Carefully, warily, the wolf came down out of the forest one night, attracted by the smell of a flock of sheep. With slow steps he drew near to the sheepfold, placing his feet with the utmost caution so as not to make the slightest sound which might disturb the sleeping dog.
But one careless paw stepped on a board, the board creaked and woke the dog. The wolf had to run away, unfed and hungry. And so because of one careless foot, the whole animal suffered.
In the shade of the hedge, the clematis twined its arms around the trunks and branches of the hawthorn.
When it reached the top it looked around and saw another hedge bordering the other side of the road.
"Oh how I should love to go over there," said the clematis. "That hedge is bigger and more beautiful than this one."
And a little at a time, stretching out its arms, it crept closer and closer to the opposite hedge. At last it reached it, caught one of the branches and began happily to wrap itself there.
But shortly after, travellers walking along the road were suddenly faced with this branch of clematis blocking their way. They seized it in their hands, tore it from the hedge and flung it into the ditch. In its greed the clematis had not seen the danger.
A fox was having a meal, when an elegant ermine passed by. "Would you care to help yourself?" invited the fox, who had eaten enough.
"No thank you," replied the ermine, "I have already eaten."
"Ha, ha!" laughed the fox. "You ermines are the most prudish animals in the world. You eat only once a day, and you would go without rather than dirty your fur."
At that moment some hunters came up. The fox, quick as lightening, hid underground, and the ermine, no less swift than the fox, ran for his den.
But the sun had melted the snow, and his den had become a quagmire. The snow white ermine was afraid of slipping into the mud, and stopped, hesitant. And the hunters caught him.
Moral: Moderation checks all vices. The ermine was too vain about his appearance, and so lost his liberty.
The Flea & the Sheep
A flea, who lived in the smooth hair of a dog, one day noticed the pleasant smell of wool.
"What is going on?"
He gave a little jump and saw that his dog had gone to sleep leaning against the fleece of a sheep.
"That fleece is exactly what I need," said the flea. "It is thicker and softer, and above all safer. There is no risk of meeting the dog's claws and teeth which go in search of me every now and then. And the sheep's wool will certainly feel more pleasant."
So without thinking too much about it, the flea moved house, leaping from the dog's coat to the sheep's fleece. But the wool ws thick, so thick and dense that it was not easy to penetrate to the skin.
He tried and tried, patiently separating one strand from another, and laboriously making a way through. At last he reached the roots of the hair. But they were so close together that they practically touched. The flea had not even a tiny hole through which to attack the skin.
Tired, bathed in sweat and bitterly disappointed, the flea resigned himself to going back to the dog. But the dog had gone away.
Poor flea! He wept for days and days with regret for his mistake.
The Stone & the Steel
One day a flint stone struck by the steel turned upon it, surprised and indignant, and said:
"What's the matter with you? You must have taken me for someone else, because I do not know you. Let me alone, for I have never done any harm to anybody!"
The steel looked at the stone, then smiled and answered: "If you will have a little patience, you will see what marvelous fruit I can bring forth from you."
At these words the flint was comforted, and bore with great patience the blows which the steel inflicted upon it. At last, very suddenly, there flashed forth a spark which lit a marvelous fire, with the power to do wonderful things.
Moral: Do not begin your studies unwillingly, be patient and persistent for you will see marvelous results.
The farmer went out, shutting the farmyard gate.
He had intended to return at once, but days passed, and still he did not appear.
The farmyard animals were hungry and thirsty. Even the cock stopped crowing.
They all stood motionless, so as not to waste their strength, in a the shade of a tree.
Only the peacock rose staggeringly to his feet, opened like a fan his great multi-coloured tail, and began to pace to and fro.
"Mamma," a skinny little chicken asked the hen, "why does the peacock spread his tail every day?"
"Because he is vain, my child. And vanity is a vice that disappears only with death."
The Falcon and the Duck
The falcon, indignant because the duck had escaped and hidden from it by diving under the surface of the water, wanted to do likewise, plunging under the water, and as its feathers got wet in this way, it was caught there, and the duck, rising in the air, mocked the drowning falcon.