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The wicked wolf had grown old, and resolved henceforth to pretend to be on a good footing with all the shepherds. He rose up and went to the shepherd whose flock was the nearest to his den. “ Shepherd,” said he, “thou callest me the bloody wolf, but that is what I really have not been. I must confess, I have been obliged now and then to take one of thy sheep when I was hungry, for hunger is painful. Only guard me against hunger, only satisfy my appetite, and thou shalt be really well pleased with me. For I am the very tamest and best tempered of beasts when I am satisfied.”
" When thou art satisfied ! That may easily be," answered the shepherd. " But I should like to know when thou art satisfied ? Thou and thy greediness would never be that. Get away with thee!”
2. The rejected wolf went to the second shepherd. “ Thou knowest, shepherd,” so went his speech, “that during the year, I might have worried many of thy sheep;. wilt thou give me every year without fail six sheep, and then I will be content ? Thou wilt then be able to sleep in peace, and dismiss thy dogs without fear."
“Six sheep!” cried the shepherd, “why, that is a whole flock !"
“ Well then, I will make myself content with five,” replied the wolf.
“ Thou art jesting! Five sheep! Why, I would not even offer up five sheep in the year to the God Pan!”
Say four, then,” said the wolf, and the shepherd shook his head in ridicule.
“Not a single one,” cried the shepherd. “I should be a fool if I began to pay such a tax to an enemy, against whom I can defend myself by taking a little care ! ”
66 Three is the lucky number,” thought the wolf, as he went to the third shepherd.
“ It really seems to me," said he to him, “ that I have been described amongst thy sheep as the most horrible, unconscientious creature.
To thee, O shepherd, will I now prove what injustice people have done me. Give me one sheep a year, and then thy sheep (which are not in danger from any one but me) shall feed in this wood where they like, in comfort and safety. One sheep! just think what a trifle ! Could I be more generous ? Could I be more unselfish? Why, shepherd, thou art laughing ; now what can make thee laugh ?”
“ Oh, nothing at all. But how old art thou, my good friend ? ” inquired the shepherd.
- What hast thou to do with my age? I am still of an age to be able to worry thy most precious lam bs.”
6 Do not get angry, old Isegrim! I am sorry that thou hast come to me a few years too late with thy proposal. Thy worn-out teeth betray thee. Thou only pretendest to be unselfish in order to be able to feed thyself with more convenience and less danger."
The wolf began to feel very angry. He composed himself, however, and went on to the fourth shepherd. This one had just lost his faithful dog by death, and the wolf used that circumstance for his own profit.
“Shepherd,” said he, “I have quarrelled with my brethren in the forest, and in such a manner, that if I live for ever, I will never consent to a reconciliation. Thou knowest how much thou hast to dread from them. If thou wouldst take me into thy service in the place of the dog which thou hast lost, then I will answer for it that they shall never so much as look at thy sheep out of the corners of
“ Then thou wilt protect them against thy brethren in the forest ?"
66 What else do I mean ?-of course I would.”
“That would not be amiss. But if I were to take thee in now amongst my flocks, tell me who
would protect my sheep against thee? To take a thief into the house, in order to be secure against thieves outside it—that is what we men
“I hear what is coming," said the wolf; “thou art beginning to moralise. Good-bye.”
5. “If only I were not so old," said the wolf with a groan; “but alas ! I must accommodate myself to my age;" so he went to the fifth shepherd. “Dost thou know me, shepherd ? ” asked he. “ If I do not, I know some one who is very
like thee,” replied the shepherd.
“ Like me! I doubt that very much. I am so remarkable a wolf that I am worthy of thy friendship, and of that of all shepherds.
“ And how art thou so remarkable?"
“ I cannot kill and eat a living sheep—no, not if it was to cost me my life ; I eat only dead sheep. Is not that worthy of praise? Wilt thou therefore allow me to come from time to time amongst thy flocks, to ask how they are, and if
“Spare thy words,” said the shepherd. must eat no sheep at all, not even when they are dead, if thou dost not wish to have me for an enemy. An animal that already devours dead sheep, learns easily when it is hungry to look upon sick sheep as dead ones, and healthy sheep as sick ones. Do not rely on my friendship, and go.'
“Now I really must give all I have to gain my ends," thought the wolf, and went to the sixth shepherd.
“ Shepherd, how dost thou like my fur?” asked he.
“ Thy fur ?” said the shepherd, “let me see. It is pretty certain the dogs must have had thee down very often."
“Now listen, shepherd, I am old, and cannot last much longer ; feed me till I die, and I will make over my fur to thee.”
“ Now just look there,” said the shepherd, " art thou still going on in the old way, thou greedy creature ? No, no; thy fur would in the end cost me seven times as much as it was worth. Art thou still in earnest about making me a present. If so, let me have it now.” Hereupon the shepherd seized his club, and the wolf fled.
60 the pitiless creatures !” cried the wolf, becoming wild with rage. “I will die an enemy to them before hunger kills me, for they will not accept anything better.” He ran, broke into the dwellings of the shepherds, tore their children down, and was not destroyed by the shepherds without a great deal of trouble.
Then the wisest of them said, “We did wrongly after all in driving the old robber to extremity, and depriving him of all means of improvement, however late it was, and however much he might seem to us to be compelled to seek them.”
From the German of Lessing.