“He that should prove.”–This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana, about a lay-brother who was a greengrocer in Sāvatthi and made a living by the sale of various roots and vegetables, and pumpkins and the like. Now he had a pretty daughter who was as good and virtuous as she was pretty, but was always laughing. And when she was asked in marriage by a family of his own station in life, he thought “She ought to be married, but she’s always laughing; and a bad girl married into a strange family is her parents’ shame. I must find out for certain whether she is a good girl or not.”
So one day he made his daughter take a basket and come with him to the forest to gather herbs. Then to try her, he took her by the hand with whispered words of love. Straightway the girl burst into tears and began to cry out that such a thing would be as monstrous as fire rising out of water, and she besought him to forbear. Then he told her that his only intent was to try her, and asked whether she was virtuous. And she declared that she was and that she had never looked on any man with eyes of love. Calming her fears and taking her back home, he made a feast and gave her in marriage. Then feeling that he ought to go and pay his respects to the Master, he took perfumes and garlands in his hand and went to Jetavana. His salutations done and offerings made, he seated himself near the Master, who observed that it was a long time since his last coming. Then the man told the Blessed One the whole story.
“She has always been a good girl,” said the Master. “You have put her to the test now just as you did in days gone by.” Then at the greengrocer’s request he told this story of the past.
Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares , the Bodhisatta was a Tree-Sprite in a forest. And a lay-follower who was a greengrocer of Benares had just the sane doubts of his daughter, and all fell out as in the introductory story. And as her father took hold of her hand the weeping girl repeated these verses:–
He that should prove my buckler strong,
My father, worketh me this wrong.
Forlorn in thickest wood I cry;
My helper proves my enemy.
Then her father calmed her fears, and asked whether she was a virgin. And when she declared that she was, he brought her home and made a feast and gave the girl in marriage.
His story ended, the Master preached the Four Truths, at the close whereof the greengrocer was established in the First Path of Salvation. Then the faster identified the Birth by saying, “The father and daughter of to-day were the father and daughter in the story, and I the Tree-Sprite who witnessed the scene.”
[Note. Cf. No. 217.]