Gateway to the Classics: Indian Fables by Ramaswami Raju
Indian Fables by  Ramaswami Raju

The Viper in the King's Garden

A king in the East had a beautiful garden close to his palace, of which he took great care. One day a viper got into it. A servant of the palace, who saw it entering, reported the matter to the king.

His majesty expressed great concern at it, and sending for his chief gardener, said, "You see the garden is close to the palace. We occupy this suite of chambers, the ladies of our household the next, the little princes and princesses the third; so the viper should be caught and destroyed at any cost before nightfall, otherwise not one of us will have a wink of sleep to-night. Mind! we would even have all the trees and the bushes in the garden rooted up, if need be, to see if the animal has got into any of the holes or cavities under them, although we have fostered them so long for our pleasure with paternal care, for you know the proverb which says, 'Life first, pleasure next.' "

The gardener obeyed. He and his men sought for the viper all round, but nowhere could it be found; so they rooted up, one after another, the trees and plants in the garden till not a blade of grass was left standing. A huge pile was formed of all the vegetation thus destroyed. At last, within a hole, under the foot of a lovely hawthorn which had just been cut down, was the malicious reptile snugly coiled up. Instantly the gardeners killed it and brought it to the king.

His majesty viewed the dead snake with satisfaction, but turning to the green pile in the garden, with a heavy heart exclaimed, "Alas, the wickedness of one hath ruined a host!"

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