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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about The Talking Beasts.

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the Fox.

“Then begin,” said the Lion.

“But before I do so,” said the Fox, “I would like to know what your Majesty means by a story.”

“Why,” said the Lion, “a narrative containing some interesting event or fact.”

“Just so,” said the Fox, and began:  “There was once a fisherman who went to sea with a huge net, and spread it far and wide.  A great many fish got into it.  Just as the fisherman was about to draw the net the coils snapped.  A great opening was made.  First one fish escaped.”  Then the Fox stopped.

“What then?” said the Lion.

“Then two escaped,” said the Fox.

“What then?” asked the impatient Lion.

“Then three escaped,” said the Fox.  Thus, as often as the Lion repeated his query, the Fox increased the number by one, and said as many escaped.  The Lion was vexed, and said:  “Why you are telling me nothing new!”

“I wish that your majesty may not forget your royal word,” said the Fox.  “Each event occurred by itself, and each lot that escaped was different from the rest.”

“But wherein is the wonder?” said the Lion.

“Why, your majesty, what can be more wonderful than for Fish to escape in lots, each exceeding the other by one?”

“I am bound by my word,” said the Lion, “else I would see your carcass stretched on the ground.”

The Fox replied in a whisper:  “If tyrants that desire things impossible are not at least bound by their own word, their subjects can find nothing to bind them.”

The Fox in the Well

A Fox fell into a well, and was holding hard to some roots at the side of it, just above the water.  A Wolf who was passing by saw him, and said, “Hollo, Reynard; after all you have fallen into a well!”

“But not without a purpose, and not without the means of getting out of it,” said the Fox.

“What do you mean?” said the Wolf.

“Why,” said the Fox, “there is a drought all over the country now, and the water in this well is the only means of appeasing the thirst of the thousands that live in this neighbourhood.  They held a meeting, and requested me to keep the water from going down lower; so I am holding it up for the public good.”

“What will be your reward?” asked the Wolf.

“They will give me a pension, and save me the trouble of going about every day in quest of food, not to speak of innumerable other privileges that will be granted me.  Further, I am not to stay here all day.  I have asked a kinsman of mine, to whom I have communicated the secret of holding up the water, to relieve me from time to time.  Of course he will also get a pension, and have other privileges.  I expect him here shortly.”

“Ah, Reynard, may I relieve you, then?  May I hope to get a pension, and other privileges?  You know what a sad lot is mine, especially in winter.”

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