-- The Battle of the Swans and Peacocks*
When the next day of instruction was come, the King's sons spake to the Sage, Vishnu-Sarman.
"Master," said they, "we are Princes, and the sons of Princes, and we earnestly desire to hear thee discourse upon War."
"I am to speak on what shall please you," replied Vishnu-Sarman. "Hear now, therefore, of 'War,' whose opening is thus:—
'Between the peoples of Peacock and Swan/1/'And how was all that?' asked the sons of the Rajah. Vishnu-Sarman proceeded to relate—
The Battle of the Swans and Peacocks
"In the Isle of Camphor there is a lake called 'Lotus-water,' and therein a Swan-Royal, named 'Silver-sides,' had his residence. The birds of the marsh and the mere had elected him King, in full council of all the fowls—for a people with no ruler is like a ship that is without a helmsman. One day King Silver-sides, with his courtiers, was quietly reposing on a couch of well-spread lotus-blossoms, when a Crane, named 'Long-bill,' who had just arrived from foreign parts, entered the presence with an obeisance, and sat down.
'What news from abroad, Long-bill?' asked his Majesty.
'Great news, may it please you,' answered the Crane, 'and therefore have I hastened hither. Will your Majesty hear me?'
'Speak!' said King Silver-sides.
'You must know, my Liege,' began the Crane, 'that over all the birds of the Vindhya/2/ mountains in Jambudwipa/3/ a Peacock is King, and his name is 'Jewel-plume.' I was looking for food about a certain burnt jungle there, when some of his retainers discovered me, and asked my name and country. 'I am a vassal of King Silver-sides, Lord of the Island of Camphor,' I replied, 'and I am travelling in foreign lands for my pleasure.' Upon that the birds asked me which country, my own or theirs, and which King, appeared to me superior. 'How can you ask?' I replied; 'the island of Camphor is, as it were, Heaven itself, and its King a heaven-born ruler. To dwellers in a barren land like yours how can I describe them? Come for yourselves, and see the country where I live.' Thereupon, your Majesty, the birds were exceedingly offended, as one might expect—
'Simple milk, when serpents drink it, straightway into venom turns;For, indeed, no reflecting person wastes time in admonishing blockheads—
'The birds that took the apes to teaching,'How did that befall?' asked the King.
The Story of the Weaver-Birds and the Monkeys
"In a nullah that leads down to the Nerbudda river there stood a large silk-cotton tree, where a colony of weaver-birds had built their hanging nests,/4/ and lived snugly in them, whatever the weather. It was in the rainy season, when the heavens are overlaid with clouds like indigo-sheets, and a tremendous storm of water was falling. The birds looked out from their nests, and saw some monkeys, shivering and starved with the cold, standing under a tree. 'Twit! twit! you Monkeys,' they began to chirrup. 'Listen to us!—
'With beaks we built these nests, of fibres scattered;On hearing that the Monkeys were by no means pleased. 'Ho! ho!' said they, 'the Birds in their snug nests are jeering at us; wait till the rain is over.' Accordingly, so soon as the weather mended, the Monkeys climbed into the tree, and broke all the birds' eggs and demolished every nest. I ought to have known better,' concluded the Crane, 'than to have wasted my suggestions on King Jewel-plume's creatures.'
'But what did they say?' asked Silver-sides.
'They said, Rajah,' answered the Crane, 'who made that Swan of thine a King?'
'And what was your reply?' asked Silver-sides.
'I demanded,' replied the Crane, 'who made a King of that Peacock of theirs. Thereupon they were ready to kill me for rage; but I displayed my very best valor. Is it not written—
'A modest manner fits a maid,'Yet a man should measure his own strength first,' said the Rajah, smiling; 'how did you fare against King Jewel-plume's fellows?'
'Very scurvily,' replied Long-bill. "Thou rascal Crane," they cried, "dost thou feed on his soil, and revile our Sovereign? That is past bearing!" And thereat they all pecked at me. Then they began again: "Thou thick-skulled Crane! that King of thine is a goose—a web-footed lord of littleness—and thou art but a frog in a well/5/ to bid us serve him—- him forsooth!—
'Serving narrow-minded masters dwarfs high natures to their size:—Bad kings are only strong enough to spoil good vassals—as a fiction once was mightier than a herd of elephants. You know it, don't you?—
'Mighty may prove things insignificant:—'No! how was that?' I asked.
The Story of the Old Hare and the Elephants
"Once on a time, very little rain had fallen in the due season; and the Elephants being oppressed with thirst, thus accosted their leader:—'Master, how are we to live? The small creatures find something to wash in, but we cannot, and we are half dead in consequence; whither shall we go then, and what shall we do?' Upon that the King of the Elephants led them away a little space; and showed them a beautiful pool of crystal water, where they took their ease. Now it chanced that a company of Hares resided on the banks of the pool, and the going and coming of the elephants trampled many of them to death, till one of their number named Hard-head grumbled out, 'This troop will be coming here to water every day, and every one of our family will be crushed.' 'Do not disquiet yourself,' said an old buck named Good-speed, 'I will contrive to avert it,' and so saying, he set off, bethinking himself on his way how he should approach and accost a herd of elephants; for,
'Elephants destroy by touching, snakes with point of tooth beguile;'I will get on the top of a hill,' he thought, 'and address the Elephants thence.'
"This being done, and the Lord of the herd perceiving him, it was asked of the Hare, 'Who art thou? and whence comest thou?'
'I am an ambassador from his Godship the Moon,' replied Good-speed.
'State your business,' said the Elephant-king.
'Sire,' began the Hare, 'an ambassador speaks the truth safely by charter of his name. Thus saith the Moon, then: "These hares were the guardians of my pool, and thine elephants in coming thither have scared them away. This is not well. Am I not Sasanka,/6/ whose banner bears a hare, and are not these hares my votaries?"'
'Please your worship,' said the Elephant-king with much trepidation, 'we knew nothing of this; we will go there no more.'
'It were well,' said the sham ambassador, 'that you first made your apologies to the Divinity, who is quaking with rage in his pool, and then went about your business.'
'We will do so,' replied the Elephant with meekness; and being led by night to the pool, in the ripples of which the image of the Moon was quivering, the herd made their prostrations; the Hare explaining to the Moon that their fault was done in ignorance, and thereupon they got their dismissal.'
'Nay,' I said, 'my Sovereign is no fiction, but a great King and a noble, and one that might govern the Three Worlds, much more a kingdom,'
'Thou shalt talk thy treason in the presence,' they cried; and therewith I was dragged before King Jewel-plume.
'Who is this?' asked the Rajah.
'He is a servant of King Silver-sides, of the Island of Camphor,' they replied; 'and he slights your Majesty, on your Majesty's own land.'
'Sirrah Crane!' said the Prime Minister, a Vulture, 'who is chief officer in that court?'
'A Brahmany Goose,' I answered, 'named "Know-all"; and he does know every possible science.'
'Sire,' broke in a Parrot, 'this Camphor-isle and the rest are poor places, and belong to Jambudwipa. Your Majesty has but to plant the royal foot upon them.'
'Oh! of course,' said the King.
'Nay,' said I, 'if talking makes your Majesty King of Camphor-island, my Liege may be lord of Jambudwipa by a better title.'
'And that?' said the Parrot.
'Is fighting!' I responded.
'Good!' said the King, with a smile; 'bid your people prepare for war.'
'Not so,' I replied; 'but send your own ambassador.'
'Who will bear the message?' asked the Rajah. 'He should be loyal, dexterous, and bold.'
'And virtuous,' said the Vulture, 'and therefore a Brahman:—
'Better Virtue marked a herald than that noble blood should deck;'Then let the Parrot be appointed,' said the Rajah.
'I am your Majesty's humble servant,' replied the Parrot; 'but this Crane is a bad character, and with the bad I never like to travel. The ten-headed Ravana carried off the wife of Ramchundra!/8/ It does not do,
'With evil people neither stay nor go;'How did that befall?' asked the King. The Parrot related:—
The Story of the Heron and the Crow
'The high-road to Oogein is a very unshaded and sultry one; but there stands upon it one large Peepul-tree,/9/ and therein a Crow and a Heron had their residence together. It was in the hot weather that a tired traveller passed that way, and, for the sake of the shade, he laid his bow and arrows down, and dropped asleep under the tree. Before long the shadow of the tree shifted, and left his face exposed to the glare; which the Heron perceiving, like the kindly bird he was, perched on the Peepul-tree, and spread his wings out so as to cast a shadow on the traveller's face. There the poor fellow, weary with his travel, continued to sleep soundly, and snored away comfortably with open mouth. The sight of his enjoyment was too much for the malevolent Crow, who, perching over him, dropped an unwelcome morsel into the sleeper's mouth, and straightway flew off. The traveller, starting from his slumber, looked about, and, seeing no bird but the Heron, he fitted an arrow and shot him dead. No!' concluded the Parrot, 'I like the society of honest folk.'
'But why these words, my brother?' I said; 'his Majesty's herald is to me even as his Majesty.'
'Very fine!' replied the Parrot; 'but—
'Kindly courtesies that issue from a smiling villain's mouthNeeds must that thou art a bad man; for by thy talk war will have arisen, which a little conciliation had averted:—
'Conciliation!—weapon of the wise!'How came that about?' asked the King. The Parrot related:—
The Story of the Appeased Wheelwright
"There was a Wheelwright in Shri-nuggur, whose name was 'Heavy-head,' He had good reason to suspect the infidelity of his wife, but he had no absolute proof of it. One day he gave out that he should go to a neighboring town, and he started accordingly; but he went a very little way, and then returning, hid himself in his wife's chamber. She being quite satisfied that he was really gone away, invited her gallant to pass the evening with her, and began to spend it with him in unrestrained freedom. Presently, by chance, she detected the presence of her husband, and her manner instantly changed.
'Life of my soul! what ails you?' said her lover; 'you are quite dull to-night.'
'I am dull,' she replied,' because the lord of my life is gone. Without my husband the town is a wilderness. Who knows what may befall him, and whether he will have a nice supper?'
'Trouble thyself no more about the quarrelsome dullard,' said her gallant.
'Dullard, quotha!' exclaimed the wife. 'What matter what he is, since he is my all? Knowest thou not—
'Of the wife the lord is jewel, though no gems upon her beam;Thou, and the like of thee, may serve a whim, as we chew a betel-leaf/10/ and trifle with a flower; but my husband is my master, and can do with me as he will. My life is wrapped up in him—and when he dies, alas! I will certainly die too. Is it not plainly said—
'Hairs three-crore, and half-a-crore hairs, on a man so many grow—And better still is promised; as herein—
'When the faithful wife,/11/
embracing tenderly her husband dead,
All this the Wheelwright heard. 'What a lucky fellow I am,' he thought, 'to have a wife so virtuous,' and rushing from his place of concealment, he exclaimed in ecstasy to his wife's gallant, 'Sir I saw you ever truer wife than mine?'
'When the story was concluded,' said Long-bill, 'the King, with a gracious gift of food, sent me off before the Parrot; but he is coming after me, and it is now for your Majesty to determine as it shall please you.'
'My Liege,' observed the Brahmany-goose with a sneer, 'the Crane has done the King's business in foreign parts to the best of his power, which is that of a fool.'
"Let the past pass," replied the King, "and take thought for the present."
"Be it in secret, then, your Majesty," said the Brahmany-goose—
'Counsel unto six ears spoken, unto all is notified:—Thereupon all withdrew, but the Rajah and the Minister.
'What think you?' said Silver-sides.
'That the Crane has been employed to bring this about,' replied the other.
'What shall we do?' asked the King.
'Despatch two spies—the first to inform and send back the other, and make us know the enemy's strength or weakness. They must be such as can travel by land and water, so the Crane will serve for one, and we will keep his family in pledge at the King's gate. The other must be a very reserved character; as it is said—
'Sick men are for skilful leeches—prodigals for prisoning—'I know such a one,' said his Majesty, after a pause.
'It is half the victory,' responded the Minister.
At this juncture a chamberlain entered with a profound obeisance, and announced the arrival from Jambudwipa of the Parrot.
'Let him be shown to a reception-room,' commanded the Goose, in reply to a look from the King. 'He shall presently have audience.'
'War is pronounced, then,' said the King, as the attendant withdrew.
'It is offered, my Liege; but must not be rashly accepted,' replied the other—
'With gift, craft, promise, cause thy foe to yield;To gain time for expedients is the first point. Expedients are good for great and little matters equally, like
'The subtle wash of waves, that smoothly pass,Let his Excellency the Parrot, then, be cajoled and detained here, while we place our fort in condition to be useful. Is it not said—
'Ten true bowmen on a rampart fifty's onset may sustain;And your Majesty,' continued the Goose, 'will recall the points of a good fortress—
'Build it strong, and build it spacious, with an entry and retreat;'Whom, then, shall we entrust with this work?' asked King Silver-sides.
'The Paddy-bird/12/ is a good bird, and a skilful,' replied his Minister.
'Let him be summoned!' said the King. And upon the entrance of the Paddy-bird, the superintendence of the fortress was committed to him, and accepted with a low prostration.
'As to the fort, Sire!' remarked the Paddy-bird, 'it exists already in yonder large pool; the thing is to store the island in the middle of it with provisions—
'Gems will no man's life sustain;'Good!' said King Silver-sides; 'let it be looked to.' Thereupon, as the Paddy-bird was retiring, the Usher entered again, and making prostration, said: 'May it please your Majesty, the King of all the Crows, Night-cloud by name, has just arrived from Singhala-dwipa,/13/ and desires to lay his homage at your Majesty's feet.'
'He is a wise bird, and a far-travelled,' said the King; 'I think we must give him audience.'
Nevertheless, Sire,' interrupted the Goose, 'we must not forget that he is a land-bird, and therefore not to be received as a water-fowl. Your royal memory doubtless retains the story of
'The Jackal's fate, who being colored blue,'No! How was that?' asked King Silver-sides. The Goose related—
The Story of the Dyed Jackal
"A Jackal once on a time, as he was prowling about the suburbs of a town, slipped into an indigo-tank; and not being able to get out he laid himself down so as to be taken for dead. The dyer presently coming and finding what seemed a dead Jackal, carried him into the jungle and then flung him away. Left to himself, the Jackal found his natural color changed to a splendid blue. 'Really,' he reflected, 'I am now of a most magnificent tint; why should I not make it conduce to my elevation?' With this view, he assembled the other Jackals, and thus harangued them:—
'Good people, the Goddess of the Wood, with her own divine hand, and with every magical herb of the forest, has anointed me King. Behold the complexion of royalty!—and henceforward transact nothing without my imperial permission."
"The Jackals, overcome by so distinguished a color, could do nothing but prostrate themselves and promise obedience. His reign, thus begun, extended in time to the lions and tigers; and with these high-born attendants he allowed himself to despise the Jackals, keeping his own kindred at a distance, as though ashamed of them. The Jackals were indignant, but an old beast of their number thus consoled them:—
"Leave the impudent fellow to me. I will contrive his ruin. These tigers and the rest think him a King, because he is colored blue; we must show them his true colors. Do this, now!—in the evening-time come close about him, and set up a great yell together—he is sure to join in,/14/ as he used to do—
'Hard it is to conquer nature: if a dog were made a King,And when he yells the Tigers will know him for a Jackal and fall upon him.'
'The thing befell exactly so, and the Jackal,' concluded the Minister, 'met the fate of one who leaves his proper party.'
'Still,' said the King, 'the Crow has come a long way, and we might see him, I think.'
'Admit the Parrot first, Sire,' said the Goose; 'the fort has been put in order and the spy despatched.'
"Thereupon a Court was called, and the Parrot introduced, followed by Night-cloud, the Crow. A seat was offered to the parrot, who took it, and, with his beak in the air, thus delivered his mission:—
'King Silver-sides!—My master, the King Jewel-plume, Lord of Lords, bids thee, if life and lands be dear to thee, to come and make homage at his august feet; and failing this to get thee gone from Camphor-island.'
'S'death!' exclaimed the Rajah, 'is there none that will silence this traitor?'
'Give the sign, your Majesty,' said the Crow, starting up, and I will despatch this audacious bird.'
'Sir,' said the Goose, 'be calm! and Sire, deign to listen—
'Tis no Council where no Sage is—'tis no Sage that fears not Law;An ambassador must speak unthreatened—
'Though base be the Herald, nor hinder nor let,Thereat the Rajah and Night-cloud resumed their composure; and the Parrot took his departure, escorted by the Minister, and presented with complimentary gifts of gold and jewels. On reaching the palace of Jewel-plume, the King demanded his tidings, and inquired of the country he had visited.
'War must be prepared, may it please you,' said the Parrot: 'the country is a country of Paradise.'
'Prepare for war, then!' said the King.
'We must not enter on it in the face of destiny,' interposed the Vulture-Minister, whose title was 'Far-sight.'
'Let the Astrologer then discover a favorable conjuncture for the expedition, and let my forces be reviewed meantime,' said the King.
'We must not march without great circumspection,' observed Far-sight.
'Minister!' exclaimed the King, 'you chafe me. Say, however, with what force we should set out.'
'It should be well selected, rather than unwieldy,' replied the Vulture—
'Better few and chosen fighters than of shaven crowns a host,And its commanders must be judiciously appointed; for it is said—
'Ever absent, harsh, unjustly portioning the captured prey—'Ah!' interrupted the Rajah, 'what need of so much talk? We will go, and, if Váchaspati/15/ please, we will conquer.'
Shortly afterwards the Spy returned to Camphor-island. 'King Silver-sides,' he cried, 'the Rajah, Jewel-plume, is on his way hither, and has reached the Ghauts./16/ Let the fort be manned, for that Vulture is a great minister; and I have learned, too, that there is one among us who is in his pay.'
'King!' said the Goose, 'that must be the Crow.'
'But whence, then, did he show such willingness to punish the Parrot?' objected his Majesty. 'Besides, war was declared long after the Crow came to Court.'
'I misdoubt him,' said the Minister, 'because he is a stranger.'
'But strangers surely may be well-disposed,' replied the King. 'How say the books?—
'Kind is kin, howe'er a stranger—kin unkind is stranger shown;Have you never heard of King Sudraka and the unknown Servant, who gave his son's life for the King?
The Story of the Faithful Rajpoot
"I will tell you the tale," said the King, "as I heard it from 'Lilyflower,' daughter of the Flamingo 'White-flag,' of whom I was once very fond:—A soldier presented himself one morning at King Sudraka's gate, and bade the porter procure an audience for 'Vira-vara, a Rajpoot,'/17/ who sought employment. Being admitted to the presence, he thus addressed the King:—
'If your Highness needs an attendant, behold one!'
'What pay do you ask?' inquired the King.
'Five hundred pieces of gold a day,' said Vira-vara.
'And your accoutrements?' asked the King.
'Are these two arms, and this sabre, which serve for a third,' said Vira-vara, rolling up his sleeve.
'I cannot entertain you,' rejoined his Majesty; and thereupon the Rajpoot made salaam, and withdrew. Then said the Ministers, 'If it please your Majesty, the stipend is excessive, but give him pay for four days, and see wherein he may deserve it.' Accordingly, the Rajpoot was recalled, and received wages for four days, with the complimentary betel./18/—Ah! the rare betel! Truly say the wise of it—
'Betel-nut is bitter, hot, sweet, spicy, binding, alkaline—'Now the King narrowly watched the spending of Vira-vara's pay, and discovered that he bestowed half in the service of the Gods and the support of Brahmans, a fourth part in relieving the poor, and reserved a fourth for his sustenance and recreation. This daily division made, he would take his stand with his sabre at the gate of the palace; retiring only upon receiving the royal permission.
'It was on the fourteenth night of the dark half of the month/19/ that King Sudraka heard below a sound of passionate sobbing. 'Ho! there,' he cried, 'who waits at the gate?'
'I,' replied Vira-vara, 'may it please you.'
'Go and learn what means this weeping,' said the King.
'I go, your Majesty, answered the Rajpoot, and therewith departed.
'No sooner was he gone than the King repented him of sending one man alone into a night so dark that a bodkin might pierce a hole in it, and girding on his scimitar, he followed his guard beyond the city gates. When Vira-vara had gone thus far he encountered a beautiful and splendidly dressed lady who was weeping bitterly; and accosting her, he requested to know her name, and why she thus lamented.
'I am the Fortune/20/ of the King Sudraka,' answered she; 'a long while I have lived happily in the shadow of his arm; but on the third day he will die, and I must depart, and therefore lament I.'
'Can nothing serve, Divine Lady, to prolong thy stay?' asked the Rajpoot.
'It might be,' replied the Spirit, 'if thou shouldst cut off the head of thy first-born Shaktidhar, that hath on his body the thirty-two auspicious marks/21/ of greatness. Were his head offered to the all-helpful Durga, the Rajah should live a hundred years, and I might tarry beside him.'
'So speaking, she disappeared, and Vira-vara retraced his steps to his own house and awoke his wife and son. They arose, and listened with attention until Vira-vara had repeated all the words of the vision. When he had finished, Shaktidhar exclaimed, 'I am thrice happy to be able to save the state of the King. Kill me, my father, and linger not; to give my life in such a cause is good indeed,' 'Yes,' said the Mother, 'it is good, and worthy of our blood; how else should we deserve the King's pay?' Being thus agreed, they repaired together at once to the temple of the Goddess Durga, and having paid their devotions and entreated the favor of the deity on behalf of the King, Vira-vara struck off his son's head, and laid it as an offering upon the shrine. That done, Vira-vara said, 'My service to the King is accomplished, and life without my boy is but a burden,' and therewith he plunged his sword in his own breast and fell dead. Overpowered with grief for her husband and child, the mother also withdrew the twice-blooded weapon, and slew herself with it on the bodies of Vira-vara and Shaktidhar.
'All this was heard and seen by King Sudraka, and he stood aghast at the sad sight. 'Woe is me!' he exclaimed—
'Kings may come, and Kings may go;What reck I of my realm, having lost these?' and thereat he drew his scimitar to take his own life also. At that moment there appeared to him the Goddess, who is Mistress of all men's fortunes. 'Son,' said she, staying his lifted hand, 'forbear thy rash purpose, and bethink thee of thy kingdom.'
"The Rajah fell prostrate before her, and cried—'O Goddess! I am done with life and wealth and kingdom! If thou hast compassion on me, let my death restore these faithful ones to life; anywise I follow the path they have marked,' 'Son,' replied the Goddess, 'thine affection is pleasing to me: be it as thou wilt! The Rajpoot and his house shall be rendered alive to thee.' Then the King departed, and presently saw Vira-vara return, and take up again his station as before at the palace-gate.
'Ho! there, Vira-vara!' cried the King, 'what meant the weeping?'
'Let your Majesty rest well!' answered the Rajpoot, 'it was a woman who wept, and disappeared on my approach.' This answer completed the Rajah's astonishment and delight; for we know—
'He is brave whose tongue is silent of the trophies of his sword;So when the day was come, he called a full council, and, declaring therein all the events of the night, he invested the faithful guard with the sovereignty of the Carnatic.
"Thus, then," concluded King Silver-sides, "in entertaining strangers a man may add to his friends."
"It may well be," replied the Goose; "but a Minister should advise what is expedient, and not what is pleasing in sentiment:—
'When the Priest, the Leech, the Vizir of a King his flatterers be,'Let it pass, then,' said Silver-sides, 'and turn we to the matter in hand. King Jewel-plume is even now pitched under the Ghauts. What think you?'
'That we shall vanquish him,' replied the Goose; 'for he disregards, as I learn, the counsel of that great statesman, the Vulture Far-sight; and the wise have said—
'Merciless, or money-loving, deaf to counsel, false of faith,He is marching without due preparation; let us send the Paddy-bird at the head of a force and attack him on his march."
Accordingly the Paddy-bird, setting out with a force of water-fowl, fell upon the host of the Peacock-king, and did immense execution. Disheartened thereat, King Jewel-plume summoned Far-sight, his Minister, and acknowledged to him his precipitation.
'Wherefore do you abandon us, my father?' he said. 'Correct for us what has been done amiss.'
'My Liege,' replied the Vulture, 'it has been well observed—
'By the valorous and unskilful great achievements are not wrought;You have set Strength in the seat of Counsel, your Majesty, and he hath clumsily spoiled your plans. How indeed could it fall otherwise? for—
'Grief kills gladness, winter summer, midnight-gloom the light of day,I have said to myself, 'My Prince's understanding is affected—how else would he obscure the moonlight of policy with the night-vapors of talk;' in such a mood I cannot help him—
'Wisdom answers all who ask her, but a fool she cannot aid;And therefore I have been absent.'
'My father!' said the King, joining his palms in respect, 'mine is all the fault! Pardon it, and instruct me how to withdraw my army without further loss.'
Then the Vulture's anger melted, and he reflected—
'Where the Gods are, or thy Gúrú/22/—in the face of Pain and Age,And with a benignant smile, he answered the King thus, 'Be of good heart, my Liege; thou shalt not only bring the host back safely, but thou shalt first destroy the castle of King Silver-sides.'
'How can that be, with my diminished forces?' asked the Rajah.
'It will come to pass!' answered the Vulture. 'Break up to-day for the blockade of the fort.'
Now, when this was reported by the spies to King Silver-sides, he was greatly alarmed. 'Good Goose!' said he, 'what is to be done? Here is the King of the Peacocks at hand, to blockade us—by his Minister's advice, too.'
'Sire,' replied the Goose, 'separate the efficient and the inefficient in your force; and stimulate the loyalty of the first, with a royal bounty of gold and dresses, as each may seem to merit. Now is the time for it—
'Oh, my Prince! on eight occasions prodigality is none—'But is this expenditure needed?' said the King.
'It is needed, my Liege,' said the Goose, 'and it befits a Monarch; for—
'Truth, munificence, and valor, are the virtues of a King;'Let it be incurred then!' replied the King.
At this moment Night-cloud, the Crow, made his appearance. 'Deign me one regard, Sire,' said he, 'the insolent enemy is at our gates; let your Majesty give the word, and I will go forth and show my valor and devotion to your Crown.'
'It were better to keep our cover,' said the Goose. 'Wherefore else builded we this fortalice? Is it not said?—
'Hold thy vantage!—alligators on the land make none afraid;But go, your Majesty, and encourage our warriors." Thereupon they repaired to the Gateway of the Fort, and all day the battle raged there.
It was the morning after, when King Jewel-plume spake thus to his Minister the Vulture—'Good sir, shall thy promise be kept to us?'
'It shall be kept, your Majesty,' replied the Vulture; 'storm the fort!'
'We will storm it!' said the Peacock-king. The sun was not well-risen accordingly when the attack was made, and there arose hot fighting at all the four gates. It was then that the traitorous Crows, headed by their Monarch, Night-cloud, put fire to every dwelling in the citadel, and raised a shout of 'The Fort is taken! it is taken!' At this terrible sound the soldiers of the Swan-king forsook their posts, and plunged into the pool.
Not thus King Silver-sides:—retiring coolly before the foe, with his General the Paddy-bird, he was cut off and encircled by the troopers of King Jewel-plume, under the command of his Marshal, the Cock.
'My General,' said the King, 'thou shalt not perish for me. Fly! I can go no farther. Fly! I bid thee, and take counsel with the Goose that Crest-jewel, my son, be named King!'
'Good my Lord,' replied the Paddy-bird, 'speak not thus! Let your Majesty reign victorious while the sun and moon endure. I am governor of your Majesty's fortress, and if the enemy enter it he shall but do so over my body; let me die for thee, my Master!—
'Gentle, generous, and discerning; such a Prince the Gods do give!''That shalt thou not,' replied the Rajah—
'Skilful, honest, and true-hearted; where doth such a Vassal live?''Nay! my royal Lord, escape!' cried the Paddy-bird; a king's life is the life of his people—
'The people are the lotus-leaves, their monarch is the sun—'Think no more of me.' At this instant the Cock rushing forward, inflicted a wound with his sharp spurs on the person of the King; but the Paddy-bird sprang in front of him, and receiving on his body the blows designed for the Rajah, forced him away into the pool. Then turning upon the Cock, he despatched him with a shower of blows from his long bill; and finally succumbed, fighting in the midst of his enemies. Thus the King of the Peacocks captured the fortress; and marched home with all the treasure in it, amid songs of victory.
Then spake the Princes: "In that army of the Swans there was no soldier like the Paddy-bird, who gave his own life for the King's."
"There be nowhere many such," replied Vishnu-Sarman; "for
'All the cows bring forth are cattle—only now and then is born"It is well spoken," said the Princes.
"But for him that dares to die so," added the Sage, "may an eternal heaven be reserved, and may the lustrous Angels of Paradise, the Apsaras,/24/ conduct him thither! Is it not so declared, indeed?—
'When the soldier in the battle lays his life down for his king,"It is so declared," said the Rajah's sons.
"And now, my Princes," concluded Vishnu-Sarman, "you have listened to 'War.'"
"We have listened, and are gratified," replied the sons of the King.
"Let me end then," said their Preceptor,
'If the clouds of Battle lower
/1/ The peacock is wild in most Indian jungles. The swan (Sanscrit, hansa) is a species of flamingo of a white color, with markings of a golden yellow. The voice and gait of a beautiful woman are likened by the Hindoo poets to those of the "Hansa." It is the vehicle of the god Brahma.
/2/ The chain between Hindustan and the south country of Deccan. The name is said to imply that they appear,from their loftiness, to stop the sun in his declining course.
"The land of the rose-apple"—the central of the seven continents, containing
the regions known to Hindoo geographers. It may not be out of place to
sketch in this note the Hindoo's cosmogony. He reads in his Poorans that
Priyavrata, son of the Self-born, grieving to see the earth but half illumined
at one time by the sun, drove round it seven times in his own flaming chariot,
the wheels of which formed seven ruts, which are now the beds of the seven
oceans. The continents thus divided are also seven. Jambu-dwipa is the
central one, with Mount Meru for its own centre, where "men are born of
the colour of burnished gold, and the women resemble blue lotuses; where
all live as do the gods, and have the vital forces of 10,000 elephants."
/4/ These birds seem to select the bushes over the mouth of a well, or the slender twigs of a tree, as safe places from the snakes.
/5/ Having no more knowledge than the frog has of light.
/6/ From the Sanskrit—Sasa, a hare.
/7/ At the churning of the waters, along with the "amrita" and the beautiful Lukshmi, came up also a deadly venom (Kalkût), fatal to mortals. To avert its evil influence the god Shiva drank it up; but it was potent enough to stain his throat black or dark-blue, whence his title of "Nilkanta," the blud-throated.
/8/I.e., Rama, who was absent in the chase of a phantom deer of gold.
/9/ Or "Pimpal," the holy fig.
/10/ The "pan-sooparee," a compound of betel-nut, lime, and cloves, wrapped up in a leaf of the pepper-vine, and chewed by all India.
/11/ By such a death as that alluded to, she earns the title of Sati, the "excellent."
/12/ The common Indian crane; a graceful white bird, to be seen everywhere, and always, in the interior of Hindostan.
/13/ The "Land of the Lion"—Ceylon.
/14/ The cry of one jackal at night raises a chorus from all those within hearing.
/15/ Policy, "the Lord of Talk." Hodiè, "Diplomacy."
/16/ A word applied to ranges of mountains, by which, as by a staircase, the country rises into an elevated region. Also to the step-like path leading over or through the mountains, and to the flight of stairs at a river side landing-place.
/17/ Here synonymous with "Kshattriya," a man of the military caste.
/18/ The "pan-sooparee" (see note 10), neatly folded into a triangular form, and pierced through by a clove, is handed round at the close of all occasions of ceremony. Judged by its popularity (and not by a first experiment upon it), it deserves the encomium which King Silver-sides cannot repress.
/19/ The Hindoos divide their month into two divisions of fifteen tithees (or days) each. "Shood," the bright half, is occupied by the increase of the moon; and "Vud," the dark half, marks the moon's waning. The fourteenth night of the dark half would be intensely dark.
/20/ The "Lukshmi," the attendant genius.
/21/ This superstition, preserved to us in palmistry, os of common occurrence in the Hindoo writings. In Book 19 of the Vana-parva (Mahabharat), Vahúka chooses his horses by the ten avartas, or marks of excellence. "Never," says King Rituparna—"Never shall we reach Vidarbha, drawn by steeds so slight and small." Vahuka replies—
"Two on head, and one on forehead, marks of mettle here be all,/22/ The spiritual instructur of a young Brahman.
/23/ Large branching horns which reach backward and rub upon his shoulders.
/24/ The houris of Indra's heaven. They also were produced at the churning of the ocean, in raiment and ornaments of celestial splendour. Their office is to receive into Paradise and to solace there with the delights of love the souls of all who have died fighting bravely. In the "Nala" of the Mahabharat (Book 2) Indra the god is made to say—
"They, the just—the lion-hearted,—Lords, who, never yielding place,
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