THE PRETENDED SON.
KING Ardschi-Bordschi's minister had one only son. This son went out to the wars, and returned home again after two years' absence. Just while the minister was engaged with preparations for a festival of joy to celebrate the return of his son, there appeared before him suddenly another son in all respects exactly like his own. In form, colour, and gait there was no sort of difference to be discerned between them. Moreover, the horses they rode, their clothing, their quivers, their mode of speech, were so perfectly similar that none of the minister's friends, nor the very mother of the young man, nor yet his wife herself, could take upon them to decide which of the two was his very son.
It was not very long before there was open feud in the house between the two; both youths declaring with equal energy and determination, "These are my parents, my wife, my children...." Finding the case quite beyond his own capacity to decide the minister brought the whole before the King. As the King found himself similarly embarrassed he sent and called all the relations; and to the mother he said, "Which of these two is your son?" and to the wife, "Which of these two is your husband?" and to the children, "Which of these two is your father?" But they all answered with one consent, "We are not in a condition to decide, for no man can tell which is which."
Then King Ardschi-Bordschi thought within himself, "How shall I do to bring this matter to an end? It is clear not even the man's nearest relations can tell which of these two is the right man; how then can I, who never saw either of them before? Yet if I let them go without deciding the matter, the Boy-king will send and tell me I am not gifted to discern the true from the false, and counsel me before all the people to lay aside my kingly dignity. Now then, therefore, let us prove the matter even as the Boy-king would have it proved. We will call the men hither before us, and will examine them concerning their family and ancestors; he that is really the man's son will know the names of his generations, but he that merely pretendeth, shall he not be a stranger to these things?" So he sent and called the men before him again separately and inquired of them, saying, "Tell me now the names of thy father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather up to the earliest times, so shall I distinguish which of you is really this man's son." But the one of them who had come the last from the wars, was no man but a Schimnu (1), who had taken the son's form to deceive his parents, he by his demoniacal knowledge could answer all these things so that the very father was astonished to hear him, while the real son could go no farther back than to give the name of his grandfather.
When Ardschi-Bordschi therefore found how much the Schimnu exceeded the real son in knowledge of his family, he pronounced that he was the rightful son, and the wife and parents and friends and all the people praised the sagacity of the king in settling the matter.
Thus the Schimnu was taken home with joy in the midst of the gathering of the family, and the real son not knowing whither to betake himself, followed afar off, mourning as he went.
It so happened that their homeward way lay past the mound, where the Boy-king sat enthroned, who, hearing the feet of many people, and the voice of the minister's son wailing behind, called them all unto him, nor could they fail of compliance with the word of the Boy-king in his majesty.
When they had paid him their obeisance, bowing themselves many times before him, the Boy-king, rising in his majesty, thus spoke:--
"The decision of your King is hasty, and can never stand. I will judge your cause. Do you promise to abide by my decision?"
Then they could not choose but accept; and he made them state their whole case before him, and explain how Ardschi-Bordschi had decided, which when he had heard, he said,--
"I will set you the proof of whether of you two is the rightful son; let there be brought me hither a water-jug." And one of the boys who stood in waiting that day upon the Boy-king's throne, ran and fetched a water-jug, holding in measure about a pint.
When he had brought it, the Boy-king ordered him to place it before the throne; then said he, "Let me see now whether of you two can enter into this water-jug; then shall we know which is the rightful son."
Then the rightful son turned away sorrowful and mourned more than before, "For," said he, "how should I ever find place for so much as my foot in this water-jug?"
But the Schimnu, by his demoniacal power easily transformed himself, and entered the jug.
The Boy-king, therefore, no sooner saw him enclosed in the water-jug, than he bound him fast within it by sealing the mouth with the diamond-seal, which he might not pass (2), undismayed by the appalling howling with which the Schimnu rent the air, at finding himself thus taken captive.
Thus bound he sent him back to Ardschi-Bordschi, together with all the family concerned in the case, and with them this declaration written in due form of law:--
"According to the principles of earthly might, and the sacred maxims of religion hast thou not decided, O Ardschi-Bordschi! Thus should not an upright and noble ruler deal. The wife and children of thine own subject hast thou given over to the power of a wicked Schimnu; and sent the rightful and innocent away lamenting. Unless it is given thee to discern good from evil, truth from falsehood, it were better thou shouldst lay aside thy kingly dignity. But if thou desirest to remain king, then judge nothing without duly investigating the matter even as I."
With such a letter the Boy-king sent the men back to Ardschi-Bordschi.
When the King read the letter, he exclaimed, "What manner of boy is this, who writes thus to the King? He must be a being highly endowed with wisdom. If it was the same boy who appeared every day so gifted, I should hold him to be a Bodhisattva or indeed a very Buddha; but as on different days different boys attain to the same sagacity, the source must remain one and the same for all. Shall it not be that on the foundations of this hill or mound is a stupa, where Buddhas or Bodhisattvas have propounded sacred teaching to men. Or shall it be that there lies hidden therein some treasure gifted to impart wisdom to mortals? In some way of a certainty the spot is endowed with singular gifts."
Thus he spoke; and concluded the affair of the two sons in accordance with the Boy-king's judgment, giving over the rightful one to his family, and delivering the Schimnu to be burned.