The Butterfly that stamped (After R. Kipling)


The Butterfly that stamped
(After R. Kipling)
Speaker 1:
THIS, O my Best Beloved, is a story about The Most Wise Sovereign Suleiman-bin-Daoud—Solomon the Son of David.
Speaker 2:
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was wise. He understood what the beasts said, what the birds said, what the fishes said, and what the insects said. He understood what the rocks said deep under the earth. He understood everything.
Speaker 1:
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was strong. Upon the third finger of the right hand he wore a ring. When he turned it once, Djinns came Out of the earth to do whatever he told them.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
He married ever so many wives. He married nine hundred and ninety-nine wives, besides the Most Beautiful Balkis. He didn’t really want nine-hundred and ninety-nine wives, but in those days everybody married ever so many wives, and of course the King had to marry ever so many more just to show that he was the King.
The first wife:
Some of the wives were nice,
The second wife:
but some were simply horrid, and the horrid ones quarreled with the nice ones and made them horrid too,
The first wife:
and then they would all quarrel with Suleiman-bin-Daoud,
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
and that was horrid for him.
Balkis the Most Beautiful:
But Balkis the Most Beautiful never quarreled with Suleiman-bin-Daoud. She loved him too much and was truly sorry for him.
‘O my Lord and Light of my Eyes, turn the ring upon your finger and show these Queens of Egypt and Mesopotamia and Persia and China that you are the great and terrible King.’
Suleiman-bin-Daoud :
‘O my Lady and Delight of my Life, if I showed off before these Queens of Persia and Egypt and Abyssinia and China, merely because they worry me, I might be made ashamed.
Speaker 1:
One day Suleiman-bin-Daoud saw two Butterflies quarrelling under the tree.
Butterfly-man:
Don’t you know that if I stamped with my foot all Suleiman-bin-Daoud’s Palace and this garden here would immediately vanish in a clap of thunder.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
Little man, come here. Little man, you know that all your stamping wouldn’t bend one blade of grass. What made you tell that awful fib to your wife?—for doubtless she is your wife.
Butterfly-man:
O King, live for ever. She is my wife; and you know what wives are like.
One must keep them in order somehow, and she has been quarrelling with me all the morning. I said that to quiet her.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud :May it quiet her. Go back to your wife, little brother, and let me hear what you say.
Butterfly-woman:
He heard you! Suleiman-bin-Daoud himself heard you!
Butterfly-man:
Heard me! Of course he did. I meant him to hear me.
Butterfly-woman:
And what did he say? Oh, what did he say?
Butterfly- man:
Well, between you and me, my dear—of course I don’t blame him, because his Palace must have cost a great deal and the oranges are just ripening,—he asked me not to stamp, and I promised I wouldn’t.
Butterfly-woman:
Gracious!
Balkis the Most Beautiful:
If I am wise I can yet save my Lord from the persecutions of these quarrelsome Queens. Little woman, come here. Little woman, do you believe what your husband has just said?
Butterfly-woman:
O Queen, be lovely for ever. You know what men-folk are like.They get angry over nothing at all, but we must humour them, O Queen. They never mean half they say. If it pleases my husband to believe that I believe he can make Suleiman-bin-Daoud’s Palace disappear by stamping his foot, I’m sure I don’t care. He’ll forget all about it tomorrow.
Balkis the Most Beautiful:
Little sister, you are quite right; but next time he begins to boast, take him at his word. Ask him to stamp, and see what will happen. We know what men-folk are like, don’t we? He’ll be very much ashamed.
Butterfly- man:
Remember! Remember what I can do if I stamp my foot.
Butterfly-woman:
I don’t believe you one little bit, I should very much like to see it done. Suppose you stamp now.
Butterfly-man:
I promised Suleiman-bin-Daoud that I wouldn’t, and I don’t want to break my promise.
Butterfly-woman:
It wouldn’t matter if you did. You couldn’t bend a blade of grass with your stamping. I dare you to do it. Stamp! Stamp! Stamp!
Butterfly-man:
She wants me to stamp! She wants to see what will happen, O Suleiman-bin-Daoud! You know I can’t do it, and now she’ll never believe a word I say. She’ll laugh at me to the end of my days!
Suleiman-bin-Daoud :No, little brother, she will never laugh at you again.
(He turned the ring on his finger and four huge Djinns came out of the earth)
Slaves, when this gentleman stamps his left front forefoot you will make my Palace and these gardens disappear in a clap of thunder. When he stamps again you will bring them back carefully. Now, little brother, go back to your wife and stamp all you’ve a mind to.
Butterfly-woman:
I dare you to do it! I dare you to do it! Stamp! Stamp now! Stamp!
Balkis:
At last Suleiman-bin-Daoud will do for the sake of a Butterfly what he ought to have done long ago for his own sake, and the quarrelsome Queens will be frightened!
Speaker 2:
Then the butterfly stamped. The Djinns jerked the Palace and the gardens a thousand miles into the air.
Butterfly-woman:
Oh, I’ll be good! I’m so sorry I spoke. Only bring the gardens back, my dear darling husband, and I’ll never contradict again.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
Stamp again, little brother. Give me back my Palace, most great magician.
Butterfly-woman:
Yes, give him back his Palace. Give him back his Palace, and let’s never have any more horrid magic.
Butterfly-man:
Well, my dear, you see what your nagging has led to. Of course it doesn’t make any difference to me—I’m used to this kind of thing—but as a favour to you and to Suleiman-bin-Daoud I don’t mind putting things right.
Speaker 2:
So he stamped once more, and that instant the Djinns let down the Palace and the gardens, without even a bump.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
O great wizard, what is the sense of returning to me my Palace if at the same time you slay me with mirth!
Speaker 1:
Then came a terrible noise, for all the nine hundred and ninety-nine Queens ran out of the Palace shrieking and shouting and calling for their babies. They hurried down the great marble steps below the fountain.
Balkis:
What is your trouble, O Queens?
The first wife (an Egyptian Queen—the daughter of a Pharoah):
What is our trouble? We were living peacefully in our golden palace, as is our custom, when upon a sudden the Palace disappeared, and we were left sitting in a thick and noisome darkness; and it thundered, and Djinns moved about in the darkness!
The second wife:
That is our trouble, O Head Queen, and we are most extremely troubled on account of that trouble, for it was a troublesome trouble, unlike any trouble we have known.
Balkis:
It is nothing, O Queens! A Butterfly has made complaint against his wife because she quarreled with him, and it has pleased our Lord Suleiman-bin-Daoud to teach her a lesson in low-speaking and humbleness, for that is counted a virtue among the wives of the butterflies.’
The first wife:
Our Palace cannot be plucked up by the roots like a leek for the sake of a little insect. No! Suleiman-bin-Daoud must be dead, and what we heard and saw was the earth thundering and darkening at the news.
Balkis: Come and see.’
(They saw the Most Wise King Suleiman-bin-Daoud rocking back and forth with a Butterfly on either hand, and they heard him say)
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
O wife of my brother in the air, remember after this, to please your husband in all things; for he has said that he is used to this magic, and he is a great magician. Go in peace, little folk!
(And he kissed them on the wings, and they flew away)
The second wife:
If these things are done when a Butterfly is displeased with his wife, what shall be done to us who have vexed our King with our loud-speaking and open quarrelling through many days?’
Speaker 2:
Then they put their veils over their heads, and they put their hands over their mouths, and they tiptoed back to the Palace most mousy-quiet.
Balkis:
O my Lord and Treasure of my Soul, rejoice, for we have taught the Queens of Egypt and Ethiopia and Abyssinia and Persia and India and China with a great and a memorable teaching.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
O my Lady and Jewel of my Felicity, when did this happen? For I have been jesting with a Butterfly ever since I came into the garden.
Balkis:
O my Lord and Regent of my Existence. It was I who told the Butterfly’s Wife to ask the Butterfly to stamp, because I hoped that for the sake of the jest my Lord would make some great magic and that the Queens would see it and be frightened.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud:
O my Lady and Sweetener of my Days! Know that if I had made a magic against my Queens for the sake of pride or anger I should certainly have been put to shame. But by means of your wisdom I made the magic for the sake of a jest and for the sake of a little Butterfly, and—behold—it has also delivered me from the vexations of my vexatious wives! Tell me, therefore, O my Lady and Heart of my Heart, how did you come to be so wise?’
Balkis: First, O my Lord, because I loved you; and secondly, O my Lord, because I know what women-folk are.

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