| Jataka Tales|
|by Ellen C. Babbitt|
|Eighteen fables from the Jatakas of India, skillfully retold and attractively illustrated. Includes The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Merchant of Seri, The Turtle Who Wouldn’t Stop Talking, The Foolish Timid Rabbit, The Banyan Deer, and others. Ages 7-10 |
THE SANDY ROAD
NCE upon a time a merchant, with his goods packed in many
carts, came to a desert. He was on his way to the
country on the other side of the desert.
The sun shone on the fine sand, making it as hot as the top
of a stove. No man could walk on it in the sunlight.
But at night, after the sun went down, the sand cooled, and
then men could travel upon it.
So the merchant waited until after dark, and then set out.
Besides the goods that he was going to sell, he took jars of
water and of rice, and firewood, so that the rice could be
All night long he and his men rode on and on. One man was
the pilot. He rode first, for he knew the stars, and by
them he guided the drivers.
At daybreak they stopped and camped.
They unyoked the oxen, and fed them. They built fires and
 cooked the rice. Then they spread a great awning over all
the carts and the oxen, and the men lay down under it to
rest until sunset.
They built fires and cooked the rice.
In the early evening, they again built fires and cooked
rice. After supper, they folded the awning and put it away.
They yoked the oxen, and, as soon as the sand was cool,
they started again on their journey across the desert.
Night after night they traveled in this way, resting during
the heat of the day. At last one morning the
pilot said: "In one more night we shall get out of
 the sand." The men were glad to hear this, for they
After supper that night the merchant said: "You may as
well throw away nearly all the water and the firewood. By
to-morrow we shall be in the city. Yoke the oxen and start
Then the pilot took his place at the head of the line. But,
instead of sitting up and guiding the drivers, he lay down
in the wagon on the cushions. Soon he was fast asleep,
because he had not slept for many nights, and the light had
been so strong in the daytime that he had not slept well
All night long the oxen went on. Near daybreak, the
pilot awoke and looked at the last stars fading in the
light. "Halt!" he called to the drivers. "We
are in the same place where we were yesterday. The oxen
must have turned about while I slept."
They unyoked the oxen, but there was no water for them to
drink. They had thrown away the water that was left the
night before. So the men spread the awning over the carts,
and the oxen lay down, tired and thirsty. The men, too, lay
down saying, "The wood and water are gone—we are lost."
But the merchant said to himself, "This is no time
 for me to sleep. I must find water. The oxen
cannot go on if they do not have water to drink. The men must
have water. They cannot cook the rice unless they have
water. If I give up, we shall all be lost!"
"There must be water somewhere below."
On and on he walked, keeping close watch of the ground. At
last he saw a tuft of grass. "There must be water somewhere
below, or that grass would not be there," he said.
He ran back, shouting to the men, "Bring the spade and the
 They jumped up, and ran with him to the spot where the grass
grew. They began to dig, and by and by they struck a rock
and could dig no further. Then the merchant jumped down into
the hole they had dug, and put his ear to the rock. "I hear
water running under this rock," he called to them. "We must
not give up!" Then the merchant came up out of the hole
and said to a serving-lad: "My boy, if you give up we are
lost! You go down and try!"
The boy stood up straight and
raised the hammer high above his head and hit the rock as
hard as ever he could. He would not give in. They must be
saved. Down came the hammer. This time the rock broke. And
the boy had hardly time to get out
of the well before it was full of cool water. The men
drank as if they never could get enough, and then they
watered the oxen, and bathed.
Then they split up their extra yokes and axles, and built a
fire, and cooked their rice. Feeling better, they rested
through the day. They set up a flag on the well for
travelers to see.
At sundown, they started on again, and the next morning
reached the city, where they sold the goods, and then
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