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THE JUNIOR CLASSICS

 

So next day, when the Princesses went to their mother's grave, and were
eating the beautiful pomeloes, the Prudhan's daughter followed them,
and saw them gathering the fruit.

Then Balna said to her sisters, "Do you not see that girl watching us?
Let us drive her away, or hide the pomeloes, else she will go and tell
her mother all about it, and that will be bad for us."

But the other sisters said, "Oh no, do not be unkind, Balna. The girl
would never be so cruel as to tell her mother. Let us rather invite
her to come and have some of the fruit." And calling her to them, they
gave her one of the pomeloes.

No sooner had she eaten it, however, than the Prudhan's daughter went
home and said to her mother, "I do not wonder the seven Princesses will
not eat the dinner you prepare for them, for by their mother's grave
there grows a beautiful pomelo tree, and they go there every day and
eat the pomeloes. I ate one, and it was the nicest I have ever
tasted."

The cruel Ranee was much vexed at hearing this, and all next day she
stayed in her room, and told the Raja that she had a very bad headache.
The Raja was deeply grieved, and said to his wife, "What can I do for
you?" She answered, "There is only one thing that will make my
headache well. By your dead wife's tomb there grows a fine pomelo
tree; you must bring that here, and boil it, root and branch, and put a
little of the water in which it has been boiled on my forehead, and
that will cure my headache." So the Raja sent his servants, and had
the beautiful pomelo tree pulled up by the roots, and did as the Ranee
desired; and when some of the water, in which it had been boiled, was
put on her forehead, she said her headache was gone and she felt quite
well.

Next day, when the seven Princesses went as usual to the grave of their
mother, the pomelo tree had disappeared. Then they all began to cry
very bitterly.

Now there was by the Ranee's tomb a small tank, and as they were crying
they saw the tank was filled with a rich cream-like substance, which
quickly hardened into a thick white cake. At seeing this all the
Princesses were very glad, and they ate some of the cake, and liked it;
and next day the same thing happened, and so it went on for many days.
Every morning the Princesses went to their mother's grave, and found
the little tank filled with the nourishing cream-like cake. Then the
cruel stepmother said to her daughter: "I cannot tell how it is, I have
had the pomelo tree which used to grow by the Ranee's grave destroyed,
and yet the Princesses grow no thinner, nor look more sad, though they
never eat the dinner I give them. I cannot tell how it is!"

And her daughter said, "I will watch."

Next day, while the Princesses were eating the cream cake, who should
come by but their stepmother's daughter. Balna saw her first, and
said, "See, sisters, there comes that girl again. Let us sit round the
edge of the tank and not allow her to see it, for if we give her some
of our cake, she will go and tell her mother; and that will be very
unfortunate for us."

The other sisters, however, thought Balna unnecessarily suspicious, and
instead of following her advice, they gave the Prudhan's daughter some
of the cake, and she went home and told her mother all about it.

The Ranee, on hearing how well the Princesses fared, was exceedingly
angry, and sent her servants to pull down the dead Ranee's tomb, and
fill the little tank with the ruins. And not content with this, she
next day pretended to be very, very ill-in fact, at the point of death-
and when the Raja was much grieved, and asked her whether it was in his
power to procure her any remedy, she said to him: "Only one thing can
save my life, but I know you will not do it." He replied, "Yes,
whatever it is, I will do it." She then said, "To save my life, you
must kill the seven daughters of your first wife, and put some of their
blood on my forehead and on the palms of my hands, and their death will
be my life." At these words the Raja was very sorrowful; but because
he feared to break his word, he went out with a heavy heart to find his
daughters.

He found them crying by the ruins of their mother's grave.

Then, feeling he could not kill them, the Raja spoke kindly to them,
and told them to come out into the jungle with him; and there he made a
fire and cooked some rice, and gave it to them. But in the afternoon,
it being very hot, the seven Princesses all fell asleep, and when he
saw they were fast asleep, the Raja, their father, stole away and left
them (for he feared his wife), saying to himself: "It is better my poor
daughters should die here, than be killed by their stepmother."

He then shot a deer, and returning home, put some of its blood on the
forehead and hands of the Ranee, and she thought then that he had
really killed the Princesses, and said she felt quite well.

 


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