258 THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE
And the soldiers answered him, ' Did we not tell you, master, what the cat was doing, and did you not say, " My cat and my people " ? '
And he answered : ' True, I said it.'
Now the youngest son had not gone with the rest, but had stayed at home with his mother; and when he heard that his brothers had been killed by the cat he said, ' Let me go, that it may slay me also.' His mother entreated him not to leave her, but he would not listen, and he took his sword and a spear and some rice cakes, and went after the cat, which by this time had run off to a great distance.
The lad spent many days hunting the cat, which now bore the name of ' The Nunda, eater of people,' but though he killed many wild animals he saw no trace of the enemy he was hunting for. There was no beast, however fierce, that he was afraid of, till at last his father and mother begged him to give up the chase after the Nunda.
But he answered: ' What I have said, I cannot take back. If I am to die, then I die, but every clay I must go and seek for the Nunda.'
And again his father offered him what he would, even the crown itself, but the boy would hear nothing, and went on his way.
Many times his slaves came and told him, ' We have seen footprints, and to-day we shall behold the Nunda.' But the footprints never turned out to be those of the Nunda. They wandered far through deserts and through forests, and at length came to the foot of a great hill. And something in the boy's soul whispered that here was the end of all their seeking, and to-day they would find the Nunda.
But before they began to climb the mountain the boy ordered his slaves to cook some rice, and they rubbed the stick to make a fire, and when the fire was kindled they cooked the rice and ate it. Then they began their climb.