The Reward of Kindness
The bear used to go day after day to a field of growing rye and eat as
much as he wanted. The farmer noticed from the bear's tracks that he
always came by the same route.
"I'll teach that bear a lesson!" the farmer thought to himself. He set
a snare made of a strong net and carefully covered it over with leaves
When the bear came as usual to the field that day, he got entangled in
the net and was unable to escape. And the farmer was overjoyed when he
came and found the bear securely caught.
"Now, you brute!" he said, 'I've got you and I'm going to kill you!"
"Oh no, don't do that!" the bear implored. "Don't kill me!"
"Why shouldn't I?" asked the farmer. "Aren't you destroying my rye?"
"Let me off this time!" the bear begged, "and I'll reward you! I swear
I will!" He begged and begged till the farmer at last opened the net
and let him out.
"Now then," the farmer said as soon as the bear was freed, "how are you going to reward me?"
The bear put a heavy paw on the farmer's shoulder. "This is how I'm going to reward you," he said, "I'm going to eat you up!"
"What!" the farmer exclaimed, "is that your idea of a reward for kindness?"
"Exactly!" the bear declared. "In this world that is the reward kindness always get's! Ask anyone!"
"I don't believe it! I don't believe it!" the farmer cried.
"Very well. I'll prove to you that I'm right. We'll ask the first person we meet."
The first person they met was an old horse. They put their case to him.
"The bear is right," the old horse said. "Look at me: For thirty years
I served my master faithfully, and just this morning I heard him say:
'It's time we killed that old plug! He's no good for work anymore and
he's only eating his head off!"
The bear squinted his little eyes. "You see!" he said to the farmer.
"No, I don't see!" the farmer insisted. "We must ask someone else."
They walked on a little farther till they met an old dog. They put
their case to him and at once the dog said, "The bear is right! Look at
me: I served my master faithfully for my whole life, and just this
morning I overheard him say: 'It's time we killed that old dog!'" Alas,
alas, in this wicked world goodness is always so rewarded!"
But still the farmer was unsatisfied and to humour him, the bear said
that he was willing that they should put their case once more to an
outsider, so that he could judge between them.
The next person they met was the fox. He listened carefully and then,
drawing the farmer aside, he whispered, "If I give judgement in your
favour, will you let me carry off all the chickens in your hen-house?"
"Surely I will!" the farmer promised.
Then the fox cleared his throat and said: "'Hm! Hm! To give fair
judgement in this case I must go over all the ground. First show me the
field of rye and the damage that the bear did."
They went to the field and the fox shook his head seriously after he
had appraised the damage,. "It was certainly a lot of rye that the bear
ate! . . . Now show me the net."
They went to the snare and the fox examined it carefully. "You say the
bear got entangled in this snare, I want to see just how he did it."
The bear showed just how he had been caught.
"Get all the way in," the fox said. "I want to make sure that you couldn't possibly get out unaided."
The bear entangled himself again in the net and proved that he couldn't possibly get out unaided.
"Well," said the fox, "you deserved to get caught the first time and
now that you're in there again you can just stay there! Come on,
The fox and the farmer went off, leaving the bear to his fate.
The same night the fox went to the farmer's hen-house to claim his
reward. When he came in, the chickens set up an awful squawking that
aroused the family. The farmer stayed in bed but he sent his wife out
with a stout club. "It sounds to me," he said, "as if a fox is trying
to steal our hens. If you catch him, don't be gentle with him!"
"Not gentle!" repeated the wife weightily.
She hurried out to the hen-house, and when she found the fox inside she
gave him an awful beating. He barely escaped with his life.
"Ah!" he said to himself as he limped painfully home, "to think that
this is the reward my kindness has received! Oh, what a wicked, wicked
world this is!"