Raja Rasalu: The Swans (cont.)

This story is part of the Raja Rasalu unit. Story source: The Adventures of the Punjab Hero Raja Rasalu by Charles Swynnerton (1884).

Raja Rasalu and the Swans (cont.)

Raja Bhoj, having heard both stories, said to the swan: "This crow appears to me to be in the right, so hand him over his wife!"

The poor swan made no reply, but gave up his wife at once to the crow, and then he went crying and sobbing to a distant place, where he lived in a certain solitary garden.

The triumphant crow, leading out his prize, thought to himself, "As my new wife is so handsome, no doubt if I go to my own house, my kinsfolk will come and snatch her away from me. It is better therefore to take her away to some distance."

It chanced, however, that the spot which he chose was the very garden in which the male swan was already living, and so it came to pass that all the four birds once more found themselves together.

One day it happened to Raja Rasalu that, in the course of his travels, he rode by that way, and that, as he went, he was saying to his mare, "To pass the time, let us look for some friend and get him to talk."

Just then he saw a jackal, and making for him, he ran him down and caught him.

"Sir, why have you caught me?" said the jackal.

"Merely to make you talk," answered Rasalu, "and to pass the time."

Then the jackal seated on Rasalu's saddle-bow began to tickle them both with hundreds of lying stories which amused them excessively.

While thus employed, they approached the city of Raja Bhoj, when Rasalu told the jackal to be off.

"But," answered the jackal, "it would be cruel to leave me here, since all the dogs of the town would set on me and kill me. You had better take me with you."

Rasalu, consenting, entered the city, and the people seeing him, paid him salutations and said, "Who are you?"

"I am Rasalu, the son of Sulwan," answered he.

Hearing his name, all the inhabitants came and surrounded him, saying: "This day God has fulfilled our desires."

Thence Rasalu went to the court of Raja Bhoj, for whom he conceived a strong feeling of friendship, and dismounting from his horse, he entered and sat down.

Then Raja Bhoj called for chess and invited his visitor to play. Rasalu, who had taken a fancy for his amusing little friend the jackal, caused him to sit close to him whilst he began the game.

First Raja Bhoj, on his side, laid a bet of one thousand rupees and threw the dice, but, his cast being spoilt by the jackal falling violently against his arm, Rasalu won.

Raja Bhoj became angry with the jackal, but the latter said: "Pray, sir, pardon my offence! I have been awake the whole night, and being sleepy, I touched your side quite by an accident."

Once more Raja Bhdj laid and began to play, but his cast of the dice was again spoilt by the jackal falling as before against his side. Then cried Raja Bhoj, "Is there anyone there? Ho! Someone cut this jackal to pieces!"

"I have been awake the whole night," said the jackal, excusing himself again; "forgive me, as I have not committed this fault wilfully."

"What is this talk about your being awake the whole night?" enquired Rasalu. "What do you mean by that?"

"I will tell the secret," said the jackal, "to Raja Bhoj only."

"Tell me then, O jackal," said Raja Bhoj, "what it was you were doing all the night through."

"Sir," replied the jackal, "tormented with hunger I went to the river-side to look for food. But finding none I grew desperate, and taking up a stone, I threw it against another stone, and from the two stones came out fire."

Having said so much, the jackal came to a stop, and Raja Bhoj said, "Well, what else did you do?"

"Sir," said the jackal, "I caught the fire in some dry fuel, out of which a small cinder flew and fell into the river, when at once the whole river was in a blaze. Then I, being afraid of my life on account of you, endeavoured to quench the fire with dry grass, but though I tried my best I am sorry to say two-thirds of the river were burnt up and one-third only remained."

Listening to this tale, everyone began to laugh and to say " What a fib! Can water catch fire, and, even if it could, can dry grass quench it?"

"Sirs," said the jackal, "if water cannot catch fire, how can a crow possibly claim a female swan as his wife?"

Hearing this mysterious answer Kaja Rasalu said:  "Jackal, what in the world are you talking about?"

"Sir," answered the jackal, "Raja Bhoj pronounced a judgment in this court yesterday between a crow and a swan, and without due consideration he snatched away the swan's wife and made her over to the crow. This judgment I listened to myself. And now the wretched swan is crying all round the jungle, while the crow is enjoying his triumph without let or fear."

"Can this be true?" asked Rasalu, to which Bhoj replied: "Yes, this fellow tells the truth. I was undoubtedly wrong."

Then Raja Rasalu sent for those four birds, and when they came, he ordered them to sit in a row on the branch of a tree and to close their eyes. The birds did so, and Rasalu, taking a bow and pellets, shot at the crow and killed him dead on the spot, saying: "This is a just reward for fraud and treachery."

At the same time he restored the female swan to her proper mate, who, delighted with the judgment, extolled his wisdom thus:

"All other kings are geese, but you
The falcon wise and strong;
A judgment just you gave, and true—
O may your life be long!"

(1000 words)

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