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P. V. Ramaswami Raju

The Banquet of the Beasts

The beasts in a forest once proposed to entertain the lion, their king. They took care not to invite the fox, lest he should somehow mar the proceedings. The fox went to the lion with downcast eyes, and said, "Sire, I am sorry that your subjects have been planning your ruin. They mean to invite you to a feast, and murder you in the midst of the rejoicing. Well knowing that your humble servant is a faithful adherent of his sovereign, they have carefully excluded him from the party."

"How shall we outwit them?" said the lion.

"I request your majesty to accept the invitation," said the fox. "I shall watch unseen somewhere in the neighbourhood, and just as the traitors, under some pretext, advance to attempt your majesty's life, I will make a signal."

"So be it," said the lion.

The entertainment came off. The beasts were in high glee, and spared neither pains nor cost to please the king. There was dancing and music. The peacock danced and the cuckoo sang, and the whole wood resounded with sounds of merriment. The wolf and the hyena, as the chief among the officers of the king, went up to him with a great garland to be placed round his neck, after the fashion in the East on such occasions. The lion bent his neck to receive the present. Just then the fox gave a low howl. Instantly the lion sprang on the wolf and the hyena, and laid them low; the other animals took the hint and fled. The fox joined the lion and pursued them, shouting, "There go the traitors!"

"Alas!" said the beasts, "it is all the doing of that wily fox. We thought we were safe because we had kept him out, but it has been quite the other way. Never lose sight of a knave!"