The Parrot and the Thrush.
Which are worse, men or women?
Then the king went back to the sissoo tree to fetch the vampire. When he got there, he took the body with the goblin in it on his shoulder, and started off in silence. And as he walked along, the vampire said to him again: “O King, you must be very tired, coming and going in the night. So to amuse you I will tell another story. Listen.”
There is a city called Patna, the gem of the earth. And long ago a king lived there whose name was Lion-of-Victory. Fate had made him the owner of all virtues and all wealth. And he had a parrot called Jewel-of-Wisdom, that had divine intelligence and knew all the sciences, but lived as a parrot because of a curse.
This king had a son called Moon, and by the advice of the parrot this prince married the daughter of the king of the Magadha country; and her name was Moonlight. Now this princess had a thrush named Moony, who was like the parrot, because she had learning and intelligence. And the parrot and the thrush lived in one cage in the palace.
One day the parrot eagerly said to the thrush: “My darling, love me, and share my bed and my chair and my food and my amusements.”
But the thrush said: “I will have nothing to do with men. Men are bad and ungrateful.”
Then the parrot said: “Men are not bad. It is only women who are bad and cruel-hearted.” And they quarrelled.
Then the two birds wagered their freedom with each other and went to the prince to have their quarrel decided. And the prince mounted his father’s judgment throne, and when he had heard the cause of the quarrel, he asked the thrush: “How are men ungrateful? Tell the truth.” Then she said, “Listen, O Prince,” and to prove her point she started to tell this story illustrating the faults of men.
There is a famous city called Kamandaki, where a wealthy merchant lived named Fortune. And in time a son was born to him and named Treasure. Then when the father went to heaven, the young man became very unruly because of gambling and other vices. And the rascals came together, and ruined him. Association with scoundrels is the root from which springs the tree of calamity.
So in no long time he lost all he had through his vices, and being ashamed of his poverty, he left his own country and went to wander in other places. And during his travels he came to a city called Sandal City, and entered the house of a merchant, seeking something to eat. When the merchant saw the youth, he asked him about his family, and finding that he was a gentleman, he entertained him. And thinking that Gate had sent the young man, he gave him his own daughter Pearl, together with some money. And when Treasure was married, he lived in his father-in-law’s house.
As time passed, he forgot his former miseries in the comforts of his life, and longed for the old vices, and wanted to go home. So the rascal managed to persuade his father-in-law, who had no other children, took his wife Pearl with her beautiful ornaments, and an old woman, and started for his own country. Presently he came to a wood where he said he was afraid of thieves, so he took all his wife’s ornaments. Perceive, O Prince, how cruel and hard are the ungrateful hearts of those who indulge in gambling and other vices. And the scoundrel was ready, just for money, to kill his good wife. He threw her and the old woman into a pit. Then the rascal went away and the old woman perished there.
But Pearl, with the little life she had left, managed to get out by clinging to the grass and bushes, and weeping bitterly, and bleeding, she asked the way step by step, and painfully reached her father’s house by the way she had come. And her mother and father were surprised and asked her: “Why did you come back so soon, and in this condition?”
And that good wife said: “On the road we were robbed, and my husband was forcibly carried off. And the old woman fell into a pit and died, but I escaped. And a kind-hearted traveller pulled me from the pit.” Then her father and mother were saddened, but they comforted her, and Pearl stayed there, true to her husband.
Then in time Treasure lost all his money in gambling, and he reflected: “I will get more money from the house of my father-in-law. I will go there and tell my father-in-law that his daughter is well and is at my house.”
So he went again to his father-in-law. And as he went, his ever-faithful wife saw him afar off. She ran and fell at the rascal’s feet and told him all the story that she had invented for her parents. For the heart of a faithful wife does not change even when she learns that her husband is a rogue.
Then that rascal went without fear into the house of his father-in-law and bowed low before his feet. And his father-in-law rejoiced when he saw him and made a great feast with his relatives, for he said: “My son is delivered alive from the robbers. Heaven be praised!” Then Treasure enjoyed the wealth of his father-in-law and lived with his wife Pearl.
Now one night this worst of scoundrels did what I ought not to repeat, but I will tell it, or my story would be spoiled. Listen, O Prince. While Pearl lay asleep trusting him, that wretch killed her in the night, stole all her jewels, and escaped to his own country. This shows how bad and ungrateful men are.
When the thrush had told her story, the prince smiled and said to the parrot: “It is your turn now.”
Then the parrot said: “Your Majesty, women are cruel and reckless and bad. To prove it, I will tell you a story. Listen.”
There is a city called Joyful, where lived a prince of merchants named Virtue, who owned millions of money. He had a daughter named Fortune, peerless in beauty, dearer to him than life. And she was given in marriage to a merchant’s son from Copper City, whose name was Ocean. He was her equal in wealth, beauty, and family; a delight to the eyes of men.
One day when her husband was away from home, she saw from the window a handsome young man. And the moment she saw him, the fickle girl went mad with love, and secretly sent a messenger to invite him in, and made love to him in secret. Thus her heart was fixed on him alone, and she was happy with him.
But at last her husband came home and delighted the hearts of his parents-in-law. And when the day had been spent in feasting, Fortune was adorned by her mother, and sent to her husband’s room. But she was cold toward him and pretended to sleep. And her husband went to sleep, too, for he was weary with his journey, and had been drinking wine.
When everyone in the house had gone to sleep after their dinner, a thief made a hole in the wall and came into that very room. And just then the merchant’s daughter got up without seeing him, and went out secretly to a meeting with her lover. And the thief was disappointed, and thought: “She has gone out into the night wearing the very jewels that I came to steal. I must see where she goes.” So the thief went out and followed her.
But she met a woman friend who had flowers in her hand, and went to a park not very far away. And there she saw the man whom she came to meet hanging on a tree. For the policeman had thought he was a thief, had put a rope around his neck and hanged him.
And at the sight she went distracted, and lamented pitifully: “Oh, oh! I am undone,” and fell on the ground and wept. Then she took her lover down from the tree and made him sit up, though he was dead, and adorned him with perfumes and jewels and flowers.
But when in her love-madness she lifted his face and kissed him, a goblin who had come to live in her dead lover, bit off her nose. And she was startled and ran in pain from the spot. But then she came back to see if perhaps he was alive after all. But the goblin had gone, and she saw that he was motionless and dead. So she slowly went back home, frightened and disgraced and weeping.
And the concealed thief saw it all and thought: “What has the wicked woman done? Alas! Can women be so dreadful as this? What might she not do next?” So out of curiosity the thief still followed her from afar.
And the wretched woman entered the house and cried aloud, and said: “Save me from my cruel enemy, my own husband. He cut off my nose and I had done nothing.” And her servants heard her cries and all arose in excitement. Her husband too awoke. Then her father came and saw that her nose was cut off, and in his anger he had his son-in-law arrested.
And the poor man did not know what to do. Even when he was being bound, he remained silent and said nothing. Then they all woke up and heard the story, but the thief who knew the whole truth, ran away. And when day came, the merchant’s son was haled before the king by his father-in-law. And Fortune went there without her nose, and the king heard the whole story and condemned the merchant’s son to death for mistreating his wife.
So the innocent, bewildered man was led to the place of execution and the drums were beaten. Just then the thief came up and said to the king’s men: “Why do you kill this man without any good reason? I know how the whole thing happened. Take me to the king, and I will tell all.”
So all the king’s men took him to the king. And the thief told the king all the adventures of the night, and said: “Your Majesty, if you cannot trust my word, you may find the nose at this moment between the teeth of the dead body.”
Then the king sent men to investigate, and when he found it was true, he released the merchant’s son from the punishment of death. As for wretched Fortune, he cut off her ears, too, and banished her from the country. And he took from her father, the merchant, all his money, and made the thief the chief of police. He was pleased with him.
O Prince, this shows how cruel and false women are by nature.
As he spoke these words, the parrot changed into a god, for the curse was fulfilled, and went to heaven like a god. And the thrush suddenly became a goddess, for her curse was at an end, and flew up likewise to heaven. So their dispute was never settled at that court.
When the vampire had told this story, he asked the king: “O King, tell me. Are men bad, or women? If you know and do not tell, your head will fly to pieces.”
King Vikram’s Answer:
Here and there, now and then, there is an occasional bad man like that. But women are usually bad. We hear about many of them.
- The Vampire’s Tenth Story
The Three Delicate Wives of King Virtue-banner.
Who is the most delicate?
Then the king went to the sissoo tree, put the vampire on his shoulder once more, and started toward the monk. And as he walked along, the vampire on his shoulder said: “O King, I will tell you a strange story to relieve your weariness. Listen.”
There once was a king in Ujjain, whose name was Virtue-banner. He had three princesses as wives, and loved them dearly. One of them was named Crescent, the second Star, and the third Moon. While the king lived happily with his wives, he conquered all his enemies, and was content.
One day at the time of the spring festival, the king went to the garden to play with his three wives. There he looked at the flower-laden vines with black rows of bees on them; they seemed like the bow of the god of love, all ready for service. He heard the songs of nightingales in the trees; they sounded like commands of Love. And with his wives he drank wine which seemed like Love’s very life-blood.
Then the king playfully pulled the hair of Queen Crescent, and a lotus-petal fell from her hair into her lap. And the queen was so delicate that it wounded her, and she screamed and fainted. And the king was distracted, but when servants sprinkled her with cool water and fanned her, she gradually recovered consciousness. And the king took her to the palace and waited upon his dear wife with a hundred remedies which the physicians brought.
And when the king saw that she was made comfortable for the night, he went to the palace balcony with his second wife Star. Now while she slept on the king’s breast, the moonbeams found their way through the window and fell upon her. And she awoke in a moment, and started up, crying “I am burned!” Then the king awoke and anxiously asked what the matter was, and he saw great blisters on her body. When he asked her about it, Queen Star said: “The moonbeams that fell on me did it.” And the king was distracted when he saw how she wept and suffered. He called the servants and they made a couch of moist lotus-leaves, and dressed her wounds with damp sandal-paste.
At that moment the third queen, Moon, left her room to go to the king. And as she moved through the noiseless night, she clearly heard in a distant part of the palace the sound of pestles grinding grain. And she cried: “Oh, oh! It will kill me!” She wrung her hands and sat down in agony in the hall. But her servants returned and led her to her room, where she took to her bed and wept. And when the servants asked what the matter was, she tearfully showed her hands with bruises on them, like two lilies with black bees clinging to them. So they went and told the king. And he came in great distress, and asked his dear wife about it. She showed her hands and spoke, though she suffered: “My dear, when I heard the sound of the pestles, these bruises came.” Then the king made them give her a cooling plaster of sandal-paste and other things.
And the king thought: “One of them was wounded by a falling lotus-petal. The second was burned by the moonbeams. The third had her hands terribly bruised by the sound of pestles. I love them dearly, but alas! The very delicacy which is so great a virtue, is positively inconvenient.”
And he wandered about in the palace, and it seemed as if the night had three hundred hours. But in the morning the king and his skilful physicians took such measures that before long his wives were well and he was happy.
When he had told this story, the vampire asked: “O King, which of them was the most delicate?“
King Vikram’s Answer:
The one who was bruised by the mere sound of the pestles, when nothing touched her. The other two who were wounded or blistered by actual contact with lotus-petals or moonbeams are not equal to her.
- The Vampire’s Twelfth Story
The Brahman who dies because Poison from a Snake
in the Claws of a Hawk fell into a Dish of Food
given him by a Charitable Woman.
Who is to blame for his death?
Then the King went back under the sissoo tree, put the vampire on his shoulder, and started as before. And as he walked along, the vampire said to him again: “O King, listen to a very condensed story.”
There is a city called Benares. In it lived a Brahman named Devaswami, whom the king honoured. He was very rich, and he had a son named Hariswami. This son had a wonderful wife, and her name was Beautiful. No doubt the Creator put together in her the priceless elements of charm and loveliness after his practice in making the nymphs of heaven.
One night Hariswami was sleeping on a balcony cooled by the rays of the moon. And a fairy prince named Love-speed was flying through the air, and as he passed he saw Beautiful asleep beside her husband. He took her, still asleep, and carried her off through the air.
Presently Hariswami awoke, and not seeing the mistress of his life, he rose in anxiety. And he wondered: “Oh, where has my wife gone? Is she angry with me? Or is she playing hide-and-seek with me, to see how I will take it?” So he roamed anxiously all over the balcony during the rest of the night. But he did not find her, though he searched as far as the garden.
Then he was overcome by his sorrow and sobbed convulsively. “Oh, Beautiful, my darling! Fair as the moon! White as the moonlight! Was the night jealous of your beauty; did she carry you away? Your loveliness shamed the moon who refreshed me with beams cool as sandal; but now that you are gone, the same beams torment me like blazing coals, like poisoned arrows!”
And as Hariswami lamented thus, the night came to an end, but his anguish did not end. The pleasant sun scattered the darkness, but could not scatter the blind darkness of Hariswami’s madness. His pitiful lamentations increased a hundredfold, when the nightly cries of the birds ended. His relatives tried to comfort him, but he could not pluck up courage while his loved one was lost. He went here and there, sobbing out: “Here she stood. And here she bathed. And here she adorned herself. And here she played.”
His relatives and friends gave him good advice. “She is not dead,” they said. “Why should you make way with yourself? You will surely find her. Pluck up courage and hunt for her. Nothing is impossible to the brave and determined man.” And when they urged him, Hariswami after some days plucked up heart.
He thought: “I will give all my fortune to the Brahmans, and then wander to holy places. Thus I will wear away my sins, and when my sins are gone, perhaps I shall find my darling in my wanderings.” So he arose and bathed.
On the next day he provided food and drink, and made a great feast for the Brahmans, and gave them all he had except his piety. Then he started to wander to holy places, hoping to find his wife.
As he wandered, the summer came on him like a lion, the blazing sun its mouth, and the sunbeams its mane. And the hot wind blew, made hotter yet by the sighs of travellers separated from their wives. And the yellow mud dried and cracked, as if the lakes were broken-hearted at the loss of their lotuses. And the trees, filled with chirping birds, seemed to lament the absence of the spring, and their withering leaves seemed like lips that grow dry in the heat.
At this time Hariswami was distressed by the heat and the loss of his wife, by hunger, thirst, and weariness. And as he sought for food, he came to a village. There he saw many Brahmans eating in the house of a Brahman named Lotus-belly, and he leaned against the doorpost, speechless and motionless.
Then the good wife of that pious Brahman pitied him, and she thought: “Hunger is a heavy burden. It makes anyone light. Look at this hungry man standing with bowed head at the door. He looks like a pious man who has come from a far country, and he is tired. Therefore he is a proper person for me to feed.”
So the good woman took in her hands a dish filled with excellent rice, melted butter, and candied sugar, and courteously gave it to him. And she said: “Go to the edge of our pond, and eat it.”
He thanked her, took the dish, went a little way, and set it down under a fig-tree on the edge of the pond. Then he washed his hands and feet in the pond, rinsed his mouth, and joyfully drew near to eat the good food.
At that moment a hawk settled on the tree, carrying a black snake in his beak and claws. And the snake died in the grasp of the hawk, and his mouth opened, and a stream of poison came out. This poison fell into the dish of food.
But Hariswami did not see it. He came up hungry, and ate it all. And immediately he felt the terrible effects of the poison. He stammered out: “Oh, when fate goes wrong, everything goes wrong. Even this rice and the milk and the melted butter and the candied sugar is poison to me.” And he staggered up to the Brahman’s wife and said: “Oh, Brahman’s wife, I have been poisoned by the food you gave me. Bring a poison-doctor at once. Otherwise you will be the murderer of a Brahman.”
And the good woman was terribly agitated. But while she was running about to find a poison-doctor, Hariswami turned up his eyes and died. Thus, though she was not to blame, though she was really charitable, the poor wife was reproached by the angry Brahman who thought she had murdered her guest. She was falsely accused for a really good action. So she was dejected and went on a pilgrimage.
When he had told this story, the vampire said: “O King, who murdered the Brahman? The snake, or the hawk, or the woman who gave him the food, or her husband? This was discussed in the presence of the god of death, but they could not decide. Therefore, O King, do you say. Who killed the Brahman? Remember the curse, if you know and do not tell the truth.“
King Vikram’s Answer:
“Who did the murder? The snake cannot be blamed because he was being eaten by his enemy and could not help himself. The hawk was hungry and saw nothing. He was not to blame. And how can you blame either or both of the charitable people who gave food to a guest who arrived unexpectedly? They were quite virtuous and cannot be blamed. I should say that the dead man himself was to blame, for he dared to accuse one of the others.