3 DECEMBER 1904, Page 7

STORIES FROM INDIA.* traditions, and tales which Miss Festing has

collected in this volume with those which other writers have gathered from Homer, Hesiod, and Herodotus. There is sufficient resem- blance to justify the comparison, nor are there wanting curious coincidences which remind us of the variants of folk-lore. But there is a difference of tone which can hardly fail to strike the reader. It is not too much to say that the whole collection reeks with blood. It is true that we are so accustomed from early years to the Greek stories that we scarcely notice the "seamy side" of them. We do not think of the flight of Helen of Troy with Paris in its moral aspect; it is the beginning of a highly

picturesque legend. The continuous blood-shedding which makes up the action of the Iliad excites no horror, and even

the slaughter of the suitors which forms the deno/ament of the Odyssey is regarded as nothing but a righteous retribu- tion. Yet when this allowance is made the difference remains. Among Miss Festing's stories are three which bear respectively the title of the" First," the "Second," and the "Third Sack of Chitor." We do not know of any parallel to this in Greek history.

Thebes was sacked, it is true, but it was by a semi-barbarian foe ; but Athens was spared, after years of provocation, by victorious Sparta. But certainly there is nothing in the annals of Hellas to match the horror of the following (" The First Sack of Chitor"). This is how the Rajputs "placed their women in safety" :—

" Beneath the royal palace are said to be vaults and caverns stretching far down into the earth. Hither the Rana's men brought brushwood and logs and jars of oil, and heaped huge funeral pyres. When all was ready the people of Chitor watched a long procession filing down to the gate of the vaults. All the women of Chitor, from the chief Rani herself to the wives and daughters of the poorest of the defenders, in their holiday array, covered with all their jewels, walked in that procession; and among them was Pudmani, who, all unwillingly, had brought the * From the Land of Princes. By Gabrielle resting. With a Preface by Sir George Birdwood. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. [Cs.] Even the stories of Saguntum and Carthage do not match this horror. Then there is the not unfrequent occurrence of parricide. The most gloomy of Greek tragedies turns on the unconscious slaying of Laius by his son Oedipus ; but what is this to the "Story of the Sons of Ajit " ? Here, too, we have a doom of fate, for Ajit, when on his way to fetch home his bride, finds on his road two lions, one sleeping, the other awake, showing, as his soothsayer tells him, that his wife should bear him two sons, one a sluggard, the other a mighty warrior. In course of time the two sons are born, and they murder their father. The elder of them succeeds to the throne, and, says the historian, "if the means by which Abhye Singh reached the throne could ever have been forgotten, he might have been written down among the best of the rulers of Marwar." Clearly the crime put no ban upon him, as it would have done in any Greek State. Compare with this the remorse of Timoleon for having stood by while his companions slew his brother Timophanes, though the deed was done to save Corinth from tyranny. Strange to say, the mother of the two parricides was thought to have exaggerated her feeling of wifely duty because she preferred to die on the pyre of her husband to "living for her sons." Manifestly, the Greek and the Rajput ethical sense were on different planes.

It will be seen from what has been said that From the Land of Princes is somewhat strong meat, and is not to be put into young hands without discrimination. But there are some fine things in it. Among the best is the story of Udai Singh, which Sir Edwin Arnold adapted in one of his best efforts, "A Rajput Nurse." Punna —this was the woman's name—shows the murderers who had slain the father, and were seeking the son, her own child in place of the Prince. In the poem she kills herself ; in the story she completes her task in a less dramatic but more pathetic fashion. She carries the child, who had been taken out of the palace by the barber, from the dry river-bed where he was laid, over the hills. Rejected by one chieftain to whom she applies for relief, she finds her way to the house of Assa Sah, a Jain. Assa Sah was afraid,—why should he come into conflict with the usurper ? But his mother persuades him, and he undertakes the care of the child, who is to pass as his nephew. And now comes in the real tragedy of the story. Punna, a Rajput woman, cannot be nurse to a Jain child, and she has to go back to her desolate home.

Miss Festing has done her work well, and it is not her fault that her stories have so often a sombre hue.