by nature, it will, if
a person constantly feed it, so far lose its timidity as to approach him
and take from his hand. Therefore, my son, if you give presents often to
the favourites and the advisers of the King, you will gain their
confidence and their liking.'

"On the following day, when the Prince reached the palace, and his
father asked him to name the province that he wished to govern, he
answered thus:--

"'My brothers have all gone from you to distant parts of the world to
guard over your vast possessions; let me then remain here to be your
Majesty's attendant, and render you that care and assistance in
sickness, in health, and in trouble, or any other trial, that affection
can alone offer.'

"The old King was pleased, and granted unhesitatingly what he was
asked.

"From that day forth Thanwara received the rents and profits of the
bazaars and gardens, and took up his residence near the throne, in the
white palace of his father.

"Gradually his winning manners, his deference to his elders, his many
thoughtful and beautiful gifts, and, lastly, his own piety and learning,
gained for him the first place in the hearts of those who were about the
Court.

"So the years fled away, and were counted with the past.

"But when the tenth year was young, the King's health failed him; he
felt that the sands of his life were nearly run. So about him he
gathered his ministers and advisers. After they had expressed their
sympathy and regret at finding him ill, they inquired which of all his
sons he would best like to wear his crown when he was gone.

"The dying King raised himself from the low couch on which he was
reclining, and, propped by many cushions, answered their question in
this wise:

"'A hermit was one day coming from his lonely Himalayan abode through a
forest. Over his head, as a sunshade, he had an enormous flower, called
the kakayu mala, which is found, as you are aware, only in the Nāt
Country, and its fragrance reached to the distance of one yujana (eight
miles). On his way he encountered four fairies, each of whom saw and
coveted the blossom. They all in turn asked him for it, but he said, in
reply to their request, "I can only give it to the most virtuous and the
most excellent of you all."

"'Whereupon each protested, all contending for the honour.

"'But the hermit, who was discreet and prudent, said, "How can I, who
have no means to judge, decide? To me you all seem worthy of it, equally
charming, and deserving in all respects, therefore had I four flowers I
would divide them gladly between you; but as there is but one, and that
one incapable of division, we will refer the matter to the King of the
Nāt Country, who has the all-discerning eye."

"'So they went.

"'They had not to travel far before they came to his green and gracious
kingdom.

"'They made straight for the beautiful ivory palace where the King
dwelt, and were ushered into where he sat on his throne, composed
entirely of the very flowers.

"'He inquired what brought them before him.

"'They told him. Then he thought for a little time, while they waited at
a distance. When he called them to him and said--

"'"There is a rahan residing in the Kisokok Mountains to whom I will
present a golden pineapple; then the four of you shall go and seek him
and ask him for it. The person whom he shall give the golden apple to,
that person shall be the most worthy in every way to be the recipient of
the flower."

"'They thanked him, withdrew, and started for the Kisokok Mountains.

"'When they arrived there the rahan requested each fairy to take up her
position according to the four directions of the earth--north, south,
east and west--which they did, while each clamoured for the prize.

"'Then the rahan asked them their names, to which the eldest replied,
"Thada" ("Charity"); the second, "Thati" ("Peace"); the third, "Hiri"
("Modesty"); the fourth, "Ootoppa" ("Virtue").

"'When the rahan heard he gave the golden apple into the hands of
Ootoppa, saying, as her name represented, she was the most deserving.
Then she went to the hermit, who presented her with the beautiful
flower, and from that moment she was esteemed the most virtuous and most
excellent of all women in the Nāt Country.

"'Therefore,' continued the old King, addressing the ministers around
him, 'you must be the hermit in this case.'

"Before that day was over he was dead, and was interred with great
honours and many lamentations.

"Then the advisers, with no delay and no hesitation, elected Prince
Thanwara to succeed his father; but when the news reached the other sons
in their distant territories they were filled with wrath. The second
sent to his elder brother a letter, in which he said that the ministers
of their late father were weak and corrupt, and very wanting in
foresight in allowing themselves to be persuaded into placing the
youngest of all on the throne, thereby disregarding the principle of the
ancient rule of succession; for (continued he) in the Ahrottaya Country
there was a King who had three children, two sons and a daughter, born
of the chief Queen. When the eldest son was sixteen years of age the
Queen died. The second Queen thereupon became chief, by whom the King
had a son, and when that son reached eight years of age the King was
bitten by a snake, a fact which frightened him greatly. The Queen,
however, who was quick to think and very brave, sucked the poison from
the bite. The King, being filled with gratitude, asked her to make any
request that she liked, which he would grant, whereupon she immediately
begged that her son might be selected as the heir to the throne, and to
her inexpressible satisfaction the King gave his consent.

"A while later his Majesty sent for Narada, a soothsayer, who was asked
to calculate his term of life. Narada told him that he would live twelve
more years. The King then sent for his three children by the dead queen
and acquainted them with the soothsayer's prophecy, telling them at the
same time that they must quit the Court and find a home elsewhere for
twelve years.

"Sorrowing greatly, they obeyed. After nine years the King died of grief
for the absence of the children that he had sent from him.

"The Queen lost no time in scheming to put the crown upon her son's
head. But the chief minister opposed her, saying that the eldest boy
still lived and could not be put aside.

"Then he took the crown and all the insignia of royalty, and with many
attendants and great state travelled to where the eldest son resided,
and offered the throne to him.

"The Prince met him with the argument that the King's commands extended
to twelve years, and that, as only nine had elapsed, his step-brother
must reign for three years. Then he gave the minister a pair of
slippers, worked with wheat, to give to his half-brother, with the
direction that they were to be placed on the judgment-seat, declaring,
as he did so, that if any decision is illegal or contrary to the right,
the slippers would of themselves rise and touch each other as a protest.

"'Wherefore,' continued the brother's epistle, 'as the ministers have
not paid you the respect of deferring to you in the matter, we should
prepare to go to war with Thanwara.' The elder brother, on receiving the
above, addressed a letter to his youngest brother, in which he requested
him to surrender the crown or to prepare for hostilities.

"Prince Thanwara sought the advice of his chief minister in his
perplexity, and he told him that, according to religion, he must not
oppose his elder brother.

"'Then,' asked Thanwara, 'what am I to do?'

"The chief minister answered: 'Divide all the property in the kingdom
into one hundred shares, and give each equally.'

"And it was accordingly done, upon which the eldest brother, being quite
content, left the youngest in the possession of the throne, saying that
a hundred kings could not reign in one country, and that, if they tried,
it would be for the woe of the people.

"So all the brothers went back to their own in peace and amity."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the King of Ava read the priest's letter, he was so well pleased
with the narrative that he sent a messenger to him, and appointed him
head of the ecclesiastical body, with a residence near the palace.



THE COMMAND OF THE KING.


There was a King of Amarapoora, who reigned in a time long past.

He was young and beloved, and fair of form and face, and his people
lived but to obey his lightest wish. He dwelt in a palace of crystal,
surrounded by gardens, of whose beauty no tongue could tell. He had
money and lands and gems, and beautiful wives and unnumbered treasures,
gathered from all lands.

He could have whatsoever he willed, and go wheresoever he listed. His
days and nights were one long dream of gladness.

No enemies plagued him; no troubles of any sort visited him; his coffers
were well filled, and his ministers were faithful and wise; and yet, in
spite of all, he was weary of everything, more weary than he could say.

He drank from a goblet of gold, rimmed with a band of pearls, and his
clothes were studded with rubies and emeralds; he was flattered and
courted and envied as no monarch had ever been envied before, and he was
more discontented than the poorest subject in his realms.

Above and around and about him was all that is most conducive to
happiness, but within him were fatigue and desolation.

All that he had ever wished for had been given unto him; never had the
gods left unanswered his prayers; other and better men's they turned a
deaf ear to, but not so this King's, and now he had nothing more left
to crave for.

He had supreme power vested in his hands, but he was indifferent to it;
he owned everything that the heart could desire, and those very
possessions were killing him.

For the trail of the serpent of satiety lay over his garden of Eden.

Never had his eyes rested on disease or want or poverty, or anything
that could distress his mind.

All gifts and graces had been showered upon him; his sins were buried
in oblivion, or cited more admiringly than the virtues of others.

When he went abroad on his white elephant, with its trappings of scarlet
and silver, the very air was perfumed with otto of rose, while the
people bowed and kissed the dust through which he passed.

Attached to the palace were many hundreds of officials, players,
dancers, jugglers, and clowns; for the King sought only one thing, and
that was--Amusement; of which, in no matter what form it was presented
to him, he soon tired.

Constantly was the country being searched for some one with a ready wit,
an inventive tongue, or a nimble foot, to pass the hours for the Lord of
the City of Gems.

Tellers of marvellous stories, more wonderful than the Arabian Nights,
had come, and tried their little best to please.

There were those who travelled specially to other countries, but to
return and tell him of all that they had seen, and of how inferior all
lands and rulers were when compared with their own.

Dancing women, with the classic limbs and straight black brows of
Egypt, sought his favour.

Eyes that were as loadstars in their brilliancy wooed him with a
thousand glances.

Circassian women, with sun-flecked tresses, were his willing slaves.

Men of great learning asked nothing better than to gain his ear awhile,
but all fatigued him soon.

And, like a child, he cried for something new.

Then one day a stranger from India presented himself at the great gates
of the palace, saying that he brought a game called Chess to teach the
King. They who loitered round the entrance bade him scornfully to
"begone." What would he of the Golden Feet do with red and white figures
like that? they contemptuously asked.

But the Indian protested, craving humbly to be granted an audience.
Then one, who was more kindly than the rest, led him through the green,
silent gardens, with their aisles of gorgeous roses; by spray-splashing
fountains, fringed with the lotus-flower; up a flight of marble steps on
to a terrace where peacocks strolled; through carved doors, from which
stretched an endless vista of halls and rooms filled with numerous
attendants, who formed a mass of marvellous colour; carpets and rugs of
velvet-like softness were strewn about; ivory of wonderful workmanship;
things of all precious metals, together with stuffs of delicate hues and
lovely texture; to a chamber handsomer than any that had gone before,
where at one end, seated on a couch, clad in an odd, rich fashion, and
shaded by a large umbrella, was the King, his bare feet resting on a
stool; to his right was a golden spittoon, while to his left stood a
slave holding a jewelled betel box and some green cigars.

The Burmese prostrated himself almost full length, motioning the Indian
to do likewise, explaining at the same time the object of their
presence.

His royal master received them graciously, inquired into the merits of
the game, finally declaring that he would be taught it there and then.

From that time forth he devoted himself to play with an eagerness
entirely foreign to his nature. He paused for nothing, never going
without the palace. The days seemed not half long enough. The courtiers
were inclined to congratulate themselves on having at last found
something that seemed likely to continue a favourite with the King,
until they saw how high the Indian was rising in his favour, being
loaded with money and presents, and thereby becoming a cause of bitter
envy and jealousy on the part of the Burmese ministers.

Nor did his haughty, overbearing manner tend to soften their resentment.
Many were the plans that they made to cause his downfall, but in vain.
Every one of the plots failed, while he whom they conspired against
seemed to grow but dearer to the Lord of the Rising Sun.

Time passed.

Then one came called Nicomar from a great distance, who brought painted
cards and dice wherewith to amuse the monarch, the like of which had
never been seen before. And the King, like a spoilt baby, was delighted
with this new toy, and thrust away the chess from his sight with
disdain.

And those round about were so glad of the change that they hardly
grudged the new-comer the honours that their royal master began to
speedily heap upon him.

The days went by, and His Majesty did nothing but recline on his crimson
and golden cushions, playing and rattling the dice-box.

Then, after awhile, he took to enlivening the game by hazarding large
bets with his teacher--bets which generally meant the performance of
impossible feats by Nicomar, with many penalties attached to their
non-accomplishment.

Often and sorely was Nicomar's subtle mind perplexed to devise means of
circumventing his master's wagers, and of distracting his attention to
other and more entertaining matters. Nicomar lived always in fear of
losing his place at the palace. Inwardly, he hated this unreasoning and
unreasonable monarch, whom nothing pleased for long; outwardly, he was
the most docile, obedient, and fawning of servants.

Carefully did he veil his night-like eyes, lest the hatred that shone in
them sometimes might be read by those around.

Prostrate before the King, he seemingly lived but for his smile.

The burning days and the sultry nights he devoted to his service; while
others slept he sat wakeful, thinking out new forms of amusement, new
ways to distract the King, and enable him to retain that place which to
him, hitherto most poor and friendless, was as the sorcerer's golden
apple.

For Nicomar there was but one god--and that god was wealth.

He laboured and strove for and endlessly desired it.

A year went by, and still he remained the favourite, and he began to
feel a little more secure and at ease....

"Nicomar," cried the King one day, as they sat together in the sunset
glow, "I have resolved that you shall put milk where the sea now is. I
have tired of water, and I desire instead an ocean of milk."

Nicomar stared in dismay.

"That which your Majesty wishes is impossible," he made answer.

The King frowned.

"Impossible is no word between you and me. That which I command must
never be impossible," he exclaimed angrily. "Hitherto you have obeyed my
orders; do so now."

The Indian trembled, but dared not protest.

"Fill up the sea with milk in fourteen days from now and your reward
shall be all that even you can desire;--fail to do so and you shall die
by all the tortures possible within an hour. Do as I say and your place
shall be the very highest here: your power shall be well-nigh limitless,
your name shall be on all lips; men shall crouch at your feet; you shall
have a finer palace and greater wealth than any in the land. Save
myself, you shall be great and free, while those whom you love shall be
raised also."

Nicomar salaamed silently.

The King continued:

"You have known what it is to be lowly and despised; you have been
mocked and reviled at,--what greater or sweeter vengeance then to see
those very people bow down before you your slaves? I desire this thing
so much that any price you like to name I am prepared to give."

The Indian answered never a word.

He knew of old that once the King commanded it was useless to do aught
but comply.

This reward, great as it was, could never be his, for to earn it was
beyond anybody's power.

"Begone, now," continued His Majesty, "and return in fourteen days' time
to claim your prize, or----" and his gesture was more eloquent than
words.

Nicomar, with sorrowful, halting gait, went from his august presence.

He sought without delay the quietude of his own rooms. He was well-nigh
distracted. From many difficult predicaments he had with consummate tact
and skill extricated himself, but from this there seemed no escape.

He beat his breast and tore his hair. He consulted the wise men and the
stars; looked for this sign and for that; prayed long and fervently, and
propitiated the gods in many ways, but all to no purpose.

He took no food or rest; he dared not think of what awaited him in the
near future.

So a week went by, and he was no nearer finding a loophole through which
to escape.

On the seventh day he sought the King, and craved humbly to know if he
had understood him aright, or had he been but jesting with him.

He lingered but a short while in doubt.

His Majesty was deeply incensed at being questioned, and let the full
torrent of his displeasure fall upon the head of his luckless servitor.

Swearing many oaths by the sacred hairs of Buddha that his will should
be obeyed, he had him thrust ignominiously from his presence.

Then Nicomar went from out the palace and the city far into the lonely
country, seeking he knew not what. For days he wandered wearily through
thick jungle and silent forest ways, stepping but slowly in the long,
dank grass.

He suffered greatly, and suffered without hope.

On the fifth day he came to where a broad river flowed and sparkled
between high green banks.

Some Burmese, driving bullocks, were resting beside it, while in the
distance were a few mud huts.

Nicomar, who was footsore and faint, sank down at the foot of a banana
tree.

His garments were torn by branches and brambles, his sight was blinded
by the sun, his mouth parched with thirst.

Idly he watched the Burmese from where he sat.

Soon it became apparent that they desired to cross that glittering
expanse of water, but evidently knew not how to accomplish it.

Nicomar, tired of thinking of his own miseries, grew unconsciously
interested.

Three of them twisted their silk pasohs up about their waists, and tried
to wade the river; but it was too deep, and they returned, seemingly
much perplexed.

Then they consulted together; whereupon one among them--evidently
against the desire of his companions, as their gestures betokened--took
the rope of his bullock between his teeth, and diving into the river,
with a good imitation of swimming reached the other side.

His fellows watched the performance with open-eyed wonder, but could
not be induced to follow his example.

Nicomar, looking on, thought that the young man must have a mind full of
resource, and so determined to seek him and consult with him. He could
not have told what was exactly the impulse that urged him to this
course, but he rose, and staggering a little because he was faint, made
his way to the river bank.

The young fellow leant a very interested and attentive ear to the
strange story that Nicomar told to him. When he had finished he took him
to his hut and gave him a meal of rice, then bade him go over the tale
once more in all its details.

Whereupon he asked at the conclusion--

"If I, poor and ignorant, satisfy the King that his command can be
performed, what will you give unto me?"

Nicomar, trembling with joy and incredulity, promised him one half of
what he had and the hand of his daughter in marriage.

Then the Burman said--

"To-morrow we will seek the King." More he would not say, but sat in the
dusky gloom of the coming evening, smoking.

Nicomar, with the great weight of his troubles somewhat lightened, slept
heavily.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the fourteenth day Nicomar prostrated himself before
his master.

"Well," asked the King, "come you to claim your reward?"

The Indian bowed his head in grave deferential assent.

"And so you have obeyed my order?"

"I but wait for your Majesty to perform your part first, then I will
without delay do my share."

The King hastened to ask the meaning of such an answer.

"Your Majesty commanded me," replied the Indian, "to fill up the sea
with milk, which I am quite ready to do; but your Majesty did not
command me to take the water from the ocean, and until that is done it
is impossible to fill it anew. If your Majesty," continued Nicomar,
"will but dispose of the water----." Then he paused timidly, waiting the
King's response. He had done as the Burman had instructed him, and he
feared the result.

For a long while there was silence, and those round about trembled with
apprehension, for they guessed not in what wise their master would take
such a reply.

At last he smiled, for although he had many grave faults, he was not
unkindly or averse to owning himself baffled.

Then he said--

"Nicomar, thou art cleverer than I thought."

At which words hearts that had stood still from fear beat once more.

"The sea exists," said his Majesty, after a pause, looking round on his
Court, "as it existed before we were, as it will exist when we have all
passed away and our names have been forgotten."


  UNWIN BROTHERS, THE GRESHAM PRESS, CHILWORTH AND LONDON.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:


Italics shown with underscores, _like this_.

Small caps capitalized LIKE THIS.

The following misprints have been corrected:

  p. 69 repeated "in a" corrected.

  p. 85 comma added after "who was the father of King Theebaw"

  p. 100 "seleced" changed to "selected"

  p. 119 "him" appended to last word of "All gifts and graces had been
         showered upon;"





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