The Tortoise and the Geese and Other Fables of Bidpai  by Maude Barrows Dutton

The King, the Falcon, and the Drinking-Cup

In bygone days there lived a King, who was very fond of hunting. The King had a Falcon, which he counted among his chief treasures. This Falcon the King always fed from his own hand, and always carried on his own wrist when he went on the hunt. One day, when the court was out a-hunting, a deer ran across their path and the King started in pursuit. Some of the royal party followed, but none of them could ride as well and as fast as the King. Through some accident the King did not overtake the deer, and became separated from his companions. Hot and thirsty from his long ride, he dismounted to find some water. For a long time he sought in vain, but at last came to the foot of a hill, where a small stream was trickling down over the rocks. The King took a drinking-cup from his sash and held it beneath the stream, catching the water drop by drop. As soon as it was full, he raised the cup to his lips, and was just about to drink when the Falcon flew up, hit the cup, and upset it.

"You awkward bird!" exclaimed the King, and began once more patiently to fill the cup from the stream. A second time the King raised it to his lips, and a second time the Falcon flew against it, knocking it from the King's hand. The thirsty King could no longer control his rage. He threw the Falcon to the ground with such force that he killed it instantly.

Just then one of the attendants rode up, and, hearing that the King was thirsty, drew out his flask to give the King to drink. But the King shook his head.

"I have set my heart," he said, "on drinking from this stream which runs down the mountain-side; but it takes a long time to fill a cup drop by drop here at the bottom. Go therefore to the top of the hill, and bring me down a cup of water from the source of this spring."

The attendant did as the King commanded, but returned with his cup empty.

"Your Majesty," he cried, "you have been perilously near death. At the source of the spring lies a dead dragon, whose poison has polluted the entire stream. Will your Majesty not drink of the water in my flask?"

He held out the cup, and as the King drank, the tears rolled down his face.

"Alas, why does the King weep?" asked the attendant, in great alarm.

The King picked up the dead bird. "This Falcon, the dearest of all my treasures," he said sadly, "saved my life twice, and I, by my own act of anger, killed it with one cruel blow!"