THE TORTOISE AND THE DUCKS

“Take me with you, please,” called a tortoise to a gray duck and a white duck that were flying over.
The ducks heard the tortoise and flew down toward him.
“Do you really wish to go with us?” asked the ducks as they came to the ground near the tortoise.
“I surely do,” replied the tortoise. “Will you please take me?”
“Why, yes, I think we can do so,” said the white duck slowly.
The two ducks talked together in low tones for a few minutes. Then they flew to the woods. They soon brought back a strong twig and dropped it in front of the tortoise.
“Now,” said the ducks, “if we take you off to see the world, you must promise us one thing.”
“What is that?” asked the tortoise. “I will promise almost anything if you will let me go.”
“You must promise not to say one word while you are in the air, NOT ONE WORD,” replied the ducks.
“All right, I promise,” said the tortoise. “Sometimes I do not say a word for a whole day because there is no one to listen to me.”
“Well, take firm hold of the middle of the twig; we are ready to start,” said the gray duck.
“If you value your life, you must hold on tightly,” said the white duck.
The tortoise took hold of the middle of the twig and each duck took hold of one end.
Then they flew up! up! up! while the tortoise swung from the middle of the twig. How he enjoyed it! He had never had such a ride.
They had gone a long way safely when they came to a hayfield. The haymakers looked up and saw the ducks and the tortoise.
“Ho! ho! the tortoise has stolen some wings,” called one of the haymakers.
“What a queer carriage he has!” laughed another in a loud voice.
“I pity his horses,” said another.
This made the tortoise so angry that he cried out, “You…” but no one knows what he was going to say, for he fell to the ground and was killed.

[Footnote: Adapted from The Tortoise and the Geese, in a book of the same name published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.]

THE CRUEL CRANE OUTWITTED

beautiful crane near some grass in the pond

Long ago the Bodisat was born to a forest life as the Genius of a tree standing near a certain lotus pond. Now at that time the water used to run short at the dry season in a certain pond, not over large, in which there were a good many fish. And a crane thought on seeing the fish.

“I must outwit these fish somehow or other and make a prey of them.”

And he went and sat down at the edge of the water, thinking how he should do it.

When the fish saw him, they asked him, “What are you sitting there for, lost in thought?”

“I am sitting thinking about you,” said he.

“Oh, sir! what are you thinking about us?” said they.

“Why,” he replied; “there is very little water in this pond, and but little for you to eat; and the heat is so great! So I was thinking, ‘What in the world will these fish do now?’”

“Yes, indeed, sir! what _are_ we to do?” said they.

“If you will only do as I bid you, I will take you in my beak to a fine large pond, covered with all the kinds of lotuses, and put you into it,” answered the crane.

“That a crane should take thought for the fishes is a thing unheard of, sir, since the world began. It’s eating us, one after the other, that you’re aiming at.”

“Not I! So long as you trust me, I won’t eat you. But if you don’t believe me that there is such a pond, send one of you with me to go and see it.”

Then they trusted him, and handed over to him one of their number–a big fellow, blind of one eye, whom they thought sharp enough in any emergency, afloat or ashore.

Him the crane took with him, let him go in the pond, showed him the whole of it, brought him back, and let him go again close to the other fish. And he told them all the glories of the pond.

And when they heard what he said, they exclaimed, “All right, sir! You may take us with you.”

Then the crane took the old purblind fish first to the bank of the other pond, and alighted in a Varana-tree growing on the bank there. But he threw it into a fork of the tree, struck it with his beak, and killed it; and then ate its flesh, and threw its bones away at the foot of the tree. Then he went back and called out:

“I’ve thrown that fish in; let another one come.”

And in that manner he took all the fish, one by one, and ate them, till he came back and found no more!

But there was still a crab left behind there; and the crane thought he would eat him too, and called out:

“I say, good crab, I’ve taken all the fish away, and put them into a fine large pond. Come along. I’ll take you too!”

“But how will you take hold of me to carry me along?”

“I’ll bite hold of you with my beak.”

“You’ll let me fall if you carry me like that. I won’t go with you!”

“Don’t be afraid! I’ll hold you quite tight all the way.”

Then said the crab to himself, “If this fellow once got hold of fish, he would never let them go in a pond! Now if he should really put me into the pond, it would be capital; but if he doesn’t–then I’ll cut his throat, and kill him!” So he said to him:

“Look here, friend, you won’t be able to hold me tight enough; but we crabs have a famous grip. If you let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you.”

And the other did not see that he was trying to outwit him, and agreed. So the crab caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with a pair of blacksmith’s pincers, and called out, “Off with you, now!”

And the crane took him and showed him the pond, and then turned off towards the Varana-tree.

“Uncle!” cried the crab, “the pond lies that way, but you are taking me this way!”

“Oh, that’s it, is it?” answered the crane. “Your dear little uncle, your very sweet nephew, you call me! You mean me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him! Now cast your eye upon the heap of fish-bones lying at the root of yonder Varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so I will devour you as well!”

“Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity,” answered the crab; “but I’m not going to let you eat _me_. On the contrary, is it _you_ that I am going to destroy. For you in your folly have not seen that I was outwitting you. If we die, we die both together; for I will cut off this head of yours, and cast it to the ground!” And so saying, he gave the crane’s neck a grip with his claws, as with a vice.

Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling with the fear of death, the crane beseeched him, saying, “O my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!”

“Well, well! step down into the pond, and put me in there.”

And he turned round and stepped down into the pond, and placed the crab on the mud at its edge. But the crab cut through its neck as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk with a hunting-knife, and then only entered the water!

When the Genius who lived in the Varana-tree saw this strange affair, he made the wood resound with his plaudits, uttering in a pleasant voice the verse:

“The villain, though exceeding clever,
Shall prosper not by his villainy.
He may win indeed, sharp-witted in deceit,
But only as the Crane here from the Crab!”

THE BROKEN POT by Joseph Jacobs

rice cup

There lived in a certain place a Brahman, whose name was Svabhavak-ri-pa-n-a, which means “a born miser.”

He had collected a quantity of rice by begging, and after having dined off it, he filled a pot with what was left over. He hung the pot on a peg on the wall, placed his couch beneath, and looking intently at it all the night, he thought, “Ah, that pot is indeed brimful of rice. Now, if there should be a famine, I should certainly make a hundred rupees by it. With this I shall buy a couple of goats. They will have young ones every six months, and thus I shall have a whole herd of goats. Then, with the goats, I shall buy cows. As soon as they have calved, I shall sell the calves. Then, with the calves, I shall buy buffaloes; with the buffaloes, mares. When the mares have foaled, I shall have plenty of horses; and when I sell them, plenty of gold. With that gold I shall get a house with four wings. And then a Brahman will come to my house, and will give me his beautiful daughter, with a large dowry. She will have a son, and I shall call him Somasarman. When he is old enough to be danced on his father’s knee, I shall sit with a book at the back of the stable, and while I am reading, the boy will see me, jump from his mother’s lap, and run towards me to be danced on my knee. He will come too near the horse’s hoof, and, full of anger, I shall call to my wife, ‘Take the baby; take him!’ But she, distracted by some domestic work, does not hear me. Then I get up, and give her such a kick with my foot.”

While he thought this, he gave a kick with his foot, and broke the pot. All the rice fell over him, and made him quite white. Therefore, I say, “He who makes foolish plans for the future will be white all over, like the father of Somasarman.”