: The Lilac Fairy Book
Once upon a time there was a youth called Moti, who was very big
and strong, but the clumsiest creature you can imagine. So clumsy
was he that he was always putting his great feet into the bowls
of sweet milk or curds which his mother set out on the floor to
cool, always smashing, upsetting, breaking, until at last his
father said to him:
'Here, Moti, are fifty silver pieces which are the savings of
years; take them and go and make your living or your fortune if
Then Moti started off one early spring morning with his thick
staff over his shoulder, singing gaily to himself as he walked
In one way and another he got along very well until a hot evening
when he came to a certain city where he entered the travellers'
'serai' or inn to pass the night. Now a serai, you must know, is
generally just a large square enclosed by a high wall with an
open colonnade along the inside all round to accommodate both men
and beasts, and with perhaps a few rooms in towers at the corners
for those who are too rich or too proud to care about sleeping by
their own camels and horses. Moti, of course, was a country lad
and had lived with cattle all his life, and he wasn't rich and he
wasn't proud, so he just borrowed a bed from the innkeeper, set
it down beside an old buffalo who reminded him of home, and in
five minutes was fast asleep.
In the middle of the night he woke, feeling that he had been
disturbed, and putting his hand under his pillow found to his
horror that his bag of money had been stolen. He jumped up
quietly and began to prowl around to see whether anyone seemed to
be awake, but, though he managed to arouse a few men and beasts
by falling over them, he walked in the shadow of the archways
round the whole serai without coming across a likely thief. He
was just about to give it up when he overheard two men
whispering, and one laughed softly, and peering behind a pillar,
he saw two Afghan horsedealers counting out his bag of money!
Then Moti went back to bed!
In the morning Moti followed the two Afghans outside the city to
the horsemarket in which they horses were offered for sale.
Choosing the best-looking horse amongst them he went up to it and
'Is this horse for sale? may I try it?' and, the merchants
assenting, he scrambled up on its back, dug in his heels, and off
they flew. Now Moti had never been on a horse in his life, and
had so much ado to hold on with both hands as well as with both
legs that the animal went just where it liked, and very soon
broke into a break-neck gallop and made straight back to the
serai where it had spent the last few nights.
'This will do very well,' thought Moti as they whirled in at the
entrance. As soon as the horse had arrived at its table it
stopped of its own accord and Moti immediately rolled off; but he
jumped up at once, tied the beast up, and called for some
breakfast. Presently the Afghans appeared, out of breath and
furious, and claimed the horse.
'What do you mean?' cried Moti, with his mouth full of rice,
'it's my horse; I paid you fifty pieces of silver for it--quite a
bargain, I'm sure!'
'Nonsense! it is our horse,' answered one of the Afghans
beginning to untie the bridle.
'Leave off,' shouted Moti, seizing his staff; 'if you don't let
my horse alone I'll crack your skulls! you thieves! I know you!
Last night you took my money, so to-day I took your horse; that's
Now the Afghans began to look a little uncomfortable, but Moti
seemed so determined to keep the horse that they resolved to
appeal to the law, so they went off and laid a complaint before
the king that Moti had stolen one of their horses and would not
give it up nor pay for it.
Presently a soldier came to summon Moti to the king; and, when he
arrived and made his obeisance, the king began to question him as
to why he had galloped off with the horse in this fashion. But
Moti declared that he had got the animal in exchange for fifty
pieces of silver, whilst the horse merchants vowed that the money
they had on them was what they had received for the sale of other
horses; and in one way and another the dispute got so confusing
that the king (who really thought that Moti had stolen the horse)
said at last, 'Well, I tell you what I will do. I will lock
something into this box before me, and if he guesses what it is,
the horse is his, and if he doesn't then it is yours.'
To this Moti agreed, and the king arose and went out alone by a
little door at the back of the Court, and presently came back
clasping something closely wrapped up in a cloth under his robe,
slipped it into the little box, locked the box, and set it up
where all might see.
'Now,' said the king to Moti, 'guess!'
It happened that when the king had opened the door behind him,
Moti noticed that there was a garden outside: without waiting for
the king's return he began to think what could be got out of the
garden small enough to be shut in the box. 'Is it likely to be a
fruit or a flower? No, not a flower this time, for he clasped it
too tight. Then it must be a fruit or a stone. Yet not a stone,
because he wouldn't wrap a dirty stone in his nice clean cloth.
Then it is a fruit! And a fruit without much scent, or else he
would be afraid that I might smell it. Now what fruit without
much scent is in season just now? When I know that I shall have
guessed the riddle!'
As has been said before, Moti was a country lad, and was
accustomed to work in his father's garden. He knew all the common
fruits, so he thought he ought to be able to guess right; but so
as not to let it seem too easy, he gazed up at the ceiling with a
puzzled expression, and looked down at the floor with an air or
wisdom and his fingers pressed against his forehead, and then he
said, slowly, with his eyes on the king,--
'It is freshly plucked! It is round and it is red! It is a
Now the king knew nothing about fruits except that they were good
to eat; and, as for seasons, he asked for whatever fruit he
wanted whenever he wanted it, and saw that he got it; so to him
Moti's guess was like a miracle, and clear proof not only of his
wisdom but of his innocence, for it was a pomegranate that he had
put into the box. Of course when the king marvelled and praised
Moti's wisdom, everybody else did so too; and, whilst the Afghans
went off crestfallen, Moti took the horse and entered the king's
Very soon after this, Moti, who continued to live in the serai,
came back one wet and stormy evening to find that his precious
horse had strayed. Nothing remained of him but a broken halter
cord, and no one knew what had become of him. After inquiring of
everyone who was likely to know, Moti seized the cord and his big
staff and sallied out to look for him. Away and away he tramped
out of the city and into the neighbouring forest, tracking hoof-
marks in the mud. Presently it grew late, but still Moti wandered
on until suddenly in the gathering darkness he came right upon a
tiger who was contentedly eating his horse.
'You thief!' shrieked Moti, and ran up and, just as the tiger, in
astonishment, dropped a bone--whack! came Moti's staff on his
head with such good will that the beast was half stunned and
could hardly breathe or see. Then Moti continued to shower upon
him blows and abuse until the poor tiger could hardly stand,
whereupon his tormentor tied the end of the broken halter round
his neck and dragged him back to the serai.
'If you had my horse,' he said, 'I will at least have you, that's
fair enough!' And he tied him up securely by the head and heels,
much as he used to tie the horse; then, the night being far gone,
he flung himself beside him and slept soundly.
You cannot imagine anything like the fright of the people in the
serai, when they woke up and found a tiger--very battered but
still a tiger--securely tethered amongst themselves and their
beasts! Men gathered in groups talking and exclaiming, and
finding fault with the innkeeper for allowing such a dangerous
beast into the serai, and all the while the innkeeper was just as
troubled as the rest, and none dared go near the place where the
tiger stood blinking miserably on everyone, and where Moti lay
stretched out snoring like thunder.
At last news reached the king that Moti had exchanged his horse
for a live tiger; and the monarch himself came down, half
disbelieving the tale, to see if it were really true. Someone at
last awaked Moti with the news that his royal master was come;
and he arose yawning, and was soon delightedly explaining and
showing off his new possession. The king, however, did not share
his pleasure at all, but called up a soldier to shoot the tiger,
much to the relief of all the inmates of the serai except Moti.
If the king, however, was before convinced that Moti was one of
the wisest of men, he was now still more convinced that he was
the bravest, and he increased his pay a hundredfold, so that our
hero thought that he was the luckiest of men.
A week or two after this incident the king sent for Moti, who on
arrival found his master in despair. A neighbouring monarch, he
explained, who had many more soldiers than he, had declared war
against him, and he was at his wits' end, for he had neither
money to buy him off nor soldiers enough to fight him--what was
he to do?
'If that is all, don't you trouble,' said Moti. 'Turn out your
men, and I'll go with them, and we'll soon bring this robber to
The king began to revive at these hopeful words, and took Moti
off to his stable where he bade him choose for himself any horse
he liked. There were plenty of fine horses in the stalls, but to
the king's astonishment Moti chose a poor little rat of a pony
that was used to carry grass and water for the rest of the
'But why do you choose that beast?' said the king.
'Well, you see, your majesty,' replied Moti, 'there are so many
chances that I may fall off, and if I choose one of your fine big
horses I shall have so far to fall that I shall probably break my
leg or my arm, if not my neck, but if I fall off this little
beast I can't hurt myself much.'
A very comical sight was Moti when he rode out to the war. The
only weapon he carried was his staff, and to help him to keep his
balance on horseback he had tied to each of his ankles a big
stone that nearly touched the ground as he sat astride the little
pony. The rest of the king's cavalry were not very numerous, but
they pranced along in armour on fine horses. Behind them came a
great rabble of men on foot armed with all sorts of weapons, and
last of all was the king with his attendants, very nervous and
ill at ease. So the army started.
They had not very far to go, but Moti's little pony, weighted
with a heavy man and two big rocks, soon began to lag behind the
cavalry, and would have lagged behind the infantry too, only they
were not very anxious to be too early in the fight, and hung back
so as to give Moti plenty of time. The young man jogged along
more and more slowly for some time, until at last, getting
impatient at the slowness of the pony, he gave him such a
tremendous thwack with his staff that the pony completely lost
his temper and bolted. First one stone became untied and rolled
away in a cloud of dust to one side of the road, whilst Moti
nearly rolled off too, but clasped his steed valiantly by its
ragged mane, and, dropping his staff, held on for dear life.
Then, fortunately the other rock broke away from his other leg
and rolled thunderously down a neighbouring ravine. Meanwhile the
advanced cavalry had barely time to draw to one side when Moti
came dashing by, yelling bloodthirsty threats to his pony:
'You wait till I get hold of you! I'll skin you alive! I'll wring
your neck! I'll break every bone in your body!' The cavalry
thought that this dreadful language was meant for the enemy, and
were filled with admiration of his courage. Many of their horses
too were quite upset by this whirlwind that galloped howling
through their midst, and in a few minutes, after a little
plunging and rearing and kicking, the whole troop were following
on Moti's heels.
Far in advance, Moti continued his wild career. Presently in his
course he came to a great field of castor-oil plants, ten or
twelve feet high, big and bushy, but quite green and soft. Hoping
to escape from the back of his fiery steed Moti grasped one in
passing, but its roots gave way, and he dashed on, with the whole
plant looking like a young tree flourishing in his grip.
The enemy were in battle array, advancing over the plain, their
king with them confident and cheerful, when suddenly from the
front came a desperate rider at a furious gallop.
'Sire!' he cried, 'save yourself! the enemy are coming!'
'What do you mean?' said the king.
'Oh, sire!' panted the messenger, 'fly at once, there is no time
to lose. Foremost of the enemy rides a mad giant at a furious
gallop. He flourishes a tree for a club and is wild with anger,
for as he goes he cries, "You wait till I get hold of you! I'll
skin you alive! I'll wring your neck! I'll break every bone in
your body!" Others ride behind, and you will do well to retire
before this whirlwind of destruction comes upon you.'
Just then out of a cloud of dust in the distance the king saw
Moti approaching at a hard gallop, looking indeed like a giant
compared with the little beast he rode, whirling his castor-oil
plant, which in the distance might have been an oak tree, and the
sound of his revilings and shoutings came down upon the breeze!
Behind him the dust cloud moved to the sound of the thunder of
hoofs, whilst here and there flashed the glitter of steel. The
sight and the sound struck terror into the king, and, turning his
horse, he fled at top speed, thinking that a regiment of yelling
giants was upon him; and all his force followed him as fast as
they might go. One fat officer alone could not keep up on foot
with that mad rush, and as Moti came galloping up he flung
himself on the ground in abject fear. This was too much for
Moti's excited pony, who shied so suddenly that Moti went flying
over his head like a sky rocket, and alighted right on the top of
his fat foe.
Quickly regaining his feet Moti began to swing his plant round
his head and to shout:
'Where are your men? Bring them up and I'll kill them. My
regiments! Come on, the whole lot of you! Where's your king?
Bring him to me. Here are all my fine fellows coming up and we'll
each pull up a tree by the roots and lay you all flat and your
houses and towns and everything else! Come on!'
But the poor fat officer could do nothing but squat on his knees
with his hands together, gasping. At last, when he got his
breath, Moti sent him off to bring his king, and to tell him that
if he was reasonable his life should be spared. Off the poor man
went, and by the time the troops of Moti's side had come up and
arranged themselves to look as formidable as possible, he
returned with his king. The latter was very humble and
apologetic, and promised never to make war any more, to pay a
large sum of money, and altogether do whatever his conqueror
So the armies on both sides went rejoicing home, and this was
really the making of the fortune of clumsy Moti, who lived long
and contrived always to be looked up to as a fountain of wisdom,
valour, and discretion by all except his relations, who could
never understand what he had done to be considered so much wiser
than anyone else.
A Pushto Story.