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THE JUNIOR CLASSICS

 

As he was looking about, the Malee's wife saw him, and ran out of the
house and said, "My dear boy, who are you that dare venture to this
dangerous place?" He answered, "I am a Raja's son, and I come in
search of my father, and my uncles, and my mother whom a wicked
enchanter bewitched."

Then the Malee's wife said, "This country and this palace belong to a
great enchanter; he is all powerful, and if anyone displeases him, he
can turn them into stones and trees. All the rocks and trees you see
here were living people once, and the Magician turned them to what they
now are. Some time ago a Raja's son came here, and shortly afterward
came his six brothers, and they were all turned into stones and trees;
and these are not the only unfortunate ones, for up in that tower lives
a beautiful Princess, whom the Magician has kept prisoner there for
twelve years, because she hates him and will not marry him."

Then the little Prince thought, "These must be my parents and my
uncles. I have found what I seek at last." So he told his story to
the Malee's wife, and begged her to help him to remain in that place
awhile and inquire further concerning the unhappy people she mentioned;
and she promised to befriend him, and advised his disguising himself
lest the Magician should see him, and turn him likewise into stone. To
this the Prince agreed. So the Malee's wife dressed him up in a saree,
and pretended that he was her daughter.

One day, not long after this, as the Magician was walking in his garden
he saw the little girl (as he thought) playing about, and asked her who
she was. She told him she was the Malee's daughter, and the Magician
said, "You are a pretty little girl, and to-morrow you shall take a
present of flowers from me to the beautiful lady who lives in the
tower."

The young Prince was much delighted at hearing this, and went
immediately to inform the Malee's wife; after consultation with whom he
determined that it would be more safe for him to retain his disguise,
and trust to the chance of a favorable opportunity for establishing
some communication with his mother, if it were indeed she.

Now it happened that at Balna's marriage her husband had given her a
small gold ring on which her name was engraved, and she had put it on
her little son's finger when he was a baby, and afterward when he was
older his aunts had had it enlarged for him, so that he was still able
to wear it. The Malee's wife advised him to fasten the well-known
treasure to one of the bouquets he presented to his mother, and trust
to her recognizing it. This was not to be done without difficulty, as
such a strict watch was kept over the poor Princess (for fear of her
ever establishing communication with her friends), that though the
supposed Malee's daughter was permitted to take her flowers every day,
the Magician or one of his slaves was always in the room at the time.
At last one day, however, opportunity favored him, and when no one was
looking the boy tied the ring to a nosegay, and threw it at Balna's
feet. It fell with a clang on the floor, and Balna, looking to see
what made the strange sound, found the little ring tied to the flowers.
On recognizing it, she at once believed the story her son told her of
his long search, and begged him to advise her as to what she had better
do; at the same time entreating him on no account to endanger his life
by trying to rescue her. She told him that for twelve long years the
Magician had kept her shut up in the tower because she refused to marry
him, and she was so closely guarded that she saw no hope of release.

Now Balna's son was a bright, clever boy, so he said, "Do not fear,
dear mother; the first thing to do is to discover how far the
Magician's power extends, in order that we may be able to liberate my
father and uncles, whom he has imprisoned in the form of the rocks and
trees. You have spoken to him angrily for twelve long years; now
rather speak kindly. Tell him you have given up all hopes of again
seeing the husband you have so long mourned, and say you are willing to
harry him. Then endeavor to find out what his power consists in, and
whether he is immortal, or can be put to death."

Balna determined to take her son's advice; and the next day sent for
Punchkin, and spoke to him as had been suggested.

The Magician greatly delighted, begged her to allow the wedding to take
place as soon as possible.

But she told him that before she married him he must allow her a little
more time, in which she might make his acquaintance, and that, after
being enemies so long, their friendship could but strengthen by
degrees. "And do tell me," she said, "are you quite immortal? Can
death never touch you? And are you too great an enchanter ever to feel
human suffering?"

"Why do you ask?" said he.

"Because," she replied. "if I am to be your wife, I would fain know
all about you, in order, if any calamity threatens you, to overcome, or
if possible to avert it."

"It is true," he added, "that I am not as others. Far, far away,
hundreds of thousands of miles from this, there lies a desolate country
covered with thick jungle. In the midst of the jungle grows a circle
of palm trees, and in the center of the circle stand six chattees full
of water, piled one above another: below the sixth chattee is a small
cage which contains a little green parrot; on the life of the parrot
depends my life; and if the parrot is killed I must die. It is.
however," he added, "impossible that the parrot should sustain any
injury, both on account of the inaccessibility of the country, and
because, by my appointment, many thousand genii surround the palm
trees, and kill all who approach the place."

Balna told her son what Punchkin had said; but at the same time
implored him to give up all idea of getting the parrot.

The Prince, however, replied, "Mother, unless I can get hold of that
parrot, you, and my father, and uncles, cannot be liberated: be not
afraid, I will shortly return. Do you, meantime, keep the Magician in
good humor-still putting off your marriage with him on various
pretexts; and before he finds out the cause of delay, I will be here."
So saying, he went away.

 


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