Gateway to the Classics: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock
Eastern Stories and Legends by  Marie L. Shedlock

Grandmother's Golden Dish

L ONG ago the Bodisat was a dealer in tin and brass ware, named Seriva, in the country of that name. This Seriva, together with another dealer in tin and brass ware, who was an avaricious man, crossed the river Televaha, and entered the town called Andhapura. And, dividing the streets of the city between them, the Bodisat went round selling his goods in the street allotted to him, while the other took the street that fell to him.

Now in that city there was a wealthy family reduced to abject poverty. All the sons and brothers in the family had died, and all its property had been lost. Only one girl and her grandmother were left; and those two gained their living by serving others for hire. There was indeed in the house the vessel of gold out of which the head of the house used to eat in the days of its prosperity; but it was covered with dirt, and had long lain neglected and unused among the pots and pans. And they did not even know that it was of gold.

At that time the avaricious hawker, as he was going along, calling out, "Buy my water-pots! Buy my water-pots!" came to the door of their house. When the girl saw him, she said to her grandmother: "Mother! do buy me an ornament."

"But we are poor, dear. What shall we give in exchange for it?"

"This dish of ours is no use to us; you can give that away and get one."

The old woman called the hawker, and, after asking him to take a seat, gave him the dish, and said: "Will you take this, Sir, and give something to your little sister for it?"

The hawker took the dish, and thought: "This must be gold!" And turning it round, he scratched a line on its back with a needle, and found that it was so. Then, hoping to get the dish without giving them anything, he said: "What is this worth? It is not even worth a halfpenny!" And throwing it on the ground, he got up from his seat and went away.

Now, it was allowed to either hawker to enter the street which the other had left. And the Bodisat came into that street, and calling out, "Buy my water-pots," came up to the door of that very house. And the girl spoke to her grandmother as before. But the grandmother said: "My child, the dealer who came just now threw the dish on the floor, and went away; what have I now got to give him in exchange?"

"That merchant, mother dear, was a surly man; but this one looks pleasant, and has a kind voice: perchance he may take it."

"Call him, then," said she.

So she called him. And when he had come in and sat down, they gave him the dish. He saw that it was gold, and said: "Mother! this dish is worth a hundred thousand. All the goods in my possession are not equal to it in value!"

"But, Sir, a hawker who came just now threw it on the ground, and went away, saying it was not worth a halfpenny. It must have been changed into gold by the power of your virtue, so we make you a present of it."

The Bodisat gave them all the cash he had in hand (five hundred pieces), and all his stock-in-trade, worth five hundred more. He asked of them only to let him keep eight pennies, and the bag and the yoke that he used to carry his things with. And these he took and departed.

And going quickly to the river-side, he gave those eight pennies to a boatman, and got into the boat.

But the covetous hawker came back to the house, and said: "Bring out that dish, I'll give you something for it."

Then she scolded him, and said: "You said our gold dish, worth a hundred thousand, was not worth a halfpenny. But a just dealer, who seems to be your master, gave us a thousand for it, and has taken it away."

When he heard this he called out: "Through this fellow I have lost a golden pot worth—Oh, worth a hundred thousand! He has ruined me altogether!" And bitter sorrow overcame him, and he was unable to retain his presence of mind, and he lost all self-command. And scattering the money he had, and all the goods, at the door of the house, he seized as a club the yoke by which he had carried them, and tore off his clothes, and pursued after the Bodisat.

When he reached the river-side, he saw the Bodisat going away, and he cried out: "Hallo, Boatman! stop the boat!"

But the Bodisat said: "Don't stop!" and so prevented that. And as the other gazed and gazed at the departing Bodisat, he was torn with violent grief; his heart grew hot, and blood flowed from his mouth until his heart broke—like tank-mud in the heat of the sun.

Thus harboring hatred against the Bodisat, he brought about on that very spot his own destruction. This was the first time that Devadatta harbored hatred against the Bodisat.

But the Bodisat gave gifts, and did other good acts, and passed away according to his deeds.

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