Chapter XXIV - 85 Home | Index | Previous | Next

At this, the king was overcome by resentment and a fierce gust of anger. Having come to a hermitage and seen the hermit, he was still helpless with hunger and thirst; this wounded his pride, for, he was the ruler of the realm and the hermit had dared to dwell within himself, when he had come before him and called out for him. He became blind to the rules of propriety, for, he could hardly control his anger. His feet trod on some rope on the floor; he discovered, it was a dead snake. That put a wicked idea into his head, quite by a twist of fate. He threw the dead snake round the neck of the hermit, sitting like a statue, heedless of other distress; and, then, he left the hermitage and walked away fast, to seek some other place to slake his thirst and get some food.

Some boys saw him emerge from the cottage; they entered the place to find out why he had gone in and what had happened there, for he looked a stranger and he was gorgeously dressed. They saw round the neck of the sage Sameeka, a snake! They went closer and examined it, to discover that it was dead. They wondered who could have done this atrocity. They surmised it must be the handiwork of the man who had just left the hermitage. So, they ran out and informed Sringi of Sameeka, who was playing games with his comrades. He did not lend his ear to their story, for he thought that no one would insult his father so. He busied himself with the game; but, the boys repeated their tale and insisted on his verifying its eracity, seeing the plight of his father with his own eyes.

Sringi was amazed at their insistence and he got afraid that the incident might actually have happened! He ran into the cottage and found that the unbelievable had happened! He sought to find out the culprit who had perpetrated this atrocity against his revered father. He came to know that a person in royal robes had gone in and come out and that there was no one else around, since morning. The boys concluded that it must be his handiwork. At this, he ran in the direction pointed by them to catch him; before long, he saw the person in regal clothing and his anger knew no bounds. He threw a handful of water at the king, slowly walking before him and pronounced the curse: "May he who threw the dead snake round the neck of my father be bitten by a snake on the seventh day and may he die that day of that poison". The boys around him appealed to him not to, but, he threw the curse at the king, nevertheless. Then, he went back into the cottage and slumped on the floor, in a corner, with his head aflame with anger.

"Alas, that my father had to suffer this ignominy, when I am alive and about; I could well have been dead. Of what use is a son alive, if he cannot prevent some one insulting his father?" he condemned himself thus and bewailed his fate, most pitiably. His companions sat around him and tried to pacify him, they abused the wrongdoer roundly; they tried to console the disconsolate boy.

Meanwhile sage Sameeka emerged from his inner bliss and returned to the realm of consciousness. He unwound the dead snake from his neck and placed it beside him. He saw the son weeping in a corner and beckoned to him to come near. He asked the reason for his grief and got from him the tale of the stranger and the dead snake. Sameeka smiled and said, "Poor fellow"!