(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'Arrived at Hastinapura, that best of Brahmanas, the son of Bharadwaja, continued to live privately in the house of Gautama (Kripa). His mighty son (Aswatthaman) at intervals of Kripa's teaching, used to give the sons of Kunti lessons in the use of arms. But as yet none knew of Aswatthaman's prowess. "Drona had thus lived privately for some time in the house of Kripa when one day the heroic princes, all in a company, came out of Hastinapura. And coming out of the city, they began to play with a ball and roam about in gladness of heart. And it so happened that the ball with which they had been playing fell into a well. And thereupon the princes strove their best to recover it from the well. But all the efforts the princes made to recover it proved futile. They then began to eye one another bashfully, and not knowing how to recover it, their anxiety became great. Just at this time they beheld a Brahmana near enough unto them, of darkish hue, decrepit and lean, sanctified by the performance of the Agnihotra and who had finished his daily rites of worship. And beholding that illustrious Brahmana, the princes who had despaired of success surrounded him immediately. Drona (for that Brahmana was no other), seeing the princes unsuccessful, and conscious of his own skill, smiled a little, and addressing them said, 'Shame on your Kshatriya might, and shame also on your skill in arms! You have been born in the race of Bharata! How is it that ye cannot recover the ball (from the bottom of this well)? If ye promise me a dinner today, I will, with these blades of grass, bring up not only the ball ye have lost but this ring also that I now throw down!' Thus saying, Drona that oppressor of foes, taking off his ring, threw it down into the dry well. Then Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti, addressing Drona, said, 'O Brahmana (thou askest for a trifle)! Do thou, with Kripa's permission, obtain of us that which would last thee for life!' Thus addressed, Drona with smiles replied unto the Bharata princes, saying, 'This handful of long grass I would invest, by my mantras, with the virtue of weapons. Behold these blades possess virtues that other weapons, have not! I will, with one of these blades, pierce the ball, and then pierce that blade with another, and that another with a third, and thus shall I, by a chain, bring up the ball.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Then Drona did exactly what he had said. And the princes were all amazed and their eyes expanded with delight. And regarding what they had witnessed to be very extraordinary, they said, O learned Brahmana, do thou bring up the ring also without loss of time.'
"Then the illustrious Drona, taking a bow with an arrow, pierced the ring with that arrow and brought it up at once. And taking the ring thus brought up from the well still pierced with his arrow, he coolly gave it to the astonished princes. Then the latter, seeing the ring thus recovered, said, 'We bow to thee, O Brahmana! None else owneth such skill. We long to know who thou art and whose son. What also can we do for thee?'
"Thus addressed, Drona replied unto the princes, saying, 'Do ye repair unto Bhishma and describe to him my likeness and skill. The mighty one will recognize me.' The princes then saying, 'So be it,' repaired unto Bhishma and telling him of the purport of that Brahmana's speech, related everything about his (extraordinary) feat. Hearing everything from the princes, Bhishma at once understood that the Brahmana was none else than Drona, and thinking that he would make the best preceptor for the princes, went in person unto him and welcoming him respectfully, brought him over to the place. Then Bhishma, that foremost of all wielders of arms, adroitly asked him the cause of his arrival at Hastinapura. Asked by him, Drona represented everything as it had happened, saying, 'O sir, in times past I went to the great Rishi Agnivesa for obtaining from him his weapons, desirous also of learning the science of arms. Devoted to the service of my preceptor, I lived with him for many years in the humble guise of a Brahmacharin, with matted locks on my head. At that time, actuated by the same motives, the prince of Panchala, the mighty Yajnasena, also lived in the same asylum. He became my friend, always seeking my welfare. I liked him much. Indeed, we lived together for many, many years. O thou of Kuru's race, from our earliest years we had studied together and, indeed, he was my friend from boyhood, always speaking and doing what was agreeable to me. For gratifying me, O Bhishma, he used to tell me, 'O Drona, I am the favourite child of my illustrious father. When the king installeth me as monarch of the Panchalas, the kingdom shall be thine. O friend, this, indeed, is my solemn promise. My dominion, wealth and happiness, shall all be dependent on thee.' At last the time came for his departure. Having finished his studies, he bent his steps towards his country. I offered him my regards at the time, and, indeed, I remembered his words ever afterwards.
"Some time after, in obedience to the injunctions of my father and tempted also by the desire of offspring, I married Kripi of short hair, who gifted with great intelligence, had observed many rigid vows, and was ever engaged in the Agnihotra and other sacrifices and rigid austerities. Gautami, in time, gave birth to a son named Aswatthaman of great prowess and equal in splendour unto the Sun himself. Indeed, I was pleased on having obtained Aswatthaman as much as my father had been on obtaining me.
"And it so happened that one day the child Aswatthaman observing some rich men's sons drink milk, began to cry. At this I was so beside myself that I lost all knowledge of the point of the compass. Instead of asking him who had only a few kine (so that if he gave me one, he would no longer be able to perform his sacrifices and thus sustain a loss of virtue), I was desirous of obtaining a cow from one who had many, and for that I wandered from country to country. But my wanderings proved unsuccessful, for I failed to obtain a milch cow. After I had come back unsuccessful, some of my son's playmates gave him water mixed with powdered rice. Drinking this, the poor boy, was deceived into the belief that he had taken milk, and began to dance in joy, saying, 'O, I have taken milk. I have taken milk!' Beholding him dance with joy amid these playmates smiling at his simplicity, I was exceedingly touched. Hearing also the derisive speeches of busy-bodies who said, 'Fie upon the indigent Drona, who strives not to earn wealth, whose son drinking water mixed with powdered rice mistaketh it for milk and danceth with joy, saying, 'I have taken milk,--I have taken milk!'--I was quite beside myself. Reproaching myself much, I at last resolved that even if I should have to live cast off and censured by Brahmanas, I would not yet, from desire of wealth, be anybody's servant, which is ever hateful. Thus resolved, O Bhishma, I went, for former friendship, unto the king of the Somakas, taking with me my dear child and wife. Hearing that he had been installed in the sovereignty (of the Somakas), I regarded myself as blessed beyond compare. Joyfully I went unto that dear friend of mine seated on the throne, remembering my former friendship with him and also his own words to me. And, O illustrious one, approaching Drupada, I said, 'O tiger among men, know me for thy friend!'--Saying this, I approached him confidently as a friend should. But Drupada, laughing in derision cast me off as if I were a vulgar fellow. Addressing me he said, 'Thy intelligence scarcely seemeth to be of a high order inasmuch as approaching me suddenly, thou sayest thou art my friend! Time that impaireth everything, impaireth friendship also. My former friendship with thee was for a particular purpose. One of impure birth can never be a friend of one who is of pure birth. One who is not a car-warrior can never be a friend of one who is such. Friendship can only subsist between persons that are of equal rank, but not between those that are unequally situated. Friendship never subsisteth for ever in my heart. Time impaireth friendships, as also anger destroyeth them. Do thou not stick, therefore, to that worn-off friendship between us. Think not of it any longer. The friendship I had with thee, O best of Brahmanas, was for a special purpose. There cannot be friendship between a poor man and a rich man, between an unlettered hind and a man of letters, between a coward and a hero. Why dost thou, therefore, desire, the revival of our former friendship? O thou of simple understanding, great kings can never have friendship with such indigent and luckless wight as thou? One who is not a king can never have a king for his friend. I do not remember ever having promised thee my kingdom. But, O Brahmana, I can now give thee food and shelter for one night.'--Thus addressed by him, I left his presence quickly with my wife, vowing to do that which I will certainly do soon enough. Thus insulted by Drupada, O Bhishma, I have been filled with wrath, I have come to the Kurus, desirous of obtaining intelligent and docile pupils. I come to Hastinapura to gratify thy wishes. O, tell me what I am to do.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by the son of Bharadwaja, Bhishma said unto him, 'String thy bow, O Brahmana, and make the Kuru princes accomplished in arms. Worshipped by the Kurus, enjoy with a glad heart to thy fill every comfort in their abode. Thou art the absolute lord, O Brahmana, of what ever wealth the Kurus have and of their sovereignty and kingdom! The Kurus are thine (from this day). Think that as already accomplished which may be in thy heart. Thou art, O Brahmana, obtained by us as the fruit of our great good luck. Indeed, the favour thou hast conferred upon me by thy arrival is great.'