It was a time of general distress. Among others who suffered was a certain brahman. Not having been brought up to any trade, this poor brahman was unable to do anything for a living, and no man gave him alms. He was in great straits. If it had not been for a scanty pittance of food that was earned by his wife, who went every day to help in pounding rice for a very rich family that lived in the neighbourhood, he and his family would have starved to death.
One day, when the brahman was going to perform his regular worship, his wife said to him, “Oh that you would do some worship, some service, whereby the gods would favour us and grant us food and clothing!”
“I will,” said the brahman. “Make me some biscuits.” The biscuits were got ready, and the brahman took them and went. He took his idols also.
It was spring-time. The country all around was covered with blossoms. The brahman walked far and fast, till at last, feeling tired, he sat down to rest under an apple-tree that grew by the side of a pretty little purling brook. “Here,” thought he, “I will worship and meditate.” For several hours he tarried there rapt in meditation. Then he arose, put back his idols into the bag, and commenced to return. On the way he noticed a column of smoke ascending slowly into the air. He drew near, and saw that it proceeded from a yogi’s fire, and that the good man was squatting by it. Bowing reverently, he also squatted down beside him. The yogi [Hindu ascetic] opened his eyes and inquired what was his errand. The brahman told him of his great distress, and how he had been wandering about that day doing special worship in the hope that the gods would have pity on him and help him.
On hearing his sad tale the yogi said, “Go to my daughter, who is sitting over yonder. Perhaps she will help you.”
The brahman thought it was rather strange. Still, he went to the girl and repeated what he had said to her father. The girl was very much affected by his account of himself, and wept profusely. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and lo! every tear that touched the ground became a rich lustrous pearl. “Take them,” she said; “they are yours.” Then she laughed, and lo! from her mouth there came forth most magnificent flowers of gold. “Take them,” she said again; “they are yours.” Then she arose and walked slowly a few paces, and lo! each footprint that she made was covered with gold. “Collect the gold,” she said; “it is yours. You will now have sufficient to provide yourself and family with food for many days. You can go.”
Glad and happy, the brahman went home. The gods had blessed him; his prayers had been heard at last. “Look,” said he to his wife, “the gods have had pity on us. For several hours I worshipped and meditated, and was returning home, when came across a yogi sitting by his fire.”
“Tell me no more,” she interrupted. “You are not speaking the truth. You must have got the wealth by theft. I shall not believe you till you have been to the king and told him everything. If His Majesty is satisfied with you I shall be satisfied also.”
Seeing that she was determined, the brahman took the pearls and gold to the king, and informed him how he had come by them. His Majesty was astonished. However, he believed the brahman, and gave him a present of several bags of money.
When the brahman’s wife saw the king’s present she was persuaded, and hesitated no longer to enjoy the wealth that her husband had so strangely and so opportunely obtained.
A short time after this interview the king sent for the brahman and inquired further about the daughter of the yogi; and being much impressed with the brahman’s account of her, he begged him to go to the girl’s father and solicit the hand of his daughter in marriage. “Such a wife,” thought he, “would be of inestimable benefit to me and my kingdom.”
“Be not angry, O king” replied the brahman, “and I will speak. Suppose the yogi is angry with me and curses me?”
“I care not,” said the king. “You must arrange some plan for getting the girl to be my wife.” There was some more conversation, and then the brahman left.
He was in great anxiety. The wealth that had lately come into his hands seemed about to pass out of them as quickly as it had come into them. What was he to do? Go he must; but how to fulfil his errand he knew not. The next morning he started, and in much trembling approached the yogi, who was still seated in the same place where he had found him before. “Have pity on me, he cried, “and hear my petition. The king wishes your daughter in marriage, and will not rest till he hears of your consent to the union.”
“Be not troubled,” replied the yogi. “Go and tell His Majesty that his request is accepted, and bid him come on such-and-such a day with a company of people for the wedding. The people who attend him must all be over the age of seven years. Go, fear not. My word has been given.
Overwhelmed with joy, the brahman hastened to the king and informed him of the success of the visit. The appointed day arrived. The king, with an immense retinue, came to the yogi, and was most graciously received. In due time the ceremony was celebrated. Everything went off well, and everybody was much pleased. And then the king left.
On the way back the bride, being very thirsty, asked for some water; but the woman in whose care she had been placed demurred. “Why do you tarry?” said the bride. “I dare not obey you,” replied the woman, “for in this river there dwells a serpent that will not allow anyone to drink of the water unless that person first gives it a pair of human eyes for the draught.” “Be it so, then,” replied the bride. “Fetch a knife and take out my eyes, and bring me some water.” The cruel act was done; the water was brought, and the girl drank of it and was satisfied.
Now this woman, whose business it was to look after the bride, was a very wicked woman. She took advantage of the darkness of the hour—for it was night before the company had reached halfway—and changed the clothes of her mistress for the clothes of her own daughter. The two girls happened to be about the same age. She then placed the yogi’s daughter in a box, which she put into the river, and afterwards she put her own daughter into the sedan chair.
The wicked woman’s daughter arrived at the royal palace, and as soon as it was light the next morning the impatient king visited her and asked her to cry and laugh and walk, so that he might get some pearls and gold. But the girl was only astonished, and said nothing. When he saw this, the king sent for the brahman and charged him with falsehood and deceit. The brahman protested his innocence, and begged His Majesty to wait. “The girl, perhaps, is confused,” he said, “with the sudden change in her position.”
The yogi’s daughter floated down the river in the box, and was found on the following morning by a washerman, who, seeing that she was blind, took her to his home, gave her food and clothing, and treated her in every way like his own child. The next day, as she walked about the washerman’s little garden, it was noticed that her footprints were footprints of gold. Somebody told her of this, and she answered, “I know. Collect it and give it to the washerman.” The following morning something caused her to laugh, when flowers of rold fell down from her mouth. This also was told her, when she answered, “I know. Take them to the king’s wife. Perhaps she will be pleased with them, and will wish to buy them. If so, then tell her that the price is a pair of human eyes.”
The washerman went to the palace with the golden flowers and showed them to the wife of the king. Her mother (the queen’s maid) was present when he arrived. As was expected, the young queen was fascinated with the flowers, and asked the washerman to say how much he wanted for them. “Two human eyes,” said he.
“Two human eyes?” repeated the queen. “How can I pay you in this way? Ask me for some money or for any special honour, and you shall have them. But how can I get for you two human eyes?”
“I will procure them for you,” said the maid, who went into an adjoining room and returned with a little box, wherein were the two eyes of the yogi’s daughter. The washerman took them, gave the queen the golden flowers, and then left.
“How glad I am you have succeeded!” exclaimed the yogi’s daughter when the washerman gave her the eyes. “These are none other than my own eyes. Put them back into their sockets and anoint them with this eye-salve.” The washerman did so, and the girl’s sight was restored to her whole as before.
When the king went to see his wife that evening the cunning maid showed him the golden flowers, and pretended that they had been produced by the queen. The king was very glad at this, and lavished on his wife and her maid all sorts of presents. “Now,” thought he, “I shall soon be the richest monarch in the world.”
Weeks passed. Nothing more was produced by the wife of the king. But the yogi’s daughter daily produced some pearls, or golden flowers, or gold, according as she wept, or laughed, or walked. In this way the washerman quickly became very rich. Various reports of his incredible wealth, and of the mysterious manner by which he had obtained it, spread everywhere. The king too got to know of it, and sending for the man, asked him how he had contrived to make so much money in so short a time. The washerman, who was very much frightened, informed His Majesty of the whole truth.
“Your Majesty,” he said, “the yogi’s daughter, who is your rightful wife, has been cruelly deceived by the woman in attendance on the girl that now occupies the position of queen. On the way back from the wedding this woman prevailed on the yogi’s daughter to take out her eyes; and then, when the girl was blind and knew not what was going on, she took off her garments and put them on her own daughter, the present queen. She then clothed the yogi’s daughter in the garments of her own daughter, and shutting her up in a box, set the box afloat in the river. The sedan chair, with her daughter seated inside, reached the palace; the box, with the yogi’s daughter, floated to my house. It was not long before I discovered the wonderful virtues of the yogi’s daughter. Whenever she wept or laughed, or wherever she walked, a pile of pearls, or golden flowers, or gold was the result. Once, at her request, I brought some of the golden flowers to the queen, and demanded two human eyes as the price. The queen’s mother, this wicked woman, was present at the time. She handed to me the pair of eyes that belonged to the yogi’s daughter. I took them and left. On my return home I gave the eyes to the girl, who at once replaced them in their sockets; and then, on the application of a little eye-salve, she was able to see with them as well as before.”
“Go and fetch the yogi’s daughter,” said the king. “I have been deceived.”
Presently the washerman appeared with the yogi’s daughter. The king asked her to relate the whole matter; and when he heard again the same account as the washerman had given him he was convinced. He immediately gave orders for the execution of the wicked maid and her stupid daughter; but the washerman and the brahman he promoted to great honour. Henceforth the yogi’s daughter lived with him, and he became richer and richer, till he had so much wealth that he was obliged to leave off counting it.