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“Indeed, indeed, I am filled with admiration at the goodness of your heart. When I hear you speak thus, I feel more than ever the love I bear you. I thought you might use the cub as a decoy to lead the old ones to you, that you might pray them to bring prosperity and virtue to your house. When I called you eccentric just now, I was but trying your heart, because I had some suspicions of you, and now I am truly ashamed of myself.”
When he had finished speaking, the other replied, “Really, was that indeed your thought? Then I pray you forgive my harsh words.”
When the two friends had thus become reconciled, they examined the cub, and saw that it had a slight wound in its foot and could not walk. While they were thinking what they could do, they saw the herb called “Doctor's Nakasé,” which was just sprouting, so they rolled up a little and applied it to the wound. Then they took some boiled rice from their luncheon box and offered it to the cub, but it showed no signs of wanting to eat. They stroked it gently on the back and petted it, and as the pain of the wound seemed to have subsided, they were admiring the properties of the herb, when, opposite to them, they saw the old foxes sitting beside some stacks of rice straw watching them.
“Look there! the old foxes have come back, out of fear for their cub's safety. Come, we will set it free!” They at once untied the cub and turned its head toward the spot where the old foxes sat. The wounded foot was no longer painful, and with one bound it dashed toward its parents and licked them all over for joy, while they seemed to bow their thanks to the two friends. The two men, with peace in their hearts, went off to another place and, choosing a pretty spot, ate their noonday meal. After a pleasant day, they returned to their homes, and became firmer friends than ever.
The man who had rescued the cub was a tradesman in good circumstances. He was married and had one son who had reached his tenth year, but he had been attacked by a strange disease that defied all skill and drugs of physicians. At last a famous physician prescribed the liver taken from a live fox, which he said would certainly effect a cure. If that were not forthcoming, the most expensive medicine in the world would not restore the boy's health.
When the parents heard this they were at their wits'. end. However, they stated the case to a man who lived on the mountain. “Even though our child should die for it,” they said, “we will not ourselves deprive other creatures of their lives, but if you should hear your neighbors were going fox-hunting, we pray you buy a fox's liver of one of them at our expense. We care not what you may have to pay for it.” The mountaineer promised faithfully to do as he was asked, and then went his way.
In the night of the following day there came a messenger, who announced himself as coming from the person who had undertaken to get the fox's liver. The master of the house went out to see him.
“I have come from the man in the mountains. Last night the fox's liver that you asked him to get for you fell
into his hands, so he sent me to bring it to you.” With these words the messenger produced a small jar, adding, “In a few days he will let you know the price.”
When he had delivered his message, the master of the house was greatly pleased, and said: “Indeed, I am deeply grateful for this kindness, for now my son's life will be saved.”
Then the good wife came out and received the jar with every mark of politeness.
“We must make a present to you,” said the father.
“Well, at any rate you must stay with us for the night.” : “Thank you, sir; I've a relative in the next village whom I have not seen for a long while, and I will pass the night with him,” and so he took his leave, and went his way.
The parents lost no time in sending to let the physicians know that they had procured the fox's liver. The next day the doctor came and prepared the medicine for the patient, which at once produced a good effect, and there was great joy in the household.
In three days the man whom they had asked to buy the fox's liver came to the house. The good wife hastened out to welcome him.
“How quickly you fulfilled our wishes and how kind of you to send the liver at once! The doctor prepared the medicine, and now our boy can get up and walk about the room; and it is all owing to your kindness.”
“Wait a bit!” cried the guest, who did not know what
to make of the joy of the two parents. “The commission with which you entrusted me about the fox's liver turned out to be a matter of impossibility, so I came to-day to make my excuses. I really cannot understand why you are so grateful to me.”
“We are thanking you, sir,” replied the father of the boy, bowing, with his hands on the ground, “for the fox's liver which we asked you to procure for us.”
“Really, I am perfectly unaware of having sent you a fox's liver; there must be some mistake. Pray inquire carefully into the matter.”
“Well, this is indeed very strange! Four nights ago, a man of some five or six and thirty years of age came with a verbal message from you, to the effect that you sent him with a fox's liver, which you had just procured, and said that you would come to tell us the price another day When we asked him to spend the night here, he answered that he would lodge with a relative in the next village, and then went away.”
The visitor was lost in amazement, and leaning his head on one side in deep thought, confessed he could make nothing of it, and so he took his leave and went home.
That night there appeared at the pillow of the master of the house a woman of about one or two and twenty years of age, who said, “I am the fox that lives at suchand-such a mountain. Last spring when I was taking out my cub to play, it was carried off by some boys, and saved only by your kindness. The desire to return this kindness pierced me to the quick. At last, when calamity came to
your house, I thought I might be of use to you. Your son's illness could not be cured without a liver taken from a live fox, so to repay your kindness I killed my cub and took out its liver; then its sire, disguising himself as a messenger, brought it to you."
As she spoke, the fox shed tears, and the master of the house, wishing to comfort her, moved in bed, upon which his wife awoke and asked him what the matter was; but he, too, to her great astonishment, was weeping bitterly.
“Why are you weeping thus ?” she asked.
At last he sat up in bed and said: “Last spring when I was out on a pleasure excursion, I was the means of saving the life of a.fox's cub, as I told you at the time. The other day I told Mr. So-and-So that although my son were to die before my eyes I would not be the means of killing a fox on purpose, but I asked him, in case he heard of any hunter killing a fox to buy it for me. How the foxes came to hear of this I do not know, but the foxes to whom I had shown kindness killed their own cub and took out the liver; and the old father fox, disguising himself as a messenger from the man to whom we had confided the commission, came here with it. His mate has just been at my pillow and told me all about it, and in spite of myself I was moved to tears."
When she heard this, the good wife likewise was blinded by her tears, and for a while they lay lost in thought; but soon they lighted the lamp on the shelf on which stood the family idol, and spent the rest of the night in reciting