In a temple of the north lived a priest who had great greed for the betel nut. One day, compelled by his appetite, he inquired of a boy-priest if no one had died that day, but the boy replied he had heard of no death.
A man, while worshipping in the temple, overheard the priest’s words, and on his return to his home, said, “The priest wants some one to die so he can have betel to eat. Let us punish him, because he loves the betel nut better than the life of a man. Make me ready for the grave, then wail with a loud voice and the priest will come.”
When all was ready, they wailed with a loud voice and the priest, filled with cheerful thoughts of satisfying his appetite, came quickly. The people all said, “We must hasten to the grave with our dead brother. As it is already evening, we will not have the feast until we return.”
All hastened to the place of burning, and, upon reaching it, they took one end of the cloth covering the body and placed it in the hands of the priest, while the other end they left on the body of the supposed dead man.
“While you ask blessings on our dead brother, we will go prepare wood for the burning,” said the people, and, leaving the priest praying, they returned as they had come, cut thorns and briars and placed them on and about the path, so the priest could not escape unhurt. Then they hid themselves.
As the darkness closed about him, the priest prayed fast and loud. Lo! the man stirred and groaned, and the priest cried, “O, my father, I am asking blessings on thee! Why movest thou?”
Again the man rose up and groaned even louder, and the priest, terrified, ran away towards the temple. Caught by the briars, he fell headlong, cut and bleeding. With great effort, he at last reached the temple, and with much pain had his wounds dressed by the boy-priest.
Not until he had rested, did he inquire of the boy if the people of the dead man had brought any betel to the temple in his absence.
“No,” said the boy-priest. “Go to the house of the dead man and eat with them.”
But the priest most vehemently said, “If ten or twenty men die, I will not go again. Die like that man! I shall never go again.”
This content is from the Project Gutenberg EBook of Laos Folk-Lore of Farther India, by Katherine Neville Fleeson, originally published 1899.
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