A Peacock, puffed up with vanity, met a Crane one day, and to impress him spread his gorgeous tail in the Sun.
“Look,” he said. “What have you to compare with this? I am dressed in all the glory of the rainbow, while your feathers are gray as dust!”
The Crane spread his broad wings and flew up toward the sun.
“Follow me if you can,” he said. But the Peacock stood where he was among the birds of the barnyard, while the Crane soared in freedom far up into the blue sky.
The useful is of much more importance and value, than the ornamental.
The Owl always takes her sleep during the day. Then after sundown, when the rosy light fades from the sky and the shadows rise slowly through the wood, out she comes ruffling and blinking from the old hollow tree. Now her weird "hoo-hoo-hoo-oo-oo" echoes through the quiet wood, and she begins her hunt for the bugs and beetles, frogs and mice she likes so well to eat.
Now there was a certain old Owl who had become very cross and hard to please as she grew older, especially if anything disturbed her daily slumbers. One warm summer afternoon as she dozed away in her den in the old oak tree, a Grasshopper nearby began a joyous but very raspy song. Out popped the old Owl's head from the opening in the tree that served her both for door and for window.
“Get away from here, sir,” she said to the Grasshopper. “Have you no manners? You should at least respect my age and leave me to sleep in quiet!”
But the Grasshopper answered saucily that he had as much right to his place in the sun as the Owl had to her place in the old oak. Then he struck up a louder and still more rasping tune.
The wise old Owl knew quite well that it would do no good to argue with the Grasshopper, nor with anybody else for that matter. Besides, her eyes were not sharp enough by day to permit her to punish the Grasshopper as he deserved. So she laid aside all hard words and spoke very kindly to him.
“Well sir,” she said, “if I must stay awake, I am going to settle right down to enjoy your singing. Now that I think of it, I have a wonderful wine here, sent me from Olympus, of which I am told Apollo drinks before he sings to the high gods. Please come up and taste this delicious drink with me. I know it will make you sing like Apollo himself.”
The foolish Grasshopper was taken in by the Owl's flattering words. Up he jumped to the Owl's den, but as soon as he was near enough so the old Owl could see him clearly, she pounced upon him and ate him up.
Flattery is not a proof of true admiration. Do not let flattery throw you off your guard against an enemy.
The Tortoise, you know, carries his house on his back. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot leave home. They say that Jupiter punished him so, because he was such a lazy stay-at-home that he would not go to Jupiter's wedding, even when especially invited.
After many years, Tortoise began to wish he had gone to that wedding. When he saw how gaily the birds flew about and how the Hare and the Chipmunk and all the other animals ran nimbly by, always eager to see everything there was to be seen, the Tortoise felt very sad and discontented. He wanted to see the world too, and there he was with a house on his back and little short legs that could hardly drag him along.
One day he met a pair of Ducks and told them all his trouble.
“We can help you to see the world,” said the Ducks. “Take hold of this stick with your teeth and we will carry you far up in the air where you can see the whole countryside. But keep quiet or you will be sorry.”
The Tortoise was very glad indeed. He seized the stick firmly with his teeth, the two Ducks took hold of it one at each end, and away they sailed up toward the clouds.
Just then a Crow flew by. He was very much astonished at the strange sight and cried:
“This must surely be the King of Tortoises!”
“Why certainly—” began the Tortoise.
But as he opened his mouth to say these foolish words he lost his hold on the stick, and down he fell to the ground, where he was dashed to pieces on a rock.
Foolish curiosity and vanity often lead to misfortune.
A Heron was walking sedately along the bank of a stream, his eyes on the clear water, and his long neck and pointed bill ready to snap up a likely morsel for his breakfast. The clear water swarmed with fish, but Master Heron was hard to please that morning.
“No small fry for me,” he said. “Such scanty fare is not fit for a Heron.”
Now a fine young Perch swam near.
“No indeed,” said the Heron. “I wouldn't even trouble to open my beak for anything like that!”
As the sun rose, the fish left the shallow water near the shore and swam below into the cool depths toward the middle. The Heron saw no more fish, and very glad was he at last to breakfast on a tiny Snail.
Do not be too hard to suit or you may have to be content with the worst or with nothing at all.
A rich old farmer, who felt that he had not many more days to live, called his sons to his bedside.
“My sons,” he said, “heed what I have to say to you. Do not on any account part with the estate that has belonged to our family for so many generations. Somewhere on it is hidden a rich treasure. I do not know the exact spot, but it is there, and you will surely find it. Spare no energy and leave no spot unturned in your search.”
The father died, and no sooner was he in his grave than the sons set to work digging with all their might, turning up every foot of ground with their spades, and going over the whole farm two or three times.
No hidden gold did they find; but at harvest time when they had settled their accounts and had pocketed a rich profit far greater than that of any of their neighbors, they understood that the treasure their father had told them about was the wealth of a bountiful crop, and that in their industry had they found the treasure.
Industry is itself a treasure.
A Wolf had been feasting too greedily, and a bone had stuck crosswise in his throat. He could get it neither up nor down, and of course he could not eat a thing. Naturally that was an awful state of affairs for a greedy Wolf.
So away he hurried to the Crane. He was sure that she, with her long neck and bill, would easily be able to reach the bone and pull it out.
“I will reward you very handsomely,” said the Wolf, “if you pull that bone out for me.”
The Crane, as you can imagine, was very uneasy about putting her head in a Wolf's throat. But she was grasping in nature, so she did what the Wolf asked her to do.
When the Wolf felt that the bone was gone, he started to walk away.
“But what about my reward!” called the Crane anxiously.
“What!” snarled the Wolf, whirling around. “Haven't you got it? Isn't it enough that I let you take your head out of my mouth without snapping it off?”
Expect no reward for serving the wicked.