A CERTAIN Rajah had two wives, of whom he preferred the second to the first; the first Ranee had a son, but because he was not the child of the second Ranee, his father took a great dislike to him, and treated him so harshly that the poor boy was very unhappy.
One day, therefore, he said to his mother, 'Mother, my father does not care for me, and my presence is only a vexation to him: I should be happier anywhere than here; let me therefore go, and seek my fortune in other lands.'
So the Ranee asked her husband if he would allow their son to travel. He said, 'The boy is free to go, but I don't see how he is to live in any other part of the world, for he is too stupid to earn his living, and I will give him no money to squander on senseless pleasures.' Then the Ranee told her son that he had his father's permission to travel, and said to him, 'You are going out into the world now to try your luck; take with you the food and clothes I have provided for your journey.' And she gave him a bundle of clothes and several small loaves, and in each loaf she placed a gold mohur, that on opening it he might find money as well as food inside; and he started on his journey.
When the young Rajah had travelled a long way, and left his father's kingdom far behind, he one day came upon the outskirts of a great city, where (instead of taking the position due to his rank, and sending to inform the Rajah of his arrival) he went to a poor Carpenter's house and begged of him a lodging for the night. The Carpenter was busy making wooden clogs in the porch of his house, but he looked up and nodded, saying, 'Young man, you are welcome to any assistance a stranger may need and we can give. If you are in want of food, you will find my wife and daughter in the house—they will be happy to cook for you.' The Rajah went inside, and said to the Carpenter's daughter, 'I am a stranger, and have travelled a long way; I am both tired and hungry: cook me some dinner as fast as you can, and I will pay you for your trouble.' She answered, 'I would willingly cook you some dinner at once, but I have no wood to light the fire, and the jungle is some way off.—"It matters not,' said the Rajah, 'this will do to light the fire, and I'll make the loss good to your father.' And taking a pair of new clogs which the Carpenter had just finished making, he broke them up, and lighted the fire with them.
Next morning he went into the jungle, cut wood, and having made a pair of new clogs,—better than those with which he had lighted the fire the evening before,—placed them with the rest of the goods for sale in the Carpenter's shop. Shortly afterwards one of the Rajah of that country's servants came to buy a pair of clogs for his master, and seeing these new ones, said to the Carpenter, 'Why, man, these clogs are better than all the rest put together. I will take none other to the Rajah. I wish you would always make such clogs as these.' And throwing down ten gold mohurs on the floor of the hut, he took up the clogs and went away.
The Carpenter was much surprised at the whole business. In the first place, he usually received only two or three rupees for each pair of clogs; and in the second, he knew that those which the Rajah's servant had judged worth ten gold mohurs had not been made by him; and how they had come there he could not think, for he felt certain they were not with the rest of the clogs the night before. He thought and thought, but the more he thought about the matter, the more puzzled he got, and he went to talk about it to his wife and daughter. Then his daughter said, 'Oh, those must have been the clogs the stranger made!' And she told her father how he had lighted the fire the night before with two of the clogs which were for sale, and had afterwards fetched wood from the jungle and made another pair to replace them.
The Carpenter at this news was more astonished than ever, and he thought to himself, 'Since this stranger seems a quiet, peaceable sort of man, and can make clogs so well, it is a great pity he should leave this place—he would make a good husband for my daughter;' and, catching hold of the young Rajah, he propounded his scheme to him. (But all this time he had no idea that his guest was a Rajah.)
Now the Carpenter's daughter was a very pretty girl as pretty—as any Ranee you ever saw; she was also good-tempered, clever, and could cook extremely well. So when the Carpenter asked the Rajah to be his son-in-law, he looked at the father, the mother, and the girl, and thinking to himself that many a better man had a worse fate, he said, 'Yes, I will marry your daughter, and stay here and make clogs.' So the Rajah married the Carpenter's daughter.
This Rajah was very clever at making all sorts of things in wood. When he had made all the clogs he wished to sell next day, he would amuse himself in making toys; and in this way he made a thousand wooden parrots. They were as like real parrots as possible. They had each two wings, two legs, two eyes, and a sharp beak. And when the Rajah had finished them all, he painted and varnished them, and put them one afternoon outside the house to dry.
Night came on, and with it came Parbuttee and Mahadeo, flying round the world to see the different races of men. Amongst the many places they visited was the city where the Carpenter lived; and in the garden in front of the house they saw the thousand wooden parrots which the Rajah had made and painted and varnished, all placed out to dry. Then Parbuttee turned to Mahadeo, and said, 'These parrots are very well made—they need nothing but life. Why should not we give them life?' Mahadeo answered, 'What would be the use of that? It would be a strange freak, indeed!' 'Oh,' said Parbuttee, 'I only meant you to do it as an amusement. It would be so funny to see the wooden parrots flying about! But do not do it if you don't like.' 'You would like it, then?' answered Mahadeo; 'very well, I will do it.' And he endowed the thousand parrots with life.
Parbuttee and Mahadeo then flew away.
Next morning the Rajah got up early to see if the varnish he had put on the wooden parrots was dry; but no sooner did he open the door than—marvel of marvels!—the thousand wooden parrots all came walking into the house, flapping their wings and chattering to each other.
Hearing the noise, the Carpenter and the Carpenter's wife and daughter came running out to see what was the matter, and were not less astonished than the Rajah himself at the miracle which had taken place. Then the Carpenter's wife turned to her son-in-law, and said, 'It is all very well that you should have made these wooden parrots; but I don't know where we are to find food for them! great strong parrots like these will eat not less than a pound of rice apiece every day. Your father-in-law and I cannot afford to procure as much as that for them in this poor house. If you wish to keep them, you must live elsewhere, for we cannot provide for you all.'
'Very well,' said the Rajah; 'you shall not have cause to accuse me of ruining you, for from henceforth I will have a house of my own.' So he and his wife went to live in a house of their own, and he took the thousand parrots with him, and his mother-in-law gave her daughter some corn, and rice, and money to begin housekeeping with. He soon found that the parrots, instead of being an expense, were the means of increasing his fortune; for they flew away every morning early to get food, and spent the whole day out in the fields; and every evening, when they returned home, each parrot brought in his beak a stalk of corn, or rice, or whatever it had found, good to eat. So that their master was regularly supplied with more food than enough; and what with selling what he did not require, and working at his trade, he soon became quite a rich carpenter.
After he had been living in this way very happily for some time, one night, when he fell asleep, the Rajah dreamed a wonderful dream, and this was the dream.
He thought that very, very far away, beyond the Red Sea, was a beautiful kingdom surrounded by seven other seas; and that it belonged to a Rajah and Ranee who had one lovely daughter, named Panch-Phul Ranee (the Five Flower Queen), after whom the whole kingdom was called Panch-Phul Ranee's country; and that this Princess lived in the centre of her father's kingdom, in a little house round which were seven wide ditches, and seven great hedges made of spears; and that she was called Panch-Phul Ranee, because she was so light and delicate, that she weighed no more than five white lotus-flowers! Moreover, he dreamed that this Princess had vowed to marry no one who could not cross the seven seas, and jump the seven ditches, and seven hedges made of spears.
After dreaming this, the young Rajah awoke, and feeling much puzzled, got up, and sitting with his head in his hands, tried to think the matter over, and discover if he had ever heard anything like his dream before; but he could make nothing of it.
Whilst he was thus thinking, his wife awoke, and asked him what was the matter. He told her, and she said, 'That is a strange dream. If I were you, I'd ask the old parrot about it; he is a wise bird, and perhaps he knows.' This parrot of which she spoke was the most wise of all the thousand wooden parrots. The Rajah took his wife's advice, and when all the birds came home that evening, he called the old parrot, and told him his dream, saying, 'Can this be true?' To which the parrot replied, 'It is all true. The Panch-Phul Ranee's country lies beyond the Red Sea, and is surrounded by seven seas, and she dwells in a house built in the centre of her father's kingdom. Round her house are seven ditches and seven hedges made of spears, and she has vowed not to marry any man who cannot jump these seven ditches and seven hedges; and because she is very beautiful many great and noble men have tried to do this, but in vain.
'The Rajah and Ranee, her father and mother, are very fond of her, and proud of her. Every day she goes to the palace to see them, and they weigh her in a pair of scales. They put her in one scale, and five lotus-flowers in the other, and she is so delicate and fragile, she weighs no heavier than the five little flowers, so they call her the Panch-Phul Ranee. Her father and mother are very proud of this.'
'I should like to go to that country and see the Panch-Phul Ranee,' said the Rajah; 'but I don't know how I could cross the seven seas.' 'I will show you how to manage that,' replied the old parrot. 'I and another parrot will fly close together, I crossing my left over his right wing; so as to move along as if we were one bird (using only our outside wings to fly with); you shall then sit on a chair made of our interlaced wings, and we will carry you safely across the seven seas. On the way, we will every evening alight in some high tree and rest, and every morning we can go on again.' 'That sounds a good plan; I have a great desire to try it,' said the Rajah. 'Wife, what should you think of my going to the Panch-Phul Ranee's country, and seeing if I can jump the seven ditches and seven hedges made of spears? Will you let me try?'
'Yes,' she answered. 'If you like to go and marry her, go; only take care that you do not kill yourself; and mind you come back some day.' And she prepared food for him to take with him, and took off her gold and silver bangles, which she placed in a bundle of warm things, that he might be in need neither of money nor clothes on the journey. He then charged the nine hundred and ninety-eight parrots he left behind him to bring her plenty of corn and rice daily (that she might never need food while he was away), and took her to the house of her father, in whose care she was to remain during his absence; and he wished her good-bye, saying, ' Do not fear but that I will come back to you, even if I do win the Panch-Phul Ranee, for you will always be my first wife, though you are the Carpenter's daughter.'
The old parrot and another parrot then spread their wings, on which the Rajah seated himself as on a chair, and rising up in the air, they flew away with him out of sight.
Far, far, far, they flew, as fast as parrots can fly, over hills, over forests, over rivers, over valleys, on, on, on, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, only staying to rest every night when it got too dark to see where they were going. At last they reached the seven seas which surrounded the Panch-Phul Ranee's country. When once they began crossing the seas they could not rest (for there was neither rock nor island on which to alight), so they were obliged to fly straight across them, night and day, until they gained the shore.
By reason of this, the parrots were too exhausted on their arrival to go as far as the city where the Rajah, Panch-Phul Ranee's father, lived, but they flew down to rest on a beautiful banyan-tree, which grew not far from the sea, close to a small village. The Rajah determined to go into the village, and get food and shelter there. He told the parrots to stay in the banyan-tree till his return; then, leaving his bundle of clothes, and most of his money in their charge, he set off on foot towards the nearest house.
After a little while he reached a Malee's cottage, and, giving a gold mohur to the Malee's wife, got her to provide him with food and shelter for the night.
Next morning he rose early, and said to his hostess,—'I am a stranger here, and know nothing of the place. What is the name of your country?'
'This,' she said, 'is Panch-Phul Ranee's country.'
'And what is the last news in your village?' he asked.
'Very bad news indeed,' she replied. 'You must know, our Rajah has one only daughter—a most beautiful Princess—and her name is Panch-Phul Ranee; for she is so light and delicate, that she weighs no heavier than five lotus flowers. After her this whole country is called Panch-Phul Ranee's country. She lives in a small bungalow in the centre of the city you see yonder; but, unluckily for us, she has vowed to marry no man who cannot jump on foot over the seven hedges made of spears, and across the seven great ditches that surround her house. This cannot be done. Babamah! I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of Rajahs have tried to do it, and died in the attempt! Yet the Princess will not break her vow. Daily, worse and worse tidings come from the city, of fresh people having been killed in trying to jump the seven hedges and seven ditches, and I see no end to the misfortunes that will arise from it. Not only are so many brave men lost to the world, but, since the Princess will marry no one who does not succeed in this, she stands a chance of not marrying at all; and if that be so, when the Rajah dies there will be no one to protect her and claim the right to succeed to the throne. All the nobles will probably fight for the Raj, and the whole kingdom be turned topsy-turvy.'
'Mai,' said the Rajah, 'if that is all, I will try and win your Princess, for I can jump right well.'
'Baba,' answered the Malee's wife, 'do not think of such a thing are you mad? I tell you, hundreds of thousands of men have said these words before, and been killed in their rashness. What power do you think you possess to succeed where all before you have failed? Give up all thought of this, for it is utter folly!'
'I will not do it,' answered the Rajah, 'before going to consult some of my friends.'
So he left the Malee's cottage, and returned to the banyan-tree to talk over the matter with the parrots; for he thought they would be able to carry him on their wings across the seven ditches and seven hedges made of spears. When he reached the tree the old parrot said to him, 'It is two days since you left us; what news have you brought from the village?' The Rajah answered, 'The Panch-Phul Ranee still lives in the house surrounded by the seven ditches and seven hedges made of spears, and has vowed to marry no man who cannot jump over them; but cannot you parrots, who brought me all the way across the seven seas, carry me on your wings across these great barriers?'
'You stupid man,' answered the old parrot, 'of course we could; but what would be the good of doing so? If we carried you across, it would not be at all the same thing as your jumping across, and the Princess would no more consent to marry you, than she would now; for she has vowed to marry no one who has not jumped across on foot. If you want to do the thing, why not do it yourself, instead of talking nonsense? Have you forgotten how, when you were a little boy, you were taught to jump by conjurors and tumblers?—for the parrot knew all the Rajah's history. Now is the time to put their lessons in practice. If you can jump the seven ditches and seven hedges made of spears you will have done a good work, and be able to marry the Panch-Phul Ranee; but if not, this is a thing in which we cannot help you.'
'You reason justly,' replied the Rajah. 'I will try to put in practice the lessons I learned when a boy; meantime, do you stay here till my return.'
So saying he went away to the city, which he reached by nightfall. Next morning early he went to where the Princess's bungalow stood, to try and jump the fourteen great barriers. He was strong and agile, and he jumped the seven great ditches, and six of the seven hedges made of spears; but in running to jump the seventh hedge he hurt his foot, and stumbling, fell upon the spears and died,—run through and through with the cruel iron spikes.
When Panch-Phul Ranee's father and mother got up that morning and looked out, as their custom was, towards their daughter's bungalow, they saw something transfixed upon the seventh hedge of spears, but what it was they could not make out, for it dazzled their eyes. So they called his Wuzeer, and said to him, 'For some days I have seen no one attempt to jump the seven hedges and seven ditches round Panch-Phul Ranee's bungalow; but what is that which I now see upon the seventh hedge of spears?' The Wuzeer answered, 'That is a Rajah's son, who has failed like all who have gone before him.'
'But how is it,' asked the Rajah, 'that he thus dazzles our eyes?'
'It is,' replied the Wuzeer, 'because he is so beautiful. Of all that have died for the sake of Panch-Phul Ranee, this youth is, beyond doubt, the handsomest.'
'Alas!' cried the Rajah, 'how many and how many brave men has my daughter killed! I will have no more die for her. Let us send her and the dead man away together into the jungle.'
He then ordered the servants to fetch the young Rajah's body. There he lay, still and beautiful, with a glory shining round him as the moonlight shines round the clear bright moon, but without a spark of life.
When the Rajah saw him, he said, 'O pity, pity! that so brave and handsome a boy should have come dying after this girl. Yet he is but one of the thousands of thousands who have thus died to no purpose. Pull up the spears and cast them into the seven ditches, for they shall remain no longer.'
Then he commanded two palanquins to be prepared, and men in readiness to carry them, and said, 'Let the girl be married to the young Rajah, and let both be taken far away into the jungle, that we may never see them more. Then there will be quiet in the land again.'
The Ranee, Panch-Phul Ranee's mother, cried bitterly at this, for she was very fond of her daughter, and she begged her husband not to send her away so cruelly—the living with the dead; but the Rajah was inexorable. 'That poor boy died,' he said; 'let my daughter die too. I'll have no more men killed here.'
So the two palanquins were prepared. He placed his daughter in the one, and her dead husband in the other, and said to the palkee-bearers, 'Take these palkees and go out into the jungle until you have reached a place so desolate that not so much as a sparrow is to be seen, and there leave them both.'
And so they did. Deep down in the jungle, where no bright sun could pierce the darkness, nor human voice be heard, far from any habitation of man or means of supporting life, on the edge of a dank, stagnant morass, that was shunned by all but noisome reptiles and wandering beasts of prey, they set them down and left them, the dead husband and the living wife, alone to meet the horrors of the coming night—alone, without a chance of rescue.
Panch-Phul Ranee heard the bearers' retreating footsteps, and their voices getting fainter and fainter in the distance, and felt that she had nothing to hope for but death.
Night seemed coming on apace, for though the sun had not set, the jungle was so dark that but little light pierced the gloom—and she thought she would take a last look at the husband her vow had killed, and sitting beside him wait till starvation should make her as he was, or some wild animal put a more speedy end to her sufferings.
She left her palkee and went towards his. There he lay with closed eyes and close-shut lips; black curling hair, which escaped from under his turban, concealed a ghastly wound on his temple. There was no look of pain on the face, and the long sweeping eyelashes gave it such a tender, softened expression she could hardly believe that he was dead. He was, in truth, very beautiful; and watching him she said to herself, 'Alas, what a noble being is here lost to the world—what an earth's joy is extinguished! Was it for this that I was cold, and proud, and stern—to break the cup of my own happiness, and to be the death of such as you? Must you now never learn that you won your wife? Must you never hear her ask your pardon for the past, nor know her cruel punishment? Ah, if you had but lived, how dearly I would have loved you! O my husband, my husband!' And sinking down on the ground, she buried her face in her hands, and cried bitterly.
While she was sitting thus, night closed over the jungle, and brought with it wild beasts that had left their dens and lairs to roam about in search of prey, as the heat of the day was over. Tigers, lions, elephants, and bisons, all came by turns crushing through the underwood which surrounded the place where the palkees were, but they did no harm to Panch-Phul Ranee; for she was so fair that not even the cruel beasts of the forest would injure her. At last about four o'clock in the morning all the wild animals had gone except two little jackals, who had been very busy watching the rest, and picking the bones left by the tigers. Tired with running about, they lay down to rest close to the palkees. Then one little jackal said to the other, who was her husband, 'Do tell me a little story.'—'Dear me!' he exclaimed, 'what people you women are for stories! Well, look just in front of you; do you see those two?'—'Yes,' she answered; 'what of them?'—'That woman you see sitting on the ground,' he said, 'is the Panch-Phul Ranee.'—'And what son of a Rajah is the man in the palkee?' asked she.—'That,' he replied, 'is a very sorrowful son.' His father was so unkind to him that he left his own home, and went to live in another country very far from this; and there he dreamed about the Panch-Phul Ranee, and came to our land in order to marry her, but he was killed in jumping the seventh hedge of spears, and so all he gained was to die for her sake.'
'That is very sad,' said the first little jackal; 'but could he never by any chance come to life again?'—'Yes,' answered the other; ' may be he could, if only some one knew how to apply the proper remedies.'—'What are the proper remedies, and how could he be cured? asked the lady jackal. (Now all this conversation had been heard by Panch-Phul Ranee, and when this question was asked, she listened very eagerly and attentively for the answer.)
'Do you see this tree?' replied her husband. 'Well, if some of its leaves were crushed, and a little of the juice put into the Rajah's two ears, and upon his upper lip, and some upon his temples also, and some upon the spear-wounds in his side, he would come to life again and be as well as ever.'
At this moment day dawned, and the two little jackals ran away. Panch-Phul Ranee did not forget their words. She, a Princess born, who had never put her foot to the ground before (so delicately and tenderly had she been reared), walked over the rough clods of earth and the sharp stones till she reached the place where the tree grew of which the jackals had spoken. She gathered a number of its leaves; and with hands and feet that had never before done coarse or common work, beat and crushed them down. They were so stiff and strong that it took her a long time. At last, after tearing them, and stamping on them, and pounding them between two stones, and biting the hardest parts, she thought they were sufficiently crushed: and rolling them up in a corner of her saree, she squeezed the juice through it on to her husband's temples, and put a little on his upper lip, and into his ears, and some also on the spear-wounds in his side. And when she had done this, he awoke as if he had been only sleeping, and sat up, wondering where he was. Before him stood Panch-Phul Ranee shining like a glorious star, and all around them was the dark jungle.
It would be hard to say which of them was the most astonished—the Rajah or the Princess. She was surprised that the remedy should have taken such speedy effect; and could hardly believe her eyes when she saw her husband get up. And if he looked beautiful when dead, much more handsome did he seem to her now—so full of life, and animation, and power—the picture of health and strength. And he in his turn was lost in amazement at the exquisite loveliness of the lady who stood before him. He did not know who she could be, for he had never seen her like, except in a dream. Could she be really the world-renowned Panch-Phul Ranee? or was he dreaming still? He feared to move lest he should break the spell. But as he sat there wondering, she spoke, saying, ' You marvel at what has taken place. You do not know me—I am Panch-Phul Ranee, your wife.'
Then he said, 'Ah, Princess, is it indeed you? You have been very hard to me.'—'I know, I know,' she answered; 'I caused your death, but I brought you to life again. Let the past be forgotten; come home with me, and my father and mother will welcome you as a son.'
He replied, 'No, I must first return to my own home awhile. Do you rather return there now with me, for it is a long time since I left it, and afterwards we will come again to your father's kingdom.'
To this Panch-Phul Ranee agreed. It took them, however, a long time to find their way out of the jungle. At last they succeeded in doing so, for none of the wild animals in it attempted to injure them—so beautiful and royal did they both look.
When they reached the banyan-tree where the Rajah had left the two parrots, the old parrot called out to him, 'So you have come back at last! we thought you never would, you were such a long time away! There you went, leaving us here all that time, and after all doing no good, but only getting yourself killed. Why didn't you do as we advised you, and jump up nicely?'
'Well, I'm sure,' said the Rajah, 'yours is a hard case; but I beg your pardon for keeping you waiting so long, and now I hope you'll take me and my wife home.'
'Yes, we will do that,' answered the parrots; 'but you had better get some dinner first, for its a long journey over the seven seas.'
So the Rajah went to the village close by, and bought food for himself and the Panch-Phul Ranee. When he returned with it, he said to her, 'I fear the long journey before us for you; had you not better let me make it alone, and return here for you when it is over?' But she answered, 'No! what could I, a poor, weak woman, do here alone? and I will not return to my father's house till you can come too. Take me with you, however far you go, only promise me you will never leave me.' So he promised her, and they both, mounting the parrots, were carried up in the air across the seven seas, across the Red Sea, on, on, on, a whole year's journey, until they reached his father's kingdom, and alighted to rest at the foot of the palace garden. The Rajah, however, did not know where he was, for all had much changed since he left in his boyhood.
Then a little son was born to the Rajah and Panch-Phul Ranee. He was a beautiful child, but his father was grieved to think that in that bleak place there was no shelter for the mother or the baby. So he said to his wife, 'I will go to fetch food for us both, and fire to cook it with, and inquire what this country is, and seek out a place of rest for you. Do not be afraid; I shall soon return.' Now far off in the distance smoke was seen to be rising from tents which belonged to some conjurors and dancing-people, and thither the Rajah bent his steps, feeling certain he should be able to get fire, and perhaps food also, from the inhabitants. When he got there he found the place was much larger than he had expected, quite a good-sized village, in fact—the abode of nautch people and conjurors. In all the houses the people were busy, some dancing, some singing, others trying various conjuring tricks, or practising beating the drum, and all seemed happy and joyful.
When the conjurors saw him, they were so much struck with his appearance (for he was very handsome) that they determined to make him, if possible, stay among them, and join their band. And they said one to another, 'How well he would look beating the drum for the dancers! All the world would come to see us dance, if we had such a handsome man as that to beat the drum.'
The Rajah, unconscious of their intentions, went into the largest hut he saw, and said to a woman who was grinding corn, 'Bai, give me a little rice, and some fire from your hearth.' She immediately consented, and got up to fetch the burning sticks he asked for; but before she gave them to him, she and her companions threw upon them a certain powder containing a very potent charm; and no sooner did the Rajah receive them, than he forgot about his wife and little child, his journey, and all that had ever happened to him in his life before; such was the peculiar property of the powder. And when the conjurors said to him, 'Why should you go away? stay with us, and be one of us,' he willingly consented to do so.
All this time Panch-Phul Ranee waited and waited for her husband, but he never came. Night approached without his having brought her any food, or news of having found a place of shelter for her and the baby. At last, faint and weary, she swooned away.
It happened that that very day the Ranee (Panch-Phul Ranee's husband's mother) lost her youngest child, a fine little boy of only a day old; and her servants took its body to the bottom of the garden to bury it. Just as they were going to do so, they heard a low cry, and, looking round, saw close by a beautiful woman lying on the ground, dead, or apparently so, and beside her a fine little baby boy. The idea immediately entered their heads, of leaving the dead baby beside the dead woman, and taking her living baby back with them to the palace; and so they did.
When they returned, they said to their mistress, 'Your child did not die, see here it is, it got well again,' and showed her Panch-Phul Ranee's baby; but after a time, when the Ranee questioned them about it, they told her the whole truth, but she had become meanwhile very fond of the little boy, and so he continued in the palace, and was brought up as her son; being, in truth, her grandson, though she did not know it.
Meantime the palace Malee's wife went out, as her custom was every morning and evening, to gather flowers. In search of them she wandered as far as the jungle at the bottom of the garden, and there she found the Panch-Phul Ranee lying as dead, and the dead baby beside her.
The good woman felt very sorry, and rubbed the Ranee's cold hands, and gave her sweet flowers to smell, in hopes that she might revive. At last she opened her eyes, and seeing the Malee's wife, said, 'Where am I? has not my husband come back? and who are you? '
'My poor lady,' answered the Malee's wife, 'I do not know where your husband is. I am the Malee's wife, and, coming here to gather flowers, I found you lying on the ground, and this your little baby, which is dead; but come home with me, I will take care of you.'
Panch-Phul Ranee answered, 'Kind friend, this is not my baby; he did not die; he was the image of his father, and fairer than this child. Some one must have taken him away, for but a little while ago I held him in my arms, and he was strong and well, while this one could never have been more than a puny, weakly infant. Take me away; I will go home with you.'
So the Malee's wife buried the dead child, and took the PanchPhul Ranee to her house, where she lived for fourteen years; but all that time she could learn no tidings of her husband or her lost little boy. The child meanwhile grew up in the palace, and became a very handsome youth. One day he was wandering round the garden, and chanced to pass the Malee's house. The Panch-Phul Ranee was sitting within, watching the Malee's wife cook their dinner.
The young Prince saw her, and calling the Malee's wife said to her, 'What beautiful lady is that in your house? and how did she come there?' She answered, 'Little Prince, what nonsense you talk! there is no lady here.' He said again, 'I know there is a beautiful lady here, for I saw her as I passed the open door.' She replied, 'If you come telling such tales about my house, I'll pull your tongue out.' For she thought to herself, 'Unless I scold him well, the boy'll go talking about what he has seen in the palace, and then perhaps some of the people from there will come and take the poor Panch-Phul Ranee away from my care.' But whilst the Malee's wife was talking to the young Prince, the Panch-Phul Ranee came from the inner room to watch and listen to him unobserved, and no sooner did she see him, than she could not forbear crying out, 'Oh, how like he is to my husband! The same eyes; the same shaped face, and the same king-like bearing! Can he be my son? He is just the age my son would have been had he lived!'
The young Prince heard her speaking, and asked what she said, to which the Malee's wife replied, 'The woman you saw, and who just now spoke, lost her child fourteen years ago, and she was saying to herself how like you were to that child, and thinking you must be the same, but she is wrong, for we know you are the Ranee's son.' Then Panch-Phul Ranee herself came out of the house, and said to him, 'Young Prince, I could not, when I saw you, help exclaiming how like you are to what my lost husband was, and to what my son might have been; for it is now fourteen years since I lost them both.' And then she told him how she had been a great Princess, and was returning with her husband to his own home (to which they had got half-way in reaching that place), and how her little baby had been born in the jungle, and her husband had gone away to seek shelter for her and the child, and fire and food, and had never returned; and also how, when she had fainted away, some one had certainly stolen her baby and left a dead child in its place, and how the good Malee's wife had befriended her, and taken her ever since to live in her house. And when she had ended her story she began to cry.
But the Prince said to her, 'Be of good cheer; I will endeavour to recover your husband and child for you: who knows but I may indeed be your son, beautiful lady?' And running home to the Ranee (his adopted mother), he said to her, ' Are you really my mother? Tell me truly; for this I must know before the sun goes down.' 'Why do you ask foolish questions?' she replied; 'have I not always treated you as a son?' 'Yes,' he said; 'but tell me in very truth, am I your own child? or the child of some one else, adopted as yours? If you do not tell me, I will kill myself.' And so saying, he drew his sword. She replied, 'Stay, stay, and I will tell you the whole truth: the day before you were born I had a little baby, but it died; and my servants took it to the bottom of the garden to bury it, and there they found a beautiful woman lying as dead, and beside her was a living infant. You were that child. They brought you to the palace, and I adopted you as my son, and they left my baby in your stead.'—'What became of my mother?' he asked. 'I cannot tell,' answered the Ranee; 'for, two days afterwards, when I sent to the same place, she and the baby had both disappeared, and I have never since heard of her.'
The young Prince, on hearing this, said, 'There is in the head Malee's house a beautiful lady whom the Malee's wife found in the jungle fourteen years ago;—that must be my mother. Let her be received here this very day with all honour; for that is the only reparation that can now be made to her.'
The Ranee consented, and the young Prince went down to the Malee's house himself, to fetch his mother to the palace.
With him he took a great retinue of people, and a beautiful palanquin for her to go in, covered with rich trappings; also costly things for her to wear, and many jewels,—and presents for the good Malee's wife.
When Panch-Phul Ranee had put on her son's gifts, and come out of the Malee's poor cottage to meet him, all the people said there had never been so royal-looking a queen. As gold and clear crystal are lovely, as mother-of-pearl is exquisitely fair and delicate-looking,—so beautiful, so fair, so delicate appeared PanchPhul Ranee.
Her son conducted her with much pomp and state to the palace, and did all in his power to honour her; and there she lived long very happily, and beloved by all.
One day the young Prince begged her to tell him again, from the beginning, the story of her life, and as much as she knew of his father's life; and so she did. And after that, he said to her, 'Be no longer sad, dear mother, regarding my father's fate; for I will send into all lands to gather tidings of him, and may be in the end we shall find him.' And he sent people out to hunt for the Rajah all over the kingdom, and in all neighbouring countries;—to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west,—but they found him not.
At last (after four years of unsuccessful search), when there seemed no hope of ever learning what had become of him, Panch-Phul Ranee's son came to see her, and said, 'Mother, I have sent into all lands seeking my father, but can hear no news of him. If there were only the slightest clue as to the direction in which he went, there would be still some chance of tracing him, but that I fear cannot be got. Do you not remember his having said anything of the way which he intended to go when he left you?' She answered, 'When your father went away his words to me were, "I will go to fetch food for us both, and fire to cook it with, and inquire what this country is, and seek out a place of shelter for you. Do not be afraid, I shall soon return." That was all he said, and then he went away, and I never saw him more.'
'In what direction did he go from the foot of the garden?' asked the Prince. 'He went,' answered the Panch-Phul Ranee, 'towards that little village of conjurors close by. I thought he was intending to ask some of them to give us food. But had he done so, he would certainly have returned in a very short time.
'Do you think you should know my father, mother darling, if you were to see him again?' asked the Prince.—'Yes,' answered she, 'I should know him again.'—'What!' he said, 'even though eighteen years have gone by since you saw him last? Even though age, and sickness, and want, had done their utmost to change him?'—'Yes,' she replied; 'his every feature is so impressed on my heart, that I should know him again anywhere, or in any disguise.'
'Then let us,' he said, 'send for all those people in the direction of whose houses he went away. May be they have detained him among them to this day. It is but a chance, but we can hope for nothing more certain.'
So the Panch-Phul Ranee and her son sent down orders to the conjurors' village that every one of the whole band should come up to the palace that afternoon—not a soul was to stay behind. And the dancers were to dance, and the conjurors to play all their tricks, for the amusement of the palace inmates.
The people came. The nautch-girls began to dance—running, jumping, and flying here, there, and everywhere, some up, some down, some round and round. The conjurors conjured; and all began in different ways to amuse the company. Among the rest was one wild, ragged-looking man, whose business was to beat the drum. No sooner did the Panch-Phul Ranee set eyes on him, than she said to her son, 'Boy, that is your father!'—'What mother,' he said, 'that wretched-looking man who is beating the drum?'—'The same,' she answered.
The Prince said to his servants, 'Fetch that man here.' And the Rajah came towards them: so changed, that not even his own mother knew him;—no one recognised him but his wife! For eighteen years he had been among the nautch people; his hair was rough, his beard untrimmed, his face thin and worn, sunburnt and wrinkled; he wore a nose-ring, and heavy ear-rings such as the nautch people wear; and his dress was a rough common cumlee. All traces of his former self seemed to have disappeared. They asked him if he did not remember he had been a Rajah once; and about his journey to Panch-Phul Ranee's country. But he said, No, he remembered nothing but how to beat the drum—Rub-a-dub! tat-tat! tom-tum! tom-tum! He thought he must have beaten it all his life.
Then the young Prince gave orders that all the nautch people should be put into jail, until it could be discovered what part they had taken in reducing his father to so pitiable a state. And sending for the wisest doctors in the kingdom, he said to them, 'Do your best, and restore the health of this Rajah, who has to all appearance lost both memory and reason; and discover, if possible, what has caused these misfortunes to befall him.' The doctors said, 'He has certainly had some potent charm given to him, which has destroyed both his memory and reason, but we will do our best to counteract its influence.'
And so they did. And their treatment succeeded so well, that, after a time, the Rajah entirely recovered his former senses. And they took such good care of him, that within a while he regained his health and strength also, and looked almost as well as ever.
He then found to his surprise that he, Panch-Phul Ranee, and their son, had all this time been living in his father's kingdom. His father was so delighted to see him again, that he was no longer unkind to him, but treated him as a dearly-beloved, long-lost son. His mother also was overjoyed at his return, and they said to him, 'Since you have been restored to us again, why should you wander any more? Your wife and son are here; do you also remain here, and live among us for the rest of your days.' But he replied, 'I have another wife—the Carpenter's daughter who first was kind to me in my adopted country. I also have there nine hundred and ninety-eight talking wooden parrots, which I greatly prize. Let me first go and fetch them.'
They said, 'Very well; go quickly, and return.' So he mounted the two wooden parrots which had brought him from the Panch-Phul Ranee's country (and which had for eighteen years lived in the jungle close to the palace), and returned to the land where his first wife lived, and fetched her and the nine hundred and ninety-eight remaining wooden parrots to his father's kingdom. Then his father said to him, 'Don't have any quarrelling with your half-brother after I am dead' (for his half-brother was son of the old Rajah's favourite wife). 'I love you both dearly, and will give each of you half of my kingdom.' So he divided the kingdom into two halves, and gave the one half to the Panch-Phul Ranee's husband, who was the son of his first wife, and the other half to the eldest son of his second but favourite wife.
A short time after this arrangement was made, Panch-Phul Ranee said to her husband, 'I wish to see my father and mother again before I die; let me go and see them.' He answered, 'You shall go, and I and our son will also go.' So he called four of the wooden parrots—two to carry himself and the Ranee, and two to carry their son. Each pair of parrots crossed their wings; the young Prince sat upon the two wings of one pair, and on the wings of the other pair sat his father and mother. Then they all rose up in the air, and the parrots carried them (as they had before carried the Rajah alone)—up, up, up—on, on, on—over the Red Sea and across the seven seas, until they reached the Panch-Phul Ranee's country.
Panch-Phul Ranee's father saw them come flying through the air, as quickly as shooting stars; and much wondering who they were, he sent out many of his nobles and chief officers to inquire.
The nobles went out to meet them, and called out, 'What great Rajah is this who is dressed so royally, and comes flying through the air so fast? Tell us, that we may tell our Rajah.'
The Rajah answered, 'Go and tell your master that this is Panch-Phul Ranee's husband come to visit his father-in-law.' So they took that answer back to the palace; but when the Rajah heard it, he said, 'I cannot tell what this means—for the Panch-Phul Ranee's husband died long ago. It is twenty years since he fell upon the iron spears and died; let us, however, go and discover who this great Rajah really is.' And he and all his court went out to meet the new-comers—just as the parrots had alighted close to the palace gate. The Panch-Phul Ranee took her son by the one hand and her husband by the other, and walking to meet her father, said, 'Father, I have come to see you again. This is my husband who died, and this boy is my son.' Then all the land was glad to see the Panch-Phul Ranee back, and the people said, 'Our Princess is the most beautiful Princess in the world, and her husband is as handsome as she is, and her son is a fair boy; we will that they should always live among us and reign over us.'
When they had rested a little, the Panch-Phul Ranee told her father and mother the story of all her adventures from the time she and her husband were left in the palkees in the jungle. And when they had heard it, her father said to the Rajah her husband, 'You must never go away again; for see, I have no son but you. You and your son must reign here after me. And behold, all this great kingdom will I now give you, if you will only stay with us; for I am old and weary of governing the land.'
But the Rajah answered, 'I must return once again to my own country, and then I will stay with you as long as I live.'
So leaving the Panch-Phul Ranee and her son with the old Rajah and Ranee, he mounted his parrots and once more returned to his father's land. And when he had reached it, he said to his mother, 'Mother, my father-in-law has given me a kingdom ten thousand times larger than this. So I have but returned to bid you farewell, and fetch my first wife, and then I must go back to live in that other land.' She answered, 'Very well; so you are happy anywhere, I am happy too.'
He then said to his half-brother, 'Brother, my father-in-law has given me all the Panch-Phul Ranee's country, which is very far away; therefore I give up to you the half of this kingdom that my father gave to me.' Then bidding his father farewell, he took the Carpenter's daughter back with him (riding through the air on two of the wooden parrots and followed by the rest) to the Panch-Phul Ranee's country, and there he, and his two wives, and his son, lived very happily all their mortal days.
- Four or six shillings.
- The god Mahadeo is an incarnation of Siva the Destroyer. The goddess Parbuttee is his wife.
- O my child!
- A coarse woollen blanket.