20.HOW RAJA RASALU WENT OUT INTO THE WORLD

Young Rasalu lived on, far from the light of day, for eleven long years, growing tall and strong, yet contented to remain playing with his horse and talking to his parrot. But when the twelfth year began, the boy’s heart desired a change. He loved to listen to the sounds of life which came to him in his palace-prison from the outside world.

‘I must go and see where the voices come from!’ he said; and when his nurses told him he must not go for one year more, he only laughed aloud, saying, ‘No! I will not stay here a moment longer

Then he saddled his horse Bhaunr Irâqi, put on his shining armour, and rode out into the world; but—remembering what his nurses had often told him—when he came to the river, he dismounted, and going into the water, washed himself and his clothes.

Then, he rode on his way until he reached his father’s city. There he sat down to rest for a while by a well, where the women were drawing water in earthen pitchers. Now, as they passed him, their full pitchers poised upon their heads, the happy young Prince flung stones at the pitchers, and broke them all. Then the women, drenched with water, went weeping and wailing to the palace, complaining to the King that a mighty young Prince in shining armour, with a parrot on his wrist and a gallant horse beside him, sat by the well, and broke their pitchers.

Now, as soon as Raja Sâlbâhan heard this, he guessed at once that it was Prince Rasalu who had come before the time, and, mindful of the monks’ words that he would die if he looked on his son’s face before twelve years were past, he did not dare to send his guards to seize him and bring him to be judged. So he told the women be comforted, and for the future take pitchers of iron and brass, and gave new ones from his treasury to those who did not possess any of their own.

But when Prince Rasalu saw the women returning to the well with pitchers of iron and brass, he laughed to himself, and drew his mighty bow till the sharp-pointed arrows pierced the metal vessels as though they had been clay.

Yet still the King did not send for him, and so he mounted his horse and set off to the palace. He strode into the audience hall, where his father sat trembling, and bowed to him. But Raja Sâlbâhan, in fear of his life, turned his back hastily and said never a word in reply.

Then Prince Rasalu called scornfully to him across the hall—­

‘I came to greet you, King, and not to harm you!
What have I done that you should turn away?
A king’s throne has no attraction to me—
I go to seek something better!’

Then he strode out of the hall, full of bitterness and anger; but, as he passed under the palace windows, he heard his mother weeping, and the sound softened his heart, so that his anger died down, and a great loneliness fell upon him, because he was rejected by both father and mother. So he cried sorrowfully—­

‘Oh my heart is filled with grief, do you have nothing but tears for your son?
Are you my mother? Give one thought to my life just begun!’

And Queen Lonâ answered through her tears—­

‘Yes! I am your mother and I weep,
So remember this,—
Go, reign king of all men, but keep your heart good and pure!’

So Raja Rasalu was comforted, and began to make ready for adventure. He took with him his horse Bhaunr Irâqi, and his parrot, both of whom had lived with him since he was born. Besides these trusted friends he had two others—a carpenter, and a goldsmith, who were determined to follow the Prince till death.

So they made a good company, and Queen Lona, when she saw them going, watched them from her window till she saw nothing but a cloud of dust on the horizon; then she bowed her head on her hands and wept.