IN the East there lived a fool, who went one day to his fields and said, "I sowed a month ago; should the crops stand two months more, I shall get three hundred bushels of corn. But I am in a hurry, so if I should reap now, I dare say I shall have one hundred bushels at least."
A crane who heard his words said, "If I were you, I should have all the three hundred bushels this very day."
"How?" said the fool.
"Why," said the crane, "you stored up water in the tank to feed the crops for three months. A month has elapsed, so water enough for two months more remains in the tank. Should you open the sluices and let all the water flow into the fields, you will have all the corn at once."
"Are you sure I shall have all the corn at once?" said the fool.
"Oh, yes," said the crane, "there is not the slightest doubt. My geographical knowledge is extensive, for I have travelled over a great part of the world; so you may depend on my world-wide knowledge and experience."
The fool then let all the water flow into the fields. The crane invited his kindred, and they together ate all the big fish left in the tank first, and then, hovering over the fields, picked up all the small fish that had gone out with the water. A great portion of the crops was swept away; what remained was soon buried in the mud.
The fool sat on the bank of the lake and wept, saying, "The crane's geography ruined me."
"My friend," said the crane, "my geography was as good as your arithmetic. 'It may not matter very much whether you fall into a ditch from this side or that.'"
THERE lived in the East a hag who used to say, "The sun sleeps every night in my house, and creeps back to the east to rise again." Should the morning be cloudy and the sun invisible, she would say, "My good man (meaning the sun) is yet sleeping; he is no doubt tired with the work he had yesterday."
A great many people believed her, called her the Sun's Grandmamma, and regarded her with great awe and respect From time to time, when people wished to see the particular room in which the sun slept, she would take them in, for a fee, which she said the sun took to himself, and show them the door of a room tinder lock and key, which she called the sun's chamber.
Thus she made a large sum of money, which she kept in a great chest in the room. A wit, who had found out the secret, once went to her and said, "Madam, the sun bade me tell you he will be here this evening for dinner rather late."
Then he went about the neighbourhood and told the people that the sun was also to dine at the hag's house that evening. About midnight the people were startled to see the hag's house on fire, and herself wailing loud in these terms: "Alas! my chest has been stolen and my house burnt."
The wit, who had done this, and who was one of the crowd, said, "All your fees went to the sun, so there could have been nothing in the chest. The sun said he would have his dinner here, so he has evidently been consuming the house."
The people said, "Just so!"
The hag said, "Gentlemen, I did not mean what I said; I had all the money. This rogue has stolen my property."
The people said, "You did not mean what you said, and you do not say what you mean! It is all the same, then," and dispersed. Lying is not perfect. Besides, if you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.
A LION who was the king of a great forest once said to his subjects, "I want someone among you to tell me stories one after another without ceasing. If you fail to find somebody who can so amuse me, you will all be put to death."
In the East there is a proverb which says, "The king kills when he wills." So the animals were in great alarm.
The fox said, "Fear not; I shall save you all. Tell the king the storyteller is ready to come to court when ordered." So the animals had orders to send the storyteller at once to the presence. The fox bowed respectfully, and stood before the king, who said,
"So you are to tell us stories without ceasing?"
"Yes, your majesty," said the fox.
"Then begin," said the lion.
"But before I do so," said the fox, "I would like to know what your majesty means by a story."
"Why," said the lion, "a narrative containing some interesting event or fact."
"Just so," said the fox, and began: "There was a fisherman who went to sea with a huge net, and spread it far and wide. A great many fish got into it. Just as the fisherman was about to draw the net the coils snapped. A great opening was made. First one fish escaped." Here the fox stopped.
"What then?" said the lion.
"Then two escaped," said the fox.
"What then?" said the impatient lion.
"Then three escaped," said the fox. Thus, as often as the lion repeated his query, the fox increased the number by one, and said as many escaped. The lion was vexed, and said, "Why, you are telling me nothing new!"
"I wish your majesty will not forget your royal word," said the fox. "Each event occurred by itself, and each lot that escaped was different from the rest."
"But wherein is the wonder?" said the lion.
"Why, your majesty, what can be more wonderful than for fish to escape in lots, each exceeding the other by one?"
"I am bound by my word," said the lion, "or else I would see your carcass stretched on the ground."
The fox said in a whisper, "If rulers are not bound by their own word, few or no things can bind them.''
A DESPOT in the East wished to have a great name as a very munificent prince, so he gave large presents to everyone of note that came to his court, but at the same time his officers had secret orders to waylay the recipients of his gifts and recover them.
In this manner many a man had been rewarded and plundered. Once a wag came to court, and amused him by his drolleries. The king gave him a great many presents, including a horse. After taking leave of the king and his courtiers, the wag bundled up the presents and put them over his shoulders, and mounting the horse, facing the tail, was going out. The king asked him why he acted in that manner.
"Sire," said the wag, "simply to see if your officers were coming behind, that I may at once hand over the bundle to them and go about my business."
The despot was abashed, and stopped giving any more presents, saying, "Giving is but giving in vain, when we give to take again."
A LION made great havoc on the animals under his control. They went up to a wise man in the forest and said, "Sire, the lion will soon empty the forest if he is not at once put down. We therefore beg of you to grant the elephant the power of putting down the lion."
"Yes," said the wise man.
The elephant became a very nimble and powerful beast of prey, and soon drove the lion out of the wood. Requiring, from his huge frame, a great deal more of nourishment than the lion, he began to kill a great many more animals in a day than the former. So the beasts again went up to the sage and said, "Sire, we pray you bid the elephant go back to his former condition, so that we may have the lion again for our king."
Said the sage, "Yes, of two evils choose the less, if choose you must."
IN the good old days a clown in the East, on a visit to a city kinsman, while at dinner, pointed to a burning candle and asked what it was. The city man said, in jest, it was a sunling, or one of the children of the sun.
The clown thought that it was something rare; so he waited for an opportunity, and hid it in a chest of drawers close by. Soon the chest caught fire, then the curtains by its side, then the room, then the whole house.
After the flames had been put down the city man and the clown went into the burnt building to see what remained.
The clown turned over the embers of the chest of drawers. The city man asked what he was seeking for. The clown said, "It is in this chest that I hid the bright sunling; I wish to know if he has survived the flames."
"Alas," said the city man, who now found out the cause of all the mischief, "never jest with fools."