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The Triumph Of Truth - A Hindu Story






Source: Tales Of Folk And Fairies

There was once a Rajah who was both young and handsome, and yet he had
never married. One time this Rajah, whose name was Chundun, found
himself obliged to make a long journey. He took with him attendants
and horsemen, and also his Wuzeer. This Wuzeer was a very wise
man,--so wise that nothing was hid from him.

In a certain far-off part of the kingdom the Rajah saw a fine garden,
and so beautiful was it that he stopped to admire it. He was surprised
to see growing in the midst of it a small bingal tree that bore a
number of fine bingals, but not a single leaf.

"This is a very curious thing, and I do not understand it," said
Chundun Rajah to his Wuzeer. "Why does this tree bear such fine and
perfect fruit, and yet it has not a single leaf?"

"I could tell you the meaning," said the Wuzeer, "but I fear that if I
did you would not believe me and would have me punished for telling a
lie."

"That could never be," answered the Rajah; "I know you to be a very
truthful man and wise above all others. Whatever you tell me I shall
believe."

"Then this is the meaning of it," said the Wuzeer. "The gardener who
has charge of this garden has one daughter; her name is Guzra Bai, and
she is very beautiful. If you will count the bingals you will find
there are twenty-and-one. Whosoever marries the gardener's daughter
will have twenty and one children,--twenty boys and one girl."

Chundun Rajah was very much surprised at what his Wuzeer said. "I
should like to see this Guzra Bai," said he.

"You can very easily see her," answered the Wuzeer. "Early every
morning she comes into the garden to play among the flowers. If you
come here early and hide you can see her without frightening her, as
you would do if you went to her home."

The Rajah was pleased with this suggestion, and early the next morning
he came to the garden and hid himself behind a flowering bush. It was
not long before he saw the girl playing about among the flowers, and
she was so very beautiful the Rajah at once fell in love with her. He
determined to make her his Ranee, but he did not speak to her or show
himself to her then for fear of frightening her. He determined to go
to the gardener's house that evening and tell him he wished his
daughter for a wife.

As he had determined, so he did. That very evening, accompanied only
by his Wuzeer, he went to the gardener's house and knocked upon the
door.

"Who is there?" asked the gardener from within.

"It is I, the Rajah," answered Chundun. "Open the door, for I wish to
speak with you."

The gardener laughed. "That is a likely story," said he. "Why should
the Rajah come to my poor hut? No, no; you are some one who wishes to
play a trick on me, but you shall not succeed. I will not let you in."

"But it is indeed Chundun Rajah," called the Wuzeer. "Open the door
that he may speak with you."

When the gardener heard the Wuzeer's voice he came and opened the door
a crack, but still he only half believed what was told him. What was
his amazement to see that it was indeed the Rajah who stood there in
all his magnificence with his Wuzeer beside him. The poor man was
terrified, fearing Chundun would be angry, but the Rajah spoke to him
graciously.

"Do not be afraid," said he. "Call thy daughter that I may speak with
her, for it is she whom I wish to see."

The girl was hiding (for she was afraid) and would not come until her
father took her hand and drew her forward.

When the Rajah saw her now, this second time, she seemed to him even
more beautiful than at first. He was filled with joy and wonder.

"Now I will tell you why I have come here," he said. "I wish to take
Guzra Bai for my wife."

At first the gardener would not believe him, but when he found the
Rajah did indeed mean what he said he turned to his daughter. "If the
girl is willing you shall have her," said he, "but I will not force
her to marry even a Rajah."

The girl was still afraid, yet she could not but love the Rajah, so
handsome was he, and so kind and gracious was his manner. She gave her
consent, and the gardener was overjoyed at the honor that had come to
him and his daughter.

Chundun and the beautiful Guzra Bai were married soon after in the
gardener's house, and then the Rajah and his new Ranee rode away
together.

Now Chundun Rajah's mother, the old Ranee, was of a very proud and
jealous nature. When she found her son had married a common girl, the
daughter of a gardener, and that Chundun thought of nothing but his
bride and her beauty, she was very angry. She determined to rid
herself of Guzra Bai in some way or other. But Chundun watched over
his young Ranee so carefully that for a long time the old Queen could
find no chance to harm her.

But after a while the Rajah found it was again necessary for him to go
on a long journey. Just before he set out he gave Guzra Bai a little
golden bell. "If any danger should threaten or harm befall you, ring
this bell," said he. "Wherever I am I shall hear it and be with you at
once, even though I return from the farthest part of my kingdom."

No sooner had he gone than Guzra Bai began to wonder whether indeed it
were possible that he could hear the bell at any distance and return
to her. She wondered and wondered until at last her curiosity grew so
great that she could not forbear from ringing it.

No sooner had it sounded than the Rajah stood before her. "What has
happened?" he asked. "Why did you call me?"

"Nothing has happened," answered Guzra Bai, "but it did not seem to me
possible that you could really hear the bell so far away, and I could
not forbear from trying it."

"Very well," said the Rajah. "Now you know that it is true, so do not
call me again unless you have need of me."

Again he went away, and Guzra Bai sat and thought and thought about
the golden bell. At last she rang it again. At once the Rajah stood
before her.

"Oh, my dear husband, please to forgive me," cried Guzra Bai. "It
seemed so wonderful I thought I must have dreamed that the bell could
bring you back."

"Guzra Bai, do not be so foolish," said her husband. "I will forgive
you this time, but do not call me again unless you have need of me."
And he went away.

Again and for the third time Guzra Bai rang the bell, and the Rajah
appeared.

"Why do you call me again?" he asked. "Is it again for nothing, or has
something happened to you?"

"Nothing has happened," answered Guzra Bai, "only somehow I felt so
frightened that I wanted you near me."

"Guzra Bai, I am away on affairs of state," said the Rajah. "If you
call me in this way when you have no need of me, I shall soon refuse
to answer the bell. Remember this and do not call me again without
reason."

And for the third time the Rajah went away and left her.

Soon after this the young Ranee had twenty and one beautiful children,
twenty sons and one daughter.

When the old Queen heard of this she was more jealous than ever. "When
the Rajah returns and sees all these children," she thought to
herself, "he will be so delighted that he will love Guzra Bai more
dearly than ever, and nothing I can do will ever separate them." She
then began to plan within herself as to how she could get rid of the
children before the Rajah's return.

She sent for the nurse who had charge of the babies, and who was as
wicked as herself. "If you can rid me of these children, I will give
you a lac of gold pieces," she said. "Only it must be done in such a
way that the Rajah will lay all the blame on Guzra Bai."

"That can be done," answered the nurse. "I will throw the children out
on the ash heaps, where they will soon perish, and I will put stones
in their places. Then when the Rajah returns we will tell him Guzra
Bai is a wicked sorceress, who has changed her children into stones."

The old Ranee was pleased with this plan and said that she herself
would go with the nurse and see that it was carried out.

Guzra Bai looked from her window and saw the old Queen coming with the
nurse, and at once she was afraid. She was sure they intended some
harm to her or the children. She seized the golden bell and rang and
rang it, but Chundun did not come. She had called him back so often
for no reason at all that this time he did not believe she really
needed him.

The nurse and the old Ranee carried away the children, as they had
planned, and threw them on the ash heaps and brought twenty-one large
stones that they put in their places.

When Chundun Rajah returned from his journey the old Ranee met him,
weeping and tearing her hair. "Alas! alas!" she cried. "Why did you
marry a sorceress and bring such terrible misfortune upon us all!"

"What misfortune?" asked the Rajah. "What do you mean?"

His mother then told him that while he was away Guzra Bai had had
twenty-one beautiful children, but she had turned them all into
stones.

Chundun Rajah was thunderstruck. He called the wicked nurse and
questioned her. She repeated what the old Ranee had already told him
and also showed him the stones.

Then the Rajah believed them. He still loved Guzra Bai too much to put
her to death, but he had her imprisoned in a high tower, and would not
see her nor speak with her.

But meanwhile the little children who had been thrown out on the ash
heap were being well taken care of. A large rat, of the kind called
Bandicote, had heard them crying and had taken pity on them. She drew
them down into her hole, which was close by and where they would be
safe. She then called twenty of her friends together. She told them
who the children were and where she had found them, and the twenty
agreed to help her take care of the little ones. Each rat was to have
the care of one of the little boys and to bring him suitable food, and
the old Bandicote who had found them would care for the little girl.

This was done, and so well were the children fed that they grew
rapidly. Before long they were large enough to leave the rat hole and
go out to play among the ash heaps, but at night they always returned
to the hole. The old Bandicote warned them that if they saw anyone
coming they must at once hide in the hole, and under no circumstances
must any one see them.

The little boys were always careful to do this, but the little girl
was very curious. Now it so happened that one day the wicked nurse
came past the ash heaps. The little boys saw her coming and ran back
into the hole to hide. But the little girl lingered until the nurse
was quite close to her before she ran away.

The nurse went to the old Ranee, and said, "Do you know, I believe
those children are still alive? I believe they are living in a rat
hole near the ash heap, for I saw a pretty little girl playing there
among the ashes, and when I came close to her she ran down into the
largest rat hole and hid."

The Ranee was very much troubled when she heard this, for if it were
true, as she thought it might be, she feared the Rajah would hear
about it and inquire into the matter. "What shall I do?" she asked the
nurse.

"Send out and have the ground dug over and filled in," the nurse
replied. "In this way, if any of the children are hidden there, they
will be covered over and smothered, and you will also kill the rats
that have been harboring them."

The Ranee at once sent for workmen and bade them go out to the rat
holes and dig and fill them in, and the children and the rats would
certainly have been smothered just as the nurse had planned, only
luckily the old mother rat was hiding near by and overheard what was
said. She at once hastened home and told her friends what was going to
happen, and they all made their escape before the workmen arrived. She
also took the children out of the hole and hid them under the steps
that led down into an old unused well. There were twenty-one steps,
and she hid one child under each step. She told them not to utter a
sound whatever happened, and then she and her friends ran away and
left them.

Presently the workmen came with their tools and began to fill in the
rat holes. The little daughter of the head workman had come with him,
and while he and his fellows were at work the little girl amused
herself by running up and down the steps into the well. Every time she
trod upon a step it pinched the child who lay under it. The little
boys made no sound when they were pinched, but lay as still as stones,
but every time the child trod on the step under which the Princess lay
she sighed, and the third time she felt the pinch she cried out, "Have
pity on me and tread more lightly. I too am a little girl like you!"

The workman's daughter was very much frightened when she heard the
voice. She ran to her father and told him the steps had spoken to her.

The workman thought this a strange thing. He at once went to the old
Ranee and told her he dared no longer work near the well, for he
believed a witch or a demon lived there under the steps; and he
repeated what his little daughter had told him.

The wicked nurse was with the Ranee when the workman came to her. As
soon as he had gone, the nurse said: "I am sure some of those children
must still be alive. They must have escaped from the rat holes and be
hiding under the steps. If we send out there we will probably find
them."

The Ranee was frightened at the thought they might still be alive. She
ordered some servants to come with her, and she and the nurse went out
to look for the children.

But when the little girl had cried out the little boys were afraid
some harm might follow, and prayed that they might be changed into
trees, so that if any one came to search for them they might not find
them.

Their prayers were answered. The twenty little boys were changed into
twenty little banyan trees that stood in a circle, and the little girl
was changed into a rose-bush that stood in the midst of the circle and
was full of red and white roses.

The old Ranee and the nurse and the servants came to the well and
searched under every step, but no one was there, so went away again.

All might now have been well, but the workman's mischievous little
daughter chanced to come by that way again. At once she espied the
banyan trees and the rose-bush. "It is a curious thing that I never
saw these trees before," she thought. "I will gather a bunch of
roses."

She ran past the banyan trees without giving them a thought and began
to break the flowers from the rose-tree. At once a shiver ran through
the tree, and it cried to her in a pitiful voice: "Oh! oh! you are
hurting me. Do not break my branches, I pray of you. I am a little
girl, too, and can suffer just as you might."

The child ran back to her father and caught him by the hand. "Oh, I am
frightened!" she cried. "I went to gather some roses from the
rose-tree, and it spoke to me;" and she told him what the rose-tree
had said.

At once the workman went off and repeated to the Ranee what his little
daughter had told him, and the Queen gave him a piece of gold and sent
him away, bidding him keep what he had heard a secret.

Then she called the wicked nurse to her and repeated the workman's
story. "What had we better do now?" she asked.

"My advice is that you give orders to have all the trees cut down and
burned," said the nurse. "In this way you will rid yourself of the
children altogether."

This advice seemed good to the Ranee. She sent men and had the trees
cut down and thrown in a heap to burn.

But heaven had pity on the children, and just as the men were about to
set fire to the heap a heavy rain storm arose and put out the fire.
Then the river rose over its banks, and swept the little trees down on
its flood, far, far away to a jungle where no one lived. Here they
were washed ashore and at once took on their real shapes again.

The children lived there in the jungle safely for twelve years, and
the brothers grew up tall and straight and handsome, and the sister
was like the new moon in her beauty, so slim and white and shining was
she.

The brothers wove a hut of branches to shelter their sister, and every
day ten of them went out hunting in the forest, and ten of them stayed
at home to care for her. But one day it chanced they all wished to go
hunting together, so they put their sister up in a high tree where she
would be safe from the beasts of the forest, and then they went away
and left her there alone.

The twenty brothers went on and on through the jungle, farther than
they had ever gone before, and so came at last to an open space among
the trees, and there was a hut.

"Who can be living here?" said one of the brothers.

"Let us knock and see," cried another.

The Princes knocked at the door and immediately it was opened to them
by a great, wicked-looking Rakshas. She had only one red eye in the
middle of her forehead; her gray hair hung in a tangled mat over her
shoulders, and she was dressed in dirty rags.

When the Rakshas saw the brothers she was filled with fury.

She considered all the jungle belonged to her, and she was not willing
that any one else should come there. Her one eye flashed fire, and she
seized a stick and began beating the Princes, and each one, as she
struck him, was turned into a crow. She then drove them away and went
back into her hut and closed the door.

The twenty crows flew back through the forest, cawing mournfully. When
they came to the tree where their sister sat they gathered about her,
trying to make her understand that they were her brothers.

At first the Princess was frightened by the crows, but when she saw
there were tears in their eyes, and when she counted them and found
there were exactly twenty, she guessed what had happened, and that
some wicked enchantment had changed her brothers into this shape. Then
she wept over them and smoothed their feathers tenderly.

After this the sister lived up in the tree, and the crows brought her
food every day and rested around her in the branches at night, so that
no harm should come to her.

Some time after this a young Rajah came into that very jungle to hunt.
In some way he became separated from his attendants and wandered
deeper and deeper into the forest, until at length he came to the tree
where the Princess sat. He threw himself down beneath the tree to
rest. Hearing a sound of wings above him the Rajah looked up and was
amazed to see a beautiful girl sitting there among the branches with a
flock of crows about her.

The Rajah climbed the tree and brought the girl down, while the crows
circled about his head, cawing hoarsely.

"Tell me, beautiful one, who are you? And how come you here in the
depths of the jungle?" asked the Rajah.

Weeping, the Princess told him all her story except that the crows
were her brothers; she let him believe that her brothers had gone off
hunting and had never returned.

"Do not weep any more," said the Rajah. "You shall come home with me
and be my Ranee, and I will have no other but you alone."

When the Princess heard this she smiled, for the Rajah was very
handsome, and already she loved him.

She was very glad to go with him and be his wife. "But my crows must
go with me," she said, "for they have fed me for many long days and
have been my only companions."

To this the Rajah willingly consented, and he took her home with him
to the palace; and the crows circled about above them, following
closely all the way.


When the old Rajah and Ranee (the young Rajah's father and mother) saw
what a very beautiful girl he had brought back with him from the
jungle they gladly welcomed her as a daughter-in-law.

The young Ranee would have been very happy now in her new life, for
she loved her husband dearly, but always the thought of her brothers
was like a weight upon her heart. She had a number of trees planted
outside her windows so that her brothers might rest there close to
her. She cooked rice for them herself and fed them with her own hands,
and often she sat under the trees and stroked them and talked to them
while her tears fell upon their glossy feathers.

After a while the young Ranee had a son, and he was called Ramchundra.
He grew up straight and tall, and he was the joy of his mother's eyes.

One day, when he was fourteen years old, and big and strong for his
age, he sat in the garden with his mother. The crows flew down about
them, and she began to caress and talk to them as usual. "Ah, my dear
ones!" she cried, "how sad is your fate! If I could but release you,
how happy I should be."

"Mother," said the boy, "I can plainly see that these crows are not
ordinary birds. Tell me whence come they, and why you weep over them
and talk to them as you do?"

At first his mother would not tell him, but in the end she related to
him the whole story of who she was, and how she and her brothers had
come to the jungle and had lived there happily enough until they were
changed into crows; and then of how the Rajah had found her and
brought her home with him to the palace.

"I can easily see," said Ramchundra, when she had ended the tale,
"that my uncles must have met a Rakshas somewhere in the forest and
have been enchanted. Tell me exactly where the tree was--the tree
where you lived--and what kind it was?"

The Ranee told him.

"And in which direction did your brothers go when they left you?"

This also his mother told him. "Why do you ask me these questions, my
son?" she asked.

"I wish to know," said Ramchundra, "for sometime I intend to set out
and find that Rakshas and force her to free my uncles from her
enchantment and change them back to their natural shapes again."

His mother was terrified when she heard this, but she said very little
to him, hoping he would soon forget about it and not enter into such a
dangerous adventure.

Not long afterward Ramchundra went to his father and said, "Father, I
am no longer a child; give me your permission to ride out into the
world and see it for myself."

The Rajah was willing for him to do this and asked what attendants his
son would take with him.

"I wish for no attendants," answered Ramchundra. "Give me only a
horse, and a groom to take care of it."

The Rajah gave his son the handsomest horse in his stables and also a
well-mounted groom to ride with him. Ramchundra, however, only allowed
the groom to go with him as far as the edge of the jungle, and then he
sent him back home again with both the horses.

The Prince went on and on through the forest for a long distance until
at last he came to a tree that he felt sure was the one his mother had
told him of. From there he set forth in the same direction she told
him his uncles had taken. He went on and on, ever deeper and deeper
into the forest, until at last he came to a miserable looking hut. The
door was open, and he looked in. There lay an ugly old hag fast
asleep. She had only one eye in the middle of her forehead, and her
gray hair was tangled and matted and fell over her face. The Prince
entered in very softly, and sitting down beside her, he began to rub
her head. He suspected that this was the Rakshas who had bewitched his
uncles, and it was indeed she.

Presently the old woman awoke. "My pretty lad," said she, "you have a
kind heart. Stay with me here and help me, for I am very old and
feeble, as you see, and I cannot very well look out for myself."

This she said not because she really was old or feeble, but because
she was lazy and wanted a servant to wait on her.

"Gladly will I stay," answered the lad, "and what I can do to serve
you, that I will do."

So the Prince stayed there as the Rakshas' servant. He served her hand
and foot, and every day she made him sit down and rub her head.

One day, while he was rubbing her head and she was in a good humor he
said to her, "Mother, why do you keep all those little jars of water
standing along the wall? Let me throw out the water so that we may
make some use of the jars."

"Do not touch them," cried the Rakshas. "That water is very powerful.
One drop of it can break the strongest enchantment, and if any one has
been bewitched, that water has power to bring him back to his own
shape again."

"And why do you keep that crooked stick behind the door? To-morrow I
shall break it up to build a fire."

"Do not touch it," cried the hag. "I have but to wave that stick, and
I can conjure up a mountain, a forest, or a river just as I wish, and
all in the twinkling of an eye."

The Prince said nothing to that, but went on rubbing her head.
Presently he began to talk again. "Your hair is in a dreadful tangle,
mother," he said. "Let me get a comb and comb it out."

"Do not dare!" screamed the Rakshas. "One hair of my head has the
power to set the whole jungle in flames."

Ramchundra again was silent and went on rubbing her head, and after a
while the old Rakshas fell asleep and snored till the hut shook with
her snoring.

Then, very quietly, the Prince arose. He plucked a hair from the old
hag's head without awakening her, he took a flask of the magic water
and the staff from behind the door, and set out as fast as he could go
in the direction of the palace.

It was not long before he heard the Rakshas coming through the jungle
after him, for she had awakened and found him gone.

Nearer and nearer she came, and then the Prince turned and waved the
crooked stick. At once a river rolled between him and the Rakshas.

Without pause the Rakshas plunged into the river and struck out
boldly, and soon she reached the other side.

On she came again close after Ramchundra. Again he turned and waved
the staff. At once a thick screen of trees sprang up between him and
the hag. The Rakshas brushed them aside this way and that as though
they had been nothing but twigs.

On she came, and again the Prince waved the staff. A high mountain
arose, but the Rakshas climbed it, and it did not take her long to do
this.

Now she was so close that Ramchundra could hear her panting, but the
edge of the jungle had been reached. He turned and cast the Rakshas'
hair behind him. Immediately the whole jungle burst into fire, and the
Rakshas was burned up in the flames.

Soon after the Prince reached the palace and hastened out into the
garden. There sat his mother weeping, with the crows gathered about
her. When she saw Ramchundra she sprang to her feet with a scream of
joy and ran to him and took him in her arms.

"My son! my son! I thought you had perished!" she cried. "Did you meet
the Rakshas?"

"Not only did I meet her, but I have slain her and brought back with
me that which will restore my uncles to their proper shapes," answered
the Prince.

He then dipped his fingers into the jar he carried and sprinkled the
magic water over the crows. At once the enchantment was broken, and
the twenty Princes stood there, tall and handsome, in their own proper
shapes.

The Ranee made haste to lead them to her husband and told him the
whole story. The Rajah could not wonder enough when he understood that
the Princes were his wife's brothers, and were the crows she had
brought home with her.

He at once ordered a magnificent feast to be prepared and a day of
rejoicing to be held throughout all the kingdom.

Many Rajahs from far and near were invited to the feast, and among
those who came was the father of the Ranee and her brothers, but he
never suspected, as he looked upon them, that they were his children.

Before they sat down to the feast the young Ranee said to him, "Where
is your wife Guzra Bai? Why has she not come with you? We had expected
to see her here?"

The Rajah was surprised that the young Ranee should know his wife's
name, but he made some excuse as to why Guzra Bai was not there.

Then the young Rajah said, "Send for her, I beg of you, for the feast
cannot begin till she is here."

The older Rajah was still more surprised at this. He could not think
any one was really concerned about Guzra Bai, and he feared the young
Rajah wished, for some reason, to quarrel with him. But he agreed to
send for his wife, and messengers were at once dispatched to bring
Guzra Bai to the palace.

No sooner had she come than the young Ranee began to weep, and she and
the Princes gathered about their mother. Then they told the Rajah the
whole story of how his mother and the nurse had sought to destroy
Guzra Bai and her children, and how they had been saved, and had now
come to safety and great honor.

The Rajah was overcome with joy when he found that Guzra Bai was
innocent. He prayed her to forgive him, and this she did, and all was
joy and happiness.

As for the old Ranee, she was shut up in the tower where Guzra Bai had
lived for so many years, but the old nurse was killed as befitted such
a wicked woman.





Next: Life's Secret - A Story Of Bengal

Previous: The Magic Pipe - A Norse Tale



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