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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 htee, 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 ghastly.
"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 followed her.
"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."
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck