The weak will sometimes find ways to avenge an insult, even upon the strong.
THE FOWLER AND THE LARK
A Fowler was setting his nets for little birds when a Lark came up to him and asked him what he was doing. "I am engaged in founding a city," said he, and with that he withdrew to a short distance and concealed himself. The Lark examined the nets with great curiosity, and presently, catching sight of the bait, hopped on to them in order to secure it, and became entangled in the meshes. The Fowler then ran up quickly and captured her. "What a fool I was!" said she: "but at any rate, if that's the kind of city you are founding, it'll be a long time before you find fools enough to fill it."
THE FISHERMAN PIPING
A Fisherman who could play the flute went down one day to the sea-shore with his nets and his flute; and, taking his stand on a projecting rock, began to play a tune, thinking that the music would bring the fish jumping out of the sea. He went on playing for some time, but not a fish appeared: so at last he threw down his flute and cast his net into the sea, and made a great haul of fish. When they were landed and he saw them leaping about on the shore, he cried, "You rascals! you wouldn't dance when I piped: but now I've stopped, you can do nothing else!"
THE WEASEL AND THE MAN
A Man once caught a Weasel, which was always sneaking about the house, and was just going to drown it in a tub of water, when it begged hard for its life, and said to him, "Surely you haven't the heart to put me to death? Think how useful I have been in clearing your house of the mice and lizards which used to infest it, and show your gratitude by sparing my life." "You have not been altogether useless, I grant you," said the Man: "but who killed the fowls? Who stole the meat? No, no! You do much more harm than good, and die you shall."
THE PLOUGHMAN, THE ASS, AND THE OX
A Ploughman yoked his Ox and his Ass together, and set to work to plough his field. It was a poor makeshift of a team, but it was the best he could do, as he had but a single Ox. At the end of the day, when the beasts were loosed from the yoke, the Ass said to the Ox, "Well, we've had a hard day: which of us is to carry the master home?" The Ox looked surprised at the question. "Why," said he, "you, to be sure, as usual."
DEMADES AND HIS FABLE
Demades the orator was once speaking in the Assembly at Athens; but the people were very inattentive to what he was saying, so he stopped and said, "Gentlemen, I should like to tell you one of AEsop's fables." This made every one listen intently. Then Demades began: "Demeter, a Swallow, and an Eel were once travelling together, and came to a river without a bridge: the Swallow flew over it, and the Eel swam across"; and then he stopped. "What happened to Demeter?" cried several people in the audience. "Demeter," he replied, "is very angry with you for listening to fables when you ought to be minding public business."
THE MONKEY AND THE DOLPHIN
When people go on a voyage they often take with them lap-dogs or monkeys as pets to wile away the time. Thus it fell out that a man returning to Athens from the East had a pet Monkey on board with him. As they neared the coast of Attica a great storm burst upon them, and the ship capsized. All on board were thrown into the water, and tried to save themselves by swimming, the Monkey among the rest. A Dolphin saw him, and, supposing him to be a man, took him on his back and began swimming towards the shore. When they got near the Piraeus, which is the port of Athens, the Dolphin asked the Monkey if he was an Athenian. The Monkey replied that he was, and added that he came of a very distinguished family. "Then, of course, you know the Piraeus," continued the Dolphin. The Monkey thought he was referring to some high official or other, and replied, "Oh, yes, he's a very old friend of mine." At that, detecting his hypocrisy, the Dolphin was so disgusted that he dived below the surface, and the unfortunate Monkey was quickly drowned.
THE CROW AND THE SNAKE
A hungry Crow spied a Snake lying asleep in a sunny spot, and, picking it up in his claws, he was carrying it off to a place where he could make a meal of it without being disturbed, when the Snake reared its head and bit him. It was a poisonous Snake, and the bite was fatal, and the dying Crow said, "What a cruel fate is mine! I thought I had made a lucky find, and it has cost me my life!"
THE DOGS AND THE FOX
Some Dogs once found a lion's skin, and were worrying it with their teeth. Just then a Fox came by, and said, "You think yourselves very brave, no doubt; but if that were a live lion you'd find his claws a good deal sharper than your teeth."
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE HAWK
A Nightingale was sitting on a bough of an oak and singing, as her custom was. A hungry Hawk presently spied her, and darting to the spot seized her in his talons. He was just about to tear her in pieces when she begged him to spare her life: "I'm not big enough," she pleaded, "to make you a good meal: you ought to seek your prey among the bigger birds." The Hawk eyed her with some contempt. "You must think me very simple," said he, "if you suppose I am going to give up a certain prize on the chance of a better of which I see at present no signs."
THE ROSE AND THE AMARANTH
A Rose and an Amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden, and the Amaranth said to her neighbour, "How I envy you your beauty and your sweet scent! No wonder you are such a universal favourite." But the Rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice, "Ah, my dear friend, I bloom but for a time: my petals soon wither and fall, and then I die. But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut; for they are everlasting."
THE MAN, THE HORSE, THE OX, AND THE DOG
One winter's day, during a severe storm, a Horse, an Ox, and a Dog came and begged for shelter in the house of a Man. He readily admitted them, and, as they were cold and wet, he lit a fire for their comfort: and he put oats before the Horse, and hay before the Ox, while he fed the Dog with the remains of his own dinner. When the storm abated, and they were about to depart, they determined to show their gratitude in the following way. They divided the life of Man among them, and each endowed one part of it with the qualities which were peculiarly his own. The Horse took youth, and hence young men are high-mettled and impatient of restraint; the Ox took middle age, and accordingly men in middle life are steady and hard-working; while the Dog took old age, which is the reason why old men are so often peevish and ill-tempered, and, like dogs, attached chiefly to those who look to their comfort, while they are disposed to snap at those who are unfamiliar or distasteful to them.
THE WOLVES, THE SHEEP, AND THE RAM
The Wolves sent a deputation to the Sheep with proposals for a lasting peace between them, on condition of their giving up the sheep-dogs to instant death. The foolish Sheep agreed to the terms; but an old Ram, whose years had brought him wisdom, interfered and said, "How can we expect to live at peace with you? Why, even with the dogs at hand to protect us, we are never secure from your murderous attacks!"
The Swan is said to sing but once in its life—when it knows that it is about to die. A certain man, who had heard of the song of the Swan, one day saw one of these birds for sale in the market, and bought it and took it home with him. A few days later he had some friends to dinner, and produced the Swan, and bade it sing for their entertainment: but the Swan remained silent. In course of time, when it was growing old, it became aware of its approaching end and broke into a sweet, sad song. When its owner heard it, he said angrily, "If the creature only sings when it is about to die, what a fool I was that day I wanted to hear its song! I ought to have wrung its neck instead of merely inviting it to sing."
THE SNAKE AND JUPITER
A Snake suffered a good deal from being constantly trodden upon by man and beast, owing partly to the length of his body and partly to his being unable to raise himself above the surface of the ground: so he went and complained to Jupiter about the risks to which he was exposed. But Jupiter had little sympathy for him. "I dare say," said he, "that if you had bitten the first that trod on you, the others would have taken more trouble to look where they put their feet."
THE WOLF AND HIS SHADOW
A Wolf, who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting low in the sky, was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said to himself, "I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be King of the beasts"; and, heedless of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all about it. Just then a lion sprang upon him and began to devour him. "Alas," he cried, "had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn't have been ruined by my fancies."
THE PLOUGHMAN AND THE WOLF
A Ploughman loosed his oxen from the plough, and led them away to the water to drink. While he was absent a half-starved Wolf appeared on the scene, and went up to the plough and began chewing the leather straps attached to the yoke. As he gnawed away desperately in the hope of satisfying his craving for food, he somehow got entangled in the harness, and, taking fright, struggled to get free, tugging at the traces as if he would drag the plough along with him. Just then the Ploughman came back, and seeing what was happening, he cried, "Ah, you old rascal, I wish you would give up thieving for good and take to honest work instead."
MERCURY AND THE MAN BITTEN BY AN ANT
A Man once saw a ship go down with all its crew, and commented severely on the injustice of the gods. "They care nothing for a man's character," said he, "but let the good and the bad go to their deaths together." There was an ant-heap close by where he was standing, and, just as he spoke, he was bitten in the foot by an Ant. Turning in a temper to the ant-heap he stamped upon it and crushed hundreds of unoffending ants. Suddenly Mercury appeared, and belaboured him with his staff, saying as he did so, "You villain, where's your nice sense of justice now?"
THE WILY LION
A Lion watched a fat Bull feeding in a meadow, and his mouth watered when he thought of the royal feast he would make, but he did not dare to attack him, for he was afraid of his sharp horns. Hunger, however, presently compelled him to do something: and as the use of force did not promise success, he determined to resort to artifice. Going up to the Bull in friendly fashion, he said to him, "I cannot help saying how much I admire your magnificent figure. What a fine head! What powerful shoulders and thighs! But, my dear friend, what in the world makes you wear those ugly horns? You must find them as awkward as they are unsightly. Believe me, you would do much better without them." The Bull was foolish enough to be persuaded by this flattery to have his horns cut off; and, having now lost his only means of defence, fell an easy prey to the Lion.
THE PARROT AND THE CAT
A Man once bought a Parrot and gave it the run of his house. It revelled in its liberty, and presently flew up on to the mantelpiece and screamed away to its heart's content. The noise disturbed the Cat, who was asleep on the hearthrug. Looking up at the intruder, she said, "Who may you be, and where have you come from?" The Parrot replied, "Your master has just bought me and brought me home with him." "You impudent bird," said the Cat, "how dare you, a newcomer, make a noise like that? Why, I was born here, and have lived here all my life, and yet, if I venture to mew, they throw things at me and chase me all over the place." "Look here, mistress," said the Parrot, "you just hold your tongue. My voice they delight in; but yours—yours is a perfect nuisance."
THE STAG AND THE LION
A Stag was chased by the hounds, and took refuge in a cave, where he hoped to be safe from his pursuers. Unfortunately the cave contained a Lion, to whom he fell an easy prey. "Unhappy that I am," he cried, "I am saved from the power of the dogs only to fall into the clutches of a Lion."
Out of the frying-pan into the fire.
A certain man fell ill, and, being in a very bad way, he made a vow that he would sacrifice a hundred oxen to the gods if they would grant him a return to health. Wishing to see how he would keep his vow, they caused him to recover in a short time. Now, he hadn't an ox in the world, so he made a hundred little oxen out of tallow and offered them up on an altar, at the same time saying, "Ye gods, I call you to witness that I have discharged my vow." The gods determined to be even with him, so they sent him a dream, in which he was bidden to go to the sea-shore and fetch a hundred crowns which he was to find there. Hastening in great excitement to the shore, he fell in with a band of robbers, who seized him and carried him off to sell as a slave: and when they sold him a hundred crowns was the sum he fetched.
Do not promise more than you can perform.
THE DOGS AND THE HIDES
Once upon a time a number of Dogs, who were famished with hunger, saw some Hides steeping in a river, but couldn't get at them because the water was too deep. So they put their heads together, and decided to drink away at the river till it was shallow enough for them to reach the Hides. But long before that happened they burst themselves with drinking.
THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE ASS
A Lion, a Fox, and an Ass went out hunting together. They had soon taken a large booty, which the Lion requested the Ass to divide between them. The Ass divided it all into three equal parts, and modestly begged the others to take their choice; at which the Lion, bursting with fury, sprang upon the Ass and tore him to pieces. Then, glaring at the Fox, he bade him make a fresh division. The Fox gathered almost the whole in one great heap for the Lion's share, leaving only the smallest possible morsel for himself. "My dear friend," said the Lion, "how did you get the knack of it so well?" The Fox replied, "Me? Oh, I took a lesson from the Ass."
Happy is he who learns from the misfortunes of others.
THE FOWLER, THE PARTRIDGE, AND THE COCK
One day, as a Fowler was sitting down to a scanty supper of herbs and bread, a friend dropped in unexpectedly. The larder was empty; so he went out and caught a tame Partridge, which he kept as a decoy, and was about to wring her neck when she cried, "Surely you won't kill me? Why, what will you do without me next time you go fowling? How will you get the birds to come to your nets?" He let her go at this, and went to his hen-house, where he had a plump young Cock. When the Cock saw what he was after, he too pleaded for his life, and said, "If you kill me, how will you know the time of night? and who will wake you up in the morning when it is time to get to work?" The Fowler, however, replied, "You are useful for telling the time, I know; but, for all that, I can't send my friend supperless to bed." And therewith he caught him and wrung his neck.
THE GNAT AND THE LION
A Gnat once went up to a Lion and said, "I am not in the least afraid of you: I don't even allow that you are a match for me in strength. What does your strength amount to after all? That you can scratch with your claws and bite with your teeth—just like a woman in a temper—and nothing more. But I'm stronger than you: if you don't believe it, let us fight and see." So saying, the Gnat sounded his horn, and darted in and bit the Lion on the nose. When the Lion felt the sting, in his haste to crush him he scratched his nose badly, and made it bleed, but failed altogether to hurt the Gnat, which buzzed off in triumph, elated by its victory. Presently, however, it got entangled in a spider's web, and was caught and eaten by the spider, thus falling a prey to an insignificant insect after having triumphed over the King of the Beasts.
THE FARMER AND HIS DOGS
A Farmer was snowed up in his farmstead by a severe storm, and was unable to go out and procure provisions for himself and his family. So he first killed his sheep and used them for food; then, as the storm still continued, he killed his goats; and, last of all, as the weather showed no signs of improving, he was compelled to kill his oxen and eat them. When his Dogs saw the various animals being killed and eaten in turn, they said to one another, "We had better get out of this or we shall be the next to go!"
THE EAGLE AND THE FOX
An Eagle and a Fox became great friends and determined to live near one another: they thought that the more they saw of each other the better friends they would be. So the Eagle built a nest at the top of a high tree, while the Fox settled in a thicket at the foot of it and produced a litter of cubs. One day the Fox went out foraging for food, and the Eagle, who also wanted food for her young, flew down into the thicket, caught up the Fox's cubs, and carried them up into the tree for a meal for herself and her family. When the Fox came back, and found out what had happened, she was not so much sorry for the loss of her cubs as furious because she couldn't get at the Eagle and pay her out for her treachery. So she sat down not far off and cursed her. But it wasn't long before she had her revenge. Some villagers happened to be sacrificing a goat on a neighbouring altar, and the Eagle flew down and carried off a piece of burning flesh to her nest. There was a strong wind blowing, and the nest caught fire, with the result that her fledglings fell half-roasted to the ground. Then the Fox ran to the spot and devoured them in full sight of the Eagle.
False faith may escape human punishment, but cannot escape the divine.
THE BUTCHER AND HIS CUSTOMERS
Two Men were buying meat at a Butcher's stall in the market-place, and, while the Butcher's back was turned for a moment, one of them snatched up a joint and hastily thrust it under the other's cloak, where it could not be seen. When the Butcher turned round, he missed the meat at once, and charged them with having stolen it: but the one who had taken it said he hadn't got it, and the one who had got it said he hadn't taken it. The Butcher felt sure they were deceiving him, but he only said, "You may cheat me with your lying, but you can't cheat the gods, and they won't let you off so lightly."
Prevarication often amounts to perjury.
HERCULES AND MINERVA
Hercules was once travelling along a narrow road when he saw lying on the ground in front of him what appeared to be an apple, and as he passed he stamped upon it with his heel. To his astonishment, instead of being crushed it doubled in size; and, on his attacking it again and smiting it with his club, it swelled up to an enormous size and blocked up the whole road. Upon this he dropped his club, and stood looking at it in amazement. Just then Minerva appeared, and said to him, "Leave it alone, my friend; that which you see before you is the apple of discord: if you do not meddle with it, it remains small as it was at first, but if you resort to violence it swells into the thing you see."
THE FOX WHO SERVED A LION
A Lion had a Fox to attend on him, and whenever they went hunting the Fox found the prey and the Lion fell upon it and killed it, and then they divided it between them in certain proportions. But the Lion always got a very large share, and the Fox a very small one, which didn't please the latter at all; so he determined to set up on his own account. He began by trying to steal a lamb from a flock of sheep: but the shepherd saw him and set his dogs on him. The hunter was now the hunted, and was very soon caught and despatched by the dogs.
Better servitude with safety than freedom with danger.
THE QUACK DOCTOR
A certain man fell sick and took to his bed. He consulted a number of doctors from time to time, and they all, with one exception, told him that his life was in no immediate danger, but that his illness would probably last a considerable time. The one who took a different view of his case, who was also the last to be consulted, bade him prepare for the worst: "You have not twenty-four hours to live," said he, "and I fear I can do nothing." As it turned out, however, he was quite wrong; for at the end of a few days the sick man quitted his bed and took a walk abroad, looking, it is true, as pale as a ghost. In the course of his walk he met the Doctor who had prophesied his death. "Dear me," said the latter, "how do you do? You are fresh from the other world, no doubt. Pray, how are our departed friends getting on there?" "Most comfortably," replied the other, "for they have drunk the water of oblivion, and have forgotten all the troubles of life. By the way, just before I left, the authorities were making arrangements to prosecute all the doctors, because they won't let sick men die in the course of nature, but use their arts to keep them alive. They were going to charge you along with the rest, till I assured them that you were no doctor, but a mere impostor."
THE LION, THE WOLF, AND THE FOX
A Lion, infirm with age, lay sick in his den, and all the beasts of the forest came to inquire after his health with the exception of the Fox. The Wolf thought this was a good opportunity for paying off old scores against the Fox, so he called the attention of the Lion to his absence, and said, "You see, sire, that we have all come to see how you are except the Fox, who hasn't come near you, and doesn't care whether you are well or ill." Just then the Fox came in and heard the last words of the Wolf. The Lion roared at him in deep displeasure, but he begged to be allowed to explain his absence, and said, "Not one of them cares for you so much as I, sire, for all the time I have been going round to the doctors and trying to find a cure for your illness." "And may I ask if you have found one?" said the Lion. "I have, sire," said the Fox, "and it is this: you must flay a Wolf and wrap yourself in his skin while it is still warm." The Lion accordingly turned to the Wolf and struck him dead with one blow of his paw, in order to try the Fox's prescription; but the Fox laughed and said to himself, "That's what comes of stirring up ill-will."
HERCULES AND PLUTUS
When Hercules was received among the gods and was entertained at a banquet by Jupiter, he responded courteously to the greetings of all with the exception of Plutus, the god of wealth. When Plutus approached him, he cast his eyes upon the ground, and turned away and pretended not to see him. Jupiter was surprised at this conduct on his part, and asked why, after having been so cordial with all the other gods, he had behaved like that to Plutus. "Sire," said Hercules, "I do not like Plutus, and I will tell you why. When we were on earth together I always noticed that he was to be found in the company of scoundrels."
THE FOX AND THE LEOPARD
A Fox and a Leopard were disputing about their looks, and each claimed to be the more handsome of the two. The Leopard said, "Look at my smart coat; you have nothing to match that." But the Fox replied, "Your coat may be smart, but my wits are smarter still."
THE FOX AND THE HEDGEHOG
A Fox, in swimming across a rapid river, was swept away by the current and carried a long way downstream in spite of his struggles, until at last, bruised and exhausted, he managed to scramble on to dry ground from a backwater. As he lay there unable to move, a swarm of horseflies settled on him and sucked his blood undisturbed, for he was too weak even to shake them off. A Hedgehog saw him, and asked if he should brush away the flies that were tormenting him; but the Fox replied, "Oh, please, no, not on any account, for these flies have sucked their fill and are taking very little from me now; but, if you drive them off, another swarm of hungry ones will come and suck all the blood I have left, and leave me without a drop in my veins."
THE CROW AND THE RAVEN
A Crow became very jealous of a Raven, because the latter was regarded by men as a bird of omen which foretold the future, and was accordingly held in great respect by them. She was very anxious to get the same sort of reputation herself; and, one day, seeing some travellers approaching, she flew on to a branch of a tree at the roadside and cawed as loud as she could. The travellers were in some dismay at the sound, for they feared it might be a bad omen; till one of them, spying the Crow, said to his companions, "It's all right, my friends, we can go on without fear, for it's only a crow and that means nothing."
Those who pretend to be something they are not only make themselves ridiculous.
A Witch professed to be able to avert the anger of the gods by means of charms, of which she alone possessed the secret; and she drove a brisk trade, and made a fat livelihood out of it. But certain persons accused her of black magic and carried her before the judges, and demanded that she should be put to death for dealings with the Devil. She was found guilty and condemned to death: and one of the judges said to her as she was leaving the dock, "You say you can avert the anger of the gods. How comes it, then, that you have failed to disarm the enmity of men?"
THE OLD MAN AND DEATH
An Old Man cut himself a bundle of faggots in a wood and started to carry them home. He had a long way to go, and was tired out before he had got much more than half-way. Casting his burden on the ground, he called upon Death to come and release him from his life of toil. The words were scarcely out of his mouth when, much to his dismay, Death stood before him and professed his readiness to serve him. He was almost frightened out of his wits, but he had enough presence of mind to stammer out, "Good sir, if you'd be so kind, pray help me up with my burden again."
A Miser sold everything he had, and melted down his hoard of gold into a single lump, which he buried secretly in a field. Every day he went to look at it, and would sometimes spend long hours gloating over his treasure. One of his men noticed his frequent visits to the spot, and one day watched him and discovered his secret. Waiting his opportunity, he went one night and dug up the gold and stole it. Next day the Miser visited the place as usual, and, finding his treasure gone, fell to tearing his hair and groaning over his loss. In this condition he was seen by one of his neighbours, who asked him what his trouble was. The Miser told him of his misfortune; but the other replied, "Don't take it so much to heart, my friend; put a brick into the hole, and take a look at it every day: you won't be any worse off than before, for even when you had your gold it was of no earthly use to you."
THE FOXES AND THE RIVER
A number of Foxes assembled on the bank of a river and wanted to drink; but the current was so strong and the water looked so deep and dangerous that they didn't dare to do so, but stood near the edge encouraging one another not to be afraid. At last one of them, to shame the rest, and show how brave he was, said, "I am not a bit frightened! See, I'll step right into the water!" He had no sooner done so than the current swept him off his feet. When the others saw him being carried down-stream they cried, "Don't go and leave us! Come back and show us where we too can drink with safety." But he replied, "I'm afraid I can't yet: I want to go to the seaside, and this current will take me there nicely. When I come back I'll show you with pleasure."
THE HORSE AND THE STAG
There was once a Horse who used to graze in a meadow which he had all to himself. But one day a Stag came into the meadow, and said he had as good a right to feed there as the Horse, and moreover chose all the best places for himself. The Horse, wishing to be revenged upon his unwelcome visitor, went to a man and asked if he would help him to turn out the Stag. "Yes," said the man, "I will by all means; but I can only do so if you let me put a bridle in your mouth and mount on your back." The Horse agreed to this, and the two together very soon turned the Stag out of the pasture: but when that was done, the Horse found to his dismay that in the man he had got a master for good.
THE FOX AND THE BRAMBLE
In making his way through a hedge a Fox missed his footing and caught at a Bramble to save himself from falling. Naturally, he got badly scratched, and in disgust he cried to the Bramble, "It was your help I wanted, and see how you have treated me! I'd sooner have fallen outright." The Bramble, interrupting him, replied, "You must have lost your wits, my friend, to catch at me, who am myself always catching at others."
THE FOX AND THE SNAKE
A Snake, in crossing a river, was carried away by the current, but managed to wriggle on to a bundle of thorns which was floating by, and was thus carried at a great rate down-stream. A Fox caught sight of it from the bank as it went whirling along, and called out, "Gad! the passenger fits the ship!"
THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE STAG
A Lion lay sick in his den, unable to provide himself with food. So he said to his friend the Fox, who came to ask how he did, "My good friend, I wish you would go to yonder wood and beguile the big Stag, who lives there, to come to my den: I have a fancy to make my dinner off a stag's heart and brains." The Fox went to the wood and found the Stag and said to him, "My dear sir, you're in luck. You know the Lion, our King: well, he's at the point of death, and has appointed you his successor to rule over the beasts. I hope you won't forget that I was the first to bring you the good news. And now I must be going back to him; and, if you take my advice, you'll come too and be with him at the last." The Stag was highly flattered, and followed the Fox to the Lion's den, suspecting nothing. No sooner had he got inside than the Lion sprang upon him, but he misjudged his spring, and the Stag got away with only his ears torn, and returned as fast as he could to the shelter of the wood. The Fox was much mortified, and the Lion, too, was dreadfully disappointed, for he was getting very hungry in spite of his illness. So he begged the Fox to have another try at coaxing the Stag to his den. "It'll be almost impossible this time," said the Fox, "but I'll try"; and off he went to the wood a second time, and found the Stag resting and trying to recover from his fright. As soon as he saw the Fox he cried, "You scoundrel, what do you mean by trying to lure me to my death like that? Take yourself off, or I'll do you to death with my horns." But the Fox was entirely shameless. "What a coward you were," said he; "surely you didn't think the Lion meant any harm? Why, he was only going to whisper some royal secrets into your ear when you went off like a scared rabbit. You have rather disgusted him, and I'm not sure he won't make the wolf King instead, unless you come back at once and show you've got some spirit. I promise you he won't hurt you, and I will be your faithful servant." The Stag was foolish enough to be persuaded to return, and this time the Lion made no mistake, but overpowered him, and feasted right royally upon his carcase. The Fox, meanwhile, watched his chance and, when the Lion wasn't looking, filched away the brains to reward him for his trouble. Presently the Lion began searching for them, of course without success: and the Fox, who was watching him, said, "I don't think it's much use your looking for the brains: a creature who twice walked into a Lion's den can't have got any."
THE MAN WHO LOST HIS SPADE
A Man was engaged in digging over his vineyard, and one day on coming to work he missed his Spade. Thinking it may have been stolen by one of his labourers, he questioned them closely, but they one and all denied any knowledge of it. He was not convinced by their denials, and insisted that they should all go to the town and take oath in a temple that they were not guilty of the theft. This was because he had no great opinion of the simple country deities, but thought that the thief would not pass undetected by the shrewder gods of the town. When they got inside the gates the first thing they heard was the town crier proclaiming a reward for information about a thief who had stolen something from the city temple. "Well," said the Man to himself, "it strikes me I had better go back home again. If these town gods can't detect the thieves who steal from their own temples, it's scarcely likely they can tell me who stole my Spade."
THE PARTRIDGE AND THE FOWLER
A Fowler caught a Partridge in his nets, and was just about to wring its neck when it made a piteous appeal to him to spare its life and said, "Do not kill me, but let me live and I will repay you for your kindness by decoying other partridges into your nets." "No," said the Fowler, "I will not spare you. I was going to kill you anyhow, and after that treacherous speech you thoroughly deserve your fate."
THE RUNAWAY SLAVE
A Slave, being discontented with his lot, ran away from his master. He was soon missed by the latter, who lost no time in mounting his horse and setting out in pursuit of the fugitive. He presently came up with him, and the Slave, in the hope of avoiding capture, slipped into a treadmill and hid himself there. "Aha," said his master, "that's the very place for you, my man!"
THE HUNTER AND THE WOODMAN
A Hunter was searching in the forest for the tracks of a lion, and, catching sight presently of a Woodman engaged in felling a tree, he went up to him and asked him if he had noticed a lion's footprints anywhere about, or if he knew where his den was. The Woodman answered, "If you will come with me, I will show you the lion himself." The Hunter turned pale with fear, and his teeth chattered as he replied, "Oh, I'm not looking for the lion, thanks, but only for his tracks."
THE SERPENT AND THE EAGLE
An Eagle swooped down upon a Serpent and seized it in his talons with the intention of carrying it off and devouring it. But the Serpent was too quick for him and had its coils round him in a moment; and then there ensued a life-and-death struggle between the two. A countryman, who was a witness of the encounter, came to the assistance of the Eagle, and succeeded in freeing him from the Serpent and enabling him to escape. In revenge the Serpent spat some of his poison into the man's drinking-horn. Heated with his exertions, the man was about to slake his thirst with a draught from the horn, when the Eagle knocked it out of his hand, and spilled its contents upon the ground.
One good turn deserves another.
THE ROGUE AND THE ORACLE
A Rogue laid a wager that he would prove the Oracle at Delphi to be untrustworthy by procuring from it a false reply to an inquiry by himself. So he went to the temple on the appointed day with a small bird in his hand, which he concealed under the folds of his cloak, and asked whether what he held in his hand were alive or dead. If the Oracle said "dead," he meant to produce the bird alive: if the reply was "alive," he intended to wring its neck and show it to be dead. But the Oracle was one too many for him, for the answer he got was this: "Stranger, whether the thing that you hold in your hand be alive or dead is a matter that depends entirely on your own will."
THE HORSE AND THE ASS
A Horse, proud of his fine harness, met an Ass on the high-road. As the Ass with his heavy burden moved slowly out of the way to let him pass, the Horse cried out impatiently that he could hardly resist kicking him to make him move faster. The Ass held his peace, but did not forget the other's insolence. Not long afterwards the Horse became broken-winded, and was sold by his owner to a farmer. One day, as he was drawing a dung-cart, he met the Ass again, who in turn derided him and said, "Aha! you never thought to come to this, did you, you who were so proud! Where are all your gay trappings now?"
THE DOG CHASING A WOLF
A Dog was chasing a Wolf, and as he ran he thought what a fine fellow he was, and what strong legs he had, and how quickly they covered the ground. "Now, there's this Wolf," he said to himself, "what a poor creature he is: he's no match for me, and he knows it and so he runs away." But the Wolf looked round just then and said, "Don't you imagine I'm running away from you, my friend: it's your master I'm afraid of."
GRIEF AND HIS DUE
When Jupiter was assigning the various gods their privileges, it so happened that Grief was not present with the rest: but when all had received their share, he too entered and claimed his due. Jupiter was at a loss to know what to do, for there was nothing left for him. However, at last he decided that to him should belong the tears that are shed for the dead. Thus it is the same with Grief as it is with the other gods. The more devoutly men render to him his due, the more lavish is he of that which he has to bestow. It is not well, therefore, to mourn long for the departed; else Grief, whose sole pleasure is in such mourning, will be quick to send fresh cause for tears.
THE HAWK, THE KITE, AND THE PIGEONS
The Pigeons in a certain dovecote were persecuted by a Kite, who every now and then swooped down and carried off one of their number. So they invited a Hawk into the dovecote to defend them against their enemy. But they soon repented of their folly: for the Hawk killed more of them in a day than the Kite had done in a year.
THE WOMAN AND THE FARMER
A Woman, who had lately lost her husband, used to go every day to his grave and lament her loss. A Farmer, who was engaged in ploughing not far from the spot, set eyes upon the Woman and desired to have her for his wife: so he left his plough and came and sat by her side, and began to shed tears himself. She asked him why he wept; and he replied, "I have lately lost my wife, who was very dear to me, and tears ease my grief." "And I," said she, "have lost my husband." And so for a while they mourned in silence. Then he said, "Since you and I are in like case, shall we not do well to marry and live together? I shall take the place of your dead husband, and you, that of my dead wife." The Woman consented to the plan, which indeed seemed reasonable enough: and they dried their tears. Meanwhile, a thief had come and stolen the oxen which the Farmer had left with his plough. On discovering the theft, he beat his breast and loudly bewailed his loss. When the Woman heard his cries, she came and said, "Why, are you weeping still?" To which he replied, "Yes, and I mean it this time."
PROMETHEUS AND THE MAKING OF MAN
At the bidding of Jupiter, Prometheus set about the creation of Man and the other animals. Jupiter, seeing that Mankind, the only rational creatures, were far outnumbered by the irrational beasts, bade him redress the balance by turning some of the latter into men. Prometheus did as he was bidden, and this is the reason why some people have the forms of men but the souls of beasts.
THE SWALLOW AND THE CROW
A Swallow was once boasting to a Crow about her birth. "I was once a princess," said she, "the daughter of a King of Athens, but my husband used me cruelly, and cut out my tongue for a slight fault. Then, to protect me from further injury, I was turned by Juno into a bird." "You chatter quite enough as it is," said the Crow. "What you would have been like if you hadn't lost your tongue, I can't think."
THE HUNTER AND THE HORSEMAN
A Hunter went out after game, and succeeded in catching a hare, which he was carrying home with him when he met a man on horseback, who said to him, "You have had some sport I see, sir," and offered to buy it. The Hunter readily agreed; but the Horseman had no sooner got the hare in his hands than he set spurs to his horse and went off at full gallop. The Hunter ran after him for some little distance; but it soon dawned upon him that he had been tricked, and he gave up trying to overtake the Horseman, and, to save his face, called after him as loud as he could, "All right, sir, all right, take your hare: it was meant all along as a present."
THE GOATHERD AND THE WILD GOATS
A Goatherd was tending his goats out at pasture when he saw a number of Wild Goats approach and mingle with his flock. At the end of the day he drove them home and put them all into the pen together. Next day the weather was so bad that he could not take them out as usual: so he kept them at home in the pen, and fed them there. He only gave his own goats enough food to keep them from starving, but he gave the Wild Goats as much as they could eat and more; for he was very anxious for them to stay, and he thought that if he fed them well they wouldn't want to leave him. When the weather improved, he took them all out to pasture again; but no sooner had they got near the hills than the Wild Goats broke away from the flock and scampered off. The Goatherd was very much disgusted at this, and roundly abused them for their ingratitude. "Rascals!" he cried, "to run away like that after the way I've treated you!" Hearing this, one of them turned round and said, "Oh, yes, you treated us all right—too well, in fact; it was just that that put us on our guard. If you treat newcomers like ourselves so much better than your own flock, it's more than likely that, if another lot of strange goats joined yours, we should then be neglected in favour of the last comers."
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE SWALLOW
A Swallow, conversing with a Nightingale, advised her to quit the leafy coverts where she made her home, and to come and live with men, like herself, and nest under the shelter of their roofs. But the Nightingale replied, "Time was when I too, like yourself, lived among men: but the memory of the cruel wrongs I then suffered makes them hateful to me, and never again will I approach their dwellings."
The scene of past sufferings revives painful memories.
THE TRAVELLER AND FORTUNE
A Traveller, exhausted with fatigue after a long journey, sank down at the very brink of a deep well and presently fell asleep. He was within an ace of falling in, when Dame Fortune appeared to him and touched him on the shoulder, cautioning him to move further away. "Wake up, good sir, I pray you," she said; "had you fallen into the well, the blame would have been thrown not on your own folly but on me, Fortune."