The Stingy Mother-in-Law who Starved her Daughter-in-Law

Once there was a mother who had one son. She arranged a marriage for him with a very fine girl from another city. After her marriage, the bride became more and more pale, day after day. She lost her colour. The son asked his mother, What is the matter with my wife? She is looking very changed these days.

The mother answered, Perhaps she is still shy.

No, it doesn"t seem like shyness to me, said the son. And he went to ask the opinion of his relatives and friends saying, My wife has changed a great deal in appearance since our marriage Why?

They told him, Perhaps she is ill.

He went to his wife and asked, What"s the matter with you? Are you ill?

She said, I feel very weak.

Her husband took her to a doctor who said, Really she is very weak. Take care that she has plenty of good food.

The husband began to bring home more food and give it to his mother, but day after day his wife got thinner. There was no benefit from medicine so he stopped bringing her medicines. He went to his friends again and said, In the six months of our marriage my wife has become thinner and thinner. What do you think is the matter?

They said, Maybe she doesn"t love you. She may love somebody else.

No, I don"t think so. She isn"t that kind of a woman.

What does she complain of?

She says she feels weak.

You should make a party and let her sit and enjoy herself watch¬ing. Let someone sing a song about a lover. If she seems to enjoy her¬self a great deal then you will know that she is pining for the one she loves. If she really has a good time then you will know that she doesn"t love you, but loves somebody else.

He went to his mother and said, I want to make a party so that my friends and I can have a good time.

Why not? she said. Make a party.

He invited his friends on a certain day and made a party. His wife sat up on the roof where she could look on. Her husband went up to the roof and found her asleep. He woke her up and said, I see you are asleep. Why aren"t you enjoying yourself?

She said, Such things don"t interest me. I just try .to mind my own business.

The husband went down to his friends and said, Entertainment doesn"t interest my wife. She was asleep. Sound asleep on the roof. Sleeping.

The friends said, Then it is sure that your wife is hungry. She is starving.

That"s strange, he said. Would a person like me let his wife go hungry in his house? My house is provided with everything necessary. and you all know how much I buy in the market every day.

Then your mother must give her very little to eat and she doesn"t want to say, I am hungry, because she is shy.

Well, what shall I do?

They said, Go to your mother, tell her that you have four people coming for dinner and ask her to make stew and chicken and real party food.

He went to his mother and ordered ground meat, chicken, rice, spinach, sweets, etc., for dinner one night. When the son returned in the evening the mother asked, When are the guests coming?

He said, They aren"t coming after all. They have changed their plans.

What shall we do with all this food? asked the mother.

We will eat dinner ourselves and give the rest to the neighbours and the poor.

In those days it was the custom for the wife to eat with the women of the household and for the men to eat by themselves. The husband said, I am disappointed that my guests didn"t come. Let us have dinner together, I and you and my wife.

What a shame, ya father. Neither your father ate with the women¬folk nor your grandfather nor anyone I know of. Why should you make your wife a goddess?

Give up those old ideas. I am disappointed and I want to eat in company, I and you and my wife, so that I shall have a better appetite.

She said, I am not hungry. You eat with your wife if you like.

The mother served up the dinner and the husband called his wife to come and eat. She sat down and ate. She was really hungry. I r her parents had been in the same city she could have gone home to eat, but she was a stranger in the city and she was shy to say that she was hungry in her new home so she didn"t tell anyone at all, not even her husband. She began to eat and her husband saw that really she was hungry. She ate eagerly.

The mother-in-law was smoking a water-pipe. She was so upset that she had lighted a water-pipe to calm her nerves. She puffed away angrily, Kr-r-r, whish kr-r-r, whish. Suddenly she could bear it no longer and she shouted ~o her daughter-in-law, Get up, get up. The cat is in the kitchen and she will break the dishes and eat from the cooking pots.

Let the cat eat, said the son to his mother. Sit still and eat, he said to his wife.

Kr-r-r, whish, kr-r-r, whish. I think someone is knocking at the door, shouted the mother.

No, that is at the neighbour"s house, the son said to his mother.

To his wife he said, Go ahead and eat.

K-r-r, whish, k-r-r, whish. Get up and bring water for your husband, shouted the mother.

The water is here beside me and I can help myself, the son said to his mother. To his wife he said, Keep on eating.

The mother-in-law grumbled aloud. How she eats! Like a blind person she is stuffing herself.

The husband said, Let her eat.

The wife, poor one, ate until she was full and contented. Then she got up and began to clear away the dishes.

The mother came to her son and whispered to him, your wife, when she eats until she is full, makes a mess in her bed at night. They warned me about her before you married her. I am afraid she will make the bed dirty tonight. You should take care not to let her eat her fill.

O Mother, it is now almost a year since my marriage. Have you kept my wife hungry all this time for fear she would dirty the bed? Let her dirty it, but first let her fill her stomach. If she dirties the bed she will be the one to clean it up. I may even let her sleep alone in her own bed. I have no desire to le~ her go hungry for fear of accidents. You have certainly acted strangely. I take my wife to the doctor to find out what is the matter with her and all that is wrong with her is that you are starving her.

Well, O father, should we make a new mattress every year?

The son understood now what had been going on. His wife slept well that night for the first time in a year. She had not slept well before because she was hungry. She used to be sleepless and restless.

Very early next morning, before dawn, the mother-in-law entered her son"s room and saw him sleeping on one side of the bed and his wife on the other side. She stepped between the two of them and made a big one there in the middle of the bed. Then she went downstairs.

The son was awake and saw what had happened. He got up and produced from his store a pile of gold coins and went downstairs to his mother without waking his wife. O Mother, he said, I have been married almost a year. If you had fed my wife well, do you think I should have benefited only a little? My wife"s droppings are pure gold. And he showed her the bag of gold coins.

The mother said, But that was my business in your bed, the bus¬iness of your ever-loving, worthy mother.

If my mother is worthy, what was she doing in our bed? But it is good that you have confessed. Go now and remove your mess from our bed without waking my wife.

In the morning he spoke to his wife and said, Why were you hungry for all this long time and you never told me?

She said, I was shy to use the word, hungry. I couldn"t bear to say, I am hungry.
But I am your husband. Are you shy with me?

Yes, I am bashful.

But how did you eat before, when you ate with my mother?

She said, Your mother would cook just enough for you and what was left she would eat. When I ate I got only one morsel or at most three. I would take a mouthful and she would say, The cat is in the kitchen. Put it out. I would come back for a bite and she would say, Someone is at the door. Go and open it. See who is there. I would come back for another bite and find that she had finished everything.

The husband said, But the quantities of food that I brought, ¬what happened to them?

She used to sell the extra meat and vegetables to the neighbours.

That same morning the husband went and arranged for one of his houses to be vacated by the tenants and he moved his wife and their belongings to the new house and furnished it nicely. His wife lived in the new house and his mother lived in the old house, and the son, who didn"t want to anger his mother, used to shop for both houses. In a month"s time the bride"s health returned and she was feeling better than ever.