Then the king went back to the sissoo tree, put the goblin on his shoulder as before, and started. And as he walked along, the goblin said: “O King, I will tell you a story to amuse your weariness. Listen.”
The Mutual Services of King Fierce-lion and Prince Good. Which is the more deserving?
On the shore of the Eastern Ocean is Copper City. There a king named Fierce-lion lived. He turned his back to other men’s wives, but not to fighting men. He destroyed his enemies, but not other men’s wealth.
One day a popular prince named Good came from the south to the king’s gate. He introduced himself, but did not get what he wanted from the king. And he thought: “If I am born a prince, why am I so poor? And if I am to be poor, why did God give me so many desires? For this king pays no attention to me, though I wait upon him and grow weary and faint with hunger.”
While he was thinking, the king went hunting. He went with many horsemen and footmen, and the prince ran along in the dress of a pilgrim with a club in his hand. And during the hunt the king chased a great boar a long distance, and so came into another forest. There he lost sight of the boar, for the trail was covered with leaves and grass. And the king was tired and lost his way in the forest. Only the pilgrim-prince thought nothing of his life, and hungry and thirsty as he was, he followed on foot the king who rode a swift horse.
And when the king saw him following, he spoke lovingly: “My good man, do you perhaps know the way we came?”
And the pilgrim bowed low and said: “I know, your Majesty. But first rest yourself a moment. The blazing sun, the middle jewel in the girdle of heaven’s bride, is terribly hot.” Then the king said eagerly: “See if there is water anywhere.”
And the pilgrim agreed and climbed a high tree and looked around. And he saw a river and climbed down and took the king to it. He unsaddled the horse, gave him water and grass, and let him rest. And when the king had bathed, the pilgrim took two fine mangoes from his skirt, washed them and gave them to the king.
“Where did you get these?” asked the king, and the pilgrim bowed and said: “Your Majesty, I have lived on such food for ten years. While I was serving your Majesty, I had to live like a monk.” And the king said: “What can I say? You deserve your name of Good.” And he was filled with pity and shame, and thought: “A curse on kings, who do not know whether their servants are happy or not! And a curse on their attendants, who do not tell them this and that!” And when the pilgrim insisted, the king was prevailed on to take the two mangoes. He rested there with the pilgrim and ate the mangoes and drank water with the pilgrim, who was accustomed to eat mangoes and drink water.
Then the pilgrim saddled the horse and went ahead to show the way, and at last, at the king’s command, mounted behind on the horse; so the king found his soldiers and went safely home. And when he got there, he proclaimed the devotion of the pilgrim, and made him a rich man, but could not feel that he had paid his debt. So Good stayed there happily with King Fierce-lion and stopped living as a pilgrim.
One day the king sent Good to Ceylon to ask for the hand of the daughter of the King of Ceylon. So he set out after sacrificing to the proper god, and entered a ship with some Brahmans chosen by the king. And when the ship had safely reached the middle of the ocean, there suddenly arose from the waves a very large flag-pole made of gold, with a top that touched the sky. It was adorned with waving banners of various colours and was quite astonishing.
At the same moment the clouds gathered, it began to rain violently, and a mighty wind blew. And the ship was driven by the storm winds and caught on the flag-pole. Then the pole began to sink, dragging the ship with it into the raging waves. And the Brahmans who were there were overcome with fear and cursed the name of their king Fierce-lion.
But Good could not endure that because of his devotion to his king. He took his sword in his hand, girt up his garment, and threw himself after the flag-pole into the sea. He had no fear of the pole which seemed a refuge from the ocean. Then as he sank, the ship was battered by the winds and waves and broke up. And all in it fell into the mouths of sharks.
But Good sank into the ocean, and when he looked about he saw a wonderful city. There he entered a shrine to Gauri, tall as the heavenly mountain, with great gem-sprinkled banners on walls made of different kinds of jewels, in a golden temple blazing with jewelled pillars, with a garden that had a pool, the stairs to which were made of splendid gems. After he had bowed low and praised and worshipped the goddess there, he sat down before her in amazement, wondering if it was all a conjuror’s trick.
Just then the door was suddenly opened by a heavenly maiden. Her eyes were like lotuses, her face like the moon. She had a smile like a flower and a body soft as lotus-stems. And a thousand women waited upon her. She entered the shrine of the goddess and the heart of Good at the same moment. And when she had worshipped the goddess there, she went out from the shrine, but not from the heart of Good.
She entered a circle of light, and Good followed her. And he saw another splendid house, that seemed like a place of meeting for all riches and all enjoyments. And he saw the girl sitting on a jewelled couch, and he approached and sat beside her. He was like a man painted in a picture, for his eyes were fastened on her face.
Now a servant of the maiden saw that his body was thrilled, that he was intent upon the maiden, that he was in love. She understood his feelings and said to him: “Sir, you are our guest. Enjoy the hospitality of my mistress. Arise. Bathe. Eat.” And he felt a little hope at her words and went to a pool in the garden which she showed him.
He plunged into the pool, and when he rose to the surface, he found himself in the pool of King Fierce-lion in Copper City. And when he saw that he had come there so suddenly, he thought: “Oh, what does it mean? Where is that heavenly garden? What a difference between the sight of that girl which was like nectar to me, and this immediate separation from her which is like terrible poison! It was no dream. I was awake when the serving-maid deceived me and made a fool of me.”
He was like a madman without the girl. He wandered in the garden and mourned in a lovelorn way. He was surrounded by wind-blown flower-pollen which seemed to him the yellow flames of separation. And when the gardener saw him in this state, he went and told the king.
And the king was troubled. He went himself to see Good, and asked him soothingly: “What does this mean? Tell me, my friend. Where did you go? And where did you come? And where did you stay? And what did you fall into?”
Then Good told him the whole adventure. And the king thought: “Ah, it is fortunate for me that this brave man is lovelorn. For now I have a chance to pay my debt to him.” So the king said to him: “My friend, give over this vain grief. I will go with you by the same road, and bring you to the heavenly maiden.” So he comforted Good, and made him take a bath.
The next day he transferred his royal duties to his counsellors and entered a ship with Good. Good showed the way through the sea and they saw the flag-pole with its banners rising as before in the middle of the ocean. Then Good said to the king: “Your Majesty, here is the magic flag-pole standing up. When I sink down there, you must sink too along the flag-pole.” So when they came near the sinking pole, Good jumped first, and the king followed him.
They sank down and came to the heavenly city. And the king was astonished, and after he had worshipped the goddess, he sat down with Good. Then the girl, like Beauty personified, came out of the circle of light with her friends. “There she is, the lovely creature,” said Good, and the king thought: “He is quite right to love her.” But when she saw the king looking like a god, she wondered who the strange and wonderful man might be, and entered the shrine to worship the goddess.
But the king took Good and went into the garden to show how little he cared about her. A moment later the girl came from the shrine; she had been praying for a good husband. And she said to a girl friend: “My friend, I wonder where I could see the man who was here. Where is the great man? You girls must hunt for him and ask him to be good enough to come and accept our hospitality. For he is a wonderful man, and we must be polite to him.”
So the girl found him in the garden and gave him her mistress’ message very respectfully. But the brave king spoke loftily to her: “Your words are hospitality enough. Nothing else is necessary.”
Now when her mistress had heard what he said, she thought he was a noble character, better than anybody else. She was attracted by the courage of the king in refusing a sort of hospitality which was almost too much to offer a mere man, and thought about the fulfilment of her prayer for a husband. So she went into the garden herself. She drew near to the king and lovingly begged him to accept her hospitality.
But the king pointed to Good and said: “My dear girl, he told me of the goddess here, and I came to see her. And by following the flag-pole I saw the goddess and her very marvellous temple. It was only afterwards that I happened to see you.”
Then the girl said: “O King, you may be interested in seeing a city which is the wonder of the three worlds.” And the king laughed and said: “He told me about that, too. I believe there is a pool for bathing there.” And the girl said: “O King, do not say that. I am not a deceitful girl. Why should I deceive an honourable man, especially as your noble character has made me feel like a servant? Pray do not refuse me.”
So the king agreed and went with Good and the girl to the edge of the circle of light. There a door opened and he entered and saw another heavenly city like a second hill of heaven; for it was built of gems and gold, and the flowers and fruits of every season grew there at the same time.
And the princess seated the king on a splendid throne and brought him gifts and said: “Your Majesty, I am the daughter of the great god Black-wheel. But Vishnu sent my father to heaven. And I inherited these two magic cities where one has everything he wants. There is no old age or death to trouble us here. And now you are in the place of my father to rule over the cities and over me.” So she offered him herself and all she had. But the king said: “In that case you are my daughter and I give you in marriage to my brave friend Good.”
In the king’s words she saw the fulfilment of her prayer, and being sensible and modest, she agreed. So the king married them and gave all the magic wealth to happy Good, and said: “My friend, I have paid you now for one of the two mangoes which I ate. But I remain in your debt for the second.”
Then he asked the princess how he could get back to his city. And she gave the king a sword called Invincible, and the magic fruit which wards off birth, old age, and death. And the king took the sword and the fruit, plunged into the pool which she showed him, and came up in his own country, feeling completely successful. But Good ruled happily over the kingdom of the princess.
When the goblin had told this story, he asked the king: “O King, which of these two deserves more credit for plunging into the sea?”
And the king was afraid of the curse, so he gave a true answer: “Good seems to me the more deserving, for he did not know the truth beforehand, but plunged without hope into the sea, while the king knew the truth when he jumped.”
And as soon as the king broke silence, the goblin slipped from his shoulder as before without being seen and went to the sissoo tree. And the king tried as before to catch him. Brave men do not waver until they have finished what they have begun.