Laos: The Faithful Wife

This story is part of the Laos unit. Story source: Laos Folk-Lore by Katherine Neville Fleeson, with photographs by W.A. Briggs (1899).

The Faithful Wife

The young and beautiful son of a head chow sought of a wise man what manner of wife should be his.

“As you walked by the way, whom did you meet?” asked the wizard.

“No one,” replied the young man.

“Nay, my son, you saw a slave of your father’s, cutting grass in a garden. She is to be your wife.”

Distressed that such a woman should be his wife, the young man fled from his own country.

And it came to pass that the chow saw the slave girl was kind, noble, and beautiful, and he took her to his house as a daughter, and she became more kind, more noble, and more beautiful.

Years had gone by, and upon a day, the son returned and, seeing in the one-time slave a most lovable and lovely woman, sought and gained her as his wife. Word reached the young man then that this was but a slave and, on learning the truth, he begged that he might be released to go on a long journey. The young wife consented.

A boat was made ready, and the chow’s son had it in his heart never to return. So, secretly, the chow had a gold image hidden in the bottom of the boat. When the day of departure had come, the chow in haste sent his servants to inquire of his son what he had in the boat.

“I have but my possessions,” replied the son.

“Nay, you have the image of gold which is the possession of my master, the chow,” insisted the servants. “If we find it in the boat, what will you do?” they asked.

“Return with you as a slave to my father!” exclaimed the son.

All the goods were removed from the boat and the image was found. Then the son returned as a slave to his father and was made keeper of the elephants.

Upon a day, the young wife of the son came to the chow and sought permission to go to the forest to find her husband.

Willingly did the chow say, “Go, my child,” and forthwith he had a boat put in readiness for her and sent with her many of his servants. One servant was called, “Eye That Sees Well,” another “Ear That Hears Well.”

Sailing down the river, they reached the province where the young man was searching for elephants, and there they remained.

The chow of the province sent a servant secretly to hide a golden image in the boat. But the “Ear That Hears Well” heard and the “Eye That Sees Well” saw, and together they took the image from the boat and hid it in the sand.

The following day, the chow sent a messenger asking why the princess had taken the image.

“I have not seen it,” were the words of the princess.

“If it is found in your boat, what will you promise?” asked the chow’s messenger.

“I and my servants will be slaves to him, if the image be found in my boat,” replied the princess, “but should the image not be found there, what will your master promise?”

“All his goods and his province, if the image be not found,” readily answered the messenger.

A diligent search failed to discover the image of gold and, true to his word, the chow gave of his goods and his province to the princess. Rejoicing and hoping thus to discover her husband, the princess gave a large feast and bade all the people. While all were feasting, lo, a man, in soiled garments and carrying a heavy tusk of an elephant, came towards them, and immediately did the princess recognize her husband, and the husband, realizing after what manner his wife loved him, grew to love her, and together they lived in her province for many, many years.

(600 words)

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