Gateway to the Classics: The Golden Ladder Book by E. Hershey Sneath
 
The Golden Ladder Book by  E. Hershey Sneath

Foolish Fear

And it came to pass that the Buddha was born again as a Lion. Just as he had formerly helped his fellow men, he now began to help his fellow animals, and there was a great deal to be done. For instance, there was a little nervous Hare who was always afraid that something dreadful was going to happen to her. She was always saying: "Suppose the earth were to fall in, what would happen to me?" And she said this so often that at last she thought it really was about to happen. One day, when she had been saying over and over again, "Suppose the Earth were to fall in, what would happen to me?" she heard a slight noise: it really was only a heavy fruit, which had fallen upon a rustling leaf, but the little Hare was so nervous that she was ready to believe anything, and she said in a frightened tone: "The Earth is falling in." She ran away as fast as she could go, and presently she met an old brother Hare, who said: "Where are you going, Mistress Hare?"

And the little Hare said: "I have no time to stop to tell you anything. The Earth is falling in, and I am running away."

"The Earth is falling in, is it?" said the old brother Hare, in a tone of much astonishment; and he repeated this to his brother hare, and he to his brother hare, and he to his brother Bare, until at last there were a hundred thousand brother hares, all shouting: "The Earth is falling in." Now presently the bigger animals began to take the cry up. First the deer, and then the sheep, and then the wild boar, and then the buffalo, and then the camel, and then the tiger, and then the elephant.

Now the wise Lion heard all this noise and wondered at it. "There are no signs," he said, "of the Earth falling in. They must have heard something." And then he stopped them all short and said: "What is this you are saying?"

And the Elephant said: "I remarked that the Earth was falling in."

"How do you know this?" asked the Lion.

"Why, now I come to think of it, it was the Tiger who told it to me."

And the Tiger said: "I had it from the Camel," and the Camel said: "I had it from the Buffalo." And the buffalo had it from the wild boar, and the wild boar from the sheep, and the sheep from the deer, and the deer from the hares, and the hares said "Oh! we heard it from that little Hare."

And the Lion said: "Little hare, what made you say that the Earth was falling in?"

And the little Hare said: "I saw it."

"You saw it? "said the Lion. "Where?"

"Yonder, by that tree."

"Well," said the Lion, "come with me and I will show you how—"

"No, no," said the Hare, "I would not go near that tree for anything, I am so nervous."

"But," said the Lion, "I am going to take you on my back." And he took her on his back, and begged the animals to stay where they were until he returned. Then he showed the little Hare how the fruit had fallen upon the leaf; making the noise that had frightened her, and she said "Yes, I see the Earth is not falling in." And the Lion said: "Shall we go back and tell the other animals?" And they went back. The little Hare stood before the animals and said: "The Earth is not falling in." And all the animals began to repeat this to one another, and as they began to go home, you heard the words more and more softly:—

"The Earth is not falling in, the Earth is not falling in," until the sound died away altogether.

Marie Shedlock, retold from "The Jataka."

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