ONCE upon a time there was a Raja who had two wives and a concubine, but after giving birth to her second son, the first Rani died, and the name of her elder boy was Sit and that of the younger was Lakhan. The two children used to cry for their mother but the second Rani never comforted them, for she hated them; it was the concubine who used to bathe them and care for them, and their father loved them much. They used to go to the place where their father sat administering justice and Sit would sit behind his father and Lakhan in front. The second Rani hated to see them with their father and would tell the concubine to drive them away; but she refused and said that it was natural for a father to love his motherless children; so the Rani kept silent, but anger remained in her heart.
At last the Rani feigned to be ill and kept her bed; the Raja sent for doctors and ojhas, and they came and saw that she could not rise and they wanted to feel her pulse, but she would not let them touch her; all she would do was to make the concubine tie a string to her wrist and let the doctors hold the other end of the string; so the doctors diagnosed the disease as best they could in this way and gave her medicines, but she got no better.
After some days the Rani sent for the Raja and said "I am dying and you don't care; these doctors' medicines do me no good; there is one medicine only which will cure me." The Raja asked "What is it? I will get it for you." Then the Rani made him swear by Kali that he would give her the medicine she wanted, and he swore blindly. Then the Rani said "If I eat the livers of Sit and Lakhan I shall get well, and if not I shall die." At this request the Raja was struck dumb.
Now the concubine and a sipahi had overheard the conversation, and when they heard what the Rani said, they withdrew and the concubine went and told Sit and Lakhan of what was in store for them, and Sit began to cry:--but Lakhan said "Do not cry brother, our father gave us life, and it is for him to take it away if he will." So the Raja came out from the Rani's room and when he saw the boys he wept and he went to them and told them to eat their rice quickly, but they would not eat; then he had their best clothes brought for them and told them to put them on, but they refused. Then the Raja called for sipahis and the sipahi who had been with the concubine, and two others, came and the Raja told them with tears in his voice to take the two boys away and let him never see them again, and he added so that the boys should not hear "Bring me their livers." So the sipahis took away the boys, and as they passed through the bazar they bought them some sweetmeats. After walking for a time they came to a jungle; then Sit said to the sipahis "How far are we to go? Do here what is in your minds."
But the sipahis went on further; then Sit again told them to do what they had to do. But the sipahis said "Do not be frightened, we shall not kill you; we shall not obey your father; you must go away and never come back here."
Now two dogs had followed them, attracted by the smell of the sweetmeats, and the sipahis caught and killed them and cut out their livers, and they put them on a plate and took them to the Raja. The Rani was delighted and had the livers cooked, and ate them and the next day she rose from her bed.
Meanwhile Sit and Lakhan travelled on, and in a few days they had eaten all their food and were very tired, and one evening they sat down at the foot of a tree in the jungle intending to spend the night there. In that tree a pair of birds had their nest. Every year they hatched their eggs and reared the young: but every year when the young were half grown, a snake came and devoured them. That year also there were two young in the nest, and on the day that the boys rested at the foot of the tree the snake had resolved to eat them. But when it came, the boys heard it moving in the leaves and killed it.
At evening the old birds returned and the nestlings said that the boys had saved their lives, and asked the old birds to give them some of the food that they had brought. So they threw down two bits of food, and it was ordained that whoever ate the first piece, should marry the daughter of a Raja, and whoever ate the second piece, should spit gold; and it chanced that Sit ate the first piece, and Lakhan the second. The next morning the boys went on their way, and the Raja of the country was looking for a husband for his daughter and he had sent an elephant out with a flower in its trunk and it was arranged that the princess should marry the man to whom the elephant gave the flower. The elephant came upon Sit sitting by the side of the road, while Lakhan was at a distance; and when the elephant saw Sit, it went up and gave him the flower and the attendants mounted him on the elephant and took him to the Raja and he married the princess.
A few days after the wedding Sit sat outside the palace with his wife, and did not come in though it was evening, and the Raja asked him why he was sitting outside in the dew. Then Sit began to cry and lament his brother, singing--
"O Brother Lakhan, where have you gone?
O younger brother, where have you gone?"
Then the Raja heard how he had been separated from his brother, and he promised to send men in search of Lakhan, and they found him in the house of a potter; but the potter refused to give him up until he had been paid for the days that he had entertained him; but really the Potter had become wealthy, because whenever Lakhan opened his mouth he spat gold, and he did not wish to lose such a valuable guest. Then Sit mounted his horse and took five rupees and gave them to the Potter in payment for his entertainment, and brought Lakhan home with him. When they found that Lakhan spat gold they were very glad to keep him and the Raja gave him his second daughter in marriage; and Lakhan made the whole family rich.
Meanwhile Sit and Lakhan's father had fallen into poverty; his country had been conquered and his army destroyed and he and his wife wandered about begging; when the boys heard this, they sent for the concubine who had been good to them, and she came and lived with them, but they did not forgive their father and step-mother.
Moral. There is no controlling a second wife and they are hard to get on with. First wives are the best, they are obedient and agree with the opinions of their husband.