A merchant of Patna had a daughter called Kirti. She was married to a rich, young man of Magadh. Devsen was his name. His father was dead and his mother managed the house. This lady became very jealous of the love her son showed to his wife. She began to give all sorts of pin-pricks to Kirti. But that girl endured her mother-in-law’s treatment without letting her husband know about it.
It so happened that Devsen had to go to Valabhi on some trade. Dreading to be left alone with her cruel mother-in-law until his return, Kirti informed him how she was being ill-treated by her.
Devsen was surprised to hear this. But taking his wife along with him was out of the question and he told his mother suggestively, “Mother, I am leaving. Your daughter-in-law is a delicately nurtured girl. I depend upon you to keep her happy till I return.”
“Don’t I know that, son?” the mother said. “She is as dear to me as you are.” Devsen went away with an easy heart. At once the old witch fell to beating Kirti, saying, “Wretch, how dare you try to make a rift between me and my son? Well, I must teach you a lesson.”
The heartless mother-in-law threw Kirti into a dark, underground cellar and locked the door. She hoped that her daughter-in-law would be starved to death before her son returned and she could report to him that the poor girl died of grief due to separation from him.
Kirti gave herself up to weeping of a very long time, sitting in the dark cellar. She had a father of a great renown, husband to lay down his life for her any amount of riches and yet fate had bought her to such a miserable state.
She began to feel around in the cell and found a short crow bar. Her spirits rose at once and she began to dig pass out of the cellar. Soon this passage brought her to her own bedroom.
Kirti hastily took up few clothes and jewels that came to hand,tied them up in a bundle and left the house under cover of darkness. She could go to her father at Patna. But that would involve all sorts of explanation and, also, her husband would be disgraced. She thought that it was better for her to go to Valabhi and join her husband.
Kirti had a bath in a tank. Then she dressed herself up like a man, return to the village, sold some of the jewels for expense and started for Valabh. On the way she came across a trader called Samudra Dutt who was also going to Valabh.
This trader was taking a huge caravan with him. If he went by the regular route he would have to pay a large sum of money by the way of taxes in every City. To avoid this the trader led his caravan through a Jungle.
They travelled all the day and camped in certain part of the Jungle for night. After dark the jackals began to howl in in the distance a sure sign of the movement of bandits. The trader’s men took up arms and took their positions around the camp. Kirti was more afraid of being discovered as a woman than losing her life. She could not depend on the trader for her safety. She searched about for hiding place and last found a pit. She jumped into it and covered herself with a dry leaves.
The bandits came about midnight there was a ferocious fight in which the bandits killed most of the men, drove away the rest of and took away the merchandise of the trader, who died in the fight.
Kirti stayed in the pit till the daybreak. Then she started walking till she reached tribal village. Here she saw an odd thing. A Sick man was made to sit in the sun. A doctor smeared the patient head with ghee. He placed a water pot by the side of the patient. Then he arranged a bamboo tube with one end dipping into water in the pot while its other end was adjusted to the patient’s ear which was swollen and re.
Even as Kirti was looking the ailing ear changed its colour and the patient’s face showed less pain. The doctor lifted up some worms from the pot and showed them to the people who gathered there. They were the cause of the patient’s trouble. Because of the heat of the sun they crept out and sought the coolness of the pot.
“King Vasudutt is suffering from similar worms,” said the the tribal doctor. But he would rather die than be cured by the like of us.”
Kirti marvelled at what she had seen. She proceeded on her journey and presently met a shepherd with a flock. “Do you know where a King Vasudutt lives?” she asked him.
“There you can see the city,” said the shepherd, pointing with his finger. “All this Jungle is his property.”
Kirti was anxious to reach this city because this was the end of the Jungle route. The appreared that most of the traders used this route and her husband too might return this way. She could wait for him in the city. She would treat the king who was said to be suffering from inflamed ear and get into his favour. In returned King might provide her husband with a safe convoy through the Jungle.
Thinking in this vein Kirti arrived in the city and went to the palace. The king was indeed in a precarious condition. The Doctor had already given up hope. Kirti who was still in a male grab undertook to cure the King and she was permitted to do so. She repeated the treatment she had seen at the tribal village and the king was relieved of not less than hundred-and-fifty worms. The King’s recovery was both quick and miraculous. He was put on a diet of milk and ghee.
Kirti was showered with praise and gifts by one and all. She saved all these gifts carefully. Soon Devsen arrived at the city with his carvan, even as Kirti expected. The arrival of a new carvan was always a big even to the people of the city. Some people would go to see the novelties, thers to make profitable business and still others to sell whatever they had to sell.
It was formal for the king to pay a goodwill visit to each carvan, take a few gifts and bless the trader, While going to meet the Devsen’s caravan the king requested Kirti to accompany him. Though she was in a male garb. Devsen easily identified her by a beautiful eyes.
There was no longer any need for Kriti to remain dressed as a man. After all her troubles and tribulations she found her dear husband. Kriti narrated her experiences with her mother-in-law, the bandits and so on. Even the king could not help shedding a tear on hearing the tale.
Devsen was very angry at his mother should break her promise to him and ill-treat his beloved wife.
“I hope that Kirti was going to be my son. But now she is my daughter and she shall succeed to my throne. As for you, young man, you may as well settle in this place and carry on with your trade. I cannot let you go,” the king said.
Kirti suggested that Devsen should send for his mother but he flatly refused. He could not look at her face anymore.
Kirti was showered with heaps of gifts which she kept safe with her. One day she took them in a cart and accompanied by her husband, went to the tribal village in the Jungle.
The tribal doctor was sent for. “O, eminent doctor,” said Kirti, “the king sends you these gifts for having cured him they. They are all of yours.”
The doctor could not recall having ever cured the king for any illness. While he gazed in wonder at the retreating figures of Kirti and her husband the tribal people picked up from the gifts whatever they wanted. There was nothing wrong in it because in the tribe what belonged to the one belongs to all.