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- Tales Of The Punjab - 30/50 -


But the mouse wouldn't gnaw the rope; so the crow flew on until he met a cat, and said--

'Cat! cat! catch mouse; Mouse won't gnaw rope; Rope won't bind ox; Ox won't drink water; Water won't quench fire; Fire won't burn stick; Stick won't beat snake; Snake won't bite Queen; Queen won't coax King; King won't kill man; Man won't cut tree; And I can't get the grain of corn To save my life from the farmer's wife!'

The moment the cat heard the name of mouse, she was after it; for the world will come to an end before a cat will leave a mouse alone.

'So the cat began to catch the mouse, The mouse began to gnaw the rope, The rope began to bind the ox, The ox began to drink the water, The water began to quench the fire, The fire began to burn the stick, The stick began to beat the snake, The snake began to bite the Queen, The Queen began to coax the King, The King began to kill the man, The man began to cut the tree; So the crow got the grain of corn, And saved his life from the farmer's wife!'

THE FARMER AND THE MONEY-LENDER

There was once a farmer who suffered much at the hands of a money-lender. Good harvests, or bad, the farmer was always poor, the moneylender rich. At last, when he hadn't a farthing left, the farmer went to the moneylender's house, and said, 'You can't squeeze water from a stone, and as you have nothing to get by me now, you might tell me the secret of becoming rich.'

'My friend,' returned the money-lender piously, 'riches come from Ram--ask _him_.'

'Thank you, I will!' replied the simple farmer; so he prepared three girdle-cakes to last him on the journey, and set out to find Ram.

First he met a BrÔhman, and to him he gave a cake, asking him to point out the road to Ram; but the BrÔhman only took the cake and went on his way without a word. Next the farmer met a J˘gi or devotee, and to him he gave a cake, without receiving any help in return. At last, he came upon a poor man sitting under a tree, and finding out he was hungry, the kindly farmer gave him his last cake, and sitting down to rest beside him, entered into conversation.

'And where are you going?' asked the poor man at length.

'Oh, I have a long journey before me, for I am going to find Ram!' replied the farmer. 'I don't suppose you could tell me which way to go?'

'Perhaps I can,' said the poor man, smiling, 'for _I_ am Ram! What do you want of me?'

Then the farmer told the whole story, and Ram, taking pity on him, gave him a conch shell, and showed him how to blow it in a particular way, saying, 'Remember! whatever you wish for, you have only to blow the conch that way, and your wish will be fulfilled. Only have a care of that money-lender, for even magic is not proof against their wiles!'

The farmer went back to his village rejoicing. In fact the money-lender noticed his high spirits at once, and said to himself, 'Some good fortune must have befallen the stupid fellow, to make him hold his head so jauntily.' Therefore he went over to the simple farmer's house, and congratulated him on his good fortune, in such cunning words, pretending to have heard all about it, that before long the farmer found himself telling the whole story--all except the secret of blowing the conch, for, with all his simplicity, the farmer was not quite such a fool as to tell that.

Nevertheless, the money-lender determined to have the conch by hook or by crook, and as he was villain enough not to stick at trifles, he waited for a favourable opportunity and stole it.

But, after nearly bursting himself with blowing the thing in every conceivable way, he was obliged to give up the secret as a bad job. However, being determined to succeed, he went back to the farmer, and said, 'Now, my friend! I've got your conch, but I can't use it; you haven't got it, so it's clear you can't use it either. The matter is at a standstill unless we make a bargain. Now, I promise to give you back your conch, and never to interfere with your using it, on one condition, which is this,--whatever you get from it, I am to get double.'

'Never!' cried the farmer; 'that would be the old business all over again!'

'Not at all!' replied the wily money-lender; 'you will have your share! Now, don't be a dog in the manger, for if _you_ get all you want, what can it matter to you if _I_ am rich or poor?'

At last, though it went sorely against the grain to be of any benefit to a money-lender, the farmer was forced to yield, and from that time, no matter what he gained by the power of the conch, the money-lender gained double. And the knowledge that this was so preyed upon the farmer's mind day and night, until he had no satisfaction out of anything he did get.

At last there came a very dry season,--so dry that the farmer's crops withered for want of rain. Then he blew his conch, and wished for a well to water them, and, lo! there was the well. _But the money-lender had two!_--two beautiful new wells! This was too much for any farmer to stand; and our friend brooded over it, and brooded over it, till at last a bright idea came into his head. He seized the conch, blew it loudly, and cried out, 'O Ram, I wish to be blind of one eye!' And so he was, in a twinkling, but the money-lender, of course, was blind of both eyes, and in trying to steer his way between the two new wells, he fell into one and was drowned.

Now this true story shows that a farmer once got the better of a money-lender; but only by losing one of his eyes!

THE LORD OF DEATH

Once upon a time there was a road, and every one who travelled along it died. Some folk said they were killed by a snake, others said by a scorpion, but certain it is they all died.

Now a very old man was travelling along the road, and being tired, sat down on a stone to rest; when suddenly, close beside him, he saw a scorpion as big as a cock, which, while he looked at it, changed into a horrible snake. He was wonderstruck, and as the creature glided away, he determined to follow it at a little distance, and so find out what it really was.

So the snake sped on day and night, and behind it followed the old man like a shadow. Once it went into an inn, and killed several travellers; another time it slid into the King's house and killed him. Then it crept up the waterspout to the Queen's palace, and killed the King's youngest daughter. So it passed on, and wherever it went the sound of weeping and wailing arose, and the old man followed it, silent as a shadow.

Suddenly the road became a broad, deep, swift river, on the banks of which sat some poor travellers who longed to cross over, but had no money to pay the ferry. Then the snake changed into a handsome buffalo, with a brass necklace and bells round its neck, and stood by the brink of the stream. When the poor travellers saw this, they said, 'This beast is going to swim to its home across the river; let us get on its back, and hold on to its tail, so that we too shall get over the stream.'

Then they climbed on its back and held by its tail, and the buffalo swam away with them bravely; but when it reached the middle, it began to kick, until they tumbled off, or let go, and were all drowned.

When the old man, who had crossed the river in a boat, reached the other side, the buffalo had disappeared, and in its stead stood a beautiful ox. Seeing this handsome creature wandering about, a peasant, struck with covetousness, lured it to his home. It was very gentle, suffering itself to be tied up with the other cattle; but in the dead of night it changed into a snake, bit all the flocks and herds, and then, creeping into the house, killed all the sleeping folk, and crept away. But behind it the old man still followed, as silent as a shadow.

Presently they came to another river, where the snake changed itself into the likeness of a beautiful young girl, fair to see, and covered with costly jewels. After a while, two brothers, soldiers, came by, and as they approached the girl, she began to weep bitterly.

'What is the matter?' asked the brothers; 'and why do you, so young and beautiful, sit by the river alone?'

Then the snake-girl answered, 'My husband was even now taking me home; and going down to the stream to look for the ferry-boat, fell to washing his face, when he slipped in, and was drowned. So I have neither husband nor relations!'

'Do not fear!' cried the elder of the two brothers, who had become enamoured of her beauty; 'come with me, and I will marry you.'

'On one condition,' answered the girl: 'you must never ask me to do any household work; and no matter for what I ask, you must give it me.'

'I will obey you like a slave!' promised the young man.

'Then go at once to the well, and fetch me a cup of water. Your


Tales Of The Punjab - 30/50

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