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silver, among the trees near their home. Its shining body, its jewel-like horns, so captivated her fancy that she implored Rama, if possible, to take it alive for her; if not, at least to bring her its skin for a couch. As Rama departed, he warned Lakshmana not to leave Sita for one moment; he would surely return, since no weapon could harm him. In the depths of the forest the fawn fell by his arrow, crying as it fell, “O Sita! O Lakshmana!” in Rama's very tones.
When Sita heard the cry she reproached Lakshmana for not going to his brother's aid, until he left her to escape her bitter words. He had no sooner disappeared in the direction of the cry than a hermit appeared and asked her to minister unto his wants.
Sita carried him food, bathed his feet, and conversed with him until, able no longer to conceal his admiration for her, he revealed himself in his true form as the demon god of Ceylon.
When she indignantly repulsed him he seized her, and mounting his chariot drove rapidly towards Ceylon.
When Rama and Lakshmana returned home, soon after, they found the house empty. As they searched through the forest for traces of her they found a giant vulture dying from wounds received while endeavoring to rescue the shrieking Sita. Going farther, they encountered the monkey king Sugriva and his chiefs, among whom Sita had dropped from the chariot her scarf and ornaments.
Sugriva had been deposed from his kingdom by his brother Bali, who had also taken his wife from him. Rama agreed to conquer Bali if Sugriva would assist in the search for Sita; and, the agreement made, they at once marched upon Kishkindha, together slew Bali, and gained possession of the wealthy city and the queen Tara. They were now ready to search for the lost Sita.
In his quest through every land, Hanuman, the monkey general, learned from the king of the vultures that she had been carried to Ceylon. He immediately set out for the coast with his army, only to find a bridgeless ocean stretching between them and the island. Commanding his soldiers to remain where they were, Hanuman expanded his body to enormous proportions, leaped the vast expanse of water, and alighted upon a mountain, from which he could look down upon Lanka, the capital city of Ceylon. Perceiving the city to be closely guarded, he assumed the form of a cat, and thus, unsuspected, crept through the barriers and examined the city. He found the demon god in his apartments, surrounded by beautiful women, but Sita was not among them. Continuing his search, he at last discovered her, her beauty dimmed by grief, seated under a tree in a beautiful asoka grove, guarded by hideous rakshasas with the faces of buffaloes, dogs, and swine.
Assuming the form of a tiny monkey, Hanuman crept down the tree, and giving her the ring of Rama, took one from her. He offered to carry her away with him, but Sita declared that Rama must himself come to her rescue. While they were talking together, the demon god appeared, and, after fruitless wooing, announced that if Sita did not yield herself to him in two months he would have her guards “mince her limbs with steel” for his morning repast.
In his rage, Hanuman destroyed a mango grove and was captured by the demon's guards, who were ordered to set his tail on fire. As soon as this was done, Hanuman made himself so small that he slipped from his bonds, and, jumping upon the roofs, spread a conflagration through the city of Lanka.
He leaped back to the mainland, conveyed the news of Sita's captivity to Rama and Sugriva, and was soon engaged in active preparations for the campaign.
As long as the ocean was unbridged it was impossible for any one save Hanuman to cross it. In his anger at being so thwarted, Rama turned his weapons against it, until from the terrified waves rose the god of the ocean, who promised him that if Nala built a bridge, the waves should support the materials as firmly as though it were built on land.
Terror reigned in Lanka at the news of the approach of Rama. Vibishana, Ravana's brother, deserted to Rama, because of the demon's rage when he advised him to make
peace with Rama. Fiercely fought battles ensued, in which even the gods took part, Vishnu and Indra taking sides with Rama, and the evil spirits fighting with Ravana.
After the war had been carried on for some time, with varying results, it was decided to determine it by single combat between Ravana and Rama. Then even the gods were terrified at the fierceness of the conflict. At each shot Rama's mighty bow cut off a head of the demon, which at once grew back, and the hero was in despair until he remembered the all-powerful arrow given him by Brahma.
As the demon fell by this weapon, flowers rained from heaven upon the happy victor, and his ears were ravished with celestial music.
Touched by the grief of Ravana's widows, Rama ordered his foe a splendid funeral, and then sought the conquered city.
Sita was led forth, beaming with happiness at finding herself re-united to her husband; but her happiness was destined to be of short duration. Rama received her with coldness and with downcast eyes, saying that she could no longer be his wife, after having dwelt in the zenana of the demon. Sita assured him of her innocence; but on his continuing to revile her, she ordered her funeral pyre to be built, since she would rather die by fire than live despised by Rama. The sympathy of all the bystanders was with Sita, but Rama saw her enter the flames without a tremor. Soon Agni, the god of fire, appeared, bearing the uninjured Sita in his arms. Her innocence thus publicly proved by the trial by fire, she was welcomed by Rama, whose treatment she tenderly forgave.
The conquest made, the demon destroyed, and Sita restored, Rama returned in triumph to Ayodhya, and assumed the government. The city was prosperous, the people were happy, and for a time all went well. It was not long, however, before whispers concerning Sita's long abode in Ceylon spread abroad, and some one whispered to Rama that a famine in the country was due to the guilt of Sita, who had suffered the caresses of the demon while in
captivity in Ceylon. Forgetful of the trial by fire, forgetful of Sita's devotion to him through weal and woe, the ungrateful Rama immediately ordered her to the forest in which they had spent together the happy years of their exile.
Without a murmur the unhappy Sita, alone and unbefriended, dragged herself to the forest, and, torn with grief of body and spirit, found the hermitage of Valmiki, where she gave birth to twin sons, Lava and Kuça. Here she reared them, with the assistance of the hermit, who was their teacher, and under whose care they grew to manhood, handsome and strong.
It chanced about the time the youths were twenty years old, that Rama, who had grown peevish and disagreeable with age, began to think the gods were angered with him because he had killed Ravana, who was the son of a Brahman. Determined to propitiate them by means of the great sacrifice, he caused a horse to be turned loose in the forest. When his men went to retake it, at the end of the year, it was caught by two strong and beautiful youths who resisted all efforts to capture them. In his rage Rama went to the forest in person, only to learn that the youths were his twin sons, Lava and Kuça. Struck with remorse, Rama recalled the sufferings of his wife Sita, and on learning that she was at the hermitage of Valmiki, ordered her to come to him, that he might take her to him again, having first caused her to endure the trial by fire to prove her innocence to all his court.
Sita had had time to recover from the love of her youth, and the prospect of life with Rama, without the couleur de rose of youthful love, was not altogether pleasant. At first, she even refused to see him ; but finally, moved by the appeals of Valmiki and his wife, she clad herself in her richest robes, and, young and beautiful as when first won by Rama, she stood before him. Not deigning to look in his face, she appealed to the earth. If she had never loved any man but Rama, if her truth and purity were known to the earth, let it open its bosom and take her to it. While the armies stood trembling with horror, the earth opened, a gorgeous throne appeared, and the goddess of earth, seated upon it, took Sita beside her and conveyed her to the realms of eternal happiness, leaving the too late repentant Rama to wear out his remaining years in shame and penitence.
SELECTIONS FROM THE RAMAYANA.
The Descent OF THE GANGES.
SAGARA, an early king of Ayodhya, had sixty thousand sons, whom he sent out one day to recover a horse that had been designed for the great sacrifice, but had been stolen by a rakshasa. Having searched the earth unsuccessfully, they proceeded to dig into the lower regions.
Cloven with shovel and with hoe, pierced by axes and by spades,
At last they reach the place where Vishnu appears with the horse. A flame issues from the mouth of the indignant deity and destroys the six myriad sons of Sagara. The adventure devolves on their brother Ansuman, who achieves it with perfect success. He is permitted to lead away the horse,