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- Journeys Through Bookland V2 - 2/71 -

"THOU HAST HAD THY SHARE OF LIFE" ..... Donn P. Crane HE CAST THE FLASK INTO THE STREAM ..... Donn P. Crane THE DWARF SHOOK THE DROPS INTO THE FLASK ..... Donn P. Crane MORDECAI IN THE KING'S GATE ..... Arthur Henderson HE PUT ON SACKCLOTH AND ASHES ..... Arthur Henderson THEN HAMAN WAS AFRAID ..... Arthur Henderson PLUTO SEIZED PROSERPINA ..... Arthur Henderson IN TIME'S SWING ..... Herbert N. Rudeen SO THE BARGAIN WAS MADE ..... Mildred Lyon


Many centuries ago, more than six hundred years before Christ was born, there lived in Greece a man by the name of Aesop. We do not know very much about him, and no one can tell exactly what he wrote, or even that he ever wrote anything.

We know he was a slave and much wiser than his masters, but whether he was a fine, shapely man or a hunchback and a cripple we cannot be sure, for different people have written very differently about him.

No matter what he was or how he lived, many, many stories are still told about him, and the greater part of the fables we all like to read are said to have been written or told by him, and everybody still calls them Aesop's fables.

Some of the stories told about him are curious indeed. Here are a few of them.

In those days men were sold as slaves in the market, as cattle are sold now. One day Aesop and two other men were put up at auction. Xanthus, a wealthy man, wanted a slave, and he said to the men: "What can you do?"

The two men bragged large about the things they could do, for both wanted a rich master like Xanthus.

"But what can you do?" said Xanthus, turning to Aesop.

"The others can do so much and so well," said Aesop, "that there's nothing left for me to do."

"Will you be honest and faithful if I buy you?"

"I shall be that whether you buy me or not."

"Will you promise not to run away?"

"Did you ever hear," answered Aesop, "of a bird in a cage that promised to stay in it?"

Xanthus was so much pleased with the answers that he bought Aesop.

Some time afterward, Xanthus, wishing to give a dinner to some of his friends, ordered Aesop to furnish the finest feast that money could buy.

The first course Aesop supplied was of tongues cooked in many ways, and the second of tongues and the third and the fourth. Then Xanthus called sharply to Aesop:

"Did I not tell you, sirrah, to provide the choicest dainties that money could procure?"

"And what excels the tongue?" replied Aesop. "It is the great channel of learning and philosophy. By this noble organ everything wise and good is accomplished."

The company applauded Aesop's wit, and good humor was restored.

"Well," said Xanthus to the guests, "pray do me the favor of dining with me again to-morrow. And if this is your best," continued he turning to Aesop, "pray, to-morrow let us have some of the worst meat you can find."

The next day, when dinner-time came, the guests were assembled. Great was their astonishment and great the anger of Xanthus at finding that again nothing but tongue was put upon the table.

"How, sir," said Xanthus, "should tongues be the best of meat one day, and the worst another?"

"What," replied Aesop, "can be worse than the tongue? What wickedness is there under the sun that it has not a part in? Treasons, violence, injustice, and fraud are debated and resolved upon by the tongue. It is the ruin of empires, of cities, and of private friendships."

* * * * *

At another time Xanthus very foolishly bet with a scholar that he could drink the sea dry. Alarmed, he consulted Aesop.

"To perform your wager," said Aesop, "you know is impossible, but I will show you how to evade it."

They accordingly met the scholar, and went with him and a great number of people to the seashore, where Aesop had provided a table with several large glasses upon it, and men who stood around with ladles with which to fill the glasses.

Xanthus, instructed by Aesop, gravely took his seat at the table. The beholders looked on with astonishment, thinking that he must surely have lost his senses.

"My agreement," said he, turning to the scholar, "is to drink up the sea. I said nothing of the rivers and streams that are everywhere flowing into it. Stop up these, and I will proceed to fulfill my engagement."

* * * * *

It is said that at one time when Xanthus started out on a long journey, he ordered his servants to get all his things together and put them up into bundles so that they could carry them.

When everything had been neatly tied up, Aesop went to his master and begged for the lightest bundle. Wishing to please his favorite slave, the master told Aesop to choose for himself the one he preferred to carry. Looking them all over, he picked up the basket of bread and started off with it on the journey. The other servants laughed at his foolishness, for that basket was the heaviest of all.

When dinner-time came, Aesop was very tired, for he had had a difficult time to carry his load for the last few hours. When they had rested, however, they took bread from the basket, each taking an equal share. Half the bread was eaten at this one meal, and when supper-time came the rest of it disappeared.

For the whole remainder of the journey, which ran far into the night and was over rough roads, up and down hills, Aesop had nothing to carry, while the loads of the other servants grew heavier and heavier with every step.

The people of the neighborhood in which Aesop was a slave one day observed him attentively looking over some poultry in a pen that was near the roadside; and those idlers, who spent more time in prying into other people's affairs than in adjusting their own, asked why he bestowed his attention on those animals.

"I am surprised," replied Aesop, "to see how mankind imitate this foolish animal."

"In what?" asked the neighbors.

"Why, in crowing so well and scratching so poorly," rejoined Aesop.

[Illustration: "AESOP" Painting by Valasquez, Madrid ]

Fables, you know, are short stories, usually about animals and things, which are made to talk like human beings. Fables are so bright and interesting in themselves that both children and grown-ups like to read them. Children see first the story, and bye and bye, after they have thought more about it and have grown older, they see how much wisdom there is in the fables.

For an example, there is the fable of the crab and its mother. They were strolling along the sand together when the mother said, "Child, you are not walking gracefully. You should walk straight forward, without twisting from side to side."

"Pray, mother," said the young one, "if you will set the example, I will follow it."

Perhaps children will think the little crab was not very respectful, but the lesson is plain that it is always easier to give good advice than it is to follow it.

There is another, which teaches us to be self-reliant and resourceful. A crow, whose throat was parched and dry with thirst, saw a pitcher in the distance. In great joy he flew to it, but found that it held only a little water, and even that was too near the bottom to be reached, for all his stooping and straining.

Next he tried to overturn the pitcher, thinking that he would at least be able to catch some of the water as it trickled out. But this he was not strong enough to do. In the end he found some pebbles lying near, and by dropping them one by one into the pitcher, he managed at last to raise the water up to the very brim, and thus was able to quench his thirst.


From The Arabian Nights

Once upon a time a Falcon stooped from its flight and seized a Partridge; but the latter freed himself from the seizer, and entering his nest, hid himself there. The Falcon followed apace and called out to him, saying:

"O imbecile, I saw you hungry in the field and took pity on you; so I picked up for you some grain and took hold of you that you might eat; but you fled from me, and I know not the cause of your flight, except it were to put upon me a slight. Come out, then, and take the grain I have

Journeys Through Bookland V2 - 2/71

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