A fox one day invited a stork to dinner, and being disposed to divert himself at the expense of his guest, provided nothing for the entertainment but some thin soup in a shallow dish. This the fox lapped up very readily, while the stork, unable to gain a mouthful with her long narrow bill, was as hungry at the end of dinner as when she began. The fox meanwhile professed his regret at seeing her eat so sparingly and feared that the dish was not seasoned to her mind.
The stork said little, but begged that the fox would do her the honor of returning her visit. Accordingly he agreed to dine with her on the following day. He arrived true to his appointment and the dinner was ordered forthwith.
When the meal was served up, the fox found to his dismay that it was contained in a narrow-necked vessel, down which the stork readily thrust her long neck and bill, while he was obliged to content himself with licking the neck of the jar. Unable to satisfy his hunger, he retired with as good a grace as he could, observing that he could hardly find fault with his entertainer, who had only paid him back in his own coin.
A Wolf prowling near a village one evening met a Dog. It happened to be a very lean and bony Dog, and Master Wolf would have turned up his nose at such meager fare had he not been more hungry than usual. So he began to edge toward the Dog, while the Dog backed away.
“Let me remind your lordship,” said the Dog, his words interrupted now and then as he dodged a snap of the Wolf’s teeth, “how unpleasant it would be to eat me now. Look at my ribs. I am nothing but skin and bone. But let me tell you something in private. In a few days my master will give a wedding feast for his only daughter. You can guess how fine and fat I will grow on the scraps from the table. Then is the time to eat me.”
The Wolf could not help thinking how nice it would be to have a fine fat Dog to eat instead of the scrawny object before him. So he went away pulling in his belt and promising to return.
Some days later the Wolf came back for the promised feast. He found the Dog in his master’s yard, and asked him to come out and be eaten.
“Sir,” said the Dog, with a grin, “I shall be delighted to have you eat me. I’ll be out as soon as the porter opens the door.”
But the “porter” was a huge Dog whom the Wolf knew by painful experience to be very unkind toward wolves. So he decided not to wait and made off as fast as his legs could carry him.
A fox, who wanted to eat it, thought up the following trick. He took up his position opposite her, he admired her delightful singing and he invited her to come down. He said he would like to see the creature which possessed such a beautiful voice.
Suspecting the trap, the cicada tore off a leaf and let it fall. The fox pounced upon it, believing it was the cicada. ‘You are mistaken, friend,’ she said to him, ‘if you believed that I would come down. I have mistrusted foxes ever since the day when I saw the wings of a cicada in a fox’s droppings.’
The Owl always takes her sleep during the day. Then after sundown, when the rosy light fades from the sky and the shadows rise slowly through the wood, out she comes ruffling and blinking from the old hollow tree. Now her weird “hoo-hoo-hoo-oo-oo” echoes through the quiet wood, and she begins her hunt for the bugs and beetles, frogs and mice she likes so well to eat.
Now there was a certain old Owl who had become very cross and hard to please as she grew older, especially if anything disturbed her daily slumbers. One warm summer afternoon as she dozed away in her den in the old oak tree, a Grasshopper nearby began a joyous but very raspy song. Out popped the old Owl’s head from the opening in the tree that served her both for door and for window.
“Get away from here, sir,” she said to the Grasshopper. “Have you no manners? You should at least respect my age and leave me to sleep in quiet!”
But the Grasshopper answered saucily that he had as much right to his place in the sun as the Owl had to her place in the old oak. Then he struck up a louder and still more rasping tune.
The wise old Owl knew quite well that it would do no good to argue with the Grasshopper, nor with anybody else for that matter. Besides, her eyes were not sharp enough by day to permit her to punish the Grasshopper as he deserved. So she laid aside all hard words and spoke very kindly to him.
“Well sir,” she said, “if I must stay awake, I am going to settle right down to enjoy your singing. Now that I think of it, I have a wonderful wine here, sent me from Olympus, of which I am told Apollo drinks before he sings to the high gods. Please come up and taste this delicious drink with me. I know it will make you sing like Apollo himself.”
The foolish Grasshopper was taken in by the Owl’s flattering words. Up he jumped to the Owl’s den, but as soon as he was near enough so the old Owl could see him clearly, she pounced upon him and ate him up.
A certain huckster who kept an ass, hearing that salt was to be had cheap at the seaside, drove his ass there to buy some. Having loaded the beast as much as he could bear, he was driving him home, when, as they were passing a slippery ledge of rock, the ass fell into the stream below. The salt melted and the ass was relieved of his burden. Having gained the bank with ease, the ass pursued his journey onward, light in body and in spirit.
The huckster soon afterwards set off for the seashore for some more salt. He loaded the ass, if possible, more heavily than before. On their return, as they crossed the stream into which he had formerly fallen, the ass fell down on purpose and, by dissolving the salt, was again released from his load.
The master, provoked at the loss, and thinking how he might cure him of this trick, on his next journey to the coast freighted the beast with a load of sponges. When they arrived at the same stream as before, the ass was at his old tricks again and rolled himself into the water. He found to his cost that the sponges, becoming thoroughly wet, instead of lightening his burden, he had more than doubled its weight.
The same measures will not suit all circumstances and we may play the same trick once too often.
A doe that had but one eye used to graze near the sea. So that she might be more secure from attack, she kept her eye towards the land against the approach of the hunters and her blind side towards the sea, whence she feared no danger. But some sailors rowing by in a boat and seeing her aimed at her from the water and shot her. With her last gasp she sighed to herself: “Ill-fated creature that I am! I was safe on the land side whence I expected to be attacked, but find an enemy in the sea to which I most looked for protection.”
Our troubles often come from the quarter where we least expect them.