At last they gave the bundle of sticks back to their father, saying, “We cannot break it.”
The father untied the bundle and gave each son one stick.
“Now see if you can break the sticks,” said their father.
They all said, “That is very easily done,” and they held up the broken sticks.
“Now tell us why you asked us to break these sticks,” said the sons.
“Do you not see,” replied the father, “that if you all stand together, nothing can harm you; but if each of you stands by himself, you may easily be ruined?”
“Those oxen are too good friends to suit me,” said a hungry lion. “They are never far apart, and when I am near them they turn their tails to one another and show long sharp horns on every side. They even walk down to the river together when they become thirsty. If I could catch one of them by himself, I should have a feast.”
But one day the oxen had a quarrel.
“The grass is freshest over in the valley,” said one of them. “Let us go there.”
“Oh, I don’t like the grass there,” said another. “It is better on the side of the hill. Let us spend the day there.”
“I do not want to climb the hill,” said the third ox. “The grass right here suits me best.”
“I do not like any of the places of which you speak,” said the fourth ox. “Come with me and I will find you the best grass you ever tasted.”
“I am going to the valley,” said the first ox. “You three may go where you please.”
“And I shall go to the hill,” said the second ox. “I think you are mean not to go with me.”
“And I,” said the third ox, “shall stay right here. You may all be sorry if you leave me. The lion may catch you.”
“I am not afraid of the lion,” said the fourth ox; “and if none of you will go with me, I shall go by myself to hunt a better pasture than any of you can find. I am older than you and I know where the best grass grows. You had better follow me.”
“We will not do it,” said the other three oxen. “You are not our leader if you are older.”
So the four oxen separated. One went to the valley. The lion was down by the river and saw him coming. He waited quietly until the ox was very near; then he pounced upon him and killed him.
Then the lion looked about for the other oxen. One of them was feeding on the hill. He saw the lion coining, but, he could not get away. He could not defend himself with only one pair of horns; so he too was killed.
As the other two oxen were far apart, it was an easy matter for the lion to kill them also. And that is the way the quarrel ended.
“Are you afraid of a lion? I am not. There is nothing that I should like better than to meet one,” said a man to his neighbor whose calf the lion had killed. “To-morrow morning I will go out and hunt for this fierce lion, which is doing so much harm. If he is anywhere about, I shall find him and kill him, and thus rid the village of fear.”