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p. 30

II. By Beat of Drum

So the criers went through the streets of the capital, beating drums and crying aloud: Whatsoever high-caste man has been to the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, let him come to the King: he shall share the King's kingdom, and marry the King's daughter. And hearing the proclamation, all the citizens and strangers in the city marvelled as they listened. For the fame of the beauty of the King's daughter had gone out into the three worlds. And buzzing like bees, they thronged around the criers, and ran up and down, everybody asking everybody else: What is this Land of the Lotus of the Sun? Where is it, or who has seen it? And a great uproar arose in the streets of the city, and they were full of noise and shouting: and the news was carried into the neighbouring kingdoms, and immediately crowds of people poured into Indirálaya from every part of Málwá and the Deckan and the North, and every quarter of the world, and together with the merchants and the working castes, who all abandoned their ordinary business, gathered in knots and stood about, asking eagerly for news of that Lotus Land, and its nature, and its locality, and its peculiarities. But no one could be found who had ever even heard of it,

p. 31

much less seen it. So day by day the proclamation sounded in the streets: and all day long the city was full of the din of shouting criers and beaten drums, and all night long sleep fled from the eyes of the citizens, as if in disgust at the noise that they made by day. But all was in vain: for not a man could they find, nor did anyone come forward to say: I have seen that Lotus Country: give me the reward.

And at last the citizens became enraged, alike with the King, and his daughter, and the Land of the Lotus, and themselves. And seeing this, the old King fell sick with anxiety: and he said to himself: My pretty daughter is as cunning as she is beautiful, and beyond a doubt this is some trick devised by her, to appease me, and avoid her bugbear of a husband, and befool us all. And now I fear that in their fury my subjects may break out into revolt, and refuse to pay taxes, or depose me. Out on my daughter and her blue eyes, and the cunning of women and their crooked hearts! Is there any such land in the world, as this Land of the Lotus of the Sun, of which in all my dominions, haunted by merchants and strangers from every quarter of the earth, no one has ever even so much as heard?

Next: III. An Eclipse of the Sun