There was a lad whose father died while he was a child. And when, by slow degrees, he came to man's estate, he asked his mother one day how his father got a living. But she heaved a long sigh, and at last said "Your father traded in foreign countries, my dear; and if he were alive now, we would not be in such distress now." But he said "Ah! Mother, may not I work at the same trade? Give me all the money there is, and let me too go trading." But his mother said "Nay! My son, do not say that. While I live, even if I have to beg, you shall not want. And if you die in strange lands, what is to become of me?" But her son would not hearken to her, and, begging money from her, bought merchandise, and hired a boat, and took two men with him; and, after doing obeisance to his mother, set forth into strange lands. And at last he moored his boat at the ghat of a certain village, and sent his men out to hawk his goods. But he himself stayed with the boat. And at that ghat dwelt an aged couple, who possessed a white and beautiful swan which they cherished as their own child, and fed with their own food. And one day at midday, when men were enjoying their siesta, the merchant lad saw the white swan remove her swan dress and bathe in the river, a lovely slim maiden. Whereupon he began to pay great regard to the old couple, and gave them of his store without money. But as time went by, all his goods were disposed of, and then he went to the old people and offered them a great price for their swan. Nor when they would give it to him for nothing would he accept it, seeing that it were a sin to take a wife as a gift. So, finally he made them take much money and went away home, taking his swan with him. But when he reached home, behold the swan remained a swan, and the lad was sore vexed and lost his sleep and his food, so that his mother was in fear, and asked sundry of the villagers what might be the matter.
And, finally, one of them, who was a wise woman, said to her: "Something has happened to him while he was away trading, and now you must find out what it was. And the way to do it is this: You must get a fair girl to comb his hair; and let her pretend to grieve that he is so ill, and let her cry into his hair, and to a fair maiden he will tell what he would never say to his mother." So a girl came and combed his hair, and wept silently till the tears fell on his head, and when he asked what ailed her, said she could not bear to see him pine away. So at last he told her of the white swan, which turned before his very eyes into a lovely maiden, but that now it remained ever a white swan, though he was pining away for very love of her. So she went and told the mother, and the mother told the wise woman, who bade them get the lad to lie awake till midnight and then the swan-maiden would arise, and, assuming her maiden form, would worship her own country's gods. And then he was to leap up suddenly and cast her swan skin on the hearth and burn it; and then of a surety she would remain a maiden. So the lad prepared a basin of oil and ashes and a yak's tail, and did as the wise woman bade. And in the depth of night, the swan came and felt him all over with her beak. But he never stirred a whit. And then, believing him to be asleep, she stripped off her swan's skin slowly, and prayed aloud to the gods of her own country. Then the lad got out of bed very silently, and seizing the swan's skin thrust it in the ashes. And when she smelled the burning feathers, she cried aloud "Ah! What have you done? What have you done?" and fell senseless on the floor. But he anointed her with the oil, and fanned her with the yak's tail, till presently her great eyes opened and he saw that she loved him. And then they lived happily ever afterwards. And that's all!