An envious woman
There was once a polygamist who had two wives. The older one had only one son who was intelligent and industrious. The younger wife had died after giving birth to her third son. Her three sons were also intelligent and industrious. Two of them were older than the older wife’s son. The older woman was very unhappy because she knew that when her husband died, the younger woman’s older sons would control the greater portion of his wealth. The husband was a very wealthy man indeed. He had saved up a great deal of money and had acquired many acres of land, many herds of cattle, and many barns of yam. Each time the older woman thought about the eventual death of her husband, she could scarcely eat any food, often for days at a time, and had difficulty in sleeping. The woman became emaciated and began to show signs of madness. Sometime later she planned to kill the two boys whom she feared might otherwise deprive her own son the husband’s wealth. She went to one of her friends, a woman who was no less devilish than she, and got some poison from her. Over night she developed some warmth affection for the boys she wanted to destroy. Many neighbors were surprised because since she had taken charge of the boys on the dearth of their mother, she had never treated them kindly. All who heard her abrupt change of heart said, “These boys will now be happy.”
One day while the two older boys and the woman’s were at work on the farm, the woman prepared for them. As usual she used a big dish for the older boys and a small for her son. He had shown all the boys where she kept the dishes so that there will be no confusion over whose dish was whose. After preparing the meal, she poisoned the dish used by the tow older brothers and went off to the market with her neighbors.
While the boys were working on the farm, a maternal aunt of the two older boys arrived and invited three of them to visit her house during their short break. The youngest boy refused the invitation his mother had warned him against eating in any other woman’s house. The two older ones went to their aunt’s house ate and drank palm wine. After they returned and joined their half brother on the farm they all worked for another two hours before they went home. On arriving home, the two brothers who had eaten in took their aunt’s house did not feel hungry. They told their half- brother that he could eat their share. They would eat his small share as a gesture of good will to his mother. The youngest boy was grateful and ate from the big dish. Because he was very hungry, he ate up almost all the food. The others took only half of what was in small dish. Late in the evening when the youngest boy’s mother returned from the market, she thanked the boys for the work they had done. She asked her husband to give them the palm wine which he had reserved for them. The two older ones drank heartily the younger one said he could not drink for he was feeling feverish. Shortly afterward he complained of headache and upset stomach and soon started to vomit. His mother immediately became worried and took him to her hut. There she attacked him with a barrage questions.
“Did you eat in another woman’s house?
Did anyone give you palm wine or kola nut? Did you fight with anyone? Did you see any evil spirit?”
As her son did not respond, she grew more and more worried. “I am sure this illness must have started when you were on the farm. I saw that you did not eat well after you returned. You did not eat up all the food I kept for you in your small dish.”
“ I ate very well, mother. My appetite was very keen and I ate up almost all the food you kept for my half-brothers. It was after………………”
His mother could listen no longer. “ what??? The big dish???”
“ I alone ate from that dish, mother. My brothers ate from the small dish because earlier they had eaten at their aunt’s house. So they did not feel very hungry when we returned from the farm, so they offered me the big dish,” said the boy.
That was more than enough for the woman. There was no time for the words. She rushed into her husband’s obi and breathlessly said, “ I think this boy has taken some poison. I suspect poison. See, his complexion has already changed color. It has become pale. I will go and bring the medicine man.” She said the last sentence outside the compound.
Her husband was still reflecting on what to do when the aged medicine man came along. The medicine man started to enumerate the items that had to be obtained for the cure of the boy. But before he was halfway through, the boy died.
The woman wept bitterly, moaned, and sought to do herself violence. She lamented aloud, “though I am not a wood, I am now a dead log lying woefully in the wilderness.”