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A Simple Thief

Source: Santal Folk Tales

Once upon a time a man had some money given to him, and was told to
go and buy a foal with it. So he set out to search for one. After
a time he came to a village, and going to a house asked the people
if they had a foal to sell, as he wished to buy one. They replied,
"There are no foals here, but we have mare's eggs. If you will take
them we will give them to you." He said, "I will not take eggs, I
want a foal." He went to every house in the village asking if they
had a foal to sell, but none was to be had; but at each they offered
to sell to him mare's eggs.

He then thought within himself, wherever I have gone they have told me
that they have not got a foal, but that they can let me have eggs. This
being so, why should I give myself any further trouble? I will buy
an egg. So he was given a large gourd, and told it was a mare's
egg. Having got, as he thought a mare's egg, he joyfully started
to return to his home. The man who sold him the gourd informed him,
that a foal was certain to be hatched on the way. He was still far
from home when the sun set, so he entered a village, and passed the
night there. In the morning he set out betimes, and about breakfast
time he came to a tank, on the embankment of which he laid down his
gourd. He then went into the water to clean his teeth, after which he
began to wash his face. While he was thus engaged a jackal came and
pushed the gourd down the embankment. The noise frightening the animal
it ran away, but the man having caught a glimpse of it called out,
"My foal has hatched, and is galloping off." He pursued the jackal,
which being terror stricken fled to the jungle, and took refuge in
his burrow. The man was pleased to see the creature enter his hole,
and he said, "He will soon come out again, and then I shall mount him,
and gallop him home." Having said this, he placed himself in such a
position that when the jackal came out he could sit down on its back.

He continued standing thus until nightfall, but even then he had no
intention of relinquishing his chance of capturing his foal. Late at
night some thieves came that way, and seeing him alone in the jungle
asked him what he did there. He replied, "I was sent by my friends to
buy a foal, but as I could not get one, I bought a mare's egg. I was
informed that the egg would hatch on my way home. I spent last night
in a village on the way side, and resumed my homeward journey in the
morning. On arriving at a tank I laid down my egg on the embankment,
and went down into the water, and having cleaned my teeth was washing
my hands and face, when the egg hatched and the foal immediately ran
away. I followed it, and saw it enter this hole, and I am waiting
till it comes out, when I shall mount, and canter it home."

The thieves said, "Leave it alone. Let it remain there. Will you kill
yourself for this foal? Come with us, and we will give you a strong,
beautiful horse. This one has through fear of you riding on his back
gone into this hole. Why should you wait for him? He will stay where
he is. Come with us, and we will supply you with a good one presently."

After a little time spent in considering the offer the thieves had
made him, he decided to accompany them. The thieves were pleased
to receive him into their gang, and at once they proceeded towards
a certain village. Having arrived there they went to a rich man's
house, and dug a hole through the wall. They then said to our hero
of the mare's egg, "You creep in." He raised no objection, but went
willingly. They said to him, "Bring out all the heavy articles you
can find, they are sure to be the most valuable." When inside he
lifted up all he found to test the weight, but nothing seemed to be
sufficiently heavy to be worth stealing. He said, "everything is light,
what can I take out to them?" At length he came across a millstone,
which he pushed through the hole in the wall to his confederates out
side. Judging from its weight he expected they would be delighted to
receive it, but they said, "Not this, Not this. Bring something worth
stealing." So he went back, and finding a drum hanging from the roof he
took it down, and began to beat it. When the thieves heard the sound
of the drum they decamped, saying, "This fool is certain to betray
us to-night." When he brought out the drum to make it over to them,
they were nowhere to be seen, so he re-entered the house and placed
the drum again where he had found it.

He then saw some milk near the fireplace, and being hungry he
determined to cook some food. So helping himself to some rice he began
to prepare it by boiling it in the milk. When it was nearly cooked,
one of the household turned over in his sleep, saying, "I will eat. I
will eat." So he filled a ladle with the boiling rice and milk, and
poured it into the sleeper's mouth. The hot food scalded him terribly,
and he sprang up howling with the pain.

The other members of the family also jumped to their feet, and laid
hold of the intruder, and bound him hand and foot.

When the day broke a large number of people came to see the thief,
and began to question him, as to who were his companions. So he
related all that had occurred. Then they said, "Of a truth, this
man has been the means of protecting us. Had he not acted as he did,
we would have been robbed of all we have."

So they loosed his bonds, and set him free. They also allowed him to
eat the rice and milk he had cooked, which having done, he went home.

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