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

The Rustic and the Nightingale

A certain Rustic had a garden which was filled with beautiful plants and vines. In one corner grew a rose-tree, which bore the most fragrant blossoms in the garden, and was therefore the Rustic's greatest pride. Every morning, when he walked among his flowers, he brought fresh water to sprinkle this rose-tree, so that it might never be parched by the heat. And in the winter he covered it most carefully with straw, lest the frost should chill its delicate roots.

One morning as he was bringing the water, he saw a nightingale perched on one of the branches of the rose-tree. The bird was hopping about and playfully pulling one of the most beautiful roses to pieces. The angry Rustic drove the bird away; but when he came the next morning, he found that the Nightingale had returned, and that the ground beneath the rose-tree was covered with torn petals. This time the Rustic was so angry that he laid a snare to catch the bird. The third morning, when he came out into his garden, the roses were unharmed, for the Nightingale was caught fast in the snare. The Rustic hurried to fetch a cage, and carried the captive home.

The Nightingale was very sad as she beat about the cage, and finally besought the Rustic to tell her why it was that he had imprisoned her. "Was it to hear my song?" she asked. "But it cannot be for that," she added, "for do I not sing sweetly to you every evening from my nest in the garden?"

Then the Rustic replied, "Can you indeed be ignorant of the harm which you have done me? Have I not found you for two mornings tearing my beautiful roses to pieces? It is a just punishment for you now that you are shut up away from your friends, for you were day by day robbing me of mine."

Then the Nightingale answered, "Is it merely for thoughtlessly plucking the petals from a few of your roses that you will imprison me for life? If you punish me so severely for this small sin, how greatly will you be punished when my heart breaks from being shut up in this cage and I die. I beg, kind sir, that you will be merciful and free me."

The Rustic's heart was touched. He carried the cage out into the garden and opened the door. Before the Nightingale flew away, she lighted for a moment on a branch near by. "You are a good man," she said, "for you have shown pity towards me. As a token of my gratitude, I will tell you that beneath the very spot where you are standing, lies hidden a pot of gold. Take it and use it for your garden!" And singing sweetly, the Nightingale flew away to her nest.