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THE LEGEND OF THE PEACE-OFFERING
IT was a beautiful moonlight night. The stars shone faintly in the clear sky.
"They do not look as though they felt as happy as usual," said Chin to Chie Lo, who sat beside him on the platform of the house. "They are jealous because the moon is hiding them by her brightness. Here comes father; now we can ask him."
"Father, will you tell us the story of Rosy Dawn?" said his son, as the boat drew up beside the platform and the man jumped out.
"As soon as I fill my betel-box, Chin," was the answer.
Five minutes afterward, the family gathered around the story-teller by the side of the quiet river.
"Once upon a time," he began, "Father Sun was much nearer the earth than he is now. He was ever ready to advise his younger brother, the king of our country, and would even order his officers, the stars, to do anything which might help this blessed land.
"It was long, long ago that all this happened. Everything was so different then from what it is now, that there was no sickness nor sorrow in the land. People lived to be hundreds of years old. Why, my children, the King of Siam himself was looked upon as a very young man, although he was at least one hundred and sixty years old.
"His father, the old king, was still alive, but had grown tired of ruling after two hundred years of such work. He had given it into his son's hands, and now took his ease.
"His only daughter, a beautiful maiden named Rosy Dawn, spent most of her time in cheering him and making his life happy. No one had ever looked upon her sweet face except her own family. She was as good and simple as she was beautiful. Her days must have passed very quietly, for her only amusements were singing her old father to sleep and wandering alone through the fields and woods.
"A sad thing happened about this time. The naughty stars grew jealous of their lord, the Sun. They did not like it because he chose to keep awake all the time, and was having such pleasure with the earth and its people that he never thought of sleeping.
"Day and night, summer and winter, he gave his bright light to the world; he seemed afraid that something ill might happen to his young brother the king, if he left him for a moment. Of course, the stars had no chance of showing their own beauty, and this was what put them out of temper. They said to each other:
"Our lord has some reason for not sleeping which we do not understand. We will watch him, and set a snare for him.'
"So, when they themselves should have been sound asleep, for it was now bright noonday, they set to watch the jolly, laughing Sun.
"It happened at this very time that Rosy Dawn left her sleeping father's side and went out for a frolic in the woods. She picked the wild flowers and made them into wreaths; she softly sang sweet songs to herself, and she watched the squirrels and lizards as they played about among the trees.
"All at once she spied a beautiful butterfly move past her. It was larger and more brilliant than any she had ever seen before. She said to herself:
" ‘I must have the lovely creature,' and ran after it.
"On flitted the butterfly, faster and faster; on sped Rosy Dawn after it. But it was in vain. For after a long chase, and just as she thought she was about to succeed, the butterfly rose up into the air, higher and higher above her head.
"Now the fair maiden turned back toward home, and for the first time she thought of how tired she was. Her dainty feet fairly ached from the long chase, and she stopped at a refreshing brook to bathe.
"Just at this moment, the Sun's glorious chariot appeared over the hilltop. The warm light fell upon Rosy Dawn and made her feel quiet and restful. At the same time the Sun himself looked down upon the beautiful maiden and he fell in love with her then and there.
"When she had finished her bath, Rosy Dawn left the stream and entered a shady cavern near by, where she might rest.
"The Sun's great chariot flew through the heavens as his noble steeds were spurred onward. It seemed as though he could not wait a moment longer before he should come to the charming girl he had just seen.
"You ask me if he won Rosy Dawn's love in return. Ah, yes! And, sad to say, trouble followed after.
"You remember that the jealous stars were watching their lord's movements. After a while they discovered that he was making love to Rosy Dawn. They followed him one day when the two were fondly talking together in their favourite resting-place, the cavern.
"Alas! the chariot was outside. The wicked stars seized it and carried it off, and the frightened steeds ran away. They did not turn their heads until they had reached home.
"The angry stars did not stop here. They raised a great shout against their ruler, and declared they would be his subjects no longer. The poor old Sun began to tremble, and shed tears of gold.
"The mountains were truly sorry for him. They opened up a passageway through which he might return home. They promised him that he might drive through this cavern every day and be perfectly safe. Again he wept, and more plentifully still.
"At last he started on his way homeward, and, as he journeyed along, his tears fell and formed pools of gold. Those pools are now the gold mines of Siam.
"It took twelve hours for Old Sol to reach home, after which he went out every day; but he came back regularly at night-time by way of the cavern that the mountains had given him.
"After this poor Rosy Dawn wandered sadly about through the caves and mountains. She, too, wept, and her tears were very plentiful. Wherever they fell you will now find the silver mines of our country.
"But you must not think her joy was at an end. The wicked stars at last made an agreement with their lord, the Sun. They said he might live with Rosy Dawn for one-half the month, if they were allowed to look at her beautiful face for the other half.
"Ever since that time the Sun meets Rosy Dawn at the mouth of the cave where he first saw her, and carries her home to stay with him for two weeks out of each month."
"You didn't mention one important thing," said Chin, as his father ended the story. "You forgot to say that the stars insisted on the Sun's never kissing Rosy Dawn when any one can see him. We know hers is another name for the Moon; and the Sun breaks his agreement with the stars once in a great while, whenever there is an eclipse."
"Yes, that is why the people beat drums and fire off guns at such times," said the children's mother. "It is to shame the Sun, and to make him stop such conduct at once. Of course it takes some time for the sounds to reach him, but as soon as he hears, he seems to be ashamed, for the eclipse soon passes by."
"When I was a boy, I went on a pilgrimage to the very cavern where the Sun first met Rosy Dawn," said the father. "I was careful to carry both a silver coin and a gold one. When we reached the place, I threw the money into the cavern. Every one else did likewise. We offered these coins in hopes of making merit for ourselves."