The Hatred of the Queen
by L. Adams Beck
A Story of Burma
Most wonderful is the Irawadi, the mighty river of Burma. In all the world
elsewhere is no such river, bearing the melted snows from its mysterious
sources in the high places of the mountains. The dawn rises upon its
league-wide flood; the moon walks upon it with silver feet. It is the
pulsing heart of the land, living still though so many rules and rulers
have risen and fallen beside it, their pomps and glories drifting like
flotsam dawn the river to the eternal ocean that is the end of all—and
the beginning. Dead civilizations strew its banks, dreaming in the torrid
sunshine of glories that were—of blood-stained gold, jewels wept
from woeful crowns, nightmare dreams of murder and terror; dreaming also
of heavenly beauty, for the Lord Buddha looks down in moonlight peace upon
the land that leaped to kiss His footprints, that has laid its heart in
the hand of the Blessed One, and shares therefore in His bliss and
content. The Land of the Lord Buddha, where the myriad pagodas lift their
golden flames of worship everywhere, and no idlest wind can pass but it
ruffles the bells below the knees until they send forth their silver
ripple of music to swell the hymn of praise!
There is a little bay on the bank of the flooding river—a silent,
deserted place of sanddunes and small bills. When a ship is in sight, some
poor folk come and spread out the red lacquer that helps their scanty
subsistence, and the people from the passing ship land and barter and in a
few minutes are gone on their busy way and silence settles down once more.
They neither know nor care that, near by, a mighty city spread its
splendour for miles along the river bank, that the king known as Lord of
the Golden Palace, The Golden Foot, Lord of the White Elephant, held his
state there with balls of magnificence, obsequious women, fawning
courtiers and all the riot and colour of an Eastern tyranny. How should
they care? Now there are ruins—ruins, and the cobras slip in and out
through the deserted holy places. They breed their writhing young in the
sleeping-chambers of queens, the tigers mew in the moonlight, and the
giant spider, more terrible than the cobra, strikes with its black
poison-claw and, paralyzing the life of the victim, sucks its brain with
slow, lascivious pleasure.
Are these foul creatures more dreadful than some of the men, the women,
who dwelt in these palaces—the more evil because of the human brain
that plotted and foresaw? That is known only to the mysterious Law that in
silence watches and decrees.
But this is a story of the dead days of Pagan, by the Irawadi, and it will
be shown that, as the Lotus of the Lord Buddha grows up a white splendour
from the black mud of the depths, so also may the soul of a woman.
In the days of the Lord of the White Elephant, the King Pagan Men, was a
boy named Mindon, son of second Queen and the King. So, at least, it was
said in the Golden Palace, but those who knew the secrets of such matters
whispered that, when the King had taken her by the hand she came to him no
maid, and that the boy was the son of an Indian trader. Furthermore it was
said that she herself was woman of the Rajputs, knowledgeable in spells,
incantations and elemental spirits such as the Beloos that terribly haunt
waste places, and all Powers that move in the dark, and that thus she had
won the King. Certainly she had been captured by the King's war-boats off
the coast from a trading-ship bound for Ceylon, and it was her story that,
because of her beauty, she was sent thither to serve as concubine to the
King, Tissa of Ceylon. Being captured, she was brought to the Lord of the
Golden Palace. The tongue she spoke was strange to all the fighting men,
but it was wondrous to see how swiftly she learnt theirs and spoke it with
a sweet ripple such as is in the throat of a bird.
She was beautiful exceedingly, with a colour of pale gold upon her and
lengths of silk-spun hair, and eyes like those of a jungle-deer, and water
might run beneath the arch of her foot without wetting it, and her breasts
were like the cloudy pillows where the sun couches at setting. Now, at
Pagan, the name they called her was Dwaymenau, but her true name, known
only to herself, was Sundari, and she knew not the Law of the Blessed
Buddha but was a heathen accursed. In the strong hollow of her hand she
held the heart of the King, so that on the birth of her son she had risen
from a mere concubine to be the second Queen and a power to whom all
bowed. The First Queen, Maya, languished in her palace, her pale beauty
wasting daily, deserted and lonely, for she had been the light of the
King's eyes until the coming of the Indian woman, and she loved her lord
with a great love and was a noble woman brought up in honour and all
things becoming a queen. But sigh as she would, the King came never. All
night he lay in the arms of Dwaymenau, all day he sat beside her, whether
at the great water pageants or at the festival when the dancing-girls
swayed and postured before him in her gilded chambers. Even when he went
forth to hunt the tiger, she went with him as far as a woman may go, and
then stood back only because he would not risk his jewel, her life. So all
that was evil in the man she fostered and all that was good she cherished
not at all, fearing lest he should return to the Queen. At her will he had
consulted the Hiwot Daw, the Council of the Woon-gyees or Ministers,
concerning a divorce of the Queen, but this they told him could not be
since she had kept all the laws of Manu, being faithful, noble and
beautiful and having borne him a son.
For, before the Indian woman had come to the King, the Queen had borne a
son, Ananda, and he was pale and slender and the King despised him because
of the wiles of Dwaymenau, saying he was fit only to sit among the women,
having the soul of a slave, and he laughed bitterly as the pale child
crouched in the corner to see him pass. If his eyes had been clear, he
would have known that here was no slave, but a heart as much greater than
his own as the spirit is stronger than the body. But this he did not know
and he strode past with Dwaymenau's boy on his shoulder, laughing with
And this boy, Mindon, was beautiful and strong as his mother, pale olive
of face, with the dark and crafty eyes of the cunning Indian traders, with
black hair and a body straight, strong and long in the leg for his years—apt
at the beginnings of bow, sword and spear—full of promise, if the
promise was only words and looks.
And so matters rested in the palace until Ananda had ten years and Mindon
It was the warm and sunny winter and the days were pleasant, and on a
certain day the Queen, Maya, went with her ladies to worship the Blessed
One at the Thapinyu Temple, looking down upon the swiftly flowing river.
The temple was exceedingly rich and magnificent, so gilded with pure
gold-leaf that it appeared of solid gold. And about the upper part were
golden bells beneath the jewelled knee, which wafted very sweetly in the
wind and gave forth a crystal-clear music. The ladies bore in their hands
more gold-leaf, that they might acquire merit by offering this for the
service of the Master of the Law, and indeed this temple was the offering
of the Queen herself, who, because she bore the name of the Mother of the
Lord, excelled in good works and was the Moon of this lower world in
charity and piety.
Though wan with grief and anxiety, this Queen was beautiful. Her eyes,
like mournful lakes of darkness, were lovely in the pale ivory of her
face. Her lips were nobly cut and calm, and by the favour of the Guardian
Nats, she was shaped with grace and health, a worthy mother of kings. Also
she wore her jewels like a mighty princess, a magnificence to which all
the people shikoed as she passed, folding their hands and touching the
forehead while they bowed down, kneeling.
Before the colossal image of the Holy One she made her offering and,
attended by her women, she sat in meditation, drawing consolation from the
Tranquillity above her and the silence of the shrine. This ended, the
Queen rose and did obeisance to the Lord and, retiring, paced back beneath
the White Canopy and entered the courtyard where the palace stood—a
palace of noble teakwood, brown and golden and carved like lace into
strange fantasies of spires and pinnacles and branches where Nats and Tree
Spirits and Beloos and swaying river maidens mingled and met amid fruits
and leaves and flowers in a wild and joyous confusion. The faces, the
blowing garments, whirled into points with the swiftness of the dance,
were touched with gold, and so glad was the building that it seemed as if
a very light wind might whirl it to the sky, and even the sad Queen
stopped to rejoice in its beauty as it blossomed in the sunlight.
And even as she paused, her little son Ananda rushed to meet her, pale and
panting, and flung himself into her arms with dry sobs like those of an
overrun man. She soothed him until he could speak, and then the grief made
way in a rain of tears.
"Mindon has killed my deer. He bared his knife, slit his throat and cast
him in the ditch and there he lies."
"There will he not lie long!" shouted Mindon, breaking from the palace to
the group where all were silent now. "For the worms will eat him and the
dogs pick clean his bones, and he will show his horns at his lords no
more. If you loved him, White-liver, you should have taught him better
manners to his betters."
With a stifled shriek Ananda caught the slender knife from his girdle and
flew at Mindon like a cat of the woods. Such things were done daily by
young and old, and this was a long sorrow come to a head between the boys.
Suddenly, lifting the hangings of the palace gateway, before them stood
the mother of Mindon, the Lady Dwaymenau, pale as wool, having heard the
shout of her boy, so that the two Queens faced each other, each holding
the shoulders of her son, and the ladies watched, mute as fishes, for it
was years since these two had met.
"What have you done to my son?" breathed Maya the Queen, dry in the throat
and all but speechless with passion. For indeed his face, for a child, was
"Look at his knife! What would he do to my son?" Dwaymenau was stiff with
hate and spoke as to a slave.
"He has killed my deer and mocks me because I loved him, He is the devil
in this place. Look at the devils in his eyes. Look quick before he
smiles, my mother."
And indeed, young as the boy was, an evil thing sat in either eye and
glittered upon them. Dwaymenau passed her hand across his brow, and he
smiled and they were gone.
"The beast ran at me and would have flung me with his horns," he said,
looking up brightly at his mother. "He had the madness upon him. I struck
once and he was dead. My father would have done the same.
"That would he not!" said Queen Maya bitterly. "Your father would have
crept up, fawning on the deer, and offered him the fruits he loved,
stroking him the while. And in trust the beast would have eaten, and the
poison in the fruit would have slain him. For the people of your father
meet neither man nor beast in fair fight. With a kiss they stab!"
Horror kept the women staring and silent. No one had dreamed that the
scandal had reached the Queen. Never had she spoken or looked her
knowledge but endured all in patience. Now it sprang out like a sword
among them, and they feared for Maya, whom all loved.
Mindon did not understand. It was beyond him, but he saw he was scorned.
Dwaymenau, her face rigid as a mask, looked pitilessly at the shaking
Queen, and each word dropped from her mouth, hard and cold as the falling
of diamonds. She refused the insult.
"If it is thus you speak of our lord and my love, what wonder he forsakes
you? Mother of a craven milk runs in your veins and his for blood. Take
your slinking brat away and weep together! My son and I go forth to meet
the King as he comes from hunting, and to welcome him kingly!" She caught
her boy to her with a magnificent gesture; he flung his little arm about
her, and laughing loudly they went off together.
The tension relaxed a little when they were out of sight. The women knew
that, since Dwaymenau had refused to take the Queen's meaning, she would
certainly not carry her complaint to the King. They guessed at her reason
for this forbearance, but, be that as it might, it was Certain that no
other person would dare to tell him and risk the fate that waits the
messenger of evil.
The eldest lady led away the Queen, now almost tottering in the reaction
of fear and pain. Oh, that she had controlled her speech! Not for her own
sake—for she had lost all and the beggar can lose no more—but
for the boy's sake, the unloved child that stood between the stranger and
her hopes. For him she had made a terrible enemy. Weeping, the boy
"Take comfort, little son," she said, drawing him to her tenderly. "The
deer can suffer no more. For the tigers, he does not fear them. He runs in
green woods now where there is none to hunt. He is up and away. The
Blessed One was once a deer as gentle as yours."
But still the child wept, and the Queen broke down utterly. "Oh, if life
be a dream, let us wake, let us wake!" she sobbed. "For evil things walk
in it that cannot live in the light. Or let us dream deeper and forget.
Go, little son, yet stay—for who can tell what waits us when the
King comes. Let us meet him here."
For she believed that Dwaymenau would certainly carry the tale of her
speech to the King, and, if so, what hope but death together?
That night, after the feasting, when the girls were dancing the dance of
the fairies and spirits, in gold dresses, winged on the legs and
shoulders, and high, gold-spired and pinnacled caps, the King missed the
little Prince, Ananda, and asked why he was absent.
No one answered, the women looking upon each other, until Dwaymenau,
sitting beside him, glimmering with rough pearls and rubies, spoke
smoothly: "Lord, worshipped and beloved, the two boys quarreled this day,
and Ananda's deer attacked our Mindon. He had a madness upon him and
thrust with his horns. But, Mindon, your true son, flew in upon him and in
a great fight he slit the beast's throat with the knife you gave him. Did
he not well?"
"Well," said the King briefly. "But is there no hurt? Have searched? For
he is mine."
There was arrogance in the last sentence and her proud soul rebelled, but
smoothly as ever she spoke: "I have searched and there is not the littlest
scratch. But Ananda is weeping because the deer is dead, and his mother is
angry. What should I do?"
"Nothing. Ananda is worthless and worthless let him be! And for that pale
shadow that was once a woman, let her be forgotten. And now, drink, my
And Dwaymenau drank but the drink was bitter to her, for a ghost had risen
upon her that day. She had never dreamed that such a scandal had been
spoken, and it stunned her very soul with fear, that the Queen should know
her vileness and the cheat she had put upon the King. As pure maid he had
received her, and she knew, none better, what the doom would be if his
trust were broken and he knew the child not his. She herself had seen this
thing done to a concubine who had a little offended. She was thrust living
in a sack and this hung between two earthen jars pierced with small holes,
and thus she was set afloat on the terrible river. And not till the slow
filling and sinking of the jars was the agony over and the cries for mercy
stilled. No, the Queen's speech was safe with her, but was it safe with
the Queen? For her silence, Dwaymenau must take measures.
Then she put it all aside and laughed and jested with the King and did
indeed for a time forget, for she loved him for his black-browed beauty
and his courage and royalty and the childlike trust and the man's passion
that mingled in him for her. Daily and nightly such prayers as she made to
strange gods were that she might bear a son, true son of his.
Next day, in the noonday stillness when all slept, she led her young son
by the hand to her secret chamber, and, holding him upon her knees in that
rich and golden place, she lifted his face to hers and stared into his
eyes. And so unwavering was her gaze, so mighty the hard, unblinking stare
that his own was held against it, and he stared back as the earth stares
breathless at the moon. Gradually the terror faded out of his eyes; they
glazed as if in a trance; his head fell stupidly against her bosom; his
spirit stood on the borderland of being and waited.
Seeing this, she took his palm and, molding it like wax, into the cup of
it she dropped clear fluid from a small vessel of pottery with the fylfot
upon its side and the disks of the god Shiva. And strange it was to see
that lore of India in the palace where the Blessed Law reigned in peace.
Then, fixing her eyes with power upon Mindon, she bade him, a pure child,
see for her in its clearness.
"Only virgin-pure can see!" she muttered, staring into his eyes. "See!
The eyes of Mindon were closing. He half opened them and looked dully at
his palm. His face was pinched and yellow.
"A woman—a child, on a long couch. Dead! I see!"
"See her face. Is her head crowned with the Queen's jewels? See!"
"Jewels. I cannot see her face. It is hidden."
"Why is it hidden?"
"A robe across her face. Oh, let me go!"
"And the child? See!"
"Let me go. Stop—my head—my head! I cannot see. The child is
hidden. Her arm holds it. A woman stoops above them."
"A woman? Who? Is it like me? Speak! See!"
"A woman. It is like you, mother—it is like you. I fear very
greatly. A knife—a knife! Blood! I cannot see—I cannot speak!
His face was ghastly white now, his body cold and collapsed. Terrified,
she caught him to her breast and relaxed the power of her will upon him.
For that moment, she was only the passionate mother and quaked to think
she might have hurt him. An hour passed and he slept heavily in her arms,
and in agony she watched to see the colour steal back into the olive cheek
and white lips. In the second hour he waked and stretched himself
indolently, yawning like a cat. Her tears dropped like rain upon him as
she clasped him violently to her.
He writhed himself free, petulant and spoilt. "Let me be. I hate kisses
and women's tricks. I want to go forth and play. I have had a devil's
"What did you see in your dream, prince of my heart?" She caught
frantically at the last chance.
"A deer—a tiger. I have forgotten. Let me go." He ran off and she
sat alone with her doubts and fears. Yet triumph coloured them too. She
saw a dead woman, a dead child, and herself bending above them. She hid
the vessel in her bosom and went out among her women.
Weeks passed, and never a word that she dreaded from Maya the Queen. The
women of Dwaymenau, questioning the Queen's women, heard that she seemed
to have heavy sorrow upon her. Her eyes were like dying lamps and she
faded as they. The King never entered her palace. Drowned in Dwaymenau's
wiles and beauty, her slave, her thrall, he forgot all else but his
fighting, his hunting and his long war-boats, and whether the Queen lived
or died, he cared nothing. Better indeed she should die and her place be
emptied for the beloved, without offence to her powerful kindred.
And now he was to sail upon a raid against the Shan Tsaubwa, who had
denied him tribute of gold and jewels and slaves. Glorious were the boats
prepared for war, of brown teak and gilded until they shone like gold.
Seventy men rowed them, sword and lance beside each. Warriors crowded
them, flags and banners fluttered about them; the shining water reflected
the pomp like a mirror and the air rang with song. Dwaymenau stood beside
the water with her women, bidding the King farewell, and so he saw her,
radiant in the dawn, with her boy beside her, and waved his hand to the
The ships were gone and the days languished a little at Pagan. They missed
the laughter and royalty of the King, and few men, and those old and weak,
were left in the city. The pulse of life beat slower.
And Dwaymenau took rule in the Golden Palace. Queen Maya sat like one in a
dream and questioned nothing, and Dwaymenau ruled with wisdom but none
loved her. To all she was the interloper, the witch-woman, the out-land
upstart. Only the fear of the King guarded her and her boy, but that was
strong. The boys played together sometimes, Mindon tyrannizing and cruel,
Ananda fearing and complying, broken in spirit.
Maya the Queen walked daily in the long and empty Golden Hall of Audience,
where none came now that the King was gone, pacing up and down, gazing
wearily at the carved screens and all their woodland beauty of gods that
did not hear, of happy spirits that had no pity. Like a spirit herself she
passed between the red pillars, appearing and reappearing with steps that
made no sound, consumed with hate of the evil woman that had stolen her
joy. Like a slow fire it burned in her soul, and the face of the Blessed
One was hidden from her, and she had forgotten His peace. In that
atmosphere of hate her life dwindled. Her son's dwindled also, and there
was talk among the women of some potion that Dwaymenau had been seen to
drop into his noontide drink as she went swiftly by. That might he the
gossip of malice, but he pined. His eyes were large like a young bird's;
his hands like little claws. They thought the departing year would take
him with it. What harm? Very certainly the King would shed no tear.
It was a sweet and silent afternoon and she wandered in the great and
lonely hall, sickened with the hate in her soul and her fear for her boy.
Suddenly she heard flying footsteps—a boy's, running in mad haste in
the outer hall, and, following them, bare feet, soft, thudding.
She stopped dead and every pulse cried—Danger! No time to think or
breathe when Mindon burst into sight, wild with terror and following close
beside him a man—a madman, a short bright dah in his grasp, his jaws
grinding foam, his wild eyes starting—one passion to murder. So
sometimes from the Nats comes pitiless fury, and men run mad and kill and
none knows why.
Maya the Queen stiffened to meet the danger. Joy swept through her soul;
her weariness was gone. A fierce smile showed her teeth—a smile of
hate, as she stood there and drew her dagger for defense. For defense—the
man would rend the boy and turn on her and she would not die. She would
live to triumph that the mongrel was dead, and her son, the Prince again
and his father's joy—for his heart would turn to the child most
surely. Justice was rushing on its victim. She would see it and live
content, the long years of agony wiped out in blood, as was fitting. She
would not flee; she would see it and rejoice. And as she stood in gladness—these
broken thoughts rushing through her like flashes of lightning—Mindon
saw her by the pillar and, screaming in anguish for the first time, fled
to her for refuge.
She raised her knife to meet the staring eyes, the chalk white face, and
drive him back on the murderer. If the man failed, she would not! And even
as she did this a strange thing befell. Something stronger than hate swept
her away like a leaf on the river; something primeval that lives in the
lonely pangs of childbirth, that hides in the womb and breasts of the
mother. It was stronger than she. It was not the hated Mindoin—she
saw him no more. Suddenly it was the eternal Child, lifting dying,
appealing eyes to the Woman, as he clung to her knees. She did not think
this—she felt it, and it dominated her utterly. The Woman answered.
As if it had been her own flesh and blood, she swept the panting body
behind her and faced the man with uplifted dagger and knew her victory
assured, whether in life or death. On came the horrible rush, the flaming
eyes, and, if it was chance that set the dagger against his throat, it was
cool strength that drove it home and never wavered until the blood welling
from the throat quenched the flame in the wild eyes, and she stood
triumphing like a war-goddess, with the man at her feet. Then, strong and
flushed, Maya the Queen gathered the half-dead boy in her arms, and, both
drenched with blood, they moved slowly down the hall and outside met the
hurrying crowd, with Dwaymenau, whom the scream had brought to find her
"You have killed him! She has killed him!" Scarcely could the Rajput woman
speak. She was kneeling beside him—he hideous with blood. "She hated
him always. She has murdered him. Seize her!"
"Woman, what matter your hates and mine?" the Queen said slowly. "The boy
is stark with fear. Carry him in and send for old Meh Shway Gon. Woman, be
When a Queen commands, men and women obey, and a Queen commanded then. A
huddled group lifted the child and carried him away, Dwaymenau with them,
still uttering wild threats, and the Queen was left alone.
She could not realize what she had done and left undone. She could not
understand it. She had hated, sickened with loathing, as it seemed for
ages, and now, in a moment it had blown away like a whirlwind that is
gone. Hate was washed out of her soul and had left it cool and white as
the Lotus of the Blessed One. What power had Dwaymenau to hurt her when
that other Power walked beside her? She seemed to float above her in high
air and look down upon her with compassion. Strength, virtue flowed in her
veins; weakness, fear were fantasies. She could not understand, but knew
that here was perfect enlightenment. About her echoed the words of the
Blessed One: "Never in this world doth hatred cease by hatred, but only by
love. This is an old rule."
"Whereas I was blind, now I see," said Maya the Queen slowly to her own
heart. She had grasped the hems of the Mighty.
Words cannot speak the still passion of strength and joy that possessed
her. Her step was light. As she walked, her soul sang within her, for thus
it is with those that have received the Law. About them is the Peace.
In the dawn she was told that the Queen, Dwaymenau, would speak with her,
and without a tremor she who had shaken like a leaf at that name commanded
that she should enter. It was Dwaymenau that trembled as she came into
that unknown place.
With cloudy brows and eyes that would reveal no secret, she stood before
the high seat where the Queen sat pale and majestic.
"Is it well with the boy?" the Queen asked earnestly.
"Well," said Dwaymenau, fingering the silver bosses of her girdle.
"Then—is there more to say?" The tone was that of the great lady who
courteously ends an audience. "There is more. The men brought in the body
and in its throat your dagger was sticking. And my son has told me that
your body was a shield to him. You offered your life for his. I did not
think to thank you—but I thank you." She ended abruptly and still
her eyes had never met the Queen's.
"I accept your thanks. Yet a mother could do no less."
The tone was one of dismissal but still Dwaymenau lingered.
"The dagger," she said and drew it from her bosom. On the clear, pointed
blade the blood had curdled and dried. "I never thought to ask a gift of
you, but this dagger is a memorial of my son's danger. May I keep it?"
"As you will. Here is the sheath." From her girdle she drew it—rough
silver, encrusted with rubies from the mountains.
The hand rejected it.
"Jewels I cannot take, but bare steel is a fitting gift between us two."
"As you will."
The Queen spoke compassionately, and Dwaymenau, still with veiled eyes,
was gone without fare well. The empty sheath lay on the seat—a
symbol of the sharp-edged hate that had passed out of her life. She
touched the sheath to her lips and, smiling, laid it away.
And the days went by and Dwaymenau came no more before her, and her days
were fulfilled with peace. And now again the Queen ruled in the palace
wisely and like a Queen, and this Dwaymenau did not dispute, but what her
thoughts were no man could tell.
Then came the end.
One night the city awakened to a wild alarm. A terrible fleet of war-boats
came sweeping along the river thick as locusts—the war fleet of the
Lord of Prome. Battle shouts broke the peace of the night to horror; axes
battered on the outer doors; the roofs of the outer buildings were all
aflame. It was no wonderful incident, but a common one enough of those
turbulent days—reprisal by a powerful ruler with raids and hates to
avenge on the Lord of the Golden Palace. It was indeed a right to be
gainsaid only by the strong arm, and the strong arm was absent; as for the
men of Pagan, if the guard failed and the women's courage sank, they would
return to blackened walls, empty chambers and desolation.
At Pagan the guard was small, indeed, for the King's greed of plunder had
taken almost every able man with him. Still, those who were left did what
they could, and the women, alert and brave, with but few exceptions,
gathered the children and handed such weapons as they could muster to the
men, and themselves, taking knives and daggers, helped to defend the inner
In the farthest, the Queen, having given her commands and encouraged all
with brave words, like a wise, prudent princess, sat with her son beside
her. Her duty was now to him. Loved or unloved, he was still the heir, the
root of the House tree. If all failed, she must make ransom and terms for
him, and, if they died, it must be together. He, with sparkling eyes, gay
in the danger, stood by her. Thus Dwaymenau found them.
She entered quietly and without any display of emotion and stood before
the high seat.
"Great Queen"—she used that title for the first time—"the
leader is Meng Kyinyo of Prome. There is no mercy. The end is near. Our
men fall fast, the women are fleeing. I have come to say this thing: Save
"And how?" asked the Queen, still seated. "I have no power."
"I have sent to Maung Tin, abbot of the Golden Monastery, and he has said
this thing. In the Kyoung across the river he can hide one child among the
novices. Cut his hair swiftly and put upon him this yellow robe. The time
is measured in minutes."
Then the Queen perceived, standing by the pillar, a monk of a stern, dark
presence, the creature of Dwaymenau. For an instant she pondered. Was the
woman selling the child to death? Dwaymenau spoke no word. Her face was a
mask. A minute that seemed an hour drifted by, and the yelling and shrieks
for mercy drew nearer.
"There will be pursuit," said the Queen. "They will slay him on the river.
Better here with me."
"There will be no pursuit." Dwaymenau fixed her strange eyes on the Queen
for the first time.
What moved in those eyes? The Queen could not tell. But despairing, she
rose and went to the silent monk, leading the Prince by the hand. Swiftly
he stripped the child of the silk pasoh of royalty, swiftly he cut the
long black tresses knotted on the little head, and upon the slender golden
body he set the yellow robe worn by the Lord Himself on earth, and in the
small hand he placed the begging-bowl of the Lord. And now, remote and
holy, in the dress that is of all most sacred, the Prince, standing by the
monk, turned to his mother and looked with grave eyes upon her, as the
child Buddha looked upon his Mother—also a Queen. But Dwaymenau
stood by silent and lent no help as the Queen folded the Prince in her
arms and laid his hand in the hand of the monk and saw them pass away
among the pillars, she standing still and white.
She turned to her rival. "If you have meant truly, I thank you."
"I have meant truly."
She turned to go, but the Queen caught her by the hand.
"Why have you done this?" she asked, looking into the strange eyes of the
Something like tears gathered in them for a moment, but she brushed them
away as she said hurriedly:
"I was grateful. You saved my son. Is it not enough?"
"No, not enough!" cried the Queen. "There is more. Tell me, for death is
"His footsteps are near," said the Indian. "I will speak. I love my lord.
In death I will not cheat him. What you have known is true. My child is no
child of his. I will not go down to death with a lie upon my lips. Come
Dwaymenau was no more. Sundari, the Indian woman, awful and calm, led the
Queen down the long ball and into her own chamber, where Mindon, the
child, slept a drugged sleep. The Queen felt that she had never known her;
she herself seemed diminished in stature as she followed the stately
figure, with its still, dark face. Into this room the enemy were breaking,
shouldering their way at the door—a rabble of terrible faces. Their
fury was partly checked when only a sleeping child and two women
confronted them, but their leader, a grim and evil-looking man, strode
from the huddle.
"Where is the son of the King?" he shouted. "Speak, women! Whose is this
Sundari laid her hand upon her son's shoulder. Not a muscle of her face
"This is his son."
"His true son—the son of Maya the Queen?"
"His true son, the son of Maya the Queen."
"Not the younger—the mongrel?"
"The younger—the mongrel died last week of a fever."
Every moment of delay was precious. Her eyes saw only a monk and a boy
fleeing across the wide river.
"Which is Maya the Queen?"
"This," said Sundari. "She cannot speak. It is her son—the Prince."
Maya had veiled her face with her hands. Her brain swam, but she
understood the noble lie. This woman could love. Their lord would not be
left childless. Thought beat like pulses in her—raced along her
veins. She held her breath and was dumb.
His doubt was assuaged and the lust of vengeance was on him—a
madness seized the man. But even his own wild men shrank back a moment,
for to slay a sleeping child in cold blood is no man's work.
"You swear it is the Prince. But why? Why do you not lie to save him if
you are the King's woman?"
"Because his mother has trampled me to the earth. I am the Indian woman—the
mother of the younger, who is dead and safe. She jeered at me—she
mocked me. It is time I should see her suffer. Suffer now as I have
suffered, Maya the Queen!"
This was reasonable—this was like the women he had known. His doubt
was gone—he laughed aloud.
"Then feed full of vengeance!" he cried, and drove his knife through the
For a moment Sundari wavered where she stood, but she held herself and was
rigid as the dead.
"Tha-du! Well done!" she said with an awful smile. "The tree is broken,
the roots cut. And now for us women—our fate, O master?"
"Wait here," he answered. "Let not a hair of their heads be touched. Both
are fair. The two for me. For the rest draw lots when all is done."
The uproar surged away. The two stood by the dead boy. So swift had been
his death that he lay as though he still slept—the black lashes
pressed upon his cheek.
With the heredity of their different races upon them, neither wept. But
silently the Queen opened her arms; wide as a woman that entreats she
opened them to the Indian Queen, and speechlessly the two clung together.
For a while neither spoke.
"My sister!" said Maya the Queen. And again, "O great of heart!"
She laid her cheek against Sundari's, and a wave of solemn joy seemed to
break in her soul and flood it with life and light.
"Had I known sooner!" she said. "For now the night draws on."
"What is time?" answered the Rajput woman. "We stand before the Lords of
Life and Death. The life you gave was yours, and I am unworthy to kiss the
feet of the Queen. Our lord will return and his son is saved. The House
can be rebuilt. My son and I were waifs washed up from the sea. Another
wave washes us back to nothingness. Tell him my story and he will loathe
"My lips are shut," said the Queen. "Should I betray my sister's honour?
When he speaks of the noble women of old, your name will be among them.
What matters which of us he loves and remembers? Your soul and mine have
seen the same thing, and we are one. But I—what have I to do with
life? The ship and the bed of the conqueror await us. Should we await
them, my sister?"
The bright tears glittered in the eyes of Sundari at the tender name and
the love in the face of the Queen. At last she accepted it.
"My sister, no," she said, and drew from her bosom the dagger of Maya,
with the man's blood rusted upon it. "Here is the way. I have kept this
dagger in token of my debt. Nightly have I kissed it, swearing that, when
the time came, I would repay my debt to the great Queen. Shall I go first
or follow, my sister?"
Her voice lingered on the word. It was precious to her. It was like clear
water, laying away the stain of the shameful years.
"Your arm is strong," answered the Queen. "I go first. Because the King's
son is safe, I bless you. For your love of the King, I love you. And here,
standing on the verge of life, I testify that the words of the Blessed One
are truth—that love is All; that hatred is Nothing."
She bared the breast that this woman had made desolate—that, with
the love of this woman, was desolate ho longer, and, stooping, laid her
hand on the brow of Mindon. Once more they embraced, and then, strong and
true, and with the Rajput passion behind the blow, the stroke fell and
Sundari had given her sister the crowning mercy of deliverance. She laid
the body beside her own son, composing the stately limbs, the quiet
eyelids, the black lengths of hair into majesty. So, she thought, in the
great temple of the Rajput race, the Mother Goddess shed silence and awe
upon her worshippers. The two lay like mother and son—one slight
hand of the Queen she laid across the little body as if to guard it.
Her work done, she turned to the entrance and watched the dawn coming
glorious over the river. The men shouted and quarreled in the distance,
but she heeded them no more than the chattering of apes. Her heart was
away over the distance to the King, but with no passion now: so might a
mother have thought of her son. He was sleeping, forgetful of even her in
his dreams. What matter? She was glad at heart. The Queen was dearer to
her than the King—so strange is life; so healing is death. She
remembered without surprise that she had asked no forgiveness of the Queen
for all the cruel wrongs, for the deadly intent—had made no
confession. Again what matter? What is forgiveness when love is all?
She turned from the dawn-light to the light in the face of the Queen. It
was well. Led by such a hand, she could present herself without fear
before the Lords of Life and Death—she and the child. She smiled.
Life is good, but death, which is more life, is better. The son of the
King was safe, but her own son safer.
When the conqueror reentered the chamber, he found the dead Queen guarding
the dead child, and across her feet, as not worthy to lie beside her, was
the body of the Indian woman, most beautiful in death.