Ledha and the Leopard
Now there really was a leopard who lived in the hill, and one day he was playing hide and seek with a lizard which also lived there. The lizard hid and the leopard looked everywhere for it in vain.
At last the leopard sat down to rest, and it chanced that he sat right on top of the lizard which was hiding in a hole. The lizard thought that the leopard meant to hurt it, and in revenge bit him and fastened on to his rump so that he could not get it off, so that day when the boys came calling out “Ho, leopard,” he ran towards them to get their help, but when they saw the leopard they all fled for their lives.
Ledha, however, could not run fast because he was lame, and the leopard headed him off and begged him to remove the lizard. This he did after the leopard had sworn not to eat him, and before they parted, the leopard made him promise to tell no one that the lizard had bitten him, and said that if he told then he would be carried off and eaten.
So Ledha rejoined his companions and told them nothing of what had passed between him and the leopard. But that night, when they had all gone to bed, Ledha’s sister-in-law began to worry him to tell her what the leopard had said to him when it had caught him. He told her that the leopard would eat him if he told, but she coaxed him and said that no one could hear them inside the house, so at last he told her that he had taken off a lizard which was hanging on to its rump.
Then they went to sleep, but the leopard was hiding at the back of the house and heard all that they said, and when they were all asleep, he crept in and carried off Ledha’s bed with Ledha in it on his head.
When Ledha woke up towards morning, he found himself being carried through dense jungle, and he quietly pulled himself up into one of the trees which overhung the path. Thus when the leopard put down the bed and was going to eat Ledha, he found it empty.
So, he went back on his track, and by and bye came to the tree in which Ledha was hiding. The leopard begged Ledha to come down, as he had something to say to him and promised not to eat him, but directly Ledha reached the ground, the leopard said “Now I am going to eat you.”
Ledha was powerless, so he only asked to be allowed to have one chew of tobacco before he died; the leopard assented and Ledha felt in his cloth for his tobacco, but the tobacco did not come out easily, and as Ledha felt about for it, the dry tobacco leaves crackled.
The leopard asked what the crackling sound was, and Ledha said “That is the lizard which bit you yesterday.” Then the leopard got into a terrible fright and ran away as hard as he could, calling out “Don’t let it loose; don’t let it loose.”
So Ledha was saved from the leopard, but he did not know his way out of the jungle. He wandered about till he came to the place where the wild buffaloes used to sleep at night, and he swept up the place and made it clean and then took refuge in a hollow tree; he stayed there some days, sweeping up the place daily and supporting himself on the fruit of a fig-tree.
At last one day, the buffaloes left one cow behind to watch and see who it was who swept up their sleeping place. The cow pretended to be too ill to rise, and Ledha, after watching for some time, came out and swept the ground as usual and then tried to pull the sick cow up by the tail, but she would not move, so he went back to his hollow tree.
When the buffaloes returned, they heard that it was a kindhearted man who cleaned their sleeping place, so they called Ledha out and said that they would keep him as their servant to clean their sleeping place and to scrub them when they bathed in the river; they made him taste the milk of all the cows and appointed the cow whose milk he liked best to supply him. Thenceforward, he used to wander about with the buffaloes, and he made a flute and used to play on it.
One day after scrubbing the buffaloes, he washed his head in the river, and some of his hairs came out, so he wrapped them up in a leaf and set the packet to float down the stream.
Lower down the stream, two princesses were bathing with their attendants, and when they saw the packet, they tried who could fish it out, and it was the younger princess who caught it. Then they measured the hairs and found them twelve cubits long.
The princess who had taken the packet from the water went home and took to her bed and said that she would not eat until the man was found to whom the hairs belonged. Her father, the Raja, sent messengers in all directions to search for the man but they could not find him.
Then he sent a parrot, and the parrot flew up high and, looking down, saw Ledha with the buffaloes in the forest, but it did not dare to go near, so the parrot returned and told the Raja that the man was in the forest but that no messenger could approach for fear of the wild buffaloes.
However, a crow said, “I can bring him if any one can,” so they sent the crow, and it went and perched on the backs of the buffaloes and began to peck them; then Ledha threw stones at it, but it would not go away; then he threw a stick at it and last of all he threw his flute.
The crow caught up the flute and flew up to a tree with it. Ledha ran after it, but the crow kept flying on a short distance, and Ledha still pursued until he came to the Raja’s city. The crow flew on till it entered the room where the princess lay and dropped the flute into the hands of the princess. Ledha followed right into the room, and they shut him in, and the princess gave him his flute after he had promised to marry her.
So he stayed there a long time, but meanwhile the buffaloes all got weak and ill for want of some one to look after them. One day Ledha set off to the jungle with his wife to see them, and when he saw how ill the buffaloes were, he decided to build a house in the jungle and live there. And the Raja sent them money and horses and cattle and elephants and servants, and they built a palace, and Ledha subdued all the jungle and became a great Raja, and he made a highway to his father-in-law’s home and used to go to and fro on it.
Next: The Oilman’s Bullock