LONG ago a man owned a very strong ox. The owner was so proud of his Ox, that he boasted to every man he met about how strong his Ox was.
One day the owner went into a village, and said to the men there: "I will pay a forfeit of a thousand pieces of silver if my strong Ox cannot draw a line of one hundred wagons."
The men laughed, and said: "Very well; bring your ox, and we will tie a hundred wagons in a line and see your ox draw them along."
So the man brought his ox into the village. A crowd gathered to see the sight. The hundred carts were in line, and the strong ox was yoked to the first wagon.
Then the owner whipped his ox, and said: "Get up, you wretch! Get along, you rascal!"
But the ox had never been talked to in that way, and he stood still. Neither the blows nor the hard names could make him move.
At last the poor man paid his forfeit, and went sadly home. There he threw himself on his bed and cried: "Why did that strong ox act so? Many a time he has moved heavier loads easily. Why did he shame me before all those people?"
At last he got up and went about his work. When he went to feed the ox that night, the ox turned to him and said: "Why did you whip me today? You never whipped me before. Why did you call me 'wretch' and 'rascal'? You never called me hard names before."
Then the man said: "I will never treat you badly again. I'm sorry I whipped you and called you names. I will never do so any more. Forgive me."
"Very well," said the ox. "Tomorrow I will go into the village and draw the one hundred carts for you. You have always been a kind master till today. Tomorrow you shall gain what you lost."
The next morning the owner fed the Ox well, and hung a garland of flowers about his neck. When they went into the village the men laughed at the man again.
They said: "Did you come back to lose more money?"
"Today I will pay a forfeit of two thousand pieces of silver if my ox is not strong enough to pull the one hundred carts," said the owner.
So again the carts were placed in a line, and the ox was yoked to the first. A crowd came to watch again. The owner said: "Good ox, show how strong you are! You fine, fine creature!" And he patted his neck and stroked his sides.
At once the ox pulled with all his strength. The carts moved on till the last cart stood where the first had been.
Then the crowd shouted, and they paid back the forfeit the man had lost, saying: "Your ox is the strongest ox we ever saw."
And the ox and the man went home, happy.
A hungry fox, who had come out of his hole to hunt, found a piece of fresh meat. As he had not tasted food for several days, he seized it and started home on a trot. On the way he passed by a hen-yard. At the sight of the four fat fowls who were scratching for worms, the fox's mouth watered. He set down the piece of meat and gazed longingly at the hens. Just then a jackal passed by.
"Fox," he said, "you seem perplexed. Tell me your trouble, and it may be that I can help you."
"Jackal, you are right," replied the fox. "I'm perplexed. I have here a piece of meat that I'm carrying to my hole, but I should like one of these fowls for my second course."
"Take my advice," responded the Jackal, "and let these hens alone. I have long had my eye on them, but they are watched by a boy, and you cannot possibly catch them without being seen. You should be more than content with that fine piece of meat which you are carrying home." And the jackal went on his way.
Nevertheless, the fox could not make up his mind to give up the fowls. Finally he laid down his piece of meat, and crept cautiously into the yard. He was just nearing the tail-feathers of the plumpest fowl, when the boy hurled a stick at his head. Fearing for his life, the fox sprang over the fence and rushed back to the spot where he had left his piece of meat. But a few moments before, a kite had passed that way, smelled the meat, and carried it to her nest.
There was once a poor, lean old Woman, who lived in a tiny, tumbled-down house, with a cat as poor and as lean as herself. This cat had never tasted a bit of bread, and had come no nearer a mouse than to find its tracks in the dust. One morning, when the cat was sitting as usual on the roof of the house, he saw another cat walking along the ridgepole of the roof opposite. At first he scarcely recognized the cat as one of his own kin, his sides were so sleek and fat. He carried his long tail straight up in the air, and blinked his yellow eyes in the sunshine. As the fat cat came nearer, the lean cat called out to him,
"My good neighbour, you look like the happiest cat alive. You are as plump as if you had sat every day of your life at a banquet. Pray tell me where it is that you find so much to eat?"
"Where, indeed," replied the fat cat, sitting down and curling his long tail about his legs, "but at the king's table. Every day, when the feast is spread, I go there and snatch away some dainty morsel of food, either a piece of roast beef or a fried trout."
The lean cat drew nearer to the edge of the roof. "Oh, tell me," he begged, "what is roast beef, and how do fried trout smell? I have never tasted anything but broth."
"Ah, that is why you look as lean as a spider," the other cat answered. "Now, if you were only to look once at the king's table, it would put new life into your old bones. Tomorrow, if you wish, I will take you there."
With a purr of satisfaction, the lean cat jumped off the roof and ran to tell his mistress the good news. But the Old Woman was far from happy when she heard of the expedition. "I beg you," she pleaded with her cat, "to stay at home and be content with your dish of honest broth. Think what might happen to you if the royal cook should catch you stealing from the king's table!"
But the lean cat was so greedy for food that the words of his mistress went in one ear and out the other. The next day the two cats started for the palace.
Now it had so happened the day before that the cats of the palace had so overrun the banquet table that the king had issued this decree:
Any cat who this day shows his whiskers within the palace shall be hanged at once.The fat cat wisely approached the palace stealthily. As he was creeping through the gate, another cat warned him of the decree and he took to his heels. But the lean cat was already within the banquet hall, for at the first odor of roasting meat that came through the window he had leaped forward, leaving his companion far behind. He was just snatching a morsel of venison from the table, when a strong hand seized him by the back of the neck, and an instant later he was put to death.
"Alack, alack, woe is me!" sighed the old woman that evening when her cat did not return for his supper; "if only my puss had been content with his dish of honest broth, he would still be alive and purring on my hearthstone."
ONCE on a time there was a little man with a crooked back who was called the wise little bowman because he used his bow and arrow so very well. This crooked little man said to himself: "If I go to the king and ask him to let me join his army, he's sure to ask what a little man like me is good for. I must find some great big man who will take me as his page, and ask the king to take us." So the little bowman went about the city looking for a big man.
One day he saw a big, strong man digging a ditch. "What makes a fine big man like you do such work?" asked the little man.
"I do this work because I can earn a living in no other way," said the big man.
"Dig no more," said the bowman. "There is in this whole country no such bowman as I am; but no king would let me join his army because I'm such a little man. I want you to ask the king to let you join the army. He will take you because you are big and strong. I will do the work that you are given to do, and we will divide the pay. In this way we shall both of us earn a good living. Will you come with me and do as I tell you?" asked the little bowman.
"Yes, I will go with you," said the big man.
So together they set out to go to the king. By and by they came to the gates of the palace, and sent word to the king that a wonderful bowman was there. The king sent for the bowman to come before him. Both the big man and the little man went in and, bowing, stood before the king.
The king looked at the big man and asked, "What brings you here?"
"I want to be in your army," said the big man.
"Who is the little man with you?" asked the king.
"He is my page," said the big man.
"What pay do you want?" asked the king.
"A thousand pieces a month for me and my page, O King," said the big man.
"I will take you and your page," said the king.
So the big man and the little bowman joined the king's army.
Now in those days there was a tiger in the forest who had carried off many people. The king sent for the big man and told him to kill that tiger.
The big man told the little bowman what the king said. They went into the forest together, and soon the little bowman shot the tiger.
The king was glad to be rid of the tiger, and gave the big man rich gifts and praised him.
Another day word came that a buffalo was running up and down a certain road. The king told the big man to go and kill that buffalo. The big man and the little man went to the road, and soon the little man shot the buffalo. When they both went back to the king, he gave a bag of money to the big man.
The king and all the people praised the big man, and so one day the big man said to the little man: "I can get on without you. Do you think there's no bowman but yourself?" Many other harsh and unkind things did he say to the little man.
But a few days later a king from a far country marched on the city and sent a message to its king saying, "Give up your country, or do battle."
The king at once sent his army. The big man was armed and mounted on a war-elephant. But the little bowman knew that the big man could not shoot, so he took his bow and seated himself behind the big man.
Then the war-elephant, at the head of the army, went out of the city. At the first
beat of the drums, the big man shook with fear. "Hold on tight," said the little bowman. "If
you fall off now, you will be killed. You need not be afraid; I am here."
"And now to win!" said the little bowman, as he drove the war-elephant into the fight. The army broke into the camp of the king that came from afar, and drove him back to his own country. Then the little bowman led the army back into the city. The king and all the people called him "the brave little bowman." The king made him the chief of the army, giving him rich gifts.