15.THE JACKAL AND THE PEA-HEN

Once upon a time a Jackal and a Pea-hen swore eternal friendship. Every day they had their meals together and spent hours in pleasant conversation.

Now, one day, the Pea-hen had juicy plums for dinner, and the Jackal, had a juicy young goat; so they enjoyed themselves immensely. But when the feast was over, the Pea-hen rose, and after scratching up the ground, carefully planted all the plum-stones in a row.

‘It is my habit to do so when I eat plums,’ she said. ‘My mother brought me up with excellent habits, and told me never to be wasteful. Now these stones will grow into trees, the fruit of which will provide a meal to many a hungry peacock.’

These words made the Jackal feel rather mean, so he answered, ‘Exactly so! I always plant my bones for the same reason.’ And he carefully dug up a piece of ground, and planted the bones of the goat in a row.

After this, the pair used to come every day and look at their gardens. After some time the plum-stones shot into tender green stems, but the bones made never a sign.

‘Bones do take a long time growing,’ remarked the Jackal, pretending to be quite unworried. ‘I have known them to remain unchanged in the ground for months.’

‘My dear sir,’ answered the Pea-hen, laughing, ‘I have known them to remain so for years!’

So time passed on, and every day, when they visited the garden, the Pea-hen became more and more mocking, the Jackal more and more furious.

At last the plum-trees blossomed and produced fruit, and the Pea-hen sat down to a perfect feast of ripe juicy plums.

‘Ha ha!’ she laughed at the Jackal, who, having been unsuccessful in hunting that day, stood by dinnerless, hungry, and so very cross. ‘What a long time those old bones of yours do take in coming up! But when they do, my! What a crop you’ll have!’

The Jackal was bursting with rage, but she wouldn’t take warning, and went on, ‘Poor dear! You do look hungry! There seems some chance of your starving before harvest. What a pity it is you can’t eat plums in the meantime!’

‘If I can’t eat plums, I can eat the plum-eater!’ said the Jackal; and with that he pounced on the Pea-hen, and gobbled her up.

It is never safe to be wiser than one’s friends.