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Stories of the Magicians by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

THE GLENDOVEER

[265] ALL that day the unhappy Ladurlad and his daughter wandered across the plain and through the jungle. They had no care or thought of the way, except, indeed, to be as far as possible from Kehama's city. When darkness overtook them they were at a place where a white flag marked the spot where some poor victim had been seized by a tiger. At other times they would have fled from the neighbourhood as from a pestilence. Now Ladurlad was beyond all fear, as he was beyond all hope, and Kailyal had no thought except for her father. There, then, they lay down to rest, though there was no rest for the unhappy Ladurlad. Still, for his daughter's sake, he feigned to be asleep, and she, listening to his regular [266] breathing, and hoping against hope, began to believe that the gods might have had pity upon him, and given him a respite from the pain of the curse. So she sat and listened, till at last, wearied as she was with her day's wandering, sleep overtook her, and she ceased her watch.

Then Ladurlad thought to himself: "Why should I cumber this innocent girl with my unhappy company? Why should she bear the burden of a woe which she cannot relieve?" He lifted his head from her lap. She did not wake. He stood up, and still she slept. Silently he stole away; then she felt that he was gone. For a moment she stood, listening to his steps and not knowing what to do. Then, with a shriek, she rushed after him; but the night and the thickness of the jungle hindered her, and he quickened his steps when he was aware of her pursuit.


[Illustration]

KAILYAL

While she stood utterly perplexed, she heard the howl of a tiger in the distance. But when she turned, something more dreadful encountered her—a human form, a shape of lurid light, dimly seen in the darkness. Nearer and nearer [267] it came, as she stood spell-bound with horror; and she knew the face of Arvalan! The spectre stretched out its hands to clasp her. Then the spell was broken, and she fled. It so chanced that by the wayside was a temple, the temple of Pollear, the elephant-headed god to whom travellers pray, standing with doors wide open. The maiden rushed headlong into the shrine, and clasped the altar. Even at the altar the pursuing spectre seized her. But the insulted god caught him with his elephant-trunk, and hurled him, as a stone is hurled by a catapult, into the depths of the forest.

Kailyal did not stay to see how she had been saved, but, rushing on wildly through the jungle, struck her foot on the root of a man chineel-tree, and there lay, like one dead, under the poisonous shade.

It so chanced that one of the Glendoveers, the winged children of Casyapa, the Father of the gods, was abroad that night, disporting himself in the air. He chanced to see Kailyal as she lay, and pitying one so beautiful and so unhappy, bore her to his father's abode.

[268] Said Casyapa to his son—Ereenia was the name of the Glendoveer: "Do you know what you have done, bringing a mortal into this holy place?"

"I found her," said Ereenia, "under the shade of a poison-tree, lying lifeless as you see her."

"But what if she is a sinful mortal, one: doomed to death?"

"Sinful, my father! surely she cannot be with that sweet, innocent face. But, my father why do you ask questions of me, you who know all things?"

"Do you know Kehama?"

"The Almighty Man! Who does not know him and his fearful power? Who does not know the tyrant of earth, and the enemy of heaven?"

"Do you fear him?"

"I know that he is terrible."

"Terrible indeed! He has such power that there is hope even in hell; yes, and fear in heaven. The spirits of the condemned are glad; the souls of the blessed suspend their joy. Nay, the very gods are afraid. Brahma [269] fears, and Veshnoo turns his face in doubt to Seeva's throne."


[Illustration]

GLENDOVEERS

"I have seen Indra tremble at his prayers and dreadful penances, prayers and penances which claim from Seeva a power so vast that even he cannot grant it and be safe."

"Ereenia, will you dare this Almighty Man?"

"I, my father? I dare him?

If not, take the maid again to earth; drop her before the tiger, as he prowls for his prey, or under the poison-tree, that they may work Kehama's will."

"Never—never will I do it."

Then meet his wrath."

"But why not shelter her here, my father?"

"My son, it cannot be. I have piety and wisdom and peace; but I have not the strength to resist this almighty Kehama, no, nor even the spirit of the dead Arvalan."

"Arvalan!"

"Kehama has given his dead son all the faculties of which the dead are capable, until his hour of judgment comes."

"See! she lives! And lo! her hand touches the Holy River at its sources. Were there [270] anything impure in that hand, the waters would shrink from it. But see, they play about it, and leap, and sparkle, as if to welcome her."

"Of a truth she is pure from sin," cried Casyapa. "But, my son, what will you do with the maid?" for now, at the bidding of the Glendoveer, a ship of heaven came sailing down the skies.

"My father," answered Ereenia, "I will carry her straight to the Swerga, to Indra's own dwelling. Indra is the foe of her foe, and he should protect her. But if the god shrinks from the Rajah's might, and is unwilling to try the perilous ship, then, small as I am, I will stand forth and plead the maiden's cause in the presence of Seeva himself."

"It is well," said the Father of the gods; "it is well. Stand forth without fear; and whatever may befall, still trust in Him. He will do and cause to be done that which is right."

The ship of heaven went on its way and carried the Glendoveer and the maiden on their way to the Paradise of Swerga, the dwelling of [271] Indra. When they had reached he said to her: "Rest in peace, maiden. Feeble as I am, I will guard you. The Almighty Rajah shall not harm you, so long as Indra keeps his throne."

"Ah," cried Kailyal, "and you too fear him!"

"So long as the Swerga is safe, you are safe also."

"But save not me only. I have a most unhappy father; Kehama's curse is on him.

"Can you not save him also?"

"Come, plead your cause to Indra himself."

So saying, he lifted Kailyal on his wings, and carried her to where Indra sat upon his throne.

There was trouble on the face of the god, and it grew darker and deeper when he saw Ereenia and the mortal maid.

Ereenia said: "Hear me, Indra. I found this child of man brought near to death, I know not by what mishap. I carried her to the dwelling of the Father of the gods, intending, when she should have been healed, to restore her to earth. But when I heard [272] her fate, I had other thoughts. She is one of those who groan beneath the power of the Almighty Rajah, and she is persecuted by the spectre of his dead son Arvalan. What choice had I but to bring her hither? Here she is safe, for here thou art yet supreme."

"Ereenia," answered the god, "no child of man may dwell in these bowers of bliss. With man must come Time and Wrath and Change; and these once come, our happiness would pass. A stronger hand than mine may wrest this Paradise from me; but I will do nothing to provoke the fate."

"Fear," said Ereenia, "courts the blow. Fear will lay us prostrate under the wheels of destiny."

"It may be," answered Indra, "that Veshnoo will again descend and serve the gods. Did he not save them before from another such Almighty Man, from Ravanen, killing him with the arrows that never fail?"


[Illustration]

THE OVERTHROW OF RAVANEN

"It is an idle hope," said the Glendoveer. "Put forth thy own strength for thine own salvation. Would that the lightnings which play harmlessly about thy head were mine. [273] The Swerga would not want a champion nor Earth a deliverer."

"Think you," cried Indra in wrath, "that I want the will to strike my enemy? But of a truth I can no more cast down this Kehama than can you. He went on from conquest to conquest till ail the kings of the earth had received his yoke. When the steam of the sacrifice went up which was to proclaim him Omnipotent below, then was the time to strike him with the thunderbolt. That time went by; and now by prayers and penances he has wrested such power from Fate, that if Seeva turn not his eyes on earth and Veshnoo descend not to save, he will seize the Swerga for his own, and roll his chariot-wheels through Padalon, the dwelling of the dead, and force from Yamen's charge the cup of Immortality. My thunders cannot pierce the sphere of power which encompasses him."

"Take me to earth, blessed Spirit," cried Kailyal, when she heard the word of fate from Indra's mouth. "If my father must still bear the curse, he shall not bear it alone."

"Child of earth," said Indra, "thou hast [274] already the divine spirit, for duty is thy guide." Then he turned to Ereenia and said: "Take her to where the Ganges has his second birth. There may she and her father rest secure till the hour of doom shall come."


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