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The Pomegranate King
by [?]

There was once a Mahárájá, called the Anárbásá, or Pomegranate King; and a Mahárání called the Gulíanár, or Pomegranate-flower. The Mahárání died leaving two children: a little girl of four or five years old, and a little boy of three. The Mahárájá was very sorry when she died, for he loved her dearly. He was exceedingly fond of his two children, and got for them two servants: a man to cook their dinner, and an ayah to take care of them. He also had them taught to read and write. Soon after his wife’s death the neighbouring Rájá’s daughter’s husband died, and she said if any other Rájá would marry her, she would be quite willing to marry him, and she also said she would like very much to marry the Pomegranate Rájá. So her father went to see the Pomegranate Rájá, and told him that his daughter wished to marry him. “Oh,” said the Pomegranate Rájá, “I do not want to marry again, for if I do, the woman I marry will be sure to be unkind to my two children. She will not take care of them. She will not pet them and comfort them when they are unhappy.” “Oh,” said the other Rájá, “my daughter will be very good to them, I assure you.” “Very well,” said the Mahárájá, “I will marry her.” So they were married.

For two or three months everything went on well, but then the new Rání, who was called the Sunkásí Mahárání, began to beat the poor children, and to scold their servants. One day she gave the boy such a hard blow on his cheek that it swelled. When the Mahárájá came out of his office to get his tiffin, he saw the boy’s swollen face, and, calling the two servants, he said, “Who did this? how did my boy get hurt?” They said, “The Rání gave him such a hard blow on his cheek that it swelled, and she gets very angry with us if we say anything about her ill-treatment of the children, or how she scolds us.” The Mahárájá was exceedingly angry with his wife for this, and said to her, “I never beat my children. Why should you beat them? If you beat them I will send you away.” And he went off to his office in a great rage. The Rání was very angry. So she told the little girl to go with the ayah to the bazar. The ayah and the little girl set off, never suspecting any evil. As soon as they had gone, the Rání took the little boy and told him she would kill him. The boy went down on his knees and begged her to spare his life. But she said, “No; your father is always quarrelling with me, beating me, and scolding me, all through your fault.” The boy begged and prayed again, saying he would never be naughty any more. The Rání shook her head, and taking a large knife she cut off his head. She then cut him up and made him into a curry. She then buried his head, and his nails, and his feet in the ground, and she covered them well with earth, and stamped the ground well down so that no one should notice it had been disturbed. When the Pomegranate Rájá came home to his dinner, she put the curry and some rice on the table before him; but the Rájá, seeing his boy was not there, would not eat. He went and looked everywhere for his son, crying very much, and the little girl cried very much too, for she loved her brother dearly. After they had hunted for him for some time, the little boy appeared. His father embraced him. “Where have you been?” said he. “I cannot eat my dinner without you.” The little boy said, “Oh, I was in the jungle playing with other boys.” They then sat down to dinner, and the curry changed into a kid curry. The Rání was greatly astonished when she saw the boy. She said to herself, “I cut his head off; I cut him into little pieces, and I made him into a curry, and yet he is alive!” She then went into the garden to see if his head, and nails, and feet were in the hole where she had buried them. But they were not there; it was quite empty. She then called a sepoy, and said to him, “If you will take two children into the jungle and kill them, I will give you as much money as you like.” “All right,” said the sepoy. She then brought the children, and told him to take them to the jungle. So he took them away to the jungle, but he had not the heart to kill them, for they were exceedingly beautiful, and he left them in the jungle near their dead mother’s grave. Then he returned to the Rání, saying he had done as she wished, and she gave him as much money as he wanted.