The Professor Fox

The Professor Fox

Upon the river bank, on a cosy nook of the valley overshadowed by a huge bush, lived a turtle with her three infants. The tiny tots—let us call them turtlets—round and soft, soon attracted the attention of a fox who lived in the forest spread along the river bank.

One morning the turtle and the fox met. The fox greeted the turtle most affably and asked—as though purely out of courtesy— “Madame, how is it that nowadays I don’t see you as often as I used to?”

“Mr Fox, a lover of nature I am indeed, but I hardly find any time to roam about our beautiful forest now that I have three toddlers to look after replied the turtle.

“I am glad that you take your young ones so seriously. That means an ideal mother. But tell me, what are you doing about their education?” asked the fox.

“Education?” fumbled the turtle. “Well, iobe frank. I had never given any thought to that!”

“I suspected as much. That is where most of the mothers err.” Observed the fox gravely. “They pamper their kids and that is almost all that they do. Then they look on helplessly as the young ones grow up into the same stupid beings as themselves. I shudder to think of the future of our forest which was once proud of her scholarly denizens,” the fox remarked and sighed.

Educating her little ones was a, wonderful idea. The turtle grew very thoughtful. Then she implored the fox to tell her how to go. About it.

“You see, I gave up my professorship long ago. All my students are now holding prestigious positions in the forest, in the service of King Lion. However, since you are my. neighbour, I can undertake educating your children. Come on, hand them over to me.

The thankful turtle led her young to the residence of the fox, which was a spacious hole, one furlong away, and returned to her bush, sad at heart but beaming with hope.

That very night the fox ate up one of the turtlets. When the mother turtle went to look them up the next day, he brought the remaining two out of his hole and then led them back and brought one of them again. The mother turtle ambled home happily.

She paid them a visit again the second day. Although there was only one turtlet surviving, the fox brought it out three times and she returned satisfied.

But of course the fox had nothing to show to the mother turtle the third day He therefore promptly explained away her children’s absence by saying that they had been sent to his elder brother, who happened to be the retired director of public instruction in the forest, for higher learning.

The mother turtle was not sure if her children deserved so much attention.

“Hello, at what price did you sell your kids to the fox?”

Taken aback by the question which lacked culture, the turtle tried to locate its source. It was a raven, well known for his rough talk.

“Sell?” she scoffed. “It is for their education, my dear raven, and because I have been keeping the future of the forest in mind I have entrusted my boys to Professor Fox!” she said proudly.

The raven gave out a whoopee which could either be derisive laugh or a cry. then, facing the bewildered turtle, he told her what he had seen the sly fox do to her young ones.

The turtle stood shocked. Then, mad with fury, she went to confront the fox. But he slipped away easily. The turtle could do nothing more than curse him for a full hour. The fox listened to her with a villainous grin on his face.

But the turtle was determined to take her revenge. One day, while the fox was crossing the river, she swam under the water and caught one of his legs. But the sly fox giggled and said, “What fun! How confidently the turtle bites a stick of bamboo mistaking it to be my leg!”

The turtle let go of the fox’s leg at once and the fox jumped to the shore. Only then did the turtle realise how she had been deceived.

Hours passed. But the turtle kept up her vigil. When the fox reappeared on the river-bank, she swam close to the surface of the water, waiting to catch him when he would cross the river again. But the fox waited. After a long time the turtle surfaced to see what the fox was doing.

At once the fox hopped on to her back and in another bounce crossed to the other side.

This was too much! The turtle swam back to her shelter and, hiding herself from others, shed bitter tears.

“I can understand your agony,” said a hoarse but kind voice. The turtle looked up. It was the raven.

“I will help you to punish the wicked fox. Now, do as I say. While I sat on the queen’s window this morning, I heard that she is coming to bathe in the river this evening, for it is going to be an auspicious full-moon night. As soon as the queen is neck-deep in the water, swim near her stealthily and hang on to her necklace. To get rid of you, she will take off her necklace. As soon as she does that, slip away and see what happens next,” counselled the raven.

The turtle agreed to act accordingly.

Soon after moon-rise, the queen, accompanied by her maids, reached the rever-ghat. Her bodyguards waited near bejewelled palanquin, a few yards away from the ghat.

As soon as the queen was neck-deep in water, the turtle swam towards her hung on to her diamond necklace. Horrified queen tore the necklace off and, although the turtle slipped instantly, gave out a shriek and hurled the necklace onto the bank, Immediately, the raven swooped down and, picking up the necklace, flew away.

The queen’s maids raised a hue and cry. At that the bodyguards rushed to the bank and, in the bright moonlight, saw the raven flying away with the necklace, the diamond beads glittering like °a garland of stars. They ran after the raven raising their clubs and swords and shouting in order to scare it into dropping the precious ornament.

But the raven flew on undaunted, neither too fast nor too high, but always beyond the reach of the arms of the bodyguards, till he reached the fox’s shelter. He then dropped the necklace into the hole, in full sight of the queen’s men, and flew away to the safety of a tall tree.

The bodyguards surrounded the hole and one of them thrust his sword into it. When the scared fox leapt out of it, the guards lost no time in bringing down their heavy clubs on his back. He fell dead, but not before giving out a loud howl which the turtle could hear from the river.

Even before the guards had time to return the necklace to the queen, the raven had triumphantly announced to the gleeful turtle the unceremonious end of the professor.

"Kshyamata Ashirbada Na Abhishapa" : A talk by Shri Manoj Das

About Manoj Das

For thousands of men, women and children of the past two or three generations, Manoj Das has been the very synonym of light and delight, whose writings in Odia and English inspire in his countless readers faith in the purpose of life and also open up concealed horizons of confidence and compassion in humanity a dire need today.