The Simple Husband and the Prudent Wife.

Edited by Rachel Harriette Busk

In the southern part of India lived a man who had a very large fortune and a very notable wife, but possessing little sense or capacity himself, nor sufficient understanding to think of trading with his fortune. One day a caravan of merchants came by, with whom the wife made some exchanges of merchandize while the husband stood by and looked on. When they were gone, the wife said to him, “Why should not you also go forth and trade even as these merchants trade?” And he willing to do her a pleasure made answer, “Give me wherewithal to trade, and I will see what I can do.”

“This is but reasonable,” thought the wife. “For how shall he trade except he have some sort of merchandize to trade withal.” So she made ready for him an ass to ride, and a camel’s burden of rice to trade with, and arms to defend him from robbers, and provisions to sustain him by the way. Thus she sent him forth.

On he rode till he came to the sea-shore, and as he could go no farther he laid him down here at the foot of a high cliff to sleep. Just where he lay was the entrance to a cave which he failed to discover. Towards evening a caravan of merchants travelling by, took shelter in this cave, leaving a bugle lying on the ground near the entrance, that in case of an attack of robbers the first who heard their approach might warn the others.

The man’s face being turned, as he lay also towards the entrance of the cave, came very near the mouthpiece of the bugle. About the middle of the night when he was sleeping very heavily he began also to snore, and his breath accidentally entering the bugle gave forth so powerful a note, that it woke all the merchants together. “Who sounded the bugle?” asked each. “Not I,” “Nor I,” “Nor I,” answered one and all. “Then it must be the thieves themselves who did it in defiance,” said one. “They must be in strong force thus to defy us!” answered another. “We had better therefore make good our escape before they really attack us,” cried all. And without waiting to look after their goods, they all ran off for the dear life without so much as looking behind them.

In the morning, finding the merchants did not return, the simple man put together all the merchandize they had left behind them and returned home with it. All the neighbours ran out to see him pass with his train of mules and cried aloud, “Only see what a clever trader! Only see how fortune has prospered him!”

Quite proud of his success and not considering how little merit he had had in the matter, he said, “To-morrow I will go out hunting!” But his wife knowing he had not capacity to have come by all the merchandize except through some lucky chance, and thinking some equally strange adventure might befall him when out hunting, determined to be even with him and to know all that might come to pass.

Accordingly the next day she provided him with a horse and dog, and bow and arrows, and provisions for the way. Only as he went forth, she said, “Beware, a stronger than thou fall not upon thee!” But he, puffed up by his yesterday’s success, answered her, “Never fear! There is none can stand against me.” And she, smiling to see him thus highminded, made reply, “Nevertheless, the horseman Surja-Bagatur is terrible to deal with. Shouldst thou meet him, stand aside and engage him not, for surely he would slay thee.” Thus she warned him. But he mounted his horse and rode away, crying, “Him I fear no more than the rest!”

As soon as she had seen him start the wife dressed herself in man’s clothes, and mounting a swift horse she rode round till she came by a different path to the same place as her husband. Seeing him trot across a vast open plain she bore down right upon him at full gallop. The man, too much afraid of so bold a rider to recognize that it was his wife, turned him and fled from before her. Soon overtaking him, however, she challenged him to fight, at the same time drawing her sword. “Slay me not!” exclaimed the simple man, slipping off his horse, “Slay me not, most mighty rider, Surja-Bagatur! Take now my horse and mine arms, and all that I have. Leave me only my life, most mighty Surja-Bagatur!” So his wife took the horse and the arms, and all that he had and rode home.

At night the simple man came limping home footsore and in sorry plight. “Where is the horse and the arms?” inquired his wife as she saw him arrive on foot.

To-day I encountered the mighty rider, Surja-Bagatur, and having challenged him to fight,” answered he, “I overcame him and humbled him utterly. Only that the wrath of the hero at what I had done might not be visited on us, I propitiated him by making him an offering of the horse and the arms and all that I had.”

So the woman prepared roasted corn and set it before him; and when he had well eaten she said to him, “Tell me now, what manner of man is the hero Surja-Bagatur, and to what is he like?”

And the simple man made answer, “But that he wore never a beard, even such a man would he have been as thy father.”

And the wife laughed to herself, but told him nothing of all she had done.

“That was a prudent woman, who humbled not her husband by triumphing over him!” exclaimed the Khan.

And as he let these words escape him, the Siddhî-kür replied, “Forgetting his health, the Well-and-wise-walking Khan hath opened his lips.” And with the cry, “To escape out of this world is good!” he sped him through the air, swift out of sight.