A Crow and His Three Friends
In the branches of a great tree, in a forest in India, lived a wise old crow in a very comfortable, well-built nest. His wife was dead, and all his children were getting their own living; so he had nothing to do but to look after himself. He led a very easy existence, but took a great interest in the affairs of his neighbours. One day, popping his head over the edge of his home, he saw a fierce-looking man stalking along, carrying a stick in one hand and a net in the other.
"That fellow is up to some mischief, I'll be bound," thought the crow: "I will keep my eye on him." The man stopped under the tree, spread the net on the ground; and taking a bag of rice out of his pocket, he scattered the grains amongst the meshes of the net. Then he hid himself behind the trunk of the tree from which the crow was watching, evidently intending to stop there and see what would happen. The crow felt pretty gore that the stranger had designs against birds, and that the stick had something to do with the matter. He was quite right; and it was not long before just what he expected came to pass.
A flock of pigeons, led by a specially fine bird who had been chosen king because of his size and the beauty of his plumage, came flying rapidly along, and noticed the white rice, but did not see the net, because it was very much the same colour as the ground. Down swooped the king, and down swept all the other pigeons, eager to enjoy a good meal without any trouble to themselves. Alas, their joy was short lived! They were all caught in the net and began struggling to escape, beating the air with their wings and uttering loud cries of distress.
The crow and the man behind the tree kept very quiet, watching them; the man with his stick ready to beat the poor helpless birds to death, the crow watching out of mere curiosity. Now a very strange and wonderful thing came to pass. The king of the pigeons, who had his wits about him, said to the imprisoned birds:
"Take the net up in your beaks, all of you spread out your wings at once, and fly straight up into the air as quickly as possible.