The Good Daughter-in-law





There was once a very rich man who had seven sons and the sons were

all married and lived with their father. The father was a miser: he

lived in the poorest manner in spite of all his wealth and hoarded

all his money. His eldest daughter-in-law managed the household and

she alone of the family did not approve of the miserly way in which

the family affairs were conducted.



One day a Jugi came to the house and asked for alms. The eldest

daughter-in-law happened to be away at the time, fetching water from

the stream. Those of the family who were at home flatly declined to

give the poor beggar anything and turned him away from the house. So

the Jugi went away, cursing them for their miserliness. On his way

he met the eldest daughter-in-law coming back with her jar of water

and she asked the Jugi why he seemed so angry. When she heard how he

had been treated, she at once besought him to return to the house and

explained that she was the housekeeper and that that was the reason

why none of the others had ventured to give him alms.



The Jugi returned with her and she gave him a seer of rice to put

in his bag. At first the Jugi refused to take it, on the ground that

she was only giving it for fear of his curses but she assured him

that she never refused alms to anyone who begged. So the Jugi took

the rice and then asked what boon she would accept in return. The

woman at first said that she was in want of nothing, but, on the Jugi

pressing her, she said that she would like to be able to understand

the language of birds and beasts and to see the disembodied souls of

men. Then the Jugi took a feather from his bag and drew it across her

eyes and blew into her eyes and ears and she found herself possessed

of the powers for which she had asked. But before he left, the Jugi

told her that she must never reveal to any human being the boon he

had conferred on her, for if she did she would die.



Years passed and nothing happened but then it chanced that a Chamar

who lived at the end of the village died, and as he had been a good

and kind man his family wept bitterly at their loss. The woman saw the

spirit of the Chamar being taken away in a grand chariot and she also

wept for the death of so good a man. Her family became very suspicious

at her showing sorrow for the death of a stranger of another caste.



A few days later the miserly father-in-law died and the woman saw

three beings dragging him out of the house by his heels, and she

laughed to see him treated so for his sins. But the family were

shocked by her laughter and concluded that she was a witch and had

killed her father-in-law by her witchcraft; so after the funeral

they held a family council and called on the woman to explain why

she had laughed. She assured them that if she told she would die,

but they insisted and at last she told them of the boon conferred on

her by the Jugi, and what she had seen, and then she lay down upon

her bed and died.





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