VI.The Poisoned Food
When Manuniti had concluded his story of the wonderful mango-fruit, king Alakesa ordered his four ministers to approach the throne, and then, with an angry countenance he thus addressed Bodhaditya:—
“What excuse have you for entering my bedchamber without permission, thus violating the rules of the harem?”
Bodhaditya humbly begged leave to relate to his majesty a story of how a Brâhmaṇ fed a hungry traveller and had afterwards to endure the infamy of having caused that traveller’s death, and on king Alakesa signifying his consent, he thus began:—
Story of the Poisoned Food.
There was a city called Vijayanagara, to the north of which flowed a small river with mango topes(clumps of trees) on both banks. One day a young Brâhmiṇ pilgrim came and sat down to rest by the side of the stream, and, finding the place very cool and shady, he resolved to bathe, perform his religious ablutions, and make his dinner off the rice which he carried tied up in a bundle.
Three days before there had come to the same spot an old Brâhmiṇ whose years numbered more than three score and ten; he had quarrelled with his family, and had fled from his house to die. Since he had reached that place he had tasted no food, and the young pilgrim found him lying in a pitiable state, and placed near him a portion of his rice. The old man arose, and proceeded to the rivulet in order to wash his feet and hands, and pronounce a holy incantation or two before tasting the food.
While thus engaged a kite, carrying in its beak a huge serpent, alighted upon the tree at the foot of which was the rice given by the pilgrim to the old man, and while the bird was feasting on the serpent some of its poison dropped on the rice, and the old Brâhmiṇ, in his hunger, did not observe it on his return; he greedily devoured some of the rice, and instantly fell down dead.
The young pilgrim, seeing him prostrate on the ground, ran to help him, but found that life was gone; and concluding that the old man’s hasty eating after his three days’ fast must have caused his death, and being unwilling to leave his corpse to be devoured by kites and jackals, he determined to cremate it before resuming his journey.