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A Heifer of the Dawn
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Pages (PDF): 44
Publication Date: 1904
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The Indian Stories of Francis William Bain were published early in the 20th century. They purport to be translations of unidentified manuscripts. However, these books are not directly derived from Hindu texts or traditions. Bain was eventually unveiled as a writer of orientalist fantasies. He continued to press on with the series until there were thirteen volumes. This is thus a harmless literary hoax on a par with Bilitis. Which is not to say that these books don't have their charm, particularly if you like early fantasy writers, such as William Morris or Lord Dunsany.
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Salutation to the great Third eye of the Master of all Emotion: that eye, which could wither the God of Love with shooting flames, and yet open, to her confusion, with the tenderness of a flower on the bashful Párwatí, as she was endeavouring to rob him of the sight of her own beauty by placing her hands over the other two !
THERE lived formerly, in another kalpa, a stupid king, who possessed two things, that like the edge of a sword kept him from sleeping: a brave enemy and a beautiful daughter: for his enemy was too strong, and his daughter too clever for him: moreover, his enemy was young, and his daughter unmarried. And after racking his brains to no purpose for a long time, there came to him at last, as he lay awake one night, a thought. And he exclaimed: Ha! I will mix this poison and this nectar, and pour the sea of my daughter's beauty over the fire of my enemy's hostility, and so extinguish it altogether: and gain for my kingdom, security, and for my daughter, a husband, and for myself, rest, and a release from anxiety. And this idea pleased him so much that he shouted aloud. Then all the guards, thinking that he was in danger, ran in with lights. And they saw the King stark naked, skipping about the room like a calf; waving his hands, and exclaiming: Ha! my enemy: ha! my daughter. So they said: Surely his short wits have come to an end, and now he is mad. But the King sent for musicians, and rose up then and there, and made merry all night, waiting with impatience for the day.
Then in the morning he chose a messenger, and sent him away to his enemy, and said to him, by the mouth of his envoy: Let us be friends and rule the earth together in peace: and I will bestow on thee my daughter in marriage, asking from thee nothing in return. And what a gift mine is, thou shalt discover when it comes to thee. For should I describe its value and its qualities in words beforehand, I should seem but a liar in thine eyes. So the envoy went with his message. But the King's daughter, hearing of the matter, privately sent agents of her own, saying nothing to her father, to find out all they could about her bridegroom, and his affairs.
Then time went by, and the King's envoy was absent so long, that the King could hardly keep himself alive for vexation and impatience. But at last, as he sat one day with his daughter beside him, there came in a doorkeeper who fell at his feet, and said: Thy envoy has returned, and now, what are the King's commands? And the King bade her bring him in, without losing a moment. So the envoy came in, just as he was, dusty and travel-stained, and stood before him. And the King looked at him with red eyes, and said: What shall be done to the envoy who lingers on the King's errand, till his black hairs turn to grey, and the grey to white?
Then the envoy joined his hands, and said: O King, let thy anger fall, but not on the innocent. For as for me, I went and came, swifter than a traveller in the rainy season returning to the caresses of his bride. All the delay was caused by the madness of this son-in-law of thine that is to be, or not, according to thy pleasure. For some time ago, it happened, that returning from his army, which he had led away in person to subdue a vassal that had revolted, he entered his apartments, when nobody expected him, and saw his queen, for he had only one , conversing with a man, whom she had conveyed into the palace in the clothes of a woman. And instantly there came over him a horror of the world and its delusions, but above all of women, so great, that, after banishing his queen, for he would not put her to death, he turned his back upon his royal estate, and cast off his kingly pleasures, as a snake discards its old skin.
And he went and shut himself up in a deserted temple of Maheshwara, that stands in a wood, outside his capital, on the edge of a, sacred lotus pool. And there he lives like an ascetic, cutting himself off from the conversation of men, so that even his ministers can scarcely see him on important business of state. And it was long before I could even manage to advise him of my coming, and your proposal. But at last, he sent for me, having learned of my presence through his prime minister. So they led me to the temple in the early morning. And as I stood waiting before it, suddenly I saw the lotuses of the pool opening, one after another, at the touch of the early sun; and at the same instant, the young King came out before the temple, and stood on the steps leading down into the pool. And he looked like a great ruby, for the sun's rays lit up the red bark garments in which he was dressed and edged them with a fringe of flame: and I was amazed at the sight of him, for he seemed like a King even among Kings. And he said to me, in deep tones : Go back to thy master, and tell him, that for the good of my kingdom and his own, I will accept his offer: and there shall be peace and friendship between us, and union cemented by the gift of his daughter: whom I will treat royally, and as becomes a queen. But not as a wife: for after we have perambulated the fire together, let her live in her own palace, and forget that I am alive.
But when the envoy had got so far in his tale, the King exclaimed in anger: What! does he dare to make such terms, and send such an answer, and dishonour me and my daughter by such a proposal? Then hearing him speak, his daughter, sitting beside him, began to laugh. And she said: O my father, how is it, that with such grey hairs, thou understandest nothing, neither of men, nor of women, nor of policy, nor of me? Then the King said: My daughter, what are these words? And what dost thou understand, of men or of policy, or even of women and thyself, who art but fifteen years old? Then his daughter said: Here, in this matter, all has gone well, and turned out according to thy wish; and yet thou art ready to throw away all the advantages to thy realm, by rejecting the proposal of my husband, which is as it should be. Then the King said: How is it well, and not rather very ill? and how shall such a husband obtain thee, who proposes not to treat thee as his wife? and what is this absurdity that thou speakest?
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