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Tales of the Punjab by  Flora Annie Steel




[250] THEN, after a time, Rasālu went to Hodinagari. And when he reached the house of the beautiful far-famed Queen Sundran, he saw an old Jōgi sitting at the gate, by the side of his sacred fire.

"Wherefore do you sit there, father?" asked Raja Rasālu.

"My son," returned the Jōgi, "for two-and-twenty years have I waited thus to see the beautiful Sundran, yet have I never seen her!"

"Make me your pupil," quoth Rasālu, "and I will wait too."

"You work miracles already, my son," said the Jōgi; "so where is the use of your becoming one of us?"

Nevertheless, Raja Rasālu would not be denied, so the Jōgi bored his ears and put in the sacred earrings. Then the new disciple put aside his shining armour, and sat by the fire in a Jōgi's loin-cloth, waiting to see Queen Sundran.

Then, at night, the old Jōgi went and begged alms [251] from four houses, and half of what he got he gave to Rasālu and half he ate himself. Now Raja Rasālu, being a very holy man, and a hero besides, did not care for food, and was well content with his half share, but the Jōgi felt starved.

The next day the same thing happened, and still Rasālu sat by the fire waiting to see the beautiful Queen Sundran.

Then the Jōgi lost patience, and said, "O my disciple, I made you a pupil in order that you might beg, and feed me, and behold, it is I who have to starve to feed you!"

"You gave no orders!" quoth Rasālu, laughing. "How can a disciple beg without his master's leave?"

"I order you now!" returned the Jōgi. "Go and beg enough for you and for me."

So Raja Rasālu rose up, and stood at the gate of Queen Sundran's palace, in his Jōgi's dress, and sang,

"Alakh!  at thy threshold I stand,

Drawn from far by the name of thy charms;

Fair Sundran, with generous hand,

Give the earring-decked Jōgi an alms!"

Now when Queen Sundran, from within, heard Rasālu's voice, its sweetness pierced her heart, so that she immediately sent out alms by the hand of her maid-servant. But when the maiden came to the gate, and saw the exceeding beauty of Rasālu, standing outside, fair in face and form, she fainted away, dropping the alms upon the ground.

Then once more Rasālu sang, and again his voice fell sweetly on Queen Sundran's ears, so that she sent out more alms by the hand of another maiden. But [252] she also fainted away at the sight of Rasālu's marvellous beauty.

Then Queen Sundran rose, and came forth herself, fair and stately. She chid the maidens, gathered up the broken alms, and setting the food aside, filled the plate with jewels and put it herself into Rasālu's hands, saying proudly—

"Since when have the earrings been thine?

Since when wert thou made a faqīr?

What arrow from Love's bow has struck thee?

What seekest thou here?

Do you beg of all women you see,

Or only, fair Jōgi, of me?"

And Rasālu, in his Jōgi's habit, bent his head towards her, saying softly—

"A day since the earrings were mine,

A day since I turned a faqīr;

But yesterday Love's arrow struck me;

I seek nothing here!

I beg nought of others I see,

But only, fair Sundran, of thee!"

Now, when Rasālu returned to his master with the plate full of jewels, the old Jōgi was sorely astonished, and bade him take them back, and ask for food instead. So Rasālu returned to the gate, and sang—

"Alakh!  at thy threshold I stand,

Drawn from far by the fame of thy charms;

Fair Sundran, with generous hand,

Give the earring-decked beggar an alms!"

Then Queen Sundran rose up, proud and beautiful, and coming to the gate, said softly—


"No beggar thou! The quiver of thy mouth

Is set with pearly shafts; its bow is red

As rubies rare. Though ashes hide thy youth,

Thine eyes, thy colour, herald it instead!

Deceive me not—pretend no false desire—

But ask the secret alms thou dost require."

But Rasālu smiled a scornful smile, saying—

"Fair Queen! what though the quiver of my mouth

Be set with glistening pearls and rubies red?

I trade not jewels, east, west, north, or south;

Take back thy gems, and give me food instead.

Thy gifts are rich and rare, but costly charms

Scarce find fit placing in a Jōgi's alms!"

Then Queen Sundran took back the jewels, and bade the beautiful Jōgi wait an hour till the food was cooked. Nevertheless, she learnt no more of him, for he sat by the gate and said never a word. Only when Queen Sundran gave him a plate piled up with sweets, and looked at him sadly, saying—

"What King's son art thou? and whence dost thou come?

What name hast thou, Jōgi, and where is thy home?"

then Raja Rasālu, taking the alms, replied—

"I am fair Lonā's son; my father's name

Great Sālbāhan, who reigns at Siālkot.

I am Rasālu; for thy beauty's fame

These ashes, and the Jōgi's begging note,

To see if thou wert fair as all men say;

Lo! I have seen it, and I go my way!"

Then Rasālu returned to his master with the sweets, and after that he went away from the place, [254] for he feared lest the Queen, knowing who he was, might try to keep him prisoner.

And beautiful Sundran waited for the Jōgi's cry, and when none came, she went forth, proud and stately, to ask the old Jōgi whither his pupil had gone.

Now he, vexed that she should come forth to ask for a stranger, when he had sat at her gates for two-and-twenty years with never a word or sign, answered back, "My pupil? I was hungry, and I ate him, because he did not bring me alms enough."

"Oh, monster!" cried Queen Sundran. "Did I not send thee jewels and sweets? Did not these satisfy thee, that thou must feast on beauty also?"

"I know not," quoth the Jōgi; "only this I know—I put the youth on a spit, roasted him, and ate him up. He tasted well!"

"Then roast and eat me too!" cried poor Queen Sundran; and with the words she threw herself into the sacred fire and became sati  for the love of the beautiful Jōgi Rasālu.

And he, going thence, thought not of her, but fancying he would like to be king a while, he snatched the throne from Raja Hari Chand, and reigned in his stead.

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