THERE was once a Raja and Rani who had had three sons, but they had all died when only three or four months old. Then a fourth son was born, a fine handsome child; and he did not die in infancy but grew up to boyhood. It was however fated that he should die when he was sixteen years old and his parents knew this and when they saw him coming happily home from his games of play, their eyes filled with tears at the thought of the fate that hung over him.
One day the boy asked his father and mother why it was that they were so sorrowful: and they told him how his three little brothers had died and how they feared that he had but little longer to live. On hearing this the boy proposed that he should be allowed to go away into a far country, as perhaps by this means he might avoid his fate. His father was glad to catch at the faintest hope and readily gave his consent: so they supplied him with money and mounted him on a horse, and off he set.
He travelled far and settled down in a place that pleased him. But in a short time the messengers of death came to the Raja's palace to take him away. When they did not find him, they followed in pursuit along the road which he had taken; they wore the likeness of men and soon traced out the Raja's son. They presented themselves to him and said that they had come to take him home again. The prince said that he was ready to go, but asked them to allow him to cook and eat his rice before starting. They told him that he might do this if he were quick about it: he promised to hurry, and set to his cooking: he put sufficient rice into the pot to feed them all and when it was ready he offered some to each of the messengers. They consulted together as to whether they should eat it, but their appetites got the better of their caution and they agreed to do so, and made a good meal. But directly they had finished they began to debate what they should do; they had eaten his rice and could no longer compass his death.
So they told him frankly that Chando had sent them to call him; he was to die that night and they were to take away his spirit; but they had made the mistake of eating at his hands and although they must take him away, they would give him advice as to how he might save his life: he was to take a thin piece of lamp-wick and when Chando questioned him, he was to put it up his nose and make himself sneeze. The prince promised to remember this, and that night they took his spirit away to Chando, but when Chando began to question him he made himself sneeze with the lamp-wick; thereupon Chando at once wrote that he should live for sixty years more and ordered the messengers to immediately restore his spirit to its body. Then the prince hastened back to his father and mother, and told them that he had broken through his fate and had a long life before him; and they had better make arrangements for his marriage at once. This they did and he lived to a ripe old age, as he had been promised.