| The Boy Who Had A Moon On His Forehead And A Star On His Chin |
N A COUNTRY were seven daughters of poor parents, who used to come daily to play under the shady trees in the King's garden with the gardener's daughter; and daily she used to say to them, "When I am married I shall have a son. Such a beautiful boy as he will be has never been seen. He will have a moon on his forehead and a star on his chin." Then her playfellows used to laugh at her and mock her.
But one day the King heard her telling them about the beautiful boy she would have when she was married, and he said to himself he should like very much to have such a son; the more so that though he had already four Queens he had no child. He went, therefore, to the gardener and told him he wished to marry his daughter. This delighted the gardener and his wife, who thought it would indeed be grand for their daughter to become a princess. So they said "Yes" to the King, and invited all their friends to the wedding. The King invited all his, and he gave the gardener as much money as he wanted. Then the wedding was held with great feasting and rejoicing.
A year later the day drew near on which the gardener's daughter was to have her son; and the King's four other Queens came constantly to see her. One day they said to her, "The King hunts every day; and the time is soon coming when you will have your child. Suppose you fell ill whilst he was out hunting and could therefore know nothing of your illness, what would you do then?"
When the King came home that evening, the gardener's daughter said to him, "Every day you go out hunting. Should I ever be in trouble or sick while you are away, how could I send for you?" The King gave her a kettle-drum which he placed near the door for her, and he said to her, "Whenever you want me, beat this kettle-drum. No matter how far away I may be, I shall hear it, and will come at once to you."
Next morning when the King had gone out to hunt, his four other Queens came to see the gardener's daughter. She told them all about her kettle-drum. "Oh," they said, "do drum on it just to see if the King really will come to you."
"No, I will not," she said; "for why should I call him from his hunting when I do not want him?"
"Don't mind interrupting his hunting," they answered. "Do try if he really will come to you when you beat your kettle-drum." So at last, just to please them, she beat it, and the King stood before her.
"Why have you called me?" he said. "See, I have left my hunting to come to you."
"I want nothing," she answered; "I only wished to know if you really would come to me when I beat my drum."
"Very well," answered the King; "but do not call me again unless you really need me." Then he returned to his hunting.
The next day, when the King had gone out hunting as usual, the four Queens again came to see the gardener's daughter. They begged and begged her to beat her drum once more, "just to see if the King will really come to see you this time." At first she refused, but at last she consented. So she beat her drum, and the King came to her. But when he found she was neither ill nor in trouble, he was angry, and said to her, "Twice I have left my hunting and lost my game to come to you when you did not need me. Now you may call me as much as you like, but I will not come to you," and then he went away in a rage.
The third day the gardener's daughter fell ill, and she beat and beat her kettle-drum; but the King never came. He heard her kettle-drum, but he thought, "She does not really want me; she is only trying to see if I will go to her."
Meanwhile the four other Queens came to her, and they said, "Here it is the custom before a child is born to bind its mother's eyes with a handkerchief that she may not see it just at first. So let us bind your eyes." She answered, "Very well, bind my eyes." The four wives then tied a handkerchief over them.
Soon after, the gardener's daughter had a beautiful little son, with a moon on his forehead and a star on his chin, and before the poor mother had seen him, the four wicked Queens took the boy to the nurse and said to her, "Now you must not let this child make the least sound for fear his mother should hear him; and in the night you must either kill him, or else take him away, so that his mother may never see him. If you obey our orders, we will give you a great many rupees." All this they did out of spite. The nurse took the little child and put him into a box, and the four Queens went back to the gardener's daughter.
First they put a stone into her boy's little bed, and then they took the handkerchief off her eyes and showed it her, saying, "Look! this is your son!" The poor girl cried bitterly, and thought, "What will the King say when he finds no child?" But she could do nothing.
When the King came home; he was furious at hearing his youngest wife, the gardener's daughter, had given him a stone instead of the beautiful little son she had promised him. He made her one of the palace servants, and never spoke to her.
In the middle of the night the nurse took the box in which was the beautiful little prince, and went out to a broad plain in the jungle. There she dug a hole, made the fastenings of the box sure, and put the box into the hole, although the child in it was still alive. The King's dog, whose name was Shankar, had followed her to see what she did with the box. As soon as she had gone back to the four Queens (who gave her a great many rupees), the dog went to the hole in which she had put the box, took the box out, and opened it. When he saw the beautiful little boy, he was very much delighted and said, "If it pleases Khuda that this child should live, I will not hurt him; I will not eat him, but I will swallow him whole and hide him in my stomach." This he did.
After six months had passed, the dog went by night to the jungle, and thought, "I wonder whether the boy is alive or dead." Then he brought the child out of his stomach and rejoiced over his beauty. The boy was now six months old. When Shankar had caressed and loved him, he swallowed him again for another six months. At the end of that time he went once more by night to the broad jungle-plain. There he brought up the child out of his stomach (the child was now a year old), and caressed and petted him a great deal, and was made very happy by his great beauty.
But this time the dog's keeper had followed and watched the dog; and he saw all that Shankar did, and the beautiful little child, so he ran to the four Queens and said to them, "Inside the King's dog there is a child! the loveliest child! He has a moon on his forehead and a star on his chin. Such a child has never been seen!" At this the four wives were very much frightened, and as soon as the King came home from hunting they said to him, "While you were away your dog came to our rooms, and tore our clothes and knocked about all our things. We are afraid he will kill us." "Do not be afraid," said the King. "Eat your dinner and be happy. I will have the dog shot to-morrow morning."
Then he ordered his servants to shoot the dog at dawn, but the dog heard him, and said to himself, "What shall I do? The King intends to kill me. I don't care about that, but what will become of the child if I am killed? He will die. But I will see if I cannot save him."
So when it was night, the dog ran to the King's cow, who was called Suri, and said to her, "Suri, I want to give you something, for the King has ordered me to be shot to-morrow. Will you take great care of whatever I give you?"
"Let me see what it is," said Suri, "I will take care of it if I can." Then they both went together to the wide plain, and there the dog brought up the boy. Suri was enchanted with him. "I never saw such a beautiful child in this country," she said. "See, he has a moon on his forehead and a star on his chin. I will take the greatest care of him." So saying she swallowed the little prince. The dog made her a great many salaams, and said, "To-morrow I shall die;" and the cow then went back to her stable.
Next morning at dawn the dog was taken to the jungle and shot.