Once upon a time there lived an old sheep in a low-lying valley of Tibet, and every year she, with her lamb, were in the habit of leaving the valley during the early months of summer, and going up on to the great northern plateau, where grass is plentiful, and where many sheep and goats graze throughout the summer. One spring the sheep, in accordance with her annual custom, set out for the north, and one day, as she was strolling sedately along the path, while her little lamb skipped about beside her, she suddenly came face to face with a large, fierce-looking wolf.
“Good morning, Aunty Sheep,” said the wolf, “where are you going to?”
“Oh! Uncle Wolf,” replied the trembling sheep, “we are doing no harm; I am just taking my lamb to graze on the rich grass of the great northern plateau.”
“Well,” said the wolf, ” I am really very sorry for you; but the fact is, I am hungry, and it will be necessary for me to eat you both on the spot.”
“Please, please, Uncle Wolf, don’t do that,” replied the sheep. “Please don’t eat us now; but if you will wait till the autumn, when we shall both be very much fatter than we are now, you can eat us with much more benefit to yourself on our return journey.”
The wolf thought this was a good idea. “Very well, Aunty Sheep,” said he, “that is a bargain. I will spare your lives now, but only on condition that you meet me at this very spot on your return journey from the north in the autumn.”
So saying, he galloped off, and the sheep and the lamb continued on their way towards the north, and soon forgot all about their encounter with the wolf. All the summer they grazed about on the succulent grass of the great plateau, and when autumn was approaching both were as fat as fat could be, and the little lamb had grown into a fine young sheep.
When the time came for returning to the south, the sheep remembered her bargain with the wolf, and every day as they drew farther and farther south she grew more and more downhearted. One day, as they were approaching the place where they had met the wolf, it chanced that a hare came hopping along the road towards them.
The hare stopped to say good morning to the sheep, and noticing that she was looking very sad, he said, “Good-morning, Sister Sheep, how is it that you, who are so fat and have so fine a lamb, are looking so sad this morning?”
“Oh! Brother Hare,” replied the sheep, “mine is a very sad story. The fact is that last spring, as I and my lamb were coming up this very road, we met an ugly looking wolf, who said he was going to eat us; but I begged him to spare our lives, explaining to him that we should both be much larger and fatter in the autumn, and that he would get much better value from us if he waited till then. The wolf agreed to this, and said that we must meet him at the same spot in the autumn. We are now very near the appointed place, and I very much fear that in another day or two we shall both be killed by the wolf.” So saying, the poor sheep broke down altogether and burst into tears.
“Dear me! Dear me!” replied the hare. “This is indeed a sad story; but cheer up, Sister Sheep, you may leave it to me, and I think I can answer for it that I know how to manage the wolf.”
So saying, the hare made the following arrangements. He dressed himself up in his very best clothes, in a new robe of woolen cloth, with a long earring in his left ear, and a fashionable hat on his head, and strapped a small saddle on to the back of the sheep. He then prepared two small bundles, which he slung across the lamb, and tied them on with a rope. When these preparations were complete, he took a large sheet of paper in his hand, and, with a pen thrust behind his ear, he mounted upon the back of the sheep, and the little procession started off down the path.
Soon after, they arrived at the place where they were to meet the wolf, and sure enough there was the wolf waiting for them at the appointed spot.
As soon as they came within earshot of where the wolf was standing the hare called out in a sharp tone of authority, “Who are you, and what are you doing there?”
“I am the wolf,” was the reply, ” and I have come here to eat this sheep and its lamb, in accordance with a regular arrangement. Who may you be, pray?”
“I am Lomden, the hare,” that animal replied, “and I have been deputed to India on a special mission by the Emperor of China. And, by the way, I have a commission to bring ten wolf skins as a present to the King of India. What a fortunate thing it is that I should have met you here! Your skin will do for one, anyway.”
So saying, the hare produced his sheet of paper, and, taking his pen in his hand, he wrote down the figure “1” very large.
The wolf was so frightened on hearing this that he turned tail and fled away ignominiously; while the sheep and the lamb, after thanking the hare heartily for his kind offices, continued their journey safely to their own home.