The Bones Of Djulung





In a beautiful island that lies in the southern seas, where

chains of gay orchids bind the trees together, and the days and

nights are equally long and nearly equally hot, there once lived

a family of seven sisters. Their father and mother were dead, and

they had no brothers, so the eldest girl ruled over the rest, and

they all did as she bade them. One sister had to clean the house,

a second carried water from the spring in the forest, a third

cooked their food, while to the youngest fell the hardest task of

all, for she had to cut and bring home the wood which was to keep

the fire continually burning. This was very hot and tiring work,

and when she had fed the fire and heaped up in a corner the

sticks that were to supply it till the next day, she often threw

herself down under a tree, and went sound asleep.



One morning, however, as she was staggering along with her bundle

on her back, she thought that the river which flowed past their

hut looked so cool and inviting that she determined to bathe in

it, instead of taking her usual nap. Hastily piling up her load

by the fire, and thrusting some sticks into the flame, she ran

down to the river and jumped in. How delicious it was diving and

swimming and floating in the dark forest, where the trees were so

thick that you could hardly see the sun! But after a while she

began to look about her, and her eyes fell on a little fish that

seemed made out of a rainbow, so brilliant were the colours he

flashed out.



'I should like him for a pet,' thought the girl, and the next

time the fish swam by, she put out her hand and caught him. Then

she ran along the grassy path till she came to a cave in front of

which a stream fell over some rocks into a basin. Here she put

her little fish, whose name was Djulung-djulung, and promising to

return soon and bring him some dinner, she went away.



By the time she got home, the rice for their dinner was ready

cooked, and the eldest sister gave the other six their portions

in wooden bowls. But the youngest did not finish hers, and when

no one was looking, stole off to the fountain in the forest where

the little fish was swimming about.



'See! I have not forgotten you,' she cried, and one by one she

let the grains of rice fall into the water, where the fish

gobbled them up greedily, for he had never tasted anything so

nice.



'That is all for to-day,' she said at last, 'but I will come

again to-morrow,' and biding him good-bye she went down the path.



Now the girl did not tell her sisters about the fish, but every

day she saved half of her rice to give him, and called him softly

in a little song she had made for herself. If she sometimes felt

hungry, no one knew of it, and, indeed, she did not mind that

much, when she saw how the fish enjoyed it. And the fish grew fat

and big, but the girl grew thin and weak, and the loads of wood

felt heavier every day, and at last her sisters noticed it.



Then they took counsel together, and watched her to see what she

did, and one of them followed her to the fountain where Djulung

lived, and saw her give him all the rice she had saved from her

breakfast. Hastening home the sister told the others what she had

witnessed, and that a lovely fat fish might be had for the

catching. So the eldest sister went and caught him, and he was

boiled for supper, but the youngest sister was away in the woods,

and did not know anything about it.



Next morning she went as usual to the cave, and sang her little

song, but no Djulung came to answer it; twice and thrice she

sang, then threw herself on her knees by the edge, and peered

into the dark water, but the trees cast such a deep shadow that

her eyes could not pierce it.



'Djulung cannot be dead, or his body would be floating on the

surface,' she said to herself, and rising to her feet she set out

homewards, feeling all of a sudden strangely tired.



'What is the matter with me?' she thought, but somehow or other

she managed to reach the hut, and threw herself down in a corner,

where she slept so soundly that for days no one was able to wake

her.



At length, one morning early, a cock began to crow so loud that

she could sleep no longer and as he continued to crow she seemed

to understand what he was saying, and that he was telling her

that Djulung was dead, killed and eaten by her sisters, and that

his bones lay buried under the kitchen fire. Very softly she got

up, and took up the large stone under the fire, and creeping out

carried the bones to the cave by the fountain, where she dug a

hole and buried them anew. And as she scooped out the hole with a

stick she sang a song, bidding the bones grow till they became a

tree--a tree that reached up so high into the heavens that its

leaves would fall across the sea into another island, whose king

would pick them up.



As there was no Djulung to give her rice to, the girl soon became

fat again, and as she was able to do her work as of old, her

sisters did not trouble about her. They never guessed that when

she went into the forest to gather her sticks, she never failed

to pay a visit to the tree, which grew taller and more wonderful

day by day. Never was such a tree seen before. Its trunk was of

iron, its leaves were of silk, its flowers of gold, and its fruit

of diamonds, and one evening, though the girl did not know it, a

soft breeze took one of the leaves, and blew it across the sea to

the feet of one of the king's attendants.



'What a curious leaf! I have never beheld one like it before. I

must show it to the king,' he said, and when the king saw it he

declared he would never rest until he had found the tree which

bore it, even if he had to spend the rest of his life in visiting

the islands that lay all round. Happily for him, he began with

the island that was nearest, and here in the forest he suddenly

saw standing before him the iron tree, its boughs covered with

shining leaves like the one he carried about him.



'But what sort of a tree is it, and how did it get here?' he

asked of the attendants he had with him. No one could answer him,

but as they were about to pass out of the forest a little boy

went by, and the king stopped and inquired if there was anyone

living in the neighbourhood whom he might question.



'Seven girls live in a hut down there,' replied the boy, pointing

with his finger to where the sun was setting.



'Then go and bring them here, and I will wait,' said the king,

and the boy ran off and told the sisters that a great chief, with

strings of jewels round his neck, had sent for them.



Pleased and excited the six elder sisters at once followed the

boy, but the youngest, who was busy, and who did not care about

strangers, stayed behind, to finish the work she was doing. The

king welcomed the girls eagerly, and asked them all manner of

questions about the tree, but as they had never even heard of its

existence, they could tell him nothing. 'And if we, who live

close by the forest, do not know, you may be sure no one does,'

added the eldest, who was rather cross at finding this was all

that the king wanted of them.



'But the boy told me there were seven of you, and there are only

six here,' said the king.



'Oh, the youngest is at home, but she is always half asleep, and

is of no use except to cut wood for the fire,' replied they in a

breath.



'That may be, but perhaps she dreams,' answered the king.

'Anyway, I will speak to her also.' Then he signed to one of his

attendants, who followed the path that the boy had taken to the

hut.



Soon the man returned, with the girl walking behind him. And as

soon as she reached the tree it bowed itself to the earth before

her, and she stretched out her hand and picked some of its leaves

and flowers and gave them to the king.



'The maiden who can work such wonders is fitted to be the wife of

the greatest chief,' he said, and so he married her, and took her

with him across the sea to his own home, where they lived happily

for ever after.



From 'Folk Lore,' by A. F. Mackenzie.





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