BRAVE SEVENTEE BAI.
SIU RAJAH, who reigned long years ago in the country of Agrabrum, had an only son to whom he was passionately attached. The Prince, whose name was Logedas, was young and handsome, and had married the beautiful Princess, Parbuttee Bai.
Now it came to pass that Siu Rajah's Wuzeer had a daughter called Seventee Bai [the Daisy Lady], who was as fair as the morning, and beloved by all for her gentleness and goodness; and when Logedas Rajah saw her, he fell in love with her, and determined to marry her. But when Siu Rajah heard of this, he was very angry, and sent for his son, and said: 'Of all that is rich and costly in my kingdom I have withheld nothing from you, and in Parbuttee Bai you have a wife as fair as heart could wish; nevertheless, if you are desirous of having a second wife, I freely give you leave; there are daughters of many neighbouring kings who would be proud to become your Queen, but it is beneath your dignity to marry a Wuzeer's daughter; and, if you do, my love for you shall not prevent my expelling you from the kingdom.' Logedas did not heed his father's threat, and he married Seventee Bai; which the Rajah learning, ordered him immediately to quit the country; but yet, because he loved him much, he gave Logedas many elephants, camels, horses, palanquins, and attendants, that he might not need help on the journey, and that his rank might be apparent to all.
So Logedas Rajah and his two young wives set forth on their travels. Before, however, they had gone very far, the Prince dismissed the whole of his retinue, except the elephant on which he himself rode, and the palanquin, carried by two men, in which his wives travelled. Thus, almost alone, he started through the jungle in search of a new home; but, being wholly ignorant of that part of the country, before they had gone very far they lost their way. The poor Princesses were reduced to a state of great misery; day after day they wandered on, living on roots, or wild berries, and the leaves of trees pounded down; and at night they were terrified by the cries of wild beasts in search of prey. Logedas Rajah became more melancholy and desponding every day; until, one night, maddened by the thought of his wives' sad condition, and unable longer to bear the sight of their distress, he got up, and casting aside his royal robes, twisted a coarse handkerchief about his head after the manner of a fakeer's turban, and throwing a long woollen cloak around him, ran away in disguise into the jungle.
A little while after he had gone, the Wuzeer's daughter awoke and found Parbuttee Bai crying bitterly. 'Sister dear,' said she, 'what is the matter?' 'Ah, sister,' answered Parbuttee Bai, 'I am crying because in my dreams I thought our husband had dressed himself like a fakeer, and run away into the jungle; and I awoke and found it was all true: he has gone and left us here alone. It would have been better we had died, than that such an evil should have befallen us.' 'Do not cry,' said Seventee Bai; 'if we cry, we are lost, for the palkee-bearers will think we are two weak women, and will run away, and leave us in the jungle, out of which we can never get by ourselves. Keep a cheerful mind and all will be well; who knows but we may yet find our husband? Meanwhile, I will dress myself in his clothes, and take the name of Seventee Rajah, and you shall be my wife: and the palkee-bearers will think it is only I that have been lost; and it will not seem very wonderful to them that in such a place as this a wild beast should have devoured me.'
Then Parbuttee Bai smiled and said, 'Sister, you speak well; you have a brave heart. I will be your little wife.'
So Seventee Bai dressed herself in her husband's clothes, and next day she mounted the elephant as he had done, and ordered the bearers to take up the palkee in which Parbuttee Bai was, and again attempt to find their way out of the jungle. The palkee-bearers wondered much to themselves what had become of Seventee Bai, and they said to one another, 'How selfish and how fickle are the rich! See now our young Rajah, who married the Wuzeer's daughter and brought all this trouble on himself thereby (and in truth 'tis said she was a beautiful lady); he seemed to love her as his own soul; but now that she has been devoured by some cruel animal in this wild jungle, he appears scarcely to mourn her death.'
After journeying for some days under the wise direction of the Wuzeer's daughter, the party found themselves getting out of the jungle, and at last they came to an open plain, in the middle of which was a large city. When the citizens saw the elephant coming, they ran out to see who was on it, and returning, told their Rajah that a very handsome Rajah, richly dressed, was riding towards the city, and that he brought with him his wife—a most lovely Princess. Whereupon the Rajah of that country sent to Seventee Bai, and asked her who she was, and why she had come. Seventee Bai replied, 'My name is Seventee Rajah. My father was angry with me, and drove me from his kingdom; and I and my wife have been wandering for many days in the jungle, where we lost our way.'
The Rajah and all his Court thought they had never seen so brave and royal-looking a Prince; and the Rajah said, that if Seventee Rajah would take service under him, he would give him as much money as he liked. To whom the Wuzeer's daughter replied, 'I am not accustomed to take service under anybody; but you are good to us in receiving us courteously and offering us your protection; therefore, give me whatever post you please, and I will be your faithful servant.' So the Rajah gave Seventee Bai a salary of £24,000 a year and a beautiful house, and treated her with the greatest confidence, consulting her in all matters of importance, and intrusting her with many State affairs; and from her gentleness and kindness, none felt envious at her good fortune, but she was beloved and honoured by all; and thus these two Princesses lived for twelve years in that city. No one suspected that Seventee Bai was not the Rajah she pretended to be; and she most strictly forbade Parbuttee Bai's making a great friend of anybody, or admitting any one to her confidence—for, she said, 'Who knows, then, but some day you may unawares reveal that I am only Seventee Bai; and, though I love you as my very sister, if that were told by you, I would kill you with my own hands.'
Now the king's palace was on the side of the city nearest to the jungle, and one night the Ranee was awakened by loud and piercing shrieks coming from that direction; so she woke her husband, and said, 'I am so frightened by that terrible noise that I cannot sleep. Send some one to see what is the matter.' And the Rajah called all his attendants, and said, 'Go down towards the jungle and see what that noise is about.' But they were all afraid, for the night was very dark, and the noise very dreadful—and they said to him, 'We are afraid to go. We dare not do so by ourselves. Send for this young Rajah who is such a favourite of yours, and tell him to go. He is brave. You pay him more than you do us all. What is the good of your paying him so much unless he can be of use when he is wanted?' So they all went to Seventee Bai's house, and when she heard what was the matter, she jumped up, and said she would go down to the jungle to see what the noise was.
This noise had been made by a Rakshas, who was standing under a gallows on which a thief had been hanged the day before. He had been trying to reach the corpse with his cruel claws; but it was just too high for him, and he was howling with rage and disappointment. When, however, the Wuzeer's daughter reached the place, no Rakshas was to be seen; but, in his stead, a very old woman, in a wonderful glittering saree, sitting wringing her withered hands under the gallows-tree, and above—the corpse, swaying about in the night wind. 'Old woman,' said Seventee Bai, 'what is the matter?' 'Alas!' said the Rakshas (for it was he), 'my son hangs above on that gallows. He is dead, he is dead! and I am too bent with age to be able to reach the rope and cut his body down.' 'Poor old woman!' said Seventee Bai; 'get upon my shoulders, and you will then be tall enough to reach your son.' So the Rakshas mounted on Seventee Bai's shoulders, who held him steady by his glittering saree. Now, as she stood there, Seventee Bai began to think the old woman was a very long time cutting the rope round the dead man's neck; and just at that moment the moon shone out from behind a cloud, and Seventee Bai, looking up, saw that instead of a feeble old woman she was supporting on her shoulders a Rakshas, who was tearing down portions of the flesh and devouring it. Horror-stricken, she sprang back, and with a shrill scream the Rakshas fled away, leaving in her hands the shining saree.
Seventee Bai did not choose to say anything about this adventure to the Ranee, not wishing to alarm her; so on returning to the palace, she merely said that the noise was made by an old woman whom she had found crying under the gallows. She then returned home, and gave the bright saree to Parbuttee Bai.
One fine day, some time after this, two of the Rajah's little daughters thought they would go and see Parbuttee Bai; and as it happened, Parbuttee Bai had on the Rakshas' saree, and was standing by the half-closed window-shutters looking out, when the Princesses arrived at her house. The little Princesses were quite dazzled by the golden saree, and running home said to their mother, 'That young Rajah's wife has the most beautiful saree we ever saw. It shines like the sun, and dazzles one's eyes. We have no sarees half so beautiful, and although you are Ranee you have none so rich as that. Why do you not get one too?'
When the Ranee heard about Parbuttee Bai's saree, she was very eager to have one like it; and she said to the Rajah, 'Your servant's wife is dressed more richly than your Ranee. I hear Parbuttee Bai has a saree more costly than any of mine. Now, therefore, I beg you to get me one like hers; for I cannot rest until I have one equally costly.'
Then the Rajah sent for Seventee Bai, and said, 'Tell me where your wife got her beautiful golden saree; for the Ranee desires to have one like it.' Seventee Bai answered, 'Noble master, that saree came from a very far country—even the country of the Rakshas. It is impossible to get one like it here; but if you will give me leave I will go and search for their country, and, if I succeed in finding it, bring you home sarees of the same kind.' And the Rajah was very much pleased, and ordered Seventee Bai to go. So she returned to her house and bade goodbye to Parbuttee Bai, and warned her to be discreet and cautious; and then mounting her horse, rode away in search of the Rakshas' country.
Seventee Bai travelled for many days through the jungle, going one hundred miles each day, and staying to rest every now and then at little villages on her road.
At last, after having gone several hundred miles, she came one day to a fine city situated on the banks of a beautiful river, and on the city walls a proclamation was painted in large letters. Seventee Bai inquired of the people what it meant, who told her that it was to say the Rajah's daughter would marry any man who could tame a certain pony belonging to her father, which was very vicious. 'Has no one been able to manage it?' asked Seventee Bai. 'No one,' they said. 'Many have tried, but failed miserably. The pony was born on the same day as the Princess. It is so fierce that no one can approach it; but when the Princess heard how wild it was, she vowed she would marry no one who could not tame it. Every one who likes is free to try.' Then Seventee Bai said, 'Show me the pony to-morrow. I think I shall be able to tame it.' They answered, 'You can try if you like, but it is very dangerous, and you are but a youth.' She replied, 'God gives his strength to the weak. I do not fear.' So she went to sleep, and early next morning they beat a drum all round the town to let every one know that another man was going to try and tame the Rajah's pony, and all the people flocked out of their houses to see the sight. The pony was in a field near the river, and Seventee Bai ran up to it, as it came running towards her intending to trample her to death, and seized it firmly by the mane, so that it could neither strike her with its fore-legs nor kick her. The pony tried to shake her off, but Seventee Bai clung firmly on, and finally jumped on its back; and when the pony found that it was mastered, it became quite gentle and tame. Then Seventee Bai, to show how completely she had conquered, put spurs to the pony to make it jump the river, and the pony immediately sprang up in the air and right across the river (which was a jump of three miles), and this it did three times (for it was strong and agile, and had never been ridden before); and when all the people saw this they shouted for joy, and ran down to the river-bank and brought Seventee Bai, riding in triumph on the pony, to see the Rajah. And the Rajah said, 'O best of men, and worthy of all honour, you have won my daughter!' So he took Seventee Bai to the palace, and paid her great honour, and gave her jewels, and rich clothes, and horses and camels innumerable. The Princess also came to greet the winner of her hand. Then they said, 'To-morrow shall be the wedding day.' But Seventee Bai replied, 'Great Rajah and beautiful Princess, I am now going on an important errand of my own Rajah's; let me, I pray you, first accomplish the duty on which I am bound, and on my way home I will come through this city and claim my bride.' At this they were both pleased, and the Rajah said, 'It is well spoken. Do not let us hinder you from keeping faith with your own Rajah. Go your way. We shall eagerly await your return, when you shall claim the Princess and all your possessions, and we will have such a gay wedding as was not since the world began.' And they went out with her to the borders of their land, and showed her on her way.
So the Wuzeer's daughter travelled on in search of the Rakshas' country, until at last one day she came in sight of another fine large town. Here she rested in the house for travellers for some days. Now the Rajah of this country had a very beautiful daughter, who was his only child, and for her he had built a splendid bath. It was like a little sea, and had high marble walls all round, with a hedge of spikes at the top of the walls—so high, that at a distance it looked like a great castle. The young Princess was very fond of it, and she vowed she would only marry a man who could jump across her bath on horseback. This had happened some years before, but no one had been able to do it, which grieved the Rajah and Ranee very much; for they wished to see their daughter happily married. And they said to her, 'We shall both be dead before you get a husband. What folly is this! to expect that any one should be able to jump over those high marble walls, with the spikes at the top.' The Princess only answered, 'Then I will never marry. It matters not; I will never have a husband who has not jumped those walls.'
So the Rajah caused it to be proclaimed throughout the land, that he would give his daughter in marriage, and great riches, to whoever could jump, on horseback, over the Princess's bath.
All this Seventee Bai learnt as soon as she arrived in the town, and she said, 'To-morrow I will try and jump over the Princess's bath.' The country people said to her, 'You speak foolishly: it is quite impossible.' She replied, 'Heaven, in which I trust, will help me.' So next day she rose up, and saddled her horse, and led him in front of the palace, and there she sprang on his back, and, going at full gallop, leapt over the marble walls, over the spikes high up in the air, and down on to the ground on the other side of the bath; and this she did three times, which, when the Rajah saw, he was filled with joy, and sent for Seventee Bai, and said, 'Tell me your name, brave Prince; for you are the only man in the world,—you have won my daughter.' Then the Wuzeer's daughter replied, 'My name is Seventee Rajah. I come from a far country on a mission from my Rajah to the country of the Rakshas; let me therefore, I pray you, first do my appointed work, and if I live to return, I will come through this country and claim my bride.' To which the Rajah consented, for he did not wish the Princess, his daughter, to undertake so long and tiresome a journey. It was therefore agreed that the Princess should await Seventee Bai's return at her father's court, and that Seventee Bai herself should immediately proceed on her journey.
From this place she went on for many, many days without adventure, and traversed a dense jungle, for her brave heart carried her through all difficulties. At last she arrived at another large city, beautifully situated by a lake, with blue hills rising behind it and sheltering it from the cutting winds; little gardens filled with pomegranates, jasmines, and other fragrant and lovely flowers reached down from the city to the water's edge.
Seventee Bai, tired with her long journey, rode up to one of the Malees' houses, where the hospitable inmates, seeing she was a stranger and weary, offered her food and shelter for the night, which she thankfully accepted.
As they all sat round the fire cooking their evening meal, Seventee Bai asked the Malee's wife about the place and the people, and what was going on in the town. 'Much excitement,' she replied, 'has for a long time been caused by our Rajah's dream, which no one can interpret.' 'What did he dream?' asked Seventee Bai. 'Ever since he was ten years old,' she replied, 'he has dreamed of a fair tree growing in a large garden. The stem of the tree is made of silver, the leaves are pure gold, and the fruit is bunches of pearls. The Rajah has inquired of all his wise men and seers where such a tree is to be found; but they all replied, "There is no such tree in the world;" wherefore he is dissatisfied and melancholy. Moreover, the Princess, his daughter, hearing of her father's dream, has determined to marry no man save the finder of this marvellous tree.' 'It is very odd,' said Seventee Bai; and, their supper being over, she dragged her mattress outside the little house (as a man would have done), and, placing it in a sheltered nook near the lake, knelt down, as her custom was, to say her prayers before going to sleep.
As she knelt there, with her eyes fixed on the dark water, she saw, on a sudden, a glorious shining light coming slowly towards her, and discovered, in a minute or two more, that a very large cobra was crawling up the steps from the water's edge, having in his mouth an enormous diamond, the size and shape of an egg, that sparkled and shone like a little sun, or as if one of the stars had suddenly dropped out of heaven. The cobra laid the diamond down at the top of the steps, and crawled away in search of food. Presently returning, when the night was far spent, he picked up the diamond again, and slid down the steps with it into the lake. Seventee Bai knew not what to make of this, but she resolved to return to the same place next night and watch for the cobra.
Again she saw him bring the diamond in his mouth, and take it away with him after his evening meal; and again, a third night the same thing. Then Seventee Bai determined to kill the cobra, and if possible secure the diamond. So early next morning she went into the Bazaar, and ordered a blacksmith to make her a very strong iron trap, which should catch hold of anything it was let down upon so firmly as to require the strength of twelve men to get out of it. The blacksmith did as he was ordered, and made a very strong trap; the lower part of it was like knives, and when it caught hold of anything it required the strength of twelve men to break through it and escape.
Seventee Bai had this trap hung up by a rope to a tree close to the lake, and all around she scattered flowers and sweet scents, such as cobras love; and at nightfall she herself got into the tree just above the trap, and waited for the cobra to come as he was wont.
About twelve o'clock the cobra came up the steps from the lake in search of food. He had the diamond in his mouth, and, attracted by the sweet scents and flowers, instead of going into the jungle, he proceeded towards the tree in which Seventee Bai was.
When Seventee Bai saw him, she untied the rope and let down the trap upon him; but for fear he might not be quite dead, she waited till morning before going to get the diamond.
As soon as the sun was up, she went to look at her prey. There he lay cold and dead, with the diamond, which shone like a mountain of light, in his mouth. Seventee Bai took it, and, tired by her night of watching, thought she would bathe in the lake before returning to the Malee's cottage. So she ran and knelt down by the brink, to dip her hands and face in the cool water; but no sooner did she touch its surface with the diamond, than it rolled back in a wall on either hand, and she saw a pathway leading down below the lake, on each side of which were beautiful houses, and gardens full of flowers, red, and white, and blue. Seventee Bai resolved to see whither this might lead, so she walked down the path until she came opposite a large door. She opened it, and found herself in a more lovely garden than she had ever seen on earth; tall trees laden with rich fruit grew in it, and on the boughs were bright birds singing melodiously, while the ground was covered with flowers, among which flew many gaudy butterflies.
In the centre of the garden grew one tree more beautiful than all the rest: the stem was of silver, the leaves were golden, and the fruit was clusters of pearls. Swinging amid the branches sat a young girl, more fair than any earthly lady; she had a face like the angels which men only see in dreams; her eyes were like two stars, her golden hair fell in ripples to her feet; she was singing to herself. When she saw the stranger, she gave a little cry, and said, 'Ah, my lord, why do you come here?' Seventee Bai answered, 'May I not come to see you, beautiful lady?' Then the lady said 'O sir, you are welcome; but if my father sees you here he will kill you. I am the great Cobra's daughter, and he made this garden for me to play in, and here I have played these many, many years all alone, for he lets me see no one, not even of our own subjects. I never saw any one before you. Speak, beautiful Prince—tell me how you came here, and who you are.' Seventee Bai answered, 'I am Seventee Rajah: have no fear—the stern Cobra is no more.' Then the Lady was joyful, when she heard that the Cobra who had tyrannised over her was dead, and she said her name was Hera Bai [the Diamond Lady], and that she was possessor of all the treasures under the lake; and she said to Seventee Bai, 'Stay with me here, you shall be king of all this country, and I will be your wife.' 'That cannot be,' answered Seventee Bai, 'for I have been sent on a mission by my Rajah, and I must continue my journey until I have accomplished it; but if you love me as I love you, come rather with me to my own land, and you shall be my wife.' Hera Bai shook her head:—'Not so, dearest,' she said, 'for if I go with you, all the people will see how fair I am, and they will kill you, and sell me for a slave; and so I shall bring evil upon you, and not good. But take this flute, dear husband' (and saying this, she gave Seventee Bai a little golden flute); 'whenever you wish to see me, or are in need of my aid, go into the jungle and play upon it, and before the sound ceases I will be there; but do not play it in the towns, nor yet amid a crowd.' Then Seventee Bai put the flute in the folds of her dress, and she bade farewell to Hera Bai and went away.
When she came back to the Malee's cottage, the Malee's wife said to her, 'We became alarmed about you, sir; for two days we have seen nothing of you; and we thought you must have gone away. Where have you been so long?' Seventee Bai answered, 'I had business of my own in the Bazaar' (for she did not choose to tell the Malee's wife that she had been under the lake); 'now go and inquire what time your Rajah's Wuzeer can give a stranger audience, for I must see him before I leave this city.' So the Malee's wife went; and whilst she was gone, Seventee Bai returned to the edge of the lake, and there reverently burnt the cobra's body, both for the sake of Hera Bai, and because the cobra is a sacred animal. Next day (the Malee's wife having brought a favourable answer from the palace), Seventee Bai went to see the Wuzeer. Now the Wuzeer wondered much why she came to see him, and he said, 'Who are you, and what is your errand?' Whereupon she answered, 'I am Seventee Rajah. I am going a long journey on my own Rajah's account, and happening to be passing through this city, I came to pay you a friendly visit.' Then the Wuzeer became quite cordial, and talked with Seventee Bai about the country, and the city, and the Rajah and his wonderful dream. And Seventee Bai said, 'What do you suppose your Rajah would give to any one who could show him this tree of which he has so often dreamed?' The Wuzeer replied, 'He would certainly give him his daughter in marriage, and the half of his kingdom.' 'Very well,' said Seventee Bai, 'tell your master, that upon these conditions, if he likes to send for me, I will show him the tree; he may look at it for one night, but he cannot have it for his own.'
The Wuzeer took the message to the Rajah, and next day the Wuzeer, the Sirdars, and all the great men of the Court, went in state by the Rajah's order to the Malee's hut, to say that he was willing to grant Seventee Rajah's demands, and would like to see the tree that very night. Seventee Bai thereupon promised the Wuzeer that if the Rajah would come with his Court, he should see the reality of his dream. Then she went into the jungle and played on her little flute, and Hera Bai immediately appeared as she had seen her before, swinging in the silver tree; and when she heard what Seventee Bai wanted, she bade her bring the Rajah, who should see it without fail.
When the Rajah came, he and all his Court were overcome with astonishment; for there, in the midst of the desolate jungle, was a beautiful palace: fountains played in every court, the rooms were richly decorated with thousands and thousands of shining jewels; a light as clear as day filled all the place, soft music was played around by unseen hands, sweet odours filled the air, and in the midst of the palace-garden there grew a silver tree, with golden leaves, and fruit of pearls.
The next morning all had disappeared; but the Rajah, enchanted with what he had seen, remained true to his promise, and agreed to give Seventee Bai the half of his kingdom, and his daughter in marriage; for, said he to himself, 'a man who can convert the jungle into a Paradise in one night, must surely be rich enough and clever enough to be my son-in-law.' But Seventee Bai said, 'I am now employed on an errand of my Rajah's; let me first accomplish it, I pray you, and on my homeward journey I will remain a while in this town, and will marry the Princess.' So they gave him leave to go, and the Rajah and all the great men of his kingdom accompanied Seventee Bai to the borders of their land. Thence the Wuzeer's daughter went on journeying many days until she had left that country far behind; but as yet she had gained no clue to the way to the Rakshas' land. In this difficulty she bethought her of Hera Bai, and played upon the little golden flute. Hera Bai immediately appeared, saying, 'Husband, what can I do for you?' Seventee Bai answered, 'Kind Hera, I have now been wandering in this jungle for many days, vainly endeavouring to discover the Rakshas' country, whither my Rajah has ordered me to go. Can you help me to get there?' She answered, 'You cannot go there by yourself. For a six-months' journey round their land there is placed a Rakshas guard, and not a sparrow could find his way into the country without their knowledge and permission. No men are admitted there, and there are more Rakshas employed in keeping guard than there are trees on the face of the earth. They are invisible, but they would see you; and instantly tear you to pieces. Be, however, guided by me, and I will contrive a way by which you may gain what you seek. Take this ring' (and so saying, she placed a glittering ring on Seventee Bai's finger); 'it was given me by my dearest friend, the Rajah of the Rakshas' daughter, and will render you invisible. Look at that mountain, whose blue head you can just see against the sky; you must climb to the top of that, for it stands on the borders of the Rakshas' territory. When there, turn the stone on the ring I have given you towards the palm of your hand; and you will instantly fall through the earth into the space below the mountain, where the Rakshas' Rajah holds his Court, and find yourself in his daughter's presence. Tell her you are my husband; she will love and help you for my sake.' Hera Bai so saying disappeared, and Seventee Bai continued her journey until she reached the mountaintop, where she turned the ring round as she had been bidden, and immediately found herself falling through the earth, down, down, down, deeper and deeper, until at last she arrived in a beautiful room, richly furnished, and hung round with cloth of gold. In every direction, as far as the eye could reach, were thousands and thousands of Rakshas; and in the centre of the room was a gold and ivory throne, on which sat the most beautiful Princess that it is possible to imagine. She was tall, and of a commanding aspect; her black hair was bound by long strings of pearl; her dress was of fine spun gold, and round her waist was clasped a zone of restless, throbbing, light-giving diamonds; her neck and her arms were covered with a profusion of costly jewels; but brighter than all shone her bright eyes, which looked full of gentle majesty. She could see Seventee Bai, although her attendants could not, because of the magic ring; and as soon as she saw her she started, and cried, 'Who are you? How came you here?' Seventee Bai answered, 'I am Seventee Rajah, the husband of the Lady Hera, and I have come here by the power of the magic ring you gave her.' The Rakshas Princess then said, 'You are welcome: but you must know that your coming is attended with much danger; for, did the guard placed around me by my father know of your presence, they would instantly put you to death, and I should be powerless to save you. Tell me, why did you come?' Seventee Bai answered, 'I came to see you, beautiful lady; tell me your name, and how it is you are here all alone.' She replied, 'I am the Rakshas' Rajah's only daughter, and my name is Tara Bai (the Star Lady), and because my father loves me very much he has built this palace for me, and placed this great guard of Rakshas all round it for many thousand miles, to prevent any one coming in or out without his permission.
'So great is the state they keep, that I seldom see my father and mother; indeed, I have not seen them for several years. Nevertheless, I will go now in person to implore their protection for you; for though I never saw King nor Prince before, I love you very much.'
So saying, she arose to go to her father's Court, bidding Seventee Bai await her return.
When the Rajah and Ranee of the Rakshas heard that their daughter was coming to see them, they were very much surprised, and thought, 'What can be the matter with our daughter. Can she be ill? or can our Tara Bai be unhappy in the beautiful house we have given her?' And they said to her, 'Daughter, why do you come? what is the matter?' She answered, 'O my father! I come to tell you I should like to be married. Cannot you find some beautiful Prince to be my husband?' Then the Rajah laughed, and said, 'You are but a child still, my daughter; nevertheless, if you wish for a husband, certainly if any Prince comes here, and asks you in marriage, we will let you wed him.' She said, 'If some brave and beautiful Prince were to come here, and get through the great guard you have placed around the palace, would you indeed protect him for my sake, and not allow them to tear him in pieces?' The Rajah answered, 'If such a one come, he shall be safe.' Then Tara Bai was very joyful, and ran and fetched Seventee Bai, and said to her father and mother, 'See, here is Seventee Rajah, the young Prince of whom I spoke.' And when the Rajah and Ranee saw Seventee Bai, they were greatly astonished, and could not think how she had managed to reach their land, and they thought she must be very brave and wise to have done so. And because also Seventee Bai looked a very noble Prince, they were the more willing that she should marry Tara Bai, and said, 'Seventee Rajah, we are willing you should be our son-in-law, for you look good and true, and you must be brave, to have come so long and dangerous a journey for your wife; now, therefore, you shall be married; the whole land is open to you, and all that we have is yours, only take good care of our dear daughter, and if ever she or you are unhappy, return here and you shall find a home with us.' So the wedding took place amidst great rejoicings. The wedding festivities lasted twelve days, and to it came hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Rakshas from every country under heaven; from the north, and the south, and the east, and the west, from the depths of the earth, and the uttermost parts of the sea. Troop after troop they came flocking in, an ever-increasing crowd, from all parts of this wide world, to be present at the marriage of their master's daughter.
It would be impossible to count all the rich and costly presents that the Rakshas' Rajah and Ranee gave Tara Bai. There were jewels enough to fill the seas; diamonds and emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls; gold and silver, costly hangings, carved ebony and ivory,—more than a man could count in a hundred years; for the Rajah gave his daughter a guard of 100,000,000,000,000 Rakshas, and each Rakshas carried a bundle of riches, and each bundle was as big as a house! and so they took leave of the Rakshas' Rajah and Ranee, and left the Rakshas' country.
When they got to the land of the Rajah who had dreamed about the silver tree, with leaves of gold, and fruit of pearl (because the number of their retinue was so great, that if they had come into a country they would have devoured all that was in it like a swarm of locusts), Seventee Bai and Tara Bai determined that Tara Bai should stay with the guard of Rakshas in the jungle, on the borders of the Rajah's dominions, and that Seventee Bai should go to the city, as she had promised, to marry the Rajah's daughter. And there they stayed a week, and the Rajah's daughter was married with great pomp and ceremony to Seventee Bai; and when they left the city the Rajah gave Seventee Bai and the bride, his daughter, horses and camels and elephants, and rich robes and jewels innumerable; and he and all his court accompanied them to the borders of the land.
Thence they went to the country where lived the Princess whose great marble bath Seventee Bai had jumped over; and there Seventee Bai was married to her, amid great rejoicings, and the wedding was one of surpassing splendour, and the wedding festivities lasted for three whole days.
And leaving that city, they travelled on until they reached the city where Seventee Bai had tamed the Rajah's wild pony, and there they spent two days in great honour and splendour, and Seventee Bai married that Princess also; then with her five wives,—that is to say, Hera Bai the Rajah of the Cobra's daughter, Tara Bai the Rajah of the Rakshas' daughter, and the three other Princesses—and a great tribe of attendants and elephants and camels and horses, she returned to the city where she had left Parbuttee Bai.
Now when the news was brought to Seventee Bai's master (the friendly Rajah) of the great cavalcade that was approaching his city, he became very much alarmed, taking Seventee Bai for some strange Rajah who had come to make war upon him. When Seventee Bai heard how alarmed he was, she sent a messenger to him, on a swift horse, to say, 'Be not dismayed, it is only thy servant Seventee Rajah, returning from the errand on which thou didst send him.' Then the Rajah's heart was light, and he ordered a royal salute to be fired, and went out with all his court to meet Seventee Bai, and they all went together in a state procession into the city. And Seventee Bai said to the Rajah, 'You sent your servant to the Rakshas' country to fetch a golden saree for the Ranee. Behold, I have done as you wish.' And so saying she gave to the Rajah five Rakshas' bundles of rich hangings and garments covered with jewels (that is to say, five housefuls of costly things; for each Rakshas carried as much in the bundle on his shoulders as a house would hold); and to the Wuzeer she gave two bundles.
After this, Seventee Bai discharged almost all her immense train of attendants (lest they should create a famine in the land), sending them to their own houses with many valuable presents; and she took the three Princesses, her wives, to live with her and Parbuttee Bai; but Hera Bai and Tara Bai, on account of their high rank and their surpassing beauty, had a splendid palace of their own in the jungle, of which no one knew but Seventee Bai.
Now when she again saw Seventee Bai, the Rajah's little daughter said to her father, 'Father, I do not think there is such a brave and beautiful Prince in all the world as this Seventee Rajah. I would rather have him for my husband than any one else.' And the Rajah said, 'Daughter, I am very willing you should marry him.' So it was settled Seventee Bai should marry the little Princess; but she said to the Rajah, 'I am willing to marry your daughter, but we must have a very grand wedding; give me time, therefore, to send into all the countries round, and invite all their Rajahs to be present at the ceremony.' And to this the Rajah agreed.
Now, about this time, Seventee Bai one day found Parbuttee Bai crying, and said to her, 'Little sister, why are you unhappy?' Parbuttee Bai answered, 'O sister, you have brought us out of all our difficulties, and won us honour and great riches, but yet I do not feel merry; for I cannot help thinking of our poor husband, who is now, may be, wandering about, a wretched beggar, and I long with my whole heart to see him again.' Then Seventee Bai said, 'Well, cheer up, do not cry; mind those women do not find out I am not Seventee Rajah. Keep a good heart, and I will try and find your husband for you.' So Seventee Bai went into the jungle palace to see Hera Bai, and said to her, 'I have a friend whom I have not seen since he became mad twelve years ago, and ran away into the jungle disguised as a Fakeer. I should like very much to find out if he is still alive. How can I learn?' Now Hera Bai was a very wise Princess, and she answered, 'Your best plan will be to provide a great feast for the poor, and cause it to be proclaimed in all lands, far and near, that you are about to give it as a thank-offering for the blessings God has bestowed on you. The poor will flock from all countries to come to it, and perhaps among the rest you may find your friend.'
Seventee Bai did as Hera Bai had advised, causing two long tables to be spread in the jungle, whereat hundreds of poor from all parts of the world were daily entertained; and every day, for six months, Seventee Bai and Parbuttee Bai walked down the long rows of people, apparently to see how they were getting on, but in reality to look for Logedas Rajah; but they found him not.
At last one day, as Seventee Bai was going her accustomed round, she saw a wretched wild-looking man, black as pitch, with tangled hair, a thin wrinkled face, and in his hand a wooden bowl, such as Fakeers carry about to collect broken meat and scraps of bread in; and, touching Parbuttee Bai, she said to her, 'See, Parbuttee, there is your husband.' When Parbuttee Bai saw this pitiful sight (for it was indeed Logedas; but so changed and altered that even his wives hardly recognised him) she began to cry. Then Seventee Bai said, 'Do not cry; go home quickly. I will take care of him.' And when Parbuttee Bai was gone, she called one of the guard and said to him, 'Catch hold of that man and put him in prison.' Then Logedas Rajah said, 'Why do you seize me? I have done no harm to any one.' But Seventee Bai ordered the guard not to heed his remonstrances, but to take him to prison instantly, for she did not wish the people around to discover how interested she was in him. So the guard took Logedas Rajah away to lock him up. Poor Logedas Rajah said to them, 'Why has this wicked Rajah had me taken prisoner? I have harmed no one. I have not fought, nor robbed; but for twelve years I have been a wretched beggar, living on the bread of charity.' For he did not tell them he was a Rajah's son, for he knew they would only laugh at him. They replied, 'You must not call our Rajah wicked; it is you that are wicked, and not he, and doubtless he will have your head cut off.'
When they put him in prison he begged them again to say what was to be done to him. 'Oh!' said they, 'you will certainly be hanged to-morrow morning, or perhaps, if you like it better, beheaded, in front of the palace.'
Now as soon as Seventee Bai got home, she sent for her head servants, and said to them, 'Go at once to the prison, and order the guard to give you up the Fakeer I gave into their charge, and bring him here in a palanquin, but see that he does not escape.' Then Seventee Bai ordered them to lock up Logedas in a distant part of the palace, and commanded that he should be washed, and dressed in new clothes, and given food, and that a barber should be sent for, to cut his hair and trim his beard. Then Logedas said to his keepers, 'See how good the Rajah is to me! He will not surely hang me after this.' 'Oh! never fear,' they answered; 'when you are dressed up and made very smart, it will be a much finer sight to see you hanged than before.' Thus they tried to frighten the poor man. After this Seventee Bai sent for all the greatest doctors in the kingdom, and said to them, 'If a Rajah wanders about for twelve years in the jungle, until all trace of his princely beauty is lost, how long will it take you to restore him to his original likeness?' They answered, 'With care and attention it may be done in six months.' 'Very well,' said Seventee Bai, 'there is a friend of mine now in my palace of whom this is the case. Take him and treat him well, and at the end of six months I shall expect to see him restored to his original health and strength.'
So Logedas was placed under the doctors' care; but all this time he had no idea who Seventee Bai was, nor why he was thus treated. Every day Seventee Bai went to see him and talk to him. Then he said to his keepers, 'See, good people, how kind this great Rajah is, coming to see me every day; he can intend for me nothing but good.' To which they would answer, 'Do not be in a hurry; none can fathom the hearts of kings. Most probably, for all this delay, he will in the end have you taken and hanged.' Thus they amused themselves by alarming him.
Then, some day, when Seventee Bai had been more than usually kind, Logedas Rajah would say again, 'I do not fear the Rajah's intentions towards me. Did you not notice how very kind he was to-day?' And to this his keepers would reply—
'Doubtless it is very amusing for him, but hardly so, we should think, for you. He will probably play with you for some time (as a cat does with a mouse); but in three months is the Rajah's birthday: most likely he is keeping you to kill you then.' And so the time wore on.
Seventee Bai's birthday was fixed for the day also of her marriage with the Rajah's daughter. For this great event immense preparations were made. All over the plain outside the city walls, tents made of cloth of gold were pitched in a great square, twelve miles long and twelve miles broad, for the accommodation of the neighbouring Rajahs, and in the centre was a larger tent than all the rest, covered with jewels, and shining like a great golden temple, in which they were to assemble.
Then Seventee Bai said to Parbuttee Bai, 'On my birthday I will restore you to your husband.' But Parbuttee Bai was vexed, and said, 'I cannot bear the thought of him: it is such a terrible thing to think of our once handsome husband as none other than that miserable Fakeer.'
Seventee Bai smiled. 'In truth,' she said, 'I think you will find him again altered, and for the better. You cannot think what a change rest and care have made in him; but he does not know who we are, and as you value my happiness, tell no one now that I am not the Rajah.' 'Indeed I will not, dearest sister,' answered Parbuttee Bai. 'I should in truth be loath to vex you, after all you have done for me; for owing to you here have we lived happily for twelve years like sisters, and I do not think as clever a woman as you was ever before born in this world.'
Amongst other guests invited to the wedding were Siu Rajah and his wife, and the Wuzeer, Seventee Bai's father, and her mother. Seventee Bai arranged thrones for them all, made of gold, and emeralds, and diamonds, and rubies, and ivory. And she ordered that in the seat of honour on her left-hand side should be placed the Wuzeer her father, and next to him her mother, and next to them Siu Rajah and his wife, and after them all the other Rajahs and Ranees, according to their rank; and all the Rajahs and Ranees wondered much that the place of honour should have been given to the stranger Wuzeer. Then Seventee Bai took her most costly Rajah dress, and ordered that Logedas Rajah should be clothed in it, and escorted to the tent; and she took off the man's clothes which she had worn, and dressed herself in a saree. When she was dressed in it she looked a more lovely woman than she had before looked a handsome man. And she went to the tent leading Parbuttee Bai, while with her came Hera Bai and Tara Bai of more than mortal beauty, and the three other Princesses clothed in the most costly robes. Then, before all the Rajah's and Ranees, Seventee Bai knelt down at Logedas Rajah's feet, and said to him, 'I am your true wife. O husband, have you forgotten her whom you left in the jungle with Parbuttee Bai twelve years ago? See here she also is; and behold these rich jewels, these tents of gold, these hangings of priceless worth, these elephants, camels, horses, attendants, and all this wealth. It is all yours, as I am yours; for I have collected all for you.'
Then Logedas Rajah wept for joy, and Siu Rajah arose and kissed Seventee Bai, and said to her, 'My noble daughter, you have rescued my son from misery, and done more wisely and well than woman ever did before. May all honour and blessing attend you henceforth and for ever!'
And the assembled Rajahs and Ranees were surprised beyond measure, saying, 'Did any one ever hear of a woman doing so much!' But more than any was the good Rajah astonished, whom Seventee Bai had served so well for twelve years, and whose daughter she was to have married that day; when he learnt that she was a woman! It was then agreed by all, that Logedas Rajah should on that day be newly married to his two wives, Parbuttee Bai and Seventee Bai; and should also marry the six other beautiful Princesses—the Princess Hera Bai, the Princess Tara Bai, the Rajah's little daughter, and the three other Princesses; and that he should return with his father to his own kingdom. And the weddings took place amid great splendour and rejoicings unheard of; and of all the fine things that were seen and done on that day it is impossible to tell. And afterwards Logedas Rajah, and his eight wives, and his father and mother, and the Wuzeer and his wife, and all their attendants, returned to their own land, where they all lived very happily ever after. And so may all who read this story live happily too!
- Or Singh Rajah, the Lion King.
- I am indebted to Sir Charles Trevelyan for pointing out that this is undoubtedly no other than 'Agrabhum,' the 'Land' or 'District' of Agra; as Bèrbhúm, the Land of Heroes; jonam-bhúm, the land of one's birth; Virabhúm, Manbhúm, and many others.
- 'Chrysanthemum indicum.' Commonly called 'Christmas Daisy' in Bombay.