ONCE upon a time, there lived in the mountains a Rabbit and a Monkey, who were great friends. One day, as they sat by the roadside hobnobbing together, who should come by but a man with a bamboo pole over his shoulder, and at each end of the pole was a bundle hung to a string; and there were plantains in one bundle, and sugar in the other.
Said the Monkey to the Rabbit, "Friend of my heart, do as I shall tell you. Go and sit upon the road in front of that man, and as soon as he sees you, run--he is sure to drop his load and follow. Then I will pick up his load, and hide it safely; and when you come back, we will share it together."
No sooner said than done: the Rabbit ran, and the man dropped his burden and ran after him; while the Monkey, who had been hiding in the tall grass by the wayside, pounced upon the sugar and the plantains, and climbed up into a tree, and began to gobble them up at his leisure.
By-and-by the man came back, hot and empty-handed, and finding that his goods were gone as well as the Rabbit, cursed loudly, and went home to be scolded by his wife.
Soon the Rabbit came back too, and began hunting about for his friend the Monkey. High and low he searched, and not a trace could he find; till he happened to cast his eyes aloft, and lo and behold, there was Mr. Monkey up in a tree, munching away with every sign of enjoyment.
"Hullo, friend," said he, "come down out of that."
"I'm very comfortable here, thank you," said the Monkey.
"But where's my share?" asked the Rabbit indignantly.
"All gone, all gone," mumbled the Monkey, and pelted him with the plantain-peel and balls of paper made out of the packets where the sugar had been. "Why did you stay so long? I got hungry, and could not wait any longer."
The Rabbit thought his friend was joking, and would not believe it; but it was only too true--the greedy creature had not left a scrap.
"Do you really mean it?" said the poor Rabbit.
"If you don't believe me, come and see," said the Monkey, and seizing the Rabbit by his long ears, he hauled him up into the tree; and after mocking him, and making great game, he left him there, and went away.
Now the Rabbit was afraid to jump down from such a height, for fear of breaking his neck, so up in the tree he remained for a long time. Many animals passed under the tree, but none took pity on the rabbit, until at last came an old and foolish Rhinoceros, who rubbed his withered hide against the trunk.
"Kind Rhinoceros," said the Rabbit, "let me jump down upon your back."
The Rhinoceros, being a simple creature, agreed. Down came the Rabbit, with such a thud, that the Rhinoceros fell on his stupid old nose, and broke his fat old neck, and died.
The Rabbit ran away, and away he ran, until he came to the King's palace; and he hid under the King's golden throne. By-and-by in came the King, and in came the court; all the grandees stood around in their golden robes, glittering with rubies and diamonds, and their swords were girt about their waists. Suddenly they all heard a terrific sneeze!
Everybody said, "God bless you," while the King thundered out: "Who has the bad manners to sneeze in the King's presence?" Everybody looked at his neighbour, and wondered who did it. "Off with his head," shouted the King.
Another sneeze came. This time, however, everybody was on the watch, and they noticed that the sound came from under the King's golden throne. So they dived in, and lugged out the Rabbit, looking more dead than alive.
"All right," said the King, "off with his head." The executioner ran to get his sword.
But our friend the Rabbit, for all he was frightened, had his wits about him; and sitting up on his hind-legs, and putting his two fore-paws together, he said respectfully, "O great King, strike, but hear. If thou wilt send a score of men with me, I will give thee a dead Rhinoceros."
The King laughed, the courtiers laughed loud and long. However, just to see what would come of it, the King gave him a score of men.
The Rabbit led them to the place where the Rhinoceros fell on his stupid old nose, and there he lay dead. With great difficulty the men dragged the Rhinoceros home. They were very pleased to get a Rhinoceros, because his horn is good for curing many diseases, and the court physician ground his horn into powder, and made out of it a most wonderful medicine. And the King was so pleased, that he gave the Rabbit a fine new coat, and a horse to ride on.
So the Rabbit put on his fine coat, and got on the back of his horse, and rode off.
On the way, who should meet him but his friend the Monkey.
"Hullo!" says the Monkey, "where did you get all that finery?"
"The King gave it to me," says the Rabbit.
Says the Monkey, "And why should the King give all this to a fool like you?"
The Rabbit replied, "I, whom you call a fool, got it by sneezing under the King's golden throne; such a lucky sneeze, that the soothsayers prophesied to the King long life and many sons!" Then he rode away.
The Monkey fell a-thinking how nice it would be if he could get a fine coat and horse as the Rabbit had done. "I can sneeze," thought he; "what if I try my luck?"
So he scampered away, and away he scampered, till he came to the King's palace, and hid himself under the King's golden throne. When the King came in, and all his courtiers, in gorgeous array as before, our Monkey underneath the throne sneezed in the most auspicious manner he could contrive.
"Who is that?" thundered the King, glaring about him. "Who has the bad manners to sneeze in the King's presence?"
They searched about until they found the Monkey hidden under the throne, and hauled him out.
"What hast thou, wily tree-climber," asked the King, "that I should not bid the executioner cut off thy head?"
The monkey had no answer ready. At last he
said, "O King, I have some plantain-peel
and pellets of paper." But
the King was angry at this,
and the greedy Monkey
was led away, and
his head was