The king’s handkerchiefs

Once there was a king who loved to go hunting. He always went hunting in disguise. One day, after a long day’s hunting, the king lost his way. He moved into that part of the jungle which was part of another kingdom.

Wandering here and there, he soon felt very thirsty. So be searched for a well or a pond to quench his thirst. After a long search, he came upon a spring. As he was taking a sip of water, he heard some loud laughter. He looked around for the source of the voices and
saw some girls bathing in the river. Among them was a very beautiful girl.

A few questions revealed that she was a princess of another kingdom. The king, however, did not reveal his identity to the princess and her friends. When they came out of the water, he expressed his desire to marry the princess. She shyly replied, “You must speak to my father. Only he can decide what’s good for me.”

So the king reached her kingdom and approached her father. “I would like to marry your daughter,” he told the old king. The father did not enquire about this suitor to his daughter’s hand.  He only wanted to know how he could earn his livelihood. “I can do good drawing and needlework,” said the king. The old.king was satisfied. Soon the princess and the king in disguise. were married. They returned to the king’s palace.

Another day when the king went hunting, he stopped by at a village, which was being looted by a gang of dacoits. The dacoits did not recognize the king, who was in disguise. They took him hostage and made away with him to their den in the forest.

The king protested that he had no wealth to give them, but the dacoits were not convinced. A week passed. The dacoits fed and took care of the king, although he insisted that he had no wealth to give away. At last the king suggested to the dacoits, ”Get me some plain handkerchiefs and I’ll embroider them. You may sell them in the palace. The queen is very fond of embroidered handkerchiefs and will surely buy them. You can keep the money that you make out of the sale.”

The dacoits agreed. They looted all the cloth stores in the kingdom and brought many handkerchiefs for the king. He patiently embroidered them with floral designs and also included some words in the patterns. The illiterate dacoits could not make out the words and they thought they, too, were part of the patterns. They took the kerchiefs for sale to the queen.

As soon as she saw them, she recognized her husband’s handiwork. She also understood that her husband was trying to convey a message. She bought all the kerchiefs and by piecing the messages all together, she understood what had happened to him. She instructed her soldiers and at night, they found their way to the dacoits’ den and freed their king.

The dacoits were caught.

By Sailabala Mohanty, Orissa 

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