|William Godwin (1756-1836)|
Fables Ancient and Modern. Adapted for the Use of Children from Three to Eight Years of Age. By Edward Baldwin, Esq. Published by Tho.s Hodgkins. Hanway Street, Oct.r 6. th 1805. London: Printed for Thomas Hodgkins, At the JUVENILE LIBRARY, Hanway Street (Opposite Soho Square), Oxford Street; and to be had of all Booksellers. [Second Edition.] Vol. I. Adorned with Thirty-six Copper-Plates. Vol. II Adorned with Thirty-seven Copper-Plates. [by William Mulready]. Printed by B. McMillan, Bow Street, Covent Garden
Editor's Note: The HTML and images come from “Romantic Circles” at the University of Colorado, Boulder, eds. Paul Youngquist and Orrin N.C. Wang. I have not been able to find a facs. PDF version of this edition but I have checked it against the one volume 4th edition of 1808. [facs. PDF]
There are two or three features that I have aimed to bestow upon these fables, by which they might be distinguished from the generality of fables I have seen; and, as every author has not the skill to make his intention visible, and every reader is not a reader of penetration, I will briefly mention what these features are.
I have long thought that fables were the happiest vehicle which could be devised for the instruction of children in the first period of their education. The stories are short; a simple and familiar turn of incident runs through them; and the mediums of instruction they employ are animals, some of the first objects with which the eyes and the curiosity of children are conversant. Yet these advantages are too often defeated by the manner in which fables are written, and in which they are read.
They are written in too simple a form. Too simple in language and sentiments they cannot be. But many fables in the commonest books of this sort are dismissed in five or six lines. This is wrong; it is not thus that children are instructed. If we would benefit a child, we must become in part a child ourselves. We must prattle to him; we must expatiate upon some points; we must introduce quick, unexpected turns, which, if they are not wit, have the effect of wit to children. Above all, we must make our narrations pictures, and render the objects we discourse about, visible to the fancy of the learner. A tale which is compressed, dry, and told in as few words as a problem in Euclid, will never prove interesting to the mind of a child.
In the present volumes I have uniformly represented myself to my own thoughts as relating the several stories to a child. I have fancied myself taking the child upon my knee, and have expressed them in such language as I should have been likely to employ, when I wished to amuse the child, and make what I was talking of take hold upon his attention.
Half the fables which are to be found in the ordinary books end unhappily, or end in an abrupt and unsatisfactory manner. This is what a child does not like. The first question he asks, when he has finished his reading, if he is at all interested in the tale, is, What became of the poor dog, the fox, or the wolf? While the stories were told with the customary dryness, this was not of much importance; but, the moment a character of reality was given to the narrative, it cried aloud for correction. I have accordingly endeavoured to make almost all my narratives end in a happy and forgiving tone, in that tone of mind which I would wish to cultivate in my child.
Lastly, in the ordinary fable-books every object, be it a wolf, a stag, a country-fair, a Heathen God, or the grim spectre of Death, is introduced abruptly: and, as few parents, and fewer governesses, are inclined to interrupt their lessons with dialogue, and enter into explanations, the child is early taught to receive and repeat words which convey no specific idea to his mind. I have endeavoured never to forget, that the book I was writing, was to be the first, or nearly the first, book offered to the child's attention. I have introduced no leading object without a clear and distinct explanation. By this means the little reader will be accustomed to form clear and distinct ideas. By this means my book is made a compendium of the most familiar points of natural history and the knowledge of life, without being subjected to the discouraging arrangements of a book of science. I have intended, as far as I was able, that these volumes should surpass most others in forming the mind of the learner to habits of meditation and reflection.
A naughty dog once went into a stable, and having looked about him, jumped into the manger, thinking that was a nice, snug place for him to lie down and sleep in. Presently a little boy came into the stable, leading his papa's horse, that had been ploughing a whole field, and was very tired, and very hungry. Come out, poor fellow! said the little boy to the dog, papa's horse wants to eat some hay. But the naughty dog never stirred a bit; he only made up an ugly face, and snarled very much. The little boy went close up to him, and endeavoured to take him out; but then the naughty dog barked and growled, and even tried to bite the little boy. The little boy was not big enough to manage such an ill-natured cur; so he turned in the horse, and stood by to see what would happen. The horse looked very hungry, and very tired, and put up his head to the rack to get a mouthful of hay. But the naughty dog snapped at the poor horse's mouth. The horse was very sorry, and would have said, Pray dog, let me eat! if he had been able. But the naughty dog did not care. You silly dog, said the little boy, hay is of no use to you, dogs do not eat hay, though horses do; and if you stay there, you will soon be as hungry as papa's horse. So the dog staid a long while, and by and by he grew hungry, and came to the little boy, and begged for meat. Silly dog, says the little boy, if I were as naughty as you, I should give you nothing to eat, as you prevented papa's horse from eating. There is a plate of meat for you; and remember another time, that only naughty dogs, and naughty boys and girls, keep away from others what they cannot use themselves.
A Great while ago, before there were so many large cities and villages as there are now, all the countries in the world abounded with wild beasts. England in particular was full of wolves; and little boys and girls dared not walk abroad without somebody to take care of them, for fear the wolf should come and eat them up. In the times I am thinking of, nobody had invented a plough; so there was no corn. The wild men then kept sheep; they had mutton for their dinner, but neither turnips nor bread to eat with it. Men staid all day with the flocks, to take care that they did not lose themselves, and that the wolves did not come to eat them; for wolves were always very fond of mutton, and, when they were hungry, would come and kill a sheep or a little lamb for their dinner. A wolf had at any time rather have a lamb than a child. Sometimes when the men were very busy, mending the thatch, or cutting down fire-wood (for there were no coals and no tiles), they would send their children, boys of ten or twelve years old, like Charles, to take care of the flocks of sheep.
The boy I am going to tell you about, was a very naughty boy, and his father and mother could never make him do as he was bid. He was always laughing when he should have been minding his lesson; and he often did mischief and thought it a very good joke. Says his father to him one day, Winter will soon be here, and I must go to the forest and cut some fire-wood: you are hardly big enough yet to take care of the sheep, but I must trust you to look after them. That I will, father! says the boy, for he was proud to be of some importance. I and three or four of my neighbours, said the father, shall be within call, and if you want any help, you must bawl to us as lustily as you can.
Away went the boy, and took the sheep-dog with him, and drove the flock to pasture. He sat down upon a hillock to look at them; he patted his dog, and when any of the lambs straggled from the rest, he sent the dog to bark at them, and make them come back.
This was all very well; but presently he thought, Now I will have a joke. Every thing was quiet about him, when he set up a great scream, Father, father, the wolf, the wolf is coming. Away ran the father and the neighbours, leaving their work, some with sticks, and some with hatchets, to help the poor boy and drive away the wolf. When they came, all was quiet, and the boy burst into a great laugh, to think he had made a fool of his father. His father was very angry, and said, Child, how could you call us away from our work, and tell us a lie? I could not have thought it of you. But the naughty boy did not mind.
The next day the father went again to the forest, and sent his son to mind the sheep. Presently he began to cry, The wolf, the wolf! and every thing happened as before, except that his father was this time more angry, and told him he should go to bed without his supper. But the silly boy was still pleased with himself, that he had once more, as he called it, made a fool of his father.
It was now almost evening, and the sun began to set, when the naughty boy saw two great, fierce wolves running toward him as fast as they could. He was terribly frightened; and by ill luck the dog had gone after a rabbit or a bird, and could no where be seen. The boy screamed dismally: The wolf, the wolf, Oh father, the wolf! Then he ran to beat the wild beasts with his crook; but they scared him, and he ran back again. Then he screamed more and more. His father and the wood-cutters heard him plain enough, but they said, It is only that mischievous boy; he shall make fools of us no more. So the wolves ate up so many of the flock, that the father was ruined, and obliged to part with the rest, and go a-begging: and, when the boy grew up to be a man, people still pointed at him, and said, That is the son, that told lies, and ruined his father.
I have one thing to mention to you for fear of mistakes. Beasts and birds do not talk English; but they have a way of talking that they understand among one another, better than we understand them; and you, if you attend to your dog, or your cat, or your horse, may generally make out what he wants from his voice or his look. I am going sometimes to tell you what an animal says; that is, I am going to put his meaning into English words.
But let me say one thing more. It is not always necessary that a story should be true. Some stories are true, and some are invented; and, if they are very prettily invented, we are much obliged to the people that made them. A lie is what naughty folks say, that they may deceive; like the boy and the wolf. But, if I tell a pretty story of a dog and a fox, or any other animals, I do not mean to deceive, I only mean to tell a pretty story. Now then I begin.
An ant is a very wise, though a very little animal, and lays up food in the summer when there is plenty, against the winter when there is none. He is thoughtful and serious. A grasshopper is the merriest creature in the world; he sings all the summer long; but, when the winter comes, he dies of hunger and cold.
A grasshopper, as the story says, at the beginning of a hard winter, happened to meet an ant. The grasshopper was very hungry. He looked at the ant, as much as to say, You are a very wise animal, and have got a store-house full of corn. He then plucked up a spirit, and cried in a melancholy tone, Pray, Mr. Ant, give me a grain of your corn! That I will, said the ant, and fetched him a little. But do not come to me any more; perhaps you may find other charitable ants not far off another day. I have only enough to last my own family, who all helped in collecting it. Ants are very sorry to see other animals starve, but animals that can work for themselves, and will not, and, as the saying is, do not make hay while the sun shines, cannot always expect to have their idleness maintained by our industry. People will think much better of a creature that is sober and pains-taking in time, than of one that, for want of taking pains, is obliged to go a-begging.
A very old man, who had lost his wife and all his children, took it into his head that he would go and live by himself in a cave, surrounded on all sides by a vast, desolate forest. He was a very good man, doing kindness to every body when he was able, and every body loved him. If a traveller lost his way in the forest, and was hungry, and weary, and benighted, the old man would give him part of his supper, and invite him to lodge in his cave. This good creature was kind even to animals; he would not hurt a spider; and in the winter the little robins came, and fed upon the crumbs of bread that he scattered for them at the mouth of his cave. They saw that he never hurt or frightened them, and they would pick out of his hand the biscuit he crumbled for their breakfast.
One day as this good hermit was taking a pleasant walk, he heard the groans of an animal in pain. He looked through the bushes, and saw a vast, overgrown bear stretched at the foot of a tree. At first he was rather alarmed; but, when he looked a little longer, he saw the bear was very ill. He then came round and showed himself; and the bear looked at him in a pitiful manner, and held up his foot. The hermit saw that it was very sore, and very much swelled. The poor creature had somehow got a hurt in it a week before, and it had grown worse and worse, till the bear could not walk. The bear could not go for victuals, and victuals did not come to the bear, so that he was in danger of being starved. The hermit took compassion on the animal; he ran and got water and washed his foot; he put a little balsam to it that he had in his pocket, and then fetched him something to eat. He now visited the bear every day, till he was well enough to walk.
The first walk the bear took, he would go home with the hermit. The old man did not much like it; he would have been better pleased with a dog for his companion; but the bear did it all out of love. When they came home, the bear would stay and live with the hermit. Bears are clever animals, and can do many tricks; though naughty people use them very cruelly, pretending to teach them to dance. Particularly they can climb trees. The hermit was feeble and stiff of his limbs, and could not do that; so this bear climbed trees for him, and shook the boughs, and made the apples and chestnuts fall for the old man's supper.
One day the hermit had taken a longer walk than usual in a very hot sun, and after dinner he laid him down near his cave and fell asleep. The bear, as usual, watched close by him to take care of him. As the weather was sultry, the flies came about the hermit, and lighted on his face, and tickled him. The old man shook his head, but did not awake: the bear growled, but the hermit was in a sound sleep, and the flies did not care for his growlings. At last one saucy fly pitched upon the old man's nose. Now, thought the bear, I shall have you; and with that he took up his paw to give the fly a good knock. The fly was killed; but the poor hermit's nose was terribly bruised, and after a time turned quite black. Immediately the hermit awoke, and began to be very angry; but he put up his hand to his nose, and the dead fly fell upon it: he then knew what the bear had been doing. Go, go, said he to the bear, shaking his head with the pain; I will always do you all the good I can, but we will not live together any more. He that admits into his company an awkward and ill-matched favourite, will sometime or other have reason to grieve, even for things that were intended in kindness.
There are a great many fables about foxes. A fox is a little animal, hardly so big as a middle-sized dog. He lives in the woods, and is never tamed. He is very fond of fowls and geese, and steals them, whenever he can, for his dinner. The farmers therefore are his great enemies; for they do not like, when they have been at the trouble and expense of breeding the poultry, that the fox should come and eat them up. The fox however is a cunning little fellow; he is full of stratagems and wiles; and when we speak of any body that is very sly, it is usual to say, He is as cunning as a fox.
A fox, as Esop says, happened one day to be very hungry. He was walking along quite serious, for people are apt to be serious when they are hungry. He spied a raven perched in a tree, with a delicate cheese in his beak. I suppose this cheese must have been about the size of a baked apple; I believe they make such in some countries.
The fox thought with himself, I dare say that is a very nice cheese; I wish I could taste it. But what could he do? The raven sat upon a high branch; the fox did not know how to climb to him. If the raven would consent to fight for the cheese, the fox perhaps could have beaten him. But, suppose the raven had been upon the ground, he had fine large wings and could have flown away with the cheese.
While the fox was thinking thus, he fixed his eyes on the raven. What a beautiful bird you are! says he. I never saw any thing so glossy as your shining, black feathers. What a twist you have with your neck! And what a noble beak! I dare say it holds that cheese as tight as if it was a pair of pincers. Do you know that I think you the finest bird I ever saw; and, if your singing is but equal to the manner in which you hold yourself, the nightingale must be nothing to you.
Now you must know that the only noise a raven can make is as frightful a scream as you every heard. Whenever he begins, I am always disposed to put my fingers to my ears. But this silly bird was delighted with the fine speeches of the fox; he knew that his feathers were as black as the cunning creature said, and that he had a good, handsome beak of his own; and he began to think that perhaps he might be a fine singer too. So he tuned his pipes to try; the cheese dropt out of his beak; this was all the fox wanted; he caught it up, and ran away with it, and left the raven to sing to the crows.
Foxes are never taught what is good and what is naughty. But, if I were a little boy or a little girl, I would rather go without cheese all the days of my life, than gain it by such cheating and wicked speeches as this fox is said to have made.
A fox one day invited a stork to dinner. The good-natured stork was pleased with the civility, and had no doubt that the invitation was meant in kindness. But the fox intended no such thing; he had nothing in his head but the hope to make game of an animal, who, though of a remarkably sweet temper, he thought was not so wise as himself.
The dinner consisted of a fine, rich soup; for foxes and storks never want but one dish to a meal. The fox set it before his guest in a very broad platter, so that, though there was enough of it, it was hardly more than half an inch deep.
To understand the fox's joke, you must consider the different ways that beasts and birds have of taking their food, and particularly what is liquid. Beasts have a long tongue; look at the cat when she is drinking her milk; she puts out her tongue, and laps it up in a minute. It is very droll; you could not drink your milk as she does. Birds on the contrary have a long bill that they put into the cup, and suck up as much as they want. Neither beasts nor birds drink as little boys and girls do.
The soup was set smoking before them; it had a fine savoury smell; and, if the stork was sharp-set before, the smell now gave strength to his appetite. He put in his bill, and the fox put in his tongue; but the soup was so shallow, that the stork could scarcely suck up any thing. The fox however found himself very well off, and swallowed it all in less than a minute. Then they parted with many civilities, and the fox said, he hoped he should soon have the pleasure to see the stork again.
The stork did not care much about the dinner; his home was not far off; he had plenty there; and, spreading his wings, he soon got to a place where he could fully make up his disappointment. But he was sorry to see any animal capable of so ill-natured a joke. In spite of all his good temper, he was a little angry; and he determined to show his inviter, that foxes are not more cunning than other animals, if they would condescend to play such pitiful tricks.
The next day the stork met the fox. Come, my friend, said the stork, yesterday I dined with you; you must do me the pleasure to eat your mutton with me to-day. The fox consented; he apprehended no trick; he said to himself, Such a good-natured creature as the stork would not ask me, if he had not something nice to treat me with.
The stork's dinner was meat, minced very fine, and put into a long narrow-necked bottle. I beg, friend, says the stork, you will stand upon no ceremony with me; I hope you will make as free as if you were at home. Saying this, he put his long beak into the bottle, and quietly began his dinner. The fox did not know what to make of it; at first he licked the gravy and the little morsels that ran down the side of the bottle; at last he began to grow angry. He said, this was not usage for a gentleman, and he would take care to remember it another time.
I hope then, said the stork, you will remember also the dinner you gave me yesterday; I would not punish you too severely; you may go without your dinner for one day, and never be starved. Remember too this maxim, which you will find has a great deal of good sense in it, He that cannot take a joke, should never have the assurance to make one.
You have heard, I dare say, how fond some gentlemen are of riding a hunting, and what a fine sport they think it is. For my part, I could never quite reconcile myself to the idea of such sport. There is hare-hunting, and fox-hunting, and deer-hunting, beside the hunting of lions and tigers and other ferocious animals. I think more has been said about deer-hunting, than any of the rest; and there is a fine old song upon that subject, called Chevy-Chase. The way is for the gentlemen, very early in the morning, to mount upon a number of fine horses, which for their fleetness are called hunters, and to call out a pack of dogs bred for the purpose, that are to run after the deer, and that will, when they have caught it, tear it almost to pieces, if the gentlemen do not interfere. As soon as the gentlemen have all got on their horses, the huntsman, or groom, blows his horn, and away they ride. When they come to a field, or a proper place, the huntsman makes the hounds smell all about, till they find the smell of the deer. At this time of the morning, the grass is covered with dew, which the hounds brush away, as they run. When they have roused the deer, the poor creature is terribly frightened, and sets off as hard as he can, and the dogs after him, and the gentlemen after the dogs. The deer sometimes runs forward, and sometimes almost back again, that he may get rid of his pursuers; but the dogs follow him by the smell he leaves on the grass, and wind backward and forward just as he does. Sometimes he takes a great jump to break the line of the smell, and sometimes he swims across a river. After some hours running he is generally caught at last. Poor deer! The flesh of deer is called venison, and is thought to be much better than beef and mutton.
For my part, I do not quite like this hunting the deer. Do not you think it very cruel, to call the frightening a poor creature, and at last perhaps killing him, fine sport? The deer is a beautiful animal. The male is called a stag, and has grand, branching horns. The female is called a hind; she has no horns, but is a very handsome, innocent-looking creature. The young deer is called a fawn, and is so pretty and good-natured, that ladies formerly would call the fawns to come and lie down in their chambers. The coat of the deer is of a beautiful brown, sometimes a little reddish, sometimes speckled and mottled with white, and, when the animal is in health, is as smooth as velvet.
A stag once, who had lived free and happy in the forest where he was born, after having frisked about, and eaten his dinner of grass, wanted to drink. There was a pretty running stream not far off, as smooth and as clear as glass. The stag knew this stream very well, and had often tasted its sweet, cool waters. While he was drinking, he could not help seeing himself in the stream; and, when he had done, he stopped a little longer, to admire his own face, just as I have seen little girls admire themselves in a glass. He nodded his head. I declare, said the stag to himself, I think I am very pretty: my eyes are so bright, and my nose is so small and slender! But above all, these fine branching horns, what a grace they have! I do not wonder that all the young hinds should fall in love with me, and wish me for a husband. Yet I am surprised they dare to be so familiar with so noble a creature, and lick my neck with their tongues, as they do sometimes.
The stag then began to look a little further. And yet, thought he, I do not half like these legs. They are so slender and insignificant! They look like four spindles. What a creature should I have been, if these pitiful shanks of mine had been answerable to the majesty of my horns!
The stag staid so long, considering and commenting upon his different parts and members, that at last he heard the cry of the hounds. I do not know whether he had ever heard it before; but animals seem from the first to know who are their enemies. The little mouse ran away the very first time she saw a cat.
Away started the stag, and most gloriously he scampered. He ran faster than the dogs. After all, thought he, these legs are not such bad things. If they are thin and light, they seem on that account only to carry me the faster. Thinking thus, he still ran as hard as he could, up hill and down dale, across the high road, then into a turnip-field, and next over a meadow. At last he came to a wood; and, trying to force his way through it, he entangled his horns so among the bushes, that he could not get free. The hounds came up: but the gentlemen were close by, and generously saved him from being mangled and killed, as he otherwise would have been.
Well, thought the stag, when he saw himself safe, I have learned a lesson to day, that I shall remember as long as I live. Another time, when I undertake the decide upon the value of a thing, I will consider, not merely whether it looks beautiful, but what use is to be got from it. I now know that swift legs are more worth having, than the most magnificent horns that ever were seen.
Two poor men set off at the same time from Scotland to come to London. They found little employment at home, and they had heard that their trade met with better encouragement in the capital. They had very, very little money, and were obliged to go all the way on foot. As they were both going to the same place, they thought they might as well be company for each other.
These poor men knew very little of each other before their journey. But they said, we are men, and men ought to lend a helping hand to one another. If we have nothing but bread and cheese to eat, it will be pleasant to sit together and eat it under the same hedge. If we sleep upon straw, it will be delightful to say, Good-night, Good-night, before we close our eyes, and, Up, fellow-traveller, and be stirring, when we wake in the morning. One said, I can whistle a number of good songs; and the other answered, Though I cannot whistle, I know many pretty stories, some that will make you laugh heartily, and some that will almost make you cry. This was all the bargain they made, and then they set out.
Nothing very particular happened the two first days, except that, as it is almost impossible to travel without money, the little they had at first, was now grown less. On the third day they were almost come to York. It was quite dark, when one of them stumbled over something in the road, and taking it up, found it was a canvas money-bag, or farmer's purse. It was heavy with money. The one who took it up was an ill-natured, selfish fellow, that always wanted to keep every thing that was good to himself. Aha! said he, I am in luck to-day; I have found a purse of money. Just then they passed a cottage with a light in the window. Let me see, said the finder, going close to the window, and looking at the money—four, five, six guineas, and nineteen shillings, and I dare say a matter of five-shillings-worth of half-pence. I declare I have a great mind to buy a little horse, and ride the rest of the way by myself.
Friend, said his companion, you ought not to have said, I have found a purse of money, but We have found it. I am sure you know it is a rule among poor people when they travel together, to call any thing they find in the road a God-send, and share it equally between them.
You may think as you please, said the other; but I shall not part with a farthing of it. I will buy a horse as soon as we get into York; and shall mount my nag to-morrow morning, and wish you a very pleasant walk from York to London.
He that did not find the purse was now ready to cry, not so much on account of the money, though that would have been very acceptable to him,—as for vexation to think that a fellow-countryman and fellow-traveller could be so selfish and ill-natured. He had not time to cry however, when they heard three or four horsemen coming along the road, riding pretty fast, and yet talking very earnestly. They listened to the talk, and found the horsemen were speaking of a farmer who had been robbed by highwaymen as he went home from York-market, and had lost his purse, containing six guineas, and nineteen shillings in silver, and five-shillings-worth of half-pence.
Come along, said the selfish traveller, all in a sweat, to his companion, let us turn into this wood, and hide ourselves. If they find us with the purse in our possession, they will think we are the thieves, and we shall be hanged.
I shall do no such thing, said the other; these people want to return it to the right owner, and the right owner must have it. Besides, you are no longer a fit fellow-traveller for me. You would not allow me to say, We have found a purse, when you thought nobody would claim it, and I do not understand your saying, We shall be hanged, when pursuit is made after the thief.
The horsemen, though they could not see the travellers, heard their voices, and called to them to stop. They did so, and were questioned, and obliged to deliver up the purse. It would have gone still harder with the selfish traveller, who trembled and stammered so much, that they thought he was the thief; but his generous companion, who had intended no harm, told a plain, honest story, that convinced the horsemen, who in consequence dismissed them both. I am glad, said he, to have done you this service: we are now almost at the gates of York; I shall therefore only bid you good night, and wish you to-morrow, as you intended to do by me, a very pleasant walk from York to London.
What a pretty thing is a village fair! It happens but once a year, and the young lads and lasses all come there in their best clothes. There are two or three streets of booths, slightly put together of boards for the occasion, that are taken down and carried away, as soon as the fair is over. It lasts sometimes one day; sometimes two: two is quite enough. These booths are hung with ribbands, and cloaks, and silk-handkerchiefs for sale. Upon the table of the booth are laid knives, and scissars, and snuff-boxes, and boxes of Tunbridge-ware, and dolls, and drums, and fifes, and flutes, and fiddles, and Jew-harps, and rattles, and pretty pictures, and children's books, and sugar-plums, and ginger-bread, and oranges, and nuts, and apples. Johnny buys Betty a fine taudry ribband to tie round her cap. Whatever one person buys, and gives to another, is called a fairing. Then the fair is crowded with pretty clean boys and girls. They beat the drums, and squeak with the flutes; and there is such a noise, you cannot think how much. Every body is in a hurry, and busy, and happy. When I was a little boy, I remember I thought I never saw so charming and happy a place as a village-fair.
But every body does not come to the fair for amusement; some people have very serious business. The buyers are amused with their purchases; but the sellers are very grave, thinking how much money they shall carry home to buy beef and mutton for their wives and children. The serving-men and serving-maids come to hire themselves: servants in the country always hire themselves for a year, till next fair-time, at the least; and a very good servant loves his master as much as if he were his father, and is as unwilling to go away from him. Then there is a field, not far from the booths, where horses are bought and sold, and sometimes cows, and asses, and sheep.
A miller once set off for a village-fair, about four miles from his mill, to sell his ass. I am afraid this miller had grown poor, else I do not think he would have sold his ass. The miller was an old man with white hairs, that walked along leaning on a stick. He took with him his son, a pretty little boy, about seven years old, who had a great desire to see the fair, and his father told him that, if he sold his ass well, the little boy should bring home a drum.
Away they went; the miller very thoughtful and very serious, for he was a seller; the boy, as merry as a cricket, kissed his father's hand, and thanked him a thousand times for being so good as to take him to the fair. But, Charley, my boy, said the miller, you must walk all the way: I am an old man, and cannot get along without a stick, and yet I shall walk: You were seven years old last birth-day. If we fatigue our ass with riding upon him, he will not look handsome, and people will not believe he is so good an ass as we have found him to be. We will rest for an hour or two on the grass, and have a little bread and cheese and ale, before we set off to come home again.
Oh, father, says the little boy, I am sure I can walk very well; and, if I find myself a little tired in coming home, I will beat upon my new drum, and the sound of that will make me as fresh as if I had not moved a step.
So they went along to the fair. Many people were going the same road to the same place, some on horses, some in carts, and even those on foot, most of them, walked faster than the old miller and his little son. These people were very merry; and some of them, as merry people are apt to be, a little impertinent.
What fools are that old man and his son, said one, to walk on foot, when they have an ass so well able to carry one or the other!
The miller was very good-natured, and not willing that any body should be displeased with what he did. He was a little afraid before, poor man, whether Charley would be able to hold out. So he took up the little boy in his hand, and set him on the ass; and Charley was not at bottom displeased with the change, though he was a very good boy, and cheerfully walked a-foot, when his father bid him.
By and by three jolly farmers rode by. They stopped to look at the travellers. Why, you lazy little urchin, said one of them, are not you ashamed to be riding at your ease, while your poor old father trudges by your side?
This speech made poor Charley feel very uncomfortable. He had always been a dutiful child, and could not bear to have it thought otherwise. He began almost to cry. He slid down from the ass as fast as he could, and said, Pray, pray, father, do you ride, and let me walk. The miller did not like that any body should form an ill opinion of Charley, and consented.
The next party that came up was three farmers' wives. What a pretty boy! said one of them. A little weakly or so, but that only makes him look more delicate and interesting. I am afraid one of his feet is hurt with walking; look if he does not go a little lame! What a brute of a man must his father be, to jog on at his ease, and make this sweet child limp after him as well as he can! The miller heard, and changed his plan. Come, Charley, said he, we will both ride; I hope ever body will think that right.
The next man that came meant I believe to play the rogue. He had heard what the others had said, and smiled to see the good-natured pains the miller took to please every body. Pray, friend, said he to the father, is that ass your own? One would think not by the unmerciful way in which you load him. But, I suppose, you expect to kill him by the journey, and to sell his skin at the fair to make pocket-books.
The miller had tried almost all the schemes he could think of, and had not been able to pass along without being jeered at. At last he thought of one more. He pulled a large stake out of the hedge; he got a rope, and tied the ass's feet, two and two, together, and made them fast to the stake. Now, Charley, said he, as the ass must not carry us, let us try to carry the ass. I confess this was a very silly scheme; but what could the poor miller do? Charley could hardly lift his end of the pole. Ha! ha! ha! Hoh! hoh! hoh! said the people, this is the strangest sight we ever saw.
All this passed just by a bridge. Before they had got two steps upon the bridge, the ass was frightened with the noise, and struggled very much; Charley lost his hold; and the ass fell into the water. It was well for the poor creature that they had not got to the middle of the bridge; otherwise, with his legs tied together, he could not have helped himself, and must infallibly have been drowned.
Come, Charley, said the old man, I see what a foolish mistake I have made. We ought to listen to the opinions of such as have a great deal of kindness and a great deal of sense to advise us, but not to the gabble of people who perhaps make their silly remarks only in hopes to vex the passers-by.
So they went on to the fair in the same manner that they had set out. If people laughed or jeered, the miller took no notice, but quietly kept on his way. Conducting himself thus, he speedily sold his ass; and Charley came home with his father after dinner, beating his drum, and laughing within himself at the people that had laughed at him in the morning. He was however sometimes sorry at heart, when he recollected that he should perhaps never see his dear ass again.
Perhaps you may think that fables are only an amusement for children. But, without mentioning to you how highly Esop and the other famous makers of fables have been thought of all over the world, I am going now to tell you a thing which will convince you how much you are mistaken.
You have heard of Rome, a fine old city of Italy. The consuls and emperors of Rome once governed the world, that is, as much of the world as they knew almost any thing about, for America and Botany-Bay had then never been heard of. In the time of these consuls and emperors there were a great many clever men, that wrote a great many wise and learned books. They are called the Latin authors. Now of all these Latin authors it is agreed that Virgil and Horace are the finest. I will tell you a fable that was written by Horace; and, if ever you learn Latin, you shall then read it in Horace's own words.
There was a mouse that lived in the country; I dare say at Horace's farm that he was so fond of; for Horace lived at a pretty white house with green window-shutters; he had a large garden of vegetables and flowers; with a fine fish-pond in front; and behind, a beautiful serpentine walk through a wood.
This mouse had a cousin that lived in town. I believe his home was at the palace of Mæcenas, the emperor's prime minister of state, that was built with pillars of marble, and ceilings of stucco-work.
Now, though the house where the country-mouse lived was only a sort of a cottage, a little better than the ordinary cottages round it, yet he loved his relations and friends, as much as the best mouse that wore a head; and he begged and prayed his town-cousin to come some day and take a dinner with him. The town-mouse consented.
When the visitor came, the country mouse showed him all he had to show, the fish-pond, and the garden, and the wood, and how prettily the white house looked with the green window-shutters. They sat down to dinner. The host had ranged all the provisions in a hollow tree, that they might be sure not to be disturbed. He placed a nice soft cushion of moss for his guest, and set before him a little piece of bacon, and a morsel of beef that had been boiled for soup, and a bit of cheese, and a golden pippin. The country-mouse sat in a lower place, and ate nothing but a crust of bread, and a piece of the hard rind of cheese, leaving all the rest for his cousin. He was as polite to his visitor as a mouse could be, and hoped he would be able to make a dinner, and assured him that the cheese was made of the finest cream, and the pippin was fresh gathered. The city-mouse however made a miserable meal; he could not relish such country-fare. After dinner he asked his entertainer very gravely, how he could be content to waste his life in such a wretched hole? Consider, said the town-mouse, you are now young, and should enjoy yourself. You should see men and cities. When once you know the world, you will despise this rustic life as much as I do. The town-mouse gave the country-mouse such an account of what a fine thing it was to go to court, that at last he consented to go back with him to the palace of Macenas on the Esquiline hill.
A long and weary journey they had of it; and, though a man could have walked it in three or four hours, a mouse was obliged to sleep one night on the road. They got to Rome the next night, and crept silently and softly to the town-mouse's home. The country-mouse was out of his senses to see what a fine home it was. The rooms were almost as large and lofty as a church; the walls were adorned with looking-glasses and gilding; and immense chandeliers of silver hung from the ceiling.
I confess, says he, I begin to think Horace's farm was but a miserable hole.
I thought, answered the town-mouse, I should bring you to your senses.
He then led his visitor into the room where Maecenas and his friends had dined. The mice climbed up upon the table. There was nothing left but the dessert; but such a dessert! There were pine-apples, and ice-creams, and melons, and grapes, and preserves, and perfumes, and sugar in abundance. The town-mouse felt himself at home. The country-mouse frisked about as if he had been mad. He had never seen such a sight in his life. Why, here, said he, are provisions enough to last Horace for a month!
He was so long smelling and examining the different plates, that he had not tasted a bit, when the door burst open. It was the butler and five or six footmen, who were come to clear away the dessert, and prepare every thing for their master's supper. With them pranced in a couple of fine Italian grey-hounds. But, what was worst of all, at the heels of the grey-hounds came, jumping along, the largest tom-cat you ever saw. The mice were terribly frightened, and scampered away as fast as they could. But the walls of the marble dining hall were so well fitted, that there was not a chink for so much as a spider to hide himself. It was almost a miracle that the mice escaped, and at last got to a dark, dirty hole in some wainscot, where the town-mouse was accustomed to sleep.
Come, he said to his guest, I dare say you are tired; you will stay snug here to-night.
Not in a minute, said the country-mouse, that I can help! As soon as every thing is once more quiet, I will take my leave of cities and ministers of state for ever. I dare say I shall not recover the fright I have been in for a fortnight. Give me a temperate life and a safe one. I shall thank you, the longest day I have to live, for the lesson you have taught me. I shall go home now, and know, better than ever I did before, the blessings of a hollow tree and a crust of bread.
A poor man once scraped together by little and little a sum of fifty guineas. It was all got by the labour of his own hands, and I believe it was some years before he had made it so much. In the village where he lived they had known him from a boy, and a smart, merry boy he was. He was always laughing from morning till night. This was certainly laughing too much; but the boy meant no harm, and every body laughed with him. Poor fellow, he had never learned to read or write; he thought he had no chance to be wise; he had heard something about merry and wise; and, as he could not be wise, he determined to be merry, that he might be sure to be something.
Well, when he was about twenty or thirty years old, the fancy took him, that he would save a penny or two-pence a day, till he had got fifty guineas. If he saved only two-pence a day, he must have been fifteen years about it; but I believe he got some presents, and a little matter that his father and uncle left him when they died, which made him not quite so long. I wonder what he intended to do with his fifty guineas when he had got it? Did he mean to buy a horse? or a pleasure-boat? or a fine gold watch with a gold seal to it? What could he do with fifty guineas? You shall hear: but do not be in a hurry now!
It was very hard for him always to lay by two-pence out of the wages of his day's work. He never bought any oranges or cherries. When other people went to the fair, he staid at home. When other people got a little bit of meat or of cheese, he had nothing but dry bread for his dinner; and, instead of beer, he drank only water. I assure you, when people work all day ploughing or digging, they ought to drink beer, and some strong beer too.
But what people thought the strangest of all was, that this fellow who had been so merry and good-natured a boy, grew very serious, and, what was worse, very ill-tempered too. He hardly ever spoke, and when people asked him a question, he answered them as roughly as possible. The fact was, he was always thinking of his money, and the thought of it would not even let him sleep of nights. Then he was so much troubled what to do with it, and how to keep it safe. When he lived in a house, it was a poor sort of a house, with a door that a man could almost burst open with his foot: and, when he lived in a lodging, he had but one room, and other people sometimes came into the room. So he went to the schoolmaster of the village, and begged the favour of him to take care of it. The schoolmaster was a very good man, and kept it quite safe. But the poor man was not a bit the easier: he thought the schoolmaster might lose it, might have his house robbed, or might die and the people who came after him might not believe that so great a heap of money belonged to so poor a man. As he could neither write nor read, he did not understand much about receipts and promisory notes.
At last, when he had made it up full fifty guineas, he went to the schoolmaster, and begged he might have it in his own possession. And now we come to see what he did with it. He thought about horses and pleasure boats and watches. But none of these things pleased him. When he got home, he crept into the darkest corner of his room, and began to count his money. He thought fifty guineas in gold looked prettier than all the horses and pleasure-boats in the world. But where should be put them? He thought of twenty people to take care of them, and twenty places to hide them. At last he collected a solitary field a great way from any path, and he determined to bury them there. He went to the field, and walked round the field, and looked in every corner. By and by he spied a large stone which stuck so deep in the ground that nothing but the top of it could be seen. With a good deal of trouble he pulled it up. There was then a deep hollow place. The miser now took out his hedging-knife, and made a round mark in the middle of this place, and shoveled out the mould, till he had got a hole big enough to hold his fifty guineas. He then put down the stone again, and it lay as close and as snug as if it had never been moved.
It was a good while before he could prevail upon himself to go away. Once or twice he raised the stone gently by one corner, and peeped in: there were the guineas! He had not gone the length of two fields, before he came back. He looked all round to see if there was any body near: he then raised the stone as before: there were the guineas! He came twice again before night, and the last time, he took out his money and counted it.
Unluckily Wicked Will happened to be all the while at work on the other side of the hedge. Wicked Will was a good-for-nothing, drunken fellow, and had neither truth nor honesty in him. If the miser had come but once, Will would have thought nothing of the matter; but he was surprised to see him come so often. He recollected what a scraping, saving man the miser was, and began to guess the truth. Night was no sooner completely come, than Will went to the spot, took away the money, and walked and ran twenty miles before day-light, that he might never be found.
The next morning, as soon as it was light, the miser set out again to look at his money. I firmly believe he would never have been able to do a day's work as long as it staid there, he would have wanted to look at it so often. You may think then how sorry he was, when he raised the stone, and found it gone. He cried and screamed, and acted like a madman. He staid there so long, that at last the farmer to whom the field belonged, opened the gate and rode in, to consider whether he should lay the field down for grass, or plough it for corn. He presently saw the miser and his distress.
What is the matter with you, my good fellow? said the farmer.
Oh, my money, my money! said the miser.
Oh, my money! my fifty guineas!
Where are they?
I buried them yesterday under this stone, and they are gone.
Buried them! said the farmer, that is a strange way to treat money. Why did not you keep it at home, and then it would have been always ready for use.
Use! said the miser. I would not have spent a penny of it, to save myself from starving. For all the world I would not have made it a farthing less than fifty guineas.
Oh, if that is the case, said the farmer, there is a number of pebbles in yon corner; fetch fifty of them, and put them in the hole, and they will do every bit as well as guineas for every thing but use. If you had saved a little against you were sick or lame, I should have thought you a wise man; but if you had determined never to change one of your guineas, take my word for it you have lost nothing at all.
Now what do you think happened after this poor miser? He never got his money again. For some days he was so sorry, that he could hardly go to work. But by degrees he forgot his loss: and then, I cannot tell how it happened, when he was no richer than his neighbours, he ate better, and whistled better, than when he had fifty guineas that he had resolved never to change.
I do not know of my own knowledge that foxes are fond of grapes. But Esop says they are, and that is enough for us.
A fox once found his way into a very fine garden. I suppose he had missed his road, for the favourite walk of the fox is into the poultry-yard, that he may pick up a chicken or two for his dinner. Here there were a great many fine flowers; but the fox did not care for that. Men are very fond of flowers, and so are bees and other insects; but birds and beasts think nothing about them; you never saw either smell at a rose. There was also a great deal of fine fruit: and, as Esop's fox was fond of grapes, I dare say he was delighted to see the apples and pears and nectarines and peaches. He walked up and down the garden, and was so pleased with every thing, that for the life of him he did not know what to chuse.
At last he came to a wall that was all covered with the finest grapes you ever saw. They were full of juice almost ready to burst; the purple ones were turned black, and the green were so ripe, that they looked as if you could see through them. I said, the wall was covered with grapes; but that is not quite exact. The ladies and gentlemen had gathered all the clusters that hung within their reach; but higher up the vines were still full. The moment the fox saw them, his choice was fixed: he resolved to make his dinner here without seeking any further.
The fox is a very little animal, though he is very nimble. His ambition was greater than his strength. He jumped and jumped, you never saw such jumps in your life. First he could not jump high enough; but afterward he mended his jumps, and I believe jumped quite as high as the clusters. But, I do not know how it was, not a single grape he could catch. At last he was quite tired and almost lamed with the efforts he had made. The fox was extremely mortified. He looked up; there hung the grapes, but not one for him! He determined then to carry off his disappointment with a spirit. What a fool have I been! said he. I can see now plain enough that the grapes are sour, and not fit to be eaten.
From this fable it has come to be a proverb, when a man pretends not to wish for what he cannot have, to say to him, The grapes are sour. If you ask a poor haymaker, whether he would not like that the parsonage-house were his? perhaps he will answer, No, indeed, he likes his mud-cottage as well. The fox was not wrong to endeavour contentedly to go without what he could not get, but he need not have told an un-truth.
The lion you know is the king of animals. He is a fine creature; and the proofs he gives of his strength are such as we hardly know how to believe. He is said to be very generous. He is so formed that he must have meat to eat, and there are no butchers' shops in the forests; so he is obliged to kill his meat himself. But they say he never kills any creature for sport or cruelty; and that he will not touch a man, but when he is almost starving with hunger. He is very proud, and will never eat of a dead body that any other animal has killed.
A lion was once sleeping in a forest. A poor little mouse, that thought no harm, was playing about, and in one of his frisks ran against the lion, and awaked him. The lion, angry with being disturbed, and not knowing who had done it, put out his paw, and took up the mouse. The mouse was terribly frightened, and thought he was going to be killed in a moment. The life of a mouse is of quite as much value to him, as the life of a rhinoceros. But, when the lion looked at his victim, he could not find in his heart to hurt such a poor little fellow. He set him down very gently. The mouse scampered away as fast as he could, and was so overjoyed with his escape, that he had not time to say, Thank you! to the king of beasts.
A few days afterward, as the lion was prancing away, and amusing himself in the forest, he happened unawares to entangle himself in a large net that some sailors had spread, who wanted to catch a lion for king George, to be put into the Tower of London. When he felt his situation, he was full as much frightened as the mouse had been the other day. He struggled, and sprang, and tossed himself about, but all to no manner of purpose; he only made the business worse. He roared with terror, till all the forest rung with the sound.
The poor mouse, who was not far off, heard the noise, and knew the voice of the animal that had treated him so generously. He ran to examine what was the matter, and whether he could give any assistance. He presently saw how it was. A mouse, though so very little, is an extraordinary animal, and can gnaw through brick-walls. He set himself to gnaw the meshes of the net, and he was never tired till he had done his work. In two or three hours he had gnawed through so many threads, that the lion rose up, as free a beast as ever. The lion was inexpressibly astonished at his deliverance and his deliverer; and you may think how glad he was that he had behaved generously, when the mouse offended him, and woke him out of his sleep.
At Christmas you know the days are very short and the nights very long. Yet neither young people nor old want to sleep more at Christmas, than they do at Midsummer. Therefore they are obliged to employ and amuse themselves more in the house and less in the fields at Christmas than they do at Midsummer. This is the original reason of Christmas games, of puzzles, and riddles, and Do you know how to do what I can do? One of these games is, I can put the candle where every body in the room can see it, and you cannot: can you do that?
An old man was sitting by his fireside, while his children were amusing themselves with Christmas games. He did not appear to take any part in their amusements, though he listened to every thing that was going on. Christmas games are more properly the employment of young people than of old ones. At last he lifted up his head and said, One of you, bring me faggot of sticks from the woodhouse! Sam ran away, and fetched it in a moment. What do you want it for, father? said he. I am sure there is a very good fire.
You have all been telling your puzzles, said the father; now I will tell you one. Which of you can break this bundle of sticks? I can, said Sam; and I can, said Bob. For young people almost always think they can do every thing, before they have tried, or considered how it is to be done.
Put the bundle down, said the father, and let the youngest try first. William is too young; but I dare say Charles thinks he can manage it. They all tried from the youngest to the eldest. One lifted it up, and clapped it to his knee. Another put it on the ground, and put his knee to it; a third sat upon it; a fourth stamped upon it; a fifth proposed pinching it with the hinge of the door. We cannot do it, father, said they. Then I will, replied the old man.
Fetch me a knife! Oh, father, said Charles, you asked us to break the bundle of sticks, not to cut it. Be quiet, boy! said the old man.
The faggot was bound together with a sort of cord of withy. The old man cut this cord. The faggot immediately tumbled to pieces. He then took up the sticks, one by one, and broke them, as easily as you would crack a nut. The boys all laughed till they could not contain themselves. But the old man went on very gravely, till he had broken every stick in the faggot. What fools we were not to think of that way, said one, and said all.
Very true, my boys, answered the father. In almost all cases it is by wit more than by strength, that difficulties are conquered. He that works with his head, will accomplish his object with the tenth part of the toil, that another must employ, who has hands, but no head.
Two men, walking together on the beach of the sea, happened to spy an oyster. Aha! said one of them, look here, my friend! what a fine oyster! Both of them happened to be very fond of oysters; but your oyster-eaters say, an oyster is spoiled, if it is cut; and they had neither of them a knife. What was to be done? I cannot tell what two generous men would have done in such a case, but each of these men loved an oyster better than his friend. They both ran to take up the poor fish; they knocked their heads against each other, and were almost going to fight.
Come, come, said one, we will not go to blows about an oyster neither! That would be too foolish. The rule is, He that sees a God-send first, he is the man. In that case, said the first, the oyster is mine, for I showed it you. Do not pretend I am near-sighted neither, said the second; I have as good eyes as my neighbour. A long while before you spoke, I saw something lying on the beach, and was almost sure it was an oyster. They could not settle who saw it first.
They might have drawn lots, or tossed up a halfpenny, to see who should have the oyster. But they were grave gentlemen, and thought that was too childish a way to settle an affair of this importance.
As they were in the height of their dispute, a droll fellow happened to be coming along the beach, who lived in the same village. We will take Tom Smith to be judge, said one. Agreed, said the other. Tom came up, and they told him the story.
So you are determined to go to law before me for the oyster?
Silence the court! Who has got an oyster-knife?
They had neither got a knife. In their great hurry to eat the oyster, they forgot that they could not open it. Tom had got one.
Now, gentlemen, let me hear the pleadings on both sides: what have you to say for yourselves?
I spoke first! I saw it first! I have the best right! I have a better!
Tom opened the oyster. He looked at one of the claimants, and then at the other, and then at the oyster. It was a fine fat fellow as ever you saw. Nothing could be more tempting. Tom put it to his mouth, and swallowed it in a moment. He then with great gravity gave the two disputants each of them a shell. They stared.
You agreed to go to law for the oyster, said Tom. Did you never hear that people who go to law for something they dispute about, are often obliged to pay as much as it is worth in expences, and at last get nothing better than an oyster-shell for their pains?
So both the men laughed heartily at Tom's wit, and owned that he could not have decided better. He had got a fine oyster, and they had got a lessons at least as good as an oyster, by the bargain.
A boy had once a goose that laid him every day a golden egg. This must be one of Esop's geese; there are no such geese in our days.
I wonder what a golden egg would be worth. If it were all solid gold, it would be worth at least fifty pounds. Fifty pounds a day, is eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty pounds a year; so that this boy was tolerably rich.
Rich men are sometimes apt to be whimsical; it is no wonder therefore that a rich boy should have been so. What could he want to buy, that fifty pounds a day would not purchase? I suppose he wanted to buy a gold watch, and a gold-lace coat, and a gilded coach with six long-tailed horses; and was unhappy because he could not buy them all in one day.
If I had been the possessor of this extraordinary goose, I think I should have loved her very much. I never had a dog, or a cat, or any living creature, that I called my own, and that depended on me for its food, that I did not love, and take a great deal of care of. For this goose I would have inclosed a beautiful field with iron palisades for the goose to walk in, and have made a clear fish-pond in the middle of it for her to swim in. I would have made a nice warm shed for her to sleep in, with a fresh bed of clean straw every day. I would have fed her with the finest barley, and have given her plenty of geese, and ducks, and swans, if she liked it, to keep her company. I could have done no less, for the most profitable friend I had.
The silly boy I am telling you of did none of these things. I believe he took care that nobody should steal her. She had lived with him several years, and never failed of her egg a day; so that the ungrateful boy did not think himself at all obliged to her for what she brought him, and would have been very much out of temper with her, if she had once missed of her egg.
Well, this boy, as I was telling you, did not think fifty pounds a day enough, and was very unhappy that he had not got more. He wanted to have every thing at once. With such a quantity of money he was never used to be disappointed; and, when he had spent his fifty pounds in the morning, he was sure to see several things before night, that he wanted to buy, but he was so poor that he could not.
I am ashamed to tell you what this wicked boy did. I have already mentioned that he did not love his goose at all; and, though she did so much for him, he did not feel thankful to her. Would you believe, that he got a great knife, and he killed her?
You perverse ill-natured goose! said he, Why then did not you lay me two eggs a day? Why did you always keep me so poor?
As she brought him an egg every day, he thought he should find a great many eggs in her belly. There was not one. He found nothing but a little barley in her crop, which in time would have enabled her to lay more eggs.
The boy now was as poor as any of the poor beggar-boys you see in the streets. They were obliged to take him into the parish-workhouse that he might not be starved; and I cannot say that I greatly pity such an ungrateful, wicked boy.
Some school-boys were just come out of school. You cannot think what a noise they made. They seemed to be all talking at once. One snatched off another's hat, and ran away with it. A second jumped over his comrade's back. Some wrestled; some ran, and almost pushed one another down. They were all in high glee.
They presently came into a field. Some had bats and balls; some had marbles; and a few came to fly their paper-kites. In one corner of the field there was a pond, and by the side of the pond there was a number of frogs that were basking and amusing themselves. Poor harmless frogs! Why should not a frog be happy as well as a boy?
One inconsiderate boy caught up two or three stones, and began to throw them at the frogs. When one boy does a naughty thing, others are very apt to do the same. I will lay you a halfpenny, said one, that I can hit that large old one. I will hit that little skinny one in a corner, said a second, which is harder to do than yours.
Esop says, one of the frogs, seeing the cruel mischief that was going to happen, spoke to the boys. I rather think it was one good and humane boy that spoke to the rest. I will tell you however what was said.
Stop a minute, I beg of you, and consider what you are going to do. If you had one of the frogs in your hand, which I would not advise you to take, because I should be afraid you would hurt him, you would feel how his heart beats. What bright shining eyes he has got! What a vast way he jumps! How nimble he must be! God gave him his eyes, and his legs, and his joints, and his heart, and all his motions. If you threw a stone at me you might hurt me very much. But to throw it at a poor little frog! You might break one of his legs, or two, or dash out his brains. If you killed him, he could never take his pretty jumps any more, but would lay as still as the stone you have in your hand. If you broke his legs, he could not help himself, but would pine a day or two in misery, and then die. When you are laughing, always consider whether the same thing that makes you laugh, makes some other creature cry, or be miserable. None but a brute of a boy, who deserves to have every bone in his skin broken, would knowingly laugh at another's misery.
These boys were convinced, and all of them agreed that they would never more run the risk of breaking a frog's legs, or knocking out one of his eyes.
I am sorry to say, that boys are too apt to be cruel. They will sometimes throw stones at the pretty birds as they hop along in the hedge. But what I think is worst of all, is taking away the birds' nests, and thus making a mother miserable for the loss of all her young ones. A bird's nest is her home and all her happiness: what good can it do to you to disturb her? I hope, my dear Charles, I may depend upon you, that you will never do such things.
There is no living creature so small, not even the mites that live in a cheese, as not to be capable of feeling both pleasure and pain. It is a great pity that we cannot live without hurting any thing; but we cannot. The great fish eat the little ones; the great birds and beasts prey upon the small; even the little birds eat worms and flies; and we eat oxen and sheep and calves. When they are dead, we call them beef and mutton and veal, and are glad to forget that they were once alive.
It is very right to kill some creatures because they hurt us. It is not at all necessary that we should have our clothes full of fleas, or our houses full of rats and mice. Nobody but a fool would submit to these inconveniences, and have his house and every thing about him spoiled, because he would not consent that these creatures should be killed. If we did not kill the rats and mice, we should presently be in the situation of the king and queen in the story of Dick Whittington, who, as soon as their diner was set on the table, saw it devoured by these creatures, before they had time to touch a bit. Our rule therefore should be, never to kill any creature but in case of necessity, and never to be wicked enough to make sport to ourselves of other creatures' pain.
I day say you know why it happens that you can scarcely go into a house where you will not find a cat. The reason is because cats are very clever at catching the rats and mice. The greatest praise you can give to a cat, is to say that she is a good mouser.
There was once an old house that from the cellar to the garret abounded with mice. It had been a good, handsome house once, but now it was so old that nobody lived in it, and it was hired by some one for a store-house. In one part of it he put books, in another part blankets and drapery, and in another sacks full of corn. No part of this store was spared by the mice. They nibbled and tore the books, and gnawed the blankets, for their sport; and they dined every day plentifully on the gentleman's corn. He presently saw that he had better have no store, than have it all spoiled and devoured by the mice. He therefore brought a fine cat, that loved him very much, and that he had taken great care of ever since she was a kitten; and left her to catch the mice. The cat understood her business very well; the mice had no apprehension of an enemy; and an immense number of them were killed.
Those that were left alive began to perceive their situation, and kept close in their holes, where the cat could not follow them. They wished now that they had let alone the gentleman's books and blankets, and had fed more sparingly on the corn. Perhaps then he would not have brought his cat into the house. They dared not stir, night or day. They thought the cat was always awake. They sleep of a cat is very light, and the smell of a mouse will make her jump up and run at any time. They were almost starved to death.
At length they got all together in some corner, out of the cat's reach, with the intention to consult what they should do. This meeting was nothing like what their meetings had been before the cat came. Then they had all of them their bellies full, and were merry, and capered and frisked about like mad things. Now every one was hungry and melancholy. Half their numbers were missing; fathers and mothers and children had all fallen a prey to the terrible cat. Some remedy was grievously wanting against the attacks of the furious wild beast. But the wisest mouse among them could not tell what remedy to recommend.
While the old ones sat mute with doubt and alarm, a pert young mouse said he had thought of an expedient that would exactly do. Perhaps, said he, none of you have considered the case so closely as I have. If you do but recollect, you will find that even a cat can be in only one room of this large house at a time, and that all the difficulty is to know which room that shall happen to be. A mouse has as many legs as a cat; and we could presently get out of her reach, if we did but know when she was coming. But the misfortune is, that she creeps along slily, and is upon us in a minute, when we are thinking nothing of the matter. Now my advice is, that we should get one of those little hollow bells, that children sometimes hang to the neck of a kitten, and fasten it upon this cat, and then I defy her to creep so slowly, but that this bell shall go tingle, tingle, every step she takes.
All the young mice were in admiration at the wise speech of their play-fellow. They agreed that he was a mouse of genius, and a great benefactor to the whole community of mice. What happy days they should pass, when the bell was once hung about the cat's neck! They should laugh at their old enemy, and might peep out, and then scamper away, before she could catch them.
As soon as silence was made, the oldest mouse of the company begged to be heard. He said that the speech of his pert young friend was a very wise speech indeed! The expedient he had hit upon was excellent, and it was impossible to make more than one objection to it. That was, who should hang the bell upon the cat's neck? But, as they had the happiness to have one mouse among them of so great wisdom, perhaps they might have another not inferior in courage, who would do the feat that the young gentleman had recommended.
The young mice saw that the old one was laughing at them, and he that had made the speech, was so ashamed, that he slunk away to his hole. At last I believe they agreed that the best thing they could do, was for all of them to go away, and look out for some other house, that was not guarded by so ferocious a cat.
In the pictures in your book of London Cries, you will see that some of the hawkers carry their wares in baskets upon their heads. There is the fruit-man, Buy my strawberries! fine, scarlet strawberries! and the fish-man, Buy my lobsters! buy my pickled salmon! I have often wondered that, as they walk careless and merry along the streets, their baskets do not topple off upon the pavement. The milk-maids sometimes carry their pails of milk in the same manner; and this I am told is much more common in France than it is in England.
A country-girl was once walking with her pail-full of milk upon her head: I suppose she was a French girl. She was generally as merry as a cricket; you never saw a creature with such life and spirits. She was always chattering, and her chatter was extremely diverting to almost every body that heard it, because she was very good-natured. The only person that sometimes was not diverted with it was her mother, because this merry disposition of the girl continually made her forget something that her mother had told her to do. The mother was a very good, but a very poor woman; with a great deal of care she saved enough in the week to buy them a Sunday's dinner, and with a great deal of hard work she made their little room as clean as a penny to eat it in. The girl very cheerfully helped her mother in all this; she rubbed and scrubbed as well as the best. But then, as I told you, she was so thoughtless; she lost one thing, she broke another, she tore her shift, and forgot to buy capers to the mutton. You will be surprised when I tell you that this faulty girl was as tall as a woman: her mother was quite ashamed of her. You are sometimes thoughtless now; but I am sure you will cure yourself soon, and when you are sixteen or twenty, will be the most considerate creature in the world.
The mother had tried a hundred ways to cure her. Sometimes she scolded the girl, and then the girl cried bitterly, for she could not bear that her mother should be angry with her. Sometimes the mother cried too, and said gently, Now, Phillis, you have broken the dish that should hold our Sunday's dinner: indeed you will ruin me by your carelessness! They had nothing to live upon but the profits of the milk of one pretty cow, which they carried every day and sold at the market-town.
At last the mother thought that, if she gave the girl something of her own, she would learn to take care of that. So she said, Phillis, if you will be a good girl all this week, you shall have Saturday's pail of milk to yourself, and all that it sells for shall be your own. The girl was very proud of this proposal, and thought it would be so womanly to go to market with something she could call her own; she tried to be very good. One morning she forgot to take off the cream, before she drew the milk from the leads to carry it to sell, but, as this was the only fault she committed in the whole week, her mother forgave her.
Saturday came, and you may now see Phillis with a pail of milk on her head that was all her own. Now, said Phillis to herself, I will be the most careful and thrifty creature that was ever heard of. Every body shall be surprised, and say, Is this our Phillis? You cannot think how rich I will grow! Let me see! This pail of milk will bring me in a matter of five shillings. I will lay out all of my money in eggs. At a penny a piece I shall have sixty eggs. These eggs I will hatch, and they will bring me so many chickens. I do not know whether Phillis had thought of how she was to hatch them.
It will be very hard, said she, if these sixty eggs will not produce me at least forty chickens. My chickens at only a shilling a piece will fetch me two pounds; and two pounds will buy me a sow. With this sow I shall have a fine litter of pigs, which I shall fat for almost nothing. The money that I shall sell my sow and pigs for, will buy me a cow, and this cow will have a calf. What a pretty calf it will be! I have no doubt it will love me very much, and will come jumping along the field to kiss me every time it sees me.
Phillis was so pleased with the notion of the pretty calf jumping along the meadow to meet her, and then holding up its sweet mouth for a kiss, that she quite forgot the pail of milk, and could not help jumping herself at the thought. Down came the pail in a moment; the milk ran in twenty streams on the ground, and away swam the eggs, and the chickens, and the sow, and the cow with her pretty calf, that Phillis had been thinking of with so much delight.
This was a lesson to poor Phillis, that she never forgot; the next time she had a pail of milk to her own share she never offered to jump; but I am not sure that she made quite so large a profit of it, as we have seen her put together in her castle in the air.
A poor farmer once came to the house of a rich justice of the peace. Having told the servant at the door that he had something of importance to communicate, he was led through a lane of five or six footmen, by several parlours, into the drawing-room where his worship was sitting. The justice, who fed every day upon turbo and venison, was very ill of the gout, reclining on his elbow chair, and with his foot supported upon a velvet cushion in great pain. The farmer, who had a great deal of work, and no superfluity of provisions, had not a pain or an ache about him. The farmer pulled off his hat, scraped his foot upon the floor, and stood very humbly at the further end of a long table.
Well, fellow, said that justice, what dost come to me about?
An please your worship, said the farmer, I have a sad story to tell.
Hah! you have always sad stories to tell. You little farmers are for ever falling out among yourselves, and then you come and plague me with your quarrels.
But this is all between me and your worship. I have an unlucky bullock that is for ever breaking out of pasture, and now he has got into your worship's best field of corn, and has spoiled a matter of half an acre. Now I want to know what you would have me do in the case.
Well, said the justice, I cannot but say that thou art an honest fellow, to come and tell me of it thyself: and, as that is the case, I shall merely send my bailiff to look at the waste, and what he says it comes to, thou must pay. I shall beside expect, as thou saist that thy bullock is an unlucky one, and for ever breaking out of pasture, that thou shalt kill him immediately.
Bless your honour! said the farmer; what was I saying? I have only two or three harmless cows in the world. No; it is your honour's famous red bull, that frightens all the children, and that neither locks nor bars can confine, that has broken into my corn, and terrible work he has made of it. To be sure I thought I was ruined. But, being as how your worship talks of sending your bailiff to see what the damage comes to, and killing the bull immediately, why I am satisfied, and I humbly thank you.
The justice was terribly ashamed of himself. If the farmer had said at first that it was the justice's bull that had done all the mischief, I am afraid he would have set a very different face on it. But he thought he could not sit there as a justice, and say that there was one rule for a rich man, and another for a poor one. So he sent his bailiff, and paid the waste, and the poor man was contented with this, and excused his worship from killing the bull.
When the farmer went home, he did not half like what he had done. Says he to his wife, Meg, I have told a sort of a lie, and this money will never prosper with us. I will carry it to the church-porch, and have it laid out in bread for the poor in the work-house; and another time I will rather stand by the loss of half a field of corn, than not tell the honest truth at once.
An ass is a very useful and a very patient animal; one would have expected therefore that every body would have thought of him with respect. To be sure he is not half so handsome as a horse, and his coat is apt to be ragged; but, poor fellow! he cannot help that. The only noise he is able to make is called braying, and you never heard a noise more contemptible and disagreeable. But the worst of him is that he is very slow and awkward in his motions; whatever you do, my dear child, take care not to be slow and awkward in going about it.
A poor ass had long been the sport of all the boys in a village; they shouted and hooted after him, and frightened the poor creature very much; they sometimes beat him and threw stones at him; for vulgar and ragged boys are apt to be cruel, they have never been taught any better; then the ass ran and galloped away from them as fast as he could. All this happened in a country where lions live; I suppose in Africa.
One day this poor ass came to a place when he saw a lion's skin lying on the ground. How I wish I were a lion! thought the ass. Then, instead of these naughty boys frightening me, I should be able to frighten them. Sometimes they have thrown an unlucky stone, which has made me lame for several days; but, if I were a lion, I would not hurt them, I would only terrify them soundly.
Thinking thus, the ass turned over the lion's skin: it was a very fine one. It would make a nice, warm coat for me, thought the ass: and with no more ado he began to put it on. He rolled himself up very snug in it, and pulled down the skin of the lion's head over his face. He then looked at himself in the river. I am vastly like a lion, thought the ass: I dare say I can make my tormentors think I am one; they are only silly boys. So away he went to try.
The ass, quite proud of the new appearance he had put on, trotted along toward the village. Presently he came to where some boys were playing at marbles. To be sure the trotting of an ass is not very much like the port of a lion; but the boys were much too frightened to observe that. They thought they should be eaten all up in a moment. They screamed; and, in their hurry to get away tumbled over one another. They then got up and ran; and away trotted the ass after them.
This succeeded wonderfully well the first day, and the ass was delighted to terrify these naughty boys, who had so richly deserved it. The next day he came again; but he thought the boys did not run so fast as they had done before. He knew that the most alarming thing even in a lion is his tremendous roarings, and he determined to roar too. So he opened his mouth as fiercely as he could; but, alas! instead of a roar, there came out nothing but a bray. It was so loud a bray, that all the fields resounded with it. The boys were astonished. One or two of the boldest stopped, and began to look suspiciously at the pursuer. When any body pretends to be what he is not, if you stop to examine him, it is all over. Aha! Mr. Donkey, said they, is it you all this while? A cheat! A cheat! Cheats are always found out.
The boys however somehow came to know, that, if the ass had happened to be a lion in reality, he had determined not to hurt a bone in their skin; and they resolved not to teaze him any more. They sometimes rode upon him, when their father wanted any thing from the market-town; but they did not disturb him when he was feeding. And now, instead of running away the moment they came in sight, he would trot to meet them, would rub his head against them to tell them how much he loved them, and would eat the thistles and the oats out of their hand: was not that pretty?
A Daw is a bird all over black, and builds its nest principally on the tops of churches and old houses. It can be taught to speak, to say What's o'clock? and two or three silly phrases, for the sake of which some naughty people, instead of letting him spread his wings and fly through the air, shut him up in a cage, that he may amuse them with his conversation.
I do not know that a daw is either handsome or ugly; and indeed we scarcely ever call any one ugly, unless he puts on fantastical airs, and seems to say, Bless me, how handsome I am! A cobbler is thought very good company among cobblers, though perhaps he would not be called so among lords: a daw is very good company among daws, though he would not be admitted into the society of peacocks. There is nobody so ignorant or so plain, but he may find a society of his own, where, if he will be obliging and good-natured, he may be very happy.
The daw I am going to tell you of, was a good-natured, merry fellow, and the other daws liked him, and thought him clever. But, foolish daw that he was, he was not contented. In one of his flights, he happened to alight in the middle of a ménagerie of peacocks. What beautiful birds are these! thought he. Their colours, green and purple and gold, seem almost to outshine the sun. Look at that peacock with his tail spread in a complete circle! I think I never saw so fine a sight. How I wish I were a peacock! I can talk English, and do several things that a peacock cannot do; and I think I should be every bit as fine a bird, if I had but his feathers.
While the daw was thus muttering to himself, he saw a number of peacock's feathers, scattered on the ground. The thought immediately came into his head that he would try to be as fine as a peacock. Just at this moment the master of the ménagerie called his birds into a little inclosure, that he might give them their breakfast. The daw was left alone. He looked again at the feathers on the ground, and suddenly began to snatch them up, and dress himself as well as he could. There was a pond in the middle of the ménagerie, that served him for a looking-glass. By the time the peacocks had finished their breakfast, he thought himself as fine as the best of them.
They came back, and he began to strut away, and show his gold-faced clothes. The peacocks did not at first know what to make of it; they thought him an odd sort of bird. What's o'clock? said the daw. They were then very sure he was not a peacock. A peacock has a graceful winding motion with his neck, by which he shows off his beautiful colours, that are even handsomer than those of his tail. The daw tried to do that; you cannot think what a hand he made of it. It would be just the same, if a ploughman dressed himself up like a lord. The moment he said, What's o'clock? every body would perceive that he was not a nobleman; and, when he began to make his congées, it would be impossible to help laughing.
The peacocks, when they saw what was the case, began to be very angry. They resolved to punish the daw severely for his impudence and intrusion. Accordingly, they not only plucked from him, as completely as they could, the borrowed feathers, which he had no right to, but gave him a very hard beating with their beaks. They then hooted and squalled him out of their company.
The daw, heartily ashamed of his misfortune, flew back to his brother-daws, determined not to discover to any body what had happened. But unluckily a few feathers of the peacocks still stuck about him, and his companions, knowing what a coxcomb he was, soon guessed the whole. They used him as ill as the peacocks had done, and resolved that a daw, who was ashamed of what nature and fortune had made him, should be no companion for them. They did not forgive him, till he showed strong tokens of repentance, and that he was determined never again to be proud, of what he ought to take off every night when he went to bed.
There was once a very snarling, ill-natured dog, that nobody would suffer to live in his house. When he had a master, he would snap at and bite the children of the family, though they did not teaze him at all, and would do a hundred other naughty tricks. Several masters tried him, but all grew tired, and one after another turned him out of doors. The poor dog now had nothing to eat, and was almost starved.
A gentleman who saw him in this condition, when he seemed scarcely able to drag one leg after another, took pity upon him. He knew what a naughty dog he had been; but he did not think that even naughty folks should be quite starved to death. He therefore threw him a pretty large piece of flank of beef. The dog instead of seeming thankful to the gentleman, looked very fiercely at him, growled extremely, and then snatched up the meat.
Any other dog, that had been so hungry, would have begun to satisfy his appetite immediately: but this cur, like the dog in the manger you have read of, was always more eager to spoil other people's pleasures, than to enjoy his own. He was afraid that any dog should catch a bit of his prize. He limped away with it, and, though very weak, went further than the gentleman thought had been possible. Every two or three yards he looked round to see whether any dog was following him; but there was no one near.
Presently he came to a river, with a little foot-bridge over it. The dog got on the bridge. As he was going along, he happened to look into the water, and saw his own shadow, with the piece of meat in his mouth. He had been thinking of nothing but the fear of other dogs getting a bit of his beef, and he immediately believed that what he saw was another dog with another piece of meat. His ill-temper would not give him time to consider that what he looked at was water, and that there could not be a dog at the bottom of the water, holding his face up to the sky. I will be hanged, said he to himself, if that dog has not got a larger piece of meat than I have. And no sooner did he persuade himself of that, than he opened his mouth to snap at the piece he saw. His own piece sunk to the bottom of the river. There was the other dog still, but with no piece of meat in his mouth, and looking as surly and discontented as he did.
I do not know whether this dog ever became very good; but he certainly remembered a long while that ill-nature is not the best means of gaining even what the ill-natured person has in view. The next time the kind-hearted gentleman gave him a piece of flank of beef, he took it a little more thankfully, and ate it upon the spot, without thinking it necessary to run away with it into a forest.
A wolf is a beast of prey; and beasts of prey, like savage men in the woods, must endure to be very hungry and half-starved, when they happen not to meet with creatures fit for them to eat. Yet savages and beasts of prey have their pleasures; they are stronger, and more dextrous in their motions, than the civilized and the tame.
A lean and hungry wolf happened to take his way near a village, when suddenly, on turning a corner of the road, he met a plump, well-fed mastiff. The two animals looked a little fiercely at each other at first, but the wolf suspected that the dog was stronger than he, and the dog did not perceive that the wolf was about any harm. So they fell into a little familiar chat.
Said the wolf to the dog, We are animals originally of the same class, only with a little difference in our education.
So, I understand, says the dog, Dr. Mavor observes in his Natural History.
Then why, pray, answered the wolf, should we ever quarrel with each other? And so saying, they jogged along the road together.
Said the wolf to the dog, How fat and sleek you are! You really do credit to your diet.
The simple dog replied, I am sorry I cannot return the compliment.
How do you contrive it? asked the wolf.
I live, said the dog, with an honest farmer, who takes great care of me.
Aha! answered the wolf, do not you think your farmer would take care of me too?
I dare say he might, said the dog, as you say you are the same sort of creature that I am.
And what do you do for your living?
Nothing but what is very easy. I bark, to frighten away idle people and thieves; I fawn upon my master, and behave civilly to all the family.
I have no objection to all that, said the wolf; so, if you will introduce me to the farmer, and convince him how willing a servant he shall find me, you and I will be comrades for the rest of our lives.
Agreed! replied the dog.
Saying this, they trotted along together, and were now got more than half-way to the farmer's house, when the wolf happening to take another look at his new friend, said, Cousin, what is the matter with your neck? The hair seems to be worn away quite in a circle.
The mastiff hung his head. He knew what a free and high-spirited creature a wolf is, and he wished to change the conversation. No great matter, said the mastiff: nothing at all.
Nay, replied the wolf, we are talking now upon friendly terms, and I must intreat you to conceal nothing from me.
Why, said the dog, I dare say it is nothing but the mark of the collar which my master puts round my neck when he chains me up.
Chains you up!
Yes, he generally chains me up in the day time, that I may be more fierce of nights. Sometimes I am so foolish as to be tired of my chain; and then I struggle to get loose, and howl most dismally; and then my master comes with a great club, and gives me a sound beating to make me quiet. But he gives me excellent meat every day, and as much as I can eat.
Good morning, cousin! said the wolf: I have no wish to be introduced to your kind master, the farmer. It is true I am sometimes very hungry, as I happen to be just now. But hunger shall never make me so slavish and base, as to prefer chains and blows with a belly-full, to my liberty.
In the last fable the wolf appears to advantage, and I cannot say but that I should be disposed to be of his mind. A wolf however is a very terrible animal, and eats lambs and sheep and even little children. Thank God, there are no wolves in England!
A creature who is very hungry, and wants to eat you, will not stay to ask you a great many questions; and, if he does, I suppose will not listen very good-naturedly to your answers.
One of Esop's wolves however, that I am now going to tell you about, was of a humour to talk to his prey, and never to play the tyrant, without producing an argument to prove that it was reasonable to do so. This wolf happened to be thirsty, and went to the stream to drink. A little lower down the stream there was a pretty lamb, that, like little Red-Riding-Hood in the story-book, did not know it was dangerous to stay and hear a wolf talk, that was drinking at the same time.
The wolf looked very fiercely at the lamb, and longed to eat him up. You little knave, said the wolf, how dare you put in your nose there, and make the water all muddy that comes to me to drink!
I cannot muddy the water for you, replied the lamb, for, look you! I am lower down the stream, and the water comes from you to me.
Now I think of it, sir, said the wolf, what a pretty character that was you gave of me six months ago! How dared you say that I was a fierce animal, and fond of mutton? Now you shall suffer for your impertinence.
Indeed, answered the lamb, it could not be I; for six months ago I was not born.
If it was not you, it was your brother.
Upon my honour, I never had a brother.
A pretty fellow you are, said the wolf, to stand contradicting me thus! Know, that nobody shall say the opposite of what I say, but he shall die for his presumption.
The wolf then, almost beside himself with anger, flew at the lamb; and, if the shepherd to whom the lamb belonged had not come up at the instant, and sent the wolf growling away, the poor little creature would not have had another minute to live. So it is in this world, according to the proverb, that might sometimes overcomes right.
A young mouse, whose mother was very careful of her, was desirous of going abroad, and seeing the world. Dear mamma, said she, I do not like to be always, as they call it, tied to your apron-string. I have as many legs as either you or my father, and can run extremely fast. I have a very clear eye-sight, and shall know how to make a good use of it. Now do let me walk out quite by myself this fine morning.
Your inclination, replied the old mouse, is very commendable. Young people should learn to take care of themselves, and not always want a nurse or a servant at their elbow. But you are so inexperienced and so ignorant, I shall have a thousand fears about you. The carts may run over you, or the horses may trample you to death. Mice have so many enemies in the world!
Oh, never be afraid for me, mamma! said the young one. You shall see that I will be as quick as a hawk to discover danger, and shall always be wise enough to distinguish a friend from a foe.
Notwithstanding all that the young mouse said, his mamma could not help feeling a thousand terrors for her darling. Good bye, mamma! said the little one; you may depend upon seeing me in two hours at furthest. Good bye, my love! said the mother. Remember all I have said to you! take care of yourself!
In less than half an hour the young mouse came running back, out of breath, and all the bristles of her back standing upright with terror.
What is the matter, my dear? said her mamma. I am so glad to see you again.
Give me a minute to take breath, and I will tell you.
I am afraid you have been running heedlessly into some danger, said the old mouse, shaking her head.
Indeed but I have not, mamma! When you have heard all I have to say, you will think I have acted like a wise young mouse as I am.
After having gone through two or three fields, and looked at the daisies and butter-cups, and the cows and the ditches, I turned into John Stump's farm-yard hard by. There I examined the hogs and the dogs and the logs, and the ploughs and the rakes, that I might gain experience and know something of the world.
While I was thus engaged I spied a terrible creature on a dunghill, whom I presently knew for an enemy. I cannot tell the name of this creature; but, if I describe it to you, perhaps you can. It had got a strange piece of flesh, as red as blood, growing on the top of its head, and another, of the same colour, growing under its chin. It flapped its immensely large wings, that seemed to me like the sails of a wind-mill, and then it opened its mouth so wide, that I thought it would eat me up in a moment. Presently came out of its mouth a scream so loud and shrill, that it made every bone in my skin tremble, and I scampered away as fast as I could, and here I am safe.
It was unlucky that this should have happened just as it did, for at that very moment I saw another creature, in a part of the farm-yard not far from me, that I fell in love with at first sight. This creature was in shape not unlike a mouse, but six or seven times as big. It had a coat soft like ours, but beautifully brindled, black and grey. But what I particularly remarked was that, whereas the gentleman with the blood-coloured crest looked so savage and terrible, this gentle animal had the softest and modestest way of looking I ever beheld. The creature fixed its eyes upon me, and I believe was going to speak to me. But just then Mr. Redcrest set up his terrible squall, and I was obliged to take to my heels.
My dear child, said the old mouse, every word you speak alarms me more than the word before. The animal with the blood-coloured crest that you ran away from, is a cock, and is one of the most harmless and good-tempered creatures in the world. The other animal that took your fancy so much, and that you fell in love with at first sight, is a cat, an implacable enemy to the whole generation of mice, and that will sometimes murder twenty of us in a morning. If she had come one step nearer to you, I should never, never have seen my darling again. From this you may see how very necessary a thing experience is, how much young people should mistrust their own judgments, and how foolish a creature he is who yields an implicit confidence to appearances.
The young mouse, after this lesson, grew much more attentive to what her mamma said, and her mamma in consequence loved her more tenderly than ever.
A mail-coach one hot summer's day was travelling along a very dusty road. There were several passengers all in a great hurry to get to their journey's end, and the coach drove very fast. There was a clergyman going to preach his probation sermon the next day: there was a lawyer hastening to settle who had the best right to a great estate: and there was a young couple in a hurry to be married. Beside this, there was a bag of letters, some on very urgent business, and some inclosing bank-notes to a considerable amount. So that, you see, what this coach carried was all together of some importance.
In the coach among the passengers was a fly. Nobody observed this fly; he sometimes sat upon a gentleman's hat, and sometimes upon a lady's handkerchief, and sometimes in the shade upon the lining of the coach. But the fly was in his own judgment of more importance than all the rest; indeed he had so high a conceit of himself, that he absolutely forgot there was any body else in the coach. He thought it a very nice thing to travel so fast without feeling fatigued, and he was in as great a hurry to get to London, which he had never seen, as any of the human passengers.
It happened as they drove along at a great rate, that a large school of little gentlemen and ladies was walking along the causeway. It was a holiday; they had all been very good; they were dressed in their best clothes; and their school-mistress was taking them to a nice dairy-house, to treat them with syllabub and cheese-cakes. As the coach drove by, the wind set full in their faces, and the poor children were almost blinded with the dust. The fly looked on very attentively at all that was passing.
Upon my word, said the fly, I am very sorry for those children. I am quite grieved that I should incommode them thus. If I had not been so extremely in a hurry, I would really have desired the coachman to stop, till they were past. But a person of my consequence cannot pass through the world, however excellent his intentions may be, without frequently occasioning inconvenience to his inferiors.
A pretty butterfly, who heard this self-conceited speech, could not help rebuking this coxcomb fly. You insignificant little insect, do you think any body here knows any thing about you? I dared not come into the coach, till I saw that there were no children in it, because nature has thought proper to adorn me with brilliant colours, which often bring on my ruin from naughty boys and girls who do not recollect that a butterfly can feel. But you may go through the world, unnoticed by any body, unless it be by a spider. Do you think the coach goes one step the faster of slower, because we are in it? Take my word for it, my friend, that the most ridiculous creature in the universe, is he who entertains a big imagination of his own importance, that no one ever dreamed of but himself.
The fly was so ashamed at this just rebuke from his brother-insect, that he crept into a crevice made by a corner of the worsted-binding of the coach, and never showed himself any more, till he smelled the butcher's shambles in Whitechapel, as he entered London from the east. He then roused himself from his hiding-place, and flew away to his dinner.
The fables of the belly and the members was invented by an old Roman, who lived two thousand three hundred years ago. Latium, of which Rome was the capital, was then a country of barbarians, who had no better way of marking the beginning of a new year than by driving a great nail into the church-door, which the chief magistrate did in great ceremony, attended by all his officers. The fable of this grey-bearded savage, who could neither read nor write, is very unlike most other fables, but it is very entertaining, and has a great deal of good sense in it; and therefore I will tell it to you.
Once upon a time the members of the human body fell out with the belly, and declared they would no longer have any correspondence with her. They complained that she set them all to work, and never did any thing herself: the legs would no longer walk to fetch her meat, the eyes refused to look for it, the hands to lift it to the mouth, the tongue to taste, and the teeth to chew it. By this general conspiracy, said they, we shall speedily bring her to reason, and teach her of how much importance we are, and how useless she.
The belly was in a pitiful taking; all her servants refused to do any thing for her; and she was quite unable to help herself. She became lank and shrivelled, and her ribs almost forced their way through the skin. Now you will think the members triumphed.
The belly is not so unimportant a part of the human figure as the members supposed. She foresaw very well how this conspiracy would end; she watched her time; she sat still, and said nothing.
The members were surprised, when they saw that they all suffered in the misfortunes of the belly. They grew lean and feeble, as she grew so. The legs at first refused to walk; they were now unable to do it; they tottered, and could not keep themselves in a firm and steady position. The fingers had grown cold and stiff; the eyes were glazed and could not distinguish objects; the tongue could not speak, and the jaws were almost locked. All was now tame, and they were willing to hear reason even from the belly that they had despised.
What fools you were, said she, to think you could go on without my aid! Learn henceforth that it is not always that which makes the greatest show that is of the most real use. Scavengers and shoeblacks have their value in a great city, and ought not to be reviled. My office is ignoble, and I do not pretend to vie with the more glorious members of the body; yet without my services the tongue cannot utter that eloquence which has converted senates, the hands cannot rescue the miserable from destruction, nor the head invent those sciences and arts which raise the human, so far above the brute creation. You thought I did nothing, but you were mistaken. Within my quiet house, where every thing seems so still, goes on the great operation of digestion, by means of which the food that is put into the mouth, is turned to animal substance, and is then conveyed to the different members to maintain them all in health and activity. Come, my friends, let us return to the agreement and kindness in which we have been accustomed to live. It is not yet too late. Feet, you can yet creep a little way, far enough to find some food: hands, you are not so weak but you can grasp it, and carry it to the mouth: teeth, you must resume your office, to chew it well; otherwise it will stick fast in the throat, feeble as the power of swallowing now is, and death will be the consequence.
The members listened to the prudent advice of the belly. They took a slender and a sparing meal, and were refreshed; the next time less caution was necessary. In a few days the health of the whole was restored, and all the members were as vigorous as ever; and they never after forgot the useful lesson which dire necessity had thus taught them.
The sun and the wind once had a dispute which of the two was the most powerful.
The wind, said, Do you pretend to compare with me? Do not I tear up the tallest trees by the roots? Do not I level palaces and towers in the dust? Do not I raise the ocean into combustion, swell the billows to the size of mountains, and send whole fleets of ships, with all their crews, to a watry grave?
I grant, replied the sun, these are formidable powers; but they do not equal mine. I open the buds and the flowers, to make glad the heart of man. I cause the grass to grow. Every thing that you see through the whole world, that possesses either vegetable or animal life, owes its health and prosperity to me: were my life-giving influence withdrawn, they would all perish.
As the disputants were in the height of their argument, a traveller happened to pass along, with a large cloak wrapped about his shoulders. His path lay across a vast plain, where there was neither house nor tree that could shelter him from the inclemencies of the weather. The sun and the wind both agreed to settle their dispute by a trial on this traveller, which of them could first make him part with his cloak.
The wind began with a terrible puff, that tore away the traveller's cloak from one of his arms, and was near carrying it a mile from him upon the plain. He however recovered his hold, and drew it closely round him. The heavens were now entirely darkened with clouds. The day was turned into night. The wind raved so, that, if the traveller had had a companion instead of being alone, they could not have heard one another speak. He could scarcely keep his feet, or get forward one step; and he almost thought that he must lie down upon the ground, to preserve himself from the violence of the storm. The wind besides called to his assistance the rain, the hail, and the thunder: I do not know whether that was quite fair. The traveller had a terrible time of it: but, for all that the wind could do, he only hugged his cloak the closer about him.
It was now the sun's turn to try. He burst out with his refulgent rays, and the clouds were scattered in a moment. Every thing was refreshed. The flowers seemed to smile; the beasts returned to their pasture; and the soft droppings from a few scattered bushes were inexpressibly agreeable. The drops glittered in the sunshine. As the sun however was determined to do his utmost, he made his beams hotter and hotter; till the traveller, who was at first exhilarated with his brightness, began to pant and sweat with the sultriness of the season. He loosed some of his buttons to relieve himself, and threw his cloak wide open. At last however he could bear it no longer; he cast it from him upon the ground; he sat down upon it, to try to cool himself; and the sun was decisively the victor in the strife.
Learn from this, said the sun to his blustering competitor, that soft and gentle means will often accomplish what force and fury may in vain try to effect.
From this time the sun was always admitted to precedence over the wind, and Apollo, the charioteer of this great luminary, ranked among the Heathen Gods far before Eolus, the ruler of the tempests.
A conceited young frog gave a great deal of trouble to his mamma, by pretending on all occasions that he could do any thing he had a mind to do. I do not much dislike your notion, said his mother, if you would put more consideration and sobriety into your way of thinking about it. Ambition and industry, when directed to a good end, are excellent qualities, and will effect wonders. Yet all power has its limits. Man is perhaps a still more extraordinary creature than a frog; let us see what he can do! With ambition and industry perhaps almost every man may make himself a good farmer, a good sailor, a good soldier, a good surgeon, and excel in almost any employment or pursuit; but I question whether he can climb to the moon, or carry away the north-star in his waistcoat-pocket. And in the foolish way in which you set about it, my child, without persevering ambition or industry, and only saying off-hand, I will do it, he can achieve nothing that is worth doing.
The foolish young frog did not heed what his mother said, but went on in his empty, bragging manner. I question whether, if he had heard Viotti playing on the fiddle, he would not have said, give me hold of it, and I will fetch out of the strings in a minute as miraculous music as you do. What I am going to tell you of him was quite as silly as this.
The young frog and his mamma were once basking in the shade on a beautiful summer's day. Near them in the same field a remarkably fine ox was feeding upon the grass.
What an admirable creature that is! said the mother.
Do you think he is as handsome as I am? answered the young frog.
Handsomer, said the mother. Not to mention his beautiful dappled marks of reddish brown and snowy white, and the sleekness of his skin, so expressive of health and vigour, there is something in size itself, when united with exquisite colours and forms, which affords great delight to the beholder. Size is expressive of power; this ox looks like the monarch of the plains; yet there is something so gentle and sweet in his temper, that one reverences without fearing him.
Oh, as for that, said the young frog, I will show you that I can be as big as an ox in a minute.
Consider, my dear child, said the mother, what you are doing! Recollect what I have so often said to you!
I do not remember at this moment what you mean, answered the young frog. But I will ask you all about it to-morrow.
So saying, he began to hold his breath, and puff himself up as much as he could. The skin of the frog is very wrinkled, and he really enlarged himself to almost twice his natural size.
He could not speak, without letting out his breath, and sinking to his natural figure.
Was not I then as big as the ox? said he.
Not the hundredth part of his size, answered the mother.
He tried again, and held his breath so long that I really believe he was a quarter of an inch bigger round than the first time.
What do you think of that, mamma? said he.
Not the fiftieth part, replied the mother.
I will try again. You accused me just now of wanting perseverance.
In the midst of his third trial, the ox was looking for some fresh grass, and, not observing so diminutive an animal, had like to have trod him to death with one of his hoofs. The young frog, thoroughly frightened, let go his breath, and scampered away in a trice; and I believe he never after talked of making himself as big as an ox.
The horse was once a free and a noble creature, and galloped about the forests just as his fancy prompted him, without carrying another creature upon his back. In days of yore, when man lived upon acorns and roots, and had neither coach-house nor stable belonging to him, the horse was equally unacquainted with the saddle, the bridle, the whip, and the spur.
In these happy times (happy for the poor horses), when they had nothing to do, but to prance along the plains, and neigh to their gamesome mates, a horse once got into a quarrel with a stag. It began in play, as the quarrels of children are apt to do; the horse tossed his head wantonly to the stag, and the stag did the same in return. But the stag had horns, and the horse had none; so the stag, without thinking any harm, gored the horse in his beautiful neck, and the blood began to gush out in a stream. The horse did not like to see his blood trickle upon the ground, and the wound smarted a good deal. The good-natured stag was very sorry, but the horse did not care; he declared that one way or other he would be even with him.
The horse was a long while considering how he should accomplish his revenge. His perplexity was not, as I have read in some book, that he could not overtake the stag; for I doubt whether his taking a man upon his back, which was the scheme he thought of, would at all have increased his power of doing that. But he was no way superior to the stag he quarrelled with in weapons of offence, and his want of horns made him sure that he should be the loser in a battle.
At last, as I was saying, the horse applied to man for his assistance. I know, observed the horse, that there is no food that pleases the human palate so much as venison; but you can but seldom get it. Your feet cannot run so fast as the deer; mine can; but that is all I can do. When I have overtaken him, he only turns about and tosses his head at me. I know a stag that I am sure would be the finest eating in the world, and he has given me an affront. Perhaps we could find a plan, by joining my swiftness and your skill together, of humbling this proud fellow in the dust.
I can easily tell how that may be done, said the man, provided you will listen to me, and do as I would have you. The horse consented; and the man, having put a bridle upon him, with a bit in his mouth, leaped upon his back, and rode away in search of the stag. They presently found him.
It was now quite a different affair for the poor stag, from what it had been when the horse and he played together in the forest. Several of the stag's relations had been gored by the spear of the man already, when the hunters lay in wait for them, concealed behind a tree or a hedge; their dependence then, if they were not taken by surprise, was upon the superior swiftness of their feet; but now that the poor stag saw the hunter mounted upon the back of the horse, and the terrible spear ready grasped in his hand, his heart sunk within him. What he could however he did; he ran for his life. He ran for hours. At last, panting, gasping, his legs no longer able to support him, he fell at his length on the ground. The man came up, and the spear pierced the stag to his heart.
The wicked, cruel horse, when he saw his enemy dead at his feet, neighed for joy. Was not this a barbarous revenge, because the stag had merely razed the skin of the horse's neck? I wonder what happened to the horse afterward. Something terrible, you may be sure.
The horse thanked the man for having so well assisted his desires. Now, thought he, I shall reign unrivalled lord of the forest; no creature will henceforth dare to insult me. I shall remember your kindness, said he to the man, when I shall no longer have the pleasure of seeing you.
Fair and softly, replied the hunter, you and I do not part so. Having been once upon your back, I find that you will be a very useful beast to me. I have a pretty hovel, and you shall live in one room of it. I shall be able every holiday to treat myself with a pleasant ride; and every working day you shall plough my field or draw my cart. The horse had no remedy; the man, having once been his master, was always his master; and a hundred and a hundred times, when the horse came in weary from a sharp day's work, he had occasion to reflect, that vengeance, too eagerly pursued, always brings the revengeful party to misery.
In England and the neighbouring countries a snake is one of the most harmless creatures in the world; but in the hot climates, and particularly in Africa, there is great plenty of venomous snakes and serpents, whose bite is death. There are the asp, the rattle-snake, the cerastes, and many others, beside the basilisk, which is regarded by the inhabitants with so much terror, that they have imagined it could kill by the mere stroke of its eye-beam. Many of these serpents are very large, and their colours so beautiful, that they look in the sun as if they were studded with diamonds and carbuncles; they have a tongue, which is forked like a dart; and, whenever they are angry, they utter a strong hissing sound, at the hearing of which the people of those countries are frightened nearly out of their wits. They are shaped like a worm, without legs; but, by drawing themselves up, and then tossing out their folds, they get forward with great rapidity, and some of them could overtake me, though I should run away from them ever so fast. There is a famous story in Virgil, the Latin poet, of Laocoon, a priest, with his two sons, who were all three killed by two terrible serpents; and there is a fine statue representing this, which, some day when you are good, I will take you to see at Somerset House. The commonest name for these venomous serpents is a viper, or adder; and therefore, when one man is furiously angry with another, we often read that he calls him a viper, and reproaches him that he has the tongue of an adder.
There was once a poor man, but he was very good-natured, and would never pass by any creature in distress, without trying to assist it. This made him many friends; even the dogs and the cats, and the cows and the sheep, knew the good-natured man, and gave him marks of their attachment; and the robin-redbreasts (for the country where he lived, though hotter than England, was sometimes covered with snow; I believe it was Italy) would come to his window, and eat up the crumbs that he scattered for them. It is seldom that you can be wrong in doing an act of kindness.
Once however this poor man went too far, and had like to have repented of his kindness. I would relieve a naughty boy, who was a notorious liar or thief, if I saw him starving; but I would not take him to live in my house, or make him my bosom-friend.
It happened to be a very snowy day, and the wind seemed to cut sharp like a knife, when this poor man came home to his dinner. In one corner of a field, as he hastened along, he spied an adder, that seemed almost frozen to death. Though he was in a hurry to get to the shelter of his own hovel and his fire-side, and his fingers were all numbed with the cold, he could not bear to think of leaving this poor creature behind him in so miserable a condition. He turned it over; it was quite stiff, and its eyes were shut; he began to believe that it was dead. Once however that he touched it, he perceived that it moved. He unbuttoned his coat, and put it in his bosom, that it might get warm there. I am afraid, if the adder had fully recovered in that place, it would perhaps have stung its benefactor to the heart.
When the poor man got home, he took out the adder, and saw that it was a little better; it half opened its sparkling eyes. He laid it on the hearth, and told his children what he had done; they gathered round, and admired the beautiful colours of the creature. As the fire sparkled and blazed, the adder got stronger and stronger. For a considerable time however it lay perfectly still; when, on a sudden, it started up in full strength, reared its beautiful head, flew about the kitchen from one end to the other, and hissed most terribly. The children screamed and shrieked; the bigger ones leaped upon the tables and chairs; and at last the venomous beast seemed to dart at one of them, and in a moment longer would have stung it to death.
The poor man was so terrified that he did not know what to do; but a neighbour who passed by, heard the noise, and, knowing that this was the house of the good-natured man, opened the door in haste, and with a bill-hook that he had in his hand, struck the adder on the head, and laid it dead at his feet: a fit return for the creature who behaved so ill to the poor man that had saved his life. The neighbour did not care for the danger to himself, when he saw how much mischief hung over the family of the good-natured man.
The good-natured man learned a wise lesson from this adventure: he saw how much mischief he had nearly brought upon himself by a kindness that paid no attention to the different qualities of living creatures; but then he saw that the life of his child had been saved by a person, to whom he had once acted generously, without acting imprudently.
The only thing that puzzles me in this story is the behaviour of the adder. It is contrary to the nature of all animals; for I have found it almost an universal rule, that no creature will harm you, if you have not first done that creature harm.
A tame bear, as he was once walking in his master's farm-yard, happened to be stung by a bee: I dare say the bear had done some hurt to the bee, though he was not aware of it; but the bee thought it was on purpose, and treated the offender accordingly.
The sting of a bee is extremely painful for an hour or two; it inflames the flesh very much; but the next day you are as well as if nothing had happened. The bear felt the smart, and was very angry that so little a creature as a bee, had dared to treat an animal of his importance so unceremoniously. He resolved on revenge, and determined to punish the whole community of bees, for the injury which had been done him by one of their species. He went accordingly to the hive the bee had flown out from, and with his snout pushed it from the shelf upon which it stood, and overturned it upon the ground. There, said he, take that! and beware another time how you behave impertinently to a bear!
The bees were exceedingly enraged. Their combs are formed in the nicest order, of wax; every one of the cells has exactly six sides; and the whole together is like a great city. Here was the whole city of these poor bees overturned in a moment by the unreasonable vengeance of this stupid bear. More than a hundred bees flew out at once; they all fixed upon the bear, and stung him in every part of his body and head. If you had been served so, though the sting of one bee does no lasting harm, I believe all together it would have killed you. The bear was several days in exquisite pain, and as hot as fire; and had time enough to reflect how foolish, as well as wicked, it is, in return for one trifling injury, to put ourselves in a great passion, and do all the harm we can.
The farmer's son came, and put the hive upon the shelf again, which the bees could never have done themselves. They were however a long while before they had repaired all the disorder the bear had committed, and some of their young ones were crushed to death.
The dung of a horse is of a round form, in that and in size resembling an apple. I hardly need tell you that in all other respects it is different. It was I suppose in a straw-yard, where horses are used to be kept, that a great deal of rain having fallen, one of these balls was set a swimming along the kennel, and at length arrived at the pond which had been made in a corner of the orchard for the cows to drink at. Over this pond certain apple-trees, golden pippins and others, of a smooth and glossy rind, or a beautiful blush, extended their well-stored branches. Several apples, either from their ripeness, or being shaken down by the wind, had fallen into the water, and were floating on the top of the pond. I once had a little brother, two years old, who, having wandered by himself to the edge of such a pond, and not knowing that water would drown him, was so attracted by the beautiful appearance of the floating apples that he went forward to take them, fell into the water, and was killed.
The horse-dung I was mentioning, was quite intoxicated with his situation, as he swam this way and that upon the surface of the pond. He had never been in such good company in his life. There was not a thing of any sort floating within the whole circumference of the pond, that was not an apple, but himself. He quite forgot his origin and nature. In the pride of his heart he could not help crying out as he glided along, See how we apples swim!
This is but a short fable; but it is intended to show that, if any one, favoured by fortune, or admitted into the society of those who are wiser or better than himself, forgets what he really is, and claims a value that does not belong to him, he makes himself completely ridiculous, and provokes the contempt of every one who knows him.
The wolf, the bull-dog, and the mountain-cat once agreed to go a hunting with the lion. I have told you before what a terrible creature a lion is; a wolf is but a shrimp to him; and ten bull-dogs together would scarcely venture to set upon a lion, though he should be tied to a stake, and so prevented from following them whenever they chose to run away. These creatures therefore were glad to have a lion for their partner, who they knew was so much stronger than they; and the lion was contented to join them, because various animals have various accomplishments, and at worst they could be set at different openings of the forest to drive the prey into his mouth. You have not forgotten that beasts of prey are obliged to go a hunting, as otherwise they would starve. They cannot eat grass. The agreement of these partners was, that whatever game any one of them should take, he was not to touch a morsel of it, till he had called together his associates to be present at the division.
Of the whole set the mountain-cat was the most cunning in her tricks, and she somehow or other happened to catch a deer in her nets. What her nets were made of I cannot tell; but it is only a fable, so we will not mind that. As soon as she perceived her success, she very honourably sent round one of her kittens, to give notice to her new-made friends. They hastened to the banquet; each of them brought along with him the best sauce, which is hunger. As soon as they were assembled, the lion said, Now, madam, and you two gentlemen, I dare say you have no objection to my being the carver; I will divide the deer into quarters in a trice.
Saying this, with one pat of his terrible paw he deprived the animal of life and then set himself seriously to work. He divided the carcass with great expedition, and the portions were so equal, that it was not possible for him who had any one of the shares, to murmur because he had not one of the others. The partners looked on with great earnestness and curiosity; their mouths watered; they licked their lips and were impatient to be served.
Well, my friends, have I divided our feast fairly? said the lion.—Every one praised the magnanimity of their captain.
I am glad, said he, you are so well satisfied with my proceedings. Now for the distribution! This share, laying his paw upon one, I claim, because I am the king of beasts; nobody will dispute that. This second share, touching another, I will have, in my own right as the strongest and boldest of all the members of our association; the third, do me the favour to observe, I will take in spite of your teeth; and as to the fourth, I have only this to say, Let him touch it that dares!
The poor animals were terribly mortified. They would have complained, and expostulated with the lion upon his injustice. But he put himself into a threatening posture; and they slunk away with their tails between their legs. He thought they did not vanish quick enough, and set up one of his loudest roars; they then ran as fast as they could, and sought in the remotest parts of the forest for any little morsel to appease the cravings of hunger. It is too often thus, when one human creature has a great deal more power than his neighbours; and therefore, if you should happen to be richer or stronger than your brothers, or sisters, or play-mates, I hope you will be just enough not to take the lion's share; and remember that it is not every one who has not the courage to complain, that has not the right to do so if he dared.
Printed by B. McMillan,
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THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
For the Use of Schools and Young Persons.
By EDWARD BALDWIN, Esq.
"This volume does great credit to the pen of Mr. Baldwin. The style is familiar and playful; and we heartily recommend the work, as well calculated to please and instruct young persons, without fatiguing their attention, or confusing their memory."
Literary Journal for July 1806.
"We much approved of this author's Fables, and recommended them accordingly. This is also a very suitable book for children; and we particularly like the short characters of the Kings of England, which introduce the work itself." British Critic for July 1806.
"In this work there is no want either of ability or information; and the bias of the writer is of that sort with which we should least quarrel, since it is in favour of the rights of the subject."
Monthly Review for October 1806.
In one Vol. 12mo, with Engravings of the Principal Gods, chiefly taken from the Remains of Ancient Statuary, Price 6s.
THE PANTHEON: OR ANCIENT HISTORY OF THE
GODS OF GREECE AND ROME.
For the Use of Schools and Young Persons of both Sexes.
By EDWARD BALDWIN, Esq.
"There can be no difficulty in pronouncing, that the present work will be found a very convenient as well as agreeable manual, for introducing younger readers to a knowledge of Ancient Mythology, and it seems in all respects a proper book for the use of Schools. It is dedicated, with great propriety, to Dr. Raine, the School-master of the Charter-house, by one of whose predecessors the book commonly known by the name of Tooke's Pantheon, a book still in use, but which is in many ways objectionable, was published about a hundred years ago."
British Critic for April 1807.
Books published at No. 41, Skinner Street.
In two Vols. 12mo, with 20 Copper-plates, Price 8s. in extra Boards,
TALES FROM SHAKSPEAR.
Designed for the Use of Young Persons.
By CHARLES LAMB.
"We have compared these little volumes with the numerous systems which have been devised for riveting attention at an early age, and conquering the distaste for knowledge and learning which so frequently opposes itself to the instructor of children; and we do not scruple to say, that unless perhaps we except Robinson Crusoe, they claim the very first place, and stand unique, without rival or competitor. We should be at a loss to find any character more perfect than that which has been formed in such a school. Hence the child will be instructed in the usage of terms the most simple, vigorous and expressive; and his mind, stored with the images and words of our greatest poet, will turn with disgust from the sordid trash with which youthful minds are usually contaminated."
Critical Review for May 1807.
N.B. A specimen of these Tales is just published in six single Numbers, each Number being adorned with three Plates, beautifully coloured, Price Sixpence. The remainder will speedily follow.
IN THE PRESS,
And will be Published before Christmas 1807,
1. THE ADVENTURES OF ULYSSES, King of Ithaca.
By Charles Lamb.
2. RURAL WALKS; Being an Attempt to Embody the First Impressions of Religion, for the Use of Children.
By Peregrine Brett.
3. THE STORIES OF OLD DANIEL: Or Tales of Wonder and Delight.
4. DRAMAS FOR CHILDREN. From the French of L.F. Jauffret.
And several other Instructive and Entertaining Works.
You have been told before that a lion is a generous creature. He is a fierce fellow; but, as he is strong, so I have heard he is kind and merciful.
A lion and a gentleman happened to fall into company with each other, and, as they were going the same way, they agreed to travel together. Among other conversation to make them forget the weariness of the road, they began to dispute which of the two was the nobler animal.
Said the lion, Of all four-footed beasts I am acknowledged the king. See what a beautiful coat I have; observe the length and majestical appearance of my mane; as to my claws, I dare say you will acknowledge their terrors, without its being necessary that I should make you feel them. All these cost me nothing; I am not obliged to take the wool of the sheep, or the skin of the calf, to make me a covering. Observe on the other hand how naked and two-legged a creature you would be without those artificial coverings. You pretend sometimes to cope with the lion; but then you do not depend upon your own strength or swiftness; you get upon the back of a horse, and arm yourself with a spear and a shield. The consequence of all this is, I am a free creature, and you a slave. I go where I please, and give an account to nobody; but you work hard for your living, and, if at any time you have no money in your pocket, you are afraid of being starved with hunger and cold.
Said the man to the lion, you must not pretend to compare with me. You are a poor ignorant creature, that can neither read nor write. Remember what fine books men have composed: we can sing and dance, and paint, and act pantomimes: we can make all sorts of machines and instruments: it was a man that made the speeches of Demosthenes, and the plays of Shakespear. The works of human ingenuity cover the earth. Look at our parks, and palaces, and castles, and bridges, and cities. When a lion is dead, he is remembered no more; but Homer and Alexander and Cicero have immortalized themselves by what they performed, or what they wrote. Though they have been dead two or three thousand years, they are still fresh in every one's thoughts.
As the travellers went on, each a good deal warmed with the debate, they happened to come to a public place in the road, where was erected a very fine statue of Hercules, hugging the Nemean lion to death; the terrible creature was just falling lifeless from his arms. There, there! said the man exulting in triumph, you pretended that a man could not conquer a lion without a spear and a shield; see there one of my species with naked strength subduing one of yours.
Remember, said the lion, that story belongs to the fabulous age, where every page is filled with impossibilities. The victory upon which you are thoughtless enough to pride yourself, belongs not to Hercules, but to the statuary. If we lions were the sculptors we should represent, with more truth, not the man subduing the lion, but the lion subduing the man.
The man saw that he was wrong in this instance. Still however he adhered to his opinion; and the very circumstance that all the sculptors were men, and none of them lions, confirmed him in his sentiment.
I will tell you now a very short fable, but a very clever one.
A fox once went into a haberdasher's shop. On the ground was lying a very handsome mask, made to be worn by some actor when he played a hero. The masks of the ancients, to whose times this fable belongs, covered the whole head, like a helmet, and no actor ever played without one. It was a strange custom, as by this means we could not see the face of the player, and, whether it was his business to laugh or cry, the mask looked always the same.
The fox is a sagacious, prying fellow. He turned the mask over and over. He looked at the outside, and looked at the in. The outside was quite sleek and complete; the inside was hollow. What a fine head is here! said the fox: what a pity it is there are no brains!
There are some pretty boys and girls so improperly brought up, that they think of nothing but their beauty, refuse to learn every thing, and turn out coxcombs and flirts. A man might lay his hand upon the head of one of these, and say, as the fox did: What a fine head is here! What a pity it is there are no brains!
A traveller, who had been absent from home several years, and had seen a great many countries, amused his old friends when he returned, with a multitude of stories of the wonderful things he had seen. They were at first exceedingly pleased with his conversation. Whenever he told any thing about himself, it happened somehow or other, that he had done the most extraordinary things of any body he had occasion to speak of. They began to think that he was a wonderful fellow.
But this despicable traveller betrayed himself. He allowed himself to shoot with the long bow. I dare say, by the way, that the proverb arose from some traveller, as naughty as the man I am talking of, who pretended that he had shot with the long bow further than all the world beside.
Well; this travelled gentleman thought in his own mind, My friends here are mere cocknies; they never saw any thing that I describe; and, if I represent things as more extraordinary than they are, they will not find me out. So he began to tell fibs; and when he once did that, he set less and less guard upon himself, till every body was ready to stare. They thought with themselves, How comes it that this man, who never did any thing wonderful at home, should have been the completest and cleverest man in all the countries that he visited?
One day he said he would treat his friends with an account of his adventures in the island of Rhodes. He described to them the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the world, that had its two feet on the two moles of the harbour, so that ships in full sail could pass between its legs: it had a winding stair-case within, by which you could climb up to the chamber of the head, and look out at the windows of the eyes; an↩d few men were so tall, that they could make their two arms meet round the thickness of its thumb. I do not know that the traveller told any fibs about the Colossus; it was not easy to make it in description more extraordinary than it was in reality.
The traveller observed that the Rhodians particularly excelled in leaping: no nation in the world could leap like them. There were two persons principally in Rhodes, when he came, that could beat the rest: but he determined to try; and in his first attempt he found he could outleap them both. I believe he said that he had leaped forty yards on level ground.
A grave old gentleman who was sitting by, turned up his nose with a sneer, and said, Now I like this story better than any that you have told us before. You must know that there are some young fellows in our town, who are impertinent enough to doubt of the truth of your stories. But you shall convince them in this instance, and I will insist upon their believing all the rest. There are no spring-boards, I suppose, in Rhodes; indeed you told us your leap was performed on common ground. I will therefore measure out the length for you, and you shall exhibit the same leap here that you did in Rhodes.
The traveller was confounded at this proposal; and before the words were well uttered, slunk out of the company. I suppose he set out again upon his travels; till he did so, he was pointed at by the town's people whenever he appeared in the streets, and he could hear them say, There goes the man that performed the wonderful leap in Rhodes!
A cock in a farm-yard has a particular pleasure in perching himself upon the dunghill. From this circumstance one sort of cock is called a dunghill-cock, to distinguish him from another sort of a prouder and more courageous temper, which is called a game-cock. The dunghill-cock however is not destitute of pride; and, though he would run away if attacked by a game-cock, he thinks himself of no little importance when he is surrounded only by hens and chickens. Thus I have seen an ill-tempered, overgrown school-boy crow over the little ones, give one a cuff, and another a box, and keep them all in terror, who, if he met with his match, would have soon shown what a dastard he was, and that the place where he was most properly at home, would be upon a dunghill.
I ought not however to compare the cock of the straw-yard to such a boy; for, though he has not courage enough to face all sort of dangers, I believe he is seldom known to be ill-natured and tyrannical. All cocks however are fond of chuckling and crowing, and making a great splutter as if they were the bravest fellows in the world.
The cock I am speaking of, was just come away from his roost as soon as the morning broke, and had mounted upon his favourite dunghill. The first thing he did was to clear his pipes, and set up a loud, shrill, vigorous crow, to bid welcome to the sun. It was a bright, lively morning, a little inclined to frost, which sharpened the poor gentleman's appetite, and made him recollect that he wanted something for his breakfast. He next therefore began scratching with his claw upon the top of the dunghill. Among the bits of straw, and other refuse of the barn and the stable, which are usually thrown upon the dunghill, it was often his chance to find a few scattered grains of corn, and corn is the proper, favourite food of a barn-door fowl.
He scratched and scratched again. He did not find a single corn, but, as he scratched with might and main, by and by he turned up a precious stone. It sparkled and was a very pretty one; but the cock looked at it with dissatisfaction and disappointment. If a jeweller had found you, said he, he would have been in ecstacy with his prize: for my part I should prefer one grain of barley to all the precious stones in the world.
Now, thinking of this fable, I must say that, when I have looked at a diamond, a topaz, or an onyx, and been told that it was worth a hundred, or a thousand, pounds, I could not help considering what a whimsical sort of a creature man is. A bit of Derbyshire spar is quite as beautiful; a rose is a thousand times more so; and I have seen artificial flowers, that would form an infinitely more agreeable ornament for a lady's head, than a row of stones that was valued at a mint of money. But, when men have taken it into their heads to desire such things, then the price must be settled by the trouble it takes to dig them out of the earth, to bring them from the other side of the world, to cut and polish them, and to chase them in gold or silver. The people who do these things must be paid for their time, and for their skill in those parts of the process which require a nicety that few can arrive at. It is to this that the high price of a diamond is owing.
How happy are children, and the inhabitants of certain nations where no people are rich, that they can live without a continual anxiety about jewels and wealth! What ease and lightness of heart does he enjoy, who is as ignorant about these artificial matters as this cock, and can say, I had rather have a grain of barley, or a morsel of wholesome bread, than all the precious stones in the world!
The cock of my fable had scarcely finished "his meditations upon a precious stone," when the farmer's wife came out with a handful of barley, and gave the poor fellow the very breakfast he wanted, as much as he could eat.
Did you ever see a mountain? It is a grand and noble sight. Some mountains are three miles in perpendicular height, and the path is nine miles long by which you climb up the side of them. The sky seems to rest itself and to be supported upon the top. The sides are irregular; in some places perpendicular for a considerable way, so that you must make a great circuit before you can get any higher: in other places there are wide, black-looking chasms, so deep that nobody knows the bottom of them. In some places again, you can only climb upon your hands and knees, catching hold of the shrubs and tufts of grass you find in your way. In ascending high mountains you pass through the clouds, which are seldom so much as a mile above the plains; and then you may sometimes stand in a clear sunshine, and see the rain pouring down in torrents upon the meadows beneath. On the tops of mountains the air is always very cold. High mountains are capped with snow all the year; and, in crossing the Alps, the mountains which divide France from Italy, you are set astride upon a mule, a species of animal more sure-footed than a horse; and in descending over sheets of snow, you place yourself in a sledge, and sometimes slide down almost a mile in a minute. There are some mountains, which are called volcanic, particularly mount Etna, and mount Vesuvius, which have a fire for ever burning within them, that sometimes blazes out at the top, and throws up a red-hot substance, almost like a metal, which, wherever it falls, destroys every thing it finds in its passage. Previously to the eruptions of this metal, you may hear a terrible noise in the inside of the mountain; it rumbles and roars, with a noise grander and more deafening than thunder.
I suppose it was either at mount Etna or mount Vesuvius, that the thing happened I am going to tell you of. A loud and long noise was heard in the inside of the mountain, and the neighbours, greatly alarmed, were all assembled at the foot of it, to watch what would happen. They said one to the other, What a ruinous eruption took place only five years ago! The noise is now more fearful than it was then; we shall have our corn and our cattle destroyed; and all our houses laid in ashes!
The groans of the mountain were very distressing; it seemed to bellow (if I may compare a great thing with a little one) like a mad bull. Then every thing was silent for a few minutes; and then it began again. While all the people were looking on with painful expectation, presently out crept a mouse, from his hole in the mountain, just below them. Look, said one, our lady-mountain has been terribly ill; and see, if she is not brought to bed of a mouse!
This is a comical fable; but the meaning of it is, to ridicule large promises and small performances, and to say that, if any one boasts and brags of what he is going to do, and then does something not at all equal to what he had made you expect, he makes as silly a figure, as the mountain in labour, that was brought to bed of a mouse.
As to the people who lived at the foot of Mount Etna, finding that the mountain now became very quiet, they excused their disappointment, and were exceedingly glad, after all the fright they had suffered, to see no enemy march out against them but a mouse.
An oak is the king of trees, as a lion is the king of beasts. It is said to be a hundred years before it grows to its full size, and the life of an oak endures for centuries. It is a vast and a noble creature; and one cannot look on the solidity of its trunk and the free lines in which it flings out its gigantic branches, without admiration.
Strong and noble creatures are too apt to be proud, and in their pride, they forget that they are subject to the accidents which beset all earthly things. The oak I am going to tell you of, was full of this foolish pride. He thought of his own strength, and looked with disdain upon every thing round him; he calculated that his roots struck as deep into the earth beneath, as his branches stretched into the air above him.
Among the other neighbours that were accustomed to his sneers, grew a humble reed that he laughed at more than the rest. You poor creature, said he, why do you grow so near my majestic presence? I really pity you from my heart. I know you must be terribly out of countenance, whenever you think of me. Every ass that comes by is in danger of trampling you to pieces. Every wind that blows lays you level with the ground. Poor creature! repeated the oak; not a day passes, that you can say your life is your own.
May it please your majesty, said the reed to the monarch oak, I am quite contented with my humble situation. Nature has planted me in an obscure nook, where not even the asses come. When the wind blows, I suffer its fury to pass over me; I never lose my courage and tranquillity of mind; and, when the storm subsides, I lift my head in as much health, and as little broken down by what has happened, as ever. Might I give my opinion, said the reed, I should think, sir, that your station is much more dangerous than mine.
My station dangerous! rejoiced the oak. You fool, you do not know what you are talking of! My strength is unconquerable, and I can safely defy the rage of the tempests.
It seemed as if the invisible master of us all had heard the insolent brags of the oak. Scarcely a minute elapsed, before a violent storm began to blow. It grew louder and louder; the element roared like the roaring of a lion. The reed was bent to the ground with the first blast. By and by willows and hawthorns were torn up by the roots. At last the oak itself, ponderous and immoveable as it seemed, was rent away from its place, and laid prostrate on the plain. In the mean time, the reed had suffered no injury, but what was entirely over, as soon as the sky cleared, and the weather grew calm.
This fable is intended to show, how much safer the situation of a peasant is, than that of a king. When the world is agitated with revolutions, kings may lose their thrones, their wealth, and sometimes their lives. In the mean time the peasant, that lived not far from the palace-gate, continues undisturbed, and perhaps scarcely knows the name of the monarch who was led away to a prison, or of the despot-usurper who succeeded him.
The fox is in several parts of England dreaded as the most formidable enemy of the farm-yard. The farmer is at a great expence of money and trouble, to hatch and rear his ducks and fowls and turkies and geese: no wonder therefore that he employs every means in his power to preserve them from being destroyed by the foxes. One of these methods is to put up traps, in which the unfortunate animal is caught, and held by the leg, or some part of his body, till the farmer comes and kills him.
It happened one day that a fox, being very hungry, came prowling into a farm-yard, and unawares fell in with a trap. I do not know whether the farmer will forgive me, but I cannot help hoping that he got his breakfast first; for it would be too bad, to be caught in a trap, and to be famished with hunger, at the same time. He was caught in so strange a way, that the trap just cut off his tail, without doing him any further harm. I dare say the pain was considerable; but the fox did not so much mind the smart, as he was sorry for the loss he experienced. A fox has a fine bushy tail, as long as his whole body from his shoulder to his rump; and I do not know how it happens, but almost all animals that we are acquainted with, are proud of that feature which is most distinguishing and beautiful about them. The cat is careful of her smooth and delicate fur; the horse tosses his flowing mane; the turtle-dove winds her glossy neck in the manner best calculated to display its elegant form and colouring; and the peacock struts, displaying her tail with a hundred eyes. There was another circumstance which increased the fox's sorrow; animals are very apt to drive out of their company any creature of the same kind, that has met with misfortune, and is maimed or imperfect in any of its parts. This is very naughty of such animals; but, poor creatures! they have never been taught better. The fox I am telling of was sadly distressed when he thought of these things, and, in the anguish of his feelings, wished he had been caught by the neck and killed outright, rather than have lost his tail.
He sneaked back to his hole as fast as he could, and did not venture out in the fields for some days. At length he sent his wife to all the foxes of the neighbourhood, to beg they would meet him behind the willows in a certain place, as he had a proposition of great use to them all to communicate.
The foxes came, and a fine assembly there was of them. Old and young, nimble and lame, lean and fat, they were all there. The farmer would have made terrible havoc, if he had come among them with his gun; but they were aware of that, and held their meeting in a snug, out-of-the-way corner, quite remote from danger and harm.
The company being all met, our fox's wife went to tell him he was waited for. The fox then crept through the bushes, and as soon as he was in the circle, sat down close to the place by which he had entered.
How do you do, gentlemen? says he. I hope, madam your wife is pretty well, and all the pretty little creatures at home. That he-young one of yours promises well; I hear he comes on bravely. The fox had some compliment or other for every one of them.
What I had to propose, was that we should all agree to cut off our tails.
The foxes stared.
The speaker went on. I have devoted a great deal of my time to the study of anatomy, and particularly of that part of anatomy which explains the uses of the different parts of the body. Let me then beg of you to ask yourselves, as I have done, what earthly use we have for our tails? They trail along on the ground. In summer they gather the dust; and in winter the dirt. When I come home from a morning's diversion, I am really quite ashamed to see my wife, and still more the lady-foxes of her acquaintance, with my tail in so filthy a condition as it often is. Man is the wisest creature in the universe. You see he is continually mending nature. He clips his trees, and transplants his flowers. He shortens the tails of his cart-horses, and cuts his own nails and hair. Let us imitate his glorious example.
You have made a wise speech, said an old fox; but before I answer it, be pleased to walk into the middle of the circle.
The orator did not much like the proposal, but he could not help himself. He moved most unwillingly. You cannot think what a ridiculous figure he made. He hung down his head, and his ears, conscious that he was now completely found out. All the young foxes fell upon him, and were going to worry him out of their company.
Stop, said the old fox; he will go fast enough of himself. And remember, my friend, another time, before you pretend to give advice, to learn to speak plain, and tell the truth. No advice is worth listening to, that is not given with an honest tongue. He that is to teach me what is for my good, must speak because he loves me, and not for any paltry by-ends of his own.
Jesus Christ came into the world not quite two thousand years ago. He taught that there is but one God that makes the trees to grow, and the rain to fall, and the sun to shine. Before his time men believed that there were many Gods, a God of the sea, and a God of the winds, and a God of war, and a God of peace. The Greeks and Romans, who were the wisest of the Heathen nations, believed in Jupiter, who was the son of Saturn, and the father of Mars and Minerva and Venus and Apollo and Hercules; and many ridiculous stories they told about them. Hercules was the God of strength, insomuch that, when he was a baby, he killed two serpents, so vast and fierce that a man could not manage them, which had crept into his cradle to him.
Yet, though the Greeks and Romans were so ignorant, and made so many mistakes, they thought as often of their Gods, and were as thankful for the rain, and the sunshine, and the fruits of the earth, as we can be.
A Heathen waggoner was once driving his team in a very bad road, when one of the wheels sunk in a deep hole, and stuck fast. It was necessary that his corn should be at market by seven o'clock in the morning, and it was already six. This waggoner was very kind to his horses, and the horses did all they could to drag the waggon out of the hole, but in vain.
The driver now began to be terribly frightened. He had a severe master, who would not hear any excuses, and he knew that, if the corn was not at market in time, his master would turn him out of his employment. Then thought the man, what will become of my poor wife, and my two pretty babies? I shall have no money, and they will have no breakfast to-morrow, and no dinner, and no supper: they will be starved to death. He never thought of himself.
The poor waggoner was almost out of his wits. He looked this way and that. The sun shone, and the birds sung in the hedges; but his waggon stuck fast. He looked at it, and the tears rolled down his cheeks. At length he fell on his knees in the midst of the mud. Oh, Hercules, God of strength, said he, help me in this hour of my distress!
While he was in this attitude, an old philosopher happened to come by. What are you doing there, my honest friend? said he. That is not the way to get your waggon out of the hole. Up, bestir yourself, and put your shoulder to the wheel. I am an infirm old man, but I will do what I can to help you. You look like a good fellow; and I perceive you are in distress. But see, here comes a couple of stout hearty looking young men, and I am sure they will help us. When a human creature has thought seriously of his situation, and done all he can to remove its difficulties, then he has a right to expect that God will bless him, and that his undertakings will prosper.
The young men were by this time come up. The philosopher worked; the waggoner put his shoulder to the wheel; and after some trouble the waggon was once more on even ground. God bless you, sir! said the driver to the philosopher; I see you are right; and another time I will never expect that my affairs will thrive, till I have done all I can on my part to put them in good order.
There was once a very handsome young boy, the son of a noble Athenian, who was so much indulged by his father and mother that they made quite a fool of him. This poor boy was neither ill-natured nor malicious, but so fantastical that he never knew what he would be at. His mother bought him all sorts of play-things, so that he had a room full of them, and his father gave him horses and hounds. He had gold and silver fish, and twenty different sorts of singing-birds, and a parrot, and an owl; and he had a squirrel and a monkey, and many kinds of beasts. You would think he must be very happy with such a vast fund of amusements; but he got them so easily that he set no value upon them; with him it was but to ask and have. He seemed to himself to have worn out all the pleasures of life, before he grew to be a man; and by the time he was as tall as his father, he could not tell what to do with himself; he yawned all day long; and it was impossible to propose to him an amusement, that he thought it worth his while to cross the street for. Poor young gentleman!
His father and mother sent messengers into different parts of Greece to procure new pleasures for him; they all returned with things beautiful, costly, and of exquisite workmanship, but to no manner of purpose; they were laid aside as soon as seen. At last a man came to town, who had sailed to the Antipodes, and brought home with him a most marvellous grass-green cat, that was the best mouser ever heard of. This grass-green cat took the young gentleman's fancy; no such creature had been seen in Athens within the memory of man; and at a high price the young gentleman's father bought her of the captain of the ship that had brought her to Athens. What was most extraordinary was that this cat, though so great a destroyer of mice, was exactly of the size of a mouse herself.
Contrary to all his former habits, the young nobleman never grew tired of his grass-green cat. He could not eat his dinner, unless the cat sat by the side of his plate; and when he went in his chariot to his country-seat, the cat was always carried in a sedan along with him (the chariot would have jolted her too much), and he stopped twenty times in his ride, to be sure the cat was not left behind, and that he might fondle and kiss her.
As he was now grown as tall as a man, his father and mother were exceedingly desirous he should marry. They thought it was pity that the breed should be lost of a person of so refined a taste, whom nothing could please but a grass-green cat. They offered him the daughter of the archon or duke of Athens; or they promised to send to Philip, king of Macedon, and procure him in marriage the only sister of Alexander the Great. But the young nobleman turned up his nose at these princesses; he would none of them. At last he told his father and mother that he would never marry at all, unless he could marry his grass-green cat.
They immediately made vows, and sent costly offerings and presents to Venus, Goddess of Beauty, praying her that she would turn their son's cat into a beautiful lady. Venus, as the story says, took compassion on their distress, and granted their prayer. The cat was turned into a beautiful lady dressed in grass-green velvet, and with a turban of exquisite green gauze upon her head. Her cheeks were as fresh as the damask rose, and her eyes were of the most sparkling black that ever was seen. She swam along the room with inexpressible grace. She offered her cheek for the young nobleman to kiss; she told him, she was his dear Puss, and that Venus had bestowed the greatest of all favours upon her, by giving her the power of speaking her gratitude and love to him. There was not much in what the cat said, but the young nobleman thought them the wittiest and wisest observations that ever he heard. He was eager to marry her.
The wedding-dinner was prepared with all possible magnificence. Every body was charmed with the behaviour of the bride, especially when they considered she had so lately been a cat. She had something obliging to say to all her guests, and they were all happy.
At length the new-married lady was led by the bride-maids to her bed-chamber. She there lay under a canopy of gold, with sheets as white as the driven snow, and a beautiful counterpane over her of grass-green velvet. The bride-groom came into the room with a dressing-gown of grass-green sarsenet in compliment to his wife.
Just at this moment the bride cried out, Bless me, what scratching is that I hear behind the wainscot! The scratching was repeated. I am sure it is a mouse, said she. In her eagerness the bride forgot she was no longer a cat, jumped out of bed in her nightdress, and ran like lightning to catch the mouse. The bride-maids, who wished to be grave, could not help bursting into a fit of laughter. The bridegroom blushed like scarlet for shame; the lady hung down her head, and fixed her eyes upon the ground. They both agreed to pray to Venus to make her a cat again, who graciously granted their request. The cat was convinced that it was best to be content as nature had made her; and the young nobleman grew ashamed of his perverted inclinations, and gladly took for his second wife the princess of Macedon.
A weasel once got into a granary. The weasel is a beast of prey; his bite is mortal to the object of his pursuit, and he is cunning enough frequently to destroy animals larger than himself. Beasts of prey are sometimes almost famished to death, and at other times gorge themselves with excessive eating. This poor weasel was in the former case; he was so thin and meagre, that you might have counted his ribs; he could well nigh have crept through a thumb-ring.
In the granary he found plenty of rats and mice. These animals had been undisturbed for many a day, and had made fine havoc with the poor farmer's corn. The weasel killed and ate, and ate and killed, you would have thought he would never have done. He seemed almost as good a trencherman as the lion. Poor fellow, he had not touched a bit for so many days; every morsel was as savoury to him as venison and partridge. At last he fell asleep, and by the time he woke again he thought he was hungry. This dark granary, with a parcel of dead mice, the victims of his force, strewed on the floor, seemed as beautiful to him, as the gardens of Nero, or the palace of king Solomon, would appear to me. You cannot think how fat he grew.
He had now lived some days at his ease, when he heard the sound of steps approaching the door. It was the farmer; he put his key into the padlock of the door. The yard-dog, and the greyhound, and the spaniel came jumping about him, and kept such a barking, the weasel was frightened out of his wits. He ran as fast as he could, to the hole by which he had come in. But what was his distress, when he found that the crevice through which he had crept with ease in his famished state, would on no account suffer him to pass in his present plump condition!
The door opened. The farmer saw the devastation that had been made, and guessed the truth. He drove the dogs away, who else would have killed the weasel in a moment. Back! he said to one. Lie down! to another.
The farmer then came up to the weasel, and took him gently in his hand. Do not be afraid, my fine fellow! said he. I see you have killed a great many rats and mice; if you had not, they would have eaten up my corn, and I and my children would perhaps have been ruined. Another time however use more discretion with your appetites; eat while you are hungry and no longer; if any body had opened the door but myself, whom the dogs know and obey as their master, you would have paid dear for your intemperance, and have had but one squeak for your life.
A very foolish woman once had a black footman. He had lived servant with her uncle, and as, when he died, he left her his chaise, and a pretty horse to draw it, she thought she could not do better than hire Nango to take care of both. Should you like to live with me? said she to the negro. That I should, answered he. I loved my old master like a father, and it will always do me good to live with any one that comes of the same stock.
Miss Moggridge, that was the young lady's name, looked at Nango. Upon my word, said she, I think him a very handsome man. (That is a thing by no means impossible. The other day I stopped involuntarily to look at a negro I passed in the street. He was telling a story to some one of his acquaintance. I do not know what the story was about; but he was quite animated, and seemed to feel great interest in what he was saying. His features were finely formed. I have seldom seen a more open and manly countenance. His story was a gay one. But there was nothing brutal or insulting or coarse in his manner, while he told it.)
Nango, said the young lady, I like every thing about you but your colour. I much sorry, said the black; me change if me could, to please you. How came of you of that colour? My father and mother were both black. Pugh, pugh, said Miss Moggridge, I dare say they took no pains to wash and clean themselves. I was born, said Nango, many thousand miles off under a burning sun. Miss Moggridge had never heard of any thing further off than London, and she thought that was the end of the world. Of course she had never seen a globe or a map in her life.
You have no objection to be washed, Nango?
None in the world; me always loves to be clean.
Miss Moggridge got sponges, and scrubbing-brushes, and soap, and all sorts of materials, enough to wash the linen of a regiment, and their barracks into the bargain. She stripped Nango to the skin down to his middle: she thought when she had shown him how to bleach his arms, and his shoulders, and his breast, he could do the rest for himself. She made him sit down in the middle of a large tub. She had no doubt that he would come out of it as blooming as a rose. She called in three washerwomen she had provided, beside her own maids, and set them to work.
When they began to apply their sponges to Nango's skin, Miss Moggridge was surprised at first to see it look blacker and more glossy than ever. She was not however a lady to be disheartened; she scorned to give out when she had once undertaken a thing. She exhorted her people to go on, and not allow themselves to be tired. Poor Nango was washed from nine o'clock in the morning till noon: Miss Moggridge began to believe that there were people naturally black, as well as others that are born white.
The washerwomen had agreed to do Miss Moggridge's work, because they wanted Miss Moggridge's money for themselves and their families. But secretly they laughed at her ignorance and folly. They told their neighbours what had happened. And when Miss Moggridge's one-horse chaise was brought to the door for the young lady to take an airing, people pointed, and said, That chaise and horse belong to the young lady who undertook to wash a blackamoor white. What a pity that her uncle, who could leave her such a pretty fortune, and who was otherwise so good a man, never thought of sparing a farthing to send her to school! She would then certainly have learned that there were negroes, as well as white people in the world; and would not have been silly enough to try at impossibilities.
There was once a very naughty young man, whom his mother, for all that she could say to him, could never persuade to rise betimes in the morning. She said to him, My son, my dear son, you have nothing to depend upon but your industry. Your father was a very good man, but he died unexpectedly, and has left us both unprovided for. As you never get up in the morning, you will never learn any thing properly, and never finish any thing you begin. I foresee that you will be despised by every body, and that I, your poor mother, shall die in a work-house.—I wonder how the son could resist such expostulations from the lips of his mother.
The naughty young man saw that he had no way to bring himself off, but by some joke or another. He had tried this method often: it sometimes made his sad-hearted mother cry, and sometimes it forced her to laugh in spite of all she could do. Still the young man and his mother grew poorer.
One day he said to her, Well, I have many a time put you off with one story or another, but now I will tell you a secret about it. I no sooner open my eyes in a morning, but there come (how they get at me I cannot tell) two girls to my bed-side, who, if I may be allowed to judge, are neither of them destitute of powers to charm.
Two girls! said the astonished mother. Oh, you wicked, ungracious boy! I always believed that it was bad company that was the ruin of you. And you pretend you do not know how they get at you! But why two? two at a time? Do they agree or quarrel?
No, indeed, mother. They do nothing but oppose one another in every thing. The name of one is Industry, and of the other Sloth. Industry is so grave and sedate-looking a girl, that it is impossible for me ever to look at her without having a good opinion of her. Sloth is full of roguery and smiles, but she has a soft, wheedling way with her, that I cannot find it in my heart to be angry with any thing she does. Industry tells me how respectable I shall become, if I do but rise in the morning. She assures me, that the morning is the finest part of the day, and that, if I rise with the lark, I shall be cheerful and happy all day long.
Upon my word, a good girl! said the mother, who now began to understand him. I hope you grow wiser by every thing she says to you.
That I do, mother! I never heard any body talk more sensibly or more to the purpose. But then that sly jade Sloth, she tells me how pleasant it would be to take another nap, and how comfortably one can think over all one's affairs as one lies in bed. Then she pats my pillow, and smooths my bed-clothes, that I can never have the courage to get up.
Son, son! said the mother, you see now all she says is nothing to the purpose, and that the whole strength of the argument is on the other side.
I am quite of your opinion, said the young man. Oh, never think that I give quarter to her wheedling, or forget any of the arguments of Industry: I am too fair a judge for that. But the worst of it is, mother, that they have such a vast deal to say for themselves, and I am obliged to show my fairness by hearing them out, that, by the time the arguments are well concluded, it is time to come to dinner.
Learn, from this, son, said the mother, that it is the first business of life to come to an early and firm resolution. He that continues long in uncertainty, and vibrates and varies between one plan and other, will make as ill a figure, and prove as useless a member of the community, as if he came to the worst and most vicious resolution that could be devised.
The son could make no reply to so just a remark; so he confessed he was conquered, and promised that for the future he would rise as early every morning as his mother herself could desire.
A poor labourer, who had brought up a large family of children, had no estate to leave them when he died, except the cottage he lived in, and one field, which, by ploughing and harrowing and industrious care, he had contrived to make sufficient for the subsistence of them all. He was now old, and felt that he should live but a short time. His children, though they were very good on the whole, and attentive to what their father told them, had not so much sense and forecast as he to contrive their affairs, and were a little disposed to be idle. He had often sat up whole nights to contrive how he should pay for their schooling and other things they wanted, had gone to all the markets nine miles round to learn the price of commodities, and had always listened to the most experienced farmers, that he might know when to sow, when to reap, and how to manage his crop.
This poor labourer, who loved his children as well as a duke could have done, was very uneasy as to what would become of them when he was dead and gone. He could teach them to work, as I have already told you, but he could not teach them to think.
He was almost at his last gasp, when he called them round his bed, that they might hear his dying words. They were exceedingly grieved to see how weak their father was, and not one of them could forebear crying.
Oh, my dear father, said the youngest, what shall we do without you, you who were always so good to us? I hope you are not dying.
Hush, said the eldest, do not disturb father with your grief; he was going to say something to us; let us listen to his words and instructions. Pray heaven it be not for the last time!
My children, said the old man, may I depend upon your doing what I am now going to tell you?
That you may! answered one. That you may! answered another.
You will find a treasure in the field we have so often cultivated together. —
I do not know what more the old man was going to say. I dare say he only meant to tell them that a field, which had maintained them for so many years, would still prove a treasure, if they did not neglect to make the best of it. But he had no sooner spoken the words I have told you, than he was seized with a violent fit of coughing, after which he lay exhausted and speechless; and about sunset he died.
The poor youths wept exceedingly when they saw their father was dead; they put him in a coffin; and about a week after, having screwed down the coffin, they carried it to the church-yard, where a grave was dug for him, and he was buried. Still they thought of their father; and every night at supper, and every morning at breakfast, one or another said, How I wish my father was with us!
They were very poor however, and it was necessary they should think of something beside grief, otherwise they would all have been starved.
At last the second son said, Do not you remember the last words of our father about the treasure he had buried in his field?
I am surprised, said the eldest, that he should have buried his money. I have always heard that that was the act of very foolish people. I am sure our father was not a fool.
I wish, cried the second, he had lived a little longer, only to tell us in what part of the field it was hid.
Oh, do not say that! answered the youngest. I wish he was alive now, to call us in the morning, to bless us at night, to tell us stories of what he had seen in his youth, and to give us those advices that it did my heart good to hear.
The young men all agreed to go and search for the treasure. They took with them spades and mattocks, and began to work most diligently. They searched one corner of the field, and another, and the middle; they could find no money. They did not leave one stone unturned, nor one clod unbroken. At last, after many days incessant labour, they were obliged to give up their hopes.
It is a sad thing, said the second, that our father should have deceived us.
Come, said the eldest, since we have so thoroughly worked the field, we may as well sow it with corn; we shall make something of our labour that way.
They accordingly sowed the field, and it produced as plentiful a crop as their father had ever been able to raise with all his diligence.
I dare say, said the eldest, this is the treasure our father meant; he knew we were idle young fellows, and he thought the best way to make us industrious was to lead us on with a false hope.
Our father could not tell a lie! said the youngest. If he had lived to finish his speech, you would have seen that he could not!
All the brothers learned a lesson of diligence from this adventure. Young people improve twice as much by experience, as they do by precept. They saw the good effects of the hard labour they had performed, and they turned out more sober and respectable than their poor father had feared.
The lark is a singing-bird, whose note is more clear, shrill and mellow, than almost any of her tribe. When she rises from her nest, she flies up in nearly a perpendicular line: you would think she never intended to return to the earth any more. Yet she builds her nest, not, as many birds do, among the branches of trees, but upon the ground; and, though so sweet a singer, she has nothing particular in her colour, which is a plain russet brown. Her nest is almost always in the middle of a corn-field, and is securely protected from invasion by the long, stiff, and close-ranked stalks, which like so many palisadoes occupy the field.
A lark, who had a numerous family of young ones, began to think that the ears of corn were fast turning yellow, and that the farmer would soon come into the field to reap. She was obliged to go out every morning to seek for food for her young to live on. At these times she desired her larklings to be very attentive, and to hark out for what the farmer should say; for, added she, the moment he is resolved to reap his field, it will be time for us to seek a new habitation.
The young larks listened for two or three mornings, but all was tranquil and silent. On the fourth morning they had a story to tell. Oh, mother, said they, as soon as they saw her, what you warned us of is come to pass. The farmer came with his son into the field, and said, Upon my word, son, this corn is fit to reap. Go immediately to our two neighbours, that I helped last year, and beg the favour of them to come to me now, and return the obligation.
You are good children, said the old lark, to have listened so carefully, but I do not design to change my lodging to-day. Go on however as you have begun, and tell me every thing you can hear.
The young larks were rather surprised at their mother's boldness, but they took it for granted that every thing she did was right.
The next day the farmer and his son came again into the field. Well, son, said he, neither farmer Jobson nor Hobson have attended to our summons; I take it main unkind of them. Go to-day to your two uncles at the end of the village; they are our own flesh and blood, and sure they will help us. The young larks told all this to their mother; but she replied just as before, Listen and tell me every thing the farmer shall say; I do not intend to change my lodging to-day.
The next day the farmer and his son came into the field for the third time. And so both your uncles sent their excuses, and said they had not time to help us. I see how it is: our corn will spoil for want of the sickle; son, you and I must come to-morrow, and cut it for ourselves.
When the old lark was told this, she said, Come, my young ones, it is time for us to be gone; since the old farmer speaks in so resolute a manner, I have no doubt he will be as good as his word.
In my mind the old lark ventured a little too far. This farmer had very bad neighbours; but the world is not so bad as the old lark thought; I know many warm-hearted men and women, who are almost as eager to do a good turn for their neighbours, as for themselves. The farmer however deserved no better friends, if he was willing to ask their help to do what he and his son could do very well without their assistance.
I am now going to tell you rather a serious fable. I have told you several as diverting as I could, and I hope now you will not turn away, and bid me shut the book, because I am grave. To be merry is a pleasant thing, and truth will often be found hiding herself behind a sportive mask. But we learn things of the most importance, and which are most likely to make us fit company for the wise, when both we and our book are perfectly grave.
Have you ever thought of death? Do you know that we must all of us die? Perhaps you will have a good many years yet, to learn and be happy in; but you must die at last, and nobody can tell you how soon. We ought to think about death often enough not to be surprised when it comes; but we ought to regulate our tempers and our thoughts so as to be no more frightened at it, than at sleep, or fatigue, or the tooth-ach [sic], or any thing we cannot avoid. If we dislike it ever so much, that will not alter the case a bit.
A poor faggot-binder had all his life worked hard for his living. This he could bear very well when he was young and strong; but he was now grown old, and he was obliged to work still, for he had nothing to eat, but what he earned. This made him dissatisfied, and he sometimes cried out, I can bear this burthen of life no longer.
One evening he had to come home with a heavy load of wood upon his back. He dragged one foot after the other, and said, When shall I be by my own fire-side! At last, when he had got more than half way home, he threw down his load in a fit of despair, and said, Oh, Death! that puttest an end to the miseries of mortal men, why wilt thou not come to my relief?—The words were no sooner out of his mouth, than Death stood before him.
I know not what shape Death has, and I have great doubts whether there is any such person: no matter; this, you know, is a fable. Death is generally represented by the painters under the figure of a skeleton. You have bones in every one of your joints, and, if the skin and the flesh were gone, these bones would still hang together, and make a figure with legs, and arms, and fingers, and ribs, just as you now have. After a man has been dead some years, his skin and flesh waste away, and all that is left of him is a skeleton. A skeleton with a dart in his hand, is the figure that is painted for Death.
The old faggot-binder was terribly startled, when he saw Death standing before him. A minute before he wished to be rid of his life, but now he felt twenty reasons for liking it.
Do you want to die? said the figure.
No, indeed, replied the old man, I think myself vastly well as I am.
Are you not dissatisfied with your condition? Would you not be willing to shake off cares and poverty and infirmity and old age together? I come to your relief.
I feel quite happy, answered the faggot-binder. Cares are the lot of man, and I should be a blockhead to quarrel with them. Poor I have been all my life; use therefore has reconciled me to that. Infirmity I must expect; I have had my turn to be lusty and active and strong. And old age succeeds to youth, as regularly as evening comes after the morning.
Why did you call me then? What do you want of me?
Only if your honour (for the old man began to think he had better talk submissively, to one who had so heartily frightened him)—Only if your honour would condescend just to help me up with this load of wood, which I laid down to rest myself.
Have a care! said the figure. Tell no stories! Do you think you can put the cheat upon Death?
I see, said the faggot-binder, I have been very wrong. Excuse me this once. You have taught me a lesson, that I promise never to forget. I will never again repine and be discontented with human life, till I am quite sure I had rather be dead.
Upon that condition, answered Death, I release you for the present. But, remember, whether looked for or unlooked for, welcome or unwelcome, I shall some day come in earnest. We are acquaintances now, and therefore I beg you will not receive me hereafter, as if you had never looked me in the face.
I wonder whether Death helped the old man up with his load. If he did not, I dare say the old man had put it upon his own shoulder the first time, and could do so again.
There was a very wicked young man, who had neither father nor mother. They had met with great misfortunes, had lost all their possessions, and at last died with grief and disappointment. The calamity to the young man was the less, as he had a very rich uncle who took him into his house, and treated him as if he had been his own child. The uncle had no children.
Still it is difficult for any thing to make up the loss of a parent. The uncle was very good to his nephew, but he did not think of him so often, and give him such good advice, as a parent would have done. Perhaps the young man had naturally a vicious disposition. He fell into bad company; he played for great sums at cards and dice; he was very extravagant; and, when his generous uncle was tired of giving him money, this wicked young man would steal what his kind relation refused to give. He knew that by his uncle's will the whole estate would come to him, when the old man died; and he thought he should be so happy, when he had the disposal of every thing, instead of asking for a little at a time, as he was used to do. Ungrateful as he was, he was tired of waiting; and he determined to kill his benefactor.
One night that his uncle was engaged to sup with a neighbouring farmer, this wicked nephew resolved, that he would meet him on his return, and that his uncle should never enter his own house again alive. He knew that the old gentleman would come home exactly at twelve; and that he might not miss his object, he determined to be in the way a quarter before.
It happened to be a very fine moon-light night. The dogs had barked, and the owls had hooted a little before; but now every thing was still. You could hear nothing but the rippling of a little brook, which made its way among the rushes by the path-side. A little way out of the path there was a row of tall trees. The night seemed as bright as the day; the trees and the bushes looked quite black; and, as the wind barely moved the leaves, the shadow of them played gently and incessantly upon the grass. Every thing expressed quiet. It seemed as if no angry passions, and ill nature, and wickedness could ever come into such a scene. If I had been there, I should, out of mere happiness and peace of mind, have forgotten all the world, and thought myself in heaven.
How unlike to the stillness of the scene, were all the furious thoughts that passed in the murderer's mind! He could not stand still for a moment. He knitted his brow, and struck his clenched fist upon his forehead, as he passed this way and that. At length he saw his uncle coming. He pulled his hat over his face that he might not be known; he threw the poor old man on the ground, and was just going to kill him.
Who are you? said the uncle; and what is it you intend? I am not afraid to die: no good man is afraid to die. But look up! Does not the moon shining with mild radiance on the dark blue sky, ask you, Whether you can dare to violate the solemn splendours of her reign? No, if you would commit murder, go into the dark alleys of some profligate town, frequented by wretches like yourself, where it is impossible to hear the rippling of the rill, or see the dancing shadows of the leaves.
While the uncle spoke, a sudden change took place in the nephew's mind. Till now he had not looked up and observed the scene. He felt the power of nature, standing before him in all her beauty. The instrument of death dropped from his hand. He hurried away to the next sea-port, took ship, and sailed to foreign countries. The uncle never had the grief to know that it was his nephew who had intended to kill him; and, as the young fellow staid abroad a great many years, I hope he came home at last quite an altered man.
A country-farmer had a lap-dog of which he was exceedingly fond. It was a pretty little fellow; and it frisked and jumped about with such genuine expressions of joy, when the farmer came home from his rounds, that he must have had a hard heart who did not feel some kindness for the rogue. The farmer called him into his lap, and patted, and stroked him; you cannot think what good friends they were.
The door of a farm-house is generally open, at least in the summer time. The spacious and hospitable kitchen, where the farmer sits, is not far from the door, and the fowls and the ducks and the turkies will often walk into the kitchen without the least ceremony. The farmer I am speaking of was a very good natured man, and the jack-ass himself would sometimes find his way to the fire-side, along with the other inhabitants of the straw-yard.
The jack-ass, when he was in the kitchen, observed very attentively what passed between the master and the lap-dog. What a happy fellow, thought he to himself, is this little animal! He is caressed and fondled by our master, is fed out of his own plate, and sleeps all night upon a cushion in the chimney-corner. I on the contrary am obliged to carry heavy loads, get nothing in return but blows, and am forced to sleep summer and winter in the fields. I cannot see that the lap-dog does any thing for his living, but play and frisk about, to express his love for his benefactor; and surely I, if I were to try, could do that as well as he.
The ass thought he would not be in a hurry to begin his new trade. He took a great many lessons, and observed the lap-dog over and over. Then he would steal behind the barn-door, and practice his airs and graces. He did them in his own opinion to admiration.
One day, when he thought he was quite perfect, the farmer came home from his rounds later than usual, and threw himself a good deal fatigued into his elbow-chair. The ass walked into the kitchen with an air of self-approbation, like a person conscious of his own abilities. He began to kick and prance about the floor, and, flinging his head in a caressing way to his master, set up a furious bray. A farmer is not easily disturbed by an accidental noise; and this farmer burst into immoderate laughter at what he saw. Conceited people, if they see you are amused, are always willing to take it as a proof of their cleverness; and this was the case with the ass. Encouraged by his first attempt, the ass raised himself upon his hind legs, with his fore-feet pawed against the master's breast, and made an attempt to jump into his lap. The farmer did not relish this rough salute, and called one of his men, who came with a good stick, and with half-a-dozen hard blows drove the ass back into the straw-yard.
The ass murmured in his own mind at the unfairness with which he was treated, not recollecting that there is some one thing for which every creature is more fit than for any other, and that he who attempts something quite contrary to his nature, will often do mischief, and always be an object of ridicule and contempt.
The history of the world is about five or six thousand years old. By the people of Europe it is commonly divided into two parts, the history before, and the history after Christ, or, as we frequently call them, Ancient and Modern History. When we go far back in Ancient History, we come to what are called the fabulous times: That is, when writing was introduced, and people first put down in books what they knew of human events, [sic] they could only give a certain account of what some persons then living had seen, or had heard and remembered from their fathers, and all beyond that was uncertain and mixed, part true and part false, without its being possible for us clearly to tell which was one and which was the other. In the fabulous times we read of centaurs, people half man and half horse, and giants twenty feet high, and sphinxes, and hydras, and Gods, Jupiter and Apollo and Mercury, visiting the earth, and demigods, who had the Gods for their fathers, but were born upon earth.
Among the different kinds of demigods, were the satyrs, and fauns, and naiads, and dryads. Many of these beings were said to be able to make themselves visible or invisible to human eyes as they pleased. Every river and every tree had its demigod that loved and took care of it, and in these old times a man never walked out in the forests or the fields, without imagining, whether he could see it or not, that he was in the presence of one of these beings. The satyrs were half man and half goat, their legs were hairy, their feet were cloven, and they had short horns on their heads. I wonder how these ancients, when they dreamed of a sort of creature between a man and a beast, came to call him a demigod. They were thought however, as was natural, to have more wisdom than falls to the lot of any man; and Silenus, the name of one of them, is introduced in the poems of Virgil, prophesying future events, and uttering the finest things in the world. Proteus, who they said could change himself into all sorts of shapes, is just such another, except that he belonged to the sea, and the satyrs to the woods.
A man happened to be wandering in a desert in a severe winter, when chance led him near the mouth of a satyr's cave. The man however did not perceive where he was; and being exceedingly tired, and benumbed with the cold, he laid himself down upon the snow, and in a short time would have been frozen to death. The satyr perceived him in this situation, and took compassion upon him. He brought him into his cave, and seated him before a cheerful, blazing fire. The man began to recover. His fingers however were so affected by the frost and snow, that he had lost all feeling in them. As he sat, they recovered a little, and began to ache exceedingly. While they had been quite benumbed, they were in no pain. The traveller now felt them ache, and putting them to his mouth, blowed upon them with his breath. This is a very natural action, and I have seen waggoners, and coachmen, and husbandmen do the like in cold weather. The satyr however, it seems, had never seen it before, and, being rather curious what is meant, asked his guest why he blowed upon his fingers? The traveller answered, it was to warm them.
The good-natured demigod did not design to be hospitable by halves. He rightly judged that a man who had been exposed to such severe weather, would not only want a comfortable fire, but something comfortable to take. He therefore set before him a bowl of very nourishing broth. It smoaked upon the table, and the traveller thought it exceedingly inviting. He was however in a hurry to eat it, and, as he lifted it to his mouth, he blowed into the spoon. The satyr, who did not like to see any thing that he could not account for, asked the traveller why he did that? The man answered, he blowed his broth to cool it.
The traveller had no sooner uttered these words, than the satyr flew into a terrible passion. He insisted upon it, that his guest should quit his cave that moment. The satyrs, he said, were an honest, plain-spoken race, and he would not endure that the habitation of one of them should be disgraced with the presence of a creature, that could blow hot and cold with the same breath.
The satyr was in the wrong. The same thing is often found to serve two purposes. Fire will burn, and fire will warm us. Water will drown, and water will revive us, when we are perishing with thirst. In this very case, the breath of the traveller really served to warm his fingers, and as really served to cool his broth.
Though the satyr put himself into so unreasonable a passion, he had done great service to the poor traveller. The man was frightened, and got out of the cave as fast as he could. I wish the satyr had given him time to eat his broth. But he was thoroughly warmed with the fire before which his host had seated him, and had gained so much strength, that he was able to walk the rest of the way, and get home alive to his wife and children.
From this fable it has grown into a custom, to say, as the severest censure we can cast upon a man, when he is very civil to me to my face, and speaks ill of me behind my back, or is guilty of any other piece of duplicity, He blows hot and cold with the same breath.
Monkies and apes bear a considerable resemblance to the human form. They are however neither so handsome nor so wise as human beings, and on that account seem as if they had been intended for caricatures or disagreeable representations of the human species.
Wisdom is of ten thousand greater intrinsic value than beauty. I should like however that you should know what beauty is. There are three ancient statues, which are thought to exhibit the best notions which can be formed on this head, the Hercules, the Apollo and the Venus. Of each of these statues you may see casts at Somerset House. The Hercules is the model of strength, the Apollo and Venus of delicacy and elegance. It is impossible for human beings to conceive any thing more graceful, than the most exquisite specimens of the human figure, or than the most easy and tasteful attitudes and motions which can be given it. For examples of these I would refer you to the dancers at the Opera House. I should like you to know something of every thing, and though beauty is not so excellent a thing as wisdom, nor a pumpion as a pine-apple, there is no harm in being acquainted with both.
Some sorts of monkies are tolerably handsome; I think those most so, that, when we look at them, least remind us of a man. A monkey, with all proper humility be it said, can only lose by the comparison. An ape therefore is ugliest of all, because he has least hair upon his body, and in other respects looks a hideous and deformed sort of manikin. I may as well tell you that all these sorts of creatures do several sly and odd tricks, make ugly faces such as I have seen foolish people make, eat apples, and crack nuts.
An ape had once two cubs at a birth. She loved one of them to distraction, and hated the other. I need not tell you there are foolish mothers of our own kind, who act as sillily as this ape. She thought her favourite the most beautiful and the cleverest creature in the world, though every body else could see that he was uncommonly distorted and stupid. She was however always fondling and coaxing her darling, indulged him in every thing, and was frightened out of her wits every moment that he was not in her sight.
Mamma's darling grew up sickly and peevish, could do nothing for himself, and was intolerable to himself and every body else. As to the other twin, he was left to shift as he could; and, as he saw that there was nobody to indulge him and think for him, he was obliged to think for himself. Hardships made him strong, and nimble, and circumspect. He could climb trees with inconceivable rapidity. There never was an ape that promised to acquire more knowledge and resources, than the young one which was thus unkindly used.
Apes are creatures that are thought of some value in London; they are put into the Tower, and other Museums; and of consequence are hunted by people who try to catch them, that they may sell them for such uses. The hunters once set upon the ape and her cub that I have mentioned: the mother was much more frightened for her darling than she was for herself, though this darling had twenty times behaved undutifully to her, as all spoiled children behave unkindly to the people that spoil them. She did not think for a moment of the other twin, though quite as nearly related to her.
The mother caught up her favourite, and ran as fast as her heels could carry her. In her hurry she stumbled against a stone; and, as she fell with great force, as people always do when they are running hard, the young one got a severe blow upon the head that killed him on the spot. The hunters drew nearer; the mother saw it was to no purpose to carry a dead ape in her arms; she dropped him to be devoured by the dogs, and thought now only of saving herself by flight, which with some difficulty she effected. The neglected one had from the first scrambled up a tree, and thus escaped both the danger and the fear.
When the hunt was over, the mother and her surviving young one came together again. The parent ape was at first inconsolable for the loss of her favourite; but the neglected cub had learned reflection as well as dexterity, when he was obliged to take care of himself, and behaved so considerately and tenderly to his dam, that she at length confessed her error, and was convinced that the sickly and deformed creature she had cockered, had never possessed the tenth part of the good qualities of the son who cherished her in her old age.
The consequence in some countries of long and heavy rains is called a flood. We read in the Bible of a flood that drowned the world. In that instance we are told, that the windows of heaven were opened, and it rained forty days and forty nights (almost six weeks) without intermission. The flood I am going to tell you of was not quite so terrible as that. The usual history of a flood is, that the waters produced by the rain, run down from the hills, and swell the rivers, till they rise above their banks, and deluge a great portion of the flat country. A flood often begins so suddenly (for people are not always aware of the great quantity of water that has fallen upon the hills, and is coming down to them), that neither men, women nor children have time to escape; the flocks of sheep and oxen are carried away with the tide, and the cottages of the country-people are borne down with its force. Such a flood is a fearful calamity.
It was at the time of a rainy season, that the river Rhone, which is said to be the most rapid river in the world, had overflowed its banks. The waves came tumbling along, and the vast billows, covered with foam, and throwing a tremendous spray, made a formidable appearance. It was enough to make a sailor recollect what he had seen in a tempest at sea.
I do not know how many valuable articles were carried away by this flood; but among the rest, there were two jars, a china and a brazen one, that were seen on the top of the billows. I almost wonder they did not go to the bottom; but the force of the rushing waters was so great, as to overcome the tendency to sink, which metal or any heavy substance naturally has.
The china jar was terribly frightened with the peril to which she was exposed; but the jar of brass did not partake her fears, and endeavoured to comfort her. My dear friend, be not dismayed! said she. You and I are sisters; and I have a presentiment that we shall come out safe from our present disaster. Depend upon me for assistance. At all events I will keep as close to you as I can, and afford you every support in my power.
Good Mr. [sic] Brass, replied the china jar, the utmost I have to request of you is that you would keep your distance. I doubt of our being so nearly related as you say. I am of a delicate and brittle constitution, and if I am broken, an event which one hearty salute from you would effect, I shall lose my present beauty, for the sake of which I have been placed upon the top of my lord's most valuable cabinet, and shall be thought fit only for the dunghill. But you are of a hardy make, and capable of enduring many severe knocks; and, if you should sustain any damage on the present occasion, a few skilful blows from the smith will set all right again. Of all the things at present washed away by the tide, I perceive none which I have so much reason to fear as yourself.
I hope the china jar was saved from her danger, and placed once more in her favourite situation upon the top of the cabinet. In the mean time you will observe, that the moral or conclusion of this fable is the same as that of the Hermit and the Bear, that injudicious kindness is in many cases as much to be guarded against, as the most angry and implacable hostility.
A snail is commonly said to be an animal that carries its house on its back. There are many conveniences in that: if I could do so, I need not consider, when I set out for a long walk, that, after having walked out as far as I like, I shall have just as far to walk home again. A house however, big enough for me to live in agreeably, would be a heavy load, that I should not much like to carry on my back; so I may as well be content as I am.
There is a large portion of the inhabitants of the waters, called fish, that, like the snail, always carry their houses, or in other words, their shells, along with them. Such are oysters, and cockles, and muscles, and lobsters, and crabs. There are however few of them that, like the snail, can come out of their shells and creep back again whenever they like.
One remarkably quality of the lobster and the crab is that, when they are alive, their shells are black: but, when they are boiled that they may be brought to table, their shells turn red. A witty English Poet, called Butler, therefore says, that a dark night succeeded by a brilliant sunrise, is very like a lobster boiled.
Lobsters and crabs sometimes walk, or rather crawl, upon the sand of the sea. A crab, I am told, has a very odd sort of walk, for, instead of going straight forward, he walks backward, as I remember I used sometimes to do when I was a school-boy. I never saw a crab walk, but I believe you may depend upon the truth of the account.
A crab and her daughter were once basking themselves on the sand. As they were moving along, the mother cast her eye upon her young one. My dear child, said she, how you walk! I will be boiled (a vulgar woman would have said, I will be hanged), if you do not go backward. Consider, my love, that the success of a young lady in the world greatly depends upon the gracefulness of her carriage. Upon my word you must cure yourself of this ungainly trick of yours, before it grows into a habit. Why do not you attend to these things, my child, without giving me the trouble to tell you of them?
What a foolish mother this was, to object in her child to a practice, which belongs to the very nature of a crab, and which no crab ever yet lived without! But some folks can discover faults, or what they think such, in their neighbours, without the smallest suspicion that they have the same faults themselves. Thus I remember to have heard a miserly old hunks declare, that, of all things in the world, he had the most difficulty to conceive how it was possible for a man to be avaricious.
The young crab answered her mother with perfect innocence and simplicity, My dear mamma, if you will only show me how I ought to walk, I will endeavour to imitate you as closely as I possibly can.
Two men, an old man and a young one, had to travel through a wide forest, infested with wild beasts. It was necessary for them to go, and therefore they were obliged to overlook the dangers which threatened them. Most people who traversed this savage country went in companies or caravans of thirty or forty each, sometimes more; but these two went alone. They agreed however, whatever happened, to stand by each other, and, as far as depended upon them, to run the same fortune, whether for life or death. The old man was noted through all the village where he dwelt, for one of the most honest, kind-hearted, and plain-speaking creatures that ever lived: the young man I do not know so much of: we shall see how he kept his word.
They took leave of their wives and families, and it was a very affecting sight to behold their parting. They kissed them all round, and many tears were shed. God bless you, husband. I God bless you, father! said the women and children, and preserve you through the dangers of this terrible journey!
The beginning of their walk, for they went on foot, was along agreeable lanes, with corn-fields and meadows on each side, in some places cows, in others sheep, with here and there a neat cottage of the people the cattle belonged to; you cannot think how pleasant it was. By and by however they came upon the forest, which sometimes consisted of wide heath, sometimes of sandy desert, and sometimes of trees and bushes so tangled together that it was difficult to force their way through them. There was no path, and the travellers were obliged to consult a compass they carried in their pockets to know in which direction they were to proceed. They also looked at the sun, for they knew that he would be to the east in morning, and to the west in the evening; and this was a great help to them. If you stand with your right hand to the east, or your left hand to the west, you have then the north directly before, and the south behind you. If you do this in London, you will have Cambridge before, and Brighthelmstone behind you, Canterbury will be on your right hand, and Bristol on your left.
At noon the travellers were so lucky as to find a fountain of fresh water, with a few trees growing near it. They sat down at the foot of the trees, and pulled a pasty or a joint of mutton out of their wallet. With this and some water from the spring they made a very comfortable meal.
At night they found some other shelter which answered their purpose. Night is the principal time when wild beasts come out of their dens or coverts, to seek for prey. They had heard however that they should be tolerably secure, if they lighted a fire, and slept by the side of it. The old man got a flint, and with the back of a knife he had in his pocket struck a light. With this he set fire to some dried leaves. The young man in the mean time picked up some sticks, and they contrived to make an agreeable blaze. They settled that one should wake and watch, while one should sleep; and this they took by turns the night through. It is thus that sailors do in ships. They kept up the fire by continually supplying it with fresh fuel; and, though the lions and tigers and bears growled and roared exceedingly with all kinds of noises, not one of them dared come near.
The next morning they pursued their journey, completely refreshed, and thankful that they had thus passed the first night in safety. Nothing particular happened in the course of the second day. The old man had not known much of his young companion before they set out; but now he began to love him. The youth had behaved very well hitherto; and the having passed with any one through a course of the same chances and dangers will always beget in me some portion of kindness for him.
Evening was now coming on, and the travellers were beginning to think where they should rest for the second night, when they saw a bear of an enormous size rush out of a thicket, and run toward them with great swiftness. The young man had a stout club, and the old man a gun. The old man pulled the trigger, but it some how or other missed fire: I suppose the priming had fallen out as they passed along. The young traveller seeing this, forgot all the engagements into which he had entered, took to his heels, threw down his club as he ran, and, as he was exceedingly nimble and alert, climbed in a trice to the top of a high tree.
There stood the old man. His companion had deserted him in the moment of danger. The youth was a hale, strong fellow, and, as his cudgel was a trusty one, he could very likely, if he had stood by his friend, have knocked out the brains of the bear. The old man could not follow the example of his treacherous associate. Though his strength was not yet worn out with age, his activity was exceedingly lessened. His understanding however was as quick and lively as ever.
In this terrible emergency he recollected that he had been told that lions will not prey upon carcasses. He did not know whether this would apply to a bear of an enormous size; but he could do no better than try. He threw himself on the ground flat upon his face, and held his breath as if he had been dead.
The bear, though he ran directly toward the place where the two travellers had been standing, did not see them, so soon as they saw him. The old man had laid himself motionless on the ground, and the young man climbed up into his tree, unobserved by their common enemy. Had it been otherwise, the tree would have been of very little service to the man who had recourse to it, for bears are expert in climbing trees.
When the bear came up to the unfortunate old man, he made a full stop. He looked at him from head to foot, and smelt him, and pushed against him with his snout. The old man, as the saying is, would have given his life for a farthing. When the bear however had examined him as much as he liked, he ran away as fast as before, toward the place to which he had previously been going: perhaps it was to visit a she-bear that he was in love with.
As soon as the young fellow saw that the bear was quite gone, he slid down from the tree, took up his club, and returned to his companion. He knew he had been doing a despicable thing; but he did not feel duly ashamed of it; and, like many other people who do despicable things, he thought he could carry it off with a joke. Well, old friend, said he, and clapped him on the back, how do you do? Now, my good fellow, do tell me what the bear whispered to you; for I observed he had his nose close in at your ear.
The old man did not think treachery and lying subjects for a joke. He put on therefore a very significant face. Since you ask me, said he, I will tell you: he charged me never again to engage in travel with a wretch, who in the hour of danger would desert his friend.
The bear, you know, said no such thing, for bears cannot speak. But the old man thought that so paltry a fellow deserved no better answer.
On the evening of the third day they arrived at their journey's end. When they had finished their business, they returned with a caravan. But the young fellow was very sorry and very much humbled for what he had done, before the people of the village would forgive him for deserting so honest, kind-hearted, and plain-speaking a man.
A man who does not love reading and study, who knows nothing of what was done in the world before he was born, who has not studied the accounts of distant countries and climates, and who has not read the books of those who have anatomized the bowels of the earth, and measured the size and distance of the stars, is what we call an Ignoramus.
An Ignoramus, a stupid, country-bumpkin, who could hardly write his own name, had heard much talk of a cousin of his, who was a very learned man, and familiarly acquainted with most of the arts and sciences. He understood with surprise, that his cousin rose in the morning with the first dawn of the day, and sat alone among his books as many hours as he could consistently with a proper attention to his health. Every body said, that this hard-working student was very wise; but Ignoramus would never believe it. Pooh, pooh! answered he, never tell me: the man must be a downright fool, to sit all his life long poking and poring his eyes out over books. Think how I live, coursing after hares every morning, gaming at the bowling-green every afternoon, and drinking punch and strong ale at one club or another every night. It is true I do not learn much; but I laugh and grow fat. I spend every hour of my life merrily; and not one wrinkle shall care ever furrow in my brow. At last he resolved he would go and see the old quiz.
It would have done you good to have seen them both together, when the country-bumpkin was shown into his cousin's study. The eyes of the rustic were starting from his head, and his cheeks were absolutely purple, with the punch and strong ale he had so plentifully drunk. You never saw any thing look so like a booby. The student, his relation, was pale, but not with ill health, for he took care to prevent that by wholesome exercise. His eye was bright, animated, and penetrating, but mild. His hairs were white, and his whole appearance venerable. His face was furrowed with thought, yet he looked calm, contented and happy. He was old; but his were the marks of a vigorous, and what I have seen somewhere called a green, old-age.
Ignoramus looked round upon the library with surprise; it was on every side lined with books. Why, coz, said he, what a power of books you have here? What in the name of wonder can you do with them? I could never read but in one book at a time; and a small book would serve me a month. One of your shelves would last me my whole life.
And what, cousin, do you remember of the books you have read?
Why even, answered Ignoramus, nothing at all. I never read but to amuse myself, or to say the truth, to compose myself to sleep after a hard day's coursing.
I will tell you, replied the student, what books I have got here. Those are Latin, and these Greek; further on are the French, the Italian, and the Spanish. On this side are the English writers, from the time of queen Elizabeth and before, to the reign of George the third. On the right hand of my fire-place are the books that tell me about the sun and the stars, and on the left the books that describe, and the maps that represent, all the nations of the earth.
And now, said Ignoramus, will you be so good as to show me the use of all this?
A great deal, answered the student. I could not bear to be ignorant, and you cannot imagine how great are the pleasures of knowledge. But, beside this, all my neighbours come to me for advice. If they quarrel, I can acquaint them with the decisions of the law, and the counsels of prudence. If one wants to dig a mine, I can inform him how to proceed. If another wishes to sink a well, I can tell him where he will find water. If my neighbour is engaged in merchandize, I can explain to him the productions of the different countries of the world. I can teach him how to farm, and how to build. Those who come to me, say that the advice I give them is better than gold; and yet I sometimes give them that too, for I have a moderate estate, and my modes of life are not expensive.
Well but, rejoined Ignoramus, what I wonder at is, how you can spend so great a portion of your life alone. For my part I cannot live an hour to an end, without having somebody to talk to me, and to amuse me.
Excuse my plain-dealing, said the student to Ignoramus, but I never felt myself alone till you came in.—Ignoramus had entered into a great deal of talk which I do not think it necessary to repeat, about dogs, and horses, and rubbers at bowls, and the most approved way of hedging a bet, and the ingredients in good whiskey-punch, and the best receipt for brewing strong ale.
Since you came in, cousin, my books have been shut. I no longer talk with Plato and Socrates, the wise and the good, the illustrious dead of all ages and countries. They talk like oracles, with the depth of enlightened knowledge, and the kindness of the most affectionate friend. Your talk is hardly worthy of a rational being. Yet among the lessons they have taught me is that of patience and good-humour; and I have listened to your unmeaning impertinence, without being once out of temper.
Ignoramus was abashed. He could not help admiring his learned cousin, and confessed that, if it had not been too late, he would have been a student too. But the man, who aspires to be wise and well-informed, must begin with a love of instruction almost from infancy.
A certain nobleman had an only son. The father was now grown old, and the son had arrived at the stature of a man. The nobleman, because he was very rich, thought himself very great. He believed that his country must go to ruin, if the race of so illustrious a family as his was, should perish. Besides, he was dotingly fond of his son, and his son deserved his love. I believe he had formerly had several children, and that perhaps was the reason that he did not spoil this one. But now they were all dead, and this was left alone. The son was a good scholar, and loved and understood painting, music, and poetry. This story happened many years ago, when active and robust exercises were esteemed of the highest value. The young gentleman could pitch the bar, and tilt at the ring, to admiration. He was very fond of hunting, and thought it beneath his quality to hunt any but the most ferocious wild beasts. But, above all, his mind continually dwelt on feats of war, and he was desirious to rival Tamerlane, Scanderbeg, and Alexander the Great. In the mean time every body loved him for his obliging and generous behaviour; he was continually doing good to his father's tenants and servants.
But the more this young gentleman was bent upon encountering dangers, that he might show himself worthy of the high blood that filled his veins, the more his father trembled for the life of his darling. The old nobleman was always miserable with a thousand alarms, whenever his son was out of his sight. They had many arguments on this subject. Though the son always behaved very respectfully to his father, yet he humbly represented to him the necessity there was, that he should distinguish himself in some way or other. By the station of life in which I am born, said he, I cannot go to plough, nor make ploughs and other implements for the husbandman; and I cannot bear to be of no use in the world. Besides, by that way of living, I shall not be fit company for other young gentlemen, my equals, and they will look upon me with merited contempt.—It did not signify: the old nobleman could not conquer his fears.
One night the father happened to dream that he saw his son a hunting. The animal he pursued was a furious lion. The son by some accident fell from his horse, and was devoured by the lion.
The nobleman woke with the imaginary shrieks of his dying son sounding in his ears. His face was covered with sweat, and every joint in his skin trembled. He was sure that his son would in reality one day fall a prey to a lion.
Full of this thought, he built a castle in a remote situation, on purpose to confine his son, that he might not be eaten alive. He adorned it with pictures, and filled it with instruments of music, that he might pass his time as agreeably as possible. He had the young gentleman watched carefully, with a centinel always at his door, though the son had too much respect for his father to thwart him in any thing on which his heart was set.
The young gentleman did not make any remonstrance against this dreary imprisonment; he endeavoured to appear easy and cheerful before his father; but he repined in secret. The thing dwelt so much upon his mind, that he fell into a fit of sickness. The old nobleman sat by his bed-side. What can I do for you, my son? I will do any thing, provided you will not go a hunting. The son promised he would not.
After a time the young gentleman grew better; but, as his health improved, he found the watch set upon him as closely as ever, by the misjudging affection of his father.
One day, that the son was walking alone in a spacious apartment of the castle, he said to himself, How unworthily my father uses me? Why am I shut out from the cheerful enjoyment of the woods, and the hills, and the open face of heaven? I envy even the poor hay-makers, that I perceive yonder singing at their work. Why must I languish for ever in solitude and obscurity? What crime have I committed to merit this treatment?
As he reflected in this manner, he chanced to cast his eye upon a fine picture of a lion. His father had hung this room with pictures of beasts, thinking that they would be particularly agreeable to his son.
Thou ugly wild beast! said he. It is for thy sake that I am shut up a prisoner here. If I had a sword, I would thrust it to thy heart.—In his passion the young gentleman behaved as if it had been a real lion.
He then clenched his fist, and made a furious blow directly at the lion's breast. Behind the picture, just in that place, there was a large rusty nail in the wainscot. The blow tore the picture, and the nail severely lacerated the young gentleman's hand. He was in an ill state of health before; the wound festered; it turned to a mortification; and he died.
Thus all the old nobleman's excessive cares were vain. He had better have let his son go at large, and employ himself like other young persons of his rank. He would then very probably have surmounted the dangers of real life, and have died at last in a good old age.
The eagle is held to be the king of birds. It is impossible to imagine any thing in the form of a bird more beautiful than he is. His beauty does not consist in gaudy colors, like the jay's, nor in a huge tail, like the peacock's, which, though nature has painted it with an exquisite pencil, must after all be allowed to be somewhat disproportioned and monstrous. The colors of the eagle are a deep and a tawny brown, mottled like those of the partridge, sober, yet highly gratifying to the eye. His form is made for strength and action. His eye is lively and piercing; and the sight of it is so strong, that it is said he can gaze without blenching at the brightest rays of the noon-tide sun.
The eagle builds his nest in the crags of the rock. It hangs over the sea, and remains undestroyed by the most furious tempests. He is a bird of prey, and his scream is terrible to such animals as he is accustomed to devour. He feeds upon serpents, harts, hares, and various other animals, which he discerns from an immense distance, pounces upon them from his elevation in the sky, and carries them away in his talons.
A hungry eagle gazed from a distance upon a flock of sheep. With his eye he singled a lamb from the number, and flapping his wings, came down with immense swiftness, seized the poor animal with his talons, and flew away with him through the air.
A crow who beheld every thing that passed, was filled with admiration of the action of the eagle. He thought he would do the same, and show himself a bird of spirit. He imitated the king of birds in the sweep he had seen him take, and then lighted upon the back of the old ram, the bell-wether of the flock. Determined to do the business as completely as he could, he entangled his feet thoroughly in the fleece of the ram, and then spread his wings to fly away with him. He might as well have thought to fly away with the city of London.
The shepherd remarked his situation. He was exceedingly sorry for the loss of the lamb that the eagle had carried off, but he was not at all apprehensive of what the crow would do. He took him in his hand, disentangled his claws from the back of the ram, clipped his wings, and turned him into the garden for the amusement of his children.
There happened to be a magpye hanging in a cage by the garden-wall. He looked at the crow, and said, as the shepherd's children had taught him to do, What bird are you? The crow could not speak, but he hung down his head, and thought with himself, A very little while ago I mistook myself for an eagle, but I now find I am a very silly crow!
There is scarcely any animal that we read of more in stories and histories than the deer. He deserves to be talked of for his beauty; and he has the misfortune to be talked of, because his flesh, which is called venison, is one of the greatest delicacies that a king can put on his table.
There are many varieties of this creature, and as many names to call them by. In a former fable we read of the stag and the hind; that is the red deer: there is also the hart and the roe; that is the fallow, or tawny deer: the most ordinary names are buck and doe; those names are common to every kind.
A hart was once singled out by some archers for their prey. I believe these archers had no dogs with them; for dogs, as I told you before, follow the deer by his scent; and that does not seem to be the case in the story I am going to tell you. If a game-keeper shoots a deer in his lord's park, because the lord chuses to have venison for his Sunday's dinner, he does not want dogs to help him in that. The famous Robin Hood, of whom we have heard so much, and the other outlaw bowmen, who lived in forests which our kings then kept for hunting, and who fed upon the king's deer, had, I believe, no dogs; I do not remember that dogs are once mentioned in all the stories there are about them.
But do not let us forget the poor hart, that we left the archers just going to shoot at. He discovered the danger in time, and scampered away as fast as his legs could carry him. He ran a mile or two, till he came to a place where there was a treillage, or espalier, covered with vines. The vines were extremely fine and flourishing, and their leaves were so numerous and thick, that not Argus himself, that I have somewhere read of, who had a hundred eyes (I wonder whether they all grew in his face), could have seen through their shade. The archers quite lost sight of the hart; they looked on this side and on that, and could discover him no where. It was the best hide and seek you ever knew; and I assure you the poor hart thought so. He was not hiding, poor fellow, for sport, but for his life.
The hart lay as still as a mouse, and the hunters walked by pensive and disappointed. The hart began to be convinced that he was safe; and, alas! security made him wanton. The leaves of the vines were green and fresh and tender; they just touched his nose. He opened his pretty mouth, and cropped one of them; it was very good. Finding one so palatable, he pulled another and another; he quite forgot why he had come there.
The archers, who were very near, heard a rustling of the leaves; they turned their eyes that way. They saw a motion and a shaking; they guessed what was the matter; they shot at a venture, and the poor hart was killed.
Before he died, he could not help thinking within himself with bitterness, I have deserved what has happened. The vine generously protected me with its shade, and I, ungrateful beast that I was, could not refrain from acting injuriously to my benefactor.
Shall I tell you one other fable of a creature killed? An eagle was sitting on a high rock, and saw a hare running across a field below. She determined to seize this hare for her prey. She rose majestically into the air, and prepared to pounce down upon the poor innocent, who thought no harm.
This was among the mountains; perhaps of Wales. Some archers were descending a neighbouring declivity. The eagle was so intent upon the hare, that she did not perceive them. One of them let fly an arrow, and gave the eagle a mortal wound, and the hare was saved. The archers thought nothing about that; they had only a mind to carry home an eagle.
One end of the arrow pierced this noble bird, the other stuck out from the wound. The eagle looked at it with her dying eyes. Do you know what an arrow is? It is a long, smooth bit of stick. At the end designed to inflict the wound, it has a point of metal, and sometimes this point is barbed or fanged, to make it the more difficult to pull it out of the wound. The other end is feathered, that is, the arrow-maker strips from the quill of some bird the feathery part which grows on each side the quill, and glues it on upon each side of his arrow. It was the feathery end of the arrow that the eagle looked at, and she saw that it was winged with plumage from one of her own quills, which a few weeks before had dropped from her when she moulted. This is double cruelty, said the eagle—I am killed; and they have furnished themselves from my own person with the means of my destruction.
What the eagle felt upon this occasion was merely what people call a sentiment. It had no distinct foundation in reality. The archer did not consider that he was shooting an eagle with an eagle's feather; and the bird had been guilty of neither fault nor folly in furnishing the archer with the ornament of the weapon that slew her. But, when a man really brings a misfortune upon himself of his own procuring, and, as the saying is, furnishes the rod for his own back, the thought of that must add very much to the anguish which torments him.
A lynx is a very beautiful animal. His fur is of great value as an article of dress for the ladies. His coat is spotted like a leopard, but he is of a more diminutive size. Many wonderful stories were told of him by the ancients. Bacchus is said to have been drawn in his chariot by a set of these animals, when he returned from the conquest of India. His urine is related to harden into precious stones. But what is most remarkable about him is his sight. He discovers objects at a greater distance than any other animal in the world. The ancients said, he could see through stone-walls.
A lynx once met with a mole in his path. A mole is an animal that lives entirely under ground; it is somewhat extraordinary that the lynx found him above it. He burrows and makes long passages and caverns in the earth; and he feeds upon worms and other insects that, like himself, dwell out of sight of the sun. His size is about equal to that of a rat. In his subterraneous travels he sometimes, when he comes toward the surface, throws up large heaps of mould, which we call mole-hills. These are injurious to the farmer and the gardener in their labours, and therefore they set traps to catch and kill him. His colour is black, and his coat is softer than the finest velvet. The smell and hearing of the mole are very subtle, but he can see very little; he was formerly thought to be totally blind. Sight can be but of little use to a creature who lives under ground.
The lynx looked with great contempt upon this inferior animal. Beside other articles of superiority upon which he valued himself, he was particularly proud of the brillancy of his eye and sharpness of his sight.
Alas, poor creature, said the lynx, what a miserable life is thine! How hard to live always in the damp, cold ground, and to wander from mine to mine, without once seeing the light, or feeling the warmth of the sun. It is however well for thee in one respect, that thou art deprived of the use of sight. If thou couldst behold me as I vault by thy wretched mole-hill, with the vast freedom of my muscles and limbs, joined to a sight which can discover objects invisible to every other creature that lives, thou must needs burst with envy and rage against the partiality of nature, which has assigned thee such a wretched existence. It would be charity in any of us nobler creatures, to put an end to it for thee.
I thank you much for your charity, replied the mole, but I can do extremely well without it. I am contented and tranquil. If nature has denied me some organs and beauties which you possess, she has endowed me with what is better than both, a cheerful temper, enabling me to support my obscure existence without misery or murmuring. But, observe, if you surpass me in some of the senses, I am equally superior to you in others. Want of sight serves to sharpen my sense of hearing. And even at this moment, if I am not mistaken, I hear a sound, which seems to come from beyond you, and gives me notice that an enemy is near, and that it is time for me to fly to the safety of my caverns.
The noise proceeded from the approach of a hunter; and before the lynx could turn round to look, he received a mortal wound from a javelin. The mole was not so far off, but he could hear the last groan of the lynx's expiring agony; and now he felt more than ever thankful to providence, for having blessed him with a mind not to repine at his station.
There is too much about killing in these fables. We kill creatures for their flesh; we kill creatures for their skins; and, which is worst, we kill creatures, when we go a hunting and shooting, for our amusement. Men (though they are very kind and considerate to many animals) appear to most advantage in their conduct to one another. How much care do almost all parents take of their children! How many generous actions do we hear of, that men do for their friends, and even for strangers, giving them money, giving them their time, running into dangers, and sometimes sacrificing their lives to save them! Yes, my dear child, man, though imperfect, is a noble creature; and I hope you will attend to your improvement in your early days, that hereafter you may be worthy to be called, in the best sense of the word, a man.
The animals most important to man, are the horse and the cow; the animals that live with him upon the most familiar terms, are the dog and the cat. The dog is known by the honourable title of the friend of man. He feels a strong attachment for his master; he often gives him information of danger from bad people or from a falling house; he will drag a man or a child out of the water, and prevent their being drowned; he protects our persons, our clothes, and our houses, from people who would hurt the one, or steal from the other. I ought to tell you all this in favour of dogs, when I am going to relate a story of a naughty one.
There was once a dog, who was never contented to stay at home; and, when nobody could tell where he was, he was, as often happens to children, sure to be in mischief. He would run after the sheep, and sometimes half kill them. His master was not willing to turn him out of doors, but all the neighbours said that, if he did any more mischief, they would shoot him. So his master got a great clog, with a transverse bar, as you see it in the picture, and put it upon him. The clog was to make it uncomfortable for him to wander a great way; and the bar would hinder him from forcing his way through hedges, and between the rounds of stiles and gates, as he had been used to do. He might push his head through, but the bar would hinder his body from following it.
I have told you already that this dog was badly disposed; and I must now tell you that he was very silly beside. These two things are apt to go together. "Show me a naughty boy, and I will show you a silly one;" that is, if you are right, in pointing to him, and saying he is naughty, I will venture to point at the same boy, and say, he is a very silly fellow. To be naughty is to make a blunder, and do something stupid; the naughty creature intends himself good, but he really does himself harm, and is despised. In the fable of the Dog in the Manger, you saw before you got to the end, that the naughty dog was a silly dog too.
Well; this naughty, silly dog had reason enough you will think to be ashamed of his clog; it told every body he came near, the paltry tricks he had done. But he never thought of that. I dare say his master said to him as he put it on, There, sir, remember how you worry sheep again! but the dog took no heed. He thought he had got a fine ornament. The bar he looked upon no less than a collar of knighthood, and the clog as equal to a king's train. So, instead of hanging down his head, he strutted, and pranced, and insisted upon all the other dogs making way for him. My dear friend, said a sly old codger, it is bad enough to be obliged to carry about every where the marks of one's disgrace; but the dog who mistakes them for emblems of honour, is the most incorrigible puppy I ever heard of.
It is foolish to look upon any thing as unworthy of notice, merely because it is little. There is nothing little or great but by comparison. When Gulliver was in Brobdingnag (a country in the story-book where the people were sixty feet high), they could not help saying, Bless me, how little you are! If Homer, or Milton, or Sir Isaac Newton had been there, they would have said the same. Yet a man might be sixty feet high, without knowing more, or having one bit a greater soul, than Homer, and Milton, and Sir Isaac Newton.
Men cannot absolutely despise wasps, or hornets, or gnats, or midges (creatures so little you can hardly see them); because these animals have all of them the power to sting, which makes our flesh become red, and itching, and inflamed, though it is no great mischief that these animals do us, and, if we are patient, the pain soon goes away. But there is a creature, called the breeze, or gad-fly, which stings the bull, and other strong and powerful beasts, particularly in hot countries, till it drives them mad. Perhaps this is, because these poor beasts are destitute of the understanding of human beings, by which we endure pain, and learn to wait with patience till it is over.
Begone, miserable wretch, offspring of the dunghill! said a lion one day to a gad-fly. He thought it beneath him to suffer the majesty of his nature to be disturbed by such a pitiful insect.
Do you despise me? said the gad-fly. I will teach you another time to think twice, before you determine who you shall despise. I declare war against you.
The lion folded his legs under him with great composure, and lay down in the mouth of his den, without deigning to take any notice of what the gad-fly said. The insect began his hum, or drone, the signal that he was going to commence his attack. He took a circuit in the air, then lighted upon the lion's neck, and stung him. With another sweep he fastened on the lion's cheek, and drew blood there. The lion roared terribly; the strongest beasts ran to their hiding-places; all the inhabitants of the forest trembled; the whole was the work of a fly.
The assailant was not yet content. He stung the lion behind his ears. He got within his nostril, and stung him there; that was worst of all. The lion could do nothing to the fly. He lashed his sides with his tail; his eyes struck fire: he gnashed with his teeth; he tossed the foam from his lips. At last, quite exhausted, he fell flat upon the ground, and writhed, and bit the dust with agony.
Was not this an ill-natured insect, to teaze in this obstinate manner so noble and fine-spirited a creature as a lion, that had never done him any harm? I hope, while you are a little boy, you will never teaze a lame or a blind man, or a wild beast shut up in a cage, merely because he has not the power to cope with you. Every body knows that that is the act of a coward.
This coward gad-fly was quite puffed up with his victory, and boasted that he was the greatest hero in the world. Till I came, said he, the lion was acknowledged the king of animals; but see with what ease I have subdued him! I defy all the world; let me see the fool-hardy creature that dares to contend with me!
A spider in her hole heard this gasconading speech with amazement. She would have laughed, if nature had given to spiders the faculty of laughing. She thought she saw further into the darkness of future time, than the gad-fly.
The battle was now finished, and the gad-fly, having sung the song of victory, flew away proudly, to tell the story to his mother and his relations. As he flew, he struck full tilt upon the spider's web, and was entangled in the thinnest and flimsiest net in the world: could any thing be more mortifying? The spider came out of her hole, seized the conqueror of the world, and put him to death in a moment.
You have heard I believe what an astronomer is. He is a man that has measured the size and distance of the sun and stars. He has found out the true length of the year, and marked the seasons when to plough, when to sow, and when to reap, which, till he interfered with them, men were continually apt to blunder about. He can tell how long every star, in the orbit it describes, will be before it returns to the same place again. His art teaches men how to steer a ship at sea, and makes the sailor able, when he is out of sight of land, to tell by other means which way the place lies that he wants to go to. What an admirable man is an astronomer!
When you have read this fable, you will never after be in danger of confounding, as some ignorant people do, an astronomer, with an astrologer. An astrologer is a man who pretends to foretell events before they happen, which nobody can really do. This he does by means of the stars, their conjunctions, and oppositions, and ascendants, and trines, and sextiles, and a great many comical things, which he talks of with a very grave face. So that both these sorts of people look at the same objects, and all the difference is, that one looks at them like a wise man, and the other like a fool.
We know nothing of events before they happen, except as prudence may enable us to foresee the consequences of our own actions and those of others. I know that, if I study hard, I shall be a learned man, and, that, if I behave well, people will love me. But as to when I shall die, and how often I shall marry, and whether I shall win a prize in the lottery, and other foolish things that astrologers and fortune-tellers pretend to foretell, we know nothing at all. It is well for us that we do not. Life would be a very dull business, if we could foresee every calamity before it reached us, and if no agreeable accident ever took us by surprise.
An astrologer was once walking in the fields at midnight, and looking up at the skies. It was a beautiful night, and every little star, which could at any time be discerned by the human eye, was visible now. He walked, and walked, so long, till at last he fell into a pit. A man's eyes cannot be every where; and, as this astrologer was intently gazing upon the stars, he could not see his path. I hope there was no water in the pit. But it was deep, and all that the poor fortune-teller could do, he could not help himself out again. He began to bawl and roar lustily for help. The country-people got out of their beds, and came to assist the poor man in distress. Some of them however said, It is nothing but our astrologer: could he watch the stars, which we are told are millions of miles off, and could not he see what was just under his nose? Does he pretend to tell us what will happen to us for all our lives, when he did not know what was going to happen to him the next moment?—If this had been an astronomer, instead of an astrologer, nobody could have laughed and jeered at him; or, if they had, they would only have exposed their own folly, in not considering how usefully and nobly he was employed.
Most of these people went to bed again. One good-natured man and his son went however, and got a rope, and pulled the poor fortune-teller out of the pit. But this accident spoiled his trade. Nobody after this was foolish enough to enquire of him, how many wives, and how many children they should have. The astrologer was obliged to apply himself to some honest calling, in which he could earn money to buy beef and mutton, without pretending to explain to others what he knew nothing about himself.
I have told you several fables about the Heathen Gods, and I like to tell you them, because then, when you come to read the ancients, you will not feel yourself like a man in a strange country, that he never heard of before.
In ancient times there lived a man, whose sole estate consisted in a handsome collection of bulls, oxen and cows. I forgot: he had too some goats, and perhaps a few sheep. I told you in the fable of the Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf, that, before ploughs were invented, or wheat and barley were cultivated, men lived by the feeding of cattle. The females gave them milk; of the milk they made butter and cheese; and, when they pleased, they killed an animal from their herd, and made a feast. There is a great deal about this way of living in the Bible, in the history of Abraham and the patriarchs. The patriarchs lived in tents; they fixed their abode by the side of a stream or a spring; this served the animals to drink, and the moisture made the grass grow for them to eat. They staid in one place as long as they liked; and then, taking down their tents, went away, and set them up again by another spring.
The herdsman I was mentioning was very careful of his cattle; he counted them every morning when he turned them to pasture, and again every evening when he called them home to sleep. They multiplied and had young ones; the cows had calves, which, when they are a year or two old, are called steers or heifers; the goats had kids; and the sheep had lambs. The herdsman loved them all, and took care of them, and they were all happy.
One day to his great sorrow he found a sweet young heifer was missing from his herd. It was the prettiest creature ever seen. It ate out of its master's hand, and licked the palm, and had a thousand winning, agreeable tricks. The herdsman always loved his heifer very much; and, now it was missing, he thought he loved it better than all his stock. He was not a young man; he had three sons as tall as himself; he left them in the care of his herds; and went far and near, every where he could think of, in search of his heifer.
The Heathen nations, as I have told you, were many of them very pious. They were thankful to the Gods for all the good things of life, and they prayed to them, as you saw the waggoner do to Hercules, for what they had not got, and they thought would make them happy. But what seems strange to us, is their sacrifices. When they were thankful, they sacrificed of the first-fruits of the earth, and the first-born of their flocks; and when they prayed, they made sacrifices, as a sort of presents to the Gods to purchase their favours. They built up a short, broad pillar, like the pedestal of a statue, which was called an altar, and made a fire upon the top of it, and burned the fruits of the earth, and the choicest parts of the victims. They thought the Gods lived in the air a little above them, and that they were pleased when they snuffed the scent of the sacrifices. For this reason they often threw rich perfumes into the fires of the altar. As the Heathen Gods were of a purer and nobler nature than man, they fed upon a lighter and thinner diet, ambrosia, the sustenance of immortality, and were perhaps supposed to derive vigour and health from the smoke of the sacrifices which were offered to them.—I have before told you that the king of the Heathen Gods is Jupiter.
Well; the herdsman we were talking of, despairing to succeed in finding his beloved heifer, and being exceedingly tired and weary with his unsuccessful efforts, fell upon his knees in the midst of the desart, and vowed that, if Jupiter would be so gracious as to help him, and show him what was become of his heifer, he would sacrifice on his altar the tenderest kid of his flock.
Jupiter, says the fable, granted the herdsman's prayer. The weary traveller had not gone many steps in the forest after rising from his knees, when he saw his dear heifer prostrate on the ground, and a furious lion bestriding and devouring him. He was just come up to this terrible object, before he perceived it. It was silly enough of the herdsman to be so curious what was become of his heifer: if it was lost to him for ever, it was no great matter how the thing had happened.
You may think how the poor herdsman was frightened. Though the lion was very busy with his feast, yet the herdsman could not tell how soon he might leave it, and come and tear him to pieces. Besides the herdsman had bolted upon him at unawares. A nobleman does not like to be interrupted at his dinner by the coming in of a common labourer, and the herdsman did not know but the lion might be of the same way of thinking, and punish him accordingly. He fell upon his knees in great terror, prayed more earnestly than before, and as he had then vowed a kid from his flock for a sight of the heifer, so he now promised the best bull from his herd, if Jupiter would be so good as to take him away, and send him home safe to his three sons.
Jupiter never intended any more than to give him a lesson, and therefore granted his second prayer as he had granted his first: and the herdsman remembered as long as he lived, that what ignorant mortals pray and wish for, and believe would make them exceedingly happy, is often the very worst thing that can happen to them.
There are two purposes for which people keep servants. One is, that they may do the work of the house, keep the rooms clean, and dress the dinner, which rich people are not accustomed to do for themselves, and industrious people who make the most of their time, cannot do, without neglecting something of greater importance. Another purpose for which servants are kept, is that they may perform some sort of work, which, when finished, the master or mistress sells, and maintains the family with the money. This was particularly the custom in ancient times; and we even read of Lucretia, an illustrious and noble Roman matron, who was found late at night spinning among her maids.
The old woman, whose story I am going to tell you, kept two maids on this plan: I dare say she was a Roman too, though her condition was humble. She did not want them to wait upon her; she could wait very well upon herself; but by their work and her own work, she turned a penny and lived very comfortably. She worked early and late, and she expected them to work too. I never knew a woman more industrious; I believe she was called the notable old woman of Tibur. The maids were by no means of their mistress's mind; they did not love work; as soon as her back was turned, the spinning-wheel stood still, and they began chattering; she persuaded and begged them to mind their work; and I believe sometimes she scolded them too. All was little enough.
The old woman did not make them work late; she sent them to bed, and often sat up two or three hours after them, minding the wool and the yarn, putting away the work of one day, and preparing every thing for the next. And, as she was always the last to go to bed, so she was the first up in the morning. To be sure, with all the pains she took, she deserved to be comfortable.
But, notwithstanding all the old woman's indulgence, the naughty maids did not mind. She thought they would be ashamed to see how much harder she worked: not they. Particularly these idle sluts loved their bed in the morning beyond every thing, and they thought it very hard that their mistress always came and called them early. If I had been she, I would have made them get up before me, and light the fire for me. The young should always do such services for the old.
This old woman had no clock (clocks were unknown in ancient Rome), and there were no watchmen where she lived, to cry the hours. So she kept a very fine cock in her back-court; and, when he crowed (which was about five every morning), the old woman woke herself, and got up. These naughty maids observed this. They said to one another, Every morning, as sure as the morning comes, we are obliged to rise with the peep of day: this is too much. We have but one holiday in the week, to toss our poor limbs in bed, and stretch and tumble as we like. This is all owing to that good-for-nothing, impertinent cock, who will never cease his squalling, till we have stopped his windpipe. So they consulted together; and one evening, wicked creatures that they were, they stole out in the dark, and killed the cock. If the old woman had not found a remedy, there would have been an end of her comforts and theirs too.
What do you think happened now? The first morning I believe the old woman overslept herself; she did not know her poor cock was dead. But, ever after, she rose herself, and called her maids, earlier than ever. All the care of the business was upon her; these idle maids never thought a bit; and, as she was afraid of being too late, she always kept on the right side in the affair. The maids complained; but she told them it was all their own fault; they deserved it for their cruelty; and other people would always find as they did, that "lazy folks take the most pains."
One more fable to bring us back to our favourite scene of the farm-yard, and to that standing emblem of all hypocrites and deceivers, the fox.
We had a fable of the Fox and Raven. A raven is but a silly sort of a bird, and the fox wheedled him out of his cheese; though he had better have gone without cheese all the days of his life, than have shown himself such a double-tongued, crafty deluder as he did.
I am pretty sure I have told you more than once that the fox is the great enemy of the farm-yard. Fowls, ducks, geese and turkies, nothing come amiss to him. One day a fox saw a dunghill-cock perched upon a high tree, just where the branches divide themselves from the stem. An old cock is not quite so tender eating as a chicken; but the fox was very hungry, and felt that he had rather dine upon an old cock at two o'clock, than wait for chicken till six. But then how to get at the cock? The cock could fly down to the fox; but the fox could not climb up to the cock. So the fox thought of a strategem.
Says the fox to the cock, Have you heard the news?
What news? answered Mr. Redcrest. I have heard nothing, since Esop told me so much about animals.
Oh, but this is spick and span new, that I have to tell you. A treaty of peace has just been concluded among all the animals.
That is great news indeed, said the cock. Let me hear how it was.
Why, there was a general council, and some one of all animals was there. They agreed how it is to be. The lion is no longer to tear the kid, the wolf is not touch the lamb, and even the spider has promised not to spread cobwebs for the flies.
Brave news truly! cried the cock.
Now all animals, continued the fox, may travel as safely by night as by day. There will be no more tricks upon travellers. The cat will not lie snug in a dark corner, and jump out in a moment to take a mouse in her claws. The weakest animal that lives may wander alone, and not want a stronger friendly one to take care of him. Every thing is holiday and rejoicings. I, who am famous at fire-brands, am to make a bonfire, and the glow-worm is to conduct the illuminations. Come, come down from your perch, my friend, and give me one hearty salute upon it, before I go.
I am coming this moment, said the cock. The cock did not rightly know what to make of it. The fox told the story so plausibly, that he could not well think it was a fib. But he thought it something extraordinary.
Just at that moment, the cock heard a noise at a great distance, and stretched out his neck to see what was the matter.
What do you see? said the fox, who is always upon the alert, and was more afraid than ever just now, when he had been telling a lie.
It is nothing, answered the cock, but a couple of very fine hounds, coming this way as fast as they can. I dare say they are couriers, to tell to their friends afar off, the news of the treaty you were mentioning.
The fox knew that his news was all a lie. As soon as he heard the word hounds, he took to his heels as quick as the wind. He ran the better, because he was hungry and light. He did but just keep his distance. The cock by his true speaking saved the fox's life, and the hounds by accident saved the life of the cock; so there was nobody killed, though the fox had done his best to kill the honest fowl, and while he was telling his cock-and-a-bull story, had nearly been killed himself. I hope he never told a lie any more.
There is a comical story a-going in the world, that a lion is afraid of the crowing of a cock. It is not true. It is a tale of ancient times: and people necessarily made mistakes in some things, who lived a long while ago, and had not seen and heard so much as we have done now. I remember I heard this when I was a little boy; and I resolved that, if ever I had occasion to travel alone in the wilds of Africa, I would be sure to take a cock with me. I would not advise you, even with a cock in your company, to venture withinside [sic] a lion's den. In one of our fables we found a mouse frightened with the crowing of a cock; that was very natural; but I do not think a lion would much care for it. A fable however, as I told you before, is only a story very prettily invented: it is as true that a lion would run away from a cock, as that he talks English. Such books as these we write to amuse you; we do not intend to deceive any body.
An ass and a cock then, as the fable says, had occasion to cross the wilds of Africa. I do not know what their business was; I suppose it was something of great importance. As their road lay together, they agreed to be fellow-travellers. They are both good-humoured fellows, and they jogged on very peaceably. The cock is the merrier animal of the two; the ass is very grave. But a merry gentleman and a serious one are often found to suit one another extremely. It would have been a pity that such honest travellers as these should have come to any harm. The cock always called his friend in the morning; and perhaps the ass, when the cock was tired, let him ride a little way; a cock would be no great burthen on the back of an ass.
One morning soon after they set out, they met a lion. They were both frightened. Both however had recourse to the best means of defence with which nature had provided them; they could both make a great noise. The ass brayed so loud, that I wonder the lion could distinguish the crowing of the cock. The cock's note however was the shriller of the two, and well it was for them that it was so. The lion took to his heels, and never stopped till he got safe home to his wife and family.
If the cock crowed and the ass brayed, when they were frightened, you may think what a noise they made, when they found themselves safe. You might have heard it a mile. They opened their pipes, and sung their song of rejoicing with all their hearts. They did not mind much about the harmony of their respective notes. It was something like a club I have heard of, where every man sings his own song, and the concert is all made up of discords. This among animals is well enough; but it is foolish for men to amuse themselves so absurdly.
The ass began to reflect, as a grave gentleman should do, upon the adventure he had just met with. He had never heard the story of the lion being frightened with the crowing of a cock. Which of us was it, said he to himself, that drove the lion to flight? To be sure the cock makes a fine noise of his own; but so do I too. My braying is as good as the crowing of a cock at any time; I will bray with him for a wager. Suppose however we are upon a level in this; next comes the consideration of our figures. There is no comparison in that. When I see myself in the river, I think I look very like a judge: I am ten times as big as the cock, and therefore ten times as terrible. The ass was satisfied with this argument. If he had asked the cock, the cock could have told him better.
On the strength of this the ass rose the next day before the cock. It was something difficult to do that; but he was determined upon his experiment. He was now in the very heart of the forest, where lions were as plenty as rabbits in a warren. I shall not go above a hundred yards, said the ass, before I shall see whether I am in the right. I will then wait for my fellow-traveller, or come back to him, and tell him what I have done.
The ass had not gone above a hundred yards, when he met four very furious lions. Furious as you are, said he, I do not value you at a farthing. He then began one of his very best brays. The lions did not mind, and one of them had already marked him for his breakfast. He had not two minutes to live.
The cock awoke as usual with the first ray of the sun, and missed his bedfellow. He began to fear all was not right, and flew from his roost as fast as possible. Just as he came in sight, the lion had given the ass his first hug. He had not hurt him, but he had laid him at his length upon the ground. The cock saw the danger; he set up a lusty crow; and the four lions ran away, just as their brother-lion had done the day before. It is a good thing to try experiments sometimes; but we should not get into such as are attended with too much hazard. If the cock had not been so wakeful and alert, this would have been the last experiment the ass would have made. I suppose the poor ass was less daring and more modest all his life afterward.
Once on a time there was a cobbler, the merriest fellow in the world. He was very poor; he bought his clothes in Monmouth Street, and was sometimes obliged to wear them till they were in rags. But he did not care; he owed nobody a shilling; he was honest and punctual in his dealings; he lived upon the labour of his own hands; and nobody had a right to frown at or to scold him. This cobbler sung from morning till night; he knew more merry and frolicksome songs than any other man in town; and, if you went by his stall, he sung with so careless and pleasant a note, you could not have helped stopping a minute or two on purpose to hear him.
This cobbler worked in a stall; he was a dapper little fellow, but his stall was so narrow, that for the life of him he could not stand upright in it. It was at the corner of a street, and rested close against the wall of a magnificent mansion, which had just been bought by a contractor.
A contractor is a man whose trade it is to furnish commodities for the fleets and armies. He does not patch up old shoes like a cobbler; but, if he has ever any thing to do with that article, he sends out fifty thousand pairs of shoes at a time to furnish twenty regiments. A man who sells things in these large quantities soon grows rich. But I do not know how it is, nobody much likes a contractor. He thrives upon the misfortunes of mankind. When ten thousand men are killed at a time, and the people at home are oppressed with taxes and well nigh starved, then he is comfortable. If it is war-time, he prays it may last; and if it is peace, he is afraid that, if war does not break out soon, he shall never be able to make the money he wants. What makes him happy, makes all other people miserable.
As people had an evil eye upon this contractor, and wherever he met a human face, he met a frown; you may think he did not feel very comfortable. He had ornaments of diamonds, and services of gold: all would not do. Particularly he had very bad nights. I should think he had done something worse, than merely contracting for arms and accoutrements. I am afraid he had cheated the poor soldiers of the clothes that should have made them warm, and the victuals that should have made them strong. He lay hour after hour tossing and tumbling, fearful every day that some news would come that would make all the nation happy. Besides, he thought it was very ill-natured of people to look unkind upon him who had got so much money. He would have given a guinea for a smile; but a smile that is bought, is nothing like a smile that a man gives me for nothing.
The contractor especially took a dislike to his neighbour, the cobbler. You never saw two countenances so unlike. The contractor's brow was always furrowed with care; the cobbler's always smoothed with content. The merry songs which the cobbler sung from morning to night vexed the contractor to the heart; he could not be merry, and the contentment of the cobbler he thought was a reproach to him. But what was worst of all was this: the contractor could never get to sleep till about six in the morning; and just at that hour the cobbler opened his stall, and began his carrol which might have awoke the dead. So the contractor sent to the cobbler to desire to speak to him. The cobbler came.
My friend, said the rich man, I do not like you for a neighbour.
I am surprised at that, said the cobbler; I have always been noted for my sociable and neighbourly qualities.
Good-man cobbler, replied the contractor, how much may you earn by the year at your trade?
Pize take me, if I can tell, said he. I get a few pence every day, enough to buy meat and drink, but I never learned to read and write, and how much it comes to by the year I never enquired.
My friend, said the contractor, we cannot live together. Will you give up your stall to me?
What good would that do you? answered the cobbler. Your worship does not mean to mend shoes. Besides, I cannot spare my stall. All my old customers live within a run of me; and if I were to go away, I should lose them all. I think it is better that you should remove. Any palace in any street will suit you. Your friends, if you have any, will come to you in their coaches. But I must live just where I do. All my friends walk a-foot.
The contractor would not have condescended to parley thus with the cobbler in any country but England. But in England there are laws to defend the poor; and his rich neighbour would not have been suffered to take his stall by violence from the poor cobbler. It is true, the law is rather expensive; but this cobbler had always behaved well; and there were some gentlemen close by, that loved his merry heart, and would not have allowed him to be put upon.
I will give you a hundred guineas for your stall, said the contractor; and spread them upon the table.
The cobbler was tempted; he could not tell what was the matter with him. He would part with his stall, and he would not. At last, fool that he was, he took the money. Farewell, poor stall, said he, where I have worked, and my father before me! The stall was pulled down before his face.
From this day the cobbler could not sing one merry song. He tried; but he could never get beyond the third note. Something seemed to stick in his throat. He did no work, but lived upon his hundred guineas. He walked about, like a restless ghost; he came every day to the place where his stall had stood; and I believe a tear generally swelled in his eye when he looked up, and saw it was gone.
The contractor did not sleep a bit better, now that he had got rid of the singing cobbler. He removed to the warm climates of Italy, and thought he should be happier where nobody knew how he had come by his money. But he was deceived. In the mean time the good gentlemen I mentioned saw how the cobbler was altered, and asked him the reason. They built up his stall for him again. He stood every day to see the carpenters at work upon it; and the first time he sat down in it, he felt himself an altered man. He returned to his work just as before; he got paid for it in halfpence and shillings; but he could never after see a guinea, without stopping in his song, and feeling a twinge in his heart.
Published at the Juvenile Library, 41, Skinner Street, Snow Hill, and to be had of all Booksellers.
In two vols. 12mo, with 73 Engravings, Price 8s: and in one vol. 12mo, with 7 Engravings, Price 4s.
FABLES, ANCIENT AND MODERN,
By EDWARD BALDWIN, Esq.
"These Fables are better calculated to excite the attention of Children, to amuse and instruct them, than any we have ever perused. We recommend them without reserve."
British Critic for November 1805.
"They are unquestionably written on a much better plan for making an impression on, and conveying instruction to, those for whose use they are designed, than any other Fables, which have fallen under our cognizance."
Anti-Jacobin Review and Mag. for December 1805.
"This is not a common-place collection, but possesses much novelty and interest. The style is far superior to that of any Fables in our language. The Engravings are all made from original designs, many of which abound with character."
General Review for February 1806.
"The object of the author had been to adapt his style of composition to the gay and volatile tempers of the earliest youth, at the same time that it should tend to enrich the mind with knowledge, and to engage the affections on the side of virtue. Such a design is in the highest degree laudable, and the execution is worthy of so excellent a purpose."
Monthly Review for January 1807.
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FABLES, ANCIENNES et MODERNES,
Traduites de l'Anglois de M. Baldwin.