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THE LITTLE JACKAL
ONCE upon a time a little jackal lived near the bank of a great river. Every day he went down to the water to catch the crabs that were there.
Not far away, in the same river, dwelt a cruel alligator. He saw the little jackal come down to the water every day, and he thought, “What a nice tender morsel that little jackal would make if I could only catch him!”
One day the alligator hid in the mud, where the water was shallow near shore. Only the tip of his nose stuck out, and that looked very much like the back of a crab.
Soon the little jackal came running along the bank of the river seeking his usual food.
When he saw the end of the alligator’s nose he thought he had found a fine big crab, and he put in his paw to scoop it out of the mud.
The moment he did that, snap! the teeth of the alligator came together, and the jackal was caught by the paw. He was terribly frightened, for he knew the alligator intended to pull him into the river and eat him.
However, he began to laugh, though the alligator’s teeth hurt him sadly. “Oh, you stupid old alligator!” he said. “You thought you would catch my paw, and instead caught a bulrush root that I stuck down in the water to tickle your nose. Ha, ha! you silly, silly alligator.”
“Well, well,” the alligator thought, “I am very much disappointed. I certainly supposed I had caught that little jackal. But it seems I have nipped nothing except a bulrush root. There is no use of holding on to that.” So he opened his mouth. Then the little jackal snatched out his paw. “O stupid one!” he cried, “you really had caught me, and now you have let me go. Ha, ha! ring-a-ting, ring-a-ting! You’ll never catch me again.” So saying, off he ran up the bank and into the jungle.
The alligator was furiously angry. “I was tricked by the little rascal that time,” he said, “but if I get hold of him again he will not escape so easily.”
Once more the alligator hid in the mud and waited. But the little jackal came no more to the river. He was afraid, and he stayed in the woods living on figs that he gathered under a wild fig tree.
Day after day passed and it became plain to the alligator that the little jackal was avoiding the river. So early one morning he crawled out of the water and dragged himself to the wild fig tree. There he gathered together a great heap of figs and hid under them.
Shortly afterward the jackal came running to the fig tree, licking his lips, for he was very hungry. At sight of the great heap of figs he was delighted. “Now I will not have the trouble of picking up the figs scattered about on the ground,” he said. “Somebody has piled them up all ready for me. How nice!”
But when he went nearer he became suspicious, and thought, “It looks as though something might be hidden under those figs.”
Then he cried out: “What is the matter here? Usually, when I come to the fig tree, all the figs that are any good roll about in the wind. Those figs in the pile lie so stiff that I doubt if they are fit to eat. I will have to go to some other place to get good figs.”
The jackal’s words made the alligator fear that he had failed again, and he thought: “This little jackal is very particular. I will just shake myself and make the figs roll about a trifle. Then he will come near enough for me to grab him.”
So the alligator shook himself, and away rolled the figs in all directions.
“Oh, you stupid old alligator!” the jackal shouted; “if you had stayed still you might have caught me. Ring-a-ting, ring-a-ting! Thank you for shaking yourself and letting me know you were there!” Then away he ran as fast as his legs would carry him.
The alligator gnashed his teeth with rage. “Never mind! I will catch this little jackal yet,” he declared, and he hid in the tall grass beside the path that led to the fig tree.
He waited there for several days, but he saw nothing of his intended victim. The jackal was afraid to come to the fig tree any more. He stayed in the jungle and fed on such roots and berries as he could find there, but found so little that he grew thin and miserable.
One morning the alligator made his way to the jackal’s house while the jackal was away. He squeezed in through the narrow doorway and hid under the heap of dead leaves that was the jackal’s bed.
THE ALLIGATOR GOES TO THE JACKAL’S HOUSE
Toward evening the little jackal came running home. He was very hungry, for he had found scarcely anything to eat all day,’ and he was very tired too. Just as he was about to go in and lie down on his bed he noticed that the sides of the doorway were scraped and broken as if some big animal had forced its way through.
The little jackal was terribly frightened.
He thought, “Is it possible that the wicked alligator has come to hunt for me here in my own house and is waiting inside to catch me.”
Then he called loudly: “What is the matter, house of mine? Every day when I come home you say, ‘All is well, little jackal,’ but today you say nothing, and I am afraid to come in.”
Of course the house did not really speak to him, but he wanted to find out if the alligator was there, and the alligator believed his words. The stupid creature thought, “I shall have to speak just as the house would speak or this tiresome little jackal will not come in.”
He made his voice as small and soft as he could, and said, “All is well, little jackal”
Then the jackal knew that the alligator was in his house, and he was more scared
than ever. However, he contrived to respond in a cheerful voice: “All right, little house! I will come in as soon as I have been to the brook for a drink of water.”
When the alligator heard these words he was filled with joy. He lay quite still under the leaves thinking: “Now I will have that little jackal at last. This time he shall not escape me.”
But while he waited, the jackal gathered together a great heap of dead wood and brush and piled it against the door of the house. When it was big enough, the jackal set fire to the heap. It blazed up with a great noise, and. the wicked alligator was burned to death.
Then the little jackal danced about singing:
“The alligator’s dead, and I am glad! Oh, ring-a-ting-a-ting; oh, ring-a-ting-ting! The alligator’s dead, and I am glad!”
After that the little jackal went wherever he pleased in safety, and he ate so many figs and so many crabs that he became as fat as fat could be.