Then the king went as before to the sissoo tree, put the goblin on his shoulder, and started back. And the goblin said once more: “O King, I like you wonderfully well because you are not discouraged. So I will tell you a delightful little story to relieve your weariness. Listen.”
The King who won a Fairy as his Wife. Why did his counsellor’s heart break?
In the Anga country was a young king named Glory-banner, so beautiful that he seemed an incarnation of the god of love. He had conquered all his enemies by his strength of arm, and he had a
At last the king, proud of his youth and beauty, entrusted all the power in his quiet kingdom to his counsellor, and gradually devoted himself entirely to pleasure. He spent all his time with the ladies of the court, and listened more attentively to their love-songs than to the advice of statesmen. He took greater pleasure in peeping into their windows than into the holes in his administration. But Farsight bore the whole burden of public business, and never wearied day or night.
Then the people began to murmur: “The counsellor Farsight has seduced the king, and now he alone has all the kingly glory.” And the counsellor said to his wife, whose name was Prudence: “My dear, the king is devoted to his pleasures, and great infamy is heaped upon me by the people. They say I have devoured the kingdom, though in fact I support the burden of it. Now popular gossip damages the greatest man. Was not Rama forced to abandon his good wife by popular clamour? So what shall I do now?”
Then his clever wife Prudence showed that she deserved her name. She said: “My dear, leave the king and go on a pilgrimage. Tell him that you are an old man now, and should be permitted to travel in foreign countries for a time. Then the gossip will cease, when they see that you are unselfish. And when you are gone, the king will bear his own burdens. And thus his levity will gradually disappear. And when you come back, you can assume your office without reproach.”
To this advice the counsellor assented, and said to the king in the course of conversation: “Your Majesty, permit me to go on a pilgrimage for a few days. Virtue seems of supreme importance to me.”
But the king said: “No, no, counsellor. Is there no other kind of virtue except in pilgrimages? How about generosity and that kind of thing? Isn’t it possible to prepare for heaven in your own house?”
Then the counsellor said: “Your Majesty, one gets worldly prosperity from generosity and that kind of thing. But a pilgrimage gives eternal life. A prudent man should attend to it while he has strength. The chance may be lost, for no one can be sure of his health.”
But the king was still arguing against it when the door-keeper came in and said: “Your Majesty, the glorious sun is diving beneath the pool of heaven. Arise. The hour for your bath is slipping away.” And the king went immediately to bathe.
The counsellor went home, still determined on his pilgrimage. He would not let his wife go with him, but started secretly. Not even his servants knew.
He wandered alone through many countries to many holy places, and finally came to the Odra country. There he saw a city near the ocean, where he entered a temple to Shiva and sat down in the court. There he sat, hot and dusty from long travel, when he was seen by a merchant named Treasure who had come to worship the god. The merchant gathered from his dress and appearance that he was a high-born Brahman, and invited him home, and entertained him with food, bathing, and the like.
When the counsellor was rested, the merchant asked him: “Who are you? Whence do you come? And where are you going?” And the other replied: “I am a Brahman named Farsight. I came here on a pilgrimage from the Anga country.”
Then the merchant Treasure said to him: “I am preparing for a trading voyage to Golden Island. Do you stay in my house. And when I come back, and you are wearied from your pilgrimage, rest here for a time before going home.” But Farsight said: “I do not want to stay here. I would rather go with you.” And the good merchant agreed. And the counsellor slept in the first bed he had lain in for many nights.
The next day he went to the seashore with the
Whatever seed of fate is sown,
The fruit appears—’tis strange!
Whatever deed a man has done
And when she had made her meaning clear, the heavenly maiden straightway sank with the magic tree and the couch. And Farsight thought: “What a wonderful thing I have seen to-day! What a strange place the ocean is for the appearance of a tree with a fairy in it! And if this is a usual occurrence at sea, why do not other goddesses arise?”
The pilot and other sailors saw that he was astonished, and they said: “Sir, this wonderful maiden appears here regularly, and sinks a moment after, but the sight is new to you.” Then the counsellor, filled with amazement, came to the shore with Treasure, and disembarked. And when the merchant had unloaded his goods and caused his servants to rejoice, the counsellor went home with him and spent many happy days there.
At last he said to Treasure: “Merchant, I have rested happily for a long time in your house. Now I wish to go to my own country. Peace be with you!” And in spite of urging from the merchant, Farsight took his leave, and started with no companion except his own courage. He went through many countries and at last reached the Anga country. And scouts who had been sent by King Glory-banner saw him before he reached the city. When the king learned of it, he went himself out of the city to meet him, for he had been terribly grieved by the separation. He drew near, embraced and greeted the counsellor and took him, all worn and dusty with the weary journey, into an inner room.
And as soon as the counsellor was refreshed, the king said: “Counsellor, why did you leave us? How could you bring yourself to do so harsh and loveless a thing? But after all, who can understand the strange workings of stern necessity? To think that you should decide all at once to wander off on a pilgrimage! Well, tell me what countries you visited, and what new things you saw.”
Then the counsellor told him the whole story truthfully and in order, the journey to Golden Island and the fairy who rose singing from the sea, her wonderful beauty and the magic tree.
But the king immediately fell in love so hopelessly that his kingdom and his life seemed worthless to him without her. He took the counsellor aside and said: “Counsellor, I simply must see her. Remember that I shall die if I do not. I bow to my fate. I will take the journey which you took. You must not refuse me nor accompany me. I shall go alone and in disguise. You must rule the kingdom, and not dispute my words. Swear to do it on your life.”
So he spoke, and would not listen to advice, but dismissed the counsellor. Then Farsight was unhappy though a great festival was made for him. How can a good counsellor be happy when his master devotes himself to a vice?
The next night King Glory-banner threw the burden of government on that excellent counsellor, assumed the dress of a hermit, and left his city. And as he travelled, he saw a monk named Grass, who said when the king bowed before him as a holy man: “My son, if you sail with a merchant named Fortune, you will obtain the maiden you desire. Go on fearlessly.”
So the king bowed again and went on rejoicing. After crossing rivers and mountains he came to the ocean. And on the shore he met at once the merchant Fortune whom the monk had mentioned, bound for Golden Island. And when the merchant saw the king’s appearance and his signet ring, he bowed low, took him on the ship, and set sail.
When the ship reached the middle of the sea, the maiden suddenly arose, sitting in the branches of the magic tree. And as the king gazed eagerly at her, she sang as before to her lute:
Whatever seed of fate is sown,
The fruit appears—’tis strange!
Whatever deed a man has done,
Not God himself can change.
Whatever, how, for whom, and where’
That thing, just so, for him,
This song she sang, hinting at what was to happen. And the king gazed at her smitten by love, and could not move. Then he cried: “O Sea, in hiding her, you deceive those who think they have your treasures. Honour and glory to you! I seek your protection. Grant me my desire!” And as the king prayed, the maiden sank with the tree. Then the king jumped after her into the sea.
The good merchant Fortune thought he was lost and was ready to die of grief. But he was comforted by a voice from heaven which said: “Do nothing rash. There is no danger when he sinks in the sea. For he is the king Glory-banner, disguised as a hermit. He came here for the sake of the maiden; she was his wife in a former life. And he will win her and return to his kingdom in the Anga country.” So the merchant sailed on to complete his business.
But King Glory-banner sank in the sea, and all at once he saw a heavenly city. He looked in amazement at the balconies with their splendid jewelled pillars, their walls bright with gold, and the network of pearls in their windows. And he saw gardens with pools that had stairways of various gems, and magic trees that yielded all desires. But rich as it was, the city was deserted.
He entered house after house, but did not find the maiden anywhere. Then he climbed a high balcony built of gems, opened a door, and entered. And there he saw her all alone, lying on a jewelled couch, and clad in splendid garments. He eagerly raised her face to see if it was really she, and saw that it was indeed the maiden he sought. At the sight of her he had the strange feeling of the traveller in a desert in summer at the sight of a river.
And she opened her eyes, saw that he was handsome and loveable, and left her couch in confusion. But she welcomed him and with downcast eyes that seemed like full-blown lotuses she did honour to his feet. Then she slowly spoke: “Who are you, sir? How did you come to this inaccessible under-world? And what is this hermit garb? For I see that you are a king. Oh, sir, if you would do me a kindness, tell me this.”
And the king answered her: “Beautiful maiden, I am King Glory-banner of the Anga country, and I heard from a reliable person that you were to be seen on the sea. To see you I assumed this garb, left my kingdom, and followed you hither. Oh, tell me who you are.”
Then she said to him with bashful love: “Sir, there is a king of the fairies named Moonshine. I am his daughter, and my name is Moonlight. Now my father has left me alone in this city. I do not know where he went with the rest of the people, or why. Therefore, as my home is lonely, I rise through the ocean, sit on a magic tree, and sing about fate.”
Then the king remembered the words of the monk, and urged her with such gentle, tender words that she confessed her love and agreed to marry him. But she made a condition: “My dear, on four set days in each month you must let me go somewhere unhindered and unseen. There is a reason.” And the king agreed, married her, and lived in heavenly happiness with her.
While he was living in heavenly bliss, Moonlight said to him one day: “My dear, you must wait here. I am going somewhere on an errand. For this is one of the set days. While you stay here, sweetheart, you must not go into that crystal room, nor plunge into this pool. If you do, you will find yourself at that very moment in the world again.” So she said good-bye and left the city.
But the king took his sword and followed, to learn her secret. And he saw a giant approaching with a great black cave of a mouth that yawned like the pit. The giant fell down and howled horribly, then took Moonlight into his mouth and swallowed her.
And the king’s anger blazed forth. He took his great sword, black as a snake that has sloughed its skin, ran up wrathfully, and cut off the giant’s head. He was blinded by his madness, he did not know what to do, he was afflicted by the loss of his darling. But Moonlight split open the stomach of the giant, and came out alive and unhurt, like the brilliant, spotless moon coming out from a black cloud.
When he saw that she was saved, the king cried: “Come, come to me!” and ran forward and embraced her. And he asked her: “What does it mean, dearest? Is this a dream, or an illusion?” And the fairy answered: “My dear, listen to me. It is not a dream, not an illusion. My father, the king of the fairies, laid this curse upon me. My father had many sons, but he loved me so that he could not eat without me. And I used to come to this deserted spot twice a month to worship Shiva.
“One day I came here and it happened that I spent the whole day in worship. That day my father waited for me and would not eat or drink anything, though he was hungry and angry with me. At night I stood before him with downcast eyes, for I had done wrong. And he forgot his love and cursed me—so strong is fate. ‘Because you have despised me and left me hungry a whole day, a giant named Terror-of-Fate will swallow you four times a month when you leave the city. And each time you will split him open and come out. And you shall not remember the curse afterwards, nor the pain of being swallowed alive. And you must live here alone.’
“But when I begged him, he thought awhile and softened the curse. ‘When Glory-banner, King of the Angas, shall become your husband, and shall see you swallowed by the giant, and shall kill the giant, then the curse shall end, and you shall remember all your magic arts.’ Then he left me here, and went with his people to the Nishadha mountain. But I stayed here because of the curse. And now the curse is ended, and I remember everything. So now I shall go to the Nishadha mountain to see my father. Of course now I remember how to fly. And you are at liberty to stay here, or to go back to your own kingdom.”
Then the king was sad, and he begged her thus: “My beautiful wife, do not go for seven days. Be as kind as you are beautiful. Let me be happy with you in the garden, and forget my longings. Then you may go to your father, and I will go home.” So he persuaded her, and was happy with her for six days in the garden. And the lilies in the ponds looked like longing eyes, and the ripples like hands raised to detain them, and the cries of swans and cranes seemed to say: “Do not leave us and go away.”
On the seventh day the king cleverly led his wife to the pool from which one could get back to the world. There he threw his arms about her and plunged into the pool, and came up with her in the pool in the garden of his own palace.
The gardeners saw that the king had come back with a wife, and they joyfully ran and told the counsellor Farsight. He came and fell at the king’s feet, and then led the king and the fairy into the palace. And the counsellor and the people thought: “Wonderful! The king has won the fairy whom others could see only for a moment like the lightning in the sky. Whatever is written in one’s fate, that comes true, however impossible it may be.”
But when Moonlight saw that the king was in his own country, and the seven days were over, she thought she would fly away like other fairies. But she could not remember how. Then she became very sad, like a woman who has been robbed.
And the king said: “Why are you so sad, my dear? Tell me.” And the fairy said: “The curse is over. Yet because I have been bound so long in the fetters of your love, I have lost my magic arts. I cannot fly.” Then the king thought: “The fairy is really mine,” and he was happy and made a great feast.
When the counsellor Farsight saw this, he went home, and lay down on his bed, and his heart broke, and he died. Then the king governed the kingdom himself, and lived for a long time in heavenly happiness with Moonlight.
When he had told this story, the goblin said: “O King, when the king was so happy, why should the counsellor’s heart break? Was it from grief because he did not win the fairy himself? Or from sorrow because the king came back, and he could no longer act as king? If you know and will not tell me, then you will lose your virtue, and your head will go flying into a hundred pieces.”
And the king said to the goblin: “O magic creature, neither of these reasons would be possible for a high-minded counsellor. But he thought: ‘The king used to neglect his duties for the sake of ordinary women. What will happen now, when he loves a fairy? In spite of all my efforts, a terrible misfortune has happened.’ I think that was why his heart broke.”
Then the magic goblin went back to his tree in a moment. And the king was still determined to catch him, and went once more to the sissoo tree.