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Tales Of The Punjab by Flora Annie Steel

Part 4 out of 5

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'On one condition,' answered the girl: 'you must never ask me to do
any household work; and no matter for what I ask, you must give it

'I will obey you like a slave!' promised the young man.

'Then go at once to the well, and fetch me a cup of water. Your
brother can stay with me,' quoth the girl.

But when the elder brother had gone, the snake-girl turned to the
younger, saying, 'Fly with me, for I love you! My promise to your
brother was a trick to get him away!'

'Not so!' returned the young man; 'you are his promised wife, and I
look on you as my sister.'

On this the girl became angry, weeping and wailing, until the elder
brother returned, when she called out, 'O husband, what a villain is
here! Your brother asked me to fly with him, and leave you!'

Then bitter wrath at this treachery arose in the elder brother's
heart, so that he drew his sword and challenged the younger to
battle. Then they fought all day long, until by evening they both lay
dead upon the field, and then the girl took the form of a snake once
more, and behind it followed the old man silent as a shadow. But at
last it changed into the likeness of an old white-bearded man, and
when he who had followed so long saw one like himself, he took
courage, and laying hold of the white beard, asked, 'Who and what are

Then the old man smiled and answered, 'Some call me the Lord of Death,
because I go about bringing death to the world.'

'Give me death!' pleaded the other, 'for I have followed you far,
silent as a shadow, and I am aweary.'

But the Lord of Death shook his head, saying, 'Not so! I only give to
those whose years are full, and you have sixty years of life to come!'

Then the old white-bearded man vanished, but whether he really was the
Lord of Death, or a devil, who can tell?



There was, once upon a time, long ago, a wrestler living in a far
country, who, hearing there was a mighty man in India, determined to
have a fall with him; so, tying up ten thousand pounds weight of flour
in his blanket, he put the bundle on his head and set off jauntily.
Towards evening he came to a little pond in the middle of the desert,
and sat down to eat his dinner. First, he stooped down and took a
good long drink of the water; then, emptying his flour into the
remainder of the pond, stirred it into good thick brose, off which he
made a hearty meal, and lying down under a tree, soon fell fast

Now, for many years an elephant had drunk daily at the pond, and,
coming as usual that evening for its draught, was surprised to find
nothing but a little mud and flour at the bottom.

'What shall I do?' it said to itself, 'for there is no more water to
be found for twenty miles!'

Going away disconsolate, it espied the wrestler sleeping placidly
under the tree, and at once made sure he was the author of the
mischief; so, galloping up to the sleeping man, it stamped on his head
in a furious rage, determined to crush him.

But, to his astonishment, the wrestler only stirred a little, and said
sleepily, 'What is the matter? what is the matter? If you want to
shampoo my head, why the plague don't you do it properly? What's
worth doing at all is worth doing well; so put a little of your weight
into it, my friend!'

The elephant stared, and left off stamping; but, nothing daunted,
seized the wrestler round the waist with its trunk, intending to heave
him up and dash him to pieces on the ground. 'Ho! ho! my little
friend!--that is your plan, is it?' quoth the wrestler, with a yawn;
and catching hold of the elephant's tail, and swinging the monster
over his shoulder, he continued his journey jauntily.

By and by he reached his destination, and, standing outside the Indian
wrestler's house, cried out, 'Ho! my friend! Come out and try a

'My husband's not at home to-day,' answered the wrestler's wife from
inside; 'he has gone into the wood to cut pea-sticks.'

'Well, well! when he returns give him this, with my compliments, and
tell him the owner has come from far to challenge him.'

So saying, he chucked the elephant clean over the courtyard wall.

'Oh, mamma! mamma!' cried a treble voice from within, 'I declare that
nasty man has thrown a mouse over the wall into my lap! What shall I
do to him?'

'Never mind, little daughter!' answered the wrestler's wife; 'papa
will teach him better manners. Take the grass broom and sweep the
mouse away.'

Then there was a sound of sweeping, and immediately the dead elephant
came flying over the wall.

'Ahem!' thought the wrestler outside, 'if the little daughter can do
this, the father will be a worthy foe!'

So he set off to the wood to meet the Indian wrestler, whom he soon
saw coming along the road, dragging a hundred and sixty carts laden
with brushwood.

'Now we shall see!' quoth the stranger, with a wink; and stealing
behind the carts, he laid hold of the last, and began to pull.

'That's a deep rut!' thought the Indian wrestler, and pulled a little
harder. So it went on for an hour, but not an inch one way or the
other did the carts budge.

'I believe there is some one hanging on behind!' quoth the Indian
wrestler at last, and walked back to see who it was. Whereupon the
stranger, coming to meet him, said, 'We seem pretty well matched; let
us have a fall together.'

'With all my heart!' answered the other, 'but not here alone in the
wilds; it is no fun fighting without applause.'

'But I haven't time to wait!' said the stranger; 'I have to be off at
once, so it must be here or nowhere.'

Just then an old woman came hurrying by with big strides.

'Here's an audience!' cried the wrestler, and called aloud, 'Mother!
mother! stop and see fair play!'

'I can't, my sons, I can't!' she replied, 'for my daughter is going to
steal my camels, and I am off to stop her; but if you like, you can
jump on to the palm of my hand, and wrestle there as I go along.'

So the wrestlers jumped on to the old woman's palm, and wrestled away
as she strode over hill and dale.

Now when the old woman's daughter saw her mother, with the wrestlers
wrestling on her hand, she said to herself, 'Here she comes, with the
soldiers she spoke about! It is time for me to be off!'

So she picked up the hundred and sixty camels, tied them in her
blanket, and swinging it over her shoulder, set off at a run.

But one of the camels put its head out of the blanket and began
groaning and hubble-bubble-ubbling, after the manner of camels; so, to
quiet it, the girl tore down a tree or two, and stuffed them into the
bundle also. On this, the farmer to whom the trees belonged came
running up, and calling, 'Stop thief! stop thief!'

'Thief, indeed!' quoth the girl angrily; and with that she bundled
farmer, fields, crops, oxen, house, and all into the blanket.

Soon she came to a town, and being hungry, asked a pastry-cook to give
her some sweets; but he refused, so she caught up the town bodily; and
so on with everything she met, until her blanket was quite full.

At last she came to a big water-melon, and being thirsty, she sat down
to eat it; and afterwards, feeling sleepy, she determined to rest a
while. But the camels in her bundle made such a hubble-bubble-ubbling
that they disturbed her, so she just packed everything into the lower
half of the water-melon rind, and popping on the upper half as a lid,
she rolled herself in the blanket and used the melon as a pillow.

Now, while she slept, a big flood arose, and carried off the
water-melon, which, after floating down stream ever so far, stuck on a
mud-bank. The top fell off, and out hopped the camels, the trees, the
farmer, the oxen, the house, the town, and all the other things, until
there was quite a new world on the mud-bank in the middle of the


Once upon a time, ever so long ago, when this old world was young, and
everything was very different from what it is nowadays, the mighty
Westarwân was King of all the mountains. High above all other hills
he reared his lofty head, so lofty, that when the summer clouds closed
in upon his broad shoulders he was alone under the blue sky. And
thus, being so far above the world, and so lonely in his dignity, he
became proud, and even when the mists cleared away, leaving the fair
new world stretched smiling at his feet, he never turned his eyes upon
it, but gazed day and night upon the sun and stars.

Now Harâmukh, and Nangâ Parbat, and all the other hills that stood in
a vast circle round great Westarwân, as courtiers waiting on their
king, grew vexed because he treated them as nought; and when the
summer cloud that soared above their heads hung on his shoulders like
a royal robe, they would say bitter, wrathful words of spite and envy.

Only the beautiful Gwâshbrâri, cold and glistening amid her glaciers,
would keep silence. Self-satisfied, serene, her beauty was enough for
her; others might rise farther through the mists, but there was none
so fair as she in all the land.

Yet once, when the cloud-veil wrapped Westarwân from sight, and the
wrath rose loud and fierce, she flashed a contemptuous smile upon the
rest, bidding them hold their peace.

'What need to wrangle?' she said, in calm superiority;' great
Westarwân is proud; but though the stars seem to crown his head, his
feet are of the earth, earthy. He is made of the same stuff as we
are; there is more of it, that is all.'

'The more reason to resent his pride!' retorted the grumblers. 'Who
made him a King over us?'

Gwâshbrâri smiled an evil smile. 'O fools! poor fools and blind!
giving him a majesty he has not in my sight. I tell you mighty
Westarwân, for all his star-crowned loftiness, is no King to me. Tis
I who am his Queen!'

Then the mighty hills laughed aloud, for Gwâshbrâri was the lowliest
of them all.

'Wait and see!' answered the cold passionless voice. 'Before
to-morrow's sunrise great Westarwân shall be my slave!'

Once more the mighty hills echoed with scornful laughter, yet the
icy-hearted beauty took no heed. Lovely, serene, she smiled on all
through the long summer's day; only once or twice from her snowy sides
would rise a white puff of smoke, showing where some avalanche had
swept the sure-footed ibex to destruction.

But with the setting sun a rosy radiance fell over the whole world.
Then Gwâshbrâri's pale face flushed into life, her chill beauty glowed
into passion. Trans-* figured, glorified, she shone on the
fast-darkening horizon like a star.

And mighty Westarwân, noting the rosy radiance in the east, turned his
proud eyes towards it; and, lo! the perfection of her beauty smote
upon his senses with a sharp, wistful wonder that such loveliness
could be--that such worthiness could exist in the world which he
despised. The setting sun sank lower, reflecting a ruddier glow on
Gwâshbrâri's face; it seemed as if she blushed beneath the great
King's gaze. A mighty longing filled his soul, bursting from his lips
in one passionate cry--'O Gwâshbrâri! kiss me, or I die!'

The sound echoed through the valleys, while the startled peaks stood
round expectant.

Beneath her borrowed blush Gwâshbrâri smiled triumphant, as she
answered back, 'How can that be, great King, and I so lowly? Even if
I _would_, how could I reach your star-crowned head?--I who on
tip-toe cannot touch your cloud-robed shoulder?'

Yet again the passionate cry rang out--'I love you! kiss me, or I

Then the glacier-hearted beauty whispered soft and low, the sweet
music of her voice weaving a magical spell round the great
Westarwân--You love me? Know you not that those who love must
stoop? Bend your proud head to my lips, and seek the kiss I cannot
choose but give!'

Slowly, surely, as one under a charm, the monarch of the mountains
stooped-nearer and nearer to her radiant beauty, forgetful of all else
in earth or sky.

The sun set. The rosy blush faded from Gwâshbrâri's fair false face,
leaving it cold as ice, pitiless as death. The stars began to gleam
in the pale heavens, but the King lay at Gwâshbrâri's feet, discrowned
for ever!

And that is why great Westarwân stretches his long length across the
valley of Kashmîr, resting his once lofty head upon the glacier heart
of Queen Gwâshbrâri.

And every night the star crown hangs in the heavens as of yore.


Once upon a time there lived a barber, who was such a poor silly
creature that he couldn't even ply his trade decently, but snipped off
his customers' ears instead of their hair, and cut their throats
instead of shaving them. So of course he grew poorer every day, till
at last he found himself with nothing left in his house but his wife
and his razor, both of whom were as sharp as sharp could be.

For his wife was an exceedingly clever person, who was continually
rating her husband for his stupidity; and when she saw they hadn't a
farthing left, she fell as usual to scolding.

But the barber took it very calmly. 'What is the use of making such a
fuss, my dear?' said he; 'you've told me all this before, and I quite
agree with you. I never _did_ work, I never _could_ work,
and I never _will_ work. That is the fact!'

'Then you must beg!' returned his wife, 'for _I_ will not starve
to please you! Go to the palace, and beg something of the King.
There is a wedding feast going on, and he is sure to give alms to the

'Very well, my dear!' said the barber submissively. He was rather
afraid of his clever wife, so he did as he was bid, and going to the
palace, begged of the King to give him something.

'Something?' asked the King; 'what thing?'

Now the barber's wife had not mentioned anything in particular, and
the barber was far too addle-pated to think of anything by himself, so
he answered cautiously, 'Oh, something!'

'Will a piece of land do?' said the King.

Whereupon the lazy barber, glad to be helped out of the difficulty,
remarked that perhaps a piece of land would do as well as anything

Then the King ordered a piece of waste, outside the city, should be
given to the barber, who went home quite satisfied.

'Well! what did you get?' asked the clever wife, who was waiting
impatiently for his return. 'Give it me quick, that I may go and buy

And you may imagine how she scolded when she found he had only got a
piece of waste land.

'But land is land!' remonstrated the barber; 'it can't run away, so we
must always have something now!'

'Was there ever such a dunderhead?' raged the clever wife.' What good
is ground unless we can till it? and where are we to get bullocks and

But being, as we have said, an exceedingly clever person, she set her
wits to work, and soon thought of a plan whereby to make the best of a
bad bargain.

She took her husband with her, and set off to the piece of waste land;
then, bidding her husband imitate her, she began walking about the
field, and peering anxiously into the ground. But when any-* body
came that way, she would sit down, and pretend to be doing nothing at

Now it so happened that seven thieves were hiding in a thicket hard
by, and they watched the barber and his wife all day, until they
became convinced something mysterious was going on. So at sunset they
sent one of their number to try and find out what it was.

'Well, the fact is,' said the barber's wife, after beating about the
bush for some-time, and with many injunctions to strict secrecy, 'this
field belonged to my grandfather, who buried five pots full of gold in
it, and we were just trying to discover the exact spot before
beginning to dig. You won't tell any one, will you?'

The thief promised he wouldn't, of course, but the moment the barber
and his wife went home, he called his companions, and telling them of
the hidden treasure, set them to work. All night long they dug and
delved, till the field looked as if it had been ploughed seven times
over, and they were as tired as tired could be; but never a gold
piece, nor a silver piece, nor a farthing did they find, so when dawn
came they went away disgusted.

The barber's wife, when she found the field so beautifully ploughed,
laughed heartily at the success of her stratagem, and going to the
corn-dealer's shop, borrowed some rice to sow in the field. This the
corn-dealer willingly gave her, for he reckoned he would get it back
threefold at harvest time. And so he did, for never was there such a
crop!--the barber's wife paid her debts, kept enough for the house,
and sold the rest for a great crock of gold pieces.

Now, when the thieves saw this, they were very angry indeed, and going
to the barber's house, said, 'Give us our share of the harvest, for we
tilled the ground, as you very well know.'

'I told you there was gold in the ground,' laughed the barber's wife,
'but you didn't find it. I have, and there's a crock full of it in
the house, only you rascals shall never have a farthing of it!'

'Very well!' said the thieves; 'look out for yourself to-night. If
you won't give us our share we'll take it!'

So that night one of the thieves hid himself in the house, intending
to open the door to his comrades when the housefolk were asleep; but
the barber's wife saw him with the corner of her eye, and determined
to lead him a dance. Therefore, when her husband, who was in a
dreadful state of alarm, asked her what she had done with the gold
pieces, she replied, 'Put them where no one will find them,--under
the sweetmeats, in the crock that stands in the niche by the door.'

The thief chuckled at hearing this, and after waiting till all was
quiet, he crept out, and feeling about for the crock, made off with
it, whispering to his comrades that he had got the prize. Fearing
pursuit, they fled to a thicket, where they sat down to divide the

'She said there were sweetmeats on the top,' said the thief; 'I will
divide them first, and then we can eat them, for it is hungry work,
this waiting and watching.'

So he divided what he thought were the sweetmeats as well as he could
in the dark. Now in reality the crock was full of all sorts of
horrible things that the barber's wife had put there on purpose, and
so when the thieves crammed its contents into their mouths, you may
imagine what faces they made and how they vowed revenge.

But when they returned next day to threaten and repeat their claim to
a share of the crop, the barber's wife only laughed at them.

'Have a care!' they cried; 'twice you have fooled us--once by making
us dig all night, and next by feeding us on filth and breaking our
caste. It will be our turn to-night!'

Then another thief hid himself in the house, but the barber's wife saw
him with half an eye, and when her husband asked, 'What have you done
with the gold, my dear? I hope you haven't put it under the pillow?'
she answered, 'Don't be alarmed; it is out of the house. I have hung
it in the branches of the _nîm_ tree outside. No one will think
of looking for it there!'

The hidden thief chuckled, and when the house-folk were asleep he
slipped out and told his companions.

'Sure enough, there it is!' cried the captain of the band, peering up
into the branches. 'One of you go up and fetch it down.' Now what he
saw was really a hornets' nest, full of great big brown and yellow

So one of the thieves climbed up the tree; but when he came close to
the nest, and was just reaching up to take hold of it, a hornet flew
out and stung him on the thigh. He immediately clapped his hand to
the spot.

'Oh, you thief!' cried out the rest from below, 'you're pocketing the
gold pieces, are you? Oh! shabby! shabby!'--For you see it was very
dark, and when the poor man clapped his hand to the place where he had
been stung, they thought he was putting his hand in his pocket.

'I assure you I'm not doing anything of the kind!' retorted the thief;
'but there is something that bites in this tree!'

Just at that moment another hornet stung him on the breast, and he
clapped his hand there.

'Fie! fie for shame! We saw you do it that time!' cried the rest.
'Just you stop that at once, or we will make you!'

So they sent up another thief, but he fared no better, for by this
time the hornets were thoroughly roused, and they stung the poor man
all over, so that he kept clapping his hands here, there, and

'Shame! Shabby! Ssh-sh!' bawled the rest; and then one after another
they climbed into the tree, determined to share the booty, and one
after another began clapping their hands about their bodies, till it
came to the captain's turn. Then he, intent on having the prize,
seized hold of the hornets' nest, and as the branch on which they were
all standing broke at the selfsame moment, they all came tumbling down
with the hornets' nest on top of them. And then, in spite of bumps
and bruises, you can imagine what a stampede there was!

After this the barber's wife had some peace, for every one of the
seven thieves was in hospital. In fact, they were laid up for so long
a time that she began to think that they were never coming back again,
and ceased to be on the look-out. But she was wrong, for one night,
when she had left the window open, she was awakened by whisperings
outside, and at once recognised the thieves' voices. She gave herself
up for lost; but, determined not to yield without a struggle, she
seized her husband's razor, crept to the side of the window, and stood
quite still. By and by the first thief began to creep through
cautiously. She just waited till the tip of his nose was visible, and
then, flash!--she sliced it off with the razor as clean as a whistle.

'Confound it!' yelled the thief, drawing back mighty quick; 'I've cut
my nose on something!'

'Hush-sh-sh-sh!' whispered the others, 'you'll wake some one. Go on!'

'Not I!' said the thief; 'I'm bleeding like a pig!'

'Pooh!--knocked your nose against the shutter, I suppose,' returned
the second thief. 'I'll go!'

But, swish!--off went the tip of his nose too.

'Dear me!' said he ruefully, 'there certainly is something sharp

'A bit of bamboo in the lattice, most likely,' remarked the third
thief. 'I'll go!'

And, flick!--off went his nose too.

'It is most extraordinary!' he exclaimed, hurriedly retiring; 'I feel
exactly as if some one had cut the tip of my nose off!'

'Rubbish!' said the fourth thief. 'What cowards you all are! Let
_me_ go!'

But he fared no better, nor the fifth thief, nor the sixth.

'My friends!'. said the captain, when it came to his turn, 'you are
all disabled. One man must remain unhurt to protect the wounded. Let
us return another night.'--He was a cautious man, you see, and valued
his nose.

So they crept away sulkily, and the barber's wife lit a lamp, and
gathering up all the nose tips, put them away safely in a little box.

Now before the robbers' noses were healed over, the hot weather set
in, and the barber and his wife, finding it warm sleeping in the
house, put their beds outside; for they made sure the thieves would
not return. But they did, and seizing such a good opportunity for
revenge, they lifted up the wife's bed, and carried her off fast
asleep. She woke to find herself borne along on the heads of four of
the thieves, whilst the other three ran beside her. She gave herself
up for lost, and though she thought, and thought, and thought, she
could find no way of escape; till, as luck would have it, the robbers
paused to take breath under a banyan tree. Quick as lightning, she
seized hold of a branch that was within reach, and swung herself into
the tree, leaving her quilt on the bed just as if she were still in

'Let us rest a bit here,' said the thieves who were carrying the bed;
'there is plenty of time, and we are tired. She is dreadfully heavy!'

The barber's wife could hardly help laughing, but she had to keep very
still, for it was a bright moonlight night; and the robbers, after
setting down their burden, began to squabble as to who should take
first watch. At last they determined that it should be the captain,
for the others had really barely recovered from the shock of having
their noses sliced off; so they lay down to sleep, while the captain
walked up and down, watching the bed, and the barber's wife sat
perched up in the tree like a great bird.

Suddenly an idea came into her head, and drawing her white veil
becomingly over her face, she began to sing softly. The robber
captain looked up, and saw the veiled figure of a woman in the tree.
Of course he was a little surprised, but being a goodlooking young
fellow, and rather vain of his appearance, he jumped at once to the
conclusion that it was a fairy who had fallen in love with his
handsome face. For fairies do such things sometimes, especially on
moonlight nights. So he twirled his moustaches, and strutted about,
waiting for her to speak. But when she went on singing, and took no
notice of him, he stopped and called out, 'Come down, my beauty! I
won't hurt you!'

But still she went on singing; so he climbed up into the tree,
determined to attract her attention. When he came quite close, she
turned away her head and sighed.

'What is the matter, my beauty?' he asked tenderly. 'Of course you
are a fairy, and have fallen in love with me, but there is nothing to
sigh at in that, surely?'

'Ah--ah--ah!' said the barber's wife, with another sigh, 'I believe
you're fickle! Men with long-pointed noses always are!'

But the robber captain swore he was the most constant of men; yet
still the fairy sighed and sighed, until he almost wished his nose had
been shortened too.

'You are telling stories, I am sure!' said the pre* tended fairy.
'Just let me touch your tongue with the tip of mine, and then I shall
be able to taste if there are fibs about!'

So the robber captain put out his tongue, and, snip!--the barber's
wife bit the tip off clean!

What with the fright and the pain, he tumbled off the branch, and fell
bump on the ground, where he sat with his legs very wide apart,
looking as if he had come from the skies.

'What is the matter?' cried his comrades, awakened by the noise of his

'_Bul-ul-a-bul-ul-ul!_' answered he, pointing up into the tree;
for of course he could not speak plainly without the tip of his

'What--is--the--matter?' they bawled in his ear, as if that would do
any good.

'_Bul-ul-a-bul-ul-ul!_' said he, still pointing upwards.

'The man is bewitched!' cried one; 'there must be a ghost in the

Just then the barber's wife began flapping her veil and howling;
whereupon, without waiting to look, the thieves in a terrible fright
set off at a run, dragging their leader with them; and the barber's
wife, coming down from the tree, put her bed on her head, and walked
quietly home.

After this, the thieves came to the conclusion that it was no use
trying to gain their point by force, so they went to law to claim
their share. But the barber's wife pleaded her own cause so well,
bringing out the nose and tongue tips as witnesses, that the King made
the barber his Wazîr, saying, 'He will never do a foolish thing as
long as his wife is alive!'


Once upon a time, Mr. Jackal was trotting along gaily, when he caught
sight of a wild plum-tree laden with fruit on the other side of a
broad deep stream. He could not get across anyhow, so he just sat
down on the bank, and looked at the ripe luscious fruit until his
mouth watered with desire.

Now it so happened that, just then, Miss Crocodile came floating down
stream with her nose in the air. 'Good morning, my dear!' said Mr.
Jackal politely; 'how beautiful you look to-day, and how charmingly
you swim! Now, if I could only swim too, what a fine feast of plums
we two friends might have over there together!' And Mr. Jackal laid
his paw on his heart, and sighed.

Now Miss Crocodile had a very inflammable heart, and when Mr. Jackal
looked at her so admiringly, and spoke so sentimentally, she simpered
and blushed, saying, 'Oh! Mr. Jackal! how can you talk so? I could
never dream of going out to dinner with you, unless--unless---'

'Unless what?' asked the Jackal persuasively.

'Unless we were going to be married!' simpered
Miss Crocodile.

'And why shouldn't we be married, my charmer?' returned the Jackal
eagerly. 'I would go and fetch the barber to begin the betrothals at
once, but I am so faint with hunger just at present that I should
never reach the village. Now, if the most adorable of her sex would
only take pity on her slave, and carry me over the stream, I might
refresh myself with those plums, and so gain strength to accomplish
the ardent desire of my heart!'

Here the Jackal sighed so piteously, and cast such sheep's-eyes at
Miss Crocodile, that she was unable to withstand him. So she carried
him across to the plum-tree, and then sat on the water's edge to think
over her wedding dress, while Mr. Jackal feasted on the plums, and
enjoyed himself.

'Now for the barber, my beauty!' cried the gay Jackal, when he had
eaten as much as he could. Then the blushing Miss Crocodile carried
him back again, and bade him be quick about his business, like a dear
good creature, for really she felt so flustered at the very idea that
she didn't know what mightn't happen.

'Now, don't distress yourself, my dear!' quoth the deceitful Mr.
Jackal, springing to the bank, 'because it's not impossible that I may
not find the barber, and then, you know, you may have to wait some
time, a considerable time in fact, before I return. So don't injure
your health for my sake, if you please.'

With that he blew her a kiss, and trotted away with his tail up.

Of course he never came back, though trusting Miss Crocodile waited
patiently for him; at last she understood what a gay deceitful fellow
he was, and determined to have her revenge on him one way or another.

So she hid herself in the water, under the roots of a tree, close to a
ford where Mr. Jackal always came to drink. By and by, sure enough,
he came lilting along in a self-satisfied way, and went right into the
water for a good long draught. Whereupon Miss Crocodile seized him by
the right leg, and held on. He guessed at once what had happened, and
called out, 'Oh! my heart's adored! I'm drowning! I'm drowning! If
you love me, leave hold of that old root and get a good grip of my
leg--it is just next door!'

Hearing this, Miss Crocodile thought she must have made a mistake,
and, letting go the Jackal's leg in a hurry, seized an old root close
by, and held on. Whereupon Mr. Jackal jumped nimbly to shore, and ran
off with his tail up, calling out, 'Have a little patience, my
beauty! The barber will come some day!'

But this time Miss Crocodile knew better than to wait, and being now
dreadfully angry, she crawled away to the Jackal's hole, and slipping
inside, lay quiet.

By and by Mr. Jackal came lilting along with his tail up.

'Ho! ho! That is your game, is it?' said he to himself, when he saw
the trail of the crocodile in the sandy soil. So he stood outside,
and said aloud, 'Bless my stars! what has happened? I don't half like
to go in, for whenever I come home my wife always calls out,

'"Oh, dearest hubby hub!
What have you brought for grub
To me and the darling cub?"

and to-day she doesn't say anything!'

Hearing this, Miss Crocodile sang out from inside,

'Oh, dearest hubby hub!
What have you brought for grub
To me and the darling cub?'

The Jackal winked a very big wink, and stealing in softly, stood at
the doorway. Meanwhile Miss Crocodile, hearing him coming, held her
breath, and lay, shamming dead, like a big log.

'Bless my stars!' cried Mr. Jackal, taking out his
pocket-handkerchief, 'how very very sad! Here's poor Miss Crocodile
stone dead, and all for love of me! Dear! dear! Yet it is very odd,
and I don't think she can be quite dead, you know--for dead folks
always wag their tails!'

On this, Miss Crocodile began to wag her tail very gently, and Mr.
Jackal ran off, roaring with laughter, and saying, 'Oho!--oho! so dead
folk always wag their tails!'


Once there lived a great Raja, whose name was Sâlbâhan, and he had two
Queens. Now the elder, by name Queen Achhrâ, had a fair young son
called Prince Pûran; but the younger, by name Lonâ, though she wept
and prayed at many a shrine, had never a child to gladden her eyes.
So, being a bad, deceitful woman, envy and rage took possession of her
heart, and she so poisoned Raja Sâlbâhan's mind against his son, young
Pûran, that just as the Prince was growing to manhood, his father
became madly jealous of him, and in a fit of anger ordered his hands
and feet to be cut off. Not content even with this cruelty, Raja
Sâlbâhan had the poor young man thrown into a deep well.
Nevertheless, Pûran did not die, as no doubt the enraged father hoped
and expected; for God preserved the innocent Prince, so that he lived
on, miraculously, at the bottom of the well, until, years after, the
great and holy Guru Goraknâth came to the place, and finding Prince
Pûran still alive, not only released him from his dreadful prison,
but, by the power of magic, restored his hands and feet. Then Pûran,
in gratitude for this great boon, became a _faqîr_, and placing
the sacred earrings in his ears, followed Goraknâth as a disciple, and
was called Pûran Bhagat.

But as time went by, his heart yearned to see his mother's face, so
Guru Goraknâth gave him leave to visit his native town, and Pûran
Bhagat journeyed thither and took up his abode in a large walled
garden, where he had often played as a child. And, lo! he found it
neglected and barren, so that his heart became sad when he saw the
broken watercourses and the withered trees. Then he sprinkled the dry
ground with water from his drinking vessel, and prayed that all might
become green again. And, lo! even as he prayed, the trees shot forth
leaves, the grass grew, the flowers bloomed, and all was as it had
once been.

The news of this marvellous thing spread fast through the city, and
all the world went out to see the holy man who had performed the
wonder. Even the Raja Sâlbâhan and his two Queens heard of it in the
palace, and they too went to the garden to see it with their own
eyes. But Pûran Bhagat's mother, Queen Achhrâ, had wept so long for
her darling, that the tears had blinded her eyes, and so she went, not
to see, but to ask the wonder-working _faqîr_ to restore her
sight. Therefore, little knowing from whom she asked the boon, she
fell on the ground before Pûran Bhagat, begging him to cure her; and,
lo! almost before she asked, it was done, and she saw plainly.

Then deceitful Queen Lonâ, who all these years had been longing vainly
for a son, when she saw what mighty power the unknown _faqîr_
possessed, fell on the ground also, and begged for an heir to gladden
the heart of Raja Sâlbâhan.

Then Pûran Bhagat spoke, and his voice was stern,--'Raja Sâlbâhan
already has a son. Where is he? What have you done with him? Speak
truth, Queen Lonâ, if you would find favour with God!'

Then the woman's great longing for a son conquered her pride, and
though her husband stood by, she humbled herself before the
_faqîr_ and told the truth,--how she had deceived the father and
destroyed the son.

Then Pûran Bhagat rose to his feet, stretched out his hands towards
her, and a smile was on his face, as he said softly, 'Even so, Queen
Lonâ! even so! And behold! _I_ am Prince Pûran, whom you
destroyed and God delivered! I have a message for you. Your fault is
forgiven, but not forgotten; you shall indeed bear a son, who shall be
brave and good, yet will he cause you to weep tears as bitter as those
my mother wept for me. So! take this grain of rice; eat it, and you
shall bear a son that will be no son to you, for even as I was reft
from my mother's eyes, so will he be reft from yours. Go in peace;
your fault is forgiven, but not forgotten!'

Queen Lonâ returned to the palace, and when the time for the birth of
the promised son drew nigh, she inquired of three Jôgis who came
begging to her gate, what the child's fate would be, and the youngest
of them answered and said, 'O Queen, the child will be a boy, and he
will live to be a great man. But for twelve years you must not look
upon his face, for if either you or his father see it before the
twelve years are past, you will surely die! This is what you must
do,--as soon as the child is born you must send him away to a cellar
underneath the ground, and never let him see the light of day for
twelve years. After they are over, he may come forth, bathe in the
river, put on new clothes, and visit you. His name shall be Raja
Rasâlu, and he shall be known far and wide.'

So, when a fair young Prince was in due time born into the world, his
parents hid him away in an underground palace, with nurses, and
servants, and everything else a King's son might desire. And with him
they sent a young colt, born the same day, and a sword, a spear, and a
shield, against the day when Raja Rasâlu should go forth into the

So there the child lived, playing with his colt, and talking to his
parrot, while the nurses taught him all things needful for a King's
son to know.


Young Rasâlu lived on, far from the light of day, for eleven long
years, growing tall and strong, yet contented to remain playing with
his colt and talking to his parrot; but when the twelfth year began,
the lad's heart leapt up with desire for change, and he loved to
listen to the sounds of life which came to him in his palace-prison
from the outside world.

'I must go and see where the voices come from!' he said; and when his
nurses told him he must not go for one year more, he only laughed
aloud, saying, 'Nay! I stay no longer here for any man!'

Then he saddled his horse Bhaunr Irâqi, put on his shining armour, and
rode forth into the world; but--mindful of what his nurses had often
told him--when he came to the river, he dismounted, and going into
the water, washed himself and his clothes.

Then, clean of raiment, fair of face, and brave of heart, he rode on
his way until he reached his father's city. There he sat down to rest
a while by a well, where the women were drawing water in earthen
pitchers. Now, as they passed him, their full pitchers poised upon
their heads, the gay young Prince flung stones at the earthen vessels,
and broke them all. Then the women, drenched with water, went weeping
and wailing to the palace, complaining to the King that a mighty young
Prince in shining armour, with a parrot on his wrist and a gallant
steed beside him, sat by the well, and broke their pitchers.

Now, as soon as Raja Sâlbâhan heard this, he guessed at once that it
was Prince Rasâlu come forth before the time, and, mindful of the
Jôgis' words that he would die if he looked on his son's face before
twelve years were past, he did not dare to send his guards to seize
the offender and bring him to be judged. So he bade the women be
comforted, and for the future take pitchers of iron and brass, and
gave new ones from his treasury to those who did not possess any of
their own.

But when Prince Rasâlu saw the women returning to the well with
pitchers of iron and brass, he laughed to himself, and drew his mighty
bow till the sharp-pointed arrows pierced the metal vessels as though
they had been clay.

Yet still the King did not send for him, and so he mounted his steed
and set off in the pride of his youth and strength to the palace. He
strode into the audience hall, where his father sat trembling, and
saluted him with all reverence; but Raja Sâlbâhan, in fear of his
life, turned his back hastily and said never a word in reply.

Then Prince Rasâlu called scornfully to him across the hall--­

'I came to greet thee, King, and not to harm thee!
What have I done that thou shouldst turn away?
Sceptre and empire have no power to charm me--
I go to seek a worthier prize than they!'

Then he strode out of the hall, full of bitterness and anger; but, as
he passed under the palace windows, he heard his mother weeping, and
the sound softened his heart, so that his wrath died down, and a great
loneliness fell upon him, because he was spurned by both father and
mother. So he cried sorrowfully--­

'O heart crown'd with grief, hast thou naught
But tears for thy son?
Art mother of mine? Give one thought
To my life just begun!'

And Queen Lonâ answered through her tears--­

'Yea! mother am I, though I weep,
So hold this word sure,--
Go, reign king of all men, but keep
Thy heart good and pure!'

So Raja Rasâlu was comforted, and began to make ready for fortune. He
took with him his horse Bhaunr Irâqi, and his parrot, both of whom had
lived with him since he was born; and besides these tried and trusted
friends he had two others--a carpenter lad, and a goldsmith lad, who
were determined to follow the Prince till death.

So they made a goodly company, and Queen Lona, when she saw them
going, watched them from her window till she saw nothing but a cloud
of dust on the horizon; then she bowed her head on her hands and wept,

'O son who ne'er gladdened mine eyes,
Let the cloud of thy going arise,
Dim the sunlight and darken the day;
For the mother whose son is away
Is as dust!'


Now, on the first day, Raja Rasâlu journeyed far, until he came to a
lonely forest, where he halted for the night. And seeing it was a
desolate place, and the night dark, he determined to set a watch. So
he divided the time into three watches, and the carpenter took the
first, the goldsmith the second, and Raja Rasâlu the third.

Then the goldsmith lad spread a couch of clean grass for his master,
and fearing lest the Prince's heart should sink at the change from his
former luxurious life, he said these words of encouragement--­

'Cradled till now on softest down,
Grass is thy couch to-night;
Yet grieve not thou if Fortune frown--
Brave hearts heed not her slight!'

Now, when Raja Rasâlu and the goldsmith's son slept, a snake came out
of a thicket hard by, and crept towards the sleepers.

'Who are you?' quoth the carpenter lad, 'and why do you come hither?'

'I have destroyed all things within twelve miles!' returned the
serpent. 'Who are _you_ that have dared to come hither?

Then the snake attacked the carpenter, and they fought until the snake
was killed, when the carpenter hid the dead body under his shield, and
said nothing of the adventure to his comrades, lest he should alarm
them, for, like the goldsmith, he thought the Prince might be

Now, when it came to Raja Rasâlu's turn to keep watch, a dreadful
unspeakable horror came out of the thicket. Nevertheless, Rasâlu went
up to it boldly, and cried aloud, 'Who are you? and what brings you

Then the awful unspeakable horror replied, 'I have killed everything
for thrice twelve miles around! Who are _you_ that dare come

Whereupon Rasâlu drew his mighty bow, and pierced the horror with an
arrow, so that it fled into a cave, whither the Prince followed it.
And they fought long and fiercely, till at last the horror died, and
Rasâlu returned to watch in peace.

Now, when morning broke, Raja Rasâlu called his sleeping servants, and
the carpenter showed with pride the body of the serpent he had killed.

'Tis but a small snake!' quoth the Raja. 'Come and see what I killed
in the cave!'

And, behold! when the goldsmith lad and the carpenter lad saw the
awful, dreadful, unspeakable horror Raja Rasâlu had slain, they were
exceedingly afraid, and falling on their knees, begged to be allowed
to return to the city, saying, 'O mighty Rasâlu, you are a Raja and a
hero! You can fight such horrors; we are but ordinary folk, and if we
follow you we shall surely be killed. Such things are nought to you,
but they are death to us. Let us go!'

Then Rasâlu looked at them sorrowfully, and bade them do as they
wished, saying--­

'Aloes linger long before they flower:
Gracious rain too soon is overpast:
Youth and strength are with us but an hour:
All glad life must end in death at last!

But king reigns king without consent of courtier;
Rulers may rule, though none heed their command.
Heaven-crown'd heads stoop not, but rise the haughtier,
Alone and houseless in a stranger's land!'

So his friends forsook him, and Rasâlu journeyed on alone.


[Illustration: Old woman making unleavened bread]

Now, after a time, Raja Rasâlu arrived at Nila city, and as he entered
the town he saw an old woman making unleavened bread, and as she made
it she sometimes wept, and sometimes laughed; so Rasâlu asked her why
she wept and laughed, but she answered sadly, as she kneaded her
cakes, 'Why do you ask? What will you gain by it?'

'Nay, mother!' replied Rasâlu, 'if you tell me the truth, one of us
must benefit by it.'

And when the old woman looked in Rasâlu's face she saw that it was
kind, so she opened her heart to him, saying, with tears, 'O stranger,
I had seven fair sons, and now I have but one left, for six of them
have been killed by a dreadful giant who comes every day to this city
to receive tribute from us,--every day a fair young man, a buffalo,
and a basket of cakes! Six of my sons have gone, and now to-day it
has once more fallen to my lot to provide the tribute; and my boy, my
darling, my youngest, must meet the fate of his brothers. Therefore I

Then Rasâlu was moved to pity, and said--­

'Fond, foolish mother! cease these tears--
Keep thou thy son. I fear nor death nor life,
Seeking my fortune everywhere in strife.
My head for his I give!--so calm your fears.'

Still the old woman shook her head doubtfully, saying, 'Fair words,
fair words! but who will really risk his life for another?'

Then Rasâlu smiled at her, and dismounting from his gallant steed,
Bhaunr Irâqi, he sat down carelessly to rest, as if indeed he were a
son of the house, and said, 'Fear not, mother! I give you my word of
honour that I will risk my life to save your son.'

Just then the high officials of the city, whose duty it was to claim
the giant's tribute, appeared in sight, and the old woman fell
a-weeping once more, saying--­

'O Prince, with the gallant gray steed and the
turban bound high
O'er thy fair bearded face; keep thy word, my
oppressor draws nigh!'

Then Raja Rasâlu rose in his shining armour, and haughtily bade the
guards stand aside.

'Fair words!' replied the chief officer; 'but if this woman does not
send the tribute at once, the giants will come and disturb the whole
city. Her son must go!'

'I go in his stead!' quoth Rasâlu more haughtily still. 'Stand back,
and let me pass!'

Then, despite their denials, he mounted his horse, and taking the
basket of cakes and the buffalo, he set off to find the giant, bidding
the buffalo show him the shortest road.

Now, as he came near the giants' house, he met one of them carrying a
huge skinful of water. No sooner did the water-carrier giant see Raja
Rasâlu riding along on his horse Bhaunr Irâqi and leading the buffalo,
than he said to himself, 'Oho! we have a horse extra to-day! I think
I will eat it myself, before my brothers see it!'

Then he reached out his hand, but Rasâlu drew his sharp sword and
smote the giant's hand off at a blow, so that he fled from him in
great fear.

Now, as he fled, he met his sister the giantess, who called out to
him, 'Brother, whither away so fast?'

And the giant answered in haste, 'Raja Rasâlu has come at last, and
see!--he has cut off my hand with one blow of his sword!'

Then the giantess, overcome with fear, fled with her brother, and as
they fled they called aloud--­

'Fly! brethren, fly!
Take the path that is nearest;
The fire burns high
That will scorch up our dearest!

Life's joys we have seen:
East and west we must wander!
What has been, has been;
Quick! some remedy ponder.'

Then all the giants turned and fled to their astrologer brother, and
bade him look in his books to see if Raja Rasâlu were really born into
the world. And when they heard that he was, they prepared to fly east
and west; but even as they turned, Raja Rasâlu rode up on Bhaunr
Irâqi, and challenged them to fight, saying, 'Come forth, for I am
Rasâlu, son of Raja Sâlbâhan, and born enemy of the giants!'

Then one of the giants tried to brazen it out, saying, 'I have eaten
many Rasâlus like you! When the real man comes, his horse's
heel-ropes will bind us and his sword cut us up of their own accord!'

Then Raja Rasâlu loosed his heel-ropes, and dropped his sword upon the
ground, and, lo! the heel-ropes bound the giants, and the sword cut
them in pieces.

Still, seven giants who were left tried to brazen it out, saying,
'Aha! We have eaten many Rasâlus like you! When the real man comes,
his arrow will pierce seven girdles placed one behind the other.'

So they took seven iron girdles for baking bread, and placed them one
behind the other, as a shield, and behind them stood the seven giants,
who were own brothers, and, lo! when Raja Rasâlu twanged his mighty
bow, the arrow pierced through the seven girdles, and spitted the
seven giants in a row!

But the giantess, their sister, escaped, and fled to a cave in the
Gandgari mountains. Then Raja Rasâlu had a statue made in his
likeness, and clad it in shining armour, with sword and spear and
shield. And he placed it as a sentinel at the entrance of the cave,
so that the giantess dared not come forth, but starved to death

So this is how he killed the giants.


Then, after a time, Rasâlu went to Hodinagari. And when he reached
the house of the beautiful far-famed Queen Sundrân, he saw an old Jôgi
sitting at the gate, by the side of his sacred fire.

'Wherefore do you sit there, father?' asked Raja Rasâlu.

'My son,' returned the Jôgi, 'for two-and-twenty years have I waited
thus to see the beautiful Sundrân, yet have I never seen her!'

'Make me your pupil,' quoth Rasâlu, 'and I will wait too.'

'You work miracles already, my son,' said the Jôgi; 'so where is the
use of your becoming one of us?'

Nevertheless, Raja Rasâlu would not be denied, so the Jôgi bored his
ears and put in the sacred earrings. Then the new disciple put aside
his shining armour, and sat by the fire in a Jôgi's loin-cloth,
waiting to see Queen Sundrân.

Then, at night, the old Jôgi went and begged alms from four houses,
and half of what he got he gave to Rasâlu and half he ate himself.
Now Raja Rasâlu, being a very holy man, and a hero besides, did not
care for food, and was well content with his half share, but the Jôgi
felt starved.

The next day the same thing happened, and still Rasâlu sat by the fire
waiting to see the beautiful Queen Sundrân.

Then the Jôgi lost patience, and said, 'O my disciple, I made you a
pupil in order that you might beg, and feed me, and behold, it is I
who have to starve to feed you!'

'You gave no orders!' quoth Rasâlu, laughing. 'How can a disciple beg
without his master's leave?'

'I order you now!' returned the Jôgi. 'Go and beg enough for you and
for me.'

So Raja Rasâlu rose up, and stood at the gate of Queen Sundrân's
palace, in his Jôgi's dress, and sang,

'_Alakh!_ at thy threshold I stand,
Drawn from far by the name of thy charms;
Fair Sundrân, with generous hand,
Give the earring-decked Jôgi an alms!'

Now when Queen Sundrân, from within, heard Rasâlu's voice, its
sweetness pierced her heart, so that she immediately sent out alms by
the hand of her maid-servant. But when the maiden came to the gate,
and saw the exceeding beauty of Rasâlu, standing outside, fair in face
and form, she fainted away, dropping the alms upon the ground.

Then once more Rasâlu sang, and again his voice fell sweetly on Queen
Sundrân's ears, so that she sent out more alms by the hand of another
maiden. But she also fainted away at the sight of Rasâlu's marvellous

Then Queen Sundrân rose, and came forth herself, fair and stately.
She chid the maidens, gathered up the broken alms, and setting the
food aside, filled the plate with jewels and put it herself into
Rasâlu's hands, saying proudly--­

'Since when have the earrings been thine?
Since when wert thou made a _faqîr_?
What arrow from Love's bow has struck thee?
What seekest thou here?
Do you beg of all women you see,
Or only, fair Jôgi, of me?'

And Rasâlu, in his Jôgi's habit, bent his head towards her, saying

'A day since the earrings were mine,
A day since I turned a _faqîr_;
But yesterday Love's arrow struck me;
I seek nothing here!
I beg nought of others I see,
But only, fair Sundrân, of thee!'

Now, when Rasâlu returned to his master with the plate full of jewels,
the old Jôgi was sorely astonished, and bade him take them back, and
ask for food instead. So Rasâlu returned to the gate, and sang--­

'_Alakh!_ at thy threshold I stand,
Drawn from far by the fame of thy charms;
Fair Sundrân, with generous hand,
Give the earring-decked beggar an alms!'

Then Queen Sundrân rose up, proud and beautiful, and coming to the
gate, said softly--­

'No beggar thou! The quiver of thy mouth
Is set with pearly shafts; its bow is red
As rubies rare. Though ashes hide thy youth,
Thine eyes, thy colour, herald it instead!
Deceive me not--pretend no false desire--
But ask the secret alms thou dost require.'

But Rasâlu smiled a scornful smile, saying--­

'Fair Queen! what though the quiver of my mouth
Be set with glistening pearls and rubies red?
I trade not jewels, east, west, north, or south;
Take back thy gems, and give me food instead.
Thy gifts are rich and rare, but costly charms
Scarce find fit placing in a Jôgi's alms!'

Then Queen Sundrân took back the jewels, and bade the beautiful Jôgi
wait an hour till the food was cooked. Nevertheless, she learnt no
more of him, for he sat by the gate and said never a word. Only when
Queen Sundrân gave him a plate piled up with sweets, and looked at him
sadly, saying--­

'What King's son art thou? and whence dost thou come?
What name hast thou, Jôgi, and where is thy home?'

then Raja Rasâlu, taking the alms, replied--­

'I am fair Lona's son; my father's name
Great Sâlbâhan, who reigns at Sialkot.
I am Rasâlu; for thy beauty's fame
These ashes, and the Jôgi's begging note,
To see if thou wert fair as all men say;
Lo! I have seen it, and I go my way!'

Then Rasâlu returned to his master with the sweets, and after that he
went away from the place, for he feared lest the Queen, knowing who he
was, might try to keep him prisoner.

And beautiful Sundrân waited for the Jôgi's cry, and when none came,
she went forth, proud and stately, to ask the old Jôgi whither his
pupil had gone.

Now he, vexed that she should come forth to ask for a stranger, when
he had sat at her gates for two-and-twenty years with never a word or
sign, answered back, 'My pupil? I was hungry, and I ate him, because
he did not bring me alms enough.'

'Oh, monster!' cried Queen Sundrân. 'Did I not send thee jewels and
sweets? Did not these satisfy thee, that thou must feast on beauty

'I know not,' quoth the Jôgi; 'only this I know--I put the youth on a
spit, roasted him, and ate him up. He tasted well!'

'Then roast and eat me too!' cried poor Queen Sundrân; and with the
words she threw herself into the sacred fire and became _sati_
for the love of the beautiful Jôgi Rasâlu.

And he, going thence, thought not of her, but fancying he would like
to be king a while, he snatched the throne from Raja Hari Chand, and
reigned in his stead.


Now, after he had reigned a while in Hodinagari, Rasâlu gave up his
kingdom, and started off to play _chaupur_ with King Sarkap. And
as he journeyed there came a fierce storm of thunder and lightning, so
that he sought shelter, and found none save an old graveyard, where a
headless corpse lay upon the ground. So lonesome was it that even the
corpse seemed company, and Rasâlu, sitting down beside it, said--­

'There is no one here, nor far nor near,
Save this breathless corpse so cold and grim;
Would God he might come to life again,
'Twould be less lonely to talk to him.'

And immediately the headless corpse arose and sat beside Raja Rasâlu.
And he, nothing astonished, said to it--­

'The storm beats fierce and loud,
The clouds rise thick in the west;
What ails thy grave and thy shroud,
O corpse, that thou canst not rest?'

Then the headless corpse replied--­

'On earth I was even as thou,
My turban awry like a king,
My head with the highest, I trow,
Having my fun and my fling,
Fighting my foes like a brave,
Living my life with a swing.
And, now I am dead,
Sins, heavy as lead,
Will give me no rest in my grave!'

So the night passed on, dark and dreary, while Rasâlu sat in the
graveyard and talked to the headless corpse. Now when morning broke
and Rasâlu said he must continue his journey, the headless corpse
asked him whither he was going; and when he said. 'to play
_chaupur_ with King Sarkap,' the corpse begged him to give up the
idea, saying, 'I am King Sarkap's brother, and I know his ways. Every
day, before breakfast, he cuts off the heads of two or three men, just
to amuse himself. One day no one else was at hand, so he cut off
mine, and he will surely cut off yours on some pretence or another.
However, if you are determined to go and play _chaupur_ with him,
take some of the bones from this graveyard, and make your dice out of
them, and then the enchanted dice with which my brother plays will
lose their virtue. Otherwise he will always win.'

So Rasâlu took some of the bones lying about, and fashioned them into
dice, and these he put into his pocket. Then, bidding adieu to the
headless corpse, he went on his way to play _chaupur_ with the


Now, as Raja Rasâlu, tender-hearted and strong, journeyed along to
play _chaupur_ with the King, he came to a burning forest, and a
voice rose from the fire saying, 'O traveller, for God's sake save me
from the fire!'

Then the Prince turned towards the burning forest, and, lo! the voice
was the voice of a tiny cricket. Nevertheless, Rasâlu, tender-hearted
and strong, snatched it from the fire and set it at liberty. Then the
little creature, full of gratitude, pulled out one of its feelers, and
giving it to its preserver, said, 'Keep this, and should you ever be
in trouble, put it into the fire, and instantly I will come to your

The Prince smiled, saying, 'What help could _you_ give
_me_?' Nevertheless, he kept the hair and went on his way.

Now, when he reached the city of King Sarkap, seventy maidens,
daughters of the King, came out to meet him--seventy fair maidens,
merry and careless, full of smiles and laughter; but one, the youngest
of them all, when she saw the gallant young Prince riding on Bhaunr
Irâqi, going gaily to his doom, was filled with pity, and called to
him, saying--­

'Fair Prince, on the charger so gray,
Turn thee back! turn thee back!
Or lower thy lance for the fray;
Thy head will be forfeit to-day!
Dost love life? then, stranger, I pray,
Turn thee back! turn thee back!'

But he, smiling at the maiden, answered lightly--­

'Fair maiden, I come from afar,
Sworn conqueror in love and in war!
King Sarkap my coming will rue,
His head in four pieces I'll hew;
Then forth as a bridegroom I'll ride,
With you, little maid, as my bride!'

Now when Rasâlu replied so gallantly, the maiden looked in his face,
and seeing how fair he was, and how brave and strong, she straightway
fell in love with him, and would gladly have followed him through the

But the other sixty-nine maidens, being jealous, laughed scornfully at
her, saying, 'Not so fast, O gallant warrior! If you would marry our
sister you must first do our bidding, for you will be our younger

'Fair sisters!' quoth Rasâlu gaily, 'give me my task and I will
perform it.'

So the sixty-nine maidens mixed a hundredweight of millet seed with a
hundredweight of sand, and giving it to Rasâlu, bade him separate the
seed from the sand.

Then he bethought him of the cricket, and drawing the feeler from his
pocket, thrust it into the fire. And immediately there was a whirring
noise in the air, and a great flight of crickets alighted beside him,
and among them the cricket whose life he had saved.

Then Rasâlu said, 'Separate the millet seed from the sand.'

'Is that all?' quoth the cricket; 'had I known how small a job you
wanted me to do, I would not have assembled so many of my brethren.'

With that the flight of crickets set to work, and in one night they
separated the seed from the sand.

Now when the sixty-nine fair maidens, daughters of the King, saw that
Rasâlu had performed his task, they set him another, bidding him swing
them all, one by one, in their swings, until they were tired.

Whereupon he laughed, saying, 'There are seventy of you, counting my
little bride yonder, and I am not going to spend my life in swinging
girls; yet, by the time I have given each of you a swing, the first
will be wanting another! No! if you want to swing, get in, all
seventy of you, into one swing, and then I will see what I can

So the seventy maidens, merry and careless, full of smiles and
laughter, climbed into the one swing, and Raja Rasâlu, standing in his
shining armour, fastened the ropes to his mighty bow, and drew it up
to its fullest bent. Then he let go, and like an arrow the swing shot
into the air, with its burden of seventy fair maidens, merry and
careless, full of smiles and laughter.

But as it swung back again, Rasâlu, standing there in his shining
armour, drew his sharp sword and severed the ropes. Then the seventy
fair maidens fell to the ground headlong; and some were bruised and
some broken, but the only one who escaped unhurt was the maiden who
loved Rasâlu, for she fell out last, on the top of the others, and so
came to no harm.

After this, Rasâlu strode on fifteen paces, till he came to the
seventy drums, that every one who came to play _chaupur_ with the
King had to beat in turn; and he beat them so loudly that he broke
them all. Then he came to the seventy gongs, all in a row, and he
hammered them so hard that they cracked to pieces.

Seeing this, the youngest Princess, who was the only one who could
run, fled to her father the King in a great fright, saying--­

'A mighty Prince, Sarkap! making havoc, rides along,
He swung us, seventy maidens fair, and threw us out headlong;
He broke the drums you placed there and the gongs too in his pride,
Sure, he will kill thee, father mine, and take me for his bride!'

But King Sarkap replied scornfully--­

'Silly maiden, thy words make a lot
Of a very small matter;
For fear of my valour, I wot,
His armour will clatter.
As soon as I've eaten my bread
I'll go forth and cut off his head!'

Notwithstanding these brave and boastful words, he was in reality very
much afraid, having heard of Rasâlu's renown. And learning that he
was stopping at the house of an old woman in the city, till the hour
for playing _chaupur_ arrived, Sarkap sent slaves to him with
trays of sweetmeats and fruit, as to an honoured guest. But the food
was poisoned.

Now when the slaves brought the trays to Raja Rasâlu, he rose up
haughtily, saying, 'Go, tell your master I have nought to do with him
in friendship. I am his sworn enemy, and I eat not of his salt!'

So saying, he threw the sweetmeats to Raja Sarkap's dog, which had
followed the slaves, and lo! the dog died.

Then Rasâlu was very wroth, and said bitterly, 'Go back to Sarkap,
slaves! and tell him that Rasâlu deems it no act of bravery to kill
even an enemy by treachery.'


Now, when evening came, Raja Rasâlu went forth to play _chaupur_
with King Sarkap, and as he passed some potters' kilns he saw a cat
wandering about restlessly; so he asked what ailed her that she never
stood still, and she replied, 'My kittens are in an unbaked pot in the
kiln yonder. It has just been set alight, and my children will be
baked alive; therefore I cannot rest!'

Her words moved the heart of Raja Rasâlu, and, going to the potter, he
asked him to sell the kiln as it was; but the potter replied that he
could not settle a fair price till the pots were burnt, as he could
not tell how many would come out whole. Nevertheless, after some
bargaining, he consented at last to sell the kiln, and Rasâlu, having
searched through all the pots, restored the kittens to their mother,
and she, in gratitude for his mercy, gave him one of them, saying,
'Put it in your pocket, for it will help you when you are in

So Raja Rasâlu put the kitten in his pocket, and went to play
_chaupur_ with the King.

Now, before they sat down to play, Raja Sarkap fixed his stakes. On
the first game, his kingdom; on the second, the wealth of the whole
world; and on the third, his own head. So, likewise, Raja Rasâlu
fixed his stakes. On the first game, his arms; on the second, his
horse; and on the third, his own head.

Then they began to play, and it fell to Rasâlu's lot to make the first
move. Now he, forgetful of the dead man's warning, played with the
dice given him by Raja Sarkap; then, in addition, Sarkap let loose his
famous rat, Dhol Raja, and it ran about the board, upsetting the
_chaupur_ pieces on the sly, so that Rasâlu lost the first game,
and gave up his shining armour.

So the second game began, and once more Dhol Raja, the rat, upset the
pieces; and Rasâlu, losing the game, gave up his faithful steed. Then
Bhaunr Irâqi, who stood by, found voice, and cried to his master--­

'I am born of the sea and of gold;
Dear Prince! trust me now as of old.
I'll carry you far from these wiles--
My flight, all unspurr'd, will be swift as a bird,
For thousands and thousands of miles!
Or if needs you must stay; ere the next game you play,
Place hand in your pocket, I pray!'

Hearing this, Raja Sarkap frowned, and bade his slaves remove Bhaunr
Irâqi, since he gave his master advice in the game. Now when the
slaves came to lead the faithful steed away, Rasâlu could not refrain
from tears, thinking over the long years during which Bhaunr Irâqi had
been his companion. But the horse cried out again--­

'Weep not, dear Prince! I shall not eat my bread
Of stranger hands, nor to strange stall be led.
Take thy right hand, and place it as I said.'

These words roused some recollection in Rasâlu's mind, and when, just
at this moment, the kitten in his pocket began to struggle, he
remembered the warning which the corpse had given him about the dice
made from dead men's bones. Then his heart rose up once more, and he
called boldly to Raja Sarkap, 'Leave my horse and arms here for the
present. Time enough to take them away when you have won my head!'

Now, Raja Sarkap, seeing Rasâlu's confident bearing, began to be
afraid, and ordered all the women of his palace to come forth in their
gayest attire and stand before Rasâlu, so as to distract his attention
from the game. But he never even looked at them; and drawing the dice
from his pocket, said to Sarkap, 'We have played with your dice all
this time; now we will play with mine.'

Then the kitten went and sat at the window through which the rat Dhol
Raja used to come, and the game began.

After a while, Sarkap, seeing Raja Rasâlu was winning, called to his
rat, but when Dhol Raja saw the kitten he was afraid, and would not go
farther. So Rasâlu won, and took back his arms. Next he played for
his horse, and once more Raja Sarkap called for his rat; but Dhol
Raja, seeing the kitten keeping watch, was afraid. So Rasâlu won the
second stake, and took back Bhaunr Irâqi.

Then Sarkap brought all his skill to bear on the third and last game,

'O moulded pieces, favour me to-day!
For sooth this is a man with whom I play.
No paltry risk--but life and death at stake;
As Sarkap does, so do, for Sarkap's sake!'

But Rasâlu answered back--­

'O moulded pieces, favour me to-day!
For sooth it is a man with whom I play.
No paltry risk--but life and death at stake;
As Heaven does, so do, for Heaven's sake!'

So they began to play, whilst the women stood round in a circle, and
the kitten watched Dhol Raja from the window. Then Sarkap lost, first
his kingdom, then the wealth of the whole world, and lastly his head.

Just then, a servant came in to announce the birth of a daughter to
Raja Sarkap, and he, overcome by misfortunes, said, 'Kill her at once!
for she has been born in an evil moment, and has brought her father
ill luck!'

But Rasâlu rose up in his shining armour, tenderhearted and strong,
saying, 'Not so, O king! She has done no evil. Give me this child to
wife; and if you will vow, by all you hold sacred, never again to play
_chaupur_ for another's head, I will spare yours now!'

Then Sarkap vowed a solemn vow never to play for another's head; and
after that he took a fresh mango branch, and the new-born babe, and
placing them on a golden dish, gave them to the Prince.

Now, as Rasâlu left the palace, carrying with him the new-born babe
and the mango branch, he met a band of prisoners, and they called out
to him--­

'A royal hawk art thou, O King! the rest
But timid wild-fowl. Grant us our request--
Unloose these chains, and live for ever blest!'

And Raja Rasâlu hearkened to them, and bade
King Sarkap set them at liberty.

Then he went to the Murti Hills, and placed the new-born babe,
Kokilan, in an underground palace, and planted the mango branch at the
door, saying, 'In twelve years the mango tree will blossom; then will
I return and marry Kokilan.'

And after twelve years, the mango tree began to flower, and Raja
Rasâlu married the Princess Kokilan, whom he won from Sarkap when he
played _chaupur_ with the King.


Once upon a time, a very long time ago indeed, there lived a King who
had made a vow never to eat bread or break his fast until he had given
away a hundredweight of gold in charity.

So, every day, before King Karan--for that was his name--had his
breakfast, the palace servants would come out with baskets and baskets
of gold pieces to scatter amongst the crowds of poor folk, who, you
may be sure, never forgot to be there to receive the alms.

How they used to hustle and bustle and struggle and scramble! Then,
when the last golden piece had been fought for, King Karan would sit
down to his breakfast, and enjoy it as a man who has kept his word
should do.

Now, when people saw the King lavishing his gold in this fashion, they
naturally thought that sooner or later the royal treasuries must give
out, the gold come to an end, and the King--who was evidently a man of
his word--die of starvation. But, though months and years passed by,
every day, just a quarter of an hour before breakfast-time, the
servants came out of the palace with baskets and baskets of gold; and
as the crowds dispersed they could see the King sitting down to his
breakfast in the royal banqueting hall, as jolly, and fat, and hungry,
as could be.

Now, of course, there was some secret in all this, and this secret I
shall now tell you. King Karan had made a compact with a holy and
very hungry old _faqîr_ who lived at the top of the hill; and the
compact was this: on condition of King Karan allowing himself to be
fried and eaten for breakfast every day, the _faqîr_ gave him a
hundredweight of pure gold.

Of course, had the _faqîr_ been an ordinary sort of person, the
compact would not have lasted long, for once King Karan had been fried
and eaten, there would have been an end of the matter. But the
_faqîr_ was a very remarkable _faqîr_ indeed, and when he
had eaten the King, and picked the bones quite quite clean, he just
put them together, said a charm or two, and, hey presto! there was
King Karan as fat and jolly as ever, ready for the next morning's
breakfast. In fact, the _faqîr_ made _no bones at all_ over
the affair, which, it must be confessed, was very convenient both for
the breakfast and the breakfast eater. Nevertheless, it was of course
not pleasant to be popped alive every morning into a great frying-pan
of boiling oil; and for my part I think King Karan earned his
hundredweight of gold handsomely. But after a time he got accustomed
to the process, and would go up quite cheerfully to the holy and
hungry one's house, where the biggest frying-pan was spitting and
sputtering over the sacred fire. Then he would just pass the time of
day to the _faqîr_ to make sure he was punctual, and step
gracefully into his hot oil bath. My goodness! how he sizzled and
fizzled! When he was crisp and brown, the _faqîr_ ate him,
picked the bones, set them together, sang a charm, and finished the
business by bringing out his dirty, old ragged coat, which he shook
and shook, while the bright golden pieces came tumbling out of the
pockets on to the floor.

So that was the way King Karan got his gold, and if you think it very
extraordinary, so do I!

Now, in the great Mansarobar Lake, where, as of course you know, all
the wild swans live when they leave us, and feed upon seed pearls,
there was a great famine. Pearls were so scarce that one pair of
swans determined to go out into the world and seek for food. So they
flew into King Bikramâjît's garden, at Ujjayin. Now, when the
gardener saw the beautiful birds, he was delighted, and, hoping to
induce them to stay, he threw them grain to eat. But they would not
touch it, nor any other food he offered them; so he went to his
master, and told him there were a pair of swans in the garden who
refused to eat anything.

Then King Bikramâjît went out, and asked them in birds' language (for,
as every one knows, Bikramâjît understood both beasts and birds) why
it was that they ate nothing.

'We don't eat grain!' said they, 'nor fruit, nor anything but fresh
unpierced pearls!'

Whereupon King Bikramâjît, being very kind-hearted, sent for a basket
of pearls; and every day, when he came into the garden, he fed the
swans with his own hand.

But one day, when he was feeding them as usual, one of the pearls
happened to be pierced. The dainty swans found it out at once, and
coming to the conclusion that King Bikramâjît's supply of pearls was
running short, they made up their minds to go farther afield. So,
despite his entreaties, they spread their broad white wings, and flew
up into the blue sky, their outstretched necks pointing straight
towards home on the great Mansarobar Lake. Yet they were not
ungrateful, for as they flew they sang the praises of Bikramâjît.

Now, King Karan was watching his servants bring out the baskets of
gold, when the wild swans came flying over his head; and when he heard
them singing, 'Glory to Bikramâjît! Glory to Bikramâjît!' he said to
himself, 'Who is this whom even the birds praise? I let myself be
fried and eaten every day in order that I may be able to give away a
hundredweight of gold in charity, yet no swan sings _my_ song!'

So, being jealous, he sent for a bird-catcher, who snared the poor
swans with lime, and put them in a cage.

Then Karan hung the cage in the palace, and ordered his servants to
bring every kind of birds' food; but the proud swans only curved their
white necks in scorn, saying, 'Glory to Bikramâjît!--he gave us pearls
to eat!'

Then King Karan, determined not to be outdone, sent for pearls; but
still the scornful swans would not touch anything.

'Why will ye not eat?' quoth King Karan wrathfully; 'am I not as
generous as Bikramâjît?'

Then the swan's wife answered, and said, 'Kings do not imprison the
innocent. Kings do not war against women. If Bikramâjît were here,
he would at any rate let me go!'

So Karan, not to be outdone in generosity, let the swan's wife go, and
she spread her broad white wings and flew southwards to Bikramâjît,
and told him how her husband lay a prisoner at the court of King

Of course Bikramâjît, who was, as every one knows, the most generous
of kings, determined to* release the poor captive; and bidding the
swan fly back and rejoin her mate, he put on the garb of a servant,
and taking the name of Bikrû, journeyed northwards till he came to
King Karan's kingdom. Then he took service with the King, and helped
every day to carry out the baskets of golden pieces. He soon saw
there was some secret in King Karan's endless wealth, and never rested
until he had found it out. So, one day, hidden close by, he saw King
Karan enter the _faqîr's_ house and pop into the boiling oil. He
saw him frizzle and sizzle, he saw him come out crisp and brown, he
saw the hungry and holy _faqîr_ pick the bones, and, finally, he
saw King Karan, fat and jolly as ever, go down the mountain side with
his hundredweight of gold!

Then Bikrû knew what to do! So the very next day he rose very early,
and taking a carving-knife, he slashed himself all over. Next he took
some pepper and salt, spices, pounded pomegranate seeds, and
pea-flour; these he mixed together into a beautiful curry-stuff, and
rubbed himself all over with it--right into the cuts in spite of the
smarting. When he thought he was quite ready for cooking, he just
went up the hill to the _faqîr_'s house, and popped into the
frying-pan. The _faqîr_ was still asleep, but he soon awoke with
the sizzling and the fizzling, and said to himself, 'Dear me! how
uncommonly nice the King smells this morning!'

Indeed, so appetising was the smell, that he could hardly wait until
the King was crisp and brown, but then----oh, my goodness! how he
gobbled him up!

You see, he had been eating plain fried so long that a devilled king
was quite a change. He picked the bones ever so clean, and it is my
belief would have eaten them too, if he had not been afraid of killing
the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Then, when it was all over, he put the King together again, and said,
with tears in his eyes, 'What a breakfast that was, to be sure! Tell
me how you managed to taste so nice, and I'll give you anything you

Whereupon Bikrû told him the way it was done, and promised to devil
himself every morning, if he might have the old coat in return.
'For,' said he, 'it is not pleasant to be fried! and I don't see why I
should in addition have the trouble of carrying a hundredweight of
gold to the palace every day. Now, if _I_ keep the coat, I can
shake it down there.'

To this the _faqîr_ agreed, and off went Bikrû with the coat.

Meanwhile, King Karan came toiling up the hill, and was surprised,
when he entered the _faqîr_'s house, to find the fire out, the
frying-pan put away, and the _faqîr_ himself as holy as ever, but
not in the least hungry.

'Why, what is the matter?' faltered the King.

'Who are you?' asked the _faqîr_, who, to begin with, was
somewhat short-sighted, and in addition felt drowsy after his heavy

'Who! Why, I'm King Karan, come to be fried! Don't you want your

'I've had my breakfast!' sighed the _faqîr_ regretfully. 'You
tasted very nice when you were devilled, I can assure you!'

'I never was devilled in my life!' shouted the King; 'you must have
eaten somebody else!'

'That's just what I was saying to myself!' returned the _faqîr_
sleepily; 'I thought--it couldn't--be only--the spices--that---­
'---Snore, snore, snore!

'Look here!' cried King Karan, in a rage, shaking the
_faqîr_,'you must eat me too!'

'Couldn't!' nodded the holy but satisfied _faqîr_, 'really--not
another morsel--no, thanks!'

'Then give me my gold!' shrieked King Karan; 'you're bound to do that,
for I'm ready to fulfil my part of the contract!'

'Sorry I can't oblige, but the devil--I mean the other person--went
off with the coat!' nodded the _faqîr_.

Hearing this, King Karan returned home in despair and ordered the
royal treasurer to send him gold; so that day he ate his breakfast in

And the next day also, by ransacking all the private treasuries, a
hundredweight of gold was forthcoming; so King Karan ate his breakfast
as usual, though his heart was gloomy.

But the third day, the royal treasurer arrived with empty hands, and,
casting himself on the ground, exclaimed, 'May it please your majesty!
there is not any more gold in your majesty's domains!'

Then King Karan went solemnly to bed, without any breakfast, and the
crowd, after waiting for hours expecting to see the palace doors open
and the servants come out with the baskets of gold, melted away,
saying it was a great shame to deceive poor folk in that way!

By dinner-time poor King Karan was visibly thinner; but he was a man
of his word, and though the wily Bikrû came and tried to persuade him
to eat, by saying he could not possibly be blamed, he shook his head,
and turned his face to the wall.

Then Bikrû, or Bikramâjît, took the _faqîr's_ old coat, and
shaking it before the King, said, 'Take the money, my friend; and what
is more, if you will set the wild swans you have in that cage at
liberty, I will give you the coat into the bargain!'

So King Karan set the wild swans at liberty, and as the pair of them
flew away to the great Mansarobar Lake, they sang as they went, 'Glory
to Bikramâjît! the generous Bikramâjît!'

Then King Karan hung his head, and said to himself, 'The swans' song
is true!--Bikramâjît is more generous than I; for if I was fried for
the sake of a hundredweight of gold and my breakfast, he was devilled
in order to set a bird at liberty!'


Once upon a time there was a King who had no children, and this
disappointment preyed so dreadfully upon his mind that he chose the
dirtiest and most broken-down old bed he could find, and lay down on
it in the beautiful palace gardens. There he lay, amid the flowers
and the fruit trees, the butterflies and the birds, quite regardless
of the beauties around him;--that was his way of showing grief.

Now, as he lay thus, a holy _faqîr_ passed through the garden,
and seeing the King in this pitiful plight, asked him what the sorrow
was which drove him to such a very dirty old bed.

'What is the use of asking?' returned the King; but when the
_faqîr_ asked for the third time what the sorrow was, the King
took heart of grace, and answered gloomily, 'I have no children!'

'Is that all?' said the _faqîr_; 'that is easily remedied. Here!
take this stick of mine, and throw it twice into yonder mango tree.
At the first throw five mangoes will fall, at the second two. So many
sons you shall have, if you give each of your seven Queens a mango

Then the King, greatly delighted, took the _faqîr's_ stick and
went off to the mango tree. Sure enough, at the first throw five
mangoes fell, at the second, two. Still the King was not satisfied,
and, determining to make the most of the opportunity, he threw the
stick into the tree a third time, hoping to get more children But, to
his surprise and consternation, the stick remained in the tree, and
the seven fallen mangoes flew back to their places, where they hung
temptingly just out of reach.

[Illustration: The king and the faqîr]

There was nothing to be done but to go back to the _faqîr_, and
tell him what had happened.

'That comes of being greedy!' retorted the _faqîr_; 'surely seven
sons are enough for anybody, and yet you were not content! However, I
will give you one more chance. Go back to the tree; you will find the
stick upon the ground; throw it as I bade you, and beware of
disobedience, for if you do not heed me this time, you may lie on your
dirty old bed till doomsday for all I care!'

Then the King returned to the mango tree, and when the seven mangoes
had fallen--the first time five, the second time two--he carried them
straight into the palace, and gave them to his Queens, so as to be out
of the way of temptation.

Now, as luck would have it, the youngest Queen was not in the house,
so the King put her mango away in a tiny cupboard in the wall, against
her return, and while it lay there a greedy little mouse came and
nibbled away one half of it. Shortly afterwards, the seventh Queen
came in, and seeing the other Queens just wiping their mouths, asked
them what they had been eating.

'The King gave us each a mango,' they replied, 'and he put yours in
the cupboard yonder.'

But, lo! when the youngest Queen ran in haste to find her mango, half
of it was gone; nevertheless she ate the remaining half with great

Now the result of this was, that when, some months afterwards, the six
elder Queens each bore a son, the youngest Queen had only
half-a-son--and that was what they called him at once,--just
half-a-son, nothing more: he had one eye, one ear, one arm, one leg;
in fact, looked at sideways, he was as handsome a young prince as you
would wish to see, but frontways it was as plain as a pikestaff that
he was only half-a-prince. Still he throve and grew strong, so that
when his brothers went out shooting he begged to be allowed to go out

'How can _you_ go a-shooting?' wept his mother, who did nothing
but fret because her son was but half-a-son; 'you are only half-a-boy;
how can you hold your crossbow?'

'Then let me go and play at shooting,' replied
the prince, nothing daunted. 'Only give me some sweets to take with
me, dear mother, as the other boys have, and I shall get on well

[Illustration: The youngest queen and her half-a-son]

'How can I make sweets for half-a-son?' wept his mother; 'go and ask
the other Queens to give you some,'

So he asked the other Queens, and they, to make fun of the poor lad,
who was the butt of the palace, gave him sweets full of ashes.

Then the six whole princes, and little Half-a-son, set off a-shooting,
and when they grew tired and hungry, they sat down to eat the sweets
they had brought with them. Now when Prince Half-a-son put his into
his half-a-mouth, lo and behold! though they were sweet enough
outside, there was nothing but ashes and grit inside. He was a
simple-hearted young prince, and imagining it must be a mistake, he
went to his brothers and asked for some of theirs; but they jeered and
laughed at him.

By and by they came to a field of melons, so carefully fenced in with
thorns that only one tiny gap remained in one corner, and that was too
small for any one to creep through, except half-a-boy; so while the
six whole princes remained outside, little Half-a-son was feasting on
the delicious melons inside, and though they begged and prayed him to
throw a few over the hedge, he only laughed, saying, 'Remember the
sweets!--it is my turn now!'

When they became very importunate, he threw over a few of the unripe
and sour melons; whereupon his brothers became so enraged that they
ran to the owner of the field and told him that half-a-boy was making
sad havoc amongst his fruit. Then they watched him catch poor Prince
Half-a-son, who of course could not run very fast, and tie him to a
tree, after which they went away laughing.

But Prince Half-a-son had some compensation for being only half-a-boy,
in that he possessed the magical power of making a rope do anything he
bade it. Therefore, when he saw his brothers leaving him in the
lurch, he called out, 'Break, rope, break! my companions have gone
on,' and the rope obeyed at once, leaving him free to join his

By and by they came to a plum tree, where the fruit grew far out on
slender branches that would only bear the weight of half-a-boy.

'Throw us down some!' cried the whole brothers, as they saw Half-a-son
with his half-mouth full.

'Remember the sweets!' retorted the prince.

This made his brothers so angry that they ran off to the owner of the
tree, and telling him how half-a-boy was feasting on his plums,
watched while he caught the offender and tied him to the tree. Then
they ran away laughing; but Prince Half-a-son called out, 'Break,
rope, break! my companions have gone on,' and before they had gone out
of sight he rejoined his brothers, who could not understand how this

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