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THE JACKAL AND THE ALLIGATOR
A little Jackal, who was very fond of crabs and bits of fish and whatever else he could find, went down to the riverside one morning in search of something for his dinner. He ran up and down the bank, here and there, but he could find nothing to eat. At last, near some tall bulrushes and under clear, shallow water he saw a little crab who was sidling along as fast as his legs could carry him. The little jackal was so very hungry that, without looking, he put his paw into the water after the crab. “Snap!” A great big alligator who lived in the river, had the paw in his jaws.

“Oh, dear,” thought the little jackal, “a 150big alligator has my paw in his mouth. In another minute he will drag me down under the water and swallow me. What can I do?” Then a thought came to the little jackal, “I’ll fool that old alligator and get away from him.” So he called out in a very cheerful voice, “Clever Alligator! Clever Alligator! To catch hold of that bulrush root for my paw! I hope you will find it very tender.”

The old alligator was so hidden among the bulrushes that he could scarcely see anything. On hearing the little jackal call out he said to himself, “Dear me, I thought I had caught hold of the jackal’s paw; but there he is calling out in a cheerful voice. I suppose I have made a mistake.” So saying he opened his mouth and let the little jackal go.

The jackal ran away as fast as he could. When he was at a safe distance he called out, “O wise Alligator! O wise Alligator! So you let me go again.” The alligator was very angry, but the little jackal had run too far away to be caught.

151The next day the jackal returned to the riverside to get his dinner as before. The old alligator was nowhere to be seen, but the little jackal thought it best not to take any chances, so he called out, “Wherever I go to look for my dinner, I search for the nice little fat crabs that come peeping up through the mud. Then I put my paw down and catch them. I wish I could see one now.”

The old alligator was down in the mud at the bottom of the river, and he heard every word the jackal said. He thought to himself, “Aha! I’ll just show the tip of my nose up through the mud. He’ll take it for a little fat crab and put his paw in to catch me. As soon as he does so, I’ll gobble him up!” So he popped the little point of his nose out of the mud and waited. No sooner did the jackal see the tip of the alligator’s nose than he called out, “O Friend Alligator, so there you are. No dinner for me here, thank you.” And off he ran and fished for his dinner a long, long way from that place. The old 152alligator snapped his jaws again and again. He was very angry at missing his dinner a second time, and he made up his mind not to let the jackal escape again.

The following day, the little jackal went down to the waterside as usual to look for crabs. He was rather afraid to go too near the river’s edge, for he felt sure the old enemy was hiding somewhere. So he stayed back at a safe distance and called out,

“Where are all the little crabs gone? There is not one here and I am very hungry. When I don’t see them on the shore or peeping up through the mud I see them blowing bubble, bubble, bubble, and all the little bubbles go pop! pop! pop!” The old alligator lying low in the mud heard this and he said to himself, “I can fool that little jackal easy enough this time. I’ll pretend to be a little crab.” Then he began to blow, puff, puff! Bubble, bubble, bubble! And all the great bubbles rushed to the top of the river, and burst there, and the water whirled and whirled round and round just above the place 153where the old alligator lay hidden. It didn’t take the jackal long to know who was underneath those bubbles, and off he ran, as fast as he could go, calling out,

“Thank you, kind Alligator, thank you, thank you! Indeed it is very kind of you to show me just where you are.”

The old alligator was furious at being deceived by the little jackal once more. “Next time I will be very cunning,” he said. So, for a long time he waited and waited for the jackal, to come to the riverside, but the jackal never returned.

“I shall be caught and eaten by that wicked old alligator some day if I am not careful. I must content myself to do without crabs.” He went no more to the river, but stayed in the jungle and ate wild figs and roots which he dug up with his paws.

When the alligator found this out he was angry again, and he determined to try to catch the jackal on land. So he crawled over the ground to a place where the largest of the wild fig trees grew. He made a great heap 154of the fallen figs and hid himself under it, and there he waited for the jackal. No sooner did the cunning little animal spy the great pile of figs than he thought, “Oh, ho, that looks much like my friend the alligator. I’ll see.” So he called out,

“The little wild figs I like best always tumble down from the tree, and roll here and there as the wind drives them. That great heap of figs is quite still. They can not be good figs. I will not eat one of them.”

The old alligator thought, “Oh, ho! How suspicious this jackal is. I will make the figs roll about a little, then he will come and eat them.”

So the great beast shook himself and all the little figs went roll, roll, roll, this way and that, farther than the most blustering wind could have driven them. The jackal knew who was under the heap. Away he scampered, calling back, “Thank you, Mr. Alligator, for letting me know you are there! I should scarcely have guessed it.” The alligator hearing 155this was so angry that he ran after the jackal, but the jackal ran away too quickly to be caught.

The old alligator was now in a rage. “I will not let him make fun of me another time and then run away out of my reach. I will show him I can be more cunning than he thinks,” he declared.

Early the next morning he crawled as fast as he could till he came to the little jackal’s den. The jackal was away, and so he crept in and hid himself to wait until the little animal should return. By and by the jackal came home. He looked all about the place, for the ground around his house was torn up as though some very heavy animal had been crawling there.

“Dear me,” he said. Then he saw that the earth on each side of the door of his den had been knocked down as if something very big had tried to squeeze through it.

“I certainly will not go inside until I know who has gone in there.” So he called out, “Little house, why do you not give me an answer 156when I call? You always call out to me if all is safe and right. Is anything wrong that you do not speak?”

Then the alligator who was inside thought, “I must pretend to be the little house and call out. He will not come in unless he thinks all is right in here.” So he called out in as pleasant a voice as he could, “Sweet little Jackal.” When the little jackal heard that he was frightened indeed.

“So that dreadful old alligator is in my house. I must try to kill him if I can, or he will certainly make an end of me some day.”

Then he answered, “Thank you, my dear little house. I like to hear your pretty voice. I am coming in a minute, but first I must collect some firewood to cook my dinner.” As fast as he could, he gathered all the dry branches and bits of sticks and piled them up close to the mouth of the den. The old alligator inside kept as quiet as a mouse, but he could not help laughing a little to himself, “So I have deceived that little jackal at last. 157In a few minutes he will run in here, and then, won’t I snap him up!”

When the jackal had gathered as many sticks as he could find, he ran back and placed the sticks all round the outside of his den. Then he set fire to them. The great fire blazed up, and the smoke filled the den and smothered that wicked old alligator.


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