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- Indian Fairy Tales - 6/38 -
surprised to find him all alone, and Balna nowhere to be seen. Then they questioned the servants, and when they heard of the Fakir and the little black dog, they guessed what had happened, and sent in every direction seeking them, but neither the Fakir nor the dog were to be found. What could six poor women do? They gave up all hopes of ever seeing their kind husbands, and their sister, and her husband, again, and devoted themselves thenceforward to teaching and taking care of their little nephew.
Thus time went on, till Balna's son was fourteen years old. Then, one day, his aunts told him the history of the family; and no sooner did he hear it, than he was seized with a great desire to go in search of his father and mother and uncles, and if he could find them alive to bring them home again. His aunts, on learning his determination, were much alarmed and tried to dissuade him, saying, "We have lost our husbands, and our sister and her husband, and you are now our sole hope; if you go away, what shall we do?" But he replied, "I pray you not to be discouraged; I will return soon, and if it is possible bring my father and mother and uncles with me." So he set out on his travels; but for some months he could learn nothing to help him in his search.
At last, after he had journeyed many hundreds of weary miles, and become almost hopeless of ever hearing anything further of his parents, he one day came to a country that seemed full of stones, and rocks, and trees, and there he saw a large palace with a high tower; hard by which was a Malee's little house.
As he was looking about, the Malee's wife saw him, and ran out of the house and said, "My dear boy, who are you that dare venture to this dangerous place?" He answered, "I am a Raja's son, and I come in search of my father, and my uncles, and my mother whom a wicked enchanter bewitched."
Then the Malee's wife said, "This country and this palace belong to a great enchanter; he is all powerful, and if any one displeases him, he can turn them into stones and trees. All the rocks and trees you see here were living people once, and the Magician turned them to what they now are. Some time ago a Raja's son came here, and shortly afterwards came his six brothers, and they were all turned into stones and trees; and these are not the only unfortunate ones, for up in that tower lives a beautiful Princess, whom the Magician has kept prisoner there for twelve years, because she hates him and will not marry him."
Then the little Prince thought, "These must be my parents and my uncles. I have found what I seek at last." So he told his story to the Malee's wife, and begged her to help him to remain in that place awhile and inquire further concerning the unhappy people she mentioned; and she promised to befriend him, and advised his disguising himself lest the Magician should see him, and turn him likewise into stone. To this the Prince agreed. So the Malee's wife dressed him up in a saree, and pretended that he was her daughter.
One day, not long after this, as the Magician was walking in his garden he saw the little girl (as he thought) playing about, and asked her who she was. She told him she was the Malee's daughter, and the Magician said, "You are a pretty little girl, and to-morrow you shall take a present of flowers from me to the beautiful lady who lives in the tower."
The young Prince was much delighted at hearing this, and went immediately to inform the Malee's wife; after consultation with whom he determined that it would be more safe for him to retain his disguise, and trust to the chance of a favourable opportunity for establishing some communication with his mother, if it were indeed she.
Now it happened that at Balna's marriage her husband had given her a small gold ring on which her name was engraved, and she had put it on her little son's finger when he was a baby, and afterwards when he was older his aunts had had it enlarged for him, so that he was still able to wear it. The Malee's wife advised him to fasten the well-known treasure to one of the bouquets he presented to his mother, and trust to her recognising it. This was not to be done without difficulty, as such a strict watch was kept over the poor Princess (for fear of her ever establishing communication with her friends), that though the supposed Malee's daughter was permitted to take her flowers every day, the Magician or one of his slaves was always in the room at the time. At last one day, however, opportunity favoured him, and when no one was looking, the boy tied the ring to a nosegay, and threw it at Balna's feet. It fell with a clang on the floor, and Balna, looking to see what made the strange sound, found the little ring tied to the flowers. On recognising it, she at once believed the story her son told her of his long search, and begged him to advise her as to what she had better do; at the same time entreating him on no account to endanger his life by trying to rescue her. She told him that for twelve long years the Magician had kept her shut up in the tower because she refused to marry him, and she was so closely guarded that she saw no hope of release.
Now Balna's son was a bright, clever boy, so he said, "Do not fear, dear mother; the first thing to do is to discover how far the Magician's power extends, in order that we may be able to liberate my father and uncles, whom he has imprisoned in the form of rocks and trees. You have spoken to him angrily for twelve long years; now rather speak kindly. Tell him you have given up all hopes of again seeing the husband you have so long mourned, and say you are willing to marry him. Then endeavour to find out what his power consists in, and whether he is immortal, or can be put to death."
Balna determined to take her son's advice; and the next day sent for Punchkin, and spoke to him as had been suggested.
The Magician, greatly delighted, begged her to allow the wedding to take place as soon as possible.
But she told him that before she married him he must allow her a little more time, in which she might make his acquaintance, and that, after being enemies so long, their friendship could but strengthen by degrees. "And do tell me," she said, "are you quite immortal? Can death never touch you? And are you too great an enchanter ever to feel human suffering?"
"Why do you ask?" said he.
"Because," she replied, "if I am to be your wife, I would fain know all about you, in order, if any calamity threatens you, to overcome, or if possible to avert it."
"It is true," he added, "that I am not as others. Far, far away, hundreds of thousands of miles from this, there lies a desolate country covered with thick jungle. In the midst of the jungle grows a circle of palm trees, and in the centre of the circle stand six chattees full of water, piled one above another: below the sixth chattee is a small cage which contains a little green parrot; on the life of the parrot depends my life; and if the parrot is killed I must die. It is, however," he added, "impossible that the parrot should sustain any injury, both on account of the inaccessibility of the country, and because, by my appointment, many thousand genii surround the palm trees, and kill all who approach the place."
Balna told her son what Punchkin had said; but at the same time implored him to give up all idea of getting the parrot.
The Prince, however, replied, "Mother, unless I can get hold of that parrot, you, and my father, and uncles, cannot be liberated: be not afraid, I will shortly return. Do you, meantime, keep the Magician in good humour--still putting off your marriage with him on various pretexts; and before he finds out the cause of delay, I will be here." So saying, he went away.
Many, many weary miles did he travel, till at last he came to a thick jungle; and, being very tired, sat down under a tree and fell asleep. He was awakened by a soft rustling sound, and looking about him, saw a large serpent which was making its way to an eagle's nest built in the tree under which he lay, and in the nest were two young eagles. The Prince seeing the danger of the young birds, drew his sword, and killed the serpent; at the same moment a rushing sound was heard in the air, and the two old eagles, who had been out hunting for food for their young ones, returned. They quickly saw the dead serpent and the young Prince standing over it; and the old mother eagle said to him, "Dear boy, for many years all our young ones have been devoured by that cruel serpent; you have now saved the lives of our children; whenever you are in need, therefore, send to us and we will help you; and as for these little eagles, take them, and let them be your servants."
At this the Prince was very glad, and the two eaglets crossed their wings, on which he mounted; and they carried him far, far away over the thick jungles, until he came to the place where grew the circle of palm trees, in the midst of which stood the six chattees full of water. It was the middle of the day, and the heat was very great. All round the trees were the genii fast asleep; nevertheless, there were such countless thousands of them, that it would have been quite impossible for any one to walk through their ranks to the place; down swooped the strong-winged eaglets--down jumped the Prince; in an instant he had overthrown the six chattees full of water, and seized the little green parrot, which he rolled up in his cloak; while, as he mounted again into the air, all the genii below awoke, and finding their treasure gone, set up a wild and melancholy howl.
Away, away flew the little eagles, till they came to their home in the great tree; then the Prince said to the old eagles, "Take back your little ones; they have done me good service; if ever again I stand in need of help, I will not fail to come to you." He then continued his journey on foot till he arrived once more at the Magician's palace, where he sat down at the door and began playing with the parrot. Punchkin saw him, and came to him quickly, and said, "My boy, where did you get that parrot? Give it to me, I pray you."
But the Prince answered, "Oh no, I cannot give away my parrot, it is a great pet of mine; I have had it many years."
Then the Magician said, "If it is an old favourite, I can understand your not caring to give it away; but come what will you sell it for?"
"Sir," replied the Prince, "I will not sell my parrot."
Then Punchkin got frightened, and said, "Anything, anything; name what price you will, and it shall be yours." The Prince answered, "Let the seven Raja's sons whom you turned into rocks and trees be instantly liberated."
"It is done as you desire," said the Magician, "only give me my parrot." And with that, by a stroke of his wand, Balna's husband and his brothers resumed their natural shapes. "Now, give me my parrot," repeated Punchkin.
"Not so fast, my master," rejoined the Prince; "I must first beg that you will restore to life all whom you have thus imprisoned."
The Magician immediately waved his wand again; and, whilst he cried, in an imploring voice, "Give me my parrot!" the whole garden became suddenly alive: where rocks, and stones, and trees had been before,
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