HotFreeBooks.com
Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit
by S. M. Mitra and Nancy Bell
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

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 Hiranya."

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 friends?

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 friendship?



STORY VIII

A Clever Thief.

CHAPTER I

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 nothing.

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 poverty?

CHAPTER II

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 things."

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?

CHAPTER III

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! Ah 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 sake?

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



CHAPTER IV

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 yesterday."

"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 yon 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 both?

CHAPTER V

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?

CHAPTER VI

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 fault."

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 little."

"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 Hari-Sarman?

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



CHAPTER VII

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 Hari-Sarman?

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

CHAPTER VIII

Hari-Sarman thought whan 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 you!"

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 city?

18. Do you think there was anything good in the character of Hari-Sarman?



STORY IX

The Hermit's Daughter.

CHAPTER I

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?

CHAPTER II

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?

CHAPTER III

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 time."

"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?

CHAPTER IV

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 bride?

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

CHAPTER V

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 saw.

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?

CHAPTER VI

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?

CHAPTER VII

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 forest.

"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 sleep.

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?

CHAPTER VIII

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?

CHAPTER IX

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 cages.

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?



NOTES

[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.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse