Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes by Hamilton Wright Mabie - HTML preview
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The Gifts Of The Dwarfs
Thor was, you may know, the strongest and noblest of the great giants of the north. He was tall in stature and had fiery brown eyes, from which the light flashed like lightning, while his long red beard waved through the sky as he drove in his goat-drawn chariot. Brilliant sparks flew from the hoofs and teeth of the two goats, while a crown of bright stars shone above Thor's head. When he was angered the wheels of his chariot rumbled and crashed their passage through the air, until men trembled and hid, telling each other that [pg 86] Thor had gone to battle with the Rime-giants or other of his enemies.
Now Thor's wife was named Sib, and she was most beautiful to look upon. Her soft, browny-gold hair was so long and thick that it would cover her from the crown of her head to her little feet, and her deep brown eyes looked into the faces of her friends as those of a mother look into the face of her child. Loki, the mischief-maker among the giants, often looked at Sib and longed to do her some evil, for he was jealous, thinking that it was not right that she should be praised and loved by everyone; go where he would he could find no one who did not speak well of her.
It happened one day when the summer was nearly gone that Loki found Sib alone and sleeping on a bank near the river, so he drew his knife, and creeping softly nearer and nearer, cut off her beautiful flowing hair quite close to her head. Then he joyfully rushed away and strewed it far and wide over the whole earth, so that it became no longer living and golden but faded and turned a dull color as the winds blew it about and the rains beat upon it, and crushed it in between the rocks and stones. When Sib awoke and was about to push the hair from her face, she felt that something was wrong. Wonderingly she ran to the water and looking at her reflection in the clear depths, saw that nothing but a short stubble stood up all over her head. All her lovely hair was gone! Only one would have dared to treat her so badly, and in her grief and anger she called upon Thor to come to her aid.
Loki had of course fled and was hiding far away in another country among the rocks when he heard the distant rumblings of thunder, and tried to shrink deeper into the crevices between the great stones, but the awful sound grew louder, and at last the angry flash from Thor's eyes darted to the very spot where the mischievous one lay. Then Thor pulled him out and shook him from side to side in his enormous hands, and would have crushed his bones upon the hard rocks had not Loki in great terror asked what good his death would do, for it certainly would not bring Sib's hair back. Then Thor set the mischief-maker on his feet, though still keeping a tight hold [pg 87] on him, and asked what he would do to repair the evil which he had done. Loki promptly answered that he would go down into the mountains to the dwarfs, and get Iwald's sons to make some golden hair for Sib, as good as that which he had destroyed. Now Iwald had had seven sons, and these all lived deep below the earth in the great caverns which lie below the mountains, and these sons were small and dark; they did not like the daylight for they were dwarfs who could see best without the sun to dazzle their eyes; they knew where gold and silver grew, and they could tell where to find beautiful shining stones, which were red, and white, and yellow, and green; they knew the way all over the world by running through caverns and passages under the mountains, and wherever they could find precious stones or metals they built a furnace, and made an anvil, and hammer and bellows, and everything that was wanted in a smithy; for they knew how to fashion the most wonderful things from gold and iron and stone, and they had knowledge which made them more powerful than the people who lived above the ground.
Thor let the mischief-maker go to get the help of the dwarfs to repair the wrong which he had done, and Loki sought about the mountain-side until he found a hole which would lead him into Iwald's cave, and then he promptly dropped into it. There in a dark cave gleaming with many sparkling lights he went to the two cleverest dwarfs who were named Sindri and Brok, and told them what it was he wanted, adding that he would be in sore trouble with Thor if they could not help him. Now Sindri and Brok knew all about Loki perfectly well; they knew all about his mischievous ways and the evil he so often wrought, but as they liked Thor and Sib they were willing to give the help which was asked of them. Thus without more ado, for these dwarfs never wasted their words, Sindri and Brok began their work.
Huge blocks of earth-brown stone were cast into the furnace until they were in a white heat, when drop by drop red gold trickled from them into the ashes. This was all gathered together, and the glistening heap taken to the dwarf women, who, crushing it in their hands before it had hardened, drew it [pg 88] out upon their wheels, and spun it into fine soft hair. While they were doing this Brok sought amongst his treasures until he found the blue of the ocean and the tough inner pith of an underground tree; these, with other things, were cast into the furnace, and afterwards beaten with his hammer. As the rhythmic strokes fell, the women sang a song which was like the voice of a strong, steady wind. Then when this work was finished, the smith drew forth a little ship, which was carefully placed on one side. The third time the dwarf went to a dark corner, and brought out an ugly bent bar of iron, and this, with two feathers from the wings of the wind, was heated to melting whiteness, and wrought with great cunning and extreme care, for it was to be a spear for Odin himself, the greatest of all the heroes.
Then Brok and Sindri called Loki to them and giving him these three things bade him hasten back to the gods at Asgard and appease their wrath. Loki, however, was already beginning to feel sorry that he had been so successful; he liked teasing folk but he did not like having to atone for his mischief afterwards. He turned the marvelous gifts over scornfully in his hands, and said that he did not see anything very wonderful in them; then, looking at Sindri he added, "However, Brok has hammered them very skilfully, and I will wager my head that you could not make anything better."
Now the brother dwarfs had not by any means expected gratitude, but neither had they expected any such rudeness as this, so Sindri determined to give Loki a lesson. Going to one corner of the smithy he picked up a pig-skin and taking the hammer in his hands, told his brother to blow steadily, neither to falter nor to fail until he passed the word that the work was done. Then with strength and gentleness he wrought with his tools, having cast nothing into the heat but the pig-skin; with mighty blows and delicate touches he brought thickness and substance into it, until a board looked at him from the flames. Loki, fearing for his head, changed himself into an enormous forest fly, and settling upon Brok's hand, stung with vicious fury; but the dwarf would not trouble to brush the fly away, and steadily moved the bellows until his brother called [pg 89] to him to stop, when they drew forth a strong flexible boar whose bristles were of the finest gold.
Then without saying anything or paying any attention to the spiteful words which Loki kept uttering, Sindri chose from a heap of gold the most solid lump he could find and flung it into the white flames. Thrice it was heated and cooled, and the dark elf turned it and worked it with wonderful skill, and in the glow Loki saw a broad red ring, which seemed to live and move. Again he tried to spoil the work as a fly, and bit deeply into Brok's neck, but Brok would not so much as raise his hand to rid him of the pain. When the ring was finally laid to cool, so marvelously had it been wrought that from it each ninth night would fall eight rings as beautiful as itself.
Now came the last test of Sindri's cunning. He cast into the furnace a piece of fine iron, and told Brok his hand must neither tremble nor stay, or the whole of their work would be useless. Then with wild songs of strength upon his lips he hammered and tapped, until those who were in the cave felt that they were out among the roaring waves; they could hear the ice mountains grind and crash to pieces, and the thunder of Thor's chariot wheels rushing through the heavens. A frenzied horror seized upon Loki's mind. If these wretched dwarfs were going to make anything to add to Thor's strength he knew that it would be his own ruin. So, changing himself to a hornet, he sprang upon the forehead of Brok, and dug so fiercely into his eyelids that the blood trickled down and blinded him. Then the dwarf let go of the bellows for one moment to clear his eyes, and Sindri cried out that what lay in the furnace came near to being spoiled, and with that he took a redhot hammer up with his tongs. It was neither pretty, nor particularly large, while the handle was an inch too short because of Loki's spite.
Then Brok and Loki set out for Asgard, Loki carrying the three wonderful things which had been given to him, while Brok carried the three marvels which Sindri had so cunningly wrought and accompanied the mischief-maker, that the gods might judge who had won the wager so rashly offered by [pg 90] Loki. When they reached Asgard the gods seated themselves on their high seats agreeing among themselves that Odin, Thor and Frey should be judges in this case.
First, Loki offered to Odin the spear Gungner which was so wonderfully made that it never failed to hit the thing at which it was thrown, and it always sped back to the hand which had thrown it. Later, when Odin carried this spear in battle, if he shook it over his enemies they became so frightened that they all wanted to run away, but if he shook it over his friends they were so filled with courage that they could not be conquered. Then Thor received the hair, and when it was placed upon Sib's head it grew to her like living tresses, curling and waving in the wind. To Frey the ship was given, and though it was so small that it could be folded and carried in his pocket, when it was placed upon the waves it would grow large enough to hold an army of warriors with all their war gear; besides, as soon as the sails were hoisted, the wind would blow it whithersoever it was desired that the ship should go.
Brok then made his offerings, and to Odin he gave the ring Drapnir which had been made with such magic skill that every ninth night eight other rings dropped off it, though no one could see how they came; this the greatest of the gods ever wore upon his arm, until the death of his beautiful son Baldur, when, as token of his great love he placed it upon the dead youth's breast as he lay on his funeral pyre. To Frey was given the golden boar, which would run faster than any horse, over the sea or through the air, and wherever it went, there it would be light, because the bristles shone so brightly. To Thor Brok gave the dull-looking hammer, saying, that whatever he struck with it would be destroyed; that no blow could be hard enough to hurt it; that if he threw it, it would return to him so that he could never lose it; and that as he wished so would its size be—yet there was one fault about it, and that was that the handle was an inch too short.
It was with great joy that Thor took this treasure, knowing that in it he had something to help him in fighting the evil Rime-giants who were always trying to get the whole world for themselves until driven back by him.[pg 91]
Then the gods decided that of all the gifts the hammer was the best, and that, therefore, Loki had lost his wager and must lose his head. Loki offered to give all sorts of things to save himself, but the dwarf would not listen to any of them. "Catch me, then!" cried the mischievous one; but when Brok stretched his hand upon him Loki had gone, for he wore shoes which would carry him over the sea or through the air.
"Catch him!" cried the ugly little dwarf piteously to Thor, and in an instant Loki stood before them, trembling in Thor's strong grasp. Then the clever one argued that it was his head only which had been wagered, and that not one little tiny bit of his neck might be taken, or the dwarf would have more than his bargain. At this Brok cried impatiently that the head of a wicked person was of no use to him, all that he wanted was to stop Loki's tongue so that he could work less evil, and he took a knife and thread and tried to pierce holes in Loki's lips, but Loki bewitched the knife so that it would not cut.
"If only I had Sindri's awl," sighed the dwarf, and instantly his brother's awl was in his hand. Swiftly it pierced the lips of the mischief-maker, and swiftly Brok sewed them together and broke off the thread at the end of the sewing.
Then the gods gave presents for the dwarfs in return for their wonderful things, and Brok returned to his cave. As for Loki, it was not long before he loosed his lips and returned to his mischief-making.
The Punishment Of LokiADAPTED FROM A. AND E. KEARY'S VERSION
After the death of Baldur, Loki never again ventured to intrude himself into the presence of the gods. He knew well enough that he had now done what could never be forgiven him, and that, for the future, he must bend all his cunning and vigilance to the task of hiding himself from the [pg 92] gaze of those whom he had so injured, and escaping the just punishment he had brought upon himself.
"The world is large, and I am very clever," said Loki to himself, as he turned his back upon Asgard, and wandered out into Manheim; "there is no end to the thick woods, and no measure for the deep waters; neither is there any possibility of counting the various forms under which I shall disguise myself. Odin will never be able to find me; I have no cause to fear." But though Loki repeated this over and over again to himself, he was afraid.
He wandered far into the thick woods, and covered himself with the deep waters; he climbed to the tops of misty hills, and crouched in the dark of hollow caves; but above the wood, and through the water, and down into the darkness, a single ray of calm, clear light seemed always to follow him, and he knew that it came from the eye of Odin who was watching him from Air Throne.
Then he tried to escape the watchful eye by disguising himself under various shapes. Sometimes he was an eagle on a lonely mountain-crag; sometimes he hid himself as one among a troop of timid reindeer; sometimes he lay in the nest of a wood-pigeon; sometimes he swam, a bright-spotted fish, in the sea; but, wherever he was, among living creatures, or alone with dead nature, everything seemed to know him, and to find a voice in which to say to him, "You are Loki, and you have killed Baldur." Air, earth, or water, there was no rest for him anywhere.
Tired at last of seeking what he could nowhere find, Loki built himself a house near a narrow, glittering river which, lower down flashed from a high rock into the sea below. He took care that his house should have four doors in it, that he might look out on every side and catch the first glimpse of the gods when they came, as he knew they would come, to take him away. Here his wife, Siguna, and his two sons, Ali and Nari, came to live with him.
Siguna was a kind woman, far too good and kind for Loki. She felt sorry for him now that she saw he was in great fear, and that every living thing had turned against him, and she would [pg 93] have hidden him from the just anger of the gods if she could; but the two sons cared little about their father's dread and danger; they spent all their time in quarreling with each other; and their loud, angry voices, sounding above the waterfall, would speedily have betrayed the hiding-place, even if Odin's piercing eye had not already found it out.
At last, one day when he was sitting in the middle of his house looking alternately out of all the four doors and amusing himself as well as he could by making a fishing-net, he spied in the distance the whole company of the gods approaching his house. The sight of them coming all together—beautiful, and noble, and free—pierced Loki with a pang that was worse than death. He rose without daring to look again, threw his net on a fire that burned on the floor, and, rushing to the side of the little river, he turned himself into a salmon, swam down to the deepest, stillest pool at the bottom, and hid himself between two stones. The gods entered the house, and looked all round in vain for Loki, till Kvasir, one of Odin's sons, famous for his keen sight, spied out the remains of the fishing-net in the fire; then Odin knew at once that there was a river near, and that it was there where Loki had hidden himself. He ordered his sons to make a new net, and to cast it into the water, and drag out whatever living thing they could find there. It was done as he desired. Thor held one end of the net, and all the rest of the gods drew the other through the water. When they pulled it up the first time, however, it was empty, and they would have gone away disappointed had not Kvasir, looking earnestly at the meshes of the net, saw that something living had certainly touched them. They then added a weight to the net, and threw it with such force that it reached the bottom of the river, and dragged up the stones in the pool.
Loki now saw the danger he was in of being caught in the net, and, as there was no other way of escape, he rose to the surface, swam down the river as quickly as he could, and leaped over the net into the waterfall. He swam and leaped quick as a flash of lightning, but not so quickly but that the gods saw him, knew him through his disguise, and resolved that he should no longer escape. They themselves divided into two bands. [pg 94] Thor waded down the river to the waterfall; the other gods stood in a group below. Loki swam backwards and forwards between them. First he thought he would dart out into the sea, and then that he would spring over the net back again into the river. This last seemed the easiest way of escape, and with the greatest speed he attempted it. Thor, however, was watching for him, and as soon as Loki leaped out of the water he stretched out his hand and caught him while he was yet turning in the air. Loki wriggled his slippery, slimy length through Thor's fingers; but the Thunderer grasped him tightly by the tail, and, holding him in this manner in this hand, waded to the shore. There Father Odin and the other gods met him; and, at Odin's first searching look, Loki was obliged to drop his disguise, and, cowering and frightened, to assume his proper shape before the assembled lords. One by one they turned their faces from him; for, in looking at him, they seemed to see over again the death of Baldur the Beloved.
You were told that there were high rocks looking over the sea near Loki's house. One of these, higher than the rest, had midway four projecting stones, and to these the gods resolved to bind Loki so that he should never again be able to torment the inhabitants of Manheim or Asgard by his evil-doings. Thor proposed to return to Asgard, to bring a chain with which to bind the prisoner; but Odin assured him that he had no need to take such a journey. "Loki," he said, "has already forged for himself a chain stronger than any you can make. While we have been occupied in catching him, his two sons, Ali and Nari, transformed into wolves by their evil passions, have fought with and destroyed each other. With their sinews we must make a chain to bind their father, and from that he can never escape."
It was done as Asa Odin said. A rope was made of the dead wolves' sinews, and as soon as it touched Loki's body it turned into bands of iron and bound him immovably to the rock. Secured in this manner the gods left him.
But his punishment did not end here. A snake, whose fangs dropped poison, glided to the top of the rock and leaned his head over to peer at Loki. The eyes of the two met and [pg 95] fixed each other. The serpent could never move away afterwards; but every moment a burning drop from his tongue fell down on Loki's shuddering face.
In all the world there was only one who pitied him. His kind wife ever afterwards stood beside him and held a cup over his head to catch the poison. When the cup was full, she was obliged to turn away to empty it, and the deadly drops fell again on Loki's face. He shuddered and shrank from them, and the whole earth trembled. So will he lie bound till the Twilight of the Gods be here.
The Blind Man, The Deaf Man, And The DonkeyADAPTED BY M. FRERE A Blind Man and a Deaf Man once entered into partnership. The Deaf Man was to see for the Blind Man, and the Blind Man was to hear for the Deaf Man.
One day they went together to an entertainment where there was music and dancing. The Deaf Man said: "The dancing is very good, but the music is not worth listening to"; and the Blind Man said: "On the contrary, I think the music very good, but the dancing is not worth looking at."
After this they went together for a walk in the jungle, and there found a washerman's Donkey that had strayed away from its owner, and a great big kettle (such as washermen boil clothes in), which the Donkey was carrying with him.
The Deaf Man said to the Blind Man: "Brother, here are a Donkey and a washerman's great big kettle, with nobody to own them! Let us take them with us—they may be useful to us some day." "Very well," said the Blind Man; "we will take them with us." So the Blind Man and the Deaf Man went on their way, taking the Donkey and the great big kettle with them. A little farther on they came to an ant's nest, and the Deaf Man said to the Blind Man: "Here are a number of very fine black ants, much larger than any I ever saw before. Let us take some of them home to show our friends." "Very well," answered the Blind Man; "we will take them as a present to our friends." So the Deaf Man took a silver snuff-box out of his pocket, and put four or five of the finest black ants into it; which done, they continued their journey.[pg 97]
But before they had gone very far a terrible storm came on. It thundered and lightened and rained and blew with such fury that it seemed as if the whole heavens' and earth were at war. "Oh dear! oh dear!" cried the Deaf Man, "how dreadful this lightning is! Let us make haste and get to some place of shelter." "I don't see that it's dreadful at all," answered the blind Man; "but the thunder is very terrible; we had better certainly seek some place of shelter."
Now, not far off was a lofty building, which looked exactly like a fine temple. The Deaf Man saw it, and he and the Blind Man resolved to spend the night there; and having reached the place, they went in and shut the door, taking the Donkey and the great big kettle with them. But this building, which they mistook for a temple was in truth no temple at all, but the house of a very powerful Rakshas or ogre; and hardly had the Blind Man, the Deaf Man, and the Donkey got inside and fastened the door, than the Rakshas, who had been out, returned home. To his surprise, he found the door fastened and heard people moving about inside his house. "Ho! ho!" cried he to himself, "some men have got in here, have they? I'll soon make mince-meat of them." So he began to roar in a voice louder than the thunder, and to cry: "Let me into my house this minute, you wretches; let me in, let me in, I say," and to kick the door and batter it with his great fists. But though his voice was very powerful, his appearance was still more alarming, insomuch that the Deaf Man, who was peeping at him through a chink in the wall, felt so frightened that he did not know what to do. But the Blind Man was very brave (because he couldn't see), and went up to the door and called out: "Who are you, and what do you mean by coming battering at the door in this way at this time of night?"
"I'm a Rakshas," answered the Rakshas angrily, "and this is my house. Let me in this instant or I'll kill you." All this time the Deaf Man, who was watching the Rakshas, was shivering and shaking in a terrible fright, but the Blind Man was very brave (because he couldn't see), and he called out again: "Oh, you're a Rakshas, are you? Well, if you're Rakshas, I'm Bakshas; and Bakshas is as good as Rakshas."[pg 98]
"Bakshas!" roared the Rakshas. "Bakshas! Bakshas! What nonsense is this? There is no such creature as a Bakshas!" "Go away," replied the Blind Man, "and don't dare to make any further disturbance, lest I punish you with a vengeance; for know that I'm Bakshas, and Bakshas is Rakshas's father." "My father?" answered the Rakshas. "Heavens and earth! Bakshas, and my father! I never heard such an extraordinary thing in my life. You my father; and in there! I never knew my father was called Bakshas!"
"Yes," replied the Blind Man; "go away instantly, I command you, for I am your father Bakshas." "Very well," answered the Rakshas (for he began to get puzzled and frightened); "but if you are my father, let me first see your face." (For he thought: "Perhaps they are deceiving me.") The Blind Man and the Deaf Man didn't know what to do; but at last they opened the door a very tiny chink and poked the Donkey's nose out. When the Rakshas saw it he thought to himself: "Bless me, what a terribly ugly face my father Bakshas has!" He then called out: "O father Bakshas, you have a very big, fierce face; but people have sometimes very big heads and very little bodies. Pray let me see your body as well as head before I go away." Then the Blind Man and the Deaf Man rolled the washerman's great big kettle with a thundering noise past the chink in the door, and the Rakshas, who was watching attentively, was very much surprised when he saw this great black thing rolling along the floor, and he thought: "In truth, my father Bakshas has a very big body as well as a big head. He's big enough to eat me up altogether. I'd better go away." But still he could not help being a little doubtful, so he cried: "O Bakshas, father Bakshas! you have indeed got a very big head and a very big body; but do, before I go away, let me hear you scream," for all Rakshas scream fearfully. Then the cunning Deaf Man (who was getting less frightened) pulled the silver snuff-box out of his pocket, and took the black ants out of it, and put one black ant in the Donkey's right ear, and another black ant in the Donkey's left ear, and another and another. The ants pinched the poor Donkey's ears dreadfully, and the Donkey was so hurt and frightened he began to [pg 99] bellow as loud as he could: "Eh augh! eh augh! eh augh! augh! augh!" and at this terrible noise the Rakshas fled away in a great fright, saying: "Enough, enough, father Bakshas! the sound of your voice would make the most refractory obedient." And no sooner had he gone than the Deaf Man took the ants out of the Donkey's ears, and he and the Blind Man spent the rest of the night in peace and comfor
Next morning the Deaf Man woke the Blind Man early, saying: "Awake, brother, awake: here we are indeed in luck! The whole floor is covered with heaps of gold and silver and precious stones." And so it was, for the Rakshas owned a vast amount of treasure, and the whole house was full of it. "That is a good thing," said the Blind Man. "Show me where it is and I will help you to collect it." So they collected as much treasure as possible and made four great bundles of it. The Blind Man took one great bundle, the Deaf Man took another, and, putting the other two great bundles on the Donkey, they started off to return home. But the Rakshas, whom they had frightened away the night before, had not gone very far off, and was waiting to see what his father Bakshas might look like by daylight. He saw the door of his house open and watched attentively, when out walked—only a Blind Man, a Deaf Man, and a Donkey, who were all three laden with large bundles of his treasure. The Blind Man carried one bundle, the Deaf Man carried another bundle, and two bundles were on the Donkey.
The Deaf Man saw them coming (seven great Rakshas, with hair a yard long and tusks like an elephant's), and was dreadfully frightened; but the Blind Man was very brave (because he couldn't see), and said: "Brother, why do you lag behind in that way?" "Oh!" answered the Deaf Man, "there are seven great Rakshas with tusks like an elephant's coming to kill us! What can we do?" "Let us hide the treasure in the bushes," said the Blind Man; "and do you lead me to a tree; then I will climb up first, and you shall climb up afterward, and [pg 100] so we shall be out of their way." The Deaf Man thought this good advice; so he pushed the Donkey and the bundles of treasure into the bushes, and led the Blind Man to a high soparee-tree that grew close by; but he was a very cunning man, this Deaf Man, and instead of letting the Blind Man climb up first and following him, he got up first and let the Blind Man clamber after, so that he was farther out of harm's way than his friend.
When the Rakshas arrived at the place and saw them both perched out of reach in the soparee-tree, he said to his friends: "Let us get on each other's shoulders; we shall then be high enough to pull them down." So one Rakshas stooped down, and the second got on his shoulders, and the third on his, and the fourth on his, and the fifth on his, and the sixth on his; and the seventh and the last Rakshas (who had invited all the others) was just climbing up when the Deaf Man (who was looking over the Blind Man's shoulder) got so frightened that in his alarm he caught hold of his friend's arm, crying: "They're coming, they're coming!" The Blind Man was not in a very secure position, and was sitting at his ease, not knowing how close the Rakshas were. The consequence was, that when the Deaf Man gave him this unexpected push, he lost his balance and tumbled down on to the neck of the seventh Rakshas, who was just then climbing up. The Blind Man had no idea where he was, but thought he had got on to the branch of some other tree; and, stretching out his hand for something to catch hold of, caught hold of the Rakshas's two great ears, and pinched them very hard in his surprise and fright. The Rakshas couldn't think what it was that had come tumbling down upon him; and the weight of the Blind Man upsetting his balance, down he also fell to the ground, knocking down in their turn the sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second, and first Rakshas, who all rolled one over another, and lay in a confused heap at the foot of the tree together.
Meanwhile the Blind Man called out to his friend: "Where am I? What has happened? Where am I? Where am I?" The Deaf Man (who was safe up in the tree) answered: "Well done, brother! never fear! never fear! You're all right, only [pg 101] hold on tight. I'm coming down to help you." But he had not the least intention of leaving his place of safety. However, he continued to call out: "Never mind, brother; hold on as tight as you can. I'm coming, I'm coming," and the more he called out, the harder the Blind Man pinched the Rakshas's ears, which he mistook for some kind of palm branches.
The six other Rakshas, who had succeeded, after a good deal of kicking, in extricating themselves from their unpleasant position, thought they had had quite enough of helping their friend, and ran away as fast as they could; and the seventh, thinking from their going that the danger must be greater than he imagined, and being, moreover, very much afraid of the mysterious creature that sat on his shoulders, put his hands to the back of his ears and pushed off the Blind Man, and then, (without staying to see who or what he was) followed his six companions as fast as he could.
As soon as all the Rakshas were out of sight, the Deaf Man came down from the tree, and, picking up the Blind Man, embraced him, saying: "I could not have done better myself. You have frightened away all our enemies, but you see I came to help you as fast as possible." He then dragged the Donkey and the bundles of treasure out of the bushes, gave the Blind Man one bundle to carry, took the second himself, and put the remaining two on the Donkey, as before. This done, the whole party set off to return home. But when they had got nearly out of the jungle the Deaf Man said to the Blind Man: "We are now close to the village; but if we take all this treasure home with us, we shall run great risk of being robbed. I think our best plan would be to divide it equally; then you can take care of your half and I will take care of mine, and each one can hide his share here in the jungle, or wherever pleases him best." "Very well," said the Blind Man; "do you divide what we have in the bundles into two equal portions, keeping one half yourself and giving me the other." The cunning Deaf Man, however, had no intention of giving up half of the treasure to the Blind Man; so he first took his own bundle of treasure and hid it in the bushes, and then he took the two bundles off the Donkey and hid them in the [pg 102] bushes; and he took a good deal of treasure out of the Blind Man's bundle, which he also hid. Then, taking the small quantity that remained, he divided it into two equal portions, and placing half before the Blind Man and half in front of himself, said: "There, brother, is your share to do what you please with." The Blind Man put out his hand, but when he felt what a very little heap of treasure it was, he got very angry, and cried: "This is not fair— you are deceiving me; you have kept almost all the treasure for yourself and only given me a very little." "Oh, oh! how can you think so?" answered the Deaf Man; "but if you will not believe me, feel for yourself. See, my heap of treasure is no larger than yours."
The Blind Man put out his hands again to feel how much his friend had kept; but in front of the Deaf Man lay only a very small heap, no larger than what he had himself received. At this he got very cross, and said: "Come, come, this won't do. You think you can cheat me in this way because I am blind; but I'm not so stupid as all that, I carried a great bundle of treasure, you carried a great bundle of treasure, and there were two great bundles on the Donkey. Do you mean to pretend that all that made no more treasure than these two little heaps! No, indeed; I know better than that." "Stuff and nonsense!" answered the Deaf Man. "Stuff or no stuff," continued the other, "you are trying to take me in, and I won't be taken in by you." "No, I'm not," said the Deaf Man. "Yes, you are," said the Blind Man; and so they went on bickering, scolding, growling, contradicting, until the Blind Man got so enraged that he gave the Deaf Man a tremendous box on the ear. The blow was so violent that it made the Deaf Man hear! The Deaf Man, very angry, gave his neighbor in return so hard a blow in the face that it opened the Blind Man's eyes!
So the Deaf Man could hear as well as see, and the Blind Man could see as well as hear! This astonished them both so much that they became good friends at once. The Deaf Man confessed to have hidden the bulk of the treasure, which he thereupon dragged forth from its place of concealment, [pg 103] and having divided it equally, they went home and enjoyed themselves.
There was in a certain village, a certain Brahman named Harisarman. He was poor and foolish and unhappy for want of employment, and he had very many children. He wandered about begging with his family, and at last he reached a certain city, and entered the service of a rich householder called Sthuladatta. His sons became keepers of Sthuladatta's cows and other property, and his wife a servant to him, and he himself lived near his house, performing the duty of an attendant. One day there was a feast on account of the marriage of the daughter of Sthuladatta, largely attended by many friends of the bridegroom and merry-makers. Harisarman hoped that he would be able to fill himself up to the throat with oil and flesh and other dainties, and get the same for his family, in the house of his patron. While he was anxiously expecting to be fed, no one thought of him.
Then he was distressed at getting nothing to eat, and he said to his wife at night: "It is owing to my poverty and stupidity that I am treated with such disrespect here; so I will pretend by means of an artifice to possess a knowledge of magic, so that I may become an object of respect to this Sthuladatta; so, when you get an opportunity, tell him that I possess magical knowledge." He said this to her, and after turning the matter over in his mind, while people were asleep he took away from the house of Sthuladatta a horse on which his master's son-in-law rode. He placed it in concealment at some distance, and in the morning the friends of the bridegroom could not find the horse, though they searched in every direction. Then, while Sthuladatta was distressed at the evil omen, and searching for the thieves who had carried off the horse, the wife of Harisarman came and said to him: "My husband is a wise man, skilled in astrology and magical [pg 104] sciences; he can get the horse back for you—why do you not ask him?" When Sthuladatta heard that, he called Harisarman, who said, "Yesterday I was forgotten, but to-day, now the horse is stolen, I am called to mind;" and Sthuladatta then propitiated the Brahman with these words: "I forgot you, forgive me," and asked him to tell him who had taken away their horse. Then Harisarman drew all kinds of pretended diagrams, and said: "The horse has been placed by thieves on the boundary line south from this place. It is concealed there, and before it is carried off to a distance, as it will be at close of day, go quickly and bring it." When they heard that, many men ran and brought the horse quickly, praising the discernment of Harisarman. Then Harisarman was honored by all men as a sage, and dwelt there in happiness, honored by Sthuladatta.
Now, as days went on, much treasure, both of gold and jewels, had been stolen by a thief from the palace of the King. As the thief was not known, the King quickly summoned Harisarman on account of his reputation for knowledge of magic. And he, when summoned, tried to gain time, and said: "I will tell you to-morrow," and then he was placed in a chamber by the King and carefully guarded. And he was sad because he had pretended to have knowledge. Now, in that palace there was a maid named Jihva (which means Tongue), who, with the assistance of her brother, had stolen that treasure from the interior of the palace. She, being alarmed at Harisarman's knowledge, went at night and applied her ear to the door of that chamber in order to find out what he was about. And Harisarman, who was alone inside, was at that very moment blaming his own tongue, that had made a vain assumption of knowledge. He said: "Oh, tongue, what is this that you have done through your greediness? Wicked one, you will soon receive punishment in full." When Jihva heard this, she thought, in her terror, that she had been discovered by this wise man, and she managed to get in where he was, and, falling at his feet, she said to the supposed wizard: "Brahman, here I am, that Jihva whom you have discovered to be the thief of the treasure, and after I took it I buried it in [pg 105] the earth in a garden behind the palace, under a pomegranate tree. So spare me, and receive the small quantity of gold which is in my possession."
When Harisarman heard that, he said to her proudly: "Depart, I know all this; I know the past, present, and future, but I will not denounce you, a miserable creature that has implored my protection. But whatever gold is in your possession you must give back to me." When he said this to the maid, she consented, and departed quickly. But Harisarman reflected in his astonishment: "Fate brings about, as if in sport, things impossible; for, when calamity was so near, who would have thought chance would have brought us success? While I was blaming my jihva, the thief Jihva suddenly flung herself at my feet. Secret crimes manifest themselves by means of fear." Thus thinking, he passed the night happily in the chamber. And in the morning he brought the King, by some skilful parade of pretended knowledge, into the garden and led him up to the treasure, which was buried under the pomegranate tree, and said the thief had escaped with a part of it. Then the King was pleased, and gave him the revenue of many villages.
But the minister, named Devajnanin, whispered in the King's ear: "How can a man possess such knowledge unattainable by men without having studied the books of magic? You may be certain that this is a specimen of the way he makes a dishonest livelihood, by having a secret intelligence with thieves. It will be much better to test him by some new artifice." Then the King of his own accord brought a covered pitcher into which he had thrown a frog, and said to Harisarman: "Brahman, if you can guess what there is in this pitcher, I will do you great honor to-day." When the Brahman Harisarman heard that, he thought that his last hour had come, and he called to mind the pet name of "Froggie," which his father had given him in his childhood in sport; and, impelled by luck, he called to himself by his pet name, lamenting his hard fate, and suddenly called out: "This is a fine pitcher for you, Froggie; it will soon become the swift destroyer of your helpless self." The people there, when they heard him say that, raised a shout of applause, because his speech chimed in so [pg 106] well with the object presented to him, and murmured: "Ah! a great sage; he knows even about the frog!" Then the King, thinking that this was all due to knowledge of divination, was highly delighted, and gave Harisarman the revenue of more villages, with gold, an umbrella, and state carriages of all kinds. So Harisarman prospered in the world.
Why The Fish Laughed
As a certain fisherwoman passed by a palace crying her fish, the Queen appeared at one of the windows and beckoned her to come near and show what she had. At that moment a very big fish jumped about in the bottom of the basket."Is it a he or a she?" inquired the Queen. "I wish to purchase a she-fish." On hearing this the fish laughed aloud. "It's a he," replied the fisherwoman, and proceeded on her rounds. The Queen returned to her room in a great rage; and on coming to see her in the evening, the King noticed that something had disturbed her. "Are you indisposed?" he said.
"No; but I am very much annoyed at the strange behavior of a fish. A woman brought me one to-day, and on my inquiring whether it was a male or female, the fish laughed most rudely.""A fish laugh! Impossible! You must be dreaming." "I am not a fool. I speak of what I have seen with my own eyes and have heard with my own ears." "Passing strange! Be it so. I will inquire concerning it."
On the morrow the King repeated to his vizier what his wife had told him, and bade him investigate the matter, and be ready with a satisfactory answer within six months, on pain of death. The vizier promised to do his best, though he felt [pg 107] almost certain of failure. For five months he labored indefatigably to find a reason for the laughter of the fish. He sought everywhere and from every one. The wise and learned, and they who were skilled in magic and in all manner of trickery, were consulted. Nobody, however, could explain the matter; and so he returned broken-hearted to his house, and began to arrange his affairs in prospect of certain death, for he had had sufficient experience of the King to know that his Majesty would not go back from his threat. Among other things, he advised his son to travel for a time, until the King's anger should have somewhat cooled.
The young fellow, who was both clever and handsome, started off whithersoever fate might lead him. He had been gone some days, when he fell in with an old farmer, who also was on a journey to a certain village. Finding the old man very pleasant, he asked him if he might accompany him, professing to be on a visit to the same place. The old farmer agreed, and they walked along together. The day was hot, and the way was long and weary.
"Don't you think it would be pleasanter if you and I sometimes gave each other a lift?" said the youth.
After a little while the two travelers arrived at a big village, where the young man gave his companion a clasp-knife, and said, "Take this, friend, and get two horses with it; but mind and bring it back, for it is very precious."
The old man, looking half amused and half angry, pushed back the knife, muttering something to the effect that his friend was either a fool himself, or else trying to play the fool with him. The young man pretended not to notice his reply, and remained almost silent till they reached the city, a short distance outside which was the old farmer's house. They walked [pg 108] about the bazaar and went to the mosque, but nobody saluted them or invited them to come in and rest."What a large cemetery!" exclaimed the young man. "What does the man mean," thought the old farmer, "calling this largely populated city a cemetery?"
On leaving the city their way led through a graveyard where a few people were praying beside a tomb and distributing chapatis and kulchas to passers-by, in the name of their beloved dead. They beckoned to the two travelers and gave them as much as they would."What a splendid city this is!" said the young man.
"Now, the man must surely be demented!" thought the old farmer. "I wonder what he will do next? He will be calling the land water, and the water land; and be speaking of light where there is darkness, and of darkness when it is light." However, he kept his thoughts to himself.
Presently they had to wade through a stream that ran along the edge of the cemetery. The water was rather deep, so the old farmer took off his shoes and pajamas and crossed over; but the young man waded through it with his shoes and pajamas on.
"Well! I never did see such a perfect fool, both in word and in deed," said the old man to himself.
However, he liked the fellow; and thinking that he would amuse his wife and daughter, he invited him to come and stay at his house as long as he had occasion to remain in the village.
"There is a man in yonder field," he said, after returning their greetings. "He has come the greater part of the way with me, and I wanted him to put up here as long as he had to stay in this village. But the fellow is such a fool that I cannot make anything out of him. He wants to know if the beam of this house is all right. The man must be mad!" and saying this, he burst into a fit of laughter.[pg 109]
"Father," said the farmer's daughter, who was a very sharp and wise girl, "this man, whosoever he is, is no fool, as you deem him. He only wishes to know if you can afford to entertain him."
"Oh, of course," replied the farmer. "I see. Well, perhaps you can help me to solve some of his other mysteries. While we were walking together he asked whether he should carry me or I should carry him, as he thought that would be a pleasanter mode of proceeding.""Most assuredly," said the girl; "he meant that one of you should tell a story to beguile the time." "Oh yes. Well, we were passing through a corn-field, when he asked me whether it was eaten or not."
"And didn't you know the meaning of this, father? He simply wished to know if the man was in debt or not; because, if the owner of the field was in debt, then the produce of the field was as good as eaten to him; that is, it would have to go to his creditors.""Yes, yes, yes, of course! Then, on entering a certain village, he bade me take his claspknife and get two horses with it, and bring back the knife to him." "Are not two stout sticks as good as two horses for helping one along on the road? He only asked you to cut a couple of sticks and be careful not to lose his knife."
"I see," said the farmer. "While we were walking over the city we did not see anybody that we knew, and not a soul gave us a scrap of anything to eat, till we were passing the cemetery; but there some people called to us and put into our hands some chapatis and kulchas, so my companion called the city a cemetery, and the cemetery a city." "This also is to be understood, father, if one thinks of the city as the place where everything is to be obtained, and of inhospitable people as worse than the dead. The city, though crowded with people, was as if dead, as far as you were concerned; while, in the cemetery, which is crowded with the dead, you were saluted by kind friends and provided with bread.""True, true!" said the astonished farmer. "Then, just [pg 110] now, when we were crossing the stream, he waded through it without taking off his shoes and pajamas."
"I admire his wisdom," replied the girl. "I have often thought how stupid people were to venture into that swiftly flowing stream and over those sharp stones with bare feet. The slightest stumble and they would fall, and be wetted from head to foot. This friend of yours is a most wise man. I should like to see him and speak to him.""Very well," said the farmer; "I will go and find him, and bring him in." "Tell him, father, that our beams are strong enough, and then he will come in. I'll send on ahead a present to the man, to show him that we can afford to have him for our guest."
Accordingly she called a servant and sent him to the young man with a present of a basin of ghee, twelve chapatis, and a jar of milk, and the following message: "O friend, the moon is full; twelve months make a year, and the sea is overflowing with water."
Half-way the bearer of this present and message met his little son, who, seeing what was in the basket, begged his father to give him some of the food. His father foolishly complied. Presently he saw the young man, and gave him the rest of the present and the message."Give your mistress my salaam," he replied, "and tell her that the moon is new, and that I can find only eleven months in the year, and the sea is by no means full."
Not understanding the meaning of these words, the servant repeated them word for word, as he had heard them, to his mistress; and thus his theft was discovered, and he was severely punished. After a little while the young man appeared with the old farmer. Great attention was shown to him, and he was treated in every way as if he were the son of a great man, although his humble host knew nothing of his origin. At length he told them everything—about the laughing of the fish, his father's threatened execution, and his own banishment—and asked their advice as to what he should do.
"The laughing of the fish," said the girl, "which seems to have been the cause of all this trouble, indicates that there [pg 111] is a man in the palace who is plotting against the King's life."
"Joy, joy!" exclaimed the vizier's son. "There is yet time for me to return and save my father from an ignominious and unjust death, and the King from danger." The following day he hastened back to his own country, taking with him the farmer's daughter. Immediately on arrival he ran to the palace and informed his father of what he had heard. The poor vizier, now almost dead from the expectation of death, was at once carried to the King, to whom he repeated the news that his son had just brought."Never!" said the King.
"But it must be so, your Majesty," replied the vizier; "and in order to prove the truth of what I have heard, I pray you to call together all the maids in your palace and order them to jump over a pit, which must be dug. We'll soon find out whether there is any man there."The King had the pit dug, and commanded all the maids belonging to the palace to try to jump over it. All of them tried, but only one succeeded. That one was found to be a man! Thus was the Queen satisfied, and the faithful old vizier saved. Afterward, as soon as could be, the vizier's son married the old farmer's daughter; and a most happy marriage it was.
Muchie LalADAPTED BY M. FRERE
Once upon a time there were a Rajah and Ranee who had no children. Long had they wished and prayed that the gods would send them a son, but it was all in vain—their prayers were not granted. One day a number of fish were brought into the royal kitchen to be cooked for the Rajah's dinner, and [pg 112] amongst them was one little fish that was not dead, but all the rest were dead. One of the palace maid-servants, seeing this, took the little fish and put him in a basin of water. Shortly afterward the Ranee saw him, and thinking him very pretty, kept him as a pet; and because she had no children she lavished all her affection on the fish and loved him as a son; and the people called him Muchie Rajah (the Fish Prince).
In a little while Muchie Rajah had grown too long to live in the small basin, so they put him into a larger one, and then (when he grew too long for that) into a big tub. In time, however, Muchie Rajah became too large for even the big tub to hold him; so the Ranee had a tank made for him, in which he lived very happily, and twice a day she fed him with boiled rice. Now, though the people fancied Muchie Rajah was only a fish, this was not the case. He was, in truth, a young Rajah who had angered the gods, and been by them turned into a fish and thrown into the river as a punishment.
One morning, when the Ranee brought him his daily meal of boiled rice, Muchie Rajah called out to her and said, "Queen Mother, Queen Mother, I am so lonely here all by myself! Cannot you get me a wife?" The Ranee promised to try, and sent messengers to all the people she knew, to ask if they would allow one of their children to marry her son, the Fish Prince. But they all answered: "We cannot give one of our dear little daughters to be devoured by a great fish, even though he is the Muchie Rajah and so high in your Majesty's favor."
At news of this the Ranee did not know what to do. She was so foolishly fond of Muchie Rajah, however, that she resolved to get him a wife at any cost. Again she sent out messengers, but this time she gave them a great bag containing a lac of gold mohurs, and said to them: "Go into every land until you find a wife for my Muchie Rajah, and to whoever will give you a child to be the Muchie Ranee you shall give this bag of gold mohurs." The messengers started on their search, but for some time they were unsuccessful; not even the beggars were to be tempted to sell their children, fearing the great fish would devour them. At last one day the messengers came to a village where there lived a Fakeer, who had lost his first wife [pg 113] and married again. His first wife had had one little daughter, and his second wife also had a daughter. As it happened, the Fakeer's second wife hated her little stepdaughter, always gave her the hardest work to do and the least food to eat, and tried by every means in her power to get her out of the way, in order that the child might not rival her own daughter. When she heard of the errand on which the messengers had come, she sent for them when the Fakeer was out, and said to them: "Give me the bag of gold mohurs, and you shall take my little daughter to marry the Muchie Rajah." ("For," she thought to herself, "the great fish will certainly eat the girl, and she will thus trouble us no more.") Then, turning to her stepdaughter, she said: "Go down to the river and wash your saree, that you may be fit to go with these people, who will take you to the Ranee's court." At these words the poor girl went down to the river very sorrowful, for she saw no hope of escape, as her father was from home. As she knelt by the river-side, washing her saree and crying bitterly, some of her tears fell into the hole of an old Seven-headed Cobra, who lived on the river-bank. This Cobra was a very wise animal, and seeing the maiden, he put his head out of his hole, and said to her: "Little girl, why do you cry?" "Oh, sir," she answered, "I am very unhappy; for my father is from home, and my stepmother has sold me to the Ranee's people to be the wife of the Muchie Rajah, that great fish, and I know he will eat me up." "Do not be afraid, my daughter," said the Cobra; "but take with you these three stones and tie them up in the corner of your saree;" and so saying, he gave her three little round pebbles. "The Muchie Rajah, whose wife you are to be, is not really a fish, but a Rajah who has been enchanted. Your home will be a little room which the Ranee has had built in the tank wall. When you are taken there, wait and be sure you don't go to sleep, or the Muchie Rajah will certainly come and eat you up. But as you hear him coming rushing through the water, be prepared, and as soon as you see him, throw this first stone at him; he will then sink to the bottom of the tank. The second time he comes, throw the second stone, when the same thing will happen. The third time he comes, throw this third stone, [pg 114] and he will immediately resume his human shape." So saying, the old Cobra dived down again into his hole. The Fakeer's daughter took the stones and determined to do as the Cobra had told her, though she hardly believed it would have the desired effect.
When she reached the palace the Ranee spoke kindly to her, and said to the messengers: "You have done your errand well; this is a dear little girl." Then she ordered that she should be let down the side of the tank in a basket to a little room which had been prepared for her. When the Fakeer's daughter got there, she thought she had never seen such a pretty place in her life (for the Ranee had caused the little room to be very nicely decorated for the wife of her favorite); and she would have felt very happy away from her cruel stepmother and all the hard work she had been made to do, had it not been for the dark water that lay black and unfathomable below the door and the fear of the terrible Muchie Rajah.
After waiting some time she heard a rushing sound, and little waves came dashing against the threshold; faster they came and faster, and the noise got louder and louder, until she saw a great fish's head above the water—Muchie Rajah was coming toward her openmouthed. The Fakeer's daughter seized one of the stones that the Cobra had given her and threw it at him, and down he sank to the bottom of the tank; a second time he rose and came toward her, and she threw the second stone at him, and he again sank down; a third time he came more fiercely than before, when, seizing a third stone, she threw it with all her force. No sooner did it touch him than the spell was broken, and there, instead of a fish, stood a handsome young Prince. The poor little Fakeer's daughter was so startled that she began to cry. But the Prince said to her: "Pretty maiden, do not be frightened. You have rescued me from a horrible thraldom, and I can never thank you enough; but if you will be the Muchie Ranee, we will be married to-morrow." Then he sat down on the doorstep, thinking over his strange fate and watching for the dawn.
Next morning early several inquisitive people came to see if the Muchie Rajah had eaten up his poor little wife, as they [pg 115] feared he would; what was their astonishment, on looking over the tank wall, to see, not the Muchie Rajah, but a magnificent Prince! The news soon spread to the palace. Down came the Rajah, down came the Ranee, down came all their attendants, and dragged Muchie Rajah and the Fakeer's daughter up the side of the tank in a basket; and when they heard their story there were great and unparalleled rejoicings. The Ranee said, "So I have indeed found a son at last!" And the people were so delighted, so happy and so proud of the new Prince and Princess, that they covered all their path with damask from the tank to the palace, and cried to their fellows, "Come and see our new Prince and Princess! Were ever any so divinely beautiful? Come see a right royal couple,—a pair of mortals like the gods!" And when they reached the palace the prince was married to the Fakeer's daughter.
There they lived very happily for some time. The Muchie Ranee's stepmother, hearing what had happened, came often to see her stepdaughter, and pretended to be delighted at her good fortune; and the Ranee was so good that she quite forgave all her stepmother's former cruelty, and always received her very kindly. At last, one day, the Muchie Ranee said to her husband, "It is a weary while since I saw my father. If you will give me leave, I should much like to visit my native village and see him again." "Very well," he replied, "you may go. But do not stay away long; for there can be no happiness for me till you return." So she went, and her father was delighted to see her; but her stepmother, though she pretended to be very kind, was in reality only glad to think she had got the Ranee into her power, and determined, if possible, never to allow her to return to the palace again. One day, therefore, she said to her own daughter, "It is hard that your stepsister should have become Ranee of all the land instead of being eaten up by the great fish, while we gained no more than a lac of gold mohurs. Do now as I bid you, that you may become Ranee in her stead." She then went on to instruct her that she must invite the Ranee down to the river-bank, and there beg her to let her try on her jewels, and while putting them on give her a push and drown her in the river.
The girl consented, and standing by the river-bank, said to her stepsister, "Sister, may I try on your jewels?—how pretty they are!" "Yes," said the Ranee, "and we shall be able to see in the river how they look." So, undoing her necklaces, she clasped them round the other's neck. But while she was doing so her stepsister gave her a push, and she fell backward into the water. The girl watched to see that the body did not rise, and then, running back, said to her mother, "Mother, here are all the jewels, and she will trouble us no more." But it happened that just when her stepsister pushed the Ranee into the river her old friend the Seven-headed Cobra chanced to be swimming across it, and seeing the little Ranee likely to be drowned, he carried her on his back until he reached his hole, into which he took her safely. Now this hole, in which the Cobra and his wife and all his little ones lived, had two entrances,—the one under the water and leading to the river, and the other above water, leading out into the open fields. To this upper end of his hole the Cobra took the Muchie Ranee, where he and his wife took care of her; and there she lived with them for some time. Meanwhile, the wicked Fakeer's wife, having dressed up her own daughter in all the Ranee's jewels, took her to the palace, and said to the Muchie Rajah, "See, I have brought your wife, my dear daughter, back safe and well." The Rajah looked at her, and thought, "This does not look like my wife." However, the room was dark and the girl was cleverly disguised, and he thought he might be mistaken. Next day he said again: "My wife must be sadly changed or this cannot be she, for she was always bright and cheerful. She had pretty loving ways and merry words, while this woman never opens her lips." Still, he did not like to seem to mistrust his wife, and comforted himself by saying, "Perhaps she is tired with the long journey." On the third day, however, he could bear the uncertainty no longer, and tearing off her jewels, saw, not the face of his own little wife, but another woman. Then he was very angry and turned her out of doors, saying, "Begone; since you are but the wretched tool of others, I spare your life." But of the Fakeer's wife he said to his guards, "Fetch that woman here instantly; for [pg 117] unless she can tell me where my wife is, I will have her hanged." It chanced, however, that the Fakeer's wife had heard of the Muchie Rajah having turned her daughter out of doors; so, fearing his anger, she hid herself, and was not to be found.
Meantime, the Muchie Ranee, not knowing how to get home, continued to live in the great Seven-headed Cobra's hole, and he and his wife and all his family were very kind to her, and loved her as if she had been one of them; and there her little son was born, and she called him Muchie Lal, after the Muchie Rajah, his father. Muchie Lal was a lovely child, merry and brave, and his playmates all day long were the young Cobras. When he was about three years old a bangle-seller came by that way, and the Muchie Ranee bought some bangles from him and put them on her boy's wrists and ankles; but by the next day, in playing, he had broke them all. Then, seeing the bangle-seller, the Ranee called him again and bought some more, and so on every day until the bangle-seller got quite rich from selling so many bangles for the Muchie Lal; for the Cobra's hole was full of treasure, and he gave the Muchie Ranee as much money to spend every day as she liked. There was nothing she wished for he did not give her, only he would not let her try to get home to her husband, which she wished more than all. When she asked him he would say: "No, I will not let you go. If your husband comes here and fetches you, it is well; but I will not allow you to wander in search of him through the land alone."And so she was obliged to stay where she was.
All this time the poor Muchie Rajah was hunting in every part of the country for his wife, but he could learn no tidings of her. For grief and sorrow at losing her he had gone almost distracted, and did nothing but wander from place to place, crying, "She is gone! she is gone!" Then, when he had long inquired without avail of all the people in her native village about her, he one day met a bangle-seller and said to him, "Whence do you come?" The bangle-seller answered, "I have just been selling bangles to some people who live in a Cobra's hole in the river-bank." "People! What people?" asked the Rajah. "Why," answered the bangle-seller, "a [pg 118] woman and a child; the child is the most beautiful I ever saw. He is about three years old, and of course, running about, is always breaking his bangles and his mother buys him new ones every day." "Do you know what the child's name is?" said the Rajah. "Yes," answered the bangle-seller carelessly, "for the lady always calls him her Muchie Lal." "Ah," thought the Muchie Rajah, "this must be my wife." Then he said to him again, "Good bangle-seller, I would see these strange people of whom you speak; cannot you take me there?" "Not to-night," replied the bangle-seller; "daylight has gone, and we should only frighten them; but I shall be going there again to-morrow, and then you may come too. Meanwhile, come and rest at my house for the night, for you look faint and weary." The Rajah consented. Next morning, however, very early, he woke the bangle-seller, saying, "Pray let us go now and see the people you spoke about yesterday." "Stay," said the bangle-seller; "it is much too early. I never go till after breakfast." So the Rajah had to wait till the bangle-seller was ready to go. At last they started off, and when they reached the Cobra's hole the first thing the Rajah saw was a fine little boy playing with the young Cobras.
As the bangle-seller came along, jingling his bangles, a gentle voice from inside the hole called out, "Come here, my Muchie Lal, and try on your bangles." Then the Muchie Rajah, kneeling down at the mouth of the hole, said, "Oh, lady, show your beautiful face to me." At the sound of his voice the Ranee ran out, crying, "Husband, husband! have you found me again?" And she told him how her sister had tried to drown her, and how the good Cobra had saved her life and taken care of her and her child. Then he said, "And will you now come home with me?" And she told him how the Cobra would never let her go, and said, "I will first tell him of your coming; for he has been a father to me." So she called out, "Father Cobra, father Cobra, my husband has come to fetch me; will you let me go?" "Yes," he said, "if your husband has come to fetch you, you may go." And his wife said, "Farewell, dear lady, we are loath to lose you, for we have loved you as a daughter." And all the little Cobras were very [pg 119] sorrowful to think that they must lose their playfellow, the young Prince. Then the Cobra gave the Muchie Rajah and the Muchie Ranee and Muchie Lal all the most costly gifts he could find in his treasurehouse; and so they went home, where they lived very happy ever after.
How The Rajah's Son Won The Princess LabamADAPTED BY JOSEPH JACOBS
In a country there was a Rajah who had an only son who every day went out to hunt. One day the Ranee his mother, said to him, "You can hunt wherever you like on these three sides; but you must never go to the fourth side." This she said because she knew if he went on the fourth side he would hear of the beautiful Princess Labam, and that then he would leave his father and mother and seek for the Princess.
The young Prince listened to his mother, and obeyed her for some time; but one day, when he was hunting on the three sides where he was allowed to go, he remembered what she had said to him about the fourth side, and he determined to go and see why she had forbidden him to hunt on that side. When he got there, he found himself in a jungle, and nothing in the jungle but a quantity of parrots, who lived in it. The young Rajah shot at some of them, and at once they all flew away up to the sky. All, that is, but one, and this was their Rajah, who was called Hiraman parrot.
When Hiraman parrot found himself left alone, he called out to the other parrots, "Don't fly away and leave me alone when the Rajah's son shoots. If you desert me like this, I will tell the Princess Labam."
Then the parrots all flew back to their Rajah, chattering. The Prince was greatly surprised, and said, "Why, these birds [pg 120] can talk!" Then he said to the parrots, "Who is the Princess Labam? Where does she live?" But the parrots would not tell him where she lived. "You can never get to the Princess Labam's country." That is all they would say.
The Prince grew very sad when they would not tell him anything more; and he threw his gun away and went home. When he got home, he would not speak or eat, but lay on his bed for four or five days, and seemed very ill.At last he told his father and mother that he wanted to go and see the Princess Labam. "I must go," he said; "I must see what she is like. Tell me where her country is." "We do not know where it is," answered his father and mother. "Then I must go and look for it," said the Prince. "No, no," they said, "you must not leave us. You are our only son. Stay with us. You will never find the Princess Labam."
"I must try and find her," said the Prince. "Perhaps God will show me the way. If I live and I find her, I will come back to you; but perhaps I shall die, and then I shall never see you again. Still I must go."
So they had to let him go, though they cried very much at parting with him. His father gave him fine clothes to wear, and a fine horse. And he took his gun, and his bow and arrows, and a great many other weapons; "for," he said, "I may want them." His father, too, gave him plenty of rupees.
Then he himself got his horse all ready for the journey, and he said good-by to his father and mother; and his mother took her handkerchief and wrapped some sweetmeats in it, and gave it to her son. "My child," she said to him, "when you are hungry eat some of these sweetmeats."
He then set out on his journey, and rode on and on till he came to a jungle in which were a tank and shady trees. He bathed himself and his horse in the tank, and then sat down under a tree. "Now," he said to himself, "I will eat some of the sweetmeats my mother gave me, and I will drink some water, and then I will continue my journey." He opened his handkerchief and took out a sweetmeat. He found an ant in [pg 121] it. He took out another. There was an ant in that one too. So he laid the two sweetmeats on the ground, and he took out another, and another, and another, until he had taken them all out; but in each he found an ant. "Never mind," he said, "I won't eat the sweetmeats; the ants shall eat them." Then the Ant-Rajah came and stood before him and said, "You have been good to us. If ever you are in trouble, think of me and we will come to you."
The Rajah's son thanked him, mounted his horse and continued his journey. He rode on and on until he came to another jungle, and there he saw a tiger who had a thorn in his foot, and was roaring loudly from the pain."Why do you roar like that?" said the young Rajah. "What is the matter with you?" "I have had a thorn in my foot for twelve years," answered the tiger, "and it hurts me so; that is why I roar." "Well," said the Rajah's son, "I will take it out for you. But perhaps, as you are a tiger, when I have made you well, you will eat me?" "Oh no," said the tiger, "I won't eat you. Do make me well."
Then the Prince took a little knife from his pocket and cut the thorn out of the tiger's foot; but when he cut, the tiger roared louder than ever—so loud that his wife heard him in the next jungle, and came bounding along to see what was the matter. The tiger saw her coming, and hid the Prince in the jungle, so that she should not see him."What man hurt you that you roared so loud?" said the wife. "No one hurt me," answered the husband; "but a Rajah's son came and took the thorn out of my foot." "Where is he? Show him to me," said his wife. "If you promise not to kill him, I will call him," said the tiger. "I won't kill him; only let me see him," answered his wife.
Then the tiger called the Rajah's son, and when he came the tiger and his wife made him a great many salaams. Then they gave him a good dinner, and he stayed with them for [pg 122] three days. Every day he looked at the tiger's foot, and the third day it was quite healed. Then he said good-by to the tigers, and the tiger said to him, "If ever you are in trouble, think of me, and we will come to you."
The Rajah's son rode on and on till he came to a third jungle. Here he found four fakeers whose teacher and master had died, and had left four things,—a bed, which carried whoever sat on it whithersoever he wished to go; a bag, that gave its owner whatever he wanted, jewels, food or clothes; a stone bowl that gave its owner as much water as he wanted, no matter how far he might be from a tank; and a stick and rope, to which its owner had only to say, if any one came to make war on him, "Stick, beat as many men and soldiers as are here," and the stick would beat them and the rope would tie them up.The four fakeers were quarreling over these four things. One said, "I want this;" another said, "You cannot have it, for I want it;" and so on.
The Rajah's son said to them, "Do not quarrel for these things. I will shoot four arrows in four different directions. Whichever of you gets to my first arrow, shall have the first thing—the bed. Whosoever gets to the second arrow, shall have the second thing—the bag. He who gets to the third arrow, shall have the third thing—the bowl. And he who gets to the fourth arrow, shall have the last things—the stick and rope." To this they agreed. And the Prince shot off his first arrow. Away raced the fakeers to get it. When they brought it back to him he shot off the second, and when they had found and brought it to him he shot off his third, and when they had brought him the third he shot off the fourth.
While they were away looking for the fourth arrow the Rajah's son let his horse loose in the jungle and sat on the bed, taking the bowl, the stick and rope, and the bag with him. Then he said, "Bed, I wish to go to the Princess Labam's country." The little bed instantly rose up into the air and began to fly, and it flew and flew till it came to the Princess Labam's country, where it settled on the ground. The Rajah's son asked some men he saw, "Whose country is this?""The Princess Labam's country," they answered. Then [pg 123] the Prince went on till he came to a house where he saw an old woman. "Who are you?" she said. "Where do you come from?"
"I come from a far country," he said; "do let me stay with you to-night." "No," she answered, "I cannot let you stay with me; for our King has ordered that men from other countries may not stay in his country. You cannot stay in my house.""You are my aunty," said the Prince; "let me remain with you for this one night. You see it is evening, and if I go into the jungle, then the wild beasts will eat me."
"Well," said that old woman, "you may stay here to-night; but to-morrow morning you must go away, for if the King hears you have passed the night in my house, he will have me seized and put into prison."
Then she took him into her house, and the Rajah's son was very glad. The old woman began preparing dinner, but he stopped her. "Aunty," he said, "I will give you food." He put his hand into his bag, saying, "Bag, I want some dinner," and the bag gave him instantly a delicious dinner, served up on two gold plates. The old woman and the Rajah's son then dined together.When they had finished eating, the old woman said, "Now I will fetch some water."
"Don't go," said the Prince. "You shall have plenty of water directly." So he took his bowl and said to it, "Bowl, I want some water," and then it filled with water. When it was full, the Prince cried out, "Stop, bowl!" and the bowl stopped filling. "See, aunty," he said, "with this bowl I can always get as much water as I want."By this time night had come. "Aunty," said the Rajah's son, "why don't you light a lamp?"
"There is no need," she said. "Our king has forbidden the people in his country to light any lamps; for, as soon as it is dark, his daughter, the Princess Labam, comes and sits on her roof, and she shines so that she lights up all the country and our houses, and we can see to do our work as if it were day."[pg 124]
When it was quite black night the Princess got up. She dressed herself in her rich clothes and jewels, and rolled up her hair, and across her head she put a band of diamonds and pearls. Then she shone like the moon and her beauty made night day. She came out of her room and sat on the roof of her palace. In the daytime she never came out of her house; she only came out at night. All the people in her father's country then went about their work and finished it.The Rajah's son, watched the Princess quietly, and was very happy. He said to himself, "How lovely she is!"
At midnight, when everybody had gone to bed, the Princess came down from her roof and went to her room; and when she was in bed and asleep, the Rajah's son got up softly and sat on his bed. "Bed," he said to it, "I want to go to the Princess Labam's bed-room." So the little bed carried him to the room where she lay fast asleep.
The young Rajah took his bag and said, "I want a great deal of betel-leaf," and it at once gave him quantities of betel-leaf. This he laid near the Princess's bed, and then his little bed carried him back to the old woman's house.
THE PRINCESS LABAM ... SHINES SO THAT SHE LIGHTS UP ALL THE COUNTRY.
When night came the Princess got up and sat on her roof, and at twelve o'clock, when every one was in bed, she went to her bed-room, and was soon fast asleep. Then the Rajah's son sat on his bed, and it carried him to the Princess. He took his bag and said, "Bag, I want a most lovely shawl." It [pg 125] gave him a splendid shawl, and he spread it over the Princess as she lay asleep. Then he went back to the old woman's house and slept till morning.
In the morning the Rajah's son told the old woman that he intended to marry the Princess. "Oh," said the old woman, "go away from this country, and do not think of marrying her. A great many Rajahs and Rajahs' sons have come here to marry her, and her father has had them all killed. He says whoever wishes to marry his daughter must first do whatever he bids him. If he can, then he shall marry the Princess; if he cannot, the King will have him killed. But no one can do the things the King tells him to do; so all the Rajahs and Rajahs' sons who have tried have been put to death. You will be killed too, if you try. Do go away." But the Prince would not listen to anything she said.
The King sent for the Prince to the old woman's house, and his servants brought the Rajah's son to the King's court-house to the King. There the King gave him eighty pounds of mustard seed, and told him to crush all the oil out of it that day, and bring it next morning to him to the court-house. "Whoever wishes to marry my daughter," he said to the Prince, "must first do all I tell him. If he cannot, then I have him killed. So if you cannot crush all the oil out of this mustard seed you will die."
The Prince was very sorry when he heard this. "How can I crush the oil out of all this mustard seed in one day?" he said to himself; "and if I do not, the King will kill me." He took the mustard seed to the old woman's house, and did not know what to do. At last he remembered the Ant-Rajah, and the moment he did so, the Ant-Rajah and his ants came to him. "Why do you look so sad?" said the Ant-Rajah.
The Prince showed him the mustard seed, and said to him, "How can I crush the oil out of all this mustard seed in one day? And if I do not take the oil to the King to-morrow morning, he will kill me."
"Be happy," said the Ant-Rajah; "lie down and sleep; we will crush all the oil out for you during the day, and to-morrow morning you shall take it to the King." The Rajah's son lay down and slept, and the ants crushed out the oil for him. The Prince was very glad when he saw the oil.
The next morning he took it to the court-house to the King. [pg 127] But the King said, "You cannot yet marry my daughter. If you wish to do so, you must fight with my two demons, and kill them." The King a long time ago had caught two demons, and then, as he did not know what to do with them, he had shut them up in a cage. He was afraid to let them loose for fear they would eat up all the people in his country; and he did not know how to kill them. So all the Rajahs and Rajahs' sons who wanted to marry the Princess Labam had to fight with these demons; "for," said the King to himself, "perhaps the demons may be killed, and then I shall be rid of them."
When he heard of the demons the Rajah's son was very sad. "What can I do?" he said to himself. "How can I fight with these two demons?" Then he thought of his tiger: and the tiger and his wife came to him and said, "Why are you so sad?" The Rajah's son answered, "The King has ordered me to fight with his two demons and kill them. How can I do this?" "Do not be frightened," said the tiger. "Be happy. I and my wife will fight with them for you."
Then the Rajah's son took out of his bag two splendid coats. They were all gold and silver, and covered with pearls and diamonds. These he put on the tigers to make them beautiful, and he took them to the King, and said to him, "May these tigers fight your demons for me?" "Yes," said the King, who did not care in the least who killed his demons, provided they were killed. "Then call your demons," said the Rajah's son, "and these tigers will fight them." The King did so, and the tigers and the demons fought and fought until the tigers had killed the demons.
"That is good," said the King. "But you must do something else before I give you my daughter. Up in the sky I have a kettle-drum. You must go and beat it. If you cannot do this, I will kill you."
The Rajah's son thought of his little bed; so he went to the old woman's house and sat on his bed. "Little bed," he said, "up in the sky is the King's kettle-drum. I want to go to it." The bed flew up with him, and the Rajah's son beat the drum, and the King heard him. Still, when he came down, the King would not give him his daughter. "You have," he said to the Prince, [pg 128] "done the three things I told you to do; but you must do one thing more." "If I can, I will," said the Rajah's son.
Then the King showed him the trunk of a tree that was lying near his court-house. It was a very, very thick trunk. He gave the Prince a wax hatchet, and said, "To-morrow morning you must cut this trunk in two with this wax hatchet."
The Rajah's son went back to the old woman's house. He was very sad, and thought that now the Rajah would certainly kill him. "I had his oil crushed out by the ants," he said to himself. "I had his demons killed by the tigers. My bed helped to beat this kettle-drum. But now what can I do? How can I cut that thick tree-trunk in two with a wax hatchet?"At night he went on his bed to see the Princess. "To-morrow," he said to her, "your father will kill me." "Why?" asked the Princess.
"He has told me to cut a thick tree-trunk in two with a wax hatchet. How can I ever do that?" said the Rajah's son. "Do not be afraid," said the Princess; "do as I bid you, and you will cut it in two quite easily."
Then she pulled out a hair from her head and gave it to the Prince. "To-morrow," she said, "when no one is near you, you must say to the tree-trunk, 'The Princess Labam commands you to let yourself be cut in two by this hair.' Then stretch the hair down the edge of the wax hatchet's blade."
The Prince next day did exactly as the Princess had told him; and the minute the hair that was stretched down the edge of the hatchet blade touched the tree-trunk it split into two pieces.
The King said, "Now you can marry my daughter." Then the wedding took place. All the Rajahs and Kings of the countries round were asked to come to it, and there were great rejoicings. After a few days the bridegroom said to his bride "Let us go to my father's country." The Princess Labam's father gave them a quantity of camels and horses and rupees and servants; and they traveled in great state to the distant country, where they lived happily.The prince always kept his bag, bowl, bed, stick and rope; only, as no one ever came to make war on him, he never needed to use the stick or rope.
In the morning, when the Princess saw the shawl she was delighted. "See, mother," she said; "Khuda must have given me this shawl, it is so beautiful." Her mother was very glad too."Yes, my child," she said; "Khuda must have given you this splendid shawl." When it was morning the old woman said to the Rajah's son, "Now you must really go." "Aunty," he answered, "I am not well enough yet. Let me stay a few days longer. I will remain hidden in your house, so that no one may see me." So the old woman let him stay.
When it was black night, the Princess put on her lovely clothes and jewels and sat on her roof. At midnight she went to her room and went to sleep. Then the Rajah's son sat on his bed and flew to her bed-room. There he said to his bag, "Bag, I want a very, very beautiful ring." The bag gave him a glorious ring. Then he took the Princess Labam's hand gently to put on the ring, and she started up very much frightened."Who are you?" she said to the Prince. "Where do you come from? Why do you come to my room?"
"Do not be afraid, Princess," he said; "I am no thief. I am a great Rajah's son. Hiraman parrot, who lives in the jungle where I went to hunt, told me your name, and then I left my father and mother and came to see you.""Well," said the Princess, "as you are the son of such a great Rajah, I will not have you killed, and I will tell my father and mother that I wish to marry you."
The Prince then returned to the old woman's house; and when morning came the Princess said to her mother, "The son of a great Rajah has come to this country, and I wish to marry him." Her mother told this to the King.
"Good," said the King; "but if this Rajah's son wishes to marry my daughter, he must first do whatever I bid him. If he fails I will kill him. I will give him eighty pounds weight of mustard seed, and out of this he must crush the oil in one day. If he cannot do this he shall die."
The Jellyfish And The MonkeyADAPTED BY YEI THEODORA OZAKI
Long, long ago, in old Japan, the Kingdom of the Sea was governed by a wonderful King. He was called Rin Jin, or the Dragon King of the Sea. His power was immense, for he was the ruler of all sea creatures both great and small, and in his keeping were the Jewels of the Ebb and Flow of the Tide. The Jewel of the Ebbing Tide when thrown into the ocean caused the sea to recede from the land, and the Jewel of the Flowing Tide made the waves to rise mountains high and to flow in upon the shore like a tidal wave.
The palace of Rin Jin was at the bottom of the sea, and was so beautiful that no one has ever seen anything like it even in dreams. The walls were of coral, the roof of jadestone and chalcedony, and the floors were of the finest mother-of-pearl. But the Dragon King, in spite of his wide-spreading kingdom, his beautiful palace and all its wonders, and his power, which none disputed throughout the whole sea, was not at all happy, for he reigned alone. At last he thought that if he married he would not only be happier, but also more powerful. So he decided to take a wife. Calling all his fish retainers together, he chose several of them as ambassadors to go through the sea and seek for a young Dragon Princess who would be his bride.
At last they returned to the palace bringing with them a lovely young dragon. Her scales were of a glittering green like the wings of summer beetles, her eyes threw out glances of fire, and she was dressed in gorgeous robes. All the jewels of the sea worked in with embroidery adorned them.
The King fell in love with her at once, and the wedding [pg 130] ceremony was celebrated with great splendor. Every living thing in the sea, from the great whales down to the little shrimps, came in shoals to offer their congratulations to the bride and bridegroom and to wish them a long and prosperous life. Never had there been such an assemblage or such gay festivities in the Fish-World before. The train of bearers who carried the bride's possessions to her new home seemed to reach across the waves from one end of the sea to the other. Each fish carried a phosphorescent lantern and was dressed in ceremonial robes, gleaming blue and pink and silver; and the waves as they rose and fell and broke that night seemed to be rolling masses of white and green fire, for the phosphorus shone with double brilliancy in honor of the event.
Now for a time the Dragon King and his bride lived very happily. They loved each other dearly, and the bridegroom day after day took delight in showing his bride all the wonders and treasures of his coral palace, and she was never tired of wandering with him through its vast halls and gardens. Life seemed to them both like a long summer's day.
Two months passed in this happy way, and then the Dragon Queen fell ill and was obliged to stay in bed. The King was sorely troubled when he saw his precious bride so ill, and at once sent for the fish doctor to come and give her some medicine. He gave special orders to the servants to nurse her carefully and to wait upon her with diligence, but in spite of all the nurses' assiduous care and the medicine that the doctor prescribed, the young Queen showed no signs of recovery, but grew daily worse.
Then the Dragon King interviewed the doctor and blamed him for not curing the Queen. The doctor was alarmed at Rin Jin's evident displeasure, and excused his want of skill by saying that although he knew the right kind of medicine to give the invalid, it was impossible to find it in the sea."Do you mean to tell me that you can't get the medicine here?" asked the Dragon King. "It is just as you say!" said the doctor. "Tell me what it is you want for the Queen?" demanded Rin Jin. [pg 131] "I want the liver of a live monkey!" answered the doctor. "The liver of a live monkey! Of course that will be most difficult to get," said the King. "If we could only get that for the Queen, her Majesty would soon recover," said the doctor. "Very well, that decides it; we must get it somehow or other. But where are we most likely to find a monkey?" asked the King. Then the doctor told the Dragon King that some distance to the south there was a Monkey Island where a great many monkeys lived. "If only you could capture one of those monkeys?" said the doctor.
"How can any of my people capture a monkey?" said the Dragon King, greatly puzzled. "The monkeys live on dry land, while we live in the water; and out of our element we are quite powerless! I don't see what we can do!""That has been my difficulty too," said the doctor. "But amongst your innumerable servants, you surely can find one who can go on shore for that express purpose!" "Something must be done," said the King, and calling his chief steward he consulted him on the matter. The chief steward thought for some time, and then, as if struck by a sudden thought, said joyfully:
"I know what we must do! There is the kurage (jellyfish). He is certainly ugly to look at, but he is proud of being able to walk on land with his four legs like a tortoise. Let us send him to the Island of Monkeys to catch one."
The jellyfish was then summoned to the King's presence, and was told by his Majesty what was required of him.
The jellyfish, on being told of the unexpected mission which was to be entrusted to him, looked very troubled, and said that he had never been to the island in question, and as he had never had any experience in catching monkeys he was afraid that he would not be able to get one."Well," said the chief steward, "if you depend on your strength or dexterity you will never catch a monkey. The only way is to play a trick on one!" "How can I play a trick on a monkey? I don't know how to do it," said the perplexed jellyfish.
"This is what you must do," said the wily chief steward. "When you approach the Island of Monkeys and meet some of them, you must try to get very friendly with one. Tell him that you are a servant of the Dragon King, and invite him to come and visit you and see the Dragon King's palace. Try and describe to him as vividly as you can the grandeur of the palace and the wonders of the sea so as to arouse his curiosity and make him long to see it all!""But how am I to get the monkey here? You know monkeys don't swim!" said the reluctant jellyfish. "You must carry him on your back. What is the use of your shell if you can't do that!" said the chief steward. "Won't he be very heavy?" queried kurage again. "You mustn't mind that, for you are working for the Dragon King!" replied the chief steward.
"I will do my best then," said the jellyfish, and he swam away from the palace and started off towards the Monkey Island. Swimming swiftly he reached his destination in a few hours, and was landed by a convenient wave upon the shore. On looking round he saw not far away a big pine-tree with drooping branches and on one of those branches was just what he was looking for—a live monkey."I'm in luck!" thought the jellyfish. "Now I must flatter the creature and try to entice him to come back with me to the palace, and my part will be done!"
So the jellyfish slowly walked towards the pine-tree. In those ancient days the jellyfish had four legs and a hard shell like a tortoise. When he got to the pine-tree he raised his voice and said:
"How do you do, Mr. Monkey? Isn't it a lovely day?" "A very fine day," answered the monkey from the tree. "I have never seen you in this part of the world before. Where have you come from and what is your name?"
"My name is kurage or jellyfish. I am one of the servants of the Dragon King. I have heard so much of your beautiful island that I have come on purpose to see it," answered the jellyfish.[pg 133] "I am very glad to see you," said the monkey. "By-the-bye," said the jellyfish, "have you ever seen the palace of the Dragon King of the Sea where I live?" "I have often heard of it, but I have never seen it!" answered the monkey.
"Then you ought most surely to come. It is a great pity for you to go through life without seeing it. The beauty of the palace is beyond all description—it is certainly to my mind the most lovely place in the world," said the jellyfish."Is it so beautiful as all that?" asked the monkey in astonishment.
Then the jellyfish saw his chance, and went on describing to the best of his ability the beauty and grandeur of the Sea King's palace, and the wonders of the garden with its curious trees of white, pink and red coral, and the still more curious fruits like great jewels hanging on the branches. The monkey grew more and more interested, and as he listened he came down the tree step by step so as not to lose a word of the wonderful story."I have got him at last!" thought the jellyfish, but aloud he said:
"Mr. Monkey, I must now go back. As you have never seen the palace of the Dragon King, won't you avail yourself of this splendid opportunity by coming with me? I shall then be able to act as guide and show you all the sights of the sea, which will be even more wonderful to you—a land-lubber.""I should love to go," said the monkey, "but how am I to cross the water? I can't swim, as you surely know!" "There is no difficulty about that. I can carry you on my back." "That will be troubling you too much," said the monkey.
"I can do it quite easily. I am stronger than I look, so you needn't hesitate," said the jellyfish, and taking the monkey on his back he stepped into the sea.
"Keep very still, Mr. Monkey," said the jellyfish. "You mustn't fall into the sea; I am responsible for your safe arrival at the King's palace."
Thus they went along, the jellyfish skimming through the waves with the monkey sitting on his back. When they were about halfway, the jellyfish, who knew very little of anatomy, began to wonder if the monkey had his liver with him or not!"Mr. Monkey, tell me, have you such a thing as a liver with you?" The monkey was very much surprised at this queer question, and asked what the jellyfish wanted with a liver. "That is the most important thing of all," said the stupid jellyfish, "so as soon as I recollected it, I asked you if you had yours with you?" "Why is my liver so important to you?" asked the monkey. "Oh! you will learn the reason later," said the jellyfish.
The monkey grew more and more curious and suspicious, and urged the jellyfish to tell him for what his liver was wanted, and ended up by appealing to his hearer's feelings by saying that he was very troubled at what he had been told.
Then the jellyfish, seeing how anxious the monkey looked, was sorry for him, and told everything. How the Dragon Queen had fallen ill, and how the doctor had said that only the liver of a live monkey would cure her, and how the Dragon King had sent him to find one."Now I have done as I was told, and as soon as we arrive at the palace the doctor will want your liver, so I feel sorry for you!" said the silly jellyfish. The poor monkey was horrified when he learnt all this, and very angry at the trick played upon him. He trembled with fear at the thought of what was in store for him.
But the monkey was a clever animal, and he thought it the wisest plan not to show any sign of the fear he felt, so he tried to calm himself and to think of some way by which he might escape.
"The doctor means to cut me open and then take my liver out! Why I shall die!" thought the monkey. At last a bright thought struck him, so he said quite cheerfully to the jellyfish:[pg 135] "What a pity it was, Mr. Jellyfish, that you did not speak of this before we left the island!" "If I had told you why I wanted you to accompany me you would certainly have refused to come," answered the jellyfish.
"You are quite mistaken," said the monkey. "Monkeys can very well spare a liver or two, especially when it is wanted for the Dragon Queen of the Sea. If I had only guessed of what you were in need, I should have presented you with one without waiting to be asked. I have several livers. But the greatest pity is, that as you did not speak in time, I have left all my livers hanging on the pine-tree.""Have you left your liver behind you?" asked the jellyfish.
"Yes," said the cunning monkey, "during the daytime I usually leave my liver hanging up on the branch of a tree, as it is very much in the way when I am climbing about from tree to tree. To-day, listening to your interesting conversation, I quite forgot it, and left it behind when I came off with you. If only you had spoken in time I should have remembered it, and should have brought it along with me!"
The jellyfish was very disappointed when he heard this, for he believed every word the monkey said. The monkey was of no good without a liver. Finally the jellyfish stopped and told the monkey so.
"Well," said the monkey, "that is soon remedied. I am really sorry to think of all your trouble; but if you will only take me back to the place where you found me, I shall soon be able to get my liver."
The jellyfish did not at all like the idea of going all the way back to the island again; but the monkey assured him that if he would be so kind as to take him back he would get his very best liver, and bring it with him the next time. Thus persuaded, the jellyfish turned his course towards the Monkey Island once more.
No sooner had the jellyfish reached the shore than the sly monkey landed, and getting up into the pine-tree where the jellyfish had first seen him, he cut several capers amongst [pg 136] the branches with joy at being safe home again, and then looking down at the jellyfish said:"So many thanks for all the trouble you have taken! Please present my compliments to the Dragon King on your return!"
The jellyfish wondered at this speech and the mocking tone in which it was uttered. Then he asked the monkey if it wasn't his intention to come with him at once after getting his liver.
The monkey replied laughingly that he couldn't afford to lose his liver; it was too precious.
"That promise was false, and anyhow it is now broken!" answered the monkey. Then he began to jeer at the jellyfish and told him that he had been deceiving him the whole time; that he had no wish to lose his life, which he certainly would have done had he gone on to the Sea King's Palace to the old doctor waiting for him, instead of persuading the jellyfish to return under false pretences."Of course, I won't give you my liver, but come and get it if you can!" added the monkey mockingly from the tree.
There was nothing for the jellyfish to do now but to repent of his stupidity, and return to the Dragon King of the Sea and confess his failure, so he started sadly and slowly to swim back. The last thing he heard as he glided away, leaving the island behind him, was the monkey laughing at him.
Meanwhile the Dragon King, the doctor, the chief steward, and all the servants were waiting impatiently for the return of the jellyfish. When they caught sight of him approaching the palace, they hailed him with delight. They began to thank him profusely for all the trouble he had taken in going to Monkey Island, and then they asked him where the monkey was.
Now the day of reckoning had come for the jellyfish. He quaked all over as he told his story. How he had brought the monkey half way over the sea, and then had stupidly let out the secret of his commission; how the monkey had deceived him by making him believe that he had left his liver behind him.[pg 137]
The Dragon King's wrath was great, and he at once gave orders that the jellyfish was to be severely punished. The punishment was a horrible one. All the bones were to be drawn out from his living body, and he was to be beaten with sticks.
The poor jellyfish, humiliated and horrified beyond all words, cried out for pardon. But the Dragon King's order had to be obeyed. The servants of the palace forthwith each brought out a stick and surrounded the jellyfish, and after pulling out his bones they beat him to a flat pulp, and then took him out beyond the palace gates and threw him into the water. Here he was left to suffer and repent his foolish chattering, and to grow accustomed to his new state of bonelessness.
From this story it is evident that in former times the jellyfish once had a shell and bones something like a tortoise, but, ever since the Dragon King's sentence was carried out on the ancestor of the jelly fishes, his descendants have all been soft and boneless just as you see them to-day thrown up by the waves high upon the shores of Japan.
The Old Man And The Devils
A long time ago there was an old man who had a big lump on the right side of his face. One day he went into the mountain to cut wood, when the rain began to pour and the wind to blow so very hard that, finding it impossible to return home, and filled with fear, he took refuge in the hollow of an old tree. While sitting there doubled up and unable to sleep, he heard the confused sound of many voices in the distance gradually approaching to where he was. He said to himself: "How strange! I thought I was all alone in the mountain, but I hear the voices of many people." So, taking courage, he peeped out, and saw a great crowd of strange-looking [pg 138] beings. Some were red, and dressed in green clothes; others were black, and dressed in red clothes; some had only one eye; others had no mouth; indeed, it is quite impossible to describe their varied and strange looks. They kindled a fire, so that it became as light as day. They sat down in two cross-rows, and began to drink wine and make merry just like human beings. They passed the wine cup around so often that many of them soon drank too much. One of the young devils got up and began to sing a merry song and to dance; so also many others; some danced well, others badly. One said: "We have had uncommon fun to-night, but I would like to see something new."
Then the old man, losing all fear, thought he would like to dance, and saying, "Let come what will, if I die for it, I will have a dance, too," crept out of the hollow tree and, with his cap slipped over his nose and his ax sticking in his belt, began to dance. The devils in great surprise jumped up, saying, "Who is this?" but the old man advancing and receding, swaying to and fro, and posturing this way and that way, the whole crowd laughed and enjoyed the fun, saying: "How well the old man dances! You must always come and join us in our sport; but, for fear you might not come, you must give us a pledge that you will." So the devils consulted together, and, agreeing that the lump on his face, which was a token of wealth, was what he valued most highly, demanded that it should be taken. The old man replied: "I have had this lump many years, and would not without good reason part with it; but you may have it, or an eye, or my nose either if you wish." So the devils laid hold of it, twisting and pulling, and took it off without giving him any pain, and put it away as a pledge that he would come back. Just then the day began to dawn, and the birds to sing, so the devils hurried away.
The old man felt his face and found it quite smooth, and not a trace of the lump left. He forgot all about cutting wood, and hastened home. His wife, seeing him, exclaimed in great surprise, "What has happened to you?" So he told her all that had befallen him.[pg 139]
Now, among the neighbors there was another old man who had a big lump on the left side of his face. Hearing all about how the first old man had got rid of his misfortune, he determined that he would also try the same plan. So he went and crept into the hollow tree, and waited for the devils to come. Sure enough, they came just as he was told, and they sat down, drank wine, and made merry just as they did before. The second old man, afraid and trembling, crept out of the hollow tree. The devils welcomed him, saying: "The old man has come; now let us see him dance." This old fellow was awkward, and did not dance as well as the other, so the devils cried out: "You dance badly, and are getting worse and worse; we will give you back the lump which we took from you as a pledge." Upon this, one of the devils brought the lump, and stuck it on the other side of his face; so the poor old fellow returned home with a lump on each side.
Autumn And SpringADAPTED BY FRANK HINDER
A fair maiden lay asleep in a rice field. The sun was at its height, and she was weary. Now a god looked down upon the rice field. He knew that the beauty of the maiden came from within, that it mirrored the beauty of heavenly dreams. He knew that even now, as she smiled, she held converse with the spirit of the wind or the flowers.The god descended and asked the dream-maiden to be his bride. She rejoiced, and they were wed. A wonderful red jewel came of their happiness.
Long, long afterwards, the stone was found by a farmer, who saw that it was a very rare jewel. He prized it highly, and always carried it about with him. Sometimes, as he looked at it in the pale light of the moon, it seemed to him that he could [pg 140] discern eyes in its depths. Again, in the stillness of the night, he would awaken and think that a clear soft voice called him by name.
One day, the farmer had to carry the midday meal to his workers in the field. The sun was very hot, so he loaded a cow with the bowls of rice, the millet dumplings, and the beans. Suddenly, Prince Ama-boko stood in the path. He was angry, for he thought that the farmer was about to kill the cow. The Prince would hear no word of denial; his wrath increased. The farmer became more and more terrified, and, finally, took the precious stone from his pocket and presented it as a peace-offering to the powerful Prince. Amaboko marveled at the brilliancy of the jewel, and allowed the man to continue his journey.
The Prince returned to his home. He drew forth the treasure, and it was immediately transformed into a goddess of surpassing beauty. Even as she rose before him, he loved her, and ere the moon waned they were wed. The goddess ministered to his every want. She prepared delicate dishes, the secret of which is known only to the gods. She made wine from the juice of a myriad herbs, wine such as mortals never taste.
But, after a time, the Prince became proud and overbearing. He began to treat his faithful wife with cruel contempt. The goddess was sad, and said: "You are not worthy of my love. I will leave you and go to my father." Ama-boko paid no heed to these words, for he did not believe that the threat would be fulfilled. But the beautiful goddess was in earnest. She escaped from the palace and fled to Naniwa, where she is still honored as Akaruhime, the Goddess of Light.
Now the Prince was wroth when he heard that the goddess had left him, and set out in pursuit of her. But when he neared Naniwa, the gods would not allow his vessel to enter the haven. Then he knew that his priceless red jewel was lost to him forever. He steered his ship towards the north coast of Japan, and landed at Tajima. Here he was well received, and highly esteemed on account of the treasures which he brought with [pg 141] him. He had costly strings of pearls, girdles of precious stones, and a mirror which the wind and the waves obeyed. Prince Ama-boko remained at Tajima, and was the father of a mighty race.
Among his children's children was a Princess so renowned for her beauty that eighty suitors sought her hand. One after the other returned sorrowfully home, for none found favor in her eyes. At last, two brothers came before her, the young God of the Autumn, and the young God of the Spring. The elder of the two, the God of Autumn, first urged his suit. But the Princess refused him. He went to his younger brother and said, "The Princess does not love me, neither will you be able to win her heart."But the Spring God was full of hope, and replied, "I will give you a cask of rice wine if I do not win her, but if she consents to be my bride, you shall give a cask of saké to me."
Now the God of Spring went to his mother, and told her all. She promised to aid him. Thereupon she wove, in a single night, a robe and sandals from the unopened buds of the lilac and white wistaria. Out of the same delicate flowers she fashioned a bow and arrows. Thus clad, the God of Spring made his way to the beautiful Princess.
As he stepped before the maiden, every bud unfolded, and from the heart of each blossom came a fragrance that filled the air. The Princess was overjoyed, and gave her hand to the God of Spring.
The elder brother, the God of Autumn, was filled with rage when he heard how his brother had obtained the wondrous robe. He refused to give the promised cask of saké. When the mother learned that the god had broken his word, she placed stones and salt in the hollow of a bamboo cane, wrapped it round with bamboo leaves, and hung it in the smoke. Then she uttered a curse upon her first-born: "As the leaves wither and fade, so must you. As the salt sea ebbs, so must you. As the stone sinks, so must you."The terrible curse fell upon her son. While the God of Spring remains ever young, ever fragrant, ever full of mirth, the God of Autumn is old, and withered, and sad.
The Vision Of TsunuADAPTED BY FRANK RINDER
When the five tall pine-trees on the windy heights of Mionoseki were but tiny shoots, there lived in the Kingdom of the Islands a pious man. His home was in a remote hamlet surrounded by mountains and great forests of pine. Tsunu had a wife and sons and daughters. He was a woodman, and his days were spent in the forest and on the hillsides. In summer he was up at cock-crow, and worked patiently, in the soft light under the pines, until nightfall. Then, with his burden of logs and branches, he went slowly homeward. After the evening meal, he would tell some old story or legend. Tsunu was never weary of relating the wondrous tales of the Land of the Gods. Best of all he loved to speak of Fuji-yama, the mountain that stood so near his home.
In times gone by, there was no mountain where now the sacred peak reaches up to the sky; only a far-stretching plain bathed in sunlight all day. The peasants in the district were astonished, one morning, to behold a mighty hill where before had been the open plain. It had sprung up in a single night, while they slept. Flames and huge stones were hurled from its summit; the peasants feared that the demons from the under-world had come to wreak vengeance upon them. But for many generations there have been peace and silence on the heights. The good Sun-Goddess loves Fuji-yama. Every evening she lingers on his summit, and when at last she leaves him, his lofty crest is bathed in soft purple light. In the evening the Matchless Mountain seems to rise higher and higher into the skies, until no mortal can tell the place of his rest. Golden clouds enfold Fuji-yama in the early morning. Pilgrims come from far and near, to gain blessing and health for themselves and their families from the sacred mountain.
On the self-same night that Fuji-yama rose out of the earth, a strange thing happened in the mountainous district near Kyoto. The inhabitants were awakened by a terrible roar, [pg 143] which continued throughout the night. In the morning every mountain had disappeared; not one of the hills that they loved was to be seen. A blue lake lay before them. It was none other than the lute-shaped Lake Biwa. The mountains had, in truth, traveled under the earth for more than a hundred miles, and now form the sacred Fuji-yama.
As Tsunu stepped out of his hut in the morning, his eyes sought the Mountain of the Gods. He saw the golden clouds, and the beautiful story was in his mind as he went to his work.
One day the woodman wandered farther than usual into the forest. At noon he was in a very lonely spot. The air was soft and sweet, the sky so blue that he looked long at it, and then took a deep breath. Tsunu was happy.
Now his eye fell on a little fox who watched him curiously from the bushes. The creature ran away when it saw that the man's attention had been attracted. Tsunu thought, "I will follow the little fox and see where she goes." Off he started in pursuit. He soon came to a bamboo thicket. The smooth, slender stems waved dreamily, the pale green leaves still sparkled with the morning dew. But it was not this which caused the woodman to stand spellbound. On a plot of mossy grass beyond the thicket, sat two maidens of surpassing beauty. They were partly shaded by the waving bamboos, but their faces were lit up by the sunlight. Not a word came from their lips, yet Tsunu knew that the voices of both must be sweet as the cooing of the wild dove. The maidens were graceful as the slender willow, they were fair as the blossom of the cherry-tree. Slowly they moved the chessmen which lay before them on the grass. Tsunu hardly dared to breathe, lest he should disturb them. The breeze caught their long hair, the sunlight played upon it.... The sun still shone.... The chessmen were still slowly moved to and fro.... The woodman gazed enraptured.
"But now," thought Tsunu, "I must return, and tell those at home of the beautiful maidens." Alas, his knees were stiff and weak. "Surely I have stood here for many hours," he said. He leaned for support upon his axe; it crumbled into dust. Looking down he saw that a flowing white beard hung from his chin.[pg 144]
For many hours the poor woodman tried in vain to reach his home. Fatigued and wearied, he came at last to a hut. But all was changed. Strange faces peered curiously at him. The speech of the people was unfamiliar. "Where are my wife and my children?" he cried. But no one knew his name.
Finally, the poor woodman came to understand that seven generations had passed since he bade farewell to his dear ones in the early morning. While he had gazed at the beautiful maidens, his wife, his children, and his children's children had lived and died.The few remaining years of Tsunu's life were spent as a pious pilgrim to Fuji-yama, his well-loved mountain. Since his death he has been honored as a saint who brings prosperity to the people of his native country.
The Star-LoversADAPTED BY FRANK RINDER
Shokujo, daughter of the Sun, dwelt with her father on the banks of the Silver River of Heaven, which we call the Milky Way. She was a lovely maiden, graceful and winsome, and her eyes were tender as the eyes of a dove. Her loving father, the Sun, was much troubled because Shokujo did not share in the youthful pleasures of the daughters of the air. A soft melancholy seemed to brood over her, but she never wearied of working for the good of others, and especially did she busy herself at her loom; indeed she came to be called the Weaving Princess.
The Sun bethought him that if he could give his daughter in marriage, all would be well; her dormant love would be kindled into a flame that would illumine her whole being and drive out the pensive spirit which oppressed her. Now there lived, hard by, a right honest herdsman, named Kingen, who [pg 145] tended his cows on the borders of the Heavenly Stream. The Sun-King proposed to bestow his daughter on Kingen, thinking in this way to provide for her happiness and at the same time keep her near him. Every star beamed approval, and there was joy in the heavens.
The love that bound Shokujo and Kingen to one another was a great love. With its awakening, Shokujo forsook her former occupations, nor did she any longer labor industriously at the loom, but laughed, and danced, and sang, and made merry from morn till night. The Sun-King was sorely grieved, for he had not foreseen so great a change. Anger was in his eyes, and he said, "Kingen is surely the cause of this, therefore I will banish him to the other side of the River of Stars."
When Shokujo and Kingen heard that they were to be parted, and could thenceforth, in accordance with the King's decree, meet but once a year, and that upon the seventh night of the seventh month, their hearts were heavy. The leave-taking between them was a sad one, and great tears stood in Shokujo's eyes as she bade farewell to her lover-husband. In answer to the behest of the Sun-King, myriads of magpies flocked together, and, outspreading their wings, formed a bridge on which Kingen crossed the River of Heaven. The moment that his foot touched the opposite bank, the birds dispersed with noisy chatter, leaving poor Kingen a solitary exile. He looked wistfully towards the weeping figure of Shokujo, who stood on the threshold of her now desolate home.
Long and weary were the succeeding days, spent as they were by Kingen in guiding his oxen and by Shokujo in plying her shuttle. The Sun-King was gladdened by his daughter's industry. When night fell and the heavens were bright with countless lights, the lovers were wont, standing on the banks of the celestial stream, to waft across it sweet and tender messages, while each uttered a prayer for the speedy coming of the wondrous night.
The long-hoped-for month and day drew nigh, and the hearts of the lovers were troubled lest rain should fall; for the Silver River, full at all times, is at that season often in flood, and the bird-bridge might be swept away.
The day broke cloudlessly bright. It waxed and waned, and one by one the lamps of heaven were lighted. At nightfall the magpies assembled, and Shokujo, quivering with delight, crossed the slender bridge and fell into the arms of her lover. Their transport of joy was as the joy of the parched flower, when the raindrop falls upon it; but the moment of parting soon came, and Shokujo sorrowfully retraced her steps.
Year follows year, and the lovers still meet in that far-off land on the seventh night of the seventh month, save when rain has swelled the Silver River and rendered the crossing impossible. The hope of a permanent reunion still fills the hearts of the Star-Lovers, and is to them as a sweet fragrance and a beautiful vision.
The Two BrothersADAPTED BY ALEXANDER CHODSKO
Once upon a time there were two brothers whose father had left them but a small fortune. The eldest grew very rich, but at the same time cruel and wicked, whereas there was nowhere a more honest or kinder man than the younger. But he remained poor, and had many children, so that at times they could scarcely get bread to eat. At last, one day there was not even this in the house, so he went to his rich brother and asked him for a loaf of bread. Waste of time! His rich brother only called him beggar and vagabond, and slammed the door in his face.
The poor fellow, after this brutal reception, did not know which way to turn. Hungry, scantily clad, shivering with cold, his legs could scarcely carry him along. He had not the heart to go home, with nothing for the children, so he went towards the mountain forest. But all he found there were some wild pears that had fallen to the ground. He had to content himself with eating these, though they set his teeth on edge. But what was he to do to warm himself, for the east wind with its chill blast pierced him through and through. "Where shall I go?" he said; "what will become of us in the cottage? There is neither food nor fire, and my brother has driven me from his door." It was just then he remembered having heard that the top of the mountain in front of him was made of crystal, and had a fire forever burning upon it. "I will try and find it," he said, "and then I may be able to warm myself a little." So he went on climbing higher and higher till he reached the top, when he was startled to see twelve [pg 148] strange beings sitting round a huge fire. He stopped for a moment, but then said to himself, "What have I to lose? Why should I fear? God is with me. Courage!"
So he advanced towards the fire, and bowing respectfully, said: "Good people, take pity on my distress. I am very poor, no one cares for me, I have not even a fire in my cottage; will you let me warm myself at yours?" They all looked kindly at him, and one of them said: "My son, come sit down with us and warm yourself."
So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near them. But he dared not speak while they were silent. What astonished him most was that they changed seats one after another, and in such a way that each one passed round the fire and came back to his own place. When he drew near the fire an old man with long white beard and bald head arose from the flames and spoke to him thus:"Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage, work, and live honestly. Take as many embers as thou wilt, we have more than we need." And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve filled a large sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor man's shoulders, advised him to hasten home.
Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he wondered why the embers did not feel hot, and why they should weigh no more than a sack of paper. He was thankful that he should be able to have a fire, but imagine his astonishment when on arriving home he found the sack to contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers; he almost went out of his mind with joy at the possession of so much money. With all his heart he thanked those who had been so ready to help him in his need.
He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for his family. Being curious to find out how many gold pieces there were, and not knowing how to count, he sent his wife to his rich brother for the loan of a quart measure.This time the brother was in a better temper, so he lent what was asked of him, but said mockingly, "What can such beggars as you have to measure?" [pg 149] The wife replied, "Our neighbor owes us some wheat; we want to be sure he returns us the right quantity."
The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something he, unknown to his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the measure. The trick succeeded, for on getting it back he found a piece of gold sticking to it. Filled with astonishment, he could only suppose his brother had joined a band of robbers: so he hurried to his brother's cottage, and threatened to bring him before the justice of the peace if he did not confess where the gold came from. The poor man was troubled, and, dreading to offend his brother, told the story of his journey to the Crystal Mountain.
Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself, yet he was envious of the brother's good fortune, and became greatly displeased when he found that his brother won every one's esteem by the good use he made of his wealth. At last, he too determined to visit the Crystal Mountain."I may meet with as good luck as my brother," said he to himself. Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve seated round the fire as before, and thus addressed them: "I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for it is bitterly cold, and I am poor and homeless."
But one of them replied: "My son, the hour of thy birth was favorable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked, for thou hast dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy punishment."
Amazed and terrified he stood silent, not daring to speak. Meanwhile the twelve changed places one after another, each at last returning to his own seat. Then from the midst of the flames arose the white-bearded old man and spoke thus sternly to the rich man: "Woe unto the willful! Thy brother is virtuous, therefore have I blessed him. As for thee, thou are wicked, and so shalt not escape our vengeance."
At these words the twelve arose. The first seized the unfortunate man, struck him, and passed him on to the second; the second also struck him and passed him on to the third; [pg 150] and so did they all in their turn, until he was given up to the old man, who disappeared with him into the fire.
Days, weeks, months went by, but the rich man never returned, and none knew what had become of him. I think, between you and me, the younger brother had his suspicions but he very wisely kept them to himself.
The Twelve MonthsADAPTED BY ALEXANDER CHODSKO
There was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen, her own child by her dead husband, and Marouckla, his daughter by his first wife. She loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan, because she was far prettier than her own daughter. Marouckla did not think about her good looks, and could not understand why her stepmother should be angry at the sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share; she cleaned out the rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove, brought in the hay, milked the cow, and all this without any help. Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress herself in her best clothes and go to one amusement after another. But Marouckla never complained; she bore the scoldings and bad temper of mother and sister with a smile on her lips, and the patience of a lamb. But this angelic behavior did not soften them. They became even more tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily more beautiful while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother determined to get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that while she remained her own daughter would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of privation, abuse, every means was used to make the girl's life miserable. The most wicked of men could not have been more mercilessly cruel than these two vixens. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew ever sweeter and more charming.[pg 151] One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some wood-violets.
"Listen," cried she to Marouckla; "you must go up the mountain and find me some violets, I want some to put in my gown; they must be fresh and sweet-scented—do you hear?""But, my dear sister, who ever heard of violets blooming in the snow?" said the poor orphan.
"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey me?" said Helen. "Not another word; off with you. If you do not bring me some violets from the mountain forest, I will kill you." The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and with vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door upon her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow lay deep, and there was no trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw a light in the distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached the top of the mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large fire, surrounded by twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve strange beings. Of these the first three had white hair, three were not quite so old, three were young and handsome, and the rest still younger.
There they all sat silently looking at the fire. They were the twelve months of the year. The great Setchène (January) was placed higher than the others; his hair and mustache were white as snow, and in his hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while her courage returned and drawing near she said:"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the winter cold." The great Setchène raised his head and answered: "What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?" "I am looking for violets," replied the maiden. "This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see the snow everywhere?" said Setchène.
"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother [pg 152] have ordered me to bring them violets from your mountain: if I return without them they will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where they may be found?"Here the great Setchène arose and went over to the youngest of the months, and placing his wand in his hand, said: "Brother Brezène (March), do thou take the highest place."
Brezène obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire. Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the snow began to melt and the tress and shrubs to bud; the grass became green, and from between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was Spring, and the meadows were blue with violets."Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Brezène.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a large bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled the house.
"Where did you find them?" asked Helen.
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she did not even thank her stepsister for the trouble she had taken. The next day she desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries."Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the mountain: they must be very sweet and ripe." "But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?" exclaimed Marouckla. "Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me; if I don't have my strawberries I will kill you."
Then the stepmother pushed her into the yard and bolted the door. The unhappy girl made her way towards the mountain and to the large fire round which sat the twelve months. The great Setchène occupied the highest place."Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near. The great Setchène raised his head and asked: "Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?" "I am looking for strawberries," said she. "We are in the midst of winter," replied Setchène; strawberries do not grow in the snow." [pg 153]
"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and stepmother have ordered me to bring them strawberries; if I do not they will kill me. Pray, good shepherds, tell me where to find them."The great Setchène arose, crossed over to the month opposite him, and putting the wand into his hand, said: "Brother Tchervène (June), do thou take the highest place."
Tchervène obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the fire the flames leapt towards the sky. Instantly the snow melted, the earth was covered with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds began to sing, and various flowers blossomed in the forest. It was summer. Under the bushes masses of star-shaped flowers changed into ripening strawberries. Before Marouckla had time to cross herself they covered the glade, making it look like a sea of blood."Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Tchervène.
Joyfully she thanked the months, and having filled her apron ran happily home. Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the strawberries, which filled the house with their delicious fragrance."Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly. "Right up among the mountains; those from under the beech trees are not bad."
Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself; not one did she offer to her stepsister. Being tired of strawberries, on the third day she took a fancy for some fresh red apples."Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh red apples from the mountain." "Apples in winter, sister? why, the trees have neither leaves nor fruit." "Idle creature, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you bring back apples we will kill you."
As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned her out of the house. The poor girl went weeping up the mountain, across the deep snow upon which lay no human footprint, and on towards the fire round which were the twelve [pg 154] months. Motionless sat they, and on the highest stone was the great Setchène."Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near. The great Setchène raised his head. "Why com'st thou here? What dost thou seek?" asked he. "I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla. "But this is winter, and not the season for red apples," observed the great Setchène. "I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and stepmother, sent me to fetch red apples from the mountain; if I return without them they will kill me." Thereupon the great Setchène arose and went over to one of the elderly months, to whom he handed the wand, saying: "Brother Zarè (September), do thou take the highest place."
Zarè moved to the highest stone and waved his wand over the fire. There was a flare of red flames, the snow disappeared, but the fading leaves which trembled on the trees were sent by a cold northeast wind in yellow masses to the glade. Only a few flowers of autumn were visible, such as the fleabane and red gillyflower, autumn colchicums in the ravine, and under the beeches bracken and tufts of northern heather. At first Marouckla looked in vain for red apples. Then she espied a tree which grew at a great height, and from the branches of this hung the bright red fruit. Zarè ordered her to gather some quickly. The girl was delighted and shook the tree. First one apple fell, then another."That is enough," said Zarè, "hurry home." Thanking the months, she returned joyfully. Helen marveled and the stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit. "Where did you gather them?" asked the stepsister. "There are more on the mountain top," answered Marouckla. "Then why did you not bring more?" said Helen angrily; "you must have eaten them on your way back, you wicked girl."
"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them," said Marouckla. [pg 155] "I shook the tree twice; one apple fell each time. I was not allowed to shake it again, but was told to return home.""May God smite you with his thunderbolt," said Helen, striking her.
Marouckla prayed to die rather than suffer such ill-treatment. Weeping bitterly, she took refuge in the kitchen. Helen and her mother found the apples more delicious than any they had ever tasted, and when they had eaten both longed for more.
"Listen, mother," said Helen. "Give me my cloak; I will fetch some more apples myself, or else that good-for-nothing wretch will eat them all on the way. I shall be able to find the mountain and the tree. The shepherds may cry 'Stop,' but I shall not leave go till I have shaken down all the apples."
In spite of her mother's advice she put on her cloak, covered her head with a warm hood, and took the road to the mountain. The mother stood and watched her till she was lost in the distance.
Snow covered everything, not a human footprint was to be seen on its surface. Helen lost herself and wandered hither and thither. After a while she saw a light above her, and following in its direction reached the mountain top. There was the flaming fire, the twelve blocks of stone, and the twelve months. At first she was frightened and hesitated; then she came nearer and warmed her hands. She did not ask permission, nor did she speak one polite word."What has brought thee here? What dost thou seek?" said the great Setchène severely. "I am not obliged to tell you, old graybeard; what business is it of yours?" she replied disdainfully, turning her back on the fire and going towards the forest.
The great Setchène frowned, and waved his wand over his head. Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the fire went down, snow fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the mountain. Amid the fury of the storm Helen added curses against her stepsister. The cloak failed to warm her benumbed limbs. The mother kept on waiting for her; she [pg 156] looked from the window, she watched from the doorstep, but her daughter came not. The hours passed slowly, but Helen did not return.
"Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her home?" thought the mother. Then she clad herself in hood and shawl and went in search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses; it covered all things, it lay untouched by human footsteps. For long she wandered hither and thither; the icy northeast wind whistled in the mountain, but no voice answered her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked and prayed, and waited; but neither stepmother nor sister returned, they had been frozen to death on the mountain. The inheritance of a small house, a field, and a cow fell to Marouckla. In course of time an honest farmer came to share them with her, and their lives were happy and peaceful.