Google WWW Blog e4thai

Part Seven : The Love Match

---> Part Seven : The Love Match

A FTER the shamefaced retreat of Usren, it was the wish of Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna to pay a visit to their aged parents, whom they had not seen for many long years. This information was conveyed by Sin Samudr to Suvarnamali, who however implored him to go first to Paleuk, where her mother was left all alone without news. She feared that Usren in his anger might wreak vengeance upon the defenceless city. Sin Samudr had no difficulty in persuading his father and uncle to adopt this plan, although Phra Abhai Mani entertained a shrewd suspicion that it was an attempt on the part of Suvarnamali to put him off.

So Sin Samudr's ship set course for Paleuk, in an effort to overtake Usren and thus forestall any mischief that the latter might cause there. Suvarnamali now felt happier than she had been for a long while, and, after instructing Sin Samudr not to let his father interfere with her, she called the young maid whom she had brought from Romachakra and told them to play music for her.

The strains of song reached the ears of Phra Abhai Mani as he paced up and down the cabin where he and his brother were drawing up plans. This made him think of Suvarnamali and his heart swelled with passionate desire. Although she was now virtually in his power and could hardly escape him in the end, he thought, the question was how he should approach her and win back her love. He would have liked to consult his brother, but was too ashamed to do so. He therefore wrestled with his problem alone, throwing himself prone on his bed and putting his hand to his brow.

Sri Suvarna observed his brother's behaviour and recognised the symptoms. He could hardly refrain from smiling. He might have offered advice, but feared that Phra Abhai Mani would be offended. So he left his brother to his thoughts and went up on deck.

After a while, Phra Abhai Mani rose and went out of the cabin. He intended to go in search of Suvarnamali, and walked up and down the length of the ship. But he soon thought better of it and returned to his cabin, where he stretched himself on the bed and, for want of a better, cuddled his pillow. "0 Suvarnamali," he murmured, full of sighs. "Why can you not see that I adore you? Why do you avoid me and scorn me? Is it because you have ceased to love me that you act in this way? If you cast me off and leave me, having no further affection for me, how shall I live?" Tears rolled down his cheeks, and he sobbed as if his heart would break.

The following morning, he wrote on a piece of parchment and sealed it. When his son came in to see him, he told him to take it to Suvarnamali and give it to her discreetly.

When she saw the parchment, Suvarnamali pretended to be angry. "I do not want any love letters," she exclaimed indignantly. Sin Samudr put on his most innocent air and pleaded, "Read it for me then." Suvarnamali could not help smiling. She took the missive and held it in her hand. Sin Samudr said, "Please read it aloud, Mother." Suvarnamali broke the seal and read.

The message was written in verse. It explained how, ever since the writer and she whom he loved became separated after the shipwreck, he had made every effort to follow her and had never for a moment ceased to think of her. Even if he had died and never met her again in this life, he would have prayed that they might meet each other in heaven. But now that fortune favoured them and they were able to meet again, why did she not pity him? Or had she forgotten him, and so walked away whenever she saw his face, as if she had been offended to the extent of not wishing to have anything to do with him any more, although he had given no such offence. Why did she not find out the true facts, instead of being angry? He asked her forgiveness and begged her not to give way to anger. He had no intention of deceiving her in the least. Whenever she was angry, he was full of sorrow and was wasting away. He was pining away morning and night. He wished to visit her but feared her anger. If he had committed a fault, she must tell him so, and let him know what was truly in her heart. Such was Phra Abhai Mani's message.

Suvarnamali pretended to be angry. "How absured of him to write such a thing!" Then turning to Sin Samudr, she said: "And you must not bring such things to me. I have no use for poetry."

Sin Samudr took the parchment and read for himself. Then he observed: "What is there to be angry about in this? It is very prettily written. If I were you, Mother, I would answer him in the same style." Suvarnamali replied, "I do not want to, I am too lazy to do it. Do not be so annoying or I will pinch you."

Sin Samudr said, "But you have opened it and read it, Mother. It would be wrong not to reply to it."

"Very well," agreed Suvarnamali, "I will reply to it so that I shall not be blamed for having bad manners."

So she wrote a reply and sealed the parchment, which in due course Sin Samudr took to his father.

Phra Abhai Mani, delighted, broke the seal and read Suvarnamali's verses.

In neatly written lines, she paid her respects to him, who had treated her with kindness. She declared that she would never cease to be grateful to him and would serve him faithfully to the end of her life. If she committed any wrong he was free to punish her. But she wished him to look upon her as a daughter. She had made up her mind that she would not accept any man as her husband in this existence. What had been said in the past was over and done with. However persuasive he might be, she would not and could not comply with his wishes. In conclusion, she wrote. "I have made a vow that in this life I shall have no husband. All I wish for is to be allowed to live alone with my adopted son. This is the whole truth which comes from my heart."

Phra Abhai Mani loved Suvarnamali more than ever after reading these protestations. "So she wishes to be my daughter!" he mused. "How shall I answer her, so that she may be appeased?"

He lay down on his bed and studied Suvarnamali's reply carefully once again.

He decided to send her another missive. When this was written, he called his son, gave it to him and told him to return in the evening. Once more, Sin Samudr played the part of messenger and handed his father's message to his adopted mother.

This second message was short and touching. It read: "0 my adored one, you should not doubt me. I have already begged your forgiveness and yet you have not forgiven me. In that case, I would beg a meeting with you, so that I may explain everything to you. If then, you are still unsatisfied, I would be willing to comply with your terms and do as you wish."

Suvarnamali read the message and thought to herself: how cunningly he turns my words to suit his own purpose. I ask one thing of him, and instead of granting it, he asks me to go and meet him, and at the same time taking this advantage to mock me. I am too afraid to let him come near me, for I shall only become a victim of his wiles.

So she wrote another message in reply, and told Sin Samudr to deliver it to Phra Abhai Mani and to come back immediately. Sin Samudr was thus placed in a quandary. Both his father and his adopted mother wanted him, and he did not know whom to obey.

As Sin Samudr was leaving on his new errand, Suvarnamali repeated: "Do not stay too long. Just give him the letter and come quickly."

The boy turned and asked, "Why are you afraid of him, Mother? What can Father do to anybody? What harm is there in meeting Father and having a talk with him?"

"Oh, what a little nuisance you are!" replied Suvarnamali. "Can you not understand that your father is like all widowers? There is no trusting them! They await their opportunity and seize upon defenceless women."

Sin Samudr laughed. "You are not so defenceless as all that, Mother, and Father is not so very fierce or strong. Besides, he would not attack any woman. Why, the very sight of Pisua Samudr frightened him. Or are you afraid of having a husband?"

Suvarnamali pinched him. "But I do not look like Pisua Samudr, so he would not be afraid of me." she said. "He would merely try to make love to me. I want you to be with me all the time in case he comes."

Sin Samudr promised to return immediately. He went along to his father's cabin, handed him the letter and was about to step out again. Phra Abhai Mani caught hold of his arm.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?" he asked his son. Sin Samudr told him that Suvarnamali had bade him to return at once. "Why?" asked Phra Abhai Mani, "is she afraid of ghosts or something?"

"No, she is not afraid of anything," answered the boy, "only that she does not trust you, Father."

Phra Abhai Mani was greatly amused, and asked more about Suvarnamali. His son told him all he wished to know, but implored him not to tell his adopted mother that he had done so. Phra Abhai Mani embraced him and persuaded him to remain a little longer. He then opened Suvarnamali's missive and read it.

In it, Suvarnamali expressed herself as willing to meet him, on condition that the meeting should take place the next day in the presence of Sri Suvarna and others. If he agreed to this, she would wait upon him every day and render him any service he desired.

Phra Abhai Mani could not help admiring her wit and ingenuity. But he was determined to take her at her word, and see as much of her as he possibly could. He did not fancy the idea of having to wait until the following morning, and wished to accomplish his purpose that very evening. But Sin Samudr must first be got out of the way. So, patting his son on the back, he told him that his uncle Sri Suvarna wanted to see him.

Sin Samudr, unsuspecting, went straight to his uncle's quarters. There, Arun Rasmi tried to engage him in conversation, but he excused himself saying that it was getting late and he had to go to look after his mother. Sri Suvarna jokingly asked him, "Why do you have to look after her? Is any one trying to run off with her?"

Sin Samudr enjoyed the joke. "Oh, no, uncle," he replied in childish simplicity, "But I am afraid that Father will try to go and visit Mother, and I must be there to see that everything is all right."

Sri Suvarna chuckled to himself and said, "Look here, nephew, what business is it of yours to interfere between husband and wife? (;)n the contrary, you should let them meet, and later you may have a nice little brother to play with."

Sin Samudr answered, "Oh, no, I would never think of interfering between husband and wife. But I am afraid they will beat and pinch each other. Mother has always had her own way and will never give in. I must be there to see that nothing goes wrong."

Sri Suvarna was amused at his nephew's innocence. He questioned him further and discovered that it was Phra Abhai Mani who had sent him to his uncle. Then it dawned on him that Phra Abhai Mani wished to keep the boy out of the way, because he had made a rendezvous with Suvarnamali. So he replied Sin Samudr with questions and got him so engrossed in conversation that the latter forgot the time and did not even hear the ship's bell striking six.

Meanwhile, Suvarnamali waited for Sin Samudr, but he did not return, and now it was dark. She feared that this was Phra Abhai Mani's trick to keep him out of the way. She guessed that now was the time when Phra Abhai Mani would attempt to take advantage of her. Therefore she called together her maids and told them to make up the bed so that it would look as if she were there sleeping on it, then draw the curtain and sit around with their musical instruments. She herself put on the very effective male disguise she had assumed once before during the battle, and went out on to the deck.

Sure enough, Phra Abhai Mani came not long afterwards, beautifully groomed and dressed. He glanced into Suvarnamali's cabin, and saw only the maids. He asked them, and they shyly informed him that she was asleep in bed. Phra Abhai Mani approached the bed and drew back the curtain. It was half dark, and he could only see the shape and outline on the bed. Very gently, he stretched out his hand and touched the blanket. But he felt only a soft mass. He lifted the blanket and found nothing but pillows. He was bitterly disappointed and aggrieved. "Have I lived so long to be fooled by a woman?" he cried.

He turned to ask the maids, but the latter merely began playing their instruments. He knew that they were making fun of him. He withdrew from Suvarnamali's cabin in confusion, and searched the deck for her, but never a woman did he see.

As for Suvarnamali, she could hardly restrain herself from laughing. Once he actually brushed past her, but did not realise that it was she.

Eventually, Phra Abhai Mani looked in at his brother's cabin and called out to Sin Samudr, "Your mother has disappeared! Why do you not go to find her?"

Sin Samudr rose to his feet in apprehension. He felt that he had been guilty in leaving his adopted mother for so long. So he ran to Suvarnamali's cabin, followed by Arun Rasmi, who was determined not

to be left out of the excitement. They found only the maids, who refused to tell them anything. They searched everywhere for her, but met with as little success as Phra Abhai Mani. Arun Rasmi remarked, "Dear cousin, somebody has surely stolen my aunt away."

"And I know who that somebody is," said Sin Samudr grimly. There is no doubt that Father has taken her."

They both ran to Phra Abhai Mani's cabin, but found no trace of Suvarnamali, Sin Samudr confronted his father, saying, "Father, where have you hidden Mother? Please tell me."

"I do not know where she is myself. Now, do not disturb me!"

The two children returned to Suvarnamali's cabin. They turned it inside out but still could not find her. Arun Rasmi burst into tears. Phra Abhai Mani followed them into the cabin and picked up a scarf which was lying on the bed. It was still scented with perfume. He took it away with him as a keepsake.

Once Phra Abhai Mani had returned to his cabin, Suvarnamali went back to her own room. It was some time before Sin Samudr saw through her disguise and welcomed her with open arms. "I have been looking for you all over the ship until I am worn out," he exclaimed.

Suvarnamali doffed her disguise and embraced the two children. She told them both to lie on the bed with her. It was then that she missed the scarf which she had left on the bed. Sin Samudr promptly told her that his father had taken it away with him. Suvarnamali knew why and feigned annoyance. "See, my children, he failed to find me and has therefore stolen my scarf!"

At that very moment, Phra Abhai Mani was lying prone on his bed with the scarf spread out across his breast. "What a woman!" he sighed. "How she has made a fool of me! But anyhow, I have her scarf." He inhaled its delicate perfume and was comforted. But he could not help wondering, "Where has she gone at this hour of night? When I come to think of it, I should be jealous. Yet I cannot believe that a swan would deign to swim in muddy water." Thus Phra Abhai Mani thought of Suvarnamali all night long until the sun rose on another day.

The rest of the voyage was uneventful. Finally, the good ship arrived at Paluek where she dropped anchor. The townspeople of Paleuk were greatly excited when they heard that their long-missing Princess was on board. Word soon reached the palace, and Suvarnamali's mother Mondha made haste to come to the quayside. The ladies of the court, thinking that the king had returned, powdered themselves and put on their fineries with hopeful expectation that they would be noticed. They accompanied the queen to the quay.

On board the ship, Suvarnamali bathed and dressed herself up in her finest apparel and told Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi to do the same. Then they went on to the deck where Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna had taken their places. When she saw the spires of the palace in the distance, she could not help thinking of her father and tears rolled down her cheeks. Then, turning to the two brothers, she bowed low to take her leave. "I am going to meet my mother," she said, "soon I will return to invite Your Highnesses to land on our soil. Since you have both been to me as a father and have taken the trouble to accompany me all this distance, I beg that you will remain with us at least a month."

Sri Suvarna could hardly refrain from smiling. "As for myself," said he, "I must beg leave to return to my country."

Suvarnamali blushingly understood the implication of his words, but did not answer him. Instead, she addressed Phra Abhai Mani. "Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi wish to accompany me. Do they have your permission?"

Phra Abhai Mani took note of her shyness. "Who would wish to deny it to them," he replied. "Even if you do not want their fathers to accompany you, we are quite willing to let the young ones go with you. I personally shall remain on watch here, or do you prefer to dismiss me altogether?"

Suvarnamali suppressed a smile and said, "I did not intend to give offense by avoiding you during our journey on the high seas. I did not know your intentions and I was much afraid. As for your resolve to remain here, please think it over carefully. You are a friend of Prince Usren. Should there be a war, may we depend on Your Highness?"

With that parting shot Suvarnamali took leave and, her young charges on either side, boarde'd a small boat which took them to the shore. Immediately upon landing, she ran to her mother, fell at her feet and sobbed. The shock of this extraordinary return of her daughter was too much for the queen. She fell into a swoon.

When she had been revived by her maid-in-waiting, she began to ply Suvarnamali with questions, asking where she had been and where father was. Suvarnamali told the whole story of her adventures The disappearance of the king filled the old woman with sorrow, and this confirmed her fears for his safety ever since she dreamed that disaster had befallen him.

After bemoaning his fate for a long while, Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi were presented to her. Mondha embraced them lovingly, and invited them to go with her to the palace. She then gave instructions to the assembled officials Since the king was presumably dead, she told them, another ruler had to be found. In default of male issue, she decided that the best course was to invite Phra Abhai Mani to take over the reins of government. The officials were therefore to prepare the royal barge together with escort vessels.

When all was ready, Mondha, Suvarnamali, Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi, accompanied by a considerable number of retainers, boarded the vessels which took them to the ship anchored offshore. They were welcomed by the two brothers, who had put on their regal attire. After an exchange of greetings, in the course of which Mondha was more than ever impressed by the appearance and bearing of Ph r a Abhai Mani, the latter was ceremoniously invited to become ruler of Paleuk.

Phra Abhai Mani smilingly replied, "You are too generous, 0 Mother! I have done nothing to deserve this great honour. I am merely a passenger on board this ship which belongs to Suvarnamali and her adopted son, who also happens to be my son. Even when the ship was attacked by the Prince of Lanka, I did not help to defend her, so Suvarnamali has been angry with me from that day to this. If you do not believe me, you may ask her yourself. Therefore I am unworthy to rule this country and beg leave to depart in due course."

The old queen said, "If Suvarnamali has behaved rudely or improperly towards you, pray forgive her and teach her to know her place, and she will owe you allegiance. I am old now and shall not live much longer. If you remain, I will leave all I have to you, including my dead body which you must cremate. I have come all this way to invite you to rule over Paleuk. Do not refuse. Come with me now to the palace." She turned to her daughter and told her to join in pleading with Phra Abhai Mani.

Suvarnamali could not disobey her mother, so she remarked:

"Perhaps His Highness does not accept our invitation because he is going to rule over one of the lesser heavens. Even so, I hope he will refrain from discrediting me any further. As a woman, I may be temperamental, but not to an extent that is comparable with His Highness!" Then, turning to Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi, she added, "Now you help to beg your fa~her and your uncle to stay. I am unable to persuade him."

Arun Rasmi at once spoke up in her innocent way, "You will stay, will you not, uncle?" The maids-in-waiting tittered at the simplicity of the child.

Phra Abhai Mani replied, "In that case, you must tell your aunt Suvarnamali to stop being angry with your uncle. Then your uncle will go with you to the palace."

Arun Rasmi immediately turned to Suvarnamali and chirped, "Please do not be angry with him, dear aunt!"

Suvarnamali blushed, put her hand over the girl's mouth and whispered, "Do not say such things, you make me feel ashamed!"

"Let us go at once," said Mondha.

They all came together to the palace, and the old queen handed over everything to Phra Abhai Mani, including some very choice young maids-in-waiting to attend upon him. Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna took up residence in the golden pavilion, while Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi stayed with Suvarnamali in the queen's apartments.

Phra Abhai Mani did not cease to long for Suvarnamali. Although the loveliest maidens in the land were presented to him, he thought continually of the Princess whose destiny he considered to be bound up with his own. He lost no opportunity of reminding the old queen of the fact.

As for Suvarnamali, she realised only too well that if she took no decisive action, she would fall easy prey to Phra Abhai Mani's advances. She therefore told her mother that she wished to become a nun and lead a solitary existence in the hills, so that through her piety, merit might accrue to her father in heaven. Mondha understood her daughter's pretext and said to her, "And what will you do with your betrothed? I have arranged for your marriage to Phra Abhai Mani next month."

"But I have no wish to marry him," protested Suvarnamali.

"If I desired a husband, I could have given myself to him on board the ship when he was so importunate. As it was, I carefully avoided meeting him for almost the entire journey. Now he has many attractive women to wait upon him, and has probably forgotten all about me. So please grant my request, dear mother."

"I have already promised to give you to Phra Abhai Mani," said Mondha. "So if you really wish to defer your marriage, you must go and obtain his perrnission. If he raises no objection, I will grant your request."

Accordingly, with hope in her heart, she went to call on Phra Abhai Mani, taking Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi with her. Ushered into his presence, she bowed to him obsequiously and explained the purpose of her visit. "I made a vow while on board the ship," she told him, "that I would take orders as a nun to pray for my father's soul. I must therefore beg leave to fulfil my vow."

This declaration came as a stunning blow to Phra Abhai Mani. However, he did not see how he could very well stand in the way of her vow. "It seems that I am the most unfortunate of men," he told her. "I had thought that my troubles were over and that I would now attain my desire. But now you wish to run away from me. What shall I do while you are away beyond my reach?"

Suvarnamali smiled and replied, "You have many to wait upon your pleasure here, and you will not miss me. Besides, I shall not be far away and I shall not be a nun always. When I have completed the term of my vow, I will return. If by then you still desire me, I will be ready to serve at your feet."

"I grant your request," said Phra Abhai Mani, "but you must tell me how long you intend to remain a nun and when you will return to me, so that I may bear record of it in tny heart."

When all was ready, Suvarnamali took leave of her mother and journeyed to the mountain hermitage which had been prepared for such a purpose. Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi insisted on accompanying her and sharing the life of frugal piety. They were followed by several ladies of the court who looked upon it as a kind of adventure. On arrival, Suvarnamali, Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi claimed possession of the bare, uninviting cells that had never known such young and charming

hermits. Suvarnamali took her acolytes into the chapel, and there they dedicated themselves, vowing to spend their days in piety and purity.

Almost immediately, the newly-installed nuns had visitors-Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna. The two brothers made every attempt to convince them to give up their self-imposed regime of austerity. But Suvarnamali was adamant. Finally, Phra Abhai Mani had to admit defeat, and returned to the city to hold his soul in patience.

After a few weeks, Phra Abhai Mani came to the conclusion that he had adopted the wrong policy in weakening to Suvarnamali's will. He decided that it was time to be firm, and that Suvarnamali must be brought back to her senses. He made up his mind to call on her again and compel her to return to the city. So he put on his finest robes and had an equally fine set of apparel fit for a queen placed on a golden tray, covered up in such a way that none could tell what was there. Then he called Sri Suvarna, and the two brothers went together once more to Suvarnamali's hermitage.

Suvarnamali, chastely dressed in the white garment of a nun, was sitting outside her cell with Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi, admiring the beauty of nature-birds mating in the hoary banyan trees, bees rolling in the pollen of blossoms, and fragrant flowers giving forth their sweet and refreshing odours. As soon as she saw Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna coming up the slope of the hill, she sent her adopted son and niece to meet them. Phra Abhai Mani, after greeting her in the customary way, said "I have been thinking of you all this while. Even though I have been living in the palace, my heart was here. It was as though I could see you near me morning and evening. 0, it is impossible to say how much I have missed you. Have you never thought at all of me? Or are you so firm in your faith that you have rejected me altogether?"

These words thrilled Suvarnamali through and through. But recollecting her present circumstances, she answered demurely, her eyes fixed to the ground, "I have prayed for Your Highness continually in my waking hours. I have also heard that a very clever woman has found favour in your eyes." She was referring to Valee, a misshapened wench who aspired to be Phra Abhai Mani's consort and had offered him her services.

Phra Abhai Mani smiled at the thought of Suvarnamali's resourcefulness and perception. "Yes," he admitted, ~Valee comes of a good family and is highly intelligent. I thought she would make a useful attendant for you when you return to the palace. I have come to implore you to come back with me to the city and live among your people. As for your pious devotion, you can leave that for the time when you are well advanced in years, and then we will both retire together and lead a secluded existence here to the end of our days."

"People will say that the Ruler of Paleuk forces nuns to leave their devotions," protested Suvarnamali.

"Those who love will always praise, those who hate will always censure. One cannot escape praise or censure. Why need we fear what they say of us? Today is a propitious day for leaving your hermitage. Please do not delay any longer. I may lose my patience and carry you off, I warn you!"

Suvarnamali flushed with dismay and shame. "I beg you not to take such a drastic step! Please be patient and wait. Give me time, and I will obey you."

Phra Abhai Mani turned to his brother. Sri Suvarna said, "Well, do we have to spend the night here?"

Arun Rasmi spoke up, "What do you say, dear aunt? Let us hurry and return to the city."

Suvarnamali glanced at her in surprise. "So you are another one of them!" she exclaimed, smiling.

Phra Abhai Mani looked as if he were going to burst into tears. "What a hard-hearted little hermit you are!" he cried. "I will allow you three more days, but no longer."

Then, feigning anger, and without saying another word, he beckoned to his brother and they both went back to the city.

Three days passed, and Suvarnamali still did not come. Phra Abhai Mani was disconsolate. He could neither eat nor sleep. He did not even take notice of the women who attended him.

It was Valee who came to the rescue. She knew what was in Phra Abhai Mani's troubled heart. One evening, as she sat in attendance on him, she sang a song in which she hinted at a solution. His curiosity aroused, Phra Abhai Mani asked her to tell him of any means whereby Suvarnamali might be brought to reason. Valee told him that she had conceived a plan, which could not fail to bring Suvarnamali back to the palace without trouble and without delay; he had only to leave it to her to accomplish this. Phra Abhai Mani asked how this might be done. But Valee refused to tell him, and merely promised that if she failed, he could have her executed.

Valee's ruse was simplicity itself. She asked that preparations be made for a seven-day festival to celebrate Phra Abhai Mani's nuptials. Phra Abhai Mani told Sri Suvarna, who gave the necessary orders for such preparations. The palace officials lost no time in obeying these instructions. Special pavilions and theatres were hastily constructed, while the palace women busied themselves with the decorations and provisions for the feast. When all was complete, an invitation was extended to the populace to join in the festivities. So there was great rejoicing throughout the city.

The old queen was at a loss to understand the meaning of such celebration. She feared the worst and hurried to her daughter's hermitage.

On learning the news, Suvarnamali was apprehensive and grieved. Thinking that Phra Abhai Mani had given her up and was about to make Valee his queen, a wave of resentment and jealousy swept through her. She promptly discarded her nun's clothing and donned the queenly robes Phra Abhai Mani had brought her on the previous occasion. Then, with her mother, she descended from her hermitage and hurried to the palace. Phra Abhai Mani, who was expecting her as promised by Valee, saw her from afar. He immediately took off his diamond-studded sash and bestowed it on the delighted and triumphant Valee.

On the following day, Phra Abhai Mani married Suvarnamali in great state, to the immense joy of their people.

Part Six : Strange Reunion

--->Part Six : Strange Reunion

SRI Suvarna had ruled the kingdom of Romachakra for close on ten years, and was the father of a lovely little girl called Arun Rasmi who was eight years old, when he dreamed a strange dream : a forest fire had spread to the city and the roof of his palace was set alight, so he went out to extinguish it; whereupon the fire took hold of his person, and he himself was on fire; then all of a sudden his brother Phra Abhai Mani appeared, quenched the flames and presented him with a jewel of rare beauty. Consulting the court astrologers, he was informed that a situation of some peril to the state would arise, but that his brother would come to his aid and put things to right.


SRI Suvarna had ruled the kingdom of Romachakra for close on ten years, and was the father of a lovely little girl called Arun Rasmi who was eight years old, when he dreamed a strange dream : a forest fire had spread to the city and the roof of his palace was set alight, so he went out to extinguish it; whereupon the fire took hold of his person, and he himself was on fire; then all of a sudden his brother Phra Abhai Mani appeared, quenched the flames and presented him with a jewel of rare beauty. Consulting the court astrologers, he was informed that a situation of some peril to the state would arise, but that his brother would come to his aid and put things to right.


Sensing the danger of another invasion by his old enemy, Tao Uthen, Sri Suvarna made preparations for the defence of the kingdom. He sent his three brave Brahmin friends to guard distant corners of the realm Mora to the east. Vichien to the north, and Sanon to the west. All three set out at once with their wives, who were the three nurses, with whom they had fallen in love, and all the available forces they could muster.


The attack, however, came from a quarter and in a manner quite unforeseen.


Sin Samudr, on board the pirate ship he captured, had spent three months searching the seas for traces of Suvarnamali's father and the men and woman of his court who were shipwrecked with him, but without success. By now, his provisions were running low and he decided to make for the nearest land. He consulted Angura the boatswain, who told him that the nearest land was a country called Romachakra, rich in resources of the soil. So it was decided to call there to replenish the ship's stores. Arriving at the bay where Sri Suvarna had landed several years previously, men from the pirate ship took to their longboats, hoisted sail and made for the shore. Now, the coast defences had been warned to be on their guard against strange vessels entering the bay. They were naturally suspicious of the pirate ship and the longboats that came from it. So they fired a warning shot as a signal to lower sail. The landing force, under the command of an experienced pirate whose name was Hasken, took this for opposition and immediately opened fire on the coast defence from the longboats. After a short and sharp engagement, the coast defences were silenced, and the pirates were able to approach.


The governor of the coastal district was the one-time captain who had helped Sri Suvarna and his friends when they first landed. When Sri Suvarna became ruler, he was made a nobleman of the realm (and given the responsible task of governing the coastal regions. He was his ease listening to his concubines playing their music and singing, hen he heard the sound of gunfire. At once he sprang to action and ordered boats, men and guns. With these, he lost no time in going to intercept the enemy. He engaged them at point blank range and succeeded in sinking one or two of the longboats. Hasken, realising that he was outnumbered, wisely retired in the direction of his ship. The defenders, emboldened by this seeming victory, gave chase and realised too late that they had come within range of the guns of the main enemy force. They were consequently hot to pieces, and the few survivors beat a hasty retreat to the shore.


After that, Sin Samudr's men had no difficulty in getting ashore. Only an old fort with massive walls stood in their path. The ship's cannons soon made a breach and the men stormed the fort, which fell to the invaders within a short space of time. Those of the defenders who survived were taken prisoner. The pirates, who had been forced to desist from their customary practices ever since Sin Samudr took over command, now gave vent to their desires, swooped on the neighbouring town, plundering the houses and despoiling the women. They collected a vast amount of booty as well as provisions, which they took back with them to the ship.


In the heat of battle, the old governor succeeded in escaping. He took a small boat and made his way with all possible speed to the city. Arrived there, he called up high officials to convey the news to Sri Suvarna. By the time it reached the latter, it had magnified into a report that a big army of invasion had landed and was threatening to march on the city.


Sri Suvarna took counsel with his assembled ministers, who were in a state of alarm. He could not find out from the old governor whether or not it was Tao Uthen who had thus forcibly invaded his kingdom. However, he was determined to meet force with force, and ordered his troops to prepare for battle. Early the following morning, Sri Suvarna himself rode out of the city at the head of his troops and proceeded in the direction of the sea. Reaching an open plain about a mile distant from the old fort, where the invaders could be seen encamped, he ordered his men to halt and entrench themselves.


Sin Samudr, who was standing on the look-out of the fort became childishly excited when he saw on the horizon the full array of the Romachakra army with red and green banners unfurled. He asked Angura's opinion as to how he should deal with the situation.


The old pirate advised him to hold fast to the fort and see whether the enemy, who was numerically far superior and, who appeared to be commanded by a personage of eminence would first launch an attack. But Sin Samudr was in no mood for such wait-and-see tactics. He divided his small force into two and ordered Angura to hold the fort with half the men, while he led a frontal assault on the enemy with the other half. Raving made his decision, he mounted a steed captured during the fighting of the previous day, and, to the accompaniment of battle cries, made a sortie at the head of a small band of men. The warriors of Romachakra, taken by surprise at this bold and unexpected move, fell away before the onrush, so that Sin Samudr was able to ride unharmed through their ranks until he came up face to face with Sri Suvarna.


Here he drew rein and halted. He had intended to challenge the enemy commander to single combat. But on coming closer, he was struck by the resemblance between this man and his own father. Thoughts of his father came crowding upon him and made him hesitate and lose initiative. Sri Suvarna, recovering first from his surprise, spurred his horse and charged. His sword landed squarely on Sin Samudr's chest, and the youngster fell from his horse to the ground.


This was a signal for Sri Suvarna' 5 army to attack. In no time Sin Samudr's small force which had made the sortie was scattered and the fort itself was surrounded. Angura, however, was a man of mettle and decided to defend the fort to the last. When evening fell, Angura's men were still fighting staunchly and successfully prevented any infiltration into their lines. Sri Suvarna decided to break off engagement for the night.


In the fort, Angura held council with his men. Eventually it was agreed to hold the fort for the night, in case Sin Samudr should recover and be able to rejoin them. If he did not come before dawn, they would fight their way out and make for the ship.


Meanwhile, Sin Samudr, who had been left for dead, still lay on the ground unconscious. The dew revived him. He opened his eyes and looked cautiously around. He saw the fort surrounded by the enemy. Rage swelled within his heart. He decided to show them that he, the son of a hero and a sea giantess, could not be put down in such a fashion. Springing to his feet, he ran towards the nearest group of men. Single-handed he felled some and put others to flight. Then he shouted, "Hey! come on! Where is the commander of this army? Come out and fight!"


As nobody seemed willing to accept his challenge, he made his way unhindered to the fort, where he shouted for Angura. The latter, delighted to see his young master alive and unhurt, quickly opened the gate of the fort to let him in. Sin Samudr told him that he would make another attack at daybreak and ordered him to tell his remaining men to prepare for battle.


The following morning, Sin Samudr bathed in perfumed water and put on magnificent garments. He then prayed to the gods to grant him invulnerability. As the sun rose, he took his place at the head of his diminutive force and rode out to challenge the enemy. Meanwhile, Sri Suvarna' 5 army was still in a state of consternation following the surprise raid carried out single-handed by a mere boy. But Sri Suvarna himself was quite composed and confident. He said to his followers: "That boy whom I thought I had killed yesterday dares come out to fight again. I will see to it that he does so no more." So saying, he put on his armour, mounted his horse and rode out to meet Sin Samudr.


When they were face to face, the uncle asked the nephew : "Who are you, boy? Why do you come to attack our city? You are too young to be a pirate or robber. Do you want to meet your death at our hands?"


Sin Samudr replied fearlessly : "I am no pirate or robber. My name is Sin Samudr, and I am the son of Phra Abhai, a scion of kings. I am making a journey by sea. Your men attacked mine first for no reason, so we had to fight them. Now it isyour turn to tell me who you are. Are you nobleman of the realm? If you have a desire to live, submit and we will leave you in peace."


Sri Suvarna made no immediate answer. He was deep in thought. The boy, he mused, said that his father's name was Phra Abhai. May that be my long-lost brother? He looked at Sin Samudr and perceived that ther,e was indeed a resemblance. But the boy's hair was curly like a demon and his eyes were more red than those of an ordinary human being.


Sri Suvarna then asked him:


"Where is your father? Did he come with you? Speak rather than seek to fight, for that would surely mean your own destruction. I am the King of Romachakra, and a tried warrior. I have no desire to harm your tender youth. Go, and bid your father come to me; we shall settle it between us."


Sin Samudr laughed scornfully. "So you are a skilled warrior! Then prove your boast. What has my father to do with this? This is a matter for the two of usto decide. Come, I dare you to single combat!"


Having hurled defiance Sin Samudr spurred his horse and charged at Sri Suvarna with drawn sw'ord. The King skilfully parried the blow aimed at him and made a quick evasive movement. Sin Samudr, confident of his own prowess, followed close behind. Sri Suvarna turned suddenly and caught him off his guard. He dealt his nephew five of six sharp blows with his longstaff, until the sound of it echoed over the plain. But the boy withstood the blows and was unharmed. The latter then seized and wrested the longstaff from him and proceeded to return blow for blow, until the King was unsaddled and fell to the ground. Whereupon some of Sin Samudr's men came running up and secured the outfought ruler of Romachakra, while the rest shouted their battle cry and launched an attack on the King's army. Having witnessed the defeat and capture of their King, the Romachakra troops were in no mood to stay and fight it out; they fled in all directions, leaving behind their weapons and much booty besides. These were duly collected by the pirates. After which Sin Samudr led his men back to the fort in triumph.


There, seated in his chair of state, surrounded by rejoicing men, Phra Abhai Mani's son ordered the captive to be brought before him. Sri Suvarna remained calm and dignified as he stood before the boy who had conquered him. Then, suddenly, he caught sight of the ring Sin Samudr was wearing and immediately recognised it as his brother's. At the thought of his brother, his eyes filled with tears.


Sin Samudr taunted him : "What, a king in tears? Are you thinking of your palace and your queen? Why did you accept the challenge to combat, then, if you are afraid to die?"


Sri Suvarna flushed with anger. "Do not insult me, boy!" he cried. "I am not afraid to die. I am a man, and would gladly die a soldier's death to preserve my honour and my name. If you wish, you may kill me at once. I do not ask for mercy. But something that I see brings tears to my eyes. It is the ring on your finger. I know it belongs to my brother Phra Abhai Mani, from whom I have been parted these many years. You asked what my name is. My name is Sri Suvarna."


Sin Samudr was disconcerted by this unexpected oration. He recalled how his father had told him that somewhere in the world he had an uncle called Sri Suvarna. But not wanting to seem too credulous, he asked his royal prisoner : "If you are really my father's brother, you will know what country he comes from and wherein lies his particular talent. If you can answer these questions truly, I will salute you as my uncle."


"My brother has a magic flute," replied Sri Suvarna. "When he plays it, all living creatures become powerless and fall fast asleep." Then he proceeded to tell Sin Samudr the story of their lives up to the time they became separated, and how he himself had won the throne of this country.


Sin Samudr now realised that the man standing before him was indeed his uncle. So he threw himself down at his feet, and with tears in his eyes begged Sri Suvarna's forgiveness. This being given, he told his uncle his own life story and the sad circumstances of his separation from his father.


Sri Suvarna sat down and embraced his nephew. "Alas, to think that we nearly killed each other!" he said. "Come, let us put a stop to these hostilities. We will go together to the city, and you shall meet your aunt. I shall give orders for supplies and provisions to be sent to your men here. When we have rested a few days, we will set out together to find Phra Abhai Mani."


Sin Samudr told him that his mother on board the ship waited anxiously for news. Sri Suvarna immediately expressed a wish to accompany his nephew, in order to invite her to come and stay in the city. So Sin Samudr ordered Angura to prepare one of the longboats, and uncle and nephew set out together to join the beloved of Phra Abhai Mani.


Meanwhile, the city of Romachakra was in a state of panic. The first remnants of Sri Suvarna's defeated and fugitive army had reached the city bringing with them news of the calamity. Word soon reached the palace, where Kesra and her aged father were waiting anxiously, that Sri Suvarna had been captured and taken to the enemy stronghold, and his army utterly routed. As there was no further organised resistance against the enemy, it was thought probable that the enemy would take this advantage to march against the city and lay siege to it. Kesra and her father were advised to flee while there was yet time. The old ex-king was sorely perturbed. His age no longer permitted him to take up the enemy's challenge. His son-in-law Sri Suvarna was the most redoubtable warrior Romachakra ever had; and if he could be defeated, what hope was there left for the city? Kaew Kesra bewailed her fate and thought of her husband in the hands of a ruthless enemy. As no further reliable reports came in as to the enemy's movements, she began to fear the worst and prepared to follow her husband in death. Her aged mother was likewise full of grief and despair and beat her breast.


For the rest of that day, nobody went about in the streets of Romachakra. But towards evening, news reached the city that a fleet of the enemy's boats was sailing up the river. Immediately, the city was in an uproar as its citizens rushed wild-eyed through the streets. Even the crippled, the maimed and the blind succeeded in making their way to places of refuge. Many simply sought shelter in big water jars and hoped they would escape detection. Others hid themselves under the bed or anywhere else which offered the least semblance of safety. Soon enough they heard the drums of the enemy as their boats approached the city. Then came triumphant shouts as the boats prepared to come alongside the landing stages. The citizens of Romachakra trembled more than ever before.


The aged ex-king saw that the situation was hopeless and that the only course was to yield with good grace, while seeking the best possible terms from the victorious enemy. So he sent a deputation of nobles to receive the enemy commander at the landing stage.


When Sin Samudr's boat touched the stage, another cheer went up from the escorting vessels. The nobles, fearful and trembling, bowed low to the ground. Out of the boat stepped Suvarnamali, Sri Suvarna and Sin Samudr. The latter, though still a boy, made many a nobleman who had witnessed his prowess quake with terror. The fair lady they did not know. But the sight of Sri Suvarna, alive and smiling, reassured them. The nobles went forward and knelt at his feet.


Sri Suvarna immediately surprised and delighted them beyond measure by telling them that the youngster who had vanquished him on the field of battle was none other than his nephew and the son of his long-lost brother Phra Abhai Mani. The lady, he explained, was the boy's mother and therefore his own sister-in-law.


The good news travelled fast to the palace. By the time Sri Suvarna and his party stepped inside the great hall, the old king and queen, Kaew Kesra and her daughter, were there to welcome them. There was great joy over this unexpected meeting of unknown relatives, and there was much to be told and explained on both sides.


Sin Samudr naturally attracted a great share of attention. Admiring eyes were turned on him, and all wondered how it came about that so much courage and skill were to be found in one so young and small. The only person present who was not at all impressed was little Arun Rasmi. On being told to pay respects to her new-found cousin, she pursed her lips and pouted : "So you are my cousin, who took Father away and made us all cry! You have been disrespectful to Father and you deserve to be beaten!" Before any one could stop her, she went up to Sin Samudr and pinched him.


"Oui!" exclaimed Sin Samudr in pain. "Stop pinching me, dear cousin, and I will explain everything. I did not know he was my uncle. Now that I know, we love each other very much and I will love you too. Please forgive me and I will give you some of the dolls I have on board our ship." Arun Rasmi stopped pinching her cousin and became quite friendly with him. All those present in the hall laughed at this strange encounter in which Sin Samudr for once came off the worse.


Meanwhile, the old king looked intently at Suvarnamali and was puzzled. Finally, curiosity overcame him and he asked her: "My child, how old are you? You look like a young girl still. How do you come to have a son as big as Sin Samudr is?"


Suvarnamali blushed and was at a loss to know how to answer. She did not want to confess before all the company that she was still a virgin. At the same time, she did not wish to lie to the old man. So she exaggerated her age slightly, and~this was sufficient to satisfy him.


The old king invited Suvarnamali and Sin Samudr to stay in Romachakra and rest after their long, adventurous journey. But Suvarnamali declined the invitation, saying that they had to set out again to scour the seas for Phra Abhai Mani. It was therefore agreed that they should remain in the city a few days longer before leaving.


After a brief but happy period spent in each other's company, the time came for the visiting relatives to depart. Sri Suvarna made up his mind to join his nephew in the search for his brother, and Arun Rasmi insisted on going too, so much did she grow to love her cousin Sin Samudr. But Kaew Kesra had to be left behind to look after her aged parents. When the moment of parting came, Sri Suvarna, his nephew, his daughter, and Suvarnamali, all embarked on the old pirate ship. Kaew Kesra and her parents, with tears in their eyes, came to see them set sail. The three brave and faithful Brahmins, who had been recalled to the city to guard it in Sri Suvarna's absence, were also there. When sad farewells had been said, sails were hoisted, and the ship glided slowly out into the open sea.


We last left Phra Abhai Mani on the deserted and mountainous island where he and his followers were left stranded after being shipwrecked and where the Sea Giantess pursued him in vain and finally died of a broken heart. The Prince and his devoted companions had no choice but to remain there, ekeing out a bare existence with the poor products of the soil, such as wild potatoes, roots and occasionally wild fruit. It was with great relief, therefore, that one morning they saw sails on the horizon. As the day wore on, the ships drew closer to the island, and they saw that there was quite a fleet of ships which evidently belonged to somebody of eminence.


As fate would have it, it was the fleet of Usren, the betrothed of Suvarnamali, who, since his future bride and her father had been reported missing at sea, had organised an expedition and searched the seas in vain for any sign of them. His ships duly reached the vicinity of Phra Abhai 84 Mani's island. Seeing the mountain top from afar, Usren decided that it might be worth while to sail closer to this strange piece of land in the hope of finding his beloved Suvarnamali there. When his ship was within a reasonable distance of the island, he looked through his telescope and saw unmistakeable evidence of human habitation. So he ordered his fleet to drop anchor fairly close to the shore, while he himself dressed and prepared to land.


Meanwhile, Phra Abhai Mani and all his followers gathered on the beach and eagerly awaited their heaven-sent rescuers. A boat was soon lowered from the principal ship and after some brisk rowing quickly made the shore. Out of it stepped Usren, clad in rich black garments which at once showed him to be some wealthy potentate from the West.


Usren knew immediately that Phra Abhai Mani, in spite of his ragged appearance, was a man of rank. So he addressed him in the language of the Westerners. Phra Abhai Mani, who had learned that tongue while he was with the old hermit on the enchanted island, replied with ease. He told Usren how he, an eastern monarch's son, and his motley companions of divers nationalities, came to be on the island. Then he recounted how Suvarnamali, her father, and his own son, had disappeared in the sea.


Usren sat down on a rock, his eyes filled with tears. "0 my Suvarna-mali!" he cried. "It is not our destiny to live together in this life. But I cannot return to my country without you. I will follow you in death here and now."


Phra Abhai Mani now knew who his new acquaintance was. He decided, however, that it would be more politic to conceal his own sentiments towards Suvarnamali for the time being.


Usren asked him, "Are you sure that you saw her sink in the waves?" Is there no hope left?"


"I cannot tell," replied Phra Abhai Mani. "I was in the stern of the vessel and the Princess was amidships. Because of the distance, and in the confusion of the wreck, I could not see what became of her. Why do you not consult an astrologer?"


"That is a wise suggestion. I have brought one along in my ship, and he is always full of hope. I will send for him."


So the astrologer was sent for. His answer was as hopeful as ever.


"The Princess is safe, my lord. She has someone to protect her, and is now in the north-east. If you sail in that direction, you will surely meet her."


Usren felt a little relieved. He told the astrologer, "If you are wrong, your head shall pay for it. It you are right, you shall be handsomely rewarded."


Then, turning to Phra Abhai Mani, he said, "Will you and your men be pleased to accompany me on board my ships? We go to search for Suvarnamali."


Neither Phra Abhai Mani nor his men raised any objection. So they all boarded the ships, which in due course weighed anchor and set sail.


Usren thought so highly of his princely guest that he offered him the best cabin, which was richly furnished. That night, Phra Abhai Mani opened the large windows and looked out on the calm sea under the stars and the crescent moon. Cold dew bathed his face and settled on the window ledge like sparkling diamonds. The ship's bell struck an echoing note in his heart. He thought of his son and of Suvarnamali. Would they ever meet again? If they did, how could he win her from Usren, who was his rescuer? But was it not himself whom she loved? She had given him her shawl, which was even now round his neck, delighting his nostrils with its subtle and soothing perfume.


Not far away, in another cabin, Usren was also gazing at the moon and the stars. He too was thinking of Suvarnamali. Usren's fleet carried out a thorough search of every island and reef encountered. Usren himself maintained ceaseless vigil, ever scanning the sea with his telescope for any signs of Suvarnamali and her party.


Suvarnamali, meanwhile, was safe on board Sin Samudr's ship, with Sin Samudr and Sri Suvarna, who on their part were searching for Phra Abhai Mani. Sri Suvarna was much concerned regarding his brother's fate, and kept careful watch in every direction. Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi enjoyed themselves immensely, for being children without a single care in the world, they had no doubt whatever that everything would come out right in the end and that their father and uncle would be found. They spent much of their time with Suvarnamali, who taught them the names of the various stars and constellations.


One day, the ships of both parties did eventually meet. Sri Suvarna was the first to espy Usren's fleet stretched across the horizon and coming towards his ship. He was determined to remain in its path and find out whose fleet it was.


Usren also saw the former pirate ship and wondered what manner of vessel it was. So he ordered a boat to be lowered and sent a party of men to find out the name of the owner of the ship that dared to obstruct the path of his fleet.


Usren's messengers were received by Sin Samudr himself. When they told him that their master was searching the seas for a princess named Suvarnamali, who was to be his consort. Sin Samudr's anger flared up.


"What! you dogs of Lanka!" he shouted. "Know, your blind and insolent search is in vain! The King of Paleuk has given the Princess to my father. She is here with me on this ship. Go back and tell your master that he shall never have her. If he values his life, let him return to Lanka and marry some other pretty woman there. Tell him that I, Sin Samudr, warn him to do this!"


After Usren's messengers had gone back to report to their master, Sin Samudr with childish glee ran to meet his "mother." He told her what had happened and what he had said.


Suvarnamali was at once frightened and ashamed. With a maidenly blush, she upbraided Sin Samudr for linking her name to that of his father. Nor did she approve of his boastful challenge, for she was afraid that a man of spirit like Usren might take it up, and a fearful battle would ensue.


"He wants to come and take you away and marry you," retorted Sin Samudr. "This made me angry and so I gave him a piece of my mind. All right, if you wish it, I shall tell him that you are not married to my father. But I am not afraid of battle. Let him come and I shall destroy him utterly."


Suvarnamali pinched his cheeks. "What a jealous child you are! Who ever told you that I wish to marry your father? I only adopted you as a son. How do you know that I might not wish to marry Usren?"


But Sin Samudr merely laughed.


Meanwhile, Usren's men regained their ship and immediately reported to their master : "My lord, the owner of that ship is a mere child about nine years of age, but he has the temper of a devil. He told us that his name is Sin Samudr and that he is the son of the Princess Suvarna-mali, who is with him on board the ship. He said that the King of Paleuk gave the Princess to his father."


Usren felt as though some one had tried to sever his head from his body. He shook with anger until sweat poured from his face and he had to wipe it off with a handkerchief. "Lying slave!" he shouted, "I shall see to it that he does not escape. But did you see the father?" His men replied that they had not. "No matter. Whoever he is, I will take him alive, skin him and rub his flesh with salt!" Usren then sent for Phra Abhai Mani to ask his advice. He related all that his men had told him. Phra Abhai Mani knew at once that it was his own son but deemed it expedient not to mention the fact.


Usren was all for battle. But Phra Abhai Mani succeeded in dissuading him from any hasty action, by offering to make the re-calcitrant ship yield without a shot being fired. Obtaining Usren's consent, he brought forth his magic flute and at once began to play a plaintive air. Usren and all his men were immediately spellbound and gradually fell into deep slumber. Soon, all on board the ships of Lanka were prostrate except for Phra Abhai Mani and his followers, who knew the trick and stopped their ears.


Those on board Sin Samudr's ship likewise fell asleep when they heard the somnolent melody wafted by the breeze across the water. Only Sin Samudr, Suvarnamali and Sri Suvarna, who had heard it before, remained awake. They were overjoyed, for they knew that the player of the flute could be none other than Phra Abhai Mani.


In spite of his uncle's objection, Sin Samudr decided to go to his father without delay. With a graceful movement, he leapt into the sea, and, true son of his mother the sea giantess, swam with bold and easy strokes to Usren's ship. Arrived there, he climbed on board without difficulty. Everywhere were prostrate forms which he had to step over. But he followed the voice of the flute and soon came upon his father. He rushed to him, knelt at his feet and embraced him.


As soon as he saw his son, Phra Abhai Mani was overcome with joy, as though he had died and was then born again. Putting down his flute, he embraced the boy, with tears of delight flowing down his face. Even his followers, hardened mariners though they were, could not help being affected by this touching sight of reunion between father and son.


By this time, Usren had slept off the effects of the magic spell. He awoke just as father and son were exchanging accounts of their experiences and adventures. He asked who the boy was. "This is my son Sin Samudr," Phra Abhai Mani told him, "so there is no need for further talk of fighting. Come, Prince, let us go to his ship. There you shall meet the Princess Suvarnamali."


So the three of them took a boat to the former pirate ship. Sri Suvarna was waiting for them, there was a happy reunion between the two brothers, who had been separated from each other for many long years. But of Suvarnamali there was no sign. She had fled to her cabin at the approach of her two suitors.


Usren was impatient to meet his betrothed. "Pray, tell me," he addressed Sri Suvarna, "Which is her cabin? I would like to meet her, to tell her that our ships are ready to escort her back to her own land."


At this, Sin Samudr became angry and, unable to control his childish temper, cried out impetuously, "I will not let anybody take my mother away!"


Phra Abhai Mani tried to soothe him. "My dearest boy, do not excite yourself. Prince Usren is a dear friend. He helped your father when in distress. Were it not for him we should not be meeting each other now. Go and tell your mother. She will decide what is best."


Sin Samudr could find no answer. He merely burst into tears and ran to Suvarnamali's cabin. Suvarnamali put her arms round him and asked what was the matter. "Has that man who came with your father said anything?"


"He is the cause of all trouble." Sin Samudr replied, sobbing childishly. He then put an earnest question to Suvarnamali "Tell me truly, do you really love that man, that Prince of Lanka? He says he wants tq take you away and marry you. Do you really want to leave me?"


"Do you want your mother to go?" Suvarnamali asked him teasingly. "So you are afraid of him, are you, my little cry-baby? What does your father say?" "I am not afraid of any man," Sin Samudr retorted indignantly. "But I do not like the way Father treats Usren as a friend, and is willing to give you up to him. He left it to you to decide what to do. Mother, you must be firm and refuse to go to Lanka. I will not let you go. I will fight him and him."


Suvarnamali's eyes filled with tears. Her patient longing and sacrifice had been in vain. Phra Abhai Mani had all but called her his own, and now he was willing to cast her off for the sake of a mere acquaintance. Feeling of shame at having been so easily duped and deceived obsessed her spirit and wounded her proud heart. She decided that the only solution was to seek solace in death.


"It is my evil destiny, child," she sobbed. "I shall become an object of derision, accused of pretending to be what I am not. How changeable and cruel is your father! I regret now that I have given him remembrances ofme."


Suvarnamali then took from her finger the ring that Phra Abhai Mani had sent to her and put it on Sin Samudr's finger.


"Whoever handed this ring to you to give to me, return it to him and say that I have no further use for it."


So saying, she seized a dagger that was lying by her bedside and unsheathed it to stab herself.


With a movement swift as lightning, Sin Samudr wrested it from her and threw it out of the window into the sea.


"You should not do such a thing, Mother. Even it you are angry with Father and cannot forgive him, you still have me."


Suvarnamali held the boy close to her breast and wept. "I know that you love me, my child, and I shall never forget it," she said. "But there is no hope left for me. I am filled with shame, and cannot hold my head up to public gaze any more. There is nothing more degrading than a woman who belongs to two men. How can I ever live down the fact that I have once declared Phra Abhai Mani to be my husband?"


Sin Samudr tried to comfort her. He put the ring back on her finger and promised her that he himself would arrange matters. Then, taking his leave and stepping out of the room, he beckoned to Arun Rasmi and whispered to her to go into the cabin and stay with her aunt until he returned.


Sin Samudr came out on to the deck where Usren waited impatiently. He told the latter curtly "My mother does not wish to come. Moreover, she says that she does not know you."


Usren began to lose his temper. "You mean, You will not allow her to come out. Do not trifle with me. I will bide no excuses. Your father knows full well that Suvarnamali is mine, was given me by her parents. That is why I have been searching the seas for her. Now I have brought your father to you, you should hand over the lady to me."


Sin Samudr was obstinate and stood his ground. "Did I tell you to bring my father?" he answered. "I would have found him anyway without your assistance. Now go back home and find some beautiful woman there to be your wife. You can never hope to get my mother. I may be young and small, but I will see to it that she remains with me. Go! You annoyrne!"


Usren could scarcely control himself. "Youngster, you do not know what you are saying! Your father and I have come to an understanding. So do not attempt to put me off in this manner." Then, turning to Phra Abhai Mani, he asked "Well, what say you?"


Phra Abhai Mani found himself in a difficult position between his rescuer and his son. He replied diplomatically "If you wish to take the Princess, I personally raise no objection. But the boy loves her and will not part with her." Sri Suvarna felt it was time to speak in support of his nephew. "The Princess has no desire to go with you." he told Usren. "How can you force her to do so against her will?"


Usren's patience was exhausted. "I have pleaded with you as a man of peace. But you will not listen to me. Very well, I am also a warrior and have powerful forces under my command. If you wish for battle, I am at your service. From now on, we fight." So saying, he left them and returned with all speed to his own ship. There, he called a conference of his commanders and told them to stand by for action. Their fleet would surround Sin Samudr's ship and close in on it from all sides. In boarding the ship, they were to seize and bind Sin Samudr. As for the Princess, she was not to be touched and must be brought to him unharmed.


The several commanders promptly carried out their instructions. Soon, Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna saw that their ship was completely surrounded by vessels of Usren's fleet. They asked Sin Samudr what he proposed to do under the circumstances. Sin Samudr was not in the least perturbed. He called up Angura and gave orders for battle. Angura's men took up their action stations, and the ship sailed on in face of the enemy.


Phra Abhai Mani informed his son that, in view of his obligations to Usren, he could not be a party to the battle but would remain on board as a neutral observer. Sin Samudr went to tell this to his "mother." Suvarnamali was angry with Phra Abhai Mani for not wanting to help his own son. So she told Sin Samudr that she herself would help him instead, and insisted on dressing up as a man. She accompanied him on deck, and none of the men recognised her.


Usren's ships closed in. As they came within range, they lowered their sails and fired several broadsides. Angura's men replied with all their cannons, and the exchange of fire went on for a while.


It was Suvarnamali herself who suggested the tactic of engaging one enemy ship at a time. The operation was carried out and proved highly successful. Bringing all guns to bear on each ship in the turn, the gallant little ex-pirate ship sank Usren's men-o'-war one after another. Finally, Usren's own ship was encountered. By a daring manoeuvre, Sin Samudr's ship closed in, and the ex-pirates, long accustomed to this type of engagement, boarded the other vessel and took Usren's men, who had prepared them-selves for a more lengthy gun-duel at long range, completely by surprise.


Sin Samudr himself went with the boarding party and personally captured Usren. The latter was brought back to Sin Samudr's ship with his hands securely tied behind him. When they saw that their prince had been taken prisoner, the rest of Usren's fleet surrendered at once.


Usren did not remain a prisoner long, however. Both Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna pleaded with Sin Samudr to release him. Sin Samudr consulted Suvarnamali, and eventually they agreed to do so, after warning him not to try to stir up trouble again.


Usren returned to his ship more furious than ever. Instead of learning a lesson, he was more determined than before to have his revenge. After drinking three bowls of liquor, he became boastful and told his men that he would annihilate Sin Samudr. He ordered them to prepare for another battle.


That night, Usren's ship stealthily closed in on Sin Samudr's ship which was sailing unsuspectingly along the appointed course. When the vessels were within easy rang of each other, Usren's men catapulted oil-soaked cloth and flaming torches into the ex-pirate ship, which immediately caught fire.


However, Sin Samudr, his father and his uncle, rose to the occasion. Summoning all hands on deck, they diligently set about putting out the flames, so that nowhere did the fire cause extensive damage. Meanwhile, Angura assembled a squad of sharpshooters who fired a volley on to the deck of the attacking ship. One of the bullets hit Usren as he was directing his men to the attack. He fell, with blood pouring from his wound. His lieutenant decided to break off engagement immediately, so Usren's ship withdrew from the fray. By early morning it was already out of sight of Sin Samudr's ship and heading for Paleuk with all possible speed, with a wounded and aggrieved Usren on board still weakly vowing vengeance.

Part Four : Sin Samudr and the Pirate

---> Part Four : Sin Samudr and the Pirate

SIN Samudr to whom the sea was a natural element, by reason of his birth, was a strong swimmer and could easily support the weight of Suvarnamali. He bore her well above the crest of the waves, and although they were surrounded by sharks, these did not come near them. Nevertheless, Suvarnamali was mortally afraid, all the more so when she saw that Sin Samudr was becoming tired. Tearfully she said to the boy:


"My dearest Sin Samudr, you are exhausted. Please leave me to my fate in the sea, and go back to join your father."


Sin Samudr, exhausted as he was, paid no heed to her and went on swimming. He told her


"If you die, then I will die with you. I look upon you as my mother, and I cannot leave my mother to die in the sea. I have some strength left, so do not cry or despair but have courage."


By dint of great exertions, Sin Samudr swam bravely on and finally came within sight of an island. Delighted and heartened, he made a special effort and reached the shore just as the sun was setting. Then, having deposited Suvarnamali safely on the beach, he collapsed and fainted from sheer exhaustion.


Suvarnamali at once t90k him into her arms. Tears fell from her eyes as she held him close to her breast. And thus they remained until night fell.


"0 my dearest Sin Samudr," she cried, "why do you not wake up? I have tried to awaken you without success. You saved me from the perils of the sea and brought me here in safety. Now that we have reached dry land, you leave me. Is it meet, my darling boy, that you should die and leave me all alone? Have pity on your mother, who knows not what to do." And in this fashion, Suvarnamali long continued to lament and bewail the fate of Sin Samudr and of herself.


The moon rose, and the solitude of night was broken by the hum of insects. Dew began to fall from the clear sky.


Sin Samudr's body was still warm. This raised hopes in Suvarnamali. She prayed the gods that if Sin Samudr was destined to die, she might die with him there and then; but that if he was destined to live, he might recover immediately.


She had hardly uttered the last word of her prayer when Sin Samudr opened his eyes and sat up. The dew had refreshed him and woken him up from his deep slumber. Suvarnamali was overjoyed. She embraced him, and told him that she owed her life to him and would have died had he not recovered. This made him love Suvarnamali all the more.


Sin Samudr took her to the shelter of a cliff and made her as comfortable as he could. Then he explored that part of the island and brought back some fruit for her. They both sat down and ate avidly, for they were hungry after their strenuous adventure.


Now it happened that, the following morning, a big ship sailed into the bay of the island and dropped anchor. From it came small boats full of Dutch sailors who, as soon as they landed, proceeded to fetch water from a stream. Nothing could have surprised them more than to find an attractive young lady and a boy on the island. They immediately began to ask questions. Sin Samudr conversed with them, and learned that their ship belonged to the notorious English pirate, Surang. He, in his turn, told them how he and Suvarnamali came to be on the island, and asked to be given a passage to the mainland. When he saw that the sailors were taking undue interest in Suvarnamali, however, he upbraided them. But the sailors had made up their minds; they would capture the lady and the boy and offer them to Surang their master. So they quickly seized the unfortunate couple and took them to the ship.


Surang the pirate was delighted with the prize his men had brought him. He had neither wife nor child, and rather fancied the idea of having this comely wench and the handsome young lad on board. But in order not to betray his intentions too soon, he received them with civility and offered them one of the best cabins in the ship. Having seen them safely installed, he gave orders to set sail with all speed.


Not long afterwards, Surang was sitting in his big chair talking to some of the men. He was highly pleased with himself and relished the prospect of having a woman as his very own. He told them that she was doubtless a young widow with a son on her hand. He would get better acquainted with her; in any case, she could not escape her fate. But the boy was in the way. He would have to be removed, at least temporarily. Surang's plan was to make the boy drunk so that he would be out of the way for some time. Therefore he ordered his men to prepare a feast and also a jug of liquor.


When all was ready, Surang invited Sin Samudr to come out and join him. The two of them, pirate and boy, sat at the table laden with rich food. Surang poured out the liquor from the jug. Sin Samudr, in his innocence, thought it was water and drank it all up. His face turned red. Becoming giddy, he seized pieces of chicken and duck piled in front of him. Meanwhile, the pirate plied him with liquor. Soon enough, Sin Samudr was completely drunk. He tried to rise from his seat but instead fell down on the deck. Surang then ordered his men to carry the boy away to his own bunk to sleep off the effects of the liquor.


Surang saw that the favourable opportunity for which he planned had come. So he prepared to take possession of the lady. He put on his best clothes and then slipped quietly into Suvarnamali's cabin. The latter was lying on her bed. The pirate went straight to the bed and sat down beside her. Suvarnamali leapt from the bed and put as much distance between herself and the pirate as she was able. At the same time, she called for Sin Samudr at the top of her voice. Hearing no reply, she began to tremble with fear. All this time, Surang was smiling quietly to himself. Now he spoke in the arrogant way of a pirate.


"There is no need to run away when I come in. Or is it because you are reminded of your late husband who is no longer with you? It is too bad that you used to be together once and now you are left a defenseless widow. Do not worry. Be mine, and I will look after you. Be reasonable, and I will take care of you and your son. I know that I am not to be compared to your late husband, but I can protect you."


Seeing that his overtures were not well received, he said to her sternly


"Now, you must not adopt that attitude. Even if you make a fuss, you will not escape me. It is better to accept my proposal. If you do so quietly and without trouble, it will be all the better for you. Come, woman!"


So saying, he tapped the side of the bed with his knuckles.


Suvarnamali knew that she was in a desperate situation. She could only rely on her own wits to save herself now. She decided to try to appease the pirate.


"You are very kind to offer me your protection," she told him as boldly as she could, "and I am deeply grateful for the offer you have made me. But can you let me have time to think it over? There is no need to hurry. We are still at sea. Please wait until we reach the next port, and I will do as you wish."


This proposal did not satisfy Surang in the least.


"You are trying to put me off with your talk," he shouted. "I cannot wait until we reach the next port. I have been waiting long enough for a woman like you. You cannot deceive me. Once you get ashore you will escape. Now, will you be reasonable or do you need further persuasion?"


Suvarnamali was seized with terror. But she controlled herself and answered the pirate with great presence of mind and courage.


"If you show no pity for me now. I shall not wish to live to show my shame. Give me a little more time. I would like to consult my son. Please send my son to me. I will explain everything to him so that he will understand and raise no objection. Please, please wait until this evening. I cannot run away from you. Go now, and return this evening."


Surang, in spite of his adventurous career, had little experience with women. He was so infatuated with Suvarnamali that he believed all that she had said, and yielded to her plea. He did not wish to force her to the extent that she might do some injury to herself.


"Well," he said, "if that is the case, I will wait until this evening. But first let me have some proof that you are not deceiving me. Let me cool my passion by kissing your beautiful cheeks."


Suvarnamali knew that she had discovered the pirate's weakness and made full use of it.


"Hateful man!" she cried. "The more gently I bear myself towards you, the more gross and excessive your demands. If you really love me and desire me, you will do as I ask. Tonight I shall be yours. In the meantime, please leave me. Why do you sit here and annoy me?"


Surang saw that she was angry. Smiling a wry smile, he told her


"Do not make a fuss. I will be patient until tonight. As soon as it is dark, I shall come to you."


So saying, he strutted noisily out of Suvarnamali's cabin. He went straight to his quarters and found Sin Samudr fast asleep in his bunk. He woke the boy up. Sin Samudr, who had shaken off the effects of the liquor, said to him


"I do not like getting drunk. From now on, I will not touch a drop of your fiery water."


Sin Samudr left the pirate and made his way to Suvarnamali's cabin. There he found her sobbing and weeping on the bed.


Suvarnamali was delighted to see him. Through her tears, she told him what had happened.


"Alas, it is my fate that I must die. I can escape him in no other way, so I will kill myself. You must try to get back to your father and tell him that although I have not been able to serve him in this life, I hope that we shall meet again in our next existence."


Sin Samudr was angered beyond words. "Ambitious villain!" he cried out in a loud voice. "A crow that wants to mate with a golden swan! I arn going to smash his bones."


"Stop!" said Suvarnamali, holding him back. "You do not know what you are saying. You cannot fight a full-grown man. Besides, all his men are out there. You cannot fight them all. Wait and consider..."


But Sin Samudr would not listen to her. He was not afraid of anybody on board the ship. He knew that he had the strength of a man, and his mother and the hermit on the island had endowed him with supernatural power. So he went straight up to Surang the pirate and challenged him.


"You dog!" he shouted. "You have insulted my mother. Do you think I am afraid of you? Come and fight. I shall kill you as I would a mosquito."


So saying, he stepped forward and delivered a blow so heavy that Surang fell prostrate on the deck. The pirate immediately called his men, who came running with sticks and clubs in their hands. Sin Samudr seized an axe, swung it round and scattered them. Then he closed with Surang and, flooring him again, stepped on his chest and with a swift stroke of the axe cut off his head. That done, he lifted the pirate's corpse and used it as a weapon to flay those of his men who still wanted to fight. But the pirates had had enough, and there was no fight left in any of them. They all begged mercy from the boy who had slain their late master. Sin Samudr stopped and stood proudly surveying the scene. He then addressed the pirates. "Men! If you do not want to fight me, I will not kill you. I only slew Surang because he thought I was a child and could not protect my mother."


Surang's boatswain, whose name was Angura, came forward and offered his allegiance and that of the rest of the crew.


"Sir, spare our lives, and we will obey your commands and follow you anywhere."


Thus Sin Samudr found himself master of a pirate ship and its entire crew. He gave orders for the ship to keep its even course towards the nearest mainland. He then light-heartedly repaired to Suvarnamali's cabin to tell her of his victory.

Part Five : The Amazing Adventure Of Sri Suvarna

---> Part Five : The Amazing Adventure Of Sri Suvarna

Up to this point in the story, we have been following adventures of Phra Abhai Mani and his son Sin Samudr. We have not told what happened to Phra Abhai Mani's brother, Sri Suvarna, after the Sea Giantess had abducted our hero. Sri Suvarna, who was left with his brahmin friends on the beach, all fast asleep under the spell of the magic flute, woke up to find his brother gone.


THE sun set in a blaze of colour, and dew began to fall gently on the earth. This, together with the sound of the waves breaking on the shore and the shrill cries of the birds in the forest, awakened Sri Suvarna from his deep slumber. At once, he missed his brother, who was nowhere to be seen. He quickly woke up his three Brahmin friends and asked them, "Where has my brother gone? Just now, he was playing his flute here. The beach is flat; surely he cannot be hiding anywhere."


The three Brahmins thought it strange that Phra Abhai Mani should have run away and left his brother behind. They suspected that something out of the ordinary must have happened. So they carried out a search. It was not long before they found footprints of superhuman size leading from the sea to within a short distance of where Phra Abhai Mani had been sitting, and back again to the sea. "These are not the footprints of any human being," cried one of them, and immediately a feeling of horror and despair came over them all. "Some horrible creature from the sea has taken Phra Abhai Mani away from us," observed the second Brahmin. Sri Suvarna saw that this was indeed the case. He threw himself down on the sand and wept until he fainted.


The three Brahmins were full of sorrow for the brother who had gone and for the one who lay there unconscious. They administered aid to Sri Suvarna until he recovered. He sat up and began to bewail his fate. "0 my brother," he said, "you have left me and I shall see you no more. We have hitherto shared all joys and sorrows, even from the time when we left our prosperous city to endure the hardships and privations of a journey through the forest. We have always been together and now we are suddenly parted." He shed tears in great measure and refused to be comforted.


The three Brahmins were likewise unable to restrain their tears. They sought in every way to bring cheer to Sri Suvarna. One of them addressed him thus : "Do not let yourself be overwhelmed with grief, but take courage. Those who are born in this world must experience both joy and sorrow. As for the disappearance of your brother, we do not yet know for certain whet her he is dead or alive. Let us therefore set out to find him. We can sail upon the sea, and if your brother is not dead we shall perhaps meet him again. All three of us will go with you and help you to the end. So do not cry any more. It will only waste valuable time."


Sri Suvarna listened to them and believed. His courage and strength were restored. He told them, "In saying that you will go with me, your kindness is beyond all measure. But in which direction shall we go, for the sea is so wide and deep?"


The Brahmin whose name was Sanon spoke up. "I have learned a little of the occult art. I will see if I can provide you with an answer." So saying, he lifted his fingers and began counting. He then lapsed into a trance. When he came out of the trance, he was able to tell Sri Suvarna, "You need not worry about your brother. A woman has taken him away, but he is quite safe and happy. At some later time you may meet him again. You need not fear that he will die, even though he is living at the bottom of the ocean in the south-east. Let us hasten to find him."


The second Brahmin, Mora, at once set about applying his skill, and within a short time he had constructed a seaworthy boat ready to sail. The four friends embarked, and Mora took the helm. The boat moved smoothly out to sea. There was bright moonlight and a steady breeze caught the sails. So Sri Suvarna and his three friends discovered and enjoyed the thrill of a new adventure, even though they did not know where it would lead them. Ti~us they sailed for many days and nights. It was Fate that brought them to the shores of Romachakra. The four adventurers looked out one morning and saw land. As they approached, they noticed a tall watch-tower on the cliff, and so they knew that it must be some important place. They were right, for soon enough a big city came into sight. They consulted each other and decided to pay it a visit.


The coast guards saw the boat coming into the harbour and beat their drums as a signal. The Brahmins lowered the sails, and the boat drifted to rest at a quay and was duly tied up. Meanwhile, Sri Suvaina dressed himself up as a Brahmin like the others.


The four friends then conferred and decided to burn their boat, so that the nature of its construction should not be discovered. They set fire to it accordingly, and in the subsequent confusion caused by the flames and smoke, and the attempts of the coast guards to put the fire out, they made their way ashore. The burning boat sank into the depths of the harbour.


The captain of the guards saw the Brahmins and took pity on them. Calling them to his office, he asked question as to their identity and whence they came. Sanon acted as their spokesman. "We are all brothers and come from Kamvasi," he told the captain. "I am the eldest and I am called Sanon. Next to me is Vichien, and then Mora. The name of the youngest is Sri Suvarna. We are practitioners of the art of healing, and we set out on a journey to find medical herbs among the islands. We were blown off our course by contrary winds, which blew the crew overboard and all but wrecked our ship, and so we drifted to this place. What is the name of your city?"


"This city," replied the captain, obviously delighted with the Brahmins, "is called Romachakra. It is ruled by Tao Tosavongsa." Then he became more confidential. "He has a beautiful daughter called Kaew Kesra, who is desired by many neighbouring kings. In particular, the powerful Tao Uthen has sent ambassadors to ask for her hand in marriage. This being refused, he now threatens to invade our country. That is why we soldiers are stationed here in force. We expect trouble, we can tell you."


The Brahmins were not in the least disturbed by this news. They merely asked for shelter and permission to see the sights of the city. The captain laughed at their simplicity and undertook to show them the sights himself. He led them through the streets and they finally arrived at the palace.


Outside the palace, there was a row of houses and shops. The street was full of people going marketing. The four Brahmins attracted a good deal of attention, especially from the market women, who called out to them to pay a visit to their shops and stalls. The women were full of admiration for them, particularly for the youngest. The captain was not averse to these proceedings, for it afforded him an opportunity to take advantage of the market women's momentarily generous impulses in replenishing himself freely with betel and tobacco. But the four Brahmins walked on and took little notice of the market women.


Now, there was a servant girl of the palace who had been sent out to do some shopping. Being of a lightheaded and amorous disposition, on seeing the little Brahmin, she immediately became infatuated and, leaving her baskets scattered about the street, rushed forward to offer him flowers. But Sri Suvarna took no notice of her, and passers-by laughed and mocked. This made her angry, but she continued to press her favours on her hero and followed him wherever he went.


The girl was absent from her duties for such a long time that another servant was sent from the palace to find out what had happened to her. Seeing the baskets scattered about the street, the latter feared the worse. Soon enough, she came upon the girl, who was still making sheep's eyes at the young Brahmin. The servant women pinched her, seized her by the hair and led her back to the palace.


The girl was brought trembling before her superior, who at once questioned her regarding her conduct in the public street. Terrified, the girl told a deliberate lie. She claimed the handsome young Brahmin as her lover, and went on to describe his particular qualities and supposed intentions. Her superior cursed her and reported the matter to the four nurses of the king's daughter.


The nurses merely laughed and treated the whole thing as a joke. "We shall see how handsome he really is," they said. Then, summoning the men servants, they ordered "Go, some of you; take this girl with you, and bring her lover into the palace." The men obeyed their instructions, went out into the street with the girl, who soon found her Brahmin and pointed him out. The men immediately surrounded him, saying, "So this is your lover! Good for nothing but flirting with women of the palace! You will be fortunate if you escape a whipping. We have orders to take you to the palace. Come, do not waste our time!"


The captain heard this and flew into a rage. "These friends of mine have come out for a walk with me. When did they ever flirt with palace women? It is this blabbing girl who has been trying to flirt with them."


The men from the palace would not listen. They merely remarked: "Here's an ill-tempered man for you! Perhaps he would like to be whipped too!" They then took hold of Sri Suvarna and escorted him to the palace.' The three Brahmins and the captain could do nothing but follow them.


When the four nurses saw Sri Suvarna, they knew at once that the servant girl's story had been false. This young Brahmin, they thought, could be no base lover but surely the son of a monarch of some distant kingdom. They wondered how he came to be in Romachakra and for what purpose. They even went so far as to consider him a suitable match for the Princess herself. So in order to detain him longer and find out more about him, the nurses gave orders that the young Brahmins be lodged with the old gardener in the palace garden until they received further instructions.


The Brahmins were not unwilling to comply with the nurses' wishes. So they said to the captain, "It is better for you to go back home now. When we are free, we shall visit you again." The captain was not at all satisfied but he accepted their advice. "Do not worry," he told them, "I will not give you up. As soon as I reach home, I shall have food sent to you here." So saying, he walked away grumbling, "Shameless, that's what it is! Getting innocent people into trouble! If they lay hands on my young friends, I will bring an action against them, I will appeal to the King!"


The men took the four Brahmins to the gardener's hut, explained the orders which had been given by the nurses and left them there. The old gardener and his wife began to worry. "What are we going to do?" they wailed. "These are young men. We are old. lf they try to escape, how can we prevent them?" But the Brahmins assured them. "We shall not try to escape, grandfather and grandmother, so you need not worry. We have been unjustly accused of a wrong we did not commit, so we shall stay to defend our case." The old couple were still doubtful. "How can we believe you?" they answered. "Who would admit that he is going to escape? You must all go into the hut and stay there." The Brahmins obeyed, while the gardener and his wife stationed themselves on the verandah to see that they made no attempt to escape.


Sri Suvarna reflected on what had come to pass and felt sorry. He told his friends, "I am ashamed that they said those things of me. Why did you remain silent and not help to deny their accusations?"


The three Brahmins merely laughed. "Have you forgotten," they asked, "what that captain said about the King's beautiful daughter? Perhaps it is the hand of Fate that brings you here. We noticed the nurses looking at you very intently. It may be that this is a trick to enable you to meet the Princess. In any case, we shall know by tomorrow. Meanwhile, calm your anger, or else the Princess will be offended if she gets to hear of it." Sri Suvarna, who was shyly innocent of love, warmly repudiated the suggestion. "Even if a goddess came down to earth, I would not want to meet her. What I wish is to find my brother, not to meet women. If you like these palace ladies, you are welcome to them; but they are not for me!"


His friends smiled and nudged one another. "Do not be too sure of yourself," they told him. "Once you see, hear and touch a really beautiful girl, you may think yourself in heaven!" Again they laughed at Sri Suvarna's expense to his great discomfort. The latter was quite relieved when the old couple shouted out to them to keep quiet and go to sleep.


The same evening, the four nurses went to attend the Princess as usual, and could not help whispering among themselves about the Brahmins. Kaew Kesra heard them and, her curiosity aroused, asked about whom they were talking. The nurse whose name was Prabhavadi quickly told her that she had dreamed of a handsome young Brahmin who came to the palace. The Princess was not deceived and understood their insinuations. She told them severely : "Do not think that you can interest me by talking about men. All my life I shall never allow any man to love me. Even if he were gold all over, I would not want him."


That night, Kaew Kesra really did have a dream, and it upset her so much that she called her nurses. She told them that in her dream a big snake came up to her bed and coiled itself round her breast. She asked them what the dream meant. The nurses smiled and said that they were afraid to tell her because she might be angry, but added that she could consult the book of dreams by her bedside. This the Princess immediately did, and discovered to her dismay that the dream signified a love-match. She flung the book down to the floor in anger.


Sri Suvarna was sitting under a tree when he heard women's voices. He looked up and saw Kaew Kesra. All at once his heart stood still and his limbs contracted. He could only stare in amazement as if a goddess had indeed come down to earth. Perhaps they had belonged to each other in a previous existence. Whether this was so or not, he fell deeply and hopelessly in love at first sight. Spellbound by her dazzling beauty, he perceived that each and every part of her was perfect, and he lost himself in contemplation of the rare vision.


The Princess, on her part, was similarly moved by the unexpected and pleasing appearance of the young Brahmin. When her eyes met his, a wave of emotion swept through her entire frame. She too had fallen passionately in love at first sight. But recollecting her maidenly modesty, she blushed and moved away.


When Kaew Kesra walked away, Sri Suvarna felt as if a fire were burning inside him. His eyes followed her until she ascended the royal pavilion in the garden and was lost to view. His heart quivered, and he regretted that this chance meeting did not permit him to approach. All he could do was to stare at the royal pavilion, lost in the depths of reverie.


The Princess, on her part, was no less sorry at having lost sight of the handsome young Brahmin. She turned pale like the moon when it is suddenly veiled by a passing cloud. Forgetting her attendants and her flowers, she gave herself up to thoughts of him.


Neither of them slept that night.


The following day, the four nurses again came to the garden. They knew well by now what feelings Kaew Kesra entertained for the young Brahmin, and were determined to find out more about him. The only information they obtained was that the young man had vowed to serve the Princess to the end of his days. As an earnest of this pledge, he wrote a poem in praise of her and begged the nurses to convey it to their mistress. At the same time, he took the richly-bejewelled ring from his finger and placed it with the poem.


The nurses returned to the palace with the message and the ring, but did not give them to the Princess at first. Kaew Kesra, whose patience was strained by her suddenly-awakened passion, gave vent to her feelings by flying into a temper and upbraiding her nurses for not having secured more precise information regarding the ill-concealed object of her affection. Finally, in order to calm her, the nurses handed over the poem and the ring, remarking that the young Brahmin must indeed be a prince in disguise to be able to present such rich gifts.


Kaew Kesra read the poem, which, as might have been expected, was written in terms of abject love, concluding with a threat that should the writer fail to achieve his high ambition, his present abode would be his grave.


The Princess feigned a disinterestedness that was not in the least convincing. She took the ring and put it on her finger. "This ring," said she, examining it carefully, "is of excellent design and workmanship. I will buy it from him and he may name his price. But as for his absurd poem, I will show what I think of his presumption by writing him a rude reply."


The nurses raised no objection as to the latter suggestion. As for the ring, the Princess might consider it as a gift from them. If she would deign to accept, they told her, she might signify her approval by giving them in return the shawl with which she had covered her head on the previous day's visit to the garden.


Kaew Kesra could not restrain herself from blushing as she handed the shawl to the eldest of her nurses. She made the latter promise, however, that she would never give the shawl to anybody else.


That evening, the Princess wrote her poem, which was duly enveloped and sealed. This and the shawl were taken to the garden by the four nurses the following morning. Sri Suvarna was overjoyed to receive such favours from his goddess. He put the shawl on his shoulders with a contented smile. Then he took the poem and read it to his three friends.


In her poem, Kaew Kesra thanked him for his friendship and good intentions, but expressed surprise that he should have left his father's kingdom, where luxury, wealth and women awaited his pleasure, to endure the hardships of a long journey in order to find a consort. She deprecated the praises he lavished upon her, saying that even though he might love her now it would not be for life, for as the old proverb said, "Too much sweetness palls." Finally, she told him plainly that his amorous advances were in vain; but that if he really and truly loved her in his heart, he should return to his own kingdom and, according to ancient custom, send ambassadors to her father the King to ask for her hand in marriage.


Sri Suvarna was serenely happy to receive this not unhopeful message from Kaew Kesra. While he savoured the joy of it to the full, making plans for a rosy future, the nurses took their leave and retired to a quiet corner of the garden accompanied by the Brahmins. There they paired off Prabha and Mora, Ubol and Sanon, Chongkol and Vichien. Only poor Sri Suda, who had taken such pains over her toilet and dress, was left without a partner, and so she returned at once to the palace with deep resentment in her heart against the callous levity of men and the wanton wiles of some women she could (and did) name.


Not long afterwards, the expected invasion of Romachakra by the forces of the redoubtable Tao Uthen began. Suddenly one morning, some five thousand ships, big and small, appeared off the coast and put ashore a mighty army. The defenders were outmanoeuvred and outfought. Within a short time, the invaders laid siege to the city.


The King of Romachakra was greatly disturbed. Many thousands of his people had crowded into the city for protection, and supplies were running short, causing much distress to all. He knew that the city could not withstand a long siege even though troops and cannons were concentrated within its walls. More than once he was tempted to call a truce and surrender his daughter Kaew Kesra according to the wishes of Tao Uthen. But he thought of the honour and reputation of his country, and could not bring himself to yield.


The commander of Tao Uthen's forces, seizing his advantage, delivered an ultimatum. He demanded immediate surrender and acceptance of Tao Uthen's terms. In the event of failure to comply, he would give no quarter and would reduce the city to rubble. On receipt of the ultimatum, the King called together his counsellors and ministers. They all expressed the opinion that, in order to spare the people, it would be best to accede to the demands of Tao Uthen. The King, unwilling to act at once on this advice, asked for three days in which to think it over. This request was grudgingly granted by the besiegers.


Meanwhile, Sri Suvarna and his three Brahmin friends living in the garden which lay outside the city walls were cut off from the city. They feared for the safety of Kaew Kesra and her nurses. One and all made up their minds to place their services at the disposal of the King. The question was how they were to enter the besieged city. They decided to adopt the bold course of walking straight up to the gate and eliminating any who obstructed their passage. Arming themselves with swords and clubs, they made their way to the city wall. The besiegers were so astonished at this bold move that they did not think of challenging them until they neared the city walls. Then they surrounded the four intrepid strangers. But Sri Suvarna and his friends set upon them with a will and scattered them in all directions. Each killed his man and took a severed head to show any new assailants what they might expect. But the four friends met with no further attack, and the guards at the city gate quickly opened it to admit the warriors who could slay the enemy with such ease.


News of the prowess of Sri Suvarna and his three Brahmin friends soon reached the ear of the King, who lost no time in sending for them. They were ushered into his presence. Surprised at their slender and frail appearance, but reassured by the air of self-confidence and eagerness borne by them, he asked whether they would undertake to defend the city and drive the foe out of the Kingdom. When Sri Suvarna replied in the affirmative, the King delightedly promised that if Sri Suvarna succeeded, he would make him his son and heir. Sri Suvarna told the King what he planned to do. First of all, he asked for four horses, all of different colours and well-trained in battle, each properly harnessed and equipped. Then a message was to be sent to the commander of Tao Uthen's forces challenging him to engage in single combat with Romachakra's champion. If the former prevailed, the King of Romachakra would without further delay deliver his daughter Kaew Kesra into the hands of Tao Uthen. If, however, Romachakra's champion prevailed, Tao Uthen's forces must immediately withdraw to whence it came. The challenge was accordingly issued and duly accepted, and the fight was arranged for the following day.


Sri Suvarna told the King that Kaew Kesra had entered a dangerous phase of her life, and that a ceremony must be held to ward off the evil misfortune that would surely befall her otherwise. Me himself offered to make all the necessary preparations for the ceremony.


The King believed what the young stranger said and granted him permission to make whatever preparations he wished. He commanded a special pavilion to be built within the palace grounds to house the four friends, and detailed a detachment of soldiers to serve under them. At the same time, he gave orders to the palace officials to make ready for the ceremony.


When the time came for the ceremony, Sri Suvarna and his three companions were ushered into the inner palace. Sri Suvarna had the place of honour in the hall, and there he impatiently awaited the arrival of the Princess.


Kaew Kesra knew that it was a ruse on the part of Sri Suvarna to make possible another meeting between them. At first she hesitated, but fear of her father's wrath and perhaps a desire to warn Sri Suvarna not to risk his life on the field of battle overcame her maidenly modesty, and finally she came accompanied by her nurses and took her seat next to her young admirer as arranged. The latter was so overjoyed to see her at such close quarters that he almost forgot his role in the ceremony, and made as if to touch her, when he recollected himself and proceeded with the customary rites. Nevertheless, he found an opportunity to whisper to her in an undertone, which others present in the hall took to be some mysterious incantation.


"Adored one," he said to her, "turn your face towards me and do not look so crestfallen. I came here to tell you that I have offered my services to the King your father for love of you. I have been longing to see you again and have therefore arranged this meeting. Please speak to me."


Kaew Kesra, her heart beating faster than it had ever done before, summoned up all her courage and whispered her reply. "In saying that you will fight the enemy because of your love for me, your kindness is greater than the earth. If victory is yours, I shall never cease to rejoice either by day or by night. But if defeat and death be your lot, I will not live to see another day."


Sri Suvarna tasted the joys of heaven on hearing this. "You are a woman beyond all comparison," he whispered. "It is because I love you more than life itself that I shall take the field tomorrow. I shall wipe my adversary off the face of the earth, and when I have done so, I will come to claim you as my own."


Kaew Kesra, however, was not quite so confident of his victory. He looked so small and slender and hardly suited for mortal combat. But he reassured her with a smile and begged her to be present on the morrow with the King her father at the city wall to see him triumph over the enemy.


The following morning, Sri Suvarna and his friends were ready for the fray. They took leave of the King and passed through the city gate to the accompaniment of drums, gongs and shouts of the soldiers. The yo~ng champion looked up along the city wall and saw Kaew Kesra. Their eyes met and exchanged loving glances. The three Brahmins also observed the nurses and their eyes likewise spoke love.


When the forces of Tao Uthen heard the noise and saw Romachakra's champions advancing towards them, they also sent up cries that echoed far and wide. Immediately, four of their bravest and most skilful commanders rode out to offer battle. Sri Suvarna, undaunted by their approach, spurred his horse and engaged the foremost of them.His opponent dealt him a blow with his sword, but the young prince skilfully evaded it and, wielding his club, brought it down with a resounding blow on the commander's head. The commander crumpled and fell from his horse. The three Brahmins, emulating the example of their young leader, went into the attack and each engaged one of the remaining commanders. Mora with a swift stroke severed his opponent's head. Vichien buried inches of steel into his opponent's body. Sanon with equally unerring aim pierced his opponent's breast. When they saw all their commanders fall, the forces of Tao Uthen broke their ranks and fled.


The King of Romachakra saw that the enemy was utterly defeated and laughed loud for sheer joy. Kaew Kesra felt immeasurably relieved and her face was radiant with happiness. All the soldiers and people of Romachakra shouted and cheered delightedly.


When Sri Suvarna and his three companions returned from the field of battle, the King was there to receive them at the gate. They were then escorted in triumph into the city which they had saved from the hands of the enemy.


The King ordered that the four young heroes were to be given the best of everything. Accordingly, when they reached the pavilion which had been hastily erected for them, they found gentlemen of the royal household waiting, ready to attend to their every need. They bathed, had a massage and put on the richest costumes and fineries from the palace wardrobe. The most sumptuous foods and drinks were set before them. The only thing Sri Suvarna and his three friends lacked, and what they longed for most, was the presence of the adorable Kaew Kesra and her charming nurses. They had accompanied the King back to the inner palace.


'I, Sri Suvarna would have given much for another meeting with Kaew Kesra. As evening fell, he looked out and saw the moon and stars in the sky. "It is as soft and sweet as her lovely face," he murmured. "How I wish she were here with me, so that I can make love to her. Love makes a man sad and drives him almost to desperation. How can I reach her? There is a high wall between us, and I cannot go to her side..." He consulted his friends.


The Brahmins told him that there was nothing to worry about, since the Princess obviously returned his affection and it would be only a matter of time before his desire was attained. "You have fought and freed the city. The King is bound to reward you. You must refuse whatever else he offers you and state what you really desire. The King should be willing to comply with your request."


Meanwhile, Kaew Kesra was also thinking of her handsome hero and wishing to have him by her side. She fell asleep with his name on her lips and tears of longing in her eyes. The following morning, she asked her nurses to pick jasmine flowers from the pots in which they were grown near the palace. These were put in a golden bowl and placed in front of her. Kaew Kesra proceeded to string them together into a garland. The garland which she had made with her own hands was placed on a golden platter to be sent to Sri Suvarna. The nurses also threaded their garlands of variegated flowers for the Brahmins. As Sri Suda had nobody to thread a garland for, she was entrusted with the mission of taking the garlands to the four heroes, who received them with great joy. Thereafter, garlands went forth daily from the inner palace to the special pavilion.


The day came when the King was to reward the officers and men of his army who had served faithfully in defence of the city. He took his seat on the throne in the royal audience chamber, in the presence of his ministers and all the great men of the realm. Sri Suvarna and the three Brahmins were also commanded to be present.


The King bestowed munificent gifts of silver and cloth to all the warriors, from those of the highest rank to those of the lowest. Then came the turn of the four heroes who had indeed snatched victory from the enemy's grasp. The King asked his councillors. "What reward shall we give to the Brahmins, that is worthy of their meritorious services?" The chief minister respectfully replied, "According to ancient custom and usage, a monarch rewards his victorious generals by bestowing gold decorations and insignia of high rank, and by sending them to rule distant cities of the kingdom. Since the four Brahmins have shown themselves to be great generals and have decisively defeated the enemy, it is meet that your celestial highness should honour them by allowing them to rule some outpost of the realm." The King accepted the advice of the minister. "Let it be so," he said, "and let the responsible officials look to the matter without delay."


Sri Suvarna, however, came forward and bowed low before the throne. In quiet and respectful tones, he addressed the King thus : "I am deeply conscious of the honour that your celestial highness has seen fit to bestow upon me and my friends in decreeing that we become rulers of cities. But I humbly beg your celestial highness' leave not to accept such an exalted position. The reason why 1 sought to enlist in your celestial highness' service was because I craved protection. I looked upon your celestial highness as a father, I would therefore consider myself bounteously rewarded if I could remain at your celestial highness' feet."


The King knew from the young man's cunning reply that he had fallen in love with his daughter. He did not reply at once but weighed the matter in his mind. If he gave his daughter's hand in marriage to this stranger of unknown parentage, he would lose prestige; on the other hand, if he did not, he would lose a brave warrior. So he decided to adopt delaying tactics. He turned to Sri Suvarna and said : "Do not fear, I will adopt all four of you as my sons, and you shall stay with me. Nothing you desire shall be denied you, except the sun and the stars."


One month went by, and Sri Suvarna was no nearer to attaining his heart's desire. He therefore wrote a letter to Kaew Kesra, expressing in doleful terms, since his suit appeared to be a hopeless one, his intention of committing suicide. The Princess, who had also grown desperate with longing, read the letter and believed that Sri Suvarna would really kill himself. The shock was too much for her, and she collapsed in a dead faint.


On hearing the news, her parents rushed to her side. The court doctors were sent for, but they could do nothing to revive the shock stricken Princess. When all were beginning to despair of her recovery, somebody thought of the young Brahmin warrior who had once before saved her from evil misfortune. Accordingly, he was bidden to come into the inner palace, and it must be confessed that he wasted no time in so doing.


Arriving at the bedside of Kaew Kesra, he called for perfumed water, and this was brought to him in a golden bowl. After invoking all the sacred things in the universe to come to his aid he sprayed the water on the prostrate form of the Princess. Miraculously, or so it seemed to all the onlookers, Kaew Kesra stirred and opened her eyes. On seeing Sri Suvarna there beside her, colour returned to her cheeks, and her condition improved almost immediately. The King, the Queen and the whole court were beside themselves with joy, and praised Sri Suvarna for his healing powers.


After that, Sri Suvarna was given permission to remain inside the inner palace until such time as the Princess should be fully restored to health. He had access to her at all times, and on certain occasions he found it necessary to remain with her up to a late hour. It was a long while before Kaew Kesra regained the normal state of health, and by then the young couple were firmly knit in love.


Realising the circumstances, there was nothing the King could do but yield with good grace. He announced the betrothal of his daughter Kaew Kesra to Sri Suvarna. The day of marriage was fixed and, having arrived, was duly celebrated with all pomp and ceremony. The people of Romachakra rejoiced to have a brave and handsome youth like Sri Suvarna as heir to the throne, and in course of time the old King came to share their admiration for his son-in-law. So following the example of his ancestors, he retired into private life and left Sri Suvarna to rule the kingdom with Kaew Kesra by his side.

Part Three : The Giantess's Revenge


--->  Part Three : The Giantess's Revenge


S ILARAJ's ship set sail, its motley cargo comprising passengers and crew of many races and nationalities. The Prince had arranged things well. His own suite was amidships, while ladies and gentlemen of the court were in the bow and Phra Abhai Mani and the other men in the stern.


Sin Samudr, of course, was with his adopted "mother." But every now and then he found opportunity to come and see his father. On these occasions, Phra Abhai Mani eagerly asked him how he was faring and avidly enquired news of Suvarnamali. He learned that she had noticed his attentions and the fact that he had "a sharp eye" for the ladies; but otherwise she appeared to be favourably impressed. This encouraged him to confide in his son that when they reached land he would offer her his services. He also discovered that Suvarnamali had given his son one of her scarves. This he borrowed of him, saying that he would keep it to remember the sweet lady by.


When Sin Samudr returned to Suvarnamali's cabin, she called him to her couch and embraced him. At once, she noticed that he was not wearing the scarf and asked him what he had done with it. Sin Samudr replied that he had put it in his box. She would not believe him and told him not to try to deceive her. So he confessed and told her all that his father had said, including the offer of his services.


Suvarnamali was deeply touched, but said : "Do not say such things. If other people hear of it, there will be a scandal. Besides, it is impossible for me to accept his offer, because as soon as we get back, I am to be married to the son of the King of Lanka, according to the wishes of my father. But you may tell your father how much I esteem him and would wish to regard him as a brother."


Sin Samudr was angry. With childish temper, he cried, "Why should you be made to marry a foreigner? I will not let you! I will fight for you! I want you for my father!"


Suvarnamali had to calm him down. "It is late," she said softly. "Do not speak so loudly and stop boasting!" With that, she made him lie down on her couch and he fell fast asleep.


The next morning, Sin Samudr rose with a heavy heart, took leave of Suvarnamali and went straight to his father. He told him what Suvarnamali had said the night before. Phra Abhai Mani was full of grief and could scarcely restrain his tears. He recoiled at the thought of losing the only real normal woman he had ever loved. There and then, he made up his mind to woo and win her, to fight for her, to elope with her if necessary. He told his son to go to Suvarnamali to plead his cause.


Sin Samudr obeyed his father's instructions. In the presence of Suvarnamali, he wept as if his little heart would break. Suvarnamali, amazed and frightened, asked: "What is the matter with you? Stop crying and tell your mother everything. She loves you as much as life itself, and will grant your every wish."


Sin Samudr answered through his tears: "It is because you are so hard-hearted that you will kill Father and kill me too."


Suvarnamali wondered, and questioned the boy further.


"Father's heart is broken," he explained, sobbing without shame. "He does not know what to do. You have rejected his proposal and prefer to accept the love of the Prince of Lanka. So he no longer has any desire to live. We have decided to jump overboard together at sunset."


Suvarnamali in her innocence believed the boy and was alarmed by what he had said. Her fear overcoming her modesty, she begged him to go and tell his father not to commit such a rash deed. "Tell him," she said, "that I was only saying what was true. But if in spite of that he still has affection for me and is importunate, you may say anything comes into your clever little head, but whatever you do, do not jump overboard." Sin Samudr was pleased beyond measure and stopped crying immediately. "I shall tell Father what you have said," he exclaimed. He jumped up and ran to his father. When he had heard all, Phra Abhai Mani was filled with joy. He took from his finger a diamond ring of seven carats, and handed it to his son, saying : "Give this to the Princess, and beg to let me have in exchange the necklace that she wears."


Sin Samudr, the busy messenger, carried out his father's instructions. In a short while, Suvarnamali was wearing the diamond ring, and Phra Abhai Mani, in possession of the necklace, felt as happy as if he had the Princess herself.


All the while that Phra Abhai Mani and Sin Samudr were on the enchanted island, Pisua Samudr the Giantess lived in despair and waited only for the day when her erring human husband might again fall into her clutches. She set her sea sprites and hobgoblins to keep close watch on the island for any attempt he might make to escape.


Accordingly, when Silaraj's ship set sail, her minions went post-haste to inform her. Pisua Samudr lost little time in setting out to intercept the ship which carried her husband and her son, now no longer under the kindly protection of the sorcerer-hermit. She called together her train of sea ghosts and devils and scattered them before her to comb the ocean.


It was on the fifteenth day that they made contact. Silaraj's ship had thus far made an uneventful voyage with favourable winds and calm seas. That evening, an island came within sight on the horizon, capped by a majestic peak resembling a cloud. But as soon as shades of night fell, a fearful storm arose and engulfed the ship. The wind howled in the rigging and waves lashed the decks. The vehemence of the tempest increased with the lateness of the hour. The vessel tossed helplessly with its rudder out of control. On top of this, the first of Pisua Samudr's ghosts and devils began to arrive and hovered round the ship. The passengers and crew were mortally afraid and fell to their prayers. The ghosts and devils remained at a distance, mocking them by making their eyes bulge and putting out their tongues.


Shortly before dawn, the towering figure of the Giantess herself appeared beside the ship. She was shouting and gesticulating. At this, her ghosts and devils were emboldened and approached the ill-fated vessel. Members of the crew stood up and fired their muskets, but to little purpose. The invulnerable Giantess drew close and seized the rudder. Under the weight of her grasp and the lashing of the waves, the ship capsized, throwing all on board into the sea. The ladies of the court, the gentlemen-in-waiting, the seamen, were all struggling in the water. Those who could not swim sank from sight. Others immediately fell prey to sharks that collected round the swirling mass in anticipation of a feast. The more fortunate ones got on to the backs of porpoises. As for Suvarnamali, she was rescued in the nick of time by Sin Samudr, who bore her away to safety.


Phra Abhai Mani seized hold of a door panel that was floating above that waves. With the aid of this, he made his way towards the island and reached it just as the sun was rising. Pisua Samudr had missed him in the general confusion. She had tried to catch her son; but Sin Samudr, who inherited the dexterity of his father and the aquatic skill of his mother, successfully evaded her. Now she saw her husband on the beach of the island, and was coming towards him with tremendous strides. Phra Abhai Mani did not hesitate. He ran towards the mountain whose peak he had seen the evening before. He reached it and began to climb. Pisua Samudr followed in hot pursuit, but slipped and fell, and so Phra Abhai Mani just managed to escape her reach. She was unable to climb the mountain because it was too slippery for her. So the unfortunate Giantess remained at the foot of the mountain appealing to her unwilling husband to come down.


"My husband, my handsome husband," she cried piteously, "why are you afraid, and try to hide yourself from me? I have been trying to follow you all this time. Come to your wife. Do not neglect her or be angry with her." Phra Abhai Mani was too preoccupied with the question of his own safety to pay any attention to her. He climbed up as high as he could, and then sat down to pray to deliverance. He was soon joined by a hundred other fellow-travellers who had also escaped both the sharks and the Giantess.


When he saw that his position was secure, Phra Abhai Mani stepped to the edge of the precipice and looked down on Pisua Samudr. They held a long parley together, he persuading her to give up the pursuit, she begging him to descend from the mountain.


In the end, the patience of the Giantess was exhausted. Seeing that pleadings no longer served her ~urn, she decided to resort to other weapons. Summoning up her supernatural powers, she caused a heavy shower of rain to fall on the mountain, until Phra Abhai Mani and his followers were soaked through to the skin. As if that were not enough, she also caused hailstones to fall on them.


Phra Abhai Mani hurriedly took counsel of his followers. His love and pity for Pisua Samudr were at an end. He came to the conclusion that the best course would be for him to play his magic flute, which he always kept on his person, until the Giantess was overcome. His followers immediately agreed with him, and he ordered them to stop up their ears while he played.


Taking up the flute in his hands, Phra Abhai Mani again went forward to the edge of the precipice and, after uttering the appropriate prayer, began to play. The melody that he played touched and stirred the heartstring of Pisua Samudr. To her it was at once ecstasy and agony, sweetness and bitterness, joy and despair. As she listened, she fell into a swoon. When the last notes re-echoed in the hills, the Giantess died of a broken heart, and her body turned into stone.

Search WWW Search Blog e4thai Search