A Crow and His Three Friends Feb 28, 2009 4:14:17 GMT -5
Post by on Feb 28, 2009 4:14:17 GMT -5
In the branches of a great tree, in a forest in India, lived a wise old crow in a very comfortable, well-built nest. His wife was dead, and all his children were getting their own living; so he had nothing to do but to look after himself. He led a very easy existence, but took a great interest in the affairs of his neighbors. One day, popping his head over the edge of his home, he saw a fierce-looking man stalking along, carrying a stick in one hand and a net in the other.
"That fellow is up to some mischief, I'll be bound," thought the crow: "I will keep my eye on him." The man stopped under the tree, spread the net on the ground; and taking a bag of rice out of his pocket, he scattered the grains amongst the meshes of the net. Then he hid himself behind the trunk of the tree from which the crow was watching, evidently intending to stop there and see what would happen. The crow felt pretty gore that the stranger had designs against birds, and that the stick had something to do with the matter. He was quite right; and it was not long before just what he expected came to pass.
A flock of pigeons, led by a specially fine bird who had been chosen king because of his size and the beauty of his plumage, came flying rapidly along, and noticed the white rice, but did not see the net, because it was very much the same color as the ground. Down swooped the king, and down swept all the other pigeons, eager to enjoy a good meal without any trouble to themselves. Alas, their joy was short lived! They were all caught in the net and began struggling to escape, beating the air with their wings and uttering loud cries of distress.
The crow and the man behind the tree kept very quiet, watching them; the man with his stick ready to beat the poor helpless birds to death, the crow watching out of mere curiosity. Now a very strange and wonderful thing came to pass. The king of the pigeons, who had his wits about him, said to the imprisoned birds:
"Take the net up in your beaks, all of you spread out your wings at once, and fly straight up into the air as quickly as possible."
In a moment all the pigeons, who were accustomed to obey their leader, did as they were bid; each little bird seized a separate thread of the net in his beak and up, up, up, they all flew, looking very beautiful with the sunlight gleaming on their white wings. Very soon they were out of sight; and the man, who thought he had hit upon a very clever plan, came forth from his hiding-place, very much surprised at what had happened. He stood gazing up after his vanished net for a little time, and then went away muttering to himself, whilst the wise old crow laughed at him.
When the pigeons had flown some distance, and were beginning to get exhausted, for the net was heavy and they were quite unused to carrying loads, the king bade them rest awhile in a clearing of the forest; and as they all lay on the ground panting for breath, with the cruel net still hampering them, he said:
"What we must do now is to take this horrible net to my old friend Hiranya the mouse, who will, I am quite sure, nibble through the strings for me and set us all free. He lives, as you all know, near the tree where the net was spread, deep underground; but there are many passages leading to his home, and we shall easily find one of the openings. Once there, we will all lift up our voices, and call to him at once, when he will be sure to hear us." So the weary pigeons took up their burden once more, and sped back whence they had come, greatly to the surprise of the crow, who wondered at their coming back to the very place where misfortune had overtaken them. He very soon learnt the reason, and got so excited watching what was going on, that he hopped out of his nest and perched upon a branch where he could see better. Presently a great clamor arose, one word being repeated again and again: "Hiranya! Hiranya! Hiranya."
"Why, that's the name of the mouse who lives down below there!" thought the crow. "Now, what good can he do? I know, I know," he added, as he remembered the sharp teeth of Hiranya. "That king of the pigeons is a sensible fellow. I must make friends with him."
Very soon, as the pigeons lay fluttering and struggling outside one of the entrances to Hiranya's retreat, the mouse came out. He didn't even need to be told what was wanted, but at once began to nibble the string, first setting free the king, and then all the rest of the birds. "A friend in need is a friend indeed," cried the king; "a thousand thousand thanks!" And away he flew up into the beautiful free air of heaven, followed by the happy pigeons, none of them ever likely to forget the adventure or to pick up food from the ground without a good look at it first.
The mouse did not at once return to his hole when the birds were gone, but went for a little stroll, which brought him to the ground still strewn with rice, which he began to eat with great relish. "It's an ill wind," he said to himself, "which brings nobody any good. There's many a good meal for my whole family here."
Presently he was joined by the old crow, who had flown down from his perch unnoticed by Hiranya, and now addressed him in his croaky voice:
"Hiranya," he said, "for that I know is your name, I am called Laghupatin and I would gladly have you for a friend. I have seen all that you did for the pigeons, and have come to the conclusion that you are a mouse of great wisdom, ready to help those who are in trouble, without any thought of yourself."
"You are quite wrong," squeaked Hiranya. "I am not so silly as you make out. I have no wish to be your friend. If you were hungry, you wouldn't hesitate to gobble me up. I don't care for that sort of affection."
With that Hiranya whisked away to his hole, pausing at the entrance, when he knew the crow could not get at him, to cry, "You be off to your nest and leave me alone!"
The feelings of the crow were very much hurt at this speech, the more that he knew full well it was not exactly love for the mouse, which had led him to make his offer, but self-interest: for who could tell what difficulties he himself might some day be in, out of which the mouse might help him? Instead of obeying Hiranya, and going back to his nest, he hopped to the mouse's hole, and putting his head on one side in what he thought was a very taking manner, he said:
"Pray do not misjudge me so. Never would I harm you! Even if I did not wish to have you for a friend, I should not dream of gobbling you up, as you say, however hungry I might be. Surely you are aware that I am a strict vegetarian, and never eat the flesh of other creatures. At least give me a trial. Let us share a meal together, and talk the matter over."
Hiranya, on hearing the last remark of Laghupatin, hesitated, and in the end he agreed that he would have supper with the crow that very evening. "There is plenty of rice here," he said, "which we can eat on the spot. It would be impossible for you to get into my hole, and I am certainly not disposed to visit you in your nest." So the two at once began their meal, and before it was over they had become good friends. Not a day passed without a meeting, and when all the rice was eaten up, each of the two would bring something to the feast. This had gone on for some little time, when the crow, who was fond of adventure and change, said one day to the mouse: "Don't you think we might go somewhere else for a time? I am rather tired of this bit of the forest, every inch of which we both know well. I've got another great friend who lives beside a fine river a few miles away, a tortoise named Mandharaka; a thoroughly good, trustworthy fellow he is, though rather slow and cautious in his ways. I should like to introduce you to him. There are quantities of food suitable for us both where he lives, for it is a very fruitful land. What do you say to coming with me to pay him a visit?"
"How in the world should I get there?" answered Hiranya. "It's all very well for you, who can fly. I can't walk for miles and miles. For all that I too am sick of this place and would like a change."
"Oh, there's no difficulty about that," replied Laghupatin. "I will carry you in my beak, and you will get there without any fatigue at all." To this Hiranya consented, and very early one morning the two friends started off together.
After flying along for several hours, the crow began to feel very tired. He was seized too with a great desire to hear his own voice again. So he flew to the ground, laid his little companion gently down, and gave vent to a number of hoarse cries, which quite frightened Hiranya, who timidly asked him what was the matter.
"Nothing whatever," answered Laghupatin, "except that you are not quite so light as I thought you were, and that I need a rest; besides which, I am hungry and I expect you are. We had better stop here for the night, and start again early to-morrow morning." Hiranya readily agreed to this, and after a good meal, which was easily found, the two settled down to sleep, the crow perched in a tree, the mouse hidden amongst its roots. Very early the next day they were off again, and soon arrived at the river, where they were warmly welcomed by the tortoise. The three had a long talk together, and agreed never to part again. The tortoise, who had lived a great deal longer than either the mouse or the crow, was a very pleasant companion; and even Laghupatin, who was very fond of talking himself, liked to listen to his stories of long ago.
"I wonder," said the tortoise, whose name was Mandharaka, to the mouse, "that you are not afraid to travel about as you have done, with your soft little body unprotected by any armor. Look how different it is for me; it is almost impossible for any of the wild creatures who live near this river to hurt me, and they know it full well. See how thick and strong my armor is. The claws even of a tiger, a wild cat or an eagle, could not penetrate it. I am very much afraid, my little friend, that you will be gobbled up some fine day, and Laghupatin and I will seek for you in vain."
"Of course," said the mouse, "I know the truth of what you say; but I can very easily hide from danger--much more easily than you or Laghupatin. A tuft of moss or a few dead leaves are shelter enough for me, but big fellows like you and the crow can be quite easily seen. Nobody saw me when the pigeons were all caught except Laghupatin; and I would have kept out of his sight if I had not known that he did not care to eat mice."
In spite of the fears of Mandharaka, the mouse and the crow lived as his guests for a long time without any accident; and one day they were suddenly joined by a new companion, a creature as unlike any one of the three friends as could possibly be imagined. This was a very beautiful deer, who came bounding out of the forest, all eager to escape from the hunters, by whom he had been pursued, but too weary to reach the river, across which he had hoped to be able to swim to safety. Just as he reached the three friends, he fell to the ground, almost crushing the mouse, who darted away in the nick of time. Strange to say, the hunters did not follow the deer; and it was evident that they had not noticed the way he had gone.
The tortoise, the crow and the mouse were all very sorry for the deer, and, as was always the case, the crow was the first to speak. "Whatever has happened to you?" he asked. And the deer made answer:
"I thought my last hour had come this time, for the hunters were close upon me; and even now I do not feel safe."
"I'll fly up and take a look 'round," said Laghupatin; and off he went to explore, coming back soon, to say he had seen the hunters disappearing a long distance off, going in quite another direction from the river. Gradually the deer was reassured, and lay still where he had fallen; whilst the three friends chatted away to him, telling him of their adventures. "What you had better do," said the tortoise, "is to join us. When you have had a good meal, and a drink from the river, you will feel a different creature. My old friend Laghupatin will be the one to keep watch for us all, and warn us of any danger approaching; I will give you the benefit of my long experience; and little Hiranya, though he is not likely to be of any use to you, will certainly never do you any harm."
The deer was so touched by the kind way in which he had been received, that he agreed to stop with the three friends; and for some weeks after his arrival all went well. Each member of the party went his own way during the day-time, but all four met together in the evening, and took it in turns to tell their adventures. The crow always had the most to say, and was very useful to the deer in warning him of the presence of hunters in the forest. One beautiful moonlight night the deer did not come back as usual, and the other three became very anxious about him. The crow flew up to the highest tree near and eagerly sought for some sign of his lost friend, of whom he had grown very fond. Presently he noticed a dark mass by the river-side, just where the deer used to go down to drink every evening. "That must be he," thought the crow; and very soon he was hovering above the deer, who had been caught in a net and was struggling in vain to get free.
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