ONCE a merchant's wife and a Raja's wife were both with child and one day as they bathed together they fell into conversation, and they agreed that if they both bore daughters then the girls should be "flower friends" while if one had a son and one a daughter then the children should marry: and they committed the agreement to writing. A month or two later the Raja's wife bore a daughter and the merchant's wife a son. When the children grew up a bit they were sent to school, and as they were both very intelligent they soon learnt to read and write. At the school the boys used to be taught in an upstairs room and the girls on the ground floor. One day the boy wrote out a copy of the agreement which their mothers had made and threw It down to the girl who was below.
She read it and from that day they began to correspond with each other; love soon followed and they decided to elope. They fixed a day and they arranged that the boy should wait for the girl under a turu tree outside the town. When the evening came the girl made haste to cook her parents' supper and then, when they went to bed, she had as usual to soothe them to sleep by rubbing their limbs; all this took a long time and the merchant's son soon got tired of waiting, so he sang to the tree:--
"Be witness be witness for me 'Turu tree'
When the Raja's daughter comes."
and so singing he tied his horse to the roots of the tree and himself climbed up into the branches, and sitting in the tree he pulled off and threw down a number of twigs. Late at night the Raja's daughter came; she saw the horse tied and the twigs scattered on the ground, but no other sign of her lover. And at last she got tired of waiting and called the Turu tree to witness, singing:--
"Be witness be witness for me 'Turu tree'
When the merchant's son comes."
As she finished her song the merchant's son threw down a large branch to her, so she looked up and saw him sitting in the tree. Then she climbed up to him and began to scold him for putting her to the pain of waiting so long. He retorted "It was you who made me anxious by keeping me waiting." "That was not my fault: you know how much work a woman has to do. I had to cook the supper and put my parents to bed and rub them to sleep. Climb down and let us be off." So they climbed down from the tree and mounted the horse and rode off to a far country. On the road the girl became very thirsty but in the dense jungle they could find no water, at last the merchant's son threw a stone at hazard and they heard it splash in a pool; so they went in the direction of the sound and there they found water but it was foul and full of worms and the girl refused to drink it. She said that she would only drink water "which had a father and mother."
So they went on their way, and after a time they came to a number of crows holding a meeting and in the midst was an owl with its head nodding drowsily; it was seeing dreams for them; every now and then a crow would give it a shove and ask what it had dreamt, but the owl only murmured that it had not finished and went off to sleep again. At last it said "I have seen a gander and a goose go down into a river and swim about in it."
The merchant's son and his companion went on and presently came to a river in full flood, which was quite uncrossable; on the far bank was a cow lowing to a calf which had been left on the bank where they were. When she saw them the girl began to sing:--
"The cow lows for its calf
The calf bleats for its mother:
My father and mother
Are weeping for me at home."
When he heard her lament like this the merchant's son exclaimed
"You women are all alike, come let us go back."
"How can we go back now?" answered the girl "You of course can pretend that you have been hunting; but we women lose our character if we are hidden by a bush for a minute."
So as they could not cross the river by themselves, a goose and gander carried them across on their backs. As they went on the merchant's son asked the girl how far she would like to go, a six days' journey or a six months' journey. He told her that in the six months' journey they would only have fruits and roots and such like to eat and water to drink, but the six days' journey was easy and free from hardship.
The girl chose the six days' journey, so they went on for six days and came to a stream on the banks of which stood a cottage in which lived an old woman. Before they went up to it the girl told her lover not to eat any rice given to him by the old woman but to throw it to the fowls; then they went and asked to be allowed to cook their food there; now the old woman had seven unmarried sons, who were away hunting at the time, and when she saw the Raja's daughter she wished to detain her and marry her to one of her sons. So in order to delay them she gave them a damp stove and green firewood to cook with; she also offered the merchant's son some poisoned rice but he threw it to the fowls, and when they ate it they fell down dead.
The girl could not make the fire burn with the green wood, so they hurried away as fast as they could without waiting to cook any food. Before they started however the old woman managed to tie up some mustard seed in a cloth and fasten it to their horse's tail, so that as they rode, the seed was spilt along the road they took. When the old woman's sons came back from hunting she greeted them by saying: "Why did you not come back sooner? I have just found a pretty wife for you; but I have tied mustard seed to their horse's tail and it is being scattered along the road: in one place it is sprouting in another it is flowering; in another it is seeding and in another it is ripe; when you get to the place where it is ripe you will catch them." So the seven brothers pursued the two lovers and caught them up, but the merchant's son cut down six of them with his sword; the seventh however hid under the horse's belly and begged for mercy and offered to serve them as groom to their horse. This man's name was Damagurguria; they spared his life and he followed them running behind the horse; but he watched his opportunity and caught the merchant's son unawares and killed him with his sword.
Then he told the girl that she belonged to him and she admitted it and asked that she might ride behind him on the horse, so Damagurguria mounted and took her up behind him and turned homewards. He could not see what the girl was doing and they had not gone far when she drew his sword and killed him with it.
Then she rode back to where the body of her lover lay and began to weep over it. As she sat there a man in shining white clothing appeared and asked what was the matter; she told him Damagurguria had killed her lover. Then he bade her stop crying and go and wet a gamcha he gave her and come straight back with it without looking behind her and then pick a meral twig and beat the corpse with it. So the girl took the gamcha and went and dipped it in a pool but, as she was bringing it back, she heard a loud roaring behind her and she looked back to see what it was; so the stranger sent her back again to the pool and this time she did not look round though she heard the same roaring. Then the stranger told her to join the severed head to the body and cover it with the wet gamcha; and then, after waiting a little, to beat the body with the meral twig. So saying he disappeared. The girl carefully complied with these instructions and to her joy saw the merchant's son sit up and rub his eyes, remarking that he must have been asleep for a long time. Great was his astonishment when he heard how Damagurguria had killed him and how he had been restored to life by the help of the stranger in white. This was the end of the lovers' troubles and they lived happily ever after.