Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Old Story


Once upon a time a tiger was caught in a trap. He tried in vain to
get out through the bars, and rolled and bit with rage and grief when
he failed.

By chance a poor Brâhman came by. 'Let me out of this cage, O pious
one!' cried the tiger.

'Nay, my friend,' replied the Brâhman mildly, 'you would probably eat
me if I did.'

'Not at all!' swore the tiger with many oaths; 'on the contrary, I
should be for ever grateful, and serve you as a slave!'

Now when the tiger sobbed and sighed and wept and swore, the pious
Brâhman's heart softened, and at last he consented to open the door of
the cage. Out popped the tiger, and, seizing the poor man, cried,
'What a fool you are! What is to prevent my eating you now, for after
being cooped up so long I am just terribly hungry!'

In vain the Brâhman pleaded for his life; the most he could gain was a
promise to abide by the decision of the first three things he chose to
question as to the justice of the tiger's action.

So the Brâhman first asked a _pîpal_ tree what it thought of the
matter, but the _pîpal_ tree replied coldly, 'What have you to
complain about? Don't I give shade and shelter to every one who
passes by, and don't they in return tear down my blanches to feed
their cattle? Don't whimper--be a man!'

Then the Brâhman, sad at heart, went farther afield till he saw a
buffalo turning a well-wheel; but he fared no better from it, for it
answered, 'You are a fool to expect gratitude! Look at me! While I
gave milk they fed me on cotton-seed and oil-cake, but now I am dry
they yoke me here, and give me refuse as fodder!'

The Brâhman, still more sad, asked the road to give him its opinion.

'My dear sir,' said the road, 'how foolish you are to expect anything
else! Here am I, useful to everybody, yet all, rich and poor, great
and small, trample on me as they go past, giving me nothing but the
ashes of their pipes and the husks of their grain!'

On this the Brâhman turned back sorrowfully, and on the way he met a
jackal, who called out, 'Why, what's the matter, Mr. Brâhman? You
look as miserable as a fish out of water!'

Then the Brâhman told him all that had occurred. 'How very
confusing!' said the jackal, when the recital was ended; 'would you
mind telling me over again? for everything seems so mixed up!'

The Brâhman told it all over again, but the jackal shook his head in a
distracted sort of way, and still could not understand.

'It's very odd,' said he sadly, 'but it all seems to go in at one ear
and out at the other! I will go to the place where it all happened,
and then perhaps I shall be able to give a judgment.'

So they returned to the cage, by which the tiger was waiting for the
Brâhman, and sharpening his teeth and claws.

'You've been away a long time!' growled the savage beast, 'but now let
us begin our dinner.'

'_Our_ dinner!' thought the wretched Brâhman, as his knees
knocked together with fright; 'what a remarkably delicate way of
putting it!'

'Give me five minutes, my lord!' he pleaded, 'in order that I may
explain matters to the jackal here, who is somewhat slow in his wits.'

The tiger consented, and the Brâhman began the whole story over again,
not missing a single detail, and spinning as long a yarn as possible.

'Oh, my poor brain! oh, my poor brain!' cried the jackal, wringing his
paws. 'Let me see! how did it all begin? You were in the cage, and
the tiger came walking by----'

'Pooh!' interrupted the tiger,' what a fool you are! _I_ was in
the cage.'

'Of course!' cried the jackal, pretending to tremble with fright;
'yes! I was in the cage--no, I wasn't--dear! dear! where are my
wits? Let me see--the tiger was in the Brâhman, and the cage came
walking by---no, that's not it either! Well, don't mind me, but begin
your dinner, for I shall never understand!'

'Yes, you shall!' returned the tiger, in a rage at the jackal's
stupidity; 'I'll _make_ you understand! Look here--I am the

'Yes, my lord!'

'And that is the Brâhman---'

'Yes, my lord!'

'And that is the cage---'

'Yes, my lord!'

'And I was in the cage--do you understand?'

'Yes--no--Please, my lord---'

'Well?' cried the tiger, impatiently.

'Please, my lord!--how did you get in?'

'How!--why, in the usual way, of course!'

'Oh dear me!--my head is beginning to whirl again! Please don't be
angry, my lord, but what is the usual way?'

At this the tiger lost patience, and, jumping into the cage, cried,
'This way! Now do you understand how it was?'

'Perfectly!' grinned the jackal, as he dexterously shut the door; 'and
if you will permit me to say so, I think matters will remain as they

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