302 STRONGER THAN FATE
king approached, but sat throwing into the stream dry leaves which lay scattered about the ground near him.
' Peace be upon you,' said the king, giving the usual country salutation.
I And upon you peace,' answered the hermit; but still he never looked up, nor stopped what he was doing.
For a minute or two the king stood watching him. He noticed that the hermit threw two leaves in at a time, and watched them attentively. Sometimes both were carried rapidly down by the stream ; sometimes only one leaf was carried off, and the other, after whirling slowly round and round on the edge of the current, would come circling back on an eddy to the hermit's feet. At other times both leaves were held in the backward eddy, and failed to reach the main current of the noisy stream.
' What are you doing ? ' asked the king at last, and the hermit replied that he was reading the fates of men; every one's fate, he said, was settled from the beginning, and, whatever it were, there was no escape from it. The king laughed.
' I care little,' he said, ' what my fate may be; but I should be curious to know the fate of my little daughter.'
' I cannot say,' answered the hermit.
' Do you not know, then ? ' demanded the king.
II might know,' returned the hermit, ' but it is not always wisdom to know much.'
But the king was not content with this reply, and began to press the old man to say what he knew, which for a long time he would not do. At last, however, the king urged him so greatly that he said :
' The king's daughter will marry the son of a poor slave-girl called Puruna, who belongs to the king of the land of the north. There is no escaping from Fate.'
The king was wild with anger at hearing these words, but he was also very tired; so he only laughed, and answered that he hoped there would be a way out of that fate anyhow. Then he asked if the hermit could shelter