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Agaliha
November 24th, 2008, 02:37 AM
The Jackal and the Spring



Once upon a time all the streams and rivers ran so dry that the
animals did not know how to get water. After a very long search,
which had been quite in vain, they found a tiny spring, which
only wanted to be dug deeper so as to yield plenty of water. So
the beasts said to each other, 'Let us dig a well, and then we
shall not fear to die of thirst;' and they all consented except
the jackal, who hated work of any kind, and generally got
somebody to do it for him.

When they had finished their well, they held a council as to who
should be made the guardian of the well, so that the jackal might
not come near it, for, they said, 'he would not work, therefore
he shall not drink.'

After some talk it was decided that the rabbit should be left in
charge; then all the other beasts went back to their homes.

When they were out of sight the jackal arrived. 'Good morning!
Good morning, rabbit!' and the rabbit politely said, 'Good
morning!' Then the jackal unfastened the little bag that hung at
his side, and pulled out of it a piece of honeycomb which he
began to eat, and turning to the rabbit he remarked:

'As you see, rabbit, I am not thirsty in the least, and this is
nicer than any water.'

'Give me a bit,' asked the rabbit. So the jackal handed him a
very little morsel.

'Oh, how good it is!' cried the rabbit; 'give me a little more,
dear friend!'

But the jackal answered, 'If you really want me to give you some
more, you must have your paws tied behind you, and lie on your
back, so that I can pour it into your mouth.'

The rabbit did as he was bid, and when he was tied tight and
popped on his back, the jackal ran to the spring and drank as
much as he wanted. When he had quite finished he returned to his
den.

In the evening the animals all came back, and when they saw the
rabbit lying with his paws tied, they said to him: 'Rabbit, how
did you let yourself be taken in like this?'

'It was all the fault of the jackal,' replied the rabbit; 'he
tied me up like this, and told me he would give me something nice
to eat. It was all a trick just to get at our water.'

'Rabbit, you are no better than an idiot to have let the jackal
drink our water when he would not help to find it. Who shall be
our next watchman? We must have somebody a little sharper than
you!' and the little hare called out, 'I will be the watchman.'

The following morning the animals all went their various ways,
leaving the little hare to guard the spring. When they were out
of sight the jackal came back. 'Good morning! good morning,
little hare,' and the little hare politely said, 'Good morning.'

'Can you give me a pinch of snuff?' said the jackal.

'I am so sorry, but I have none,' answered the little hare.

The jackal then came and sat down by the little hare, and
unfastened his little bag, pulling out of it a piece of
honeycomb. He licked his lips and exclaimed, 'Oh, little hare, if
you only knew how good it is!'

'What is it?' asked the little hare.

'It is something that moistens my throat so deliciously,'
answered the jackal, 'that after I have eaten it I don't feel
thirsty any more, while I am sure that all you other beasts are
for ever wanting water.'

'Give me a bit, dear friend,' asked the little hare.

'Not so fast,' replied the jackal. 'If you really wish to enjoy
what you are eating, you must have your paws tied behind you, and
lie on your back, so that I can pour it into your mouth.'

'You can tie them, only be quick,' said the little hare, and when
he was tied tight and popped on his back, the jackal went quietly
down to the well, and drank as much as he wanted. When he had
quite finished he returned to his den.

In the evening the animals all came back; and when they saw the
little hare with his paws tied, they said to him: 'Little hare,
how did you let yourself be taken in like this? Didn't you boast
you were very sharp? You undertook to guard our water; now show
us how much is left for us to drink!'

'It is all the fault of the jackal,' replied the little hare. 'He
told me he would give me something nice to eat if I would just
let him tie my hands behind my back.'

Then the animals said, 'Who can we trust to mount guard now?' And
the panther answered, 'Let it be the tortoise.'

The following morning the animals all went their various ways,
leaving the tortoise to guard the spring. When they were out of
sight the jackal came back. 'Good morning, tortoise; good
morning.'

But the tortoise took no notice.

'Good morning, tortoise; good morning.' But still the tortoise
pretended not to hear.

Then the jackal said to himself, 'Well, to-day I have only got to
manage a bigger idiot than before. I shall just kick him on one
side, and then go and have a drink.' So he went up to the
tortoise and said to him in a soft voice, 'Tortoise! tortoise!'
but the tortoise took no notice. Then the jackal kicked him out
of the way, and went to the well and began to drink, but scarcely
had he touched the water, than the tortoise seized him by the
leg. The jackal shrieked out: 'Oh, you will break my leg!' but
the tortoise only held on the tighter. The jackal then took his
bag and tried to make the tortoise smell the honeycomb he had
inside; but the tortoise turned away his head and smelt nothing.
At last the jackal said to the tortoise, 'I should like to give
you my bag and everything in it,' but the only answer the
tortoise made was to grasp the jackal's leg tighter still.

So matters stood when the other animals came back. The moment he
saw them, the jackal gave a violent tug, and managed to free his
leg, and then took to his heels as fast as he could. And the
animals all said to the tortoise:

'Well done, tortoise, you have proved your courage; now we can
drink from our well in peace, as you have got the better of that
thieving jackal!'

[Contes Populaires des Bassoutos, recueillis et traduits par E.
Jacottet. Paris: Leroux, editeur.]