THE RAINBOW

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The Queen of Syriam died while expecting the birth of a child. But, when her funeral pyre was being lit the child was born. It was a girl and the king, her father, named her Princess Mwaynun. However, she could not be taken back to the city for it was believed that, as she was born in a cemetery, she would bring ill luck to it. So the king built her a palace near the cemetery. Later a town grew round the palace, which came to be known as Dalla.

Across the river-mouth there was the kingdom of Mingaladon, and the king’s son, Price Nandar, fell in love with the princess of Dalla. The king of Mingaladon and his people disapproved of the romance, as they also considered that, as she was born in a cemetery, she would bring ill luck to the kingdom. The king gave order that no boatman should row his son across to Dalla, and prohibited the price from ever going across the river again.

The city of Mingaladon was very near to the stream in which Rain Cloud the Crocodile lived and, as the price sadly gazed across the river, Rain Cloud happened to swim by. The crocodile went to the price, and offered his services. The price was grateful, but he remained sad. ‘Master,’ said Rain Cloud, ‘can I do noting for you?’

‘You cannot help me, Rain Cloud,’ replied the prince, ‘for who can help me to go to my beloved across the river without my father knowing?’

Rain Cloud proposed to carry him in his mouth when darkness had fallen. ‘Nobody can see you then,’ explained Rain Cloud, ‘and the king will never know that you have disobeyed his orders. Moreover, I will swim so swiftly that you will be in my mouth only for a few moments, and you cannot die for lack of air.’ The prince accepted Rain Cloud’s suggestion, and every night the price went across the river in the crocodile’s mouth to his beloved princess, returning the next morning at dawn.

A female crocodile, by the name of Brownish, fell in love with Rain Cloud, bur as he scorned her love she become his bitter enemy. She felt very jealous to see Rain Cloud going across the river, looking so proud with the precious burden in his mouth. Brownish, being a crocodile who had attained the age of one hundred years, transformed herself into a human being, and became a serving-maid to the princess. She was so wily and cunning that she soon became the favourite lady-in-waiting and confidante of the princess. One day she said to princess, ‘My Lady, when your prince comes at night, do you sleep on his right or on his left?’

‘On his left,’ replied the princess innocently, ‘using his left arm as my pillow.’

‘That shows that he doesn’t love you enough,’ said the crocodile Brownish slyly. ‘If he really loves you, he will allow you to sleep on his right side, with his right arm as your pillow.’

‘Of course he will let me do anything I like,’ replied the princess indignantly.

‘Try him tonight,’ suggested Brownish. ‘Ask to be allowed to sleep on the right, with your head on his right arm.’ The cunning crocodile suggested this because she realized that if a woman should sleep with her head on the right arm of a hero or a prince, ill-luck would befall him. Of course Brownish had no enmity towards the prince, but she knew that Rain Cloud would get into trouble with king of Mingaladon, should some accident happen to the prince while travelling across theĀ  river in his mouth.

That night when the prince came to the princess as usual, she asked to be allowed to sleep on his right side with her head on his right arm. ‘Beloved,’ replied the prince, ‘do you not know that ill-luck would befall me if you should sleep with your head on my right arm?’

But the princess thought that he was merely giving ger an excuse as he did not love her enough to comply with her request. ‘You do not love me enough,’ said the princess. In the end the prince allowed the princess to sleep with her head on his right arm, so as to assure her that he loved her dearly.

Dawn came and price went down to the shore where the faithful Rain Cloud was waiting. The prices entered the crocodile’s mouth, and the Rain Cloud started on the return journey. But something came over the crocodile’s mind, and he entirely forgot that the prince was in his mouth. He swam up and down the river for many hours and the prince fainted through the continued lack of air. In the city of Mingaladon the king and his courtiers were searching for the missing prince, and they came down in a body to the shore, hoping that the price had gone only to his beloved, and that no untoward accident had befallen him. Rain Cloud saw the king on the river bank, and only then did he remember that his master the prince was in his mouth. Swimming swiftly to the shore, he opened his motth and placed the prince at his father’s feet. But the prince was dead. Rain Cloud was heartbroken and explained to the king how the prince came to be in his mouth. ‘I am ready to die and follow my prince,’ said Rain Cloud, ‘so punish me swiftly, my Lord.’

‘You have been a faithful servant to my son,’ said the sorrow-stricken king. ‘I pardon you. But for the sake of your dead master, swim back to the princess and acquaint her with the sad news.’ Rain Cloud swan swiftly across the river again, and told the princess that her beloved was dead. The princess became stricken with sorrow and remorse, for she felt that she was the cause of the prince’s death by bringing ill-luck upon him. She soon died of a broken heart.

That day at sunset, at Mingaladon, the funeral pyre of the prince was lit, and over at Dalla the funeral of the princess was lit also. The people on both sides of the river, watched with sorrow the smoke from the funeral pyres rising into the sky. As they watched, they saw that the smoke from each pyre met over the river, and lo! a rainbow was formed.

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