The Wicked Woman’s Reward
Once there lived a certain king. He had concubines, five in number. Two of them he loved more than the others for they were to bear him children. He said that the one who should give birth to a male baby he would marry.
Soon one of them bore a child, but it was a girl, and shortly afterward the other bore a handsome boy. The one which had given birth to the baby girl was restless: she wished that she might have the boy. In order to satisfy her wish, she thought of an ingenious plan whereby she might get possession of the boy.
One midnight, when all were sound asleep, she killed her own baby and secretly buried it. Then she quietly crept to her rival’s bed and stole her boy, putting in his place a newborn cat. Early in the morning the king went to the room of his concubine who had borne the boy, and was surprised to find a cat by her side instead of a human child. He was so enraged that he immediately ordered her to be drowned in the river. His order was at once executed.
Then he went into the room of the wicked woman. The moment he saw the boy baby, he was filled with great joy, and he smothered the child with kisses. As he had promised, he married the woman. After the marriage the king sent away all his other concubines, and he harbored a deep love for his deceitful wife.
Soon afterwards there was a great confusion throughout the kingdom. Everybody wondered why it was that the river smelled so fragrant, and the people were very anxious to find out the cause of the sweet odor. It was not many days before the townspeople along the river-bank found the corpse of the drowned woman floating in the water, and this was the source of the sweetness that was causing their restlessness. It was full of many different kinds of flowers which had been gathered by the birds. When the people attempted to remove the corpse from the water, the birds pecked them and would not let the body be taken away.
At last the news of the miracle was brought to the ears of the king. He himself went to the river to see the wonderful corpse. As soon as he saw the figure of the drowned woman, he was tortured with remorse.
Then, to his great surprise and fear, the corpse suddenly stood up out of the water and said to him in sorrowful tones, “O king! as you see, my body has been floating on the water. The birds would have buried me, but I wanted you to know that you ordered me to be killed without any investigation of my fault. Your wife stole my boy and, as you saw, she put a cat by my side.”
The ghost vanished, and the king saw the body float away again down the river. The king at once ordered the body of his favorite to be taken out of the water and brought to the palace, and he himself was driven back to the town, violent with rage and remorse. There he seized his treacherous wife and hurled her out of the window of the palace, and he even ordered her body to be hanged.
Having gotten rid of this evil woman, the king ordered the body of the innocent woman to be buried among the noble dead. The corpse was placed in a magnificent tomb and was borne in a procession with pompous funeral ceremonies. He himself dressed entirely in black as a sign of his genuine grief for her, yet, in spite of his sorrow for his true wife, he took comfort in her son, who grew to be a handsome boy.
As time went on, the prince developed into a brave youth who was able to perform the duties of his father the king; so, as his father became old, no longer able to bear the responsibilities of regal power, the prince succeeded to the throne, and ruled the kingdom well. He proved himself to be the son of the good woman by his wise and just rule over his subjects.