A Brave Girl

This is the story of Deepa, a courageous girl who lived in northern India many years ago.

One day Deepa’s parents had to go to a nearby town to see a sick relation, and as it was a reasonably long journey, there was little hope of them returning till late at night. So Deepa was left in the house by herself. She did not mind that, for she was seventeen and capable of looking after herself.

Late in the evening, Deepa decided to bathe and go to bed. When she went into the bathroom, she was sure there was a man crouched behind the big iron water cauldron. Deepa exited the room without hesitation and slammed and bolted the door.

Deepa waited tensely for something to happen. Then there was a knock at the front door, and a muffled voice said. “Come, child, open the door.”

Deepa knew this was not her father’s voice, so she called out. “Father, the bolt has jammed, so you must climb through the side window.”

With that, Deepa picked up her father’s axe and stood flat against the wall beside the side window. Soon a head appeared, and then an unknown man climbed through the window.

Raising the axe high, Deepa brought the axe down with all her strength and lopped off the man’s head. She then dragged the man’s body into the room and, with the axe, cut it up and stuffed the grisly pieces into two gunny sacks. Afterwards, she blew out all the lights and sat patiently waiting for her parents to return or for something else to happen.

Later, there was a gentle rap on the front door. Deepa asked in a hoarse whisper, “Who’s there?”

“It’s us,” came the reply. “Have you got the booty?” So here now were the burglar’s accomplices. But Deepa was not greatly troubled. Trying hard to imitate a man’s voice, she said. “All is ready. Come to the side window, and I will pass out the sacks.”

Careful not to be seen, Deepa pushed the two sacks through the window. “Come along, and let us get away,” urged a voice outside the window.

“I have some more booty to collect and will join you later”, Deepa said in a throaty whisper.

The robbers made off, and soon afterwards, Deepa’s parents returned and were amazed to hear the story of their daughter’s adventurous night. But they wisely decided not to say anything outside the house if the robbers took vengeance on their daughter.

Meanwhile, the robbers returned to their den in the forest. When they emptied the sacks, they were horrified to be faced with the remains of one of their friends.

The leader of the robber band swore a terrible oath, “It must be the daughter of the house who is responsible. For this, she shall die a terrible death.”

The next day the robbers dressed in fine clothes and took a village idiot named Bhaskar, whom they dressed even more gorgeously than themselves. Mounted on fine horses, they rode to Deepa’s home, where the band leader greeted her father as if he were an old friend.

“Sir,” he said with a slight bow. “I am looking for a suitable bride for my nephew here. I understand you have a daughter, and though it is not usual, I am willing to give a dowry of gold and jewellery.” The proposal instead took aback the father, but his wife argued. “We want a husband for our daughter; these people are wealthy, so our Deepa would have a good home.”

But Deepa, who had carefully watched the visitors, whispered to her father. “I am sure these robbers came here last night.”

“You are imagining things, my child,” he replied. “Look, the bridegroom is quite handsome.”

Although Deepa still had misgivings, the wedding was performed that day, and soon afterwards, the bridal party rode off to Deepa’s new home.

At the sight of the robber’s den in the forest, Deepa realised her plight.

“Let us cut her throat now,” said one of the robbers, reaching for his knife.

No, no,” shouted Bhaskar in alarm. “Leave my bride alone. You cannot harm her today.”

“Stop your whimpering,” the leader shouted. “We shall let her live till tomorrow, for I must plan a painful death. Take her into the loft, and guard her with your life, you fool.”

A rickety ladder reached the loft, and it turned out to be a small, dirty room with a tiny window.

Deepa sat down on some straw and sadly despaired for her life. Later, after a good deal of shouting and drunken singing, the robbers went to sleep, and all was quiet. Deepa whispered to Bhaskar. “It is hot in here. Let us go outside and enjoy the cool night air.”

Bhaskar was alarmed at such a thought.” If we venture down that ladder, they will kill both of us.”

“I have a better idea,” Deepa murmured. “There is a rope over there. Tie it round my waist and lower me out of the window. Then you can pull me back when I have some fresh air.”

“But you might escape,” Bhaskar said with a knowing nod.

“How can I escape if you have me tied with a rope,” she replied.

Bhaskar thought he could see sense in this, so he tied the rope securely around Deepa’s waist and quietly lowered her from the window.

As soon as her feet touched the ground, Deepa undid the rope, tied it around the body of a goat grazing nearby, and quickly made off into the forest.

The goat, unhappy with a rope tied around its body, decided to wander elsewhere. Once the goat started pulling on the string, Bhaskar became alarmed and thought Deepa was trying to escape. So Bhaskar began to haul in the rope as fast as he could.

When the goat was hauled into the air, it became terrified and bleated long and loudly.

“Stop bleating like a goat Deepa,” cried Bhaskar, “you will wake the robbers, and that will be the end of us.”

When Bhaskar discovered it was a goat at the end of the rope, he was horrified that some wicked magician had turned his lovely bride into a goat.

All this noise roused the robbers, and when they clambered up to the loft, they found Bhaskar hugging the goat and sobbing like a child.

The robbers realised that Deepa had tricked Bhaskar and had escaped. So they rushed for their horses and went off in pursuit.

Deepa staggered through the forest, praying silently that she was headed in the right direction. When she heard the horses in the distance, Deepa left the footpath and hid in a thick clump of bushes.

The robbers drew rein close to where Deepa was hiding. “She cannot have gone far,” said one, “let us spread out, and we shall soon catch the vixen.”

As soon as the robbers departed, Deepa crept out of her hiding place and, not trusting the footpath, made her way through the forest, hoping to avoid the robbers.

Eventually, Deepa came to a dirt road, and luckily, a cart laden with hay was lumbering along the route. Running up to the cart, Deepa begged the driver. “Please, hide me in your cart. Armed robbers are chasing me, and they mean to kill me.”

The kindly peasant driver hid Deepa underneath the straw and promised to protect her from any robber.

The cart had not gone very far when several robbers burst out of the forest and shouted to the driver to stop.

“Have you seen a girl on the road?” asked the leader, but before the driver could reply, he ordered his men to search the cart.

Drawing their swords, the robbers thrust them into the straw. One blade narrowly missed Deepa’s face, but another thrust gave her a glancing wound in the leg, but she managed not to cry out with the pain.

Deepa tore her clothing when the robbers departed to make a rough bandage for her wound, which was bleeding quite freely. After what seemed agonising hours to the poor girl, the cart reached her home.

Her parents were horrified when she told them the robbers planned to kill her and that the marriage was only a ruse to get her into their clutches. The father was all for sending his daughter to a relative who lived in a distant town.

“No, father,” said Deepa in a determined voice. The robbers are bound to come here in search of me. So it would be best if you got the king’s men to lie in wait and catch them. Otherwise, these fiends will go on murdering people.”

The father realised his daughter was right, so he hurried to the magistrate, who agreed to send officers to waylay the robbers.

Later that day, the robbers, again dressed in fine clothes, rode up to the house. The father greeted them quite calmly. “What brings you here.”? I hope my daughter is well.”

“Your daughter is well and happy,” replied one of the robbers as they dismounted, intending to search the house and, if necessary, do away with all this meddling family.

But before they could reach the house, the king’s officers, with drawn swords, came from hiding places and forced the robbers to surrender.

Deepa took the king’s officers into the forest the following day and led them to the robber’s den. Here the officers found a vast treasure, the proceeds of many robberies.

For Deepa’s extraordinary courage, the king granted her a handsome reward, and not long after that, Deepa made a happy marriage.

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