Frederick Parker-Rhodes 1914 - 1987 My father told us these stories while he washed up, and my brothers and I dried and put away. I think some were actually at bathtime. When I, the youngest, asked for a story just for me, Daddy would ask, What about? I asked for one about a Princess, and fairy godmothers stories. They are listed in the Archive, below. If you have anything he has written, or about him to share, it's most welcome.
Friday, October 3, 2008
THE DIAMOND ANKLETS
“Which diamond anklets?” said Dhrattatal, because she had lots of them.
“My best ones”, she cried. “They were worth £492, not counting £717 sentimental value because dear Bhashmi gave them to me.”
“Oh dear, we’ll never find them, we went over miles and miles of country. I’ll give you £492 to buy a new pair.”
“But” wailed Khipit “they won’t be the ones poor Bhashmi gave me.”
“Well, I’ll make it £492 and £717, let me see yess that’s, that’ll be um about yes, £1209.”
“As if it were a matter of mere arithmetic!” Khipit sobbed.
Well, there was nothing for it but Dhrattatal had to organise a search. He sent for his confidential servant Dhuital and said “Organise a search.” So Dhuital bowed, and said “The anklets will be found in six hours.” After six hours he came back to say he’d meant days. After six weeks he reported that he was sorry, but they could not be found anywhere within 25 miles. “If I may advise you Sir, I should consult the hermit Ghoshaima Mahvil; his occult powers are something chronic, by all accounts.” At a loss to know what else to do (Khipit was still whining once a day) Dhrattatal agreed. So he set out, accompanied only by Dhuital. Ghoshaima Mahvil lived, as most hermits do, in a very inaccessible spot, near the top of a high mountain on the other side of a large forest. It took them several days to get there, but Dhrattatal enjoyed every moment of it, because Khipit wasn’t there whining about her anklets. When at last they reached the hermit’s cave Dhrattatal entered, bowed low, and said “Will your holiness grant a boon?”
“Such as what?” said the hermit. Then Dhrattatal explained, and the hermit was most sympathetic and he’d see what he could do. After going into a trance for a couple of hours, he opened his eyes and said “Can you shoot with a bow?”
“Of course I can.” said Dhrattatal.
“Well,” replied the hermit, “take this white arrow, go up to the very top of this mountain, and shoot. Where the arrow falls, either you will find the anklets, or some information to help you in your search.”
Dhrattatal was duly grateful, and took the arrow, and went to the top of the mountain. Dhuital however trod on the begging bowl which the hermit had stupidly left in the doorway, and felt obliged to leave in it a small purse of gold, which they had brought in case of accidents. When they got to the top, Dhrattatal set the arrow to the bow, and was about to shoot, when he felt himself slewed round by an unseen force. Recognising it immediately as one if the hermit’s Occult Powers at work, he faced in the direction indicated, and let fly. The arrow fell among the trees beneath them. Neither of them could see where it was, but started down the hillside, hoping to come across it. Sure enough, they did. It seemed to be sticking in a tree, but on closer inspection there was an old man sitting under the tree, and the arrow had transfixed his hat. “I beg your pardon” said Dhrattatal, “I think that is my arrow.”
“Ho no it aint” said the old man”, that belongs to that old fraud Ghoshaima Mahvil.” Then Dhrattatal had to explain everything. “Well,” said the old man “you shouldn’t have gone to ’im, ’e’s ’opeless ’e is. Now I know of a real ’oly ’ermit, I do.” Then he told them how to get to this hermit’s cell. It was at the top of an even higher mountain, even further away. Before they set off the old man offered Dhrattatal the arrow, but he politely declined. Had he known that it had the property of striking anybody dumb, he might not have been so hasty.
When they reached the other hermit’s cell they were very tired, but Dhrattatal insisted that they go straight in. Having stated their business, the hermit made no delay, but hung himself up by his feet from a bracket in the wall and went into a trance. After twenty minutes he said in a hollow voice “Can you shoot?”
“Yes.” said Dhrattatal.
“Then take this white arrow, and go to the very top of the mountain and shoot it. Where it lands you find what you are seeking, or at least a useful clue.”
“Thank you kindly.” said Dhrattatal, and did that.
This time the arrow turned round sharply in the air, and followed after a large stag that was bounding over the rocks. When it caught him up, it balanced itself neatly between his antlers, and the stag ran on.
“Oh bother,” said Dhrattatal, “we’ll have to run.”
“You shall run, and I shall watch to see that you go the right way.” Said Dhrattatal. So Dhuital set off. He immediately tripped over, and noticed that inexplicably the hermit’s two begging bowls had got in his way. Having filled them (both, to make sure), he set off after the stag. The stag however ran in a circle to where Dhrattatal was sitting, and nudged him with his antlers till he got up, and then chased him on and on for miles and miles till at long last they came to yet another hermit’s cell. Only then did Dhrattatal look round and observe that Dhuital had managed to get on the stag’s back. He would have said a piece of his mind if the hermit hadn’t been listening. Instead he bowed low and stated once more his request. The hermit promptly lay down on a bed of nails and closed his eyes.
“What’s the betting” said Dhuital in a hoarse whisper, “that he says ‘take this white arrow..’? the hermit opened one eye and said “I see you are a high Initiate of our Order”
“Oh no, don’t mention it.” said Dhuital.
“Ah, but I must” said the hermit “not to do so would be a discourtesy having the most malign consequences. Reverend Sir, I cannot immediately divine the deep subtlety which has prevented you from offering the White Arrow yourself to your client, but since you deign to make the request to me, I reverently grant it.” With which speech he passed over another white arrow.
Dhrattatal took it, climbed the hill, and wearily shot it once more. This time it sped forward horizontally without any slackening of speed or loss of height, until it rapidly disappeared in the distance. “That’s torn it!” said Dhuital “Try again with the one the stag had.”
“That would never do, I’m sure.” said Dhrattatal, though he didn’t really know why. As a matter of fact, had he known that that arrow had the power of turning the first woman it touched into a pillar of salt, he might have thought differently. Anyway, they left it, and went off vaguely in the direction the arrow had gone, and presently being overtaken by darkness, they lay down to sleep.
When they awoke, they were surprised to find a large eagle perching with one foot on each of their heads. Looking closer, they saw that the bird had in it’s beak an arrow, a white one. A still closer look showed that the arrow had fixed to it a large piece of paper. This proved to be a map of the vicinity, with a large X at the summit of a particularly high and steep mountain. “A clue,” said Dhrattatal, “let’s go and see what’s there.”
“I know perfectly well what we’ll find,” said Dhuital “another beastly old hermit in a nasty dirty cell.”
“Don’t be disrespectful to holy men.” said Dhrattatal, who didn’t feel any less so himself. Well, they went on and on and up and up and about midday arrived at the top of the mountain. Sure enough there was wooden hut. Dhrattatal knocked at the door.
“What do you want?” said a testy voice.
“Please can you lend me a white arrow?” said Dhrattatal. Immediately a white arrow was thrown out of the door. Dhrattatal picked it up and didn’t even bother to go the very top of the mountain (they were almost there anyway). He shot it, and to his immense surprise it went straight up in the air. The two of them watched for several minutes as it came down again, at the very last moment stepping smartly aside as it fell at their feet.
“Cor, you don’t mean this old blighter’s got the anklets?” said Dhuital.
“It’s worth asking” said Dhrattatal. So they knocked again at the door. In response to their question, the hermit said “The true meaning of this is that you ought to become my disciple and give up being a rich man and live here forever.”
Dhuital thought this a thoroughly stupid idea. But actually Dhrattatal was more than a little inclined to accept the invitation. “The trouble is” he said “that wife of mine is sure to find me eventually and then I’ll be done for.”
“Don’t worry about that” said the hermit, “I’m quite holy enough to deal with the likes of her.” So Dhrattatal sent Dhuital back home to tell Khipit he had been trampled on by an elephant and was no good any more, then turned immediately to start meditating on the nature of Truth. In this exercise he made such excellent progress that he almost began to worry about the lie that he had told Dhuital to tell Khipit.
But he needn’t have worried. She wasn’t deceived. She found out, as he knew she would, where he was, and eventually one day a commotion was heard outside the mountain retreat. On looking out Dhrattatal was aghast to see what he had so long dreaded.
“Leave this to me” said the hermit, who calmly went out to meet them.
“Tell me” said Khipit, “have you my husband in there?”
“The true meaning of what you say” said the hermit “I take to be, ‘Have you my diamond anklets in there?’ Well I have, and here they are, with love and kisses from dear Bhashmi.” Khipit was tremendously glad to have them back again, and immediately put half a crown in the hermit’s begging bowl. She was so glad to have the anklets back that she asked no further questions about Dhrattatal, but went away and never came back.
Afterwards, Dhrattatal became so immensely holy that when the old hermit died he took over the cell and nobody ever noticed the difference. So he acquired the reputation of having lived to be 153 years old. And all that time he never had to worry about having Pleasure.