Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
THE GRANDSON OF SOMDETCH ONG YAI,
AND HIS TUTOR P'HRA CHOW SADUMAN.
WHEN Rama and his daughter were carried off to prison, poor Sm‚yŠtee hardly realized what was going to happen. But when a couple of Amazons forced her away from her father, and she understood the full meaning of what had befallen them, she began to shout and scream aloud for help. But none came.
A child of the mountains and hills, she had as yet developed none but the natural instincts of what civilization would call a savage. Combined with her fine organization, she inherited a passionate nature, and an intense love for the mountains and woods, the earth and sky, which were to her so many beautiful gods. To some she had been accustomed to offer flowers, to others fruit, oil, wine, honey, water. She always set apart a portion of every meal for her favorite god D‚vee, the earth-goddess. To such a nature only to live was worship. To see, to hear, to gather thoughts and pictures, to feel the throbbing pulses; to fill the eye with images of beauty, the heart with impulses of love and joy; to place the mind face to face with the unwritten mysteries which nature unfolds to it, ó is, indeed, the highest sphere of contemplation and worship, as well for the savage as the child of civilization.
The Amazons who guarded the cell chatted together in a low tone, while Sm‚yŠtee, exhausted by her cries and screams for help, had sunk into a deep sleep. They remarked on the beauty of her skin, the roundness of her limbs, the softness of her cheeks, and the superb lashes that rested so lightly upon them, and wondered who she could be; for though her dress bespoke her of the peasant class of the Loatians, her form and face betokened high birth.
"He must have stolen her," said one of the women; "she cannot be his daughter, though she calls him father."
"He has brought her here for sale, of course," added another; "else why should he have chosen such a place as this, so near the royal palace, for encampment."
"Ah, well! whatever be her lot, poor child, let us not add to her sufferings; she will have enough of them in this life," rejoined the kind-hearted chief officer.
The bell above the prison gate, with its brazen tongue, tolled out twelve (i. e., five in the morning); the girl, aroused as it were by the voice of an angel, started, rubbed her eyes, and looking around seemed to recall the events of the last night She then made several profound salutations and invocations to a gleam of sunlight that came straggling into her cell, wrapped her saree over her head and face, and placed herself near the door, so as to be able to pass out the moment it should be opened.
"Take something to eat, child," said the chief of the Amazons on guard, who was partaking of a breakfast of cold rice and fish, "and wait till the sun is higher in the heavens, and I will go with you; it is not fit that one so young and beautiful should go out alone and unprotected."
She was too kind-hearted to tell her that she was a prisoner, and no longer free to go in and out.
Sm‚yŠtee had hardly swallowed a few mouthfuls of rice, when the guardsman of the previous night appeared, with orders to the Amazons to take her to the Sala of the Grand Duke, Chow P'haya M‚ndtree; as they, on discovering from the mark on the old man's arm that he was a vassal of that nobleman, had resigned him to the custody of his officers.
The Amazons led the way, and Sm‚yŠtee followed with faltering steps. Nobody noticed her. Everybody seemed excited and eager. Every one hurried towards the same spot.
In her uncertainty the girl could see nothing in the world but the river running strong, yet running calmly on. After a little while she began to trace the opposite bank; a little way to the left something hanging midway in the sky, as she supposed, or rather in mid-distance; there being as yet no sky, no heaven, no earth; nothing but the river. This was a bridge; they cross the bridge. Where does it lead to? Whither flows this mysterious stream, of which the coming and the going are equally full of wonder and dread to her? What mysterious, enchanted palaces and temples are those looming out yonder on the other side? To her ignorance they are but infinitude and the unknown. Now they near the duke's palace; the odors of orange-flowers and spice-groves reach them, like airs that breathe from paradise.
Having come to the great hall, the Amazons take their places on one of the lowest steps, Sm‚yŠtee seated between them; they are contented to chew their betel and to wait.
The hall is full of men. The work of branding and enrolling goes briskly on under the orders of a young nobleman, called Nai Dhamaphat, the grandson of Somdetch Ong Yai. Every now and then some persons are brought forward to be admonished, fined, or whipped. Sometimes from among this crowd a boy is dragged out forcibly, and branded.
Through the masses of men, lighted up now by the full blaze of sunlight, Sm‚yŠtee sought one form and one figure only, and he was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly the Grand Duke was announced; he entered the hall with conscious swagger, followed by a long train of attendants and slaves.
No words could express what there was in the face and figure of this man, as he rolled rather than walked into the centre of the hall.
Work instantly ceased; all around crouched and hid their races. This did not rouse his huge, drowsy nature into even a look of recognition; he growled rather than spoke the orders for the workers to continue, and turned to his son and said, "Dhamaphat, what is this about Rama Singalee having attacked the captain of the royal guards?"
"My Lord," replied the latter, "the captain, as far as I can learn, is as much to blame as the old soldier, who says he only struck him in defence of his daughter."
"A daughter, eh! I did not know the old fellow had a daughter."
At this point in the conversation Sm‚yŠtee, who had been listening with deep attention, leaned forward, and fearlessly addressed the duke, said, "Do you want that I should tell you how it happened, my lord?"
"Well, speak out!" said the duke, turning savagely upon the girl for having dared to interrupt him unbidden.
He checked himself, however, as his eye fell upon the graceful, veiled figure, and said rather more gently, "Go on, how was it?"
Sm‚yŠtee threw back her covering, sat up, and repeated the story of her long journey, her father's fears to leave her alone at home, their encampment near the royal palace, her fearful alarm, and how it was to save her that her father struck the captain of the king's guard.
The girl never looked so beautiful, so fearless; there was in her look the innocence and the ignorance of a babe. It was not the words she uttered, but the face she presented, the look so sad and yet so full of trust, which served to rouse the drowsy nature of the duke, and to change his repulsiveness into something more hideous still.
Dhamaphat listened, too, with intense interest; it seemed as if his whole soul were concentrated into his eyes and ears.
The duke was puzzled what to say. He turned to exchange a few words, in an undertone, with his son, and then dismissed the Amazons, charging them, on the peril of their lives, not to lose sight of the girl, and promising the latter to have the matter investigated on the following day.
In Siamese life the lights and shadows are equally strong. At once brilliant and gloomy, smiling and sombre, lighted as by the radiance of dawn, and at the same time enveloped in the darkness of night.
The branding and enrolling for the day was over. The crowds dispersed to their various homes.
When the young man, Nai Dhamaphat, went out, he had but one thought; it was to follow that girl, and try, if possible, to see her face and hear her voice again.
There was something in that face that had changed the whole current of his being, and had set him, charged with a new force, in the midst of a little world all by itself, the horizon of which was bounded by her possible smile.
He turned his steps towards the grand palace, and gazed upon the place where she was imprisoned; he was almost at the gate. He wavered in his mind; custom and his natural reserve forbade him to speak to a strange woman; with a bewildered air he retraced his steps and went home.
That part of Bangkok in which Chow P'haya M‚ndtree lived was laid out in small squares, each walled in by low ramparts, enclosing the residence and harem of some great noble; but the duke's palaces were surrounded by a wall only on three sides, from which ran, parallel to the river-front, several streets, and among them the gold and silver streets, so designated from their being inhabited by artists skilled in the working of those metals.
The sun had set when Dhamaphat reached his home, but it was already night. Here there is no twilight, ó that soil messenger that lingers, unwilling, as it were, to usher in the darkness of night.
Moonlight, with its silvery touches, rested on the palace roofs and made even ugliness and decay beautiful. The tall cocoa and betel palms, moved by the wood-nymphs, fluttered and waved their branches to and fro, beckoning him nearer and nearer, and presenting a spectacle, strange, yet lovely in the extreme.
The bright moon was soon lost to view, except where it penetrated the thick, overhanging foliage. On the gateway the pendent branches of the bergamot gave forth a rich perfume. The shrill chirping of myriads of grasshoppers, which seem never to sleep, with the sounds of distant music, fell upon his ear, as his father's temples and palaces burst upon his view, a mingled scene of fairy beauty, artificial elegance, and savage grandeur, ó domes, turrets, enormous trees, and flowers such as are met with nowhere else beneath the sun. The oldest temples in Siam stood here, containing strange and wonderful objects, with stranger and more wonderful recollections attached to them. That one on the right was once, in the reign of the usurper, P'haya Tak, the principal stronghold of his ancestors, and where, even after long years, they were still wont to repair, at a particular moon in every year, to pray beside the golden pagoda that enshrined the charred bones of his forefathers. That gray palace had witnessed many a gay assemblage, held by the old duke, Somdetch Ong Yai, his grandfather.
He entered the temple, beneath the portal of which were some deeply graven rhymes from the Vedas, to him equally dark as the dark image of Buddha that had slumbered for centuries at the base of the glittering altar. Yet, wonderful as were the objects that met the eye of the young man, he simply prostrated himself before the altar, and turned to his father's palace.
A low, open verandah faced the entrance. Choice birds were singing in their cages, and soft lights of cocoanut-oil were gleaming down upon them. A number of noblemen were lounging on cool mats, some playing chess, others engaged in conversation. Slaves were passing round tempting fruits, and refreshing drinks of spiced wines and cocoanut nectar.
Dhamaphat prostrated himself before his father, and took his place on a low seat. He had no sooner done so, than he was startled by the entrance of some armed men, who brought in the old Rajpoot, and stationed him and themselves at the extreme end of the verandah.
There was something particularly interesting about the prisoner. He was a tall, slender, alert-looking man, about sixty, fair, with aquiline features, and expressive and determined countenance. There were lines on his face that told of hardship and suffering, though these seemed in no degree to have depressed his spirits, or to have impaired his youthful vigor and activity. He wore a blue cloak, and an ample turban of blue silk.
The duke at length addressed the prisoner, and said: "Rama, you have committed a crime which, if you had not been my slave, would have handed you over to the criminal's prison for life, or to instant death; and now, since your daughter has told us with her own lips, that it was in her defence you struck the captain of the royal guards, I am going to pay him a heavy fine, and smother this affair. But only on one condition, however, ó "
The duke paused for a reply, or some expression of thankfulness.
The old soldier turned his head, and looked at him in serious doubt.
After waiting a little while he repeated, "Only on one condition; that thou sell to us, for our service and pleasure, this daughter of thine, and we will take better care of her than thou art able to do."
It was fully half an hour before Rama seemed to comprehend the meaning of his master's words. He had never thought of his daughter occupying such a position; he had hardly realized that she was no longer a child. Now his feeling of caste and race rose up within him; his strong nature was moved, as he saw her snatched away from him. All manner of recollections and reveries full of tenderness came whispering at his heart, and the words: "My lord, to this I can never consent," came slowly, brokenly forth, as if out of a heart struggling for mastery over some great emotion.
The duke sprang to his feet, staggered ó for he had been drinking heavily ó up to the chained prisoner, and, clenching his palsied, trembling hand, he cried in a thundering voice: "You dare to refuse me! By the gods, I will neither eat nor drink until I have seized and given her to my lowest slave! and if you do not quickly repent of your rash refusal, you shall be cast into prison for the rest of your life. Do you forget what my father did for you, you ungrateful dog?" and his dark face became purple with rage and fury.
The old warrior trembled in every limb, not from fear, but from horror. He knew what to expect from the eldest son of his late master. His heart burned with indignation. But what could he do? How could he defend her? He thought bitterly of the weakness that had placed the honor of his house and race at the mercy of a stranger; that little ball of opium would have saved her from all possible insult He groaned aloud, feeling that this was a just retribution for his innovation upon the ancient custom of his house, and large tears rolled down his rugged face.
The drowning man, overtaken by the supreme agony, lives, in an instant, through all his happy and unhappy past. In a single moment he sees the whole drama of his life reacted before him. Thus it was with Rama; he recalled with anguish the scenes of Sm‚yŠtee's childhood, her youth and growing womanhood, all her early gladness, all her bright hopes and illusions, all her gifts of beauty and affection, which made one picture with her present degradation, and served only to darken the riddle of her life to him.
The courage that had withstood a hungry tiger now gave way before the picture of the deeper degradation that might, because of Ins refusal, befall his child. He flung himself on the ground, and muttered: "She is yours, my lord."
"Sa-baye" (good), said the duke, clapping his hands; "I knew you would give in; you are no fool, Rama. It is the women whom we find so difficult to manage, when they take an idea into their heads. Take him away to his cell now," said he, addressing the guards, "to-morrow we will make it all right, and when the girl comes to the Sala, we shall apprise her of the high honors in store for her. Here," said he, throwing some money to the jailers, "go you and make merry till morning, and be sure and give the prisoner as much as he can eat and drink."
The guards departed, leading away a fierce, revengeful-looking old man.
When they were gone, the duke, addressing Nai Dhamaphat, said: "What think you of our clemency to our slaves, my son? We would not take possession of this beautiful girl without the old fellow's consent."
He then began to laugh, and added: "Ah, she shall be my cup-bearer, and my good friends here will have an opportunity of admiring her beauty!"
The son simply bowed his head, in seeming acknowledgment of his father's goodness, and after a while retired from the pavilion, passed over the bridge, and out of the palace gates.
There could not be a greater difference of character than that which existed between the duke and his eldest son; the one gross, sensual, cowardly, the other proud and domineering, yet withal brave, generous, religious, and impulsive.
Every year found them farther apart in education, thought, feelings, hopes, and aspirations. The one standing, as it were, with his foot on the first step of a ladder that was to lead him towards the highest ideal of Christianity, the other sunk beyond all hope in the ignorance of a savage barbarism.
But now this last scene was too much for the former. It snapped asunder the fragile cord that still bound him to his father, and placed him in the position of an antagonist.
Every nation has certain constitutional peculiarities which give rise to practices and phases of thought very startling to others, who are, in such points, differently constituted. The most remarkable peculiarity of this kind is the reverence with which parents are regarded in Siam. No matter how unjust, capricious, cruel, and repulsive a parent may be, a child is bound to reverence his or her slightest wish as a sacred obligation.
For Dhamaphat, therefore, even to question his father's actions was, he felt, a moral dereliction. He was lull of remorse and regret, and thought with despair of the fate that awaited him.
He had gained a little wooden bridge, which, thrown across a canal, led him into a lonely field; here lie motioned back the slaves who attempted to follow him, and strode rapidly out into the open country, where he no longer heard the sounds of revelry, feasting, and licentious mirth. Rambling through the many tangled forest-paths, he gradually emerged into a low, wooded expanse. The air was full of delicious fragrance, and alive with strange noises. He saw in the distance the calm, majestic river, all aglow with its myriads of lights and lanterns, yet it failed to call forth a single reflection; he could picture nothing but the face of the strange girl, and that haunted him all the way. He pressed on, tired, feverish, with sad and troubled thoughts; he reached the wall that skirts the city; throwing some silver to the guards, who knew him well, he passed out of the gate, and out of the city of the "Invincible," to the visible archangel of nature.
Here the solitude was startling; no more streets, no more lights, no more houses. Even the quiet river seemed to hush on her white and shining bosom the soft light of the moon, as if it were the face of a beloved child, until she caught a reflection of its beauty, and was transfigured down a hundred feet deep, as far as light could penetrate, into a clear, translucent soul, in its first dreamless sleep.
Moved by some secret purpose, he hurried on through a profusion of flowering plants and trees; he passed unnoticed the slender betel and cocoanut palms, and the numerous species of huge convolvuli "that coiled around their stately stems, and ran e'en to the limit of the land," the long lance-leaves of the wild plantains, the rich foliage of the almonds, the gorgeous oleanders that broke through the green masses in every variety of tint, from the richest crimson to the lightest pink. Presently he dashed aside a huge night-blooming cereus, and stood before a long, low building, a partly ruined monastery, adjoining an ancient and dilapidated Buddhist temple.
The monastery was a sort of long, low corridor or hall, lined on each side with chambers, each about ten feet deep, and lighted by a small aperture in the wall.
It was a gloomy place, old and unhealthy. Poisonous plants, creepers, and Sowers reigned jubilant here, with ruin and desolation for companions.
Wi. dismantled, worm-eaten, and ruined as the building appeared, it had been the school of young Dhamaphat for nearly ten years, and it was the home of a solitary old man, who had spent forty years of his lifetime forgetful of friends, affections, food, sleep, and almost of existence in his contemplations of the mystery of things beyond, and that still greater mystery called life; his Mends and relations had endeavored by every artifice, the allurements of beauty and every other imaginable gratification, to divert him from the resolution he had adopted. Every attempt to dissuade him had been in vain. And now he had gained a fame as widespread as the most ambitious heart could desire. Among the people he was known under the title of P'hra Chow Saduman, the sainted priest of heaven. Prodigious stories were afloat about him. Born of noble parents, he had from his early youth practised an asceticism so rigorous and severe that it had prepared him, it was thought, for his supernatural mission. It was not only alleged, but believed, that at the sound of his inspired voice the dead arose and walked, the sick were healed; that diseases vanished at the touch of his hand; sinners were converted by his simple admonition; wild beasts and serpents were obedient to his word; and that in his moment of ecstasy he floated in the air before the eyes of his disciples, passed through stone walls and barred gates, and, in fact, could do whatsoever he willed.
The crumbling old door of the cell was partly open; no light was visible; and, as Dhamaphat stood there hesitating whether he would enter, a low, faint, tremulous sound came out of the darkness within, and floated upward on the silence of night Like the voice of some celestial chorister.
was the Buddhist's evening hymn, or chant, and the familiar words ó
"Nam a Buddsa phakava thouraha,
Sama Boodhsa thatsa Phutthang
Purisa thamma s‚r‚thi
Sangkhang saranang ga cha mi," etc.,
"Thou, who art thyself the light,
Boundless in knowledge, beautiful as. day,
Irradiate my heart, my life, my night,
Nor let me ever from thy presence stray!" ó
touched his better nature and melted his heart. He stooped forward, and listened to it lovingly as it rose higher and higher, growing more and more exultant till it caught his trembling spirit, and bore it away beyond the confines of this world face to face with a Divine Ineffable Presence full of harmony and beauty.
His anger and his grief were forgotten.
So Dhamaphat turned his face to the sky. One moment he stood erect in an absolute halo of light, the next he was combatting darkly with the blind shadows of love and hate, cause and effect, merit and demerit, the endless evolutions of the "wheel" of an irresistible law into which all things are cast.
He felt something cold pass over his hand; he started, and became aware that the good priest had finished his devotions. He tapped gently, and was told to enter, which he did hesitatingly.
In the middle of the cell sat the priest, who seemed, even in his old age, full of the vigor of manhood; his legs were crossed, his arms folded, and his eyes cast down; he did not even raise them at the entrance of the young man; he was in that semi-stupor commonly called contemplation. In one corner a narrow plank, quite bare, and a wooden pillow served for his bed; beside it an old fan, a pot for water, an earthen vessel for rice, some rude old instruments and books; beyond these the cell was bare, damp, cold, slimy, and unhealthy. It was without any light, save where the moonlight fell in ghastly lights and shadows through the slits in the wall.
"My father," said the young man, as he reverently prostrated himself before the priest, who half opened his dull eyes, and said: "S'amana phinong" (peace, brother).
"Alas!" replied Dhamaphat; "in this life there is no peace, no rest, no freedom from suffering; the endless revolutions of the wheel only crush out life, to reproduce it again in another form."
" 'Take the reins, and ride over it, then," said the priest, meditatively. "What says the Dharma padam?1
"Stop the chariot valiantly; arrest the horses of desire. "When thou hast comprehended that which is made, thou wilt understand that which is not made, ó the uncreate. Some do not know that we must all come to an end here; but some do know it, and with them all conflicts cease. He who lives for pleasure only, his passions uncontrolled, immoderate in his enjoyments, idle and weak, him will the tempter overcome, as the wind overcomes a worm-eaten tree.'
"If we could live a thousand years, it would be worth our while to struggle after the pleasures of this world. Death comes too soon. There are many beginnings, but no ending to life. Let us practise the four virtues, my brother; they alone are real, satisfactory, the true illuminators of the mind; without this inward illumination, what is life but darkness, storms, wild, unconscious tumult, the ceaseless tumbling of the fierce tides of passion; and death, but exhaustion?"
"Alas!" cried the young man, in a voice full of emotion; "is life indeed such an empty void? Is there no compensation anywhere?"
The priest opened wide his half-closed eyes, looked full into Dhamaphat's face, and remarked: "Thou art strangely disturbed to-night, my brother. Is it not well with thee?"
Dhamaphat made no reply.
There was sympathy, and a touch of tender feeling in the voice of the priest, as he bent close to his young pupil, and said: "What is thy suffering? Speak freely to me, and I will aid thee to the utmost of my ability." Saying this, the priest arose, and passed his hand slowly over the clefts in the wall. 'Instantly the moon withdrew her light.
At this moment the night-owl suddenly gave a harsh and prolonged cry.
"That bird answers to thy thoughts," said the priest.
Dhamaphat shuddered; he believed that in the cry of the bird he heard an echo of his own wild desire to frustrate his father's plans.
Then in a few stirring words he told the priest of his love for the Rajpoot's daughter, of her present situation, and of his desire to help her and her father to escape.
At the words, "Rajpoot's daughter," the old man started, and there passed over his face, unseen, an expression of regret mingled with desire, with winch a thirsty man sees afar off, out of his possible reach, a cup of cold water, for which he is dying, but which is not for him. Then, as suddenly, he sat down, and resumed his calm exterior.
A full hour passed in complete silence; the old man and the young man sat in the darkness, with their faces turned to one another, each on his side thinking over the same things, and feeling the same impulses.
"This is very strange," said he, at length; "when I made my annual pilgrimage to P'hra Batt, last year, a lovely girl, Rama the Rajpoot's daughter, who called herself Devo Sm‚yŠtee, brought me food every morning, and washed my feet every evening. She was then hardly a woman, but she filled my heart with a fragrance which is all-abiding. But," added the priest, in an undertone, as if for himself, "death carries off a man who is gathering flowers, as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village. He in whom the desire for the Ineffable (Nirwana) has sprung up, whose thoughts are not bewildered by love, he is the 'Ordhvamsrotas,' borne on the stream of immortality; he will stand face to face with the Infinite." He spoke slowly and deliberately, repeating each word as if they conveyed some peculiar meaning to his mind and some subtle charm to his senses.
"Nay, father," rejoined the young man, interrupting him, "you do not tell me how I can help her."
The good old priest ó for good he was in spite of the strong natural man within him ó turned on Dhamaphat a look partly of sorrow and partly of affection. Then, drawing towards him one of his mysterious books, he placed it on his head; with his hands spread out to heaven, he gradually moved his body to and fro, until his gyrations became rapid and grotesque, uttering strange prayers and incantations. After a short time he began to prophesy, and said, in fitful spasms: "Thy father's days are numbered; the long night for him is at hand; fear not, this mountain flower will blossom in spring-time on thy bosom."
For more than an hour a cloud had darkened the sky; the moment the priest had done prophesy inn, a ray of moonlight suddenly lighted up his pale face, and was reflected from his smoothly shaven head like a luminous circle.
After gazing upon it for some ten minutes, Dhamaphat began to tremble, and turned deadly pale; feeling that he was in the presence of a supernatural being, he once more prostrated himself, and withdrew. Some secret influence from the priest had for the moment benumbed into icy-coldness and even indifference his ardent love for Sm‚yŠtee.
It was almost dawn when he sought his couch for rest.
A DREAM OF THE NIGHT.
Meanwhile the prisoner Rama had had a plentiful repast, and was sleeping heavily, with fatigue and despair for a pillow, on the damp floor of his cell.
Towards morning a cold sweat broke out on his brow. He felt creeping over him an indefinable horror, a sort of nightmare, which he struggled in vain to shake off. He groaned, panted, and at length sat up with a tremendous effort.
In a niche in the wall he fancied he saw a pale, blue, misty outline of a human figure, so indistinct that at first he could only distrust his own vision, but gradually it began to take form; at length it was as clear and palpable as a shape of life. It was the face and figure of the priest P'hra Chow Saduman, whom he had met a year ago in the mountains of P'hra Batt. He was dressed in a loose robe of cloudy yellow; his legs were crossed, his arms folded across his breast, his eyes cast down; he seemed to be praying. The shadow of the shade in the background grew darker, and the form grew lurid, as if surrounded by fire.
Rama stared, rubbed his eyes; plainer did the figure of the priest appear, until it seemed to rise and swell and fill the whole cell. A dark, heavy mist settled on the prisoner's face, but the apparition grew brighter. He could bear it no longer; shuddering with horror, he cried: "Speak, whoever thou art, and tell me thy commands; they shall be obeyed."
Suddenly he felt a violent shaking of the ground on which he was seated; each moment he expected to be hurled into an abyss below; he clung to the earth, and cried again: "Speak! For by the gods D‚vee and Dhupy‚ I vow to fulfil thy behest, even if it be to offer thee a human sacrifice."
He then perceived a soft cloud filling the cell, and in the centre of the cloud were luminous characters, which he read thus: "Sell not thy daughter to the duke."
The apparition vanished almost as soon as he had deciphered the words. Rama fell back against the wall of his cell, and awoke.
It was long before he could collect his scattered faculties, and what were left to him seemed steeped in illusion; he could only wonder, and bow in mystified adoration before the niche in his cell.
1 Dharma padam, the "Path of Virtue." ó Buddhist Bible.