The Two Witches





There were once a woman and her daughter-in-law who were both

witches. One night during the annual Sohrai festival the men of the

village were going from house to house singing and getting rice beer

to drink; and one young man named Chandrai got so drunk that when they

came to the house where the two witch-women lived he rolled himself

under the shelf on which rice was stored and fell asleep. Next morning

he came to his senses but he did not like to come out and show himself

for fear of ridicule so he made up his mind to wait till a party came

round singing again and then to slip out with them unperceived.



He lay waiting and presently all the men of the house went away to

join in the danka dance; leaving the mistress of the house and

her daughter-in-law alone. Presently, the two began to talk and the

elder woman said "Well what with the pigs and the goats that have been

sacrificed during this Sohrai we have had plenty of meat to eat lately

and yet I don't feel as if I had had any." "That is so," answered her

daughter-in-law; "fowls' and pig's flesh is very unsatisfying." "Then

what are we to do?" rejoined the old woman, "I don't know unless you

do for the father of your grandchild." When he heard this Chandrai

shivered with fright and hid himself further under the rice shelf,

for he saw that the two women must be witches.



That day was the day on which a bullock is tied to a post outside each

house and at noon the husband of the younger witch began to dig a hole

outside the house to receive the post. While he was working Chandrai

heard the two women begin to talk again. "Now is your opportunity,"

said the younger woman, "while he is digging the hole." "But perhaps

the ojha will be able to discover us," objected the other. "Oh

we can prevent that by making the ojha see in the oiled leaf the

faces of Rupi and Bindi--naming two girls of the village--and we can

say that my husband had seduced them and then declined to marry them

and that that was why they killed him." The old woman seemed to be

satisfied, for she took up a hatchet and went out to where her son

was digging the hole. She waited till he bent down to throw out the

earth with his hands and then cut open his back and pulled out his

liver and heart and brought them into the house. Her unfortunate son

felt a spasm of pain when his mother struck him but he did not know

what had hurt him and there was no visible wound. The two women then

chopped up the liver and heart and cooked and ate them.



That night when the village youths came round to the house, singing,

Chandrai slipped out with them unperceived and hastened home. Two or

three days later the bewitched man became seriously ill; medicines

and sacrifices did him no good; the ojhas were called in but could

make nothing of the illness. The villagers were very angry with them

for the failure and the headman told them that they must ascertain

by means of the oiled leaf who had caused the illness, or it would

be the worse for them. So the ojhas went through their ceremonies

and after a time declared that the oiled leaf showed the faces of

the two girls Rupi and Bindi; and that it was they who were eating

up the sick man. So the two girls were sent for and questioned but

they solemnly swore that they knew nothing about the matter. No one

believed their protestations and the headman ordered that filth should

be put into their mouths and that they should be well beaten to make

them confess. However before any harm was done them Chandrai sprang

up and called out to the headman: "You have proof that these girls

are witches, but I will not let you beat them here. Let us take them

to yonder open field; the token of their oath is there and we will

make them first remove it. If we beat them first they will probably

refuse to remove the oath." "How do you know about their oath?" asked

the headman. "Never mind, I do know." The villagers were convinced by

his confident manner and all went with the two girls to the open field.



Chandrai's object was to get away from the witches' house for he was

afraid to speak there; but when they were out in the open he stood up

and told the villagers all that he had seen and heard the two witches

do; they remembered that he had been missing for a whole day during

the Sohrai festival and believed him. So the sick man's wife and

mother were fetched and well beaten to make them restore the sick

man to health; but his liver and heart had been eaten so that the

case was hopeless and in a few days he was dead. His relations in

revenge soon killed the two witches.



Rupi and Bindi whose lives had been saved by Chandrai went and

established themselves in his house, for they declared that as they

owed their lives to him it was plain that he must marry them.





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