A Tiger's Smile by Carl E. Thompson
Once upon a time there was a tiger who liked to wander in a lady farmer's garden at midnight and taste of the ripe yellow melons that grew there. This did not please the lady since the clumsy tiger damaged the crops and did not thank the farmer for her labors. So the lady dug a trap for the tiger and left it overnight.
The next morning the lady farmer found the tiger in her trap.
"So you are the marauder who raids my beautiful garden at night."
"I must confess that it is I," said the tiger.
"But why?" Asked the lady.
"Because they are so delicious," said the tiger.
"Could you not ask for them? Do you have to steal?"
"Look at me," said the tiger. "I am a fearsome beast. If I approached you you would run away in terror and then I would have no melons."
"Well I ma not running now, you beast," said the lady. "Perhaps you could ask."
"But I am not free," said the tiger.
"I am not cruel," she said. "I will free you when we are finished talking."
"But you have captured me and now I am yours. I can never be free again."
"Then you will continue to feed off my crops?"
"Yes," said the tiger. "I am yours now. You prisoner forever."
"I have no need for a tiger. A tiger cannot pull a plow are harvest a crop. What will I do with you?"
"I can frighten off the crows and the foxes" suggested the beast. "And protect your farm form other beasts."
The lady went away shaking her black haired head, leaving the tiger in his pit. This was not an easy decision. The tiger was a handsome beast and might well be a companion for a lonely lady farmer. And she was lonely on her fine farm.
So she toiled elsewhere and returned to the beast at dusk.
"Very well, tiger. I will strike a bargain with you. You will live in my barn and protect my farm and in return I will feed you. But you must only eat from my garden and no other. If you eat from another farm you must leave and never return. Do you agree?"
"Yes, my lady."
"So easily you agree. Why?"
"Because I love you."
"Then do you agree?"
And so the lady released the tiger and he lived up to their bargain. It is said that he still live on the farm and that he still guards it from marauders. It is also said that he has transformed into a man. A man with a tiger's smile.
Carl E. Thompson
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