Moral Stories For Kids - A Bride In A Casket

A Bride In A Casket

On the outskirts of a certain town stood an old temple. Not one day passed without hundreds of devotees visiting it. Offerings of fruits, sweetmeat, and coins were heaped before the deity. A young man who thought himself very clever indeed, one day began to sport a tender beard, donned ochre clothes, and occupied a hut close by the temple. He sat with his eyes shut as if he were lost in meditation. But he took care to be seen by all the visitors. He hardly spoke. This must be a holy man, thought the townsfolk. By and by it became a custom with the visitors to the temple to look him up after they had worshipped the deity. They bowed to him and placed before him food and money as gifts. The fake hermit smiled at them and patted them on the back. They were pleased, thinking that his blessings would surely do them good. The young man soon prospered. With the money the visitors offered him he built a fine house near the temple and lived happily. He had at his command half a dozen good for nothing fellows who had become his disciples. One day, a rich merchant paid a visit to the temple. He was accompanied by his wife and daughter. As they sat before the deity, their hands folded in devotion, the impostor watched them from his room on the upper floor of his new house. The merchant's daughter was extremely beautiful. "How wonderful it would be to have her for my wife!" he thought and sent for the merchant. And when the merchant came, he received him with many kind words.

The merchant was surprised, for he knew that the holy man hardly spoke. "You know that I don't care to talk to ordinary mortals. It is out of sheer compassion for you that I decided to break my sacred vow. I have, naturally, the power to see the shape of things to come. I'm sorry to say that before long a great misfortune is to befall you." The merchant went ashen pale. "My ship is abroad. I have spent all that I have to heap it with valuable goods. My luck depends on the ship's safe return," he said, a moan escaping his lips. "Precisely," said the hermit. "And for your information, your luck seems rather bad. Your ship is encountering a violent storm right now! I am, to be sure, doing my best to save it from total wreckage. But how long can I battle against your ill-luck if its very cause is nurtured by yourself? The merchant fell at the hermit's feet and cried out, "I've no doubt that you're speaking a fat lot of sense, though I don't understand a grain of it. Please help me root out the cause of my ill-luck, I beg of you." "You alone can root that out, old man! I can of course guide you with my advice. Listen closely. Do not lose heart. The cause of your ill-luck is your daughter! No power on earth or in heaven can save you as long as she is by your side. You must give her up immediately," said the hermit. "But, am I not her father? How can I give her up?" asked the perplexed merchant. "Easily," answered the hermit. "Shut her up in a casket and float the casket in the river! Being a father you can do it. I can't do it for you! Do it tonight by all means. Only, don't forget to place a lamp on the casket." "No sir! I cannot do away with my child in that manner. That would be worse than losing my ship," the merchant cried out, violently shaking his head. The hermit laughed. He planted an affectionate slap on the merchant's cheek. "You naive fellow, don't I see your daughter's future too in the mirror on my fingernails? It is so written in her destiny that she will be rescued by a wonderful young man who will be pleased to marry her. You cannot dream of a better bridegroom than he in the whole town, nay, in the whole kingdom."

The merchant sighed with relief. After further assurance from the hermit, he agreed to abide by his advice and took leave of him. Although the merchant was left in no doubt about the bright future of his daughter, it proved very painful for him to put the innocent girl to sleep with some sedative. It was even more painful to put her in a casket and then float the casket down the river. Faithful to the holy man's instruction, he placed a lamp on the casket. The night the hermit, with some of his trusted disciples, waited impatiently on the desolate riverbank, his heart running pit-a-pat. Around midnight, they spotted a faint flicker in midstream. The mendicant was delighted. At his order, a couple of his disciples swam into the river and drew the floating casket ashore. It was with great difficulty that the hermit suppressed his glee at the smooth success of his scheme. He could have straightaway proposed to marry the merchant's daughter. But he was not sure if the merchant would welcome the proposal and, even if he did if the girl would. Now, he felt sure that while the merchant would be thankful to him for being saved from certain misfortune, the girl would be grateful to him for being saved from certain death. At his signal, his disciples carried the casket into his house. He then dismissed them and, as excited as a mouse at the sight of the cheese, took the lid of the casket in great haste. Alas, strange are the ways of the world! No sooner had he done so than he received a sharp slap in the face. Horrified, he tried to take a closer look at what had emerged from the casket but received an instant scratch in the eye. As he covered his eyes with his palms, a savage bit took away a chunk of his bright nose.

He shrieked and rushed out of his room, but not before the strange creature that hopped out of the casket had pulled his ear and planted a heavy spank on his cheek. Then it jumped out of the window, leaped onto a tree, and escaped. The holy man ran for his life, at a total loss to understand how a beautiful girl could have changed into a dreadful monster. "A witch, a witch!" he shrieked while running, but all that came out of his throat was a confused gurgle. He never returned. He was wise not to, for his disciples would not have known him after what the monkey had done to his face. But as for the merchant's daughter, she did get the best bridegroom in the kingdom after all! It so happened that before the false hermit saw the casket, it had been discovered by the prince of the land, who was returning by boat from a hunting spree in the forest. Attracted by the lamp, he brought the casket aboard his boat and opened it, only to discover the sleeping beauty. As he had earlier captured a ferocious monkey from the forest, he substituted the beast for the beauty and set the casket adrift again. He did not forget to put the lamp back in its place. In the morning, the prince led the girl to her father. The merchant was not surprised, he had expected some such thing though he was extremely delighted. He told the prince that he ought to marry her, for that was in her destiny! The prince blushed, but could not think of anything to say. Never could he have searched for a more beautiful bride! 

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