In a remote village there lived a man and his wife, who was a stupid little woman and believed everything that was told her. Whenever people wanted anything from her they used to come and flatter her; but this had to be done in the absence of her husband, because he was a very miserly man, and would never part with any of his money, for all he was exceedingly rich. Nevertheless, without his knowledge cunning beggars would now and then come to his wife and beg of her, and they used generally to succeed, as she was so amenable to flattery. But whenever her husband found her out he would come down heavily upon her, sometimes with words and sometimes with blows. Thus quarrels arose, till at last, for the sake of peace, the wife had to give up her charitable propensities.
Now there lived in the village a rogue of the first water, who had many a time witnessed what took place in the rich miser’s family. Wishing to revive his old habit of getting what he wanted from the miser’s wife he watched his opportunity and one day, when the miser had gone out on horseback to inspect his land, he came to his wife in the middle of the day and fell down at the threshold as if overcome by exhaustion. She ran up to him at once and asked him who he was.
“I am a native of Kailâsa,” said he, “sent down by an old couple living there, for news of their son and his wife.”
“Who are those fortunate dwellers on Śiva’s mountain?” said she.
On this the rogue gave the names of her husband’s deceased parents, which he had taken good care, of course, to learn from the neighbours.
“Do you really come from them?” said she. “Are they doing well there? Dear old people. How glad my husband would be to see you, were he here! Sit down please, and take rest awhile till he returns. How do they live there? Have they enough to eat and to dress themselves?”
These and a thousand other questions she put to the rogue, who, for his part, wanted to get away as quick as possible, as he knew full well how he would be treated if the miser should return while he was there, so he said:—
“Mother, language has no words to describe the miseries they are undergoing in the other world. They have not a rag to cover themselves, and for the last six days they have eaten nothing, and have lived on water only. It would break your heart to see them.”
The rogue’s pathetic words fully deceived the good woman, who firmly believed that he had come down from Kailâsa, sent by the old couple to her.
“Why should they suffer so?” said she, “when their son has plenty to eat and to dress himself, and when their daughter-in-law wears all sorts of costly ornaments?”
With that she went into the house and came out with two boxes containing all the clothes of herself and her husband, and gave the whole lot to the rogue, with instructions to take them to her poor old people in Kailâsa. She also gave him her jewel box for her mother-in-law.
“But dress and jewels will not fill their hungry stomachs,” said he.
Requesting him to wait a little, the silly woman brought out her husband’s cash chest and emptied the contents into the rogue’s coat(an upper garment), who now went off in haste, promising to give everything to the good people in Kailâsa. Our good lady in accordance with etiquette, conducted him a few hundred yards along the road and sent news of herself through him to her relatives, and then returned home. The rogue now tied up all his booty in his coat and ran in haste towards the river and crossed over it.
No sooner had our heroine reached home than her husband returned after his inspection of his lands. Her pleasure at what she had done was so great, that she met him at the door and told him all about the arrival of the messenger from Kailâsa, and how she had sent clothes, and jewels, and money through him to her husband’s parents. The anger of her husband knew no bounds. But he checked himself for a while, and asked her which road the messenger from Kailâsa had taken, as he said he wanted to follow him and send some more news to his parents. To this she willingly agreed and pointed out the direction the rogue had gone. With rage in his heart at the trick played upon his stupid wife, our hero rode on in hot haste, and after a ride of two ghaṭikâs he caught sight of the departing rogue, who, finding escape hopeless, climbed up into a big pîpal tree. Our hero soon reached the bottom of the tree and shouted to the rogue to come down.
“No, I cannot, this is the way to Kailâsa,” said the rogue, and climbed up on the top of the tree.
Seeing no chance of the rogue’s coming down, and as there was no third person present to whom he could call for help, our hero tied his horse to an adjacent tree and began climbing up the pîpal tree himself. The rogue thanked all his gods when he saw this, and waited till his enemy had climbed nearly up to him, and then, throwing down his bundle of booty, leapt quickly from branch to branch till he reached the bottom. He then got upon his enemy’s horse, and with his bundle rode into a dense forest in which no one was likely to find him.
Our hero being much older in years was no match for the rogue. So he slowly came down, and cursing his stupidity in having risked his horse to recover his property, returned home at his leisure. His wife, who was waiting his arrival, welcomed him with a cheerful countenance and said:—
“I thought as much, you have sent away your horse to Kailâsa to be used by your father.”
Vexed as he was at his wife’s words, our hero replied in the affirmative to conceal his own stupidity.
Thus, some there are in this world, who, though they may not willingly give away anything, pretend to have done so when, by accident, or stupidity, they happen to lose it.
The Good Wife and the Bad Husband – Folklore of Southern India