"The villain though exceeding clever."--This the Master told when at Jetavana about a monk who was a tailor.
There was a monk, says the tradition, living at Jetavana, who was exceeding skillful at all kinds of things that can he done to a robe, whether cutting out, or piecing together, or valuing, or sewing it. Through this cleverness of his he was always engaged in making robes, until he became known as 'The robe-maker.'
Now what used he to do but exercise his handicraft on some old pieces of cloth, so as to make out of them a robe soft and pleasant to the touch; and when he had dyed it, he would steep it in mealy water, and rub it with a chank-shell so as to make it bright and attractive, and then lay it carefully by. And monks who did not understand robe work, would come to him with new cloths, and say--
"We don't understand how to make robes. Be so kind as to make this into a robe for us."
Then he would say, "It takes a long time. Brother, before a robe can be made. But I have a robe ready made. You had better leave these cloths here and take that away with you."
And he would take it out and show it to them.
And they, seeing of how fine a color it was, and not noticing any difference, would give their new cloths to the tailor-monk, and take the robe away with them, thinking it would last. But when it grew a little dirty, and they washed it in warm water, it would appear as it really was, and the worn-out places would show themselves here and there upon it. Then, too late, they would repent.
And that monk became notorious, as one who passed off old rags upon anybody who came to him.
Now there was another robe-maker in a country village who used to cheat everybody just like the man at Jetavana. And some monks who knew him very well told him about the other, and said to him--
"Sir! there is a monk at Jetavana who, they say, cheats all the world in such and such a manner."
"Ah!" thought he, "'twould be a capital thing if I could outwit that city fellow!"
And he made a fine robe out of old clothes, dyed it a beautiful red, put it on, and went to Jetavana. As soon as the other saw it, he began to covet it, and asked him--
"Is this robe one of your own making, sir?"
"Certainly, Brother," was the reply.
"Sir! let me have the robe. You can take another for it," said he.
"But, Brother, we village monks are but badly provided. If I give you this, what shall I have to put on?"
"I have some new cloths, sir, by me. Do you take those and make a robe for yourself."
"Well, Brother! this is my own handiwork; but if you talk like that, what can I do? You may have it," said the other; and giving him the robe made of old rags, he took away the new cloths in triumph.
And the man of Jetavana put on the robe; but when a few days after he discovered, on washing it, that it was made of rags, he was covered with confusion. And it became noised abroad in the order, "That Jetavana robe-maker has been outwitted, they say, by a man from the country!"
And one day the monks sat talking about this in the Lecture Hall, when the Teacher came up and asked them what they were talking about, and they told him the whole matter.
Then the Teacher said, "Not now only has the Jetavana robe-maker taken other people in in this way, in a former birth he did the same. And not now only has he been outwitted by the countryman, in a former birth he was outwitted too." And he told a tale.
"Long ago the Bodhisattva was born to a forest life as the Genius of a tree standing near a certain lotus pond.
"Now at that time the water used to run short at the dry season in a certain pond, not over large, in which there were a good many fish. And a crane thought, on seeing the fish--
"'I must outwit these fish somehow or other and make a prey of them.'
"And he went and sat down at the edge of the water, thinking how he should do it.
"Then the fish saw him, they asked him, 'What are you sitting there for, lost in thought?'
"'I am sitting thinking about you,' said he.
"'Oh, sir! what are you thinking about us?' said they.
"'Why,' he replied; 'there is very little water in this pond, and but little for you to eat; and the heat is so great! So I was thinking, "What in the world will these fish do now?"'
"'Yes, indeed, sir! what are we to do?' said they.
"'If you will only do as I bid you, I will take you in my beak to a fine large pond, covered with all the kinds of lotuses, and put you into it,' answered the crane.
"'That a crane should take thought for the fishes is a thing unheard of, Sir, since the world began. It's eating us, one after the other, that you're aiming at!'
"'Not I! So long as you trust me, I won't eat you. But if you don't believe me that there is such a pond, send one of you with me to go and see it.'
"Then they trusted him, and handed over to him one of their number--a big fellow, blind of one eye, whom they thought sharp enough in any emergency, afloat or ashore.
"Him the crane took with him, let him go in the pond, showed him the whole of it, brought him back, and let him go again close to the other fish. And he told them all the glories of the pond.
"And when they heard what he said, they exclaimed, 'All right, Sir! You may take us with you.'
"Then the crane took the old purblind fish first to the bank of the other pond, and alighted in a Varana-tree growing on the bank there. But he threw it into a fork of the tree, struck it with his beak, and killed it; and then ate its flesh, and threw its bones away at the foot of the tree. Then he went back and called out--
"'I've thrown that fish in; let another come!'
"And in that manner he took all the fish, one by one, and ate them, till he came back and found no more!
"But there was still a crab left behind there; and the crane thought he would eat him too, and called out--
"'I say, good crab, I've taken all the fish away, and put them into a fine large pond. Come along. I'll take you too!'
"'But how will you take hold of me to carry me along?'
"'I'll bite hold of you with my beak.'
"'You'll let me fall if you carry me like that. I won't go with you!'
"'Don't be afraid! I'll hold you quite tight all the way.'
"Then said the crab to himself, 'If this fellow once got hold of fish, he would never let them go in a pond! Now if he should really put me into the pond, it would be capital; but if he doesn't--then I'll cut his throat, and kill him!' So he said to him--
"'Look here, friend, you won't be able to hold me tight enough; but we crabs have a famous grip. If you let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you.'
"And the other did not see that he was trying to outwit him, and agreed. So the crab caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called out, 'Off with you, now!'
"And the crane took him and showed him the pond, and then turned off towards the Varana-tree.
"'Uncle!' cried the crab, 'the pond lies that way, but you are taking me this way!'
"'Oh, that's it, is it!' answered the crane. 'Your dear little uncle, your very sweet nephew, you call me! You mean me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him! Now cast your eye upon the heap of fish-bones lying at the root of yonder Varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so I will devour you as well!'
"'Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity,' answered the crab; 'but I'm not going to let you eat me. On the contrary, it is you that I am going to destroy. For you in your folly have not seen that I was outwitting you. If we die, we die both together; for I will cut off this head of yours, and cast it to the ground!' And so saying, he gave the crane's neck a grip with his claws, as with a vice.
"Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling with the fear of death, the crane beseeched him, saying, 'O my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!'
"'Well, well! step down into the pond, and put me in there.'
"And he turned round and stepped down into the pond, and placed the crab on the mud at its edge. But the crab cut through its neck as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk with a hunting-knife, and then only entered the water!
"When the Genius who lived in the Varana-tree saw this strange affair, he made the wood resound with his plaudits, uttering in a pleasant voice the verse--
"'The villain, though exceeding clever,
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, showing that "Not now only, O mendicants, has this man been outwitted by the country robe-maker, long ago he was outwitted in the same way," he established the connection, and summed up the Jataka, by saying, "At that time he was the Jetayana robe-maker, the crab was the country robe-maker, but the Genius of the Tree was I myself."