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- Tales Of The Punjab - 3/50 -
'More than enough, I should say,' laughed the lad, looking at the huge bundles.
Then Sir Buzz cooked the girdle-cakes, and the soldier's son ate three of them and a handful of sweets; but the one-span mannikin gobbled up all the rest, saying at each mouthful, 'You men have such terrible appetites--such terrible appetites!'
After that, the soldier's son and his servant Sir Buzz travelled ever so far, until they came to the King's city. Now the King had a daughter called Princess Blossom, who was so lovely, and tender, and slim, and fair, that she only weighed five flowers. Every morning she was weighed in golden scales, and the scale always turned when the fifth flower was put in, neither less nor more.
Now it so happened that the soldier's son by chance caught a glimpse of the lovely, tender, slim, and fair Princess Blossom, and, of course, he fell desperately in love with her. He would neither sleep nor eat his dinner, and did nothing all day long but say to his faithful mannikin, 'Oh, dearest Sir Buzz! oh, kind Sir Buzz!--carry me to the Princess Blossom, that I may see and speak to her.'
'Carry you!' snapped the little fellow scornfully, 'that's a likely story! Why, you're ten times as big as I am. You should carry _me!_'
Nevertheless, when the soldier's son begged and prayed, growing pale and pining away with thinking of the Princess Blossom, Sir Buzz, who had a kind heart, was moved, and bade the lad sit on his hand. Then with a tremendous _boom! bing! boom!_ they whizzed away and were in the palace in a second. Being night-time, the Princess was asleep; nevertheless the booming wakened her and she was quite frightened to see a handsome young man kneeling beside her. She began of course to scream, but stopped at once when the soldier's son with the greatest politeness, and in the most elegant of language, begged her not to be alarmed. And after that they talked together about everything delightful, while Sir Buzz stood at the door and did sentry; but he stood a brick up on end first, so that he might not seem to pry upon the young people.
Now when the dawn was just breaking, the soldier's son and Princess Blossom, wearied of talking, fell asleep; whereupon Sir Buzz, being a faithful servant, said to himself, 'Now what is to be done? If my master remains here asleep, some one will discover him, and he will be killed as sure as my name is Buzz; but if I wake him, ten to one he will refuse to go.'
[Illustration: Soldier's son kneeling beside Princess Blossom's bed as they talk]
So without more ado he put his hand under the bed, and _bing! boom!_ carried it into a large garden outside the town. There he set it down in the shade of the biggest tree, and pulling up the next biggest one by the roots, threw it over his shoulder, and marched up and down keeping guard.
Before long the whole town was in a commotion, because the Princess Blossom had been carried off, and all the world and his wife turned out to look for her. By and by the one-eyed Chief Constable came to the garden gate.
'What do you want here?' cried valiant Sir Buzz, making passes at him with the tree.
The Chief Constable with his one eye could see nothing save the branches, but he replied sturdily, 'I want the Princess Blossom!'
'I'll blossom you! Get out of _my_ garden, will you?' shrieked the one-span mannikin, with his one and quarter span beard trailing on the ground; and with that he belaboured the Constable's pony so hard with the tree that it bolted away, nearly throwing its rider.
The poor man went straight to the King, saying, 'Your Majesty! I am convinced your Majesty's daughter, the Princess Blossom, is in your Majesty's garden, just outside the town, as there is a tree there which fights terribly.'
Upon this the King summoned all his horses and men, and going to the garden tried to get in; but Sir Buzz behind the tree routed them all, for half were killed, and the rest ran away. The noise of the battle, however, awoke the young couple, and as they were now convinced they could no longer exist apart, they determined to fly together. So when the fight was over, the soldier's son, the Princess Blossom, and Sir Buzz set out to see the world.
Now the soldier's son was so enchanted with his good luck in winning the Princess, that he said to Sir Buzz, 'My fortune is made already; so I shan't want you any more, and you can go back to your mistress.'
'Pooh!' said Sir Buzz. 'Young people always think so; however, have it your own way, only take this hair out of my beard, and if you _should_ get into trouble, just burn it in the fire. I'll come to your aid.'
So Sir Buzz boomed off, and the soldier's son and the Princess Blossom lived and travelled together very happily, until at last they lost their way in a forest, and wandered about for some time without any food. When they were nearly starving, a Br‚hman found them, and hearing their story said, 'Alas! you poor children!--come home with me, and I will give you something to eat.'
Now had he said 'I will eat you,' it would have been much nearer the mark, for he was no Br‚hman, but a dreadful vampire, who loved to devour handsome young men and slender girls. But, knowing nothing of all this, the couple went home with him quite cheerfully. He was most polite, and when they arrived at his house, said, 'Please get ready whatever you want to eat, for I have no cook. Here are my keys; open all my cupboards save the one with the golden key. Meanwhile I will go and gather firewood.'
Then the Princess Blossom began to prepare the food, while the soldier's son opened all the cupboards. In them he saw lovely jewels, and dresses, and cups and platters, such bags of gold and silver, that his curiosity got the better of his discretion, and, regardless of the Br‚hman's warning, he said, 'I _will_ see what wonderful thing is hidden in the cupboard with the golden key.' So he opened it, and lo! it was full of human skulls, picked quite clean, and beautifully polished. At this dreadful sight the soldier's son flew back to the Princess Blossom, and said, 'We are lost! we are lost!--this is no Br‚hman, but a horrid vampire!'
At that moment they heard him at the door, and the Princess, who was very brave and kept her wits about her, had barely time to thrust the magic hair into the fire, before the vampire, with sharp teeth and fierce eyes, appeared. But at the selfsame moment a _boom! boom! binging_ noise was heard in the air, coming nearer and nearer. Whereupon the vampire, who knew very well who his enemy was, changed into a heavy rain pouring down in torrents, hoping thus to drown Sir Buzz, but _he_ changed into the storm wind beating back the rain. Then the vampire changed to a dove, but Sir Buzz, pursuing it as a hawk, pressed it so hard that it had barely time to change into a rose, and drop into King Indra's lap as he sat in his celestial court listening to the singing of some dancing girls. Then Sir Buzz, quick as thought, changed into an old musician, and standing beside the bard who was thrumming the guitar, said, 'Brother, you are tired; let _me_ play.'
And he played so wonderfully, and sang with such piercing sweetness, that King Indra said, 'What shall I give you as a reward? Name what you please, and it shall be yours.'
Then Sir Buzz said, 'I only ask the rose that is in your Majesty's lap.'
'I had rather you asked more, or less,' replied King Indra; 'it is but a rose, yet it fell from heaven; nevertheless it is yours.'
So saying, he threw the rose towards the musician, and lo! the petals fell in a shower on the ground. Sir Buzz went down on his knees and instantly gathered them up; but one petal escaping, changed into a mouse. Whereupon Sir Buzz, with the speed of lightning, turned into a cat, which caught and gobbled up the mouse.
Now all this time the Princess Blossom and the soldier's son, shivering and shaking, were awaiting the issue of the combat in the vampire's hut; when suddenly, with a _bing! boom!_ Sir Buzz arrived victorious, shook his head, and said, 'You two had better go home, for you are not fit to take care of yourselves.'
Then he gathered together all the jewels and gold in one hand, placed the Princess and the soldier's son in the other, and whizzed away home, to where the poor mother--who all this time had been living on the two shillings--was delighted to see them.
Then with a louder _boom! bing! boom!_ than usual, Sir Buzz, without even waiting for thanks, whizzed out of sight, and was never seen or heard of again.
But the soldier's son and the Princess Blossom lived happily ever after.
THE RAT'S WEDDING
Once upon a time a fat sleek Rat was caught in a shower of rain, and being far from shelter he set to work and soon dug a nice hole in the ground, in which he sat as dry as a bone while the raindrops splashed outside, making little puddles on the road.
Now in the course of his digging he came upon a fine bit of root, quite dry and fit for fuel, which he set aside carefully--for the Rat is an economical creature--in order to take it home with him. So when the shower was over, he set off with the dry root in his mouth. As he went along, daintily picking his way through the puddles, he saw a poor man vainly trying to light a fire, while a little circle of children stood by, and cried piteously.
'Goodness gracious!' exclaimed the Rat, who was both soft-hearted and curious, 'what a dreadful noise to make! What _is_ the matter?'
'The bairns are hungry,' answered the man; 'they are crying for their breakfast, but the sticks are damp, the fire won't burn, and so I can't bake the cakes.'
'If that is all your trouble, perhaps I can help you,' said the good-natured Rat; 'you are welcome to this dry root, and I'll warrant
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