Mr. Won’t Give and Mr. Won’t Leave

Intermediate
8 min read
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    In a certain town there lived a clever old Brâhmaṇ, named Won’t-Give(Vidâmundan). He used to go out daily and to beg in all the houses round, under the pretence that he had to feed several Brâhmaṇs in his own house. Good people, that believed in his words, used to give him much rice and curry stuffs, with which he would come home, and explain to his wife how he had deceived such and such a gentleman by the imposition of feeding in charity many persons at home. But if any hungry Brâhmaṇ, who had heard of his empty boast of feeding Brâhmaṇs at home, came to him, he was sent away with some excuse or other. In this way Mr. Won’t-Give brought home a basketful of rice and other necessaries every day, of which he only used a small portion for himself and his wife, and converted the remainder into money. And thus, by imposition and tricks, he managed to live well for several years.

    In an adjoining village there lived another very clever Brâhmaṇ, named Won’t-Leave(Kodâmundan). Whenever he found any man reluctant and unwilling to give him anything that he begged of him, he would persist in bothering him until he had wrung from him a dole. This Mr. Won’t-Leave, hearing of the charity of Mr. Won’t-Give, and his benevolent feeding of Brâhmaṇs, came to see him one day, and requested him to give him a meal. Mr. Won’t-Give told him that for that day ten Brâhmaṇs had already been settled, and that if he came the next day he would have his meal without fail. Mr. Won’t-Leave agreed to this, and left him for that day. Mr. Won’t-Give had, of course, told him the very lie he was accustomed to tell all that occasionally begged meals of him.

    Now Mr. Won’t-Leave was not so stupid as to be thus imposed upon. He stood before Mr. Won’t-Give’s door precisely at the appointed ghaṭikâ (hour) the next day, and reminded the master of the house of his promise. Mr. Won’t-Give had never before been taken at his word, and determined to send away the impertinent guest by some stronger excuse than the first, and so he spoke to him thus:—

    “Sir, I am very sorry to say that my wife fell ill last night of a strong fever, from which she has not yet recovered. Owing to this unforeseen accident I have had to postpone my charitable feedings (samârâdhana) till her recovery, so do not trouble me, please, for some days more.”

    Mr. Won’t-Leave heard these words with an expression of sincere, or rather, seemingly sincere, sorrow in his face, and replied:—

    “Respected sir, I am very sorry for the illness of the mistress of the house, but to give up charitable feeding of Brâhmaṇs on that account is a great sin. For the last ten years I have been studying the art of cooking, and can now cook for even several hundreds of Brâhmaṇs; so I can assist you now in preparing the necessaries for the samârâdhana.”

    Mr. Won’t-Give could not refuse such a request, but he deceitfully determined in his mind to get Mr. Won’t-Leave to cook for him, and then to drive him away without giving him his rice. And so he said:—

    “Yes, that is a very good idea. I am much obliged to you for your kind suggestion. Come in; let us cook together.”

    So saying, the master of the house took Mr. Won’t-Leave inside and they both went into the kitchen, while the mistress of the house, at the command of her husband, pretended to be ill.

    Now Mr. Won’t-Give was a good liver, and prepared, with the assistance of Mr. Won’t-Leave, several good dishes. And then the difficulty was to drive the fellow out, for the long-maintained rule of never feeding a single Brâhmaṇ must not be broken that day. So, when the cooking was all over, the master of the house gave to Mr. Won’t-Leave a kâśu (copper coin), and asked him to bring some leaves from the bâzâr (for plates), and he accordingly went. Mr. Won’t-Give, meanwhile, came to his wife, and instructed her thus:—

    “My dearest wife, I have spared you the trouble of cooking to-day. Would that we could get such stupid fools as this every day to cook for us! I have now sent him out to fetch us some leaves, and it won’t look well if we shut our doors against him or drive him away; so we must make him go away of his own accord. A thought has just come into my mind as to how we can do it. As soon as he comes you shall commence to quarrel with me. I shall then come to you and beat you, or, rather, the ground near you, with both my hands, and you must continue your abuse and cries. The guest will find this very disgusting, and will leave us of his own accord.”

    Mr. Won’t-Give had just finished when he saw Mr. Won’t-Leave returning with the leaves. The wife, as pre-arranged, abused her husband right and left for his great imprudence and over-liberality in feeding the Brâhmaṇs. Said she:

    “How are we to get on in the world if you thus empty the house of everything we have in feeding big-bellied Brâhmaṇs? Must you be so particular as to invite them, even when I am sick?” These, and a thousand similar expressions, were now launched at the husband’s head. He pretended not to hear it for a time, but at last, apparently overcome by anger, he went in and with his hands gave successive blows on the floor. At every blow on the floor the wife cried out that she was being murdered, and that those who had mercy in their hearts should come to her rescue.

    Mr. Won’t-Leave, from the court-yard of the house, listened to what was taking place inside, but not wishing to interfere in a quarrel between husband and wife, left matters to take their own course, and got into the loft, where he hid himself, fearing that he would be summoned as a witness to the quarrel.

    After a time Mr. Won’t-Give came out of the room where he had been beating the floor, and to his joy he could not find the guest. He cautiously looked round him and saw no signs of Mr. Won’t-Leave. Of course, having had no reason to think that his guest would be sitting in the loft, he did not look up there; and even if he had done so, he would not have found him, for he had hidden himself out of sight.

    Mr. Won’t-Give now carefully bolted the door, and his wife came out and changed her dirty cloth for a clean one. Said her husband to her:

    “At last we have succeeded in driving him out; come, you too must be hungry; let us have our dinner together.”

    Two leaves were spread on the ground, and all the dishes were equally divided into them. Meanwhile Mr. Won’t-Leave was watching all that took place below him and, being himself very hungry, was slyly watching for an opportunity to jump down. Mr. Won’t-Give, gloating over his trickery, said to his wife:

    “Well, my love, did I not beat you without hurting you?” to which she replied:

    “Did I not continue to cry without shedding tears?” when suddenly there fell on their ears:

    “And did I not come to have my dinner without going away?” and down jumped Mr. Won’t-Leave, from the loft, and took his seat in front of the leaf spread by Mr. Won’t-Give for his wife. And Mr. Won’t-Give, though disappointed, was highly pleased at the cleverness of his guest.

    This story is cited as the authority for three proverbs that have come into use in Tamil.

    “Nôvâmal aḍitten.”
    “Oyâmal aluden.”
    “Pôkâmal vandên.”
    which represent the exchanges of politeness between the husband, the wife, and the guest, quoted in the foregoing paragraphs.

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