Page:Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit.djvu/132

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Very soon the sharp teeth of the mouse had bitten through the meshes of the net, and before the hunter came back, after trying in vain to catch the deer, the tortoise was safely swimming across the river, leaving the net upon the ground, whilst the crow and the mouse were back in the shelter of the forest.

"There's some magic at work here," said the hunter when, expecting to find the tortoise where he had left him, he discovered that his prisoner had escaped. "The stupid beast could not have got out alone," he added, as he picked up the net and walked off with it. "But he wasn't worth keeping anyhow."

That evening the four friends met once more, and talked over all they had gone through together. The deer and the tortoise were full of gratitude to the mouse, and could not say enough in his praise, but the crow was rather sulky, and remarked: "If it had not been for me, neither of you would ever have seen Hiranya. He was my friend before he was yours."

"You are right," said the tortoise, "and you must also remember that it was my armour which saved me from being killed in that terrible fall."

"Your armour would not have been of much use to you, if the hunter had been allowed to carry you to his home," said the deer. "In my opinion you and I both owe our lives entirely to Hiranya. He is small and weak, it is true, but he has better bras than any of the rest of us, and I for one admire him with all my heart. I am glad I trusted him and obeyed him, when he ordered me to pretend to be dead, for I had not the least idea how that could heip the tortoise."