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Title: Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit
Author: - To be updated
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit" ***

Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit

Translated by
S. M. Mitra

Adapted by
Mrs. Arthur Bell




 1. The Magic Pitcher
 2. The Story of a Cat, a Mouse, a Lizard and an Owl
 3. A Royal Thief-Catcher
 4. The Magic Shoes and Staff
 5. The Jewelled Arrow
 6. The Beetle and the Silken Thread
 7. A Crow and His Three Friends
 8. A Clever Thief
 9. The Hermit’s Daughter


Thanks to Mr. S. M. Mitra, the well-known Hindu psychologist and
politician, who has done so much to draw more closely together the land
of his birth and that of his adoption, I am able to bring within reach
of English children a number of typical Hindu Tales, translated by him
from the Sanskrit, some of them culled from the ancient classics of
India, others from widely separated sources. The latter have hitherto
been quite inaccessible to western students, as they are not yet
embodied in literature, but have been transmitted orally from
generation to generation for many centuries.

These tales are not only of a kind to enchain the attention of
children. They also illustrate well the close affinity between the two
chief branches of the great Aryan race, and are of considerable ethical
value, reflecting, as they do, the philosophy of self-realisation which
lies at the root of Hindu culture. They have been used from time
immemorial by the best teachers of India as a means of building up the
personalities of the young and maintaining the efficiency of the adult.
They serve in fact as text-books of the unique system of Mind-Training
which has been in use in India from remote Vedic times, the root
principle of which is as simple as it is effective.

Hindu children become familiar at their mothers’ knees with these
stories, and are trained to answer questions on them, subtly chosen to
suit their ages and call into action their mental faculties. Appealing
to them as an amusing game, in which they vie with each other in trying
to solve the problems presented for their consideration, the boys and
girls, who are educated together till they are ten or twelve years old,
early learn to concentrate their attention; whilst the simultaneous
development of all their powers is encouraged and they are,
imperceptibly to themselves led to control their thoughts and emotions
from within, instead of having to obey orders which they do not
understand from without. They realize indeed, whilst still in the
nursery, the ideal suggested by the sage Vidura in the Mahabharata:
“Seek to know thyself by means of thyself, keeping thy mind, intellect
and senses, under control; for self is thy friend as it is also thy

Nancy Bell.

Southbourne-on-Sea, 1918.

The Magic Pitcher.


Long, long ago there lived far away in India a woodcutter called Subha
Datta and his family, who were all very happy together. The father went
every day to the forest near his home to get supplies of wood, which he
sold to his neighbours, earning by that means quite enough to give his
wife and children all that they needed. Sometimes he took his three
boys with him, and now and then, as a special treat, his two little
girls were allowed to trot along beside him. The boys longed to be
allowed to chop wood for themselves, and their father told them that as
soon as they were old enough he would give each of them a little axe of
his own. The girls, he said, must be content with breaking off small
twigs from the branches he cut down, for he did not wish them to chop
their own fingers off. This will show you what a kind father he was,
and you will be very sorry for him when you hear about his troubles.

All went well with Subha Datta for a long time. Each of the boys had
his own little axe at last, and each of the girls had a little pair of
scissors to cut off twigs; and very proud they all were when they
brought some wood home to their mother to use in the house. One day,
however, their father told them they could none of them come with him,
for he meant to go a very long way into the forest, to see if he could
find better wood there than nearer home. Vainly the boys entreated him
to take them with him. “Not to-day,” he said, “you would be too tired
to go all the way, and would lose yourselves coming back alone. You
must help your mother to-day and play with your sisters.” They had to
be content, for although Hindu children are as fond of asking questions
as English boys and girls, they are very obedient to their parents and
do all they are told without making any fuss about it.

Of course, they expected their father would come back the day he
started for the depths of the forest, although they knew he would be
late. What then was their surprise when darkness came and there was no
sign of him! Again and again their mother went to the door to look for
him, expecting every moment to see him coming along the beaten path
which led to their door. Again and again she mistook the cry of some
night-bird for his voice calling to her. She was obliged at last to go
to bed with a heavy heart, fearing some wild beast had killed him and
that she would never see him again.

1. What do you think had become of Subha Datta?

2. What would you have done when he did not come back?


When Subha Datta started for the forest, he fully intended to come back
the same evening; but as he was busy cutting down a tree, he suddenly
had a feeling that he was no longer alone. He looked up, and there,
quite close to him, in a little clearing where the trees had been cut
down by some other woodcutter, he saw four beautiful young girls
looking like fairies in their thin summer dresses and with their long
hair flowing down their backs, dancing round and round, holding each
other’s hands. Subha Datta was so astonished at the sight that he let
his axe fall, and the noise startled the dancers, who all four stood
still and stared at him.

The woodcutter could not say a word, but just gazed and gazed at them,
till one of them said to him: “Who are you, and what are you doing in
the very depths of the forest where we have never before seen a man?”

“I am only a poor woodcutter,” he replied, “come to get some wood to
sell, so as to give my wife and children something to eat and some
clothes to wear.”

“That is a very stupid thing to do,” said one of the girls. “You can’t
get much money that way. If you will only stop with us we will have
your wife and children looked after for you much better than you can do
it yourself.”

3. What would you have said if you had been the woodcutter?

4. Do you think the fairies really meant that they could do as they


Subha Datta, though he certainly did love his wife and children, was so
tempted at the idea of stopping in the forest with the beautiful girls
that, after hesitating a little while, he said, “Yes, I will stop with
you, if you are quite sure all will be well with my dear ones.”

“You need not be afraid about that,” said another of the girls. “We are
fairies, you see, and we can do all sorts of wonderful things. It isn’t
even necessary for us to go where your dear ones are. We shall just
wish them everything they want, and they will get it. And the first
thing to be done is to give you some food. You must work for us in
return, of course.”

Subha Datta at once replied, “I will do anything you wish.”

“Well, begin by sweeping away all the dead leaves from the clearing,
and then we will all sit down and eat together.”

Subha Datta was very glad that what he was asked to do was so easy. He
began by cutting a branch from a tree, and with it he swept the floor
of what was to be the dining-room. Then he looked about for the food,
but he could see nothing but a great big pitcher standing in the shade
of a tree, the branches of which hung over the clearing. So he said to
one of the fairies, “Will you show me where the food is, and exactly
where you would like me to set it out?”

At these questions all the fairies began to laugh, and the sound of
their laughter was like the tinkling of a number of bells.

5. What was there to laugh at in the questions of Subha Datta?

6. What is your idea of a fairy?


When the fairies saw how astonished Subha Datta was at the way they
laughed, it made them laugh still more, and they seized each other’s
hands again and whirled round and round, laughing all the time.

Poor Subha Datta, who was very tired and hungry, began to get unhappy
and to wish he had gone straight home after all. He stooped down to
pick up his axe, and was just about to turn away with it, when the
fairies stopped their mad whirl and cried to him to stop. So he waited,
and one of them said:

“_We_ don’t have to bother about fetching this and fetching that. You
see that big pitcher. Well, we get all our food and everything else we
want out of it. We just have to wish as we put our hands in, and there
it is. It’s a magic pitcher—the only one there is in the whole wide
world. You get the food you would like to have first, and then we’ll
tell you what _we_ want.”

Subha Datta could hardly believe his ears when he heard that. Down he
threw his axe, and hastened to put his hand in the pitcher, wishing for
the food he was used to. He loved curried rice and milk, lentils, fruit
and vegetables, and very soon he had a beautiful meal spread out for
himself on the ground. Then the fairies called out, one after the
other, what they wanted for food, things the woodcutter had never heard
of or seen, which made him quite discontented with what he had chosen
for himself.

7. What would you have wished for if you had had a magic pitcher?

8. Would it be a good thing, do you think, to be able to get food
without working for it or paying for it?


The next few days passed away like a dream, and at first Subha Datta
thought he had never been so happy in his life. The fairies often went
off together leaving him alone, only coming back to the clearing when
they wanted something out of the pitcher. The woodcutter got all kinds
of things he fancied for himself, but presently he began to wish he had
his wife and children with him to share his wonderful meals. He began
to miss them terribly, and he missed his work too. It was no good
cutting trees down and chopping up wood when all the food was ready
cooked. Sometimes he thought he would slip off home when the fairies
were away, but when he looked at the pitcher he could not bear the
thought of leaving it.

9. What sort of man do you think Subha Datta was from what this story
tells you about him?

10. What do you think was the chief cause of his becoming discontented
after he had been in the service of the fairies for a few days?


Soon Subha Datta could not sleep well for thinking of the wife and
children he had deserted. Suppose they were hungry when he had plenty
to eat! It even came into his head that he might steal the pitcher and
take it home with him when the fairies were away. But he had not after
all the courage to do this; for even when the beautiful girls were not
in sight, he had a feeling that they would know if he tried to go off
with the pitcher, and that they would be able to punish him in some
terrible way. One night he had a dream that troubled him very much. He
saw his wife sitting crying bitterly in the little home he used to
love, holding the youngest child on her knee whilst the other three
stood beside her looking at her very, very sadly. He started up from
the ground on which he lay, determined to go home at once; but at a
little distance off he saw the fairies dancing in the moonlight, and
somehow he felt again he could not leave them and the pitcher. The next
day, however, he was so miserable that the fairies noticed it, and one
of them said to him: “Whatever is the matter? We don’t care to keep
unhappy people here. If you can’t enjoy life as we do, you had better
go home.”

Then Subha Datta was very much frightened lest they should really send
him away; so he told them about his dream and that he was afraid his
dear ones were starving for want of the money he used to earn for them.

“Don’t worry about them,” was the reply: “we will let your wife know
what keeps you away. We will whisper in her ear when she is asleep, and
she will be so glad to think of your happiness that she will forget her
own troubles.”

11. Do you think what the fairies said to the woodcutter was likely to
comfort him about his wife and children?

12. If you had been in Subha Datta’s place what would you have said to
the fairies when they made this promise?


Subha Datta was very much cheered by the sympathy of the fairies, so
much so that he decided to stop with them for a little longer at least.
Now and then he felt restless, but on the whole the time passed
pleasantly, and the pitcher was a daily delight to him.

Meanwhile his poor wife was at her wits’ end how to feed her dear
children. If it had not been that the two boys were brave, plucky
little chaps, she really would have been in despair. When their father
did not come back and all their efforts to find him were in vain, these
boys set to work to help their mother. They could not cut down trees,
but they could climb them and chop off small branches with their axes;
and this they did, making up bundles of faggots and selling them to
their neighbours. These neighbours were touched by the courage they
showed, and not only paid them well for the wood but often gave them
milk and rice and other little things to help them. In time they
actually got used to being without Subha Datta, and the little girls
nearly forgot all about him. Little did they dream of the change that
was soon to come into their lives.

13. Was it a good or a bad thing for the boys that their father did not
come back?

14. If you think it was a good thing, will you explain why? and if it
was a bad thing, why you think it was?


A month passed peacefully away in the depths of the forest, Subha Datta
waiting on the fairies and becoming every day more selfish and bent on
enjoying himself. Then he had another dream, in which he saw his wife
and children in the old home with plenty of food, and evidently so
happy without him that he felt quite determined to go and show them he
was still alive. When he woke he said to the fairies, “I will not stop
with you any longer. I have had a good time here, but I am tired of
this life away from my own people.”

The fairies saw he was really in earnest this time, so they consented
to let him go; but they were kind-hearted people and felt they ought to
pay him in some way for all he had done for them. They consulted
together, and then one of them told him they wished to make him a
present before he went away, and they would give him whatever he asked

15. What do you think it was that made Subha Datta determine to go home
when he found his wife and children could do without him?

16. What would you have chosen if the fairies had told you you could
have anything you liked?


Directly the woodcutter heard he could have anything he asked for, he
cried, “I will have the magic pitcher.”

You can just imagine what a shock this was to the fairies! You know, of
course, that fairies always keep their word. If they could not persuade
Subha Datta to choose something else, they would have to give him their
beloved, their precious pitcher and would have to seek their food for
themselves. They all tried all they could to persuade the woodcutter to
choose something else. They took him to their own secret
treasure-house, in an old, old tree with a hollow trunk, even the
entrance to which no mortal had ever been allowed to see. They
blindfolded him before they started, so that he could never reveal the
way, and one of them led him by the hand, telling him where the steps
going down from the tree began. When at last the bandage was taken from
his eyes, he found himself in a lofty hall with an opening in the roof
through which the light came. Piled up on the floor were sparkling
stones worth a great deal of gold and silver money, and on the walls
hung beautiful robes. Subha Datta was quite dazed with all he saw, but
he was only an ignorant woodcutter and did not realize the value of the
jewels and clothes. So when the fairies, said to him, “Choose anything
you like here and let us keep our pitcher,” he shook his head and said:
“No! no! no! The pitcher! I will have the pitcher!” One fairy after
another picked up the rubies and diamonds and other precious stones and
held them in the light, that the woodcutter might see how lovely they
were; and when he still only shook his head, they got down the robes
and tried to make him put one of them on. “No! the pitcher! the
pitcher!” he said, and at last they had to give it up. They bound his
eyes again and led him back to the clearing and the pitcher.

17. Would you have been tempted to give up the pitcher when you saw the
jewels and the robes?

18. What made Subha Datta so determined to have the pitcher?


Even when they were all back again in the clearing the fairies did not
quite give up hope of keeping their pitcher. This time they gave other
reasons why Subha Datta should not have it. “It will break very
easily,” they told him, “and then it will be no good to you or any one
else. But if you take some of the money, you can buy anything you like
with it. If you take some of the jewels you can sell them for lots of

“No! no! no!” cried the woodcutter. “The pitcher! the pitcher! I will
have the pitcher!”

“Very well then, take, the pitcher,” they sadly answered, “and never
let us see your face again!”

So Subha Datta took the pitcher, carrying it very, very carefully, lest
he should drop it and break it before he got home. He did not think at
all of what a cruel thing it was to take it away from the fairies, and
leave them either to starve or to seek for food for themselves. The
poor fairies watched him till he was out of sight, and then they began
to weep and wring their hands. “He might at least have waited whilst we
got some food out for a few days,” one of them said. “He was too
selfish to think of that,” said another. “Come, let us forget all about
him and go and look for some fruit.”

So they all left off crying and went away hand in hand. Fairies do not
want very much to eat. They can live on fruit and dew, and they never
let anything make them sad for long at a time. They go out of this
story now, but you need not be unhappy about them, because you may be
very sure that they got no real harm from their generosity to Subha
Datta in letting him take the pitcher.

19. Do you think the woodcutter was wrong to ask for the pitcher?

20. What would have been the best thing for Subha Datta to ask for, if
he had decided to let the fairies keep their pitcher?


You can just imagine what a surprise it was to Subha Datta’s wife and
children when they saw him coming along the path leading to his home.
He did not bring the pitcher with him, but had hidden it in a hollow
tree in the wood near his cottage, for he did not mean any one to know
that he had it. He told his wife that he had lost his way in the
forest, and had been afraid he would never see her or his children
again, but he said nothing about the fairies. When his wife asked him
how he had got food, he told her a long story about the fruits he had
found, and she believed all he said, and determined to make up to him
now for all she thought he had suffered. When she called the little
girls to come and help her get a nice meal for their father, Subha
Datta said: “Oh, don’t bother about that! I’ve brought something back
with me. I’ll go and fetch it, but no one is to come with me.”

Subha Datta’s wife was sorely disappointed at this, because she loved
her husband so much that it was a joy to her to work for him. The
children too wanted, of course, to go with their father, but he ordered
them to stop where they were. He seized a big basket which was fall of
fuel for the fire, tumbled all the wood in it on the floor, and went
off alone to the pitcher. Very soon he was back again with his basket
full of all sorts of good things, the very names of which his wife and
children had no idea of. “There!” he cried; “what do you think of that?
Am I not a clever father to have found all that in the forest? Those
are the ‘fruits’ I meant when I told Mother about them.”

21. What would you have thought about this wonderful supply of food, if
you had been one of the woodcutter’s children?

22. Was it a good thing for those children to have all this food
without working for it? If not, why was it not a good thing?


Life was now, of course, completely changed for the family in the
forest. Subha Datta no longer went to cut wood to be sold, and the boys
also left off doing so. Every day their father fetched food for them
all, and the greatest desire of each one of the family was to find out
where it came from. They never could do so, for Subha Datta managed to
make them afraid to follow him when he went forth with his basket. The
secret he kept from the wife to whom he used to tell everything soon
began to spoil the happiness of the home. The children who had no
longer anything to do quarrelled with each other. Their mother got
sadder and sadder, and at last decided to tell Subha Datta that, unless
he would let her know where the food came from, she would go away from
him and take her little girls with her. She really did mean to do this,
but something soon happened to change everything again. Of course, the
neighbours in the wood, who had bought the fuel from the boys and
helped them by giving them fruit and rice, heard of the return of their
father and of the wonderful change in their lot. Now the whole family
had plenty to eat every day, though none of them knew where it all came
from. Subha Datta was very fond of showing off what he could do, and
sometimes asked his old friends amongst the woodcutters to come and
have a meal with him. When they arrived they would find all sorts of
good things spread out on the ground and different kinds of wines in
beautiful bottles.

This went on for some months, Subha Datta getting prouder and prouder
of all that he could do, and it seemed likely that his secret would
never be discovered. Everybody tried to find it out, and many followed
him secretly when he set forth into the woods; but he was very clever
at dodging them, hiding his treasure constantly in a new place in the
dead of the night. If he had only been content with getting food out of
his pitcher and drinking pure water, all would most likely have been
well with him. But that was just what he could not do. Till he had his
pitcher he had never drunk anything but water, but now he often took
too much wine. It was this which led to the misfortune of losing his
beloved pitcher. He began to boast of his cleverness, telling his
friends there was nothing they wanted that he could not get for them;
and one day when he had given them a very grand feast, in which were
several rare kinds of food they had asked for, he drank too much
wine—so much that he no longer knew what he was saying.

This was the chance his guests wanted. They began teasing him, telling
him they believed he was really a wicked robber, who had stolen the
food or the money to buy it. He got angry, and at last was actually
silly enough to tell them all to come with him, and he would show them
he was no robber. When his wife heard this, she was half pleased to
think that now at last the secret would come out of where the food came
from, and half afraid that something terrible would happen. The
children too were greatly excited, and went with the rest of the party,
who followed their father to the last hiding-place of the precious

When they all got very near the place, however, some idea began to come
into Subha Datta’s head that he was doing a very foolish thing. He
stopped suddenly, turned round facing the crowd that followed him, and
said he would not go a step further till they all went back to the
cottage. His wife begged him to let her at least go with him, and the
children all clamoured not to be sent back, but it was no good. Back
they all had to go, the woodcutter watching till they were out of

23. Would Subha Datta have been wise if he had told has wife about the

24. Do you think it would have been a good or a bad thing for the
secret to be found out?


When the woodcutter was quite sure that every one was gone and nobody
could see where he had hidden the pitcher, he took it from the hole in
which it lay and carried it carefully to his home. You can imagine how
everybody rushed out to meet him when he came in sight, and crowded
round him, so that there was danger of the pitcher being thrown to the
ground and broken. Subha Datta however managed to get into the cottage
without any accident, and then he began to take things out of the
pitcher and fling them on the ground, shouting, “Am I a robber? Am I a
robber? Who dared to call me a robber?” Then, getting more and more
excited, he picked up the pitcher, and holding it on his shoulder began
to dance wildly about. His wife called out to him, “Oh, take care, take
care! You will drop it!” But he paid no attention to her. Suddenly,
however, he began to feel giddy and fell to the ground, dropping the
pitcher as he did so. It was broken to pieces, and a great cry of
sorrow went up from all who saw the accident. The woodcutter himself
was broken-hearted, for he knew that he had done the mischief himself,
and that if only he had resisted the temptation to drink the wine he
would still have his treasure.

He was going to pick up the pieces to see if they could be stuck
together, but to his very great surprise he could not touch them. He
heard a silvery laugh, and what sounded like children clapping their
hands, and he thought he also heard the words, “Our pitcher is ours
again!” Could it all have been a dream? No: for there on the ground
were the fruits and cakes that had been in the pitcher, and there were
his wife, his children and his friends, all looking sadly and angrily
at him. One by one the friends went away, leaving Subha Datta alone
with his family.

25. If you had been Subha Datta’s wife, what would you have done when
this misfortune came to her husband?

26. What would you have done if you had been the woodcutter?


This is the end of the story of the Magic Pitcher, but it was the
beginning of a new chapter in the lives of Subha Datta and his family.
They never forgot the wonder-working pitcher, and the children were
never tired of hearing the story of how their father came to get it.
They often wandered about in the forest, hoping that they too would
meet with some wonderful adventure, but they never saw the fairies or
found a magic pitcher. By slow degrees the woodcutter returned to his
old ways, but he had learnt one lesson. He never again kept a secret
from his wife; because he felt sure that, if he had told her the truth
about the pitcher when he first came home, she would have helped him to
save the precious treasure.

27. What lesson can be learnt from this story?

28. Do you think it is easier for a boy or a girl to keep a secret?

29. Why is it wrong to let out a secret you have been told?

30. What do you think was the chief fault in the character of Subha

The Story of a Cat, a Mouse, a Lizard and an Owl.


This is the story of four creatures, none of whom loved each other, who
lived in the same banyan tree in a forest in India. Banyan trees are
very beautiful and very useful, and get their name from the fact that
“banians,” as merchants are called in India, often gather together in
their shade to sell their goods. Banyan trees grow to a very great
height, spreading their branches out so widely that many people can
stand beneath them. From those branches roots spring forth, which, when
they reach the ground, pierce it, and look like, columns holding up a
roof. If you have never seen a banyan tree, you can easily find a
picture of one in some dictionary; and when you have done so, you will
understand that a great many creatures can live in one without seeing
much of each other.

In an especially fine banyan tree, outside the walls of a town called
Vidisa, a cat, an owl, a lizard and a mouse, had all taken up their
abode. The cat lived in a big hole in the trunk some little distance
from the ground, where she could sleep very cosily, curled up out of
sight with her head resting on her forepaws, feeling perfectly safe
from harm; for no other creature, she thought, could possibly discover
her hiding-place. The owl roosted in a mass of foliage at the top of
the tree, near the nest in which his wife had brought up their
children, before those children flew away to seek mates for themselves.
He too felt pretty secure as long as he remained up there; but he had
seen the cat prowling about below him more than once, and was very sure
that, if she should happen to catch sight of him when he was off his
guard seeking his prey and obliged to give all his attention to what he
was doing, she might spring out upon him and kill him. Cats do not
generally attack such big birds as owls, but they will sometimes kill a
mother sitting in her nest, as well as the little ones, if the father
is too far off to protect them.

The lizard loved to lie and bask in the sunshine, catching the flies on
which he lived, lying so still that they did not notice him, and
darting out his long tongue suddenly to suck them into his mouth. Yet
he hid from the owl and the cat, because he knew full well that, tough
though he was, they would gobble him up if they happened to be hungry.
He made his home amongst the roots on the south side of the tree where
it was hottest, but the mouse had his hole on the other side amongst
damp moss and dead leaves. The mouse was in constant fear of the cat
and the owl. He knew that both of them could see in the dark, and he
would have no chance of escape if they once caught sight of him.

1. Which of these four creatures do you think was most to be pitied?

2. Do you think that animals ever hate or love each as human creatures


The lizard and the mouse could only get food in daylight; but the
lizard did not have to go far for the flies on which he lived, whilst
the mouse had a very dangerous journey to take to his favourite feeding
place. This was a barley field a short distance from the banyan tree,
where he loved to nibble the full ears, running up the stalks to get at
them. The mouse was the only one of the four creatures in the banyan
tree who did not feed on others; for, like the rest of his family, he
was a vegetarian, that is to say, he ate nothing but vegetables and

Now the cat knew full well how fond the mouse was of the barley-field,
and she used to keep watch amongst the tall stems, creeping stealthily
about with her tail in the air and her green eyes glistening, expecting
any moment to see the poor little mouse darting hastily along. The cat
never dreamt that any danger could come to her, and she trod down the
barley, making quite a clear path through it. She was quite wrong in
thinking herself so safe, for that path got her into very serious

It so happened that a hunter, whose great delight was to kill wild
creatures, and who was very clever in finding them, noticing every
little thing which could shew him where they had passed by, came one
day into the barley-field. He spied the path directly and cried, “Ha!
ha! Some wild animal has been here; not a very big one; let’s have a
look for the footprints!” So he stooped down to the ground, and very
soon saw the marks of pussy’s feet. “A cat, I do believe,” he said to
himself, “spoiling the barley she doesn’t want to eat herself. I’ll
soon pay her out.” The hunter waited until the evening lest the
creature should see what he was going to do, and then in the twilight
he set snares all over the barley-field. A snare, you know, is a string
with a slip-knot at the end of it; and if an animal puts his head or
one of his paws into this slip-knot and goes on without noticing it,
the string is pulled tight and the poor creature cannot get free.

3. Was it right or wrong of the hunter to set the snare?

4. Do you think the cat was wrong to lie in wait for the mouse?


Exactly what the hunter expected happened. The cat came as usual to
watch for the mouse, and caught sight of him running across the end of
the path. Puss dashed after him; and just as she thought she really had
got him this time, she found herself caught by the neck, for she had
put her head into one of the snares. She was nearly strangled and could
scarcely even mew. The mouse was so close that he heard the feeble mew,
and in a terrible fright, thinking the cat was after him, he peeped
through the stems of the barley to make sure which way to run to get
away from her. What was his delight when he saw his enemy in such
trouble and quite unable to do him any harm!

Now it so happened that the owl and the lizard were also in the
barley-field, not very far away from the cat, and they too saw the
distress their hated enemy was in. They also caught sight of the little
mouse peeping through the barley; and the owl thought to himself, “I’ll
have you, my little friend, now puss cannot do me any harm,” whilst the
lizard darted away into the sunshine, feeling glad that the cat and the
owl were neither of them now likely to trouble their heads about him.
The owl flew quietly to a tree hard by to watch what would happen,
feeling so sure of having the mouse for his dinner that he was in no
hurry to catch him.

5. What would you have done if you had been the mouse, when you saw the
cat in the snare?

6. Was the owl wise or foolish to wait before he caught the mouse?


The mouse, small and helpless though he was, was a wise little
creature. He saw the owl fly up into the tree, and knew quite well that
if he did not take care he would serve as dinner to that great strong
bird. He knew too that, if he went within reach of the claws of the
cat, he would suffer for it. “How I do wish,” he thought to himself, “I
could make friends with the cat, now she is in distress, and get her to
promise not to hurt me if ever she gets free. As long as I am near the
cat, the owl will not dare to come after me.” As he thought and
thought, his eyes got brighter and brighter, and at last he decided
what he would do. He had, you see, kept his presence of mind; that is
to say, he did not let his fright of the cat or the owl prevent him
from thinking clearly. He now ventured forth from amongst the barley,
and coming near enough to the cat for her to see him quite clearly, but
not near enough for her to reach him with her claws, or far enough away
for the owl to get him without danger from those terrible claws, he
said to the cat in a queer little squeaky voice: “Dear Puss, I do not
like to see you in such a fix. It is true we have never been exactly
friends, but I have always looked up to you as a strong and noble
enemy. If you will promise never to do me any harm, I will do my best
to help you. I have very sharp teeth, and I might perhaps be able to
nibble through the string round your beautiful neck and set you free.
What do you think about it?”

7. Do you think there was any chance of a cat and a mouse becoming real

8. Can you give two or three instances you know of presence of mind in


When the cat heard what the mouse said, she could hardly believe her
ears. She was of course ready to promise anything to anyone who would
help her, so she said at once:

“You dear little mouse, to wish to help me. If only you will nibble
through that string which is killing me, I promise that I will always
love you, always be your friend, and however hungry I may be, I will
starve rather than hurt your tender little body.”

On hearing this, the mouse, without hesitating a moment, climbed up on
to the cat’s back, and cuddled down in the soft fur near her neck,
feeling very safe and warm there. The owl would certainly not attack
him there, he thought, and the cat could not possibly hurt him. It was
one thing to pounce down on a defenceless little creature running on
the ground amongst the barley, quite another to try and snatch him from
the very neck of a cat.

The cat of course expected the mouse to begin to nibble through the
string at once, and became very uneasy when she felt the little
creature nestle down as if to go to sleep, instead of helping her. Poor
Pussy could not turn her head so as to see the mouse without drawing
the string tighter, and she did not dare to speak angrily lest she
should offend him. “My dear little friend,” she said, “do you not think
it is high time to keep your promise and set me free?”

Hearing this, the mouse pretended to bite the string, but took care not
to do so really; and the cat waited and waited, getting more miserable
every minute. All through the long night the same thing went on: the
mouse taking a little nap now and then, the cat getting weaker and
weaker. “Oh,” she thought to herself, “if only I could get free, the
first thing I would do would be to gobble up that horrid little mouse.”
The moon rose, the stars came out, the wind murmured amongst the
branches of the banyan tree, making the unfortunate cat long to be safe
in her cosy home in the trunk. The cries of the wild animals which
prowl about at night seeking their food were heard, and the cat feared
one of them might find her and kill her. A mother tiger perhaps would
snatch her, and take her to her hungry cubs, hidden away in the deep
forest, or a bird of prey might swoop down on her and grip her in his
terrible claws. Again and again she entreated the mouse to be quick,
promising that, if only he would set her at liberty, she would never,
never, never forget it or do any harm to her beloved friend.

9. What do you suppose the mouse was thinking all this time?

10. If you had been the mouse, would you have trusted to what the cat
said in her misery?


It was not until the moon had set and the light of the dawn had put out
that of the stars that the mouse, made any real effort to help the cat.
By this time the hunter who had set the snare came to see if he had
caught the cat; and the poor cat, seeing him in the distance, became so
wild with terror that she nearly killed herself in the struggle to get
away. “Keep still! keep still,” cried the mouse, “and I will really
save you.” Then with a few quick bites with his sharp teeth he cut
through the string, and the next moment the cat was hidden amongst the
barley, and the mouse was running off in the opposite direction,
determined to keep well out of sight of the creature he had kept in
such misery for so many hours. Full well he knew that all the cat’s
promises would be forgotten, and that she would eat him up if she could
catch him. The owl too flew away, and the lizard went off to hunt flies
in the sunshine, and there was not a sign of any of the four
inhabitants of the banyan tree when the hunter reached the snare. He
was very much surprised and puzzled to find the string hanging loose in
two pieces, and no sign of there having been anything caught in it,
except two white hairs lying on the ground close to the trap. He had a
good look round, and then went home without having found out anything.

When the hunter was quite out of sight, the cat came forth from the
barley, and hastened back to her beloved home in the banyan tree. On
her way there she spied the mouse also hurrying along in the same
direction, and at first she felt inclined to hunt him and eat him then
and there. On second thoughts however she decided to try and keep
friends with him, because he might help her again if she got caught a
second time. So she took no notice of the mouse until the next day,
when she climbed down the tree and went to the roots in which she knew
the mouse was hidden. There she began to purr as loud as she could, to
show the mouse she was in a good humour, and called out, “Dear good
little mouse, come out of your hole and let me tell you how very, very
grateful I am to you for saving my life. There is nothing in the world
I will not do for you, if you will only be friends with me.”

The mouse only squeaked in answer to this speech, and took very good
care not to show himself, till he was quite sure the cat was gone
beyond reach of him. He stayed quietly in his hole, and only ventured
forth after he had heard the cat climb up into the tree again. “It is
all very well,” thought the mouse, “to pretend to make friends with an
enemy when that enemy is helpless, but I should indeed be a silly mouse
to trust a cat when she is free to kill me.”

The cat made a good many other efforts to be friends with the mouse,
but they were all unsuccessful. In the end the owl caught the mouse,
and the cat killed the lizard. The owl and the cat both lived for the
rest of their lives in the banyan tree, and died in the end at a good
old age.

11. Do you think it is ever possible to make a real friend of an enemy?

12. What do you think the mouse deserved most praise for in his

13. Which of the four animals in this story do you like best and which
do you dislike most?

14. Can an animal be blamed for acting according to its nature? For
instance, can you call it cruel for a cat or an owl to kill and eat a

15. Is it always right to forgive an injury?

16. Can you give an example from history of the forgiveness of an

A Royal Thief-Catcher.


In one of the smaller cities of India called Sravasti the people
gathered together on a very hot day to stare at and talk about a
stranger, who had come in to the town, looking very weary and walking
with great difficulty because his feet were sore with tramping for a
long distance on the rough roads. He was a Brahman, that is to say, a
man who devoted his whole life to prayer, and had promised to give up
everything for the sake of pleasing the god in whom he believed, and to
care nothing for comfort, for riches, or for good food.

This Brahman carried nothing with him but a staff to help him along,
and a bowl in which to receive the offerings of those who thought it
their duty to help him and hoped by doing so to win favour in the sight
of God. He was naked, except for a cloth worn about his loins, and his
long hair was all matted together for want of combing and brushing. He
made his way very slowly and painfully through the crowds, till he came
to a shady corner, and there he sank down exhausted, holding out his
bowl for the gifts of the people. Very soon his bowl would have been
full of all sorts of good things, but he made it clear that he would
accept nothing to eat except rice still in the husk, and nothing to
drink but pure water. He was however willing to take money; and when
the people who wished to help him found that out, they brought him a
good many silver and gold pieces. Some who had no money to spare gave
him jewels and other things which could be sold for money.

1. Can you explain why the Brahman would only accept such food as rice
in the husk and water?

2. Do you think it was right or wrong of the Brahman to take money and


As time went on, the Brahman became very well known in Sravasti. His
fame indeed spread far beyond the town, and people came from far away
to consult him about all sorts of things, and he gave them good advice,
for he was a very wise man. Those who wanted him to tell them what to
do paid him for his advice, and as some of them had plenty of money and
were glad to help him, he soon became quite rich. He might have done a
great deal of good with all this money by helping the poor and
suffering, but unfortunately he never thought of doing so. Instead of
that, he got to love the money for its own sake. At night, when all
those who had come to see him had gone to rest, and there was no fear
of his being found out, he used to steal away into the forest, and
there he dug a deep hole at the root of a great tree, to which he took
all his money and jewels.

In India everybody has a siesta, that is to say, a sleep in the middle
of the day, because the heat is so great it is difficult to keep well
and strong without this extra rest. So, although it is quite light at
the time, the streets are deserted, except for the dogs who prowl
about, trying to find something to eat. Now the Brahman loved his money
and other treasures so much, that he used very often to do without this
siesta and go to the forest to enjoy the pleasure of looking at them.
When he got to the tree, he would bend down, clear away the earth and
leaves with which he had hidden his secret hole, take out the money and
let it slip through his fingers, and hold up the jewels to the light,
to watch how they gleamed and glistened. He was never so happy as when
he was alone with his riches, and it was all he could do to tear
himself away from them when the time came to go back to his shady
corner. In fact he was becoming a selfish miser instead of the holy man
the people of Sravasti thought he was. By the time the siesta was over
he was always back again in his place beneath the tree, holding out his
bowl and looking as poor and thin as ever, so that nobody had the least
idea of the truth.

3. Why was it wrong for the Brahman to hide away his money and jewels?

4. Can anyone be a miser about other things as well as money and
jewels? If so, what other things?


For many months the Brahman led this double life; until one day, when
he went as usual to his hiding-place, he saw at once that some one had
been there before him. Eagerly he knelt down, full of fear of exactly
what had actually happened. All his care in concealing the hole had
been wasted, for it was quite empty. The poor man could not at first
believe his own eyes. He rubbed them hard, thinking that there was
something the matter with them. Then he felt round and round the hole,
hoping that after all he was mistaken; and when at last he was obliged
to believe the terrible truth that there really was not a sign of his
money and jewels, he became almost mad with misery. He began to run
from tree to tree, peering into their roots, and when there was nothing
to be seen, he rushed back again to his empty hole, to look into it
once more. Then he wept and tore at his hair, stamped about and cried
aloud to all the gods he believed in, making all kinds of promises, of
what he would do if only they would give him back his treasures. No
answer came, and he began to wonder who could have done such a terrible
thing. It must, he felt sure, have been one of the people of Sravasti;
and he now remembered he had noticed that a good many of them had
looked into his bowl with longing eyes, when they saw the money and
precious stones in it. “What horrible, wicked people they are,” he said
to himself. “I hate them. I should like to hurt them as they have hurt
me.” As he thought in this way he got more and more angry, until he
became quite worn out with giving way to his rage.

5. What would you have done if you had been the Brahman when he lost
his treasure?

6. Is it wrong to be angry when any one has done you an injury?


After roaming about in the forest for a long time, the Brahman went
back to the house in Sravasti where some kind people had lent him a
room, glad and proud to have such a holy man, as they thought he was,
living under their roof. He felt sure they had had nothing to do with
the loss of his treasure, because they had given him many proofs of
their goodness and honesty. Soon he was pouring out all his grief to
them, and they did all they could to comfort him, telling him that he
would very soon have plenty more money and jewels. They let him see
however that they thought it was mean of him to hide away his riches,
instead of using them to help the poor and suffering; and this added
very much to his rage. At last he lost all self-control and cried, “It
is not worth while for me to live any longer. I will go to some holy
place of pilgrimage by the banks of the river, and there I will starve
myself to death.”

A place of pilgrimage, you know, is one where some great event,
generally connected with religion, has taken place, to which pilgrims
go to pray in the hope of winning some special favour from God. The
word pilgrim means a wanderer, but it has come in course of time to
signify any traveller who comes from a distance to some such place.
Benares in India is a very famous place of pilgrimage, because it is on
the River Ganges, which the Hindus worship and love, believing that its
waters can wash away their sins. Hundreds and thousands of Hindus go
there every year to bathe in it, and many who know that they have not
long to live wait on its banks to die, so that after their bodies have
been burnt, as is the custom with the Hindus, their ashes may be thrown
into the sacred stream.

7. Can you name two other places of pilgrimage, one held sacred by
Christians and one by Hindus?

8. Will you explain exactly why the two places you have thought of are
considered holy?


The news of the Brahman’s loss spread very quickly through Sravasti;
and as is so often the case, every one who told the story made it a
little different, so that it became very difficult to know what the
truth really was. There was great distress in the town, because the
people thought the Brahman would go away, and they did not want him to
do that. They were proud of having a man they thought so holy, living
amongst them, and ashamed that he should have been robbed whilst he was
with them. When they heard that he meant to starve himself to death,
they were dreadfully shocked, and determined to do all they possibly
could to prevent it. One after another of the chief men of Sravasti
came to see him, and entreated him not to be in such a hurry to be sure
that his treasure would never be found. They said they would all do
everything they possibly could to get it back for him. Some of them
thought it was very wrong of him to make such a fuss about it, and
blamed him for being a miser. They told him it was foolish to care so
much for what he could not take with him when he died, and one
specially wise old man gave him a long lecture on the wickedness of
taking away the life which had been given to him by God to prepare for
that in the other world. “Put the idea of starving yourself out of your
head,” he said, “and whilst we are seeking your treasure, go on as you
did before you lost it. Next time you have any money and jewels, turn
them to good account instead of hoarding them up.”

9. Do you think the Brahman was of any real use to the people of

10. In what qualities do you think the Brahman was wanting when he made
up his mind to starve himself to death?


In spite of all that any one could say to him, the Brahman was quite
determined that he would not live any longer. He set off to the place
of pilgrimage he had chosen, taking no notice of any one he met, but
just marching steadily on. At first a number of people followed him,
but by degrees they left off doing so, and soon he was quite alone.
Presently however he could not help noticing a man approaching from the
direction in which he was going. Very tall, very handsome, very
dignified, this man was one whom no one could fail to admire, even if
he had been only an ordinary person. But he was the king of the whole
country, whose name was Prasnajit; and a little distance behind him
were a number of his attendants, waiting to obey his orders. Everybody,
even the Brahman, loved the king, because he took such a very great
interest in his people and was always trying to do them good. He had
heard all about the loss of the money, and was very much vexed that
such a thing should have happened in his land. He had also heard that
the Brahman meant to kill himself, and this distressed him more than
anything else, because he thought it a very wicked and terrible thing
to do.

The king stood so exactly in the path of the Brahman that it was
impossible to pass him by without taking any notice of him, and the
unhappy man stood still, hanging down his head and looking very
miserable. Without waiting for a moment, Prasnajit said to the Brahman:
“Do not grieve any more. I will find your treasure for you, and give it
back to you; or if I fail to do so I will pay you as much as it was
worth out of my own purse: for I cannot bear to think of your killing
yourself. Now tell me very carefully where you hid your gold and
jewels, and everything about the place, to help me to make sure of it.”

The Brahman was greatly delighted to hear this, because he knew full
well that the king would keep his word, and that, even if his own
treasure was never found, he would have plenty of money given to him by
the king. He at once told Prasnajit exactly where he had put his store,
and offered to take him there. The king agreed to go with him at once,
and he and the Brahman went straight away to the big hole in the
forest, the attendants following them a little way behind.

11. If you had been the king, how would you have set about finding the

12. Was it a good or a bad thing for the Brahman to have secured the
help of the king?


After the king had seen the big empty hole, and noticed exactly where
it was, and the nearest way to it from the town, he returned to his
palace, first telling the Brahman to go back to the house he lived in,
and wait there till he received a message from him. He promised to see
that he wanted for nothing, and sent one of his attendants to a rich
merchant of Sravasti, who had already done a good deal for the Brahman,
to order him to supply the holy man with all he needed. Very glad that
after all he was not going to die, the Brahman obeyed willingly, and
for the next few days he was taken care of by the merchant, who
supplied him with plenty of food.

As soon as Prasnajit was back in his palace, he pretended that he was
taken suddenly ill. His head ached badly, he said, and he could not
make out what was the matter with him. He ordered a proclamation to be
sent all round the town, telling all the doctors to come to the palace
to see him. All the doctors in the place at once hastened to obey, each
of them hoping that he would be the one to cure the king and win a
great reward. So many were they that the big reception room was full of
them, and they all glared at each other so angrily that the attendants
kept careful watch lest they should begin to fight. One at a time they
were taken to the king’s private room, but very much to their surprise
and disappointment he seemed quite well and in no need of help from
them. Instead of talking about his own illness, he asked each doctor
who his patients were in the town, and what medicines he was giving to
them. Of course Prasnajit’s questions were carefully answered; but the
king said nothing more, just waving his hand to shew that the interview
was at an end. Then the attendants led the visitor out. At last however
a doctor came, who said something which led the king to keep him longer
than he had kept any of the others. This doctor was a very famous
healer who had saved the lives of many of Prasnajit’s subjects. He told
the king that a merchant named Matri-Datta was very ill, suffering
greatly, but that he hoped to cure him by giving him the juice of a
certain plant called nagaballa. At the time this story was written,
doctors in India did not give their patients medicine, or write
prescriptions for them to take to chemists to be made up, because there
were no chemists in those days, such as there are in all the towns of
Europe, who keep the materials in stock for making medicines. A doctor
just said to his patient, “you must take the juice of this or that
plant”; and the suffering person had to go into the fields or woods to
find the plant or else to send a servant to do so.

When the king heard that the doctor had ordered Matri-Datta to take the
juice of the nagaballa plant, he cried “No more doctors need come to
see me!” and after sending away the one who had told him what he wanted
to know, he gave orders that Matri-Datta should be sent for at once.

13. Can you guess why the king sent for the doctors?

14. Do you think Matri-Datta had anything to do with stealing the
Brahman’s treasure?


Ill and suffering though he was, Matri-Datta did not dare disobey the
king: so he came at once. As soon as he appeared, Prasnajit asked him
how he was, and said he was sorry to have to make him leave his home
when he was ill, but the matter on which he wished to see him was of
very great importance. Then he suddenly added: “When your doctor
ordered you to take the juice of the nagaballa plant whom did you send
to find it?”

To this Matri-Datta replied trembling with fear: “My servant, O king,
sought it in the forest; and having found it, brought it to me.”

“Go back and send that servant to me immediately,” was the reply; and
the merchant hurried away, wondering very much why the king wanted to
see the man, and hoping that he himself would not get into disgrace on
account of anything he had done to make Prasnajit angry.

15. Have you any idea why the king wanted the servant sent to him?

16. From what the story tells you so far, do you think Prasnajit was a
good ruler of his kingdom?


When Matri-Datta told his servant that he was to go to the palace to
see the king, the man was dreadfully frightened, and begged his master
not to make him go. This made Matri-Datta pretty sure that he had done
something wrong and was afraid of being found out. “Go at once,” he
said, “and whatever you do, speak the truth to the king. That will be
your only chance if you have offended him.” Again and again the servant
entreated Matri-Datta not to insist, and when he found it was no good,
he asked him at least to come with him to the palace and plead for him
with Prasnajit. The merchant knew then for certain that something was
seriously wrong, and he consented to go to the palace with his servant,
partly out of curiosity and partly out of fear for himself. When the
two got to the palace, the attendants at once led the servant to the
presence of the king, but they would not let the master go with him.

Directly the servant entered the room and saw the king sitting on his
throne, he fell upon his face at the foot of the steps, crying, “Mercy!
mercy!” He was right to be afraid, for Prasnajit said to him in a loud
voice: “Where are the gold and the jewels you took from the hole in the
roots of a tree when you went to find the nagaballa plant for your
master?” The servant, who really had taken the money and jewels, was so
terrified when he found that the king knew the truth, that he had not a
word to say at first, but just remained lying on the ground, trembling
all over. Prasnajit too was silent, and the attendants waiting for
orders behind the throne looked on, wondering what would happen now.

17. Have you guessed what the nagaballa plant had to do with finding
out who had stolen the money and jewels?

18. If you had been the king, what punishment would you have ordered
for the thief?


When the silence had lasted about ten minutes, the thief raised his
head from the ground and looked at the king, who still said not a word.
Something in his face however made the wicked servant hope that he
would not be punished by death in spite of the great wrong he had done.
The king looked very stern, it is true, but not enraged against him. So
the servant rose to his feet, and clasping his hands together as he
held them up to Prasnajit, said in a trembling voice: “I will fetch the
treasure, I will fetch the treasure.” “Go then at once,” said the king,
“and bring it here”: and as he said it, there was a beautiful
expression in his eyes, which made the thief more sorry for what he had
done than he would have been if Prasnajit had said, “Off with his
head!” or had ordered him to be beaten.

19. What do you think is the best way to make wicked people good?

20. What is the most powerful reason a man or woman or a child can have
for trying to be good?


As soon as the king said, “Go at once,” the servant started to his feet
and hastened away, as eager now to restore what he had stolen as he had
been to hide it. He had put it in another hole in the very depths of
the forest; and it was a long time before he got back to the palace
with it, for it was very heavy. He had thought the king would send some
guards with him, to see that he did not run away, and that they would
have helped him to carry the sack full of gold and jewels; but nobody
followed him. It was hard work to drag the heavy load all the way
alone; but at last, quite late in the evening, he was back at the
palace gates. The soldiers standing there let him pass without a word,
and soon he was once more in the room in which the king had received
him. Prasnajit still sat on his throne, and the attendants still waited
behind him, when the thief, so tired he could hardly stand, once more
lay prostrate at the bottom of the steps leading up to the throne, with
the sack beside him. How his heart did beat as he waited for what the
king would say! It seemed a very long time before Prasnajit spoke,
though it was only two or three minutes; and when he did, this is what
he said, “Go back to your home now, and be a thief no more.”

Very, very thankfully the man obeyed, scarcely able to believe that he
was free to go and that he was not to be terribly punished. Never again
in the rest of his life did he take what did not belong to him, and he
was never tired of telling his children and his friends of the goodness
of the king who had forgiven him.

21. Do you think it would have been better for the thief to have been

22. What lesson did the thief learn from what had happened to him?


The Brahman, who had spent the time of waiting in prayers that his
treasure should be given back to him, and was still determined that, if
it were not, he would starve himself to death, was full of delight when
he heard that it had been found. He hastened to the palace and was
taken before the king, who said to him: “There is your treasure. Take
it away, and make a better use of it than before. If you lose it again,
I shall not try to recover it for you.”

The Brahman, glad as he was to have his money and jewels restored, did
not like to be told by the king to make a better use of them. Besides
this he wanted to have the thief punished; and he began talking about
that, instead of thanking Prasnajit and promising to follow his advice.
The king looked at him much as he had looked at the thief and said:
“The matter is ended so far as I have anything to do with it: go in

The Brahman, who was accustomed to be honoured by every one from the
king on his throne to the beggars in the street, was astonished at the
way in which Prasnajit spoke to him. He would have said more, but the
king made a sign to his attendants, two of whom dragged the sack to the
entrance of the palace and left it there, so that there was nothing for
the Brahman to do but to take it away with him. Every one who has read
this wonderful story would, of courses like to know what became of him
after that, but nothing more is told about him.

23. Do you think that the Brahman learnt anything from his loss and
recovery of his treasure?

24. Was the Brahman more wicked than, the thief or the thief than the

25. Do you think the Brahman continued to be a miser for the rest of
his life?

26. What were the chief characteristics of the king—that is to say,
what sort of man do you think he was?

27. Which of the people who are spoken of in this story do you like and
admire most, and which do you dislike most?

The Magic Shoes and Staff.


Far, far away in a town of India called Chinchini, where in days long
gone by the ancient gods in whom the people believed are said sometimes
to have appeared to those who called upon them for help, there lived
three brothers of noble birth, who had never known what it was to want
for food, or clothes, or a house to live in. Each was married to a wife
he loved, and for many years they were all as happy as the day was
long. Presently however a great misfortune in which they all shared
befell their native country. There was no rain for many, many weeks;
and this is a very serious thing in a hot country like India, because,
when it does not rain for a long time, the ground becomes so parched
and hard that nothing can grow in it. The sun is very much stronger in
India than it is in England; and it sent forth its burning rays, drying
up all the water in the tanks and changing what had been a beautiful
country, covered with green crops good for food, into a dreary desert,
where neither men nor animals could get anything to eat. The result of
this was that there was a terrible famine, in which hundreds of people
and animals died, little children being the first to suffer.

Now the three brothers, who had none of them any children, got
frightened at the state of things, and thought to themselves, “If we do
not escape from this dreadful land, we shall die.” They said to each
other: “Let us flee away from here, and go somewhere where we are sure
of being able to get plenty to eat and drink. We will not take our
wives with us; they would only make things worse for us; let us leave
them to look after themselves.”

1. What do you think of the behaviour of the three brothers? Was there
any excuse for their leaving their wives behind them?

2. Do you think the wives themselves can have been to blame in any way
in the matter?


So the three wives were deserted, and had to manage as best they could
without their husbands, who did not even trouble to wish them goodbye.
The wives were at first very sad and lonely, but presently a great joy
came to one of them which made the other two very happy as well. This
joy was the birth of a little boy, whose two aunts loved him almost as
much as his mother did. The story does not tell how they all got food
whilst the famine was going on, though it is very evident that they
were not starved, for the baby boy grew fast and was a strong healthy
little fellow.

One night all the three wives had the same dream, a very wonderful one,
in which the god Siva, who is very much honoured in India, appeared to
them. He told them that, looking down from Heaven, he had noticed how
tenderly they cared for the new-born baby, and that he wished them to
call him Putraka. Besides this he astonished them by adding that, as a
reward for the unselfish way in which they had behaved, they would find
one hundred thousand gold pieces under the little child’s pillow every
morning, and that one day that little child would be a king.

3. Do you think the three women wanted to be rewarded for loving the

4. Is it a good thing to have a great deal of money?


The wonderful dream was fulfilled, and the mother and aunts called the
boy Putraka. Every morning they found the gold pieces under his pillow,
and they took care of the money for him, so that when he grew up he was
the very richest man in the whole country. He had a happy childhood and
boyhood, his only trouble being that he did not like having never seen
his father. His mother told him about the famine before he was born,
and how his father and uncles had gone away and never come back. He
often said, “When I am a man I will find my father and bring him home
again.” He used his money to help others, and one of the best things he
did was to irrigate the land; that is to say, he made canals into which
water was made to flow in times when there was plenty of rain, so that
there was no danger of there being another famine, such as that which
had driven his father and uncles away. The country in which he lived
became very fruitful; everybody had enough to eat and drink; and
Putraka was very much loved, especially by the poor and unhappy. When
the king who ruled over the land died, everybody wanted Putraka to take
his place, and he was chosen at once.

5. Will you describe the kind of man you think Putraka was?

6. Do you know of any other country besides India in which everything
depends on irrigation?


One of the other wise things Putraka did, when he became king, was to
make great friends with his Brahman subjects. Brahmans are always very
fond of travelling, and Putraka thought, if he were good and generous
to them, they would talk about him wherever they went, and that perhaps
through them his father and uncles would hear about him. He felt sure
that, if they knew he was now a king ruling over their native land,
they would want to come back. He gave the Brahmans plenty of money, and
told them to try and find his father and uncles. If they did, they were
to say how anxious he was to see them, and promise them everything they
wanted, if only they would return.

7. Do you think it was wise of Putraka to be so anxious to get his
father and uncles back, when he knew how selfish they had been in
leaving his mother and aunts behind them?

8. Can you suggest anything else Putraka might have done in the matter?


Just what the young king hoped came to pass. Wherever the Brahmans went
they talked about the country they came from and the wonderful young
king who ruled over it. Putraka’s father and uncles, who were after all
not so very far off, heard the stories about him, and asked the
Brahmans many questions. The answers made them very eager to see
Putraka, but they did not at first realize that he was closely related
to them. Only when they heard the name of his mother did they guess the
truth. Putraka’s father knew, when he deserted his wife, that God was
going to give her a child soon; which made it even more wicked of him
to leave her. Now, however, he forgot all about that, only thinking how
he could make as much use as possible of the son who had become a king.
He wanted to go back at once alone, but the uncles were not going to
allow that. They meant to get all they could out of Putraka too; and
the three selfish men, who were now quite old, set off together for the
land they had left so long ago.

They arrived safely, and made their way to the palace, where they were
received, with great rejoicings. None of the wives said a word of
reproach to the husbands who had deserted them; and as for Putraka, he
was so overjoyed at having his father back, that he gave him a
beautiful house to live in and a great deal of money. He was very good
to his uncles too, and felt that he had now really nothing left to wish

9. Do you think Putraka showed strength or weakness of character in the
way he received the travellers?

10. How do you think the king ought to have behaved to his father and


The three wives very soon had good reason to wish their husbands had
stayed away. Instead of being grateful for all Putraka’s generosity,
they were very unkind and exacting, never pleased with anything; and
whatever they had given them, they were always trying to get more. In
fact, they were silly as well as wicked; for they did not realize that
this was not the way to make the king love them or wish to keep them
with him. Presently they became jealous of Putraka, and began to wish
to get rid of him. His father hated to feel that his son was king,
whilst he was only one of that king’s subjects; and he made up his mind
to kill him, hoping that if he could only get rid of him he might rule
over the country in his stead. He thought and thought how best to
manage this, and did not at first mean to tell his brothers anything
about it; but in the end he decided he had better have them on his
side. So he invited them to go with him to a secret place to talk the
matter over.

11. What qualities did Putraka’s father show in this plot against his

12. Was there any other way in which the king’s father could have
gained a share in governing the land?


After many meetings the three wicked men decided that they would pay
some one to kill the king, first making the murderer they chose swear
that he would never tell who had ordered him to do the terrible deed.
It was not very difficult to find a man bad enough to take money for
such an evil purpose, and the next thing to do was to decide where and
when the deed was to be done. Putraka had been very well brought up by
his mother, and he often went to a beautiful temple near his palace to
pray alone. He would sometimes stop there a long time, winning fresh
wisdom and strength to do the work he was trusted with, and praying not
only for himself, but for his father, his mother, his aunts and uncles,
and for the people he loved so much.

The murderer was told to wait in this temple, and when the young king
was absorbed in prayer, to fall suddenly upon him and kill him. Then,
when Putraka was dead, he was to take his body and bury it far away in
the depths of the forest where it could never be found. At first it
seemed likely that this cruel plot would succeed. To make quite sure,
the murderer got two other men as wicked as himself to come and help
him, promising to give them a share in the reward. But the god who had
taken care of Putraka ever since he was born, did not forget him now.
As the young king prayed, forgetting everything in his earnest pleading
for those he loved, he did not see or hear the evil men drawing
stealthily close to him. Their arms were uplifted to slay him, and the
gleam of the weapons in the light that was always kept burning flashed
upon him, when suddenly the heavenly guardian of the temple, who never
left it day or night, but was generally invisible, appeared and cast a
spell upon the wicked men, whose hands were arrested in the very act to

What a wonderful sight that must have been, when Putraka, disturbed in
his prayers, looked round and saw the men who had come to kill him,
with the shadowy form of the guardian threatening them! He knew at once
that he had been saved from a dreadful death by a messenger from the
god he had been worshipping. As he gazed at the men, the guardian faded
away and he was left alone with them. Slowly the spell cast on them was
broken, and they dropped their weapons, prostrated themselves, and
clasped their hands in an appeal for mercy to the man they had meant to
destroy. Putraka looked at them quietly and sadly. He felt no anger
against them, only a great thankfulness for his escape. He spoke to the
men very sternly, asking them why they wished to harm him; and the
chief murderer told him who had sent them.

The knowledge that his father wished to kill him shocked and grieved
the young king terribly, but he controlled himself even when he learnt
the sad truth. He told the men that he forgave them, for they were not
the most to blame; and he made them promise never to betray who had
bribed them to kill him. He then gave them some money and told them to
leave him.

13. What do you think the most beautiful incident in this account of
the scene in the temple?

14. What do you suppose were the thoughts of the murderers when they
left the temple after Putraka forgave them?


When Putraka was alone, he threw himself upon the ground and wept very
bitterly. He felt that he could never be happy again, never trust
anyone again. He had so loved his father and uncles. It had been such a
joy to him to give them pleasure, and yet they hated him and wished to
kill him. He wondered whether he was himself to blame for what had
happened, and began to think he was not worthy to be king, if he could
make such a mistake as he now feared he had made in being so generous
to those who could have such hard thoughts of him as to want to take
his life. Perhaps after all it would be better for his country to have
another king. He did not feel as if he could go back to his palace and
meet his father and uncles again. “What shall I do? What shall I do?”
he cried, his sobs choking his voice. Never in all his life had he
thought it possible to be so miserable as he was now. Everything seemed
changed and he felt as if he were himself a different person. The only
thing that comforted him at all was the thought of his mother, whose
love had never failed him; but even that was spoiled by the remembrance
that it was her husband who had wished to kill him. She must never know
that, for it would break her heart: yet how could he keep it from her?
Then the idea came to him that the best thing he could do would be to
go away and never see his own people again.

15. What do you think was wrong in Putraka’s way of looking at the

16. Was his idea of leaving his country and his people a sign of
weakness or of strength?


In the end the poor young king decided that he would go right away as
his father and uncles had done; and his mind being made up, he became
more cheerful and began to think he might meet with some interesting
adventures in a new country, where nobody knew anything about him. As
soon as it was light, he wandered off into the forest, feeling, it is
true, very lonely, but at the same time taking a certain pleasure in
being entirely his own master; which a king can never really be,
because he has to consider so many other people and to keep so many

After all Putraka did not find the forest so very lonely; for he had
not gone far in it before his sad thoughts were broken in upon by his
coming suddenly to a little clearing, where the trees had been cut down
and two strong-looking men were wrestling together. The king watched
them for a little while, wondering what they were fighting about. Then
he called out, “What are you doing here? What are you quarrelling

The men were greatly surprised to hear Putraka’s voice, for they
thought that they were quite alone. They stopped fighting for a minute
or two, and one of them said: “We are fighting for three very precious
things which were left behind him by our father.”

“What are those things?” asked Putraka.

“A bowl, a stick and a pair of shoes,” was the reply. “Whoever wins the
fight will get them all. There they lie on the ground.”

“Well, I never!” cried the king, laughing as he looked at the things,
which seemed to him worth very little. “I shouldn’t trouble to fight
about such trifles, if I were you.”

“Trifles!” exclaimed one of the men angrily. “You don’t know what you
are talking about. They are worth more than their weight in gold.
Whoever gets the bowl will find plenty of food in it whenever he wants
it; the owner of the stick has only to write his wishes on the ground
with it and he will get them; and whoever puts on the shoes can fly
through the air in them to any distance.”

17. Which of these things would you rather have had?

18. What lesson do you learn from what the men said about the things on
the ground?


When Putraka heard the wonders which, could be done with what he had
thought not worth having, he determined to get possession of the three
treasures for himself; not considering that it would be very wrong to
take what did not belong to him. “It seems a pity to fight,” he said,
“why don’t you race for the things, and let whichever wins the race
have them? That banyan tree over there would make a good winning post
and I will be the umpire.”

Instead of guessing what Putraka had in his mind, the brothers, who
were very simple fellows, said at once: “All right. We won’t fight,
we’ll race instead, and you can give us the start.” Putraka agreed, and
directly they were off he lost not a moment, but picked up the bowl and
the staff, put on the shoes, and flew straight up into the air with the
treasures. When the brothers came back, disputing about which of them
had won, there was not a sign of Putraka, the bowl, the stick, or the
shoes. They guessed at once what had happened; and after staring up in
the air for a long time, they went home, feeling very much enraged with
the man who had cheated them, and ashamed of having been so stupid as
to trust him.

19. What do you think of Putraka’s behaviour in this matter?

20. If you could have had one of the three things Putraka stole, which
would you have chosen?


On and on flew Putraka, full of eager delight in the new power of
flight. How he loved rushing through the air, cleaving it like a bird
on the wing! All he wanted to make him perfectly happy was someone to
enjoy his new powers with him. Presently he found himself above a
beautiful city with towers and pinnacles and minarets gleaming in the
sunshine. “Ah!” he thought, “that is the place for me. I will go down
there, and see if I can find a nice house to live in, and some people
to make friends with, who will not try to kill me or to cheat me, but
love me and be grateful to me for any kindness I show them.”

As Putraka was hovering in the air above the town to which he had taken
such a fancy, he noticed a little house which rather pleased him; for
though it was poor-looking, there was something cheerful and home-like
about it. Down he sped and alighted at the door. Only one poor old
woman lived in the house, and when Putraka knocked and asked if he
might come in, she said “Yes” at once. He gave her some money, and told
her he would like to live with her, if she would let him do so. She was
only too glad to consent, for she was very lonely; and the two lived
happily together for a long time.

21. Do you think that if Putraka had flown home on his wonderful shoes,
taking his staff and bowl with him, his, father and uncles would still
have tried to kill him?

22. How could Putraka have prevented them from doing him harm if he had
returned to his home?


The old woman grew very fond of Putraka, caring for him and waiting on
him as if he had been her own son. She was so anxious that he should be
happy that she became afraid he would become tired of living alone with
her. So she said to him one day: “My dear adopted son, you ought to
have a wife to keep you company. I know the very one for you, the only
one really worthy of you. She is a princess, and her name is Patala.
She is so very lovely that every man who sees her falls in love with
her and wants to carry her off. So she is most carefully guarded in the
top rooms of a great palace, as high as the summits of the loftiest
mountains.” When Putraka heard this he was all eagerness to see the
princess, and at once determined to go forth to seek her. He was more
than ever glad now that he had stolen the shoes, because he knew that
they would carry him even to the top of the highest mountains.

23. What qualities did the old woman show when she told Putraka about
the Princess?

24. What faults of character did the young king show when he decided at
once to leave the old woman who had been so good to him?


The very evening of the day when Putraka heard about the princess, he
started on his journey, taking with him his bowl and staff. The old
woman gave him very careful instructions which way to go, and begged
him to come back to tell her how he had got on. He promised he would,
thanked her for all she had done for him, and flew away in a great
state of excitement. She watched him till he was quite out of sight,
and then went sadly into her lonely home, wondering if she would ever
see him again.

It was not long before Putraka came in sight of the palace. It was a
beautiful night, and the moon was shining full upon the room in which
the princess was asleep. It was a very big one, with costly furniture
and priceless tapestry hung round the walls, and there were doors
behind the tapestry leading to other apartments, in some of which the
attendants on Patala slept, whilst others kept watch lest anyone should
intrude upon their mistress. No one thought of guarding the windows,
for they were so high up that only a bird could reach them.

The young king alighted on the ledge of the window of the princess’
room, and looked in. There, on a golden bed, amongst soft cushions and
embroidered coverings, lay the most lovely creature he had ever beheld,
so lovely that he fell in love with her at once and gave a loud cry of
delight. This woke the princess, who started up and was about to scream
out aloud in her terror at seeing a man looking in at the window, when
Putraka with the aid of his magic staff made himself invisible. Then,
thinking she had been dreaming, Patala lay down again, and the king
began talking to her in a low voice, telling her he had heard of her
beauty and had flown from far away to see her. He begged her to allow
him to show himself to her, and added: “I will go away again directly
afterwards if you wish it.”

Putraka’s voice was so gentle, and it seemed to Patala so wonderful
that a man could fly and make himself invisible, that she was full of
curiosity to see him and find out all about him. So she gave her
consent, and immediately afterwards the young king stood within the
room, looking so noble and so handsome that she too fell in love at
first sight. Putraka told her all about his life and adventures, which
interested her very much. She was glad, she said, that he was a king;
but she would have loved him just as well, whoever he might have been.

After a long talk, Patala begged him to leave her for fear her
attendants should discover him and tell her father about him. “My
father would never let me marry you,” she declared, “unless you were to
come with many followers as a king to ask my hand; and how can you do
that when you are only a wandering exile?”

25. Was there any reason to fear that Putraka would be discovered when
he could make himself invisible at any moment?

26. What do you think would have been the right thing for Putraka and
Patala to do when they found out that they loved each other?


It was very difficult to persuade Putraka to go, but at last he flew
away. Every night after that, however, he came to see Patala, spending
the days sometimes in one place, sometimes in another, and using his
magic bowl to supply himself with food. Alas, he forgot all about the
dear old woman to whom he owed all his happiness, and she slowly gave
up hope of ever seeing him again. He might quite easily have flown to
her cottage and cheered her with his presence; but he was so wrapped up
in his love for Patala that everything else went out of his head. This
selfishness on his part presently got him into serious trouble, for he
became careless about making himself invisible when he flew up to the
princess’ window. So that one night he was discovered by a guardian of
the palace. The matter was at once reported to the king, who could not
at first believe such a thing was possible. The man must have seen a
big bird, that was all. The king, however, ordered one of his
daughter’s ladies to keep watch every night in an ante-room, leaving
the door open with the tapestry, in which there was a slit, drawn
carefully over it, and to come and tell him in the morning if she had
seen or heard anything unusual.

Now the lady chosen loved the princess, and, like many of her
fellow-attendants, thought it was very cruel of the king to punish his
own child for being so beautiful, by shutting her up as he did. It so
happened that the very first night she was on guard, Putraka had flown
a very, very long way, not noticing where he was going, because he was
thinking so earnestly of Patala. When at last he flew in at her window,
he was so weary that he sank down on a couch and fell fast asleep. The
princess too was tired, because she had lain awake talking to her lover
so many nights running that she had had hardly any rest. So when the
lady peeped through the slit in the tapestry, there, by the light of
the night lamp, she saw the young king lying unconscious, whilst the
princess also was asleep.

Very cautiously the attendant crept to the side of Putraka, and took a
long, long look at him. She noticed how handsome he was, and that he
was dressed in beautiful clothes. She especially remarked the turban he
wore, because in India the rank to which men belong is shown by the
kind of turbans they wear. “This is no common man,” she thought, “but a
prince or king in disguise. What shall I do now? I will not raise an
alarm which might lead to this beautiful young lover being killed and
the heart of my dear mistress broken.”

27. If you had been the lady who found Putraka in Patala’s room, what
would you have done?

28. What could Putraka have done to guard against being discovered?


After hesitating a long time, the lady made up her mind that she would
only put some mark in the turban of Putraka, so that he could be known
again, and let him escape that night at least. So she stole back to her
room, fetched a tiny brooch, and fastened it in the folds of the
turban, where the wearer was not likely to notice it himself. This
done, she went back to listen at the door.

It was nearly morning when Putraka woke up, very much surprised at
finding himself lying on the couch, for he did not remember throwing
himself down on it. Starting up, he woke Patala, who was terribly
frightened, for she expected her ladies to come in any minute to help
her to dress. She entreated Putraka to make himself invisible and fly
away at once. He did so; and, as usual, wandered about until the time
should come to go back to the palace. But he still felt too tired to
fly, and instead walked about in the town belonging to Patala’s father.

The lady who had been on guard had half a mind to tell her mistress
that her secret was discovered. But before she could get a chance to do
so, she was sent for by the king, who asked her if she had seen or
heard anything during the night. She tried very hard to escape from
betraying Patala; but she hesitated so much in her answers that the
king guessed there was something she wanted to hide, and told her, if
she did not reveal the whole truth, he would have her head shaved and
send her to prison. So she told how she had found a handsome man,
beautifully dressed, fast asleep in Patala’s room; but she did not
believe her mistress knew anything about it, because she too was

The king was of course in a terrible rage, and the lady was afraid he
would order her to be punished; but he only went on questioning her
angrily about what the man was like, so that he might be found and
brought before him. Then the lady confessed that she had put the brooch
in the turban, comforting herself with the thought that, when the king
saw Putraka and knew that Patala loved him, he might perhaps relent and
let them be married.

When the king heard about the brooch, he was greatly pleased; and
instead of ordering the lady to be punished, he told her that, when the
man who had dared to approach his daughter was found, he would give her
a great reward. He then sent forth hundreds of spies to hunt for the
man with a brooch in his turban, and Putraka was very soon found,
strolling quietly about in the market-place. He was so taken by
surprise that, though he had his staff in his hand and his shoes and
bowl in the pocket of his robes, he had no time to write his wishes
with the staff, or to put on the shoes, so he was obliged to submit to
be dragged to the palace. He did all he could to persuade those who had
found him to let him go, telling them he was a king and would reward
them well. They only laughed at him and dragged him along with them to
the palace, where he was at once taken before the king, who was sitting
on his throne, surrounded by his court, in a great hall lined with
soldiers. The big windows were wide open; and noticing this, Putraka
did not feel at all afraid, for he knew he had only to slip on his
shoes and fly out of one of the windows, if he could not persuade the
king to let him marry Patala. So he stood quietly at the foot of the
throne, and looked bravely into the face of his dear one’s father.

This only made the king more angry, and he began calling Putraka all
manner of names and asking him how he dared to enter the room of his
daughter. Putraka answered quietly that he loved Patala and wished to
marry her. He was himself a king, and would give her all she had been
used to. But it was all no good, for it only made the king more angry.
He rose from his throne, and stretching out his hand, he cried:

“Let him be scourged and placed in close confinement!”

Then Putraka with his staff wrote rapidly on the ground his wish that
no one should be able to touch him, and stooping down slipped on his
magic shoes. The king, the courtiers and the soldiers all remained
exactly as they were, staring at him in astonishment, as he rose up in
the air and flew out of one of the windows. Straight away he sped to
the palace of Patala and into her room, where she was pacing to and fro
in an agony of anxiety about him; for she had heard of his having been
taken prisoner and feared that her father would order him to be killed.

29. What do you think would have been the best thing for the king to do
when Putraka was brought before him?

30. If Putraka had not had his shoes with him, how could he have
escaped from the king’s palace?


Great indeed was the delight of Patala when her beloved Putraka once
more flew in at her window; but she was still trembling with fear for
him and begged him to go away back to his own land as quickly as

“I will not go without you,” replied Putraka. “Wrap yourself up warmly,
for it is cold flying through the air, and we will go away together,
and your cruel father shall never see you again.”

Patala wept at hearing this, for it seemed terrible to her to have to
choose between the father she loved and Putraka. But in the end her
lover got his own way, and just as those who were seeking him were
heard approaching, he seized his dear one in his arms and flew off with
her. He did not return to his own land even then, but directed his
course to the Ganges, the grand and beautiful river which the people of
India love and worship, calling it their Mother Ganga. By the banks of
the sacred stream the lovers rested, and with the aid of his magic bowl
Putraka soon had a good and delicious meal ready, which they both
enjoyed very much. As they ate, they consulted together what they had
better do now, and Patala, who was as clever as she was beautiful,

“Would it not be a good thing to build a new city in this lovely place?
You could do it with your marvellous staff, could you not?”

“Why, of course, I could,” said Putraka laughing. “Why didn’t I think
of it myself?” Very soon a wonderful town rose up, which the young king
wished to be as much as possible like the home he had left, only larger
and fuller of fine buildings than it. When the town was made, he wished
it to be full of happy inhabitants, with temples in which they might
worship, priests to teach them how to be good, markets in which food
and all that was needed could be bought, tanks and rivulets full of
pure water, soldiers and officers to defend the gates, elephants on
which he and his wife could ride, everything in fact that the heart of
man or woman could desire.

The first thing Putraka and Patala did after the rise of their own
town, which they named Patali-Putra[1] after themselves, was to get
married in accordance with the rites of their religion; and for many,
many years they reigned wisely over their people, who loved them and
their children with all their hearts. Amongst the attendants on those
children was the old woman who had shown kindness to Putraka in his
loneliness and trouble. For when he told Patala the story of his life,
she reproached him for his neglect of one to whom he owed so much. She
made him feel quite ashamed of himself, and he flew away and brought
the dear old lady back with him, to her very great delight.

31. Which of the people in this story do you like best?

32. Do you think Putraka deserved all the happiness which came to him
through stealing the wand, the shoes and the bowl?

33. Can you suggest any way in which he could have atoned for the wrong
he did to the brothers whose property he took?

34. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?

The Jewelled Arrow.


In the city of Vardhamana in India there lived a powerful king named
Vira-Bhuja, who, as was the custom in his native land, had many wives,
each of whom had several sons. Of all his wives this king loved best
the one named Guna-Vara, and of all his sons her youngest-born, called
Sringa-Bhuja, was his favourite. Guna-Vara was not only very beautiful
but very good. She was so patient that nothing could make her angry, so
unselfish that she always thought of others before herself, and so wise
that she was able to understand how others were feeling, however
different their natures were from her own.

Sringa-Bhuja, the son of Guna-Vara, resembled his mother in her beauty
and her unselfishness; he was also very strong and very clever, whilst
his brothers were quite unlike him. They wanted to have everything
their own way, and they were very jealous indeed of their father’s love
for him. They were always trying to do him harm, and though they often
quarrelled amongst themselves, they would band together to try and hurt

It was very much the same with the king’s wives. They hated Guna-Vara,
because their husband loved her more than he did them, and they
constantly came to him with stories they had made up of the wicked
things she had done. Amongst other things they told the king that
Guna-Vara did not really love him but cared more for some one else than
she did for him. The most bitter of all against her was the wife called
Ayasolekha, who was cunning enough to know what sort of tale the king
was likely to believe. The very fact that Vira-Bhuja loved Guna-Vara so
deeply made him more ready to think that perhaps after all she did not
return his affection, and he longed to find out the truth. So he in his
turn made up a story, thinking by its means to find out how she felt
for him. He therefore went one day to her private apartments, and
having sent all her attendants away, he told her he had some very sad
news for her which he had heard from his chief astrologer. Astrologers,
you know, are wise men, who are supposed to be able to read the secrets
of the stars, and learn from them things which are hidden from ordinary
human beings. Guna-Vara therefore did not doubt that what her husband
was about to tell her was true, and she listened eagerly, her heart
beating very fast in her fear that some trouble was coming to those she

Great indeed was her sorrow and surprise, when Vira-Bhuja went on to
say that the astrologer had told him that a terrible misfortune
threatened him and his kingdom and the only way to prevent it was to
shut Guna-Vara up in prison for the rest of her life. The poor queen
could hardly believe that she had heard rightly. She knew she had done
no wrong, and could not understand how putting her in prison could help
anybody. She was quite sure that her husband loved her, and no words
could have expressed her pain at the thought of being sent away from
him and her dear son. Yet she made no resistance, not even asking
Vira-Bhuja to let her see Sringa-Bhuja again. She just bowed her
beautiful head and said: “Be it unto me as my Lord wills. If he wishes
my death, I am ready to lay down my life.”

This submission made the king feel even more unhappy than before. He
longed to take his wife in his arms and tell her he would never let her
go; and perhaps if she had looked at him then, he would have seen all
her love for him in her eyes, but she remained perfectly still with
bowed head, waiting to hear what her fate was to be. Then the thought
entered Vira-Bhuja’s mind: “She is afraid to look at me: what
Ayasolekha said was true.”

1. Can true love suspect the loved one of evil?

2. Is true love ever jealous?


So the king summoned his guards and ordered them to take his wife to a
strong prison and leave her there. She went with them without making
any resistance, only turning once to look lovingly at her husband as
she was led away. Vira-Bhuja returned to his own palace and had not
been there very long when he got a message from Ayasolekha, begging him
to give her an interview, for she had something of very great
importance to tell him. The king consented at once, thinking to
himself, “perhaps she has found out that what she told me about my dear
Guna-Vara is not true.”

Great then was his disappointment when the wicked woman told him she
had discovered a plot against his life. The son of Guna-Vara and some
of the chief men of the kingdom, she said, had agreed together to kill
him, so that Sringa-Bhuja might reign in his stead. She and some of the
other wives had overheard conversations between them, and were
terrified lest their beloved Lord should be hurt. The young prince, she
declared, had had some trouble in persuading the nobles to help him,
but he had succeeded at last.

Vira-Bhuja simply could not believe this story, for he trusted his son
as much as he loved him; and he sent the mischief maker away, telling
her not to dare to enter his presence again. For all that he could not
get the matter out of his head. He had Sringa-Bhuja carefully watched;
and as nothing against him was found out, he was beginning to feel more
easy in his mind, and even to think of going to see Guna-Vara in her
prison to ask her to confide in him, when something happened which led
him to fear that after all his dear son was not true to him. This was
what made him uneasy. He had a wonderful arrow, set with precious
jewels, which had been given to him by a magician, and had the power of
hitting without fail whatever it was aimed at from however great a
distance. The very day he had meant to visit his ill-treated wife, he
missed this arrow from the place in which he kept it concealed. This
distressed him very much; and after seeking it in vain, he summoned all
those who were employed in the palace to his presence, and asked if any
of them knew anything about the arrow. He promised that he would
forgive any one who helped him to get it back, even if it were the
thief himself; but added that, if it was not found in three days, he
would have all the servants beaten until the one who had stolen it

3. Do you think this was the best way to find out who had taken the

4. How would you have set about learning the truth if you had been the


Now the fact of the matter was that Ayasolekha, who had told the wicked
story about Guna-Vara, knew where the king kept the arrow, had taken it
to her private rooms, and had sent for her own sons and those of the
other wives, all of whom hated Sringa-Bhuja, to tell them of a plot to
get their brother into disgrace. “You know,” she said to them, “how
much better your father loves Sringa-Bhuja than he does any of you; and
that, when he dies, he will leave the kingdom and all his money to him.
Now I will help you to prevent this by getting rid of Sringa-Bhuja.

“You must have a great shooting match, in which your brother will be
delighted to take part, for he is very proud of his skill with the bow
and arrow. On the day of the match, I will send for him and give him
the jewelled arrow belonging to your father to shoot with, telling him
the king had said I might lend it to him. Your father will then think
he stole it and order him to be killed.”

The brothers were all delighted at what they thought a very clever
scheme, and did just what Ayasolekha advised. When the day came, great
crowds assembled to see the shooting at a large target set up near the
palace. The king himself and all his court were watching the scene from
the walls, and it was difficult for the guards to keep the course
clear. The brothers, beginning at the eldest, all pretended to try and
hit the target; but none of them really wished to succeed, because they
thought that, when Sringa-Bhuja’s turn came, as their father’s youngest
son, he would win the match with the jewelled arrow. Then the king
would order him to be brought before him, and he would be condemned to
death or imprisonment for life.

Now, as very often happens, something no one in the least expected
upset the carefully planned plot. Just as Sringa-Bhuja was about to
shoot at the target, a big crane flew on to the ground between him and
it, so that it was impossible for him to take proper aim. The brothers,
seeing the bird and anxious to shoot it for themselves, all began to
clamour that they should be allowed to shoot again. Nobody made any
objection, and Sringa-Bhuja stood aside, with the jewelled arrow in the
bow, waiting to see what they would do, but feeling sure that he would
be the one to kill the bird. Brother after brother tried, but the great
creature still remained untouched, when a travelling mendicant stepped
forward and cried aloud:

“That is no bird, but an evil magician who has taken that form to
deceive you all. If he is not killed before he takes his own form
again, he will bring misery and ruin upon this town and the surrounding

You know perhaps that mendicants or beggars in India are often holy men
whose advice even kings are glad to listen to; so that, when everyone
heard what this beggar said, there was great excitement and terror. For
many were the stories told of the misfortunes Rakshas or evil magicians
had brought on other cities. The brothers all wanted to try their luck
once more, but the beggar checked them, saying:

“No, no. Where is your youngest brother Sringa-Bhuja? He alone will be
able to save your homes, your wives and your children, from

Then Sringa-Bhuja came forward; and as the sun flashed upon the jewels
in the stolen arrow, revealing to the watching king that it was his own
beloved son who had taken it, the young prince let it fly straight for
the bird. It wounded but did not kill the crane, which flew off with
the arrow sticking in its breast, the blood dripping from it in its
flight, which became gradually slower and slower. At the sight of the
bird going off with the precious jewelled arrow, the king was filled
with rage, and sent orders that Sringa-Bhuja should be fetched to his
presence immediately. But before the messengers reached him, he had
started in pursuit of the bird, guided by the blood-drops on the

5. Did the brothers show wisdom in the plot they laid against their

6. What do you think from this story, so far as you have read it, were
the chief qualities of Sringa-Bhuja?


As Sringa-Bhuja sped along after the crane, the beggar made some
strange signs in the air with the staff he used to help him along; and
such clouds of dust arose that no one could see in which direction the
young prince had gone. The brothers and Ayasolekha were very much
dismayed at the way things had turned out, and greatly feared that the
king’s anger would vent itself on them, now that Sringa-Bhuja had
disappeared. Vira-Bhuja did send for them, and asked them many
questions; but they all kept the secret of how Sringa-Bhuja had got the
arrow, and promised to do all they could to help to get it back. Again
the king thought he would go and see the mother of his dear youngest
son; but again something held him back, and poor Guna-Vara was left
alone, no one ever going near her except the gaoler who took her her
daily food. After trying everything possible to find out where
Sringa-Bhuja had gone, the king began to show special favour to another
of his sons; and as the months passed by, it seemed as if the young
prince and the jewelled arrow were both forgotten.

Meanwhile Sringa-Bhuja travelled on and on in the track of the drops of
blood, till he came to the outskirts of a fine forest, through which
many beaten paths led to a very great city. He sat down to rest at the
foot of a wide-spreading tree, and was gazing up at the towers and
pinnacles of the town, rising far upwards towards the sky, when he had
a feeling that he was no longer alone. He was right: for, coming slowly
along one of the paths, was a lovely young girl, singing softly to
herself in a beautiful voice. Her eyes were like those of a young doe,
and her features were perfect in their form and expression, reminding
Sringa-Bhuja of his mother, whom he was beginning to fear he would
never see again.

When the young girl was quite close to him, he startled her by saying,
“Can you tell me what is the name of this city?”

“Of course, I can,” she replied, “for I live in it. It is called
Dhuma-Pura, and it belongs to my father: he is a great magician named
Agni-Sikha, who loves not strangers. Now tell me who you are and whence
you come?”

Then Sringa-Bhuja told the maiden all about himself, and why he was
wandering so far from home. The girl, whose name was Rupa-Sikha,
listened very attentively; and when he came to the shooting of the
crane, and how he had followed the bleeding bird in the hope of getting
back his father’s jewelled arrow, she began to tremble.

“Alas, alas!” she said. “The bird you shot was my father, who can take
any form he chooses. He returned home but yesterday, and I drew the
arrow from his wound and dressed the hurt myself. He gave me the
jewelled arrow to keep, and I will never part with it. As for you, the
sooner you depart the better; for my father never forgives, and he is
so powerful that you would have no chance of escape if he knew you were

Hearing this, Sringa-Bhuja became very sad, not because he was afraid
of Agni-Sikha, but because he knew that he already loved the fair
maiden who stood beside him, and was resolved to make her his wife. She
too felt drawn towards him and did not like to think of his going away.
Besides this, she had much to fear from her father, who was as cruel as
he was mighty, and had caused the death already of many lovers who had
wished to marry her. She had never cared for any of them, and had been
content to live without a husband, spending her life in wandering about
near her home and winning the love of all who lived near her, even that
of the wild creatures of the forest, who would none of them dream of
hurting her. Often and often she stood between the wrath of her father
and those he wished to injure; for, wicked as he was, he loved her and
wanted her to be happy.

7. Do you think that a really wicked man is able to love any one truly?

8. What would have been the best thing for Sringa-Bhuja to do, when he
found out who the bird he had shot really was?


Rupa-Sikha did not take long to decide what was best for her to do. She
said to the prince, “I will give you back your golden arrow, and you
must make all possible haste out of our country before my father
discovers you are here.”

“No! no! no! a thousand times no!” cried the prince. “Now I have once
seen you, I can never, never leave you. Can you not learn to love me
and be my wife?” Then he fell prostrate at her feet, and looked up into
her face so lovingly that she could not resist him. She bent down
towards him, and the next moment they were clasped in each other’s
arms, quite forgetting all the dangers that threatened them. Rupa-Sikha
was the first to remember her father, and drawing herself away from her
lover, she said to him:

“Listen to me, and I will tell you what we must do. My father is a
magician, it is true, but I am his daughter, and I inherit some of his
powers. If only you will promise to do exactly as I tell you, I think I
may be able to save you, and perhaps even become your wife. I am the
youngest of a large family and my father’s favourite. I will go and
tell him that a great and mighty prince, hearing of his wonderful
gifts, has come to our land to ask for an interview with him. Then I
will tell him that I have seen you, fallen in love with you, and want
to marry you. He will be flattered to think his fame has spread so far,
and will want to see you, even if he refuses to let me be your wife. I
will lead you to his presence and leave you with him alone. If you
really love me, you will find the way to win his consent; but you must
keep out of his sight till I have prepared the way for you. Come with
me now, and I will show you a hiding-place.”

Rupa-Sikha then led the prince far away into the depths of the forest,
and showed him a large tree, the wide-spreading branches of which
touched the ground, completely hiding the trunk, in which there was an
opening large enough for a man to pass through. Steps cut in the inside
of the trunk led down to a wide space underground; and there the
magician’s daughter told her lover to wait for her return. “Before I
go,” she said, “I will tell you my own password, which will save you
from death if you should be discovered. It is LOTUS FLOWER; and
everyone to whom you say it, will know that you are under my

When Rupa-Sikha reached the palace she found her father in a very bad
humour, because she had not been to ask how the wound in his breast was
getting on. She did her best to make up for her neglect; and when she
had dressed the wound very carefully, she prepared a dainty meal for
her father with her own hands, waiting upon him herself whilst he ate
it. All this pleased him, and he was in quite an amiable mood when she
said to him:

“Now I must tell you that I too have had an adventure. As I was
gathering herbs in the forest, I met a man I had never seen before, a
tall handsome young fellow looking like a prince, who told me he was
seeking the palace of a great and wonderful magician, of whose
marvellous deeds he had heard. Who could that magician have been but
you, my father?” She added, “I told him I was your daughter, and he
entreated me to ask you to grant him an interview.”

Agni-Sikha listened to all this without answering a word. He was
pleased at this fresh proof that his fame had spread far and wide; but
he guessed at once that Rupa-Sikha had not told him the whole truth. He
waited for her to go on, and as she said no more, he suddenly turned
angrily upon her and in a loud voice asked her:

“And what did my daughter answer?”

Then Rupa-Sikha knew that her secret had been discovered. And rising to
her full height, she answered proudly, “I told him I would seek you and
ask you to receive him. And now I will tell you, my father, that I have
seen the only man I will ever marry; and if you forbid me to do so, I
will take my own life, for I cannot live without him.”

“Send for the man immediately,” cried the magician, “and you shall hear
my answer when he appears before me.”

“I cannot send,” replied Rupa-Sikha, “for none knows where I have left
him; nor will I fetch him till you promise that no evil shall befall

At first Agni-Sikha laughed aloud and declared that he would do no such
thing. But his daughter was as obstinate as he was; and finding that he
could not get his own way unless he yielded to her, he said crossly:

“He shall keep his fine head on his shoulders, and leave the palace
alive; but that is all I will say.”

“But that is not enough,” said Rupa-Sikha. “Say after me, _Not a hair
of his head shall be harmed, and I will treat him as an honoured
guest_, or your eyes will never rest on him.”

At last the magician promised, thinking to himself that he would find
some way of disposing of Sringa-Bhuja, if he did not fancy him for a
son-in-law. The words she wanted to hear were hardly out of her
father’s mouth before Rupa-Sikha sped away, as if on the wings of the
wind, full of hope that all would be well. She found her lover
anxiously awaiting her, and quickly explained how matters stood. “You
had better say nothing about me to my father at first,” she said; “but
only talk about him and all you have heard of him. If only you could
get him to like you and want to keep you with him, it would help us
very much. Then you could pretend that you must go back to your own
land; and rather than allow you to do so, he will be anxious for us to
be married and to live here with him.”

9. Do you think the advice Rupa-Sikha gave to Sringa-Bhuja was good?

10. Can you suggest anything else she might have done?


Sringa-Bhuja loved Rupa-Sikha so much that he was ready to obey her in
whatever she asked. So he at once went with her to the palace. On every
side he saw signs of the strength and power of the magician. Each gate
was guarded by tall soldiers in shining armour, who saluted Rupa-Sikha
but scowled fiercely at him. He knew full well that, if he had tried to
pass alone, they would have prevented him from doing so. At last the
two came to the great hall, where the magician was walking backwards
and forwards, working himself into a rage at being kept waiting.
Directly he looked at the prince, he knew him for the man who had shot
the jewelled arrow at him when he had taken the form of a crane, and he
determined that he would be revenged. He was too cunning to let
Sringa-Bhuja guess that he knew him, and pretended to be very glad to
see him. He even went so far as to say that he had long wished to find
a prince worthy to wed his youngest and favourite daughter. “You,” he
added, “seem to me the very man, young, handsome and—to judge from the
richness of your dress and jewels—able to give my beloved one all she

The prince could hardly believe his ears, and Rupa-Sikha also was very
much surprised. She guessed however that her father had some evil
purpose in what he said, and looked earnestly at Sringa-Bhuja in the
hope of making him understand. But the prince was so overjoyed at the
thought that she was to be his wife that he noticed nothing. So when
Agni-Sikha added, “I only make one condition: you must promise that you
will never disobey my commands, but do whatever I tell you without a
moment’s hesitation,” Sringa-Bhuja, without waiting to think, said at
once, “Only give me your daughter and I will serve you in any way you

“That’s settled then!” cried the magician, and he clapped his hands
together. In a moment a number of attendants appeared, and their master
ordered them to lead the prince to the best apartments in the palace,
to prepare a bath for him, and do everything he asked them.

11. What great mistake did the prince make when he gave this promise?

12. What answer should he have made?


As Sringa-Bhuja followed the servants, Rupa-Sikha managed to whisper to
him, “Beware! await a message from me!” When he had bathed and was
arraying himself in fresh garments provided by his host, waited on,
hand and foot, by servants who treated him with the greatest respect, a
messenger arrived, bearing a sealed letter which he reverently handed
to the prince. Sringa-Bhuja guessed at once from whom it came; and
anxious to read it alone, he hastily finished his toilette and
dismissed the attendants.

“My beloved,” said the letter—which was, of course, from Rupa-Sikha—“My
father is plotting against you; and very foolish were you to promise
you would obey him in all things. I have ten sisters all exactly like
me, all wearing dresses and necklaces which are exact copies of each
other, so that few can tell me from the others. Soon you will be sent
for to the great Hall and we shall all be together there. My father
will bid you choose your bride from amongst us; and if you make a
mistake all will be over for us. But I will wear my necklace on my head
instead of round my neck, and thus will you know your own true love.
And remember, my dearest, to obey no future command without hearing
from me, for I alone am able to outwit my terrible father.”

Everything happened exactly as Rupa-Sikha described. The prince was
sent for by Agni-Sikha, who, as soon as he appeared, gave him a garland
of flowers and told him to place it round the neck of the maiden who
was his promised bride. Without a moment’s hesitation Sringa-Bhuja
picked out the right sister; and the magician, though inwardly enraged,
pretended to be so delighted at this proof of a lover’s
clear-sightedness that he cried:

“You are the son-in-law for me! The wedding shall take place

13. Can you understand how it was that the magician did not notice the
trick Rupa-Sikha had played upon him?

14. What fault blinds people to the truth more than any other?


When Sringa-Bhuja heard what Agni-Sikha said, he was full of joy; but
Rupa-Sikha knew well that her father did not mean a word of it. She
waited quietly beside her lover, till the magician bade all the sisters
but herself leave the hall. Then the magician, with a very wicked look
on his face, said:

“Before the ceremony there is just one little thing you must do for me,
dear son-in-law that is to be. Go outside the town, and near the most
westerly tower you will find a team of oxen and a plough awaiting you.
Close to them is a pile of three hundred bushels of sesame seed. This
you must sow this very day, or instead of a bridegroom you will be a
dead man to-morrow.”

Great was the dismay of Sringa-Bhuja when he heard this. But Rupa-Sikha
whispered to him, “Fear not, for I will help you.” Sadly the prince
left the palace alone, to seek the field outside the city; the guards,
who knew he was the accepted lover of their favourite mistress, letting
him pass unhindered. There, sure enough, near the western tower were
the oxen, the plough and a great pile of seed. Never before had poor
Sringa-Bhuja had to work for himself, but his great love for Rupa-Sikha
made him determine to do his best. So he was about to begin to guide
the oxen across the field, when, behold, all was suddenly changed.
Instead of an unploughed tract of land, covered with weeds, was a field
with rows and rows of regular furrows. The piles of seed were gone, and
flocks of birds were gathering in the hope of securing some of it as it
lay in the furrows.

As Sringa-Bhuja was staring in amazement at this beautiful scene, he
saw Rupa-Sikha, looking more lovely than ever, coming towards him. “Not
in vain,” she said to him, “am I my father’s daughter. I too know how
to compel even nature to do my will; but the danger is not over yet. Go
quickly back to the palace, and tell Agni-Sikha that his wishes are

15. Can the laws of nature ever really be broken?

16. What is the only way in which man can conquer nature?


The magician was very angry indeed when he heard that the field was
ploughed and the seed sown. He knew at once that some magic had been at
work, and suspected that Rupa-Sikha was the cause of his
disappointment. Without a moment’s hesitation he said to the prince:
“No sooner were you gone than I decided not to have that seed sown. Go
back at once, and pile it up where it was before.”

This time Sringa-Bhuja felt no fear or hesitation, for he was sure of
the power and will to help him of his promised bride. So back he went
to the field, and there he found the whole vast space covered with
millions and millions of ants, busily collecting the seed and piling it
up against the wall of the town. Again Rupa-Sikha came to cheer him,
and again she warned him that their trials were not yet over. She
feared, she said, that her father might prove stronger than herself;
for he had many allies at neighbouring courts ready to help him in his
evil purposes. “Whatever else he orders you to do, you _must_ see me
before you leave the palace. I will send my faithful messenger to
appoint a meeting in some secret place.”

Agni-Sikha was not much surprised when the prince told him that his
last order had been obeyed, and thought to himself, “I must get this
tiresome fellow out of my domain, where that too clever child of mine
will not be able to help him.” “Well,” he said, “I suppose the wedding
must take place to-morrow after all, for I am a man of my word. We must
now set about inviting the guests. You shall have the pleasure of doing
this yourself: then my friends will know beforehand what a handsome
young son-in-law I shall have. The first person to summon to the
wedding is my brother Dhuma Sikha, who has taken up his abode in a
deserted temple a few miles from here. You must ride at once to that
temple, rein up your steed opposite it, and cry, ‘Dhuma Sikha, your
brother Agni-Sikha has sent me hither to invite you to witness my
marriage with his daughter Rupa-Sikha to-morrow. Come without delay!’
Your message given, ride back to me; and I will tell you what farther
tasks you must perform before the happy morrow dawns.”

When Sringa-Bhuja left the palace, he knew not where to seek a horse to
bear him on this new errand. But as he was nearing the gateway by which
he had gone forth to sow the field with seed, a handsome boy approached
him and said, “If my lord will follow me, I will tell him what to do.”
Somehow the voice sounded familiar; and when the guards were left far
enough behind to be out of hearing, the boy looked up at Sringa-Bhuja
with a smile that revealed Rupa-Sikha herself. “Come with me,” she
said; and taking his hand, she led him to a tree beneath which stood a
noble horse, richly caparisoned, which pawed the ground and whinnied to
its mistress, as she drew near.

“You must ride this horse,” said Rupa-Sikha, “who will obey you if you
but whisper in his ear; and you must take earth, water, wood and fire
with you, which I will give you. You must go straight to the temple,
and when you have called out your message, turn without a moment’s
delay, and ride for your life as swiftly as your steed will go, looking
behind you all the time. No guidance will be necessary; for Marut—that
is my horse’s name—knows well what he has to do.”

Then Rupa-Sikha gave Sringa-Bhuja a bowl of earth, a jar of water, a
bundle of thorns and a brazier full of burning charcoal, hanging them
by strong thongs upon the front of his saddle so that he could reach
them easily. “My father,” she told him, “has given my uncle
instructions to kill you, and he will follow you upon his swift Arab
steed. When you hear him behind you, fling earth in his path; if that
does not stop him, pour out some of the water; and if he still
perseveres, scatter the burning charcoal before him.”

17. Can you discover any hidden meaning in the use of earth, water,
thorns and fire, to stop the course of the wicked magician?

18. Do you think the prince loved Rupa-Sikha better than he loved


Away went the prince after he had received these instructions; and very
soon he found himself opposite the temple, with the images of three of
the gods worshipped in India to prove that it had been a sanctuary
before the magician took up his abode in it. Directly Sringa-Bhuja
shouted out his message to Dhuma-Sikha, the wicked dweller in the
temple came rushing forth from the gateway, mounted on a huge horse,
which seemed to be belching forth flames from its nostrils as it
bounded along. For one terrible moment Sringa-Bhuja feared that he was
lost; but Marut, putting forth all his strength, kept a little in
advance of the enemy, giving the prince time to scatter earth behind
him. Immediately a great mountain rose up, barring the road, and
Sringa-Bhuja felt that he was saved. He was mistaken: for, as he looked
back, he saw Dhuma-Sikha coming over the top of the mountain. The next
moment the magician was close upon him. So he emptied his bowl of
water: and, behold, a huge river with great waves hid pursuer and
pursued from each other. Even this did not stop the mighty Arab horse,
which swam rapidly across, the rider loudly shouting out orders to the
prince to stop. When the prince heard the hoofs striking on the dry
ground behind him again, he threw out the thorns, and a dense wood
sprouted up as if by magic, which for a few moments gave fresh hope of
safety to Sringa-Bhuja; for it seemed as if even the powerful magician
would be unable to get through it. He did succeed however; but his
clothes were nearly torn off his back, and his horse was bleeding from
many wounds made by the cruel thorns. Sringa-Bhuja too was getting
weary, and remembered that he had only one more chance of checking his
relentless enemy. He could almost feel the breath of the panting steed
as it drew near; and with a loud cry to his beloved Rupa-Sikha, he
threw the burning charcoal on the road. In an instant the grass by the
wayside, the trees overshadowing it, and the magic wood which had
sprung from the thorns, were alight, burning so fiercely that no living
thing could approach them safely. The wicked magician was beaten at
last, and was soon himself fleeing away, as fast as he could, with the
flames following after him as if they were eager to consume him.

Whether his enemy ever got back to his temple, Sringa-Bhuja never knew.
Exhausted with all he had been through, the young prince was taken back
to the palace by the faithful Marut, and there he found his dear
Rupa-Sikha awaiting him. She told him that her father had promised her
that, if the prince came back, he would oppose her marriage no longer.
“For,” he said, “if he can escape your uncle, he must be more than
mortal, and worthy even of my daughter.” “He does not in the least
expect to see you again,” added Rupa-Sikha; “and even if he allows us
to marry, he will never cease to hate you; for I am quite sure he knows
that you shot the jewelled arrow at him when he was in the form of a
crane. If I ever am your wife, he will try to punish you through me.
But have no fear: I shall know how to manage him. Fresh powers have
been lately given to me by another uncle whose magic is stronger than
that of any of my other relations.”

When Sringa-Bhuja had bathed and rested, he robed himself once more in
the garments he had worn the day he first saw Rupa-Sikha; and together
the lovers went to the great hall to seek an interview with Agni-Sikha.
The magician, who had made quite sure that he had now got rid of the
unwelcome suitor for his daughter’s hand, could not contain his rage,
at seeing him walk in with her as if the two were already wedded.

He stamped about, pouring out abuse, until he had quite exhausted
himself, the lovers looking on quietly without speaking. At last,
coming close to them, Agni-Sikha shouted, in a loud harsh voice: “So
you have not obeyed my orders. You have not bid my brother to the
wedding. Your life is forfeit, and you will die to-morrow instead of
marrying Rupa-Sikha. Describe the temple in which Dhuma Sikha lives and
the appearance of its owner.”

Then Sringa-Bhuja gave such an exact account of the temple, naming the
gods whose images still adorned it, and of the terrible man riding the
noble steed who had pursued him, that the magician was convinced
against his will; and knowing that he must keep his word to Rupa-Sikha,
he gave his consent for the preparations for the marriage on the morrow
to begin.

19. What is your opinion of the character of Agni-Sikha?

20. Do you think he was at all justified in the way in which he treated
his daughter and Sringa-Bhuja?


The marriage was celebrated the next day with very great pomp; and a
beautiful suite of rooms was given to the bride and bridegroom, who
could not in spite of this feel safe or happy, because they knew full
well that Agni-Sikha hated them. The prince soon began to feel
home-sick and anxious to introduce his beautiful wife to his own
people. He remembered that he had left his dear mother in prison, and
reproached himself for having forgotten her for so long. So he said to

“Let us go, beloved, to my native city, Vardhamana. My heart yearns
after my dear ones there, and I would fain introduce you to them.”

“My lord,” replied Rupa-Sikha, “I will go with you whither you will,
were it even to the ends of the earth. But we must not let my father
guess we mean to go; for he would forbid us to leave the country and
set spies to watch our every movement. We will steal away secretly,
riding together on my faithful Marut and taking with us only what we
can carry.” “And my jewelled arrow,” said the prince, “that I may give
it back to my father and explain to him how I lost it. Then shall I be
restored to his favour, and maybe he will forgive my mother also.”

“Have no fear,” answered Rupa-Sikha: “all will surely go well with us.
Forget not that new powers have been given to me, which will save us
from my father and aid me to rescue my dear one’s mother from her evil

Before the dawn broke on the next day, the two set forth unattended,
Marut seeming to take pride in his double burden and bearing them along
so swiftly that they had all but reached the bounds of the country
under the dominion of Agni-Sikha as the sun rose. Just as they thought
they were safe from pursuit, they heard a loud rushing noise behind;
and looking round, they saw the father of the bride close upon them on
his Arab steed, with sword uplifted in his hand to strike. “Fear not,”
whispered Rupa-Sikha to her husband. “I will show you now what I can
do.” And waving her arms to and fro, as she muttered some strange
words, she changed herself into an old woman and Sringa-Bhuja into an
old man, whilst Marut became a great pile of wood by the road-side.

When the angry father reached the spot, the bride and bridegroom were
busily gathering sticks to add to the pile, seemingly too absorbed in
their work to take any notice of the angry magician, who shouted out to

“Have you seen a man and a woman pass along this way?”

The old woman straightened herself, and peering, up into his face,

“No; we are too busy over our work to notice anything else.”

“And what, pray, are you doing in my wood?” asked Agni-Sikha.

“We are helping to collect the fuel for the pyre of the great magician
Agni-Sikha,” answered Rupa-Sikha. “Do you not know that he died

The Hindus of India do not bury but burn the dead; so that it was quite
a natural thing for the people of the land over which the magician
ruled to collect the materials for the pyre or heap of wood on which
his body would be laid to be burnt. What surprised Agni-Sikha, and in
fact nearly took his breath away, was to be quietly told that he was
dead. He began to think that he was dreaming, and said to himself, “I
cannot really be dead without knowing it, so I must be asleep.” And he
quietly turned his horse round and rode slowly home again. This was
just what his daughter wanted; and as soon as he was out of sight, she
turned herself, her husband and Marut, into their natural forms again,
laughing merrily, as she did so, at the thought of the ease with which
she had got rid of her father.

21. Do you think it was clever of Rupa-Sikha to make up this story?

22. Do you think it is better to believe all that you are told or to be
more ready to doubt when anything you hear seems to be unusual?


Once more the bride and bridegroom set forth on their way, and once
more they soon heard Agni-Sikha coming after them. For when he got back
to his palace, and the servants hastened out to take his horse, he
guessed that a trick had been played on him. He did not even dismount,
but just turned his horse’s head round and galloped back again. “If
ever,” he thought to himself, “I catch those two young people, I’ll
make them wish they had obeyed me. Yes, they shall suffer for it. I am
not going to stand being defied like this.”

This time Rupa-Sikha contented herself with making her husband and
Marut invisible, whilst she changed herself into a letter-carrier,
hurrying along the road as if not a moment was to be lost. She took no
notice of her father, till he reined up his steed and shouted to her:

“Have you seen a man and woman on horseback pass by?”

“No, indeed,” she said: “I have a very important letter to deliver, and
could think of nothing but making all the haste possible.”

“And what is this important letter about?” asked Agni-Sikha. “Can you
tell me that?”

“Oh, yes, I can tell you that,” she said. “But where can you have been,
not to have heard the terrible news about the ruler of this land?”

“You can’t tell me anything I don’t know about him,” answered the
magician, “for he is my greatest friend.”

“Then you know that he is dying from a wound he got in a battle with
his enemies only yesterday. I am to take this letter to his brother
Dhuma-Sikha, bidding him come to see him before the end.”

Again Agni-Sikha wondered if he were dreaming, or if he were under some
strange spell and did not really know who he was? Being able, as he
was, to cast spells on other people, he was ready to fancy the same
thing had befallen him. He said nothing when he heard that he was
wounded, and was about to turn back again when Rupa-Sikha said to him:

“As you are on horseback and can get to Dhuma-Sikha’s temple quicker
than I can, will you carry the message of his brother’s approaching
death to him for me, and bid him make all possible haste if he would
see him alive?”

This was altogether too much for the magician, who became sure that
there was something very wrong about him. He knew he was not wounded or
dying, but he thought he must be ill of fever, fancying he heard what
he did not. He stared fixedly at his daughter, and she stared up at
him, half-afraid he might find out who she was, but he never guessed.

“Do your own errands,” he said at last; and slashing his poor innocent
horse with his whip, he wheeled round and dashed home again as fast as
he could. Again his servants ran out to receive him, and he gloomily
dismounted, telling them to send his chief councillor to him in his
private apartments. Shut up with him, he poured out all his troubles,
and the councillor advised him to see his physician without any delay,
for he felt sure that these strange fancies were caused by illness.

The doctor, when he came, was very much puzzled, but he looked as wise
as he could, ordered perfect rest and all manner of disagreeable
medicines. He was very much surprised at the change he noticed in his
patient, who, instead of angrily declaring that there was nothing the
matter with him, was evidently in a great fright about his health. He
shut himself up for many days, and it was a long time before he got
over the shock he had received, and then it was too late for him to be
revenged or the lovers.

23. Can you explain what casting a spell means?

24. Can you give an instance of a spell being cast on any one you have
heard of?


Having really got rid of Agni-Sikha, Rupa-Sikha and her husband were
very soon out of his reach and in the country belonging to
Sringa-Bhuja’s father, who had bitterly mourned the loss of his
favourite son. When the news was brought to him that two strangers, a
handsome young man and a beautiful woman, who appeared to be husband
and wife, had entered his capital, he hastened forth to meet them,
hoping that perhaps they could give him news of Sringa-Bhuja. What was
his joy when he recognised his dear son, holding the jewelled arrow,
which had led him into such trouble, in his right hand, as he guided
Marut with his left! The king flung himself from his horse, and
Sringa-Bhuja, giving the reins to Rupa-Sikha, also dismounted. The next
moment he was in his father’s arms, everything forgotten and forgiven
in the happy reunion.

Great was the rejoicing over Sringa-Bhuja’s return and hearty was the
welcome given to his beautiful bride, who quickly won all hearts but
those of the wicked wives and sons who had tried to harm her husband
and his mother. They feared the anger of the king, when he found out
how they had deceived him, and they were right to fear. Sringa-Bhuja’s
very first act was to plead for his mother to be set free. He would not
tell any of his adventures, he said, till she could hear them too; and
the king, full of remorse for the way he had treated her, went with him
to the prison in which she had been shut up all this time. What was
poor Guna-Vara’s joy, when the two entered the place in which she had
shed so many tears! She could not at first believe her eyes or ears,
but soon she realised that her sufferings were indeed over. She could
not be quite happy till her beloved husband said he knew she had never
loved any one but him. She had been accused falsely, she said, and she
wanted the woman who had told a lie about her to be made to own the

This was done in the presence of the whole court, and when judgment had
been passed upon Ayasolekha, the brothers of Sringa-Bhuja were also
brought before their father, who charged them with having deceived him.
They too were condemned, and all the culprits would have been taken to
prison and shut up for the rest of their lives, if those they had
injured had not pleaded for their forgiveness. Guna-Vara and her son
prostrated themselves at the foot of the throne, and would not rise
till they had won pardon for their enemies. Ayasolekha and the brothers
were allowed to go free; but Sringa-Bhuja, though he was the youngest
of all the princes, was proclaimed heir to the crown after his father’s
death. His brothers, however, never ceased to hate him; and when he
came to the throne, they gave him a great deal of trouble. He had many
years of happiness with his wife and parents before that, and never
regretted the mistake about the jewelled arrow; since but for it he
would, he knew, never have seen his beloved Rupa-Sikha.

25. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?

26. Do you think it was good for those who had told lies about
Guna-Vara and her son to be forgiven so easily?

27. Can you give any instances of good coming out of evil and of evil
coming out of what seemed good?

28. Do you think Rupa-Sikha deserved all the happiness that came to

The Beetle and the Silken Thread.[2]


The strange adventures related in the story of the Beetle and the
Silken Thread took place in the town of Allahabad, “the City of God,”
so called because it is situated near the point of meeting of the two
sacred rivers of India, the Ganges, which the Hindus lovingly call
Mother Ganga because they believe its waters can wash away their sins,
and the Jumna, which they consider scarcely less holy.

The ruler of Allahabad was a very selfish and hot-tempered Raja named
Surya Pratap, signifying “Powerful as the Sun,” who expected everybody
to obey him without a moment’s delay, and was ready to punish in a very
cruel manner those who hesitated to do so. He would never listen to a
word of explanation, or own that he had been mistaken, even when he
knew full well that he was in the wrong. He had a mantri, that is to
say, a chief vizier or officer, whom he greatly trusted, and really
seemed to be fond of, for he liked to have him always near him. The
vizier was called Dhairya-Sila, or “the Patient One,” because he never
lost his temper, no matter what provocation he received. He had a
beautiful house, much money and many jewels, carriages to drive about
in, noble horses to ride and many servants to wait upon him, all given
to him by his master. But what he loved best of all was his faithful
wife, Buddhi-Mati, or “the Sensible One,” whom he had chosen for
himself, and who would have died for him.

Many of the Raja’s subjects were jealous of Dhairya-Sila, and
constantly brought accusations against him, of none of which his master
took any notice, except to punish those who tried to set him against
his favourite. It really seemed as if nothing would ever bring harm to
Dhairya-Sila; but he often told his wife that such good fortune was not
likely to last, and that she must be prepared for a change before long.

It turned out that he was right. For one day Surya Pratap ordered him
to do what he considered would be a shameful deed. He refused; telling
his master that he was wrong to think of such a thing, and entreating
him to give up his purpose. “All your life long,” he said, “you will
wish you had listened to me; for your conscience will never let you

On hearing these brave words, Surya Pratap flew into a terrible rage,
summoned his guards, and ordered them to take Dhairya-Sila outside the
city to a very lofty tower, and leave him at the top of it, without
shelter from the sun and with nothing to eat or drink. The guards were
at first afraid to touch the vizier, remembering how others had been
punished for only speaking against him. Seeing their unwillingness, the
Raja got more and more angry; but Dhairya-Sila himself kept quite calm,
and said to the soldiers:

“I go with you gladly. It is for the master to command and for me to

1. What is the best way to learn to keep calm in an emergency?

2. Why does too much power have a bad influence on those who have it?


The guards were relieved to find they need not drag the vizier away;
for they admired his courage and felt sure that the Raja would soon
find he could not get on without him. It might go hardly with them if
he suffered harm at their hands. So they only closed in about him; and
holding himself very upright, Dhairya-Sila walked to the tower as if he
were quite glad to go. In his heart however he knew full well that it
would need all his skill to escape with his life.

When her husband did not come home at night, Buddhi-Mati was very much
distressed. She guessed at once that something had gone wrong, and set
forth to try and find out what had happened. This was easy enough; for
as she crept along, with her veil closely held about her lest she
should be recognised, she passed groups of people discussing the
terrible fate that had befallen the favourite. She decided that she
must wait until midnight, when the streets would be deserted and she
could reach the tower unnoticed. It was almost dark when she got there,
but in the dim light of the stars she made out the form of him she
loved better than herself, leaning over the edge of the railing at the

“Is my dear lord still alive?” she whispered, “and is there anything I
can do to help him?”

“You can do everything that is needed to help me,” answered
Dhairya-Sila quietly, “if you only obey every direction I give you. Do
not for one moment suppose that I am in despair. I am more powerful
even now than my master, who has but shown his weakness by attempting
to harm me. Now listen to me. Come to-morrow night at this very hour,
bringing with you the following things: first, a beetle; secondly,
sixty yards of the finest silk thread, as thin as a spider’s web;
thirdly, sixty yards of cotton thread, as thin as you can get it, but
very strong; fourthly, sixty yards of good stout twine; fifthly, sixty
yards of rope, strong enough to carry my weight; and last, but
certainly not least, one drop of the purest bees’ honey.”

3. Do you think the vizier thought of all these things before or after
he was taken to the tower?

4. What special quality did he display in the way in which he faced his
position on the tower?


Buddhi-Mati listened very attentively to these strange instructions,
and began to ask questions about them. “Why do you want the beetle? Why
do you want the honey?” and so on. But her husband checked her. “I have
no strength to waste in explanations,” he said. “Go home in peace,
sleep well, and dream of me.” So the anxious wife went meekly away; and
early the next day she set to work to obey the orders she had received.
She had some trouble in obtaining fine enough silk, so very, very thin
it had to be, like a spider’s web; but the cotton, twine and rope were
easily bought; and to her surprise she was not asked what she wanted
them for. It took her a good while to choose the beetle. For though she
had a vague kind of idea that the silk, the cotton, twine, and rope,
were to help her husband get down from the tower, she could not imagine
what share the beetle and the honey were to take. In the end she chose
a very handsome, strong-looking, brilliantly coloured fellow who lived
in the garden of her home and whom she knew to be fond of honey.

5. Can you guess how the beetle and the honey were to help in saving

6. Do you think it would have been better if the vizier had told his
wife how all the things he asked for were to be used?


All the time Buddhi-Mati was at work for her husband, she was thinking
of him and looking forward to the happy day of his return home. She had
such faith in him that she did not for a moment doubt that he would
escape; but she was anxious about the future, feeling sure that the
Raja would never forgive Dhairya-Sila for being wiser than himself.
Exactly at the time fixed the faithful wife appeared at the foot of the
tower, with all the things she had been told to bring with her.

“Is all well with my lord?” she whispered, as she gazed up through the
darkness. “I have the silken thread as fine as gossamer, the cotton
thread, the twine, the rope, the beetle and the honey.”

“Yes,” answered Dhairya-Sila, “all is still well with me. I have slept
well, feeling confident that my dear one would bring all that is needed
for my safety; but I dread the great heat of another day, and we must
lose no time in getting away from this terrible tower. Now attend most
carefully to all I bid you do; and remember not to speak loud, or the
sentries posted within hearing will take alarm and drive you away.
First of all, tie the end of the silken thread round the middle of the
beetle, leaving all its legs quite free. Then rub the drop of honey on
its nose, and put the little creature on the wall, with its nose turned
upwards towards me. It will smell the honey, but will not guess that it
carries it itself, and it will crawl upwards in the hope of getting to
the hive from which that honey came. Keep the rest of the silk firmly
held, and gradually unwind it as the beetle climbs up. Mind you do not
let it slip, for my very life depends on that slight link with you.”

7. Which do you think had the harder task to perform—the husband at the
top of the tower or the wife at the foot of it?

8. Do you think the beetle was likely to imagine it was on the way to a
hive of bees when it began to creep up the tower?


Buddhi-Mati, though her hands shook and her heart beat fast as she
realized all that depended on her, kept the silk from becoming
entangled; and when it was nearly all unwound, she heard her husband’s
voice saying to her: “Now tie the cotton thread to the end of the silk
that you hold, and let it gradually unwind.” She obeyed, fully
understanding now what all these preparations were for.

When the little messenger of life reached the top of the tower,
Dhairya-Sila took it up in his hand and very gently unfastened the
silken thread from its body. Then he placed the beetle carefully in a
fold of his turban, and began to pull the silken thread up—very, very
slowly, for if it had broken, his wonderful scheme would have come to
an end. Presently he had the cotton thread in his fingers, and he broke
off the silk, wound it up, and placed it too in his turban. It had done
its duty well, and he would not throw it away.

“Half the work is done now,” he whispered to his faithful wife. “You
have all but saved me now. Take the twine and tie it to the end of the
cotton thread.”

Very happily Buddhi-Mati obeyed once more; and soon the cotton thread
and twine were also laid aside, and the strong rope tied to the last
was being quickly dragged up by the clever vizier, who knew that all
fear of death from sunstroke or hunger was over. When he had all the
rope on the tower, he fastened one end of it to the iron railing which
ran round the platform on which he stood, and very quickly slid down to
the bottom, where his wife was waiting for him, trembling with joy.

9. Do you see anything very improbable in the account of what the
beetle did?

10. If the beetle had not gone straight up the tower, what do you think
would have happened?


After embracing his wife and thanking her for saving him, the vizier
said to her: “Before we return home, let us give thanks to the great
God who helped me in my need by putting into my head the device by
which I escaped.” The happy pair then prostrated themselves on the
ground, and in fervent words of gratitude expressed their sense of what
the God they worshipped had done for them. “And now,” said
Dhairya-Sila, “the next thing we have to do is to take the dear little
beetle which was the instrument of my rescue back to the place it came
from.” And taking off his turban, he showed his wife the tiny creature
lying in the soft folds.

Buddhi-Mati led her husband to the garden where she had found the
beetle, and Dhairya-Sila laid it tenderly on the ground, fetched some
food for it, such as he knew it loved, and there left it to take up its
old way of life. The rest of the day he spent quietly in his own home
with his wife, keeping out of sight of his servants, lest they should
report his return to his master. “You must never breathe a word to any
one of how I escaped,” Dhairya-Sila said, and his wife promised that
she never would.

11. When the vizier got this promise, what did he forget which could
betray how he got down from the tower, if any one went to look at it?

12. Do you think there was any need for the vizier to tell his wife to
keep his secret?


All this time the Raja was feeling very unhappy, for he thought he had
himself caused the death of the one man he could trust. He was too
proud to let anybody know that he missed Dhairya-Sila, and was longing
to send for him from the tower before it was too late. What then was
his relief and surprise when a message was brought to him that the
vizier was at the door of the palace and begged for an interview.

“Bring him in at once,” cried Surya Pratap. And the next moment
Dhairya-Sila stood before his master, his hands folded on his breast
and his head bent in token of his submission. The attendants looked on,
eager to know how he had got down from the tower, some of them anything
but glad to see him back. The Raja took care not to show how delighted
he was to see him, and pretending to be angry, he said:

“How dare you come into my presence, and which of my subjects has
ventured to help you to escape the death on the tower you so richly

“None of your subjects, great and just and glorious ruler,” replied
Dhairya-Sila, “but the God who created us both, making you my master
and me your humble servant. It was that God,” he went on, “who saved
me, knowing that I was indeed guiltless of any crime against you. I had
not been long on the tower when help came to me in the form of a great
and noble eagle, which appeared above me, hovering with outspread
wings, as if about to swoop down upon me and tear me limb from limb. I
trembled greatly, but I need have had no fear; for instead of harming
me, the bird suddenly lifted me up in its talons and, flying rapidly
through the air, landed me upon the balcony of my home and disappeared.
Great indeed was the joy of my wife at my rescue from what seemed to be
certain death; but I tore myself away from her embraces, to come and
tell my lord how heaven had interfered to prove my innocence.”

Fully believing that a miracle had taken place, Surya Pratap asked no
more questions, but at once restored Dhairya-Sila to his old place as
vizier, taking care not again to ill-treat the man he now believed to
be under the special care of God. Though he certainly did not deserve
it, the vizier prospered greatly all the rest of his life and as time
went on he became the real ruler of the kingdom, for the Raja depended
on his advice in everything. He grew richer and richer, but he was
never really happy again, remembering the lie he had told to the master
to whom he owed so much. Buddhi-Mati could never understand why he made
up the story about the eagle, and constantly urged him to tell the
truth. She thought it was really far more wonderful that a little
beetle should have been the means of rescuing him, than that a strong
bird should have done so; and she wanted everyone to know what a very
clever husband she had. She kept her promise never to tell anyone what
really happened, but the secret came out for all that. By the time it
was known, however, Dhairya-Sila was so powerful that no one could harm
him, and when he died his son took his place as vizier.

13. What lessons can be learnt from this story?

14. What do you think was Dhairya-Sila’s motive for telling the Raja
the lie about the eagle?

15. What did Surya Pratap’s ready belief in the story show?

16. How do you think the secret the husband and wife kept so well was

A Crow and His Three Friends


In the branches of a great tree, in a forest in India, lived a wise old
crow in a very comfortable, well-built nest. His wife was dead, and all
his children were getting their own living; so he had nothing to do but
to look after himself. He led a very easy existence, but took a great
interest in the affairs of his neighbours. One day, popping his head
over the edge of his home, he saw a fierce-looking man stalking along,
carrying a stick in one hand and a net in the other.

“That fellow is up to some mischief, I’ll be bound,” thought the crow:
“I will keep my eye on him.” The man stopped under the tree, spread the
net on the ground; and taking a bag of rice out of his pocket, he
scattered the grains amongst the meshes of the net. Then he hid himself
behind the trunk of the tree from which the crow was watching,
evidently intending to stop there and see what would happen. The crow
felt pretty sure that the stranger had designs against birds, and that
the stick had something to do with the matter. He was quite right; and
it was not long before just what he expected came to pass.

A flock of pigeons, led by a specially fine bird who had been chosen
king because of his size and the beauty of his plumage, came flying
rapidly along, and noticed the white rice, but did not see the net,
because it was very much the same colour as the ground. Down swooped
the king, and down swept all the other pigeons, eager to enjoy a good
meal without any trouble to themselves. Alas, their joy was short
lived! They were all caught in the net and began struggling to escape,
beating the air with their wings and uttering loud cries of distress.

The crow and the man behind the tree kept very quiet, watching them;
the man with his stick ready to beat the poor helpless birds to death,
the crow watching out of mere curiosity. Now a very strange and
wonderful thing came to pass. The king of the pigeons, who had his wits
about him, said to the imprisoned birds:

“Take the net up in your beaks, all of you spread out your wings at
once, and fly straight up into the air as quickly as possible.”

1. What special qualities did the king display when he gave these
orders to his subjects?

2. Can you think of any other advice the king might have given?


In a moment all the pigeons, who were accustomed to obey their leader,
did as they were bid; each little bird seized a separate thread of the
net in his beak and up, up, up, they all flew, looking very beautiful
with the sunlight gleaming on their white wings. Very soon they were
out of sight; and the man, who thought he had hit upon a very clever
plan, came forth from his hiding-place, very much surprised at what had
happened. He stood gazing up after his vanished net for a little time,
and then went away muttering to himself, whilst the wise old crow
laughed at him.

When the pigeons had flown some distance, and were beginning to get
exhausted, for the net was heavy and they were quite unused to carrying
loads, the king bade them rest awhile in a clearing of the forest; and
as they all lay on the ground panting for breath, with the cruel net
still hampering them, he said:

“What we must do now is to take this horrible net to my old friend
Hiranya the mouse, who will, I am quite sure, nibble through the
strings for me and set us all free. He lives, as you all know, near the
tree where the net was spread, deep underground; but there are many
passages leading to his home, and we shall easily find one of the
openings. Once there, we will all lift up our voices, and call to him
at once, when he will be sure to hear us.” So the weary pigeons took up
their burden once more, and sped back whence they had come, greatly to
the surprise of the crow, who wondered at their coming back to the very
place where misfortune had overtaken them. He very soon learnt the
reason, and got so excited watching what was going on, that he hopped
out of his nest and perched upon a branch where he could see better.
Presently a great clamour arose, one word being repeated again and
again: “Hiranya! Hiranya! Hiranya.”

“Why, that’s the name of the mouse who lives down below there!” thought
the crow. “Now, what good can he do? I know, I know,” he added, as he
remembered the sharp teeth of Hiranya. “That king of the pigeons is a
sensible fellow. I must make friends with him.”

Very soon, as the pigeons lay fluttering and struggling outside one of
the entrances to Hiranya’s retreat, the mouse came out. He didn’t even
need to be told what was wanted, but at once began to nibble the
string, first setting free the king, and then all the rest of the
birds. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” cried the king; “a
thousand thousand thanks!” And away he flew up into the beautiful free
air of heaven, followed by the happy pigeons, none of them ever likely
to forget the adventure or to pick up food from the ground without a
good look at it first.

3. What was the chief virtue displayed by the mouse on this occasion?

4. Do you think it is easier to obey than to command?


The mouse did not at once return to his hole when the birds were gone,
but went for a little stroll, which brought him to the ground still
strewn with rice, which he began to eat with great relish. “It’s an ill
wind,” he said to himself, “which brings nobody any good. There’s many
a good meal for my whole family here.”

Presently he was joined by the old crow, who had flown down from his
perch unnoticed by Hiranya, and now addressed him in his croaky voice:

“Hiranya,” he said, “for that I know is your name, I am called
Laghupatin and I would gladly have you for a friend. I have seen all
that you did for the pigeons, and have come to the conclusion that you
are a mouse of great wisdom, ready to help those who are in trouble,
without any thought of yourself.”

“You are quite wrong,” squeaked Hiranya. “I am not so silly as you make
out. I have no wish to be your friend. If you were hungry, you wouldn’t
hesitate to gobble me up. I don’t care for that sort of affection.”

With that Hiranya whisked away to his hole, pausing at the entrance,
when he knew the crow could not get at him, to cry, “You be off to your
nest and leave me alone!”

The feelings of the crow were very much hurt at this speech, the more
that he knew full well it was not exactly love for the mouse, which had
led him to make his offer, but self-interest: for who could tell what
difficulties he himself might some day be in, out of which the mouse
might help him? Instead of obeying Hiranya, and going back to his nest,
he hopped to the mouse’s hole, and putting his head on one side in what
he thought was a very taking manner, he said:

“Pray do not misjudge me so. Never would I harm you! Even if I did not
wish to have you for a friend, I should not dream of gobbling you up,
as you say, however hungry I might be. Surely you are aware that I am a
strict vegetarian, and never eat the flesh of other creatures. At least
give me a trial. Let us share a meal together, and talk the matter

5. Can a friendship be a true one if the motive for it is

6. Would it have been wise or foolish for the mouse to agree to be
friends with the crow?


Hiranya, on hearing the last remark of Laghupatin, hesitated, and in
the end he agreed that he would have supper with the crow that very
evening. “There is plenty of rice here,” he said, “which we can eat on
the spot. It would be impossible for you to get into my hole, and I am
certainly not disposed to visit you in your nest.” So the two at once
began their meal, and before it was over they had become good friends.
Not a day passed without a meeting, and when all the rice was eaten up,
each of the two would bring something to the feast. This had gone on
for some little time, when the crow, who was fond of adventure and
change, said one day to the mouse: “Don’t you think we might go
somewhere else for a time? I am rather tired of this bit of the forest,
every inch of which we both know well. I’ve got another great friend
who lives beside a fine river a few miles away, a tortoise named
Mandharaka; a thoroughly good, trustworthy fellow he is, though rather
slow and cautious in his ways. I should like to introduce you to him.
There are quantities of food suitable for us both where he lives, for
it is a very fruitful land. What do you say to coming with me to pay
him a visit?”

“How in the world should I get there?” answered Hiranya. “It’s all very
well for you, who can fly. I can’t walk for miles and miles. For all
that I too am sick of this place and would like a change.”

“Oh, there’s no difficulty about that,” replied Laghupatin. “I will
carry you in my beak, and you will get there without any fatigue at
all.” To this Hiranya consented, and very early one morning the two
friends started off together.

7. Is love of change a good or a bad thing?

8. What did Hiranya’s readiness to let Laghupatin carry him show?


After flying along for several hours, the crow began to feel very
tired. He was seized too with a great desire to hear his own voice
again. So he flew to the ground, laid his little companion gently down,
and gave vent to a number of hoarse cries, which quite frightened
Hiranya, who timidly asked him what was the matter.

“Nothing whatever,” answered Laghupatin, “except that you are not quite
so light as I thought you were, and that I need a rest; besides which,
I am hungry and I expect you are. We had better stop here for the
night, and start again early to-morrow morning.” Hiranya readily agreed
to this, and after a good meal, which was easily found, the two settled
down to sleep, the crow perched in a tree, the mouse hidden amongst its
roots. Very early the next day they were off again, and soon arrived at
the river, where they were warmly welcomed by the tortoise. The three
had a long talk together, and agreed never to part again. The tortoise,
who had lived a great deal longer than either the mouse or the crow,
was a very pleasant companion; and even Laghupatin, who was very fond
of talking himself, liked to listen to his stories of long ago.

“I wonder,” said the tortoise, whose name was Mandharaka, to the mouse,
“that you are not afraid to travel about as you have done, with your
soft little body unprotected by any armour. Look how different it is
for me; it is almost impossible for any of the wild creatures who live
near this river to hurt me, and they know it full well. See how thick
and strong my armour is. The claws even of a tiger, a wild cat or an
eagle, could not penetrate it. I am very much afraid, my little friend,
that you will be gobbled up some fine day, and Laghupatin and I will
seek for you in vain.”

“Of course,” said the mouse, “I know the truth of what you say; but I
can very easily hide from danger—much more easily than you or
Laghupatin. A tuft of moss or a few dead leaves are shelter enough for
me, but big fellows like you and the crow can be quite easily seen.
Nobody saw me when the pigeons were all caught except Laghupatin; and I
would have kept out of his sight if I had not known that he did not
care to eat mice.”

In spite of the fears of Mandharaka, the mouse and the crow lived as
his guests for a long time without any accident; and one day they were
suddenly joined by a new companion, a creature as unlike any one of the
three friends as could possibly be imagined. This was a very beautiful
deer, who came bounding out of the forest, all eager to escape from the
hunters, by whom he had been pursued, but too weary to reach the river,
across which he had hoped to be able to swim to safety. Just as he
reached the three friends, he fell to the ground, almost crushing the
mouse, who darted away in the nick of time. Strange to say, the hunters
did not follow the deer; and it was evident that they had not noticed
the way he had gone.

The tortoise, the crow and the mouse were all very sorry for the deer,
and, as was always the case, the crow was the first to speak. “Whatever
has happened to you?” he asked. And the deer made answer:

“I thought my last hour had come this time, for the hunters were close
upon me; and even now I do not feel safe.”

“I’ll fly up and take a look ’round,” said Laghupatin; and off he went
to explore, coming back soon, to say he had seen the hunters
disappearing a long distance off, going in quite another direction from
the river. Gradually the deer was reassured, and lay still where he had
fallen; whilst the three friends chatted away to him, telling him of
their adventures. “What you had better do,” said the tortoise, “is to
join us. When you have had a good meal, and a drink from the river, you
will feel a different creature. My old friend Laghupatin will be the
one to keep watch for us all, and warn us of any danger approaching; I
will give you the benefit of my long experience; and little Hiranya,
though he is not likely to be of any use to you, will certainly never
do you any harm.”

9. Is it a good thing to make friends easily?

10. What was the bond of union between the crow, the mouse, the
tortoise and the deer?


The deer was so touched by the kind way in which he had been received,
that he agreed to stop with the three friends; and for some weeks after
his arrival all went well. Each member of the party went his own way
during the day-time, but all four met together in the evening, and took
it in turns to tell their adventures. The crow always had the most to
say, and was very useful to the deer in warning him of the presence of
hunters in the forest. One beautiful moonlight night the deer did not
come back as usual, and the other three became very anxious about him.
The crow flew up to the highest tree near and eagerly sought for some
sign of his lost friend, of whom he had grown very fond. Presently he
noticed a dark mass by the river-side, just where the deer used to go
down to drink every evening. “That must be he,” thought the crow; and
very soon he was hovering above the deer, who had been caught in a net
and was struggling in vain to get free.

The poor deer was very glad indeed to see the crow, and cried to him in
a piteous voice: “Be quick, be quick, and help me, before the terrible
hunters find me and kill me.”

“I can do nothing for you myself,” said the crow, “but I know who can.
Remember who saved the pigeons!” And away he flew to fetch little
Hiranya, who with the tortoise was anxiously awaiting his return. Very
soon Laghupatin was back by the river-side with the little mouse in his
beak; and it did not take long for Hiranya, who had been despised by
the deer and the tortoise as a feeble little thing, to nibble through
the cords and save the life of the animal a hundred times as big as

How happy the deer was when the cruel cords were loosed and he could
stretch out his limbs again! He bounded up, but took great care not to
crush the mouse, who had done him such a service. “Never, never,
never,” he said, “shall I forget what you have done for me. Ask
anything in my power, and I will do it.”

“I want nothing,” said Hiranya, “except the joyful thought of having
saved you.”

By this time the tortoise had crept to the riverbank, and he too was
glad that the deer had been saved. He praised the mouse, and declared
that he would never again look down upon him. Then the four started to
go back to their usual haunt in the forest; the deer, the crow, and the
mouse soon arriving there quite safely, whilst the tortoise, who could
only get along very slowly, lagged behind. Now came the time for him to
find out that armour was not the only thing needed to save him from
danger. He had not got very far from the riverbank before the cruel
hunter who had set the net to catch the deer, came to see if he had
succeeded. Great was his rage when he found the net lying on the
ground, but not exactly where he had left it. He guessed at once that
some animal had been caught in it and escaped after a long struggle. He
looked carefully about and noticed that the cords had been bitten
through here and there. So he suspected just what had happened, and
began to search about for any creature who could have done the

There was not a sign of the mouse, but the slow-moving tortoise was
soon discovered, and pouncing down upon him, the hunter rolled him up
in another net he had with him, and carried him off, “It’s not much of
a prize,” said the hunter to himself, “but better than nothing. I’ll
have my revenge on the wretched creature anyhow, as I have lost the
prey I sought.”

11. Which of the four friends concerned in this adventure do you admire

12. What was the chief mistake made by the tortoise?


When the tortoise in his turn did not come home, the deer, the crow and
the mouse were very much concerned. They talked the matter over
together and decided that, however great the risk to themselves, they
must go back and see what had become of their friend. This time the
mouse travelled in one of the ears of the deer, from which he peeped
forth with his bright eyes, hoping to see the tortoise toiling along in
his usual solemn manner; whilst the crow, also on the watch, flew along
beside them. Great was the surprise and terror of all three when, as
they came out of the forest, they saw the hunter striding along towards
them, with the tortoise in the net under his arm. Once more the little
mouse showed his wisdom. Without a moment’s hesitation he said to the
deer: “Throw yourself on the ground and pretend to be dead; and _you_,”
he added to the crow, “perch on his head and bend over as if you were
going to peck out his eyes.”

Without any idea what Hiranya meant by these strange orders, but
remembering how he had helped in other dangers, the two did as they
were told; the poor deer feeling anything but happy lying still where
his enemy was sure to see him, and thereby proving what a noble
creature he was. The hunter did, see him very soon, and thinking to
himself, “After all I shall get that deer,” he let the tortoise fall,
and came striding along as fast as he could.

Up jumped the deer without waiting to see what became of the tortoise,
and sped away like the wind. The hunter rushed after him, and the two
were soon out of sight. The tortoise, whose armour had saved him from
being hurt by his fall, was indeed pleased when he saw little Hiranya
running towards him. “Be quick, be quick!” he cried, “and set me free.”
Very soon the sharp teeth of the mouse had bitten through the meshes of
the net, and before the hunter came back, after trying in vain to catch
the deer, the tortoise was safely swimming across the river, leaving
the net upon the ground, whilst the crow and the mouse were back in the
shelter of the forest.

“There’s some magic at work here,” said the hunter when, expecting to
find the tortoise where he had left him, he discovered that his
prisoner had escaped. “The stupid beast could not have got out alone,”
he added, as he picked up the net and walked off with it. “But he
wasn’t worth keeping anyhow.”

That evening the four friends met once more, and talked over all they
had gone through together. The deer and the tortoise were full of
gratitude to the mouse, and could not say enough in his praise, but the
crow was rather sulky, and remarked: “If it had not been for me,
neither of you would ever have seen Hiranya. He was my friend before he
was yours.”

“You are right,” said the tortoise, “and you must also remember that it
was my armour which saved me from being killed in that terrible fall.”

“Your armour would not have been of much use to you, if the hunter had
been allowed to carry you to his home,” said the deer. “In my opinion
you and I both owe our lives entirely to Hiranya. He is small and weak,
it is true, but he has better brains than any of the rest of us, and I
for one admire him with all my heart. I am glad I trusted him and
obeyed him, when he ordered me to pretend to be dead, for I had not the
least idea how that could help the tortoise.”

“Have it your own way,” croaked the crow, “but I keep my own opinion
all the same. But for me you would never have known my dear little

In spite of this little dispute the four friends were soon as happy
together as before the adventure of the tortoise. They once more agreed
never to part and lived happily together for many years, as they had
done ever since they first met.

13. What were the chief differences in the characters of the four

14. Are those who are alike or unlike in character more likely to
remain friends?

15. How would you describe a true friend?

16. What fault is more likely than any other to lead to loss of

A Clever Thief.


A certain man, named Hari-Sarman, who lived in a little village in
India, where there were no rich people and everyone had to work hard to
get his daily bread, got very weary of the life he had to lead. He had
a wife whose name was Vidya, and a large family; and even if he had
been very industrious it would have been difficult for him to get
enough food for them all. Unfortunately he was not a bit industrious,
but very lazy, and so was his wife. Neither of them made any attempt to
teach their boys and girls to earn their own living; and if the other
poor people in the village had not helped them, they would have
starved. Hari-Sarman used to send his children out in different
directions to beg or steal, whilst he and Vidya stayed at home doing

One day he said to his wife: “Let us leave this stupid place, and go to
some big city where we can pick up a living of some kind. I will
pretend to be a wise man, able to find out secrets; and you can say
that you know all about children, having had so many of your own.”
Vidya gladly agreed to this, and the whole party set out, carrying the
few possessions they had with them. In course of time they came to a
big town, and Hari-Sarman went boldly to the chief house in it, leaving
his wife and children outside. He asked to see the master, and was
taken into his presence. This master was a very rich merchant, owning
large estates in the country; but he cannot have been very clever, for
he was at once quite taken in by the story Hari-Sarman told him. He
said that he would find work for him and his wife, and that the
children could be sent to a farm he had in the country, where they
could be made very useful.

Overjoyed at this, Hari-Sarman hastened out to tell his wife the good
news; and the two were at once received into the grand residence, in
which a small room was given to them for their own, whilst the children
were taken away to the farm, fall of eager delight at the change from
the wretched life they had been leading.

1. Would it have been better for Hari-Sarman and Vidya if their
neighbours had not helped them?

2. Do you think Hari-Sarman was the only person to blame for his


Soon after the arrival of the husband and wife at the merchant’s house,
a very important event took place, namely, the marriage of the eldest
daughter. Great were the preparations beforehand, in which Vidya took
her full share, helping in the kitchen to make all manner of delicious
dishes, and living in great luxury herself. For there was no stint in
the wealthy home; even the humblest servants were well cared for. Vidya
was happier than she had ever been before, now that she had plenty to
do and plenty of good food. She became in fact quite a different
creature, and began to wish she had been a better mother to her
children. “When the wedding is over,” she thought, “I will go and see
how they are getting on.” On the other hand she forgot all about her
husband and scarcely ever saw him.

It was all very different with Hari-Sarman himself. He had no special
duties to perform and nobody seemed to want him. If he went into the
kitchen, the busy servants ordered him to get out of their way; and he
was not made welcome by the owner of the house or his guests. The
merchant too forgot all about him, and he felt very lonely and
miserable. He had been thinking to himself how much he would enjoy all
the delicious food he would get after the wedding; and now he began to
grumble: “I’m starving in the midst of plenty, that’s what I am.
Something will have to be done to change this horrible state of

Whilst the preparations for the wedding were going on, Vidya never came
near her husband, and he lay awake a long time thinking, “What in the
world can I do to make the master send for me?” All of a sudden an idea
came into his head. “I’ll steal something valuable, and hide it away;
and when everyone is being asked about the loss, the merchant will
remember the man who can reveal secrets. Now what can I take that is
sure to be missed? I know, I know!” And springing out of bed, he
hastily dressed himself and crept out of the house.

3. What would you have done if you had been Hari-Sarman?

4. Do you think Vidya ever had any real love for her husband?


This was what Hari-Sarman decided to do. The merchant had a great many
very beautiful horses, which lived in splendid stables and were taken
the greatest possible care of. Amongst them was a lovely little Arab
mare, the special favourite of the bride, who often went to pet it and
give it sugar. “I’ll steal that mare and hide it away in the forest,”
said the wicked man to himself. “Then, when every one is hunting for
her, the master will remember the man who can reveal secrets and send
for me. Ah! Ah! What a clever fellow I am! All the stablemen and grooms
are feasting, I know; for I saw them myself when I tried to get hold of
my wife. I can climb through a window that is always left open.” It
turned out that he was right. He met no one on his way to the stables,
which ware quite deserted. He got in easily, opened, the door from
inside, and led out the little mare, which made no resistance; she had
always been so kindly treated that she was not a bit afraid. He took
the beautiful creature far into the depths of the forest, tied her up
there, and got safely back to his own room without being seen.

Early the next morning the merchant’s daughter, attended by her
maidens, went to see her dear little mare, taking with her an extra
supply of sugar. What was her distress when she found the stall empty!
She guessed at once that a thief had got in during the night, and
hurried home to tell her father, who was very, very angry with the
stablemen who had deserted their posts, and declared they should all be
flogged for it. “But the first thing to do is to get the mare back,” he
said; and he ordered messengers to be sent in every direction,
promising a big reward to anyone who brought news of the mare.

Vidya of course heard all there was to hear, and at once suspected that
Hari-Sarman had had something to do with the matter. “I expect he has
hidden the mare,” she thought to herself, “and means to get the reward
for finding it.” So she asked to see the master of the house, and when
leave was granted to her she said to him:

“Why do you not send for my husband, the man who can reveal secrets,
because of the wonderful power that has been given him of seeing what
is hidden from others? Many a time has he surprised me by what he has
been able to do.”

5. Do you think Vidya had any wish to help Hari-Sarman for his own

6. Is there anything you think she should have done before seeing the


On hearing what Vidya said, the merchant at once told her to go and
fetch her husband. But to her surprise Hari-Sarman refused to go back
with her. “You can tell the master what you like,” he said, angrily.
“You all forgot me entirely yesterday; and now you want me to help you,
you suddenly remember my existence. I am not going to be at your beck
and call or anyone else’s.”

Vidya entreated him to listen to reason, but it was no good. She had to
go back and tell the merchant that he would not come. Instead of being
made angry by this, however, the master surprised her by saying: “Your
husband is right. I have treated him badly. Go and tell him I
apologise, and will reward him well, if only he will come and help me.”

Back again went Vidya and this time she was more successful. But though
Hari-Sarman said he would go back with her, he was very sulky and would
not answer any of her questions. She could not understand him, and
wished she had not left him to himself for so long. He behaved very
strangely too when the master, who received him very kindly, asked him
if he could tell him where the mare was. “I know,” he said, “what a
wise and clever man you are.”

“It didn’t seem much like it yesterday,” grumbled Hari-Sarman. “Nobody
took any notice of me then, but now you want something of me, you find
out that I am wise and clever. I am just the same person that I was

“I know, I know,” said the merchant, “and I apologise for my neglect;
but when a man’s daughter is going to be married, it’s no wonder some
one gets neglected.”

7. Do you think Hari-Sarman was wise to treat his wife and the merchant
as he did?

8. If the mare had been found whilst Hari-Sarman was talking to the
master, what effect do you think the discovery would have had upon them


Hari-Sarman now thought it was time to take a different tone. So he put
his hand in his pocket, and brought out a map he had got ready whilst
waiting to be sent for, as he had felt sure he would be. He spread it
out before the merchant, and pointed to a dark spot in the midst of
many lines crossing each other in a bewildering manner, which he
explained were pathways through the forest. “Under a tree, where that
dark spot is, you will find the mare,” he said.

Overjoyed at the good news, the merchant at once sent a trusted servant
to test the truth; and when the mare was brought back, nothing seemed
too good for the man who had led to her recovery. At the wedding
festivities Hari-Sarman was treated as an honoured guest, and no longer
had he any need to complain of not having food enough. His wife of
course thought he would forgive her now for having neglected him. But
not a bit of it: he still sulked with her, and she could never feel
quite sure what the truth was about the mare.

All went well with Hari-Sarman for a long time. But presently something
happened which seemed likely to get him into very great trouble. A
quantity of gold and many valuable jewels disappeared in the palace of
the king of the country; and when the thief could not be discovered,
some one told the king the story of the stolen mare, and how a man
called Hari-Sarman, living in the house of a rich merchant in the chief
city, had found her when everyone else had failed.

“Fetch that man here at once,” ordered the king, and very soon
Hari-Sarman was brought before him. “I hear you are so wise, you can
reveal all secrets,” said the king. “Now tell me immediately who has
stolen the gold and jewels and where they are to be found.”

Poor Hari-Sarman did not know what to say or do. “Give me till
to-morrow,” he replied in a faltering voice; “I must have a little time
to think.”

“I will not give you a single hour,” answered the king. For seeing the
man before him was frightened, he began to suspect he was a deceiver.
“If you do not at once tell me where the gold and jewels are, I will
have you flogged until you find your tongue.”

Hearing this, Hari-Sarman, though more terrified than ever, saw that
his only chance of gaining time to make up some story was to get the
king to believe in him. So he drew himself up and answered: “The wisest
magicians need to employ means to find out the truth. Give me
twenty-four hours, and I will name the thieves.”

“You are not much of a magician if you cannot find out such a simple
thing as I ask of you,” said the king. And turning to the guards, he
ordered them to take Hari-Sarman to prison, and shut him up there
without food or drink till he came to his senses. The man was dragged
away, and very soon he found himself alone in a dark and gloomy room
from which he saw no hope of escape.

He was in despair and walked up and down, trying in vain to think of
some way of escape. “I shall die here of starvation, unless my wife
finds some means of setting me free,” he said. “I wish I had treated
her better instead of being so sulky with her.” He tried the bars of
the window, but they were very strong: he could not hope to move them.
And he beat against the door, but no notice was taken of that.

9. What lesson does the trouble Hari-Sarman was in teach?

10. Do you think it would have been better for him to tell the king he
could not reveal secrets?


When it got quite dark in the prison, Hari-Sarman began to talk to
himself aloud. “Oh,” he said, “I wish I had bitten my tongue out before
I told that lie about the mare. It is all my foolish tongue which has
got me into this trouble. Tongue! Tongue!” he went on, “it is all your

Now a very strange thing happened. The money and jewels had been stolen
by a man, who had been told where they were by a young servant girl in
the palace whose name was Jihva, which is the Sanskrit word for tongue;
and this girl was in a great fright when she heard that a revealer of
secrets had been taken before the king. “He will tell of my share in
the matter,” she thought, “and I shall get into trouble,” It so
happened that the guard at the prison door was fond of her, as well as
the thief who had stolen the money and jewels. So when all was quiet in
the palace, Jihva slipped away to see if she could get that guard to
let her see the prisoner. “If I promise to give him part of the money,”
she thought, “he will undertake not to betray me.”

The guard was glad enough when Jihva came to talk to him, and he let
her listen at the key-hole to what Hari-Sarman was saying. Just imagine
her astonishment when she heard him repeating her name again and again.
“Jihva! Jihva! Thou,” he cried, “art the cause of this suffering. Why
didst thou behave in such a foolish manner, just for the sake of the
good things of this life? Never can I forgive thee, Jihva, thou wicked,
wicked one!”

“Oh! oh!” cried Jihva in an agony of terror, “he knows the truth; he
knows that I helped the thief.” And she entreated the guard to let her
into the prison that she might plead with Hari-Sarman not to tell the
king what she had done. The man hesitated at first, but in the end she
persuaded him to consent by promising him a large reward.

When the key grated in the lock, Hari-Sarman stopped talking aloud,
wondering whether what he had been saying had been overheard by the
guard, and half hoping that his wife had got leave to come and see him.
As the door opened and he saw a woman coming in by the light of a
lantern held up by the guard, he cried, “Vidya my beloved!” But he soon
realized that it was a stranger. He was indeed surprised and relieved,
when Jihva suddenly threw herself at his feet and, clinging to his
knees, began to weep and moan “Oh, most holy man,” she cried between
her sobs, “who knowest the very secrets of the heart, I have come to
confess that it was indeed I, Jihva, your humble servant, who aided the
thief to take the jewels and the gold and to hide them beneath the big
pomegranate tree behind the palace.”

“Rise,” replied Hari-Sarman, overjoyed at hearing this. “You have told
me nothing that I did not know, for no secret is hidden from me. What
reward will you give me if I save you from the wrath of the king?”

“I will give you all the money I have,” said Jihva; “and that is not a

“That also I knew,” said Hari-Sarman. “For you have good wages, and
many a time you have stolen money that did not belong to you. Go now
and fetch it all, and have no fear that I will betray you.”

11. What mistakes do you think Jihva made in what she said to

12. What would have been the best thing for her to do when she thought
she was found out?


Without waiting a moment Jihva hurried away to fetch the money; but
when she got back with it, the man on guard, who had heard everything
that had passed between her and Hari-Sarman, would not let her in to
the prison again till she gave him ten gold pieces. Thinking that
Hari-Sarman really knew exactly how much money she had, Jihva was
afraid he would be angry when he missed some of it; and again she let
out the truth, which he might never have guessed. For she began at once
to say, “I brought all I had, but the man at the door has taken ten
pieces.” This did vex Hari-Sarman very much, and he told her he would
let the king know what she had done, unless she fetched the thief who
had taken the money and jewels. “I cannot do that,” said Jihva, “for he
is very far away. He lives with his brother, Indra Datta, in the forest
beyond the river, more than a day’s journey from here.” “I did but try
you,” said the clever Hari-Sarman, who now knew who the thief was; “for
I can see him where he is at this moment. Now go home and wait there
till I send for you.”

But Jihva, who loved the thief and did not want him to be punished,
refused to go until Hari-Sarman promised that he would not tell the
king who the man was or where he lived. “I would rather,” she said,
“bear all the punishment than that he should suffer.” Even Hari-Sarman
was touched at this, and fearing that if he kept Jihva longer, she
would be found in the prison by messengers from the king, he promised
that no harm should come to her or the thief, and let her go.

Very soon after this, messengers came to take Hari-Sarman once more
before the king; who received him very coldly and began at once to
threaten him with a terrible punishment, if he did not say who the
thief was, and where the gold and jewels were. Even now Hari-Sarman
pretended to be unwilling to speak. But when he saw that the king would
put up with no more delay, he said, “I will lead you to the spot where
the treasure is buried, but the name of the thief, though I know it, I
will never betray.” The king, who did not really care much who the
thief was, so long as he got back his money, lost not a moment, but
ordered his attendants to get spades and follow him. Very soon
Hari-Sarman brought them to the pomegranate tree. And there, sure
enough, deep down in the ground, was all that had been lost.

Nothing was now too good for Hari-Sarman: the king was greatly
delighted, and heaped riches and honours upon him. But some of the wise
men at the court suspected that he was really a deceiver, and set about
trying to find out all they could about him. They sent for the man who
had been on guard at the prison, and asked him many questions. He did
not dare tell the truth, for he knew he would be terribly punished if
he let out that Jihva had been allowed to see his prisoner; but he
hesitated so much that the wise men knew he was not speaking the truth.
One of them, whom the king loved, and trusted very much, whose name was
Deva-Jnanin, said to his master: “I do not like to see that man, about
whom we really know nothing, treated as he is. He might easily have
found out where the treasure was hidden without any special power. Will
you not test him in some other way in my presence and that of your
chief advisers?”

The king, who was always ready to listen to reason, agreed to this; and
after a long consultation with Deva-Jnanin, he decided on a very clever
puzzle with which to try Hari-Sarman. A live frog was put into a
pitcher; the lid was shut down, and the man who pretended to know
everything was brought into the great reception room, where all the
wise men of the court were gathered together round the throne, on which
sat the king in his royal robes. Deva-Jnanin had been chosen by his
master to speak for him; and coming forward, he pointed to the small
pitcher on the ground, and said: “Great as are the honours already
bestowed on you, they shall be increased if you can say at once what is
in that pitcher.”

13. What kind of man do you think the king was from his behaviour to

14. Was it wise or foolish of Hari-Sarman to remain in the city after
his very narrow escape?


Hari-Sarman thought when he looked at the pitcher: “Alas, alas, it is
all over with me now! Never can I find out what is in it. Would that I
had left this town with the money I had from Jihva before it was too
late!” Then he began to mutter to himself, as it was always his habit
to do when he was in trouble. It so happened that, when he was a little
boy, his father used to call him frog, and now his thoughts went back
to the time when he was a happy innocent child, and he said aloud: “Oh,
frog, what trouble has come to you! That pitcher will be the death of

Even Deva-Jnanin was astonished when he heard that; and so were all the
other wise men. The king was delighted to find that after all he had
made no mistake; and all the people who had been allowed to come in to
see the trial were greatly excited. Shouting for joy the king called
Hari-Sarman to come to the foot of the throne, and told him he would
never, never doubt him again. He should have yet more money, a
beautiful house in the country as well as the one he already had in the
town, and his children should be brought from the farm to live with him
and their mother, who should have lovely dresses and ornaments to wear.

Nobody was more surprised than Hari-Sarman himself. He guessed, of
course, that there was a frog in the pitcher. And when the king had
ended his speech, he said: “One thing I ask in addition to all that has
been given me, that I may keep the pitcher in memory of this day, when
my truth has been proved once more beyond a doubt.”

His request was, of course, granted; and he went off with the pitcher
under his arm, full of rejoicing over his narrow escape. At the same
time he was also full of fear for the future. He knew only too well
that it had only been by a lucky chance that he had used the word Jihva
in his first danger and Frog in the second. He was not likely to get
off a third time; and he made up his mind that he would skip away some
dark night soon, with all the money and jewels he could carry, and be
seen no more where such strange adventures had befallen him. He did not
even tell his wife what he meant to do, but pretended to have forgiven
her entirely for the way she had neglected him when he was poor, and to
be glad that their children were to be restored to them. Before they
came from the farm their father had disappeared, and nobody ever found
out what had become of him; but the king let his family keep what had
been given to him, and to the end believed he really had been what he
had pretended to be. Only Deva-Jnanin had his doubts; but he kept them
to himself, for he thought, “Now the man is gone, it really does not
matter who or what he was.”

15. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?

16. What do you think it was that made Hari-Sarman think of his boyhood
when he was in trouble?

17. Do you think he took the pitcher and frog with him when he left the

18. Do you think there was anything good in the character of

The Hermit’s Daughter.


Near a town in India called Ikshumati, on a beautiful wide river, with
trees belonging to a great forest near its banks, there dwelt a holy
man named Mana Kanaka, who spent a great part of his life praying to
God. He had lost his wife when his only child, a lovely girl called
Kadali-Garbha, was only a few months old. Kadali-Garbha was a very
happy girl, with many friends in the woods round her home, not children
like herself, but wild creatures, who knew she would not do them any
harm. They loved her and she loved them. The birds were so tame that
they would eat out of her hand, and the deer used to follow her about
in the hope of getting the bread she carried in her pocket for them.
Her father taught her all she knew, and that was a great deal; for she
could read quite learned books in the ancient language of her native
land. Better even than what she found out in those books was what Mana
Kanaka told her about the loving God of all gods who rules the world
and all that live in it. Kadali-Garbha also learnt a great deal through
her friendship with wild animals. She knew where the birds built their
nests, where the baby deer were born, where the squirrels hid their
nuts, and what food all the dwellers in the forest liked best. She
helped her father to work in their garden in which all their own food
was grown; and she loved to cook the fruit and vegetables for Mana
Kanaka and herself. Her clothes were made of the bark of the trees in
the forest, which she herself wove into thin soft material suitable for
wearing in a hot climate.

1. What do you think it was which made the animals trust Kadali-Garbha?

2. Could you have been happy in the forest with no other children to
play with?


Kadali-Garbha never even thought about other children, because she had
not been used to having them with her. She was just as happy as the day
was long, and never wished for any change. But when she was about
sixteen something happened which quite altered her whole life. One day
her father had gone into the forest to cut wood, and had left her
alone. She had finished tidying the house, and got everything ready for
the midday meal, and was sitting at the door of her home, reading to
herself, with birds fluttering about her head and a pet doe lying
beside her, when she heard the noise of a horse’s feet approaching. She
looked up, and there on the other side of the fence was a very handsome
young man seated on a great black horse, which he had reined up when he
caught sight of her. He looked at her without speaking, and she looked
back at him with her big black eyes full of surprise at his sudden
appearance. She made a beautiful picture, with the green creepers
covering the hut behind her, and the doe, which had started up in fear
of the horse, pressing against her.

The man was the king of the country, whose name was Dridha-Varman. He
had been hunting and had got separated from his attendants. He was very
much surprised to find anyone living in the very depths of the forest,
and was going to ask the young girl who she was, when Kadali-Garbha saw
her father coming along the path leading to his home. Jumping up, she
ran to meet him, glad that he had come; for she had never before seen a
young man and was as shy as any of the wild creatures of the woods. Now
that Mana Kanaka was with her, she got over her fright, and felt quite
safe, clinging to his arm as he and the king talked together.

3. Can you describe just how Kadali-Garbha felt when she saw the king?

4. Do you think it would have been a good or a bad thing for her to
live all the rest of her life in the forest?


Mana Kanaka knew at once that the man on the horse was the king; and a
great fear entered his heart when he saw how Dridha-Varman looked at
his beloved only child.

“Who are you, and who is that lovely girl?” asked the king. And Mana
Kanaka answered, “I am only a humble woodcutter; and this is my only
child, whose mother has long been dead.”

“Her mother must have been a very lovely woman, if her daughter is like
her,” said the king. “Never before have I seen such perfect beauty.”

“Her mother,” replied Mana Kanaka, “was indeed what you say; and her
soul was as beautiful as the body in which it dwelt all too short a

“I would have your daughter for my wife,” said the king; “and if you
will give her to me, she shall have no wish ungratified. She shall have
servants to wait on her and other young girls to be her companions;
beautiful clothes to wear, the best of food to eat, horses and
carriages as many as she will, and no work to do with her own hands.”

5. If you had been Kadali-Garbha, what would you have said when you
heard all these promises?

6. Of all the things the king said she should have, which would you
have liked best?


What Kadali-Garbha did was to cling closely to her father, hiding her
face on his arm and whispering, “I will not leave you: do not send me
away from you, dear father.”

Mana Kanaka stroked her hair, and said in a gentle voice:

“But, dear child, your father is old, and must leave you soon. It is a
great honour for his little girl to be chosen by the king for his
bride. Do not be afraid, but look at him and see how handsome he is and
how kind he looks.”

Then Kadali-Garbha looked at the king, who smiled at her and looked so
charming that her fear began to leave her. She still clung to her
father, but no longer hid her face; and Mana Kanaka begged
Kadali-Garbha to let him send her away, so that he might talk with the
king alone about the wish he had expressed to marry her. The king
consented to this, and Kadali-Garbha gladly ran away. But when she
reached the door of her home, she looked back, and knew in her heart
that she already loved the king and did not want him to go away.

It did not take long for the matter of the marriage to be settled. For
Mana Kanaka, sad though he was to lose his dear only child, was glad
that she should be a queen, and have some one to take care of her when
he was gone. After this first visit to the little house in the forest
the king came every day to see Kadali-Garbha, bringing all kinds of
presents for her. She learnt to love him so much that she became as
eager as he was for the wedding to be soon. When the day was fixed, the
king sent several ladies of his court to dress the bride in clothes
more beautiful that she had ever dreamt of; and in them she looked more
lovely even than the first day her lover had seen her.

Now amongst these ladies was a very wise woman who could see what was
going to happen; and she knew that there would be troubles for the
young queen in the palace, because many would be jealous of her
happiness. She was very much taken with the beautiful innocent girl,
and wanted to help her so much that she managed to get her alone for a
few minutes, when she said to her: “I want you to promise me something.
It is to take this packet of mustard seeds, hide it in the bosom of
your dress, and when you ride to the palace with your husband, strew
the seed along the path as you go. You know how quickly mustard grows.
Well, it will spring up soon; and if you want to come home again, you
can easily find the way by following the green shoots. Alas, I fear
they will not have time to wither before you need their help!”

Kadali-Garbha laughed when the wise woman talked about trouble coming
to her. She was so happy, she could not believe she would want to come
home again so soon. “My father can come to me when I want him,” she
said. “I need only tell my dear husband to send for him.” But for all
that she took the packet of seeds and hid it in her dress.

7. Would you have done as the wise woman told you if you had been the

8. Ought Kadali-Garbha to have told the king about the mustard seed?


After the wedding was over, the king mounted his beautiful horse, and
bending down, took his young wife up before him. Holding her close to
him with his right arm, he held the reins in his left hand; and away
they went, soon leaving all the attendants far behind them, the queen
scattering the mustard seed as she had promised to do. When they
arrived at the palace there were great rejoicings, and everybody seemed
charmed with the queen, who was full of eager interest in all that she

For several weeks there was nobody in the wide world so happy and
light-hearted as the bride. The king spent many hours a day with her,
and was never tired of listening to all she had to tell him about her
life in the forest with her father. Every day he gave her some fresh
proof of his love, and he never refused to do anything she asked him to
do. But presently a change came. Amongst the ladies of the court there
was a beautiful woman, who had hoped to be queen herself, and hated
Kadali-Garbha so much that she made up her mind to get her into
disgrace with the king. She asked first one powerful person and then
another to help her; but everybody loved the queen, and the wicked
woman began to be afraid that those she had told about her wish to harm
her would warn the king. So she sought about for some one who did not
know Kadali-Garbha, and suddenly remembered a wise woman named
Asoka-Mala, who lived in a cave not far from the town, to whom many
people used to go for advice in their difficulties. She went to this
woman one night, and told her a long story in which there was not one
word of truth. The young queen, she said, did not really love the king;
and with the help of her father, who was a magician, she meant to
poison him. How could this terrible thing be prevented, she asked; and
she promised that if only Asoka-Mala would help to save Dridha-Varman,
she would give her a great deal of money.

Asoka-Mala guessed at once that the story was not true, and that it was
only because the woman was jealous of the beautiful young queen that
she wished to hurt her. But she loved money very much. Instead
therefore of at once refusing to have anything to do with the matter,
she said: “Bring me fifty gold pieces now, and promise me another fifty
when the queen is sent away from the palace, and I will tell you what
to do.”

The wicked woman promised all this at once. The very next night she
brought the first fifty pieces of gold to the cave, and Asoka-Mala told
her that she must get the barber, who saw the king alone every day, to
tell him he had found out a secret about the queen. “You must tell the
barber all you have already told me. But be very careful to give some
proof of your story. For if you do not do so, you will only have wasted
the fifty gold pieces you have already given to me; and, more than
that, you will be terribly punished for trying to hurt the queen, whom
everybody loves.”

9. Do you think this plot against Kadali-Garbha was likely to succeed?

10. Can you think of any way in which the wise woman might have helped
the queen and also have gained a reward for herself?


The wicked woman went back to the palace, thinking all the way to
herself, “How can I get a proof of what is not true?” At last an idea
came into her head. She knew that the queen loved to wander in the
forest, and that she was not afraid of the wild creatures, but seemed
to understand their language. She would tell the barber that
Kadali-Garbha was a witch and knew the secrets of the woods; that she
had been seen gathering wild herbs, some of them poisonous, and had
been heard muttering strange words to herself as she did so.

Early the next morning the cruel woman went to see the barber, and
promised him a reward if he would tell the king what she had found out
about his wife. “He won’t believe you at first,” she said; “but you
must go on telling him till he does. You are clever, enough,” she
added, “to make up something he will believe if what I have thought of
is no good.”

The barber, who had served the king for many years, would not at first
agree to help to make him unhappy. But he too liked money very much,
and in the end he promised to see what he could do if he was well paid
for it. He was, as the wicked woman had said, clever enough; and he
knew from long experience just how to talk to his master. He began by
asking the king if he had heard of the lovely woman who was sometimes
seen by the woodmen wandering about alone in the forest, with wild
creatures following her. Remembering how he had first seen
Kadali-Garbha, Dridha-Varman at once guessed that she was the lovely
woman. But he did not tell the barber so; for he was so proud of his
dear wife’s beauty that he liked to hear her praised, and wanted the
man to go on talking about her. He just said: “What is she like? Is she
tall or short, fair or dark?” The barber answered the questions
readily. Then he went on to say that it was easy to see that the lady
was as clever as she was beautiful; for she knew not only all about
animals but also about plants. “Every day,” he said, “she gathers
quantities of herbs, and I have been told she makes healing medicines
of them. Some even go so far as to say she also makes poisons. But, for
my part, I do not believe that; she is too beautiful to be wicked.”

The king listened, and a tiny little doubt crept into his mind about
his wife. She had never told him about the herbs she gathered, although
she often chattered about her friends in the forest. Perhaps after all
it was not Kadali-Garbha the barber was talking about. He would ask her
if she knew anything about making medicines from herbs. He did so when
they were alone together, and she said at once, “Oh, yes! My father
taught me. But I have never made any since I was married.”

“Are you sure?” asked the king; and she answered laughing, “Of course,
I am: how could I be anything but sure? I have no need to think of
medicine-making, now I am the queen.”

Dridha-Varman said no more at the time. But he was troubled; and when
the barber came again, he began at once to ask about the woman who had
been seen in the woods. The wicked man was delighted, and made up a
long story. He said one of the waiting women had told him of what she
had seen. The woman, he said, had followed the lady home one day, and
that home was not far from the palace. She had seen her bending over a
fire above which hung a great sauce-pan full of water, into which she
flung some of the herbs she had gathered, singing as she did so, in a
strange language.

“Could it possibly be,” thought the king, “that Kadali-Garbha had
deceived him? Was she perhaps a witch after all?” He remembered that he
really did not know who she was, or who her father was. He had loved
her directly he saw her, just because she was so beautiful. What was he
to do now? He was quite sure, from the description the barber had given
of the woman in the forest, that she was his wife. He would watch her
himself in future, and say nothing to her that would make her think he
was doing so.

11. What should the king have done when he heard the barber’s story?

12. Can you really love anybody truly whom you do not trust?


Although the king said nothing to his wife about what the barber had
told him, he could not treat her exactly as he did before he heard it,
and she very soon began to wonder what she had done to vex him. The
first thing she noticed was that one of the ladies of the court always
followed her when she went into the forest. She did not like this;
because she so dearly loved to be alone with the wild creatures, and
they did not come to her when any one else was near. She told the lady
to go away, and she pretended to do so; but she only kept a little
further off. And though the queen could no longer see her, she knew she
was there, and so did the birds and the deer. This went on for a little
time; and then Kadali-Garbha asked her husband to tell every one that
she was not to be disturbed when she went to see her friends in the

“I am afraid,” said the king, “that some harm will come to you. There
are wild beasts in the depths of the wood who might hurt you. And what
should I do if any harm came to my dear one?”

Kadali-Garbha was grieved when Dridha-Varman said this, for she knew it
was not true; and she looked at him so sadly that he felt ashamed of
having doubted her. All would perhaps have been well even now, if he
had told her of the story he had heard about her, because then she
could have proved that it was not true. But he did not do that; he only
said, “I cannot let you be alone so far from home. Why not be content
with the lovely gardens all round the palace? If you still wish to go
to the woods, I will send one of the game-keepers with you instead of
the lady who has been watching you. Then he can protect you if any
harmful creature should approach.”

“If my lord does not wish me to be alone in the forest,” answered the
queen, “I will be content with the gardens. For no birds or animals
would come near me if one of their enemies were with me. But,” she
added, as her eyes filled with tears, “will not my lord tell me why he
no longer trusts his wife, who loves him with all her heart?”

The king was very much touched by what Kadali-Garbha said, but still
could not make up his mind to tell her the truth. So he only embraced
her fondly, and said she was a good little wife to be so ready to obey
him. The queen went away very sadly, wondering to herself what she
could do to prove to her dear lord that she loved him as much as ever.
She took care never to go outside the palace gardens, but she longed
very much for her old freedom, and began to grow pale and thin.

The wicked woman who had tried to do her harm was very much
disappointed that she had only succeeded in making her unhappy; so she
went again to Asoka-Mala, and promised her more money if only she would
think of some plan to get the king to send his wife away. The wise
woman considered a long time, and then she said: “You must use the
barber again. He goes from house to house, and he must tell the king
that the beautiful woman, who used to roam about in the forest
collecting herbs, has been seen there again in the dead of the night,
when she could be sure no one would find out what she was doing.”

Now it so happened that Kadali-Garbha was often unable to sleep because
of her grief that the king did not love her so much as he used to do.
One night she got so tired of lying awake that she got up very quietly,
so as not to disturb her husband, and putting on her sari, she went out
into the gardens, hoping that the fresh air might help her to sleep.
Presently the king too woke up, and finding that his wife was no longer
beside him, he became very uneasy, and was about to go and seek her,
when she came back. He asked her where she had been; and she told him
exactly what had happened, but she did not explain why she could not

13. What mistake did the queen make in her treatment of the king?

14. Do you think it is more hurtful to yourself and to others to talk
too much or too little?


When the barber was shaving the king the next morning, he told him he
had heard that people were saying the beautiful woman had been seen
again one night, gathering herbs and muttering to herself. “They talk,
my lord,” said the man, “of your own name having been on her lips; and
those who love and honour you are anxious for your safety. Maybe the
woman is indeed a witch, who for some reason of her own will try to
poison you.”

Now Dridha-Varman remembered that Kadali-Garbha had left him the night
before, “and perhaps,” he thought, “at other times when I was asleep.”
He could scarcely wait until the barber had finished shaving him, so
eager was he to find out the truth. He hurried to his wife’s private
room, but she was not there; and her ladies told him she had not been
seen by them that day. This troubled him terribly, and he roused the
whole palace to seek her. Messengers were soon hurrying to and fro, but
not a trace of her could be found. Dridha-Varman was now quite sure
that the woman the barber had talked about was Kadali-Garbha, the wife
he had so loved and trusted. “Perhaps,” he thought, “she has left
poison in my food, and has gone away so as not to see me die.” He would
neither eat nor drink, and he ordered all the ladies whose duty it was
to wait on the queen to be locked up till she was found. Amongst them
was the wicked woman who had done all the mischief because of her
jealousy of the beautiful young queen, and very much she wished she had
never tried to harm her.

15. Where do you suppose the queen had gone?

16. What mistake did the king make when he heard the queen was missing?


In her trouble about the loss of the king’s love Kadali-Garbha longed
for her father, for she felt sure he would be able to help her. So she
determined to go to him. With the aid of the wise woman who had given
her the packet of mustard seed, and who had been her best friend at
court, she disguised herself as a messenger, and, mounted on a strong
little pony, she sped along the path marked out by the young shoots of
mustard, reaching her old home in the forest before the night fell.
Great indeed was the joy of Mana Kanaka at the sight of his beloved
child, and very soon she had poured out all her sorrow to him. The
hermit was at first very much enraged with his son-in-law for the way
in which he had treated Kadali-Garbha, and declared that he would use
all the powers he had to punish him. “Never,” he said, “shall he see
your dear face again; but I will go to him and call down on him all
manner of misfortunes. You know not, dear child, I have never wished
you to know, that I am a magician and can make the very beasts of the
field and the winds of heaven obey me. I know full well who has made
this mischief between you and your husband, and I will see that
punishment overtakes them.”

“No, no, father,” cried Kadali-Garbha; “I will not have any harm done
to my dear one, for I love him with all my heart. All I ask of you is
to prove to him that I am innocent of whatever fault he thinks I have
committed, and to make him love and trust me again.”

It was hard work to persuade Mana Kanaka to promise not to harm the
king, but in the end he yielded. Together the father and daughter rode
back to the palace, and together they were brought before
Dridha-Varman, who, in spite of the anger he had felt against his wife,
was overjoyed to see her. When he looked at her clinging to Mana
Kanaka’s arm, as she had done the first time they met, all his old love
returned, and he would have taken her in his arms and told her so
before the whole court, if she had not drawn back. It was Mana Kanaka
who was the first to speak. Drawing himself up to his full height, and
pointing to the king, he charged him with having broken his vow to love
and protect his wife. “You have listened to lying tongues,” he said,
“and I will tell you to whom those tongues belong, that justice may be
done to them.”

Once more Kadali-Garbha interfered. “No, father,” she said; “let their
names be forgotten: only prove to my lord that I am his loving faithful
wife, and I will be content.”

“I need no proof,” cried Dridha-Varman; “but lest others should follow
their evil example, I will have vengeance on the slanderers. Name them,
and their doom shall be indeed a terrible one.”

Then Mana Kanaka told the king the whole sad story; and when it was
ended the wicked woman who had first thought of injuring the queen, and
the barber who had helped her, were sent for to hear their doom, which
was—to be shut up for the rest of their lives in prison. This was
changed to two years only, because Kadali-Garbha was generous enough to
plead for them. As for the third person in the plot, the old witch of
the cave, not a word was said about her by anybody. Mana Kanaka knew
well enough what her share in the matter had been; but magicians and
witches are careful not to make enemies of each other, and so he held
his peace.

Dridha-Varman was so grateful to his father-in-law for bringing his
wife back to him, that he wanted him to stop at court, and said he
would give him a very high position there. But Mana Kanaka refused
every reward, declaring that he loved his little home in the forest
better than the grand rooms he might have had in the palace. “All I
wish for,” he said, “is my dear child’s happiness. I hope you will
never again listen to stories against your wife. If you do, you may be
very sure that I shall hear of it; and next time I know that you have
been unkind to her I will punish you as you deserve.”

The king was obliged to let Mana Kanaka go, but after this he took
Kadali-Garbha to see her father in the forest very often. Later, when
the queen had some children of her own, their greatest treat was to go
to the little home, in the depths of the wood. They too learnt to love
animals, and had a great many pets, but none of those pets were kept in

17. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?

18. Which of all the people in this tale do you like best?

19. What do you think is the greatest power in all the world?

20. If you had been Kadali-Garbha would you have forgiven those who
tried to do you harm?


 [1] The city which occupied the site of present Patna was known as
 Patali-Putra in the time of Alexander the Great.

 [2] There are seventy-two versions of this tale in vogue amongst the
 high castes of India; the one here given is taken from Raj-Yoga, the
 highest form of Hindu ascetic philosophy.

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