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In the Great God's Hair, by F. W. Bain, [1905], at

XIX. The Triumph of Beauty

And then, Water-lily left him, and quitted the earth, and flew up to heaven. And there she found all the gods assembled in Indra's hall. And instantly she began to mock them. And she exclaimed: Now you may see how vain it is for any or even all of you together to contend with me. For this Rajpoot has attained prosperity in spite of your dislike, by my favour; and as for Indra, he was utterly worsted by beauty, when he met it in the form of a mortal woman. And after having flouted them, she went away, laughing in triumph as she went, and casting back upon them over her shoulder glances out of the corner of her almond

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eyes that pierced the heart of the gods like poisoned needles.

And then they looked at each other, and said: We have all been made fools by this wicked Water-lily; and now this is utterly intolerable. And Indra said: Though that mortal scoffer, whom I forgave for the sake of his wife, was to blame, yet she will bring him back to his duty. But the real culprit in this matter is this mischievous goddess. For she took us all in by a show of submission, and has shown favour to a mortal who flattered her vanity, out of a capricious desire to tease and annoy us all. Therefore now we must punish and put a stop to her proceedings: for if she be allowed to go on, everything human and divine will be thrown into confusion. And now she is young, and capable of improvement: but unless she is kept in order, she will get worse and worse. Therefore we must look to it without loss of time.

Thereupon they all came in a body to me f. But I said to them: This is not my affair. Go to Náráyana, if you have any complaint to make against Water-lily. For to punish the wife is the duty of none but the husband. And I sent

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them away. Thereupon the gods hunted through the universe for Náráyana, but for a long time in vain. And then at last they found him alone in the very middle of the sea, lying on the leaf of a lotus as it floated about on the waves, sucking  his left toe, and buried in meditation. And as they came and ranged themselves in silence before him, the adorable Harí politely took his toe from his mouth, and gazed at them curiously with great dreamy eyes, as much as to say: What do you want of me?

Then the gods, with Indra for spokesman, having first bowed respectfully before him, said: O Achyuta, we have come to complain to thee of the conduct of thy wife: who has made us all ridiculous by taking the part of a mortal that showered abuse on us, simply because he loaded her alone with flattery and praise. And she laughs in our faces into the bargain, though she is the youngest of us all. And now she has hidden herself somewhere or other and cannot be found. Therefore our prayer to thee is, that she may be taught by thee the due bounds of propriety and decorum, and respect for her elders. For our dignity is diminished by the wilful independence of her behaviour.

And then, that husband of Water-lily whispered

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very gently the name of his wife. And low though it was, the sound of that whisper vibrated through the three worlds into the uttermost parts of space: and the universe echoed to its tone like a lute whose strings tremble at the touch of the wind. And as that ubiquitous murmur sank and died away into a hush, the sea began to bubble and foam, and suddenly the goddess of beauty rose up out of the lather of its waves for the second time g. And she stood with her little feet resting on the back of a tortoise, and the sea water dropping from her limbs that seemed to sparkle with the beauty of its salt. And her neck resembled a shell, and on the pearl of its surface was reflected the dark shadow of the green emeralds that hung round it; and she held in one hand a dark blue lotus of exactly the same colour as her long-cornered, lash-netted, shadowy eyes. And the graceful creepers of her soft round arms, and the extremities of her smooth and tapering legs, whose knees bent a little inwards, were loaded with rings of red coral that blushed with envy at the colour of her lips, which smiled as if conscious of their own superiority: while her bosom, whose two breasts

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were turned slightly away from each other like sisters that have quarrelled, rose very gently up and down as if keeping time to the music of the sea. And she held up with her left hand a coil of the blue hair which fell in masses from her head, and encircled her like a cloud blown by the breeze: and its end trailed away over the ocean waves. So she stood in silence, bending a little forward, till a three-fold wrinkle showed in the soft fold of her slender waist, while the foam plashed and lapped over the back of the tortoise that supported her, hungry to kiss the arched instep of her tiny pearly-toed feet. And her eyes looked far away, fixed on the horizon of that sky-bounded ocean plain.

And the gods looked at her in silence, and then at each other. And each knew what the other thought, though no one spoke. And each one said to himself: How is it possible to accuse such a beautiful creature as this of anything whatever, much less punish her. So they all stood gazing at her, confounded and abashed, and intoxicated, and silent, while she waited before them, and Wishnu watched both her and them with dreaming eyes. And suddenly the gods turned, as if by mutual consent. And without speaking, they all flew away together over the sea, and disappeared on its edge like a flock of birds.

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And then Wishnu looked at his wife with a glance of ineffable affection. And after a while he beckoned to her with a smile. Then Water-lily came at once, and sat down at the feet of her lord, and began to rub them gently with a hand softer than the lotus which she laid beside them. And Wishnu watched her, opening and closing his dreamy eyes, while the waves rocked their lotus couch quietly up and down. And the sun set, and the night fell, leaving them alone together in the darkness on the bosom of the sea.


76:f sc. Maheshwara.

78:g The first time was when she was born, at the churning of ocean.

Next: Epilogue