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Main > Indian folktales > Fairy tale "Keep it for the Beggar"

Keep it for the Beggar

Again the laughter was heard. Finding that the laughter immediately followed his order, the husband repeated it a third time. A third time also the laughter broke out. They were astonished. Three times had laughter been heard in their house, and still they could see no one. Thinking that some one must have mocked him from the neighbouring houses, he made careful inquiries and satisfied himself that none of his neighbours had mocked him. He was afraid at the laughter which thrice proceeded from a part of his house, as he had heard it distinctly.

That very night our hero had a sudden and unforeseen calamity, and just as he was dragging the latch of his backyard door a serpent stung him in his finger. Neighbours hearing of the venomous reptile in their next house, ran there with a stout cudgel. Already the master of the house, who was passionately fond of the dhâl soup, had swooned away. His wife was mourning by his side, saying:—

“My dear husband. How did you forget your soup so soon and leave us all for the other world? Just now you gave me the order, and before tasting it even you have died.”

The neighbours began to search for the snake; but they did not succeed. And again a voice exclaimed from vacuum:—

“This husband’s fate ended at the twelfth ghaṭikâ of this night. Yama ordered me to go and fetch him to his world. I came down and reached this house at the eighth ghaṭikâ when the husband was giving the order to reserve for the morning meal his dear dhâl soup. I could not contain my laughter, and so broke out with a gurgling noise. As I am divine no one could perceive me. And so none ever found me in this house after they heard the laughter. Then I transformed myself into a serpent and waited for the hour to do my death-dealing duty. The poor man is now no more. Four ghaṭikâs ago he was of opinion that he would live and eat his cold rice to-morrow morning. How very sanguine people are in this world of uncertainty. The cause for my laughter was the husband’s certainty when he issued that order to reserve the dhâl soup for the breakfast.

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