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Deccan Nursery Tales/The Wednesday and Thursday Story

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IV

THE WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY

STORY

THERE was once upon a time a town called Atpat. In it there lived a prince who had seven sons and seven daughters-in-law. Every day there used to come to the prince's house two Brahmans, an uncle and a nephew. But when they asked for alms the daughters- in-law sent word that they were too busy to give them any. Some time afterwards the prince lost all his riches and became very poor. The two Brahmans again came to beg, but the elder daughter-in-law said to them, "We are no longer busy, but we have nothing to give you. If we had, we should give it to you." The youngest daughter-in-law, however, was a clever little girl, and she thought to herself, "The Brahmans will get very angry with us. When we had money, we gave them nothing; and now we give them nothing because we have nothing to give." So she fell at the elder Brahman's feet and said, "We have been very wicked and have deserved to become poor. But please forgive us and tell me how we may become rich as we were before." The elder Brahman said, "Every Wednesday and every Thursday you must invite a Brahman to dinner. And if you have no money to pay for the dinner, draw a pair of cow's feet on your money-box. If you want grain for the dinner, draw a pair of cow's feet on your corn-bin. Then worship the feet and welcome the Brahmans. For you will find that you will have money in your box and grain in your corn-bin. And in time you will all get as rich as you were before." The little girl did what the Brahman told her. And whenever she invited Brahmans to dinner, she drew the cow's feet on the cash-box and on the corn-bin, and there was always money and grain sufficient for the meal.

But some days later she fell asleep and dreamt that Budh [1] and Brahaspati came to her bedside and said, "Little girl, little girl, your husband has been made king over a great country. Go to him, and, when you have found him, do not forget to worship us and to give feast to the Brahmans." Then the little girl woke up and she told the other six daughters-in-law. But they were jealous of her, and they became very angry; and they kicked her so often and boxed her ears so hard that she forgot all about drawing the cow's feet on her money-box and on the corn-bin. So she never found any money in the box or any corn in the bin. And every day they became poorer and poorer. First all the men servants ran away, then the male members of the family left, and at last the seven daughters-in-law were left alone in the house. They were starving, but they did not know how to get any food. One day they heard that a king in a neighbouring country wished to construct a tank and was calling for labourers. So they decided to go to the tank and work there just like common coolie women. Now who do you think the king was? He was the youngest son of the prince of Atpat and the husband of the youngest daughter-in-law. When the prince had lost all his money, his youngest son left the house and set off on a journey. As he travelled he came to a city, the king of which had just died without leaving any children or relatives. His subjects did not know how to choose a successor. At last they gave a garland of flowers to a she-elephant and turned it loose. The elephant walked straight to the prince's son and put the garland round his neck. The townspeople were very angry. They snatched away the garland and drove away the prince's son. They again gave the garland to the elephant, but the elephant again put the garland round the neck of the prince's son. The townspeople again snatched away the garland. But when the elephant put it round the young man's neck for the third time, they lifted him high in the air and declared him to be their king. At first he was so pleased at being king that he forgot all about his poor little wife. But one night Budh and Brahaspati appeared to him in a dream and reminded him of her and told him how poor she was. But he could not leave his kingdom to go and look for her. So he thought that he would dig a tank and call together labourers from every quarter. And every day he used to go to the tank and search among the labourers to see if his wife was there. One day he recognised his wife and called her to him. Then they told each other how Budh and Brahaspati had appeared to each of them in a dream. And the king was so delighted at finding his wife that he at once proclaimed her queen of the country.

So the little daughter-in-law was crowned queen, but she did not let the other daughters-in-law who were also working at the tank know of her good fortune. As queen, she gave a great feast to all the workers on the tank. But in her own palace she took some wheat flour, and she kneaded it into shapes resembling human feet and human fists. And when the other daughters-in-law were with the crowd of workers eating at the feast, she went up to them, and to each daughter-in-law who had kicked her she gave a flour foot, and to each daughter-in-law who had struck her with her hands she gave a flour fist. Then the daughters-in-law recognised who the little queen was, and they fell at her feet and begged for her forgiveness. So the little queen forgave them and took them back with her into her husband's palace. And they all lived together happily ever afterwards.

  1. Budh is Mercury; Brahaspati is Jupiter.