| The Boy Who Had A Moon On His Forehead And A Star On His Chin |
HE CHILD NOW lived in Suri's stomach; and when one whole year had passed, and he was two years old, the cow went out to the plain, and said to herself, "I do not know whether the child is alive or dead. But I have never hurt it, so I will see." Then she brought up the boy; and he played about, and Suri was delighted; she loved him and caressed him, and talked to him. Then she swallowed him, and returned to her stable.
At the end of another year she went again to the plain and brought up the child. He played and ran about for an hour to her great delight, and she talked to him and caressed him. His great beauty made her very happy. Then she swallowed him once more and returned to her stable. The child was now three years old.
But this time the cowherd had followed Suri, and had seen the wonderful child and all she did to it. So he ran and told the four Queens, "The King's cow has a beautiful boy inside her. He has a moon on his forehead and a star on his chin. Such a child has never been seen before!"
At this the Queens were terrified. They tore their clothes and their hair and cried. When the King came home at evening, he asked them why they were so agitated. "Oh," they said, "your cow came and tried to kill us; but we ran away. She tore our hair and our clothes." "Never mind," said the King. "Eat your dinner and be happy. The cow shall be killed to-morrow morning."
Now Suri heard the King give this order to the servants, so she said to herself, "What shall I do to save the child?" When it was midnight, she went to the King's horse called Katar, who was very wicked, and quite untameable. No one had ever been able to ride him; indeed no one could go near him with safety, he was so savage. Suri said to this horse, "Katar, will you take care of something that I want to give you, because the King has ordered me to be killed to-morrow?"
"Good," said Katar; "show me what it is." Then Suri brought up the child, and the horse was delighted with him. "Yes," he said, "I will take the greatest care of him. Till now no one has been able to ride me, but this child shall ride me." Then he swallowed the boy, and when he had done so, the cow made him many salaams, saying, "It is for this boy's sake that I am to die." The next morning she was taken to the jungle and there killed.
The beautiful boy now lived in the horse's stomach, and he stayed in it for one whole year. At the end of that time the horse thought, "I will see if this child is alive or dead." So he brought him up; and then he loved him, and petted him, and the little prince played all about the stable, out of which the horse was never allowed to go. Katar was very glad to see the child, who was now four years old. After he had played for some time, the horse swallowed him again. At the end of another year, when the boy was five years old, Katar brought him up again, caressed him, loved him, and let him play about the stable as he had done a year before. Then the horse swallowed him again.
But this time the groom had seen all that happened, and when it was morning, and the King had gone away to his hunting, he went to the four wicked Queens, and told them all he had seen, and all about the wonderful, beautiful child that lived inside the King's horse Katar. On hearing the groom's story the four Queens cried, and tore their hair and clothes, and refused to eat. When the King returned at evening and asked them why they were so miserable, they said, "Your horse Katar came and tore our clothes, and upset all our things, and we ran away for fear he should kill us."
"Never mind," said the King. "Only eat your dinner and be happy. I will have Katar shot to-morrow." Then he thought that two men unaided could not kill such a wicked horse, so he ordered his servants to bid his troop of sepoys shoot him.
So the next day the King placed his sepoys all round the stable, and he took up his stand with them; and he said he would himself shoot any one who let his horse escape.
Meanwhile the horse had overheard all these orders. So he brought up the child and said to him, "Go into that little room that leads out of the stable, and you will find in it a saddle and bridle which you must put on me. Then you will find in the room some beautiful clothes such as princes wear; these you must put on yourself; and you must take the sword and gun you will find there too. Then you must mount on my back." Now Katar was a fairy-horse, and came from the fairies' country, so he could get anything he wanted; but neither the King nor any of his people knew this.
When all was ready, Katar burst out of his stable, with the prince on his back, rushed past the King himself before the King had time to shoot him, galloped away to the great jungle-plain, and galloped about all over it. The King saw his horse had a boy on his back, though he could not see the boy distinctly. The sepoys tried in vain to shoot the horse; he galloped much too fast; and at last they were all scattered over the plain. Then the King had to give it up and go home; and the sepoys went to their homes. The King could not shoot any of his sepoys for letting his horse escape, for he himself had let him do so.
Then Katar galloped away, on, and on, and on; and when night came they stayed under a tree, he and the King's son. The horse ate grass, and the boy wild fruits which he found in the jungle. Next morning they started afresh, and went far, and far, till they came to a jungle in another country, which did not belong to the little prince's father, but to another king. Here Katar said to the boy, "Now get off my back." Off jumped the prince. "Unsaddle me and take off my bridle; take off your beautiful clothes and tie them all up in a bundle with your sword and gun." This the boy did. Then the horse gave him some poor, common clothes, which he told him to put on. As soon as he was dressed in them the horse said, "Hide your bundle in this grass, and I will take care of it for you. I will always stay in this jungle-plain, so that when you want me you will always find me. You must now go away and find service with some one in this country."
This made the boy very sad. "I know nothing about anything," he said. "What shall I do all alone in this country?"
"Do not be afraid," answered Katar. "You will find service, and I will always stay here to help you when you want me. So go, only before you go, twist my right ear." The boy did so, and his horse instantly became a donkey. "Now twist your right ear," said Katar. And when the boy had twisted it, he was no longer a handsome prince, but a poor, common- looking, ugly man; and his moon and star were hidden.
Then he went away further into the country, until he came to a grain merchant of the country, who asked him who he was. "I am a poor man," answered the boy, "and I want service." "Good," said the grain merchant, "you shall be my servant."
Now the grain merchant lived near the King's palace, and one night at twelve o'clock the boy was very hot; so he went out into the King's cool garden, and began to sing a lovely song. The seventh and youngest daughter of the King heard him, and she wondered who it was who could sing so deliciously. Then she put on her clothes, rolled up her hair, and came down to where the seemingly poor common man was lying singing. "Who are you? where do you come from?" she asked.
But he answered nothing.
"Who is this man who does not answer when I speak to him?" thought the little princess, and she went away. On the second night the same thing happened, and on the third night too. But on the third night, when she found she could not make him answer her, she said to him, "What a strange man you are not to answer me when I speak to you." But still he remained silent, so she went away.
The next day, when he had finished his work, the young prince went to the jungle to see his horse, who asked him, "Are you quite well and happy?" "Yes, I am," answered the boy. "I am servant to a grain merchant. The last three nights I have gone into the King's garden and sung a song, and each night the youngest princess has come to me and asked me who I am, and whence I came, and I have answered nothing. What shall I do now?" The horse said, "Next time she asks you who you are, tell her you are a very poor man, and came from your own country to find service here."
The boy then went home to the grain merchant, and at night, when every one had gone to bed, he went to the King's garden and sang his sweet song again. The youngest princess heard him, got up, dressed, and came to him. "Who are you? Whence do you come?" she asked.
"I am a very poor man," he answered. "I came from my own country to seek service here, and I am now one of the grain merchant's servants." Then she went away. For three more nights the boy sang in the King's garden, and each night the princess came and asked him the same questions as before, and the boy gave her the same answers.
Then she went to her father, and said to him, "Father, I wish to be married; but I must choose my husband myself." Her father consented to this, and he wrote and invited all the Kings and Rajas in the land, saying, "My youngest daughter wishes to be married, but she insists on choosing her husband herself. As I do not know who it is she wishes to marry, I beg you will all come on a certain day, for her to see you and make her choice."