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- The Brown Fairy Book - 50/54 -
Presently he was aware of a gentle radiance that shed itself before him. Surely morning was not already coming to hasten and reveal his disgrace! He took his hands from before his face, and saw before him two lovely beings whom his instinct told him were not mortal, but were Peris from Paradise.
'Why do you weep, old man?' said one, in a voice as clear and musical as that of the bulbul.
'I weep for shame,' replied he.
'What do you here?' questioned the other.
'I came here to die,' said Wali Dad. And as they questioned him, he confessed all his story.
Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand upon his shoulder, and Wali Dad began to feel that something strange--what, he did not know--was happening to him. His old cotton rags of clothes were changed to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth; on his hard, bare feet were warm, soft shoes, and on his head a great jewelled turban. Round his neck there lay a heavy golden chain, and the little old bent sickle, which he cut grass with, and which hung in his waistband, had turned into a gorgeous scimetar, whose ivory hilt gleamed in the pale light like snow in moonlight. As he stood wondering, like a man in a dream, the other peri waved her hand and bade him turn and see; and, lo! before him a noble gateway stood open. And up an avenue of giant place trees the peris led him, dumb with amazement. At the end of the avenue, on the very spot where his hut had stood, a gorgeous palace appeared, ablaze with myriads of lights. Its great porticoes and verandahs were occupied by hurrying servants, and guards paced to and fro and saluted him respectfully as he drew near, along mossy walks and through sweeping grassy lawns where fountains were playing and flowers scented the air. Wali Dad stood stunned and helpless.
'Fear not,' said one of the peris; 'go to your house, and learn that God rewards the simple-hearted.'
With these words they both disappeared and left him. He walked on, thinking still that he must be dreaming. Very soon he retired to rest in a splendid room, far grander than anything he had ever dreamed of.
When morning dawned he woke, and found that the palace, and himself, and his servants were all real, and that he was not dreaming after all!
If he was dumbfounded, the merchant, who was ushered into his presence soon after sunrise, was much more so. He told Wali Dad that he had not slept all night, and by the first streak of daylight had started to seek out his friend. And what a search he had had! A great stretch of wild jungle country had, in the night, been changed into parks and gardens; and if it had not been for some of Wali Dad's new servants, who found him and brought him to the palace, he would have fled away under the impression that his trouble had sent him crazy, and that all he saw was only imagination.
Then Wali Dad told the merchant all that had happened. By his advice he sent an invitation to the king and princess of Khaistan to come and be his guests, together with all their retinue and servants, down to the very humblest in the camp.
For three nights and days a great feast was held in honour of the royal guests. Every evening the king and his nobles were served on golden plates and from golden cups; and the smaller people on silver plates and from silver cups; and each evening each guest was requested to keep the places and cups that they had used as a remembrance of the occasion. Never had anything so splendid been seen. Besides the great dinners, there were sports and hunting, and dances, and amusements of all sorts.
On the fourth day the king of Khaistan took his host aside, and asked him whether it was true, as he had suspected, that he wished to marry his daughter. But Wali Dad, after thanking him very much for the compliment, said that he had never dreamed of so great an honour, and that he was far too old and ugly for so fair a lady; but he begged the king to stay with him until he could send for the Prince of Nekabad, who was a most excellent, brave, and honourable young man, and would surely be delighted to try to win the hand of the beautiful princess.
To this the king agreed, and Wali Dad sent the merchant to Nekabad, with a number of attendants, and with such handsome presents that the prince came at once, fell head over ears in love with the princess, and married her at Wali Dad's palace amidst a fresh outburst of rejoicings.
And now the King of Khaistan and the Prince and Princess of Nekabad, each went back to their own country; and Wali Dad lived to a good old age, befriending all who were in trouble and preserving, in his prosperity, the simple-hearted and generous nature that he had when he was only Wali Dad Gunjay, the grass cutter.
[Told the author by an Indian.]
Tale of a Tortoise and of a Mischievous Monkey
Once upon a time there was a country where the rivers were larger, and the forests deeper, than anywhere else. Hardly any men came there, and the wild creatures had it all to themselves, and used to play all sorts of strange games with each other. The great trees, chained one to the other by thick flowering plants with bright scarlet or yellow blossoms, were famous hiding-places for the monkeys, who could wait unseen, till a puma or an elephant passed by, and then jump on their backs and go for a ride, swinging themselves up by the creepers when they had had enough. Near the rivers huge tortoises were to be found, and though to our eyes a tortoise seems a dull, slow thing, it is wonderful to think how clever they were, and how often they outwitted many of their livelier friends.
There was one tortoise in particular that always managed to get the better of everybody, and many were the tales told in the forest of his great deeds. They began when he was quite young, and tired of staying at home with his father and mother. He left them one day, and walked off in search of adventures. In a wide open space surrounded by trees he met with an elephant, who was having his supper before taking his evening bath in the river which ran close by. 'Let us see which of us two is strongest,' said the young tortoise, marching up to the elephant. 'Very well,' replied the elephant, much amused at the impertinence of the little creature; 'when would you like the trial to be?'
'In an hour's time; I have some business to do first,' answered the tortoise. And he hastened away as fast as his short legs would carry him.
In a pool of the river a whale was resting, blowing water into the air and making a lovely fountain. The tortoise, however, was too young and too busy to admire such things, and he called to the whale to stop, as he wanted to speak to him. 'Would you like to try which of us is the stronger?' said he. The whale looked at him, sent up another fountain, and answered: 'Oh, yes; certainly. When do you wish to begin? I am quite ready.'
'Then give me one of your longest bones, and I will fasten it to my leg. When I give the signal, you must pull, and we will see which can pull the hardest.'
'Very good,' replied the whale; and he took out one of his bones and passed it to the tortoise.
The tortoise picked up the end of the bone in his mouth and went back to the elephant. 'I will fasten this to your leg,' said he, 'in the same way as it is fastened to mine, and we must both pull as hard as we can. We shall soon see which is the stronger.' So he wound it carefully round the elephant's leg, and tied it in a firm knot. 'Now!' cried he, plunging into a thick bush behind him.
The whale tugged at one end, and the elephant tugged at the other, and neither had any idea that he had not the tortoise for his foe. When the whale pulled hardest the elephant was dragged into the water; and when the elephant pulled the hardest the whale was hauled on to the land. They were very evenly matched, and the battle was a hard one.
At last they were quite tired, and the tortoise, who was watching, saw that they could play no more. So he crept from his hiding-place, and dipping himself in the river, he went to the elephant and said: 'I see that you really are stronger than I thought. Suppose we give it up for to-day?' Then he dried himself on some moss and went to the whale and said: 'I see that you really are stronger than I thought. Suppose we give it up for to-day?'
The two adversaries were only too glad to be allowed to rest, and believed to the end of their days that, after all, the tortoise was stronger than either of them.
A day or two later the young tortoise was taking a stroll, when he met a fox, and stopped to speak to him. 'Let us try,' said he in a careless manner, 'which of us can lie buried in the ground during seven years.'
'I shall be delighted,' answered the fox, 'only I would rather that you began.'
'It is all the same to me,' replied the tortoise; 'if you come round this way to-morrow you will see that I have fulfilled my part of the bargain.'
So he looked about for a suitable place, and found a convenient hole at the foot of an orange tree. He crept into it, and the next morning the fox heaped up the earth round him, and promised to feed him every day with fresh fruit. The fox so far kept his word that each morning when the sun rose he appeared to ask how the tortoise was getting on. 'Oh, very well; but I wish you would give me some fruit,' replied he.
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