The Sister-in-law Who Was A Witch

: Part VI.
: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

There were once two brothers who lived together; the elder was married

but the younger had no wife. The elder brother used to cultivate

their lands and his wife used to draw water and fetch fuel and the

younger brother used to take the cattle out to graze. One year when

the elder brother was busy in the fields the younger one used to take

his cattle to graze near where his brother was working and the wife

used to bring
out the breakfast for both of them. One day the younger

brother thought he would play a trick on his sister-in-law by not

answering when she called him to his breakfast; so when her husband

had finished his meal and she called out for the younger brother to

come he gave no answer; she concluded that the cattle were straying

and would not let him come so she took up her basket and went to

look for him; but when he saw her coming he climbed up a tree and

hid himself and for all her calling gave no answer, but only sat and

laughed at her although she came quite close to where he was.

At last the woman got into a passion and putting down the breakfast

by the side of a pool which was close to the tree up which her

brother-in-law had climbed she stripped off her clothes and began

bowing down and calling. "Ho, Dharmal Chandi! come forth !" When he

saw this the man was amazed and waited to see whom she was calling,

meaning to let her know he was there directly she turned to go away

home with the breakfast. But the woman kept on calling to Dharmal

Chandi and at last out of the pool appeared an immense bearded bonga

with long and matted hair. When the woman saw him her tongue flickered

in and out like a snake's and she made a hissing noise, such as a crab

makes. Then the woman began "Dharmal Chandi I have a request which

you must promise to grant." And when the bonga had promised she

proceeded. "You must have my brother-in-law killed by a tiger the day

after to-morrow; he has put me to endless trouble making me go shouting

after him all through the jungle; I wanted to go back quickly because

I have a lot of work at home; he has wasted my time by not answering;

so the day after to-morrow you must have him killed." The bonga

promised to do what she asked and disappeared into the pool and the

woman went home.

While the younger brother was up in the tree his cattle had got into a

gundli field and eaten up the crop: and the owner found it out and

got the brothers fined. So that evening the elder brother asked him

where he had been that he had not looked after the cattle properly

nor eaten any breakfast. In answer the younger brother only began to

cry; at that his sister-in-law said. "Let him alone; he is crying for

want of a wife; he is going silly because we have not married him;"

and so nothing more was said. But the elder brother was not satisfied

and the next day when they went together to work he asked the younger

what was the real reason for his crying.

Then the younger answered. "Brother, I am in great trouble; it makes

me cry all day; if you wish ever to look on my face again, you must

not work in the fields to-morrow but keep me company while I tend

the cattle; if we are separated for a moment a tiger will kill me;

it will be quickly over for me but you I know will miss me much and

so I am grieving for you; if you have any tenderness for me do not

leave me to-morrow but save me from the tiger." His brother asked the

reason for this foreboding but the younger man said that he would

explain nothing and accuse no one until the events of the next day

had shown whether he was speaking the truth; if a tiger really came

to stalk him then that would be proof that he had had good reason

for his apprehension; and he begged his brother not to speak a word

about it to anyone and especially not to his wife.

The elder brother promised to keep the matter a secret and cheered his

brother up and told him to be of good heart; they would take their bows

and axes and he would like to see the tiger that would touch them. So

the next morning the two brothers went off together well armed and

tended the cattle in company; nothing happened and at midday they

brought the cattle home; when the woman saw them with bows in their

hands she asked where they had been. Her husband told her that he had

been to look for a hare which he had seen on the previous day but he

had not been able to find it. Then his brother said that he had seen

a hare in its form that very morning but had not had time to shoot

it. So they pretended to arrange to go and hunt this hare and after

having eaten their rice they drove out the cattle again.

As they went along they kept close together with their arrows on the

string, so that the tiger which came to stalk the younger brother got

no opportunity to attack; at last it showed itself at the edge of the

jungle; the cattle were thrown into a turmoil and the brothers saw

that it was really following them; and the elder brother was convinced

that there was some reason for his brother's fears. So they turned

the cattle back and cautiously drove them home, keeping a good look

out all the way; the tiger prowled round them hiding in the bushes,

sometimes in front and sometimes behind, but found no opening to

attack while they for their part did not dare to shoot at it. The

tiger followed them right up to the house; but the elder brother did

not leave the other for a moment nor let him go outside the door and

at night he slept on the same bed with him.

The next morning he begged his brother to tell him all that had

happened and explain how he knew that a tiger would seek his

life on the previous day. "Come then" said the other, "to yonder

open ground. I cannot tell you in the house;" so they went out

together and then the younger told all that had happened and how his

sister-in-law had ordered the Bonga to have him killed by a tiger;

"I did not tell you before till my story had been put to the proof

for fear that you would not believe me and would tell your wife; but

now you know all. I cannot live with you any longer; from this very

day I must go and find a home elsewhere." "Not so" said the other,

"I will not keep such a woman with me any longer; she is dangerous;

I will go home now and put her to death," and so saying he went home

and killed his wife with an axe.