Laos: The Lovers’ Leap

This story is part of the Laos unit. Story source: Laos Folk-Lore by Katherine Neville Fleeson, with photographs by W.A. Briggs (1899).

The Lovers’ Leap

Many, many years ago there lived, on the mountains among the rapids of the Maa Ping, a young man who loved a maiden, and the maiden loved him truly, but her father refused his consent to their union and commanded that his daughter see her lover no more, nor hold communication with him. At all times and in all ways the father of the maiden endeavored to overcome her regard for her lover, but she would think of no other, although many came to woo her.

Often did the young lovers seek to meet, but so constantly were they watched it was impossible and they could only wait patiently. Each knew the other was true, and each heart rested in this assurance.

And upon a time the father of the maiden thought she had forgotten her lover, and, greatly rejoiced, he made a feast and invited all the people of the province to come and make merry with him, and he reasoned, “Now that she has forgotten her former lover, will she not consent to marry a man I choose for her?”

While they were feasting, the maiden wandered out to think of the one she had not seen for so long and weary a time, and suddenly the dark evening became to her as the bright noonday, for her lover was before her. He entreated her to come with him and to be his wife. Thinking of the dreary days she had passed and the more dreary ones to come should she see her heart’s choice no more, she consented.

As they were mounting his strong, young horse, a servant saw them and ran to the house and gave the alarm. Soon the father and all the men were in pursuit of the lovers. For a time the young horse kept far ahead of its pursuers but, wearying of its double burden, it began to lag just as it reached the top of a lofty hill overhanging a rushing torrent of the river far below.

Nearer and nearer came the father and all the men. The only escape, and a most desperate venture was it, was to leap across the rushing torrent to the hill on the other side. Looking into each other’s eyes, then back at their approaching pursuers, and then at the wide chasm, they chose death together rather than life apart, and, urging their jaded horse to the leap, they missed the opposite cliff and were dashed to pieces on the rocks of the rapids below.

(400 words)

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