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THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE STAG

THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE STAG

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268. 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.”



269. 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.”



270. 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 treadmill11 and hid himself

there. “Aha,” said his master, “that’s the very place for you, my man!”



271. 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.”



272. 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 draft from the horn, when the

eagle knocked it out of his hand and spilled its contents upon the ground.



One good turn deserves another.



273.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.”



274. 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?”



275. 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.”



276. 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.



277. THE HAWK, THE KITE, AND THE PIGEONS

The pigeons in a certain dovecote were persecuted by a kite,12 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.



278. 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 plowing not far from the spot, set eyes upon the woman and desired to

have her for his wife. So he left his plow 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 plow. 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.”



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