THERE was once a farmer who kept a labourer and a field woman to do the work of the farm; and they were both very industrious and worked as if they were working on their own account and not for a master.
Once at the time of transplanting rice, they were so busy that they stayed in the fields all day and had their meals there and did not go home till the evening. During this time it happened that the man had unyoked his plough bullocks and taking his hoe began to dress the embankment of the field, and as he dug, he dug out a very large crab; so he plucked some leaves from the bushes and wrapped the crab in them and fetching the yoke rope from the plough, he tied the bundle up tightly with it and put it on the stump of a tree, intending to take it home in the evening; but when he went home he forgot about it.
Now the crab was alive and in the middle of the night it began to struggle to get out, but could not free itself. It happened that just then the farmer was walking in the field to see that no one came to steal his rice seedlings, and the crab began to sing:--
"This servant, this servant, father,
And this maidservant, this maidservant, father,
Caught me while digging the bank:
And in leaves, leaves, father,
With the yoke rope, yoke rope, father
Tied me and left me on the stump."
At this sound the farmer was very frightened, and puzzled also; for he thought, "If this were a human being crying, every one in the neighbourhood would have heard and woke up, but it seems that I alone am able to hear the sound; who can it be who is talking about my servants?" So he went back to bed and told no one. The next morning when the labourer looked for his yoke ropes, he missed one; and then he remembered that he had used it to tie up the crab; so he went to the place and found his rope. When his master brought them their breakfast that day and they had finished eating, the labourer began to tell how he had lost one of the yoke ropes and had found it again: and how he had used it for tying up the crab which he had found. The master asked whether the crab was alive or dead; and the labourer said that it was dead.
Then the master said "My man you have done a very foolish thing; why did you tie it up alive? Last night I could not sleep for its crying. Why did you imprison the innocent creature until it died?" And he told them the song it had sung, and forbade them ever to cause such pain to living creatures. He said "Kill them outright or you will bring disgrace on me; when I heard the lament I thought it was a man, but now I learn from you that it was a crab. I forbid you ever to do the like again." And at the time of the Sohrai festival the farmer called together all his household and sang them the song and explained its meaning to them, and the men who heard it remember it to this day.