Old Deccan Days/The Alligator and the Jackal
THE ALLIGATOR AND THE JACKAL.
A HUNGRY Jackal once went down to the river-side in search of little crabs, bits of fish, and whatever else he could find for his dinner. Now it chanced that in this river there lived a great big Alligator, who, being also very hungry, would have been extremely glad to eat the Jackal.
The Jackal ran up and down, here and there, but for a long time could find nothing to eat. At last, close to where the Alligator was lying, among some tall bulrushes under the clear shallow water, he saw a little crab sidling along as fast as his legs could carry him. The Jackal was so hungry that when he saw this, he poked his paw into the water to try and catch the crab, when SNAP! the old Alligator caught hold of him. 'Oh dear!' thought the Jackal to himself, 'what can I do? this great big Alligator has caught my paw in his mouth, and in another minute he will drag me down by it under the water and kill me. My only chance is to make him think he has made a mistake.' So he called out in a cheerful voice, 'Clever Alligator, clever Alligator, to catch hold of a bulrush root instead of my paw! I hope you find it very tender.' The Alligator, who was so buried among the bulrushes that he could hardly see, thought, on hearing this, 'Dear me, how tiresome! I fancied I had caught hold of the Jackal's paw; but there he is, calling out in a cheerful voice; I suppose I must have seized a bulrush root instead, as he says.' And he let the Jackal go.
The Jackal ran away as fast as he could, crying, 'O wise Alligator, wise Alligator! So you let me go again!' Then the Alligator was very vexed, but the Jackal had run away too far to be caught. Next day the Jackal returned to the river-side to get his dinner, as before; but because he was very much afraid of the Alligator, he called out, 'Whenever I go to look for my dinner, I see the nice little crabs peeping up through the mud, then I catch them and eat them. I wish I could see one now.'
The Alligator, who was buried in the mud at the bottom of the river, heard every word. So he popped the little point of his snout above the water, thinking, 'If I do but just show the tip of my nose, the Jackal will take me for a crab and put in his paw to catch me, and as soon as ever he does I'll gobble him up.'
But no sooner did the Jackal see the little tip of the Alligator's nose than he called out, 'Aha, my friend, there you are! No dinner for me in this part of the river then, I think.' And so saying he ran further on, and fished for his dinner a long way from that place. The Alligator was very angry at missing his prey a second time, and determined not to let him escape again.
So on the following day, when his little tormentor returned to the water-side, the Alligator hid himself close to the bank, in order to catch him if he could. Now the Jackal was rather afraid of going near the river, for he thought, 'Perhaps this Alligator will catch me to-day.' But yet, being hungry, he did not wish to go without his dinner; so to make all as safe as he could, he cried, 'Where are all the little crabs gone? There is not one here, and I am so hungry; and generally, even when they are under water, one can see them going bubble, bubble, bubble, and all the little bubbles go pop! pop! pop!' On hearing this the Alligator, who was buried in the mud under the river-bank, thought, 'I will pretend to be a little crab.' And he began to blow, 'Puff, puff, puff! Bubble, bubble, bubble!' and all the great big bubbles rushed to the surface of the river and burst there, and the waters eddied round and round like a whirlpool; and there was such a commotion when the huge monster began to blow bubbles in this way, that the Jackal saw very well who must be there, and he ran away as fast as he could, saying, 'Thank you, kind Alligator, thank you; thank you. Indeed, I would not have come here had I known you were so close.'
This enraged the Alligator extremely; it made him quite cross to think of being so often deceived by a little Jackal, and he said to himself, 'I will be taken in no more. Next time I will be very cunning.' So for a long time he waited and waited for the Jackal to return to the river-side; but the Jackal did not come, for he had thought to himself, 'If matters go on in this way, I shall some day be caught, and eaten by the wicked old Alligator. I had better content myself with living on wild figs,' and he went no more near the river, but stayed in the jungles and ate wild figs, and roots which he dug up with his paws.
When the Alligator found this out, he determined to try and catch the Jackal on land; so, going under the largest of the wild fig-trees, where the ground was covered with the fallen fruit, he collected a quantity of it together, and, burying himself under the great heap, waited for the Jackal to appear. But no sooner did the Jackal see this great heap of wild figs all collected together, than he thought, 'That looks very like my friend the Alligator.' And to discover if it was so or not he called out, 'The juicy little wild figs I love to eat always tumble down from the tree, and roll here and there as the wind drives them; but this great heap of figs is quite still; these cannot be good figs, I will not eat any of them.'—'Ho-ho!' thought the Alligator, 'is that all? How suspicious this Jackal is! I will make the figs roll about a little then, and when he sees that he will doubtless come and eat them.'
So the great beast shook himself, and all the heap of little figs went roll, roll, roll; some a mile this way, some a mile that, further than they had ever rolled before, or than the most blustering wind could have driven them!
Seeing this the Jackal scampered away, saying, 'I am so much obliged to you, Alligator, for letting me know you are there, for indeed I should hardly have guessed it. You were so buried under that heap of figs.' The Alligator hearing this was so angry that he ran after the Jackal, but the latter ran very, very fast away, too quickly to be caught.
Then the Alligator said to himself, 'I will not allow that little wretch to make fun of me another time, and then run away out of reach; I will show him that I can be more cunning than he fancies.' And early the next morning he crawled as fast as he could to the Jackal's den (which was a hole in the side of a hill) and crept into it, and hid himself, waiting for the Jackal, who was out, to return home. But when the Jackal got near the place he looked about him and thought, 'Dear me, the ground looks as if some heavy creature had been walking over it, and here are great clods of earth knocked down from each side of the door of my den as if a very big animal had been trying to squeeze himself through it. I certainly will not go inside until I know that all is safe there. So he called out, 'Little house, pretty house, my sweet little house, why do you not give an answer when I call? If I come, and all is safe and right, you always call out to me. Is anything wrong, that you do not speak?'
Then the Alligator, who was inside, thought, 'If that is the case I had better call out, that he may fancy all is right in his house.' And in as gentle a voice as he could, he said, 'Sweet little Jackal.'
At hearing these words the Jackal felt quite frightened, and thought to himself, 'So the dreadful old Alligator is there! I must try to kill him if I can, for if I do not he will certainly catch and kill me some day.' He therefore answered, 'Thank you, my dear little house. I like to hear your pretty voice. I am coming in in a minute, but first I must collect firewood to cook my dinner.' And he ran as fast as he could, and dragged all the dry branches and bits of stick he could find close up to the mouth of the den. Meantime the Alligator inside kept as quiet as a mouse, but he could not help laughing a little to himself, as he thought, 'So I have deceived this tiresome little Jackal at last. In a few minutes he will run in here, and then won't I snap him up!' When the Jackal had gathered together all the sticks he could find, and put them round the mouth of his den, he set them alight and pushed them as far into it as possible. There was such a quantity of them that they soon blazed up into a great fire, and the smoke and flames filled the den and smothered the wicked old Alligator, and burnt him to death, while the little Jackal ran up and down outside, dancing for joy and singing—
'How do you like my house, my friend? Is it nice and warm? Ding, dong! ding, dong! The Alligator is dying! ding, dong! ding, dong!
'He will trouble me no more. I have defeated my enemy! Ring a ting! ding a ting! ding, ding, dong!'