But what do you suppose had happened while he was gone? The rat had gnawed a hole in the hunter’s bag and set the tortoise free, and both had run off.
It was now quite dark, and all the animals went home. That was the happiest evening of their lives. Each one had done something for the others, and all were safe, and it was good to be at home.
There was once a king who was so cruel to his people that he was called “The Tyrant.”
The people used to wish that he would die so that they might have a better king.
One day he called his people together. They feared to go to him, yet they did not dare to stay away. When they were all standing before him, he arose and said:
“My dear people, I have been very unkind to you, but I hope after this to make your lives peaceful and happy.”
The king kept his word. He sent good men to all parts of his kingdom to find out what the people most needed to make them happy. He then had everything done for them that a just king could do. He helped them to build good roads and bridges. He made their taxes lighter. He gave them a holiday now and then. The people learned to trust him and to love him.
One day one of his subjects said to him, “Please, O king, tell me why you are so much better to us now than you used to be.”
The king replied:
“As I was going through a forest one afternoon I saw a hound chasing a fox. He caught the fox and bit him badly. The fox will always be lame.
“When the hound was going home, a man threw a stone at him and broke his leg.
“The man had not gone far when his horse threw him and his leg was broken.
“The horse started to run, but he stepped into a hole and broke his leg.
“I sat down by the road and thought about what I had seen. I said to myself, ’He who does wrong to any living thing will suffer for it sooner or later,’ and that is why I am a better king and a happier man.” [Footnote: Adapted from a fable of the same name found in The Tortoise and the Geese, published by Houghton, Mifflin Co.]
“Why do you move along so slowly?” said a hare to a tortoise. “Let me show you how to get over the ground.”
“You think I am slow, do you?” replied the tortoise. “Let us run a race to the cross-roads. I think I can beat you.”
“Do you hear that?” said the hare to a fox, who was standing near. “Could anyone even think that such a slow-coach could beat me in a race?”
“It would be a good joke if he did,” said the fox. “Do you wish to run a race? I will be the judge, if you care to have me.”
“That suits me well,” answered the hare.
“I am willing,” said the tortoise.
So the fox marked off a place for starting, and set up a stake at the goal.