Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit
S. M. Mitra and Nancy Bell
Part 2 out of 3
34. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?
The Jewelled Arrow.
In the city of Vardhamana in India there lived a powerful king named
Vira-Bhuja, who, as was the custom in his native land, had many wives,
each of whom had several sons. Of all his wives this king loved best
the one named Guna-Vara, and of all his sons her youngest-born, called
Sringa-Bhuja, was his favourite. Guna-Vara was not only very beautiful
but very good. She was so patient that nothing could make her angry,
so unselfish that she always thought of others before herself, and
so wise that she was able to understand how others were feeling,
however different their natures were from her own.
Sringa-Bhuja, the son of Guna-Vara, resembled his mother in her beauty
and her unselfishness; he was also very strong and very clever, whilst
his brothers were quite unlike him. They wanted to have everything
their own way, and they were very jealous indeed of their father's
love for him. They were always trying to do him harm, and though they
often quarrelled amongst themselves, they would band together to try
and hurt him.
It was very much the same with the king's wives. They hated Guna-Vara,
because their husband loved her more than he did them, and they
constantly came to him with stories they had made up of the wicked
things she had done. Amongst other things they told the king that
Guna-Vara did not really love him but cared more for some one else
than she did for him. The most bitter of all against her was the
wife called Ayasolekha, who was cunning enough to know what sort of
tale the king was likely to believe. The very fact that Vira-Bhuja
loved Guna-Vara so deeply made him more ready to think that perhaps
after all she did not return his affection, and he longed to find
out the truth. So he in his turn made up a story, thinking by its
means to find out how she felt for him. He therefore went one day
to her private apartments, and having sent all her attendants away,
he told her he had some very sad news for her which he had heard from
his chief astrologer. Astrologers, you know, are wise men, who are
supposed to be able to read the secrets of the stars, and learn from
them things which are hidden from ordinary human beings. Guna-Vara
therefore did not doubt that what her husband was about to tell her
was true, and she listened eagerly, her heart beating very fast in
her fear that some trouble was coming to those she loved.
Great indeed was her sorrow and surprise, when Vira-Bhuja went on
to say that the astrologer had told him that a terrible misfortune
threatened him and his kingdom and the only way to prevent it was to
shut Guna-Vara up in prison for the rest of her life. The poor queen
could hardly believe that she had heard rightly. She knew she had
done no wrong, and could not understand how putting her in prison
could help anybody. She was quite sure that her husband loved her,
and no words could have expressed her pain at the thought of being
sent away from him and her dear son. Yet she made no resistance,
not even asking Vira-Bhuja to let her see Sringa-Bhuja again. She
just bowed her beautiful head and said: "Be it unto me as my Lord
wills. If he wishes my death, I am ready to lay down my life."
This submission made the king feel even more unhappy than before. He
longed to take his wife in his arms and tell her he would never let
her go; and perhaps if she had looked at him then, he would have
seen all her love for him in her eyes, but she remained perfectly
still with bowed head, waiting to hear what her fate was to be. Then
the thought entered Vira-Bhuja's mind: "She is afraid to look at me:
what Ayasolekha said was true."
1. Can true love suspect the loved one of evil?
2. Is true love ever jealous?
So the king summoned his guards and ordered them to take his wife
to a strong prison and leave her there. She went with them without
making any resistance, only turning once to look lovingly at her
husband as she was led away. Vira-Bhuja returned to his own palace and
had not been there very long when he got a message from Ayasolekha,
begging him to give her an interview, for she had something of very
great importance to tell him. The king consented at once, thinking
to himself, "perhaps she has found out that what she told me about
my dear Guna-Vara is not true."
Great then was his disappointment when the wicked woman told him she
had discovered a plot against his life. The son of Guna-Vara and some
of the chief men of the kingdom, she said, had agreed together to kill
him, so that Sringa-Bhuja might reign in his stead. She and some of
the other wives had overheard conversations between them, and were
terrified lest their beloved Lord should be hurt. The young prince,
she declared, had had some trouble in persuading the nobles to help
him, but he had succeeded at last.
Vira-Bhuja simply could not believe this story, for he trusted his
son as much as he loved him; and he sent the mischief maker away,
telling her not to dare to enter his presence again. For all that
he could not get the matter out of his head. He had Sringa-Bhuja
carefully watched; and as nothing against him was found out, he
was beginning to feel more easy in his mind, and even to think of
going to see Guna-Vara in her prison to ask her to confide in him,
when something happened which led him to fear that after all his
dear son was not true to him. This was what made him uneasy. He had
a wonderful arrow, set with precious jewels, which had been given to
him by a magician, and had the power of hitting without fail whatever
it was aimed at from however great a distance. The very day he had
meant to visit his ill-treated wife, he missed this arrow from the
place in which he kept it concealed. This distressed him very much;
and after seeking it in vain, he summoned all those who were employed
in the palace to his presence, and asked if any of them knew anything
about the arrow. He promised that he would forgive any one who helped
him to get it back, even if it were the thief himself; but added that,
if it was not found in three days, he would have all the servants
beaten until the one who had stolen it confessed.
3. Do you think this was the best way to find out who had taken
4. How would you have set about learning the truth if you had been
Now the fact of the matter was that Ayasolekha, who had told the
wicked story about Guna-Vara, knew where the king kept the arrow,
had taken it to her private rooms, and had sent for her own sons
and those of the other wives, all of whom hated Sringa-Bhuja, to
tell them of a plot to get their brother into disgrace, "You know,"
she said to them, "how much better your father loves Sringa-Bhuja
than he does any of you; and that, when be dies, he will leave the
kingdom and all his money to him. Now I will help you to prevent this
by getting rid of Sringa-Bhuja.
"You must have a great shooting match, in which your brother will
be delighted to take part, for he is very proud of his skill with
the bow and arrow. On the day of the match, I will send for him and
give him the jewelled arrow belonging to your father to shoot with,
telling him the king had said I might lend it to him. Your father
will then think he stole it and order him to be killed."
The brothers were all delighted at what they thought a very clever
scheme, and did just what Ayasolekha advised. When the day came,
great crowds assembled to see the shooting at a large target set up
near the palace. The king himself and all his court were watching the
scene from the walls, and it was difficult for the guards to keep the
course clear. The brothers, beginning at the eldest, all pretended to
try and hit the target; but none of them really wished to succeed,
because they thought that, when Sringa-Bhuja's turn came, as their
father's youngest son, he would win the match with the jewelled
arrow. Then the king would order him to be brought before him, and
he would be condemned to death or imprisonment for life.
Now, as very often happens, something no one in the least expected
upset the carefully planned plot. Just as Sringa-Bhuja was about to
shoot at the target, a big crane flew on to the ground between him and
it, so that it was impossible for him to take proper aim. The brothers,
seeing the bird and anxious to shoot it for themselves, all began to
clamour that they should be allowed to shoot again. Nobody made any
objection, and Sringa-Bhuja stood aside, with the jewelled arrow in
the bow, waiting to see what they would do, but feeling sure that
he would be the one to kill the bird. Brother after brother tried,
but the great creature still remained untouched, when a travelling
mendicant stepped forward and cried aloud:
"That is no bird, but an evil magician who has taken that form
to deceive you all. If he is not killed before he takes his own
form again, he will bring misery and ruin upon this town and the
You know perhaps that mendicants or beggars in India are often holy
men whose advice even kings are glad to listen to; so that, when
everyone heard what this beggar said, there was great excitement and
terror. For many were the stories told of the misfortunes Rakshas or
evil magicians had brought on other cities. The brothers all wanted
to try their luck once more, but the beggar checked them, saying:
"No, no. Where is your youngest brother Sringa-Bhuja? He alone
will be able to save your homes, your wives and your children,
Then Sringa-Bhuja came forward; and as the sun flashed upon the jewels
in the stolen arrow, revealing to the watching king that it was his
own beloved son who had taken it, the young prince let it fly straight
for the bird. It wounded but did not kill the crane, which flew off
with the arrow sticking in its breast, the blood dripping from it in
its flight, which became gradually slower and slower. At the sight
of the bird going off with the precious jewelled arrow, the king was
filled with rage, and sent orders that Sringa-Bhuja should be fetched
to his presence immediately. But before the messengers reached him,
he had started in pursuit of the bird, guided by the blood-drops on
5. Did the brothers show wisdom in the plot they laid against their
6. What do you think from this story, so far as you have read it,
were the chief qualities of Sringa-Bhuja?
As Sringa-Bhuja sped along after the crane, the beggar made some
strange signs in the air with the staff he used to help him along;
and such clouds of dust arose that no one could see in which direction
the young prince had gone. The brothers and Ayasolekha were very much
dismayed at the way things had turned out, and greatly feared that
the king's anger would vent itself on them, now that Sringa-Bhuja
had disappeared. Vira-Bhuja did send for them, and asked them many
questions; but they all kept the secret of how Sringa-Bhuja had got the
arrow, and promised to do all they could to help to get it back. Again
the king thought he would go and see the mother of his dear youngest
son; but again something held him back, and poor Guna-Vara was left
alone, no one ever going near her except the gaoler who took her
her daily food. After trying everything possible to find out where
Sringa-Bhuja had gone, the king began to show special favour to
another of his sons; and as the months passed by, it seemed as if
the young prince and the jewelled arrow were both forgotten.
Meanwhile Sringa-Bhuja travelled on and on in the track of the drops
of blood, till he came to the outskirts of a fine forest, through
which many beaten paths led to a very great city. He sat down to
rest at the foot of a wide-spreading tree, and was gazing up at the
towers and pinnacles of the town, rising far upwards towards the sky,
when he had a feeling that he was no longer alone. He was right:
for, coming slowly along one of the paths, was a lovely young girl,
singing softly to herself in a beautiful voice. Her eyes were like
those of a young doe, and her features were perfect in their form
and expression, reminding Sringa-Bhuja of his mother, whom he was
beginning to fear he would never see again.
When the young girl was quite close to him, he startled her by saying,
"Can you tell me what is the name of this city?"
"Of course, I can," she replied, "for I live in it. It is called
Dhuma-Pura, and it belongs to my father: he is a great magician
named Agni-Sikha, who loves not strangers. Now tell me who you are
and whence you come?"
Then Sringa-Bhuja told the maiden all about himself, and why he was
wandering so far from home. The girl, whose name was Rupa-Sikha,
listened very attentively; and when he came to the shooting of the
crane, and how he had followed the bleeding bird in the hope of
getting back his father's jewelled arrow, she began to tremble.
"Alas, alas!" she said. "The bird you shot was my father, who can
take any form he chooses. He returned home but yesterday, and I drew
the arrow from his wound and dressed the hurt myself. He gave me the
jewelled arrow to keep, and I will never part with it. As for you,
the sooner you depart the better; for my father never forgives, and
he is so powerful that you would have no chance of escape if he knew
you were here."
Hearing this, Sringa-Bhuja became very sad, not because he was
afraid of Agni-Sikha, but because he knew that he already loved the
fair maiden who stood beside him, and was resolved to make her his
wife. She too felt drawn towards him and did not like to think of
his going away. Besides this, she had much to fear from her father,
who was as cruel as he was mighty, and had caused the death already
of many lovers who had wished to marry her. She had never cared for
any of them, and had been content to live without a husband, spending
her life in wandering about near her home and winning the love of all
who lived near her, even that of the wild creatures of the forest,
who would none of them dream of hurting her. Often and often she stood
between the wrath of her father and those he wished to injure; for,
wicked as he was, he loved her and wanted her to be happy,
7. Do you think that a really wicked man is able to love any one truly?
8. What would have been the best thing for Sringa-Bhuja to do, when
he found out who the bird he had shot really was?
Rupa-Sikha did not take long to decide what was best for her to
do. She said to the prince, "I will give you back your golden arrow,
and you must make all possible haste out of our country before my
father discovers you are here."
"No! no! no! a thousand times no!" cried the prince. "Now I have once
seen you, I can never, never leave you. Can you not learn to love
me and be my wife?" Then he fell prostrate at her feet, and looked
up into her face so lovingly that she could not resist him. She
bent down towards him, and the next moment they were clasped in
each other's arms, quite forgetting all the dangers that threatened
them. Rupa-Sikha was the first to remember her father, and drawing
herself away from her lover, she said to him:
"Listen to me, and I will tell you what we must do. My father is a
magician, it is true, but I am his daughter, and I inherit some of
his powers. If only you will promise to do exactly as I tell you,
I think I may be able to save you, and perhaps even become your
wife. I am the youngest of a large family and my father's favourite. I
will go and tell him that a great and mighty prince, hearing of his
wonderful gifts, has come to our land to ask for an interview with
him. Then I will tell him that I have seen you, fallen in love with
you, and want to marry you. He will be flattered to think his fame
has spread so far, and will want to see you, even if he refuses to
let me be your wife. I will lead you to his presence and leave you
with him alone. If you really love me, you will find the way to win
his consent; but you must keep out of his sight till I have prepared
the way for you. Come with me now, and I will show you a hiding-place."
Rupa-Sikha then led the prince far away into the depths of the forest,
and showed him a large tree, the wide-spreading branches of which
touched the ground, completely hiding the trunk, in which there
was an opening large enough for a man to pass through. Steps cut
in the inside of the trunk led down to a wide space underground;
and there the magician's daughter told her lover to wait for her
return. "Before I go," she said, "I will tell you my own password,
which will save you from death if you should be discovered. It is
LOTUS FLOWER; and everyone to whom you say it, will know that you
are under my protection."
When Rupa-Sikha reached the palace she found her father in a very bad
humour, because she had not been to ask how the wound in his breast
was getting on. She did her best to make up for her neglect; and when
she had dressed the wound very carefully, she prepared a dainty meal
for her father with her own hands, waiting upon him herself whilst
he ate it. All this pleased him, and he was in quite an amiable mood
when she said to him:
"Now I must tell you that I too have had an adventure. As I was
gathering herbs in the forest, I met a man I had never seen before,
a tall handsome young fellow looking like a prince, who told me he
was seeking the palace of a great and wonderful magician, of whose
marvellous deeds he had heard. Who could that magician have been but
you, my father?" She added, "I told him I was your daughter, and he
entreated me to ask you to grant him an interview."
Agni-Sikha listened to all this without answering a word. He was
pleased at this fresh proof that his fame had spread far and wide;
but he guessed at once that Rupa-Sikha had not told him the whole
truth. He waited for her to go on, and as she said no more, he suddenly
turned angrily upon her and in a loud voice asked her:
"And what did my daughter answer?"
Then Rupa-Sikha knew that her secret had been discovered. And rising
to her full height, she answered proudly, "I told him I would seek
you and ask you to receive him. And now I will tell you, my father,
that I have seen the only man I will ever marry; and if you forbid
me to do so, I will take my own life, for I cannot live without him."
"Send for the man immediately," cried the magician, "and you shall
hear my answer when he appears before me."
"I cannot send," replied Rupa-Sikha, "for none knows where I have
left him; nor will I fetch him till you promise that no evil shall
At first Agni-Sikha laughed aloud and declared that he would do no such
thing. But his daughter was as obstinate as he was; and finding that
he could not get his own way unless he yielded to her, he said crossly:
"He shall keep his fine head on his shoulders, and leave the palace
alive; but that is all I will say."
"But that is not enough," said Rupa-Sikha. "Say after me, Not a hair
of his head shall be harmed, and I will treat him as an honoured guest,
or your eyes will never rest on him."
At last the magician promised, thinking to himself that he would find
some way of disposing of Sringa-Bhuja, if he did not fancy him for
a son-in-law. The words she wanted to hear were hardly out of her
father's mouth before Rupa-Sikha sped away, as if on the wings of
the wind, full of hope that all would be well. She found her lover
anxiously awaiting her, and quickly explained how matters stood. "You
had better say nothing about me to my father at first," she said;
"but only talk about him and all you have heard of him. If only you
could get him to like you and want to keep you with him, it would
help us very much. Then you could pretend that you must go back to
your own land; and rather than allow you to do so, he will be anxious
for us to be married and to live here with him."
9. Do you think the advice Rupa-Sikha gave to Sringa-Bhuja was good?
10. Can you suggest anything else she might have done?
Sringa-Bhuja loved Rupa-Sikha so much that he was ready to obey her
in whatever she asked. So he at once went with her to the palace. On
every side he saw signs of the strength and power of the magician. Each
gate was guarded by tall soldiers in shining armour, who saluted
Rupa-Sikha but scowled fiercely at him. He knew full well that, if
he had tried to pass alone, they would have prevented him from doing
so. At last the two came to the great hall, where the magician was
walking backwards and forwards, working himself into a rage at being
kept waiting. Directly he looked at the prince, he knew him for the
man who had shot the jewelled arrow at him when he had taken the form
of a crane, and he determined that he would be revenged. He was too
cunning to let Sringa-Bhuja guess that he knew him, and pretended to
be very glad to see him. He even went so far as to say that he had
long wished to find a prince worthy to wed his youngest and favourite
daughter. "You," he added, "seem to me the very man, young, handsome
and--to judge from the richness of your dress and jewels--able to
give my beloved one all she needs."
The prince could hardly believe his ears, and Rupa-Sikha also was
very much surprised. She guessed however that her father had some evil
purpose in what he said, and looked earnestly at Sringa-Bhuja in the
hope of making him understand. But the prince was so overjoyed at the
thought that she was to be his wife that he noticed nothing. So when
Agni-Sikha added, "I only make one condition: you must promise that
you will never disobey my commands, but do whatever I tell you without
a moment's hesitation," Sringa-Bhuja, without waiting to think, said
at once, "Only give me your daughter and I will serve you in any way
"That's settled then!" cried the magician, and he clapped his hands
together. In a moment a number of attendants appeared, and their master
ordered them to lead the prince to the best apartments in the palace,
to prepare a bath for him, and do everything he asked them.
11. What great mistake did the prince make when he gave this promise?
12. What answer should he have made?
As Sringa-Bhuja followed the servants, Rupa-Sikha managed to whisper
to him, "Beware! await a message from me!" When he had bathed and was
arraying himself in fresh garments provided by his host, waited on,
hand and foot, by servants who treated him with the greatest respect,
a messenger arrived, bearing a sealed letter which he reverently
handed to the prince. Sringa-Bhuja guessed at once from whom it came;
and anxious to read it alone, he hastily finished his toilette and
dismissed the attendants.
"My beloved," said the letter--which was, of course, from
Rupa-Sikha--"My father is plotting against you; and very foolish were
you to promise you would obey him in all things. I have ten sisters
all exactly like me, all wearing dresses and necklaces which are exact
copies of each other, so that few can tell me from the others, Soon
you will be sent for to the great Hall and we shall all be together
there. My father will bid you choose your bride from amongst us; and if
you make a mistake all will be over for us. But I will wear my necklace
on my head instead of round my neck, and thus will you know your own
true love. And remember, my dearest, to obey no future command without
hearing from me, for I alone am able to outwit my terrible father,"
Everything happened exactly as Rupa-Sikha described. The prince
was sent for by Agni-Sikha, who, as soon as he appeared, gave him a
garland of flowers and told him to place it round the neck of the
maiden who was his promised bride. Without a moment's hesitation
Sringa-Bhuja picked out the right sister; and the magician, though
inwardly enraged, pretended to be so delighted at this proof of a
lover's clear-sightedness that he cried:
"You are the son-in-law for me! The wedding shall take place
13. Can you understand how it was that the magician did not notice
the trick Rupa-Sikha had played upon him?
14. What fault blinds people to the truth more than any other?
When Sringa-Bhuja heard what Agni-Sikha said, he was full of joy;
but Rupa-Sikha knew well that her father did not mean a word of
it. She waited quietly beside her lover, till the magician bade all
the sisters but herself leave the hall. Then the magician, with a
very wicked look on his face, said:
"Before the ceremony there is just one little thing you must do for me,
dear son-in-law that is to be. Go outside the town, and near the most
westerly tower you will find a team of oxen and a plough awaiting
you. Close to them is a pile of three hundred bushels of sesame
seed. This you must sow this very day, or instead of a bridegroom
you will be a dead man to-morrow."
Great was the dismay of Sringa-Bhuja when he heard this. But Rupa-Sikha
whispered to him, "Fear not, for I will help you." Sadly the prince
left the palace alone, to seek the field outside the city; the guards,
who knew he was the accepted lover of their favourite mistress,
letting him pass unhindered. There, sure enough, near the western
tower were the oxen, the plough and a great pile of seed. Never before
had poor Sringa-Bhuja had to work for himself, but his great love for
Rupa-Sikha made him determine to do his best. So he was about to begin
to guide the oxen across the field, when, behold, all was suddenly
changed. Instead of an unploughed tract of land, covered with weeds,
was a field with rows and rows of regular furrows. The piles of seed
were gone, and flocks of birds were gathering in the hope of securing
some of it as it lay in the furrows.
As Sringa-Bhuja was staring in amazement at this beautiful scene,
he saw Rupa-Sikha, looking more lovely than ever, coming towards
him. "Not in vain," she said to him, "am I my father's daughter. I
too know how to compel even nature to do my will; but the danger is
not over yet. Go quickly back to the palace, and tell Agni-Sikha that
his wishes are fulfilled."
15. Can the laws of nature ever really be broken?
16. What is the only way in which man can conquer nature?
The magician was very angry indeed when he heard that the field was
ploughed and the seed sown. He knew at once that some magic had
been at work, and suspected that Rupa-Sikha was the cause of his
disappointment. Without a moment's hesitation he said to the prince:
"No sooner were you gone than I decided not to have that seed sown. Go
back at once, and pile it up where it was before."
This time Sringa-Bhuja felt no fear or hesitation, for he was sure
of the power and will to help him of his promised bride. So back he
went to the field, and there he found the whole vast space covered
with millions and millions of ants, busily collecting the seed and
piling it up against the wall of the town. Again Rupa-Sikha came
to cheer him, and again she warned him that their trials were not
yet over. She feared, she said, that her father might prove stronger
than herself; for he had many allies at neighbouring courts ready to
help him in his evil purposes. "Whatever else he orders you to do,
you must see me before you leave the palace. I will send my faithful
messenger to appoint a meeting in some secret place."
Agni-Sikha was not much surprised when the prince told him that his
last order had been obeyed, and thought to himself, "I must get this
tiresome fellow out of my domain, where that too clever child of mine
will not be able to help him." "Well," he said, "I suppose the wedding
must take place to-morrow after all, for I am a man of my word. We
must now set about inviting the guests. You shall have the pleasure
of doing this yourself: then my friends will know beforehand what a
handsome young son-in-law I shall have. The first person to summon
to the wedding is my brother Dhuma Sikha, who has taken up his abode
in a deserted temple a few miles from here. You must ride at once to
that temple, rein up your steed opposite it, and cry, 'Dhuma Sikha,
your brother Agni-Sikha has sent me hither to invite you to witness
my marriage with his daughter Rupa-Sikha to-morrow. Come without
delay!' Your message given, ride back to me; and I will tell you what
farther tasks you must perform before the happy morrow dawns."
When Sringa-Bhuja left the palace, he knew not where to seek a horse
to bear him on this new errand. But as he was nearing the gateway by
which he had gone forth to sow the field with seed, a handsome boy
approached him and said, "If my lord will follow me, I will tell him
what to do." Somehow the voice sounded familiar; and when the guards
were left far enough behind to be out of hearing, the boy looked up
at Sringa-Bhuja with a smile that revealed Rupa-Sikha herself. "Come
with me," she said; and taking his hand, she led him to a tree beneath
which stood a noble horse, richly caparisoned, which pawed the ground
and whinnied to its mistress, as she drew near.
"You must ride this horse," said Rupa-Sikha, "who will obey you if
you but whisper in his ear; and you must take earth, water, wood and
fire with you, which I will give you. You must go straight to the
temple, and when you have called out your message, turn without a
moment's delay, and ride for your life as swiftly as your steed will
go, looking behind you all the time. No guidance will be necessary;
for Marut--that is my horse's name--knows well what he has to do."
Then Rupa-Sikha gave Sringa-Bhuja a bowl of earth, a jar of water,
a bundle of thorns and a brazier full of burning charcoal, hanging
them by strong thongs upon the front of his saddle so that he could
reach them easily. "My father," she told him, "has given my uncle
instructions to kill you, and he will follow you upon his swift
Arab steed. When you hear him behind you, fling earth in his path;
if that does not stop him, pour out some of the water; and if he
still perseveres, scatter the burning charcoal before him."
17. Can you discover any hidden meaning in the use of earth, water,
thorns and fire, to stop the course of the wicked magician?
18. Do you think the prince loved Rupa-Sikha better than he loved
Away went the prince after he had received these instructions; and
very soon he found himself opposite the temple, with the images of
three of the gods worshipped in India to prove that it had been a
sanctuary before the magician took up his abode in it. Directly
Sringa-Bhuja shouted out his message to Dhuma-Sikha, the wicked
dweller in the temple came rushing forth from the gateway, mounted
on a huge horse, which seemed to be belching forth flames from its
nostrils as it bounded along. For one terrible moment Sringa-Bhuja
feared that he was lost; but Marut, putting forth all his strength,
kept a little in advance of the enemy, giving the prince time to
scatter earth behind him. Immediately a great mountain rose up,
barring the road, and Sringa-Bhuja felt that he was saved. He was
mistaken: for, as he looked back, he saw Dhuma-Sikha coming over
the top of the mountain. The next moment the magician was close
upon him. So he emptied his bowl of water: and, behold, a huge river
with great waves hid pursuer and pursued from each other. Even this
did not stop the mighty Arab horse, which swam rapidly across, the
rider loudly shouting out orders to the prince to stop. When the
prince heard the hoofs striking on the dry ground behind him again,
he threw out the thorns, and a dense wood sprouted up as if by magic,
which for a few moments gave fresh hope of safety to Sringa-Bhuja;
for it seemed as if even the powerful magician would be unable to get
through it. He did succeed however; but his clothes were nearly torn
off his back, and his horse was bleeding from many wounds made by
the cruel thorns. Sringa-Bhuja too was getting weary, and remembered
that he had only one more chance of checking his relentless enemy. He
could almost feel the breath of the panting steed as it drew near;
and with a loud cry to his beloved Rupa-Sikha, he threw the burning
charcoal on the road. In an instant the grass by the wayside, the
trees overshadowing it, and the magic wood which had sprung from the
thorns, were alight, burning so fiercely that no living thing could
approach them safely. The wicked magician was beaten at last, and
was soon himself fleeing away, as fast as he could, with the flames
following after him as if they were eager to consume him.
Whether his enemy ever got back to his temple, Sringa-Bhuja never
knew. Exhausted with all he had been through, the young prince was
taken back to the palace by the faithful Marut, and there he found
his dear Rupa-Sikha awaiting him. She told him that her father had
promised her that, if the prince came back, he would oppose her
marriage no longer. "For," he said, "if he can escape your uncle,
he must be more than mortal, and worthy even of my daughter." "He
does not in the least expect to see you again," added Rupa-Sikha;
"and even if he allows us to marry, he will never cease to hate you;
for I am quite sure he knows that you shot the jewelled arrow at him
when he was in the form of a crane. If I ever am your wife, he will
try to punish you through me. But have no fear: I shall know how
to manage him. Fresh powers have been lately given to me by another
uncle whose magic is stronger than that of any of my other relations."
When Sringa-Bhuja had bathed and rested, he robed himself once
more in the garments he had worn the day he first saw Rupa-Sikha;
and together the lovers went to the great hall to seek an interview
with Agni-Sikha. The magician, who had made quite sure that he had
now got rid of the unwelcome suitor for his daughter's hand, could
not contain his rage, at seeing him walk in with her as if the two
were already wedded.
He stamped about, pouring out abuse, until he had quite exhausted
himself, the lovers looking on quietly without speaking. At last,
coming close to them, Agni-Sikha shouted, in a loud harsh voice:
"So you have not obeyed my orders. You have not bid my brother to the
wedding. Your life is forfeit, and you will die to-morrow instead of
marrying Rupa-Sikha. Describe the temple in which Dhuma Sikha lives
and the appearance of its owner."
Then Sringa-Bhuja gave such an exact account of the temple, naming
the gods whose images still adorned it, and of the terrible man
riding the noble steed who had pursued him, that the magician was
convinced against his will; and knowing that he must keep his word to
Rupa-Sikha, he gave his consent for the preparations for the marriage
on the morrow to begin.
19. What is your opinion of the character of Agni-Sikha?
20. Do you think he was at all justified in the way in which he
treated his daughter and Sringa-Bhuja?
The marriage was celebrated the next day with very great pomp; and
a beautiful suite of rooms was given to the bride and bridegroom,
who could not in spite of this feel safe or happy, because they knew
full well that Agni-Sikha hated them. The prince soon began to feel
home-sick and anxious to introduce his beautiful wife to his own
people. He remembered that he had left his dear mother in prison,
and reproached himself for having forgotten her for so long. So he
said to Rupa-Sikha:
"Let us go, beloved, to my native city, Vardhamana. My heart yearns
after my dear ones there, and I would fain introduce you to them."
"My lord," replied Rupa-Sikha, "I will go with you whither you will,
were it even to the ends of the earth. But we must not let my father
guess we mean to go; for he would forbid us to leave the country and
set spies to watch our every movement. We will steal away secretly,
riding together on my faithful Marut and taking with us only what we
can carry." "And my jewelled arrow," said the prince, "that I may give
it back to my father and explain to him how I lost it. Then shall I
be restored to his favour, and maybe he will forgive my mother also."
"Have no fear," answered Rupa-Sikha: "all will surely go well with
us. Forget not that new powers have been given to me, which will save
us from my father and aid me to rescue my dear one's mother from her
Before the dawn broke on the next day, the two set forth unattended,
Marut seeming to take pride in his double burden and bearing them along
so swiftly that they had all but reached the bounds of the country
under the dominion of Agni-Sikha as the sun rose. Just as they thought
they were safe from pursuit, they heard a loud rushing noise behind;
and looking round, they saw the father of the bride close upon them on
his Arab steed, with sword uplifted in his hand to strike. "Fear not,"
whispered Rupa-Sikha to her husband. "I will show you now what I can
do." And waving her arms to and fro, as she muttered some strange
words, she changed herself into an old woman and Sringa-Bhuja into
an old man, whilst Marut became a great pile of wood by the road-side.
When the angry father reached the spot, the bride and bridegroom were
busily gathering sticks to add to the pile, seemingly too absorbed
in their work to take any notice of the angry magician, who shouted
out to them:
"Have you seen a man and a woman pass along this way?"
The old woman straightened herself, and peering, up into his face,
"No; we are too busy over our work to notice anything else."
"And what, pray, are you doing in my wood?" asked Agni-Sikha.
"We are helping to collect the fuel for the pyre of the great
magician Agni-Sikha." answered Rupa-Sikha. "Do you not know that he
The Hindus of India do not bury but burn the dead; so that it was quite
a natural thing for the people of the land over which the magician
ruled to collect the materials for the pyre or heap of wood on which
his body would be laid to be burnt. What surprised Agni-Sikha, and
in fact nearly took his breath away, was to be quietly told that he
was dead. He began to think that he was dreaming, and said to himself,
"I cannot really be dead without knowing it, so I must be asleep." And
he quietly turned his horse round and rode slowly home again. This was
just what his daughter wanted; and as soon as he was out of sight,
she turned herself, her husband and Marut, into their natural forms
again, laughing merrily, as she did so, at the thought of the ease
with which she had got rid of her father.
21. Do you think it was clever of Rupa-Sikha to make up this story?
22. Do you think it is better to believe all that you are told or to
be more ready to doubt when anything you hear seems to be unusual?
Once more the bride and bridegroom set forth on their way, and once
more they soon heard Agni-Sikha coming after them. For when he got
back to his palace, and the servants hastened out to take his horse, he
guessed that a trick had been played on him. He did not even dismount,
but just turned his horse's head round and galloped back again. "If
ever," he thought to himself, "I catch those two young people, I'll
make them wish they had obeyed me. Yes, they shall suffer for it. I
am not going to stand being defied like this."
This time Rupa-Sikha contented herself with making her husband and
Marut invisible, whilst she changed herself into a letter-carrier,
hurrying along the road as if not a moment was to be lost. She took no
notice of her father, till he reined up his steed and shouted to her:
"Have you seen a man and woman on horseback pass by?"
"No, indeed," she said: "I have a very important letter to deliver,
and could think of nothing but making all the haste possible."
"And what is this important letter about?" asked Agni-Sikha. "Can
you tell me that?"
"Oh, yes, I can tell you that," she said. "But where can you have been,
not to have heard the terrible news about the ruler of this land?"
"You can't tell me anything I don't know about him," answered the
magician, "for he is my greatest friend."
"Then you know that he is dying from a wound he got in a battle with
his enemies only yesterday. I am to take this letter to his brother
Dhuma-Sikha, bidding him come to see him before the end."
Again Agni-Sikha wondered if he were dreaming, or if he were under
some strange spell and did not really know who he was? Being able,
as he was, to cast spells on other people, he was ready to fancy the
same thing had befallen him. He said nothing when he heard that he was
wounded, and was about to turn back again when Rupa-Sikha said to him:
"As you are on horseback and can get to Dhuma-Sikha's temple quicker
than I can, will you carry the message of his brother's approaching
death to him for me, and bid him make all possible haste if he would
see him alive?"
This was altogether too much for the magician, who became sure that
there was something very wrong about him. He knew he was not wounded or
dying, but he thought he must be ill of fever, fancying he heard what
he did not. He stared fixedly at his daughter, and she stared up at
him, half-afraid he might find out who she was, but he never guessed.
"Do your own errands," he said at last; and slashing his poor innocent
horse with his whip, he wheeled round and dashed home again as fast as
he could. Again his servants ran out to receive him, and he gloomily
dismounted, telling them to send his chief councillor to him in his
private apartments. Shut up with him, he poured out all his troubles,
and the councillor advised him to see his physician without any delay,
for he felt sure that these strange fancies were caused by illness.
The doctor, when he came, was very much puzzled, but he looked as
wise as he could, ordered perfect rest and all manner of disagreeable
medicines. He was very much surprised at the change he noticed in his
patient, who, instead of angrily declaring that there was nothing the
matter with him, was evidently in a great fright about his health. He
shut himself up for many days, and it was a long time before he got
over the shock he had received, and then it was too late for him to
be revenged or the lovers.
23. Can you explain what casting a spell means?
24. Can you give an instance of a spell being cast on any one you
have heard of?
Having really got rid of Agni-Sikha, Rupa-Sikha and her husband
were very soon out of his reach and in the country belonging to
Sringa-Bhuja's father, who had bitterly mourned the loss of his
favourite son. When the news was brought to him that two strangers,
a handsome young man and a beautiful woman, who appeared to be husband
and wife, had entered his capital, he hastened forth to meet them,
hoping that perhaps they could give him news of Sringa-Bhuja. What
was his joy when he recognised his dear son, holding the jewelled
arrow, which had led him into such trouble, in his right hand, as he
guided Marat with his left! The king flung himself from his horse,
and Sringa-Bhuja, giving the reins to Rupa-Sikha, also dismounted. The
next moment he was in his father's arms, everything forgotten and
forgiven in the happy reunion.
Great was the rejoicing over Sringa-Bhuja's return and hearty was the
welcome given to his beautiful bride, who quickly won all hearts but
those of the wicked wives and sons who had tried to harm her husband
and his mother. They feared the anger of the king, when he found out
how they had deceived him, and they were right to fear. Sringa-Bhuja's
very first act was to plead for his mother to be set free. He would
not tell any of his adventures, he said, till she could hear them
too; and the king, full of remorse for the way he had treated her,
went with him to the prison in which she had been shut up all this
time. What was poor Guna-Vara's joy, when the two entered the place in
which she had shed so many tears! She could not at first believe her
eyes or ears, but soon she realised that her sufferings were indeed
over. She could not be quite happy till her beloved husband said
he knew she had never loved any one but him. She had been accused
falsely, she said, and she wanted the woman who had told a lie about
her to be made to own the truth.
This was done in the presence of the whole court, and when judgment had
been passed upon Ayasolekha, the brothers of Sringa-Bhuja were also
brought before their father, who charged them with having deceived
him. They too were condemned, and all the culprits would have been
taken to prison and shut up for the rest of their lives, if those they
had injured had not pleaded for their forgiveness. Guna-Vara and her
son prostrated themselves at the foot of the throne, and would not
rise till they had won pardon for their enemies. Ayasolekha and the
brothers were allowed to go free; but Sringa-Bhuja, though he was the
youngest of all the princes, was proclaimed heir to the crown after his
father's death. His brothers, however, never ceased to hate him; and
when he came to the throne, they gave him a great deal of trouble. He
had many years of happiness with his wife and parents before that,
and never regretted the mistake about the jewelled arrow; since but
for it he would, he knew, never have seen his beloved Rupa-Sikha.
25. What is the chief lesson to be learnt from this story?
26. Do yon think it was good for those who had told lies about
Guna-Vara and her son to be forgiven so easily?
27. Can you give any instances of good coming out of evil and of evil
coming out of what seemed good?
28. Do you think Rupa-Sikha deserved all the happiness that came
The Beetle and the Silken Thread. 
The strange adventures related in the story of the Beetle and the
Silken Thread took place in the town of Allahabad, "the City of God,"
so called because it is situated near the point of meeting of the two
sacred rivers of India, the Ganges, which the Hindus lovingly call
Mother Ganga because they believe its waters can wash away their sins,
and the Jumna, which they consider scarcely less holy.
The ruler of Allahabad was a very selfish and hot-tempered Raja named
Surya Pratap, signifying "Powerful as the Sun," who expected everybody
to obey him without a moment's delay, and was ready to punish in
a very cruel manner those who hesitated to do so. He would never
listen to a word of explanation, or own that he had been mistaken,
even when he knew full well that he was in the wrong. He had a mantri,
that is to say, a chief vizier or officer, whom he greatly trusted,
and really seemed to be fond of, for he liked to have him always near
him. The vizier was called Dhairya-Sila, or "the Patient One," because
he never lost his temper, no matter what provocation he received. He
had a beautiful house, much money and many jewels, carriages to drive
about in, noble horses to ride and many servants to wait upon him,
all given to him by his master. But what he loved best of all was
his faithful wife, Buddhi-Mati, or "the Sensible One," whom he had
chosen for himself, and who would have died for him.
Many of the Raja's subjects were jealous of Dhairya-Sila, and
constantly brought accusations against him, of none of which his master
took any notice, except to punish those who tried to set him against
his favourite. It really seemed as if nothing would ever bring harm to
Dhairya-Sila; but he often told his wife that such good fortune was not
likely to last, and that she must be prepared for a change before long.
It turned out that he was right. For one day Surya Pratap ordered
him to do what he considered would be a shameful deed. He refused;
telling his master that he was wrong to think of such a thing, and
entreating him to give up his purpose. "All your life long," he said,
"you will wish you had listened to me; for your conscience will never
let you rest!"
On hearing these brave words, Surya Pratap flew into a terrible rage,
summoned his guards, and ordered them to take Dhairya-Sila outside the
city to a very lofty tower, and leave him at the top of it, without
shelter from the sun and with nothing to eat or drink. The guards were
at first afraid to touch the vizier, remembering how others had been
punished for only speaking against him. Seeing their unwillingness,
the Raja got more and more angry; but Dhairya-Sila himself kept quite
calm, and said to the soldiers:
"I go with you gladly. It is for the master to command and for me
1. What is the best way to learn to keep calm in an emergency?
2. Why does too much power have a bad influence on those who have it?
The guards were relieved to find they need not drag the vizier away;
for they admired his courage and felt sure that the Raja would soon
find he could not get on without him. It might go hardly with them if
he suffered harm at their hands. So they only closed in about him;
and holding himself very upright, Dhairya-Sila walked to the tower
as if he were quite glad to go. In his heart however he knew full
well that it would need all his skill to escape with his life.
When her husband did not come home at night, Buddhi-Mati was very
much distressed. She guessed at once that something had gone wrong,
and set forth to try and find out what had happened. This was easy
enough; for as she crept along, with her veil closely held about her
lest she should be recognised, she passed groups of people discussing
the terrible fate that had befallen the favourite. She decided that
she must wait until midnight, when the streets would be deserted and
she could reach the tower unnoticed. It was almost dark when she got
there, but in the dim light of the stars she made out the form of him
she loved better than herself, leaning over the edge of the railing
at the top.
"Is my dear lord still alive?" she whispered, "and is there anything
I can do to help him?"
"You can do everything that is needed to help me," answered
Dhairya-Sila quietly, "if you only obey every direction I give you. Do
not for one moment suppose that I am in despair. I am more powerful
even now than my master, who has but shown his weakness by attempting
to harm me. Now listen to me. Come to-morrow night at this very hour,
bringing with you the following things: first, a beetle; secondly,
sixty yards of the finest silk thread, as thin as a spider's web;
thirdly, sixty yards of cotton thread, as thin as you can get it,
but very strong; fourthly, sixty yards of good stout twine; fifthly,
sixty yards of rope, strong enough to carry my weight; and last,
but certainly not least, one drop of the purest bees' honey."
3. Do you think the vizier thought of all these things before or
after he was taken to the tower?
4. What special quality did he display in the way in which he faced
his position on the tower?
Buddhi-Mati listened very attentively to these strange instructions,
and began to ask questions about them. "Why do you want the beetle? Why
do you want the honey?" and so on. But her husband checked her. "I have
no strength to waste in explanations," he said. "Go home in peace,
sleep well, and dream of me." So the anxious wife went meekly away;
and early the next day she set to work to obey the orders she had
received. She had some trouble in obtaining fine enough silk, so
very, very thin it had to be, like a spider's web; but the cotton,
twine and rope were easily bought; and to her surprise she was not
asked what she wanted them for. It took her a good while to choose
the beetle. For though she had a vague kind of idea that the silk,
the cotton, twine, and rope, were to help her husband get down from
the tower, she could not imagine what share the beetle and the honey
were to take. In the end she chose a very handsome, strong-looking,
brilliantly coloured fellow who lived in the garden of her home and
whom she knew to be fond of honey.
5. Can you guess how the beetle and the honey were to help in saving
6. Do you think it would have been better if the vizier had told his
wife how all the things he asked for were to be used?
All the time Buddhi-Mati was at work for her husband, she was thinking
of him and looking forward to the happy day of his return home. She
had such faith in him that she did not for a moment doubt that he
would escape; but she was anxious about the future, feeling sure
that the Raja would never forgive Dhairya-Sila for being wiser than
himself. Exactly at the time fixed the faithful wife appeared at the
foot of the tower, with all the things she had been told to bring
"Is all well with my lord?" she whispered, as she gazed up through
the darkness. "I have the silken thread as fine as gossamer, the
cotton thread, the twine, the rope, the beetle and the honey."
"Yes," answered Dhairya-Sila, "all is still well with me. I have
slept well, feeling confident that my dear one would bring all that
is needed for my safety; but I dread the great heat of another day,
and we must lose no time in getting away from this terrible tower. Now
attend most carefully to all I bid you do; and remember not to speak
loud, or the sentries posted within hearing will take alarm and drive
you away. First of all, tie the end of the silken thread round the
middle of the beetle, leaving all its legs quite free. Then rub the
drop of honey on its nose, and put the little creature on the wall,
with its nose turned upwards towards me. It will smell the honey, but
will not guess that it carries it itself, and it will crawl upwards in
the hope of getting to the hive from which that honey came. Keep the
rest of the silk firmly held, and gradually unwind it as the beetle
climbs up. Mind you do not let it slip, for my very life depends on
that slight link with you."
7. Which do you think had the harder task to perform--the husband at
the top of the tower or the wife at the foot of it?
8. Do you think the beetle was likely to imagine it was on the way
to a hive of bees when it began to creep up the tower?
Buddhi-Mati, though her hands shook and her heart beat fast as
she realized all that depended on her, kept the silk from becoming
entangled; and when it was nearly all unwound, she heard her husband's
voice saying to her: "Now tie the cotton thread to the end of the
silk that you hold, and let it gradually unwind." She obeyed, fully
understanding now what all these preparations were for.
When the little messenger of life reached the top of the tower,
Dhairya-Sila took it up in his hand and very gently unfastened the
silken thread from its body. Then he placed the beetle carefully in
a fold of his turban, and began to pull the silken thread up--very,
very slowly, for if it had broken, his wonderful scheme would have
come to an end. Presently he had the cotton thread in his fingers,
and he broke off the silk, wound it up, and placed it too in his
turban. It had done its duty well, and he would not throw it away.
"Half the work is done now," he whispered to his faithful wife. "You
have all but saved me now. Take the twine and tie it to the end of
the cotton thread."
Very happily Buddhi-Mati obeyed once more; and soon the cotton thread
and twine were also laid aside, and the strong rope tied to the last
was being quickly dragged up by the clever vizier, who knew that all
fear of death from sunstroke or hunger was over. When he had all the
rope on the tower, he fastened one end of it to the iron railing which
ran round the platform on which he stood, and very quickly slid down
to the bottom, where his wife was waiting for him, trembling with joy.
9. Do you see anything very improbable in the account of what the
10. If the beetle had not gone straight up the tower, what do you
think would have happened?
After embracing his wife and thanking her for saving him, the vizier
said to her: "Before we return home, let us give thanks to the great
God who helped me in my need by putting into my head the device
by which I escaped." The happy pair then prostrated themselves
on the ground, and in fervent words of gratitude expressed their
sense of what the God they worshipped had done for them. "And now,"
said Dhairya-Sila, "the next thing we have to do is to take the dear
little beetle which was the instrument of my rescue back to the place
it came from." And taking off his turban, he showed his wife the tiny
creature lying in the soft folds.
Buddhi-Mati led her husband to the garden where she had found the
beetle, and Dhairya-Sila laid it tenderly on the ground, fetched some
food for it, such as he knew it loved, and there left it to take up
its old way of life. The rest of the day he spent quietly in his own
home with his wife, keeping out of sight of his servants, lest they
should report his return to his master. "You must never breathe a
word to any one of how I escaped," Dhairya-Sila said, and his wife
promised that she never would.
11. When the vizier got this promise, what did he forget which could
betray how he got down from the tower, if any one went to look at it?
12. Do you think there was any need for the vizier to tell his wife
to keep his secret?
All this time the Raja was feeling very unhappy, for he thought he
had himself caused the death of the one man he could trust. He was too
proud to let anybody know that he missed Dhairya-Sila, and was longing
to send for him from the tower before it was too late. What then was
his relief and surprise when a message was brought to him that the
vizier was at the door of the palace and begged for an interview.
"Bring him in at once," cried Surya Pratap. And the next moment
Dhairya-Sila stood before his master, his hands folded on his breast
and his head bent in token of his submission. The attendants looked
on, eager to know how he had got down from the tower, some of them
anything but glad to see him back. The Raja took care not to show
how delighted he was to see him, and pretending to be angry, he said:
"How dare you come into my presence, and which of my subjects has
ventured to help you to escape the death on the tower you so richly
"None of your subjects, great and just and glorious ruler," replied
Dhairya-Sila, "but the God who created us both, making you my
master and me your humble servant. It was that God," he went on,
"who saved me, knowing that I was indeed guiltless of any crime
against you. I had not been long on the tower when help came to me
in the form of a great and noble eagle, which appeared above me,
hovering with outspread wings, as if about to swoop down upon me and
tear me limb from limb. I trembled greatly, but I need have had no
fear; for instead of harming me, the bird suddenly lifted me up in
its talons and, flying rapidly through the air, landed me upon the
balcony of my home and disappeared. Great indeed was the joy of my
wife at my rescue from what seemed to be certain death; but I tore
myself away from her embraces, to come and tell my lord how heaven
had interfered to prove my innocence."
Fully believing that a miracle had taken place, Surya Pratap asked
no more questions, but at once restored Dhairya-Sila to his old
place as vizier, taking care not again to ill-treat the man he now
believed to be under the special care of God. Though he certainly did
not deserve it, the vizier prospered greatly all the rest of his life
and as time went on he became the real ruler of the kingdom, for the
Raja depended on his advice in everything. He grew richer and richer,
but he was never really happy again, remembering the lie he had told to
the master to whom he owed so much. Buddhi-Mati could never understand
why he made up the story about the eagle, and constantly urged him to
tell the truth. She thought it was really far more wonderful that a
little beetle should have been the means of rescuing him, than that
a strong bird should have done so; and she wanted everyone to know
what a very clever husband she had. She kept her promise never to tell
anyone what really happened, but the secret came out for all that. By
the time it was known, however, Dhairya-Sila was so powerful that no
one could harm him, and when he died his son took his place as vizier,
13. What lessons can be learnt from this story?
14. What do you think was Dhairya-Sila's motive for telling the Raja
the lie about the eagle?
15. What did Surya Pratap's ready belief in the story show?
16. How do you think the secret the husband and wife kept so well
A Crow and His Three Friends
In the branches of a great tree, in a forest in India, lived a
wise old crow in a very comfortable, well-built nest. His wife was
dead, and all his children were getting their own living; so he had
nothing to do but to look after himself. He led a very easy existence,
but took a great interest in the affairs of his neighbours. One day,
popping his head over the edge of his home, he saw a fierce-looking man
stalking along, carrying a stick in one hand and a net in the other.
"That fellow is up to some mischief, I'll be bound," thought the crow:
"I will keep my eye on him." The man stopped under the tree, spread
the net on the ground; and taking a bag of rice out of his pocket,
he scattered the grains amongst the meshes of the net. Then he hid
himself behind the trunk of the tree from which the crow was watching,
evidently intending to stop there and see what would happen. The
crow felt pretty gore that the stranger had designs against birds,
and that the stick had something to do with the matter. He was quite
right; and it was not long before just what he expected came to pass.
A flock of pigeons, led by a specially fine bird who had been chosen
king because of his size and the beauty of his plumage, came flying
rapidly along, and noticed the white rice, but did not see the net,
because it was very much the same colour as the ground. Down swooped
the king, and down swept all the other pigeons, eager to enjoy a good
meal without any trouble to themselves. Alas, their joy was short
lived! They were all caught in the net and began struggling to escape,
beating the air with their wings and uttering loud cries of distress.
The crow and the man behind the tree kept very quiet, watching them;
the man with his stick ready to beat the poor helpless birds to
death, the crow watching out of mere curiosity. Now a very strange
and wonderful thing came to pass. The king of the pigeons, who had
his wits about him, said to the imprisoned birds:
"Take the net up in your beaks, all of you spread out your wings at
once, and fly straight up into the air as quickly as possible."
1. What special qualities did the king display when he gave these
orders to his subjects?
2. Can you think of any other advice the king might have given?
In a moment all the pigeons, who were accustomed to obey their leader,
did as they were bid; each little bird seized a separate thread of the
net in his beak and up, up, up, they all flew, looking very beautiful
with the sunlight gleaming on their white wings. Very soon they were
out of sight; and the man, who thought he had hit upon a very clever
plan, came forth from his hiding-place, very much surprised at what
had happened. He stood gazing up after his vanished net for a little
time, and then went away muttering to himself, whilst the wise old
crow laughed at him.
When the pigeons had flown some distance, and were beginning to
get exhausted, for the net was heavy and they were quite unused to
carrying loads, the king bade them rest awhile in a clearing of the
forest; and as they all lay on the ground panting for breath, with
the cruel net still hampering them, he said:
"What we must do now is to take this horrible net to my old friend
Hiranya the mouse, who will, I am quite sure, nibble through the
strings for me and set us all free. He lives, as you all know, near
the tree where the net was spread, deep underground; but there are
many passages leading to his home, and we shall easily find one of
the openings. Once there, we will all lift up our voices, and call to
him at once, when he will be sure to hear us." So the weary pigeons
took up their burden once more, and sped back whence they had come,
greatly to the surprise of the crow, who wondered at their coming
back to the very place where misfortune had overtaken them. He very
soon learnt the reason, and got so excited watching what was going
on, that he hopped out of his nest and perched upon a branch where
he could see better. Presently a great clamour arose, one word being
repeated again and again: "Hiranya! Hiranya! Hiranya."
"Why, that's the name of the mouse who lives down below there!" thought
the crow. "Now, what good can he do? I know, I know," he added, as
he remembered the sharp teeth of Hiranya. "That king of the pigeons
is a sensible fellow. I must make friends with him."
Very soon, as the pigeons lay fluttering and struggling outside one
of the entrances to Hiranya's retreat, the mouse came out. He didn't
even need to be told what was wanted, but at once began to nibble
the string, first setting free the king, and then all the rest of
the birds. "A friend in need is a friend indeed," cried the king;
"a thousand thousand thanks!" And away he flew up into the beautiful
free air of heaven, followed by the happy pigeons, none of them ever
likely to forget the adventure or to pick up food from the ground
without a good look at it first.
3. What was the chief virtue displayed by the mouse on this occasion?
4. Do you think it is easier to obey than to command?
The mouse did not at once return to his hole when the birds were gone,
but went for a little stroll, which brought him to the ground still
strewn with rice, which he began to eat with great relish. "It's an
ill wind," he said to himself, "which brings nobody any good. There's
many a good meal for my whole family here."
Presently he was joined by the old crow, who had flown down from his
perch unnoticed by Hiranya, and now addressed him in his croaky voice:
"Hiranya," he said, "for that I know is your name, I am called
Laghupatin and I would gladly have you for a friend. I have seen all
that you did for the pigeons, and have come to the conclusion that you
are a mouse of great wisdom, ready to help those who are in trouble,
without any thought of yourself."
"You are quite wrong," squeaked Hiranya. "I am not so silly as you make
out. I have no wish to be your friend. If you were hungry, you wouldn't
hesitate to gobble me up. I don't care for that sort of affection."
With that Hiranya whisked away to his hole, pausing at the entrance,
when he knew the crow could not get at him, to cry, "You be off to
your nest and leave me alone!"
The feelings of the crow were very much hurt at this speech, the
more that he knew full well it was not exactly love for the mouse,
which had led him to make his offer, but self-interest: for who could
tell what difficulties he himself might some day be in, out of which
the mouse might help him? Instead of obeying Hiranya, and going back
to his nest, he hopped to the mouse's hole, and putting his head on
one side in what he thought was a very taking manner, he said:
"Pray do not misjudge me so. Never would I harm you! Even if I did not
wish to have you for a friend, I should not dream of gobbling you up,
as you say, however hungry I might be. Surely you are aware that I am
a strict vegetarian, and never eat the flesh of other creatures. At
least give me a trial. Let us share a meal together, and talk the
5. Can a friendship be a true one if the motive for it is
6. Would it have been wise or foolish for the mouse to agree to be
friends with the crow?
Hiranya, on hearing the last remark of Laghupatin, hesitated, and
in the end he agreed that he would have supper with the crow that
very evening. "There is plenty of rice here," he said, "which we
can eat on the spot. It would be impossible for you to get into my
hole, and I am certainly not disposed to visit you in your nest." So
the two at once began their meal, and before it was over they had
become good friends. Not a day passed without a meeting, and when
all the rice was eaten up, each of the two would bring something to
the feast. This had gone on for some little time, when the crow,
who was fond of adventure and change, said one day to the mouse:
"Don't you think we might go somewhere else for a time? I am rather
tired of this bit of the forest, every inch of which we both know
well. I've got another great friend who lives beside a fine river
a few miles away, a tortoise named Mandharaka; a thoroughly good,
trustworthy fellow he is, though rather slow and cautious in his
ways. I should like to introduce you to him. There are quantities of
food suitable for us both where he lives, for it is a very fruitful
land. What do you say to coming with me to pay him a visit?"
"How in the world should I get there?" answered Hiranya. "It's all
very well for you, who can fly. I can't walk for miles and miles. For
all that I too am sick of this place and would like a change."
"Oh, there's no difficulty about that," replied Laghupatin. "I will
carry you in my beak, and you will get there without any fatigue at
all." To this Hiranya consented, and very early one morning the two
friends started off together.
7. Is love of change a good or a bad thing?
8. What did Hiranya's readiness to let Laghupatin carry him show?
After flying along for several hours, the crow began to feel very
tired. He was seized too with a great desire to hear his own voice
again. So he flew to the ground, laid his little companion gently down,
and gave vent to a number of hoarse cries, which quite frightened
Hiranya, who timidly asked him what was the matter.
"Nothing whatever," answered Laghupatin, "except that you are
not quite so light as I thought you were, and that I need a rest;
besides which, I am hungry and I expect you are. We had better stop
here for the night, and start again early to-morrow morning." Hiranya
readily agreed to this, and after a good meal, which was easily found,
the two settled down to sleep, the crow perched in a tree, the mouse
hidden amongst its roots. Very early the next day they were off again,
and soon arrived at the river, where they were warmly welcomed by
the tortoise. The three had a long talk together, and agreed never
to part again. The tortoise, who had lived a great deal longer than
either the mouse or the crow, was a very pleasant companion; and even
Laghupatin, who was very fond of talking himself, liked to listen to
his stories of long ago.
"I wonder," said the tortoise, whose name was Mandharaka, to the mouse,
"that you are not afraid to travel about as you have done, with your
soft little body unprotected by any armour. Look how different it
is for me; it is almost impossible for any of the wild creatures who
live near this river to hurt me, and they know it full well. See how
thick and strong my armour is. The claws even of a tiger, a wild cat
or an eagle, could not penetrate it. I am very much afraid, my little
friend, that you will be gobbled up some fine day, and Laghupatin
and I will seek for you in vain."
"Of course," said the mouse, "I know the truth of what you say;
but I can very easily hide from danger--much more easily than you or
Laghupatin. A tuft of moss or a few dead leaves are shelter enough
for me, but big fellows like you and the crow can be quite easily
seen. Nobody saw me when the pigeons were all caught except Laghupatin;
and I would have kept out of his sight if I had not known that he
did not care to eat mice."
In spite of the fears of Mandharaka, the mouse and the crow lived
as his guests for a long time without any accident; and one day they
were suddenly joined by a new companion, a creature as unlike any one
of the three friends as could possibly be imagined. This was a very
beautiful deer, who came bounding out of the forest, all eager to
escape from the hunters, by whom he had been pursued, but too weary
to reach the river, across which he had hoped to be able to swim to
safety. Just as he reached the three friends, he fell to the ground,
almost crushing the mouse, who darted away in the nick of time. Strange
to say, the hunters did not follow the deer; and it was evident that
they had not noticed the way he had gone.
The tortoise, the crow and the mouse were all very sorry for the deer,
and, as was always the case, the crow was the first to speak. "Whatever
has happened to you?" he asked. And the deer made answer:
"I thought my last hour had come this time, for the hunters were
close upon me; and even now I do not feel safe."
"I'll fly up and take a look 'round," said Laghupatin; and off he
went to explore, coming back soon, to say he had seen the hunters
disappearing a long distance off, going in quite another direction
from the river. Gradually the deer was reassured, and lay still where
he had fallen; whilst the three friends chatted away to him, telling
him of their adventures. "What you had better do," said the tortoise,
"is to join us. When you have had a good meal, and a drink from the
river, you will feel a different creature. My old friend Laghupatin
will be the one to keep watch for us all, and warn us of any danger
approaching; I will give you the benefit of my long experience;
and little Hiranya, though he is not likely to be of any use to you,
will certainly never do you any harm."
9. Is it a good thing to make friends easily?
10. What was the bond of union between the crow, the mouse, the
tortoise and the deer?
The deer was so touched by the kind way in which he had been received,
that he agreed to stop with the three friends; and for some weeks
after his arrival all went well. Each member of the party went his own
way during the day-time, but all four met together in the evening,
and took it in turns to tell their adventures. The crow always had
the most to say, and was very useful to the deer in warning him of
the presence of hunters in the forest. One beautiful moonlight night
the deer did not come back as usual, and the other three became very
anxious about him. The crow flew up to the highest tree near and
eagerly sought for some sign of his lost friend, of whom he had grown
very fond. Presently he noticed a dark mass by the river-side, just
where the deer used to go down to drink every evening. "That must be
he," thought the crow; and very soon he was hovering above the deer,
who had been caught in a net and was struggling in vain to get free.
The poor deer was very glad indeed to see the crow, and cried to
him in a piteous voice: "Be quick, be quick, and help me, before the
terrible hunters find me and kill me."
"I can do nothing for you myself," said the crow, "but I know who
can. Remember who saved the pigeons!" And away he flew to fetch
little Hiranya, who with the tortoise was anxiously awaiting his
return. Very soon Laghupatin was back by the river-side with the
little mouse in his beak; and it did not take long for Hiranya, who
had been despised by the deer and the tortoise as a feeble little
thing, to nibble through the cords and save the life of the animal
a hundred times as big as himself.
How happy the deer was when the cruel cords were loosed and he could
stretch out his limbs again! He bounded up, but took great care not
to crush the mouse, who had done him such a service. "Never, never,
never," he said, "shall I forget what you have done for me. Ask
anything in my power, and I will do it."
"I want nothing," said Hixanya, "except the joyful thought of having
By this time the tortoise had crept to the river-bank, and he too was
glad that the deer had been saved. He praised the mouse, and declared
that he would never again look down upon him. Then the four started
to go back to their usual haunt in the forest; the deer, the crow,
and the mouse soon arriving there quite safely, whilst the tortoise,
who could only get along very slowly, lagged behind. Now came the
time for him to find out that armour was not the only thing needed
to save him from danger. He had not got very far from the riverbank
before the cruel hunter who had set the net to catch the deer, came
to see if he had succeeded. Great was his rage when he found the net
lying on the ground, but not exactly where he had left it. He guessed
at once that some animal had been caught in it and escaped after a
long struggle. He looked carefully about and noticed that the cords
had been bitten through here and there. So he suspected just what
had happened, and began to search about for any creature who could
have done the mischief.
There was not a sign of the mouse, but the slow-moving tortoise was
soon discovered, and pouncing down upon him, the hunter rolled him up
in another net he had with him, and carried him off, "It's not much of
a prize," said the hunter to himself, "but better than nothing. I'll
have my revenge on the wretched creature anyhow, as I have lost the
prey I sought."
11. Which of the four friends concerned in this adventure do you
12. What was the chief mistake made by the tortoise?
When the tortoise in his turn did not come home, the deer, the crow
and the mouse were very much concerned. They talked the matter over
together and decided that, however great the risk to themselves, they
must go back and see what had become of their friend. This time the
mouse travelled in one of the eats of the deer, from which he peeped
forth with his bright eyes, hoping to see the tortoise toiling along
in his usual solemn manner; whilst the crow, also on the watch, flew
along beside them. Great was the surprise and terror of all three when,
as they came out of the forest, they saw the hunter striding along
towards them, with the tortoise in the net under his arm. Once more the
little mouse showed his wisdom. Without a moment's hesitation he said
to the deer: "Throw yourself on the ground and pretend to be dead;
and you," he added to the crow, "perch on his head and bend over as
if you were going to peck out his eyes."
Without any idea what Hiranya meant by these strange orders,
but remembering how he had helped in other dangers, the two did as
they were told; the poor deer feeling anything but happy lying still
where his enemy was sure to see him, and thereby proving what a noble
creature he was. The hunter did, see him very soon, and thinking to
himself, "After all I shall get that deer," he let the tortoise fall,
and came striding along as fast as he could.
Up jumped the deer without waiting to see what became of the tortoise,
and sped away like the wind. The hunter rushed after him, and the
two were soon out of sight. The tortoise, whose armour had saved
him from being hurt by his fall, was indeed pleased when he saw
little Hiranya running towards him. "Be quick, be quick!" he cried,
"and set me free." Very soon the sharp teeth of the mouse had bitten
through the meshes of the net, and before the hunter came back, after
trying in vain to catch the deer, the tortoise was safely swimming
across the river, leaving the net upon the ground, whilst the crow
and the mouse were back in the shelter of the forest.
"There's some magic at work here," said the hunter when, expecting
to find the tortoise where he had left him, he discovered that his
prisoner had escaped. "The stupid beast could not have got out alone,"
he added, as he picked up the net and walked off with it. "But he
wasn't worth keeping anyhow."
That evening the four friends met once more, and talked over all they
had gone through together. The deer and the tortoise were full of
gratitude to the mouse, and could not say enough in his praise, but
the crow was rather sulky, and remarked: "If it had not been for me,
neither of you would ever have seen Hiranya. He was my friend before
he was yours."
"You are right," said the tortoise, "and you must also remember that it
was my armour which saved me from being killed in that terrible fall."
"Your armour would not have been of much use to you, if the hunter had
been allowed to carry you to his home," said the deer. "In my opinion
you and I both owe our lives entirely to Hiranya. He is small and
weak, it is true, but he has better brains than any of the rest of us,
and I for one admire him with all my heart. I am glad I trusted him
and obeyed him, when he ordered me to pretend to be dead, for I had
not the least idea how that could help the tortoise."
"Have it your own way," croaked the crow, "but I keep my own opinion
all the same. But for me you would never have known my dear little
In spite of this little dispute the four friends were soon as happy
together as before the adventure of the tortoise. They once more
agreed never to part and lived happily together for many years,
as they had done ever since they first met.
13. What were the chief differences in the characters of the four
14. Are those who are alike or unlike in character more likely to
15. How would you describe a true friend?
16. What fault is more likely than any other to lead to loss of
A Clever Thief.
A certain man, named Hari-Sarman, who lived in a little village
in India, where there were no rich people and everyone had to work
hard to get his daily bread, got very weary of the life he had to
lead. He had a wife whose name was Vidya, and a large family; and
even if he had been very industrious it would have been difficult for
him to get enough food for them all. Unfortunately he was not a bit
industrious, but very lazy, and so was his wife. Neither of them made
any attempt to teach their boys and girls to earn their own living;
and if the other poor people in the village had not helped them,
they would have starved. Hari-Sarman used to send his children out
in different directions to beg or steal, whilst he and Vidya stayed
at home doing nothing.
One day he said to his wife: "Let us leave this stupid place, and
go to some big city where we can pick up a living of some kind. I
will pretend to be a wise man, able to find out secrets; and you
can say that you know all about children, having had so many of
your own." Vidya gladly agreed to this, and the whole party set out,
carrying the few possessions they had with them. In course of time they
came to a big town, and Hari-Sarman went boldly to the chief house in
it, leaving his wife and children outside. He asked to see the master,
and was taken into his presence. This master was a very rich merchant,
owning large estates in the country; but he cannot have been very
clever, for he was at once quite taken in by the story Hari-Sarman
told him. He said that he would find work for him and his wife, and
that the children could be sent to a farm he had, in the country,
where they could be made very useful.
Overjoyed at this, Hari-Sarman hastened out to tell his wife the good
news; and the two were at once received into the grand residence,
in which a small room was given to them for their own, whilst the
children were taken away to the farm, fall of eager delight at the
change from the wretched life they had been leading.
1. Would it have been better for Hari-Sarman and Vidya if their
neighbours had not helped them?
2. Do you think Hari-Sarman was the only person to blame for his
Soon after the arrival of the husband and wife at the merchant's
house, a very important event took place, namely, the marriage of
the eldest daughter. Great were the preparations beforehand, in which
Vidya took her full share, helping in the kitchen to make all manner
of delicious dishes, and living in great luxury herself. For there
was no stint in the wealthy home; even the humblest servants were
well cared for. Vidya was happier than she had ever been before, now
that she had plenty to do and plenty of good food. She became in fact
quite a different creature, and began to wish she had been a better
mother to her children. "When the wedding is over," she thought,
"I will go and see how they are getting on." On the other hand she
forgot all about her husband and scarcely ever saw him.
It was all very different with Hari-Sarman himself. He had no
special duties to perform and nobody seemed to want him. If he went
into the kitchen, the busy servants ordered him to get out of their
way; and he was not made welcome by the owner of the house or his
guests. The merchant too forgot all about him, and he felt very
lonely and miserable. He had been thinking to himself how much he
would enjoy all the delicious food he would get after the wedding;
and now he began to grumble: "I'm starving in the midst of plenty,
that's what I am. Something will have to be done to change this
horrible state of things."
Whilst the preparations for the wedding were going on, Vidya never
came near her husband, and he lay awake a long time thinking,
"What in the world can I do to make the master send for me?" All of
a sudden an idea came into his head. "I'll steal something valuable,
and hide it away; and when everyone is being asked about the loss,
the merchant will remember the man who can reveal secrets. Now what
can I take that is sure to be missed? I know, I know!" And springing
out of bed, he hastily dressed himself and crept out of the house.
3. What would you have done if you had been Hari-Sarman?
4. Do you think Vidya ever had any real love for her husband?
This was what Hari-Sarman decided to do. The merchant had a great many
very beautiful horses, which lived in splendid stables and were taken
the greatest possible care of. Amongst them was a lovely little Arab
mare, the special favourite of the bride, who often went to pet it and
give it sugar. "I'll steal that mare and hide it away in the forest,"
said the wicked man to himself. "Then, when every one is hunting for
her, the master will remember the man who can reveal secrets and send
for me. Ah! Ah! What a clever fellow I am! Ah the stablemen and grooms
are feasting, I know; for I saw them myself when I tried to get hold
of my wife. I can climb through a window that is always left open." It
turned out that he was right. He met no one on his way to the stables,
which ware quite deserted. He got in easily, opened, the door from
inside, and led out the little mare, which made no resistance; she
had always been so kindly treated that she was not a bit afraid. He
took the beautiful creature far into the depths of the forest, tied
her up there, and got safely back to his own room without being seen.
Early the next morning the merchant's daughter, attended by her
maidens, went to see her dear little mare, taking with her an extra
supply of sugar. What was her distress when she found the stall
empty! She guessed at once that a thief had got in during the night,
and hurried home to tell her father, who was very, very angry with the
stablemen who had deserted their posts, and declared they should all be
flogged for it. "But the first thing to do is to get the mare back,"
he said; and he ordered messengers to be sent in every direction,
promising a big reward to anyone who brought news of the mare.
Vidya of course heard all there was to hear, and at once suspected
that Hari-Sarman had had something to do with the matter. "I expect he
has hidden the mare," she thought to herself, "and means to get the
reward for finding it." So she asked to see the master of the house,
and when leave was granted to her she said to him:
"Why do you not send for my husband, the man who can reveal secrets,
because of the wonderful power that has been given him of seeing
what is hidden from others? Many a time has he surprised me by what
he has been able to do."
5. Do you think Vidya had any wish to help Hari-Sarman for his
6. Is there anything you think she should have done before seeing
On hearing what Vidya said, the merchant at once told her to go
and fetch her husband. But to her surprise Hari-Sarman refused to
go back with her. "You can tell the master what you like," he said,
angrily. "You all forgot me entirely yesterday; and now you want me
to help you, you suddenly remember my existence. I am not going to
be at your beck and call or anyone else's."
Vidya entreated him to listen to reason, but it was no good. She had
to go back and tell the merchant that he would not come. Instead of
being made angry by this, however, the master surprised her by saying:
"Your husband is right. I have treated him badly. Go and tell him I
apologise, and will reward him well, if only he will come and help me."
Back again went Vidya and this time she was more successful. But though
Hari-Sarman said he would go back with her, he was very sulky and
would not answer any of her questions. She could not understand him,
and wished she had not left him to himself for so long. He behaved
very strangely too when the master, who received him very kindly,
asked him if he could tell him where the mare was. "I know," he said,
"what a wise and clever man you are."
"It didn't seem much like it yesterday," grumbled Hari-Sarman. "Nobody
took any notice of me then, but now you want something of me, you
find out that I am wise and clever. I am just the same person, that
I was yesterday."
"I know, I know," said the merchant, "and I apologise for my neglect;
but when a man's daughter is going to be married, it's no wonder some
one gets neglected."
7. Do yon think Hari-Sarman was wise to treat his wife and the merchant
as he did?
8. If the mare had been found whilst Hari-Sarman was talking to the
master, what effect do you think the discovery would have had upon
Hari-Sarman now thought it was time to take a different tone. So he
put his hand in his pocket, and brought out a map he had got ready
whilst waiting to be sent for, as he had felt sure he would be. He
spread it out before the merchant, and pointed to a dark spot in
the midst of many lines crossing each other in a bewildering manner,
which he explained were pathways through the forest. "Under a tree,
where that dark spot is, you will find the mare," he said.
Overjoyed at the good news, the merchant at once sent a trusted servant
to test the truth; and when the mare was brought back, nothing seemed
too good for the man who had led to her recovery. At the wedding
festivities Hari-Sarman was treated as an honoured guest, and no
longer had he any need to complain of not having food enough. His
wife of course thought he would forgive her now for having neglected
him. But not a bit of it: he still sulked with her, and she could
never feel quite sure what the truth was about the mare.
All went well with Hari-Sarman for a long time. But presently something
happened which seemed likely to get him into very great trouble. A
quantity of gold and many valuable jewels disappeared in the palace of
the king of the country; and when the thief could not be discovered,
some one told the king the story of the stolen mare, and how a man
called Hari-Sarman, living in the house of a rich merchant in the
chief city, had found her when everyone else had failed.
"Fetch that man here at once," ordered the king, and very soon
Hari-Sarman was brought before him. "I hear you are so wise, you can
reveal all secrets," said the king. "Now tell me immediately who has
stolen the gold and jewels and where they are to be found."
Poor Hari-Sarman did not know what to say or do. "Give me till
to-morrow," he replied in a faltering voice; "I must have a little
time to think."
"I will not give you a single hour," answered the king. For seeing
the man before him was frightened, he began to suspect he was a
deceiver. "If you do not at once tell me where the gold and jewels are,
I will have you flogged until you find your tongue."
Hearing this, Hari-Sarman, though more terrified than ever, saw
that his only chance of gaining time to make up some story was to
get the king to believe in him. So he drew himself up and answered:
"The wisest magicians need to employ means to find out the truth. Give
me twenty-four hours, and I will name the thieves."
"You are not much of a magician if you cannot find out such a simple
thing as I ask of you," said the king. And turning to the guards,
he ordered them to take Hari-Sarman to prison, and shut him up there
without food or drink till he came to his senses. The man was dragged
away, and very soon he found himself alone in a dark and gloomy room
from which he saw no hope of escape.
He was in despair and walked up and down, trying in vain to think of
some way of escape. "I shall die here of starvation, unless my wife
finds some means of setting me free," he said. "I wish I had treated
her better instead of being so sulky with her." He tried the bars
of the window, but they were very strong: he could not hope to move
them. And he beat against the door, but no notice was taken of that.
9. What lesson does the trouble Hari-Sarman was in teach?
10. Do you think it would have been better for him to tell the king
he could not reveal secrets?
When it got quite dark in the prison, Hari-Sarman began to talk to
himself aloud. "Oh," he said, "I wish I had bitten my tongue out
before I told that lie about the mare. It is all my foolish tongue
which has got me into this trouble. Tongue! Tongue!" he went on,
"it is all your fault."
Now a very strange thing happened. The money and jewels had been
stolen by a man, who had been told where they were by a young servant
girl in the palace whose name was Jihva, which is the Sanskrit word
for tongue; and this girl was in a great fright when she heard that a
revealer of secrets had been taken before the king. "He will tell of
my share in the matter," she thought, "and I shall get into trouble,"
It so happened that the guard at the prison door was fond of her,
as well as the thief who had stolen the money and jewels. So when
all was quiet in the palace, Jihva slipped away to see if she could
get that guard to let her see the prisoner. "If I promise to give him
part of the money," she thought, "he will undertake not to betray me."
The guard was glad enough when Jihva came to talk to him, and he
let her listen at the key-hole to what Hari-Sarman was saying. Just
imagine her astonishment when she heard him repeating her name again
and again. "Jihva! Jihva! Thou," he cried, "art the cause of this
suffering. Why didst thou behave in such a foolish manner, just for
the sake of the good things of this life? Never can I forgive thee,
Jihva, thou wicked, wicked one!"
"Oh! oh!" cried Jihva in an agony of terror, "he knows the truth;
he knows that I helped the thief." And she entreated the guard to
let her into the prison that she might plead with Hari-Sarman. not to
tell the king what she had done. The man hesitated at first, but in
the end she persuaded him to consent by promising him a large reward.
When the key grated in the lock, Hari-Sarman stopped talking aloud,
wondering whether what he had been saying had been overheard by the
guard, and half hoping that his wife had got leave to come and see
him. As the door opened and he saw a woman coming in by the light
of a lantern held up by the guard, he cried, "Vidya my beloved!" But
he soon realized that it was a stranger. He was indeed surprised and
relieved, when Jihva suddenly threw herself at his feet and, clinging
to his knees, began to weep and moan "Oh, most holy man," she cried
between her sobs, "who knowest the very secrets of the heart, I have
come to confess that it was indeed I, Jihva, your humble servant,
who aided the thief to take the jewels and the gold and to hide them
beneath the big pomegranate tree behind the palace."
"Rise," replied Hari-Sarman, overjoyed at hearing this. "You have told
me nothing that I did not know, for no secret is hidden from me. What
reward will you give me if I save you from the wrath of the king?"
"I will give you all the money I have," said Jihva; "and that is not
"That also I knew," said Hari-Sarman. "For you have good wages, and
many a time you have stolen money that did not belong to you. Go now
and fetch it all, and have no fear that I will betray you."
11. What mistakes do you think Jihva made in what she said to
12. What would have been the best thing for her to do when she thought
she was found out?
Without waiting a moment Jihva hurried away to fetch the money; but
when she got back with it, the man on guard, who had heard everything
that had passed between her and Hari-Sarman, would not let her in to
the prison again till she gave him ten gold pieces. Thinking that
Hari-Sarman really knew exactly how much money she had, Jihva was
afraid he would be angry when he missed some of it; and again she let
out the truth, which he might never have guessed. For she began at
once to say, "I brought all I had, but the man at the door has taken
ten pieces." This did vex Hari-Sarman very much, and he told her he
would let the king know what she had done, unless she fetched the thief
who had taken the money and jewels. "I cannot do that," said Jihva,
"for he is very far away. He lives with his brother, Indra Datta, in
the forest beyond the river, more than a day's journey from here." "I
did but try you," said the clever Hari-Sarman, who now knew who the
thief was; "for I can see him where he is at this moment. Now go home
and wait there till I send for you."
But Jihva, who loved the thief and did not want him to be punished,
refused to go until Hari-Sarman promised that he would not tell the
king who the man was or where he lived. "I would rather," she said,
"bear all the punishment than that he should suffer." Even Hari-Sarman
was touched at this, and fearing that if he kept Jihva longer, she
would be found in the prison by messengers from the king, he promised
that no harm should come to her or the thief, and let her go.
Very soon after this, messengers came to take Hari-Sarman once more
before the king; who received him very coldly and began at once to
threaten him with a terrible punishment, if he did not say who the
thief was, and where the gold and jewels were. Even now Hari-Sarman
pretended to be unwilling to speak. But when he saw that the king would
put up with no more delay, he said, "I will lead you to the spot where
the treasure is buried, but the name of the thief, though I know it,
I will never betray." The king, who did not really care much who
the thief was, so long as he got back his money, lost not a moment,
but ordered his attendants to get spades and follow him. Very soon
Hari-Sarman brought them to the pomegranate tree. And there, sure
enough, deep down in the ground, was all that had been lost.
Nothing was now too good for Hari-Sarman: the king was greatly
delighted, and heaped riches and honours upon him. But some of the
wise men at the court suspected that he was really a deceiver, and
set about trying to find out all they could about him. They sent
for the man who had been on guard at the prison, and asked him many
questions. He did not dare tell the truth, for he knew he would be
terribly punished if he let out that Jihva had been allowed to see
his prisoner; but he hesitated so much that the wise men knew he
was not speaking the truth. One of them, whom the king loved, and
trusted very much, whose name was Deva-Jnanin, said to his master:
"I do not like to see that man, about whom we really know nothing,
treated as he is. He might easily have found out where the treasure
was hidden without any special power. Will you not test him in some
other way in my presence and that of your chief advisers?"
The king, who was always ready to listen to reason, agreed to this;
and after a long consultation with Deva-Jnanin, he decided on a very
clever puzzle with which to try Hari-Sarman. A live frog was put into
a pitcher; the lid was shut down, and the man who pretended to know
everything was brought into the great reception room, where all the
wise men of the court were gathered together round the throne, on
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