16.THE FOX AND THE HORSE
A farmer had a horse that had been a faithful servant to him, but he had grown too old to work, so the farmer would give him nothing more to eat, and said, ‘I don’t want you anymore, so take yourself off out of my stable. I shall not take you back again until you are stronger than a lion.’ Then he opened the door and sent him away.
The poor horse was very sad, and wandered up and down in the wood, seeking some shelter from the cold wind and rain. Presently a fox met him, ‘What’s the matter, my friend?’ he said. ‘Why do you hang your head down and look so lonely and miserable?’ ‘Ah!’ replied the horse, ‘justice and greed never stay in one house. My master has forgotten all that I have done for him for so many years, and because I can no longer work he has sent me away, and says unless I become stronger than a lion he will not take me back again. What chance can I have of that? He knows I have none, or he would not say that.’
However, the fox told him cheer up, and said, ‘I will help you; lie down there, stretch yourself out quite stiff, and pretend to be dead.’ The horse did as he was told, and the fox went straight to the lion who lived in a cave close by, and said to him, ‘A little way off lies a dead horse. Come with me and you may make an excellent meal of his carcass.’ The lion was greatly pleased, and set off immediately. When they came to the horse, the fox said, ‘You will not be able to eat him comfortably here. I’ll tell you what—I will tie you fast to his tail, and then you can drag him to your den, and eat him at your leisure.’
This advice pleased the lion, so he laid himself down quietly for the fox to tie him to the horse. But the fox managed to tie his legs together and bound all so hard and fast that with all his strength he could not set himself free. When the work was done, the fox clapped the horse on the shoulder, and said, ‘Up! Horse! Up!’ Then up he sprang, and moved off, dragging the lion behind him. The beast began to roar and bellow, till all the birds of the wood flew away for fright; but the horse let him roar on, and made his way quietly over the fields to his master’s house.
‘Here he is, master,’ he said, ‘I have got the better of him’. When the farmer saw his old servant, his heart relented, and he said. ‘You will stay in your stable and be well taken care of.’ And so the poor old horse had plenty to eat, and lived happily ever after.