Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Folk-Tales of Bengal
Author: Day, Lal Behari
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 "Folk-Tales of Bengal" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                          FOLK-TALES OF BENGAL

                                 By the
                          Rev. LAL BEHARI DAY

                 Author of 'Bengal Peasant Life,' etc.

                    With 32 illustrations in colour
                            By Warwick Goble



                       Macmillan and Co., Limited
                      St. Martin's Street, London
                                  1912



                                   TO
                         RICHARD CARNAC TEMPLE
                      CAPTAIN, BENGAL STAFF CORPS
                    F.R.G.S., M.R.A.S., M.A.I., ETC.
                   WHO FIRST SUGGESTED TO THE WRITER
                         THE IDEA OF COLLECTING
                              THESE TALES
                        AND WHO IS DOING SO MUCH
                    IN THE CAUSE OF INDIAN FOLK-LORE
                            THIS LITTLE BOOK
                              IS INSCRIBED



PREFACE


In my Peasant Life in Bengal I make the peasant boy Govinda spend
some hours every evening in listening to stories told by an old woman,
who was called Sambhu's mother, and who was the best story-teller in
the village. On reading that passage, Captain R. C. Temple, of the
Bengal Staff Corps, son of the distinguished Indian administrator
Sir Richard Temple, wrote to me to say how interesting it would be to
get a collection of those unwritten stories which old women in India
recite to little children in the evenings, and to ask whether I could
not make such a collection. As I was no stranger to the Mährchen of
the Brothers Grimm, to the Norse Tales so admirably told by Dasent,
to Arnason's Icelandic Stories translated by Powell, to the Highland
Stories done into English by Campbell, and to the fairy stories
collected by other writers, and as I believed that the collection
suggested would be a contribution, however slight, to that daily
increasing literature of folk-lore and comparative mythology which,
like comparative philosophy, proves that the swarthy and half-naked
peasant on the banks of the Ganges is a cousin, albeit of the
hundredth remove, to the fair-skinned and well-dressed Englishman
on the banks of the Thames, I readily caught up the idea and cast
about for materials. But where was an old story-telling woman to
be got? I had myself, when a little boy, heard hundreds--it would
be no exaggeration to say thousands--of fairy tales from that same
old woman, Sambhu's mother--for she was no fictitious person; she
actually lived in the flesh and bore that name; but I had nearly
forgotten those stories, at any rate they had all got confused in
my head, the tail of one story being joined to the head of another,
and the head of a third to the tail of a fourth. How I wished that
poor Sambhu's mother had been alive! But she had gone long, long ago,
to that bourne from which no traveller returns, and her son Sambhu,
too, had followed her thither. After a great deal of search I found
my Gammer Grethel--though not half so old as the Frau Viehmännin of
Hesse-Cassel--in the person of a Bengali Christian woman, who, when
a little girl and living in her heathen home, had heard many stories
from her old grandmother. She was a good story-teller, but her stock
was not large; and after I had heard ten from her I had to look about
for fresh sources. An old Brahman told me two stories; an old barber,
three; an old servant of mine told me two; and the rest I heard from
another old Brahman. None of my authorities knew English; they all
told the stories in Bengali, and I translated them into English when
I came home. I heard many more stories than those contained in the
following pages; but I rejected a great many, as they appeared to me
to contain spurious additions to the original stories which I had
heard when a boy. I have reason to believe that the stories given
in this book are a genuine sample of the old old stories told by old
Bengali women from age to age through a hundred generations.

Sambhu's mother used always to end every one of her stories--and
every orthodox Bengali story-teller does the same--with repeating
the following formula:--


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth.
           "Why, O Natiya-thorn, dost wither?"
           "Why does thy cow on me browse?"
           "Why, O cow, dost thou browse?"
           "Why does thy neat-herd not tend me?"
           "Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the cow?"
           "Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me rice?"
           "Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give rice?"
           "Why does my child cry?"
           "Why, O child, dost thou cry?"
           "Why does the ant bite me?"
           "Why, O ant, dost thou bite?"
            Koot! koot! koot!


What these lines mean, why they are repeated at the end of every
story, and what the connection is of the several parts to one another,
I do not know. Perhaps the whole is a string of nonsense purposely
put together to amuse little children.


Lal Behari Day.

Hooghly College,

February 27, 1883.



CONTENTS


                                                               PAGE
         1. Life's Secret                                         1
         2. Phakir Chand                                         16
         3. The Indigent Brahman                                 51
         4. The Story of the Rakshasas                           61
         5. The Story of Swet-Basanta                            89
         6. The Evil Eye of Sani                                104
         7. The Boy whom Seven Mothers suckled                  113
         8. The Story of Prince Sobur                           119
         9. The Origin of Opium                                 132
        10. Strike but Hear                                     140
        11. The Adventures of Two Thieves and of their Sons     152
        12. The Ghost-Brahman                                   173
        13. The Man who wished to be Perfect                    178
        14. A Ghostly Wife                                      188
        15. The Story of a Brahmadaitya                         192
        16. The Story of a Hiraman                              200
        17. The Origin of Rubies                                211
        18. The Match-making Jackal                             217
        19. The Boy with the Moon on his Forehead               227
        20. The Ghost who was Afraid of being Bagged            247
        21. The Field of Bones                                  251
        22. The Bald Wife                                       269



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                        Facing page

        "She rushed out of the palace ... and came to the
        upper world" (p. 26)                           Frontispiece
        "The Suo queen went to the door with a handful
        of rice"                                                  1
        "The prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human
        figure near the gate"                                     9
        "She took up the jewel in her hand, left the palace,
        and successfully reached the upper world"                22
        "He rushed out of his hiding-place and killed the
        serpent"                                                 43
        "Instead of sweetmeats about a score of demons"          56
        "At the door of which stood a lady of exquisite
        beauty"                                                  62
        "In a trice she woke up, sat up in her bed, and
        eyeing the stranger, inquired who he was"                77
        The Girl of the Wall-Almirah                             90
        "On a sudden an elephant gorgeously caparisoned shot
        across his path"                                         95
        "They then set out on their journey"                    106
        "A monstrous bird comes out apparently from the
        palace"                                                 117
        "Hundreds of peacocks of gorgeous plumes came to the
        embankments to eat the khai"                            123
        "'You would adorn the palace of the mightiest
        sovereign'"                                             138
        "He saw a beautiful woman coming out of the palace"     141
        "'Husband, take up all this large quantity of gold
        and these precious stones'"                             145
        "They ran away in great fear, leaving behind them
        the money and jewels"                                   162
        "The camel-driver alighted, tied the camel to a
        tree on the spot, and began smoking"                    170
        "'How is it that you have returned so soon?'"           174
        "At dawn he used to cull flowers in the forest"         181
        "The Brahman's wife had occasion to go to the tank,
        and as she went she brushed by a Sankchinni"            188
        "The moment the first stroke was given, a great many
        ghosts rushed towards the Brahman"                      194
        "The lady, king, and hiraman all reached the king's
        capital safe and sound"                                 210
        "'What princess ever puts only one ruby in her
        hair?'"                                                 214
        "Coming up to the surface they climbed into the
        boat"                                                   216
        "The jackal ... opened his bundle of betel-leaves,
        put some into his mouth, and began chewing them"        218
        "A bright light, like that of the moon, was seen
        shining on his forehead"                                237
        "The six queens tried to comfort him"                   238
        "'Now, barber, I am going to destroy you. Who will
        protect you?'"                                          248
        "They approached a magnificent pile of buildings"       259
        "Thus the princess was deserted"                        266
        "When she got out of the water, what a change was
        seen in her!"                                           271



I

LIFE'S SECRET


There was a king who had two queens, Duo and Suo. [1] Both of them
were childless. One day a Faquir (mendicant) came to the palace-gate
to ask for alms. The Suo queen went to the door with a handful of
rice. The mendicant asked whether she had any children. On being
answered in the negative, the holy mendicant refused to take alms, as
the hands of a woman unblessed with child are regarded as ceremonially
unclean. He offered her a drug for removing her barrenness, and she
expressing her willingness to receive it, he gave it to her with the
following directions:--"Take this nostrum, swallow it with the juice
of the pomegranate flower; if you do this, you will have a son in due
time. The son will be exceedingly handsome, and his complexion will
be of the colour of the pomegranate flower; and you shall call him
Dalim Kumar. [2] As enemies will try to take away the life of your
son, I may as well tell you that the life of the boy will be bound up
in the life of a big boal fish which is in your tank, in front of the
palace. In the heart of the fish is a small box of wood, in the box is
a necklace of gold, that necklace is the life of your son. Farewell."

In the course of a month or so it was whispered in the palace
that the Suo queen had hopes of an heir. Great was the joy of
the king. Visions of an heir to the throne, and of a never-ending
succession of powerful monarchs perpetuating his dynasty to the
latest generations, floated before his mind, and made him glad as he
had never been in his life. The usual ceremonies performed on such
occasions were celebrated with great pomp; and the subjects made loud
demonstrations of their joy at the anticipation of so auspicious an
event as the birth of a prince. In the fulness of time the Suo queen
gave birth to a son of uncommon beauty. When the king the first time
saw the face of the infant, his heart leaped with joy. The ceremony
of the child's first rice was celebrated with extraordinary pomp,
and the whole kingdom was filled with gladness.

In course of time Dalim Kumar grew up a fine boy. Of all sports he was
most addicted to playing with pigeons. This brought him into frequent
contact with his stepmother, the Duo queen, into whose apartments
Dalim's pigeons had a trick of always flying. The first time the
pigeons flew into her rooms, she readily gave them up to the owner;
but the second time she gave them up with some reluctance. The fact
is that the Duo queen, perceiving that Dalim's pigeons had this happy
knack of flying into her apartments, wished to take advantage of it
for the furtherance of her own selfish views. She naturally hated the
child, as the king, since his birth, neglected her more than ever,
and idolised the fortunate mother of Dalim. She had heard, it is not
known how, that the holy mendicant that had given the famous pill
to the Suo queen had also told her of a secret connected with the
child's life. She had heard that the child's life was bound up with
something--she did not know with what. She determined to extort that
secret from the boy. Accordingly, the next time the pigeons flew
into her rooms, she refused to give them up, addressing the child
thus:--"I won't give the pigeons up unless you tell me one thing."

Dalim. What thing, mamma?

Duo. Nothing particular, my darling; I only want to know in what your
life is.

Dalim. What is that, mamma? Where can my life be except in me?

Duo. No, child; that is not what I mean. A holy mendicant told your
mother that your life is bound up with something. I wish to know what
that thing is.

Dalim. I never heard of any such thing, mamma.

Duo. If you promise to inquire of your mother in what thing your
life is, and if you tell me what your mother says, then I will let
you have the pigeons, otherwise not.

Dalim. Very well, I'll inquire, and let you know. Now, please, give
me my pigeons.

Duo. I'll give them on one condition more. Promise to me that you
will not tell your mother that I want the information.

Dalim. I promise.

The Duo queen let go the pigeons, and Dalim, overjoyed to find again
his beloved birds, forgot every syllable of the conversation he had
had with his stepmother. The next day, however, the pigeons again flew
into the Duo queen's rooms. Dalim went to his stepmother, who asked
him for the required information. The boy promised to ask his mother
that very day, and begged hard for the release of the pigeons. The
pigeons were at last delivered. After play, Dalim went to his mother
and said--"Mamma, please tell me in what my life is contained." "What
do you mean, child?" asked the mother, astonished beyond measure at
the child's extraordinary question. "Yes, mamma," rejoined the child,
"I have heard that a holy mendicant told you that my life is contained
in something. Tell me what that thing is." "My pet, my darling, my
treasure, my golden moon, do not ask such an inauspicious question. Let
the mouth of my enemies be covered with ashes, and let my Dalim live
for ever," said the mother, earnestly. But the child insisted on being
informed of the secret. He said he would not eat or drink anything
unless the information were given him. The Suo queen, pressed by the
importunity of her son, in an evil hour told the child the secret of
his life. The next day the pigeons again, as fate would have it, flew
into the Duo queen's rooms. Dalim went for them; the stepmother plied
the boy with sugared words, and obtained the knowledge of the secret.

The Duo queen, on learning the secret of Dalim Kumar's life, lost
no time in using it for the prosecution of her malicious design. She
told her maid-servants to get for her some dried stalks of the hemp
plant, which are very brittle, and which, when pressed upon, make
a peculiar noise, not unlike the cracking of joints of bones in the
human body. These hemp stalks she put under her bed, upon which she
laid herself down and gave out that she was dangerously ill. The
king, though he did not love her so well as his other queen, was
in duty bound to visit her in her illness. The queen pretended that
her bones were all cracking; and sure enough, when she tossed from
one side of her bed to the other, the hemp stalks made the noise
wanted. The king, believing that the Duo queen was seriously ill,
ordered his best physician to attend her. With that physician the
Duo queen was in collusion. The physician said to the king that for
the queen's complaint there was but one remedy, which consisted in
the outward application of something to be found inside a large boal
fish which was in the tank before the palace. The king's fisherman was
accordingly called and ordered to catch the boal in question. On the
first throw of the net the fish was caught. It so happened that Dalim
Kumar, along with other boys, was playing not far from the tank. The
moment the boal fish was caught in the net, that moment Dalim felt
unwell; and when the fish was brought up to land, Dalim fell down on
the ground, and made as if he was about to breathe his last. He was
immediately taken into his mother's room, and the king was astonished
on hearing of the sudden illness of his son and heir. The fish was
by the order of the physician taken into the room of the Duo queen,
and as it lay on the floor striking its fins on the ground, Dalim
in his mother's room was given up for lost. When the fish was cut
open, a casket was found in it; and in the casket lay a necklace of
gold. The moment the necklace was worn by the queen, that very moment
Dalim died in his mother's room.

When the news of the death of his son and heir reached the king he was
plunged into an ocean of grief, which was not lessened in any degree
by the intelligence of the recovery of the Duo queen. He wept over
his dead Dalim so bitterly that his courtiers were apprehensive of a
permanent derangement of his mental powers. The king would not allow
the dead body of his son to be either buried or burnt. He could not
realise the fact of his son's death; it was so entirely causeless
and so terribly sudden. He ordered the dead body to be removed to
one of his garden-houses in the suburbs of the city, and to be laid
there in state. He ordered that all sorts of provisions should be
stowed away in that house, as if the young prince needed them for his
refection. Orders were issued that the house should be kept locked
up day and night, and that no one should go into it except Dalim's
most intimate friend, the son of the king's prime minister, who was
intrusted with the key of the house, and who obtained the privilege
of entering it once in twenty-four hours.

As, owing to her great loss, the Suo queen lived in retirement,
the king gave up his nights entirely to the Duo queen. The latter,
in order to allay suspicion, used to put aside the gold necklace at
night; and, as fate had ordained that Dalim should be in the state
of death only during the time that the necklace was round the neck
of the queen, he passed into the state of life whenever the necklace
was laid aside. Accordingly Dalim revived every night, as the Duo
queen every night put away the necklace, and died again the next
morning when the queen put it on. When Dalim became reanimated
at night he ate whatever food he liked, for of such there was a
plentiful stock in the garden-house, walked about on the premises,
and meditated on the singularity of his lot. Dalim's friend, who
visited him only during the day, found him always lying a lifeless
corpse; but what struck him after some days was the singular fact that
the body remained in the same state in which he saw it on the first
day of his visit. There was no sign of putrefaction. Except that it
was lifeless and pale, there were no symptoms of corruption--it was
apparently quite fresh. Unable to account for so strange a phenomenon,
he determined to watch the corpse more closely, and to visit it not
only during the day but sometimes also at night. The first night that
he paid his visit he was astounded to see his dead friend sauntering
about in the garden. At first he thought the figure might be only
the ghost of his friend, but on feeling him and otherwise examining
him, he found the apparition to be veritable flesh and blood. Dalim
related to his friend all the circumstances connected with his death;
and they both concluded that he revived at nights only because the
Duo queen put aside her necklace when the king visited her. As the
life of the prince depended on the necklace, the two friends laid
their heads together to devise if possible some plans by which they
might get possession of it. Night after night they consulted together,
but they could not think of any feasible scheme. At length the gods
brought about the deliverance of Dalim Kumar in a wonderful manner.

Some years before the time of which we are speaking, the sister of
Bidhata-Purusha [3] was delivered of a daughter. The anxious mother
asked her brother what he had written on her child's forehead;
to which Bidhata-Purusha replied that she should get married to a
dead bridegroom. Maddened as she became with grief at the prospect of
such a dreary destiny for her daughter, she yet thought it useless to
remonstrate with her brother, for she well knew that he never changed
what he once wrote. As the child grew in years she became exceedingly
beautiful, but the mother could not look upon her with pleasure in
consequence of the portion allotted to her by her divine brother. When
the girl came to marriageable age, the mother resolved to flee from
the country with her, and thus avert her dreadful destiny. But the
decrees of fate cannot thus be overruled. In the course of their
wanderings the mother and daughter arrived at the gate of that very
garden-house in which Dalim Kumar lay. It was evening. The girl said
she was thirsty and wanted to drink water. The mother told her daughter
to sit at the gate, while she went to search for drinking water in some
neighbouring hut. In the meantime the girl through curiosity pushed
the door of the garden-house, which opened of itself. She then went
in and saw a beautiful palace, and was wishing to come out when the
door shut itself of its own accord, so that she could not get out. As
night came on the prince revived, and, walking about, saw a human
figure near the gate. He went up to it, and found it was a girl of
surpassing beauty. On being asked who she was, she told Dalim Kumar
all the details of her little history,--how her uncle, the divine
Bidhata-Purusha, wrote on her forehead at her birth that she should
get married to a dead bridegroom, how her mother had no pleasure in
her life at the prospect of so terrible a destiny, and how, therefore,
on the approach of her womanhood, with a view to avert so dreadful a
catastrophe, she had left her house with her and wandered in various
places, how they came to the gate of the garden-house, and how her
mother had now gone in search of drinking water for her. Dalim Kumar,
hearing her simple and pathetic story, said, "I am the dead bridegroom,
and you must get married to me, come with me to the house." "How
can you be said to be a dead bridegroom when you are standing and
speaking to me?" said the girl. "You will understand it afterwards,"
rejoined the prince, "come now and follow me." The girl followed the
prince into the house. As she had been fasting the whole day the
prince hospitably entertained her. As for the mother of the girl,
the sister of the divine Bidhata-Purusha, she returned to the gate
of the garden-house after it was dark, cried out for her daughter,
and getting no answer, went away in search of her in the huts in the
neighbourhood. It is said that after this she was not seen anywhere.

While the niece of the divine Bidhata-Purusha was partaking of the
hospitality of Dalim Kumar, his friend as usual made his appearance. He
was surprised not a little at the sight of the fair stranger; and his
surprise became greater when he heard the story of the young lady from
her own lips. It was forthwith resolved that very night to unite the
young couple in the bonds of matrimony. As priests were out of the
question, the hymeneal rites were performed à la Gandharva. [4] The
friend of the bridegroom took leave of the newly-married couple and
went away to his house. As the happy pair had spent the greater part
of the night in wakefulness, it was long after sunrise that they awoke
from their sleep;--I should have said that the young wife woke from her
sleep, for the prince had become a cold corpse, life having departed
from him. The feelings of the young wife may be easily imagined. She
shook her husband, imprinted warm kisses on his cold lips, but in
vain. He was as lifeless as a marble statue. Stricken with horror, she
smote her breast, struck her forehead with the palms of her hands, tore
her hair and went about in the house and in the garden as if she had
gone mad. Dalim's friend did not come into the house during the day,
as he deemed it improper to pay a visit to her while her husband was
lying dead. The day seemed to the poor girl as long as a year, but the
longest day has its end, and when the shades of evening were descending
upon the landscape, her dead husband was awakened into consciousness;
he rose up from his bed, embraced his disconsolate wife, ate, drank,
and became merry. His friend made his appearance as usual, and the
whole night was spent in gaiety and festivity. Amid this alternation
of life and death did the prince and his lady spend some seven or
eight years, during which time the princess presented her husband
with two lovely boys who were the exact image of their father.

It is superfluous to remark that the king, the two queens, and other
members of the royal household did not know that Dalim Kumar was
living, at any rate, was living at night. They all thought that he
was long ago dead and his corpse burnt. But the heart of Dalim's wife
was yearning after her mother-in-law, whom she had never seen. She
conceived a plan by which she might be able not only to have a
sight of her mother-in-law, but also to get hold of the Duo queen's
necklace, on which her husband's life was dependent. With the consent
of her husband and of his friend she disguised herself as a female
barber. Like every female barber she took a bundle containing the
following articles:--an iron instrument for paring nails, another
iron instrument for scraping off the superfluous flesh of the soles
of the feet, a piece of jhama or burnt brick for rubbing the soles of
the feet with, and alakta [5] for painting the edges of the feet and
toes with. Taking this bundle in her hand she stood at the gate of the
king's palace with her two boys. She declared herself to be a barber,
and expressed a desire to see the Suo queen, who readily gave her an
interview. The queen was quite taken up with the two little boys, who,
she declared, strongly reminded her of her darling Dalim Kumar. Tears
fell profusely from her eyes at the recollection of her lost treasure;
but she of course had not the remotest idea that the two little boys
were the sons of her own dear Dalim. She told the supposed barber
that she did not require her services, as, since the death of her
son, she had given up all terrestrial vanities, and among others the
practice of dyeing her feet red; but she added that, nevertheless,
she would be glad now and then to see her and her two fine boys. The
female barber, for so we must now call her, then went to the quarters
of the Duo queen and offered her services. The queen allowed her to
pare her nails, to scrape off the superfluous flesh of her feet,
and to paint them with alakta and was so pleased with her skill,
and the sweetness of her disposition, that she ordered her to wait
upon her periodically. The female barber noticed with no little
concern the necklace round the queen's neck. The day of her second
visit came on, and she instructed the elder of her two sons to set
up a loud cry in the palace, and not to stop crying till he got into
his hands the Duo queen's necklace. The female barber, accordingly,
went again on the appointed day to the Duo queen's apartments. While
she was engaged in painting the queen's feet, the elder boy set up a
loud cry. On being asked the reason of the cry, the boy, as previously
instructed, said that he wanted the queen's necklace. The queen said
that it was impossible for her to part with that particular necklace,
for it was the best and most valuable of all her jewels. To gratify
the boy, however, she took it off her neck, and put it into the
boy's hand. The boy stopped crying and held the necklace tight in
his hand. As the female barber after she had done her work was about
to go away, the queen wanted the necklace back. But the boy would
not part with it. When his mother attempted to snatch it from him,
he wept bitterly, and showed as if his heart would break. On which
the female barber said--"Will your Majesty be gracious enough to let
the boy take the necklace home with him? When he falls asleep after
drinking his milk, which he is sure to do in the course of an hour,
I will carefully bring it back to you." The queen, seeing that the
boy would not allow it to be taken away from him, agreed to the
proposal of the female barber, especially reflecting that Dalim,
whose life depended on it, had long ago gone to the abodes of death.

Thus possessed of the treasure on which the life of her husband
depended, the woman went with breathless haste to the garden-house and
presented the necklace to Dalim, who had been restored to life. Their
joy knew no bounds, and by the advice of their friend they determined
the next day to go to the palace in state, and present themselves to
the king and the Suo queen. Due preparations were made; an elephant,
richly caparisoned, was brought for the prince Dalim Kumar, a pair
of ponies for the two little boys, and a chaturdala [6] furnished
with curtains of gold lace for the princess. Word was sent to the
king and the Suo queen that the prince Dalim Kumar was not only
alive, but that he was coming to visit his royal parents with his
wife and sons. The king and Suo queen could hardly believe in the
report, but being assured of its truth they were entranced with joy;
while the Duo queen, anticipating the disclosure of all her wiles,
became overwhelmed with grief. The procession of Dalim Kumar, which
was attended by a band of musicians, approached the palace-gate; and
the king and Suo queen went out to receive their long-lost son. It is
needless to say that their joy was intense. They fell on each other's
neck and wept. Dalim then related all the circumstances connected
with his death. The king, inflamed with rage, ordered the Duo queen
into his presence. A large hole, as deep as the height of a man,
was dug in the ground. The Duo queen was put into it in a standing
posture. Prickly thorn was heaped around her up to the crown of her
head; and in this manner she was buried alive.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth;
           "Why, O Natiya-thorn, dost wither?"
           "Why does thy cow on me browse?"
           "Why, O cow, dost thou browse?"
           "Why does thy neat-herd not tend me?"
           "Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the cow?"
           "Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me rice?"
           "Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give rice?"
           "Why does my child cry?"
           "Why, O child, dost thou cry?"
           "Why does the ant bite me?"
           "Why, O ant, dost thou bite?"
            Koot! koot! koot!



II

PHAKIR CHAND


There was a king's son, and there was a minister's son. They loved
each other dearly; they sat together, they stood up together, they
walked together, they ate together, they slept together, they got up
together. In this way they spent many years in each other's company,
till they both felt a desire to see foreign lands. So one day they
set out on their journey. Though very rich, the one being the son of
a king and the other the son of his chief minister, they did not take
any servants with them; they went by themselves on horseback. The
horses were beautiful to look at; they were pakshirajes, or kings
of birds. The king's son and the minister's son rode together many
days. They passed through extensive plains covered with paddy; through
cities, towns, and villages; through waterless, treeless deserts;
through dense forests which were the abode of the tiger and the
bear. One evening they were overtaken by night in a region where human
habitations were not seen; and as it was getting darker and darker,
they dismounted beneath a lofty tree, tied their horses to its trunk,
and, climbing up, sat on its branches covered with thick foliage. The
tree grew near a large tank, the water of which was as clear as the
eye of a crow. The king's son and the minister's son made themselves
as comfortable as they could on the tree, being determined to spend
on its branches the livelong night. They sometimes chatted together in
whispers on account of the lonely terrors of the region; they sometimes
sat demurely silent for some minutes; and anon they were falling into
a doze, when their attention was arrested by a terrible sight.

A sound like the rush of many waters was heard from the middle of the
tank. A huge serpent was seen leaping up from under the water with its
hood of enormous size. It "lay floating many a rood"; then it swam
ashore, and went about hissing. But what most of all attracted the
attention of the king's son and the minister's son was a brilliant
manikya (jewel) on the crested hood of the serpent. It shone like
a thousand diamonds. It lit up the tank, its embankments, and the
objects round about. The serpent doffed the jewel from its crest and
threw it on the ground, and then it went about hissing in search of
food. The two friends sitting on the tree greatly admired the wonderful
brilliant, shedding ineffable lustre on everything around. They had
never before seen anything like it; they had only heard of it as
equalling the treasures of seven kings. Their admiration, however,
was soon changed into sorrow and fear; for the serpent came hissing
to the foot of the tree on the branches of which they were seated,
and swallowed up, one by one, the horses tied to the trunk. They
feared that they themselves would be the next victims, when, to their
infinite relief, the gigantic cobra turned away from the tree, and went
about roaming to a great distance. The minister's son, seeing this,
bethought himself of taking possession of the lustrous stone. He had
heard that the only way to hide the brilliant light of the jewel was
to cover it with cow-dung or horse-dung, a quantity of which latter
article he perceived lying at the foot of the tree. He came down from
the tree softly, picked up the horse-dung, threw it upon the precious
stone, and again climbed into the tree. The serpent, not perceiving
the light of its head-jewel, rushed with great fury to the spot
where it had been left. Its hissings, groans, and convulsions were
terrible. It went round and round the jewel covered with horse-dung,
and then breathed its last. Early next morning the king's son and the
minister's son alighted from the tree, and went to the spot where the
crest-jewel was. The mighty serpent lay there perfectly lifeless. The
minister's son took up in his hand the jewel covered with horse-dung;
and both of them went to the tank to wash it. When all the horse-dung
had been washed off, the jewel shone as brilliantly as before. It
lit up the entire bed of the tank, and exposed to their view the
innumerable fishes swimming about in the waters. But what was their
astonishment when they saw, by the light of the jewel, in the bottom
of the tank, the lofty walls of what seemed a magnificent palace. The
venturesome son of the minister proposed to the prince that they should
dive into the waters and get at the palace below. They both dived into
the waters--the jewel being in the hand of the minister's son--and
in a moment stood at the gate of the palace. The gate was open. They
saw no being, human or superhuman. They went inside the gate, and
saw a beautiful garden laid out on the ample grounds round about the
house which was in the centre. The king's son and the minister's son
had never seen such a profusion of flowers. The rose with its many
varieties, the jessamine, the bel, the mallika, the king of smells,
the lily of the valley, the Champaka, and a thousand other sorts
of sweet-scented flowers were there. And of each of these flowers
there seemed to be a large number. Here were a hundred rose-bushes,
there many acres covered with the delicious jessamine, while yonder
were extensive plantations of all sorts of flowers. As all the
plants were begemmed with flowers, and as the flowers were in full
bloom, the air was loaded with rich perfume. It was a wilderness of
sweets. Through this paradise of perfumery they proceeded towards
the house, which was surrounded by banks of lofty trees. They stood
at the door of the house. It was a fairy palace. The walls were of
burnished gold, and here and there shone diamonds of dazzling hue
which were stuck into the walls. They did not meet with any beings,
human or other. They went inside, which was richly furnished. They
went from room to room, but they did not see any one. It seemed to be
a deserted house. At last, however, they found in one room a young lady
lying down, apparently in sleep, on a bed of golden framework. She was
of exquisite beauty; her complexion was a mixture of red and white;
and her age was apparently about sixteen. The king's son and the
minister's son gazed upon her with rapture; but they had not stood
long when this young lady of superb beauty opened her eyes, which
seemed like those of a gazelle. On seeing the strangers she said:
"How have you come here, ye unfortunate men? Begone, begone! This
is the abode of a mighty serpent, which has devoured my father,
my mother, my brothers, and all my relatives; I am the only one
of my family that he has spared. Flee for your lives, or else the
serpent will put you both in its capacious maw." The minister's son
told the princess how the serpent had breathed its last; how he and
his friend had got possession of its head-jewel, and by its light
had come to her palace. She thanked the strangers for delivering her
from the infernal serpent, and begged of them to live in the house,
and never to desert her. The king's son and the minister's son gladly
accepted the invitation. The king's son, smitten with the charms of
the peerless princess, married her after a short time; and as there
was no priest there, the hymeneal knot was tied by a simple exchange
of garlands of flowers.

The king's son became inexpressibly happy in the company of the
princess, who was as amiable in her disposition as she was beautiful
in her person; and though the wife of the minister's son was living in
the upper world, he too participated in his friend's happiness. Time
thus passed merrily, when the king's son bethought himself of returning
to his native country; and as it was fit that he should go with his
princess in due pomp, it was determined that the minister's son
should first ascend from the subaqueous regions, go to the king,
and bring with him attendants, horses, and elephants for the happy
pair. The snake-jewel was therefore had in requisition. The prince,
with the jewel in hand, accompanied the minister's son to the upper
world, and bidding adieu to his friend returned to his lovely wife in
the enchanted palace. Before leaving, the minister's son appointed
the day and the hour when he would stand on the high embankments of
the tank with horses, elephants, and attendants, and wait upon the
prince and the princess, who were to join him in the upper world by
means of the jewel.

Leaving the minister's son to wend his way to his country and to make
preparations for the return of his king's son, let us see how the happy
couple in the subterranean palace were passing their time. One day,
while the prince was sleeping after his noonday meal, the princess,
who had never seen the upper regions, felt the desire of visiting them,
and the rather as the snake-jewel, which alone could give her safe
conduct through the waters, was at that moment shedding its bright
effulgence in the room. She took up the jewel in her hand, left the
palace, and successfully reached the upper world. No mortal caught
her sight. She sat on the flight of steps with which the tank was
furnished for the convenience of bathers, scrubbed her body, washed
her hair, disported in the waters, walked about on the water's edge,
admired all the scenery around, and returned to her palace, where
she found her husband still locked in the embrace of sleep. When the
prince woke up, she did not tell him a word about her adventure. The
following day at the same hour, when her husband was asleep, she paid
a second visit to the upper world, and went back unnoticed by mortal
man. As success made her bold, she repeated her adventure a third
time. It so chanced that on that day the son of the Rajah, in whose
territories the tank was situated, was out on a hunting excursion,
and had pitched his tent not far from the place. While his attendants
were engaged in cooking their noon-day meal, the Rajah's son sauntered
about on the embankments of the tank, near which an old woman was
gathering sticks and dried branches of trees for purposes of fuel. It
was while the Rajah's son and the old woman were near the tank that
the princess paid her third visit to the upper world. She rose up
from the waters, gazed around, and seeing a man and a woman on the
banks again went down. The Rajah's son caught a momentary glimpse of
the princess, and so did the old woman gathering sticks. The Rajah's
son stood gazing on the waters. He had never seen such a beauty. She
seemed to him to be one of those deva-kanyas, heavenly goddesses,
of whom he had read in old books, and who are said now and then to
favour the lower world with their visits, which, like angel visits,
are "few and far between." The unearthly beauty of the princess,
though he had seen her only for a moment, made a deep impression on
his heart, and distracted his mind. He stood there like a statue, for
hours, gazing on the waters, in the hope of seeing the lovely figure
again. But in vain. The princess did not appear again. The Rajah's
son became mad with love. He kept muttering--"Now here, now gone! Now
here, now gone!" He would not leave the place till he was forcibly
removed by the attendants who had now come to him. He was taken to his
father's palace in a state of hopeless insanity. He spoke to nobody;
he always sobbed heavily; and the only words which proceeded out of
his mouth--and he was muttering them every minute--were, "Now here, now
gone! Now here, now gone!" The Rajah's grief may well be conceived. He
could not imagine what should have deranged his son's mind. The words,
"Now here, now gone," which ever and anon issued from his son's
lips, were a mystery to him; he could not unravel their meaning;
neither could the attendants throw any light on the subject. The best
physicians of the country were consulted, but to no effect. The sons
of Æsculapius could not ascertain the cause of the madness, far less
could they cure it. To the many inquiries of the physicians, the only
reply made by the Rajah's son was the stereotyped words--"Now here,
now gone! Now here, now gone!"

The Rajah, distracted with grief on account of the obscuration of
his son's intellects, caused a proclamation to be made in the capital
by beat of drum, to the effect that, if any person could explain the
cause of his son's madness and cure it, such a person would be rewarded
with the hand of the Rajah's daughter, and with the possession of half
his kingdom. The drum was beaten round most parts of the city, but no
one touched it, as no one knew the cause of the madness of the Rajah's
son. At last an old woman touched the drum, and declared that she would
not only discover the cause of the madness, but cure it. This woman,
who was the identical woman that was gathering sticks near the tank
at the time the Rajah's son lost his reason, had a crack-brained son
of the name of Phakir Chand, and was in consequence called Phakir's
mother, or more familiarly Phakre's mother. When the woman was brought
before the Rajah, the following conversation took place:--

Rajah. You are the woman that touched the drum.--You know the cause
of my son's madness?

Phakir's Mother. Yes, O incarnation of justice! I know the cause,
but I will not mention it till I have cured your son.

Rajah. How can I believe that you are able to cure my son, when the
best physicians of the land have failed?

Phakir's Mother. You need not now believe, my lord, till I have
performed the cure. Many an old woman knows secrets with which wise
men are unacquainted.

Rajah. Very well, let me see what you can do. In what time will you
perform the cure?

Phakir's Mother. It is impossible to fix the time at present; but I
will begin work immediately with your lordship's assistance.

Rajah. What help do you require from me?

Phakir's Mother. Your lordship will please order a hut to be raised on
the embankment of the tank where your son first caught the disease. I
mean to live in that hut for a few days. And your lordship will also
please order some of your servants to be in attendance at a distance of
about a hundred yards from the hut, so that they might be within call.

Rajah. Very well; I will order that to be immediately done. Do you
want anything else?

Phakir's Mother. Nothing else, my lord, in the way of preparations. But
it is as well to remind your lordship of the conditions on which I
undertake the cure. Your lordship has promised to give to the performer
of the cure the hand of your daughter and half your kingdom. As I
am a woman and cannot marry your daughter, I beg that, in case I
perform the cure, my son Phakir Chand may marry your daughter and
take possession of half your kingdom.

Rajah. Agreed, agreed.

A temporary hut was in a few hours erected on the embankment of the
tank, and Phakir's mother took up her abode in it. An outpost was
also erected at some distance for servants in attendance who might
be required to give help to the woman. Strict orders were given by
Phakir's mother that no human being should go near the tank excepting
herself. Let us leave Phakir's mother keeping watch at the tank, and
hasten down into the subterranean palace to see what the prince and
the princess are about. After the mishap which had occurred on her
last visit to the upper world, the princess had given up the idea of
a fourth visit. But women generally have greater curiosity than men;
and the princess of the underground palace was no exception to the
general rule. One day, while her husband was asleep as usual after
his noonday meal, she rushed out of the palace with the snake-jewel in
her hand, and came to the upper world. The moment the upheaval of the
waters in the middle of the tank took place, Phakir's mother, who was
on the alert, concealed herself in the hut and began looking through
the chinks of the matted wall. The princess, seeing no mortal near,
came to the bank, and sitting there began to scrub her body. Phakir's
mother showed herself outside the hut, and addressing the princess,
said in a winning tone--"Come, my child, thou queen of beauty, come
to me, and I will help you to bathe." So saying, she approached the
princess, who, seeing that it was only a woman, made no resistance. The
old woman, while in the act of washing the hair of the princess,
noticed the bright jewel in her hand, and said--"Put the jewel here
till you are bathed." In a moment the jewel was in the possession
of Phakir's mother, who wrapped it up in the cloth that was round
her waist. Knowing the princess to be unable to escape, she gave the
signal to the attendants in waiting, who rushed to the tank and made
the princess a captive.

Great were the rejoicings of the people when the tidings reached the
city that Phakir's mother had captured a water-nymph from the nether
regions. The whole city came to see the "daughter of the immortals,"
as they called the princess. When she was brought to the palace and
confronted with the Rajah's son of obscured intellect, the latter
said with a shout of exultation--"I have found! I have found!" The
cloud which had settled on his brain was dissipated in a moment. The
eyes, erewhile vacant and lustreless, now glowed with the fire of
intelligence; his tongue, of which he had almost lost the use--the
only words which he used to utter being, "Now here, now gone!"--was
now relaxed: in a word, he was restored to his senses. The joy of the
Rajah knew no bounds. There was great festivity in the city; and the
people who showered benedictions on the head of Phakir Chand's mother,
expected the speedy celebration of the marriage of the Rajah's son
with the beauty of the nether world. The princess, however, told the
Rajah, through Phakir's mother, that she had made a vow to the effect
that she would not, for one whole year, look at the face of another
man than that of her husband who was dwelling beneath the waters,
and that therefore the marriage could not be performed during that
period. Though the Rajah's son was somewhat disappointed, he readily
agreed to the delay, believing, agreeably to the proverb, that delay
would greatly enhance the sweetness of those pleasures which were in
store for him.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the princess spent her days and
her nights in sorrowing and sighing. She lamented that idle curiosity
which had led her to come to the upper world, leaving her husband
below. When she recollected that her husband was all alone below the
waters she wept bitter tears. She wished she could run away. But that
was impossible, as she was immured within walls, and there were walls
within walls. Besides, if she could get out of the palace and of the
city, of what avail would it be? She could not gain her husband,
as the serpent jewel was not in her possession. The ladies of the
palace and Phakir's mother tried to divert her mind, but in vain. She
took pleasure in nothing; she would hardly speak to any one; she wept
day and night. The year of her vow was drawing to a close, and yet
she was disconsolate. The marriage, however, must be celebrated. The
Rajah consulted the astrologers, and the day and the hour in which
the nuptial knot was to be tied were fixed. Great preparations were
made. The confectioners of the city busied themselves day and night
in preparing sweetmeats; milkmen took contracts for supplying the
palace with tanks of curds; gunpowder was being manufactured for a
grand display of fireworks; bands of musicians were placed on sheds
erected over the palace gate, who ever and anon sent forth many
"a bout of linked sweetness"; and the whole city assumed an air of
mirth and festivity.

It is time we should think of the minister's son, who, leaving his
friend in the subterranean palace, had gone to his country to bring
horses, elephants, and attendants for the return of the king's son
and his lovely princess with due pomp. The preparations took him
many months; and when everything was ready he started on his journey,
accompanied by a long train of elephants, horses, and attendants. He
reached the tank two or three days before the appointed day. Tents were
pitched in the mango-topes adjoining the tank for the accommodation of
men and cattle; and the minister's son always kept his eyes fixed on
the tank. The sun of the appointed day sank below the horizon; but the
prince and the princess dwelling beneath the waters made no sign. He
waited two or three days longer; still the prince did not make his
appearance. What could have happened to his friend and his beautiful
wife? Were they dead? Had another serpent, possibly the mate of the one
that had died, beaten the prince and the princess to death? Had they
somehow lost the serpent-jewel? Or had they been captured when they
were once on a visit to the upper world? Such were the reflections of
the minister's son. He was overwhelmed with grief. Ever since he had
come to the tank he had heard at regular intervals the sound of music
coming from the city which was not distant. He inquired of passers-by
what that music meant. He was told that the Rajah's son was about
to be married to some wonderful young lady, who had come out of the
waters of that very tank on the bank of which he was now seated, and
that the marriage ceremony was to be performed on the day following
the next. The minister's son immediately concluded that the wonderful
young lady of the lake that was to be married was none other than the
wife of his friend, the king's son. He resolved therefore to go into
the city to learn the details of the affair, and try if possible to
rescue the princess. He told the attendants to go home, taking with
them the elephants and the horses; and he himself went to the city,
and took up his abode in the house of a Brahman.

After he had rested and taken his dinner, the minister's son asked
the Brahman what the meaning was of the music that was heard in the
city at regular intervals. The Brahman asked, "From what part of
the world have you come that you have not heard of the wonderful
circumstance that a young lady of heavenly beauty rose out of the
waters of a tank in the suburbs, and that she is going to be married
the day after to-morrow to the son of our Rajah?"

Minister's Son. No, I have heard nothing. I have come from a distant
country whither the story has not reached. Will you kindly tell me
the particulars?

Brahman. The Rajah's son went out a-hunting about this time last
year. He pitched his tents close to a tank in the suburbs. One day,
while the Rajah's son was walking near the tank, he saw a young
woman, or rather goddess, of uncommon beauty rise from the waters of
the tank. She gazed about for a minute or two and disappeared. The
Rajah's son, however, who had seen her, was so struck with her heavenly
beauty that he became desperately enamoured of her. Indeed, so intense
was his passion, that his reason gave way; and he was carried home
hopelessly mad. The only words he uttered day and night were--"Now
here, now gone!" The Rajah sent for all the best physicians of the
country for restoring his son to his reason; but the physicians were
powerless. At last he caused a proclamation to be made by beat of drum
to the effect that if any one could cure the Rajah's son, he should
be the Rajah's son-in-law and the owner of half his kingdom. An old
woman, who went by the name of Phakir's mother, took hold of the drum,
and declared her ability to cure the Rajah's son. On the tank where
the princess had appeared was raised for Phakir's mother a hut in
which she took up her abode; and not far from her hut another hut was
erected for the accommodation of attendants who might be required to
help her. It seems the goddess rose from the waters; Phakir's mother
seized her with the help of the attendants, and carried her in a palki
to the palace. At the sight of her the Rajah's son was restored to
his senses; and the marriage would have been celebrated at that time
but for a vow which the goddess had made that she would not look at
the face of any male person till the lapse of a year. The year of the
vow is now over; and the music which you have heard is from the gate
of the Rajah's palace. This, in brief, is the story.

Minister's Son. A truly wonderful story! And has Phakir's mother,
or rather Phakir Chand himself, been rewarded with the hand of the
Rajah's daughter and with the possession of half the kingdom?

Brahman. No, not yet. Phakir has not been got hold of. He is a
half-witted lad, or rather quite mad. He has been away for more
than a year from his home, and no one knows where he is. That is his
manner; he stays away for a long time, suddenly comes home, and again
disappears. I believe his mother expects him soon.

Minister's Son. What like is he? and what does he do when he returns
home?

Brahman. Why, he is about your height, though he is somewhat younger
than you. He puts on a small piece of cloth round his waist, rubs
his body with ashes, takes the branch of a tree in his hand, and,
at the door of the hut in which his mother lives, dances to the tune
of dhoop! dhoop! dhoop! His articulation is very indistinct; and when
his mother says--"Phakir! stay with me for some days," he invariably
answers in his usual unintelligible manner, "No, I won't remain,
I won't remain." And when he wishes to give an affirmative answer,
he says, "Hoom," which means "Yes."

The above conversation with the Brahman poured a flood of light into
the mind of the minister's son. He saw how matters stood. He perceived
that the princess of the subterranean palace must have alone ventured
out into the tank by means of the snake-jewel; that she must have
been captured alone without the king's son; that the snake-jewel
must be in the possession of Phakir's mother; and that his friend,
the king's son, must be alone below the waters without any means of
escape. The desolate and apparently hopeless state of his friend
filled him with unutterable grief. He was in deep musings during
most part of the night. Is it impossible, thought he, to rescue the
king's son from the nether regions? What if, by some means or other,
I contrive to get the jewel from the old woman? And can I not do it
by personating Phakir Chand himself, who is expected by his mother
shortly? And possibly by the same means I may be able to rescue the
princess from the Rajah's palace. He resolved to act the rôle of Phakir
Chand the following day. In the morning he left the Brahman's house,
went to the outskirts of the city, divested himself of his usual
clothing, put round his waist a short and narrow piece of cloth which
scarcely reached his knee-joints, rubbed his body well with ashes,
took in his hand a twig which he broke off a tree, and thus accoutred,
presented himself before the door of the hut of Phakir's mother. He
commenced operations by dancing, in a most violent manner, to the
tune of dhoop! dhoop! dhoop! The dancing attracted the notice of the
old woman, who, supposing that her son had come, said--"My son Phakir,
are you come? Come, my darling; the gods have at last become propitious
to us." The supposed Phakir Chand uttered the monosyllable "hoom," and
went on dancing in a still more violent manner than before, waving the
twig in his hand. "This time you must not go away," said the old woman,
"you must remain with me." "No, I won't remain, I won't remain," said
the minister's son. "Remain with me, and I'll get you married to the
Rajah's daughter. Will you marry, Phakir Chand?" The minister's son
replied--"Hoom, hoom," and danced on like a madman. "Will you come
with me to the Rajah's house? I'll show you a princess of uncommon
beauty who has risen from the waters." "Hoom, hoom," was the answer
that issued from his lips, while his feet tripped it violently to
the sound of dhoop! dhoop! "Do you wish to see a manik, Phakir, the
crest jewel of the serpent, the treasure of seven kings?" "Hoom,
hoom," was the reply. The old woman brought out of the hut the
snake-jewel, and put it into the hand of her supposed son. The
minister's son took it, and carefully wrapped it up in the piece
of cloth round his waist. Phakir's mother, delighted beyond measure
at the opportune appearance of her son, went to the Rajah's house,
partly to announce to the Rajah the news of Phakir's appearance,
and partly to show Phakir the princess of the waters. The supposed
Phakir and his mother found ready access to the Rajah's palace, for
the old woman had, since the capture of the princess, become the most
important person in the kingdom. She took him into the room where the
princess was, and introduced him to her. It is superfluous to remark
that the princess was by no means pleased with the company of a madcap,
who was in a state of semi-nudity, whose body was rubbed with ashes,
and who was ever and anon dancing in a wild manner. At sunset the old
woman proposed to her son that they should leave the palace and go
to their own house. But the supposed Phakir Chand refused to comply
with the request; he said he would stay there that night. His mother
tried to persuade him to return with her, but he persisted in his
determination. He said he would remain with the princess. Phakir's
mother therefore went away, after giving instructions to the guards
and attendants to take care of her son.

When all in the palace had retired to rest, the supposed Phakir, coming
towards the princess, said in his own usual voice--"Princess! do you
not recognise me? I am the minister's son, the friend of your princely
husband." The princess, astonished at the announcement, said--"Who? The
minister's son? Oh, my husband's best friend, do rescue me from this
terrible captivity, from this worse than death. O fate! it is by my
own fault that I am reduced to this wretched state. Oh, rescue me,
rescue me, thou best of friends!" She then burst into tears. The
minister's son said, "Do not be disconsolate. I will try my best
to rescue you this very night; only you must do whatever I tell
you." "I will do anything you tell me, minister's son; anything you
tell me." After this the supposed Phakir left the room, and passed
through the courtyard of the palace. Some of the guards challenged
him, to whom he replied, "Hoom, hoom; I will just go out for a
minute and again come in presently." They understood that it was
the madcap Phakir. True to his word he did come back shortly, and
went to the princess. An hour afterwards he again went out and was
again challenged, on which he made the same reply as at the first
time. The guards who challenged him began to mutter between their
teeth--"This madcap of a Phakir will, we suppose, go out and come in
all night. Let the fellow alone; let him do what he likes. Who can
be sitting up all night for him?" The minister's son was going out
and coming in with the view of accustoming the guards to his constant
egress and ingress, and also of watching for a favourable opportunity
to escape with the princess. About three o'clock in the morning the
minister's son again passed through the courtyard, but this time no
one challenged him, as all the guards had fallen asleep. Overjoyed at
the auspicious circumstance, he went to the princess. "Now, princess,
is the time for escape. The guards are all asleep. Mount on my back,
and tie the locks of your hair round my neck, and keep tight hold
of me." The princess did as she was told. He passed unchallenged
through the courtyard with the lovely burden on his back, passed out
of the gate of the palace--no one challenging him, passed on to the
outskirts of the city, and reached the tank from which the princess
had risen. The princess stood on her legs, rejoicing at her escape, and
at the same time trembling. The minister's son untied the snake-jewel
from his waist-cloth, and descending into the waters, both he and she
found their way to the subterranean palace. The reception which the
prince in the subaqueous palace gave to his wife and his friend may be
easily imagined. He had nearly died of grief; but now he suffered a
resurrection. The three were now mad with joy. During the three days
that they remained in the palace they again and again told the story
of the egress of the princess into the upper world, of her seizure,
of her captivity in the palace, of the preparations for marriage, of
the old woman, of the minister's son personating Phakir Chand, and of
the successful deliverance. It is unnecessary to add that the prince
and the princess expressed their gratitude to the minister's son in
the warmest terms, declared him to be their best and greatest friend,
and vowed to abide always, till the day of their death, by his advice,
and to follow his counsel.

Being resolved to return to their native country, the king's son,
the minister's son, and the princess left the subterranean palace,
and, lighted in the passage by the snake-jewel, made their way good to
the upper world. As they had neither elephants nor horses, they were
under the necessity of travelling on foot; and though this mode of
travelling was troublesome to both the king's son and the minister's
son, as they were bred in the lap of luxury, it was infinitely more
troublesome to the princess, as the stones of the rough road


                        "Wounded the invisible
        Palms of her tender feet where'er they fell."


When her feet became very sore, the king's son sometimes took her
up on his broad shoulders, on which she sat astride; but the load,
however lovely, was too heavy to be carried any great distance. She
therefore, for the most part, travelled on foot.

One evening they bivouacked beneath a tree, as no human habitations
were visible. The minister's son said to the prince and princess,
"Both of you go to sleep, and I will keep watch in order to prevent any
danger." The royal couple were soon locked in the arms of sleep. The
faithful son of the minister did not sleep, but sat up watching. It so
happened that on that tree swung the nest of the two immortal birds,
Bihangama and Bihangami, who were not only endowed with the power
of human speech, but who could see into the future. To the no little
astonishment of the minister's son the two prophetical birds joined
in the following conversation:--

Bihangama. The minister's son has already risked his own life for the
safety of his friend, the king's son; but he will find it difficult
to save the prince at last.

Bihangami. Why so?

Bihangama. Many dangers await the king's son. The prince's father, when
he hears of the approach of his son, will send for him an elephant,
some horses, and attendants. When the king's son rides on the elephant
he will fall down and die.

Bihangami. But suppose some one prevents the king's son from riding
on the elephant, and makes him ride on horseback, will he not in that
case be saved?

Bihangama. Yes, he will in that case escape that danger, but a fresh
danger awaits him. When the king's son is in sight of his father's
palace, and when he is in the act of passing through its lion-gate,
the lion-gate will fall upon him and crush him to death.

Bihangami. But suppose some one destroys the lion-gate before the
king's son goes up to it; will not the king's son in that case
be saved?

Bihangama. Yes, in that case he will escape that particular danger;
but a fresh danger awaits him. When the king's son reaches the palace
and sits at a feast prepared for him, and when he takes into his
mouth the head of a fish cooked for him, the head of the fish will
stick in his throat and choke him to death.

Bihangami. But suppose some one sitting at the feast snatches the head
of the fish from the prince's plate, and thus prevents him from putting
it into his mouth, will not the king's son in that case be saved?

Bihangama. Yes, in that case he will escape that particular danger;
but a fresh danger awaits him. When the prince and princess after
dinner retire into their sleeping apartment, and they lie together
in bed, a terrible cobra will come into the room and bite the king's
son to death.

Bihangami. But suppose some one lying in wait in the room cut the
snake into pieces, will not the king's son in that case be saved?

Bihangama. Yes, in that case the life of the king's son will be
saved; but if the man who kills the snake repeats to the king's son
the conversation between you and me, that man will be turned into a
marble statue.

Bihangami. But is there no means of restoring the marble statue
to life?

Bihangama. Yes, the marble statue may be restored to life if it is
washed with the life-blood of the infant which the princess will give
birth to, immediately after it is ushered into the world.

The conversation of the prophetical birds had extended thus far
when the crows began to caw, the east put on a reddish hue, and the
travellers beneath the tree bestirred themselves. The conversation
stopped, but the minister's son had heard it all.

The prince, the princess, and the minister's son pursued their journey
in the morning; but they had not walked many hours when they met a
procession consisting of an elephant, a horse, a palki, and a large
number of attendants. These animals and men had been sent by the king,
who had heard that his son, together with his newly married wife and
his friend the minister's son, were not far from the capital on their
journey homewards. The elephant, which was richly caparisoned, was
intended for the prince; the palki the framework of which was silver
and was gaudily adorned, was meant for the princess; and the horse for
the minister's son. As the prince was about to mount on the elephant,
the minister's son went up to him and said--"Allow me to ride on
the elephant, and you please ride on horseback." The prince was not
a little surprised at the coolness of the proposal. He thought his
friend was presuming too much on the services he had rendered; he was
therefore nettled, but remembering that his friend had saved both him
and his wife, he said nothing, but quietly mounted the horse, though
his mind became somewhat alienated from him. The procession started,
and after some time came in sight of the palace, the lion-gate of
which had been gaily adorned for the reception of the prince and
the princess. The minister's son told the prince that the lion-gate
should be broken down before the prince could enter the palace. The
prince was astounded at the proposal, especially as the minister's
son gave no reasons for so extraordinary a request. His mind became
still more estranged from him; but in consideration of the services
the minister's son had rendered, his request was complied with,
and the beautiful lion-gate, with its gay decorations, was broken down.

The party now went into the palace, where the king gave a warm
reception to his son, to his daughter-in-law, and to the minister's
son. When the story of their adventures was related, the king and his
courtiers expressed great astonishment, and they all with one voice
extolled the sagacity, prudence, and devotedness of the minister's
son. The ladies of the palace were struck with the extraordinary
beauty of the new-comer; her complexion was milk and vermilion mixed
together; her neck was like that of a swan; her eyes were like those
of a gazelle; her lips were as red as the berry bimba; her cheeks were
lovely; her nose was straight and high; her hair reached her ankles;
her walk was as graceful as that of a young elephant--such were the
terms in which the connoisseurs of beauty praised the princess whom
destiny had brought into the midst of them. They sat around her and
put her a thousand questions regarding her parents, regarding the
subterranean palace in which she formerly lived, and the serpent
which had killed all her relatives. It was now time that the new
arrivals should have their dinner. The dinner was served up in dishes
of gold. All sorts of delicacies were there, amongst which the most
conspicuous was the large head of a rohita fish placed in a golden
cup near the prince's plate. While they were eating, the minister's
son suddenly snatched the head of the fish from the prince's plate,
and said, "Let me, prince, eat this rohita's head." The king's son was
quite indignant. He said nothing, however. The minister's son perceived
that his friend was in a terrible rage; but he could not help it,
as his conduct, however strange, was necessary to the safety of his
friend's life; neither could he clear himself by stating the reason of
his behaviour, as in that case he himself would be transformed into
a marble statue. The dinner over, the minister's son expressed his
desire to go to his own house. At other times the king's son would
not allow his friend to go away in that fashion; but being shocked at
his strange conduct, he readily agreed to the proposal. The minister's
son, however, had not the slightest notion of going to his own house;
he was resolved to avert the last peril that was to threaten the life
of his friend. Accordingly, with a sword in his hand, he stealthily
entered the room in which the prince and the princess were to sleep
that night, and ensconced himself under the bedstead, which was
furnished with mattresses of down and canopied with mosquito curtains
of the richest silk and gold lace. Soon after dinner the prince and
princess came into the bedroom, and undressing themselves went to
bed. At midnight, while the royal couple were asleep, the minister's
son perceived a snake of gigantic size enter the room through one of
the water-passages, and climb up the tester-frame of the bed. He rushed
out of his hiding-place, killed the serpent, cut it up in pieces, and
put the pieces in the dish for holding betel-leaves and spices. It so
happened, however, that as the minister's son was cutting the serpent
into pieces, a drop of blood fell on the breast of the princess, and
the rather as the mosquito curtains had not been let down. Thinking
that the drop of blood might injure the fair princess, he resolved
to lick it up. But as he regarded it as a great sin to look upon a
young woman lying asleep half naked, he blindfolded himself with
seven-fold cloth, and licked up the drop of blood. But while he
was in the act of licking it, the princess awoke and screamed, and
her scream roused her husband lying beside her. The prince seeing
the minister's son, who he thought had gone away to his own house,
bending over the body of his wife, fell into a great rage, and would
have got up and killed him, had not the minister's son besought him
to restrain his anger, adding--"Friend, I have done this only in
order to save your life." "I do not understand what you mean," said
the prince; "ever since we came out of the subterranean palace you
have been behaving in a most extraordinary way. In the first place,
you prevented me from getting upon the richly caparisoned elephant,
though my father, the king, had purposely sent it for me. I thought,
however, that a sense of the services you had rendered to me had made
you exceedingly vain; I therefore let the matter pass, and mounted
the horse. In the second place, you insisted on the destruction of the
fine lion-gate, which my father had adorned with gay decorations; and
I let that matter also pass. Then, again, at dinner you snatched away,
in a most shameful manner, the rohita's head which was on my plate,
and devoured it yourself, thinking, no doubt, that you were entitled
to higher honours than I. You then pretended that you were going
home, for which I was not at all sorry, as you had made yourself
very disagreeable to me. And now you are actually in my bedroom,
bending over the naked bosom of my wife. You must have had some evil
design; and you pretend that you have done this to save my life. I
fancy it was not for saving my life, but for destroying my wife's
chastity." "Oh, do not harbour such thoughts in your mind against
me. The gods know that I have done all this for the preservation of
your life. You would see the reasonableness of my conduct throughout
if I had the liberty of stating my reasons." "And why are you not
at liberty?" asked the prince; "who has shut up your mouth?" "It is
destiny that has shut up my mouth," answered the minister's son;
"if I were to tell it all, I should be transformed into a marble
statue." "You would be transformed into a marble statue!" exclaimed
the prince; "you must take me to be a simpleton to believe this
nonsense." "Do you wish me then, friend," said the minister's son,
"to tell you all? You must then make up your mind to see your friend
turned into stone." "Come, out with it," said the prince, "or else you
are a dead man." The minister's son, in order to clear himself of the
foul accusation brought against him, deemed it his duty to reveal the
secret at the risk of his life. He again and again warned the prince
not to press him. But the prince remained inexorable. The minister's
son then went on to say that, while bivouacking under a lofty tree
one night, he had overheard a conversation between Bihangama and
Bihangami, in which the former predicted all the dangers that were to
threaten the life of the prince. When the minister's son had related
the prediction concerning the mounting upon the elephant, his lower
parts were turned into stone. He then, turning to the prince, said,
"See, friend, my lower parts have already turned into stone." "Go on,
go on," said the prince, "with your story." The minister's son then
related the prophecy regarding the destruction of the lion-gate,
when half of his body was converted into stone. He then related
the prediction regarding the eating of the head of the fish, when
his body up to his neck was petrified. "Now, friend," said the
minister's son, "the whole of my body, excepting my neck and head,
is petrified; if I tell the rest, I shall assuredly become a man of
stone. Do you wish me still to go on?" "Go on," answered the prince,
"go on." "Very well, I will go on to the end," said the minister's
son; "but in case you repent after I have become turned into stone,
and wish me to be restored to life, I will tell you of the manner
in which it may be effected. The princess after a few months will be
delivered of a child; if immediately after the birth of the infant you
kill it and besmear my marble body with its blood, I shall be restored
to life." He then related the prediction regarding the serpent in the
bedroom; and when the last word was on his lips the rest of his body
was turned into stone, and he dropped on the floor a marble image. The
princess jumped out of bed, opened the vessel for betel-leaves and
spices, and saw there pieces of a serpent. Both the prince and the
princess now became convinced of the good faith and benevolence of
their departed friend. They went to the marble figure, but it was
lifeless. They set up a loud lamentation; but it was to no purpose,
for the marble moved not. They then resolved to keep the marble figure
concealed in a safe place, and to besmear it with the blood of their
first-born child when it should be ushered into existence.

In process of time the hour of the princess's travail came on,
and she was delivered of a beautiful boy, the perfect image of his
mother. Both father and mother were struck with the beauty of their
child, and would fain have spared its life; but recollecting the vows
they had made on behalf of their best friend, now lying in a corner of
the room a lifeless stone, and the inestimable services he had rendered
to both of them, they cut the child into two, and besmeared the marble
figure of the minister's son with its blood. The marble became animated
in a moment. The minister's son stood before the prince and princess,
who became exceedingly glad to see their old friend again in life. But
the minister's son, who saw the lovely new-born babe lying in a pool
of blood, was overwhelmed with grief. He took up the dead infant,
carefully wrapped it up in a towel, and resolved to get it restored
to life.

The minister's son, intent on the reanimation of his friend's child,
consulted all the physicians of the country; but they said that
they would undertake to cure any person of any disease so long as
life was in him, but when life was extinct, the case was beyond
their jurisdiction. The minister's son at last bethought himself
of his own wife, who was living in a distant town, and who was a
devoted worshipper of the goddess Kali, who, through his wife's
intercession, might be prevailed upon to give life to the dead
child. He, accordingly, set out on a journey to the town in which
his wife was living in her father's house. Adjoining that house there
was a garden where upon a tree he hung the dead child wrapped up in
a towel. His wife was overjoyed to see her husband after so long a
time; but to her surprise she found that he was very melancholy, that
he spoke very little, and that he was brooding over something in his
mind. She asked the reason of his melancholy, but he kept quiet. One
night while they were lying together in bed, the wife got up and
opening the door went out. The husband, who had little sleep any night
in consequence of the weight of anxiety regarding the reanimation of
his friend's child, perceiving his wife go out at that dead hour of
night, determined to follow her without being noticed. She went to a
temple of the goddess Kali, which was at no great distance from her
house. She worshipped the goddess with flowers and sandal-wood perfume,
and said, "O mother Kali! have mercy upon me, and deliver me out of
all my troubles." The goddess replied, "Why, what further grievance
have you? You long prayed for the return of your husband, and he has
returned; what aileth thee now?" The woman answered, "True, O Mother,
my husband has come to me, but he is very moody and melancholy,
hardly speaks to me, takes no delight in me, only sits moping in a
corner." To which the goddess rejoined, "Ask your husband what the
reason of his melancholy is, and let me know it." The minister's son
overheard the conversation between the goddess and his wife, but he
did not make his appearance; he quietly slunk away before his wife
and went to bed. The following day the wife asked her husband of the
cause of his melancholy; and he related all the particulars regarding
the killing of the infant child of the prince. Next night at the same
dead hour the wife proceeded to Kali's temple and mentioned to the
goddess the reason of her husband's melancholy; on which the goddess
said, "Bring the child here and I will restore it to life." On the
succeeding night the child was produced before the goddess Kali,
and she called it back to life. Entranced with joy, the minister's
son took up the reanimated child, went as fast as his legs could
carry him to the prince and princess, and presented to them their
child alive and well. They all rejoiced with exceeding great joy,
and lived together happily till the day of their death.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



III

THE INDIGENT BRAHMAN


There was a Brahman who had a wife and four children. He was
very poor. With no resources in the world, he lived chiefly on the
benefactions of the rich. His gains were considerable when marriages
were celebrated or funeral ceremonies were performed; but as his
parishioners did not marry every day, neither did they die every
day, he found it difficult to make the two ends meet. His wife
often rebuked him for his inability to give her adequate support,
and his children often went about naked and hungry. But though poor
he was a good man. He was diligent in his devotions; and there was
not a single day in his life in which he did not say his prayers at
stated hours. His tutelary deity was the goddess Durga, the consort
of Siva, the creative Energy of the Universe. On no day did he either
drink water or taste food till he had written in red ink the name
of Durga at least one hundred and eight times; while throughout the
day he incessantly uttered the ejaculation, "O Durga! O Durga! have
mercy upon me." Whenever he felt anxious on account of his poverty
and his inability to support his wife and children, he groaned
out--"Durga! Durga! Durga!"

One day, being very sad, he went to a forest many miles distant
from the village in which he lived, and indulging his grief wept
bitter tears. He prayed in the following manner:--"O Durga! O Mother
Bhagavati! wilt thou not make an end of my misery? Were I alone in
the world, I should not have been sad on account of poverty; but thou
hast given me a wife and children. Give me, O Mother, the means to
support them." It so happened that on that day and on that very spot
the god Siva and his wife Durga were taking their morning walk. The
goddess Durga, on seeing the Brahman at a distance, said to her divine
husband--"O Lord of Kailas! do you see that Brahman? He is always
taking my name on his lips and offering the prayer that I should
deliver him out of his troubles. Can we not, my lord, do something
for the poor Brahman, oppressed as he is with the cares of a growing
family? We should give him enough to make him comfortable. As the
poor man and his family have never enough to eat, I propose that you
give him a handi [7] which should yield him an inexhaustible supply
of mudki." [8] The lord of Kailas readily agreed to the proposal of
his divine consort, and by his decree created on the spot a handi
possessing the required quality. Durga then, calling the Brahman
to her, said,--"O Brahman! I have often thought of your pitiable
case. Your repeated prayers have at last moved my compassion. Here is
a handi for you. When you turn it upside down and shake it, it will
pour down a never-ceasing shower of the finest mudki, which will not
end till you restore the handi to its proper position. Yourself,
your wife, and your children can eat as much mudki as you like,
and you can also sell as much as you like." The Brahman, delighted
beyond measure at obtaining so inestimable a treasure, made obeisance
to the goddess, and, taking the handi in his hand, proceeded towards
his house as fast as his legs could carry him. But he had not gone
many yards when he thought of testing the efficacy of the wonderful
vessel. Accordingly he turned the handi upside down and shook it, when,
lo, and behold! a quantity of the finest mudki he had ever seen fell
to the ground. He tied the sweetmeat in his sheet and walked on. It
was now noon, and the Brahman was hungry; but he could not eat without
his ablutions and his prayers. As he saw in the way an inn, and not
far from it a tank, he purposed to halt there that he might bathe,
say his prayers, and then eat the much-desired mudki. The Brahman
sat at the innkeeper's shop, put the handi near him, smoked tobacco,
besmeared his body with mustard oil, and before proceeding to bathe
in the adjacent tank gave the handi in charge to the innkeeper,
begging him again and again to take especial care of it.

When the Brahman went to his bath and his devotions, the innkeeper
thought it strange that he should be so careful as to the safety of
his earthen vessel. There must be something valuable in the handi,
he thought, otherwise why should the Brahman take so much thought
about it? His curiosity being excited he opened the handi, and to his
surprise found that it contained nothing. What can be the meaning of
this? thought the innkeeper within himself. Why should the Brahman
care so much for an empty handi? He took up the vessel, and began
to examine it carefully; and when, in the course of examination, he
turned the handi upside down, a quantity of the finest mudki fell
from it, and went on falling without intermission. The innkeeper
called his wife and children to witness this unexpected stroke of good
fortune. The showers of the sugared fried paddy were so copious that
they filled all the vessels and jars of the innkeeper. He resolved
to appropriate to himself this precious handi, and accordingly put in
its place another handi of the same size and make. The ablutions and
devotions of the Brahman being now over, he came to the shop in wet
clothes reciting holy texts of the Vedas. Putting on dry clothes,
he wrote on a sheet of paper the name of Durga one hundred and
eight times in red ink; after which he broke his fast on the mudki
his handi had already given him. Thus refreshed, and being about
to resume his journey homewards, he called for his handi, which the
innkeeper delivered to him, adding--"There, sir, is your handi; it is
just where you put it; no one has touched it." The Brahman, without
suspecting anything, took up the handi and proceeded on his journey;
and as he walked on, he congratulated himself on his singular good
fortune. "How agreeably," he thought within himself, "will my poor
wife be surprised! How greedily the children will devour the mudki
of heaven's own manufacture! I shall soon become rich, and lift up
my head with the best of them all." The pains of travelling were
considerably alleviated by these joyful anticipations. He reached his
house, and calling his wife and children, said--"Look now at what I
have brought. This handi that you see is an unfailing source of wealth
and contentment. You will see what a stream of the finest mudki will
flow from it when I turn it upside down." The Brahman's good wife,
hearing of mudki falling from the handi unceasingly, thought that her
husband must have gone mad; and she was confirmed in her opinion when
she found that nothing fell from the vessel though it was turned upside
down again and again. Overwhelmed with grief, the Brahman concluded
that the innkeeper must have played a trick with him; he must have
stolen the handi Durga had given him, and put a common one in its
stead. He went back the next day to the innkeeper, and charged him
with having changed his handi. The innkeeper put on a fit of anger,
expressed surprise at the Brahman's impudence in charging him with
theft, and drove him away from his shop.

The Brahman then bethought himself of an interview with the goddess
Durga who had given him the handi, and accordingly went to the forest
where he had met her. Siva and Durga again favoured the Brahman
with an interview. Durga said--"So, you have lost the handi I gave
you. Here is another, take it and make good use of it." The Brahman,
elated with joy, made obeisance to the divine couple, took up the
vessel, and went on his way. He had not gone far when he turned it
upside down, and shook it in order to see whether any mudki would
fall from it. Horror of horrors! instead of sweetmeats about a score
of demons, of gigantic size and grim visage, jumped out of the handi,
and began to belabour the astonished Brahman with blows, fisticuffs and
kicks. He had the presence of mind to turn up the handi and to cover
it, when the demons forthwith disappeared. He concluded that this new
handi had been given him only for the punishment of the innkeeper. He
accordingly went to the innkeeper, gave him the new handi in charge,
begged of him carefully to keep it till he returned from his ablutions
and prayers. The innkeeper, delighted with this second godsend, called
his wife and children, and said--"This is another handi brought here by
the same Brahman who brought the handi of mudki. This time, I hope, it
is not mudki but sandesa. [9] Come, be ready with baskets and vessels,
and I'll turn the handi upside down and shake it." This was no sooner
done than scores of fierce demons started up, who caught hold of the
innkeeper and his family and belaboured them mercilessly. They also
began upsetting the shop, and would have completely destroyed it,
if the victims had not besought the Brahman, who had by this time
returned from his ablutions, to show mercy to them and send away
the terrible demons. The Brahman acceded to the innkeeper's request,
he dismissed the demons by shutting up the vessel; he got the former
handi, and with the two handis went to his native village.

On reaching home the Brahman shut the door of his house, turned the
mudki-handi upside down, and shook it; the result was an unceasing
stream of the finest mudki that any confectioner in the country
could produce. The man, his wife, and their children devoured the
sweetmeat to their hearts' content; all the available earthen pots
and pans of the house were filled with it; and the Brahman resolved
the next day to turn confectioner, to open a shop in his house, and
sell mudki. On the very day the shop was opened, the whole village
came to the Brahman's house to buy the wonderful mudki. They had never
seen such mudki in their life, it was so sweet, so white, so large, so
luscious; no confectioner in the village or any town in the country had
ever manufactured anything like it. The reputation of the Brahman's
mudki extended, in a few days, beyond the bounds of the village,
and people came from remote parts to purchase it. Cartloads of the
sweetmeat were sold every day, and the Brahman in a short time became
very rich. He built a large brick house, and lived like a nobleman
of the land. Once, however, his property was about to go to wreck
and ruin. His children one day by mistake shook the wrong handi,
when a large number of demons dropped down and caught hold of the
Brahman's wife and children and were striking them mercilessly, when
happily the Brahman came into the house and turned up the handi. In
order to prevent a similar catastrophe in future, the Brahman shut up
the demon-handi in a private room to which his children had no access.

Pure and uninterrupted prosperity, however, is not the lot of mortals;
and though the demon-handi was put aside, what security was there
that an accident might not befall the mudki-handi? One day, during
the absence of the Brahman and his wife from the house, the children
decided upon shaking the handi; but as each of them wished to enjoy
the pleasure of shaking it there was a general struggle to get it, and
in the mêlée the handi fell to the ground and broke. It is needless to
say that the Brahman, when on reaching home he heard of the disaster,
became inexpressibly sad. The children were of course well cudgelled,
but no flogging of children could replace the magical handi. After some
days he again went to the forest, and offered many a prayer for Durga's
favour. At last Siva and Durga again appeared to him, and heard how
the handi had been broken. Durga gave him another handi, accompanied
with the following caution--"Brahman, take care of this handi; if you
again break it or lose it, I'll not give you another." The Brahman
made obeisance, and went away to his house at one stretch without
halting anywhere. On reaching home he shut the door of his house,
called his wife to him, turned the handi upside down, and began to
shake it. They were only expecting mudki to drop from it, but instead
of mudki a perennial stream of beautiful sandesa issued from it. And
such sandesa! No confectioner of Burra Bazar ever made its like. It
was more the food of gods than of men. The Brahman forthwith set up
a shop for selling sandesa, the fame of which soon drew crowds of
customers from all parts of the country. At all festivals, at all
marriage feasts, at all funeral celebrations, at all Pujas, no one
bought any other sandesa than the Brahman's. Every day, and every
hour, many jars of gigantic size, filled with the delicious sweetmeat,
were sent to all parts of the country.

The wealth of the Brahman excited the envy of the Zemindar of the
village, who, having heard that the sandesa was not manufactured but
dropped from a handi, devised a plan for getting possession of the
miraculous vessel. At the celebration of his son's marriage he held
a great feast, to which were invited hundreds of people. As many
mountain-loads of sandesa would be required for the purpose, the
Zemindar proposed that the Brahman should bring the magical handi to
the house in which the feast was held. The Brahman at first refused
to take it there; but as the Zemindar insisted on its being carried
to his own house, he reluctantly consented to take it there. After
many Himalayas of sandesa had been shaken out, the handi was taken
possession of by the Zemindar, and the Brahman was insulted and driven
out of the house. The Brahman, without giving vent to anger in the
least, quietly went to his house, and taking the demon-handi in his
hand, came back to the door of the Zemindar's house. He turned the
handi upside down and shook it, on which a hundred demons started up
as from the vasty deep and enacted a scene which it is impossible to
describe. The hundreds of guests that had been bidden to the feast
were caught hold of by the unearthly visitants and beaten; the women
were dragged by their hair from the Zenana and dashed about amongst
the men; while the big and burly Zemindar was driven about from room
to room like a bale of cotton. If the demons had been allowed to do
their will only for a few minutes longer, all the men would have been
killed, and the very house razed to the ground. The Zemindar fell
prostrate at the feet of the Brahman and begged for mercy. Mercy was
shown him, and the demons were removed. After that the Brahman was
no more disturbed by the Zemindar or by any one else; and he lived
many years in great happiness and enjoyment.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



IV

THE STORY OF THE RAKSHASAS


There was a poor half-witted Brahman who had a wife but no children. It
was only with difficulty he could supply the wants of himself and his
wife. And the worst of it was that he was rather lazily inclined. He
was averse to taking long journeys, otherwise he might always have
had enough, in the shape of presents from rich men, to enable him
and his wife to live comfortably. There was at that time a king in a
neighbouring country who was celebrating the funeral obsequies of his
mother with great pomp. Brahmans and beggars were going from different
parts with the expectation of receiving rich presents. Our Brahman was
requested by his wife to seize this opportunity and get a little money;
but his constitutional indolence stood in the way. The woman, however,
gave her husband no rest till she extorted from him the promise that
he would go. The good woman, accordingly, cut down a plantain tree
and burnt it to ashes, with which ashes she cleaned the clothes of
her husband, and made them as white as any fuller could make them. She
did this because her husband was going to the palace of a great king,
who could not be approached by men clothed in dirty rags; besides,
as a Brahman, he was bound to appear neat and clean. The Brahman at
last one morning left his house for the palace of the great king. As
he was somewhat imbecile, he did not inquire of any one which road
he should take; but he went on and on, and proceeded whithersoever
his two eyes directed him. He was of course not on the right road,
indeed he had reached a region where he did not meet with a single
human being for many miles, and where he saw sights which he had
never seen in his life. He saw hillocks of cowries (shells used as
money) on the roadside: he had not proceeded far from them when he
saw hillocks of pice, then successively hillocks of four-anna pieces,
hillocks of eight-anna pieces, and hillocks of rupees. To the infinite
surprise of the poor Brahman, these hillocks of shining silver coins
were succeeded by a large hill of burnished gold-mohurs, which were
all as bright as if they had been just issued from the mint. Close
to this hill of gold-mohurs was a large house which seemed to be
the palace of a powerful and rich king, at the door of which stood
a lady of exquisite beauty. The lady, seeing the Brahman, said,
"Come, my beloved husband; you married me when I was young, and
you never came once after our marriage, though I have been daily
expecting you. Blessed be this day which has made me see the face of
my husband. Come, my sweet, come in, wash your feet and rest after the
fatigues of your journey; eat and drink, and after that we shall make
ourselves merry." The Brahman was astonished beyond measure. He had
no recollection of having been married in early youth to any other
woman than the woman who was now keeping house with him. But being
a Kulin Brahman, he thought it was quite possible that his father
had got him married when he was a little child, though the fact had
made no impression on his mind. But whether he remembered it or not,
the fact was certain, for the woman declared that she was his wedded
wife,--and such a wife! as beautiful as the goddesses of Indra's
heaven, and no doubt as wealthy as she was beautiful. While these
thoughts were passing through the Brahman's mind, the lady said again,
"Are you doubting in your mind whether I am your wife? Is it possible
that all recollection of that happy event has been effaced from your
mind--all the pomp and circumstance of our nuptials? Come in, beloved;
this is your own house, for whatever is mine is thine." The Brahman
succumbed to the loving entreaties of the fair lady, and went into the
house. The house was not an ordinary one--it was a magnificent palace,
all the apartments being large and lofty and richly furnished. But one
thing surprised the Brahman very much, and that was that there was
no other person in the house besides the lady herself. He could not
account for so singular a phenomenon; neither could he explain how
it was that he did not meet with any human being in his morning and
evening walks. The fact was that the lady was not a human being. She
was a Rakshasi. [10] She had eaten up the king, the queen, and all
the members of the royal family, and gradually all his subjects. This
was the reason why human beings were not seen in those parts.

The Rakshasi and the Brahman lived together for about a week, when
the former said to the latter, "I am very anxious to see my sister,
your other wife. You must go and fetch her, and we shall all live
together happily in this large and beautiful house. You must go early
to-morrow, and I will give you clothes and jewels for her." Next
morning the Brahman, furnished with fine clothes and costly ornaments,
set out for his home. The poor woman was in great distress; all the
Brahmans and Pandits that had been to the funeral ceremony of the
king's mother had returned home loaded with largesses; but her husband
had not returned,--and no one could give any news of him, for no one
had seen him there. The woman therefore concluded that he must have
been murdered on the road by highwaymen. She was in this terrible
suspense, when one day she heard a rumour in the village that her
husband was seen coming home with fine clothes and costly jewels for
his wife. And sure enough the Brahman soon appeared with his valuable
load. On seeing his wife the Brahman thus accosted her:--"Come with
me, my dearest wife; I have found my first wife. She lives in a
stately palace, near which are hillocks of rupees and a large hill
of gold-mohurs. Why should you pine away in wretchedness and misery
in this horrible place? Come with me to the house of my first wife,
and we shall all live together happily." When the woman heard her
husband speak of his first wife, of hillocks of rupees and of a hill
of gold-mohurs, she thought in her mind that her half-witted good man
had become quite mad; but when she saw the exquisitely beautiful silks
and satins and the ornaments set with diamonds and precious stones,
which only queens and princesses were in the habit of putting on,
she concluded in her mind that her poor husband had fallen into the
meshes of a Rakshasi. The Brahman, however, insisted on his wife's
going with him, and declared that if she did not come she was at
liberty to pine away in poverty, but that for himself he meant to
return forthwith to his first and rich wife. The good woman, after a
great deal of altercation with her husband, resolved to go with him
and judge for herself how matters stood. They set out accordingly
the next morning, and went by the same road on which the Brahman had
travelled. The woman was not a little surprised to see hillocks of
cowries, of pice, of eight-anna pieces, of rupees, and last of all a
lofty hill of gold-mohurs. She saw also an exceedingly beautiful lady
coming out of the palace hard by, and hastening towards her. The lady
fell on the neck of the Brahman woman, wept tears of joy, and said,
"Welcome, beloved sister! this is the happiest day of my life! I have
seen the face of my dearest sister!" The party then entered the palace.

What with the stately mansion in which he was lodged, with the most
delectable provisions which seemed to rise as if by enchantment, what
with the caresses and endearments of his two wives, the one human and
the other demoniac, who vied with each other in making him happy and
comfortable, the Brahman had a jolly time of it. He was steeped as
it were in an ocean of enjoyment. Some fifteen or sixteen years were
spent by the Brahman in this state of Elysian pleasure, during which
period his two wives presented him with two sons. The Rakshasi's son,
who was the elder, and who looked more like a god than a human being,
was named Sahasra Dal, literally the Thousand-Branched; and the son
of the Brahman woman, who was a year younger, was named Champa Dal,
that is, branch of a champaka tree. The two boys loved each other
dearly. They were both sent to a school which was several miles
distant, to which they used every day to go riding on two little
ponies of extraordinary fleetness.

The Brahman woman had all along suspected from a thousand little
circumstances that her sister-in-law was not a human being but a
Rakshasi; but her suspicion had not yet ripened into certainty, for
the Rakshasi exercised great self-restraint on herself, and never
did anything which human beings did not do. But the demoniac nature,
like murder, will out. The Brahman having nothing to do, in order
to pass his time had recourse to hunting. The first day he returned
from the hunt, he had bagged an antelope. The antelope was laid in the
courtyard of the palace. At the sight of the antelope the mouth of the
raw-eating Rakshasi began to water. Before the animal was dressed for
the kitchen, she took it away into a room, and began devouring it. The
Brahman woman, who was watching the whole scene from a secret place,
saw her Rakshasi sister tear off a leg of the antelope, and opening her
tremendous jaws, which seemed to her imagination to extend from earth
to heaven, swallow it up. In this manner the body and other limbs of
the antelope were devoured, till only a little bit of the meat was
kept for the kitchen. The second day another antelope was bagged,
and the third day another; and the Rakshasi, unable to restrain her
appetite for raw flesh, devoured these two as she had devoured the
first. On the third day the Brahman woman expressed to the Rakshasi her
surprise at the disappearance of nearly the whole of the antelope with
the exception of a little bit. The Rakshasi looked fierce and said,
"Do I eat raw flesh?" To which the Brahman woman replied, "Perhaps you
do, for aught I know to the contrary." The Rakshasi, knowing herself
to be discovered, looked fiercer than before, and vowed revenge. The
Brahman woman concluded in her mind that the doom of herself, of
her husband, and of her son was sealed. She spent a miserable night,
believing that next day she would be killed and eaten up, and that her
husband and son would share the same fate. Early next morning, before
her son Champa Dal went to school, she gave him in a small golden
vessel a little quantity of her own breast milk, and told him to be
constantly watching its colour. "Should you," she said, "see the milk
get a little red, then conclude that your father has been killed; and
should you see it grow still redder, then conclude that I am killed:
when you see this, gallop away for your life as fast as your horse
can carry you, for if you do not, you also will be devoured."

The Rakshasi on getting up from bed--and she had prevented the Brahman
overnight from having any communication with his wife--proposed that
she and the Brahman should go to bathe in the river, which was at
some distance. She would take no denial; the Brahman had therefore
to follow her as meekly as a lamb. The Brahman woman at once saw from
the proposal that ruin was impending; but it was beyond her power to
avert the catastrophe. The Rakshasi, on the river-side, assuming her
own proper gigantic dimensions, took hold of the ill-fated Brahman,
tore him limb by limb, and devoured him up. She then ran to her house,
and seized the Brahman woman, and put her into her capacious stomach,
clothes, hair and all. Young Champa Dal, who, agreeably to his mother's
instructions, was diligently watching the milk in the small golden
vessel, was horror-struck to find the milk redden a little. He set
up a cry and said that his father was killed; a few minutes after,
finding the milk become completely red, he cried yet louder, and
rushing to his pony, mounted it. His half-brother, Sahasra Dal,
surprised at Champa Dal's conduct, said, "Where are you going,
Champa? Why are you crying? Let me accompany you." "Oh! do not come
to me. Your mother has devoured my father and mother; don't you come
and devour me." "I will not devour you; I'll save you." Scarcely
had he uttered these words and galloped away after Champa Dal, when
he saw his mother in her own Rakshasi form appearing at a distance,
and demanding that Champa Dal should come to her. He said, "I will
come to you, not Champa." So saying, he went to his mother, and with
his sword, which he always wore as a young prince, cut off her head.

Champa Dal had, in the meantime, galloped off a good distance, as
he was running for his life; but Sahasra Dal, by pricking his horse
repeatedly, soon overtook him, and told him that his mother was no
more. This was small consolation to Champa Dal, as the Rakshasi,
before being killed, had devoured both his father and mother; still
he could not but feel that Sahasra Dal's friendship was sincere. They
both rode fast, and as their horses were of the breed of pakshirajes
(literally, kings of birds), they travelled over hundreds of miles. An
hour or two before sundown they descried a village, to which they made
up, and became guests in the house of one of its most respectable
inhabitants. The two friends found the members of that respectable
family in deep gloom. Evidently there was something agitating them
very much. Some of them held private consultations, and others were
weeping. The eldest lady of the house, the mother of its head, said
aloud, "Let me go, as I am the eldest. I have lived long enough;
at the utmost my life would be cut short only by a year or two." The
youngest member of the house, who was a little girl, said, "Let me
go, as I am young and useless to the family; if I die I shall not be
missed." The head of the house, the son of the old lady, said, "I am
the head and representative of the family; it is but reasonable that
I should give up my life." His younger brother said, "You are the main
prop and pillar of the family; if you go the whole family is ruined. It
is not reasonable that you should go; let me go, as I shall not be
much missed." The two strangers listened to all this conversation
with no little curiosity. They wondered what it all meant. Sahasra
Dal at last, at the risk of being thought meddlesome, ventured to
ask the head of the house the subject of their consultations, and
the reason of the deep misery but too visible in their countenances
and words. The head of the house gave the following answer: "Know
then, worthy guests, that this part of the country is infested by a
terrible Rakshasi, who has depopulated all the regions round. This
town, too, would have been depopulated, but that our king became a
suppliant before the Rakshasi, and begged her to show mercy to us his
subjects. The Rakshasi replied, 'I will consent to show mercy to you
and to your subjects only on this condition, that you every night put
a human being, either male or female, in a certain temple for me to
feast upon. If I get a human being every night I will rest satisfied,
and not commit any further depredations on your subjects.' Our king
had no other alternative than to agree to this condition, for what
human beings can ever hope to contend against a Rakshasi? From that
day the king made it a rule that every family in the town should in
its turn send one of its members to the temple as a victim to appease
the wrath and to satisfy the hunger of the terrible Rakshasi. All the
families in this neighbourhood have had their turn, and this night
it is the turn for one of us to devote himself to destruction. We are
therefore discussing who should go. You must now perceive the cause of
our distress." The two friends consulted together for a few minutes,
and at the conclusion of their consultations, Sahasra Dal, who was the
spokesman of the party, said, "Most worthy host, do not any longer be
sad: as you have been very kind to us, we have resolved to requite
your hospitality by ourselves going to the temple and becoming the
food of the Rakshasi. We go as your representatives." The whole
family protested against the proposal. They declared that guests
were like gods, and that it was the duty of the host to endure all
sorts of privation for the comfort of the guest, and not the duty of
the guest to suffer for the host. But the two strangers insisted on
standing proxy to the family, who, after a great deal of yea and nay,
at last consented to the arrangement.

Immediately after candle-light, Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal, with
their two horses, installed themselves in the temple, and shut the
door. Sahasra told his brother to go to sleep, as he himself was
determined to sit up the whole night and watch against the coming of
the terrible Rakshasi. Champa was soon in a fine sleep, while Sahasra
lay awake. Nothing happened during the early hours of the night, but
no sooner had the gong of the king's palace announced the dead hour
of midnight than Sahasra heard the sound as of a rushing tempest,
and immediately concluded, from his knowledge of Rakshasas, that
the Rakshasi was nigh. A thundering knock was heard at the door,
accompanied with the following words:--


           "How, mow, khow!
            A human being I smell;
            Who watches inside?"


To this question Sahasra Dal made the following reply:--


           "Sahasra Dal watcheth,
            Champa Dal watcheth,
            Two winged horses watch."


On hearing this answer the Rakshasi turned away with a groan, knowing
that Sahasra Dal had Rakshasa blood in his veins. An hour after,
the Rakshasi returned, thundered at the door, and called out--


           "How, mow, khow!
            A human being I smell;
            Who watcheth inside?"


Sahasra Dal again replied--


           "Sahasra Dal watcheth,
            Champa Dal watcheth,
            Two winged horses watch."


The Rakshasi again groaned and went away. At two o'clock and at three
o'clock the Rakshasi again and again made her appearance, and made
the usual inquiry, and obtaining the same answer, went away with a
groan. After three o'clock, however, Sahasra Dal felt very sleepy:
he could not any longer keep awake. He therefore roused Champa,
told him to watch, and strictly enjoined upon him, in reply to the
query of the Rakshasi, to mention Sahasra's name first. With these
instructions he went to sleep. At four o'clock the Rakshasi again
made her appearance, thundered at the door, and said--


           "How, mow, khow!
            A human being I smell;
            Who watches inside?"


As Champa Dal was in a terrible fright, he forgot the instructions
of his brother for the moment, and answered--


           "Champa Dal watcheth,
            Sahasra Dal watcheth,
            Two winged horses watch."


On hearing this reply the Rakshasi uttered a shout of exultation,
laughed such a laugh as only demons can, and with a dreadful noise
broke open the door. The noise roused Sahasra, who in a moment
sprung to his feet, and with his sword, which was as supple as a
palm-leaf, cut off the head of the Rakshasi. The huge mountain of a
body fell to the ground, making a great noise, and lay covering many
an acre. Sahasra Dal kept the severed head of the Rakshasi near him,
and went to sleep. Early in the morning some wood-cutters, who were
passing near the temple, saw the huge body on the ground. They could
not from a distance make out what it was, but on coming near they
knew that it was the carcase of the terrible Rakshasi, who had by
her voracity nearly depopulated the country. Remembering the promise
made by the king that the killer of the Rakshasi should be rewarded
by the hand of his daughter and with a share of the kingdom, each of
the wood-cutters, seeing no claimant at hand, thought of obtaining
the reward. Accordingly each of them cut off a part of a limb of the
huge carcase, went to the king, and represented himself to be the
destroyer of the great raw-eater, and claimed the reward. The king,
in order to find out the real hero and deliverer, inquired of his
minister the name of the family whose turn it was on the preceding
night to offer a victim to the Rakshasi. The head of that family, on
being brought before the king, related how two youthful travellers,
who were guests in his house, volunteered to go into the temple
in the room of a member of his family. The door of the temple was
broken open; Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal and their horses were found
all safe; and the head of the Rakshasi, which was with them, proved
beyond the shadow of a doubt that they had killed the monster. The
king kept his word. He gave his daughter in marriage to Sahasra Dal
and the sovereignty of half his dominions. Champa Dal remained with
his friend in the king's palace, and rejoiced in his prosperity.

Sahasra Dal and Champa Dal lived together happily for some time, when
a misunderstanding arose between them in this wise. There was in the
service of the queen-mother a certain maid-servant who was the most
useful domestic in the palace. There was nothing which she could not
put her hands to and perform. She had uncommon strength for a woman;
neither was her intelligence of a mean order. She was a woman of
immense activity and energy; and if she were absent one day from the
palace, the affairs of the zenana would be in perfect disorder. Hence
her services were highly valued by the queen-mother and all the ladies
of the palace. But this woman was not a woman; she was a Rakshasi, who
had put on the appearance of a woman to serve some purposes of her own,
and then taken service in the royal household. At night, when every
one in the palace was asleep, she used to assume her own real form, and
go about in quest of food, for the quantity of food that is sufficient
for either man or woman was not sufficient for a Rakshasi. Now Champa
Dal, having no wife, was in the habit of sleeping outside the zenana,
and not far from the outer gate of the palace. He had noticed her going
about on the premises and devouring sundry goats and sheep, horses and
elephants. The maid-servant, finding that Champa Dal was in the way of
her supper, determined to get rid of him. She accordingly went one day
to the queen-mother, and said, "Queen-mother! I am unable any longer
to work in the palace." "Why? what is the matter, Dasi? [11] How can
I get on without you? Tell me your reasons. What ails you?" "Why,"
said the woman, "nowadays it is impossible for a poor woman like
me to preserve my honour in the palace. There is that Champa Dal,
the friend of your son-in-law; he always cracks indecent jokes with
me. It is better for me to beg for my rice than to lose my honour. If
Champa Dal remains in the palace I must go away." As the maid-servant
was an absolute necessity in the palace, the queen-mother resolved
to sacrifice Champa Dal to her. She therefore told Sahasra Dal that
Champa Dal was a bad man, that his character was loose, and that
therefore he must leave the palace. Sahasra Dal earnestly pleaded on
behalf of his friend, but in vain; the queen-mother had made up her
mind to drive him out of the palace. Sahasra Dal had not the courage
to speak personally to his friend on the subject; he therefore wrote
a letter to him, in which he simply said that for certain reasons
Champa must leave the palace immediately. The letter was put in his
room after he had gone to bathe. On reading the letter Champa Dal,
exceedingly grieved, mounted his fleet horse and left the palace.

As Champa's horse was uncommonly fleet, in a few hours he traversed
thousands of miles, and at last found himself at the gateway of what
seemed a magnificent palace. Dismounting from his horse, he entered
the house, where he did not meet with a single creature. He went from
apartment to apartment, but though they were all richly furnished he
did not see a single human being. At last, in one of the side rooms,
he found a young lady of heavenly beauty lying down on a splendid
bedstead. She was asleep. Champa Dal looked upon the sleeping beauty
with rapture--he had not seen any woman so beautiful. Upon the bed,
near the head of the young lady, were two sticks, one of silver and the
other of gold. Champa took the silver stick into his hand, and touched
with it the body of the lady; but no change was perceptible. He then
took up the gold stick and laid it upon the lady, when in a trice
she woke up, sat in her bed, and eyeing the stranger, inquired who
he was. Champa Dal briefly told his story. The young lady, or rather
princess--for she was nothing less--said, "Unhappy man! why have you
come here? This is the country of Rakshasas, and in this house and
round about there live no less than seven hundred Rakshasas. They
all go away to the other side of the ocean every morning in search of
provisions; and they all return every evening before dusk. My father
was formerly king in these regions, and had millions of subjects, who
lived in flourishing towns and cities. But some years ago the invasion
of the Rakshasas took place, and they devoured all his subjects,
and himself and my mother, and my brothers and sisters. They devoured
also all the cattle of the country. There is no living human being in
these regions excepting myself; and I too should long ago have been
devoured had not an old Rakshasi, conceiving strange affection for
me, prevented the other Rakshasas from eating me up. You see those
sticks of silver and gold; the old Rakshasi, when she goes away in
the morning, kills me with the silver stick, and on her return in
the evening re-animates me with the gold stick. I do not know how
to advise you; if the Rakshasas see you, you are a dead man." Then
they both talked to each other in a very affectionate manner, and
laid their heads together to devise if possible some means of escape
from the hands of the Rakshasas. The hour of the return of the seven
hundred raw-eaters was fast approaching; and Keshavati--for that
was the name of the princess, so called from the abundance of her
hair--told Champa to hide himself in the heaps of the sacred trefoil
which were lying in the temple of Siva in the central part of the
palace. Before Champa went to his place of concealment, he touched
Keshavati with the silver stick, on which she instantly died.

Shortly after sunset Champa Dal heard from beneath the heaps of the
sacred trefoil the sound as of a mighty rushing wind. Presently he
heard terrible noises in the palace. The Rakshasas had come home
from cruising, after having filled their stomachs, each one, with
sundry goats, sheep, cows, horses, buffaloes, and elephants. The old
Rakshasi, of whom we have already spoken, came to Keshavati's room,
roused her by touching her body with the gold stick, and said--


           "Hye, mye, khye!
            A human being I smell."


On which Keshavati said, "I am the only human being here; eat me if you
like." To which the raw-eater replied, "Let me eat up your enemies;
why should I eat you?" She laid herself down on the ground, as long
and as high as the Vindhya Hills, and presently fell asleep. The other
Rakshasas and Rakshasis also soon fell asleep, being all tired out on
account of their gigantic labours in the day. Keshavati also composed
herself to sleep; while Champa, not daring to come out of the heaps
of leaves, tried his best to court the god of repose. At daybreak all
the raw-eaters, seven hundred in number, got up and went as usual to
their hunting and predatory excursions, and along with them went the
old Rakshasi, after touching Keshavati with the silver stick. When
Champa Dal saw that the coast was clear, he came out of the temple,
walked into Keshavati's room, and touched her with the gold stick,
on which she woke up. They sauntered about in the gardens, enjoying
the cool breeze of the morning; they bathed in a lucid tank which
was in the grounds; they ate and drank, and spent the day in sweet
converse. They concocted a plan for their deliverance. They settled
that Keshavati should ask the old Rakshasi on what the life of a
Rakshasa depended, and when the secret should be made known they would
adopt measures accordingly. As on the preceding evening, Champa, after
touching his fair friend with the silver stick, took refuge in the
temple beneath the heaps of the sacred trefoil. At dusk the Rakshasas
as usual came home; and the old Rakshasi, rousing her pet, said--


           "Hye, mye, khye!
            A human being I smell."


Keshavati answered, "What other human being is here excepting
myself? Eat me up, if you like." "Why should I eat you, my darling? Let
me eat up all your enemies." Then she laid down on the ground her huge
body, which looked like a part of the Himalaya mountains. Keshavati,
with a phial of heated mustard oil, went towards the feet of the
Rakshasi, and said, "Mother, your feet are sore with walking; let me
rub them with oil." So saying, she began to rub with oil the Rakshasi's
feet; and while she was in the act of doing so, a few tear-drops from
her eyes fell on the monster's leg. The Rakshasi smacked the tear-drops
with her lips, and finding the taste briny, said, "Why are you weeping,
darling? What aileth thee?" To which the princess replied, "Mother,
I am weeping because you are old, and when you die I shall certainly
be devoured by one of the Rakshasas." "When I die! Know, foolish girl,
that we Rakshasas never die. We are not naturally immortal, but our
life depends on a secret which no human being can unravel. Let me
tell you what it is that you may be comforted. You know yonder tank;
there is in the middle of it a Sphatikasthambha, [12] on the top of
which in deep waters are two bees. If any human being can dive into
the waters, and bring up to land the two bees from the pillar in one
breath, and destroy them so that not a drop of their blood falls to
the ground, then we Rakshasas shall certainly die; but if a single
drop of blood falls to the ground, then from it will start up a
thousand Rakshasas. But what human being will find out this secret,
or, finding it, will be able to achieve the feat? You need not,
therefore, darling, be sad; I am practically immortal." Keshavati
treasured up the secret in her memory, and went to sleep.

Early next morning the Rakshasas as usual went away; Champa came
out of his hiding-place, roused Keshavati, and fell a-talking. The
princess told him the secret she had learnt from the Rakshasi. Champa
immediately made preparations for accomplishing the mighty deed. He
brought to the side of the tank a knife and a quantity of ashes. He
disrobed himself, put a drop or two of mustard oil into each of his
ears to prevent water from entering in, and dived into the waters. In
a moment he got to the top of the crystal pillar in the middle of the
tank, caught hold of the two bees he found there, and came up in one
breath. Taking the knife, he cut up the bees over the ashes, a drop
or two of the blood fell, not on the ground, but on the ashes. When
Champa caught hold of the bees, a terrible scream was heard at a
distance. This was the wailing of the Rakshasas, who were all running
home to prevent the bees from being killed; but before they could reach
the palace, the bees had perished. The moment the bees were killed,
all the Rakshasas died, and their carcases fell on the very spot on
which they were standing. Champa and the princess afterwards found
that the gateway of the palace was blocked up by the huge carcases
of the Rakshasas--some of them having nearly succeeded in getting to
the palace. In this manner was effected the destruction of the seven
hundred Rakshasas.

After the destruction of the seven hundred raw-eating monsters, Champa
Dal and Keshavati got married together by the exchange of garlands of
flowers. The princess, who had never been out of the house, naturally
expressed a desire to see the outer world. They used every day to
take long walks both morning and evening, and as a large river was
hard by Keshavati wished to bathe in it. The first day they went to
bathe, one of Keshavati's hairs came off, and as it is the custom
with women never to throw away a hair unaccompanied with something
else, she tied the hair to a shell which was floating on the water;
after which they returned home. In the meantime the shell with the hair
tied to it floated down the stream, and in course of time reached that
ghat [13] at which Sahasra Dal and his companions were in the habit
of performing their ablutions. The shell passed by when Sahasra Dal
and his friends were bathing; and he, seeing it at some distance,
said to them, "Whoever succeeds in catching hold of yonder shell
shall be rewarded with a hundred rupees." They all swam towards it,
and Sahasra Dal, being the fleetest swimmer, got it. On examining
it he found a hair tied to it. But such hair! He had never seen so
long a hair. It was exactly seven cubits long. "The owner of this
hair must be a remarkable woman, and I must see her"--such was the
resolution of Sahasra Dal. He went home from the river in a pensive
mood, and instead of proceeding to the zenana for breakfast, remained
in the outer part of the palace. The queen-mother, on hearing that
Sahasra Dal was looking melancholy and had not come to breakfast,
went to him and asked the reason. He showed her the hair, and said
he must see the woman whose head it had adorned. The queen-mother
said, "Very well, you shall have that lady in the palace as soon as
possible. I promise you to bring her here." The queen-mother told her
favourite maid-servant, whom she knew to be full of resources--the same
who was a Rakshasi in disguise--that she must, as soon as possible,
bring to the palace that lady who was the owner of the hair seven
cubits long. The maid-servant said she would be quite able to fetch
her. By her directions a boat was built of Hajol wood, the oars of
which were of Mon Paban wood. The boat was launched on the stream,
and she went on board of it with some baskets of wicker-work of
curious workmanship; she also took with her some sweetmeats into
which some poison had been mixed. She snapped her fingers thrice,
and uttered the following charm:--


           "Boat of Hajol!
            Oars of Mon Paban!
            Take me to the Ghat,
            In which Keshavati bathes."


No sooner had the words been uttered than the boat flew like lightning
over the waters. It went on and on, leaving behind many a town and
city. At last it stopped at a bathing-place, which the Rakshasi
maid-servant concluded was the bathing ghat of Keshavati. She landed
with the sweetmeats in her hand. She went to the gate of the palace,
and cried aloud, "O Keshavati! Keshavati! I am your aunt, your mother's
sister. I am come to see you, my darling, after so many years. Are you
in, Keshavati?" The princess, on hearing these words, came out of her
room, and making no doubt that she was her aunt, embraced and kissed
her. They both wept rivers of joy--at least the Rakshasi maid-servant
did, and Keshavati followed suit through sympathy. Champa Dal also
thought that she was the aunt of his newly married wife. They all
ate and drank and took rest in the middle of the day. Champa Dal,
as was his habit, went to sleep after breakfast. Towards afternoon,
the supposed aunt said to Keshavati, "Let us both go to the river and
wash ourselves." Keshavati replied, "How can we go now? my husband
is sleeping." "Never mind," said the aunt, "let him sleep on; let me
put these sweetmeats, that I have brought, near his bedside, that he
may eat them when he gets up." They then went to the river-side close
to the spot where the boat was. Keshavati, when she saw from some
distance the baskets of wicker-work in the boat, said, "Aunt, what
beautiful things are those! I wish I could get some of them." "Come,
my child, come and look at them; and you can have as many as you
like." Keshavati at first refused to go into the boat, but on being
pressed by her aunt, she went. The moment they two were on board,
the aunt snapped her fingers thrice and said:--


           "Boat of Hajol!
            Oars of Mon Paban!
            Take me to the Ghat,
            In which Sahasra Dal bathes."


As soon as these magical words were uttered the boat moved and flew
like an arrow over the waters. Keshavati was frightened and began to
cry, but the boat went on and on, leaving behind many towns and cities,
and in a trice reached the ghat where Sahasra Dal was in the habit of
bathing. Keshavati was taken to the palace; Sahasra Dal admired her
beauty and the length of her hair; and the ladies of the palace tried
their best to comfort her. But she set up a loud cry, and wanted to be
taken back to her husband. At last when she saw that she was a captive,
she told the ladies of the palace that she had taken a vow that she
would not see the face of any strange man for six months. She was
then lodged apart from the rest in a small house, the window of which
overlooked the road; there she spent the livelong day and also the
livelong night--for she had very little sleep--in sighing and weeping.

In the meantime when Champa Dal awoke from sleep, he was distracted
with grief at not finding his wife. He now thought that the woman,
who pretended to be his wife's aunt, was a cheat and an impostor,
and that she must have carried away Keshavati. He did not eat the
sweetmeats, suspecting they might be poisoned. He threw one of
them to a crow which, the moment it ate it, dropped down dead. He
was now the more confirmed in his unfavourable opinion of the
pretended aunt. Maddened with grief, he rushed out of the house,
and determined to go whithersoever his eyes might lead him. Like a
madman, always blubbering "O Keshavati! O Keshavati!" he travelled
on foot day after day, not knowing whither he went. Six months were
spent in this wearisome travelling when, at the end of that period, he
reached the capital of Sahasra Dal. He was passing by the palace-gate
when the sighs and wailings of a woman sitting at the window of
a house, on the road-side, attracted his attention. One moment's
look, and they recognised each other. They continued to hold secret
communications. Champa Dal heard everything, including the story of
her vow, the period of which was to terminate the following day. It
is customary, on the fulfilment of a vow, for some learned Brahman
to make public recitations of events connected with the vow and
the person who makes it. It was settled that Champa Dal should take
upon himself the functions of the reciter. Accordingly, next morning,
when it was proclaimed by beat of drum that the king wanted a learned
Brahman who could recite the story of Keshavati on the fulfilment
of her vow, Champa Dal touched the drum and said that he would make
the recitation. Next morning a gorgeous assembly was held in the
courtyard of the palace under a huge canopy of silk. The old king,
Sahasra Dal, all the courtiers and the learned Brahmans of the country,
were present there. Keshavati was also there behind a screen that she
might not be exposed to the rude gaze of the people. Champa Dal, the
reciter, sitting on a dais, began the story of Keshavati, as we have
related it, from the beginning, commencing with the words--"There
was a poor and half-witted Brahman, etc." As he was going on with
the story, the reciter every now and then asked Keshavati behind the
screen whether the story was correct; to which question she as often
replied, "Quite correct; go on, Brahman." During the recitation of
the story the Rakshasi maid-servant grew pale, as she perceived that
her real character was discovered; and Sahasra Dal was astonished
at the knowledge of the reciter regarding the history of his own
life. The moment the story was finished, Sahasra Dal jumped up from
his seat, and embracing the reciter, said, "You can be none other
than my brother Champa Dal." Then the prince, inflamed with rage,
ordered the maid-servant into his presence. A large hole, as deep
as the height of a man, was dug in the ground; the maid-servant was
put into it in a standing posture; prickly thorn was heaped around
her up to the crown of her head: in this wise was the maid-servant
buried alive. After this Sahasra Dal and his princess, and Champa
Dal and Keshavati, lived happily together many years.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



V

THE STORY OF SWET-BASANTA


There was a rich merchant who had an only son whom he loved
passionately. He gave to his son whatever he wanted. His son wanted
a beautiful house in the midst of a large garden. The house was built
for him, and the grounds were laid out into a fine garden. One day as
the merchant's son was walking in his garden, he put his hand into
the nest of a small bird called toontooni, and found in it an egg,
which he took and put in an almirah which was dug into the wall of
his house. He closed the door of the almirah, and thought no more of
the egg.

Though the merchant's son had a house of his own, he had no separate
establishment; at any rate he kept no cook, for his mother used to
send him regularly his breakfast and dinner every day. The egg which
he deposited in the wall-almirah one day burst, and out of it came a
beautiful infant, a girl. But the merchant's son knew nothing about
it. He had forgotten everything about the egg, and the door of the
wall-almirah had been kept closed, though not locked, ever since the
day the egg was put there. The child grew up within the wall-almirah
without the knowledge of the merchant's son or of any one else. When
the child could walk, it had the curiosity one day to open the door;
and seeing some food on the floor (the breakfast of the merchant's son
sent by his mother), it came out, and ate a little of it, and returned
to its cell in the wall-almirah. As the mother of the merchant's
son sent him always more than he could himself eat, he perceived no
diminution in the quantity. The girl of the wall-almirah used every
day to come out and eat a part of the food, and after eating used
to return to her place in the almirah. But as the girl got older and
older, she began to eat more and more; hence the merchant's son began
to perceive a diminution in the quantity of his food. Not dreaming of
the existence of the wall-almirah girl, he wondered that his mother
should send him such a small quantity of food. He sent word to his
mother, complaining of the insufficiency of his meals, and of the
slovenly manner in which the food was served up in the dish; for the
girl of the wall-almirah used to finger the rice, curry, and other
articles of food, and as she always went in a hurry back into the
almirah that she might not be perceived by any one, she had no time
to put the rice and the other things into proper order after she had
eaten part of them. The mother was astonished at her son's complaint,
for she gave always a much larger quantity than she knew her son could
consume, and the food was served up on a silver plate neatly by her
own hand. But as her son repeated the same complaint day after day,
she began to suspect foul play. She told her son to watch and see
whether any one ate part of it unperceived. Accordingly, one day when
the servant brought the breakfast and laid it in a clean place on the
floor, the merchant's son, instead of going to bathe as it had hitherto
been his custom, hid himself in a secret place and began to watch. In
a few minutes he saw the door of the wall-almirah open; a beautiful
damsel of sweet sixteen stepped out of it, sat on the carpet spread
before the breakfast, and began to eat. The merchant's son came out
of his hiding-place, and the damsel could not escape. "Who are you,
beautiful creature? You do not seem to be earth-born. Are you one
of the daughters of the gods?" asked the merchant's son. The girl
replied, "I do not know who I am. This I know, that one day I found
myself in yonder almirah, and have been ever since living in it." The
merchant's son thought it strange. He now remembered that sixteen years
before he had put in the almirah an egg he had found in the nest of
a toontooni bird. The uncommon beauty of the wall-almirah girl made
a deep impression on the mind of the merchant's son, and he resolved
in his mind to marry her. The girl no more went into the almirah, but
lived in one of the rooms of the spacious house of the merchant's son.

The next day the merchant's son sent word to his mother to the effect
that he would like to get married. His mother reproached herself
for not having long before thought of her son's marriage, and sent
a message to her son to the effect that she and his father would
the next day send ghataks [14] to different countries to seek for a
suitable bride. The merchant's son sent word that he had secured for
himself a most lovable young lady, and that if his parents had no
objections he would produce her before them. Accordingly the young
lady of the wall-almirah was taken to the merchant's house; and the
merchant and his wife were so struck with the matchless beauty, grace,
and loveliness of the stranger, that, without asking any questions
as to her birth, the nuptials were celebrated.

In course of time the merchant's son had two sons; the elder he
named Swet and the younger Basanta. The old merchant died and so
did his wife. Swet and Basanta grew up fine lads, and the elder was
in due time married. Some time after Swet's marriage his mother,
the wall-almirah lady, also died, and the widower lost no time in
marrying a young and beautiful wife. As Swet's wife was older than
his stepmother, she became the mistress of the house. The stepmother,
like all stepmothers, hated Swet and Basanta with a perfect hatred;
and the two ladies were naturally often at loggerheads with each other.

It so happened one day that a fisherman brought to the merchant (we
shall no longer call him the merchant's son, as his father had died)
a fish of singular beauty. It was unlike any other fish that had
been seen. The fish had marvellous qualities ascribed to it by the
fisherman. If any one eats it, said he, when he laughs maniks [15]
will drop from his mouth, and when he weeps pearls will drop from his
eyes. The merchant, hearing of the wonderful properties of the fish,
bought it at one thousand rupees, and put it into the hands of Swet's
wife, who was the mistress of the house, strictly enjoining on her
to cook it well and to give it to him alone to eat. The mistress,
or house-mother, who had overheard the conversation between her
father-in-law and the fisherman, secretly resolved in her mind to
give the cooked fish to her husband and to his brother to eat, and to
give to her father-in-law instead a frog daintily cooked. When she had
finished cooking both the fish and the frog, she heard the noise of a
squabble between her stepmother-in-law and her husband's brother. It
appears that Basanta, who was but a lad yet, was passionately fond
of pigeons, which he tamed. One of these pigeons had flown into the
room of his stepmother, who had secreted it in her clothes. Basanta
rushed into the room, and loudly demanded the pigeon. His stepmother
denied any knowledge of the pigeon, on which the elder brother,
Swet, forcibly took out the bird from her clothes and gave it to
his brother. The stepmother cursed and swore, and added, "Wait,
when the head of the house comes home I will make him shed the blood
of you both before I give him water to drink." Swet's wife called
her husband and said to him, "My dearest lord, that woman is a most
wicked woman, and has boundless influence over my father-in-law. She
will make him do what she has threatened. Our life is in imminent
danger. Let us first eat a little, and let us all three run away
from this place." Swet forthwith called Basanta to him, and told him
what he had heard from his wife. They resolved to run away before
nightfall. The woman placed before her husband and her brother-in-law
the fish of wonderful properties, and they ate of it heartily. The
woman packed up all her jewels in a box. As there was only one horse,
and it was of uncommon fleetness, the three sat upon it; Swet held
the reins, the woman sat in the middle with the jewel-box in her lap,
and Basanta brought up the rear.

The horse galloped with the utmost swiftness. They passed through
many a plain and many a noted town, till after midnight they found
themselves in a forest not far from the bank of a river. Here
the most untoward event took place. Swet's wife began to feel the
pains of child-birth. They dismounted, and in an hour or two Swet's
wife gave birth to a son. What were the two brothers to do in this
forest? A fire must be kindled to give heat both to the mother and
the new-born baby. But where was the fire to be got? There were no
human habitations visible. Still fire must be procured--and it was
the month of December--or else both the mother and the baby would
certainly perish. Swet told Basanta to sit beside his wife, while he
set out in the darkness of the night in search of fire.

Swet walked many a mile in darkness. Still he saw no human
habitations. At last the genial light of Sukra [16] somewhat illumined
his path, and he saw at a distance what seemed a large city. He was
congratulating himself on his journey's end and on his being able to
obtain fire for the benefit of his poor wife lying cold in the forest
with the new-born babe, when on a sudden an elephant, gorgeously
caparisoned, shot across his path, and gently taking him up by his
trunk, placed him on the rich howdah [17] on its back. It then walked
rapidly towards the city. Swet was quite taken aback. He did not
understand the meaning of the elephant's action, and wondered what
was in store for him. A crown was in store for him. In that kingdom,
the chief city of which he was approaching, every morning a king was
elected, for the king of the previous day was always found dead in
the morning in the room of the queen. What caused the death of the
king no one knew; neither did the queen herself (for every successive
king took her to wife) know the cause. And the elephant who took
hold of Swet was the king-maker. Early in the morning it went about,
sometimes to distant places, and whosoever was brought on its back was
acknowledged king by the people. The elephant majestically marched
through the crowded streets of the city, amid the acclamations of
the people, the meaning of which Swet did not understand, entered
the palace, and placed him on the throne. He was proclaimed king
amid the rejoicings of some and the lamentations of others. In the
course of the day he heard of the strange fatality which overtook
every night the elected king of those realms, but being possessed of
great discretion and courage, he took every precaution to avert the
dreadful catastrophe. Yet he hardly knew what expedients to adopt,
as he was unacquainted with the nature of the danger. He resolved,
however, upon two things, and these were, to go armed into the
queen's bedchamber, and to sit up awake the whole night. The queen
was young and of exquisite beauty, and so guileless and benevolent
was the expression of her face that it was impossible from looking
at her to suppose that she could use any foul means of taking away
the life of her nightly consort. In the queen's chamber Swet spent a
very agreeable evening; as the night advanced the queen fell asleep,
but Swet kept awake, and was on the alert, looking at every creek
and corner of the room, and expecting every minute to be murdered. In
the dead of night he perceived something like a thread coming out of
the left nostril of the queen. The thread was so thin that it was
almost invisible. As he watched it he found it several yards long,
and yet it was coming out. When the whole of it had come out, it
began to grow thick, and in a few minutes it assumed the form of a
huge serpent. In a moment Swet cut off the head of the serpent, the
body of which wriggled violently. He sat quiet in the room, expecting
other adventures. But nothing else happened. The queen slept longer
than usual as she had been relieved of the huge snake which had made
her stomach its den. Early next morning the ministers came expecting
as usual to hear of the king's death; but when the ladies of the
bedchamber knocked at the door of the queen they were astonished
to see Swet come out. It was then known to all the people how that
every night a terrible snake issued from the queen's nostrils, how
it devoured the king every night, and how it had at last been killed
by the fortunate Swet. The whole country rejoiced in the prospect
of a permanent king. It is a strange thing, nevertheless it is true,
that Swet did not remember his poor wife with the new-born babe lying
in the forest, nor his brother attending on her. With the possession
of the throne he seemed to forget the whole of his past history.

Basanta, to whom his brother had entrusted his wife and child, sat
watching for many a weary hour, expecting every moment to see Swet
return with fire. The whole night passed away without his return. At
sunrise he went to the bank of the river which was close by, and
anxiously looked about for his brother, but in vain. Distressed beyond
measure, he sat on the river side and wept. A boat was passing by in
which a merchant was returning to his country. As the boat was not
far from the shore the merchant saw Basanta weeping; and what struck
the attention of the merchant was the heap of what looked like pearls
near the weeping man. At the request of the merchant the boatman took
his vessel towards the bank; the merchant went to the weeping man,
and found that the heap was a heap of real pearls of the finest
lustre: and what astonished him most of all was that the heap was
increasing every second, for the tear-drops that were falling from
his eyes fell to the ground not as tears but as pearls. The merchant
stowed away the heap of pearls into his boat, and with the help of his
servants caught hold of Basanta himself, put him on board the vessel,
and tied him to a post. Basanta, of course, resisted; but what could
he do against so many? Thinking of his brother, his brother's wife
and baby, and his own captivity, Basanta wept more bitterly than
before, which mightily pleased the merchant, as the more tears his
captive shed the richer he himself became. When the merchant reached
his native town he confined Basanta in a room, and at stated hours
every day scourged him in order to make him shed tears, every one of
which was converted into a bright pearl. The merchant one day said
to his servants, "As the fellow is making me rich by his weeping,
let us see what he gives me by laughing." Accordingly he began to
tickle his captive, on which Basanta laughed, and as he laughed a
great many maniks dropped from his mouth. After this poor Basanta
was alternately whipped and tickled all the day and far into the
night; and the merchant, in consequence, became the wealthiest man
in the land. Leaving Basanta subjected to the alternate processes
of castigation and titillation, let us attend to the fortunes of the
poor wife of Swet, alone in the forest, with a child just born.

Swet's wife, apparently deserted by her husband and her brother-in-law,
was overwhelmed with grief. A woman, but a few hours since delivered
of a child--and her first child, alone, and in a forest, far from the
habitations of men,--her case was indeed pitiable. She wept rivers of
tears. Excessive grief, however, brought her relief. She fell asleep
with the new-born baby in her arms. It so happened that at that
hour the Kotwal (prefect of the police) of the country was passing
that way. He had been very unfortunate with regard to his offspring;
every child his wife presented him with died shortly after birth, and
he was now going to bury the last infant on the banks of the river. As
he was going, he saw in the forest a woman sleeping with a baby in her
arms. It was a lively and beautiful boy. The Kotwal coveted the lovely
infant. He quietly took it up, put in its place his own dead child,
and returning home, told his wife that the child had not really died
and had revived. Swet's wife, unconscious of the deceit practised
upon her by the Kotwal, on waking found her child dead. The distress
of her mind may be imagined. The whole world became dark to her. She
was distracted with grief, and in her distraction she formed the
resolution of committing suicide. The river was not far from the spot,
and she determined to drown herself in it. She took in her hand the
bundle of jewels and proceeded to the river-side. An old Brahman was
at no great distance, performing his morning ablutions. He noticed
the woman going into the water, and naturally thought that she was
going to bathe; but when he saw her going far into deep waters, some
suspicion arose in his mind. Discontinuing his devotions, he bawled
out and ordered the woman to come to him. Swet's wife seeing that it
was an old man that was calling her, retraced her steps and came to
him. On being asked what she was about to do, she said that she was
going to make an end of herself, and that as she had some jewels with
her she would be obliged if he would accept them as a present. At the
request of the old Brahman she related to him her whole story. The
upshot was, that she was prevented from drowning herself, and that
she was received into the Brahman's family, where she was treated by
the Brahman's wife as her own daughter.

Years passed on. The reputed son of the Kotwal grew up a vigorous,
robust lad. As the house of the old Brahman was not far from the
Kotwal's, the Kotwal's son used accidentally to meet the handsome
strange woman who passed for the Brahman's daughter. The lad liked
the woman, and wanted to marry her. He spoke to his father about
the woman, and the father spoke to the Brahman. The Brahman's rage
knew no bounds. What! the infidel Kotwal's son aspiring to the hand
of a Brahman's daughter! A dwarf may as well aspire to catch hold of
the moon! But the Kotwal's son determined to have her by force. With
this wicked object he one day scaled the wall that encompassed the
Brahman's house, and got upon the thatched roof of the Brahman's
cow-house. While he was reconnoitering from that lofty position, he
heard the following conversation between two calves in the cow-house:--

First Calf. Men accuse us of brutish ignorance and immorality; but
in my opinion men are fifty times worse.

Second Calf. What makes you say so, brother? Have you witnessed to-day
any instance of human depravity?

First Calf. Who can be a greater monster of crime than the same lad
who is at this moment standing on the thatched roof of this hut over
our head?

Second Calf. Why, I thought it was only the son of our Kotwal; and
I never heard that he was exceptionally vicious.

First Calf. You never heard, but now you hear from me. This wicked
lad is now wishing to get married to his own mother!

The First Calf then related to the inquisitive Second Calf in full
the story of Swet and Basanta; how they and Swet's wife fled from
the vengeance of their stepmother; how Swet's wife was delivered of a
child in the forest by the river-side; how Swet was made king by the
elephant, and how he succeeded in killing the serpent which issued out
of the queen's nostrils; how Basanta was carried away by the merchant,
confined in a dungeon, and alternately flogged and tickled for pearls
and maniks; how the Kotwal exchanged his dead child for the living
one of Swet; how Swet's wife was prevented from drowning herself in
the river by the Brahman; how she was received into the Brahman's
family and treated as his daughter; how the Kotwal's son grew up a
hardy, lusty youth, and fell in love with her; and how at that very
moment he was intent on accomplishing his brutal object. All this
story the Kotwal's son heard from the thatched roof of the cow-house,
and was struck with horror. He forthwith got down from the thatch,
and went home and told his father that he must have an interview
with the king. Notwithstanding his reputed father's protestations
to the contrary, he had an interview with the king, to whom he
repeated the whole story as he had overheard it from the thatch of
the cow-house. The king now remembered his poor wife's case. She
was brought from the house of the Brahman, whom he richly rewarded,
and put her in her proper position as the queen of the kingdom;
the reputed son of the Kotwal was acknowledged as his own son, and
proclaimed the heir-apparent to the throne; Basanta was brought out
of the dungeon, and the wicked merchant who had maltreated him was
buried alive in the earth surrounded with thorns. After this, Swet,
his wife and son, and Basanta, lived together happily for many years.


            Now my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



VI

THE EVIL EYE OF SANI


Once upon a time Sani, or Saturn, the god of bad luck, and Lakshmi,
the goddess of good luck, fell out with each other in heaven. Sani said
he was higher in rank than Lakshmi, and Lakshmi said she was higher in
rank than Sani. As all the gods and goddesses of heaven were equally
ranged on either side, the contending deities agreed to refer the
matter to some human being who had a name for wisdom and justice. Now,
there lived at that time upon earth a man of the name of Sribatsa,
[18] who was as wise and just as he was rich. Him, therefore, both the
god and the goddess chose as the settler of their dispute. One day,
accordingly, Sribatsa was told that Sani and Lakshmi were wishing to
pay him a visit to get their dispute settled. Sribatsa was in a fix. If
he said Sani was higher in rank than Lakshmi, she would be angry with
him and forsake him. If he said Lakshmi was higher in rank than Sani,
Sani would cast his evil eye upon him. Hence he made up his mind not to
say anything directly, but to leave the god and the goddess to gather
his opinion from his action. He got two stools made, the one of gold
and the other of silver, and placed them beside him. When Sani and
Lakshmi came to Sribatsa, he told Sani to sit upon the silver stool,
and Lakshmi upon the gold stool. Sani became mad with rage, and said
in an angry tone to Sribatsa, "Well, as you consider me lower in rank
than Lakshmi, I will cast my eye on you for three years; and I should
like to see how you fare at the end of that period." The god then went
away in high dudgeon. Lakshmi, before going away, said to Sribatsa,
"My child, do not fear. I'll befriend you." The god and the goddess
then went away.

Sribatsa said to his wife, whose name was Chintamani, "Dearest, as the
evil eye of Sani will be upon me at once, I had better go away from the
house; for if I remain in the house with you, evil will befall you and
me; but if I go away, it will overtake me only." Chintamani said, "That
cannot be; wherever you go, I will go, your lot shall be my lot." The
husband tried hard to persuade his wife to remain at home; but it was
of no use. She would go with her husband. Sribatsa accordingly told
his wife to make an opening in their mattress, and to stow away in
it all the money and jewels they had. On the eve of leaving their
house, Sribatsa invoked Lakshmi, who forthwith appeared. He then
said to her, "Mother Lakshmi! as the evil eye of Sani is upon us,
we are going away into exile; but do thou befriend us, and take
care of our house and property." The goddess of good luck answered,
"Do not fear; I'll befriend you; all will be right at last." They
then set out on their journey. Sribatsa rolled up the mattress and
put it on his head. They had not gone many miles when they saw a
river before them. It was not fordable; but there was a canoe there
with a man sitting in it. The travellers requested the ferryman to
take them across. The ferryman said, "I can take only one at a time;
but you are three--yourself, your wife, and the mattress." Sribatsa
proposed that first his wife and the mattress should be taken across,
and then he; but the ferryman would not hear of it. "Only one at a
time," repeated he; "first let me take across the mattress." When the
canoe with the mattress was in the middle of the stream, a fierce gale
arose, and carried away the mattress, the canoe, and the ferryman,
no one knows whither. And it was strange the stream also disappeared,
for the place, where they saw a few minutes since the rush of waters,
had now become firm ground. Sribatsa then knew that this was nothing
but the evil eye of Sani.

Sribatsa and his wife, without a pice in their pocket, went to a
village which was hard by. It was dwelt in for the most part by
wood-cutters, who used to go at sunrise to the forest to cut wood,
which they sold in a town not far from the village. Sribatsa proposed
to the wood-cutters that he should go along with them to cut wood. They
agreed. So he began to fell trees as well as the best of them; but
there was this difference between Sribatsa and the other wood-cutters,
that whereas the latter cut any and every sort of wood, the former cut
only precious wood like sandal-wood. The wood-cutters used to bring
to market large loads of common wood, and Sribatsa only a few pieces
of sandal-wood, for which he got a great deal more money than the
others. As this was going on day after day, the wood-cutters through
envy plotted together, and drove away from the village Sribatsa and
his wife.

The next place they went to was a village of weavers, or rather
cotton-spinners. Here Chintamani, the wife of Sribatsa, made herself
useful by spinning cotton. And as she was an intelligent and skilful
woman, she spun finer thread than the other women; and she got more
money. This roused the envy of the native women of the village. But
this was not all. Sribatsa, in order to gain the good grace of
the weavers, asked them to a feast, the dishes of which were all
cooked by his wife. As Chintamani excelled in cooking, the barbarous
weavers of the village were quite charmed by the delicacies set
before them. When the men went to their homes, they reproached their
wives for not being able to cook so well as the wife of Sribatsa,
and called them good-for-nothing women. This thing made the women of
the village hate Chintamani the more. One day Chintamani went to the
river-side to bathe along with the other women of the village. A boat
had been lying on the bank stranded on the sand for many days; they
had tried to move it, but in vain. It so happened that as Chintamani
by accident touched the boat, it moved off to the river. The boatmen,
astonished at the event, thought that the woman had uncommon power,
and might be useful on similar occasions in future. They therefore
caught hold of her, put her in the boat, and rowed off. The women of
the village, who were present, did not offer any resistance as they
hated Chintamani. When Sribatsa heard how his wife had been carried
away by boatmen, he became mad with grief. He left the village, went to
the river-side, and resolved to follow the course of the stream till
he should meet the boat where his wife was a prisoner. He travelled
on and on, along the side of the river, till it became dark. As there
were no huts to be seen, he climbed into a tree for the night. Next
morning as he got down from the tree he saw at the foot of it a cow
called a Kapila-cow, which never calves, but which gives milk at all
hours of the day whenever it is milked. Sribatsa milked the cow, and
drank its milk to his heart's content. He was astonished to find that
the cow-dung which lay on the ground was of a bright yellow colour;
indeed, he found it was pure gold. While it was in a soft state he
wrote his own name upon it, and when in the course of the day it
became hardened, it looked like a brick of gold--and so it was. As
the tree grew on the river-side, and as the Kapila-cow came morning
and evening to supply him with milk, Sribatsa resolved to stay there
till he should meet the boat. In the meantime the gold-bricks were
increasing in number every day, for the cow both morning and evening
deposited there the precious article. He put the gold-bricks, upon
all of which his name was engraved, one upon another in rows, so that
from a distance they looked like a hillock of gold.

Leaving Sribatsa to arrange his gold-bricks under the tree on the
river-side we must follow the fortunes of his wife. Chintamani was a
woman of great beauty; and thinking that her beauty might be her ruin,
she, when seized by the boatmen, offered to Lakshmi the following
prayer----"O Mother Lakshmi! have pity upon me. Thou hast made me
beautiful, but now my beauty will undoubtedly prove my ruin by the loss
of honour and chastity. I therefore beseech thee, gracious Mother, to
make me ugly, and to cover my body with some loathsome disease, that
the boatmen may not touch me." Lakshmi heard Chintamani's prayer; and
in the twinkling of an eye, while she was in the arms of the boatmen,
her naturally beautiful form was turned into a vile carcase. The
boatmen, on putting her down in the boat, found her body covered
with loathsome sores which were giving out a disgusting stench. They
therefore threw her into the hold of the boat amongst the cargo,
where they used morning and evening to send her a little boiled rice
and some water. In that hold Chintamani had a miserable life of it;
but she greatly preferred that misery to the loss of chastity. The
boatmen went to some port, sold the cargo, and were returning to their
country when the sight of what seemed a hillock of gold, not far from
the river-side, attracted their attention. Sribatsa, whose eyes were
ever directed towards the river, was delighted when he saw a boat turn
towards the bank, as he fondly imagined his wife might be in it. The
boatmen went to the hillock of gold, when Sribatsa said that the gold
was his. They put all the gold-bricks on board their vessel, took
Sribatsa prisoner, and put him into the hold not far from the woman
covered with sores. They of course immediately recognised each other,
in spite of the change Chintamani had undergone, but thought it prudent
not to speak to each other. They communicated their ideas, therefore,
by signs and gestures. Now, the boatmen were fond of playing at dice,
and as Sribatsa appeared to them from his looks to be a respectable
man, they always asked him to join in the game. As he was an expert
player, he almost always won the game, on which the boatmen, envying
his superior skill, threw him overboard. Chintamani had the presence
of mind, at that moment, to throw into the water a pillow which she
had for resting her head upon. Sribatsa took hold of the pillow,
by means of which he floated down the stream till he was carried
at nightfall to what seemed a garden on the water's edge. There he
stuck among the trees, where he remained the whole night, wet and
shivering. Now, the garden belonged to an old widow who was in former
years the chief flower-supplier to the king of that country. Through
some cause or other a blight seemed to have come over her garden, as
almost all the trees and plants ceased flowering; she had therefore
given up her place as the flower-supplier of the royal household. On
the morning following the night on which Sribatsa had stuck among
the trees, however, the old woman on getting up from her bed could
scarcely believe her eyes when she saw the whole garden ablaze with
flowers. There was not a single tree or plant which was not begemmed
with flowers. Not understanding the cause of such a miraculous sight,
she took a walk through the garden, and found on the river's brink,
stuck among the trees, a man shivering and almost dying with cold. She
brought him to her cottage, lighted a fire to give him warmth, and
showed him every attention, as she ascribed the wonderful flowering
of her trees to his presence. After making him as comfortable as
she could, she ran to the king's palace, and told his chief servants
that she was again in a position to supply the palace with flowers;
so she was restored to her former office as the flower-woman of the
royal household. Sribatsa, who stopped a few days with the woman,
requested her to recommend him to one of the king's ministers for a
berth. He was accordingly sent for to the palace, and as he was at
once found to be a man of intelligence, the king's minister asked
him what post he would like to have. Agreeably to his wish he was
appointed collector of tolls on the river. While discharging his
duties as river toll-gatherer, in the course of a few days he saw the
very boat in which his wife was a prisoner. He detained the boat, and
charged the boatmen with the theft of gold-bricks which he claimed as
his own. At the mention of gold-bricks the king himself came to the
river-side, and was astonished beyond measure to see bricks made of
gold, every one of which had the inscription--Sribatsa. At the same
time Sribatsa rescued from the boatmen his wife, who, the moment she
came out of the vessel, became as lovely as before. The king heard
the story of Sribatsa's misfortunes from his lips, entertained him
in a princely style for many days, and at last sent him and his wife
to their own country with presents of horses and elephants. The evil
eye of Sani was now turned away from Sribatsa, and he again became
what he formerly was, the Child of Fortune.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



VII

THE BOY WHOM SEVEN MOTHERS SUCKLED


Once on a time there reigned a king who had seven queens. He was
very sad, for the seven queens were all barren. A holy mendicant,
however, one day told the king that in a certain forest there grew
a tree, on a branch of which hung seven mangoes; if the king himself
plucked those mangoes and gave one to each of the queens they would
all become mothers. So the king went to the forest, plucked the seven
mangoes that grew upon one branch, and gave a mango to each of the
queens to eat. In a short time the king's heart was filled with joy,
as he heard that the seven queens were all with child.

One day the king was out hunting, when he saw a young lady of peerless
beauty cross his path. He fell in love with her, brought her to his
palace, and married her. This lady was, however, not a human being,
but a Rakshasi; but the king of course did not know it. The king became
dotingly fond of her; he did whatever she told him. She said one day
to the king, "You say that you love me more than any one else. Let
me see whether you really love me so. If you love me, make your seven
other queens blind, and let them be killed." The king became very sad
at the request of his best-beloved queen, the more so as the seven
queens were all with child. But there was nothing for it but to comply
with the Rakshasi-queen's request. The eyes of the seven queens were
plucked out of their sockets, and the queens themselves were delivered
up to the chief minister to be destroyed. But the chief minister was
a merciful man. Instead of killing the seven queens he hid them in a
cave which was on the side of a hill. In course of time the eldest
of the seven queens gave birth to a child. "What shall I do with
the child," said she, "now that we are blind and are dying for want
of food? Let me kill the child, and let us all eat of its flesh." So
saying she killed the infant, and gave to each of her sister-queens a
part of the child to eat. The six ate their portion, but the seventh
or youngest queen did not eat her share, but laid it beside her. In a
few days the second queen also was delivered of a child, and she did
with it as her eldest sister had done with hers. So did the third,
the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth queen. At last the seventh
queen gave birth to a son; but she, instead of following the example
of her sister-queens, resolved to nurse the child. The other queens
demanded their portions of the newly-born babe. She gave each of them
the portion she had got of the six children which had been killed,
and which she had not eaten but laid aside. The other queens at once
perceived that their portions were dry, and could not therefore be
the parts of the child just born. The seventh queen told them that she
had made up her mind not to kill the child but to nurse it. The others
were glad to hear this, and they all said that they would help her in
nursing the child. So the child was suckled by seven mothers, and it
became after some years the hardiest and strongest boy that ever lived.

In the meantime the Rakshasi-wife of the king was doing infinite
mischief to the royal household and to the capital. What she ate at
the royal table did not fill her capacious stomach. She therefore,
in the darkness of night, gradually ate up all the members of the
royal family, all the king's servants and attendants, all his horses,
elephants, and cattle; till none remained in the palace except she
herself and her royal consort. After that she used to go out in
the evenings into the city and eat up a stray human being here and
there. The king was left unattended by servants; there was no person
left to cook for him, for no one would take his service. At last the
boy who had been suckled by seven mothers, and who had now grown up to
a stalwart youth, volunteered his services. He attended on the king,
and took every care to prevent the queen from swallowing him up, for
he went away home long before nightfall; and the Rakshasi-queen never
seized her victims except at night. Hence the queen determined in
some other way to get rid of the boy. As the boy always boasted that
he was equal to any work, however hard, the queen told him that she
was suffering from some disease which could be cured only by eating a
certain species of melon, which was twelve cubits long, but the stone
of which was thirteen cubits long, and that that fruit could be had
only from her mother, who lived on the other side of the ocean. She
gave him a letter of introduction to her mother, in which she requested
her to devour the boy the moment he put the letter into her hands. The
boy, suspecting foul play, tore up the letter and proceeded on his
journey. The dauntless youth passed through many lands, and at last
stood on the shore of the ocean, on the other side of which was the
country of the Rakshasis. He then bawled as loud as he could, and
said, "Granny! granny! come and save your daughter; she is dangerously
ill." An old Rakshasi on the other side of the ocean heard the words,
crossed the ocean, came to the boy, and on hearing the message took the
boy on her back and re-crossed the ocean. So the boy was in the country
of the Rakshasis. The twelve-cubit melon with its thirteen-cubit stone
was given to the boy at once, and he was told to perform the journey
back. But the boy pleaded fatigue, and begged to be allowed to rest
one day. To this the old Rakshasi consented. Observing a stout club
and a rope hanging in the Rakshasi's room, the boy inquired what
they were there for. She replied, "Child, by that club and rope I
cross the ocean. If any one takes the club and the rope in his hands,
and addresses them in the following magical words--


           "O stout club! O strong rope!
            Take me at once to the other side,"


then immediately the club and rope will take him to the other side
of the ocean." Observing a bird in a cage hanging in one corner of
the room, the boy inquired what it was. The old Rakshasi replied,
"It contains a secret, child, which must not be disclosed to mortals,
and yet how can I hide it from my own grandchild? That bird, child,
contains the life of your mother. If the bird is killed, your mother
will at once die." Armed with these secrets, the boy went to bed that
night. Next morning the old Rakshasi, together with all the other
Rakshasis, went to distant countries for forage. The boy took down
the cage from the ceiling, as well as the club and rope. Having well
secured the bird, he addressed the club and rope thus--


           "O stout club! O strong rope!
            Take me at once to the other side."


In the twinkling of an eye the boy was put on this side of the
ocean. He then retraced his steps, came to the queen, and gave her,
to her astonishment, the twelve-cubit melon with its thirteen-cubit
stone; but the cage with the bird in it he kept carefully concealed.

In the course of time the people of the city came to the king and said,
"A monstrous bird comes out apparently from the palace every evening,
and seizes the passengers in the streets and swallows them up. This
has been going on for so long a time that the city has become almost
desolate." The king could not make out what this monstrous bird
was. The king's servant, the boy, replied that he knew the monstrous
bird, and that he would kill it provided the queen stood beside
the king. By royal command the queen was made to stand beside the
king. The boy then took the bird from the cage which he had brought
from the other side of the ocean, on seeing which she fell into a
fainting fit. Turning to the king the boy said, "Sire, you will soon
perceive who the monstrous bird is that devours your subjects every
evening. As I tear off each limb of this bird, the corresponding limb
of the man-devourer will fall off." The boy then tore off one leg of
the bird in his hand; immediately, to the astonishment of the whole
assembly, for the citizens were all present, one of the legs of the
queen fell off. And when the boy squeezed the throat of the bird,
the queen gave up the ghost. The boy then related his own history
and that of his mother and his stepmothers. The seven queens, whose
eyesight was miraculously restored, were brought back to the palace;
and the boy that was suckled by seven mothers was recognised by the
king as his rightful heir. So they lived together happily.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, &c.



VIII

THE STORY OF PRINCE SOBUR


Once upon a time there lived a certain merchant who had seven
daughters. One day the merchant put to his daughters the question:
"By whose fortune do you get your living?" The eldest daughter
answered--"Papa, I get my living by your fortune." The same answer
was given by the second daughter, the third, the fourth, the fifth,
and the sixth; but his youngest daughter said--"I get my living by my
own fortune." The merchant got very angry with the youngest daughter,
and said to her--"As you are so ungrateful as to say that you get
your living by your own fortune, let me see how you fare alone. This
very day you shall leave my house without a pice in your pocket." He
forthwith called his palki-bearers, and ordered them to take away the
girl and leave her in the midst of a forest. The girl begged hard to
be allowed to take with her her work-box containing her needles and
threads. She was allowed to do so. She then got into the palki, which
the bearers lifted on their shoulders. The bearers had not gone many
hundred yards to the tune of "Hoon! hoon! hoon! hoon! hoon! hoon!" when
an old woman bawled out to them and bid them stop. On coming up to
the palki, she said, "Where are you taking away my daughter?" for she
was the nurse of the merchant's youngest child. The bearers replied,
"The merchant has ordered us to take her away and leave her in the
midst of a forest; and we are going to do his bidding." "I must go with
her," said the old woman. "How will you be able to keep pace with us,
as we must needs run?" said the bearers. "Anyhow I must go where my
daughter goes," rejoined the old woman. The upshot was that, at the
entreaty of the merchant's youngest daughter, the old woman was put
inside the palki along with her. In the afternoon the palki-bearers
reached a dense forest. They went far into it; and towards sunset
they put down the girl and the old woman at the foot of a large tree,
and retraced their steps homewards.

The case of the merchant's youngest daughter was truly pitiable. She
was scarcely fourteen years old; she had been bred in the lap of
luxury; and she was now here at sundown in the heart of what seemed
an interminable forest, with not a penny in her pocket, and with no
other protection than what could be given her by an old, decrepit,
imbecile woman. The very trees of the forest looked upon her with
pity. The gigantic tree, at whose foot she was mingling her tears
with those of the old woman, said to her (for trees could speak in
those days)--"Unhappy girl! I much pity you. In a short time the wild
beasts of the forest will come out of their lairs and roam about for
their prey; and they are sure to devour you and your companion. But
I can help you; I will make an opening for you in my trunk. When you
see the opening go into it; I will then close it up; and you will
remain safe inside; nor can the wild beasts touch you." In a moment
the trunk of the tree was split into two. The merchant's daughter
and the old woman went inside the hollow, on which the tree resumed
its natural shape. When the shades of night darkened the forest the
wild beasts came out of their lairs. The fierce tiger was there; the
wild bear was there; the hard-skinned rhinoceros was there; the bushy
bear was there; the musty elephant was there; and the horned buffalo
was there. They all growled round about the tree, for they got the
scent of human blood. The merchant's daughter and the old woman heard
from within the tree the growl of the beasts. The beasts came dashing
against the tree; they broke its branches; they pierced its trunk with
their horns; they scratched its bark with their claws: but in vain. The
merchant's daughter and her old nurse were safe within. Towards dawn
the wild beasts went away. After sunrise the good tree said to her two
inmates, "Unhappy women, the wild beasts have gone into their lairs
after greatly tormenting me. The sun is up; you can now come out." So
saying the tree split itself into two, and the merchant's daughter
and the old woman came out. They saw the extent of the mischief done
by the wild beasts to the tree. Many of its branches had been broken
down; in many places the trunk had been pierced; and in other places
the bark had been stripped off. The merchant's daughter said to the
tree, "Good mother, you are truly good to give us shelter at such
a fearful cost. You must be in great pain from the torture to which
the wild beasts subjected you last night." So saying she went to the
tank which was near the tree, and bringing thence a quantity of mud,
she besmeared the trunk with it, especially those parts which had
been pierced and scratched. After she had done this, the tree said,
"Thank you, my good girl, I am now greatly relieved of my pain. I am,
however, concerned not so much about myself as about you both. You
must be hungry, not having eaten the whole of yesterday. And what can I
give you? I have no fruit of my own to give you. Give to the old woman
whatever money you have, and let her go into the city hard by and
buy some food." They said they had no money. On searching, however,
in the work-box she found five cowries. [19] The tree then told the
old woman to go with the cowries to the city and buy some khai. [20]
The old woman went to the city, which was not far, and said to one
confectioner, "Please give me five cowries' worth of khai." The
confectioner laughed at her and said, "Be off, you old hag, do you
think khai can be had for five cowries?" She tried another shop,
and the shopkeeper, thinking the woman to be in great distress,
compassionately gave her a large quantity of khai for the five cowries.

When the old woman returned with the khai, the tree said to the
merchant's daughter, "Each of you eat a little of the khai, lay by
more than half, and strew the rest on the embankments of the tank all
round." They did as they were bidden, though they did not understand
the reason why they were told to scatter the khai on the sides of the
tank. They spent the day in bewailing their fate, and at night they
were housed inside the trunk of the tree as on the previous night. The
wild beasts came as before, further mutilated the tree, and tortured
it as in the preceding night. But during the night a scene was being
enacted on the embankments of the tank of which the two women saw the
outcome only on the following morning. Hundreds of peacocks of gorgeous
plumes came to the embankments to eat the khai which had been strewed
on them; and as they strove with each other for the tempting food
many of their plumes fell off their bodies. Early in the morning the
tree told the two women to gather the plumes together, out of which
the merchant's daughter made a beautiful fan. This fan was taken into
the city to the palace, where the son of the king admired it greatly
and paid for it a large sum of money. As each morning a quantity of
plumes was collected, every day one fan was made and sold. So that
in a short time the two women got rich. The tree then advised them
to employ men in building a house for them to live in. Accordingly
bricks were burnt, trees were cut down for beams and rafters, bricks
were reduced to powder, lime was manufactured, and in a few months
a stately, palace-like house was built for the merchant's daughter
and her old nurse. It was thought advisable to lay out the adjoining
grounds as a garden, and to dig a tank for supplying them with water.

In the meantime the merchant himself with his wife and six daughters
had been frowned upon by the goddess of wealth. By a sudden stroke of
misfortune he lost all his money, his house and property were sold,
and he, his wife, and six daughters, were turned adrift penniless into
the world. It so happened that they lived in a village not far from the
place where the two strange women had built a palace and were digging
a tank. As the once rich merchant was now supporting his family by
the pittance which he obtained every day for his manual labour, he
bethought himself of employing himself as a day labourer in digging
the tank of the strange lady on the skirts of the forest. His wife
said she would also go to dig the tank with him. So one day while
the strange lady was amusing herself from the window of her palace
with looking at the labourers digging her tank, to her utter surprise
she saw her father and mother coming towards the palace, apparently
to engage themselves as day labourers. Tears ran down her cheeks as
she looked at them, for they were clothed in rags. She immediately
sent servants to bring them inside the house. The poor man and woman
were frightened beyond measure. They saw that the tank was all ready;
and as it was customary in those days to offer a human sacrifice when
the digging was over, they thought that they were called inside in
order to be sacrificed. Their fears increased when they were told to
throw away their rags and to put on fine clothes which were given to
them. The strange lady of the palace, however, soon dispelled their
fears; for she told them that she was their daughter, fell on their
necks and wept. The rich daughter related her adventures, and the
father felt she was right when she said that she lived upon her own
fortune and not on that of her father. She gave her father a large
fortune, which enabled him to go to the city in which he formerly
lived, and to set himself up again as a merchant.

The merchant now bethought himself of going in his ship to distant
countries for purposes of trade. All was ready. He got on board,
ready to start, but, strange to say, the ship would not move. The
merchant was at a loss what to make of this. At last the idea occurred
to him that he had asked each of his six daughters, who were living
with him, what thing she wished he should bring for her; but he had
not asked that question of his seventh daughter who had made him
rich. He therefore immediately despatched a messenger to his youngest
daughter, asking her what she wished her father to bring for her on
his return from his mercantile travels. When the messenger arrived
she was engaged in her devotions, and hearing that a messenger had
arrived from her father she said to him "Sobur," meaning "wait." The
messenger understood that she wanted her father to bring for her
something called Sobur. He returned to the merchant and told him that
she wanted him to bring for her Sobur. The ship now moved of itself,
and the merchant started on his travels. He visited many ports,
and by selling his goods obtained immense profit. The things his
six daughters wanted him to bring for them he easily got, but Sobur,
the thing which he understood his youngest daughter wished to have,
he could get nowhere. He asked at every port whether Sobur could be
had there, but the merchants all told him that they had never heard
of such an article of commerce. At the last port he went through the
streets bawling out--"Wanted Sobur! wanted Sobur!" The cry attracted
the notice of the son of the king of that country whose name was
Sobur. The prince, hearing from the merchant that his daughter wanted
Sobur, said that he had the article in question, and bringing out a
small box of wood containing a magical fan with a looking-glass in
it, said--"This is Sobur which your daughter wishes to have." The
merchant having obtained the long-wished-for Sobur weighed anchor,
and sailed for his native land. On his arrival he sent to his youngest
daughter the said wonderful box. The daughter, thinking it to be a
common wooden box, laid it aside. Some days after when she was at
leisure she bethought herself of opening the box which her father
had sent her. When she opened it she saw in it a beautiful fan,
and in it a looking-glass. As she shook the fan, in a moment the
Prince Sobur stood before her, and said--"You called me, here I
am. What's your wish?" The merchant's daughter, astonished at the
sudden appearance of a prince of such exquisite beauty, asked who he
was, and how he had made his appearance there. The prince told her
of the circumstances under which he gave the box to her father, and
informed her of the secret that whenever the fan would be shaken he
would make his appearance. The prince lived for a day or two in the
house of the merchant's daughter, who entertained him hospitably. The
upshot was, that they fell in love with each other, and vowed to
each other to be husband and wife. The prince returned to his royal
father and told him that he had selected a wife for himself. The
day for the wedding was fixed. The merchant and his six daughters
were invited. The nuptial knot was tied. But there was death in the
marriage-bed. The six daughters of the merchant, envying the happy
lot of their youngest sister, had determined to put an end to the
life of her newly-wedded husband. They broke several bottles, reduced
the broken pieces into fine powder, and scattered it profusely on the
bed. The prince, suspecting no danger, laid himself down in the bed;
but he had scarcely been there two minutes when he felt acute pain
through his whole system, for the fine bottle-powder had gone through
every pore of his body. As the prince became restless through pain,
and was shrieking aloud, his attendants hastily took him away to his
own country.

The king and queen, the parents of Prince Sobur, consulted all the
physicians and surgeons of the kingdom; but in vain. The young prince
was day and night screaming with pain, and no one could ascertain
the disease, far less give him relief. The grief of the merchant's
daughter may be imagined. The marriage knot had been scarcely tied
when her husband was attacked, as she thought, by a terrible disease
and carried away many hundreds of miles off. Though she had never seen
her husband's country she determined to go there and nurse him. She
put on the garb of a Sannyasi, and with a dagger in her hand set
out on her journey. Of tender years, and unaccustomed to make long
journeys on foot, she soon got weary and sat under a tree to rest. On
the top of the tree was the nest of the divine bird Bihangama and
his mate Bihangami. They were not in their nest at the time, but two
of their young ones were in it. Suddenly the young ones on the top
of the tree gave a scream which roused the half-drowsy merchant's
daughter whom we shall now call the young Sannyasi. He saw near
him a huge serpent raising its hood and about to climb into the
tree. In a moment he cut the serpent into two, on which the young
birds left off screaming. Shortly after the Bihangama and Bihangami
came sailing through the air; and the latter said to the former--"I
suppose our offspring as usual have been devoured by our great enemy
the serpent. Ah me! I do not hear the cries of my young ones." On
nearing the nest, however, they were agreeably surprised to find
their offspring alive. The young ones told their dams how the young
Sannyasi under the tree had destroyed the serpent. And sure enough
the snake was lying there cut into two.

The Bihangami then said to her mate--"The young Sannyasi has saved
our offspring from death, I wish we could do him some service in
return." The Bihangama replied, "We shall presently do her service,
for the person under the tree is not a man but a woman. She got married
only last night to Prince Sobur, who, a few hours after, when jumping
into his bed, had every pore of his body pierced with fine particles
of ground bottles which had been spread over his bed by his envious
sisters-in-law. He is still suffering pain in his native land, and,
indeed, is at the point of death. And his heroic bride taking the garb
of a Sannyasi is going to nurse him." "But," asked the Bihangami, "is
there no cure for the prince?" "Yes, there is," replied the Bihangama:
"if our dung which is lying on the ground round about, and which is
hardened, be reduced to powder, and applied by means of a brush to
the body of the prince after bathing him seven times with seven jars
of water and seven jars of milk, Prince Sobur will undoubtedly get
well." "But," asked the Bihangami, "how can the poor daughter of the
merchant walk such a distance? It must take her many days, by which
time the poor prince will have died." "I can," replied the Bihangama,
"take the young lady on my back, and put her in the capital of Prince
Sobur, and bring her back, provided she does not take any presents
there." The merchant's daughter, in the garb of a Sannyasi, heard
this conversation between the two birds, and begged the Bihangama
to take her on his back. To this the bird readily consented. Before
mounting on her aerial car she gathered a quantity of birds' dung
and reduced it to fine powder. Armed with this potent drug she got
up on the back of the kind bird, and sailing through the air with the
rapidity of lightning, soon reached the capital of Prince Sobur. The
young Sannyasi went up to the gate of the palace, and sent word to
the king that he was acquainted with potent drugs and would cure the
prince in a few hours. The king, who had tried all the best doctors
in the kingdom without success, looked upon the Sannyasi as a mere
pretender, but on the advice of his councillors agreed to give him
a trial. The Sannyasi ordered seven jars of water and seven jars of
milk to be brought to him. He poured the contents of all the jars on
the body of the prince. He then applied, by means of a feather, the
dung-powder he had already prepared to every pore of the prince's
body. Thereafter seven jars of water and seven jars of milk were
again six times poured upon him. When the prince's body was wiped,
he felt perfectly well. The king ordered that the richest treasures
he had should be presented to the wonderful doctor; but the Sannyasi
refused to take any. He only wanted a ring from the prince's finger to
preserve as a memorial. The ring was readily given him. The merchant's
daughter hastened to the sea-shore where the Bihangama was awaiting
her. In a moment they reached the tree of the divine birds. Hence
the young bride walked to her house on the skirts of the forest. The
following day she shook the magical fan, and forthwith Prince Sobur
appeared before her. When the lady showed him the ring, he learnt with
infinite surprise that his own wife was the doctor that cured him. The
prince took away his bride to his palace in his far-off kingdom,
forgave his sisters-in-law, lived happily for scores of years, and
was blessed with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



IX

THE ORIGIN OF OPIUM [21]


Once on a time there lived on the banks of the holy Ganga a Rishi,
[22] who spent his days and nights in the performance of religious
rites and in meditation upon God. From sunrise to sunset he sat on the
river bank engaged in devotion, and at night he took shelter in a hut
of palm-leaves which his own hand had raised in a bush hard by. There
were no men and women for miles round. In the hut, however, there was a
mouse, which used to live upon the leavings of the Rishi's supper. As
it was not in the nature of the sage to hurt any living thing, our
mouse never ran away from him, but, on the contrary, went to him,
touched his feet, and played with him. The Rishi, partly in kindness to
the little brute, and partly to have some one by to talk to at times,
gave the mouse the power of speech. One night the mouse, standing on
its hind-legs and joining together its fore-legs reverently, said to
the Rishi, "Holy sage, you have been so kind as to give me the power
to speak like men. If it will not displease your reverence, I have one
more boon to ask." "What is it?" said the Rishi. "What is it, little
mousie? Say what you want." The mouse answered--"When your reverence
goes in the day to the river-side for devotion, a cat comes to the
hut to catch me. And had it not been for fear of your reverence, the
cat would have eaten me up long ago; and I fear it will eat me some
day. My prayer is that I may be changed into a cat that I may prove a
match for my foe." The Rishi became propitious to the mouse, and threw
some holy water on its body, and it was at once changed into a cat.

Some nights after, the Rishi asked his pet, "Well, little puss,
how do you like your present life?" "Not much, your reverence,"
answered the cat. "Why not?" demanded the sage. "Are you not strong
enough to hold your own against all the cats in the world?" "Yes,"
rejoined the cat. "Your reverence has made me a strong cat, able to
cope with all the cats in the world. But I do not now fear cats; I
have got a new foe. Whenever your reverence goes to the river-side,
a pack of dogs comes to the hut, and sets up such a loud barking
that I am frightened out of my life. If your reverence will not be
displeased with me, I beg you to change me into a dog." The Rishi said,
"Be turned into a dog," and the cat forthwith became a dog.

Some days passed, when one night the dog said thus to the Rishi:
"I cannot thank your reverence enough for your kindness to me. I was
but a poor mouse, and you not only gave me speech but turned me into a
cat; and again you were kind enough to change me into a dog. As a dog,
however, I suffer a great deal of trouble, I do not get enough food:
my only food is the leavings of your supper, but that is not sufficient
to fill the maw of such a large beast as you have made me. O how I
envy those apes who jump about from tree to tree, and eat all sorts
of delicious fruits! If your reverence will not get angry with me,
I pray that I be changed into an ape." The kind-hearted sage readily
granted his pet's wish, and the dog became an ape.

Our ape was at first wild with joy. He leaped from one tree to
another, and sucked every luscious fruit he could find. But his
joy was short-lived. Summer came on with its drought. As a monkey
he found it hard to drink water out of a river or of a pool; and
he saw the wild boars splashing in the water all the day long. He
envied their lot, and exclaimed, "O how happy those boars are! All
day their bodies are cooled and refreshed by water. I wish I were a
boar." Accordingly at night he recounted to the Rishi the troubles of
the life of an ape and the pleasures of that of a boar, and begged
of him to change him into a boar. The sage, whose kindness knew no
bounds, complied with his pet's request, and turned him into a wild
boar. For two whole days our boar kept his body soaking wet, and on
the third day, as he was splashing about in his favourite element,
whom should he see but the king of the country riding on a richly
caparisoned elephant. The king was out hunting, and it was only by a
lucky chance that our boar escaped being bagged. He dwelt in his own
mind on the dangers attending the life of a wild boar, and envied the
lot of the stately elephant who was so fortunate as to carry about
the king of the country on his back. He longed to be an elephant,
and at night besought the Rishi to make him one.

Our elephant was roaming about in the wilderness, when he saw the king
out hunting. The elephant went towards the king's suite with the view
of being caught. The king, seeing the elephant at a distance, admired
it on account of its beauty, and gave orders that it should be caught
and tamed. Our elephant was easily caught, and taken into the royal
stables, and was soon tamed. It so chanced that the queen expressed
a wish to bathe in the waters of the holy Ganga. The king, who wished
to accompany his royal consort, ordered that the newly-caught elephant
should be brought to him. The king and queen mounted on his back. One
would suppose that the elephant had now got his wishes, as the king
had mounted on his back. But no. There was a fly in the ointment. The
elephant, who looked upon himself as a lordly beast, could not brook
the idea that a woman, though a queen, should ride on his back. He
thought himself degraded. He jumped up so violently that both the
king and queen fell to the ground. The king carefully picked up the
queen, took her in his arms, asked her whether she had been much
hurt, wiped off the dust from her clothes with his handkerchief, and
tenderly kissed her a hundred times. Our elephant, after witnessing
the king's caresses, scampered off to the woods as fast as his legs
could carry him. As he ran he thought within himself thus: "After
all, I see that a queen is the happiest of all creatures. Of what
infinite regard is she the object! The king lifted her up, took her
in his arms, made many tender inquiries, wiped off the dust from her
clothes with his own royal hands, and kissed her a hundred times! O
the happiness of being a queen! I must tell the Rishi to make me a
queen!" So saying the elephant, after traversing the woods, went at
sunset to the Rishi's hut, and fell prostrate on the ground at the feet
of the holy sage. The Rishi said, "Well, what's the news? Why have
you left the king's stud?" "What shall I say to your reverence? You
have been very kind to me; you have granted every wish of mine. I
have one more boon to ask, and it will be the last. By becoming an
elephant I have got only my bulk increased, but not my happiness. I
see that of all creatures a queen is the happiest in the world. Do,
holy father, make me a queen." "Silly child," answered the Rishi,
"how can I make you a queen? Where can I get a kingdom for you,
and a royal husband to boot? All I can do is to change you into an
exquisitely beautiful girl, possessed of charms to captivate the
heart of a prince, if ever the gods grant you an interview with some
great prince! "Our elephant agreed to the change; and in a moment the
sagacious beast was transformed into a beautiful young lady, to whom
the holy sage gave the name of Postomani, or the poppy-seed lady.

Postomani lived in the Rishi's hut, and spent her time in tending
the flowers and watering the plants. One day, as she was sitting at
the door of the hut during the Rishi's absence, she saw a man dressed
in a very rich garb come towards the cottage. She stood up and asked
the stranger who he was, and what he had come there for. The stranger
answered that he had come a-hunting in those parts, that he had been
chasing in vain a deer, that he felt thirsty, and that he came to
the hut of the hermit for refreshment.

Postomani. Stranger, look upon this cot as your own house. I'll do
everything I can to make you comfortable; I am only sorry we are too
poor suitably to entertain, a man of your rank, for if I mistake not
you are the king of this country.

The king smiled. Postomani then brought out a water-pot, and made
as if she would wash the feet of her royal guest with her own hands,
when the king said, "Holy maid, do not touch my feet, for I am only
a Kshatriya, and you are the daughter of a holy sage."

Postomani. Noble sir, I am not the daughter of the Rishi, neither
am I a Brahmani girl; so there can be no harm in my touching your
feet. Besides, you are my guest, and I am bound to wash your feet.

King. Forgive my impertinence. What caste do you belong to?

Postomani. I have heard from the sage that my parents were Kshatriyas.

King. May I ask you whether your father was a king, for your uncommon
beauty and your stately demeanour show that you are a born princess.

Postomani, without answering the question, went inside the hut,
brought out a tray of the most delicious fruits, and set it before the
king. The king, however, would not touch the fruits till the maid had
answered his questions. When pressed hard Postomani gave the following
answer: "The holy sage says that my father was a king. Having been
overcome in battle, he, along with my mother, fled into the woods. My
poor father was eaten up by a tiger, and my mother at that time was
brought to bed of me, and she closed her eyes as I opened mine. Strange
to say, there was a bee-hive on the tree at the foot of which I lay;
drops of honey fell into my mouth and kept alive the spark of life
till the kind Rishi found me and brought me into his hut. This is
the simple story of the wretched girl who now stands before the king."

King. Call not yourself wretched. You are the loveliest and most
beautiful of women. You would adorn the palace of the mightiest
sovereign.

The upshot was, that the king made love to the girl and they were
joined in marriage by the Rishi. Postomani was treated as the favourite
queen, and the former queen was in disgrace. Postomani's happiness,
however, was short-lived. One day as she was standing by a well,
she became giddy, fell into the water, and died. The Rishi then
appeared before the king and said: "O king, grieve not over the
past. What is fixed by fate must come to pass. The queen, who has
just been drowned, was not of royal blood. She was born a mouse; I
then changed her successively, according to her own wish, into a cat,
a dog, an ape, a boar, an elephant, and a beautiful girl. Now that
she is gone, do you again take into favour your former queen. As
for my reputed daughter, through the favour of the gods I'll make
her name immortal. Let her body remain in the well; fill the well up
with earth. Out of her flesh and bones will grow a tree which shall
be called after her Posto, that is, the Poppy tree. From this tree
will be obtained a drug called opium, which will be celebrated as a
powerful medicine through all ages, and which will always be either
swallowed or smoked as a wonderful narcotic to the end of time. The
opium swallower or smoker will have one quality of each of the animals
to which Postomani was transformed. He will be mischievous like a
mouse, fond of milk like a cat, quarrelsome like a dog, filthy like
an ape, savage like a boar, and high-tempered like a queen."


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



X

STRIKE BUT HEAR


Once upon a time there reigned a king who had three sons. His subjects
one day came to him and said, "O incarnation of justice! the kingdom
is infested with thieves and robbers. Our property is not safe. We
pray your majesty to catch hold of these thieves and punish them." The
king said to his sons, "O my sons, I am old, but you are all in the
prime of manhood. How is it that my kingdom is full of thieves? I
look to you to catch hold of these thieves." The three princes then
made up their minds to patrol the city every night. With this view
they set up a station in the outskirts of the city, where they kept
their horses. In the early part of the night the eldest prince rode
upon his horse and went through the whole city, but did not see a
single thief. He came back to the station. About midnight the second
prince got upon his horse and rode through every part of the city,
but he did not see or hear of a single thief. He came also back to
the station. Some hours after midnight the youngest prince went the
rounds, and when he came near the gate of the palace where his father
lived, he saw a beautiful woman coming out of the palace. The prince
accosted the woman, and asked who she was and where she was going
at that hour of the night. The woman answered, "I am Rajlakshmi,
[23] the guardian deity of this palace. The king will be killed this
night. I am therefore not needed here. I am going away." The prince
did not know what to make of this message. After a moment's reflection
he said to the goddess, "But suppose the king is not killed to-night,
then have you any objection to return to the palace and stay there?" "I
have no objection," replied the goddess. The prince then begged the
goddess to go in, promising to do his best to prevent the king from
being killed. Then the goddess entered the palace again, and in a
moment went the prince knew not whither.

The prince went straight into the bedroom of his royal father. There he
lay immersed in deep sleep. His second and young wife, the stepmother
of our prince, was sleeping in another bed in the room. A light
was burning dimly. What was his surprise when the prince saw a huge
cobra going round and round the golden bedstead on which his father
was sleeping. The prince with his sword cut the serpent in two. Not
satisfied with killing the cobra, he cut it up into a hundred pieces,
and put them inside the pan dish [24] which was in the room. While the
prince was cutting up the serpent a drop of blood fell on the breast
of his stepmother who was sleeping hard by. The prince was in great
distress. He said to himself, "I have saved my father but killed my
mother." How was the drop of blood to be taken out of his mother's
breast? He wrapped round his tongue a piece of cloth sevenfold, and
with it licked up the drop of blood. But while he was in the act of
doing this, his stepmother woke up, and opening her eyes saw that
it was her stepson, the youngest prince. The young prince rushed
out of the room. The queen, intending to ruin the youngest prince,
whom she hated, called out to her husband, "My lord, my lord, are
you awake? are you awake? Rouse yourself up. Here is a nice piece of
business." The king on awaking inquired what the matter was. "The
matter, my lord? Your worthy son, the youngest prince, of whom you
speak so highly, was just here. I caught him in the act of touching
my breast. Doubtless he came with a wicked intent. And this is your
worthy son!" The king was horror-struck. The prince went to the
station to his brothers, but told them nothing.

Early in the morning the king called his eldest son to him and said,
"If a man to whom I intrust my honour and my life prove faithless,
how should he be punished?" The eldest prince replied, "Doubtless such
a man's head should be cut off; but before you kill, you should see
whether the man is really faithless." "What do you mean?" inquired
the king. "Let your majesty be pleased to listen," answered the prince.

"Once on a time there lived a goldsmith who had a grown-up son. And
this son had a wife who had the rare faculty of understanding the
language of beasts; but neither her husband nor any one else knew
that she had this uncommon gift. One night she was lying in bed
beside her husband in their house, which was close to a river, when
she heard a jackal howl out, 'There goes a carcase floating on the
river; is there any one who will take off the diamond ring from the
finger of the dead man and give me the corpse to eat?' The woman
understood the jackal's language, got up from bed and went to the
river-side. The husband, who was not asleep, followed his wife at
some distance so as not to be observed by her. The woman went into
the water, tugged the floating corpse towards the shore, and saw the
diamond ring on the finger. Unable to loosen it with her hand, as the
fingers of the dead body had swelled, she bit it off with her teeth,
and put the dead body upon land. She then went to her bed, whither
she had been preceded by her husband. The young goldsmith lay beside
his wife almost petrified with fear, for he concluded after what he
saw that his wife was not a human being but a Rakshasi. He spent the
rest of the night in tossing in his bed, and early in the morning
spoke to his father in the following manner: 'Father, the woman whom
thou hast given me to wife is not a real woman but a Rakshasi. Last
night as I was lying in bed with her, I heard outside the house,
towards the river-side, a jackal set up a fearful howl. On this she,
thinking that I was asleep, got up from bed, opened the door, and
went out to the river-side. Surprised to see her go out alone at
the dead hour of night, I suspected evil and followed her, but so
that she could not see me. What did she do, do you think? O horror of
horrors! She went into the stream, dragged towards the shore the dead
body of a man which was floating by, and began to eat it! I saw this
with mine own eyes. I then returned home while she was feasting upon
the carcase, and jumped into bed. In a few minutes she also returned,
bolted the door, and lay beside me. O my father, how can I live with
a Rakshasi? She will certainly kill me and eat me up one night.' The
old goldsmith was not a little shocked to hear this account. Both
father and son agreed that the woman should be taken into the forest
and there left to be devoured by wild beasts. Accordingly the young
goldsmith spoke to his wife thus: 'My dear love, you had better not
cook much this morning; only boil rice and burn a brinjal, for I must
take you to-day to see your father and mother, who are dying to see
you.' At the mention of her father's house she became full of joy,
and finished the cooking in no time. The husband and wife snatched a
hasty breakfast and started on their journey. The way lay through a
dense jungle, in which the goldsmith bethought himself of leaving his
wife alone to be eaten up by wild beasts. But while they were passing
through this jungle the woman heard a serpent hiss, the meaning of
which hissing, as understood by her, was as follows: 'O passer-by, how
thankful should I be to you if you would catch hold of that croaking
frog in yonder hole, which is full of gold and precious stones,
and give me the frog to swallow, and you take the gold and precious
stones.' The woman forthwith made for the frog, and began digging
the hole with a stick. The young goldsmith was now quaking with fear,
thinking his Rakshasi-wife was about to kill him. She called out to
him and said, 'Husband, take up all this large quantity of gold and
these precious stones.' The goldsmith, not knowing what to make of it,
timidly went to the place, and to his infinite surprise saw the gold
and the precious stones. They took up as much as they could. On the
husband's asking his wife how she came to know of the existence of all
this riches, she said that she understood the language of animals,
and that the snake coiled up hard by had informed her of it. The
goldsmith, on finding out what an accomplished wife he was blessed
with, said to her, 'My love, it has got very late to-day; it would be
impossible to reach your father's house before nightfall, and we may
be devoured by wild beasts in the jungle; I propose therefore that
we both return home.' It took them a long time to reach home, for
they were laden with a large quantity of gold and precious stones. On
coming near the house, the goldsmith said to his wife, 'My dear, you
go by the back door, while I go by the front door and see my father
in his shop and show him all this gold and these precious stones.' So
she entered the house by the back door, and the moment she entered
she was met by the old goldsmith, who had come that minute into the
house for some purpose with a hammer in his hand. The old goldsmith,
when he saw his Rakshasi daughter-in-law, concluded in his mind that
she had killed and swallowed up his son. He therefore struck her on
the head with the hammer, and she immediately died. That moment the
son came into the house, but it was too late. Hence it is that I told
your majesty that before you cut off a man's head you should inquire
whether the man is really guilty."

The king then called his second son to him, and said, "If a man to
whom I intrust my honour and my life prove faithless, how should he
be punished?" The second prince replied, "Doubtless such a man's head
should be cut off, but before you kill you should see whether the
man is really faithless." "What do you mean?" inquired the king. "Let
your majesty be pleased to listen," answered the prince.

"Once on a time there reigned a king who was very fond of going out
a-hunting. Once while he was out hunting his horse took him into
a dense forest far from his followers. He rode on and on, and did
not see either villages or towns. He became very thirsty, but he
could see neither pond, lake, nor stream. At last he found something
dripping from the top of a tree. Concluding it to be rain-water which
had rested in some cavity of the tree, he stood on horseback under
the tree and caught the dripping contents in a small cup. It was,
however, no rain-water. A huge cobra, which was on the top of the
tree, was dashing in rage its fangs against the tree; and its poison
was coming out and was falling in drops. The king, however, thought
it was rain-water; though his horse knew better. When the cup was
nearly filled with the liquid snake-poison, and the king was about
to drink it off, the horse, to save the life of his royal master,
so moved about that the cup fell from the king's hand and all the
liquid spilled about. The king became very angry with his horse,
and with his sword gave a cut to the horse's neck, and the horse died
immediately. Hence it is that I told your majesty that before you cut
off a man's head you should inquire whether the man is really guilty."

The king then called to him his third and youngest son, and said,
"If a man to whom I intrust my honour and my life prove faithless,
how should he be punished?" The youngest prince replied, "Doubtless
such a man's head should be cut off, but before you kill you should
see whether the man is really faithless." "What do you mean?" inquired
the king. "Let your majesty be pleased to listen," answered the prince.

"Once on a time there reigned a king who had in his palace a remarkable
bird of the Suka species. One day as the Suka went out to the fields
for an airing, he saw his dad and dam, who pressed him to come and
spend some days with them in their nest in some far-off land. The
Suka answered he would be very happy to come, but he could not go
without the king's leave; he added that he would speak to the king
that very day, and would be ready to go the following morning if his
dad and dam would come to that very spot. The Suka spoke to the king,
and the king gave leave with reluctance as he was very fond of the
bird. So the next morning the Suka met his dad and dam at the place
appointed, and went with them to his paternal nest on the top of some
high tree in a far-off land. The three birds lived happily together
for a fortnight, at the end of which period the Suka said to his
dad and dam, 'My beloved parents, the king granted me leave only
for a fortnight, and to-day the fortnight is over: to-morrow I must
start for the city of the king.' His dad and dam readily agreed to the
reasonable proposal, and told him to take a present to the king. After
laying their heads together for some time they agreed that the present
should be a fruit of the tree of Immortality. So early next morning
the Suka plucked a fruit off the tree of Immortality, and carefully
catching it in his beak, started on his aerial journey. As he had a
heavy weight to carry, the Suka was not able to reach the city of
the king that day, and was benighted on the road. He took shelter
in a tree, and was at a loss to know where to keep the fruit. If
he kept it in his beak it was sure, he thought, to fall out when he
fell asleep. Fortunately he saw a hole in the trunk of the tree in
which he had taken shelter, and accordingly put the fruit in it. It
so happened that in that hole there was a snake; in the course of the
night the snake darted its fangs on the fruit, and thus besmeared it
with its poison. Early before crow-cawing the Suka, suspecting nothing,
took up the fruit of Immortality in its beak, and began his aerial
voyage. The Suka reached the palace while the king was sitting with
his ministers. The king was delighted to see his pet bird come again,
and greatly admired the beautiful fruit which the Suka had brought as
a present. The fruit was very fair to look at; it was the loveliest
fruit in all the earth; and as its name implies it makes the eater
of it immortal. The king was going to eat it, but his courtiers said
that it was not advisable for the king to eat it, as it might be a
poisonous fruit. He accordingly threw it to a crow which was perched
on the wall; the crow ate a part of it; but in a moment the crow fell
down and died. The king, imagining that the Suka had intended to take
away his life, took hold of the bird and killed it. The king ordered
the stone of the deadly fruit, as it was thought to be, to be planted
in a garden outside the city. The stone in course of time became
a large tree bearing lovely fruit. The king ordered a fence to be
put round the tree, and placed a guard lest people should eat of the
fruit and die. There lived in that city an old Brahman and his wife,
who used to live upon charity. The Brahman one day mourned his hard
lot, and told his wife that instead of leading the wretched life of
a beggar he would eat the fruit of the poisonous tree in the king's
garden and thus end his days. So that very night he got up from his
bed in order to get into the king's garden. His wife, suspecting her
husband's intention, followed him, resolved also to eat of the fruit
and die with her husband. As at that dead hour of night the guard
was asleep, the old Brahman plucked a fruit and ate it. The woman
said to her husband, 'If you die what is the use of my life? I'll
also eat and die.' So saying she plucked a fruit and ate it. Thinking
that the poison would take some time to produce its due effect, they
both went home and lay in bed, supposing that they would never rise
again. To their infinite surprise next morning they found themselves
to be not only alive, but young and vigorous. Their neighbours could
scarcely recognise them--they had become so changed. The old Brahman
had become handsome and vigorous, no grey hairs, no wrinkles on his
cheeks; and as for his wife, she had become as beautiful as any lady
in the king's household. The king, hearing of this wonderful change,
sent for the old Brahman, who told him all the circumstances. The
king then greatly lamented the sad fate of his pet bird, and blamed
himself for having killed it without fully inquiring into the case.

"Hence it is," continued the youngest prince, "that I told your majesty
that before you cut off a man's head you should inquire whether the
man is really guilty. I know your majesty thinks that last night
I entered your chamber with wicked intent. Be pleased to hear me
before you strike. Last night as I was on my rounds I saw a female
figure come out of the palace. On challenging her she said that she
was Rajlakshmi, the guardian deity of the palace; and that she was
leaving the palace as the king would be killed that night. I told her
to come in, and that I would prevent the king from being killed. I
went straight into your bedroom, and saw a large cobra going round
and round your golden bedstead. I killed the cobra, cut it up into a
hundred pieces, and put them in the pan dish. But while I was cutting
up the snake, a drop of its blood fell on the breast of my mother;
and then I thought that while I had saved my father I had killed
my mother. I wrapped round my tongue a piece of cloth sevenfold
and licked up the drop of blood. While I was licking up the blood,
my mother opened her eyes and noticed me. This is what I have done;
now cut off my head if your majesty wishes it."

The king filled with joy and gratitude embraced his son, and from
that time loved him more even than he had loved him before.


            Thus my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XI

THE ADVENTURES OF TWO THIEVES AND OF THEIR SONS


PART I

Once on a time there lived two thieves in a village who earned their
livelihood by stealing. As they were well-known thieves, every act
of theft in the village was ascribed to them whether they committed
it or not; they therefore left the village, and, being resolved to
support themselves by honest labour, went to a neighbouring town for
service. Both of them were engaged by a householder; the one had to
tend a cow, and the other to water a champaka plant. The elder thief
began watering the plant early in the morning, and as he had been
told to go on pouring water till some of it collected itself round
the foot of the plant he went on pouring bucketful after bucketful:
but to no purpose. No sooner was the water poured on the foot of the
plant than it was forthwith sucked up by the thirsty earth; and it
was late in the afternoon when the thief, tired with drawing water,
laid himself down on the ground, and fell asleep. The younger thief
fared no better. The cow which he had to tend was the most vicious
in the whole country. When taken out of the village for pasturage it
galloped away to a great distance with its tail erect; it ran from one
paddy-field to another, and ate the corn and trod upon it; it entered
into sugar-cane plantations and destroyed the sweet cane;--for all
which damage and acts of trespass the neat-herd was soundly rated by
the owners of the fields. What with running after the cow from field
to field, from pool to pool; what with the abusive language poured
not only upon him, but upon his forefathers up to the fourteenth
generation, by the owners of the fields in which the corn had been
destroyed,--the younger thief had a miserable day of it. After a
world of trouble he succeeded about sunset in catching hold of the
cow, which he brought back to the house of his master. The elder
thief had just roused himself from sleep when he saw the younger one
bringing in the cow. Then the elder said to the younger--"Brother,
why are you so late in coming from the fields?"

Younger. What shall I say, brother? I took the cow to that part of the
meadow where there is a tank, near which there is a large tree. I let
the cow loose, and it began to graze about without giving the least
trouble. I spread my gamchha [25] upon the grass under the tree;
and there was such a delicious breeze that I soon fell asleep, and
I did not wake till after sunset; and when I awoke I saw my good cow
grazing contentedly at the distance of a few paces. But how did you
fare, brother?

Elder. Oh, as for me, I had a jolly time of it. I had poured only
one bucketful of water on the plant, when a large quantity rested
round it. So my work was done, and I had the whole day to myself. I
laid myself down on the ground; I meditated on the joys of this new
mode of life; I whistled; I sang; and at last fell asleep. And I am
up only this moment.

When this talk was ended, the elder thief, believing that what the
younger thief had said was true, thought that tending the cow was more
comfortable than watering the plant; and the younger thief, for the
same reason, thought that watering the plant was more comfortable
than tending the cow: each therefore resolved to exchange his own
work for that of the other.

Elder. Well, brother, I have a wish to tend the cow. Suppose to-morrow
you take my work, and I yours. Have you any objection?

Younger. Not the slightest, brother. I shall be glad to take up your
work, and you are quite welcome to take up mine. Only let me give
you a bit of advice. I felt it rather uncomfortable to sleep nearly
the whole of the day on the bare ground. If you take a charpoy [26]
with you, you will have a merry time of it.

Early the following morning the elder thief went out with the cow to
the fields, not forgetting to take with him a charpoy for his ease and
comfort; and the younger thief began watering the plant. The latter
had thought that one bucketful, or at the outside two bucketfuls,
of water would be enough. But what was his surprise when he found
that even a hundred bucketfuls were not sufficient to saturate the
ground around the roots of the plant. He was dead tired with drawing
water. The sun was almost going down, and yet his work was not over. At
last he gave it up through sheer weariness.

The elder thief in the fields was in no better case. He took the
cow beside the tank which the younger thief had spoken of, put his
charpoy under the large tree hard by, and then let the cow loose. As
soon as the cow was let loose it went scampering about in the meadow,
jumping over hedges and ditches, running through paddy-fields, and
injuring sugar-cane plantations. The elder thief was not a little
put about. He had to run about the whole day, and to be insulted by
the people whose fields had been trespassed upon. But the worst of
it was, that our thief had to run about the meadow with the charpoy
on his head, for he could not put it anywhere for fear it should be
taken away. When the other neat-herds who were in the meadow saw the
elder thief running about in breathless haste after the cow with the
charpoy on his head, they clapped their hands and raised shouts of
derision. The poor fellow, hungry and angry, bitterly repented of
the exchange he had made. After infinite trouble, and with the help
of the other neat-herds, he at last caught hold of the precious cow,
and brought it home long after the village lamps had been lit.

When the two thieves met in the house of their master, they merely
laughed at each other without speaking a word. Their dinner over,
they laid themselves to rest, when there took place the following
conversation:--

Younger. Well, how did you fare, brother?

Elder. Just as you fared, and perhaps some degrees better.

Younger. I am of opinion that our former trade of thieving was
infinitely preferable to this sort of honest labour, as people call it.

Elder. What doubt is there of that? But, by the gods, I have never
seen a cow which can be compared to this. It has no second in the
world in point of viciousness.

Younger. A vicious cow is not a rare thing. I have seen some cows
as vicious. But have you ever seen a plant like this champaka plant
which you were told to water? I wonder what becomes of all the water
that is poured round about it. Is there a tank below its roots?

Elder. I have a good mind to dig round it and see what is beneath it.

Younger. We had better do so this night when the good man of the
house and his wife are asleep.

At about midnight the two thieves took spades and shovels and began
digging round the plant. After digging a good deal the younger thief
lighted upon some hard thing against which the shovel struck. The
curiosity of both was excited. The younger thief saw that it was
a large jar; he thrust his hand into it and found that it was full
of gold mohurs. But he said to the elder thief--"Oh, it is nothing;
it is only a large stone." The elder thief, however, suspected that
it was something else; but he took care not to give vent to his
suspicion. Both agreed to give up digging as they had found nothing;
and they went to sleep. An hour or two after, when the elder thief
saw that the younger thief was asleep, he quietly got up and went
to the spot which had been digged. He saw the jar filled with gold
mohurs. Digging a little near it, he found another jar also filled
with gold mohurs. Overjoyed to find the treasure, he resolved to secure
it. He took up both the jars, went to the tank which was near, and from
which water used to be drawn for the plant, and buried them in the mud
of its bank. He then returned to the house, and quietly laid himself
down beside the younger thief, who was then fast asleep. The younger
thief, who had first found the jar of gold mohurs, now woke, and softly
stealing out of bed, went to secure the treasure he had seen. On going
to the spot he did not see any jar; he therefore naturally thought
that his companion the elder thief had secreted it somewhere. He went
to his sleeping partner, with a view to discover if possible by any
marks on his body the place where the treasure had been hidden. He
examined the person of his friend with the eye of a detective, and
saw mud on his feet and near the ankles. He immediately concluded
the treasure must have been concealed somewhere in the tank. But in
what part of the tank? on which bank? His ingenuity did not forsake
him here. He walked round all the four banks of the tank. When he
walked round three sides, the frogs on them jumped into the water;
but no frogs jumped from the fourth bank. He therefore concluded that
the treasure must have been buried on the fourth bank. In a little
he found the two jars filled with gold mohurs; he took them up, and
going into the cow-house brought out the vicious cow he had tended,
and put the two jars on its back. He left the house and started for
his native village.

When the elder thief at crow-cawing got up from sleep, he was surprised
not to find his companion beside him. He hastened to the tank and
found that the jars were not there. He went to the cow-house, and did
not see the vicious cow. He immediately concluded the younger thief
must have run away with the treasure on the back of the cow. And where
could he think of going? He must be going to his native village. No
sooner did this process of reasoning pass through his mind than he
resolved forthwith to set out and overtake the younger thief. As
he passed through the town, he invested all the money he had in a
costly pair of shoes covered with gold lace. He walked very fast,
avoiding the public road and making short cuts. He descried the
younger thief trudging on slowly with his cow. He went before him
in the highway about a distance of 200 yards, and threw down on the
road one shoe. He walked on another 200 yards and threw the other
shoe at a place near which was a large tree; amid the thick leaves of
that tree he hid himself. The younger thief coming along the public
road saw the first shoe and said to himself--"What a beautiful shoe
that is! It is of gold lace. It would have suited me in my present
circumstances now that I have got rich. But what shall I do with one
shoe?" So he passed on. In a short time he came to the place where
the other shoe was lying. The younger thief said within himself--"Ah,
here is the other shoe! What a fool I was, that I did not pick up
the one I first saw! However it is not too late. I'll tie the cow to
yonder tree and go for the other shoe." He tied the cow to the tree,
and taking up the second shoe went for the first, lying at a distance
of about 200 yards. In the meantime the elder thief got down from
the tree, loosened the cow, and drove it towards his native village,
avoiding the king's highway. The younger thief on returning to the
tree found that the cow was gone. He of course concluded that it
could have been done only by the elder thief. He walked as fast as
his legs could carry him, and reached his native village long before
the elder thief with the cow. He hid himself near the door of the
elder thief's house. The moment the elder thief arrived with the
cow, the younger thief accosted him, saying--"So you are come safe,
brother. Let us go in and divide the money." To this proposal the
elder thief readily agreed. In the inner yard of the house the two
jars were taken down from the back of the cow; they went to a room,
bolted the door, and began dividing. Two mohurs were taken up by
the hand, one was put in one place, and the other in another; and
they went on doing that till the jars became empty. But last of all
one gold mohur remained. The question was--Who was to take it? Both
agreed that it should be changed the next morning, and the silver cash
equally divided. But with whom was the single mohur to remain? There
was not a little wrangling about the matter. After a great deal of yea
and nay, it was settled that it should remain with the elder thief,
and that next morning it should be changed and equally divided.

At night the elder thief said to his wife and the other women of
the house, "Look here, ladies, the younger thief will come to-morrow
morning to demand the share of the remaining gold mohur; but I don't
mean to give it to him. You do one thing to-morrow. Spread a cloth on
the ground in the yard. I will lay myself on the cloth pretending to
be dead; and to convince people that I am dead, put a tulasi [27]
plant near my head. And when you see the younger thief coming to
the door, you set up a loud cry and lamentation. Then he will of
course go away, and I shall not have to pay his share of the gold
mohur." To this proposal the women readily agreed. Accordingly the
next day, about noon, the elder thief laid himself down in the yard
like a corpse with the sacred basil near his head. When the younger
thief was seen coming near the house, the women set up a loud cry,
and when he came nearer and nearer, wondering what it all meant,
they said, "Oh, where did you both go? What did you bring? What
did you do to him? Look, he is dead!" So saying they rent the air
with their cries. The younger thief, seeing through the whole, said,
"Well, I am sorry my friend and brother is gone. I must now attend to
his funeral. You all go away from this place, you are but women. I'll
see to it that the remains are well burnt." He brought a quantity of
straw and twisted it into a rope, which he fastened to the legs of the
deceased man, and began tugging him, saying that he was going to take
him to the place of burning. While the elder thief was being dragged
through the streets, his body was getting dreadfully scratched and
bruised, but he held his peace, being resolved to act his part out,
and thus escape giving the share of the gold mohur. The sun had
gone down when the younger thief with the corpse reached the place
of burning. But as he was making preparations for a funeral pile,
he remembered that he had not brought fire with him. If he went
for fire leaving the elder thief behind, he would undoubtedly run
away. What then was to be done? At last he tied the straw rope to the
branch of a tree, and kept the pretended corpse hanging in the air,
and he himself climbed into the tree and sat on that branch, keeping
tight hold of the rope lest it should break, and the elder thief run
away. While they were in this state, a gang of robbers passed by. On
seeing the corpse hanging, the head of the gang said, "This raid of
ours has begun very auspiciously. Brahmans and Pandits say that if
on starting on a journey one sees a corpse, it is a good omen. Well,
we have seen a corpse, it is therefore likely that we shall meet with
success this night. If we do, I propose one thing: on our return let
us first burn this dead body and then return home." All the robbers
agreed to this proposal. The robbers then entered into the house of
a rich man in the village, put its inmates to the sword, robbed it of
all its treasures, and withal managed it so cleverly that not a mouse
stirred in the village. As they were successful beyond measure, they
resolved on their return to burn the dead body they had seen. When they
came to the place of burning they found the corpse hanging as before,
for the elder thief had not yet opened his mouth lest he should be
obliged to give half of the gold mohur. The thieves dug a hollow
in the ground, brought fuel, and laid it upon the hollow. They took
down the corpse from the tree, and laid it upon the pile; and as they
were going to set it on fire, the corpse gave out an unearthly scream
and jumped up. That very moment the younger thief jumped down from
the tree with a similar scream. The robbers were frightened beyond
measure. They thought that a Dana (evil spirit) had possessed the
corpse, and that a ghost jumped down from the tree. They ran away in
great fear, leaving behind them the money and the jewels which they had
obtained by robbery. The two thieves laughed heartily, took up all the
riches of the robbers, went home, and lived merrily for a long time.



PART II

The elder thief and the younger thief had one son each. As they had
been so far successful in life by practising the art of thieving, they
resolved to train up their sons to the same profession. There was in
the village a Professor of the Science of Roguery, who took pupils,
and gave them lessons in that difficult science. The two thieves
put their sons under this renowned Professor. The son of the elder
thief distinguished himself very much, and bade fair to surpass his
father in the art of stealing. The lad's cleverness was tested in the
following manner. Not far from the Professor's house there lived a
poor man in a hut, upon the thatch of which climbed a creeper of the
gourd kind. In the middle of the thatch, which was also its topmost
part, there was a splendid gourd, which the man and his wife watched
day and night. They certainly slept at night, but then the thatch was
so old and rickety that if even a mouse went up to it bits of straw
and particles of earth used to fall inside the hut, and the man and
his wife slept right below the spot where the gourd was; so that it
was next to impossible to steal the gourd without the knowledge of
its owners. The Professor said to his pupils--for he had many--that
any one who stole the gourd without being caught would be pronounced
the dux of the school. Our elder thief's son at once accepted the
offer. He said he would steal away the gourd if he were allowed the use
of three things, namely, a string, a cat, and a knife. The Professor
allowed him the use of these three things. Two or three hours after
nightfall, the lad, furnished with the three things mentioned above,
sat behind the thatch under the eaves, listening to the conversation
carried on by the man and his wife lying in bed inside the hut. In
a short time the conversation ceased. The lad then concluded that
they must both have fallen asleep. He waited half an hour longer,
and hearing no sound inside, gently climbed up on the thatch. Chips of
straw and particles of earth fell upon the couple sleeping inside. The
woman woke up, and rousing her husband said, "Look there, some one is
stealing the gourd!" That moment the lad squeezed the throat of the
cat, and puss immediately gave out her usual "Mew! mew! mew!" The
husband said, "Don't you hear the cat mewing? There is no thief;
it is only a cat." The lad in the meantime cut the gourd from the
plant with his knife, and tied the string which he had with him to
its stalk. But how was he to get down without being discovered and
caught, especially as the man and the woman were now awake? The woman
was not convinced that it was only a cat; the shaking of the thatch,
and the constant falling of bits of straw and particles of dust, made
her think that it was a human being that was upon the thatch. She was
telling her husband to go out and see whether a man was not there;
but he maintained that it was only a cat. While the man and woman
were thus disputing with each other, the lad with great force threw
down the cat upon the ground, on which the poor animal purred most
vociferously; and the man said aloud to his wife, "There it is; you
are now convinced that it was only a cat." In the meantime, during
the confusion created by the clamour of the cat and the loud talk
of the man, the lad quietly came down from the thatch with the gourd
tied to the string. Next morning the lad produced the gourd before his
teacher, and described to him and to his admiring comrades the manner
in which he had committed the theft. The Professor was in ecstasy,
and remarked, "The worthy son of a worthy father." But the elder
thief, the father of our hopeful genius, was by no means satisfied
that his son was as yet fit to enter the world. He wanted to prove
him still further. Addressing his son he said, "My son, if you can
do what I tell you, I'll think you fit to enter the world. If you
can steal the gold chain of the queen of this country from her neck,
and bring it to me, I'll think you fit to enter the world." The gifted
son readily agreed to do the daring deed.

The young thief--for so we shall now call the son of the elder
thief--made a reconnaissance of the palace in which the king and queen
lived. He reconnoitred all the four gates, and all the outer and inner
walls as far as he could; and gathered incidentally a good deal of
information, from people living in the neighbourhood, regarding the
habits of the king and queen, in what part of the palace they slept,
what guards there were near the bedchamber, and who, if any, slept
in the antechamber. Armed with all this knowledge the young thief
fixed upon one dark night for doing the daring deed. He took with
him a sword, a hammer and some large nails, and put on very dark
clothes. Thus accoutred he went prowling about the Lion gate of the
palace. Before the zenana [28] could be got at, four doors, including
the Lion gate, had to be passed; and each of these doors had a guard
of sixteen stalwart men. The same men, however, did not remain all
night at their post. As the king had an infinite number of soldiers
at his command, the guards at the doors were relieved every hour; so
that once every hour at each door there were thirty-two men present,
consisting of the relieving party and of the relieved. The young thief
chose that particular moment of time for entering each of the four
doors. At the time of relief when he saw the Lion gate crowded with
thirty-two men, he joined the crowd without being taken notice of; he
then spent the hour preceding the next relief in the large open space
and garden between two doors; and he could not be taken notice of, as
the night as well as his clothes was pitch dark. In a similar manner
he passed the second door, the third door, and the fourth door. And
now the queen's bedchamber stared him in the face. It was in the third
loft; there was a bright light in it; and a low voice was heard as
that of a woman saying something in a humdrum manner. The young thief
thought that the voice must be the voice of a maid-servant reciting
a story, as he had learnt was the custom in the palace every night,
for composing the king and queen to sleep. But how to get up into the
third loft? The inner doors were all closed, and there were guards
everywhere. But the young thief had with him nails and a hammer: why
not drive the nails into the wall and climb up by them? True; but the
driving of nails into the wall would make a great noise which would
rouse the guards, and possibly the king and queen,--at any rate the
maid-servant reciting stories would give the alarm. Our erratic genius
had considered that matter well before engaging in the work. There is
a water-clock in the palace which shows the hours; and at the end of
every hour a very large Chinese gong is struck, the sound of which
is so loud that it is not only heard all over the palace, but over
most part of the city; and the peculiarity of the gong, as of every
Chinese gong, was that nearly one minute must elapse after the first
stroke before the second stroke could be made, to allow the gong to
give out the whole of its sound. The thief fixed upon the minutes
when the gong was struck at the end of every hour for driving nails
into the wall. At ten o'clock when the gong was struck ten times, the
thief found it easy to drive ten nails into the wall. When the gong
stopped, the thief also stopped, and either sat or stood quiet on the
ninth nail catching hold of the tenth which was above the other. At
eleven o'clock he drove into the wall in a similar manner eleven nails,
and got a little higher than the second story; and by twelve o'clock
he was in the loft where the royal bedchamber was. Peeping in he saw
a drowsy maid-servant drowsily reciting a story, and the king and
queen apparently asleep. He went stealthily behind the story-telling
maid-servant and took his seat. The queen was lying down on a richly
furnished bedstead of gold beside the king. The massive chain of gold
round the neck of the queen was gleaming in candle-light. The thief
quietly listened to the story of the drowsy maid-servant. She was
becoming more and more sleepy. She stopped for a second, nodded her
head, and again resumed the story. It was plain she was under the
influence of sleep. In a moment the thief cut off the head of the
maid-servant with his sword, and himself went on reciting for some
minutes the story which the woman was telling. The king and queen were
unconscious of any change as to the person of the story-teller, for
they were both in deep sleep. He stripped the murdered woman of her
clothes, put them on himself, tied up his own clothes in a bundle,
and walking softly, gently took off the chain from the neck of the
queen. He then went through the rooms down stairs, ordered the inner
guard to open the door, as she was obliged to go out of the palace
for purposes of necessity. The guards, seeing that it was the queen's
maid-servant, readily allowed her to go out. In the same manner, and
with the same pretext, he got through the other doors, and at last
out into the street. That very night, or rather morning, the young
thief put into his father's hand the gold chain of the queen. The
elder thief could scarcely believe his own eyes. It was so like a
dream. His joy knew no bounds. Addressing his son he said--"Well done,
my son; you are not only as clever as your father, but you have beaten
me hollow. The gods give you long life, my son."

Next morning when the king and queen got up from bed, they were
shocked to see the maid-servant lying in a pool of blood. The queen
also found that her gold chain was not round her neck. They could not
make out how all this could have taken place. How could any thief
manage to elude the vigilance of so many guards? How could he get
into the queen's bedchamber? And how could he again escape? The king
found from the reports of the guards that a person calling herself
the royal maid-servant had gone out of the palace some hours before
dawn. All sorts of inquiries were made, but in vain. Proclamation
was made in the city; a large reward was offered to any one who
would give information tending to the apprehension of the thief and
murderer. But no one responded to the call. At last the king ordered
a camel to be brought to him. On the back of the animal was placed
two large bags filled with gold mohurs. The man taking charge of the
bags upon the camel was ordered to go through every part of the city
making the following challenge:--"As the thief was daring enough to
steal away a gold chain from the neck of the queen, let him further
show his daring by stealing the gold mohurs from the back of this
camel." Two days and nights the camel paraded through the city, but
nothing happened. On the third night as the camel-driver was going
his rounds he was accosted by a sannyasi, [29] who sat on a tiger's
skin before a fire, and near whom was a monstrous pair of tongs. This
sannyasi was no other than the young thief in disguise. The sannyasi
said to the camel-driver--"Brother, why are you going through the city
in this manner? Who is there so daring as to steal from the back of the
king's camel? Come down, friend, and smoke with me." The camel-driver
alighted, tied the camel to a tree on the spot, and began smoking. The
mendicant supplied him not only with tobacco, but with ganja and other
intoxicating drugs, so that in a short time the camel-driver became
quite intoxicated and fell asleep. The young thief led away the camel
with the treasure on its back in the dead of night, through narrow
lanes and bye-paths to his own house. That very night the camel was
killed, and its carcase buried in deep pits in the earth, and the
thing was so managed that no one could discover any trace of it.

The next morning when the king heard that the camel-driver was
lying drunk in the street, and that the camel had been made away
with together with the treasure, he was almost beside himself with
anger. Proclamation was made in the city to the effect that whoever
caught the thief would get the reward of a lakh of rupees. The son of
the younger thief--who, by the way, was in the same school of roguery
with the son of the elder thief, though he did not distinguish himself
so much--now came to the front and said that he would apprehend the
thief. He of course suspected that the son of the elder thief must
have done it--for who so daring and clever as he? In the evening of
the following day the son of the younger thief disguised himself as a
woman, and coming to that part of the town where the young thief lived,
began to weep very much, and went from door to door saying--"O sirs,
can any of you give me a bit of camel's flesh, for my son is dying,
and the doctors say nothing but eating camel's meat can save his
life. O for pity's sake, do give me a bit of camel's flesh." At last
he went to the house of the young thief, and begged of the wife--for
the young thief himself was out--to tell him where he could get hold
of camel's flesh, as his son would assuredly perish if it could not
be got. Saying this he rent the air with his cries, and fell down at
the feet of the young thief's wife. Woman as she was, though the wife
of a thief, she felt pity for the supposed woman, and said--"Wait,
and I will try and get some camel's flesh for your son." So saying,
she secretly went to the spot where the dead camel had been buried,
brought a small quantity of flesh, and gave it to the party. The son
of the younger thief was now entranced with joy. He went and told the
king that he had succeeded in tracing the thief, and would be ready to
deliver him up at night if the king would send some constables with
him. At night the elder thief and his son were captured, the body
of the camel dug out, and all the treasures in the house seized. The
following morning the king sat in judgment. The son of the elder thief
confessed that he had stolen the queen's gold chain, and killed the
maid-servant, and had taken away the camel; but he added that the
person who had detected him and his father--the younger thief--were
also thieves and murderers, of which fact he gave undoubted proofs. As
the king had promised to give a lakh of rupees to the detective, that
sum was placed before the son of the younger thief. But soon after he
ordered four pits to be dug in the earth in which were buried alive,
with all sorts of thorns and thistles, the elder thief and the younger
thief, and their two sons.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XII

THE GHOST-BRAHMAN


Once on a time there lived a poor Brahman, who not being a Kulin,
found it the hardest thing in the world to get married. He went to
rich people and begged of them to give him money that he might marry a
wife. And a large sum of money was needed, not so much for the expenses
of the wedding, as for giving to the parents of the bride. He begged
from door to door, flattered many rich folk, and at last succeeded in
scraping together the sum needed. The wedding took place in due time;
and he brought home his wife to his mother. After a short time he said
to his mother--"Mother, I have no means to support you and my wife; I
must therefore go to distant countries to get money somehow or other. I
may be away for years, for I won't return till I get a good sum. In
the meantime I'll give you what I have; you make the best of it, and
take care of my wife." The Brahman receiving his mother's blessing set
out on his travels. In the evening of that very day, a ghost assuming
the exact appearance of the Brahman came into the house. The newly
married woman, thinking it was her husband, said to him--"How is it
that you have returned so soon? You said you might be away for years;
why have you changed your mind?" The ghost said--"To-day is not a
lucky day, I have therefore returned home; besides, I have already
got some money." The mother did not doubt but that it was her son. So
the ghost lived in the house as if he was its owner, and as if he was
the son of the old woman and the husband of the young woman. As the
ghost and the Brahman were exactly like each other in everything, like
two peas, the people in the neighbourhood all thought that the ghost
was the real Brahman. After some years the Brahman returned from his
travels; and what was his surprise when he found another like him in
the house. The ghost said to the Brahman--"Who are you? what business
have you to come to my house?" "Who am I?" replied the Brahman, "let
me ask who you are. This is my house; that is my mother, and this
is my wife." The ghost said--"Why herein is a strange thing. Every
one knows that this is my house, that is my wife, and yonder is
my mother; and I have lived here for years. And you pretend this
is your house, and that woman is your wife. Your head must have got
turned, Brahman." So saying the ghost drove away the Brahman from his
house. The Brahman became mute with wonder. He did not know what to
do. At last he bethought himself of going to the king and of laying
his case before him. The king saw the ghost-Brahman as well as the
Brahman, and the one was the picture of the other; so he was in a
fix, and did not know how to decide the quarrel. Day after day the
Brahman went to the king and besought him to give him back his house,
his wife, and his mother; and the king, not knowing what to say every
time, put him off to the following day. Every day the king tells him
to--"Come to-morrow"; and every day the Brahman goes away from the
palace weeping and striking his forehead with the palm of his hand,
and saying--"What a wicked world this is! I am driven from my own
house, and another fellow has taken possession of my house and of my
wife! And what a king this is! He does not do justice."

Now, it came to pass that as the Brahman went away every day from
the court outside the town, he passed a spot at which a great
many cowboys used to play. They let the cows graze on the meadow,
while they themselves met together under a large tree to play. And
they played at royalty. One cowboy was elected king; another, prime
minister or vizier; another, kotwal, or prefect of the police; and
others, constables. Every day for several days together they saw
the Brahman passing by weeping. One day the cowboy king asked his
vizier whether he knew why the Brahman wept every day. On the vizier
not being able to answer the question, the cowboy king ordered one of
his constables to bring the Brahman to him. One of them went and said
to the Brahman--"The king requires your immediate attendance." The
Brahman replied--"What for? I have just come from the king, and he
put me off till to-morrow. Why does he want me again?" "It is our king
that wants you--our neat-herd king," rejoined the constable. "Who is
neat-herd king?" asked the Brahman. "Come and see," was the reply. The
neat-herd king then asked the Brahman why he every day went away
weeping. The Brahman then told him his sad story. The neat-herd king,
after hearing the whole, said, "I understand your case; I will give
you again all your rights. Only go to the king and ask his permission
for me to decide your case." The Brahman went back to the king of the
country, and begged his Majesty to send his case to the neat-herd king,
who had offered to decide it. The king, whom the case had greatly
puzzled, granted the permission sought. The following morning was
fixed for the trial. The neat-herd king, who saw through the whole,
brought with him next day a phial with a narrow neck. The Brahman
and the ghost-Brahman both appeared at the bar. After a great deal
of examination of witnesses and of speech-making, the neat-herd king
said--"Well, I have heard enough. I'll decide the case at once. Here
is this phial. Whichever of you will enter into it shall be declared
by the court to be the rightful owner of the house the title of
which is in dispute. Now, let me see, which of you will enter." The
Brahman said--"You are a neat-herd, and your intellect is that of
a neat-herd. What man can enter into such a small phial?" "If you
cannot enter," said the neat-herd king, "then you are not the rightful
owner. What do you say, sir, to this?" turning to the ghost-Brahman
and addressing him. "If you can enter into the phial, then the
house and the wife and the mother become yours." "Of course I will
enter," said the ghost. And true to his word, to the wonder of all,
he made himself into a small creature like an insect, and entered
into the phial. The neat-herd king forthwith corked up the phial,
and the ghost could not get out. Then, addressing the Brahman, the
neat-herd king said, "Throw this phial into the bottom of the sea,
and take possession of your house, wife, and mother." The Brahman
did so, and lived happily for many years and begat sons and daughters.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XIII

THE MAN WHO WISHED TO BE PERFECT


Once on a time a religious mendicant came to a king who had no issue,
and said to him, "As you are anxious to have a son, I can give to the
queen a drug, by swallowing which she will give birth to twin sons;
but I will give the medicine on this condition, that of those twins you
will give one to me, and keep the other yourself." The king thought
the condition somewhat hard, but as he was anxious to have a son to
bear his name, and inherit his wealth and kingdom, he at last agreed
to the terms. Accordingly the queen swallowed the drug, and in due
time gave birth to two sons. The twin brothers became one year old,
two years old, three years old, four years old, five years old, and
still the mendicant did not appear to claim his share; the king and
queen therefore thought that the mendicant, who was old, was dead, and
dismissed all fears from their minds. But the mendicant was not dead,
but living; he was counting the years carefully. The young princes
were put under tutors, and made rapid progress in learning, as well
as in the arts of riding and shooting with the bow; and as they were
uncommonly handsome, they were admired by all the people. When the
princes were sixteen years old the mendicant made his appearance at the
palace gate, and demanded the fulfilment of the king's promise. The
hearts of the king and of the queen were dried up within them. They
had thought that the mendicant was no more in the land of the living;
but what was their surprise when they saw him standing at the gate
in flesh and blood, and demanding one of the young princes for
himself? The king and queen were plunged into a sea of grief. There
was nothing for it, however, but to part with one of the princes;
for the mendicant might by his curse turn into ashes not only both
the princes, but also the king, queen, palace, and the whole of the
kingdom to boot. But which one was to be given away? The one was as
dear as the other. A fearful struggle arose in the hearts of the king
and queen. As for the young princes, each of them said, "I'll go,"
"I'll go." The younger one said to the elder, "You are older, if
only by a few minutes; you are the pride of my father; you remain
at home, I'll go with the mendicant." The elder said to the younger,
"You are younger than I am; you are the joy of my mother; you remain
at home, I'll go with the mendicant." After a great deal of yea and
nay, after a great deal of mourning and lamentation, after the queen
had wetted her clothes with her tears, the elder prince was let go
with the mendicant. But before the prince left his father's roof he
planted with his own hands a tree in the courtyard of the palace, and
said to his parents and brother, "This tree is my life. When you see
the tree green and fresh, then know that it is well with me; when you
see the tree fade in some parts, then know that I am in an ill case;
and when you see the whole tree fade, then know that I am dead and
gone." Then kissing and embracing the king and queen and his brother,
he followed the mendicant.

As the mendicant and the prince were wending their way towards the
forest they saw some dog's whelps on the roadside. One of the whelps
said to its dam, "Mother, I wish to go with that handsome young man,
who must be a prince." The dam said, "Go"; and the prince gladly
took the puppy as his companion. They had not gone far when upon
a tree on the roadside they saw a hawk and its young ones. One of
the young ones said to its dam, "Mother, I wish to go with that
handsome young man, who must be the son of a king." The hawk said,
"Go"; and the prince gladly took the young hawk as his companion. So
the mendicant, the prince, with the puppy and the young hawk, went
on their journey. At last they went into the depth of the forest far
away from the houses of men, where they stopped before a hut thatched
with leaves. That was the mendicant's cell. The mendicant said to
the prince, "You are to live in this hut with me. Your chief work
will be to cull flowers from the forest for my devotions. You can
go on every side except the north. If you go towards the north evil
will betide you. You can eat whatever fruit or root you like; and
for your drink, you will get it from the brook." The prince disliked
neither the place nor his work. At dawn he used to cull flowers in
the forest and give them to the mendicant; after which the mendicant
went away somewhere the whole day and did not return till sundown;
so the prince had the whole day to himself. He used to walk about in
the forest with his two companions--the puppy and the young hawk. He
used to shoot arrows at the deer, of which there was a great number;
and thus made the best of his time. One day as he pierced a stag with
an arrow, the wounded stag ran towards the north, and the prince, not
thinking of the mendicant's behest, followed the stag, which entered
into a fine-looking house that stood close by. The prince entered,
but instead of finding the deer he saw a young woman of matchless
beauty sitting near the door with a dice-table set before her. The
prince was rooted to the spot while he admired the heaven-born
beauty of the lady. "Come in, stranger," said the lady; "chance has
brought you here, but don't go away without having with me a game of
dice." The prince gladly agreed to the proposal. As it was a game of
risk they agreed that if the prince lost the game he should give his
young hawk to the lady; and that if the lady lost it, she should give
to the prince a young hawk just like that of the prince. The lady won
the game; she therefore took the prince's young hawk and kept it in a
hole covered with a plank. The prince offered to play a second time,
and the lady agreeing to it, they fell to it again, on the condition
that if the lady won the game she should take the prince's puppy,
and if she lost it she should give to the prince a puppy just like
that of the prince. The lady won again, and stowed away the puppy in
another hole with a plank upon it. The prince offered to play a third
time, and the wager was that, if the prince lost the game, he should
give himself up to the lady to be done to by her anything she pleased;
and that if he won, the lady should give him a young man exactly like
himself. The lady won the game a third time; she therefore caught hold
of the prince and put him in a hole covered over with a plank. Now,
the beautiful lady was not a woman at all; she was a Rakshasi who
lived upon human flesh, and her mouth watered at the sight of the
tender body of the young prince. But as she had had her food that
day she reserved the prince for the meal of the following day.

Meantime there was great weeping in the house of the prince's
father. His brother used every day to look at the tree planted in
the courtyard by his own hand. Hitherto he had found the leaves of
a living green colour; but suddenly he found some leaves fading. He
gave the alarm to the king and queen, and told them how the leaves
were fading. They concluded that the life of the elder prince must
be in great danger. The younger prince therefore resolved to go to
the help of his brother, but before going he planted a tree in the
courtyard of the palace, similar to the one his brother had planted,
and which was to be the index of the manner of his life. He chose
the swiftest steed in the king's stables, and galloped towards the
forest. In the way he saw a dog with a puppy, and the puppy thinking
that the rider was the same that had taken away his fellow-cub--for
the two princes were exactly like each other--said, "As you have
taken away my brother, take me also with you." The younger prince
understanding that his brother had taken away a puppy, he took up
that cub as a companion. Further on, a young hawk, which was perched
on a tree on the roadside, said to the prince, "You have taken away
my brother; take me also, I beseech you"; on which the younger prince
readily took it up. With these companions he went into the heart of the
forest, where he saw a hut which he supposed to be the mendicant's. But
neither the mendicant nor his brother was there. Not knowing what to
do or where to go, he dismounted from his horse, allowed it to graze,
while he himself sat inside the house. At sunset the mendicant returned
to his hut, and seeing the younger prince, said, "I am glad to see
you. I told your brother never to go towards the north, for evil in
that case would betide him; but it seems that, disobeying my orders,
he has gone to the north and has fallen into the toils of a Rakshasi
who lives there. There is no hope of rescuing him; perhaps he has
already been devoured." The younger prince forthwith went towards
the north, where he saw a stag which he pierced with an arrow. The
stag ran into a house which stood by, and the younger prince followed
it. He was not a little astonished when, instead of seeing a stag,
he saw a woman of exquisite beauty. He immediately concluded, from
what he had heard from the mendicant, that the pretended woman was none
other than the Rakshasi in whose power his brother was. The lady asked
him to play a game of dice with her. He complied with the request,
and on the same conditions on which the elder prince had played. The
younger prince won; on which the lady produced the young hawk from the
hole and gave it to the prince. The joy of the two hawks on meeting
each other was great. The lady and the prince played a second time,
and the prince won again. The lady therefore brought to the prince
the young puppy lying in the hole. They played a third time, and the
prince won a third time. The lady demurred to producing a young man
exactly like the prince, pretending that it was impossible to get one;
but on the prince insisting upon the fulfilment of the condition,
his brother was produced. The joy of the two brothers on meeting each
other was great. The Rakshasi said to the princes, "Don't kill me,
and I will tell you a secret which will save the life of the elder
prince." She then told them that the mendicant was a worshipper of the
goddess Kali, who had a temple not far off; that he belonged to that
sect of Hindus who seek perfection from intercourse with the spirits of
departed men; that he had already sacrificed at the altar of Kali six
human victims whose skulls could be seen in niches inside her temple;
that he would become perfect when the seventh victim was sacrificed;
and that the elder prince was intended for the seventh victim. The
Rakshasi then told the prince to go immediately to the temple to find
out the truth of what she had said. To the temple they accordingly
went. When the elder prince went inside the temple, the skulls in the
niches laughed a ghastly laugh. Horror-struck at the sight and sound,
he inquired the cause of the laughter; and the skulls told him that
they were glad because they were about to get another added to their
number. One of the skulls, as spokesman of the rest, said, "Young
prince, in a few days the mendicant's devotions will be completed, and
you will be brought into this temple and your head will be cut off, and
you will keep company with us. But there is one way by which you can
escape that fate and do us good." "Oh, do tell me," said the prince,
"what that way is, and I promise to do you all the good I can." The
skull replied, "When the mendicant brings you into this temple to offer
you up as a sacrifice, before cutting off your head he will tell you
to prostrate yourself before Mother Kali, and while you prostrate
yourself he will cut off your head. But take our advice, when he
tells you to bow down before Kali, you tell him that as a prince you
never bowed down to any one, that you never knew what bowing down was,
and that the mendicant should show it to you by himself doing it in
your presence. And when he bows down to show you how it is done, you
take up your sword and separate his head from his body. And when you
do that we shall all be restored to life, as the mendicant's vows will
be unfulfilled." The elder prince thanked the skulls for their advice,
and went into the hut of the mendicant along with his younger brother.

In the course of a few days the mendicant's devotions were
completed. On the following day he told the prince to go along with
him to the temple of Kali, for what reason he did not mention; but the
prince knew it was to offer him up as a victim to the goddess. The
younger prince also went with them, but he was not allowed to go
inside the temple. The mendicant then stood in the presence of Kali
and said to the prince, "Bow down to the goddess." The prince replied,
"I have not, as a prince, bowed to any one; I do not know how to
perform the act of prostration. Please show me the way first, and
I'll gladly do it." The mendicant then prostrated himself before the
goddess; and while he was doing so the prince at one stroke of his
sword separated his head from his body. Immediately the skulls in the
niches of the temple laughed aloud, and the goddess herself became
propitious to the prince and gave him that virtue of perfection which
the mendicant had sought to obtain. The skulls were again united to
their respective bodies and became living men, and the two princes
returned to their country.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XIV

A GHOSTLY WIFE


Once on a time there lived a Brahman who had married a wife, and who
lived in the same house with his mother. Near his house was a tank,
on the embankment of which stood a tree, on the boughs of which lived
a ghost of the kind called Sankchinni. [30] One night the Brahman's
wife had occasion to go to the tank, and as she went she brushed by a
Sankchinni who stood near; on which the she-ghost got very angry with
the woman, seized her by the throat, climbed into her tree, and thrust
her into a hole in the trunk. There the woman lay almost dead with
fear. The ghost put on the clothes of the woman and went into the house
of the Brahman. Neither the Brahman nor his mother had any inkling
of the change. The Brahman thought his wife returned from the tank,
and the mother thought that it was her daughter-in-law. Next morning
the mother-in-law discovered some change in her daughter-in-law. Her
daughter-in-law, she knew, was constitutionally weak and languid, and
took a long time to do the work of the house. But she had apparently
become quite a different person. All of a sudden she had become very
active. She now did the work of the house in an incredibly short
time. Suspecting nothing, the old woman said nothing either to her
son or to her daughter-in-law; on the contrary, she inly rejoiced
that her daughter-in-law had turned over a new leaf. But her surprise
became every day greater and greater. The cooking of the household
was done in much less time than before. When the mother-in-law
wanted the daughter-in-law to bring anything from the next room, it
was brought in much less time than was required in walking from one
room to the other. The ghost, instead of going inside the next room,
would stretch a long arm--for ghosts can lengthen or shorten any
limb of their bodies--from the door and get the thing. One day the
old woman observed the ghost doing this. She ordered her to bring a
vessel from some distance, and the ghost unconsciously stretched her
hand to several yards' distance, and brought it in a trice. The old
woman was struck with wonder at the sight. She said nothing to her,
but spoke to her son. Both mother and son began to watch the ghost
more narrowly. One day the old woman knew that there was no fire in
the house, and she knew also that her daughter-in-law had not gone
out of doors to get it; and yet, strange to say, the hearth in the
kitchen-room was quite in a blaze. She went in, and, to her infinite
surprise, found that her daughter-in-law was not using any fuel for
cooking, but had thrust into the oven her foot, which was blazing
brightly. The old mother told her son what she had seen, and they both
concluded that the young woman in the house was not his real wife but
a she-ghost. The son witnessed those very acts of the ghost which his
mother had seen. An Ojha [31] was therefore sent for. The exorcist
came, and wanted in the first instance to ascertain whether the woman
was a real woman or a ghost. For this purpose he lighted a piece of
turmeric and set it below the nose of the supposed woman. Now this
was an infallible test, as no ghost, whether male or female, can put
up with the smell of burnt turmeric. The moment the lighted turmeric
was taken near her, she screamed aloud and ran away from the room. It
was now plain that she was either a ghost or a woman possessed by a
ghost. The woman was caught hold of by main force and asked who she
was. At first she refused to make any disclosures, on which the Ojha
took up his slippers and began belabouring her with them. Then the
ghost said with a strong nasal accent--for all ghosts speak through
the nose--that she was a Sankchinni, that she lived on a tree by the
side of the tank, that she had seized the young Brahmani and put her
in the hollow of her tree because one night she had touched her, and
that if any person went to the hole the woman would be found. The
woman was brought from the tree almost dead; the ghost was again
shoebeaten, after which process, on her declaring solemnly that she
would not again do any harm to the Brahman and his family, she was
released from the spell of the Ojha and sent away; and the wife of
the Brahman recovered slowly. After which the Brahman and his wife
lived many years happily together and begat many sons and daughters.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XV

THE STORY OF A BRAHMADAITYA [32]


Once on a time there lived a poor Brahman who had a wife. As he had
no means of livelihood, he used every day to beg from door to door,
and thus got some rice which they boiled and ate, together with some
greens which they gleaned from the fields. After some time it chanced
that the village changed its owner, and the Brahman bethought himself
of asking some boon of the new laird. So one morning the Brahman
went to the laird's house to pay him court. It so happened that at
that time the laird was making inquiries of his servants about the
village and its various parts. The laird was told that a certain
banyan-tree in the outskirts of the village was haunted by a number
of ghosts; and that no man had ever the boldness to go to that tree
at night. In bygone days some rash fellows went to the tree at night,
but the necks of them all were wrung, and they all died. Since that
time no man had ventured to go to the tree at night, though in the
day some neat-herds took their cows to the spot. The new laird on
hearing this said, that if any one would go at night to the tree, cut
one of its branches and bring it to him, he would make him a present
of a hundred bighas [33] of rent-free land. None of the servants of
the laird accepted the challenge, as they were sure they would be
throttled by the ghosts. The Brahman, who was sitting there, thought
within himself thus--"I am almost starved to death now, as I never get
my bellyful. If I go to the tree at night and succeed in cutting off
one of its branches I shall get one hundred bighas of rent-free land,
and become independent for life. If the ghosts kill me, my case will
not be worse, for to die of hunger is no better than to be killed by
ghosts." He then offered to go to the tree and cut off a branch that
night. The laird renewed his promise, and said to the Brahman that if
he succeeded in bringing one of the branches of that haunted tree at
night he would certainly give him one hundred bighas of rent-free land.

In the course of the day when the people of the village heard of the
laird's promise and of the Brahman's offer, they all pitied the poor
man. They blamed him for his foolhardiness, as they were sure the
ghosts would kill him, as they had killed so many before. His wife
tried to dissuade him from the rash undertaking; but in vain. He said
he would die in any case; but there was some chance of his escaping,
and of thus becoming independent for life. Accordingly, one hour after
sundown, the Brahman set out. He went to the outskirts of the village
without the slightest fear as far as a certain vakula-tree (Mimusops
Elengi), from which the haunted tree was about one rope distant. But
under the vakula-tree the Brahman's heart misgave him. He began to
quake with fear, and the heaving of his heart was like the upward and
downward motion of the paddy-husking pedal. The vakula-tree was the
haunt of a Brahmadaitya, who, seeing the Brahman stop under the tree,
spoke to him, and said, "Are you afraid, Brahman? Tell me what you wish
to do, and I'll help you. I am a Brahmadaitya." The Brahman replied,
"O blessed spirit, I wish to go to yonder banyan-tree, and cut off
one of its branches for the zemindar, who has promised to give me one
hundred bighas of rent-free land for it. But my courage is failing
me. I shall thank you very much for helping me." The Brahmadaitya
answered, "Certainly I'll help you, Brahman. Go on towards the tree,
and I'll come with you." The Brahman, relying on the supernatural
strength of his invisible patron, who is the object of the fear and
reverence of common ghosts, fearlessly walked towards the haunted tree,
on reaching which he began to cut a branch with the bill which was
in his hand. But the moment the first stroke was given, a great many
ghosts rushed towards the Brahman, who would have been torn to pieces
but for the interference of the Brahmadaitya. The Brahmadaitya said in
a commanding tone, "Ghosts, listen. This is a poor Brahman. He wishes
to get a branch of this tree which will be of great use to him. It is
my will that you let him cut a branch." The ghosts, hearing the voice
of the Brahmadaitya, replied, "Be it according to thy will, lord. At
thy bidding we are ready to do anything. Let not the Brahman take
the trouble of cutting; we ourselves will cut a branch for him." So
saying, in the twinkling of an eye, the ghosts put into the hands of
the Brahman a branch of the tree, with which he went as fast as his
legs could carry him to the house of the zemindar. The zemindar and
his people were not a little surprised to see the branch; but he said,
"Well, I must see to-morrow whether this branch is a branch of the
haunted tree or not; if it be, you will get the promised reward."

Next morning the zemindar himself went along with his servants to the
haunted tree, and found to their infinite surprise that the branch in
their hands was really a branch of that tree, as they saw the part
from which it had been cut off. Being thus satisfied, the zemindar
ordered a deed to be drawn up, by which he gave to the Brahman for
ever one hundred bighas of rent-free land. Thus in one night the
Brahman became a rich man.

It so happened that the fields, of which the Brahman became the owner,
were covered with ripe paddy, ready for the sickle. But the Brahman
had not the means to reap the golden harvest. He had not a pice in
his pocket for paying the wages of the reapers. What was the Brahman
to do? He went to his spirit-friend the Brahmadaitya, and said,
"Oh, Brahmadaitya, I am in great distress. Through your kindness I
got the rent-free land all covered with ripe paddy. But I have not
the means of cutting the paddy, as I am a poor man. What shall I
do?" The kind Brahmadaitya answered, "Oh, Brahman, don't be troubled
in your mind about the matter. I'll see to it that the paddy is not
only cut, but that the corn is threshed and stored up in granaries,
and the straw piled up in ricks. Only you do one thing. Borrow from
men in the village one hundred sickles, and put them all at the foot
of this tree at night. Prepare also the exact spot on which the grain
and the straw are to be stored up."

The joy of the Brahman knew no bounds. He easily got a hundred sickles,
as the husbandmen of the village, knowing that he had become rich,
readily lent him what he wanted. At sunset he took the hundred sickles
and put them beneath the vakula-tree. He also selected a spot of ground
near his hut for his magazine of paddy and for his ricks of straw;
and washed the spot with a solution of cow-dung and water. After
making these preparations he went to sleep.

In the meantime, soon after nightfall, when the villagers had all
retired to their houses, the Brahmadaitya called to him the ghosts
of the haunted tree, who were one hundred in number, and said to
them, "You must to-night do some work for the poor Brahman whom I
am befriending. The hundred bighas of land which he has got from the
zemindar are all covered with standing ripe corn. He has not the means
to reap it. This night you all must do the work for him. Here are,
you see, a hundred sickles; let each of you take a sickle in hand and
come to the field I shall show him. There are a hundred of you. Let
each ghost cut the paddy of one bigha, bring the sheaves on his back
to the Brahman's house, thresh the corn, put the corn in one large
granary, and pile up the straw in separate ricks. Now, don't lose
time. You must do it all this very night." The hundred ghosts at once
said to the Brahmadaitya, "We are ready to do whatever your lordship
commands us." The Brahmadaitya showed the ghosts the Brahman's house,
and the spot prepared for receiving the grain and the straw, and
then took them to the Brahman's fields, all waving with the golden
harvest. The ghosts at once fell to it. A ghost harvest-reaper is
different from a human harvest-reaper. What a man cuts in a whole day,
a ghost cuts in a minute. Mash, mash, mash, the sickles went round,
and the long stalks of paddy fell to the ground. The reaping over,
the ghosts took up the sheaves on their huge backs and carried them
all to the Brahman's house. The ghosts then separated the grain from
the straw, stored up the grain in one huge store-house, and piled
up the straw in many a fantastic rick. It was full two hours before
sunrise when the ghosts finished their work and retired to rest on
their tree. No words can tell either the joy of the Brahman and his
wife when early next morning they opened the door of their hut, or
the surprise of the villagers, when they saw the huge granary and the
fantastic ricks of straw. The villagers did not understand it. They
at once ascribed it to the gods.

A few days after this the Brahman went to the vakula-tree and
said to the Brahmadaitya, "I have one more favour to ask of you,
Brahmadaitya. As the gods have been very gracious to me, I wish to feed
one thousand Brahmans; and I shall thank you for providing me with the
materials of the feast." "With the greatest pleasure," said the polite
Brahmadaitya; "I'll supply you with the requirements of a feast for
a thousand Brahmans; only show me the cellars in which the provisions
are to be stored away." The Brahman improvised a store-room. The day
before the feast the store-room was overflowing with provisions. There
were one hundred jars of ghi (clarified butter), one hill of flour, one
hundred jars of sugar, one hundred jars of milk, curds, and congealed
milk, and the other thousand and one things required in a great
Brahmanical feast. The next morning one hundred Brahman pastrycooks
were employed; the thousand Brahmans ate their fill; but the host,
the Brahman of the story, did not eat. He thought he would eat with
the Brahmadaitya. But the Brahmadaitya, who was present there though
unseen, told him that he could not gratify him on that point, as by
befriending the Brahman the Brahmadaitya's allotted period had come
to an end, and the pushpaka [34] chariot had been sent to him from
heaven. The Brahmadaitya, being released from his ghostly life, was
taken up into heaven; and the Brahman lived happily for many years,
begetting sons and grandsons.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XVI

THE STORY OF A HIRAMAN [35]


There was a fowler who had a wife. The fowler's wife said to her
husband one day, "My dear, I'll tell you the reason why we are always
in want. It is because you sell every bird you catch by your rods,
whereas if we sometimes eat some of the birds you catch, we are sure
to have better luck. I propose therefore that whatever bird or birds
you bag to-day we do not sell, but dress and eat." The fowler agreed
to his wife's proposal, and went out a-bird-catching. He went about
from wood to wood with his limed rods, accompanied by his wife, but in
vain. Somehow or other they did not succeed in catching any bird till
near sundown. But just as they were returning homewards they caught
a beautiful hiraman. The fowler's wife, taking the bird in her hand
and feeling it all over, said, "What a small bird this is! how much
meat can it have? There is no use in killing it." The hiraman said,
"Mother, do not kill me, but take me to the king, and you will
get a large sum of money by selling me." The fowler and his wife
were greatly taken aback on hearing the bird speak, and they asked
the bird what price they should set upon it. The hiraman answered,
"Leave that to me; take me to the king and offer me for sale; and when
the king asks my price, say, 'The bird will tell its own price,' and
then I'll mention a large sum." The fowler accordingly went the next
day to the king's palace, and offered the bird for sale. The king,
delighted with the beauty of the bird, asked the fowler what he would
take for it. The fowler said, "O great king, the bird will tell its
own price." "What! can the bird speak?" asked the king. "Yes, my lord;
be pleased to ask the bird its price," replied the fowler. The king,
half in jest and half in seriousness, said, "Well, hiraman, what is
your price?" The hiraman answered, "Please your majesty, my price is
ten thousand rupees. Do not think that the price is too high. Count
out the money for the fowler, for I'll be of the greatest service to
your majesty." "What service can you be of to me, hiraman?" asked
the king. "Your majesty will see that in due time," replied the
hiraman. The king, surprised beyond measure at hearing the hiraman
talk, and talk so sensibly, took the bird, and ordered his treasurer
to tell down the sum of ten thousand rupees to the fowler.

The king had six queens, but he was so taken up with the bird that
he almost forgot that they lived; at any rate, his days and nights
were spent in the company, not of the queens, but of the bird. The
hiraman not only replied intelligently to every question the king
put, but it recited to him the names of the three hundred and thirty
millions of the gods of the Hindu pantheon, the hearing of which is
always regarded as an act of piety. The queens felt that they were
neglected by the king, became jealous of the bird, and determined to
kill it. It was long before they got an opportunity, as the bird was
the king's inseparable companion. One day the king went out a-hunting,
and he was to be away from the palace for two days. The six queens
determined to avail themselves of the opportunity and put an end to
the life of the bird. They said to one another, "Let us go and ask
the bird which of us is the ugliest in his estimation, and she whom
he pronounces the ugliest shall strangle the bird." Thus resolved,
they all went into the room where the bird was; but before the queens
could put any questions the bird so sweetly and so piously recited
the names of the gods and goddesses, that the hearts of them all
were melted into tenderness, and they came away without accomplishing
their purpose. The following day, however, their evil genius returned,
and they called themselves a thousand fools for having been diverted
from their purpose. They therefore determined to steel their hearts
against all pity, and to kill the bird without delay. They all went
into the room, and said to the bird, "O hiraman, you are a very wise
bird, we hear, and your judgments are all right; will you please tell
us which of us is the handsomest and which the ugliest?" The bird,
knowing the evil design of the queens, said to them, "How can I
answer your questions remaining in this cage? In order to pronounce
a correct judgment I must look minutely on every limb of you all,
both in front and behind. If you wish to know my opinion you must
set me free." The women were at first afraid of setting the bird
free lest it should fly away; but on second thoughts they set it
free after shutting all the doors and windows of the room. The bird,
on examining the room, saw that it had a water-passage through which
it was possible to escape. When the question was repeated several
times by the queens, the bird said, "The beauty of not one of you
can be compared to the beauty of the little toe of the lady that
lives beyond the seven oceans and the thirteen rivers." The queens,
on hearing their beauty spoken of in such slighting terms, became
exceedingly furious, and rushed towards the bird to tear it in pieces;
but before they could get at it, it escaped through the water-passage,
and took shelter in a wood-cutter's hut which was hard by.

The next day the king returned home from hunting, and not finding
the hiraman on its perch became mad with grief. He asked the queens,
and they told him that they knew nothing about it. The king wept day
and night for the bird, as he loved it much. His ministers became
afraid lest his reason should give way, for he used every hour of
the day to weep, saying, "O my hiraman! O my hiraman! where art thou
gone?" Proclamation was made by beat of drum throughout the kingdom
to the effect that if any person could produce before the king his pet
hiraman he would be rewarded with ten thousand rupees. The wood-cutter,
rejoiced at the idea of becoming independent for life, produced the
precious bird and obtained the reward. The king, on hearing from
the parrot that the queens had attempted to kill it, became mad with
rage. He ordered them to be driven away from the palace and put in
a desert place without food. The king's order was obeyed, and it was
rumoured after a few days that the poor queens were all devoured by
wild beasts.

After some time the king said to the parrot, "Hiraman, you said to
the queens that the beauty of none of them could be compared to the
beauty of even the little toe of the lady who lives on the other side
of the seven oceans and thirteen rivers. Do you know of any means by
which I can get at that lady?"

Hiraman. Of course I do. I can take your majesty to the door of
the palace in which that lady of peerless beauty lives; and if your
majesty will abide by my counsel, I will undertake to put that lady
into your arms.

King. I will do whatever you tell me. What do you wish me to do?

Hiraman. What is required is a pakshiraj. [36] If you can procure a
horse of that species, you can ride upon it, and in no time we shall
cross the seven oceans and thirteen rivers, and stand at the door of
the lady's palace.

King. I have, as you know, a large stud of horses; we can now go and
see if there are any pakshirajes amongst them.

The king and the hiraman went to the royal stables and examined all
the horses. The hiraman passed by all the fine-looking horses and
those of high mettle, and alighted upon a wretched-looking lean pony,
and said, "Here is the horse I want. It is a horse of the genuine
pakshiraj breed, but it must be fed full six months with the finest
grain before it can answer our purpose." The king accordingly put
that pony in a stable by itself and himself saw every day that it
was fed with the finest grain that could be got in the kingdom. The
pony rapidly improved in appearance, and at the end of six months the
hiraman pronounced it fit for service. The parrot then told the king
to order the royal silversmith to make some khais [37] of silver. A
large quantity of silver khais was made in a short time. When about
to start on their aërial journey the hiraman said to the king,
"I have one request to make. Please whip the horse only once at
starting. If you whip him more than once, we shall not be able to
reach the palace, but stick mid-way. And when we return homewards
after capturing the lady, you are also to whip the horse only once;
if you whip him more than once, we shall come only half the way and
remain there." The king then got upon the pakshiraj with the hiraman
and the silver khais and gently whipped the animal once. The horse
shot through the air with the speed of lightning, passed over many
countries, kingdoms, and empires, crossed the oceans and thirteen
rivers, and alighted in the evening at the gate of a beautiful palace.

Now, near the palace-gate there stood a lofty tree. The hiraman told
the king to put the horse in the stable hard by, and then to climb
into the tree and remain there concealed. The hiraman took the silver
khais, and with its beak began dropping khai after khai from the foot
of the tree, all through the corridors and passages, up to the door
of the bedchamber of the lady of peerless beauty. After doing this,
the hiraman perched upon the tree where the king was concealed. Some
hours after midnight, the maid-servant of the lady, who slept in
the same room with her, wishing to come out, opened the door and
noticed the silver khais lying there. She took up a few of them,
and not knowing what they were, showed them to her lady. The lady,
admiring the little silver bullets, and wondering how they could have
got there, came out of her room and began picking them up. She saw a
regular stream of them apparently issuing from near the door of her
room, and proceeding she knew not how far. She went on picking up
in a basket the bright, shining khais all through the corridors and
passages, till she came to the foot of the tree. No sooner did the
lady of peerless beauty come to the foot of the tree than the king,
agreeably to instructions previously given to him by the hiraman,
alighted from the tree and caught hold of the lady. In a moment
she was put upon the horse along with himself. At that moment the
hiraman sat upon the shoulder of the king, the king gently whipped
the horse once, and they all were whirled through the air with the
speed of lightning. The king, wishing to reach home soon with the
precious prize, and forgetful of the instructions of the hiraman,
whipped the horse again; on which the horse at once alighted on
the outskirts of what seemed a dense forest. "What have you done,
O king?" shouted out the hiraman. "Did I not tell you not to whip
the horse more than once? You have whipped him twice, and we are
done for. We may meet with our death here." But the thing was done,
and it could not be helped. The pakshiraj became powerless; and the
party could not proceed homewards. They dismounted; but they could not
see anywhere the habitations of men. They ate some fruits and roots,
and slept that night there upon the ground.

Next morning it so chanced that the king of that country came to that
forest to hunt. As he was pursuing a stag, whom he had pierced with an
arrow, he came across the king and the lady of peerless beauty. Struck
with the matchless beauty of the lady, he wished to seize her. He
whistled, and in a moment his attendants flocked around him. The lady
was made a captive, and her lover, who had brought her from her house
on the other side of the seven oceans and thirteen rivers, was not
put to death, but his eyes were put out, and he was left alone in the
forest--alone, and yet not alone, for the good hiraman was with him.

The lady of peerless beauty was taken into the king's palace,
as well as the pony of her lover. The lady said to the king that
he must not come near her for six months, in consequence of a vow
which she had taken, and which would be completed in that period of
time. She mentioned six months, as that period would be necessary for
recruiting the constitution of the pakshiraj. As the lady professed to
engage every day in religious ceremonies, in consequence of her vow,
a separate house was assigned to her, where she took the pakshiraj and
fed him with the choicest grain. But everything would be fruitless
if the lady did not meet the hiraman. But how is she to get a sight
of that bird? She adopted the following expedient. She ordered her
servants to scatter on the roof of her house heaps of paddy, grain,
and all sorts of pulse for the refreshment of birds. The consequence
was, that thousands of the feathery race came to the roof to partake
of the abundant feast. The lady was every day on the look out for
her hiraman. The hiraman, meanwhile, was in great distress in the
forest. He had to take care not only of himself, but of the now
blinded king. He plucked some ripe fruits in the forest, and gave
them to the king to eat, and he ate of them himself. This was the
manner of hiraman's life. The other birds of the forest spoke thus
to the parrot--"O hiraman, you have a miserable life of it in this
forest. Why don't you come with us to an abundant feast provided for us
by a pious lady, who scatters many maunds of pulse on the roof of her
house for the benefit of our race? We go there early in the morning
and return in the evening, eating our fill along with thousands of
other birds." The hiraman resolved to accompany them next morning,
shrewdly suspecting more in the lady's charity to birds than the
other birds thought there was in it. The hiraman saw the lady,
and had a long chat with her about the health of the blinded king,
the means of curing his blindness, and about her escape. The plan
adopted was as follows: The pony would be ready for aerial flight in
a short time--for a great part of the six months had already elapsed;
and the king's blindness could be cured if the hiraman could procure
from the chicks of the bihangama and bihangami birds, who had their
nest on the tree at the gate of the lady's palace beyond the seven
oceans and thirteen rivers, a quantity of their ordure, fresh and hot,
and apply it to the eyeballs of the blinded king. The following morning
the hiraman started on his errand of mercy, remained at night on the
tree at the gate of the palace beyond the seven oceans and thirteen
rivers, and early the next morning waited below the nest of the
birds with a leaf on his beak, into which dropped the ordure of the
chicks. That moment the hiraman flew across the oceans and rivers,
came to the forest, and applied the precious balm to the sightless
sockets of the king. The king opened his eyes and saw. In a few days
the pakshiraj was in proper trim. The lady escaped to the forest
and took the king up; and the lady, king, and hiraman all reached
the king's capital safe and sound. The king and the lady were united
together in wedlock. They lived many years together happily, and begat
sons and daughters; and the beautiful hiraman was always with them
reciting the names of the three hundred and thirty millions of gods.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XVII

THE ORIGIN OF RUBIES


There was a certain king who died leaving four sons behind him with
his queen. The queen was passionately fond of the youngest of the
princes. She gave him the best robes, the best horses, the best food,
and the best furniture. The other three princes became exceedingly
jealous of their youngest brother, and conspiring against him and their
mother, made them live in a separate house, and took possession of
the estate. Owing to overindulgence, the youngest prince had become
very wilful. He never listened to any one, not even to his mother,
but had his own way in everything. One day he went with his mother to
bathe in the river. A large boat was riding there at anchor. None of
the boatmen were in it. The prince went into the boat, and told his
mother to come into it. His mother besought him to get down from the
boat, as it did not belong to him. But the prince said, "No, mother,
I am not coming down; I mean to go on a voyage, and if you wish to
come with me, then delay not but come up at once, or I shall be off
in a trice." The queen besought the prince to do no such thing, but to
come down instantly. But the prince gave no heed to what she said, and
began to take up the anchor. The queen went up into the boat in great
haste; and the moment she was on board the boat started, and falling
into the current passed on swiftly like an arrow. The boat went on
and on till it reached the sea. After it had gone many furlongs into
the open sea, the boat came near a whirlpool, where the prince saw a
great many rubies of monstrous size floating on the waters. Such large
rubies no one had ever seen, each being in value equal to the wealth of
seven kings. The prince caught hold of half a dozen of those rubies,
and put them on board. His mother said, "Darling, don't take up those
red balls; they must belong to somebody who has been shipwrecked,
and we may be taken up as thieves." At the repeated entreaties of
his mother the prince threw them into the sea, keeping only one tied
up in his clothes. The boat then drifted towards the coast, and the
queen and the prince arrived at a certain port where they landed.

The port where they landed was not a small place; it was a large city,
the capital of a great king. Not far from the place, the queen and
her son hired a hut where they lived. As the prince was yet a boy,
he was fond of playing at marbles. When the children of the king
came out to play on a lawn before the palace, our young prince joined
them. He had no marbles, but he played with the ruby which he had in
his possession. The ruby was so hard that it broke every taw against
which it struck. The daughter of the king, who used to watch the games
from a balcony of the palace, was astonished to see a brilliant red
ball in the hand of the strange lad, and wanted to take possession
of it. She told her father that a boy of the street had an uncommonly
bright stone in his possession which she must have, or else she would
starve herself to death. The king ordered his servants to bring to him
the lad with the precious stone. When the boy was brought, the king
wondered at the largeness and brilliancy of the ruby. He had never
seen anything like it. He doubted whether any king of any country
in the world possessed so great a treasure. He asked the lad where
he had got it. The lad replied that he got it from the sea. The king
offered a thousand rupees for the ruby, and the lad not knowing its
value readily parted with it for that sum. He went with the money to
his mother, who was not a little frightened, thinking that her son
had stolen the money from some rich man's house. She became quiet,
however, on being assured that the money was given to him by the king
in exchange for the red ball which he had picked up in the sea.

The king's daughter, on getting the ruby, put it in her hair,
and, standing before her pet parrot, said to the bird, "Oh, my
darling parrot, don't I look very beautiful with this ruby in my
hair?" The parrot replied, "Beautiful! you look quite hideous with
it! What princess ever puts only one ruby in her hair? It would be
somewhat feasible if you had two at least." Stung with shame at the
reproach cast in her teeth by the parrot, the princess went into the
grief-chamber of the palace, and would neither eat nor drink. The
king was not a little concerned when he heard that his daughter
had gone into the grief-chamber. He went to her, and asked her the
cause of her grief. The princess told the king what her pet parrot
had said, and added, "Father, if you do not procure for me another
ruby like this, I'll put an end to my life by mine own hands." The
king was overwhelmed with grief. Where was he to get another ruby
like it? He doubted whether another like it could be found in the
whole world. He ordered the lad who had sold the ruby to be brought
into his presence. "Have you, young man," asked the king, "another
ruby like the one you sold me?" The lad replied, "No, I have not got
one. Why, do you want another? I can give you lots, if you wish to have
them. They are to be found in a whirlpool in the sea, far, far away. I
can go and fetch some for you." Amazed at the lad's reply, the king
offered rich rewards for procuring only another ruby of the same sort.

The lad went home and said to his mother that he must go to sea again
to fetch some rubies for the king. The woman was quite frightened
at the idea, and begged him not to go. But the lad was resolved on
going, and nothing could prevent him from carrying out his purpose. He
accordingly went alone on board that same vessel which had brought
him and his mother, and set sail. He reached the whirlpool, from
near which he had formerly picked up the rubies. This time, however,
he determined to go to the exact spot whence the rubies were coming
out. He went to the centre of the whirlpool, where he saw a gap
reaching to the bottom of the ocean. He dived into it, leaving his
boat to wheel round the whirlpool. When he reached the bottom of the
ocean he saw there a beautiful palace. He went inside. In the central
room of the palace there was the god Siva, with his eyes closed,
and absorbed apparently in intense meditation. A few feet above
Siva's head was a platform, on which lay a young lady of exquisite
beauty. The prince went to the platform and saw that the head of the
lady was separated from her body. Horrified at the sight, he did not
know what to make of it. He saw a stream of blood trickling from the
severed head, falling upon the matted head of Siva, and running into
the ocean in the form of rubies. After a little two small rods, one of
silver and one of gold, which were lying near the head of the lady,
attracted his eyes. As he took up the rods in his hands, the golden
rod accidentally fell upon the head, on which the head immediately
joined itself to the body, and the lady got up. Astonished at the
sight of a human being, the lady asked the prince who he was and how
he had got there. After hearing the story of the prince's adventures,
the lady said, "Unhappy young man, depart instantly from this place;
for when Siva finishes his meditations he will turn you to ashes
by a single glance of his eyes." The young man, however, would not
go except in her company, as he was over head and ears in love with
the beautiful lady. At last they both contrived to run away from the
palace, and coming up to the surface of the ocean they climbed into
the boat near the centre of the whirlpool, and sailed away towards
land, having previously laden the vessel with a cargo of rubies. The
wonder of the prince's mother at seeing the beautiful damsel may be
well imagined. Early next morning the prince sent a basin full of big
rubies, through a servant. The king was astonished beyond measure. His
daughter, on getting the rubies, resolved on marrying the wonderful lad
who had made a present of them to her. Though the prince had a wife,
whom he had brought up from the depths of the ocean, he consented to
have a second wife. They were accordingly married, and lived happily
for years, begetting sons and daughters.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XVIII

THE MATCH-MAKING JACKAL


Once on a time there lived a weaver, whose ancestors were very rich,
but whose father had wasted the property which he had inherited
in riotous living. He was born in a palace-like house, but he now
lived in a miserable hut. He had no one in the world, his parents
and all his relatives having died. Hard by the hut was the lair of a
jackal. The jackal, remembering the wealth and grandeur of the weaver's
forefathers, had compassion on him, and one day coming to him, said,
"Friend weaver, I see what a wretched life you are leading. I have
a good mind to improve your condition. I'll try and marry you to
the daughter of the king of this country." "I become the king's
son-in-law!" replied the weaver; "that will take place only when the
sun rises in the west." "You doubt my power?" rejoined the jackal;
"you will see, I'll bring it about."

The next morning the jackal started for the king's city, which
was many miles off. On the way he entered a plantation of the
Piper betel plant, and plucked a large quantity of its leaves. He
reached the capital, and contrived to get inside the palace. On the
premises of the palace was a tank in which the ladies of the king's
household performed their morning and afternoon ablutions. At the
entrance of that tank the jackal laid himself down. The daughter of
the king happened to come just at the time to bathe, accompanied
by her maids. The princess was not a little struck at seeing the
jackal lying down at the entrance. She told her maids to drive
the jackal away. The jackal rose as if from sleep, and instead
of running away, opened his bundle of betel-leaves, put some into
his mouth, and began chewing them. The princess and her maids were
not a little astonished at the sight. They said among themselves,
"What an uncommon jackal is this! From what country can he have
come? A jackal chewing betel-leaves! why thousands of men and women
of this city cannot indulge in that luxury. He must have come from
a wealthy land." The princess asked the jackal, "Sivalu! [38] from
what country do you come? It must be a very prosperous country where
the jackals chew betel-leaves. Do other animals in your country chew
betel-leaves?" "Dearest princess," replied the jackal, "I come from a
land flowing with milk and honey. Betel-leaves are as plentiful in my
country as the grass in your fields. All animals in my country--cows,
sheep, dogs--chew betel-leaves. We want no good thing." "Happy is the
country," said the princess, "where there is such plenty, and thrice
happy the king who rules in it!" "As for our king," said the jackal,
"he is the richest king in the world. His palace is like the heaven
of Indra. I have seen your palace here; it is a miserable hut compared
to the palace of our king." The princess, whose curiosity was excited
to the utmost pitch, hastily went through her bath, and going to the
apartments of the queen-mother, told her of the wonderful jackal lying
at the entrance of the tank. Her curiosity being excited, the jackal
was sent for. When the jackal stood in the presence of the queen, he
began munching the betel-leaves. "You come," said the queen, "from
a very rich country. Is your king married?" "Please your majesty,
our king is not married. Princesses from distant parts of the world
tried to get married to him, but he rejected them all. Happy will
that princess be whom our king condescends to marry!" "Don't you
think, Sivalu," asked the queen, "that my daughter is as beautiful
as a Peri, and that she is fit to be the wife of the proudest king
in the world?" "I quite think," said the jackal, "that the princess
is exceedingly handsome; indeed, she is the handsomest princess I
have ever seen; but I don't know whether our king will have a liking
for her." "Liking for my daughter!" said the queen, "you have only to
paint her to him as she is, and he is sure to turn mad with love. To be
serious, Sivalu, I am anxious to get my daughter married. Many princes
have sought her hand, but I am unwilling to give her to any of them,
as they are not the sons of great kings. But your king seems to be a
great king. I can have no objection to making him my son-in-law." The
queen sent word to the king, requesting him to come and see the
jackal. The king came and saw the jackal, heard him describe the
wealth and pomp of the king of his country, and expressed himself
not unwilling to give away his daughter in marriage to him.

The jackal after this returned to the weaver and said to him, "O lord
of the loom, you are the luckiest man in the world; it is all settled;
you are to become the son-in-law of a great king. I have told them that
you are yourself a great king, and you must behave yourself as one. You
must do just as I instruct you, otherwise your fortune will not only
not be made, but both you and I will be put to death." "I'll do just as
you bid me," said the weaver. The shrewd jackal drew in his own mind a
plan of the method of procedure he should adopt, and after a few days
went back to the palace of the king in the same manner in which he had
gone before, that is to say, chewing betel-leaves and lying down at
the entrance of the tank on the premises of the palace. The king and
queen were glad to see him, and eagerly asked him as to the success of
his mission. The jackal said, "In order to relieve your minds I may
tell you at once that my mission has been so far successful. If you
only knew the infinite trouble I have had in persuading his Majesty,
my sovereign, to make up his mind to marry your daughter, you would
give me no end of thanks. For a long time he would not hear of it, but
gradually I brought him round. You have now only to fix an auspicious
day for the celebration of the solemn rite. There is one bit of advice,
however, which I, as your friend, would give you. It is this. My master
is so great a king that if he were to come to you in state, attended
by all his followers, his horses and his elephants, you would find it
impossible to accommodate them all in your palace or in your city. I
would therefore propose that our king should come to your city, not
in state, but in a private manner; and that you send to the outskirts
of your city your own elephants, horses, and conveyances, to bring
him and only a few of his followers to your palace." "Many thanks,
wise Sivalu, for this advice. I could not possibly make accommodation
in my city for the followers of so great a king as your master is. I
should be very glad if he did not come in state; and trust you will
use your influence to persuade him to come in a private manner; for I
should be ruined if he came in state." The jackal then gravely said, "I
will do my best in the matter," and then returned to his own village,
after the royal astrologer had fixed an auspicious day for the wedding.

On his return the jackal busied himself with making preparations for
the great ceremony. As the weaver was clad in tatters, he told him
to go to the washermen of the village and borrow from them a suit
of clothes. As for himself, he went to the king of his race, and
told him that on a certain day he would like one thousand jackals to
accompany him to a certain place. He went to the king of crows, and
begged that his corvine majesty would be pleased to allow one thousand
of his black subjects to accompany him on a certain day to a certain
place. He preferred a similar petition to the king of paddy-birds.

At last the great day arrived. The weaver arrayed himself in the
clothes which he had borrowed from the village washermen. The jackal
made his appearance, accompanied by a train of a thousand jackals,
a thousand crows, and a thousand paddy-birds. The nuptial procession
started on their journey, and towards sundown arrived within two
miles of the king's palace. There the jackal told his friends,
the thousand jackals, to set up a loud howl; at his bidding the
thousand crows cawed their loudest; while the hoarse screechings of
the thousand paddy-birds furnished a suitable accompaniment. The
effect may be imagined. They all together made a noise the like
of which had never been heard since the world began. While this
unearthly noise was going on, the jackal himself hastened to the
palace, and asked the king whether he thought he would be able to
accommodate the wedding-party, which was about two miles distant, and
whose noise was at that moment sounding in his ears. The king said
"Impossible, Sivalu; from the sound of the procession I infer there
must be at least one hundred thousand souls. How is it possible to
accommodate so many guests? Please, so arrange that the bridegroom
only will come to my house." "Very well," said the jackal; "I told
you at the beginning that you would not be able to accommodate all
the attendants of my august master. I'll do as you wish. My master
will alone come in undress. Send a horse for the purpose." The jackal,
accompanied by a horse and groom, came to the place where his friend
the weaver was, thanked the thousand jackals, the thousand crows,
and the thousand paddy-birds, for their valuable services, and told
them all to go away, while he himself, and the weaver on horseback,
wended their way to the king's palace. The bridal party, waiting in
the palace, were greatly disappointed at the personal appearance of
the weaver; but the jackal told them that his master had purposely
put on a mean dress, as his would-be father-in-law declared himself
unable to accommodate the bridegroom and his attendants coming in
state. The royal priests now began the interesting ceremony, and the
nuptial knot was tied for ever. The bridegroom seldom opened his lips,
agreeably to the instructions of the jackal, who was afraid lest
his speech should betray him. At night when he was lying in bed he
began to count the beams and rafters of the room, and said audibly,
"This beam will make a first-rate loom, that other a capital beam,
and that yonder an excellent sley." The princess, his bride, was not
a little astonished. She began to think in her mind, "Is the man,
to whom they have tied me, a king or a weaver? I am afraid he is
the latter; otherwise why should he be talking of weaver's loom,
beam, and sley? Ah, me! is this what the fates keep in store for
me?" In the morning the princess related to the queen-mother the
weaver's soliloquy. The king and queen, not a little surprised at
this recital, took the jackal to task about it. The ready-witted
jackal at once said, "Your Majesty need not be surprised at my august
master's soliloquy. His palace is surrounded by a population of seven
hundred families of the best weavers in the world, to whom he has given
rent-free lands, and whose welfare he continually seeks. It must have
been in one of his philanthropic moods that he uttered the soliloquy
which has taken your Majesty by surprise." The jackal, however,
now felt that it was high time for himself and the weaver to decamp
with the princess, since the proverbial simplicity of his friend of
the loom might any moment involve him in danger. The jackal therefore
represented to the king, that weighty affairs of state would not permit
his august master to spend another day in the palace; that he should
start for his kingdom that very day with his bride; and his master was
resolved to travel incognito on foot, only the princess, now the queen,
should leave the city in a palki. After a great deal of yea and nay,
the king and queen at last consented to the proposal. The party came
to the outskirts of the weaver's village; the palki bearers were sent
away; and the princess, who asked where her husband's palace was,
was made to walk on foot. The weaver's hut was soon reached, and the
jackal, addressing the princess, said, "This, madam, is your husband's
palace." The princess began to beat her forehead with the palms of her
hands in sheer despair. "Ah, me! is this the husband whom Prajapati
[39] intended for me? Death would have been a thousand times better."

As there was nothing for it, the princess soon got reconciled to her
fate. She, however, determined to make her husband rich, especially as
she knew the secret of becoming rich. One day she told her husband to
get for her a pice-worth of flour. She put a little water in the flour,
and smeared her body with the paste. When the paste dried on her body,
she began wiping the paste with her fingers; and as the paste fell in
small balls from her body, it got turned into gold. She repeated this
process every day for some time, and thus got an immense quantity of
gold. She soon became mistress of more gold than is to be found in
the coffers of any king. With this gold she employed a whole army of
masons, carpenters and architects, who in no time built one of the
finest palaces in the world. Seven hundred families of weavers were
sought for and settled round about the palace. After this she wrote
a letter to her father to say that she was sorry he had not favoured
her with a visit since the day of her marriage, and that she would be
delighted if he now came to see her and her husband. The king agreed
to come, and a day was fixed. The princess made great preparations
against the day of her father's arrival. Hospitals were established in
several parts of the town for diseased, sick, and infirm animals. The
beasts in thousands were made to chew betel-leaves on the wayside. The
streets were covered with Cashmere shawls for her father and his
attendants to walk on. There was no end of the display of wealth and
grandeur. The king and queen arrived in state, and were infinitely
delighted at the apparently boundless riches of their son-in-law. The
jackal now appeared on the scene, and saluting the king and queen,
said--"Did I not tell you?"


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XIX

THE BOY WITH THE MOON ON HIS FOREHEAD


There was a certain king who had six queens, none of whom bore
children. Physicians, holy sages, mendicants, were consulted,
countless drugs were had recourse to, but all to no purpose. The king
was disconsolate. His ministers told him to marry a seventh wife;
and he was accordingly on the look out.

In the royal city there lived a poor old woman who used to pick up
cow-dung from the fields, make it into cakes, dry them in the sun,
and sell them in the market for fuel. This was her only means of
subsistence. This old woman had a daughter exquisitely beautiful. Her
beauty excited the admiration of every one that saw her; and it was
solely in consequence of her surpassing beauty that three young
ladies, far above her in rank and station, contracted friendship
with her. Those three young ladies were the daughter of the king's
minister, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and the daughter of the
royal priest. These three young ladies, together with the daughter of
the poor old woman, were one day bathing in a tank not far from the
palace. As they were performing their ablutions, each dwelt on her
own good qualities. "Look here, sister," said the minister's daughter,
addressing the merchant's daughter, "the man that marries me will be a
happy man, for he will not have to buy clothes for me. The cloth which
I once put on never gets soiled, never gets old, never tears." The
merchant's daughter said, "And my husband too will be a happy man, for
the fuel which I use in cooking never gets turned into ashes. The same
fuel serves from day to day, from year to year." "And my husband will
also become a happy man," said the daughter of the royal chaplain,
"for the rice which I cook one day never gets finished, and when
we have all eaten, the same quantity which was first cooked remains
always in the pot." The daughter of the poor old woman said in her
turn, "And the man that marries me will also be happy, for I shall
give birth to twin children, a son and a daughter. The daughter will
be divinely fair, and the son will have the moon on his forehead and
stars on the palms of his hands."

The above conversation was overheard by the king, who, as he was on
the look out for a seventh queen, used to skulk about in places where
women met together. The king thus thought in his mind--"I don't care
a straw for the girl whose clothes never tear and never get old;
neither do I care for the other girl whose fuel is never consumed;
nor for the third girl whose rice never fails in the pot. But the
fourth girl is quite charming! She will give birth to twin children,
a son and a daughter; the daughter will be divinely fair, and the
son will have the moon on his forehead and stars on the palms of his
hands. That is the girl I want. I'll make her my wife."

On making inquiries on the same day, the king found that the fourth
girl was the daughter of a poor old woman who picked up cow-dung from
the fields; but though there was thus an infinite disparity in rank,
he determined to marry her. On the very same day he sent for the
poor old woman. She, poor thing, was quite frightened when she saw
a messenger of the king standing at the door of her hut. She thought
that the king had sent for her to punish her, because, perhaps, she had
some day unwittingly picked up the dung of the king's cattle. She went
to the palace, and was admitted into the king's private chamber. The
king asked her whether she had a very fair daughter, and whether
that daughter was the friend of his own minister's and priest's
daughters. When the woman answered in the affirmative, he said to
her, "I will marry your daughter, and make her my queen." The woman
hardly believed her own ears--the thing was so strange. He, however,
solemnly declared to her that he had made up his mind, and was
determined to marry her daughter. It was soon known in the capital
that the king was going to marry the daughter of the old woman who
picked up cow-dung in the fields. When the six queens heard the news,
they would not believe it, till the king himself told them that the
news was true. They thought that the king had somehow got mad. They
reasoned with him thus--"What folly, what madness, to marry a girl
who is not fit to be our maid-servant! And you expect us to treat
her as our equal--a girl whose mother goes about picking up cow-dung
in the fields! Surely, my lord, you are beside yourself!" The king's
purpose, however, remained unshaken. The royal astrologer was called,
and an auspicious day was fixed for the celebration of the king's
marriage. On the appointed day the royal priest tied the marital knot,
and the daughter of the poor old picker-up of cow-dung in the fields
became the seventh and best beloved queen.

Some time after the celebration of the marriage, the king went for six
months to another part of his dominions. Before setting out he called
to him the seventh queen, and said to her, "I am going away to another
part of my dominions for six months. Before the expiration of that
period I expect you to be confined. But I should like to be present
with you at the time, as your enemies may do mischief. Take this golden
bell and hang it in your room. When the pains of childbirth come upon
you, ring this bell, and I will be with you in a moment in whatever
part of my dominions I may be at the time. Remember, you are to ring
the bell only when you feel the pains of childbirth." After saying this
the king started on his journey. The six queens, who had overheard the
king, went on the next day to the apartments of the seventh queen,
and said, "What a nice bell of gold you have got, sister! Where did
you get it, and why have you hung it up?" The seventh queen, in her
simplicity, said, "The king has given it to me, and if I were to ring
it, the king would immediately come to me wherever he might be at the
time." "Impossible!" said the six queens, "you must have misunderstood
the king. Who can believe that this bell can be heard at the distance
of hundreds of miles? Besides, if it could be heard, how would the king
be able to travel a great distance in the twinkling of an eye? This
must be a hoax. If you ring the bell, you will find that what the
king said was pure nonsense." The six queens then told her to make a
trial. At first she was unwilling, remembering what the king had told
her; but at last she was prevailed upon to ring the bell. The king was
at the moment half-way to the capital of his other dominions, but at
the ringing of the bell he stopped short in his journey, turned back,
and in no time stood in the queen's apartments. Finding the queen
going about in her rooms, he asked why she had rung the bell though
her hour had not come. She, without informing the king of the entreaty
of the six queens, replied that she rang the bell only to see whether
what he had said was true. The king was somewhat indignant, told her
distinctly not to ring the bell again till the moment of the coming
upon her of the pains of childbirth, and then went away. After the
lapse of some weeks the six queens again begged of the seventh queen
to make a second trial of the bell. They said to her, "The first time
when you rang the bell, the king was only at a short distance from you,
it was therefore easy for him to hear the bell and to come to you;
but now he has long ago settled in his other capital, let us see if
he will now hear the bell and come to you." She resisted for a long
time, but was at last prevailed upon by them to ring the bell. When
the sound of the bell reached the king he was in court dispensing
justice, but when he heard the sound of the bell (and no one else
heard it) he closed the court and in no time stood in the queen's
apartments. Finding that the queen was not about to be confined,
he asked her why she had again rung the bell before her hour. She,
without saying anything of the importunities of the six queens, replied
that she merely made a second trial of the bell. The king became very
angry, and said to her, "Now listen, since you have called me twice for
nothing, let it be known to you that when the throes of childbirth do
really come upon you, and you ring the bell ever so lustily, I will not
come to you. You must be left to your fate." The king then went away.

At last the day of the seventh queen's deliverance arrived. On first
feeling the pains she rang the golden bell. She waited, but the
king did not make his appearance. She rang again with all her might,
still the king did not make his appearance. The king certainly did
hear the sound of the bell; but he did not come as he was displeased
with the queen. When the six queens saw that the king did not come,
they went to the seventh queen and told her that it was not customary
with the ladies of the palace to be confined in the king's apartments;
she must go to a hut near the stables. They then sent for the midwife
of the palace, and heavily bribed her to make away with the infant
the moment it should be born into the world. The seventh queen gave
birth to a son who had the moon on his forehead and stars on the
palms of his hands, and also to an uncommonly beautiful girl. The
midwife had come provided with a couple of newly born pups. She put
the pups before the mother, saying--"You have given birth to these,"
and took away the twin-children in an earthen vessel. The queen was
quite insensible at the time, and did not notice the twins at the
time they were carried away. The king, though he was angry with the
seventh queen, yet remembering that she was destined to give birth to
the heir of his throne, changed his mind, and came to see her the next
morning. The pups were produced before the king as the offspring of
the queen. The king's anger and vexation knew no bounds. He ordered
that the seventh queen should be expelled from the palace, that she
should be clothed in leather, and that she should be employed in
the market-place to drive away crows and to keep off dogs. Though
scarcely able to move she was driven away from the palace, stripped
of her fine robes, clothed in leather, and set to drive away the
crows of the market-place.

The midwife, when she put the twins in the earthen vessel, bethought
herself of the best way to destroy them. She did not think it proper
to throw them into a tank, lest they should be discovered the next
day. Neither did she think of burying them in the ground, lest they
should be dug up by a jackal and exposed to the gaze of people. The
best way to make an end of them, she thought, would be to burn them,
and reduce them to ashes, that no trace might be left of them. But
how could she, at that dead hour of night, burn them without some
other person helping her? A happy thought struck her. There was a
potter on the outskirts of the city, who used during the day to mould
vessels of clay on his wheel, and burn them during the latter part
of the night. The midwife thought that the best plan would be to put
the vessel with the twins along with the unburnt clay vessels which
the potter had arranged in order and gone to sleep expecting to get up
late at night and set them on fire; in this way, she thought, the twins
would be reduced to ashes. She, accordingly, put the vessel with the
twins along with the unburnt clay vessels of the potter, and went away.

Somehow or other, that night the potter and his wife overslept
themselves. It was near the break of day when the potter's wife,
awaking out of sleep, roused her husband, and said, "Oh, my good man,
we have overslept ourselves; it is now near morning and I much fear it
is now too late to set the pots on fire." Hastily unbolting the door
of her cottage, she rushed out to the place where the pots were ranged
in rows. She could scarcely believe her eyes when she saw that all the
pots had been baked and were looking bright red, though neither she nor
her husband had applied any fire to them. Wondering at her good luck,
and not knowing what to make of it, she ran to her husband and said,
"Just come and see!" The potter came, saw, and wondered. The pots had
never before been so well baked. Who could have done this? This could
have proceeded only from some god or goddess. Fumbling about the pots,
he accidentally upturned one in which, lo and behold, were seen huddled
up together two newly born infants of unearthly beauty. The potter
said to his wife, "My dear, you must pretend to have given birth to
these beautiful children." Accordingly all arrangements were made,
and in due time it was given out that the twins had been born to
her. And such lovely twins they were! On the same day many women
of the neighbourhood came to see the potter's wife and the twins to
which she had given birth, and to offer their congratulations on this
unexpected good fortune. As for the potter's wife, she could not be
too proud of her pretended children, and said to her admiring friends,
"I had hardly hoped to have children at all. But now that the gods
have given me these twins, may they receive the blessings of you all,
and live for ever!"

The twins grew and were strengthened. The brother and sister, when
they played about in the fields and lanes, were the admiration of
every one who saw them; and all wondered at the uncommonly good luck
of the potter in being blessed with such angelic children. They were
about twelve years old when the potter, their reputed father, became
dangerously ill. It was evident to all that his sickness would end
in death. The potter, perceiving his last end approaching, said to
his wife, "My dear, I am going the way of all the earth; but I am
leaving to you enough to live upon; live on and take care of these
children." The woman said to her husband, "I am not going to survive
you. Like all good and faithful wives, I am determined to die along
with you. You and I will burn together on the same funeral pyre. As
for the children, they are old enough to take care of themselves,
and you are leaving them enough money." Her friends tried to dissuade
her from her purpose, but in vain. The potter died; and as his remains
were being burnt, his wife, now a widow, threw herself on the pyre,
and burnt herself to death.

The boy with the moon on his forehead--by the way, he always kept his
head covered with a turban lest the halo should attract notice--and
his sister, now broke up the potter's establishment, sold the wheel
and the pots and pans, and went to the bazaar in the king's city. The
moment they entered, the bazaar was lit up on a sudden. The shopkeepers
of the bazaar were greatly surprised. They thought some divine beings
must have entered the place. They looked upon the beautiful boy and his
sister with wonder. They begged of them to stay in the bazaar. They
built a house for them. When they used to ramble about, they were
always followed at a distance by the woman clothed in leather, who
was appointed by the king to drive away the crows of the bazaar. By
some unaccountable impulse she used also to hang about the house in
which they lived. The boy in a short time bought a horse, and went
a-hunting in the neighbouring forests. One day while he was hunting,
the king was also hunting in the same forest, and seeing a brother
huntsman the king drew near to him. The king was struck with the beauty
of the lad and a yearning for him the moment he saw him. As a deer
went past, the youth shot an arrow, and the reaction of the force
necessary to shoot the arrow made the turban of his head fall off,
on which a bright light, like that of the moon, was seen shining on
his forehead. The king saw, and immediately thought of the son with
the moon on his forehead and stars on the palms of his hands who was
to have been born of his seventh queen. The youth on letting fly the
arrow galloped off, in spite of the earnest entreaty of the king to
wait and speak to him. The king went home a sadder man than he came
out of it. He became very moody and melancholy. The six queens asked
him why he was looking so sad. He told them that he had seen in the
woods a lad with the moon on his forehead, which reminded him of the
son who was to be born of the seventh queen. The six queens tried
to comfort him in the best way they could; but they wondered who the
youth could be. Was it possible that the twins were living? Did not
the midwife say that she had burnt both the son and the daughter to
ashes? Who, then, could this lad be? The midwife was sent for by the
six queens and questioned. She swore that she had seen the twins
burnt. As for the lad whom the king had met with, she would soon
find out who he was. On making inquiries, the midwife soon found out
that two strangers were living in the bazaar in a house which the
shopkeepers had built for them. She entered the house and saw the
girl only, as the lad had again gone out a-shooting. She pretended
to be their aunt, who had gone away to another part of the country
shortly after their birth; she had been searching after them for a
long time, and was now glad to find them in the king's city near the
palace. She greatly admired the beauty of the girl, and said to her,
"My dear child, you are so beautiful, you require the kataki [40]
flower properly to set off your beauty. You should tell your brother to
plant a row of that flower in this courtyard." "What flower is that,
auntie? I never saw it." "How could you have seen it, my child? It
is not found here; it grows on the other side of the ocean, guarded
by seven hundred Rakshasas." "How, then," said the girl, "will my
brother get it?" "He may try to get it, if you speak to him," replied
the woman. The woman made this proposal in the hope that the boy with
the moon on his forehead would perish in the attempt to get the flower.

When the youth with the moon on his forehead returned from hunting,
his sister told him of the visit paid to her by their aunt, and
requested him, if possible, to get for her the kataki flower. He was
sceptical about the existence of any aunt of theirs in the world,
but he was resolved that, to please his beloved sister, he would get
the flower on which she had set her heart. Next morning, accordingly,
he started on his journey, after bidding his sister not to stir
out of the house till his return. He rode on his fleet steed, which
was of the pakshiraj [41] tribe, and soon reached the outskirts of
what seemed to him dense forests of interminable length. He descried
some Rakshasas prowling about. He went to some distance, shot with
his arrows some deer and rhinoceroses in the neighbouring thickets,
and, approaching the place where the Rakshasas were prowling about,
called out, "O auntie dear, O auntie dear, your nephew is here." A
huge Rakshasi came towards him and said, "O, you are the youth with
the moon on your forehead and stars on the palms of your hands. We
were all expecting you, but as you have called me aunt, I will
not eat you up. What is it you want? Have you brought any eatables
for me?" The youth gave her the deer and rhinoceroses which he had
killed. Her mouth watered at the sight of the dead animals, and she
began eating them. After swallowing down all the carcases, she said,
"Well, what do you want?" The youth said, "I want some kataki flowers
for my sister." She then told him that it would be difficult for
him to get the flower, as it was guarded by seven hundred Rakshasas;
however, he might make the attempt, but in the first instance he must
go to his uncle on the north side of that forest. While the youth
was going to his uncle of the north, on the way he killed some deer
and rhinoceroses, and seeing a gigantic Rakshasa at some distance,
cried out, "Uncle dear, uncle dear, your nephew is here. Auntie has
sent me to you." The Rakshasa came near and said, "You are the youth
with the moon on your forehead and stars on the palms of your hands;
I would have swallowed you outright, had you not called me uncle, and
had you not said that your aunt had sent you to me. Now, what is it you
want?" The savoury deer and rhinoceroses were then presented to him;
he ate them all, and then listened to the petition of the youth. The
youth wanted the kataki flower. The Rakshasa said, "You want the kataki
flower! Very well, try and get it if you can. After passing through
this forest, you will come to an impenetrable forest of kachiri. [42]
You will say to that forest, 'O mother kachiri! please make way for
me, or else I die.' On that the forest will open up a passage for
you. You will next come to the ocean. You will say to the ocean,
'O mother ocean! please make way for me, or else I die,' and the
ocean will make way for you. After crossing the ocean, you enter the
gardens where the kataki blooms. Good-bye; do as I have told you." The
youth thanked his Rakshasa-uncle, and went on his way. After he had
passed through the forest, he saw before him an impenetrable forest
of kachiri. It was so close and thick, and withal so bristling with
thorns, that not a mouse could go through it. Remembering the advice
of his uncle, he stood before the forest with folded hands, and said,
"O mother kachiri! please make way for me, or else I die." On a sudden
a clean path was opened up in the forest, and the youth gladly passed
through it. The ocean now lay before him. He said to the ocean, "O
mother ocean! make way for me, or else I die." Forthwith the waters
of the ocean stood up on two sides like two walls, leaving an open
passage between them, and the youth passed through dryshod.

Now, right before him were the gardens of the kataki flower. He entered
the inclosure, and found himself in a spacious palace which seemed to
be unoccupied. On going from apartment to apartment he found a young
lady of more than earthly beauty sleeping on a bedstead of gold. He
went near, and noticed two little sticks, one of gold and the other of
silver, lying in the bedstead. The silver stick lay near the feet of
the sleeping beauty, and the golden one near the head. He took up the
sticks in his hands, and as he was examining them, the golden stick
accidentally fell upon the feet of the lady. In a moment the lady
woke and sat up, and said to the youth, "Stranger, how have you come
to this dismal place? I know who you are, and I know your history. You
are the youth with the moon on your forehead and stars on the palms of
your hands. Flee, flee from this place! This is the residence of seven
hundred Rakshasas who guard the gardens of the kataki flower. They
have all gone a-hunting; they will return by sundown; and if they
find you here you will be eaten up. One Rakshasi brought me from the
earth where my father is king. She loves me very dearly, and will not
let me go away. By means of these gold and silver sticks she kills
me when she goes away in the morning, and by means of those sticks
she revives me when she returns in the evening. Flee, flee hence, or
you die!" The youth told the young lady how his sister wished very
much to have the kataki flower, how he passed through the forest
of kachiri, and how he crossed the ocean. He said also that he was
determined not to go alone, he must take the young lady along with
him. The remaining part of the day they spent together in rambling
about the gardens. As the time was drawing near when the Rakshasas
should return, the youth buried himself amid an enormous heap of
kataki flower which lay in an adjoining apartment, after killing the
young lady by touching her head with the golden stick. Just after
sunset the youth heard the sound as of a mighty tempest: it was the
return of the seven hundred Rakshasas into the gardens. One of them
entered the apartment of the young lady, revived her, and said, "I
smell a human being, I smell a human being." The young lady replied,
"How can a human being come to this place? I am the only human being
here." The Rakshasi then stretched herself on the floor, and told the
young lady to shampoo her legs. As she was going on shampooing, she
let fall a tear-drop on the Rakshasi's leg. "Why are you weeping,
my dear child?" asked the raw-eater; "why are you weeping? Is
anything troubling you?" "No, mamma," answered the young lady,
"nothing is troubling me. What can trouble me, when you have made
me so comfortable? I was only thinking what will become of me when
you die." "When I die, child?" said the Rakshasi; "shall I die? Yes,
of course all creatures die; but the death of a Rakshasa or Rakshasi
will never happen. You know, child, that deep tank in the middle part
of these gardens. Well, at the bottom of that tank there is a wooden
box, in which there are a male and a female bee. It is ordained by
fate that if a human being who has the moon on his forehead and stars
on the palms of his hands were to come here and dive into that tank,
and get hold of the same wooden box, and crush to death the male and
female bees without letting a drop of their blood fall to the ground,
then we should die. But the accomplishment of this decree of fate is,
I think, impossible. For, in the first place, there can be no such
human being who will have the moon on his forehead and stars on the
palms of his hands; and, in the second place, if there be such a man,
he will find it impossible to come to this place, guarded as it is
by seven hundred of us, encompassed by a deep ocean, and barricaded
by an impervious forest of kachiri--not to speak of the outposts and
sentinels that are stationed on the other side of the forest. And then,
even if he succeeds in coming here, he will perhaps not know the secret
of the wooden box; and even if he knows of the secret of the wooden
box, he may not succeed in killing the bees without letting a drop of
their blood fall on the ground. And woe be to him if a drop does fall
on the ground, for in that case he will be torn up into seven hundred
pieces by us. You see then, child, that we are almost immortal--not
actually, but virtually so. You may, therefore, dismiss your fears."

On the next morning the Rakshasi got up, killed the young lady by
means of the sticks, and went away in search of food along with other
Rakshasas and Rakshasis. The lad, who had the moon on his forehead
and stars on the palms of his hands, came out of the heap of flowers
and revived the young lady. The young lady recited to the young man
the whole of the conversation she had had with the Rakshasi. It was a
perfect revelation to him. He, however, lost no time in beginning to
act. He shut the heavy gates of the gardens. He dived into the tank
and brought up the wooden box. He opened the wooden box, and caught
hold of the male and female bees as they were about to escape. He
crushed them on the palms of his hands, besmearing his body with every
drop of their blood. The moment this was done, loud cries and groans
were heard around about the inclosure of the gardens. Agreeably to
the decree of fate all the Rakshasas approached the gardens and fell
down dead. The youth with the moon on his forehead took as many kataki
flowers as he could, together with their seeds, and left the palace,
around which were lying in mountain heaps the carcases of the mighty
dead, in company with the young and beautiful lady. The waters of
the ocean retreated before the youth as before, and the forest of
kachiri also opened up a passage through it; and the happy couple
reached the house in the bazaar, where they were welcomed by the
sister of the youth who had the moon on his forehead.

On the following morning the youth, as usual, went to hunt. The king
was also there. A deer passed by, and the youth shot an arrow. As
he shot, the turban as usual fell off his head, and a bright light
issued from it. The king saw and wondered. He told the youth to stop,
as he wished to contract friendship with him. The youth told him to
come to his house, and gave him his address. The king went to the
house of the youth in the middle of the day. Pushpavati--for that
was the name of the young lady that had been brought from beyond the
ocean--told the king--for she knew the whole history--how his seventh
queen had been persuaded by the other six queens to ring the bell
twice before her time, how she was delivered of a beautiful boy and
girl, how pups were substituted in their room, how the twins were
saved in a miraculous manner in the house of the potter, how they
were well treated in the bazaar, and how the youth with the moon on
his forehead rescued her from the clutches of the Rakshasas. The king,
mightily incensed with the six queens, had them, on the following day,
buried alive in the ground. The seventh queen was then brought from
the market-place and reinstated in her position; and the youth with
the moon on his forehead, and the lovely Pushpavati and their sister,
lived happily together.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XX

THE GHOST WHO WAS AFRAID OF BEING BAGGED


Once on a time there lived a barber who had a wife. They did not live
happily together, as the wife always complained that she had not enough
to eat. Many were the curtain lectures which were inflicted upon the
poor barber. The wife used often to say to her mate, "If you had not
the means to support a wife, why did you marry me? People who have not
means ought not to indulge in the luxury of a wife. When I was in my
father's house I had plenty to eat, but it seems that I have come to
your house to fast. Widows only fast; I have become a widow in your
life-time." She was not content with mere words; she got very angry
one day and struck her husband with the broomstick of the house. Stung
with shame, and abhorring himself on account of his wife's reproach
and beating, he left his house, with the implements of his craft,
and vowed never to return and see his wife's face again till he had
become rich. He went from village to village, and towards nightfall
came to the outskirts of a forest. He laid himself down at the foot
of a tree, and spent many a sad hour in bemoaning his hard lot.

It so chanced that the tree, at the foot of which the barber was
lying down, was dwelt in by a ghost. The ghost seeing a human being
at the foot of the tree naturally thought of destroying him. With
this intention the ghost alighted from the tree, and, with outspread
arms and a gaping mouth, stood like a tall palmyra tree before the
barber, and said, "Now, barber, I am going to destroy you. Who will
protect you?" The barber, though quaking in every limb through fear,
and his hair standing erect, did not lose his presence of mind, but,
with that promptitude and shrewdness which are characteristic of his
fraternity, replied, "O spirit, you will destroy me! wait a bit and
I'll show you how many ghosts I have captured this very night and
put into my bag; and right glad am I to find you here, as I shall
have one more ghost in my bag." So saying the barber produced from
his bag a small looking-glass, which he always carried about with him
along with his razors, his whet-stone, his strop and other utensils,
to enable his customers to see whether their beards had been well
shaved or not. He stood up, placed the looking-glass right against
the face of the ghost, and said, "Here you see one ghost which I have
seized and bagged; I am going to put you also in the bag to keep this
ghost company." The ghost, seeing his own face in the looking-glass,
was convinced of the truth of what the barber had said, and was filled
with fear. He said to the barber, "O, sir barber, I'll do whatever
you bid me, only do not put me into your bag. I'll give you whatever
you want." The barber said, "You ghosts are a faithless set, there is
no trusting you. You will promise, and not give what you promise." "O,
sir," replied the ghost, "be merciful to me; I'll bring to you whatever
you order; and if I do not bring it, then put me into your bag." "Very
well," said the barber, "bring me just now one thousand gold mohurs;
and by to-morrow night you must raise a granary in my house, and fill
it with paddy. Go and get the gold mohurs immediately: and if you
fail to do my bidding you will certainly be put into my bag." The
ghost gladly consented to the conditions. He went away, and in the
course of a short time returned with a bag containing a thousand gold
mohurs. The barber was delighted beyond measure at the sight of the
gold mohurs. He then told the ghost to see to it that by the following
night a granary was erected in his house and filled with paddy.

It was during the small hours of the morning that the barber, loaded
with the heavy treasure, knocked at the door of his house. His wife,
who reproached herself for having in a fit of rage struck her husband
with a broomstick, got out of bed and unbolted the door. Her surprise
was great when she saw her husband pour out of the bag a glittering
heap of gold mohurs.

The next night the poor devil, through fear of being bagged, raised
a large granary in the barber's house, and spent the live-long night
in carrying on his back large packages of paddy till the granary was
filled up to the brim. The uncle of this terrified ghost, seeing his
worthy nephew carrying on his back loads of paddy, asked what the
matter was. The ghost related what had happened. The uncle-ghost then
said, "You fool, you think the barber can bag you! The barber is a
cunning fellow; he has cheated you, like a simpleton as you are." "You
doubt," said the nephew-ghost, "the power of the barber! come and
see." The uncle-ghost then went to the barber's house, and peeped
into it through a window. The barber, perceiving from the blast of
wind which the arrival of the ghost had produced that a ghost was at
the window, placed full before it the self-same looking-glass, saying,
"Come now, I'll put you also into the bag." The uncle-ghost, seeing his
own face in the looking-glass, got quite frightened, and promised that
very night to raise another granary and to fill it, not this time with
paddy, but with rice. So in two nights the barber became a rich man,
and lived happily with his wife begetting sons and daughters.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XXI

THE FIELD OF BONES


Once on a time there lived a king who had a son. The young prince had
three friends, the son of the prime minister, the son of the prefect
of the police, and the son of the richest merchant of the city. These
four friends had great love for one another. Once on a time they
bethought themselves of seeing distant lands. They accordingly set
out one day, each one riding on a horse. They rode on and on, till
about noon they came to the outskirts of what seemed to be a dense
forest. There they rested a while, tying to the trees their horses,
which began to browse. When they had refreshed themselves, they again
mounted their horses and resumed their journey. At sunset they saw in
the depths of the forest a temple, near which they dismounted, wishing
to lodge there that night. Inside the temple there was a sannyasi,
[43] apparently absorbed in meditation, as he did not notice the four
friends. When darkness covered the forest, a light was seen inside
the temple. The four friends resolved to pass the night on the balcony
of the temple; and as the forest was infested with many wild beasts,
they deemed it safe that each of them should watch one prahara [44]
of the night, while the rest should sleep. It fell to the lot of the
merchant's son to watch during the first prahara, that is to say,
from six in the evening to nine o'clock at night. Towards the end of
his watch the merchant's son saw a wonderful sight. The hermit took
up a bone with his hand, and repeated over it some words which the
merchant's son distinctly heard. The moment the words were uttered,
a clattering sound was heard in the precincts of the temple, and
the merchant's son saw many bones moving from different parts of the
forest. The bones collected themselves inside the temple, at the foot
of the hermit, and lay there in a heap. As soon as this took place,
the watch of the merchant's son came to an end; and, rousing the son
of the prefect of the police, he laid himself down to sleep.

The prefect's son, when he began his watch, saw the hermit sitting
cross-legged, wrapped in meditation, near a heap of bones, the
history of which he, of course, did not know. For a long time nothing
happened. The dead stillness of the night was broken only by the howl
of the hyæna and the wolf, and the growl of the tiger. When his time
was nearly up he saw a wonderful sight. The hermit looked at the heap
of bones lying before him, and uttered some words which the prefect's
son distinctly heard. No sooner had the words been uttered than a
noise was heard among the bones, "and behold a shaking, and the bones
came together, bone to its bone"; and the bones which were erewhile
lying together in a heap now took the form of a skeleton. Struck with
wonder, the prefect's son would have watched longer, but his time
was over. He therefore laid himself down to sleep, after rousing the
minister's son, to whom, however, he told nothing of what he had seen,
as the merchant's son had not told him anything of what he had seen.

The minister's son got up, rubbed his eyes, and began watching. It
was the dead hour of midnight, when ghosts, hobgoblins, and spirits of
every name and description, go roaming over the wide world, and when
all creation, both animate and inanimate, is in deep repose. Even
the howl of the wolf and the hyæna and the growl of the tiger had
ceased. The minister's son looked towards the temple, and saw the
hermit sitting wrapt up in meditation; and near him lying something
which seemed to be the skeleton of some animal. He looked towards
the dense forest and the darkness all around, and his hair stood
on end through terror. In this state of fear and trembling he spent
nearly three hours, when an uncommon sight in the temple attracted
his notice. The hermit, looking at the skeleton before him, uttered
some words which the minister's son distinctly heard. As soon as
the words were uttered, "lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon
the bones, and the skin covered them above"; but there was no breath
in the skeleton. Astonished at the sight, the minister's son would
have sat up longer, but his time was up. He therefore laid himself
down to sleep, after having roused the king's son, to whom, however,
he said nothing of what he had seen and heard.

The king's son, when he began his watch, saw the hermit sitting,
completely absorbed in devotion, near a figure which looked like
some animal, but he was not a little surprised to see the animal
lying apparently lifeless, without showing any of the symptoms of
life. The prince spent his hours agreeably enough, especially as he
had had a long sleep, and as he felt none of that depression which
the dead hour of midnight sheds on the spirits; and he amused himself
with marking how the shades of darkness were becoming thinner and
paler every moment. But just as he noticed a red streak in the east,
he heard a sound from inside the temple. He turned his eyes towards
the hermit. The hermit, looking towards the inanimate figure of the
animal lying before him, uttered some words which the prince distinctly
heard. The moment the words were spoken, "breath came into the animal;
it lived, it stood up upon its feet"; and quickly rushed out of the
temple into the forest. That moment the crows cawed; the watch of the
prince came to an end; his three companions were roused; and after
a short time they mounted their horses, and resumed their journey,
each one thinking of the strange sight seen in the temple.

They rode on and on through the dense and interminable forest, and
hardly spoke to one another, till about mid-day they halted under a
tree near a pool for refreshment. After they had refreshed themselves
with eating some fruits of the forest and drinking water from the
pool, the prince said to his three companions, "Friends, did you not
see something in the temple of the devotee? I'll tell you what I saw,
but first let me hear what you all saw. Let the merchant's son first
tell us what he saw as he had the first watch; and the others will
follow in order."

Merchant's son. I'll tell you what I saw. I saw the hermit take up
a bone in his hand, and repeat some words which I well remember. The
moment those words were uttered, a clattering sound was heard in the
precincts of the temple, and I saw many bones running into the temple
from different directions. The bones collected themselves together
inside the temple at the feet of the hermit, and lay there in a heap. I
would have gladly remained longer to see the end, but my time was up,
and I had to rouse my friend, the son of the prefect of the police.

Prefect's son. Friends, this is what I saw. The hermit looked at
the heap of bones lying before him, and uttered some words which
I well remember. No sooner had the words been uttered than I heard
a noise among the bones, and, strange to say, the bones jumped up,
each bone joined itself to its fellow, and the heap became a perfect
skeleton. At that moment my watch came to an end, and I had to rouse
my respected friend the minister's son.

Minister's son. Well, when I began my watch I saw the said skeleton
lying near the hermit. After three mortal hours, during which I was
in great fear, I saw the hermit lift his eyes towards the skeleton
and utter some words which I well remember. As soon as the words were
uttered the skeleton was covered with flesh and hair, but it did not
show any symptom of life, as it lay motionless. Just then my watch
ended, and I had to rouse my royal friend the prince.

King's son. Friends, from what you yourselves saw, you can guess what
I saw. I saw the hermit turn towards the skeleton covered with skin and
hair, and repeat some words which I well remember. The moment the words
were uttered, the skeleton stood up on its feet, and it looked a fine
and lusty deer, and while I was admiring its beauty, it skipped out
of the temple, and ran into the forest. That moment the crows cawed.

The four friends, after hearing one another's story, congratulated
themselves on the possession of supernatural power, and they did not
doubt but that if they pronounced the words which they had heard the
hermit utter, the utterance would be followed by the same results. But
they resolved to verify their power by an actual experiment. Near
the foot of the tree they found a bone lying on the ground, and they
accordingly resolved to experiment upon it. The merchant's son took
up the bone, and repeated over it the formula he had heard from
the hermit. Wonderful to relate, a hundred bones immediately came
rushing from different directions, and lay in a heap at the foot of
the tree. The son of the prefect of the police then looking upon the
heap of bones, repeated the formula which he had heard from the hermit,
and forthwith there was a shaking among the bones; the several bones
joined themselves together, and formed themselves into a skeleton, and
it was the skeleton of a quadruped. The minister's son then drew near
the skeleton, and, looking intently upon it, pronounced over it the
formula which he had heard from the hermit. The skeleton immediately
was covered with flesh, skin, and hair, and, horrible to relate,
the animal proved itself to be a royal tiger of the largest size. The
four friends were filled with consternation. If the king's son were,
by the repetition of the formula he had heard from the hermit, to make
the beast alive, it might prove fatal to them all. The three friends,
therefore, tried to dissuade the prince from giving life to the
tiger. But the prince would not comply with the request. He naturally
said, "The mantras [45] which you have learned have been proved true
and efficacious. But how shall I know that the mantra which I have
learned is equally efficacious? I must have my mantra verified. Nor
is it certain that we shall lose our lives by the experiment. Here
is this high tree. You can climb into its topmost branches, and
I shall also follow you thither after pronouncing the mantra." In
vain did the three friends dwell upon the extreme danger attending
the experiment: the prince remained inexorable. The minister's son,
the prefect's son, and the merchant's son climbed up into the topmost
branches of the tree, while the king's son went up to the middle of
the tree. From there, looking intently upon the lifeless tiger, he
pronounced the words which he had learned from the hermit, and quickly
ran up the tree. In the twinkling of an eye the tiger stood upright,
gave out a terrible growl, with a tremendous spring killed all the
four horses which were browsing at a little distance, and, dragging
one of them, rushed towards the densest part of the forest. The four
friends ensconced on the branches of the tree were almost petrified
with fear at the sight of the terrible tiger; but the danger was now
over. The tiger went off at a great distance from them, and from its
growl they judged that it must be at least two miles distance from
them. After a little they came down from the tree; and as they now had
no horses on which to ride, they walked on foot through the forest,
till, coming to its end, they reached the shore of the sea. They sat
on the sea-shore hoping to see some ship sailing by. They had not sat
long, when fortunately they descried a vessel in the offing. They
waved their handkerchiefs, and made all sorts of signs to attract
the notice of the people on board the ship. The captain and the crew
noticed the men on the shore. They came towards the shore, took the
men upon board, but added that as they were short of provisions they
could not have them a long time on board, but would put them ashore
at the first port they came to. After four or five days' voyage, they
saw not far from the shore high buildings and turrets, and supposing
the place to be a large city, the four friends landed there.

The four friends, immediately after landing, walked along a long avenue
of stately trees, at the end of which was a bazaar. There were hundreds
of shops in the bazaar, but not a single human being in them. There
were sweetmeat shops in which there were heaps of confectioneries
ranged in regular rows, but no human beings to sell them. There was
the blacksmith's shop, there was the anvil, there were the bellows
and the other tools of the smithy, but there was no smith there. There
were stalls in which there were heaps of faded and dried vegetables,
but no men or women to sell them. The streets were all deserted, no
human beings, no cattle were to be seen there. There were carts, but no
bullocks; there were carriages, but no horses. The doors and windows
of the houses of the city on both sides of the streets were all open,
but no human being was visible in them. It seemed to be a deserted
city. It seemed to be a city of the dead--and all the dead taken out
and buried. The four friends were astonished--they were frightened
at the sight. As they went on, they approached a magnificent pile of
buildings, which seemed to be the palace of a king. They went to the
gate and to the porter's lodge. They saw shields, swords, spears, and
other weapons suspended in the lodge, but no porters. They entered the
premises, but saw no guards, no human beings. They went to the stables,
saw the troughs, grain, and grass lying about in profusion, but no
horses. They went inside the palace, passed the long corridors--still
no human being was visible. They went through six long courts--still
no human being. They entered the seventh court, and there and then,
for the first time, did they see living human beings. They saw
coming towards them four princesses of matchless beauty. Each of
these four princesses caught hold of the arm of each of the four
friends; and each princess called each man whom she had caught hold
of her husband. The princesses said that they had been long waiting
for the four friends, and expressed great joy at their arrival. The
princesses took the four friends into the innermost apartments, and
gave them a sumptuous feast. There were no servants attending them,
the princesses themselves bringing in the provisions and setting
them before the four friends. At the outset the four princesses
told the four friends that no questions were to be asked about the
depopulation of the city. After this, each princess went into her
private apartment along with her newly-found husband. Shortly after
the prince and princess had retired into their private apartment,
the princess began to shed tears. On the prince inquiring into the
cause, the princess said, "O prince! I pity you very much. You seem,
by your bearing, to be the son of a king, and you have, no doubt,
the heart of a king's son; I will therefore tell you my whole story,
and the story of my three companions who look like princesses. I am the
daughter of a king, whose palace this is, and those three creatures,
who are dressed like princesses, and who have called your three friends
their husbands, are Rakshasis. They came to this city some time ago;
they ate up my father, the king, my mother, the queen, my brothers,
my sisters, of whom I had a large number. They ate up the king's
ministers and servants. They ate up gradually all the people of the
city, all my father's horses and elephants, and all the cattle of the
city. You must have noticed, as you came to the palace, that there
are no human beings, no cattle, no living thing in this city. They
have all been eaten up by those three Rakshasis. They have spared me
alone--and that, I suppose, only for a time. When the Rakshasis saw
you and your friends from a distance, they were very glad, as they
mean to eat you all up after a short time."

King's son. But if this is the case, how do I know that you are not
a Rakshasi yourself? Perhaps you mean to swallow me up by throwing
me off my guard.

Princess. I'll mention one fact which proves that those three creatures
are Rakshasis, while I am not. Rakshasis, you know, eat food a hundred
times larger in quantity than men or women. What the Rakshasis eat at
table along with us is not sufficient to appease their hunger. They
therefore go out at night to distant lands in search of men or cattle,
as there are none in this city. If you ask your friends to watch and
see whether their wives remain all night in their beds, they will find
they go out and stay away a good part of the night, whereas you will
find me the whole night with you. But please see that the Rakshasis do
not get the slightest inkling of all this; for if they hear of it, they
will kill me in the first instance, and afterwards swallow you all up.

The next day the king's son called together the minister's son,
the prefect's son, and the merchant's son, and held a consultation,
enjoining the strictest secrecy on all. He told them what he had heard
from the princess, and requested them to lie awake in their beds to
watch whether their pretended princesses went out at night or not. One
presumptive argument in favour of the assertion of the princess was
that all the pretended princesses were fast asleep during the whole of
the day in consequence of their nightly wanderings, whereas the female
friend of the king's son did not sleep at all during the day. The
three friends accordingly lay in their beds at night pretending to
be asleep and manifesting all the symptoms of deep sleep. Each one
observed that his female friend at a certain hour, thinking her mate
to be in deep sleep, left the room, stayed away the whole night,
and returned to her bed only at dawn. During the following day each
female friend slept out nearly the whole day, and woke up only in the
afternoon. For two nights and days the three friends observed this. The
king's son also remained awake at night pretending to be asleep, but
the princess was not observed for a single moment to leave the room,
nor was she observed to sleep in the day. From these circumstances
the friends of the king's son began to suspect that their partners
were really Rakshasis as the princess said they were.

By way of confirmation the princess also told the king's son, that the
Rakshasis, after eating the flesh of men and animals, threw the bones
towards the north of the city, where there was an immense collection
of them. The king's son and his three friends went one day towards
that part of the city, and sure enough they saw there immense heaps
of the bones of men and animals piled up into hills. From this they
became more and more convinced that the three women were Rakshasis
in deed and truth.

The question now was how to run away from these devourers of men
and animals? There was one circumstance greatly in favour of the
four friends, and that was, that the three Rakshasis slept during
nearly the whole day; they had therefore the greater part of the
day for the maturing of their plans. The princess advised them to go
towards the sea-shore, and watch if any ships sailed that way. The
four friends accordingly used to go to the sea-shore looking for
ships. They were always accompanied by the princess, who took the
precaution of carrying with her in a bundle her most valuable jewels,
pearls and precious stones. It happened one day that they saw a ship
passing at a great distance from the shore. They made signs which
attracted the notice of the captain and crew. The ship came towards
the land, and the four friends and princess were, after much entreaty,
taken up. The princess exhorted the crew to row with all their might,
for which she promised them a handsome reward; for she knew that the
Rakshasis would awake in the afternoon, and immediately come after the
ship; and they would assuredly catch hold of the vessel and destroy
all the crew and passengers if it stood short of eighty miles from
land, for the Rakshasis had the power of distending their bodies to
the length of ten Yojanas. [46] The four friends and the princess
cheered on the crew, and the oarsmen rowed with all their might; and
the ship, favoured by the wind, shot over the deep like lightning. It
was near sun-down when a terrible yell was heard on the shore. The
Rakshasis had wakened from their sleep, and not finding either the
four friends or the princess, naturally thought they had got hold
of a ship and were escaping. They therefore ran along the shore with
lightning rapidity, and seeing the ship afar off they distended their
bodies. But fortunately the vessel was more than eighty miles off
land, though only a trifle more: indeed, the ship was so dangerously
near that the heads of the Rakshasis with their widely-distended
jaws almost touched its stern. The words which the Rakshasis uttered
in the hearing of the crew and passengers were--"O sister, so you
are going to eat them all yourself alone." The minister's son, the
prefect's son, and the merchant's son had all along a suspicion that
the pretended princess, the prince's partner, might after all also
be a Rakshasi; that suspicion was now confirmed by what they heard
the three Rakshasis say. Those words, however, produced no effect in
the mind of the king's son, as from his intimate acquaintance with
the princess he could not possibly take her to be a Rakshasi.

The captain told the four friends and princess that as he was bound
for distant regions in search of gold mines, he could not take
them along with him; he, therefore, proposed that on the next day
he should put them ashore near some port, especially as they were
now safe from the clutches of the Rakshasis. On the following day
no port was visible for a long time; towards the evening, however,
they came near a port where the four friends and the princess were
landed. After walking some distance, the princess, who had never been
accustomed to take long walks, complained of fatigue and hunger; they
all therefore sat under a tree, and the king's son sent the merchant's
son to buy some sweetmeats in the bazaar which they heard was not far
off. The merchant's son did not return, as he was fully persuaded in
his mind that the king's son's partner was as real a Rakshasi as the
three others from whose clutches he had escaped. Seeing the delay of
the merchant's son, the king's son sent the prefect's son after him;
but neither did he return, he being also convinced that the pretended
princess was a Rakshasi. The minister's son was next sent; but he also
joined the other two. The king's son then himself went to the shop
of the sweetmeat seller where he met his three friends, who made him
remain with them by main force, earnestly declaring that the woman
was no princess, but a real Rakshasi like the other three. Thus the
princess was deserted by the four friends who returned to their own
country, full of the adventures they had met with.

In the meantime the princess walked to the bazaar and found shelter
for a few days in the house of a poor woman, after which she set
out for the city of the four friends, the name and whereabouts of
which city she had learnt from the king's son. On arriving at the
city, she sold some of her costly ornaments, pearls and precious
stones, and hired a stately house for her residence with a suitable
establishment. She caused herself to be proclaimed as a heaven-born
dice-player, and challenged all the players in the city to play, the
conditions of the game being that if she lost it she would give the
winner a lakh [47] of rupees, and if she won it she should get a lakh
from him who lost the game. She also got authority from the king of
the country to imprison in her own house any one who could not pay her
the stipulated sum of money. The merchant's son, the prefect's son,
and the minister's son, who all looked upon themselves as miraculous
players, played with the princess, paid her many lakhs, but being
unable to pay her all the sums they owed her, were imprisoned in her
house. At last the king's son offered to play with her. The princess
purposely allowed him to win the first game, which emboldened him to
play many times, in all of which he was the loser; and being unable to
pay the many lakhs owing her, the prince was about to be dragged into
the dungeon, when the princess told him who she was. The merchant's
son, the prefect's son, and the minister's son were brought out of
their cells; and the joy of the four friends knew no bounds. The
king and the queen received their daughter-in-law with open arms,
and with demonstrations of great festivity.

Every one in the palace was glad except the princess. She could not
forget that her parents, her brothers and sisters had been devoured
by the Rakshasis, and that their bones, along with the bones of her
father's subjects, stood in mountain heaps on the north side of the
capital. The prince had told her that he and his three friends had
the power of giving life to bones. They could then reconstruct the
frames of her parents and other relatives; but the difficulty lay
in this--how to kill the three Rakshasis. Could not the hermit, who
taught them to give life, not teach also how to take away life? In all
likelihood he could. Reasoning in this manner, the four friends and
the princess went to the temple of the hermit in the forest, prayed
to him to give them the secret of destroying life from a distance by a
charm. The hermit became propitious, and granted the boon. A deer was
passing by at the moment. The hermit took a handful of water, repeated
over it some words which the king's son distinctly heard, and threw
it upon the deer. The deer died in a moment. He repeated other words
over the dead animal, the deer jumped up and ran away into the forest.

Armed with this killing charm, the king's son, together with
the princess and the three friends, went to his father-in-law's
capital. As they approached the city of death, the three Rakshasis
ran furiously towards them with open jaws. The king's son spilled
charmed water upon them, and they died in an instant. They all then
went to the heaps of bones. The merchant's son brought together the
proper bones of the bodies, the prefect's son constructed them into
skeletons, the minister's son clothed them with sinews, flesh, and
skin, and the king's son gave them life. The princess was entranced
at the sight of the re-animation of her parents and other relatives,
and her eyes were filled with tears of joy. After a few days which
they spent in great festivity, they left the revivified city, went
to their own country, and lived many years in great happiness.


            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth, etc.



XXII

THE BALD WIFE


A certain man had two wives, the younger of whom he loved more than
the elder. The younger wife had two tufts of hair on her head, and
the elder only one. The man went to a distant town for merchandise;
so the two wives lived together in the house. But they hated each
other: the younger one, who was her husband's favourite, ill-treated
the other. She made her do all the menial work in the house; rebuked
her all day and night; and did not give her enough to eat. One day
the younger wife said to the elder, "Come and take away all the lice
from the hair of my head." While the elder wife was searching among the
younger one's hair for the vermin, one lock of hair by chance gave way;
on which the younger one, mightily incensed, tore off the single tuft
that was on the head of the elder wife, and drove her away from the
house. The elder wife, now become completely bald, determined to go
into the forest, and there either die of starvation or be devoured by
some wild beast. On her way she passed by a cotton plant. She stopped
near it, made for herself a broom with some sticks which lay about,
and swept clean the ground round about the plant. The plant was much
pleased, and gave her a blessing. She wended on her way, and now saw
a plantain tree. She swept the ground round about the plantain tree
which, being pleased with her, gave her a blessing. As she went on
she saw the shed of a Brahmani bull. As the shed was very dirty,
she swept the place clean, on which the bull, being much pleased,
blessed her. She next saw a tulasi plant, bowed herself down before
it, and cleaned the place round about, on which the plant gave her
a blessing. As she was going on in her journey she saw a hut made of
branches of trees and leaves, and near it a man sitting cross-legged,
apparently absorbed in meditation. She stood for a moment behind
the venerable muni. "Whoever you may be," he said, "come before me;
do not stand behind me; if you do, I will reduce you to ashes." The
woman, trembling with fear, stood before the muni. "What is your
petition?" asked the muni. "Father Muni," answered the woman, "thou
knowest how miserable I am, since thou art all-knowing. My husband
does not love me, and his other wife, having torn off the only tuft
of hair on my head, has driven me away from the house. Have pity
upon me, Father Muni!" The muni, continuing sitting, said, "Go into
the tank which you see yonder. Plunge into the water only once, and
then come to me again." The woman went to the tank, washed in it,
and plunged into the water only once, according to the bidding of
the muni. When she got out of the water, what a change was seen in
her! Her head was full of jet black hair, which was so long that it
touched her heels; her complexion had become perfectly fair; and she
looked young and beautiful. Filled with joy and gratitude, she went
to the muni, and bowed herself to the ground. The muni said to her,
"Rise, woman. Go inside the hut, and you will find a number of wicker
baskets, and bring out any you like." The woman went into the hut,
and selected a modest-looking basket. The muni said, "Open the
basket." She opened it, and found it filled with ingots of gold,
pearls and all sorts of precious stones. The muni said, "Woman,
take that basket with you. It will never get empty. When you take
away the present contents their room will be supplied by another set,
and that by another, and that by another, and the basket will never
become empty. Daughter, go in peace." The woman bowed herself down
to the ground in profound but silent gratitude, and went away.

As she was returning homewards with the basket in her hand, she passed
by the tulasi plant whose bottom she had swept. The tulasi plant said
to her, "Go in peace, child! thy husband will love thee warmly." She
next came to the shed of the Brahmani bull, who gave her two shell
ornaments which were twined round its horns, saying, "Daughter, take
these shells, put them on your wrists, and whenever you shake either
of them you will get whatever ornaments you wish to obtain." She then
came to the plantain tree, which gave her one of its broad leaves,
saying, "Take, child, this leaf; and when you move it you will get
not only all sorts of delicious plantains, but all kinds of agreeable
food." She came last of all to the cotton plant, which gave her one
of its own branches, saying, "Daughter, take this branch; and when
you shake it you will get not only all sorts of cotton clothes, but
also of silk and purple. Shake it now in my presence." She shook the
branch, and a fabric of the finest glossy silk fell on her lap. She
put on that silk cloth, and wended on her way with the shells on her
wrists, and the basket and the branch and the leaf in her hands.

The younger wife was standing at the door of her house, when she
saw a beautiful woman approach her. She could scarcely believe her
eyes. What a change! The old, bald hag turned into the very Queen
of Beauty herself! The elder wife, now grown rich and beautiful,
treated the younger wife with kindness. She gave her fine clothes,
costly ornaments, and the richest viands. But all to no purpose. The
younger wife envied the beauty and hair of her associate. Having heard
that she got it all from Father Muni in the forest, she determined to
go there. Accordingly she started on her journey. She saw the cotton
plant, but did nothing to it; she passed by the plantain tree, the
shed of the Brahmani bull, and the tulasi plant, without taking any
notice of them. She approached the muni. The muni told her to bathe in
the tank, and plunge only once into the water. She gave one plunge,
at which she got a glorious head of hair and a beautifully fair
complexion. She thought a second plunge would make her still more
beautiful. Accordingly she plunged into the water again, and came
out as bald and ugly as before. She came to the muni, and wept. The
sage drove her away, saying, "Be off, you disobedient woman. You will
get no boon from me." She went back to her house mad with grief. The
lord of the two women returned from his travels and was struck with
the long locks and beauty of his first wife. He loved her dearly;
and when he saw her secret and untold resources and her incredible
wealth, he almost adored her. They lived together happily for many
years, and had for their maid-servant the younger woman, who had been
formerly his best beloved.



            Here my story endeth,
            The Natiya-thorn withereth;
           "Why, O Natiya-thorn, dost wither?"
           "Why does thy cow on me browse?"
           "Why, O cow, dost thou browse?"
           "Why does thy neat-herd not tend me?"
           "Why, O neat-herd, dost not tend the cow?"
           "Why does thy daughter-in-law not give me rice?"
           "Why, O daughter-in-law, dost not give rice?"
           "Why does my child cry?"
           "Why, O child, dost thou cry?"
           "Why does the ant bite me?"
           "Why, O ant, dost thou bite?"
            Koot! koot! koot!



NOTES


[1] Kings, in Bengali folk-tales, have invariably two queens--the
elder is called duo, that is, not loved; and the younger is called suo,
that is, loved.

[2] Dalim or dadimba means a pomegranate, and kumara son.

[3] Bidhata-Purusha is the deity that predetermines all the events
of the life of man or woman, and writes on the forehead of the child,
on the sixth day of its birth, a brief precis of them.

[4] There are eight forms of marriage spoken of in the Hindu Sastras,
of which the Gandharva is one, consisting in the exchange of garlands.

[5] Alakta is leaves or flimsy paper saturated with lac.

[6] A sort of open Palki, used generally for carrying the bridegroom
and bride in marriage processions.

[7] Handi is an earthen pot, generally used in cooking food.

[8] Mudki, fried paddy boiled dry in treacle or sugar.

[9] A sort of sweetmeat made of curds and sugar.

[10] Rakshasas and Rakshasis (male and female) are in Hindu mythology
huge giants and giantesses, or rather demons. The word means literally
raw-eaters; they were probably the chiefs of the aborigines whom the
Aryans overthrew on their first settlement in the country.

[11] Dasi is a general name for all maid-servants.

[12] Sphatika is crystal, and sthambha pillar.

[13] Bathing-place, either in a tank or on the bank of a river,
generally furnished with flights of steps.

[14] Professional match-makers.

[15] Manik, or rather manikya, is a fabulous precious stone of
incredible value. It is found on the head of some species of snakes,
and is equal in value to the wealth of seven kings.

[16] Venus, the Morning Star.

[17] The seat on the back of an elephant.

[18] Sri is another name of Lakshmi, and batsa means child; so that
Sribatsa is literally the "child of fortune."

[19] Shells used as money, one hundred and sixty of which could have
been got a few years ago for one pice.

[20] Fried paddy.

[21] This story is not my own. It was recited to me by a story-teller
of the other sex who rejoices in the nom de plume "An Inmate of the
Calcutta Lunatic Asylum."

[22] A holy sage.

[23] The tutelary goddess of a king's household.

[24] A vessel, made generally of brass, for keeping the pan leaf
together with betel-nut and other spices.

[25] A towel used in bathing.

[26] A sort of bed made of rope, supported by posts of wood.

[27] The sacred basil.

[28] Zenana is not the name of a province in India, as the good people
of Scotland the other day took it to be, but the innermost department
of a Hindu or Mohammedan house which the women occupy.

[29] A religious mendicant.

[30] Sankchinnis or Sankhachurnis are female ghosts of white
complexion. They usually stand at the dead of night at the foot of
trees, and look like sheets of white cloth.

[31] An exorcist, one who drives away ghosts from possessed persons.

[32] The ghost of a Brahman who dies unmarried.

[33] A bigha is about the third part of an acre.

[34] The chariot of Kuvera, the Hindu god of riches.

[35] "Hiraman (from harit, green, and mani, a gem), the name of
a beautiful species of parrot, a native of the Molucca Islands
(Psittacus sinensis)."--Carey's Dictionary of the Bengalee Language,
vol. ii. part iii. p. 1537.

[36] Winged horse, literally, the king of birds.

[37] Khai is fried paddy.

[38] A name for a jackal, not unlike Reynard in Europe.

[39] The god who presides over marriages.

[40] Calotropis gigantea.

[41] Literally the king of birds, a fabulous species of horse
remarkable for their swiftness.

[42] Arum fornicatum.

[43] Religious devotee.

[44] Eighth part of twenty-four hours, that is, three hours.

[45] Charm or incantation.

[46] A yojana is nearly eight miles.

[47] Ten thousand pounds sterling.



                                THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Folk-Tales of Bengal" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home