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Tales of Wonder Every Child Should Know
Author: Various
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Then a little son was born to the Rajah and Panch-Phul Ranee. He was a beautiful child, but his father was grieved to think that in that bleak place there was no shelter for the mother or the baby. So he said to his wife, "I will go to fetch food for us both, and fire to cook it with, and inquire what this country is, and seek out a place of rest for you. Do not be afraid; I shall soon return." Now, far off in the distance, smoke was to be seen rising from tents which belonged to some conjurors and dancing-people, and thither the Rajah bent his steps, feeling certain he should be able to get fire, and perhaps food also, from the inhabitants. When he got there, he found the place was much larger than he had expected—quite a good-sized village, in fact—the abode of Nautch people and conjurors. In all the houses the people were busy, some dancing, some singing, others trying various conjuring tricks or practising beating the drum, and all seemed happy and joyful.

When the conjurors saw him, they were so much struck with his appearance (for he was very handsome) that they determined to make him, if possible, stay among them, and join their band. And they said one to another, "How well he would look beating the drum for the dancers! All the world would come to see us dance, if we had such a handsome man as that to beat the drum."

The Rajah, unconscious of their intentions, went into the largest hut he saw, and said to a woman who was grinding corn, "Bai, give me a little rice, and some fire from your hearth." She immediately consented, and got up to fetch the burning sticks he asked for; but before she gave them to him, she and her companions threw upon them a certain powder, containing a very potent charm; and no sooner did the Rajah receive them than he forgot about his wife and little child, his journey, and all that had ever happened to him in his life before; such was the peculiar property of the powder. And when the conjurors said to him, "Why should you go away? stay with us, and be one of us," he willingly consented to do so.

All this time Panch-Phul Ranee waited and waited for her husband, but he never came. Night approached without his having brought her any food or news of having found a place of shelter for her and the baby. At last, faint and weary, she swooned away.

It happened that that very day the Ranee (Panch-Phul Ranee's husband's mother) lost her youngest child, a fine little boy of only a day old; and her servants took its body to the bottom of the garden to bury it. Just as they were going to do so, they heard a low cry, and, looking round, saw close by a beautiful woman lying on the ground, dead, or apparently so, and beside her a fine little baby boy. The idea immediately entered their heads of leaving the dead baby beside the dead woman, and taking her living baby back with them to the palace; and so they did.

When they returned, they said to their mistress, "Your child did not die; see, here it is—it got well again," and showed her Panch-Phul Ranee's baby. But after a time, when the Ranee questioned them about it, they told her the whole truth; but she had become meanwhile very fond of the little boy, and so he continued in the palace and was brought up as her son; being, in truth, her grandson, though she did not know it.

Meantime the palace Malee's wife went out, as her custom was every morning and evening, to gather flowers. In search of them she wandered as far as the jungle at the bottom of the garden, and there she found the Panch-Phul Ranee lying as dead, and the dead baby beside her.

The good woman felt very sorry, and rubbed the Ranee's cold hands and gave her sweet flowers to smell in hopes that she might revive. At last she opened her eyes, and seeing the Malee's wife, said, "Where am I? Has not my husband come back? and who are you?"

"My poor lady," answered the Malee's wife, "I do not know where your husband is. I am the Malee's wife, and coming here to gather flowers, I found you lying on the ground, and this your little baby, who is dead; but come home with me, I will take care of you."

Panch-Phul Ranee answered, "Kind friend, this is not my baby; he did not die; he was the image of his father, and fairer than this child. Someone must have taken him away, for but a little while ago, I held him in my arms, and he was strong and well, while this one could never have been more than a puny, weakly infant. Take me away; I will go home with you."

So the Malee's wife buried the dead child and took the Panch-Phul Ranee to her house, where she lived for fourteen years; but all that time she could gain no tidings of her husband or her lost little boy. The child, meanwhile, grew up in the palace, and became a very handsome youth. One day he was wandering round the garden and chanced to pass the Malee's house. The Panch-Phul Ranee was sitting within, watching the Malee's wife cook their dinner.

The young Prince saw her, and calling the Malee's wife, said to her, "What beautiful lady is that in your house? and how did she come there?" She answered, "Little Prince, what nonsense you talk! there is no lady here." He said again, "I know there is a beautiful lady here, for I saw her as I passed the open door." She replied, "If you come telling such tales about my house, I'll pull your tongue out." For she thought to herself, "Unless I scold him well, the boy 'll go talking about what he's seen in the palace, and then perhaps some of the people from there will come and take the poor Panch-Phul Ranee away from my care." But while the Malee's wife was talking to the young Prince, the Panch-Phul Ranee came from the inner room to watch and listen to him unobserved; and no sooner did she see him than she could not forbear crying out, "Oh, how like he is to my husband! The same eyes, the same shaped face and the same king-like bearing! Can he be my son? He is just the age my son would have been had he lived."

The young Prince heard her speaking and asked what she said, to which the Malee's wife replied, "The woman you saw, and who just now spoke, lost her child fourteen years ago, and she was saying to herself how like you were to that child, and thinking you must be the same; but she is wrong, for we know you are the Ranee's son." Then Panch-Phul Ranee herself came out of the house, and said to him, "Young Prince, I could not, when I saw you, help exclaiming how like you are to what my lost husband was, and to what my son might have been; for it is now fourteen years since I lost them both." And she told him how she had been a great Princess, and was returning with her husband to his own home and how her little baby had been born in the jungle, and her husband had gone away to seek shelter for her and the child, and fire and food, and had never returned; and also how, when she had fainted away, someone had certainly stolen her baby and left a dead child in its place; and how the good Malee's wife had befriended her, and taken her ever since to live in her house. And when she had ended her story she began to cry.

But the Prince said to her, "Be of good cheer; I will endeavour to recover your husband and child for you; who knows but I may indeed be your son, beautiful lady?" And running home to the Ranee (his adopted mother), he said to her, "Are you really my mother? Tell me truly; for this I must know before the sun goes down." "Why do you ask foolish questions?" she replied; "have I not always treated you as a son?" "Yes," he said; "but tell me the very truth; am I your own child, or the child of someone else, adopted as yours? If you do not tell me, I will kill myself." And so saying, he drew his sword. She replied, "Stay, stay, and I will tell you the whole truth; the day before you were born I had a little baby, but it died; and my servants took it to the bottom of the garden to bury it, and there they found a beautiful woman lying as dead, and beside her a living infant. You were that child. They brought you to the palace, and I adopted you as my son, and left my baby in your stead." "What became of my mother?" he asked. "I cannot tell," answered the Ranee; "for, two days afterward, when I sent to the same place, she and the baby had both disappeared, and I have never since heard of her."

The young Prince, on hearing this, said, "There is in the head Malee's house a beautiful lady, whom the Malee's wife found in the jungle, fourteen years ago; that must be my mother. Let her be received here this very day with all honour, for that is the only reparation that can now be made to her."

The Ranee consented, and the young Prince went down to the Malee's house himself to fetch his mother to the palace.

With him he took a great retinue of people, and a beautiful palanquin for her to go in, covered with rich trappings; also costly things for her to wear, and many jewels and presents for the good Malee's wife.

When Panch-Phul Ranee had put on her son's gifts, and come out of the Malee's poor cottage to meet him, all the people said there had never been so royal-looking a queen. As gold and clear crystal are lovely, as mother-of-pearl is exquisitely fair and delicate-looking, so beautiful, so fair, so delicate appeared Panch-Phul Ranee.

Her son conducted her with much pomp and state to the palace, and did all in his power to honour her; and there she lived long, very happily, and beloved by all.

One day the young Prince begged her to tell him again, from the beginning, the story of her life, and as much as she knew of his father's life; and so she did. And after that, he said to her, "Be no longer sad, dear mother, regarding my father's fate; for I will send into all lands to gather tidings of him, and maybe in the end we shall find him." And he sent people out to hunt for the Rajah all over the kingdom, and in all neighbouring countries—to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west—but they found him not.

At last, after four years of unsuccessful search, when there seemed no hope of ever learning what had become of him, Panch-Phul Ranee's son came to see her, and said, "Mother, I have sent into all lands seeking my father, but can hear no news of him. If there were only the slightest clue as to the direction in which he went, there would still be some chance of tracing him, but that, I fear, cannot be got. Do you not remember his having said anything of the way which he intended to go when he left you?" She answered, "When your father went away, his words to me were, 'I will go to fetch food for us both, and fire to cook it with, and inquire what this country is, and seek out a place of shelter for you. Do not be afraid—I shall soon return.' That was all he said, and then he went away, and I never saw him more."

"In what direction did he go from the foot of the garden?" asked the Prince. "He went," answered the Panch-Phul Ranee, "toward that village of conjurors close by. I thought he was intending to ask some of them to give us food. But had he done so, he would certainly have returned in a very short time."

"Do you think you should know my father, mother darling, if you were to see him again?" asked the Prince. "Yes," answered she, "I should know him again." "What!" he said, "even when eighteen years have gone by since you saw him last? Even though age and sickness and want had done their utmost to change him?" "Yes!" she replied; "his every feature is so impressed on my heart that I should know him again anywhere or in any disguise."

"Then let us," he said, "send for all those people in the direction of whose houses he went away. Maybe they have detained him among them to this day. It is but a chance, but we can hope for nothing more certain."

So the Panch-Phul Ranee and her son sent down orders to the conjurors' village that every one of the whole band should come up to the palace that afternoon—not a soul was to stay behind. And the dancers were to dance and the conjurors to play all their tricks for the amusement of the palace inmates.

The people came. The nautch girls began to dance—running, jumping, and flying here, there and everywhere, some up, some down, some round and round. The conjurors conjured and all began in different ways to amuse the company. Among the rest was one wild, ragged-looking man, whose business was to beat the drum. No sooner did the Panch-Phul Ranee set eyes on him than she said to her son, "Boy, that is your father!" "What, mother!" he said, "that wretched-looking man who is beating the drum?" "The same," she answered.

The Prince said to his servants, "Fetch that man here." And the Rajah came toward them, so changed that not even his own mother knew him—no one recognized him but his wife. For eighteen years he had been among the nautch people; his hair was rough, his; beard untrimmed, his face thin and worn, sunburnt and wrinkled; he wore a nose-ring and heavy earrings, such as the nautch people have; and his dress was a rough, common cumlee. All traces of his former self seemed to have disappeared. They asked him if he did not remember he had been a Rajah once, and about his journey to Panch-Phul Ranee's country. But he said, No, he remembered nothing but how to beat the drum—Rub-a-dub! tat-tat! tom-tum! tom-tum! He thought he must have beaten it all his life.

Then the young Prince gave orders that all the nautch people should be put into jail until it could be discovered what part they had taken in reducing his father to so pitiable a state. And sending for the wisest doctors in the kingdom, he said to them, "Do your best and restore the health of this Rajah, who has to all appearance lost both memory and reason; and discover, if possible, what has caused these misfortunes to befall him." The doctors said, "He has certainly had some potent charm given to him, which has destroyed both his memory and reason, but we will do our best to counteract its influence."

And so they did. And their treatment succeeded so well that, after a time, the Rajah entirely recovered his former senses. And they took such good care of him that in a little while he regained his health and strength also, and looked almost as well as ever.

He then found to his surprise that he, Panch-Phul Ranee, and their son, had all this time been living in his father's kingdom. His father was so delighted to see him again that he was no longer unkind to him, but treated him as a dearly beloved, long lost son. His mother also was overjoyed at his return, and they said to him, "Since you have been restored to us again, why should you wander any more? Your wife and son are here; do you also remain here, and live among us for the rest of your days." But he replied, "I have another wife—the Carpenter's daughter—who first was kind to me in my adopted country. I also have there nine hundred and ninety-eight talking wooden parrots, which I greatly prize. Let me first go and fetch them."

They said, "Very well; go quickly and then return." So he mounted the two wooden parrots which had brought him from the Panch-Phul Ranee's country (and which had for eighteen years lived in the jungle close to the palace), and returned to the land where his first wife lived, and fetched her and the nine hundred and ninety-eight remaining wooden parrots to his father's kingdom. Then his father said to him, "Don't have any quarrelling with your half-brother after I am dead" (for his half-brother was son of the old Rajah's favourite wife). "I love you both dearly, and will give each of you half of my kingdom." So he divided the kingdom into two halves, and gave the one-half to the Panch-Phul Ranee's husband, who was the son of his first wife, and the other half to the eldest son of his second but favourite wife.

A short time after this arrangement was made, Panch-Phul Ranee said to her husband, "I wish to see my father and mother again before I die; let me go and see them." He answered, "You shall go, and I and our son will also go." So he called four of the wooden parrots—two to carry himself and the Ranee, and two to carry their son. Each pair of parrots crossed their wings; the young Prince sat upon the two wings of one pair; and on the wings of the other pair sat his father and mother. Then they all rose up in the air, and the parrots carried them (as they had before carried the Rajah alone), up, up, up, on, on, on, over the Red Sea, and across the seven seas, until they reached the Panch-Phul Ranee's country.

Panch-Phul Ranee's father saw them come flying through the air as quickly as shooting stars, and much wondering who they were, he sent out many of his nobles and chief officers to inquire.

The nobles went out to meet them, and called out, "What great Rajah is this who is dressed so royally, and comes flying through the air so fast? Tell us, that we may tell our Rajah."

The Rajah answered, "Go and tell your master that this is Panch-Phul Ranee's husband, come to visit his father-in-law." So they took that answer back to the palace, but when the Rajah heard it, he said, "I cannot tell what this means, for the Panch-Phul Ranee's husband died long ago. It is twenty years since he fell upon the iron spears and died; let us, however, all go and discover who this great Rajah really is." And he and all his court went out to meet the new-comers, just as the parrots had alighted close to the palace gate. The Panch-Phul Ranee took her son by the one hand and her husband by the other, and walking to meet her father, said, "Father, I have come to see you again. This is my husband who died, and this boy is my son." Then all the land was glad to see the Panch-Phul Ranee back, and the people said, "Our Princess is the most beautiful Princess in the world, and her husband is as handsome as she is, and her son is a fair boy; we will that they should always live among us and reign over us."

When they had rested a little, the Panch-Phul Ranee told her father and mother the story of all her adventures from the time she and her husband were left in the palkees in the jungle. And when they had heard it, her father said to the Rajah, her husband, "You must never go away again; for see, I have no son but you. You and your son must reign here after me. And behold, all this great kingdom will I now give you, if you will only stay with us; for I am old and weary of governing the land."

But the Rajah answered, "I must return once again to my own country, and then I will stay with you as long as I live."

So, leaving the Panch-Phul Ranee and her son with the old Rajah and Ranee, he mounted his parrots and once more returned to his father's land. And when he had reached it, he said to his mother, "Mother, my father-in-law has given me a kingdom ten thousand times larger than this. So I have but returned to bid you farewell and fetch my first wife, and then I must go back to live in that other land." She answered, "Very well; so you are happy anywhere, I am happy, too."

He then said to his half-brother, "Brother, my father-in-law has given me all the Panch-Phul Ranee's country, which is very far away; therefore I give up to you the half of this kingdom that my father gave to me." Then, bidding his father farewell, he took the Carpenter's daughter back with him (riding through the air on two of the wooden parrots, and followed by the rest) to the Panch-Phul Ranee's country, and there he and his two wives and his son lived very happily all their mortal days.



Schippeitaro

Long, long ago, in the days of fairies and giants, ogres, and dragons, valiant knights and distressed damsels; in those good old days, a brave young warrior went out into the wide world in search of adventures.

For some time he went on without meeting with anything out of the common, but at length, after journeying through a thick forest, he found himself, one evening, on a wild and lonely mountain side. No village was in sight, no cottage, not even the hut of a charcoal burner, so often to be found on the outskirts of the forest. He had been following a faint and much overgrown path, but at length, even that was lost sight of. Twilight was coming on, and in vain he strove to recover the lost track. Each effort seemed only to entangle him more hopelessly in the briers and tall grasses which grew thickly on all sides. Faint and weary he stumbled on in the fast gathering darkness, until suddenly he came upon a little temple, deserted and half ruined, but which still contained a shrine. Here at least was shelter from the chilly dews, and here he resolved to pass the night. Food he had none, but, wrapped in his mantle, and with his good sword by his side, he lay down, and was soon fast asleep.

Toward midnight he was awakened by a dreadful noise, At first he thought it must be a dream, but the noise continued, the whole place resounding with the most terrible shrieks and yells. The young warrior raised himself cautiously, and seizing his sword, looked through a hole in the ruined wall. He beheld a strange and awful sight. A troop of hideous cats were engaged in a wild and horrible dance, their yells meanwhile echoing through the night. Mingled with their unearthly cries the young warrior could clearly distinguish the words:

Tell it not to Schippeitaro! Listen for his bark! Tell it not to Schippeitaro! Keep it close and dark!

A beautiful clear full moon shed its light upon this grew-some scene, which the young warrior watched with amazement and horror. Suddenly, the midnight hour being passed, the phantom cats disappeared, and all was silence once more. The rest of the night passed undisturbed, and the young warrior slept soundly until morning. When he awoke the sun was already up, and he hastened to leave the scene of last night's adventure. By the bright morning light he presently discovered traces of a path which the evening before had been invisible. This he followed, and found to his great joy, that it led, not as he had feared, to the forest through which he had come the day before, but in the opposite direction, toward an open plain. There he saw one or two scattered cottages, and, a little farther on, a village. Pressed by hunger, he was making the best of his way toward the village, when he heard the tones of a woman's voice loud in lamentation and entreaty. No sooner did these sounds of distress reach the warrior's ears, than his hunger was forgotten, and he hurried on to the nearest cottage, to find out what was the matter, and if he could give any help. The people listened to his questions, and shaking their heads sorrowfully, told him that all help was vain. "Every year," said they, "the mountain spirit claims a victim. The time has come, and this very night will he devour our loveliest maiden. This is the cause of the wailing and lamentation." And when the young warrior, filled with wonder, inquired further, they told him that at sunset the victim would be put into a sort of cage, carried to that very ruined temple where he had passed the night, and there left alone. In the morning she would have vanished. So it was each year, and so it would be now; there was no help for it. As he listened, the young warrior was filled with an earnest desire to deliver the maiden. And, the mention of the ruined shrine having brought back to his mind the adventure of the night before, he asked the people whether they had ever heard the name of Schippeitaro, and who and what he was. "Schippeitaro is a strong and beautiful dog," was the reply; "he belongs to the head man of our Prince who lives only a little way from here. We often see him following his master; he is a fine, brave fellow." The young knight did not stop to ask more questions, but hurried off to Schippeitaro's master and begged him to lend his dog for one night. At first the man was unwilling, but at length agreed to lend Schippeitaro on condition that he should be brought back the next day. Overjoyed, the young warrior led the dog away.

Next he went to see the parents of the unhappy maiden, and told them to keep her in the house and watch her carefully until his return. He then placed the dog Schippeitaro in the cage which had been prepared for the maiden; and, with the help of some of the young men of the village, carried it to the ruined temple, and there set it down. The young men refused to stay one moment on that haunted spot, but hurried down the mountain as if the whole troop of hobgoblins had been at their heels. The young warrior, with no companion but the dog, remained to see what would happen. At midnight, when the full moon was high in the heaven, and shed her light over the mountain, came the phantom cats once more. This time they had in their midst a huge black tom-cat, fiercer and more terrible than all the rest, which the young warrior had no difficulty in knowing as the frightful mountain fiend himself. No sooner did this monster catch sight of the cage than he danced and sprang round it, with yells of triumph and hideous joy, followed by his companions. When he had long enough jeered at and taunted his victim, he threw open the door of the cage.

But this time he met his match. The brave Schippeitaro sprang upon him, and seizing him with his teeth, held him fast, while the young warrior with one stroke of his good sword laid the monster dead at his feet. As for the other cats, too much astonished to fly, they stood gazing at the dead body of their leader, and were made short work of by the knight and Schippeitaro. The young warrior brought back the brave dog to his master, with a thousand thanks, told the father and mother of the maiden that their daughter was free, and the people of the village that the fiend had claimed his last victim and would trouble them no more. "You owe all this to the brave Schippeitaro," he said as he bade them farewell, and went his way in search of fresh adventures.

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THE END

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