Long, long ago there was a rich laird. He had many friends and a large estate, and he was known as an excellent hunter. One morning he was riding through his land and he saw a large and impressive crane. Immediately he thought to himself, “This would make a fine feast for a dinner with friends.” He shot the crane and brought it back to the house. Taking the bird into the kitchen, he told his cook, “I will invite my friends to dine with me this evening, so roast this crane and serve it to my friends.” He added, “See that you use your best skill in the cooking. I wish for my guests to be impressed.”
The cook took the crane, prepared it and put it on a spit to roast it. He basted it with the finest oil and rubbed it with many herbs and spices. As it roasted, the air was filled with a delicious aroma. The cook found his mouth watering and his stomach rumbling. As he turned the spit, he thought, “Ah, wouldn’t I like just a taste of this bird?” After a while, he thought, “I imagine that it will taste as good as it looks and smells, but how can I be sure? Clearly, I must have a small taste, just to be certain that I serve the finest food to the laird’s companions.”
So saying, he cut a small piece off one of the crane’s legs. It was as delicious as he expected. In fact, it was so succulent, so juicy, that the cook could not resist. He cut off another piece and then another, until he had eaten the entire leg.
When he realized what he had done, he was worried. What would the laird say when he served the crane which was now missing a leg? The cook arranged the bird on a large platter and surrounded it with vegetables and other embellishments, so that the missing leg was not apparent.
The dinner went well, and the laird’s friends praised the delicious meat. The laird graciously accepted the compliments. He had noticed that the crane had only one leg, but he didn’t mention it to his guests. However, later the laird stormed into the kitchen and furiously accosted the cook.
“How dare you serve my guests a crane that was missing a leg? It is fortunate that they did not notice, but I certainly did. How do you explain this?”
The cook was not only a skilled cook but was also a clever man, so he quickly replied, “Of course, the crane had only one leg. All cranes have only one leg.”
“What a lie,” said the laird. “Come with me and we will see the truth of the matter.”
The laird took the cook riding through the estate until they came to the river. There they saw several cranes standing near the shore.
“See,” said the cook triumphantly, “The cranes are standing on one leg. One leg only, just as I said.”
“But they have two legs!” insisted the laird. He gave a loud shout and clapped his hands, and each of the cranes lowered the other leg and flew away. “What do you say now?” demanded the laird. “Is it not clear?”
The cook hesitated only a second. “What is clear is that if you had only shouted and clapped your hands at dinner last night, the crane would surely have lowered its second leg.”
The laird’s anger turned to amusement. “Your cleverness has saved you,” he said. “You will not be punished, but from now on will be not only my cook, but also my advisor.”