29.THE MOTHER AND DAUGHTER WHO WORSHIPPED THE SUN
Once upon a time there lived a mother and a daughter who worshipped the Sun. Though they were very poor they never forgot to honour the Sun, giving everything they earned to it except two buns, one of which the mother ate, while the other was the daughter’s share, every day one bun apiece; that was all.
Now it so happened that one day, when the mother was out at work, the daughter grew hungry, and ate her bun before dinner-time. Just as she had finished it a monk came by, and begged for some bread, but there was none in the house except the mother’s bun. So the daughter broke off half of it and gave it to the monk in the name of the Sun.
Later the mother returned, very hungry, to dinner, and, lo and behold! There was only half a bun in the house.
‘Where is the rest of the bread?’ she asked.
‘I ate my share, because I was hungry,’ said the daughter, ‘and just as I finished, a monk came begging, so I had to give him half your bun.’
‘A pretty story!’ said the mother, in a rage. ‘It is easy to be generous with other people’s property! How am I to know you had eaten your bun first? I believe you gave mine in order to save your own!’
In vain the daughter protested that she really had finished her bun before the monk came begging,—in vain she promised to give the mother half her share the next day,—in vain she pleaded for forgiveness for the sake of the Sun, in whose honour she had given alms. Words were no use; the mother sternly told her to leave, saying, ‘I will have no greedy people in my house!’
So the daughter wandered away homeless into the wilds, sobbing bitterly. When she had travelled a long way, she became so tired that she could walk no longer; therefore she climbed into a big pîpal tree, in order to be safe from wild beasts, and rested amongst the branches.
After a time a handsome young prince, who had been chasing deer in the forest, came to the big pîpal tree, and, attracted by its shade, lay down to sleep. Now, as he lay there, with his face turned to the sky, he looked so beautiful that the daughter could not choose but keep her eyes upon him, and so the tears which flowed from them like a summer shower dropped soft and warm upon the young man’s face, waking him with a start. Thinking it was raining, he rose to look at the sky, and see where this sudden storm had come from, but not a cloud was to be seen. Still, when he returned to his place, the drops fell faster than before, and one of them fell on his lip and tasted as salty as tears. So he swung himself into the tree, to see where the salt rain had come from, and, lo and behold a beautiful maiden sat in the tree, weeping.
‘Where do you come from?’ he asked; and she, with tears, told him she was homeless, houseless and motherless. Then he fell in love with her sweet face and soft words, so he asked her to be his bride, and she went with him to the palace, her heart full of gratitude to the Sun, who had sent her such good luck.
Everything she could desire was hers, but when the other women talked of their homes and their mothers she held her tongue, for she was ashamed of hers.
Everyone thought she must be some great princess, she was so lovely and magnificent, but in her heart of hearts she knew she was nothing of the kind, so every day she prayed to the Sun that her mother might not find her out.
But one day, when she was sitting alone in her beautiful palace, her mother appeared, ragged and poor as ever. She had heard of her daughter’s good fortune, and had come to share it.
‘And you shall share it,’ pleaded her daughter; ‘I will give you back far more than I ever took from you, if only you will go away and not disgrace me before my prince.’
‘Ungrateful creature!’ stormed the mother, ‘do you forget how it was through my act that your good fortune came to you? If I had not sent you into the world, where would you have found so fine a husband?’
‘I might have starved!’ wept the daughter; ‘and now you come to destroy me again. Oh great Sun, help me now!’
Just then the prince came to the door, and the poor daughter was ready to die of shame. But when she turned to where her mother had sat, there was nothing to be seen but a golden stool, the like of which had never been seen on earth before.
‘My princess,’ asked the prince, astonished, ‘where did that golden stool come from?’
‘From my mother’s house,’ replied the daughter, full of gratitude to the great Sun, who had saved her from disgrace.
‘No! If there are such wonderful things to be seen in your mother’s house,’ said the prince happily, ‘I must go and see it. Tomorrow we will set out on our journey, and you shall show me all it contains.’
In vain the daughter put forward one excuse and another, but the prince’s curiosity had been aroused by the sight of the marvellous golden stool, and he was determined to go.
Then the daughter cried once more to the Sun, in her distress, saying,
‘Oh gracious Sun, help me now!’
But no answer came, and with a heavy heart she set out next day to show the prince her mother’s house. They made a grand procession, with horsemen and footmen clothed in royal liveries surrounding the bride’s carriage, where sat the daughter, her heart sinking at every step.
When they came within sight of where her mother’s hut used to stand, there on the horizon was a shining, flaming golden palace that glittered and glanced like solid sunshine. Inside and out, all was gold,—golden servants and a golden mother!
There they stopped, admiring the countless marvels of the Sun palace, for three days, and when the third was completed, the prince, more in love with his bride than ever, set his face homewards; but when he came to the spot where he had first seen the glittering golden palace from afar, he thought he would just take one look more at the wonderful sight, but, there was nothing to be seen except a dirty little hut!
Then he turned to his bride, full of anger, and said, ‘You are a witch, and have deceived me by your detestable magic! Confess, or I will strike you dead!’
But the daughter fell on her knees, saying, ‘My gracious prince, I have done nothing! I am but a poor homeless girl. It was the Sun that did it.’
Then she told the whole story from beginning to end, and the prince was so well satisfied that from that day he too worshipped the Sun.