The Panchatantra (Purnabhadra's Recension of 1199 CE)/Book 3/The Gullible Carpenter

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


There was once a carpenter in a certain village. His wife was a whore, and reputed to be such. So he, desiring to test her, thought: "How can I put her to the test? For the proverb says:

Fire chills, rogues bless, and moonlight burns
Before a wife to virtue turns.

"Now I know from popular gossip that she is unfaithful. For the saying goes:

All things that are not seen or heard
In science or the Sacred Word,
All things in interstellar space
Are known among the populace."

After these reflections, he said to his wife: "Tomorrow morning, my dear, I am going to another village, where I shall be detained several days. Please put me up a nice lunch." And her heart quivered when she heard this; she eagerly dropped everything to make delicious dishes, almost pure butter and sugar. In fact, the old saw was justified:

When lowering clouds
Shut in the day,
When streets are mired
With sticky clay,
When husband lingers
Far away,
The flirt becomes
Supremely gay.

Now at dawn the carpenter rose and left his house. When she had made sure that he was gone, with laughing countenance she spent the dragging day in trying on all her best things. Then she called on an old lover and said: "My husband has gone to another village—the rascal! Please come to our house when the people are asleep." And he did so.

Now the carpenter spent the day in the forest, stole into his own house at twilight by a side entrance, and hid under the bed. At this juncture the other fellow arrived and got into bed. And when the carpenter saw him, his heart was stabbed by wrath, and he thought: "Shall I rise and smite him? Or shall I wait until they are asleep and kill them both without effort? Or again, shall I wait to see how she behaves, listen to what she says to him?" At this moment she softly locked the door and went to bed.

But as she did so, she stubbed her toe on the carpenter's body. And she thought: "It must be that carpenter—the rascal!—who is testing me. Well, I will give him a taste of woman's tricks."

While she was thinking, the fellow became insistent. But she clasped her hands and said: "Dear and honored sir, you must not touch me." And he said: "Well, well! For what purpose did you invite me?"

"Listen," said she. "I went this morning to Gauri's shrine to see the goddess. There all at once I heard a voice in the sky, saying: 'What am I to do, my daughter? You are devoted to me, yet in six months' time, by the decree of fate, you will be a widow.' Then I said: 'O blessèd goddess, since you are aware of the calamity, you also know the remedy. Is there any means of making my husband live a hundred years?' And the goddess replied: 'Indeed there is—a remedy depending on you alone.' Of course I said: 'If it cost my life, pray tell me, and I will do it.' Then the goddess said: 'If you go to bed with another man, and embrace him, then the untimely death that threatens your husband will pass to him. And your husband will live another hundred years.' For this purpose I invited you. Now do what you had in mind. The words of a goddess must not be falsified—so much is certain." Then his face blossomed with noiseless laughter, and he did as she said.

Now the carpenter, fool that he was, felt his body thrill with joy on hearing her words, and he issued from under the bed, saying: "Bravo, faithful wife! Bravo, delight of the family! Because my heart was troubled by the gossip of evil creatures, I pretended a trip to another village in order to test you, and lay hidden under the bed. Come now, embrace me!"

With these words he embraced her and lifted her to his shoulder, then said to the fellow: "My dear and honored sir, you have come here because my good deeds earned this happiness. Through your favor I have won a full hundred years of life. You, too, must mount my shoulder."

So he forced the fellow, much against his will, to mount his shoulder, and then went dancing about to the doors of the houses of all his relatives.

"And that is why I say:

It argues utter want of sense
To pardon obvious offense, . . . .

and the rest of it.

"We are certainly uprooted and undone. For the proverb is right in saying:

Shrewd men unmask a foe
Who seems a friend,
Whose speech is kind, whose acts
To hatred tend.

And again:

Before fools' counsel flees
Prosperity, though won;
Its place and time are lost,
Like dark before the sun."

But they all disregarded his advice, picked Live-Strong up, and started to carry him to their fortress. And on the journey Live-Strong said: "O King, I have done nothing yet, and I am in a sad state. Why are you so kind to me? Nay, I desire to enter the blazing fire. Pray put me under obligations by providing fire."

Now Red-Eye pierced his purpose and said: "Why do you wish to enter fire?" And Live-Strong replied: "For your sake I have been plunged into this calamity by Cloudy. Therefore I wish to be reborn as an owl in order to requite their enmity." Now Red-Eye, being a master of diplomacy, rejoined: "My dear sir, you are wily and plausible. Even if reborn as an owl, you would highly esteem your corvine provenience. There is a story that illustrates the point:

Though mountain, sun, and cloud, and wind
Were suitors at her feet,
The mouse-maid turned a mouse again—
Nature is hard to beat."

"How was that?" asked Live-Strong. And Red-Eye told the story of