« PreviousContinue »
have more respect to a person whom all the world allows to be
better.” By my troth," said the Bee, “the comparison is a very good jest; and you will do me a favor by letting me know the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful a dispute.”
At this the Spider, having swille l bimself into the size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in the true spirit of controversy, with the resolution to be heartily scurrilous and angry; to urge on his own reasons without regard to the answers or objections of his opponent; and fully predetermined in his mind against all conviction.
Not to disparage myself,” said he, "by comparing myself with such a rascal, what art thou but a vagabond without house or home, without stock or inheritance ?-born to no possession of your own but a pair of wings and a drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder upon nature; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the sake of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet. Whereas I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock within myself. This large castle is all built with my own hands, and the materials extracted altogether out of my own person.”
“I am glad," answered the Bee, “to hear you grant at least that I have come honestly by my wings and my voice; for then, it seems, I am obliged to Heaven alone for my flights and my music; and Providence would never have bestowed on me two such gifts without designing them for the noblest ends. ... I visit, indeed, all the flowers and blossoms of the field and garden; but whatever I collect thence enriches myself, without the least injury to their beauty, their smell
, or their taste. Now, as to you and your skill in building, I have little to say: in that building of yours there might, for aught I know, have been labor and method enough; but, by woful experience for us both, it is too plain the materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take warning, and consider duration and matter as well as method and art. You boast, indeed, of being obliged to no other creature, but of drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that is to say, if we may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what issues out, you possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison in your breast; and though I would by no means lessen or disparage your genuine stock of either, yet, I fear, you are somewhat obliged, for an increase of both, to a little foreign assistance. . . So that, in short, the question comes all to this—whether is the nobler being of the two, that which, with a lazy contemplation of four inches round, produces nothing at all but flybane and a cobweb; or that which, by a universal range, with long search, true judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and wax.”
THE WHISTLE. WHEN I was a child, at seven years old, my friends on a holiday filled my pockets with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntariiy offered him all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing the whole fainily. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth. This put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and they laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation, and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.
This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, “Don't give too much for the whistle ;” and so I saved my money.
As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for their whistle.
When I saw any one too ambitious of court favors, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, “This man gives too much for his whistle.”
When I saw another full of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect; "He pays indeed,” say I, “too much for his whistle.”
If I knew a miser who gave up every kind of comfortable jiving, all the pleasures of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth ;“ Poor man,” say I, "you do indeed pay too dear for
whistle.” When I meet a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal densations; “ Mistaken man,” say I, "you are providing pain for yourself instead of pleasure : you give too much for your whistle."
If I see one fond of fine clothes, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in prison; “ Alas !” say I, "he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.”
When I see a beautiful, sweet-tempered girl, married to an ill-natured brute of a husband; What a pity it is,” say I, “that she has paid so much for a whistle."
In short, I conceived that great part of the miseries of mankind were brought upon them by the false estimates they had made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.
THE HUMANE AND COURAGEOUS PEASANT. A DESTRUCTIVE inundation occurred, several years ago, in the northern part of Italy, in consequence of an excessive fall of snow upon the Alps, followed by a speedy thaw. The river Adige was swollen to such a degree, that it carried
the greater part of the stone bridge near Verona.
The middle of the bridge only remained; and upon this portion of it stood the house of the toll-gatherer, who, with his family, was thus imprisoned by the stream, and was in momentary expectation of being carried away, .
They were discovered from the shore, stretching forth their hands, imploring aid, while fragments of the arch were continually dropping into the impetuous torrent. A gentleman who was witnessing their perilous position, held out a purse of gold, as a reward to any one who would take a boat and rescue the unfortunate family.
But so great was the danger of being swept away by the force of the current, or crushed by the falling fragments, that not one of the vast number of spectators had the courage to attempt the exploit.
A peasant passing by, was informed of the promised reward. Instantly springing into a boat, he seized the oars, and by a masterly and skilful effort reached the middle of the river, and brought the boat under the pier of the bridge, where the terrified family were anxiously waiting his approach.
By means of a rope suspended from the top of the arch, the whole family safely descended into the boat. Courage,” cried the peasant;
now you are safe !” By a still more masterly outlay of strength, and skill in managing the boat, he brought them all in safety to the shore.
Courageous man !” exclaimed the gentleman, presenting him the purse ; "here is your promised reward.” I never expose my life for money," answered the peasant. My labors afford a sufficient livelihood for myself, my wife, and children. Give the purse to this unfortunate family who have lost their all.”
THE IRISHMAN AND THE HARE. An Irishman was once employed by a gentleman at Hampstead to carry a living hare as a present to one of his friends in London. It was put into a bag, and he set off. Hampstead being about five miles from London, the Irishman stopped halfway at an inn to refresh himself. Some wags who happened to be there, finding what he had in the bag, took it into their heads to play him a trick. So one of them, while the others kept him talking, took out the hare, and put in a cat instead.
Having refreshed himself, the Irishman started with his load. On arriving in London, he said to the gentleman, "Sir, my master has sent you a live hare."
“Very well,” said he, “let us see it.” He then opened the sack, and, to his great surprise, out leaped a cat.
“Now then," said Paddy, “it was a hare at Hampstead, for I saw it put into the bag.”.
“Go back, go back," said the gentleman, " they are making a fool of you.”
Paddy took up the bag, and trotted off again towards Hampstead, stopping on his return at the same inn. There he told his adventure, to the amusement of those who had played him the trick. Well, what did they do but take out the cat and replace the hare; and the simple Irishman set off again for Hampstead.
On reaching home, he said to his master, “Sir, do you know that you have sent a cat instead of a hare?”
“Go along, you stupid fellow," replied the gentleman.
“Well then, believe your own eyes.” On saying which he opened the bag, and out leaped the hare.
The Irishman could scarcely believe his eyes, and appeared for some moments dumb with fear. At length he exclaimed, “ Bless me! here is a beast that is a hare at Hampstead and a cat at London !"
A CHINESE CLOCK. One day, a French traveller in China met, near a farm, a young lad, who was taking a buffalo to graze. He asked him carelessly as he passed whether it was yet noon. The child raised his head to look at the sun, but it was hidden behind thick clouds, and he could read no answer there. “The sky is so cloudy,” said he ; “but wait a moment."
With these words he ran towards the farm, and came back in a few minutes with a cat in his arms. “Look here,” said he, “it is not noon yet,” and he showed us the cat's eyes, by pushing up the lids with his bands.
The traveller looked at the child with surprise, but he was evidently in earnest; and the cat, though not much pleased, behaved with the greatest patience.
Would you have believed that pussy was a clock ? - The pupil of her eye, it seems, gets constantly narrower till twelve o'clock, when it becomes like a fine line, as thin as a hair, drawn straight down across the eye. After twelve the line begins to widen again.