An ascetic used to live in a hut at a side of a village. He prayed to God or meditated all day long. He had no worry for food and no use for money. The villagers gave him food.
The ascetic stayed alive on that food. He had no desire for anything. He was very kind and tender hearted person. If ever any evil person spoke harsh words to him he bore no ill will to him.
All the villagers greatly admired his noble character. That is why everyone wanted to help him.
Once, it was cold winter. The ascetic had fire burning in his hut for warmth. Suddenly, there was a knock at his door. The ascetic wondered who it could be out at such cold night?
He opened the door and found a fox out there shivering in cold. She spoke, “I live on the hills out there. Heavy snow is falling there making my life difficult. Kindly give me a little room in your hut for the night. I will go away in the morning."
The ascetic politely called her in and said, 'Don't worry, dear You can live here as long as you wish."
In the warmth of the heated hut the fox felt very comfortable. The ascetic gave her some bread and milk. The fox hungrily ate it and slept in a corner.
In the morning, the fox asked for the permission of the ascetic to leave. The ascetic told her to come whenever she liked.
The fox again came back at the night. The ascetic talked with her about the day's happenings and gave her some food. After eating the fox went to sleep.
Now it became a routine. The fox would arrive at night and left for the jungle in the morning. The ascetic came to love her as his own child.
Whenever the fox failed to arrive at due time the ascetic would wait for her at the door. And he would anxiously ask the reason for the delay. The fox too had become very friendly with ascetic and she loved him.
A few months passed and the season changed. One day the fox said, “You took so great care of me all through the winter. I want to do something for you in return."
The ascetic remarked, “I did no do great act of any kindness. It was my duty, dear fox. Please don’t embarrass me by talking in this way.'
The fox pleaded, “I am not trying to pay back your kindness, O great soul. I love you and respect you. By doing something for you I will feel a great pride in me. I wish to be of some use to you.'
The humble talk of the fox pleased the ascetic. He was overwhelmed. He put his hand on the head of the fox and spoke, “I don’t need anything as you have seen. I have no desires The villagers give me food and they look after me whenever I fall sick.'
The fox argued, "I know all that. I lived with you for months and learnt how you value contentment. You have no greed. But still tell me something you wished to do but could not due to some reason. I will try to help you fulfill it."
The ascetic thought for some time and hesitatingly said, “I don’t need anything. But sometimes I wish I had a piece of gold. A part of it I will donate to the village temple and the rest would come handy for my last rites when I die. The villagers have been so helpful always that I don’t want to saddle them with expenses of my funeral and rites after my death.'
The eyes of the fox twinkled and it said, 'That is no big problem, sir. There was no need to hesitate. I will get the gold tomorrow itself."
The ascetic cautioned, “But remembers dear, the gold should not be stolen thing or received as alms or donation."
The fox stood thinking. Then, she assured. “Sir, the gold I will bring will be as you wish."
The fox departed for the jungle like everyday. In the evening, the ascetic waited for the fox to return. The hours passed and there was no sign of the fox.
The ascetic couldn't go to sleep due to worrying for the fox. He repented for his foolishness in asking a poor fox for a piece of gold. It was beyond her means.
The scary thoughts came to the ascetic's mind. Did the fox try to steal gold and got caught? Did the people kill her or she met some accident?
The ascetic fondly remembered the loving fox. At nights when he would sit down to eat, the memories of the fox would come to his mind rushing. He recalled her eating food and her innocent figure curled in sleep in the corner of his hut.
Months went by. Time began to heal his wounds. He spent more time in prayers and meditation.
It was now six months since the fox had gone. The winter was returning. One day. someone knocked at the door of the hut. When the ascetic opened the door he was shocked to find a very weak and skeleton like fox.
The ascetic said, "Come in…dear… What has made you so weak and skinny?"
The fox shed tears of joy and placed a piece of gold before the ascetic. She sat and just put her head on the lap of the ascetic.
The ascetic caressed her head and spoke, “You didn't have to take so much trouble to get the gold. You don't know how much worried I have been. You are like my child."
The fox said, “I was not worried about the gold. I was trying to honour my promise given to you. I will always be grateful to you for your love. Please accept this gold as a token of my love."
The sentiments of the fox moved the ascetic. Tears rolled off his eyes. He sobbed, 'Silly child' Where have you been all these months and how did you get this gold.’’
The fox revealed, "There are gold mines at the other side of the hill I live on. While the people mine gold some gold dust falls down. I have been collecting the dust and separating gold particles."
The fox rolled on the ascetic's feet. He lovingly caressed the fox and said, ‘You worked so hard for me. I will tell everyone about it.'
The fox protested, 'No I don’t want my little deed talked about. I didn't do it for fame. Your love was my inspiration. Tomorrow I will depart, then you can do whatever you like."
The ascetic said, 'No…. my dear. Why shouldn't people know about your spirit and hard work? But if you don’t like it, I will go along. And I will not let you go. You shall always live with me.’
The fox agreed and stayed back with the ascetic. She would go to the jungle in the morning and while coming back in the evening she would bring some wood for the ascetic’s fire. The fox lived with the ascetic like a child as long as she lived.