FablesHitopdeshaOthers

THE VULTURE, THE CAT AND THE BIRDS

ON the banks of the Ganges River there is a cliff called Vulture-crag on which a fig-tree once grew. The tree was hollow, and in its shelter lived an old Vulture, named Gray-Pate, whose sad fortune it was to have lost both eyes and talons. The other birds, that roosted in the branches of the tree felt sorry for the poor old fellow, and gave him a share of their food, and in that way he barely managed to live. When the summer season came the old tree echoed with the chirping of the young birds in the nests overhead. One day, when the parent birds were all gone away in search of food, a certain Cat, Long-Ear by name, came to the tree intending to make a dinner of some of the little birds in the nests. But at sight of the cat they set up such a shrill screaming that they roused up Gray-Pate:

“Who comes here?” he croaked. When Long-Ear saw the old Vulture, he was badly frightened, but as it was too late to run away he decided to take his chances, and came nearer. “My Lord,” he said, “I have the honour to salute you.”

“Who are you?” asked the blind Vulture.

“Please your Lordship, I am a Cat,” answered Long-Ear.

“Be off with you. Cat, or I shall slay you,” said the Vulture.

“I am ready to die, if I deserve death,” answered the Cat. “But first hear what I have to say. I am a good, pious Cat. I say my prayers, I bathe and I eat no meat. The birds who live in this tree are constantly praising you for your goodness and wisdom. Accordingly, I have come here to ask you to teach me philosophy and law.”

“Yes, but cats like meat, and there are young birds in this tree.”

“Sir,” said the Cat, “I have overcome my wicked desire for meat, and have learned the Golden Rule, that our first duty is to refrain from harming any living thing.”

Thus the Cat won the old Vulture’s confidence, entered the hollow tree, and lived there. And day after day he climbed the tree to steal some of the little birds, and brought them down into the hollow for his dinner. Meanwhile, the parent birds, whose little ones were being eaten, went searching for them in all quarters. Long-Ear becoming aware of this, and fearing detection, quietly slipped out of the hollow and made his escape. Afterwards, when the birds began to search nearer home, they found the bones of the young ones in the hollow of the tree, where the blind Gray-Pate lived. The birds at once decided that their nestlings had been killed and eaten by the old Vulture, and accordingly they executed him.

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