Bedtime Audio Stories - The Magical Peacock

 The Magical Peacock

Dark clouds threatened the summer sky. The old man sat charmed by that lovely scene, his eyes shining in joy and wonderment. There was a rolling sound of thunder and more gracefully danced the delighted peacock. It was not only the promise of rain that inspired him to fan out its beautiful feathers, but he often danced for his gentle master for whom he had developed a fond affection. At the edge of an evergreen forest, in a little hut lived the old man. Not alone, but with his wife, an ill-tempered and quarrelsome woman. For her, the day never ended without having chided her husband to her heart's fill. However, it was in the peacock that the poor man had always found his companion and solace. Early one morning when the drops of dew still glistened on the leaves, the old man plodded along the forest path. Firewood, berries, fruit, and vegetables were all that he went to gather from the thicket. The old woman stayed back, grumbling and rumbling, for she had to mind the house all by herself. 

In the garden stood a tub, filled with fresh rainwater. The peacock joyfully splashed into it. Suddenly a saucepan came flying and struck its head very hard indeed. "You rogue! How dare you dirty the water meant for my bath? Be off and never turn up again," screamed the enraged woman. The dazed bird, seeing a thousand stars in bright sunshine, sadly flew away. When the old man returned in the evening and found out what had occurred in his absence, he was very angry with his wife. They wrangled and quarreled well into the daylight. But the peacock never came back and the good old man had to rest content with a lonely life, no one to give him company, but his nagging wife. A year rolled by. One day, while the old man reposed under a tree in the forest, a soft human voice floated down into his ears. "How're you, my loving master?" Looking up he saw his peacock perched on a branch above him. A changed bird now. And it could speak! He swooped down and stood before his amazed master. They bent and bowed and bowed and bent, greeting each other in polished Japanese fashion. "We will be blessed to have your company for tea today. My wife and the children are so eager to meet you!" said the peacock in a polite tone. It was an enchanting little bamboo house, surrounded by a bamboo garden dappled with stepping stones and wee lanterns. 

In the background stood a small hillock, a singing streamlet gurgled down its green breast and formed a miniature lake below. In its crystal waters swam playfully a shoal of goldfish. "I am surely in a dreamland!" exclaimed the old man unable to believe his eyes. After the formal greetings were over, Mrs. Peahen set the table, complete with delicious dishes, a pair of chopsticks, napkins, and a vase of flowers exquisitely arranged in Japanese style. Kneeling gracefully, as was proper, the eldest daughter served the ceremonial tea. "We are sorry for offering you such a modest meal. We didn't have enough time to make adequate arrangements," humbly apologized Mrs. Peahen intently eyeing the reaction of her guest. The old man was deeply touched at such a warm reception. Pressed by his kind little hosts, he consented to spend the night with them. So fascinated was he that he extended his stay even after the day, and time rolled on! During the day he basked in the bright sunshine and frolicked with the younger Peachicks. In the evening he would relax in the garden, while Mrs. Peahen played on the lyre and Mr. Peacock and the children sang and danced.

He completely forgot his life and its cares. One morning, as his eyes fell on his bundle of firewood, he suddenly realized how long he had been away from home. He must simply return at once. The feathered clan was indeed very sorry that he must go. Placing two beautifully woven baskets, one light, and the other heavy, Mr. Peacock gently said, "Dear Master, please accept one of these as a token of remembrance of your gracious visit." Humility made the old man pick up the lighter of the two baskets. His wife scolded him for being so irresponsible. The old man managed to calm her down with a narration of his strange adventures. Then showing her the basket, he slowly undid the cover. Lo and behold! A wonderful sight met their eyes. There lay in it a casket of the color of the moon, crammed with jewels, precious stones, gold, and silver. It was a magic box, for it always remained full, no matter how many times you emptied it. "What a simpleton you were not to have chosen the heavier basket! There would have been twice as much in it. Now, I'm off to acquire the gift for myself from the peacocks," said his wife with a greedy smile.

"Don't be so avaricious. It would be very rude to demand for more," said the old man trying to stop her. But alas! She soon dressed up for her journey. On went her ribboned hat, up went her silken umbrella and off she went to the Peacock's place. She had no difficulty in reaching her destination for the old man told her the way. Mr. Peacock was not too pleased to see her. Nonetheless, he invited her for a cup of tea. Mrs. Peahen and the children did not dare to meet her. She gulped the tea as fast as she could and then waited for a while. But no presents seem to appear. So she demanded for one right away and Mr. Peacock eyeing her sternly went in and returned with two baskets. Snatching the heavier one, the old woman hastened away without even a word of gratitude. But she panted after a while for the basket was rather heavy. Unable to restrain her curiosity any longer, she sat down on a wayside rock and tore open the lid. A big yellow pumpkin and three white mice were all that the basket contained! She frowned and cursed the peacock and trembled with rage. But suddenly her eyes grew bright. Wait! Pumpkin! It suddenly reminded her of the tales her grandmother had told her when she was a mere child. Could it be that her pumpkin will turn into a coach and the mice into horses and coachman? And she would change into a comely princess? She cut open the pumpkin, out popped a bee and stung her on the nose, and flew away. 

She gave out a shriek. The mice which were till now dozing in the cozy basket sprang up and scampered off into the woods. Insulted and humiliated the old woman walked to a nearby brook and sat beside it. She sat there for a long time. Then she dozed off. From deep within herself she heard a voice, "You rightly deserved all this! You fool, if the magic box always gave you more and you could never empty it, how did it matter if it was lighter between the two?" Night fell. The old man was out looking for her. She felt happy that he cared for her even though she had never looked for him when he was missing. She followed him silently. Her husband was surprised, for he had never known her to be silent. By morning he knew that she was a changed woman. She was full of kindness and consideration. A year later she said, "I think I should go and thank the Peacock for his marvelous gift." "How do you say so, after his gift gave you such a jolt?" asked her husband. "How? Don't you see what happened after the jolt? I am more peaceful, happier than ever!" she replied. She went and renewed contact with the peacock. Mr. Peacock often paid them a visit along with his entire family. Mrs. Peahen sang and played on the lyre, while Mr. Peacock and the children danced to the delight of their venerable audience.

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