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Indian Fairy Tales

 The Charmed Ring 
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MEANWHILE THE merchant's son had returned from hunting and was terribly distressed not to find his house and wife. There was the place only, just as he knew it before he had tried the charmed ring which Raja Indrasha had given him. He sat down and determined to put an end to himself. Presently the cat and dog came up. They had gone away and hidden themselves, when they saw the house and everything disappear. "O master!" they said, "stay your hand. Your trial is great, but it can be remedied. Give us one month, and we will go and try to recover your wife and house."
      "Go," said he, "and may the great God aid your efforts. Bring back my wife, and I shall live."
      So the cat and dog started off at a run, and did not stop till they reached the place whither their mistress and the house had been taken. "We may have some difficulty here," said the cat. "Look, the king has taken our master's wife and house for himself. You stay here. I will go to the house and try to see her." So the dog sat down, and the cat climbed up to the window of the room, wherein the beautiful princess was sitting, and entered. The princess recognised the cat, and informed it of all that had happened to her since she had left them.
      "But is there no way of escape from the hands of these people?" she asked.
      "Yes," replied the cat, "if you can tell me where the charmed ring is."
      "The ring is in the stomach of the ogress," she said.
      "All right," said the cat, "I will recover it. If we once get it, everything is ours." Then the cat descended the wall of the house, and went and laid down by a rat's hole and pretended she was dead. Now at that time a great wedding chanced to be going on among the rat community of that place, and all the rats of the neighbourhood were assembled in that one particular mine by which the cat had lain down. The eldest son of the king of the rats was about to be married. The cat got to know of this, and at once conceived the idea of seizing the bridegroom and making him render the necessary help. Consequently, when the procession poured forth from the hole squealing and jumping in honour of the occasion, it immediately spotted the bridegroom and pounced down on him. "Oh! let me go, let me go," cried the terrified rat. "Oh! let him go," squealed all the company. "It is his wedding day."
      "No, no," replied the cat. "Not unless you do some thing for me. Listen. The ogress, who lives in that house with the prince and his wife, has swallowed a ring, which I very much want. If you will procure it for me, I will allow the rat to depart unharmed. If you do not, then your prince dies under my feet."
      "Very well, we agree," said they all. "Nay, if we do not get the ring for you, devour us all."
      This was rather a bold offer. However, they accomplished the thing. At midnight, when the ogress was sound asleep, one of the rats went to her bedside, climbed up on her face, and inserted its tail into her throat; whereupon the ogress coughed violently, and the ring came out and rolled on to the floor. The rat immediately seized the precious thing and ran off with it to its king, who was very glad, and went at once to the cat and released its son.
      As soon as the cat received the ring, she started back with the dog to go and tell their master the good tidings. All seemed safe now. They had only to give the ring to him, and he would speak to it, and the house and beautiful princess would again be with them, and everything would go on as happily as before. "How glad master will be!" they thought, and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. Now, on the way they had to cross a stream. The dog swam, and the cat sat on its back. Now the dog was jealous of the cat, so he asked for the ring, and threatened to throw the cat into the water if it did not give it up; whereupon the cat gave up the ring. Sorry moment, for the dog at once dropped it, and a fish swallowed it.
      "Oh! what shall I do? what shall I do?" said the dog.
      "What is done is done," replied the cat. "We must try to recover it, and if we do not succeed we had better drown ourselves in this stream. I have a plan. You go and kill a small lamb, and bring it here to me."
      "All right," said the dog, and at once ran off. He soon came back with a dead lamb, and gave it to the cat. The cat got inside the lamb and lay down, telling the dog to go away a little distance and keep quiet. Not long after this a nadhar, a bird whose look can break the bones of a fish, came and hovered over the lamb, and eventually pounced down on it to carry it away. On this the cat came out and jumped on to the bird, and threatened to kill it if it did not recover the lost ring. This was most readily promised by the nadhar, who immediately flew off to the king of the fishes, and ordered it to make inquiries and to restore the ring. The king of the fishes did so, and the ring was found and carried back to the cat.
      "Come along now; I have got the ring," said the cat to the dog.
      "No, I will not," said the dog, "unless you let me have the ring. I can carry it as well as you. Let me have it or I will kill you." So the cat was obliged to give up the ring. The careless dog very soon dropped it again. This time it was picked up and carried off by a kite.
      "See, see, there it goes--away to that big tree," the cat exclaimed.
      "Oh! oh! what have I done?" cried the dog.
      "You foolish thing, I knew it would be so," said the cat. "But stop your barking, or you will frighten away the bird to some place where we shall not be able to trace it."
      The cat waited till it was quite dark, and then climbed the tree, killed the kite, and recovered the ring. "Come along," it said to the dog when it reached the ground. "We must make haste now. We have been delayed. Our master will die from grief and suspense. Come on."
      The dog, now thoroughly ashamed of itself, begged the cat's pardon for all the trouble it had given. It was afraid to ask for the ring the third time, so they both reached their sorrowing master in safety and gave him the precious charm. In a moment his sorrow was turned into joy. He spoke to the ring, and his beautiful wife and house reappeared, and he and everybody were as happy as ever they could be.

      THE END.

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