Now, the boy who had recovered through the efficacy of this medicine selected the prettiest spot on the premises to erect a shrine to Inari Sama, the Fox God, and offered sacrifice to the two old foxes, for whom he purchased the highest rank at court of the Mikado.
The Black Horse
Once there was a king, and he had three sons, and when the king died, they did not give a shade of anything to the youngest son, but an old white limping garron.
"If I get but this," quoth he, "it seems that I had best go with this same."
He was going with it right before him, sometimes walking, sometimes riding. When he had been riding a good while he thought that the garron would need a while of eating, so he came down to earth, and what should he see coming out of the heart of the western air toward him but a rider riding high, well, and right well.
"All hail, my lad," said he.
"Hail, king's son," said the other.
"What's your news?" said the king's son.
"I've got that," said the lad who came. "I am after breaking my heart riding this ass of a horse; but will you give me the limping white garron for him?"
"No," said the prince; "it would be a bad business for me."
"You need not fear," said the man that came, "there is no saying but that you might make better use of him than I. He has one value, there is no single place that you can think of in the four parts of the wheel of the world that the black horse will not take you there."
So the king's son got the black horse, and he gave the limping white garron.
Where should he think of being when he mounted but in the Realm Underwaves. He went, and before sunrise on the morrow he was there. What should he find when he got there but the son of the King Underwaves holding a court, and the people of the realm gathered to see if there was any one who would undertake to go to seek the daughter of the King of the Greeks to be the prince's wife. No one came forward, when who should come up but the rider of the black horse.
"You rider of the black horse," said the prince, "I lay you under crosses and under spells to have the daughter of the King of the Greeks here before the sun rises to-morrow."
The lad went out and he reached the black horse and leaned his elbow on his mane, and he heaved a sigh.
"Sigh of a king's son under spells!" said the horse; "but have no care; we shall do the thing that was set before you." And so off they went.
"Now," said the horse, "when we get near the great town of the Greeks, you will notice that the four feet of a horse never went to the town before. The king's daughter will see me from the top of the castle looking out of a window, and she will not be content without a turn of a ride upon me. Say that she may have that, but the horse will suffer no man but you to ride before a woman on him."
They came near the big town, and he fell to horsemanship; and the princess was looking out of the windows, and noticed the horse. The horsemanship pleased her, and she came out just as the horse had come.
"Give me a ride on the horse," said she.
"You shall have that," said he, "but the horse will let no man ride him before a woman but me."
"I have a horseman of my own," said she.
"If so, set him in front," said he.
Before the horseman mounted at all, when he tried to get up, the horse lifted his legs and kicked him off.
"Come then, yourself, and mount before me," said she; "I won't leave the matter so."
He mounted the horse and she behind him, and before she glanced from her she was nearer sky than earth. He was in Realm Underwaves with her before sunrise.
"You are come," said Prince Underwaves.
"I am come," said he.
"There you are, my hero," said the prince. "You are the son of a king, but I am a son of success. Anyhow, we shall have no delay or neglect now, but a wedding."
"Just gently," said the princess; "your wedding is not so short a way off as you suppose. Till I get the silver cup that my grandmother had at her wedding, and that my mother had as well, I will not marry, for I need to have it at my own wedding."
"You rider of the black horse," said the Prince Underwaves, "I set you under spells and under crosses unless the silver cup is here before dawn to-morrow."
Out the lad went and reached the horse and leaned his elbow on his mane, and he heaved a sigh.
"Sigh of a king's son under spells!" said the horse; "mount and you shall get the silver cup. The people of the realm are gathered about the king to-night, for he has missed his daughter, and when you get to the palace go in and leave me without; they will have the cup there going round the company. Go in and sit in their midst. Say nothing, and seem to be as one of the people of the place. But when the cup comes round to you, take it under your oxter, and come out to me with it, and we'll go."
Away they went and they got to Greece, and he went into the palace and did as the black horse bade. He took the cup and came out and mounted, and before sunrise he was in the Realm Underwaves.
"You are come," said Prince Underwaves.
"I am come," said he.
"We had better get married now," said the prince to the Greek princess.
"Slowly and softly," said she. "I will not marry till I get the silver ring that my grandmother and my mother wore when they were wedded."
"You rider of the black horse," said the Prince Underwaves, "do that. Let's have that ring here to-morrow at sunrise."
The lad went to the black horse and put his elbow on his crest and told him how it was.
"There never was a matter set before me harder than this matter which has now been set in front of me," said the horse, "but there is no help for it at any rate. Mount me. There is a snow mountain and an ice mountain and a mountain of fire between us and the winning of that ring. It is right hard for us to pass them."
Thus they went as they were, and about a mile from the snow mountain they were in a bad case with cold. As they came near it the lad struck the horse, and with the bound he gave the black horse was on the top of the snow mountain; at the next bound he was on the top of the ice mountain; at the third bound he went through the mountain of fire. When he had passed the mountains the lad was dragging at the horse's neck, as though he were about to lose himself. He went on before him down to a town below.
"Go down," said the black horse, "to a smithy; make an iron spike for every bone end in me."
Down he went as the horse desired, and he got the spikes made, and back he came with them.
"Stick them into me," said the horse, "every spike of them in every bone end that I have."
That he did; he stuck the spikes into the horse.
"There is a loch here," said the horse, "four miles long and four miles wide, and when I go out into it the loch will take fire and blaze. If you see the Loch of Fire going out before the sun rises, expect me, and if not, go your way."
Out went the black horse into the lake, and the lake became flame. Long was he stretched about the lake, beating his palms and roaring. Day came, and the loch did not go out.
But at the hour when the sun was rising out of the water the lake went out.
And the black horse rose in the middle of the water with one single spike in him, and the ring upon its end.
He came on shore, and down he fell beside the loch.
Then down went the rider. He got the ring, and he dragged the horse down to the side of a hill. He fell to sheltering him with his arms about him, and as the sun was rising he got better and better, till about midday, when he rose on his feet.
"Mount," said the horse, "and let us be gone."
He mounted on the black horse, and away they went.
He reached the mountains, and he leaped the horse at the fire mountain and was on the top. From the mountain of fire he leaped to the mountain of ice, and from the mountain of ice to the mountain of snow. He put the mountains past him, and by morning he was in Realm Underwaves.
"You are come," said the prince.
"I am," said he.
"That's true," said Prince Underwaves. "A king's son are you, but a son of success am I. We shall have no more mistakes and delays, but a wedding this time."
"Go easy," said the Princess of the Greeks. "Your wedding is not so near as you think yet. Till you make a castle, I won't marry you. Not to your father's castle nor to your mother's will I go to dwell; but make me a castle for which your father's castle will not make washing water."
"You rider of the black horse, make that," said Prince Underwaves, "before the morrow's sun rises."
The lad went out to the horse and leaned his elbow on his neck and sighed, thinking that this castle never could be made for ever.
"There never came a turn in my road yet that is easier for me to pass than this," said the black horse.
The lad gave a glance from him and saw all that were there, and ever so many wrights and stone masons at work, and the castle was ready before the sun rose.
He shouted at the Prince Underwaves, and he saw the castle. He tried to pluck out his eye, thinking that it was a false sight.
"Son of King Underwaves," said the rider of the black horse, "don't think that you have a false sight; this is a true sight."
"That's true," said the prince. "You are a son of success, but I am a son of success, too. There will be no more mistakes and delays, but a wedding now."
"No," said she. "The time is come. Should we not go to look at the castle? There's time enough to get married before the night comes."
They went to the castle and the castle was without a fault.
"I see one," said the prince. "One want at least to be made good. A well must be made inside, so that water may not be far to fetch when there is a feast or a wedding in the castle."
"That won't be long undone," said the rider of the black horse.
The well was made, and it was seven fathoms deep and two or three fathoms wide, and they looked at the well on the way to the wedding.
"It is all very good," said she, "but for one little fault yonder."
"Where is it?" said Prince Underwaves.
"There," said she.
He bent him down to look. She came out, and she put her two hands at his back, and cast him in.
"Be thou there," said she. "If I go to be married, thou art not the man; but the man who did each exploit that has been done, and, if he chooses, him will I have."
Away she went with the rider of the little black horse to the wedding.
And at the end of three years after that, so it was that he first remembered the black horse or where he left him.
He got up and went out, and he was very sorry for his neglect of the black horse. He found him just where he left him.
"Good luck to you, gentleman," said the horse. "You seem as if you had got something that you like better than me."
"I have not got that, and I won't; but it came over me to forget you," said he.
"I don't mind," said the horse, "it will make no difference. Raise your sword and smite off my head."
"Fortune will not allow that I should do that," said he.
"Do it instantly, or I will do it to you," said the horse.
So the lad drew his sword and smote off the horse's head; then he lifted his two palms and uttered a doleful cry.
What should he hear behind him but "All hail, my brother-in-law!"?
He looked behind him, and there was the finest man he ever set eyes upon.
"What set you weeping for the black horse?" said he.
"This," said the lad, "that there never was born of man or beast a creature in this world that I was fonder of."
"Would you take me for him?" said the stranger.
"If I could think you the horse I would; but if not, I would rather have the horse," said the rider.
"I am the black horse," said the lad, "and if I were not, how should you have all these things that you went to seek in my father's house. Since I went under spells, many a man have I ran at before you met me. They had but one word amongst them: they could not keep me, nor manage me, and they never kept me a couple of days. But when I fell in with you, you kept me till the time ran out that was to come from the spells. And now you shall go home with me, and we will make a wedding in my father's house."
Several hundred years ago there was a certain Rajah who had twelve wives, but no children, and though he caused many prayers to be said, and presents made in temples far and near, never a son nor a daughter had he. Now this Rajah had a Wuzeer who was a very, very wise old man, and it came to pass that one day, when he was travelling in a distant part of his kingdom, accompanied by this Wuzeer and the rest of his court, he came upon a large garden, in walking round which he was particularly struck by a little tree which grew there. It was a bringal tree, not above two feet in height. It had no leaves, but on it grew a hundred and one bringals. The Rajah stopped to count them, and then turning to the Wuzeer in great astonishment, said, "It is to me a most unaccountable thing, that this little tree should have no leaves, but a hundred and one bringals growing on it. You are a wise man—can you guess what this means?"
The Wuzeer replied, "I can interpret this marvel to you, but if I do, you will most likely not believe me; promise therefore that if I tell you, you will not cause me to be killed as having told (as you imagine) a lie."
The Rajah promised, and the Wuzeer continued: "The meaning of this little bringal tree, with the hundred and one bringals growing on it, is this. Whoever marries the daughter of the Malee in charge of this garden will have a hundred and one children—a hundred sons and one daughter."
The Rajah said. "Where is the maiden to be seen?"
The Wuzeer answered, "When a number of great people like you and all your court come into a little village like this, the poor people, and especially the children, are frightened and run away and hide themselves; therefore, as long as you stay here as Rajah you cannot hope to see her. Your only means will be to send away your suite, and cause it to be announced that you have left the place. Then, if you walk daily in this garden, you may some morning meet the pretty Guzra Bai, of whom I speak."
Upon this advice the Rajah acted; and one day whilst walking in the garden he saw the Malee's young daughter, a girl of twelve years old, busy gathering flowers. He went forward to accost her, but she, seeing that he was not one of the villagers, but a stranger, was shy, and ran home to her father's house.
The Rajah followed, for he was very much struck with her grace and beauty; in fact, he fell in love with her as soon as he saw her, and thought he had never seen a king's daughter half so charming.
When he got to the Malee's house the door was shut; so he called out, "Let me in, good Malee; I am the Rajah, and I wish to marry your daughter."
The Malee only laughed, and answered, "A pretty tale to tell a simple man, indeed! You a Rajah! why the Rajah is miles away. You had better go home, my good fellow, for there's no welcome for you here!" But the Rajah continued calling till the Malee opened the door; who then was indeed surprised, seeing it was truly no other than the Rajah, and he asked what he could do for him.
The Rajah said, "I wish to marry your beautiful daughter, Guzra Bai."
"No, no," said the Malee, "this joke won't do. None of your Princes in disguise for me. You may think you are a great Rajah and I only a poor Malee, but I tell you that makes no difference at all to me. Though you were king of all the earth, I would not permit you to come here and amuse yourself chattering to my girl, only to fill her head with nonsense, and to break her heart."
"In truth, good man, you do me wrong," answered the Rajah humbly: "I mean what I say; I wish to marry your daughter."
"Do not think," retorted the Malee, "that I'll make a fool of myself because I'm only a Malee, and believe what you've got to say, because you're a great Rajah. Rajah or no Rajah is all one to me. If you mean what you say, if you care for my daughter and wish to be married to her, come and be married; but I'll have none of your new-fangled forms and court ceremonies hard to be understood; let the girl be married by her father's hearth and under her father's roof, and let us invite to the wedding our old friends and acquaintances whom we've known all our lives, and before we ever thought of you."
The Rajah was not angry, but amused, and rather pleased than otherwise at the old man's frankness, and he consented to all that was desired.
The village beauty, Guzra Bai, was therefore married with as much pomp as they could muster, but in village fashion, to the great Rajah, who took her home with him, followed by the tears and blessings of her parents and playmates.
The twelve kings' daughters were by no means pleased at this addition to the number of the Ranees; and they agreed amongst themselves that it would be highly derogatory to their dignity to permit Guzra Bai to associate with them, and that the Rajah their husband, had offered them an unpardonable insult in marrying a Malee's daughter, which was to be revenged upon her the very first opportunity.
Having made this league, they tormented poor Guzra Bai so much that, to save her from their persecutions, the Rajah built her a little house of her own, where she lived very, very happily for a short time.
At last one day he had occasion to go and visit a distant part of his dominions, but fearing his high-born wives might ill-use Guzra Bai in his absence, at parting he gave her a little golden bell, saying, "If while I am away you are in any trouble, or any one should be unkind to you, ring this little bell, and wherever I am I shall instantly hear it, and will return to your aid."
No sooner had the Rajah gone, than Guzra Bai thought she would try the power of the bell. So she rang it.
The Rajah instantly appeared. "What do you want?" he said.
"Oh, nothing," she replied. "I was foolish. I could hardly believe what you told me could be true, and thought I would try."
"Now you will believe, I hope," he said, and went away. A second time she rang the bell. Again the Rajah returned.
"Oh, pardon me, husband," she said; "it was wrong of me not to trust you, but I hardly thought you could return again from so far."
And again he went away. A third time she rang the golden bell. "Why do you ring again, Guzra Bai?" asked the Rajah sternly, as for a third time he returned.
"I don't know, indeed; indeed I beg your pardon," she said; "but I know not why, I felt so frightened."
"Have any of the Ranees been unkind to you?" he asked.
"No, none," she answered; "in fact, I have seen none of them."
"You are a silly child," said he, stroking her hair. "Affairs of the state call me away. You must try and keep a good heart till my return;" and for the fourth time he disappeared.
A little while after this, wonderful to relate, Guzra Bai had a hundred and one children—a hundred boys and one girl. When the Ranees heard this, they said to each other, "Guzra Bai, the Malee's daughter, will rank higher than us; she will have great power and influence as mother to the heir to the Raj; let us kill these children, and tell our husband that she is a sorceress; then will he love her no longer, and his old affection for us will return." So these twelve wicked Ranees all went over to Guzra Bai's house. When Guzra Bai saw them coming, she feared they meant to do her some harm, so she seized her little golden bell, and rang, and rang, and rang—but no Rajah came. She had called him back so often that he did not believe she really needed his help. And thus the poor woman was left to the mercy of her implacable enemies.
Now the nurse who had charge of the hundred and one babies was an old servant of the twelve Ranees, and moreover a very wicked woman, able and willing to do whatever her twelve wicked old mistresses ordered. So when they said to her, "Can you kill these children?" she answered, "Nothing is easier; I will throw them out upon the dust-heap behind the palace, where the rats and hawks and vultures will have left none of them remaining by to-morrow morning."
"So be it," said the Ranees. Then the nurse took the hundred and one little innocent children—the hundred little boys and the one little girl—and threw them behind the palace on the dust-heap, close to some large rat-holes; and after that, she and the twelve Ranees placed a very large stone in each of the babies' cradles, and said to Guzra Bai, "Oh, you evil witch in disguise, do not hope any longer to impose by your arts on the Rajah's credulity. See, your children have all turned into stones. See these, your pretty babies!"—and with that they tumbled the hundred and one stones down in a great heap on the floor. Then Guzra Bai began to cry, for she knew it was not true; but what could one poor woman do against thirteen? At the Rajah's return the twelve Ranees accused Guzra Bai of being a witch, and the nurse testified that the hundred and one children she had charge of had turned into stones, and the Rajah believed them rather than Guzra Bai, and he ordered her to be imprisoned for life.
Meanwhile a Bandicote had heard the pitiful cries of the children, and taking pity on them, dragged them all, one by one, into her hole, out of the way of kites and vultures. She assembled all the Bandicotes from far and near, and told them what she had done, begging them to assist in finding food for the children. Then every day a hundred and one Bandicotes would come, each bringing a little bit of food in his mouth, and give it to one of the children; and so day by day they grew stronger and stronger, until they were able to run about, and then they used to play of a morning at the mouth of the Bandicote's hole, running in there to sleep every night. But one fine day who should come by but the wicked old nurse! Fortunately all the boys were in the hole, and the little girl, who was playing outside, on seeing her ran in there too, but not before the nurse had seen her. She immediately went to the twelve Ranees and related this, saying, "I cannot help thinking some of the children may still be living in those rat-holes. You had better send and have them dug out and killed."
"We dare not do that," answered they, "for fear of causing suspicion; but we will order some labourers to dig up that ground and make it into a field, and that will effectually smother any of the children who may still be alive."
This plan was approved and forthwith carried into execution; but the good Bandicote, who happened that day to be out on a foraging expedition in the palace, heard all about it there, and immediately running home, took all the children from her hole to a large well some distance off, where she hid them in the hollows behind the steps leading down to the well, laying one child under each step.
Here they would have been quite safe, had not the Dhobee happened to go down to the well that day to wash some clothes, taking with him his little girl. While her father was drawing up water, the child amused herself running up and down the steps of the well. Now each time her weight pressed down a step it gave the child hidden underneath a little squeeze. All the hundred boys bore this without uttering a sound; but when the Dhobee's child trod on the step under which the little girl was hidden, she cried out, "How can you be so cruel to me, trampling on me in this way? Have pity on me, for I am a little girl as well as you."
When the child heard these words proceeding from the stone, she ran in great alarm to her father, saying, "Father, I don't know what's the matter, but something alive is certainly under those stones. I heard it speak; but whether it is a Rakshas or an angel or a human being I cannot tell." Then the Dhobee went to the twelve Ranees to tell them the wonderful news about the voice in the well; and they said to each other, "Maybe it's some of Guzra Bai's children; let us send and have this inquired into." So they sent some people to pull down the well and see if some evil spirits were not there.
Then labourers went to pull down the well. Now, close to the well was a little temple dedicated to Gunputti, containing a small shrine and a little clay image of the god. When the children felt the well being pulled down they called out for help and protection to Gunputti, who took pity on them and changed them into trees growing by his temple—a hundred little mango trees all round in a circle (which were the hundred little boys), and a little rose bush in the middle, covered with red and white roses, which was the little girl.
The labourers pulled down the well, but they found nothing there but a poor old Bandicote, which they killed. Then, by order of the twelve wicked Ranees, they sacrilegiously destroyed the little temple. But they found no children there, either. However, the Dhobee's mischievous little daughter had gone with her father to witness the work of destruction, and as they were looking on, she said, "Father, do look at all those funny little trees; I never remember noticing them here before." And being very inquisitive, she started off to have a nearer look at them. There in a circle grew the hundred little mango trees, and in the centre of all the little rose bush, bearing the red and white roses.
The girl rushed by the mango trees, who uttered no words, and running up to the rose bush, began gathering some of the flowers. At this the rose bush trembled very much, and sighed and said, "I am a little girl as well as you; how can you be so cruel? You are breaking all my ribs."
Then the child ran back to her father and said, "Come and listen to what the rose bush says." And the father repeated the news to the twelve Ranees, who ordered that a great fire should be made, and the hundred and one little trees be burned in it, root and branch, till not a stick remained.
The fire was made, and the hundred and one little trees were dug up and just going to be put into it, when Gunputti, taking pity on them, caused a tremendous storm to come on, which put out the fire and flooded the country and swept the hundred and one trees into the river, where they were carried down a long, long way by the torrent, until at last the children were landed, restored to their own shapes, on the river bank, in the midst of a wild jungle, very far from any human habitation.
Here these children lived for ten years, happy in their mutual love and affection. Generally every day fifty of the boys would go out to collect roots and berries for their food, leaving fifty at home to take care of their little sister; but sometimes they put her in some safe place, and all would go out together for the day; nor were they ever molested in their excursions by bear, panther, snake, scorpion, or other noxious creature. One day all the brothers put their little sister safely up in a fine shady tree, and went out together to hunt. After rambling on for some time they came to the hut of a savage Rakshas, who in the disguise of an old woman had lived for many years in the jungle.
The Rakshas, angry at this invasion of her domain, no sooner saw them than she changed them all into crows. Night came on, and their little sister was anxiously awaiting her brothers' return, when on a sudden she heard a loud whirring sound in the air, and round the tree flocked a hundred black crows, cawing and offering her berries and roots which they had dug up with their sharp bills. Then the little sister guessed too truly what must have happened—that some malignant spirit had metamorphosed her brothers into this hideous shape; and at the sad sight she began to cry.
Time wore on; every morning the crows flew away to collect food for her and for themselves, and every evening they returned to roost in the branches of the high tree where she sat the livelong day, crying as if her heart would break.
At last so many bitter tears had she shed that they made a little stream which flowed from the foot of the tree right down through the jungle.
Some months after this, one fine day, a young Rajah from a neighbouring country happened to be hunting in this very jungle; but he had not been very successful. Toward the close of the day he found himself faint and weary, having missed his way and lost his comrades, with no companion save his dogs, who, being thirsty, ran hurriedly hither and thither in search of water. After some time, they saw in the distance what looked like a clear stream; the dogs rushed there and the tired prince, following them, flung himself down on the grass by the water's brink, thinking to sleep there for the night; and, with his hands under his head, stared up into the leafy branches of the tree above him. Great was his astonishment to see high up in in the air an immense number of crows, and above them all a most lovely young girl, who was feeding them with berries and wild fruits. Quick as thought, he climbed the tree, and bringing her carefully and gently down, seated her on the grass beside him, saying, "Tell me, pretty lady, who you are, and how you come to be living in this dreary place." So she told him all her adventures, except that she did not say the hundred crows were her hundred brothers. Then the Rajah said, "Do not cry any more, fair Princess; you shall come home with me and be my Ranee, and my father and mother shall be yours."
At this she smiled and dried her eyes, but quickly added, "You will let me take these crows with me, will you not? for I love them dearly, and I cannot go away unless they may come too."
"To be sure," he answered. "You may bring all the animals in the jungle with you, if you like, if you will only come."
So he took her home to his father's house, and the old Rajah and Ranee wondered much at this jungle lady, when they saw her rare beauty, her modest, gentle ways and her queenly grace. Then the young Rajah told them how she was a persecuted Princess, and asked their leave to marry her; and because her loving goodness had won all hearts, they gave their consent as joyfully as if she had been daughter of the greatest of Rajahs, and brought with her a splendid dower; and they called her Draupadi Bai.
Draupadi had some beautiful trees planted in front of her palace, in which the crows, her brothers, used to live, and she daily with her own hands boiled a quantity of rice, which she would scatter for them to eat as they flocked around her. Now some time after this, Draupadi Bai had a son, who was called Ramchundra. He was a very good boy, and his mother, Draupadi Bai, used to take him to school every morning, and go and fetch him home in the evening. But one day, when Ramchundra was about fourteen years old, it happened that Draupadi Bai did not go to fetch him home from school as she was wont; and on his return he found her sitting under the trees in front of her palace, stroking the glossy black crows that flocked around her, and weeping.
Then Ramchundra threw down his bundle of books and said to his mother, putting his elbows on her knees, and looking up in her face, "Mammy, dear, tell me why you are now crying, and what it is that makes you so often sad."
"Oh, nothing, nothing," she answered.
"Yes, dear mother," said he, "do tell me. Can I help you? If I can, I will."
Draupadi Bai shook her head. "Alas, no, my son," she said; "you are too young to help me; and as for my grief, I have never told it to any one. I cannot tell it to you now." But Ramchundra continued begging and praying her to tell him, until at last she did; relating to him all her own and his uncles' sad history; and lastly, how they had been changed by a Rakshas into the black crows he saw around him.
Then the boy sprang up and said, "Which way did your brothers take when they met the Rakshas?"
"How can I tell?" she asked.
"Why," he answered, "I thought perhaps you might remember on which side they returned that first night to you, after being bewitched."
"Oh," she said, "they came toward the tree from that part of the jungle which lies in a straight line behind the palace."
"Very well," cried Ramchundra, joyfully, "I also will go there, and find out this wicked old Rakshas, and learn by what means they may be disenchanted."
"No, no, my son," she answered, "I cannot let you go; see, I have lost father and mother, and these my hundred brothers; and now, if you fall into the Rakshas's clutches as well as they, and are lost to me, what will life have worth living for?"
To this he replied, "Do not fear for me, mother; I will be wary and discreet." And going to his father, he said, "Father, it is time I should see something of the world. I beg you to permit me to travel and see other lands."
The Rajah answered, "You shall go. Tell me what attendants you would like to accompany you."
"Give me," said Ramchundra, "a horse to ride, and a groom to take care of it." The Rajah consented, and Ramchundra set off riding toward the jungle; but as soon as he got there, he sent his horse back by the groom with a message to his parents and proceeded alone, on foot.
After wandering about for some time he came upon a small hut, in which lay an ugly old woman fast asleep. She had long claws instead of hands, and her hair hung down all around her in a thick black tangle. Ramchundra knew, by the whole appearance of the place, that he must have reached the Rakshas's abode of which he was in search; so, stealing softly in, he sat down and began shampooing her head. At last the Rakshas woke up. "You dear little boy," she said, "do not be afraid; I am only a poor old woman, and will not hurt you. Stay with me, and you shall be my servant." This she said not from any feeling of kindness or pity for Ramchundra, but merely because she thought he might be helpful to her. So the young Rajah remained in her service, determining to stay there till he should have learned from her all that he wished to know.
Thus one day he said to her, "Good mother, what is the use of all those little jars of water you have arranged round your house?"
She answered, "That water possesses certain magical attributes; if any of it is sprinkled on people enchanted by me, they instantly resume their former shape."
"And what," he continued, "is the use of your wand?"
"That," she replied, "has many supernatural powers; for instance, by simply uttering your wish and waving it in the air, you can conjure up a mountain, a river or a forest in a moment of time."
Another day Ramchundra said to her, "Your hair, good mother, is dreadfully tangled; pray let me comb it."
"No," she said, "you must not touch my hair; it would be dangerous; for every hair has power to set the jungle on fire."
"How is that?" he asked.
She replied, "The least fragment of my hair thrown in the direction of the jungle would instantly set it in a blaze."
Having learned all this, one day when it was very hot, and the old Rakshas was drowsy, Ramchundra begged leave to shampoo her head, which speedily sent her to sleep; then, gently pulling out two or three of her hairs, he got up, and taking in one hand her wand, and in the other two jars of the magic water, he stealthily left the hut; but he had not gone far before she woke up, and instantly divining what he had done, pursued him with great rapidity. Ramchundra, looking back and perceiving that she was gaining upon him, waved the enchanted wand and created a great river, which suddenly rolled its tumultuous waves between them; but, quick as thought, the Rakshas swam the river.
Then he turned, and waving the wand again, caused a high mountain to rise between them; but the Rakshas climbed the mountain. Nearer she came, and yet nearer; each time he turned to use the wand and put obstacles in her way, the delay gave her a few minutes' advantage, so that he lost almost as much as he gained. Then, as a last resource, he scattered the hairs he had stolen to the winds, and instantly the jungle on the hill side, through which the Rakshas was coming, was set in a blaze; the fire rose higher and higher, the wicked old Rakshas was consumed by the flames, and Ramchundra pursued his journey in safety until he reached his father's palace. Draupadi Bai was overjoyed to see her son again, and he led her out into the garden, and scattered the magic water on the hundred black crows, which instantly recovered their human forms, and stood up one hundred fine, handsome young men.
Then were there rejoicings throughout the country, because the Ranee's brothers had been disenchanted; and the Rajah sent out into all neighbouring lands to invite their Rajahs and Ranees to a great feast in honour of his brothers-in-law.
Among others who came to the feast was the Rajah, Draupadi Bai's father, and the twelve wicked Ranees, his wives.
When they were all assembled, Draupadi arose and said to him, "Noble sir, we had looked to see your wife Guzra Bai with you. Pray you tell us wherefore she has not accompanied you."
The Rajah was much surprised to learn that Draupadi Bai knew anything about Guzra Bai, and he said, "Speak not of her: she is a wicked woman; it is fit that she should end her days in prison."
But Draupadi Bai and her husband, and her hundred brothers rose and said, "We require, O Rajah, that you send home instantly and fetch hither that much injured lady, which, if you refuse to do, your wives shall be imprisoned, and you ignominiously expelled this kingdom."
The Rajah could not guess what the meaning of this was, and thought they merely wished to pick a quarrel with him; but not much caring whether Guzra Bai came or not, he sent for her as was desired. When she arrived, her daughter, Draupadi Bai, and her hundred sons, with Draupadi Bai's husband and the young Ramchundra, went out to the gate to meet her, and conducted her into the palace with all honour. Then, standing around her, they turned to the Rajah, her husband, and related to him the story of their lives; how that they were his children, and Guzra Bai their mother; how she had been cruelly calumniated by the twelve wicked Ranees, and they in constant peril of their lives; but having miraculously escaped many terrible dangers, still lived to pay him duteous service and to cheer and support his old age.
At this news the whole company was very much astonished. The Rajah, overjoyed, embraced his wife, Guzra Bai, and it was agreed that she and their hundred sons should return with him to his own land, which accordingly was done. Ramchundra lived very happily with his father and mother to the day of their death, when he ascended the throne, and became a very popular Rajah; and the twelve wicked old Ranees, who had conspired against Guzra Bai and her children, were, by order of the Rajah, burned to death. Thus truth triumphed in the end; but so unequally is human justice meted out that the old nurse, who worked their evil will, and was in fact the most guilty wretch of all, is said to have lived unpunished, to have died in the bosom of her family, and to have had as big a funeral pile as any virtuous Hindoo.
The Feast of the Lanterns
Wang Chih was only a poor man, but he had a wife and children to love, and they made him so happy that he would not have changed places with the Emperor himself.
He worked in the fields all day, and at night his wife always had a bowl of rice ready for his supper. And sometimes, for a treat, she made him some bean soup, or gave him a little dish of fried pork.
But they could not afford pork very often; he generally had to be content with rice.
One morning, as he was setting off to his work, his wife sent Han Chung, his son, running after him to ask him to bring home some firewood.
"I shall have to go up into the mountain for it at noon," he said. "Go and bring me my axe, Han Chung."
Han Chung ran for his father's axe, and Ho-Seen-Ko, his little sister, came out of the cottage with him.
"Remember it is the Feast of Lanterns to-night, father," she said. "Don't fall asleep up on the mountain; we want you to come back and light them for us."
She had a lantern in the shape of a fish, painted red and black and yellow, and Han Chung had got a big round one, all bright crimson, to carry in the procession; and, besides that, there were two large lanterns to be hung outside the cottage door as soon at it grew dark.
Wang Chih was not likely to forget the Feast of Lanterns, for the children had talked of nothing else for a month, and he promised to come home as early as he could.
At noontide, when his fellow-labourers gave up working, and sat down to rest and eat, Wang Chih took his axe and went up the mountain slope to find a small tree he might cut down for fuel.
He walked a long way, and at last saw one growing at the mouth of a cave.
"This will be just the thing," he said to himself. But, before striking the first blow, he peeped into the cave to see if it were empty.
To his surprise, two old men, with long, white beards, were sitting inside playing chess, as quietly as mice, with their eyes fixed on the chessboard.
Wang Chih knew something of chess, and he stepped in and watched them for a few minutes.
"As soon as they look up I can ask them if I may chop down a tree," he said to himself. But they did not look up, and by and by Wang Chih got so interested in the game that he put down his axe, and sat on the floor to watch it better.
The two old men sat cross-legged on the ground, and the chessboard rested on a slab, like a stone table, between them.
On one corner of the slab lay a heap of small, brown objects which Wang Chih took at first to be date stones; but after a time the chess-players ate one each, and put one in Wang Chih's mouth; and he found it was not a date stone at all.
It was a delicious kind of sweetmeat, the like of which he had never tasted before; and the strangest thing about it was that it took his hunger and thirst away.
He had been both hungry and thirsty when he came into the cave, as he had not waited to have his midday meal with the other field-workers; but now he felt quite comforted and refreshed.
He sat there some time longer, and noticed that as the old men frowned over the chessboard, their beards grew longer and longer, until they swept the floor of the cave, and even found their way out of the door.
"I hope my beard will never grow as quickly," said Wang Chih, as he rose and took up his axe again.
Then one of the old men spoke, for the first time. "Our beards have not grown quickly, young man. How long is it since you came here?"
"About half an hour, I dare say," replied Wang Chih. But as he spoke, the axe crumbled to dust beneath his fingers, and the second chess-player laughed, and pointed to the little brown sweetmeats on the table.
"Half an hour, or half a century—aye, half a thousand years, are all alike to him who tastes of these. Go down into your village and see what has happened since you left it."
So Wang Chih went down as quickly as he could from the mountain, and found the fields where he had worked covered with houses, and a busy town where his own little village had been. In vain he looked for his house, his wife, and his children.
There were strange faces everywhere; and although when evening came the Feast of Lanterns was being held once more, there was no Ho-Seen-Ko carrying her red and yellow fish, or Han Chung with his flaming red ball.
At last he found a woman, a very, very old woman, who told him that when she was a tiny girl she remembered her grandmother saying how, when she was a tiny girl, a poor young man had been spirited away by the Genii of the mountains, on the day of the Feast of Lanterns, leaving his wife and little children with only a few handfuls of rice in the house.
"Moreover, if you wait while the procession passes, you will see two children dressed to represent Han Chung and Ho-Seen-Ko, and their mother carrying the empty rice-bowl between them; for this is done every year to remind people to take care of the widow and fatherless," she said. So Wang Chih waited in the street; and in a little while the procession came to an end; and the last three figures in it were a boy and a girl, dressed like his own two children, walking on either side of a young woman carrying a rice-bowl. But she was not like his wife in anything but her dress, and the children were not at all like Han Chung and Ho-Seen-Ko; and poor Wang Chih's heart was very heavy as he walked away out of the town.
He slept out on the mountain, and early in the morning found his way back to the cave where the two old men were playing chess.
At first they said they could do nothing for him, and told him to go away and not disturb them; but Wang Chih would not go, and they soon found the only way to get rid of him was to give him some really good advice.
"You must go to the White Hare of the Moon, and ask him for a bottle of the elixir of life. If you drink that you will live forever," said one of them.
"But I don't want to live forever," objected Wang Chih. "I wish to go back and live in the days when my wife and children were here."
"Ah, well! For that you must mix the elixir of life with some water out of the sky-dragon's mouth."
"And where is the sky-dragon to be found?" inquired Wang Chih.
"In the sky, of course. You really ask very stupid questions. He lives in a cloud-cave. And when he comes out of it he breathes fire, and sometimes water. If he is breathing fire you will be burnt up, but if it is only water, you will easily be able to catch some in a little bottle. What else do you want?"
For Wang Chih still lingered at the mouth of the cave.
"I want a pair of wings to fly with, and a bottle to catch the water in," he replied boldly.
So they gave him a little bottle; and before he had time to say "Thank you!" a white crane came sailing past, and lighted on the ground close to the cave.
"The crane will take you wherever you like," said the old men. "Go now, and leave us in peace."
So Wang Chih sat on the white crane's back, and was taken up, and up, and up through the sky to the cloud-cave where the sky-dragon lived. And the dragon had the head of a camel, the horns of a deer, the eyes of a rabbit, the ears of a cow and the claws of a hawk.
Besides this, he had whiskers and a beard, and in his beard was a bright pearl.
All these things show that he was a real, genuine dragon, and if you ever meet a dragon who is not exactly like this, you will know he is only a make-believe one.
Wang Chih felt rather frightened when he perceived the cave in the distance, and if it had not been for the thought of seeing his wife again, and his little boy and girl, he would have been glad to turn back.
While he was far away the cloud-cave looked like a dark hole in the midst of a soft, white, woolly mass, such as one sees in the sky on an April day; but as he came nearer he found the cloud was as hard as a rock, and covered with a kind of dry, white grass.
When he got there, he sat down on a tuft of grass near the cave, and considered what he should do next.
The first thing was, of course, to bring the dragon out, and the next to make him breathe water instead of fire.
"I have it!" cried Wang Chih at last; and he nodded his head so many times that the white crane expected to see it fall off.
He struck a light, and set the grass on fire, and it was so dry that the flames spread all around the entrance to the cave, and made such a smoke and crackling that the sky-dragon put his head out to see what was the matter.
"Ho! ho!" cried the dragon, when he saw what Wang Chih had done, "I can soon put this to rights." And he breathed once, and the water came out his nose and mouth in three streams.
But this was not enough to put the fire out. Then he breathed twice, and the water came out in three mighty rivers, and Wang Chih, who had taken care to fill his bottle when the first stream began to flow, sailed away on the white crane's back as fast as he could, to escape being drowned.
The rivers poured over the cloud rock, until there was not a spark left alight, and rushed down through the sky into the sea below.
Fortunately, the sea lay right underneath the dragon's cave, or he would have done some nice mischief. As it was, the people on the coast looked out across the water toward Japan, and saw three inky-black clouds stretching from the sky into the sea.
"My word! There is a fine rain-storm out at sea!" they said to each other.
But, of course, it was nothing of the kind; it was only the sky-dragon putting out the fire Wang Chih had kindled.
Meanwhile, Wang Chih was on his way to the moon, and when he got there he went straight to the hut where the Hare of the Moon lived, and knocked at the door.
The Hare was busy pounding the drugs which make up the elixir of life; but he left his work, and opened the door, and invited Wang Chih to come in.
He was not ugly, like the dragon; his fur was quite white and soft and glossy, and he had lovely, gentle brown eyes.
The Hare of the Moon lives a thousand years, as you know, and when he is five hundred years old he changes his colour, from brown to white, and becomes, if possible, better tempered and nicer than he was before.
As soon as he heard what Wang Chih wanted, he opened two windows at the back of the hut, and told him to look through each of them in turn.
"Tell me what you see," said the Hare, going back to the table where he was pounding the drugs.
"I can see a great many houses and people," said Wang Chih, "and streets—why, this is the town I was in yesterday, the one which has taken the place of my old village."
Wang Chih stared, and grew more and more puzzled. Here he was up in the moon, and yet he could have thrown a stone into the busy street of the Chinese town below his window.
"How does it come here?" he stammered, at last.
"Oh, that is my secret," replied the wise old Hare. "I know how to do a great many things which would surprise you. But the question is, do you want to go back there?"
Wang Chih shook his head.
"Then close the window. It is the window of the Present. And look through the other, which is the window of the Past."
Wang Chih obeyed, and through this window he saw his own dear little village, and his wife, and Han Chung and Ho-Seen-Ko jumping about her as she hung up the coloured lanterns outside the door.
"Father won't be in time to light them for us, after all," Han Chung was saying.
Wang Chih turned, and looked eagerly at the White Hare.
"Let me go to them," he said. "I have got a bottle of water from the sky-dragon's mouth, and—"
"That's all right," said the White Hare. "Give it to me."
He opened the bottle, and mixed the contents carefully with a few drops of the elixir of life, which was clear as crystal, and of which each drop shone like a diamond as he poured it in.
"Now, drink this," he said to Wang Chih, "and it will give you the power of living once more in the past, as you desire."
Wang Chih held out his hand, and drank every drop.
The moment he had done so, the window grew larger, and he saw some steps leading from it down into the village street.
Thanking the Hare, he rushed through it, and ran toward his own house, arriving in time to take the taper from his wife's hand with which she was about to light the red and yellow lanterns which swung over the door.
"What has kept you so long, father? Where have you been?" asked Han Chung, while little Ho-Seen-Ko wondered why he kissed and embraced them all so eagerly.
But Wang Chih did not tell them his adventures just then; only when darkness fell, and the Feast of Lanterns began, he took his part in it with a merry heart.
The Lake of Gems
Once upon a time, so very long ago that even the great-grandfathers of our great-grandmothers had not been born, there lived in the city of Kwen-lu a little Chinese boy named Pei-Hang.
His father and mother loved him dearly, and did all they could to shield him from the power of the evil Genii, or spirits, of whom there were a great many in China. Of course, there were some good Genii too, but most of them were very much the reverse, and Pei-Hang's mother was always taking precautions against them.
Now it is said that a wicked Geni will not come near a Chinese boy if he has some red silk braided in with his pigtail, or if he wears a silver chain round his neck.
And the most daring Geni has a great dread of old fishing-nets.
Pei-Hang's mother made him a little shirt out of an old fishing-net to wear next to his skin, and she took care that his pigtail should be plaited with the brightest red silk she could buy.
She was particular in having his head shaved in exactly the right way, too, and to have a tuft left sticking up in the luckiest place.
With all these precautions Pei-Hang got safely over the troubles of his babyhood, and grew from a little boy into a big one, and from a boy to a tall and handsome youth; and he left off wearing his netted shirt, although the silver chain still hung round his neck and there was red silk in his pigtail.
"It is time that Pei-Hang saw a little more," said his father. "He must go to Chang-ngan, and study under the wise men there, and find out what the world is thinking about."
Chang-ngan was the old capital of China, a very great city indeed, and Pin-Too, the master to whom Pei-Hang was sent was the wisest man in it.
And there Pei-Hang soon learned what the world was thinking about, and many things besides. And as soon as he was eighteen he took the red silk out of his pigtail and the silver chain from his neck; for grown-up people do not need charms to protect them from the Genii—they can generally protect themselves.
When he was twenty, Pin-Too told him he could not teach him any more.
"It is time for you to go back to your parents, and comfort them in their old age," he said.
He looked very sorry as he said it, for Pei-Hang had been his favourite pupil.
"I will start to-morrow, Master," replied Pei-Hang, obediently. "I will leave the city by the Golden Bridge."
"No, you must go by the Indigo Bridge, for there you will meet your future wife," said Pin-Too.
"I was not thinking of a wife," observed Pei-Hang, with some dismay.
And Pin-Too wrinkled up his eyes and laughed.
"All the better!" he said. "Because, when you have once seen her, you will be able to think of nothing else."
It was very hot weather, and Pei-Hang ought to have started early in the morning; but he sat so long over his books the night before his journey that he fell fast asleep just before sunrise, and slept all through the coolest hours of the day.
When he awoke, the sun was blazing down upon the streets of Chang-ngan, and making the town like a furnace.
However, Pei-Hang took up his stick and set off, because he had promised his father and mother to start that day.
"I will rest a little at the Indigo Bridge, and walk on again in the cool of the evening," he said to himself.
But on the bridge he fell asleep again, so tired was he with the many sleepless nights he had spent in study.
While he slept he had a dream, in which a tall and beautiful maiden appeared to him, and showed him her right foot, round which a red cord was bound.
"What is the meaning of it?" asked Pei-Hang, who could hardly take his eyes away from her face to look at her foot.
"What is the meaning of the red cord around your foot, too?" replied the girl.
Then Pei-Hang glanced at his right foot, and saw that his foot and the girl's were tied together by the same thin red cord; and by this he knew that she must be his future wife.
"I have heard my mother say," he said, "that when a boy is born, the Fairy of the Moon ties an invisible red cord round his right foot, and the other end of the cord round the foot of the girl-baby whom he is to marry."
"That is quite true," said the maiden; "and this is an invisible cord to people who are awake. Now I will tell you my name, and remember it when you hear it again. It is Yun-Ying."
"And I will tell you mine," began Pei-Hang, but Yun-Ying stopped him, smiling.
"Ah, I know yours, and all about you," she said.
This surprised Pei-Hang very much; but he need not have been greatly astonished, for everyone in Chang-ngan knew that Pei-Hang was the handsomest and wisest and best loved pupil the wise Pin-Too had ever had.
And Yun-Ying lived quite close to the city, and had often seen Pei-Hang walking through the streets with his books.
When Pei-Hang awoke, he found, as she had said, that there was no red cord around his foot, and no fair maiden looking down at him, either.
"I wonder if she is real, or only a dream-maiden, after all," he said to himself.
But Yun-Ying was quite real; only her mother, who knew something of magic, had given her the power of stepping in and out of people's dreams just as she chose.
Pei-Hang got up and went on his way, thinking of Yun-Ying all the time.
It was still very hot, and he grew so thirsty that he went to a little hut by the roadside, and asked an old woman who was sitting in the doorway to give him a drink.
The old dame told her daughter to fill their best goblet with fresh spring water, and bring it out to the stranger; and when the daughter appeared, it was none other than Yun-Ying herself.
"Oh!" cried Pei-Hang, "I thought perhaps I should never see you again, and I have found you almost directly."
"And what is my name?" asked the girl, laughing.
"Yun-Ying," replied Pei-Hang. "Yun-Ying, Yun-Ying," he repeated, in a singing tone, just as he had been saying it all the time as he walked along, as if he loved the sound of it.
Yun-Ying was dressed in white underneath, but her over-dress was bright blue, embroidered with beautiful flowers which she had worked herself; and she stood in the door of the hut, with a peach tree in full bloom over her head, making such a picture of youth and loveliness that Pei-Hang's heart seemed to jump up into his throat, and beat there fast enough to choke him.
"Who are you? And how do you come to know Yun-Ying?" asked the old woman peering and blinking at him, with her hand over her eyes, to shade them from the sun.
And when she heard about the dream, and the red cord, and that Pei-Hang wanted to marry her daughter, she did not look at all pleased.
"If I had two daughters you might have one of them, and welcome," she grumbled.
For Pei-Hang was not by any means a bad match. His parents were well off, and he was their only child.
But Yun-Ying was a very pretty girl, and a mandarin of Chang-ngan was anxious to make her his wife.
"He is four times her age, it is true," said her mother, explaining this to Pei-Hang; "but he is very rich. All his dishes and plates are gold, and they say his drinking-cups are gold, set with diamonds."
"He is old and wrinkled, like a little brown monkey," said Yun-Ying. "I don't want to marry him! And, besides, the Fairy of the Moon didn't tie my foot to his."
"No, that's true enough," sighed her mother.
She would have liked to tell Pei-Hang to go about his business, but she knew if the red cord had really been tied between his foot and Yun-Ying's, it would not be safe to do that.
"Come inside," she said at last; "I'll see what I can promise."
The inside of the hut was fragrant with the scent of herbs which were strewn all over the floor, and on a wooden stool in the middle lay a broken pestle and mortar.
"Now," said Yun-Ying's mother, "on this stool I pound magic drugs given to me by the Genii; but my pestle and mortar is broken. I want a new one."
"That I can easily buy in Chang-ngan," replied Pei-Hang.
"No; for it is a pestle and mortar of jade, and you can only get one like it by going to the home of the Genii, which is on a mountain above the Lake of Gems. If you will do that, and bring it back to me, you shall marry Yun-Ying."
"Yes, I will do that," said Pei-Hang, after a moment's thought. "But I must see my parents first."
He had not the least idea where the home of the Genii was; but Yun-Ying took him out into the garden, and showed him, in the far distance, a range of snow-capped mountains, with one peak towering above the rest.
"That is Mount Sumi," she said, "and it is there the Genii live, sitting on the snow-peaks, and looking down at the Lake of Gems."
"But to reach it you must cross the Blue River, the White River, the Red River, and the Black River, which are all full of monstrous fishes. That is why my mother is sending you," sighed Yun-Ying. "She thinks you will never come back alive."
"I know how to swim," said Pei-Hang, "and fishes don't frighten me."
"Promise me you won't try to swim," said Yun-Ying, earnestly. "You would be devoured in a moment. Take this box with you. In it you will find six red seeds. Throw one into each river as you come to it, and it will shrink into a little brook, over which you can jump."
Pei-Hang opened the box, and saw inside six round, red seeds, each about the size of a pea; and he agreed to use them as Yun-Ying directed. Then he kissed her, and set out on his journey to Mount Sumi.
But on his way across the plain he passed through the town where his parents lived, and he went to see them, and told them all that had happened since he left Chang-ngan.
His mother, who was a very wise woman, as mothers generally are, told him the Genii would be angry if he turned their four great rivers into brooks, and would probably refuse to give him a pestle and mortar made of jade.
"I never thought of that," said Pei-Hang.
"Never mind," said his mother, "I will give you a box containing six white seeds. Cast one into each brook when you have crossed it on your way home, and the brook will expand into a river again."
Early the next morning Pei-Hang kissed her and went on his way.
He rested during the midday heat, and continued his journey when it grew cool again; and in this way, at the end of seven days, he came to the Blue River.
It was a quarter of a mile wide, and as blue as the sky of midsummer, and fishes were popping their heads out of the water in every direction. The head of every fish was twice as large as a football, and had two rows of teeth. But Pei-Hang threw a red seed into the waves which were lapping the shore, and in a moment, instead of the wide blue river, a little brook lay at his feet.
The huge fishes were changed into tiny creatures like tadpoles, and he hopped across the brook on one foot.
Soon afterward he came to the White River, which was half a mile wide, so rapid that it was covered with foam, like new milk, and full of immense sea serpents. "I shan't be able to hop over this on one foot," thought Pei-Hang, throwing his red seed into the water.
But to his surprise the White River shrank just as rapidly as the Blue River into a tiny rippling brook, with some wee wriggling eels at the bottom.
Pei-Hang leaped lightly over it, and walked a long way before he came in sight of the Red River.
This was three-quarters of a mile wide, and bright scarlet. It looked like a flood of melted sealing-wax, and a row of alligators, with their mouths wide open, stretched right across it like a bridge.
"Now for my little red seed!" said Pei-Hang, opening his box quite cheerfully.
The nearest alligator made a snap at the seed as it sank in the river, but he missed it, and the next minute he found himself no bigger than a lizard, sitting at the bottom of a stream not half a yard across. At the other side of it Pei-Hang was met by one of the Genii, who had come down from his snow-peak to see who it was that had dared to play such tricks with the three mighty rivers.
Pei-Hang showed him the round white seeds in his other box.
"It is all right," he said, "I can make them as large as they were before, on my way back. But first I must find the home of the Genii, and get a pestle and mortar of jade for my future mother-in-law to pound her magic drugs in."
"First you must cross the Black River," replied the Geni, with rather a scornful laugh. "It is a mile wide, and the fish in it are six yards long, and covered with spikes like porcupines."
"How did you get across?" inquired Pei-Hang.
"I? Oh, I can fly," said the Geni.
"And I can jump," retorted Pei-Hang, sturdily.
The Geni walked with him as far as the Black River, and when our hero saw the great waste of water as black as ink, stretching away in front of him, it must be confessed his heart sank a little.
But he took out his fourth seed, and watched it disappear beneath a coal-black wave.
In an instant, to the Geni's astonishment, the river dried up, leaving only a shallow stream running through the grass at their feet.
The Geni was not altogether a bad-hearted fellow, and he was also much impressed by the wonderful things Pei-Hang seemed able to do; so he offered to show him the nearest way to the home of the Genii, on the top of Mount Sumi.
After a long and wearisome climb they got up there, and found eight of the Genii sitting on eight snow-peaks, and looking down on the Lake of Gems, as Yun-Ying had said.
The Lake of Gems lay on the other side of Mount Sumi, and was a beautiful sheet of water, flashing all the colours of the rainbow.
Pei-Hang could not take his eyes off it. He forgot all about the pestle and mortar as he watched the waves rippling along the shore, and leaving behind them diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls in thousands.
Every pebble on the margin of the lake was a precious stone, and Pei-Hang wanted to go down and fill his pockets with them.
He stood there while the Geni who had been his guide explained to the others why he had come, and told them about the wonderful red and white seeds he carried about with him.
"We must let him have the pestle and mortar," he said, "or he won't give us our rivers back again." The eight Genii nodded their eight heads, and spoke all at once, with a noise which was like the rumble of thunder among the hills. "Let him take it, if he can carry it," they said.
And they laughed until the snow-peaks shook beneath them; for the mortar made of jade was six feet high and four feet wide and the pestle was so heavy no mortal could lift it.
Pei-Hang, when he had finished staring at the Lake of Gems, walked round it, and wondered how he was to carry it down the mountain and across the plains to Chang-ngan.
Then he sat down on the ground to think the matter over, and the Genii, even his own good-natured Geni, laughed at him again.
"Come!" they said. "If you like to fill the mortar with precious stones, you may do it. Any man who can carry it empty can carry it full."
"Because no one can carry it at all," concluded the good-natured Geni, softly to himself.
Pei-Hang folded his arms, and sat still, and thought, and thought, and took no notice of their gibes and sneers.
He had not studied three years with the wisest man in Chang-ngan for nothing, and, besides, he was determined to marry Yun-Ying, and when young men are very much in love, they sometimes accomplish things which their friends—and enemies—think are impossible.
At last a light came into his eyes; and he jumped up and asked the friendly Geni if he would make a little heap of stones at one side of the mortar.
"I want to be able to look inside it, and I am not tall enough," said he.
"And why don't you do it yourself?" asked the Geni.
"Because I must go down to the Lake of Gems and collect precious stones," replied Pei-Hang.
And he ran down to the shore of the lake and gathered diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and sapphires, as many as he could carry.
This he did again and again, emptying them into the mortar each time, until it was quite full, and held gems enough to make Pei-Hang the richest man in China.
This was exactly what he wanted; for he knew that the yellow-faced mandarin was only the richest man in Chang-ngan, and that the richest man in China would have a far greater chance of marrying Yun-Ying.
"Well, what next?" cried the eight Genii, when he had finished. "Will you take it on your shoulder or on your head?"
"I will just carry it under my arm," replied Pei-Hang, easily.
And he took out his little box, and threw one of his red seeds on top of the gems.
In a moment the gigantic pestle and mortar shrank into one of the ordinary size.
Pei-Hang put the pestle in his pocket, and took up the mortar carefully, because he did not wish to spill the precious stones, and made a low bow to the Genii.
"Good-bye, and thank you," he said.
They did not laugh this time, but they pursued him with such a roar of rage that it sounded as if eight lions were waiting for their dinner.
But they did not dare to stop him, knowing that he had the power to turn the four brooks into four rivers again.
Pei-Hang hurried away, and on his journey did exactly what he had promised.
He jumped across the first brook, and threw a white seed into it, and turned it into a terrible inky black waste of waters a mile wide, full of fishes six yards long, and every fish covered with spikes.
The Genii stopped roaring then; they were relieved to see the Black River rolling once more between them and the outer world.
When Pei-Hang came to the Red River, and the White River, and the Blue River, he did the same thing; and from that day to this no one has been able to find the home of the Genii, because no one but Pei-Hang could ever cross the Blue River, much less the other three.
Then Pei-Hang journeyed for seven days, and came to his father's and mother's house, and told them all that had happened since he had left them, and he gave them a ruby, a diamond, an emerald, a sapphire, a pearl, and a pink topaz, a jewel for every white seed his mother had given him, and each as large as a sparrow's egg. After that he went on to Chang-ngan, and there he found that, although he had only been a month away, Yun-Ying's mother had told everyone he was dead, and invited all her friends to a wedding feast in honour of her daughter's marriage with the yellow-faced old mandarin. The wedding had not taken place when Pei-Hang arrived; but Yun-Ying stood under the peach tree, in her wedding dress, which was of pink silk, all embroidered with silver, and when she saw Pei-Hang, she threw herself into his arms and the tears ran down her cheeks.
Pei-Hang put down the pestle and mortar while he comforted her, and her mother came running out to look at it.
"You have come too late to marry Yun-Ying," she said. "But I'll buy the pestle and mortar from you with some of the money the mandarin has given me."
"No, you will not," replied Pei-Hang. And he dropped one of his white seeds into the mortar, which at once increased in size until it filled the whole grass plat under the peach tree, and it was full to the brim of glittering jewels.
Pei-Hang climbed into one of the branches overhanging it, and from there he threw down among the wedding guests diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and all kinds of precious stones.
And the yellow-faced mandarin was as busy picking them up as anyone.
"Although he is so rich that his drinking-cups are made of gold!" cried the others, indignantly.
"One can never have too much of a good thing. He! he! he!" he chuckled.
And when Pei-Hang offered him three rubies, each as large as a pigeon's egg, if he would go away and forget all about Yun-Ying, he took them and went.
Perhaps he knew that Yun-Ying's mother would not have much more to say to him, now that she had a chance of a son-in-law who scattered jewels about the grass like pearl barley.
Or perhaps he really preferred the three great rubies to Yun-Ying.
At any rate, he went back to Chang-ngan, and Pei-Hang married Yun Ying, and took her away to the city where his father and mother lived; and they were as happy as two young people deserve to be when they love each other dearly.
As for the pestle and mortar of jade, it stood under the peach tree; and no one could lift it into the cottage, and no one could have pounded magic drugs in it, if they could have got it inside.
Pei-Hang had one red seed left in his box, and he meant to have thrown it into the mortar as soon as he had taken all the precious stones out, and made it small again.
But while he was up in the peach tree the box flew open, and the seed fell out, and was gobbled up by a turkey underneath.
The turkey, of course, changed into a bantam cock; but the pestle and mortar had to remain the size it was.
And Yun-Ying's mother was very angry about it, although I do not think she deserved anything else, after the unfair advantage she had tried to take of her son-in-law.
There was once a poor old fisherman, and one year he was not getting much fish. On a day of days, while he was fishing, there rose a sea-maiden at the side of his boat, and she asked him, "Are you getting much fish?" The old man answered and said, "Not I." "What reward would you give me for sending plenty of fish to you?" "Ach!" said the old man, "I have not much to spare." "Will you give me the first son you have?" said she. "I would give ye that, were I to have a son," said he. "Then go home, and remember me when your son is twenty years of age, and you yourself will get plenty of fish after this." Everything happened as the sea-maiden said, and he himself got plenty of fish; but when the end of the twenty years was nearing, the old man was growing more and more sorrowful and heavy-hearted, while he counted each day as it came.
He had rest neither day nor night. The son asked his father one day, "Is any one troubling you?" The old man said, "Someone is, but that's nought to do with you nor anyone else." The lad said, "I must know what it is." His father told him at last how the matter was with him and the sea-maiden. "Let not that put you in any trouble," said the son; "I will not oppose you." "You shall not; you shall not go, my son, though I never get fish any more." "If you will not let me go with you, go to the smithy, and let the smith make me a great strong sword, and I will go seek my fortune."
His father went to the smithy, and the smith made a doughty sword for him. His father came home with the sword. The lad grasped it and gave it a shake or two, and it flew into a hundred splinters. He asked his father to go to the smithy and get him another sword in which there should be twice as much weight; and so his father did, and so likewise it happened to the next sword—it broke in two halves. Back went the old man to the smithy; and the smith made a great sword; its like he never made before. "There's the sword for thee," said the smith, "and the fist must be good that plays this blade." The old man gave the sword to his son; he gave it a shake or two. "This will do," said he; "it's high time now to travel on my way."
On the next morning he put a saddle on a black horse that his father had, and he took the world for his pillow. When he went on a bit, he fell in with the carcass of a sheep beside the road. And there were a great black dog, a falcon, and an otter, and they were quarrelling over the spoil. So they asked him to divide it for them. He came down off the horse, and he divided the carcass amongst the three, three shares to the dog, two shares to the otter, and a share to the falcon. "For this," said the dog, "if swiftness of foot or sharpness of tooth will give thee aid, mind me, and I will be at thy side." Said the otter, "If the swimming of foot on the ground of a pool will loose thee, mind me, and I will be at thy side." Said the falcon, "If hardship comes on thee, where swiftness of wing or crook of claw will do good, mind me, and I will be at thy side."
On this he went onward till he reached a king's house, and he took service to be a herd, and his wages were to be according to the milk of the cattle. He went away with the cattle, and the grazing was but bare. In the evening when he took them home they had not much milk, the place was so bare, and his meat and drink was but spare that night.
On the next day he went farther on with them; and at last he came to a place exceedingly grassy, in a great glen, of which he never saw the like.
But about the time when he should drive the cattle home-wards, whom should he see coming but a great giant with a sword in his hand? "HI! HO!! HOGARACH!!!" says the giant. "Those cattle are mine; they are on my land, and a dead man art thou." "I say not that," says the herd; "there is no knowing, but that may be easier to say than to do."
He drew the great clean-sweeping sword, and he neared the giant. The herd drew back his sword, and the head was off the giant in a twinkling. He leaped on the black horse, and he went to look for the giant's house. In went the herd, and that's the place where there was money in plenty, and dresses of each kind in the wardrobe with gold and silver, and each thing finer than the other. At the mouth of night he took himself to the king's house, but he took not a thing from the giant's house. And when the cattle were milked this night there was milk! He got good feeding this night, meat and drink without stint, and the king was hugely pleased that he had caught such a herd. He went on for a time in this way, but at last the glen grew bare of grass, and the grazing was not so good.
So he thought he would go a little farther forward in on the giant's land; and he sees a great park of grass. He returned for the cattle, and he put them into the park.
They were but a short time grazing in the park when a great wild giant came, full of rage and madness. "HI! HAW!! HOGARAICH!!!" said the giant; "it is a drink of thy blood that will quench my thirst this night." "There is no knowing," said the herd, "but that's easier to say than to do." And at each other went the men. There was shaking of blades! At length and at last it seemed as if the giant would get the victory over the herd. Then he called on the dog, and with one spring the black dog caught the giant by the neck, and swiftly the herd struck off his head.
He went home very tired this night, but it's a wonder if the king's cattle had not milk. The whole family was delighted that they had got such a herd.
Next day he betakes himself to the castle. When he reached the door, a little flattering carlin met him standing in the door. "All hail and good luck to thee, fisher's son! 't is I myself am pleased to see thee; great is the honour for this kingdom, for thy like to be come into it—thy coming in is fame for this little bothy; go in first; honour to the gentles; go in, and take breath."
"In before me, thou crone; I like not flattery out of doors; go in and let's hear thy speech." In went the crone, and when her back was to him he drew his sword and whips off her head; but the sword flew out of his hand. And swift the crone gripped her head with both hands, and put it on her neck as it was before. The dog sprang on the crone, and she struck the generous dog with the club of magic; and there he lay. But the herd struggled for a hold of the club of magic, and with one blow on the top of the head she was on earth in the twinkling of an eye. He went forward, up a little, and there was spoil! Gold and silver, and each thing more precious than another, in the crone's castle. He went back to the king's house, and there was rejoicing.
He followed herding in this way for a time; but one night after he came home, instead of getting "All hail!" and "Good luck!" from the dairymaid, all were at crying and woe.
He asked what cause of woe there was that night. The dairymaid said, "There is a great beast with three heads in the loch, and it must get someone every year, and the lot had come this year on the king's daughter, and at midday to-morrow she is to meet the Laidly Beast at the upper end of the loch, but there is a great suitor yonder who is going to rescue her."
"What suitor is that?" said the herd. "Oh, he is a great general of arms," said the dairymaid, "and when he kills the beast, he will marry the king's daughter, for the king has said that he who could save his daughter should get her to marry."
But on the morrow, when the time grew near, the king's daughter and this hero of arms went to give a meeting to the beast, and they reached the black rock at the upper end of the loch. They were but a short time there when the beast stirred in the midst of the loch; but when the general saw this terror of a beast with three heads, he took fright, and he slunk away, and he hid himself. And the king's daughter was under fear and under trembling, with no one at all to save her. Suddenly she sees a doughty, handsome youth, riding a black horse, and coming where she was. He was marvellously arrayed and full armed, and his black dog moved after him. "There is gloom on your face, girl," said the youth; "what do you here?"
"Oh! that's no matter," said the king's daughter. "It's not long I'll be here at all events."
"I say not that," said he.
"A champion fled as likely as you, and not long since," said she.
"He is a champion who stands the war," said the youth. And to meet the beast he went with his sword and his dog. But there was a spluttering and a splashing between himself and the beast! The dog kept doing all he might, and the king's daughter was palsied by fear of the noise of the beast! One of them would now be under, and now above. But at last he cut one of the heads off it. It gave one roar, and the son of earth, echo of the rocks, called to its screech, and it drove the loch in spindrift from end to end, and in a twinkling it went out of sight.
"Good luck and victory follow you, lad!" said the king's daughter. "I am safe for one night, but the beast will come again and again, until the other two heads come off it." He caught the beast's head, and he drew a knot through it, and he told her to bring it with her there to-morrow. She gave him a gold ring, and went home with the head on her shoulder, and the herd betook himself to the cows. But she had not gone far when this great general saw her, and he said to her, "I will kill you if you do not say 't was I took the head off the beast." "Oh!" says she, "'t is I will say it; who else took the head off the beast but you!" They reached the king's house, and the head was on the general's shoulder. But here was rejoicing, that she should come home alive and whole, and this great captain with the beast's head full of blood in hand. On the morrow they went away, and there was no question at all but that this hero would save the king's daughter.
They reached the same place, and they were not long there when the fearful Laidly Beast stirred in the midst of the loch, and the hero slunk away as he did on yesterday: but it was not long after this when the man of the black horse came, with another dress on. No matter; she knew that it was the very same lad. "It is I am pleased to see you," said she. "I am in hopes you will handle your great sword to-day as you did yesterday. Come up and take breath." But they were not long there when they saw the beast steaming in the midst of the loch.
At once he went to meet the beast, but there was Cloopersteich and Clapersteich, spluttering, splashing, raving, and roaring on the beast! They kept at it thus for a long time, and about the mouth of the night he cut another head off the beast. He put it on the knot and gave it to her. She gave him one of her earrings, and he leaped on the black horse, and he betook himself to the herding. The king's daughter went home with the heads. The general met her, and took the heads from her, and he said to her that she must tell that it was he who took the head off of the beast this time also. "Who else took the head off the beast but you?" said she. They reached the king's house with the heads. Then there was joy and gladness.
About the same time on the morrow, the two went away. The officer hid himself as he usually did. The king's daughter betook herself to the bank of the loch. The hero of the black horse came, and if roaring and raving were on the beast on the days that were passed, this day it was horrible. But no matter, he took the third head off the beast, and drew it through the knot, and gave it to her. She gave him her other earring, and then she went home with the heads. When they reached the king's house, all were full of smiles, and the general was to marry the king's daughter the next day. The wedding was going on, and everyone about the castle longing till the priest should come. But when the priest came, she would marry only the one who could take the heads off the knot without cutting it. "Who should take the heads off the knot but the man that put the heads on?" said the king.
The general tried them, but he could not loose them, and at last there was no one about the house but had tried to take the heads off the knot, but they could not. The king asked if there was anyone else about the house that would try to take the heads off the knot. They said that the herd had not tried them yet. Word went for the herd; and he was not long throwing them hither and thither. "But stop a bit, my lad," said the king's daughter; "the man that took the heads off the beast, he has my ring and my two earrings." The herd put his hand in his pocket, and he threw them on the board. "Thou art my man," said the king's daughter. The king was not so pleased when he saw that it was a herd who was to marry his daughter, and he ordered that he should be put in a better dress; but his daughter spoke, and she said that he had a dress as fine as any that ever was in his castle; and thus it happened. The herd put on the giant's golden dress, and they were married that same day.
They were now married, and everything went on well. But one day, and it was the namesake of the day when his father had promised him to the sea-maiden, they were sauntering by the side of the loch, and lo, and behold! she came and took him away to the loch without leave or asking. The king's daughter was now mournful, tearful, blind-sorrowful for her married man; she was always with her eye on the loch. An old soothsayer met her, and she told how it had befallen her married mate. Then he told her the thing to do to save her mate, and that she did.
She took her harp to the sea-shore, and sat and played; and the sea-maiden came up to listen, for sea-maidens are fonder of music than all other creatures. But when the wife saw the sea-maiden she stopped. The sea-maiden said, "Play on!" but the princess said, "No, not till I see my man again." So the sea-maiden put up his head out of the loch. Then the princess played again, and stopped till the sea-maiden put him up to the waist. Then the princess played and stopped again, and this time the sea-maiden put him all out of the loch, and he called on the falcon and became one, and flew on shore. But the sea-maiden took the princess, his wife.
Sorrowful was each one that was in the town on this night. Her man was mournful, tearful, wandering down and up about the banks of the loch, by day and night. The old soothsayer met him. The soothsayer told him that there was no way of killing the sea-maiden but the one way, and this is it: "In the island that is in the midst of the loch is the white-footed hind of the slenderest legs and the swiftest step, and though she be caught, there will spring a hoodie out of her, and though the hoodie should be caught, there will spring a trout out of her, but there is an egg in the mouth of the trout, and the soul of the sea-maiden is in the egg and if the egg breaks she is dead."
Now, there was no way of getting to this island, for the sea-maiden would sink each boat and raft that would go on the loch. He thought he would try to leap the strait with the black horse, and even so he did. The black horse leaped the strait. He saw the hind; and he let the black dog after her, but when he was on one side of the island, the hind would be on the other side. "Oh! would the black dog of the carcass of flesh were here!" No sooner spoke he the word than the grateful dog was at his side; and after the hind he went, and they were not long in bringing her to earth. But he no sooner caught her than a hoodie sprang out of her. "Would that the falcon grey, of sharpest eye and swiftest wing, were here!" No sooner said he this than the falcon was after the hoodie, and she was not long putting her to earth; and as the hoodie fell on the bank of the loch, out of her jumps the trout. "Oh! that thou wert by me now, O otter!" No sooner said than the otter was at his side, and out on the loch she leaped, and brings the trout from the midst of the loch; but no sooner was the otter on shore with the trout than the egg came from his mouth. He sprang and he put his foot on it. 'T was then that the sea-maiden appeared, and she said, "Break not the egg, and you shall get all you ask." "Deliver to me my wife!" In the wink of an eye she was by his side. When he got hold of her hand in both his hands, he let his foot down on the egg, and the sea-maiden died.
The Enchanted Waterfall
Once upon a time, there lived alone with his father and mother a simple young wood-cutter. He worked all day on the lonely hillside, or among the shady trees of the forest. But, work as hard as he might, he was still very poor, and could bring home but little money to his old father and mother. This grieved him very much, for he was an affectionate and dutiful son.
For himself he had but few wants and was easily pleased. His mother, too, was always cheerful and contented. The old father, however, was of a selfish disposition, and often grumbled at the poor supper of rice, washed down with weak tea, or, if times were very bad, with a cup of hot water.
"If we had but a little sake, now," he would say, "it would warm one up, and do one's heart good." And then he would reproach the simple young fellow, vowing that in his young days he had always been able to afford a cup of sake for himself and his friends.
Grieved at heart, the young man would work harder than ever and think to himself: "How shall I earn some more money? How shall I get a little sake for my poor father, who really needs it in his weakness and old age?"
He was thinking in this way to himself one day as he was at work on the wooded hills, when the sound of rushing water caught his ear. He had often worked in the same spot before, and could not remember that there was any torrent or waterfall near. So, feeling rather surprised, he followed the sound, which got louder and louder until at last he came upon a beautiful little cascade.
The water looked so clear and cool that he stooped down where it was flowing away in a quiet stream, and, using his hand as a cup, drank a little of it. What was his amazement to find that instead of water it was the most excellent sake!
Overjoyed at this discovery, he quickly filled the gourd which was hanging at his girdle, and made the best of his way home, rejoicing that now at last he had something good to bring back to his poor old father. The old man was so delighted with the sake that he drank cup after cup. A neighbour happened to drop in, the story was told to him, and a cup of sake offered and drunk with many words of astonishment and gratitude.
Soon the news spread through the village, and before night there was hardly a man in the place who had not paid his visit of curiosity, been told the tale of the magic fountain, and smelt the gourd, which, alas! was now empty.
Next morning the young wood-cutter set off to work earlier even than usual, not forgetting to carry with him a large gourd, for of course the enchanted waterfall was to be visited again.
What was the surprise of the young man when he came to the spot, to find several of his neighbours already there, and all armed with buckets, jars, pitchers, anything that would carry a good supply of the coveted sake. Each man had come secretly, believing that he alone had found his way to the magic waterfall.
The young wood-cutter was amused to see the looks of disappointment and anger upon the faces of those who already stood near the water, as they saw fresh arrivals every moment. Each one looked abashed and uncomfortable in the presence of his neighbours; but, at last, one bolder than the others broke the grim silence with a laugh, which soon the others were fain to join in.
"Here we are," said he, "all bent on the same errand. Let us fill our jars and gourds and go home. But first—just one taste of the magic sake." He stooped down and, filling his gourd, put it to his lips. Once and yet again did he drink, with a face of astonishment which soon gave place to anger.
"Water!" he shouted in a rage; "nothing but cold water! We have been tricked and deceived by a parcel of made-up stories—where is that young fellow? Let us duck him in his fine waterfall!"
But the young man had been wise enough to slip behind a big rock when he saw the turn things were taking, and was nowhere to be found.
First one and then another tasted of the stream. It was but too true; no sake, but clear, cold water was there. Crestfallen and out of temper, the covetous band returned to their homes.
When they were fairly gone the good young wood-cutter crept from his hiding-place. "Could this be true," he thought, "or was it all a dream? At any rate," said he, "I must taste once more for myself." He filled the gourd and drank. Sure enough, there was the same fine-flavoured sake he had tasted yesterday. And so it remained. To the good, dutiful son the cascade flowed with the finest sake, while to all others it yielded only cold water.
The emperor, hearing this wonderful story, sent for the good young wood-cutter, rewarded him for his kindness to his father, and even changed the name of the year in his honour as an encouragement to children in all future time to honour and obey their parents.
The Amadan of the Dough
There was a king, once on a time, that had a son that was an Amadan. The Amadan's mother died, and the king married again.
[Footnote 7: Simpleton.]
The Amadan's stepmother was always afraid of his beating her children, he was growing so big and strong. So to keep him from growing and to weaken him, she had him fed on dough made of raw meal and water, and for that he was called "The Amadan of the Dough." But instead of getting weaker, it was getting stronger the Amadan was on this fare, and he was able to thrash all of his stepbrothers together.
At length his stepmother told his father that he would have to drive the Amadan away. The father consented to put him away; but the Amadan refused to go till his father would give him a sword so sharp that it would cut a pack of wool falling on it.
After a great deal of time and trouble the father got such a sword and gave it to the Amadan; and when the Amadan had tried it and found it what he wanted, he bade them all good-bye and set off.
For seven days and seven nights he travelled away before him without meeting anything wonderful, but on the seventh night he came up to a great castle. He went in and found no one there, but he found a great dinner spread on the table in the hall. So to be making the most of his time, down the Amadan sat at the table and whacked away.
When he had finished with his dinner, up to the castle came three young princes, stout, strong, able fellows, but very, very tired, and bleeding from wounds all over them.
They struck the castle with a flint, and all at once the whole castle shone as if it were on fire.
The Amadan sprang at the three of them to kill them. He said, "What do you mean by putting the castle on fire?"
"O Amadan!" they said, "don't interfere with us, for we are nearly killed as it is. The castle isn't on fire. Every day we have to go out to fight three giants—Slat Mor, Slat Marr, and Slat Beag. We fight them all day long, and just as night is falling we have them killed. But however it comes, in the night they always come to life again, and if they didn't see this castle lit up, they'd come in on top of us and murder us while we slept. So every night when we come back from the fight, we light up the castle. Then we can sleep in peace until morning, and in the morning go off and fight the giants again."