UNDER a certain tree lived a wild Bull, and a Bullfinch had his nest in the branches. A Bull in a field is vicious enough, as I daresay you know; but a wild Bull is worse than anything. Wild Bulls are tremendously strong, and they can fight with almost any beast of the forest, even Lions and Tigers.
This wild Bull used to attack every creature that came near; and that, not for the sake of food, as Lions and Tigers do, but out of pure mischief. When the creature (were he man or beast) was killed, this wild Bull would leave the corpse lying, and begin to eat grass. But the little Bullfinch harmed nobody, unless it were a worm he would eat now and again for a treat. All day long he hopped about, picking up seeds, and singing away with all his throat. Many a time he saw the wild Bull gore some creature to death; and when he saw such things, tears would roll out of his eyes, because he could do nothing to help.
At last he thought to himself that he could at least warn the wild Bull of his wickedness, and clear his own conscience. So one morning, when the wild Bull was sitting under his tree, and looking around him, Bullfinch piped up, and said--
"Good brother Bull, I suppose we are akin somehow or other, because of our names."
"Yes, I daresay it may be so, Cousin Bullfinch," said the Bull.
"Well," says the Bullfinch, "allow me the right of a near kinsman to say something to you."
"All right, go ahead," said the Bull gruffly.
"Well," said the Bullfinch, clearing his throat (for he was a little frightened), "don't you know that murder is a very evil deed, and yet you do it every day of your life?"
"Impertinent speck!" said the Bull, getting up and walking away. He thought it cheeky that a bird so little should presume to rebuke a great big Bull. He did not remember, you see, that big bodies are often big fools, and precious goods are done up in small parcels. The warning of the little Finch was as the blowing of the wind; at least, so it seemed at the time, though afterwards (as you shall hear) the Bull did remember it.
So the Bull went on tossing and goring all that came within reach; and now he would have nothing to say to the poor little Bullfinch.
This went on, until one night a certain Lion had a dream. This Lion was King of the Forest, and he could conquer any creature who fought with him. In his dream the Lion thought that an angel stood before him, and said: "O Lion! in such a place, under a tree, lives a wild Bull, who does cruel murders every day upon innocent folk. By that tree is good pasture, and the wild Bull has grown very fat. I think he would make a nice meal for you; and at the same time you would be doing a good action in ridding the world of such a monster."
When day dawned, the Lion made no delay, but set out at once towards the place of the wild Bull. By-and-by he caught scent of the Bull, and then he uttered a terrible roar. The Bull heard the roar and was afraid; and still more feared he, when he saw this Lion approach, whom he knew to be the King of the Forest, and invincible.
"O Bull!" roared the Lion, "your hour has come. I am come to eat you, as a just punishment for your sins, and also because I am hungry."
At this the Bull trembled greatly, for he knew now that his sins had found him out. His knees gave way beneath him, and he was just about to sink to the ground, when the words of the Bullfinch came into his mind. Then he said--
"O mighty Lion! I have indeed deserved to be eaten, but I beg of you one last favour. Give me leave to bid farewell to a little kinsman of mine, Cousin Bullfinch, who lives in this tree, and at this moment is picking up seeds not far off."
The Lion was a good fellow, and had no wish to be hard on the Bull, so he said: "I give leave, O Bull, if you will promise on your honour to come back and be eaten."
The Bull gave his word that he would come back, and then went slowly away in search of the Bullfinch.
Master Bullfinch was at the moment eating his frugal breakfast of seeds. Suddenly he was aware that the wild Bull was approaching. He looked up, and seeing the dejected air of the Bull, he greeted him as cheerfully as he could, and then asked what the matter was? This Bullfinch bore no manner of grudge for the Bull's rudeness, because in his little body was a great heart, and he never thought of mean things.
"O Finchy, Finchy!" moaned the Bull, "look upon me for the last time! A hungry Lion has come to devour me, and it is of no use to resist; for he says that an angel has sent him to punish me for my sins."
"Poor old chap!" said the Bullfinch, "tell me all about it."
Then the wild Bull told him the dream which the Lion had seen.
"Ah," said the Bullfinch, "that is curious."
"Why?" asked the Bull.
"Because," said the Bullfinch, "I too had a dream last night, which I think the Lion ought to hear."
The wild Bull was not interested in the Bullfinch's dream; would you be interested in dreams, I wonder, if you expected to be eaten the next minute? However, he said nothing; and when Bullfinch fluttered his wings, and flew away towards the Lion, our friend the wild Bull followed slowly behind.
"Good morning, King Lion," said the little bird. "So you have had a dream?"
"Yes," said the Lion, and then he told the Bullfinch his dream.
"I had a dream too," said the Bullfinch, "and this it was. I dreamt that the same angel who came to you, came afterwards to me, and said, 'O Bullfinch! when the Lion comes to eat your friend the Bull, tell him that he was sent not to destroy, but to cure; and that now the Bull repents of his evil ways, the Lion may go back again to his forest.'"
"Oh, I am so glad!" said the Lion. "I am hungry, it is true, but I daresay I can find some other creature, who has committed no sins, and wants no curing. So good-bye, friend Bull, and don't do it again." So saying, the Lion shook hands with both of them, and went to look for a fawn.
Then the Bull, wild no longer, thanked his friend the
Bullfinch for saving his life, and they became faster
friends than ever. The Bull gored no more creatures,
indeed he welcomed them as his guests; and in the fat
pastures around that tree you might have seen, if you
had been there, whole herds of deer and antelopes
grazing without any fear; and the Bull lived
in their midst to a green old age, till
he died respected and went
to a happier world.