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Book 4. Loss of Gains

The Ungrateful Wife

There was once a Brahman in a certain city who loved his wife more than his life. But she squabbled with his family every day, and never rested. Since he could not endure the squabbling, yet was devoted to his wife, he left his family and started for another country far away.

In the middle of a great forest, the Brahman's wife said: "My dear, I am tortured by thirst. Please look about for water." And he did as she requested, but when he returned with water, he found her dead.

Since he loved her dearly, he fell into despair, but as he lamented, he heard a voice from heaven, saying: "Brahman, if you will give half your own life, your wife may live."

So he performed a ceremony of purification, then gave a half of his own life by repeating the three magic words: "I give life." The moment he spoke, his wife stood up, alive.

So together they drank the water, ate forest fruits, and started on. Finally, they entered a flower garden near a city, where the Brahman said to his wife: "Belovèd, please stay here until I return with food." And he left her.

Now in the garden was a cripple, turning a waterwheel and singing with a heavenly voice. When she heard the song, she was smitten with love, went to [406} him, and said: "Dear friend, if you do not give me your love, you will be the murderer of a Brahman woman."

"But what can you do with an invalid like me?" asked the cripple.

"Be still," said she, "you must make me your bride."

And hearing her words, he did so. Thereupon she said: "From this moment I give you my person for life. You must accompany us with this understanding."

"Very well," said he. Then when the Brahman returned with food and began to eat with her, she said: "This cripple is hungry. Please give him a bite, too."

When this was done, the lady said: "Brahman, when you go alone to another village, I have no one to talk to. Suppose we take this cripple with us."

But he replied: "I cannot even carry myself, to say nothing of this cripple."

"I will carry him," said she, "if he will get into a basket."

And the Brahman agreed, his judgement being bewildered by her artful argument.

One day thereafter, as they rested near a well, the wife, aided by the cripple, gave the Brahman a push and plunged him in. And she took the cripple and went to a city. There the policemen, making their rounds to attend to taxes, robberies, and protection, saw the basket on her head, snatched it from her, and took it to the king. And as soon as the king had it opened, he saw the cripple.

Presently the Brahman's wife arrived, weeping and wailing, for she had followed on the heels of the policemen. And when the king asked, "What does [407} this mean?" she said: "This is my invalid husband who was tormented by countless relatives, until, distracted by love, I put him on my head and brought him before you."

And the king said: "You are my sister. Receive two villages, enjoy their delights with your husband, and make yourself comfortable."

At this point the Brahman arrived in the same city, for a certain holy man, as it happened, had drawn him from the well, and he had wandered on. When the wicked wife saw him, she denounced him to the king. "O King," she said, "there comes my husband's enemy."

And the king sentenced him to death. But the Brahman said: "Your Majesty, this woman has something which she received from me. If you love justice, make her give it back."

"My good woman," said the king, "restore whatever you may have that belongs to him."

And she replied: "Your Majesty, I have nothing."

Then the Brahman said: "With three magic words I gave you half my life. Give me that."

And from fear of the king she murmured, just as he had done, the three words "I give life," and fell dead.

Then the king was amazed and said: "What does this mean?" And the Brahman related to him all that had gone before.

"And that is why I say:

I left my family for her, . . .

and the rest of it." [408}

Then the monkey continued: "There is another little anecdote that is very pat:

What will not man for woman do,

When heads are shorn - at odd times, too?

What will not man for woman say,

When those who are not horses, neigh?"

"How was that?" asked the crocodile. And the monkey told the story of

King Joy and Secretary Splendour

There was once a king named Joy, lord of the sea-girdled earth, whose power and manliness were famed afar, whose footstool was reticulated with interlacing beams of light from the diadems of uncounted hosts of kneeling princes, whose glory was unspotted as the autumn moonbeams. He had a secretary named Splendour, who had absorbed the total truth of all the scientific textbooks, but whose wife pouted in a lovers' quarrel.

"Belovèd," said her husband, "tell me the means of appeasing you. I will adopt it without fail."

And it cost her a struggle to say: "If you will shave your head and fall at my feet, then I will think of relenting." When he did so, she did so.

Now Joy's wife became angry in just the same way, and would not be appeased though he begged her pardon. Then he said: "Beloved, I cannot live a moment without you. I will fall at your feet and beg your pardon."

She said: "If you hold a bit in your mouth and let me climb on your back and drive you, [409} and if, when driven, you neigh like a horse, then I will relent." And this was done.

Next morning Splendour came before the king as he sat in council. And the king asked, when he saw him: "Good Splendour, why is your head shaved at this odd time?" And Splendour answered:

What will not man for woman do,

When heads are shorn - at odd times, too?

What will not man for woman say,

When those who are not horses, neigh?

"You simpleton! You too are henpecked just like Joy and Splendour. You tried to find a means of killing me, because your wife asked it. But you were betrayed by your own speech. Yes, the proverb is right:

The parrots and the grackle birds

Are caged because they utter words:

The stupid herons go scot-free -

For silence is a master-key.

And again:

However skilful in disguise,

However frightful to the eyes,

Although in tiger-skin arrayed,

The ass was killed - because he brayed."

"How was that?" asked the crocodile. And the monkey told the story of

The Donkey in the Tiger-Skin

There was once a laundryman named Clean-Cloth in a certain town. He had a single donkey who had grown very feeble from lack of fodder. [410}

As the laundryman wandered in the forest, he saw a dead tiger, and he thought: "Ah, this is lucky. I will put this tiger-skin on the donkey and let him loose in the barley fields at night. For the farmers will think him a tiger and will not drive him out."

When this was done, the donkey ate barley to his heart's content. And at dawn the laundryman took him back to the barn. So as time passed, he grew plump. He could hardly squeeze into the stall.

But one day the donkey heard the bray of a she-donkey in the distance. At the mere sound he himself began to bray. Then the farmers perceived that he was a donkey in disguise, and killed him with blows from clubs and stones and arrows.

"And that is why I say:

However skilful in disguise, . . .

and the rest of it."

Now while the monkey was telling these stories to the crocodile, another water-beast came up and said: "Friend crocodile, your wife has starved herself to death."

When the crocodile heard this, he was bewildered in spirit, and lamented: "Oh, what has come upon me, upon hapless me? For the proverb says:

Where a mother does not dwell

And a wife who flatters well,

Better leave the house, and roam

Forests not so wild as home. [411}

Oh, my friend! Forgive my sins toward you. For I have lost her, and I plan to burn myself alive."

When the monkey heard this, he laughed and said: "Come now! I knew from the very beginning that you were henpecked and in leading-strings. And this proves it. You dunderhead! You despair when you ought to be happy. When a wife like that dies, you ought to give a party. For the proverb says:

A wife forever nagging

And falling in a rage,

Is not a wife, say sages,

But premature old age.

Therefore with patient effort

Avoid the very name

Of every earthly woman,

If comfort be your aim.

For what she feels, she does not say;

She speaks and looks a different way;

Far from her looks her actions veer:

Oh, woman, woman! You are queer.

But enough!

One fact suffices. Cite no more!

They kill the children that they bore.

And yet:

Though girls are tasteless, hard, and selfish,

Boys think them sweet and soft and elfish."

"True enough," said the crocodile, "but what am I to do? Two calamities have befallen me. First, my home is ruined. And second, I have quarrelled with [412} my friend. Yet so it goes with the unfortunate. You know the stanza:

The cleverness that you have shown,

You naked thing! is twice my own;

Your husband and your lover fair

Are lost. But why this vacant stare?"

"How was that?" asked the monkey. And the crocodile told the story of

The Farmer's Wife

There was once a farmer who lived with his wife in a certain place. And because the husband was old, the wife was forever thinking of lovers, and could not possibly be contented at home. Her one idea was strange men.

Now a rogue who lived by pilfering, noticed her and said: "You lovely creature, my wife is dead, and I am smitten with love at the sight of you. Pray enrich me with love's perfect treasure."

And she said: "You beautiful man, if you feel that way, my husband has a great deal of money, and he is so old that he cannot stir. I will bring it, so that I may go somewhere with you and enjoy the delights of love."

"That is satisfactory to me," he replied. "Suppose you hasten to this spot at dawn, so that we may go together to some fascinating city where life may bear for me its perfect fruit."

"Very well," she agreed, and went home with laughing countenance. [413}

Then at night, while her husband slept, she took all the money, and reached the rendezvous at dawn. The rogue, for his part, put her in front, started south, and travelled two leagues, gaily enjoying the delights of conversation with her. But when he saw a river ahead, he reflected: "What am I to do with this middle-aged female? Besides, someone might perhaps pursue her. I will just take her money and be off."

So he said to her: "My dear, this is a great river, hard to cross. I will just take the money and put it safe on the far bank, then return to carry you alone on my back, and so transport you in comfort."

"Do so, my beloved," said she.

So he took the money to the last penny, and then he said: "Dearest, hand me your dress and your wrap, too, so that you may travel through the water unembarrassed." And when she did so, the rogue took the money and the two garments and went to the place he had in mind.

Then the farmer's wife sat down woebegone on the river-bank, digging her two hands into her throat. At that moment a she-jackal came to the spot, carrying a piece of meat. As she came up and peered about, a great fish leaped from the water and was stranded on the bank. On spying him, she dropped the meat and darted at the fish. Whereupon a vulture swooped from the sky and flew off with the meat. And the fish, perceiving the jackal, struggled into the river. [414} So the she-jackal had her pains for nothing, and as she gazed after the vulture, the naked woman smiled and said:

"You poor she-jackal!

The vulture has your meat;

The water holds your fish:

Of fish and flesh forlorn,

What further do you wish?"

And the she-jackal, perceiving that the woman was equally forlorn, having lost her husband's money and her lover, said with a sneer:

"You naked thing!

Your cleverness is twice

As great as mine, it would seem;

Lover and husband lost,

You sit beside the stream."

While the crocodile was telling this story, a second water-beast arrived and reported: "Alas! Your house has been occupied by another crocodile - a big fellow."

And the crocodile became despondent on hearing this, anxiously considering how to drive him from the house. "Alas, my friends!" said he. "See how unlucky I am. For you must know,

A stranger occupies my house;

My friend is sadly vexed;

On top of that, my wife is dead.

Oh, what will happen next?

"How true it is that misfortunes never come singly! Well, shall I fight him? Or shall I address [415} him with soft conciliation, and get him out of the house? Or shall I try intrigue? Or bribery? Ah, here is my monkey friend. I will ask him. For the proverb says:

Ask aid of kindly teachers, man,

The kind you ought to ask.

Their counsel leads to sure success,

Whatever be your task."

After these reflections, he put the question to the monkey, who had climbed back into the rose-apple tree. "Oh, my friend," said he, "see how unlucky I am. For now my very house is seized and held by a powerful crocodile. Therefore I put it to you. Tell me, what am I to do? Is this the place for soft conciliation or one of the other three devices?"

But the monkey said: "You ungrateful wretch! Why do you still pursue me, though I asked you not to? You are a fool, therefore I will not even give you good advice. For the proverb says:

Give counsel only when it fits

To such as seek the best.

The foolish monkey broke to bits

The sparrow's cosy nest.

"How was that?" asked the crocodile. And the monkey told the story of

The Pert Hen-Sparrow

In a certain wood lived a sparrow and his wife who had built their nest on the branch of a tree. [416} One day in the month of February a monkey took shelter under the tree; for he had been caught in an unseasonable hail-storm, and his body shivered to the slightest breeze. Since his teeth were making music and his face was woebegone and his hands and feet were tightly clenched, the hen-sparrow said to him compassionately:

With hands and feet of human plan,

Almost you seem to be a man.

So, if you find the weather cool,

Why not construct a house, you fool?

When the monkey heard this, he reflected: "Well, well, some people fancy themselves. Here is this paltry hen-sparrow who has a good opinion of her own judgement. The well-known saying is correct:

Of self-conceit all creatures show

An adequate supply:

The plover lies with claws up-stretched

To prop the falling sky."

Thereupon he said to her:

You slut! You wench! You smarty!

You needle-face! Be still,

Or I will spoil the party;

I will, I will, I will.

But she continued to ply him with excellent advice concerning the construction of a house, even after he had thus requested her not to do so. So he climbed the tree and destroyed her nest, breaking it to bits. [417}

"And that is why I say:

Give counsel only when it fits, . . .

and the rest of it."

Then the crocodile said: "Oh, my friend, I did wrong, but please remember our old friendship and give me good advice."

"I will not tell you a thing," said the monkey, "because you took your wife's advice and carried me out to sea in order to drop me in. However much you love your wife, why throw friends, relatives, and such into the ocean just because she asks it?"

And the crocodile answered: "My dear fellow, it is all true. Yet consider the maxim, 'Seven words make friendship,' and give me a bit of good advice. For there is a saying:

Disaster cannot threaten

The man of sterling worth

Who offers helpful counsel -

In heaven, or on earth.

So, though I did you a wrong, I beg you to show forgiveness by giving good advice. You know the proverb:

And is there any saintlihood

In recompensing good with good?

But worthy men go seeking still

The saints returning good for ill."

Then the monkey said: "Well, well, my good fellow, I advise you to go and fight him. For there is a saying: [418}

Sway patrons with obeisance;

In heroes raise a doubt;

Fling petty bribes to flunkeys;

With equals, fight it out."

"How was that?" asked the crocodile. And the monkey told how Supersmart ate the elephant (next page).


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