326 THE LITTLE HARE
and the lion, as king of the beasts, commanded that no one should drink till it was quite clear again.
But the little hare, who was fond of having his own way, and was very thirsty besides, stole quietly off when all the rest were asleep in their dens, and crept down to the margin of the lake and drank his fill. Then he smeared the dirty water all over the rabbit's face and paws, so that it might look as if it were he who had been disobeying Big Lion's orders.
The next day, as soon as it was light, Big Lion marched straight for the lake, and all the other beasts followed him. He saw at once that the water had been troubled again, and was very angry.
' Who has been drinking my water? ' said he ; and the little hare gave a jump, and, pointing to the rabbit, he answered, ' Look there! it must be he! Why, there is mud all over his face and paws!'
The rabbit, frightened out of his wits, tried to deny the fact, exclaiming, ' Oh, no, indeed I never did;' but Big Lion would not listen, and commanded them to cane him with a birch rod.
Now the little hare was very much pleased with his cleverness in causing the rabbit to be beaten instead of himself, and went about boasting of it. At last one of the other animals overheard him, and called out, ' Little hare, little hare ! what is that you are saying? '
But the little hare hastily replied, ' I only asked you to pass me my stick.'
An hour or two later, thinking that no one was near him, he said to himself again, ' It was really I who drank up the water, but I made them think it was the rabbit.'
But one of the beasts whose ears were longer than the rest caught the words, and went to tell Big Lion about it. ' Do you hear what the little hare is saying?'
So Big Lion sent for the little hare, and asked him what he meant by talking like that.