The Innocent Wife
The king of Avanti was taking the air one evening on the terrace of his palace when he saw a beautiful woman standing on top of the house opposite. The king was virtuous and just, but the sight of this woman filled his heart with unholy desire.
He called some servants and inquired who lived opposite the house.
“Your Majesty,” said the servants, “one of your courtiers, Bhadra, lives in that house.”
“Send Bhadra to me at once,” the king told them.
When Bhadra stood before him, the king handed him a letter, saying, “you must deliver this letter to so-and-so at the such-and-such place and bring back the reply. Start at dawn tomorrow.”
“Very well, Your Majesty,” said Bhadra. He took the letter and went home.
The following day the king waited till Bhadra started on his journey and went to Bhadra’s house all by himself.
Bhadra’s wife received the king with all honours and said, “You are our king, but only God is our protector.”
“Why do you say that?” the king asked her in surprise.
“Because I know why you have come,” she replied. “But I cannot understand one thing; your table is richly served, yet your eyes turn to the garbage on other tables. How is it?”
The reprimand was as gentle as it was severe. The king was grievously hurt. He finally got up and went back to his palace, forgetting to wear his shoes in haste.
In the meantime, Bhadra had forgotten to take the king’s letter. He turned his horse back and returned home. As he went in, he saw the king’s shoes. He knew why the king had selected him for the journey. He did not care to see his wife. He took the forgotten letter and once upon his journey. more started
He went to where he had to go, gave the letter to those for whom it was intended, took the reply and handed it over to the king. The king paid him a hundred pieces of gold and sent him away.
Bhadra took the gold to a goldsmith and bought ornaments which he brought home and gave to his wife. When she put them on, she looked twice as beautiful as ever.
“This is the result of the king’s favour,” Bhadra said to his wife. “Wear them and go to your people.”
“Why should I go to my people?” Bhadra’s wife asked.
“Why not?” Bhadra said. “Let everyone know how kindly the king is disposed towards us.”
“Well then, I shall go,” said the wife. She then went away to her father’s place.
She remained there for a whole month. But Bhadra did not go there to bring her back. He did not send anyone either. Nor did he send word about himself.
On the expiry of a month, his brother-in-law came to see Bhadra. They had a prolonged. Discussion. He understood that Bhadra intended to forsake his wife. He got furious.
“I am not a man of many words,” he told Bhadra. “Do you intend to take back your wife, or do you want me to complain with the king?”
“If you want the entire court to know that your sister is abandoned by her husband, complain to the king by all means,” Bhad- ra told him.
“Don’t worry,” the brother-in-law retorted. “I know how to word the complaint.”
Some days later, Bhadra was summoned to court. The king was on the throne and near him was the judge. The judge called upon Bhadra’s brother-in-law to present his complaint to the court.
“I want justice, your Honour,” the plaintiff said. “We had a lovely garden. We put up high walls and protected this garden with our very lives. When the garden was in full bloom, we handed it to this Bhadra and asked him to look after it and enjoy the fruit. Bhadra, who enjoyed it for some time, pulled down the walls, left it to the four winds, and gave up his responsibility without any reason. He now says he has no more use with the garden and wants us to take it back. Is it just ?”
“What do you say to this charge?” the judge asked Bhadra.
“It is true, Your Honour,” Bhadra said, “that I first took the garden and later abandoned it. But I did it neither wilfully nor under compulsion. When I went into it one day, I saw the lion’s footprints. I concluded that the garden was no longer safe for me. With my respect for the lion and consideration for my safety, I had to abandon the garden. I would like to know wherein lies my guilt.”
The king, who had been listening to the proceedings all the time, spoke up, turning to Bhadra. “Bhadra,” he said, “It seems to me that you made a mistake. I happen to know about this garden. It is possible that the lion strayed into the garden by mistake. But he had found nothing of use in it and must have realised it was no place for him. He went away immediately, without touching a single flower or tiny leaf. It was entirely wrong of you to have abandoned the garden you loved so much for fear of the lion. I suggest that you make peace with your brother-in-law and take back the park.
Bhadra and none else in the court understood what the king said. Bhadra was pleased to hear the king say what he said. He brought back his wife and lived happily with her.