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THE BRAHMIN, THE TIGER, AND THE JACKAL

from Stories To Tell Children





Do you know what a Brahmin is? A Brahmin is a very good and gentle kind
of man who lives in India, and who treats all the beasts as if they were
his brothers. There is a great deal more to know about Brahmins, but
that is enough for the story.

One day a Brahmin was walking along a country road when he came upon a
Tiger, shut up in a strong iron cage. The villagers had caught him and
shut him up there for his wickedness.

"Oh, Brother Brahmin, Brother Brahmin," said the Tiger, "please let me
out, to get a little drink! I am so thirsty, and there is no water
here."

"But Brother Tiger," said the Brahmin, "you know if I should let you
out, you would spring on me and eat me up."

"Never, Brother Brahmin!" said the Tiger. "Never in the world would I do
such an ungrateful thing! Just let me out a little minute, to get a
little, little drink of water, Brother Brahmin!"

So the Brahmin unlocked the door and let the Tiger out. The moment he
was out he sprang on the Brahmin, and was about to eat him up.

"But, Brother Tiger," said the Brahmin, "you promised you would not. It
is not fair or just that you should eat me, when I set you free."

"It is perfectly right and just," said the Tiger, "and I shall eat you
up."

However, the Brahmin argued so hard that at last the Tiger agreed to
wait and ask the first five whom they should meet, whether it was fair
for him to eat the Brahmin, and to abide by their decision.

The first thing they came to, to ask, was an old Banyan Tree, by the
wayside. (A banyan tree is a kind of fruit tree.)

"Brother Banyan," said the Brahmin, eagerly, "does it seem to you right
or just that this Tiger should eat me, when I set him free from his
cage?"

The Banyan Tree looked down at them and spoke in a tired voice.

"In the summer," he said, "when the sun is hot, men come and sit in the
cool of my shade and refresh themselves with the fruit of my branches.
But when evening falls, and they are rested, they break my twigs and
scatter my leaves, and stone my boughs for more fruit. Men are an
ungrateful race. Let the Tiger eat the Brahmin."

The Tiger sprang to eat the Brahmin, but the Brahmin said,--

"Wait, wait; we have asked only one. We have still four to ask."

Presently they came to a place where an old Bullock was lying by the
road. The Brahmin went up to him and said,--

"Brother Bullock, oh, Brother Bullock, does it seem to you a fair thing
that this Tiger should eat me up, after I have just freed him from a
cage?"

The Bullock looked up, and answered in a deep, grumbling voice,--

"When I was young and strong my master used me hard, and I served him
well. I carried heavy loads and carried them far. Now that I am old and
weak and cannot work, he leaves me without food or water, to die by the
wayside. Men are a thankless lot. Let the Tiger eat the Brahmin."

The Tiger sprang, but the Brahmin spoke very quickly,--

"Oh, but this is only the second, Brother Tiger; you promised to ask
five."

The Tiger grumbled a good deal, but at last he went on again with the
Brahmin. And after a time they saw an Eagle, high overhead. The Brahmin
called up to him imploringly,--

"Oh, Brother Eagle, Brother Eagle! Tell us if it seems to you fair that
this Tiger should eat me up, when I have just saved him from a frightful
cage?"

The Eagle soared slowly overhead a moment, then he came lower, and spoke
in a thin, clear voice.

"I live high in the air," he said, "and I do no man any harm. Yet as
often as they find my eyrie, men stone my young and rob my nest and
shoot at me with arrows. Men are a cruel breed. Let the Tiger eat the
Brahmin!"

The Tiger sprang upon the Brahmin, to eat him up; and this time the
Brahmin had very hard work to persuade him to wait. At last he did
persuade him, however, and they walked on together. And in a little
while they saw an old Alligator, lying half buried in mud and slime, at
the river's edge.

"Brother Alligator, oh, Brother Alligator!" said the Brahmin, "does it
seem at all right or fair to you that this Tiger should eat me up, when
I have just now let him out of a cage?"

The old Alligator turned in the mud, and grunted, and snorted; then he
said,--

"I lie here in the mud all day, as harmless as a pigeon; I hunt no man,
yet every time a man sees me, he throws stones at me, and pokes me with
sharp sticks, and jeers at me. Men are a worthless lot. Let the Tiger
eat the Brahmin!"

At this the Tiger was going to eat the Brahmin at once. The poor Brahmin
had to remind him, again and again, that they had asked only four.

"Wait till we've asked one more! Wait until we see a fifth!" he begged.

Finally, the Tiger walked on with him.

After a time, they met the little Jackal, coming gaily down the road
toward them.

"Oh, Brother Jackal, dear Brother Jackal," said the Brahmin, "give us
your opinion! Do you think it right or fair that this Tiger should eat
me, when I set him free from a terrible cage?"

"Beg pardon?" said the little Jackal.

"I said," said the Brahmin, raising his voice, "do you think it is fair
that the Tiger should eat me, when I set him free from his cage?"

"Cage?" said the little Jackal, vacantly.

"Yes, yes, his cage," said the Brahmin. "We want your opinion. Do you
think----"

"Oh," said the little Jackal, "you want my opinion? Then may I beg you
to speak a little more loudly, and make the matter quite clear? I am a
little slow of understanding. Now what was it?"

"Do you think," said the Brahmin, "it is right for this Tiger to eat me,
when I set him free from his cage?"

"What cage?" said the little Jackal.

"Why, the cage he was in," said the Brahmin. "You see----"

"But I don't altogether understand," said the little Jackal. "You 'set
him free,' you say?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" said the Brahmin. "It was this way: I was walking
along, and I saw the Tiger----"

"Oh, dear, dear!" interrupted the little Jackal; "I never can see
through it, if you go on like that, with a long story. If you really
want my opinion you must make the matter clear. What sort of cage was
it?"

"Why, a big, ordinary cage, an iron cage," said the Brahmin.

"That gives me no idea at all," said the little Jackal. "See here, my
friends, if we are to get on with this matter you'd best show me the
spot. Then I can understand in a jiffy. Show me the cage."

So the Brahmin, the Tiger, and the little Jackal walked back together to
the spot where the cage was.

"Now, let us understand the situation," said the little Jackal. "Friend
Brahmin, where were you?"

"I stood just here by the roadside," said the Brahmin.

"Tiger, and where were you?" said the little Jackal.

"Why, in the cage, of course," roared the Tiger.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Father Tiger," said the little Jackal, "I
really am _so_ stupid; I cannot _quite_ understand what happened. If you
will have a little patience,--_how_ were you in the cage? What position
were you in?"

"I stood here," said the Tiger, leaping into the cage, "with my head
over my shoulder, so."

"Oh, thank you, thank you," said the little Jackal, "that makes it
_much_ clearer; but I still don't _quite_ understand--forgive my slow
mind--why did you not come out, by yourself?"

"Can't you see that the door shut me in?" said the Tiger.

"Oh, I do beg your pardon," said the little Jackal. "I know I am very
slow; I can never understand things well unless I see just how they
were; if you could show me now exactly how that door works I am sure I
could understand. How does it shut?"

"It shuts like this," said the Brahmin, pushing it to.

"Yes; but I don't see any lock," said the little Jackal, "does it lock
on the outside?"

"It locks like this," said the Brahmin. And he shut and bolted the door!

"Oh, does it, indeed?" said the little Jackal. "Does it, _indeed_! Well,
Brother Brahmin, now that it is locked, I should advise you to let it
stay locked! As for you, my friend," he said to the Tiger, "I think you
will wait a good while before you'll find anyone to let you out again!"
Then he made a very low bow to the Brahmin.

"Good-bye, Brother," he said. "Your way lies that way, and mine lies
this; good-bye!"





Next: THE LITTLE JACKAL AND THE CAMEL

Previous: WHO KILLED THE OTTER'S BABIES?



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