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The Princess Nelumbo






Gleam-of-day was sleeping; his round face and high forehead denoted the
scholar's right intelligence.

All of a sudden he saw a man standing before his bed who appeared to be
waiting.

"What is it?" inquired the sleeper, getting up.

"The prince is asking for you."

"Which prince?"

"The prince of the neighbouring territory."

Gleam-of-day, grumbling, got up, put on his court dress and followed his
guide. Palanquins were waiting; they started rapidly, and their retinue
was soon passing in the midst of innumerable pavilions and towers with
pointed roofs.

They at last stopped in the courtyard of the palace; young girls with
bright clothing were seen, and looked inquiringly at the new-comer, who
was announced with great pomp.

At last Gleam-of-day reached the audience hall. The prince was seated on
the throne; he descended the steps and welcomed his guest according to
the rites.

"You perfume this neighbourhood," he said. "Your reputation has come to
me, and I wished to know you."

The servants brought wine; they began to converse nobly and brilliantly.
At last the prince asked:

"Among the flowers, tell me which one you prefer."

"The nelumbo," he replied, without hesitating.

"The nelumbo? it is precisely my daughter's surname. What a curious
coincidence! The princess must absolutely know you."

And he made a sign to one of the attendants, who at once went out. A few
minutes after, the princess appeared. She was between sixteen and
seventeen years old. Nothing could equal her admirable beauty.

Her father ordered her to bow to the scholar and said:

"Here is my daughter Nelumbo."

Gleam-of-day, looking at her, felt troubled to the depth of his soul.
The prince spoke to him; he hardly heard, and replied awkwardly. When
the princess had retired, the conversation languished; the prince at
last rose and put an end to the interview.

During all the way back the young man was ashamed at the same time with
his emotion before the girl, as well as his rudeness towards the prince.
He was so much troubled that he ordered his retinue to go back to the
palace.

When he entered the audience hall, he threw himself to the ground before
the prince and begged to be excused for his rudeness.

"You need not excuse yourself; the sentiment that I read in your eyes is
powerful and the thought of it is not unpleasant to me."

While Gleam-of-day, happy with this encouragement, was still excusing
himself, twenty young girls came running:

"A monster has entered the palace; it is a python ten thousand feet
long. It has already devoured thirteen hundred persons; its head is like
a mountain peak."

Every one got up; the frightened guard and the courtiers ran hither and
thither, looking where they could hide themselves. The princess and her
maids-in-waiting were crying for help.

Gleam-of-day at last said to the prince:

"I have only three miserable rooms in a cottage, but you will be safe in
them. Will you fly there with your daughter?"

"Let us go as quickly as possible," replied the prince, seizing the
princess by the wrist.

They all three ran across the deserted streets. When they arrived,
Nelumbo threw herself on the bed, without being able to stop weeping.

Gleam-of-day was so moved that he suddenly awoke: everything was a
dream.

Just then he heard a scream in the next room, where his father slept;
there was a struggle, blows, and at last a sigh of satisfaction.

The door opened, and the old man was seen pushing an enormous serpent at
the end of a stick. When Gleam-of-day turned back to his bed, he found
it covered with bees; on the pillow the queen had alighted.





Next: The Two Brothers

Previous: Autumn-moon



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