Have you seen Lambikin?"
And to each of them the little slyboots replied:
"Fallen into the fire, and so will you
On little Drumikin. Tum-pa, tum-too;
Tum-pa, tum-too; Tum-pa, tum-too!"
Then they all sighed to think of the tender little morsel they had let slip.
At last the Jackal came limping along, for all his sorry looks as sharp as a needle, and he too called out-
Have you seen Lambikin?"
And Lambikin, curled up in his snug little nest, replied gayly:
"Fallen into the fire, and so will you
On little Drumikin! Tum-pa-"
But he never got any further, for the Jackal recognized his voice at once, arid cried: "Hullo! you've turned yourself inside out, have you?
Just you come out of that!"
Whereupon he tore open Drumikin and gobbled up Lambikin.
THE RAT'S WEDDING
By Flora Annie Steel
ONCE upon a time a fat, sleek Rat was caught in a shower of rain, and being far from shelter he set to work and soon dug a nice hole in the ground, in which he sat as dry as a bone while the raindrops splashed outside, making little puddles on the road.
Now in the course of digging, he came upon a fine bit of root, quite dry and fit for fuel, which he set aside carefully-for the Rat is an economical creature--in order to take it home with him. So when the shower was over, he set off with the dry root in his mouth. As he went along, daintily picking his way through the puddles, he Saw a Poor Man vainly trying to light a fire, while a little circle of children stood by, and cried piteously.
"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed the Rat, who was both soft-hearted and curious, "What a dreadful noise to make! What is the matter?"
"The children are hungry," answered the Man; "they are crying for their breakfast, but the sticks are damp, the fire won't burn, and so I can't bake the cakes."
"If that is all your trouble, perhaps I can help you," said the good- natured Rat, "you are welcome to this dry root and I'll warrant it will soon make a fine blaze."
The Poor Man, with a thousand thanks, took the dry root, and in his turn presented the Rat with a morsel of dough, as a reward for his kindness and generosity.
"What a remarkably lucky fellow I am!" thought the Rat, as he trotted off gayly with his prize, "and clever, too! Fancy making a bargain like that-food enough to last me five days in return for a rotten old stick! Wah! Wah! Wah! What it is to have brains!"
Going along, hugging his good fortune in this way, he came presently to a Potter's yard, where the Potter, leaving his wheel to spin round by itself, was trying to pacify his three little children, who were screaming arid crying as if they would burst.
"My gracious!" cried the Rat, stopping his ears, "what a noise! do tell me what it is all about."
"I suppose they are hungry," replied the Potter ruefully; "their mother has gone to get flour in the bazaar, for there is none in the house.
In the meantime I can neither work nor rest because of them."
"Is that all?" answered the officious Rat; then I can help you. Take this dough, cook it quickly, and stop their mouths with food."
The Potter overwhelmed the Rat with thanks for his obliging kindness, and choosing out a nice well-burned pipkin, insisted on his accepting it as a remembrance.
The Rat was delighted at the exchange, and though the pipkin was just a trifle awkward for him to manage, he succeeded, after infinite trouble, in balancing it on his head and went away gingerly, tink-a-tink, tin k- a-tink, down the road, with his tail over his arm for fear he should trip on it. And all the time he kept saying to himself, "What a lucky fellow I am! and clever, too! Such a hand at a bargain!"
By and by he came to where some cowherds were herding their cattle.
One of them was milking a buffalo, and having no pail, he used his shoes instead.
"Oh fie! oh fie!" cried the cleanly Rat, quite shocked at the sight.
"What a nasty, dirty trick! Why don't you use a pail?"
"For the best of all reasons-we haven't got one!" growled the Cowherd, who did not see why the Rat should put his finger in the pie.
"If that is all," replied the dainty Rat, "oblige me by using this pipkin, for I cannot bear dirt!"
The Cowherd, nothing loath, took the pipkin and milked away until it was brimming over; then turning to the Rat, who stood looking on, said, "Here, little fellow, You may have a drink, in payment."
But if the Rat was good-natured he was also shrewd. "No, no, my friend," said he, "that will not do! As if I could drink the worth of any pipkin at a draft! My dear sir, I couldn't hold it! Besides, I never make a bad bargain, so I expect you, at least to give me the buffalo that gave the milk."
"Nonsense!" cried the Cowherd; "a buffalo for a pipkin! Whoever heard of such a price? And what on earth could you do with a buffalo when you got it? Why, the pipkin was about as much as you could manage."
At this the Rat drew himself up with dignity, for he did not like allusions to his size. "That is my affair, not yours," he retorted; "your business is to hand over the buffalo."
So just for the fun of the thing, and to amuse themselves at the Rat's expense, the cowherds loosened the buffalo's halter and began to tie it to the little animal's tail.
"No! no!' he called, in a great hurry. "If the beast pulled, the skin of my tail would come off, and then where should I be? Tie it around my neck, if you please."
So with much laughter the cowherds tied the halter round the Rat's neck, and he, after a polite leave-taking, set off gayly toward home with his prize; that is to say, he set off with the rope, for no sooner did he come to the end of the tether than be was brought up with a round turn; the buffalo, nose down, grazing away, would not budge until it had finished its tuft of grass, and then seeing another in a different direction marched off toward it, while the Rat, to avoid being dragged, had to trot humbly behind, willy-nilly. He was too proud to confess the truth, of course, and, nodding his head knowingly to the cowherds, said: "Ta-ta, good people! I am going home this way.
It may be a little longer, but it's much shadier."
And when the cowherds roared with laughter he took no notice, but trotted on, looking as dignified as possible. "After all," he reasoned to himself, "when one keeps a buffalo one has to look after its grazing. A beast must get a good bellyful of grass if it is to give any milk, and I have plenty of time at my disposal." So all day long he trotted about after the buffalo, making believe; but by evening he was dead tired, and felt truly thankful when the great big beast, having eaten enough, lay down under a tree to chew the cud.
Just then a bridal party came by. The Bridegroom and his friends had evidently gone on to the next village, leaving the Bride's palanquin to follow; so the palanquin bearers, being lazy fellows and seeing a nice shady tree, put down their burden, and began to cook some food.
"What detestable meanness!" grumbled one; "a grand wedding, and nothing but plain rice to eat! Not a scrap of meat in it, neither sweet nor salt! It would serve the skinflints right if we upset the Bride into a ditch!"
"Dear me!" cried the Rat at once, seeing a way out of his difficulty, "that is a shame! I sympathize with your feelings so entirely that if you will allow me, I'll give you my buffalo. You can kill it, and cook it."
"Your buffalo!" returned the discontented bearers. "What rubbish!
Whoever heard of a rat owning a buffalo?"
"Not often, I admit," replied the Rat with conscious pride; "but look for yourselves. Can you not see that I am leading the beast by a string?"