“Good morning to you, friend Deer!”
“Pray, who are you?” asked the Deer,
“I am Small-Wit, the Jackal,” replied the other; “And I live in the woods here with no more friends than if I were dead. But now that I have met such a friend as you, I feel as though I were starting life over again, surrounded by my relations. Please consider me your most devoted admirer.”
“Very well, let us be friends,” said the Deer. And then, as the light of day was fading, the two went together to the Deer’s home. At this same spot, on the branch of a Champak tree, lived the Deer’s friend, Sharp-Sense, the Crow. Seeing the other two approaching together, Sharp-Sense called down:
“Who is this Number Two, friend Deer?”
“It is Small-Wit, the Jackal,” answered the Deer. “He wants to be friends with us.”
“You should not be so ready to make friends with a stranger,” replied Sharp-Sense.
“Sir!” interrupted the Jackal, with some warmth, “On the day that you first met the Deer, were you not equally of unknown family and character? Yet I am told that the friendship between you has daily grown stronger. To be sure I am only Small-Wit, the Jackal,—but you know the old saying, ‘In a land where there are no wise men, the men of small wit are Princes.’ The Deer has accepted me as a friend, won’t you do the same?”
“What is the good of so much talking?” interrupted the Deer, “let us all three live together and be happy!”
“All right,” said Sharp-Sense, “have it as you will.”
Accordingly, beginning the next morning, they all three set forth daily, each for his own feeding ground, returning to their common home at night. One day the Jackal led the Deer aside and whispered, “Friend Deer, in one corner of this wood there is a field full of sweet young wheat. Come with me and I will show you.” So the Deer followed the Jackal, and learned where the wheat field lay. And after this he returned every day to eat the tender green wheat. At last the owner of the field spied the Deer, and set a snare for him; and the next time that the Deer came to the field he found himself caught in a strong net. After struggling vainly for some time the Deer lifted up his voice and lamented:
“Here I am, caught fast in this net, and it will truly be the net of death for me if no friend comes to my rescue!”
Presently, Small-Wit, the Jackal, who had been lurking near by, made his appearance, and said to himself with a chuckle, “Oho! My scheme begins to bear fruit. When the Deer is cut up, his bones and his gristle and his blood will fall to my share and will make me many delicious dinners!” At this moment the Deer caught sight of Small-Wit and called out joyfully, “Oh, my friend, this is indeed fortunate! If you will only gnaw through the meshes of this net I shall be free!”
Small-Wit made no answer, but examined the net very carefully. “The net will certainly hold,” he muttered to himself. Then, turning to the Deer he added, “My good friend, these strings, as you see, are made of raw-hide; and since this is a fast day it would be a sin for me even to gnaw them. To-morrow morning, if you still wish me to, I shall be very glad to help you.”
After the Jackal had gone the Crow, who, upon returning home had missed his friend the Deer, and had been seeking him everywhere, suddenly discovered him in the net, and seeing his sad plight exclaimed:
“How in the world did this happen to you, my poor friend?”
“It happened through not taking a friend’s advice,” replied the Deer sadly.
“Where is that villain, Small-Wit?” asked the Crow.
“He is hanging around somewhere near by,” answered the Deer miserably, “waiting for a taste of my flesh.”
“Well,” sighed the Crow, “I warned you. I knew that treacherous Jackal would sooner or later play one of his evil tricks. There is nothing we can do until morning.”
When day broke the Crow saw the master of the field approaching with a heavy club in his hand.
“Now friend Deer,” said Sharp-Sense, “you must stiffen out your legs and lie very still, as if you were dead. I will hop around and pretend to peck at your eyes with my beak; and the moment I give a loud croak, you must spring up and take to your heels.”
The Deer stiffened out his legs and lay very still, just as the Crow had told him, and was soon discovered by the master of the field, whose eyes opened wide with delight. “Ah,” said he, “the Deer has died of his own accord; that saves me the trouble of killing him.” So saying, he released the Deer, and began to gather up his net. At that instant Sharp-Sense uttered a loud croak, and the Deer sprang up and made off at full speed. And the club, which the angry farmer hurled after him struck Small-Wit, the Jackal, who was skulking close by, and killed him.