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The Island Palace

from Deccan Nursery Tales





Once upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In it there lived a
Brahman. He had a disciple who used every day to go to the village pond
and bathe and worship the god Shiva. On the way he had to walk through
the sandy island in the dry bed of the river. And, as he went home
across the island, he used to hear a voice cry, "Shall I come? Shall I
come? Shall I come?"; but when he looked round he could see no one. The
Brahman's disciple at last got so frightened that he withered up until
he became as dry and as thin as a bone. At last the Brahman said,
"You have no wish to eat or drink; yet you are so thin. What is the
reason?" The boy replied, "I neither wish to eat, nor want to eat,
nor crave to eat. But I am frightened out of my wits. For whenever
I come back from my bath I hear a voice behind me call out, 'Shall I
come? Shall I come? Shall I come?'; but when I look round there is no
one there." The Brahman said, "Do not be afraid, and when you next hear
the voice, do not look behind you, but call out as boldly as you can,
'Come along, come along, come along.'" Next day the disciple went as
usual to his bath in the village pond. He worshipped the god Shiva,
and as he came home he heard the cry behind him, "Shall I come? Shall
I come? Shall I come?" The boy was very frightened, but he did not
look behind him. In a short time he mastered his fears, and then in
a voice like a bull roaring he cried out, "Come along, come along,
come along." At last he reached home, calling all the time and without
once looking behind him.

The Brahman looked up as the disciple came in, and he saw that just
behind was walking a young girl. He at once married the girl to his
disciple and gave them a house to live in close by his own. Now, on
the first Monday in the month of Shravan, or August, the disciple
got up and said to his wife, "I am going out to worship the god
Shiva. But do not wait for me. Just eat your breakfast directly you
feel hungry." He went out, and in a little time his wife began
to feel hungry. Nevertheless, she knew that, in spite of what
her husband had said, she ought not to eat anything while he was
worshipping Shiva. So she waited for a little time, but at last she
got so terribly hungry that she could not wait any more. So she sat
down and cooked her breakfast, and had just put one mouthful into
her mouth when her husband came to the outer door. "Wife, wife," he
called, "open the door!" Then the little wife got very frightened. She
pushed the uneaten breakfast under the bed, got up, washed her hands,
and opened the door. She then told her husband that she had waited
for him, and she cooked a fresh breakfast, which both ate one after
the other. Next Monday exactly the same thing happened. The little
wife cooked her breakfast and was just beginning it when her husband
came. She then hid her uneaten breakfast under her bed and pretended
that she had waited for his return. And on the two following Mondays
the naughty little wife deceived her husband in just the same way.

Now on the last Sunday in Shravan, when husband and wife went to lie
down, the former noticed a light shining under the bed. He looked to
see what it was, and saw several platefuls of jewels. He asked his wife
whence they had come. Now they were really the uneaten breakfasts,
which the god Shiva had turned into gold and jewels. But the naughty
little wife got very frightened and told her husband a bigger story
than ever. "They are presents," she said, "from my mother and father
and their family." "But where is your father's house?" asked the
husband. "It is in the sandy island," said the little wife, "which
lies in the dry bed of the river." "You must take me there," said her
husband. Next morning they started off together. And the naughty little
wife could hardly walk, she was so frightened. For she knew quite well
that her father had no house in the sandy island. But on the way she
prayed to Shiva, "Please, please, god Shiva, create a house for my
father in the sandy island which lies in the dry bed of the river,
even if it be only for half an hour."

At last the husband and wife came to the sandy island. And there, lo
and behold! they saw a great big palace, and a splendidly dressed young
man came forward and greeted the disciple as his brother-in-law. And
a handsome old knight came forward and greeted the disciple as his
son-in-law. And a beautiful young woman greeted the naughty little
wife as the sister of her husband. And a lovely little girl ran up and
embraced her and called her "sister." And slave girls and maid-servants
ran forward to offer her their service. A guard of soldiers kept
watch by the palace, and at the door there were sentries, who made
way for them as they passed. Inside the house the little wife and
her husband were given platforms to sit upon, and a splendid feast
was all ready prepared for them to eat. After they had feasted, they
got up and said good-bye to the little wife's father and mother, and
garlands of flowers were placed round their necks, and they started
for their home. When they had gone half-way, the naughty little wife
remembered that she had hung her garland on a peg and had forgotten
to bring it with her. So she and her husband went back to the sandy
island. But when they got there, there was no palace, there were no
soldiers to guard it, there were no sentries at the door, there were
no maid-servants nor slave girls. There was nothing there but just
a sandy island in the middle of a dry river-bed. And on the sand lay
the garland which the naughty little wife had forgotten. She took it
up and put it round her neck.

But her husband asked her, "What has happened to your father's
house?" The naughty little wife replied, all in tears, "As it came,
so it went. But if you promise to forgive me, I shall tell you." The
husband promised. So she told him how every Monday she had felt so
hungry and how she had cooked her breakfast, and then, on hearing her
husband's voice, had pushed it under their bed. She also told him that
the god Shiva had turned the food into gold and jewels. "Then when you
asked me," she went on, "I felt so frightened that I said they were
presents from my father and mother and the rest of my family. And
when you made me take you to my father's house, I prayed the god
Shiva to create, if only for half an hour, a house for my father on
the sandy island in the dry river-bed. And he graciously granted my
request." Then the husband forgave the naughty little wife. And she
became quite good and never told him any more stories. And they both
went home and lived happily ever afterwards.





Next: Nagoba The Snake-king

Previous: Mahalaxmi And The Two Queens



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