Vetalas, from N.M. Penzer (ed.), `Ocean of Story´, 1923

„There is a city of the name of Harshavati, and in it there was a leading merchant named Dharmadatta… and that merchant had a daughter named Vasudatta, matchless in beauty, whom he loved more than his life. And she was given to an excellent young merchant named Samudradatta, equal to her in rank, distinguished for wealth and youth, who was an object that the eyes of lovely women loved to feast on, as the partridges on the rays of the moon, and who dwelt in the city of Tamralipti, which is inhabited by honourable men. Once on a time the merchant´s daughter, while she was living in her father´s house, and her husband was in his own country, saw at a distance a certain young and good-looking man. The fickle woman… invited him by means of a confidante, and made him her secret paramour. And from that time forth she spent every night with him, and her affections were fixed upon him only.

But one day the husband of her youth returned from his own land, appearing to her parents like delight in bodily form. And on that day of rejoicing she was adorned. But she would have nothing to say to her husband, in spite of her mother´s injunctions; and when he spoke to her she pretended to be asleep, as her heart was fixed on another. And then her husband, being drowsy with wine and tired with his journey, was overpowered with sleep.

In the meanwhile, as all the people of the house, having eaten and drunk, were fast asleep, a thief made a hole in the wall and entered their apartment. At that very moment the merchant´s daughter rose up, without seeing the thief, and went out secretly, having made an assignation with her lover. When the thief saw that, his object being frustrated, he said to himself: `She has gone out in the dead of night adorned with those very ornaments which I came her to steal; so I will watch where she goes.´ When the thief had formed this intention, he went out and followed that merchant´s daughter Vasudatta, keeping an eye on her, but himself unobserved.

But she, with flowers and other things of the kind in her hands, accompanied by a single confidante, who was in the secret, and entered a garden at no distance outside the city. And in it she saw her lover, who had come there to meet her, hanging dead on a tree, with a halter round his neck; for the city-guards had caught him there at night and hanged him, on the supposition that he was a thief. Then she was distracted and beside herself, and exclaiming, `I am ruined´, she fell on the ground and lamented with plaintive cries. Then she took down her dead paramour from the tree, and placing him in a sitting position she adorned him with unguents and flowers, and, although he was senseless, embraced him, with mind blinded by passion and grief. And when in her sorrow she raised up his mouth and kissed it, her dead paramour, being animated by a Vetala, suddenly bit off her nose. Then she left him in confusion and agony; but still the unfortunate woman came back once more, and looked at him to see if he was still alive. And when she saw that the Vetala had left the body, and that he was dead and motionless, she departed slowly, weeping with fear and humiliation.

In the meanwhile the thief, who was hidden there, saw all, and said to himself: `What is this that this wicked woman has done? Alas! the mind of females is terrible and black like a dark well, unfathomable, exceedingly deep for a fall. So I wonder what she will do now.´ After these reflections the thief again followed her at a distance, out of curiosity.

She went on and entered her own chamber, where her husband was asleep, and cried out, weeping: `Help! Help! This wicked enemy, calling himself a husband, has cut off my nose, though I have done nothing wrong.´ Then her husband, and her father, and the servants, hearing her repeated cries, woke up, and arose in a state of excitement. Then her father, seeing that her nose had been recently taken off, was angry, and had her husband bound, as having injured his wife. But even while he was being bound he remained speechless, like a dumb man, and said nothing, for all the listeners, his father-in-law and the others, had all together turned against him.

When the thief had seen all this, he slipped away nimbly, and the night, which was spent in tumult, gradually passed away; and then the merchant´s son was taken by his father-in-law to the king, together with his wife who had been deprived of her nose. And the king, after he had been informed by them of the circumstances, ordered the execution of the young merchant, on the ground that he had maimed his own wife, rejecting with contempt his version of the story. Then, as he was being led to the place of execution, with drums beating, the thief came up to the king´s officers and said to them: `You ought not to put this man to death without cause; I know the circumstances. Take me to the king, that I may tell him the whole story.´

When the thief said this, they took him to the king, and after he had received a promise of pardon, he told him the whole history of the night from the beginning. And he said: `If Your Majesty does not believe my words, look at once at the woman´s nose, which is in the mouth of that corpse.´ When the king heard that, he sent servants to look; and finding that the statement was true, he gave orders that the young merchant should not suffer capital punishment. But he banished his wicked wife from the country, after cutting off her ears also, and punished his father-in-law by confiscating all his wealth; and being pleased with the thief, he made him chief magistrate of the city.



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