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Indian Fairy Tales

 Raja Rasalu 
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SO THE NIGHT passed on, dark and dreary, while Rasalu sat in the graveyard and talked to the headless corpse. Now when morning broke and Rasalu said he must continue his journey, the headless corpse asked him whither he was going, and when he said "to play chaupur with King Sarkap," the corpse begged him to give up the idea saying, "I am King Sarkap's brother, and I know his ways. Every day, before breakfast, he cuts off the heads of two or three men, just to amuse himself. One day no one else was at hand, so he cut off mine, and he will surely cut off yours on some pretence or another. However, if you are determined to go and play chaupur with him, take some of the bones from this graveyard, and make your dice out of them, and then the enchanted dice with which my brother plays will lose their virtue. Otherwise he will always win."
      So Rasalu took some of the bones lying about, and fashioned them into dice, and these he put into his pocket. Then, bidding adieu to the headless corpse, he went on his way to play chaupur with the King.
      Now, as Raja Rasalu, tender-hearted and strong, journeyed along to play chaupur with the King, he came to a burning forest, and a voice rose from the fire saying, "Oh, traveller! for God's sake save me from the fire!"
      Then the Prince turned towards the burning forest, and, lo! the voice was the voice of a tiny cricket. Nevertheless, Rasalu, tender-hearted and strong, snatched it from the fire and set it at liberty. Then the little creature, full of gratitude, pulled out one of its feelers, and giving it to its preserver, said, "Keep this, and should you ever be in trouble, put it into the fire, and instantly I will come to your aid."
      The Prince smiled, saying, "What help could 'you' give 'me'?" Nevertheless, he kept the hair and went on his way.
      Now, when he reached the city of King Sarkap, seventy maidens, daughters of the King, came out to meet him,--seventy fair maidens, merry and careless, full of smiles and laughter; but one, the youngest of them all, when she saw the gallant young Prince riding on Bhaunr Iraqi, going gaily to his doom, was filled with pity, and called to him saying:
      "Fair Prince, on the charger so gray,
      Turn thee back! turn thee back!
      Or lower thy lance for the fray;
      Thy head will be forfeit to-day!
      Dost love life? then, stranger, I pray,
      Turn thee back! turn thee back!"

      But he, smiling at the maiden, answered lightly:
      "Fair maiden, I come from afar,
      Sworn conqueror in love and in war!
      King Sarkap my coming will rue,
      His head in four pieces I'll hew;
      Then forth as a bridegroom I'll ride,
      With you, little maid, as my bride!"

      Now when Rasalu replied so gallantly, the maiden looked in his face,
      and seeing how fair he was, and how brave and strong, she straightway fell in love with him, and would gladly have followed him through the world.
      But the other sixty-nine maidens, being jealous, laughed scornfully at her, saying, "Not so fast, oh gallant warrior! If you would marry our sister you must first do our bidding, for you will be our younger brother."
      "Fair sisters!" quoth Rasalu gaily, "give me my task and I will perform it."
      So the sixty-nine maidens mixed a hundred-weight of millet seed with a hundredweight of sand, and giving it to Rasalu, bade him separate the seed from the sand.
      Then he bethought him of the cricket, and drawing the feeler from his pocket, thrust it into the fire. And immediately there was a whirring noise in the air, and a great flight of crickets alighted beside him, and amongst them the cricket whose life he had saved.
      Then Rasalu said, "Separate the millet seed from the sand."
      "Is that all?" quoth the cricket; "had I known how small a job you wanted me to do, I would not have assembled so many of my brethren."
      With that the flight of crickets set to work, and in one night they separated the seed from the sand.
      Now when the sixty-nine fair maidens, daughters of the king saw that Rasalu had performed his task, they set him another, bidding him swing them all, one by one, in their swings, until they were tired.
      Whereupon he laughed, saying, "There are seventy of you, counting my little bride yonder, and I am not going to spend my life swinging girls! Why, by the time I have given each of you a swing, the first will be wanting another! No! if you want a swing, get in, all seventy of you, into one swing, and then I'll see what can be done."
      So the seventy maidens climbed into one swing, and Raja Rasalu, standing in his shining armour, fastened the ropes to his mighty bow, and drew it up to its fullest bent. Then he let go, and like an arrow the swing shot into the air, with its burden of seventy fair maidens, merry and careless, full of smiles and laughter.
      But as it swung back again, Kasalu, standing there in his shining armour, drew his sharp sword and severed the ropes. Then the seventy fair maidens fell to the ground headlong; and some were bruised and some broken, but the only one who escaped unhurt was the maiden who loved Rasalu, for she fell out last, on the top of the others, and so came to no harm.
      After this, Rasalu strode on fifteen paces, till he came to the seventy drums, that every one who came to play chaupur with the King had to beat in turn; and he beat them so loudly that he broke them all. Then he came to the seventy gongs, all in a row, and he hammered them so hard that they cracked to pieces.
      Seeing this, the youngest Princess, who was the only one who could run, fled to her father the King in a great fright, saying:
      "A mighty Prince, Sarkap! making havoc, rides along,
      He swung us, seventy maidens fair, and threw us out headlong;
      He broke the drums you placed there and the gongs too in his pride,
      Sure, he will kill thee, father mine, and take me for his bride!"

      But King Sarkap replied scornfully:
      "Silly maiden, thy words make a lot
      Of a very small matter;
      For fear of my valour, I wot,
      His armour will clatter.
      As soon as I've eaten my bread
      I'll go forth and cut off his head!"

      Notwithstanding these brave and boastful words, he was in reality very much afraid, having heard of Rasalu's renown. And learning that he was stopping at the house of an old woman in the city, till the hour for playing chaupur arrived, Sarkap sent slaves to him with trays of sweetmeats and fruit, as to an honoured guest. But the food was poisoned.
      Now when the slaves brought the trays to Raja Rasalu, he rose up haughtily, saying, "Go, tell your master I have nought to do with him in friendship. I am his sworn enemy, and I eat not of his salt!"
      So saying, he threw the sweetmeats to Raja Sarkap's dog, which had followed the slave, and lo! the dog died.
      Then Rasalu was very wroth, and said bitterly, "Go back to Sarkap, slaves! and tell him that Rasalu deems it no act of bravery to kill even an enemy by treachery."

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