【明報專訊】The lion was getting old and starting to feel his age. Each time he went to lie down in his rocky den, how his bones would creak. Whenever he got up, how his muscles and joints would ache. His cave had somehow become draughty and damp and was no longer the snug and warm (溫暖舒適的) home of his younger days.
''I must do something about the present situation,'' thought the king of beasts. So he called his trusty councillors to ask their advice. The fox, the wolf and the bear stood listening respectfully to their leader's complaints.
''My dear friends, you have no idea how uncomfortable my bed is — all hard, cold and lumpy. If only I could get some nice soft material for a mattress ...'' and he eyed the bushy tail of the fox, the thick fur of the bear and the shaggy, rough coat of the wolf.
These three were no fools and immediately replied, ''Yes, of course, dear Leader, which of us would not willingly give you as much fur as you need? It would be an honour!''
The fox, being the most articulate (口齒伶俐的) of the trio, continued, ''Indeed, we will not hesitate to sacrifice our own hides (獸皮) for Your Majesty's comfort. But how can our coarse pelts compare with the fluffy, downy, baby soft coats of the rabbit, sheep, goat and deer? These common creatures do not make much contribution to our community anyway. I think we should impose a fur tax on them, to give them a chance to serve society.''
''A fur tax? What a great idea! Everyone will donate some spare fur and no one will suffer unduly (過度地), '' declared the lion.
''Exactly! We assure you these simple creatures will be overjoyed to have a chance to serve you,'' said the clever councillors.
So the law was passed and many innocent, small animals paid for the new fur tax with their lives as their hides were ripped off and their fur stripped. The lion soon got his new, comfy mattress and rewarded his hardworking officials richly. There was enough leftover to make big cushions for them as well.
(Based on a fable by Ivan Krylov 1769–1844)
■Something to: THINK ABOUT
Whether a law is just and fair often depends on interpretation and execution. How would you rate the administrative abilities of the three councillors?
Different words for skin of an animal: coat, pelt, hide
Donation: voluntary contribution