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Cobwebs From an Empty Skull by Ambrose Bierce (AKA: Dod Grile)

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To my friend,



Fables of Zambri, the Parsee.
Brief Seasons of Intellectual Dissipation.
Divers Tales.
1. The Grateful Bear.
2. The Setting Sachem.
3. Feodora.
4. The Legend of Immortal Truth.
5. Converting a Prodigal.
6. Four Jacks and a Knave.
7. Dr. Deadwood, I Presume.
8. Nut-Cracking
9. The Magician's Little Joke
10. Seafaring.
11. Tony Rollo's Conclusion.
12. No Charge for Attendance.
13. Pernicketty's Fright.
14. Juniper.
15. Following the Sea.
16. A Tale of Spanish Vengeance.
17. Mrs. Dennison's Head.
18. A Fowl Witch.
19. The Civil Service in Florida.
20. A Tale of the Bosphorus.
21. John Smith.
22. Sundered Hearts.
23. The Early History of Bath.
24. The Following Dorg.
25. Snaking.
26. Maud's Papa.
27. Jim Beckwourth's Pond.
28. Stringing a Bear.


The matter of which this volume is composed appeared originally in the
columns of "FUN," when the wisdom of the Fables and the truth of the
Tales tended to wholesomely diminish the levity of that jocund sheet.
Their publication in a new form would seem to be a fitting occasion to
say something as to their merit.

Homer's "Iliad," it will be remembered, was but imperfectly
appreciated by Homer's contemporaries. Milton's "Paradise Lost" was so
lightly regarded when first written, that the author received but
twenty-five pounds for it. Ben Jonson was for some time blind to the
beauties of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare himself had but small esteem
for his own work.

Appearing each week in "FUN," these Fables and Tales very soon
attracted the notice of the Editor, who was frank enough to say,
afterward, that when he accepted the manuscript he did not quite
perceive the quality of it. The printers, too, into whose hands it
came, have since admitted that for some days they felt very little
interest in it, and could not even make out what it was all about.
When to these evidences I add the confession that at first I did not
myself observe anything extraordinary in my work, I think I need say
no more: the discerning public will note the parallel, and my modesty
be spared the necessity of making an ass of itself.





A certain Persian nobleman obtained from a cow gipsy a small oyster.
Holding him up by the beard, he addressed him thus:

"You must try to forgive me for what I am about to do; and you might
as well set about it at once, for you haven't much time. I should
never think of swallowing you if it were not so easy; but opportunity
is the strongest of all temptations. Besides, I am an orphan, and very

"Very well," replied the oyster; "it affords me genuine pleasure to
comfort the parentless and the starving. I have already done my best
for our friend here, of whom you purchased me; but although she has an
amiable and accommodating stomach, _we couldn't agree_. For this
trifling incompatibility--would you believe it?--she was about to stew
me! Saviour, benefactor, proceed."

"I think," said the nobleman, rising and laying down the oyster, "I
ought to know something more definite about your antecedents before
succouring you. If you couldn't agree with your mistress, you are
probably no better than you should be."

People who begin doing something from a selfish motive frequently drop
it when they learn that it is a real benevolence.


A rat seeing a cat approaching, and finding no avenue of escape, went
boldly up to her, and said:

"Madam, I have just swallowed a dose of powerful bane, and in
accordance with instructions upon the label, have come out of my hole
to die. Will you kindly direct me to a spot where my corpse will prove
peculiarly offensive?"

"Since you are so ill," replied the cat, "I will myself transport you
to a spot which I think will suit."

So saying, she struck her teeth through the nape of his neck and
trotted away with him. This was more than he had bargained for, and he
squeaked shrilly with the pain.

"Ah!" said the cat, "a rat who knows he has but a few minutes to live,
never makes a fuss about a little agony. I don't think, my fine
fellow, you have taken poison enough to hurt either you or me."

So she made a meal of him.

If this fable does not teach that a rat gets no profit by lying, I
should be pleased to know what it does teach.


A frog who had been sitting up all night in neighbourly converse with
an echo of elegant leisure, went out in the grey of the morning to
obtain a cheap breakfast. Seeing a tadpole approach,

"Halt!" he croaked, "and show cause why I should not eat you."

The tadpole stopped and displayed a fine tail.

"Enough," said the frog: "I mistook you for one of us; and if there is
anything I like, it is frog. But no frog has a tail, as a matter of

While he was speaking, however, the tail ripened and dropped off, and
its owner stood revealed in his edible character.

"Aha!" ejaculated the frog, "so that is your little game! If, instead
of adopting a disguise, you had trusted to my mercy, I should have
spared you. But I am down upon all manner of deceit."

And he had him down in a moment.

Learn from this that he would have eaten him anyhow.


An old man carrying, for no obvious reason, a sheaf of sticks, met
another donkey whose cargo consisted merely of a bundle of stones.

"Suppose we swop," said the donkey.

"Very good, sir," assented the old man; "lay your load upon my
shoulders, and take off my parcel, putting it upon your own back."

The donkey complied, so far as concerned his own encumbrance, but
neglected to remove that of the other.

"How clever!" said the merry old gentleman, "I knew you would do that.
If you had done any differently there would have been no point to the

And laying down both burdens by the roadside, he trudged away as merry
as anything.


An elephant meeting a mouse, reproached him for not taking a proper
interest in growth.

"It is all very well," retorted the mouse, "for people who haven't the
capacity for anything better. Let them grow if they like; but _I_
prefer toasted cheese."

The stupid elephant, not being able to make very much sense of this
remark, essayed, after the manner of persons worsted at repartee, to
set his foot upon his clever conqueror. In point of fact, he did set
his foot upon him, and there wasn't any more mouse.

The lesson imparted by this fable is open, palpable: mice and
elephants look at things each after the manner of his kind; and when
an elephant decides to occupy the standpoint of a mouse, it is
unhealthy for the latter.


A wolf was slaking his thirst at a stream, when a lamb left the side
of his shepherd, came down the creek to the wolf, passed round him
with considerable ostentation, and began drinking below.

"I beg you to observe," said the lamb, "that water does not commonly
run uphill; and my sipping here cannot possibly defile the current
where you are, even supposing my nose were no cleaner than yours,
which it is. So you have not the flimsiest pretext for slaying me."

"I am not aware, sir," replied the wolf, "that I require a pretext
for loving chops; it never occurred to me that one was necessary."

And he dined upon that lambkin with much apparent satisfaction.

This fable ought to convince any one that of two stories very similar
one needs not necessarily be a plagiarism.



An old gentleman sat down, one day, upon an acorn, and finding it a
very comfortable seat, went soundly to sleep. The warmth of his body
caused the acorn to germinate, and it grew so rapidly, that when the
sleeper awoke he found himself sitting in the fork of an oak, sixty
feet from the ground.

"Ah!" said he, "I am fond of having an extended view of any landscape
which happens to please my fancy; but this one does not seem to
possess that merit. I think I will go home."

It is easier to say go home than to go.

"Well, well!" he resumed, "if I cannot compel circumstances to my
will, I can at least adapt my will to circumstances. I decide to
remain. 'Life'--as a certain eminent philosopher in England wilt say,
whenever there shall be an England to say it in--'is the definite
combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and
successive, in correspondence with external co-existences and
sequences.' I have, fortunately, a few years of this before me yet;
and I suppose I can permit my surroundings to alter me into anything I

And he did; but what a choice!

I should say that the lesson hereby imparted is one of contentment
combined with science.


A caterpillar had crawled painfully to the top of a hop-pole, and not
finding anything there to interest him, began to think of descending.

"Now," soliloquized he, "if I only had a pair of wings, I should be
able to manage it very nicely."

So saying, he turned himself about to go down, but the heat of his
previous exertion, and that of the sun, had by this time matured him
into a butterfly.

"Just my luck!" he growled, "I never wish for anything without getting
it. I did not expect this when I came out this morning, and have
nothing prepared. But I suppose I shall have to stand it."

So he spread his pinions and made for the first open flower he saw.
But a spider happened to be spending the summer in that vegetable, and
it was not long before Mr. Butterfly was wishing himself back atop of
that pole, a simple caterpillar.

He had at last the pleasure of being denied a desire.

_Haec fabula docet_ that it is not a good plan to call at houses
without first ascertaining who is at home there.


It is related of a certain Tartar priest that, being about to
sacrifice a pig, he observed tears in the victim's eyes.

"Now, I'd like to know what is the matter with _you_?" he asked.

"Sir," replied the pig, "if your penetration were equal to that of the
knife you hold, you would know without inquiring; but I don't mind
telling you. I weep because I know I shall be badly roasted."

"Ah," returned the priest, meditatively, having first killed the pig,
"we are all pretty much alike: it is the bad roasting that frightens
us. Mere death has no terrors."

From this narrative learn that even priests sometimes get hold of only
half a truth.


A dog being very much annoyed by bees, ran, quite accidentally, into
an empty barrel lying on the ground, and looking out at the bung-hole,
addressed his tormenters thus:

"Had you been temperate, stinging me only one at a time, you might
have got a good deal of fun out of me. As it is, you have driven me
into a secure retreat; for I can snap you up as fast as you come in
through the bung-hole. Learn from this the folly of intemperate zeal."

When he had concluded, he awaited a reply. There wasn't any reply; for
the bees had never gone near the bung-hole; they went in the same way
as he did, and made it very warm for him.

The lesson of this fable is that one cannot stick to his pure reason
while quarrelling with bees.


A fox and a duck having quarrelled about the ownership of a frog,
agreed to refer the dispute to a lion. After hearing a great deal of
argument, the lion opened his mouth to speak.

"I am very well aware," interrupted the duck, "what your decision is.
It is that by our own showing the frog belongs to neither of us, and
you will eat him yourself. But please remember that lions do not like

"To me," exclaimed the fox, "it is perfectly clear that you will give
the frog to the duck, the duck to me, and take me yourself. Allow me
to state certain objections to--"

"I was about to remark," said the lion, "that while you were
disputing, the cause of contention had hopped away. Perhaps you can
procure another frog."

To point out the moral of this fable would be to offer a gratuitous
insult to the acuteness of the reader.


An ass meeting a pair of horses, late one evening, said to them:

"It is time all honest horses were in bed. Why are you driving out at
this time of day?"

"Ah!" returned they, "if it is so very late, why are you out riding?"

"I never in my life," retorted the ass angrily, "knew a horse to
return a direct answer to a civil question."

This tale shows that this ass did not know everything.

[The implication that horses do not answer questions seems to have
irritated the worthy fabulist.--TRANSLATOR.]


A stone being cast by the plough against a lump of earth, hastened to
open the conversation as follows:

"Virtue, which is the opposite of vice, is best fostered by the
absence of temptation!"

The lump of earth, being taken somewhat by surprise, was not prepared
with an apophthegm, and said nothing.

Since that time it has been customary to call a stupid person a


A river seeing a zephyr carrying off an anchor, asked him, "What are
you going to do with it?"

"I give it up," replied the zephyr, after mature reflection.

"Blow me if _I_ would!" continued the river; "you might just as well
not have taken it at all."

"Between you and me," returned the zephyr, "I only picked it up
because it is customary for zephyrs to do such things. But if you
don't mind I will carry it up to your head and drop it in your mouth."

This fable teaches such a multitude of good things that it would be
invidious to mention any.


A peasant sitting on a pile of stones saw an ostrich approaching, and
when it had got within range he began pelting it. It is hardly
probable that the bird liked this; but it never moved until a large
number of boulders had been discharged; then it fell to and ate them.

"It was very good of you, sir," then said the fowl; "pray tell me to
what virtue I am indebted for this excellent meal."

"To piety," replied the peasant, who, believing that anything able to
devour stones must be a god, was stricken with fear. "I beg you won't
think these were merely cold victuals from my table; I had just
gathered them fresh, and was intending to have them dressed for my
dinner; but I am always hospitable to the deities, and now I suppose I
shall have to go without."

"On the contrary, my pious youth," returned the ostrich, "you shall go

And the man followed the stones.

The falsehoods of the wicked never amount to much.


Two thieves went into a farmer's granary and stole a sack of kitchen
vegetables; and, one of them slinging it across his shoulders, they
began to run away. In a moment all the domestic animals and barn-yard
fowls about the place were at their heels, in high clamour, which
threatened to bring the farmer down upon them with his dogs.

"You have no idea how the weight of this sack assists me in escaping,
by increasing my momentum," said the one who carried the plunder;
"suppose _you_ take it."

"Ah!" returned the other, who had been zealously pointing out the way
to safety, and keeping foremost therein, "it is interesting to find
how a common danger makes people confiding. You have a thousand times
said I could not be trusted with valuable booty. It is an humiliating
confession, but I am myself convinced that if I should assume that
sack, and the impetus it confers, you could not depend upon your


"A common danger," was the reply, "seems to stimulate conviction, as
well as confidence."

"Very likely," assented the other, drily; "I am quite too busy to
enter into these subtleties. You will find the subject very ably
treated in the Zend-Avesta."

But the bastinado taught them more in a minute than they would have
gleaned from that excellent work in a fortnight.

If they could only have had the privilege of reading this fable, it
would have taught them more than either.


While a man was trying with all his might to cross a fence, a bull ran
to his assistance, and taking him upon his horns, tossed him over.
Seeing the man walking away without making any remark, the bull said:

"You are quite welcome, I am sure. I did no more than my duty."

"I take a different view of it, very naturally," replied the man, "and
you may keep your polite acknowledgments of my gratitude until you
receive it. I did not require your services."

"You don't mean to say," answered the bull, "that you did not wish to
cross that fence!"

"I mean to say," was the rejoinder, "that I wished to cross it by my
method, solely to avoid crossing it by yours."

_Fabula docet_ that while the end is everything, the means is


An hippopotamus meeting an open alligator, said to him:

"My forked friend, you may as well collapse. You are not sufficiently
comprehensive to embrace me. I am myself no tyro at smiling, when in
the humour."

"I really had no expectation of taking you in," replied the other. "I
have a habit of extending my hospitality impartially to all, and about
seven feet wide."

"You remind me," said the hippopotamus, "of a certain zebra who was
not vicious at all; he merely kicked the breath out of everything that
passed behind him, but did not induce things to pass behind him."

"It is quite immaterial what I remind you of," was the reply.

The lesson conveyed by this fable is a very beautiful one.


A man was plucking a living goose, when his victim addressed him thus:

"Suppose _you_ were a goose; do you think you would relish this sort
of thing?"

"Well, suppose I were," answered the man; "do you think _you_ would
like to pluck me?"

"Indeed I would!" was the emphatic, natural, but injudicious reply.

"Just so," concluded her tormentor; "that's the way _I_ feel about the


A traveller perishing of thirst in a desert, debated with his camel
whether they should continue their journey, or turn back to an oasis
they had passed some days before. The traveller favoured the latter

"I am decidedly opposed to any such waste of time," said the animal;
"I don't care for oases myself."

"I should not care for them either," retorted the man, with some
temper, "if, like you, I carried a number of assorted water-tanks
inside. But as you will not submit to go back, and I shall not consent
to go forward, we can only remain where we are."

"But," objected the camel, "that will be certain death to you!"

"Not quite," was the quiet answer, "it involves only the loss of my

So saying, he assassinated the beast, and appropriated his liquid

A compromise is not always a settlement satisfactory to both parties.


A sheep, making a long journey, found the heat of his fleece very
uncomfortable, and seeing a flock of other sheep in a fold, evidently
awaiting for some one, leaped over and joined them, in the hope of
being shorn. Perceiving the shepherd approaching, and the other sheep
huddling into a remote corner of the fold, he shouldered his way
forward, and going up to the shepherd, said:

"Did you ever see such a lot of fools? It's lucky I came along to set
them an example of docility. Seeing me operated upon, they 'll be glad
to offer themselves."

"Perhaps so," replied the shepherd, laying hold of the animal's horns;
"but I never kill more than one sheep at a time. Mutton won't keep in
hot weather."

The chops tasted excellently well with tomato sauce.

The moral of this fable isn't what you think it is. It is this: The
chops of another man's mutton are _always_ nice eating.


Two travellers between Teheran and Bagdad met half-way up the vertical
face of a rock, on a path only a cubit in width. As both were in a
hurry, and etiquette would allow neither to set his foot upon the
other even if dignity had permitted prostration, they maintained for
some time a stationary condition. After some reflection, each decided
to jump round the other; but as etiquette did not warrant conversation
with a stranger, neither made known his intention. The consequence was
they met, with considerable emphasis, about four feet from the edge of
the path, and went through a flight of soaring eagles, a mile out of
their way![A]

[Footnote A: This is infamous! The learned Parsee appears wholly to
ignore the distinction between a fable and a simple lie.--TRANSLATOR.]


A stone which had lain for centuries in a hidden place complained to
Allah that remaining so long in one position was productive of cramps.

"If thou wouldst be pleased," it said, "to let me take a little
exercise now and then, my health would be the better for it."

So it was granted permission to make a short excursion, and at once
began rolling out into the open desert. It had not proceeded far
before an ostrich, who was pensively eating a keg of nails, left his
repast, dashed at the stone, and gobbled it up.

This narration teaches the folly of contentment: if the ostrich had
been content with his nails he would never have eaten the stone.


A man carrying a sack of corn up a high ladder propped against a wall,
had nearly reached the top, when a powerful hog passing that way leant
against the bottom to scratch its hide.

"I wish," said the man, speaking down the ladder, "you would make
that operation as brief as possible; and when I come down I will
reward you by rearing a fresh ladder especially for you."

"This one is quite good enough for a hog," was the reply; "but I am
curious to know if you will keep your promise, so I'll just amuse
myself until you come down."

And taking the bottom rung in his mouth, he moved off, away from the
wall. A moment later he had all the loose corn he could garner, but he
never got that other ladder.

MORAL.--An ace and four kings is as good a hand as one can hold in


A young cock and a hen were speaking of the size of eggs. Said the

"I once laid an egg--"

"Oh, you did!" interrupted the hen, with a derisive cackle. "Pray how
did you manage it?"

The cock felt injured in his self-esteem, and, turning his back upon
the hen, addressed himself to a brood of young chickens.

"I once laid an egg--"

The chickens chirped incredulously, and passed on. The insulted bird
reddened in the wattles with indignation, and strutting up to the
patriarch of the entire barn-yard, repeated his assertion. The
patriarch nodded gravely, as if the feat were an every-day affair, and
the other continued:

"I once laid an egg alongside a water-melon, and compared the two. The
vegetable was considerably the larger."

This fable is intended to show the absurdity of hearing all a man has
to say.



Seeing himself getting beyond his depth, a bathing naturalist called
lustily for succour.

"Anything _I_ can do for you?" inquired the engaging octopus.

"Happy to serve you, I am sure," said the accommodating leech.

"Command _me_," added the earnest crab.

"Gentlemen of the briny deep," exclaimed the gasping _savant_, "I am
compelled to decline your friendly offices, but I tender you my
scientific gratitude; and, as a return favour, I beg, with this my
last breath, that you will accept the freedom of my aquarium, and make
it your home."

This tale proves that scientific gratitude is quite as bad as the
natural sort.


Two whales seizing a pike, attempted in turn to swallow him, but
without success. They finally determined to try him jointly, each
taking hold of an end, and both shutting their eyes for a grand
effort, when a shark darted silently between them, biting away the
whole body of their prey. Opening their eyes, they gazed upon one
another with much satisfaction.

"I had no idea he would go down so easily," said the one.

"Nor I," returned the other; "but how very tasteless a pike is."

The insipidity we observe in most of our acquaintances is largely due
to our imperfect knowledge of them.


A wolf went into the cottage of a peasant while the family was absent
in the fields, and falling foul of some beef, was quietly enjoying it,
when he was observed by a domestic rat, who went directly to her
master, informing him of what she had seen.

"I would myself have dispatched the robber," she added, "but feared
you might wish to take him alive."

So the man secured a powerful club and went to the door of the house,
while the rat looked in at the window. After taking a survey of the
situation, the man said:

"I don't think I care to take this fellow alive. Judging from his
present performance, I should say his keeping would entail no mean
expense. You may go in and slay him if you like; I have quite changed
my mind."

"If you really intended taking him prisoner," replied the rat, "the
object of that bludgeon is to me a matter of mere conjecture. However,
it is easy enough to see you have changed your mind; and it may be
barely worth mentioning that I have changed mine."

"The interest you both take in me," said the wolf, without looking up,
"touches me deeply. As you have considerately abstained from bothering
me with the question of how I am to be disposed of, I will not
embarrass your counsels by obtruding a preference. Whatever may be
your decision, you may count on my acquiescence; my countenance alone
ought to convince you of the meek docility of my character. I never
lose my temper, and I never swear; but, by the stomach of the Prophet!
if either one of you domestic animals is in sight when I have finished
the conquest of these ribs, the question of _my_ fate may be postponed
for future debate, without detriment to any important interest."

This fable teaches that while you are considering the abatement of a
nuisance, it is important to know which nuisance is the more likely to
be abated.


A snake tried to shed his skin by pulling it off over his head, but,
being unable to do so, was advised by a woodman to slip out of it in
the usual way.

"But," said the serpent, "this is the way _you_ do it!"

"True," exclaimed the woodman, holding out the hem of his tunic; "but
you will observe that my skin is brief and open. If you desire one
like that, I think I can assist you."

So saying, he chopped off about a cubit of the snake's tail.


An oyster who had got a large pebble between the valves of his shell,
and was unable to get it out, was lamenting his sad fate, when--the
tide being out--a monkey ran to him, and began making an examination.

"You appear," said the monkey, "to have got something else in here,
too. I think I'd better remove that first."

With this he inserted his paw, and scooped out the animal's essential

"Now," said he, eating the portion he had removed, "I think you will
be able to manage the pebble yourself."

To apprehend the lesson of this fable one must have some experience of
the law.


An old fox and her two cubs were pursued by dogs, when one of the cubs
got a thorn in his foot, and could go no farther. Setting the other to
watch for the pursuers, the mother proceeded, with much tender
solicitude, to extract the thorn. Just as she had done so, the
sentinel gave the alarm.

"How near are they?" asked the mother.

"Close by, in the next field," was the answer.

"The deuce they are!" was the hasty rejoinder. "However, I presume
they will be content with a single fox."

And shoving the thorn earnestly back into the wounded foot, this
excellent parent took to her heels.

This fable proves that humanity does not happen to enjoy a monopoly of
paternal affection.


A man crossing the great river of Egypt, heard a voice, which seemed
to come from beneath his boat, requesting him to stop. Thinking it
must proceed from some river-deity, he laid down his paddle and said:

"Whoever you are that ask me to stop, I beg you will let me go on. I
have been asked by a friend to dine with him, and I am late."

"Should your friend pass this way," said the voice, "I will show him
the cause of your detention. Meantime you must come to dinner with

"Willingly," replied the man, devoutly, very well pleased with so
extraordinary an honour; "pray show me the way."

"In here," said the crocodile, elevating his distending jaws above the
water and beckoning with his tongue--"this way, please."

This fable shows that being asked to dinner is not always the same
thing as being asked to dine.


An old monkey, designing to teach his sons the advantage of unity,
brought them a number of sticks, and desired them to see how easily
they might be broken, one at a time. So each young monkey took a stick
and broke it.

"Now," said the father, "I will teach you a lesson."

And he began to gather the sticks into a bundle. But the young
monkeys, thinking he was about to beat them, set upon him, all
together, and disabled him.

"There!" said the aged sufferer, "behold the advantage of unity! If
you had assailed me one at a time, I would have killed every mother's
son of you!"

Moral lessons are like the merchant's goods: they are conveyed in
various ways.


A wild horse meeting a domestic one, taunted him with his condition of
servitude. The tamed animal claimed that he was as free as the wind.

"If that is so," said the other, "pray tell me the office of that bit
in your mouth."

"That," was the answer, "is iron, one of the best tonics in the
_materia medica_."

"But what," said the other, "is the meaning of the rein attached to

"Keeps it from falling out of my mouth when I am too indolent to hold
it," was the reply.

"How about the saddle?"

"Fool!" was the angry retort; "its purpose is to spare me fatigue:
when I am tired, I get on and ride."


Some doves went to a hawk, and asked him to protect them from a kite.

"That I will," was the cheerful reply; "and when I am admitted into
the dovecote, I shall kill more of you in a day than the kite did in a
century. But of course you know this; you expect to be treated in the
regular way."

So he entered the dovecote, and began preparations for a general
slaughter. But the doves all set upon him and made exceedingly short
work of him. With his last breath he asked them why, being so
formidable, they had not killed the kite. They replied that they had
never seen any kite.



A defeated warrior snatched up his aged father, and, slinging him
across his shoulders, plunged into the wilderness, followed by the
weary remnant of his beaten army. The old gentleman liked it.

"See!" said he, triumphantly, to the flying legion; "did you ever hear
of so dutiful and accommodating a son? And he's as easy under the
saddle as an old family horse!"

"I rather think," replied the broken and disordered battalion, with a
grin, "that Mr. AEneas once did something of this kind. But _his_
father had thoughtfully taken an armful of lares and penates; and the
accommodating nature of _his_ son was, therefore, more conspicuous. If
I might venture to suggest that you take up my shield and scimitar--"

"Thank you," said the aged party, "I could not think of disarming the
military: but if you would just hand me up one of the heaviest of
those dead branches, I think the merits of my son would be rendered
sufficiently apparent."

The routed column passed him up the one shown in the immediate
foreground of our sketch, and it was quite enough for both steed and

_Fabula ostendit_ that History repeats itself, with variations.


A pig who had engaged a cray-fish to pilot him along the beach in
search of mussels, was surprised to see his guide start off backwards.

"Your excessive politeness quite overcomes me," said the porker, "but
don't you think it rather ill bestowed upon a pig? Pray don't hesitate
to turn your back upon me."

"Sir," replied the cray-fish, "permit me to continue as I am. We now
stand to each other in the proper relation of _employe_ to employer.
The former is excessively obsequious, and the latter is, in the eyes
of the former, a hog."


The king of tortoises desiring to pay a visit of ceremony to a
neighbouring monarch, feared that in his absence his idle subjects
might get up a revolution, and that whoever might be left at the head
of the State would usurp the throne. So calling his subjects about
him, he addressed them thus:

"I am about to leave our beloved country for a long period, and desire
to leave the sceptre in the hands of him who is most truly a tortoise.
I decree that you shall set out from yonder distant tree, and pass
round it. Whoever shall get back last shall be appointed Regent."

So the population set out for the goal, and the king for his
destination. Before the race was decided, his Majesty had made the
journey and returned. But he found the throne occupied by a subject,
who at once secured by violence what he had won by guile.

Certain usurpers are too conscientious to retain kingly power unless
the rightful monarch be dead; and these are the most dangerous sort.


A spaniel at the point of death requested a mastiff friend to eat him.

"It would soothe my last moments," said he, "to know that when I am no
longer of any importance to myself I may still be useful to you."

"Much obliged, I am sure," replied his friend; "I think you mean well,
but you should know that my appetite is not so depraved as to relish

Perhaps it is for a similar reason we abstain from cannibalism.


A cloud was passing across the face of the sun, when the latter
expostulated with him.

"Why," said the sun, "when you have so much space to float in, should
you be casting your cold shadow upon me?"

After a moment's reflection, the cloud made answer thus:

"I certainly had no intention of giving offence by my presence, and as
for my shadow, don't you think you have made a trifling mistake?--not
a gigantic or absurd mistake, but merely one that would disgrace an

At this the great luminary was furious, and fell so hotly upon him
that in a few minutes there was nothing of him left.

It is very foolish to bandy words with a cloud if you happen to be the


A rabbit travelling leisurely along the highway was seen, at some
distance, by a duck, who had just come out of the water.

"Well, I declare!" said she, "if I could not walk without limping in
that ridiculous way, I'd stay at home. Why, he's a spectacle!"

"Did you ever see such an ungainly beast as that duck!" said the
rabbit to himself. "If I waddled like that I should go out only at

MORAL, BY A KANGAROO.--People who are ungraceful of gait are always
intolerant of mind.


A fox who dwelt in the upper chamber of an abandoned watch-tower,
where he practised all manner of magic, had by means of his art
subjected all other animals to his will. One day he assembled a great
multitude of them below his window, and commanded that each should
appear in his presence, and all who could not teach him some important
truth should be thrown off the walls and dashed to pieces. Upon
hearing this they were all stricken with grief, and began to lament
their hard fate most piteously.

"How," said they, "shall we, who are unskilled in magic, unread in
philosophy, and untaught in the secrets of the stars--who have neither
wit, eloquence, nor song--how shall we essay to teach wisdom to the

Nevertheless, they were compelled to make the attempt. After many had
failed and been dispatched, another fox arrived on the ground, and
learning the condition of affairs, scampered slyly up the steps, and
whispered something in the ear of the cat, who was about entering the
tower. So the latter stuck her head in at the door, and shrieked:

"Pullets with a southern exposure ripen earliest, and have yellow

At this the magician was so delighted that he dissolved the spell and
let them all go free.


One evening a jackass, passing between a village and a hill, looked
over the latter and saw the faint light of the rising moon.

"Ho-ho, Master Redface!" said he, "so you are climbing up the other
side to point out my long ears to the villagers, are you? I'll just
meet you at the top, and set my heels into your insolent old lantern."

So he scrambled painfully up to the crest, and stood outlined against
the broad disc of the unconscious luminary, more conspicuously a
jackass than ever before.


A bear wishing to rob a beehive, laid himself down in front of it, and
overturned it with his paw.

"Now," said he, "I will lie perfectly still and let the bees sting me
until they are exhausted and powerless; their honey may then be
obtained without opposition."

And it was so obtained, but by a fresh bear, the other being dead.

This narrative exhibits one aspect of the "Fabian policy."


A cat seeing a mouse with a piece of cheese, said:

"I would not eat that, if I were you, for I think it is poisoned.
However, if you will allow me to examine it, I will tell you certainly
whether it is or not."

While the mouse was thinking what it was best to do, the cat had fully
made up her mind, and was kind enough to examine both the cheese and
the mouse in a manner highly satisfactory to herself, but the mouse
has never returned to give _his_ opinion.


An improvident man, who had quarrelled with his wife concerning
household expenses, took her and the children out on the lawn,
intending to make an example of her. Putting himself in an attitude of
aggression, and turning to his offspring, he said:

"You will observe, my darlings, that domestic offences are always
punished with a loss of blood. Make a note of this and be wise."

He had no sooner spoken than a starving mosquito settled upon his
nose, and began to assist in enforcing the lesson.

"My officious friend," said the man, "when I require illustrations
from the fowls of the air, you may command my patronage. The deep
interest you take in my affairs is, at present, a trifle annoying."


"I do not find it so," the mosquito would have replied had he been at
leisure, "and am convinced that our respective points of view are so
widely dissimilar as not to afford the faintest hope of reconciling
our opinions upon collateral points. Let us be thankful that upon the
main question of bloodletting we perfectly agree."

When the bird had concluded, the man's convictions were quite
unaltered, but he was too weak to resume the discussion; and, although
blood is thicker than water, the children were constrained to confess
that the stranger had the best of it.

This fable teaches.


"I hate snakes who bestow their caresses with interested partiality or
fastidious discrimination," boasted a boa constrictor. "_My_
affection is unbounded; it embraces all animated nature. I am the
universal shepherd; I gather all manner of living things into my
folds. Entertainment here for man and beast!"

"I should be glad of one of your caresses," said a porcupine, meekly;
"it has been some time since I got a loving embrace."

So saying, he nestled snugly and confidingly against the large-hearted
serpent--who fled.

A comprehensive philanthropy may be devoid of prejudices, but it has
its preferences all the same.


During a distressing famine in China a starving man met a fat pig,
who, seeing no chance of escape, walked confidently up to the superior
animal, and said:

"Awful famine! isn't it?"

"Quite dreadful!" replied the man, eyeing him with an evident purpose:
"almost impossible to obtain meat."

"Plenty of meat, such as it is, but no corn. Do you know, I have been
compelled to eat so many of your people, I don't believe there is an
ounce of pork in my composition."

"And I so many that I have lost all taste for pork."

"Terrible thing this cannibalism!"

"Depends upon which character you try it in; it is terrible to be

"You are very brutal!"

"You are very fat."

"You look as if you would take my life."

"You look as if you would sustain mine."

"Let us 'pull sticks,'" said the now desperate animal, "to see which
of us shall die."

"Good!" assented the man: "I'll pull this one."

So saying, he drew a hedge-stake from the ground, and stained it with
the brain of that unhappy porker.

MORAL.--An empty stomach has no ears.


A snake, a mile long, having drawn himself over a roc's egg,
complained that in its present form he could get no benefit from it,
and modestly desired the roc to aid him in some way.

"Certainly," assented the bird, "I think we can arrange it."

Saying which, she snatched up one of the smaller Persian provinces,
and poising herself a few leagues above the suffering reptile, let it
drop upon him to smash the egg.

This fable exhibits the folly of asking for aid without specifying the
kind and amount of aid you require.


An ox meeting a man on the highway, asked him for a pinch of snuff,
whereupon the man fled back along the road in extreme terror.

"_Don't_ be alarmed," said a horse whom he met; "the ox won't bite

The man gave one stare and dashed across the meadows.

"Well," said a sheep, "I wouldn't be afraid of a horse; _he_ won't

The man shot like a comet into the forest.

"Look where you're going there, or I'll thrash the life out of you!"
screamed a bird into whose nest he had blundered.

Frantic with fear, the man leapt into the sea.

"By Jove! how you frightened me," said a small shark.

The man was dejected, and felt a sense of injury. He seated himself
moodily on the bottom, braced up his chin with his knees, and thought
for an hour. Then he beckoned to the fish who had made the last

"See here, I say," said he, "I wish you would just tell me what in
thunder this all means."

"Ever read any fables?" asked the shark.

"No--yes--well, the catechism, the marriage service, and--"

"Oh, bother!" said the fish, playfully, smiling clean back to the
pectoral fins; "get out of this and bolt your AEsop!"

The man did get out and bolted.

[This fable teaches that its worthy author was drunk as a


A lion pursued by some villagers was asked by a fox why he did not
escape on horseback.

"There is a fine strong steed just beyond this rock," said the fox.
"All you have to do is to get on his back and stay there."

So the lion went up to the charger and asked him to give him a lift.

"Certainly," said the horse, "with great pleasure."

And setting one of his heels into the animal's stomach, he lifted him.
about seven feet from the ground.

"Confound you!" roared the beast as he fell back.

"So did you," quietly remarked the steed.


A Mahout who had dismounted from his elephant, and was quietly
standing on his head in the middle of the highway, was asked by the
animal why he did not revert and move on.

"You are making a spectacle of yourself," said the beast.

"If I choose to stand upside down," replied the man, "I am very well
aware that I incur the displeasure of those who adhere with slavish
tenacity to the prejudices and traditions of society; but it seems to
me that rebuke would come with a more consistent grace from one who
does not wear a tail upon his nose."

This fable teaches that four straight lines may enclose a circle, but
there will be corners to let.


A dog meeting a strange cat, took her by the top of the back, and
shook her for a considerable period with some earnestness. Then
depositing her in a ditch, he remarked with gravity:

"There, my feline friend! I think that will teach you a wholesome
lesson; and as punishment is intended to be reformatory, you ought to
be grateful to me for deigning to administer it."

"I don't think of questioning your right to worry me," said the cat,
getting her breath, "but I should like to know where you got your
licence to preach at me. Also, if not inconsistent with the dignity of
the court, I should wish to be informed of the nature of my offence;
in order that I may the more clearly apprehend the character of the
lesson imparted by its punishment."

"Since you are so curious," replied the dog, "I worry you because you
are too feeble to worry me."

"In other words," rejoined the cat, getting herself together as well
as she could, "you bite me for that to which you owe your existence."

The reply of the dog was lost in the illimitable field of ether,
whither he was just then projected by the kick of a passing horse. The
moral of this fable cannot be given until he shall get down, and close
the conversation with the regular apophthegm.


People who wear tight hats will do well to lay this fable well to
heart, and ponder upon the deep significance of its moral:

In passing over a river, upon a high bridge, a cow discovered a broad
loose plank in the flooring, sustained in place by a beam beneath the

"Now," said she, "I will stand at this end of the trap, and when
yonder sheep steps upon the opposite extreme there will be an upward
tendency in wool."

So when the meditative mutton advanced unwarily upon the treacherous
device, the cow sprang bodily upon the other end, and there was a fall
in beef.


Two snakes were debating about the proper method of attacking prey.

"The best way," said one, "is to slide cautiously up, endwise, and
seize it thus"--illustrating his method by laying hold of the other's

"Not at all," was the reply; "a better plan is to approach by a
circular side-sweep, thus"--turning upon his opponent and taking in
_his_ tail.

Although there was no disagreement as to the manner of disposing of
what was once seized, each began to practise his system upon the
other, and continued until both were swallowed.

The work begun by contention is frequently completed by habit.



A man staggering wearily through the streets of Persepolis, under a
heavy burden, said to himself:

"I wish I knew what this thing is I have on my back; then I could make
some sort of conjecture as to what I design doing with it."

"Suppose," said the burden, "I were a man in a sack; what disposition
would you make of me?"

"The regular thing," replied the man, "would be to take you over to
Constantinople, and pitch you into the Bosphorus; but I should
probably content myself with laying you down and jumping on you, as
being more agreeable to my feelings, and quite as efficacious."

"But suppose," continued the burden, "I were a shoulder of
beef--which I quite as much resemble--belonging to some poor family?"

"In that case," replied the man, promptly, "I should carry you to my
larder, my good fellow."

"But if I were a sack of gold, do you think you would find me very
onerous?" said the burden.

"A great deal would depend," was the answer, "upon whom you happened
to belong to; but I may say, generally, that gold upon the shoulders
is wonderfully light, considering the weight of it."

"Behold," said the burden, "the folly of mankind: they cannot perceive
that the _quality_ of the burdens of life is a matter of no
importance. The question of pounds and ounces is the only
consideration of any real weight."


A ghost meeting a genie, one wintry night, said to him:

"Extremely harassing weather, friend. Wish I had some teeth to

"You do not need them," said the other; "you can always chatter those
of other people, by merely showing yourself. For my part, I should be
content with some light employment: would erect a cheap palace,
transport a light-weight princess, threaten a small cripple--or jobs
of that kind. What are the prospects of the fool crop?"

"For the next few thousand years, very good. There is a sort of thing
called Literature coming in shortly, and it will make our fortune. But
it will be very bad for History. Curse this phantom apparel! The more
I gather it about me the colder I get."

"When Literature has made our fortune," sneered the genie, "I presume
you will purchase material clothing."

"And you," retorted the ghost, "will be able to advertise for
permanent employment at a fixed salary."

This fable shows the difference between the super natural and the
natural "super": the one appears in the narrative, the other does not.


"Permit me to help you on in the world, sir," said a boy to a
travelling tortoise, placing a glowing coal upon the animal's back.

"Thank you," replied the unconscious beast; "I alone am responsible
for the time of my arrival, and I alone will determine the degree of
celerity required. The gait I am going will enable me to keep all my
present appointments."

A genial warmth began about this time to pervade his upper crust, and
a moment after he was dashing away at a pace comparatively tremendous.

"How about those engagements?" sneered the grinning urchin.

"I've recollected another one," was the hasty reply.


Having fastened his gaze upon a sparrow, a rattlesnake sprung open his
spanning jaws, and invited her to enter.

"I should be most happy," said the bird, not daring to betray her
helpless condition, but anxious by any subterfuge to get the serpent
to remove his fascinating regard, "but I am lost in contemplation of
yonder green sunset, from which I am unable to look away for more
than a minute. I shall turn to it presently."

"Do, by all means," said the serpent, with a touch of irony in his
voice. "There is nothing so improving as a good, square, green

"Did you happen to observe that man standing behind you with a club?"
continued the sparrow. "Handsome fellow! Fifteen cubits high, with
seven heads, and very singularly attired; quite a spectacle in his

"I don't seem to care much for men," said the snake. "Every way
inferior to serpents--except in malice."

"But he is accompanied by a _really interesting_ child," persisted the
bird, desperately.

The rattlesnake reflected deeply. He soliloquized as follows:

"There is a mere chance--say about one chance to ten thousand
million--that this songster is speaking the truth. One chance in ten
thousand million of seeing a really interesting child is worth the
sacrifice demanded; I'll make it."

So saying, he removed his glittering eyes from the bird (who
immediately took wing) and looked behind him. It is needless to say
there was no really interesting child there--nor anywhere else.

MORAL.--Mendacity (so called from the inventors) is a very poor sort
of dacity; but it will serve your purpose if you draw it sufficiently


A man who was very much annoyed by the incursions of a lean ass
belonging to his neighbour, resolved to compass the destruction of the

"Now," said he, "if this animal shall choose to starve himself to
death in the midst of plenty, the law will not hold _me_ guilty of his
blood. I have read of a trick which I think will 'fix' him."

So he took two bales of his best hay, and placed them in a distant
field, about forty cubits apart. By means of a little salt he then
enticed the ass in, and coaxed him between the bundles.

"There, fiend!" said he, with a diabolic grin, as he walked away
delighted with the success of his stratagem, "now hesitate which
bundle of hay to attack first, until you starve--monster!"

Some weeks afterwards he returned with a wagon to convey back the
bundles of hay. There wasn't any hay, but the wagon was useful for
returning to his owner that unfortunate ass--who was too fat to walk.

This ought to show any one the folly of relying upon the teaching of
obscure and inferior authors.[A]

[Footnote A: It is to be wished our author had not laid himself open
to the imputation of having perverted, if not actually invented, some
of his facts, for the unworthy purpose of bringing a deserving rival
into disfavour.--TRANSLATOR.]


One day the king of the wrens held his court for the trial of a bear,
who was at large upon his own recognizance. Being summoned to appear,
the animal came with great humility into the royal presence.

"What have you to say, sir," demanded the king, "in defence of your
inexcusable conduct in pillaging the nests of our loyal subjects
wherever you can find them?"

"May it please your Majesty," replied the prisoner, with a reverential
gesture, repeated at intervals, and each time at a less distance from
the royal person, "I will not wound your Majesty's sensibilities by
pleading a love of eggs; I will humbly confess my course of crime,
warn your Majesty of its probable continuance, and beg your Majesty's
gracious permission to inquire--What is your Majesty going to do about

The king and his ministers were very much struck with this respectful
speech, with the ingenuity of the final inquiry, and with the bear's
paw. It was the paw, however, which made the most lasting impression.

Always give ear to the flattery of your powerful inferiors: it will
cheer you in your decline.


A philosopher looking up from the pages of the Zend-Avesta, upon which
he had been centring his soul, beheld a pig violently assailing a
cauldron of cold slops.

"Heaven bless us!" said the sage; "for unalloyed delight give me a
good honest article of Sensuality. So soon as my 'Essay upon the
Correlation of Mind-forces' shall have brought me fame and fortune, I
hope to abjure the higher faculties, devoting the remainder of my life
to the cultivation of the propensities."

"Allah be praised!" soliloquized the pig, "there is nothing so godlike
as Intellect, and nothing so ecstatic as intellectual pursuits. I must
hasten to perform this gross material function, that I may retire to
my wallow and resign my soul to philosophical meditation."

This tale has one moral if you are a philosopher, and another if you
are a pig.


"Awful dark--isn't it?" said an owl, one night, looking in upon the
roosting hens in a poultry-house; "don't see how I am to find my way
back to my hollow tree."

"There is no necessity," replied the cock; "you can roost there,
alongside the door, and go home in the morning."

"Thanks!" said the owl, chuckling at the fool's simplicity; and,
having plenty of time to indulge his facetious humour, he gravely
installed himself upon the perch indicated, and shutting his eyes,
counterfeited a profound slumber. He was aroused soon after by a sharp
constriction of the throat.

"I omitted to tell you," said the cock, "that the seat you happen by
the merest chance to occupy is a contested one, and has been fruitful
of hens to this vexatious weasel. I don't know _how_ often I have been
partially widowed by the sneaking villain."

For obvious reasons there was no audible reply.

This narrative is intended to teach the folly--the worse than sin!--of
trumping your partner's ace.


A fat cow who saw herself detected by an approaching horse while
perpetrating stiff and ungainly gambols in the spring sunshine,
suddenly assumed a severe gravity of gait, and a sedate solemnity of
expression that would have been creditable to a Brahmin.

"Fine morning!" said the horse, who, fired by her example, was
curvetting lithely and tossing his head.

"That rather uninteresting fact," replied the cow, attending strictly
to her business as a ruminant, "does not impress me as justifying your
execution of all manner of unseemly contortions, as a preliminary to
accosting an entire stranger."

"Well, n--no," stammered the horse; "I--I suppose not. Fact is
I--I--no offence, I hope."

And the unhappy charger walked soberly away, dazed by the
preternatural effrontery of that placid cow.

When overcome by the dignity of any one you chance to meet, try to
have this fable about you.


"What have you there on your back?" said a zebra, jeeringly, to a
"ship of the desert" in ballast.

"Only a bale of gridirons," was the meek reply.

"And what, pray, may you design doing with them?" was the incredulous

"What am I to do with gridirons?" repeated the camel, contemptuously.
"Nice question for _you_, who have evidently just come off one!"

People who wish to throw stones should not live in glass houses; but
there ought to be a few in their vicinity.


A cat, waking out of a sound sleep, saw a mouse sitting just out of
reach, observing her. Perceiving that at the slightest movement of
hers the mouse would recollect an engagement, she put on a look of
extreme amiability, and said:

"Oh! it's you, is it? Do you know, I thought at first you were a
frightful great rat; and I am _so_ afraid of rats! I feel so much
relieved--you don't know! Of course you have heard that I am a great
friend to the dear little mice?"


"Yes," was the answer, "I have heard that you love us indifferently
well, and my mission here was to bless you while you slept. But as you
will wish to go and get your breakfast, I won't bore you. Fine
morning--isn't it? _Au revoir!"_

This fable teaches that it is usually safe to avoid one who pretends
to be a friend without having any reason to be. It wasn't safe in this
instance, however; for the cat went after that departing rodent, and
got away with him.


A man pursued by a lion, was about stepping into a place of safety,
when he bethought him of the power of the human eye; and, turning
about, he fixed upon his pursuer a steady look of stern reproof. The
raging beast immediately moderated his rate per hour, and finally came
to a dead halt, within a yard of the man's nose. After making a
leisurely survey of him, he extended his neck and bit off a small
section of his victim's thigh.

"Beard of Arimanes!" roared the man; "have you no respect for the
Human Eye?"

"I hold the human eye in profound esteem," replied the lion, "and I
confess its power. It assists digestion if taken just before a meal.
But I don't understand why you should have two and I none."

With that he raised his foot, unsheathed his claws, and transferred
one of the gentleman's visual organs to his own mouth.

"Now," continued he, "during the brief remainder of a squandered
existence, your lion-quelling power, being more highly concentrated,
will be the more easily managed."

He then devoured the remnant of his victim, including the other eye.


An ant laden with a grain of corn, which he had acquired with infinite
toil, was breasting a current of his fellows, each of whom, as is
their etiquette, insisted upon stopping him, feeling him all over, and
shaking hands. It occurred to him that an excess of ceremony is an
abuse of courtesy. So he laid down his burden, sat upon it, folded all
his legs tight to his body, and smiled a smile of great grimness.

"Hullo! what's the matter with _you_?" exclaimed the first insect
whose overtures were declined.

"Sick of the hollow conventionalities of a rotten civilization," was
the rasping reply. "Relapsed into the honest simplicity of primitive
observances. Go to grass!"

"Ah! then we must trouble you for that corn. In a condition of
primitive simplicity there are no rights of property, you know. These
are 'hollow conventionalities.'"

A light dawned upon the intellect of that pismire. He shook the reefs
out of his legs; he scratched the reverse of his ear; he grappled that
cereal, and trotted away like a giant refreshed. It was observed that
he submitted with a wealth of patience to manipulation by his friends
and neighbours, and went some distance out of his way to shake hands
with strangers on competing lines of traffic.


A snake who had lain torpid all winter in his hole took advantage of
the first warm day to limber up for the spring campaign. Having tied
himself into an intricate knot, he was so overcome by the warmth of
his own body that he fell asleep, and did not wake until nightfall. In
the darkness he was unable to find his head or his tail, and so could
not disentangle and slide into his hole. Per consequence, he froze to

Many a subtle philosopher has failed to solve himself, owing to his
inability to discern his beginning and his end.


A dog finding a joint of mutton, apparently guarded by a negligent
raven, stretched himself before it with an air of intense

"Ah!" said he, alternately smiling and stopping up the smiles with
meat, "this is an instrument of salvation to my stomach--an instrument
upon which I love to perform."

"I beg your pardon!" said the bird; "it was placed there specially for
me, by one whose right to so convey it is beyond question, he having
legally acquired it by chopping it off the original owner."

"I detect no flaw in your abstract of title," replied the dog; "all
seems quite regular; but I must not provoke a breach of the peace by
lightly relinquishing what I might feel it my duty to resume by
violence. I must have time to consider; and in the meantime I will

Thereupon he leisurely consumed the property in dispute, shut his
eyes, yawned, turned upon his back, thrust out his legs divergently,
and died.

For the meat had been carefully poisoned--a fact of which the raven
was guiltily conscious.

There are several things mightier than brute force, and arsenic[A] is
one of them.

[Footnote A: In the original, "_pizen;"_ which might, perhaps, with
equal propriety have been rendered by "caper sauce."--TRANSLATOR.]


The King of Persia had a favourite hawk. One day his Majesty was
hunting, and had become separated from his attendants. Feeling
thirsty, he sought a stream of water trickling from a rock; took a
cup, and pouring some liquor into it from his pocket-flask, filled it
up with water, and raised it to his lips. The hawk, who had been all
this time hovering about, swooped down, screaming "No, you don't!" and
upset the cup with his wing.

"I know what is the matter," said the King: "there is a dead serpent
in the fountain above, and this faithful bird has saved my life by not
permitting me to drink the juice. I must reward him in the regular

So he called a page, who had thoughtfully presented himself, and gave
directions to have the Remorse Apartments of the palace put in order,
and for the court tailor to prepare an evening suit of
sackcloth-and-ashes. Then summoning the hawk, he seized and dashed him
to the ground, killing him very dead. Rejoining his retinue, he
dispatched an officer to remove the body of the serpent from the
fountain, lest somebody else should get poisoned. There wasn't any
serpent--the water was remarkable for its wholesome purity!

Then the King, cheated of his remorse, was sorry he had slain the
bird; he said it was a needless waste of power to kill a bird who
merely deserved killing. It never occurred to the King that the hawk's
touching solicitude was with reference to the contents of the royal

_Fabula ostendit_ that a "twice-told tale" needs not necessarily be
"tedious"; a reasonable degree of interest may be obtained by
intelligently varying the details.


A herd of cows, blown off the summit of the Himalayas, were sailing
some miles above the valleys, when one said to another:

"Got anything to say about this?"

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