PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL
By Joseph Jacobs
IN a certain village there lived ten cloth merchants who always went about together. Once upon a time they had traveled far afield, and were returning home with a great deal of money which they had obtained by selling their wares. Now there happened to be a dense forest near their village, and this they reached early one morning. In it there lived three notorious robbers, of whose existence the traders had never heard, and while they were still in the middle of it the robbers stood before them, with swords and cudgels in their hands, and ordered them to lay down all they had. The traders had no weapons with them, and so, though they were many more in number, they had to submit themselves to the robbers, who took away everything from them, even the very clothes they wore, and gave to each only a small loin cloth a span in breadth and a cubit in length.
The idea that they had conquered ten men and plundered all their property now took possession of the robbers' minds. They seated themselves like three monarchs before the men they had plundered, and ordered them to dance to them before returning home. The merchants now mourned their fate.
They had lost all they had, except their loin cloth, and still the robbers were not satisfied, but ordered them to dance.
There was, among the ten merchants, one who was very clever. He pondered over the calamity that had come upon him and his friends, the dance they would have to perform, and the magnificent manner in which the three robbers had seated themselves on the grass. At the same time he observed that these last had placed their weapons on the ground, in the assurance of having thoroughly cowed the traders, who were now commencing to dance. So he took the lead in the dance, and, as a song is always sung by the leader on such occasions, to which the rest keep time with hands and feet, he thus began to sing:
We are enty men,
They are erith men:
If each erith man
Surround eno men,
Eno man remains.
Ta, tai, tom, tadingana.
The robbers were all uneducated, and thought that the leader was merely singing a song as usual. So it was in one sense: for the leader commenced from a distance, and had sung the song over twice before he and his companions commenced to approach the robbers. They had understood his meaning, because they had been trained in trade.
When two traders discuss the price of an article in the presence of a purchaser, they use a riddling sort of language.
"What is the price of this cloth?" one trader will ask another.
"Enty rupees," another will reply, meaning "ten rupees."
Thus, there is no possibility of the purchaser knowing what is meant unless he be acquainted with trade language. By the rules of this secret language erith means "three," enty means "ten," and eno means "one." So the leader by his song meant to hint to his fellow-traders that they were ten men, the robbers only three, that if three pounced upon each of the robbers, nine of them could hold them down, while the remaining one bound the robbers' hands and feet.
The three thieves, glorying in their victory, and little understanding the meaning of the song and the intentions of the dancers, were proudly seated chewing betel and tobacco. Meanwhile the song was sung a third time. Ta, tai, tom had left the lips of the singer; and, before tadingana was out of them, the traders separated into parties of three, and each party pounced upon a thief. The remaining one-the leader himself-tore up into long narrow strips a large piece of cloth, six cubits long, and tied the hands and feet of the robbers. These were entirely humbled now, and rolled on the ground like three bags of rice!
The ten traders now took back all their property, and armed themselves with the swords and cudgels of their enemies; and when they reached their village, they often amused their friends and relatives by relating their adventure.
HOW THE WICKED SONS WERE DUPED
By Joseph Jacobs
A VERY wealthy old man, imagining that he was on the point of death, sent for his sons and divided his property among them. However, he did not die for several years afterward, and miserable years many of them were. Besides the weariness of old age, the old fellow had to bear with much abuse and cruelty from his sons. Wretched, selfish ingrates!
Previously they vied with one another in trying to please their father, hoping thus to receive more money, but now they had received their patrimony, they cared not how soon he left them-nay, the sooner the better, because he was only a needless trouble and expense. And they let the poor old man know what they felt.
One day he met a friend and related to him all his troubles. The friend sympathized very much with him, and promised to think over the matter, and call in a little while and tell him what to do. He did so; in a few days he visited the old man and put down four bags full of stones and gravel before him.
"Look here, friend," said he. "Your sons will get to know of my coming here to-day, and will inquire about it. You must pretend that I came to discharge a long-standing debt with you, and that you are several thousands of rupees richer than you thought you were. Keep these bags in your own hands, and on no account let your sons get to them as long as you are alive. You will soon find them change their conduct toward you. Salaam, I will come again soon to see how you are getting on."
When the young men got to hear of this further increase of wealth they began to be more attentive and pleasing to their father than ever before. And thus they continued to the day of the old man's demise, when the bags were greedily opened, and found to contain only stones and gravel!
THE TIGER, THE BRAHMAN, AND THE JACKAL
By Flora Annie Steel
ONCE upon a time a Tiger was caught in a trap. He tried in vain to get out through the bars, and rolled and bit with rage and grief when he failed.
By chance a poor Brahman came by.
"Let me out of this cage, oh pious one!" cried the Tiger.
"Nay, my friend," replied the Brahman mildly, you would probably eat me if I did."
"Not at all!" swore the Tiger with many oaths; "on the contrary, I should be forever grateful, and serve you as a slave!"
Now when the Tiger sobbed and sighed and wept and swore, the pious Brahman's heart softened, and at last he consented to open the door of the cage. Out popped the Tiger, and, seizing the poor man, cried, "What a fool you are! What is to prevent my eating you now, for after being cooped up so long I am terribly hungry!"
In vain the Brahman Pleaded for his life; the most he could gain was a promise to abide by the decision of the first three things he chose to question as to the justice of the Tiger's action.
So the Brahman first asked a Pipal Tree what it thought of the matter, but the Pipal Tree replied coldly, "What have you to complain about?
Don't I give shade and shelter to everyone who passes by, and don't they in return tear down my branches to feed their cattle? Don't whimper-be a. man! "
Then the Brahman sad at heart, went farther afield till he saw a Buffalo turning a well wheel; but he fared no better from it, for it answered, "You are a fool to expect gratitude! Look at me! While I gave milk they fed me on cottonseed and oil cake, but now I am dry they yoke me here, and give me refuse as fodder!"
The Brahman, still more sad, asked the Road to give him its opinion.
"My dear sir,'' said the Road, "how foolish you are to expect anything else! Here am I, useful to everybody, yet all, rich and poor, great and small, trample on me as they go past, giving me nothing but the ashes of their pipes and the husks of their grain!"
On this the Brahman turned back sorrowfully, and on the way he met a Jackal, who called out, "Why, what's the matter, Mr. Brahman? You look as miserable as a fish out of water!"
The Brahman told him all that had occurred.
"How very confusing!" said the Jackal, when the recital was ended; "would you mind telling me over again, for everything has got so mixed up?"
The Brahman told it all over again, but the Jackal shook his head in a distracted sort of way, and still could not understand.
"It's very odd," said he, sadly, "but it all seems to go in at one ear and out at the other! I will go to the place where it all happened, and then perhaps I shall be able to give a judgment. "
So they returned to the cage, by which the Tiger was waiting for the Brahman, and sharpening his teeth and claws.
"You've been away a long time!" growled the savage beast, "but now let us begin our dinner."
"Our dinner!" thought the wretched Brahman, as his knees knocked together with fright; "what a remarkably delicate way of putting it!"
"Give mime five minutes, my lord!" he pleaded, "in order that I may explain matters to the Jackal here, who is somewhat slow in his wits."
The Tiger consented, and the Brahman began the whole story over again, not missing a single detail, and spinning as long a yarn as possible.
''Oh, my poor brain! oh, my poor brain!" cried the Jackal, wringing its paws. "Let me see! how did it all begin? You were in the cage, and the Tiger came walking by-"