So the king went back as before under the sissoo tree, put the goblin on his shoulder, and started toward the monk. And as he walked along, the goblin told the king a story.
The Man who changed into a Woman at Will. Was his wife his or the other man’s?
There was a city called Shivapur in Nepal. Long ago a king named Glory-banner lived there, and he deserved the name. He laid the burden of government on his counsellor named Ocean-of-Wisdom, and devoted himself to a life of pleasure with his wife Moonbright.
In course of time a daughter named Moonlight was born to them, pleasing as the moonlight to the eyes of men. When she grew up, she went one day in spring with her servants to a festival in the garden.
There she was seen by a Brahman youth named Master-mind, the son of Rich, who had come there to the festival. When he saw her plucking flowers with one arm uplifted, he went mad with love. His heart was taken captive by the gay maiden, and he was no longer master of his mind.
He thought: “Is she the goddess of love, plucking the spring flowers in person? Or is she a forest goddess, come here to worship the spring-time?”
Then the princess saw him, like a new god of love incarnate. The moment her eyes fell on him, she fell in love, forgetting her flowers and even her own limbs. While they looked at each other, lost in love like people in a picture, a great wail of anguish arose. They lifted their heads to learn what the matter was, and just then an elephant that had broken his chain, maddened by the scent of another mad elephant, came by, crushing the people in his path. He had thrown off his driver and the ankus hung from him as he ran. And everyone fled in terror.
But the youth Master-mind ran up in a hurry and took the princess in his arms. And with a mixture of fear and love and modesty she half embraced him as he carried her far out of the elephant’s path. Then her people gradually gathered, and she went to the palace, looking at the youth, and burning over the flame of love.
And the youth went home from the garden, and thought: “I cannot live, I cannot exist a moment without her. I must seek help from my teacher Root, who is a thorough rogue.” And so the day slowly passed.
The next morning he went to his teacher Root, and found him with his constant friend Moon. He drew near, bowed, and told his desire. And the teacher laughed and promised to help him.
So that wonderful rogue put a magic pill in his mouth, and thus changed himself into an old Brahman. He put a second pill into Master-mind’s mouth, which changed him into a lovely girl. Then that prince of rogues took him to the king and said: “O King, this maiden has come a long distance to marry my only son. But my son has gone away, and I am going to look for him. Please keep the girl. For you are a protector to be trusted while I am looking for my son.”
The king was afraid of a curse, so he promised to do it. And summoning his daughter, he said: “Daughter, keep this maiden in your chamber, and let her live with you.” So the girl took the Brahman youth Master-mind in his girl form to her own apartments.
When Root had gone away, Master-mind in his girl form lived with his belovèd, and in a few days came to know her in an intimate and loving way, as girl friends do. Then when he saw that she was pining away and tossing on her couch, he asked the princess one evening: “My dear girl, why do you grow pale and thin day by day, grieving as if separated from your love? Tell me. Why not trust a loving, innocent girl like me? If you will not tell me, I shall starve myself.”
And the princess trusted him and said after a little hesitation: “My dear girl, why should I not trust you? Listen. I will tell you. One day I went to the spring festival in the garden. There I saw a handsome Brahman youth, fair as the moon but not so cold, the sight of whom kindled my love. For he adorned the garden as the spring-time does. While my eager eyes were feasting on his face, a great mad elephant that had broken his chain came charging and thundering past like a black cloud in the dry season. My servants scattered in terror, and I was helpless. But the Brahman youth took me in his arms and carried me far away. I seemed to be in a sandal bath, in a stream of nectar. I cannot tell how I felt as I touched him. Presently my servants gathered around, and I was brought here helpless. I felt as if I had fallen from heaven to earth. From that day I see in my thoughts my dear preserver beside me. I embrace him in my dreams. What need of more words? I wear away the time, thinking constantly of him and only him. The fire of separation from the lord of my life devours me day and night.”
When Master-mind heard these welcome words, he rejoiced and counted himself happy. And thinking the time to reveal himself had come, he took the pill from his mouth, and disclosed his natural form. And he said: “Beautiful maiden, I am he whom you bought and enslaved with a kindly glance in the garden. I was sick at the separation from you; so I took the form of a girl, and came here. So now bring heaven in a loving glance to my love-tortured heart.”
When the princess saw that the lord of her life was beside her, she was torn between love and wonder and modesty, and did not know what she ought to do. So they were secretly married and lived there in supreme happiness. Master-mind lived in a double form. By day he was a girl with the pill in his mouth, by night a man without the pill.
After a time the brother-in-law of King Glory-banner gave his daughter with great pomp to a Brahman, the son of the counsellor Ocean-of-Wisdom. And the princess Moonlight was invited to her cousin’s wedding and went to her uncle’s house. And Master-mind went with her in his girl form.
When the counsellor’s son saw Master-mind in his lovely girl form, he was terribly smitten with the arrows of love. His heart was stolen by the sham girl, and he went home feeling lonely even with his wife. It made him crazy to think of that lovely face. When his father tried to soothe him, he woke from his madness and stammered out his insane desire. And his father was terribly distressed, knowing that all this depended on another.
Then the king learned the story and came there. When the king saw his condition and perceived that he was seven parts gone in love, he said: “How can I give him the girl who was intrusted to me by the Brahman? Yet without her he will be ten parts gone in love, and will die. And if he dies, then his father, the counsellor, will die too. And if the counsellor perishes, my kingdom will perish. What shall I do?”
He consulted his counsellors, and they said: “Your Majesty, the first duty of a king is the preservation of the virtue of his people. This is the fundamental principle, and is established as such among counsellors. If the counsellor is lost, the fundamental principle is lost; how then can virtue be preserved? So in this case it would be sinful to destroy the counsellor through his son. You must by all means avoid the loss of virtue which would ensue. Give the Brahman’s girl to the counsellor’s son. And when the Brahman returns, further measures will suggest themselves.”
To this the king agreed, and promised to give the sham girl to the counsellor’s son. So Master-mind in his girl form was brought from the chamber of the princess, and he said to the king: “Your Majesty, I was brought here by somebody for a given purpose. If you give me to somebody else, well and good. You are the king. Right and wrong depend on you. I will marry him to-day, but only on one condition. My husband shall go away immediately after the marriage and not return until he has been on a pilgrimage for six months. Otherwise I shall bite out my tongue.”
So the counsellor’s son was summoned, and he joyfully assented. He made the man his wife at once, put the sham wife in a guarded room and started on a pilgrimage. So Master-mind lived there in his woman form.
When he realized that the counsellor’s son would soon return, Master-mind fled by night. And Root heard the story, and again assumed the form of an old Brahman. He took his friend Moon, went to Glory-banner, and said respectfully: “Your Majesty, I have brought my son. Pray give me my daughter-in-law.”
The king was afraid of a curse, so he said: “Brahman, I do not know where your daughter-in-law has gone. Be merciful. To atone for my carelessness, I will give your son my own daughter.”
The prince of rogues in the form of an old Brahman angrily refused. But the king finally persuaded him, and with all due form married his daughter Moonlight to Moon, who pretended to be the old Brahman’s son. Then Root went home with the bride and bridegroom.
But then Master-mind came, and in the presence of Root a great dispute arose between him and Moon.
Master-mind said: “Moonlight should be given to me. I married the girl first with my teacher’s permission.”
Moon said: “Fool! What rights have you in my wife? Her father gave her to me in regular marriage.”
So they disputed about the princess whom one had won by fraud and the other by force. But they could reach no decision.
O King, tell me. Whose wife is she? Resolve my doubts, and remember the agreement about your head.
Then the king said: “I think she is the rightful wife of Moon. For she was married to him in the regular way by her father in the presence of her relatives. Master-mind married her secretly, like a thief. And when a thief takes things from other people, it is never right.”
When the goblin heard this, he went back home as before. And the king stuck to his purpose. He went back again, put the goblin on his shoulder, and started from the sissoo tree.