But the Crocodile was very weak and thirsty, and so pleated, “Please drag me into the River.”
So the hunter obliged and dragged him in till he was waist-deep himself.
“If I go any further, I’ll be taken by the current. I’ll untie you here.” And so he did.
But once free, the Crocodile flashed through the water and grabbed the hunter’s leg in his jaws.
“Thank you for bringing me here,” said the Crocodile, “but I am very hungry and am going to eat you now.”
“But wait!” cried the hunter. “You have me, I admit, but before you eat me, let us get the opinion of the forest. The first four animals to arrive we’ll ask to judge.”
The Crocodile agreed and unhinged his sharp-toothed jaw. After a while, there was a stir in the branches, and an old ass came stumbling out to the bank. Slowly, it approached the water’s edge, but as it did the Crocodile reared up and cried out, “Donkey!” and the creature started violently.
“Don’t worry,” said the Crocodile, “I mean you no harm. I merely want you to judge a matter between me and the hunter.”
“Eeee-yooo,” said the ass, and the Crocodile told him the tale of the Rope and the Reversal, finishing simply with, “In short, I have beaten Man at his own game, and now I intend to eat him.”
“Eeee-yooo,” said the Donkey, “when I am fit and strong, man feeds me and takes good care of me. But now that I am old and weak, he has forgotten me and doesn’t care for my needs anymore.
“Eat him!” brayed the ass. “Men are ungrateful.”
The next creature to arrive was the courteous Cow. This time, it was the hunter that called out:
“Excuse me, my dear Cow,” he said, “but the Crocodile and I have a disagreement, and we’d like your help in settling it.”
“Mmm-uuuh?” answered the Cow, and the hunter told her the tale of the Trick and the Treason, finishing with, “So you see—“
But the Cow cut him off with a loud MOO and said, “When times are good, man feeds me and I give him my milk. But when times are bad, he gives me nothing and takes my milk anyways. And when my milk dries up, he’ll pin me down and slice my throat.
“Eat him!” bellowed the bovine. “Men are ungrateful.”
No sooner had the Cow left than a third animal approached—the trickster himself, the ever-cunning Hare.
“I’ve heard there’s a matter that needs settling,” he cried out. “And I’ve come to settle it.”
So the Crocodile started in on the tale of the Dessert Drag and the Double Dealing, but the Hare cut him off after the bit about him being dragged by the hunter.
“Hold on!” he cried out. “Are you saying that this man dragged you across the flats? I don’t believe it—a lumbering beast like you, being dragged by a lazy man like this?”
“It’s the truth!” cried the Crocodile.
“Well, I’ll just have to see it to believe it. If this man can drag you back to the forest edge, I’ll judge in favor of lunch.”
So the two came out of the water and the hunter tied up the Crocodile like he had before, making sure the knots were plenty tight this time. Then he began to pull, and slowly he moved the giant beast across the flats. But the Hare was not so easily impressed; taking a moment to let them pass, the Hare got behind the Crocodile, where he could see the fearsome beast steadily pushing himself forward with his back claws.
The Hare said nothing, though, and soon the pair reached the same patch of sand where they had first met.
“Congratulations!” cried the Hare to the hunter. “You did it! You have your life—and, now, you have your lunch, too!” The Hare winked at the hunter and hopped a short distance away. The hunter picked up his gun, walked up to the Crocodile, and shot him between the eyes. Then, with a bullet left in the barrel, he turned on a dime and leveled his gun on the rabbit—but it had already disappeared. For the Hare is cunning, but wise also, and knows that regardless of the what you do to help him, Man is never grateful.