Deccan Nursery Tales/The Saturday Story

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VI

THE SATURDAY STORY

ONCE upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In it there lived a poor Brahman who had three daughters-in-law. He rose early even during the rainy season, and every day immediately after his morning meal he used to go to his field with his children and his daughters-in-law. One first Saturday in Shravan he got up as usual and said to the youngest of his daughters-in-law, "To-day is Saturday; you had better stay at home, and although there is very little in the house, you must try to get some sort of a dinner ready. Go upstairs and scrape together all the grain there is in the grain-jars and make bread with it. For vegetables you had better gather grass and make some chutney out of clover leaves." When the Brahman had left, his little daughter-in-law followed his orders as best she could. There was in the jar upstairs only grain for half an ordinary loaf. So she made tiny, tiny loaves and prepared some vegetables out of grass and made some clover chutney. Then she sat down to wait for the family's return from the field. As she did so, Saturn came disguised as a beggar all covered with sores, and cried, "O Lady! I am aching all over: give me hot water to bathe in and oil to rub myself with, and then give me something to eat." The little daughter-in-law felt very sorry for the poor beggar. She went inside and got him a few drops of oil and warmed some water for his bath, and then gave him one of the tiny loaves to eat. The beggar ate it, and then gave her his blessing, saying, "You will never want for anything." He then folded up the leaves from which he had eaten, stuck them into a corner of the eaves, and disappeared.

Shortly afterwards the family came home and found a splendid dinner waiting for them. They said to themselves, "Where did this all come from? There was practically nothing in the house." Next Saturday another daughter-in-law stayed at home. Again Saturn in the guise of a beggar covered with sores came to the house. He asked as before for hot water, oil, and food. But his daughter-in-law said, "I have nothing to give you." The god pressed her, saying, "Give me a little of anything that you have." But the daughter-in-law repeated, "I have nothing." The god replied, "Very well, you will lose that little you have." With this threat he disappeared. But, when the daughter-in-law went upstairs to fetch grain for dinner, she could find nothing in any of the jars. Shortly afterwards the family came home, but there was no dinner for them. So they all got angry with the daughter-in-law, and, although she told them about the beggar, they scolded her harder than ever. A third Saturday came round, and a third daughter-in-law remained at home. Again Saturn came, and the third daughter-in-law behaved just as the second had done. She gave the god neither hot water, oil, nor food. And the god told her that she should lose the little she had. When the family came home there was no dinner for them, and they scolded the third daughter-in-law just as hard as they had scolded the second one.

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"AND STUCK THEM INTO A CORNER OF THE EAVES."

The fourth Saturday it was once more the turn of the youngest daughter-in-law. Again Saturn came in the guise of a beggar covered with sores and asked for hot water, oil, and food. The little daughter-in-law gave them as she had done before, and the god blessed her, saying, "God will make you rich and happy." Then he folded up the leaves from which he had eaten and stuck them into a corner of the eaves. When the little daughter-in-law went upstairs, she saw any amount of grain in the jars, and she prepared a splendid dinner. So when the family came home they were delighted. They could no longer restrain their curiosity, and exclaimed, "Where did all this food come from?" The little daughter-in-law told them about the beggar covered with sores and about his blessing. To test her story, they looked for the folded leaves which he had stuck into a corner of the roof. They found them, but when they pulled them out they were full of pearls and diamonds. Then the old Brahman guessed that the beggar was Saturn in disguise, and he also understood why, when the other two daughters-in-law gave him nothing and were cursed by him, there was nothing for dinner. So they all knelt down and prayed to Saturn, and the god forgave the two daughters-in-law who had given him nothing. And he was more pleased than ever with the little daughter-in-law who had befriended him. And so they all lived happily ever afterwards. And may Saturn be pleased with us all as he was with the little daughter-in-law.