There was a cook whose name was Gretel. She wore shoes with red heels, and whenever she went out she would turn this way and that way, and was very cheerful, and thought, "You are a beautiful girl!" Then after returning home, because she was so happy, she drank a swallow of wine, and the wine gave her an appetite, so she tasted the best of what she had cooked, until she was quite full, and then said, "The cook has to know how the food tastes."
One day her master said to her, "Gretel, this evening a guest is coming. Prepare two chickens for me, the best way that you can."
"Yes indeed, my lord," answered Gretel. She killed the chickens, scalded them, plucked them, stuck them on the spit, and then, as evening approached, put them over the fire to roast. The chickens began to brown, and were nearly done, but the guest had not yet arrived. Gretel called to her master, "If the guest doesn't come, I'll have to take the chickens from the fire. And it will be a crying shame if they're not eaten soon, because they're at their juicy best right now."
The master answered, "You're right. I'll run and fetch the guest myself."
As soon as the master had turned his back, Gretel set the spit and the chickens aside and thought, "Standing here by the fire has made me sweaty and thirsty. Who knows when they will be back. I'll just run down into the cellar and take a swallow. So she ran down, lifted a jug to her lips, "God bless you, Gretel!" and took a healthy drink. "Wine belongs together," she said to herself. It's not good to keep it apart." Then she went back upstairs and placed the chickens over the fire again, basted them with butter, and cheerfully turned the spit. Because the roasting chicken smelled so good, she thought, "It could be lacking something. I'd better taste it!" She tested them with her fingers, and said, "My, these chickens are good! It's a sin and a shame that they won't be eaten at once!"
She ran to the window, to see if her master and his guest were arriving, but she saw no one. Returning to the chickens, she said, "That one wing is burning. I'd better just eat it." So she cut it off and ate it, and it tasted so good, and when she had finished it, she thought, "I'd better eat the other one too, or the master will see that something is missing." When both wings had been eaten, she once again looked for her master, but could not see him. Then it occurred to her, "who knows, perhaps they've gone somewhere else and aren't coming here at all." Then she said, "Well, Gretel, be of good cheer! The one has already been cut into. Have another drink and eat the rest of it. When it's gone, you can rest! Why should this gift of God go to waste?"
So she ran to the cellar once again, downed a noble drink, and finished off the first chicken with pleasure. When it was gone, and still the master had not yet returned, she looked at the other chicken and said, "Where the one is, the other should follow. The two belong together. What is right for the one, can't be wrong for the other. I believe that if I have another drink, it will do me no harm." So she took another drink, and sent the second chicken running after the first one.
Just as she was making the most of it, her master returned, calling out, "Gretel, hurry up, the guest is right behind me."
"Yes, master, I'm getting it ready," answered Gretel. The master saw that the table was set, and he picked up the large knife that he wanted to carve the chickens with, and stood in the hallway sharpening it.
The guest arrived and knocked politely on the door. Gretel ran to see who it was, and when she saw that it was the guest, she held a finger before her mouth, and said, "Be quiet! Hurry and get away from here. If my master catches you, you'll be sorry. Yes, he invited you for an evening meal, but all he really wants is to cut off both of your ears. Listen, he's sharpening his knife for it right now."
The guest heard the whetting and ran down the steps as fast as he could. Then Gretel, who was not a bit lazy, ran to her master, crying, "Just what kind of a guest did you invite?"
"What do you mean, Gretel?"
"Why," she said, "he took both of the chickens off the platter, just as I was about to carry them out, and then ran away with them."
"Now that's a fine tune!" said the master, feeling sorry about the loss of the good chickens. "At the least, he could have left one of them, so I would have something to eat." He called out to him to stop, but the guest pretended not to hear. Therefore he ran after him, the knife still in his hand, shouting, "Just one! Just one!" But the guest thought that he wanted him to give up just one of his ears, so he ran as though there were a fire burning beneath him, in order to get home with both ears.
In a remote village there lived a Brahman whose good nature and charitable disposition were proverbial. Equally proverbial also were the ill nature and uncharitable disposition of the Brahmani, his wife. But as Paramêsvara (God) had joined them in matrimony, they had to live together as husband and wife, though their temperaments were so incompatible. Every day the Brahman had a taste of his wife's ill temper, and if any other Brahman was invited to dinner by him, his wife, somehow or other, would manage to drive him away.
One fine summer morning a rather stupid Brahman friend of his came to visit our hero and was at once invited to dinner. He told his wife to have dinner ready earlier than usual, and went off to the river to bathe. His friend, not feeling very well that day, wanted a hot bath at the house, and so did not follow him to the river, but remained sitting in the outer verandah. If any other guest had come, the wife would have accused him of greediness to his face and sent him away, but this visitor seemed to be a special friend of her lord, so she did not like to say anything; but she devised a plan to make him go away of his own accord.
She proceeded to smear the ground before her husband's friend with cow dung, and placed in the midst of it a long pestle, supporting one end of it against the wall. She next approached the pestle most solemnly and performed worship (pûjâ) to it. The guest did not in the least understand what she was doing, and respectfully asked her what it all meant.
"This is what is called pestle worship," she replied. "I do it as a daily duty, and this pestle is intended to break the head of some human being in honor of a goddess, whose feet are most devoutly worshipped by my husband. Every day as soon as he returns from his bath in the river, he takes this pestle, which I am ordered to keep ready for him before his return, and with it breaks the head of any human being whom he has managed to get hold of by inviting him to a meal. This is his tribute (dakshinâ) to the goddess; today you are the victim."
The guest was much alarmed.
"What! break the head of a guest! I at any rate shall not be deceived today," thought he, and prepared to run away.
The Brahman's wife appeared to sympathize with his sad plight, and said, "Really, I do pity you. But there is one thing you can do now to save yourself. If you go out by the front door and walk down the street my husband may follow you, so you had better go out by the back door."
To this plan the guest most thankfully agreed, and hastily ran off by the back door.
Almost immediately our hero returned from his bath, but before he could arrive his wife had cleaned up the place she had prepared for the pestle worship, and when the Brahman, not finding his friend in the house, inquired of her as to what had become of him, she said in seeming anger, "The greedy brute! he wanted me to give him this pestle -- this very pestle which I brought forty years ago as a dowry from my mother's house, and when I refused he ran away by the back yard in haste."
But her kind-hearted lord observed that he would rather lose the pestle than his guest, even though it was a part of his wife's dowry, and more than forty years old. So he ran off with the pestle in his hand after his friend, crying out, "Oh Brahman! Oh Brahman! Stop please, and take the pestle."
But the story told by the old woman now seemed all the more true to the guest when he saw her husband running after him, and so he said, "You and your pestle may go where you please. Never more will you catch me in your house," and ran away.