: The Lilac Fairy Book

Once upon a time there was a youth called Moti, who was very big

and strong, but the clumsiest creature you can imagine. So clumsy

was he that he was always putting his great feet into the bowls

of sweet milk or curds which his mother set out on the floor to

cool, always smashing, upsetting, breaking, until at last his

father said to him:

'Here, Moti, are fifty silver pieces which are the savings of

years; take them and go and make your living or your fortune if

you can.'

Then Moti started off one early spring morning with his thick

staff over his shoulder, singing gaily to himself as he walked


In one way and another he got along very well until a hot evening

when he came to a certain city where he entered the travellers'

'serai' or inn to pass the night. Now a serai, you must know, is

generally just a large square enclosed by a high wall with an

open colonnade along the inside all round to accommodate both men

and beasts, and with perhaps a few rooms in towers at the corners

for those who are too rich or too proud to care about sleeping by

their own camels and horses. Moti, of course, was a country lad

and had lived with cattle all his life, and he wasn't rich and he

wasn't proud, so he just borrowed a bed from the innkeeper, set

it down beside an old buffalo who reminded him of home, and in

five minutes was fast asleep.

In the middle of the night he woke, feeling that he had been

disturbed, and putting his hand under his pillow found to his

horror that his bag of money had been stolen. He jumped up

quietly and began to prowl around to see whether anyone seemed to

be awake, but, though he managed to arouse a few men and beasts

by falling over them, he walked in the shadow of the archways

round the whole serai without coming across a likely thief. He

was just about to give it up when he overheard two men

whispering, and one laughed softly, and peering behind a pillar,

he saw two Afghan horsedealers counting out his bag of money!

Then Moti went back to bed!

In the morning Moti followed the two Afghans outside the city to

the horsemarket in which they horses were offered for sale.

Choosing the best-looking horse amongst them he went up to it and


'Is this horse for sale? may I try it?' and, the merchants

assenting, he scrambled up on its back, dug in his heels, and off

they flew. Now Moti had never been on a horse in his life, and

had so much ado to hold on with both hands as well as with both

legs that the animal went just where it liked, and very soon

broke into a break-neck gallop and made straight back to the

serai where it had spent the last few nights.

'This will do very well,' thought Moti as they whirled in at the

entrance. As soon as the horse had arrived at its table it

stopped of its own accord and Moti immediately rolled off; but he

jumped up at once, tied the beast up, and called for some

breakfast. Presently the Afghans appeared, out of breath and

furious, and claimed the horse.

'What do you mean?' cried Moti, with his mouth full of rice,

'it's my horse; I paid you fifty pieces of silver for it--quite a

bargain, I'm sure!'

'Nonsense! it is our horse,' answered one of the Afghans

beginning to untie the bridle.

'Leave off,' shouted Moti, seizing his staff; 'if you don't let

my horse alone I'll crack your skulls! you thieves! I know you!

Last night you took my money, so to-day I took your horse; that's

fair enough!'

Now the Afghans began to look a little uncomfortable, but Moti

seemed so determined to keep the horse that they resolved to

appeal to the law, so they went off and laid a complaint before

the king that Moti had stolen one of their horses and would not

give it up nor pay for it.

Presently a soldier came to summon Moti to the king; and, when he

arrived and made his obeisance, the king began to question him as

to why he had galloped off with the horse in this fashion. But

Moti declared that he had got the animal in exchange for fifty

pieces of silver, whilst the horse merchants vowed that the money

they had on them was what they had received for the sale of other

horses; and in one way and another the dispute got so confusing

that the king (who really thought that Moti had stolen the horse)

said at last, 'Well, I tell you what I will do. I will lock

something into this box before me, and if he guesses what it is,

the horse is his, and if he doesn't then it is yours.'

To this Moti agreed, and the king arose and went out alone by a

little door at the back of the Court, and presently came back

clasping something closely wrapped up in a cloth under his robe,

slipped it into the little box, locked the box, and set it up

where all might see.

'Now,' said the king to Moti, 'guess!'

It happened that when the king had opened the door behind him,

Moti noticed that there was a garden outside: without waiting for

the king's return he began to think what could be got out of the

garden small enough to be shut in the box. 'Is it likely to be a

fruit or a flower? No, not a flower this time, for he clasped it

too tight. Then it must be a fruit or a stone. Yet not a stone,

because he wouldn't wrap a dirty stone in his nice clean cloth.

Then it is a fruit! And a fruit without much scent, or else he

would be afraid that I might smell it. Now what fruit without

much scent is in season just now? When I know that I shall have

guessed the riddle!'

As has been said before, Moti was a country lad, and was

accustomed to work in his father's garden. He knew all the common

fruits, so he thought he ought to be able to guess right; but so

as not to let it seem too easy, he gazed up at the ceiling with a

puzzled expression, and looked down at the floor with an air or

wisdom and his fingers pressed against his forehead, and then he

said, slowly, with his eyes on the king,--

'It is freshly plucked! It is round and it is red! It is a


Now the king knew nothing about fruits except that they were good

to eat; and, as for seasons, he asked for whatever fruit he

wanted whenever he wanted it, and saw that he got it; so to him

Moti's guess was like a miracle, and clear proof not only of his

wisdom but of his innocence, for it was a pomegranate that he had

put into the box. Of course when the king marvelled and praised

Moti's wisdom, everybody else did so too; and, whilst the Afghans

went off crestfallen, Moti took the horse and entered the king's


Very soon after this, Moti, who continued to live in the serai,

came back one wet and stormy evening to find that his precious

horse had strayed. Nothing remained of him but a broken halter

cord, and no one knew what had become of him. After inquiring of

everyone who was likely to know, Moti seized the cord and his big

staff and sallied out to look for him. Away and away he tramped

out of the city and into the neighbouring forest, tracking hoof-

marks in the mud. Presently it grew late, but still Moti wandered

on until suddenly in the gathering darkness he came right upon a

tiger who was contentedly eating his horse.

'You thief!' shrieked Moti, and ran up and, just as the tiger, in

astonishment, dropped a bone--whack! came Moti's staff on his

head with such good will that the beast was half stunned and

could hardly breathe or see. Then Moti continued to shower upon

him blows and abuse until the poor tiger could hardly stand,

whereupon his tormentor tied the end of the broken halter round

his neck and dragged him back to the serai.

'If you had my horse,' he said, 'I will at least have you, that's

fair enough!' And he tied him up securely by the head and heels,

much as he used to tie the horse; then, the night being far gone,

he flung himself beside him and slept soundly.

You cannot imagine anything like the fright of the people in the

serai, when they woke up and found a tiger--very battered but

still a tiger--securely tethered amongst themselves and their

beasts! Men gathered in groups talking and exclaiming, and

finding fault with the innkeeper for allowing such a dangerous

beast into the serai, and all the while the innkeeper was just as

troubled as the rest, and none dared go near the place where the

tiger stood blinking miserably on everyone, and where Moti lay

stretched out snoring like thunder.

At last news reached the king that Moti had exchanged his horse

for a live tiger; and the monarch himself came down, half

disbelieving the tale, to see if it were really true. Someone at

last awaked Moti with the news that his royal master was come;

and he arose yawning, and was soon delightedly explaining and

showing off his new possession. The king, however, did not share

his pleasure at all, but called up a soldier to shoot the tiger,

much to the relief of all the inmates of the serai except Moti.

If the king, however, was before convinced that Moti was one of

the wisest of men, he was now still more convinced that he was

the bravest, and he increased his pay a hundredfold, so that our

hero thought that he was the luckiest of men.

A week or two after this incident the king sent for Moti, who on

arrival found his master in despair. A neighbouring monarch, he

explained, who had many more soldiers than he, had declared war

against him, and he was at his wits' end, for he had neither

money to buy him off nor soldiers enough to fight him--what was

he to do?

'If that is all, don't you trouble,' said Moti. 'Turn out your

men, and I'll go with them, and we'll soon bring this robber to


The king began to revive at these hopeful words, and took Moti

off to his stable where he bade him choose for himself any horse

he liked. There were plenty of fine horses in the stalls, but to

the king's astonishment Moti chose a poor little rat of a pony

that was used to carry grass and water for the rest of the


'But why do you choose that beast?' said the king.

'Well, you see, your majesty,' replied Moti, 'there are so many

chances that I may fall off, and if I choose one of your fine big

horses I shall have so far to fall that I shall probably break my

leg or my arm, if not my neck, but if I fall off this little

beast I can't hurt myself much.'

A very comical sight was Moti when he rode out to the war. The

only weapon he carried was his staff, and to help him to keep his

balance on horseback he had tied to each of his ankles a big

stone that nearly touched the ground as he sat astride the little

pony. The rest of the king's cavalry were not very numerous, but

they pranced along in armour on fine horses. Behind them came a

great rabble of men on foot armed with all sorts of weapons, and

last of all was the king with his attendants, very nervous and

ill at ease. So the army started.

They had not very far to go, but Moti's little pony, weighted

with a heavy man and two big rocks, soon began to lag behind the

cavalry, and would have lagged behind the infantry too, only they

were not very anxious to be too early in the fight, and hung back

so as to give Moti plenty of time. The young man jogged along

more and more slowly for some time, until at last, getting

impatient at the slowness of the pony, he gave him such a

tremendous thwack with his staff that the pony completely lost

his temper and bolted. First one stone became untied and rolled

away in a cloud of dust to one side of the road, whilst Moti

nearly rolled off too, but clasped his steed valiantly by its

ragged mane, and, dropping his staff, held on for dear life.

Then, fortunately the other rock broke away from his other leg

and rolled thunderously down a neighbouring ravine. Meanwhile the

advanced cavalry had barely time to draw to one side when Moti

came dashing by, yelling bloodthirsty threats to his pony:

'You wait till I get hold of you! I'll skin you alive! I'll wring

your neck! I'll break every bone in your body!' The cavalry

thought that this dreadful language was meant for the enemy, and

were filled with admiration of his courage. Many of their horses

too were quite upset by this whirlwind that galloped howling

through their midst, and in a few minutes, after a little

plunging and rearing and kicking, the whole troop were following

on Moti's heels.

Far in advance, Moti continued his wild career. Presently in his

course he came to a great field of castor-oil plants, ten or

twelve feet high, big and bushy, but quite green and soft. Hoping

to escape from the back of his fiery steed Moti grasped one in

passing, but its roots gave way, and he dashed on, with the whole

plant looking like a young tree flourishing in his grip.

The enemy were in battle array, advancing over the plain, their

king with them confident and cheerful, when suddenly from the

front came a desperate rider at a furious gallop.

'Sire!' he cried, 'save yourself! the enemy are coming!'

'What do you mean?' said the king.

'Oh, sire!' panted the messenger, 'fly at once, there is no time

to lose. Foremost of the enemy rides a mad giant at a furious

gallop. He flourishes a tree for a club and is wild with anger,

for as he goes he cries, "You wait till I get hold of you! I'll

skin you alive! I'll wring your neck! I'll break every bone in

your body!" Others ride behind, and you will do well to retire

before this whirlwind of destruction comes upon you.'

Just then out of a cloud of dust in the distance the king saw

Moti approaching at a hard gallop, looking indeed like a giant

compared with the little beast he rode, whirling his castor-oil

plant, which in the distance might have been an oak tree, and the

sound of his revilings and shoutings came down upon the breeze!

Behind him the dust cloud moved to the sound of the thunder of

hoofs, whilst here and there flashed the glitter of steel. The

sight and the sound struck terror into the king, and, turning his

horse, he fled at top speed, thinking that a regiment of yelling

giants was upon him; and all his force followed him as fast as

they might go. One fat officer alone could not keep up on foot

with that mad rush, and as Moti came galloping up he flung

himself on the ground in abject fear. This was too much for

Moti's excited pony, who shied so suddenly that Moti went flying

over his head like a sky rocket, and alighted right on the top of

his fat foe.

Quickly regaining his feet Moti began to swing his plant round

his head and to shout:

'Where are your men? Bring them up and I'll kill them. My

regiments! Come on, the whole lot of you! Where's your king?

Bring him to me. Here are all my fine fellows coming up and we'll

each pull up a tree by the roots and lay you all flat and your

houses and towns and everything else! Come on!'

But the poor fat officer could do nothing but squat on his knees

with his hands together, gasping. At last, when he got his

breath, Moti sent him off to bring his king, and to tell him that

if he was reasonable his life should be spared. Off the poor man

went, and by the time the troops of Moti's side had come up and

arranged themselves to look as formidable as possible, he

returned with his king. The latter was very humble and

apologetic, and promised never to make war any more, to pay a

large sum of money, and altogether do whatever his conqueror


So the armies on both sides went rejoicing home, and this was

really the making of the fortune of clumsy Moti, who lived long

and contrived always to be looked up to as a fountain of wisdom,

valour, and discretion by all except his relations, who could

never understand what he had done to be considered so much wiser

than anyone else.

A Pushto Story.