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'Tis the same tender infant child,
On whom the parents' thoughtful eye
With what emotion now he reads
Pass some few years, young eager soul,
FABLES FOR FOOLISII FELLOWS.
MORE FRIGHTENED THAN IIURT ; OR, TIIE WISE GOOSE AND THE FOOLISH SPARROWS.
IN the green suburbs of a great city which shall be nameless, there was a waste, wide-open, wild spot of many acres which, time out of mind, had afforded free commonage to all the geese, ducks, sparrows, and small fowl of the village, to say nothing of the donkeys, and donkey-boys, and schoolboys, and illiterate boys, between twelve and two at mid-day, and from five till it was time for boys, donkeys, ducks, geese, and sparrows, to go in and go to bed at a good hour in the evening; for all these free-commoners had, no doubt, had it impressed upon their young minds, either by precept or example, and especially the geese and the donkeys, that—
“Early to bed, and early to rise,
- But alas the day !—this long-neglected Noman's land was no more to run wild : no more to resound with whoops and halloos, brayings, chucklings, cacklings, and chirpings. One of those rich men who would not steal a goose from a common for the world, but think it no dishonesty to steal a common from a goose, got this ownerless land into his hands, some say by underhanded means —inclosed it—levelled it—planted it—laid it out as an ornamented garden—made here a pleached alley, and there a gravelled walk--here a bed and there a bed for flowers—built a comely villa in the centre of all–stuck up scarecrows for one sort of offenders and words of warning for another, letting them learn what they would get by trespassing ; for, to add insult to injury, at one angle of the inclosure they might read this inscription—“Beware of the ('aol " " and at another angle this—“This is one way, but not the nearest, to the (sounty Prison.” In other words, whoever trespassed on these premises was assured that he would be prosecuted according to law. The obstinate donkeys and rebellious boys resisted, for some time, so gross an innovation on their liberties, and broke through here and clambered over there ; and the one got fined and the other pounded for their pains. The ducks and geese waddled, as they had been used to waddle daily, to their old wild wandering-place, and cackled and clamoured and quaquaked, and thought it scandalous that they should be barred out of their right of commonage ; but about the time of the coming in of green peas the ducks were reduced to silence, and a little while after Michaelmas sage and onion subdued the geese by their offensive odour. The sparrows and small birds showed that they had a spirit which would not, and could not, and should not be put down in a hurry; and for a time they trespassed with impunity. Cherry-clacks, scarecrows, (to which they paid no attention, as they were sparrows,) and the going off of a gun occasionally, were tried in vain to warn them off—they would not take warning, and grubbed up the ground as audaciously as ever, till the gardener hit upon a plan of guarding his beds, which brought them to their senses by frightening them out of them; and soon not one of them was bold enough to venture further than the ledge of the palings or the tiptop of an old hawthorn overhanging the grounds. The oddest and wildest of fowls had taken possession of the garden, and kept it. The most experienced sparrow of those parts had never seen a specimen of such a bird, with so long and
attenuated a body, and feathers for ever ruffling in the wind, so white and wide apart 1 Was it a bird, or what was it 2 who could say what it was ? But a sort of bird it must be ; or wherefore all those feathers, frightfully fluttering ? And they stood in chirpless silence, wondering to see it turn and turn again like a spindle; and though they broke out at last into a general titter or twitter of admiration of its antics, they were not the less afraid of it. An old-lady-sparrow—quite a prude to look at—thought its extraordinary evolutions barely decent—decidedly unbird-like, and bade her fair young friends to come away ; upon which all the young-ladysparrows, who had not thought of that, with a pretty affectation, set up screaming fearfully, and flew off, anywhere, out of sight of such a monster, their lovers following them and gallantly chirping after them not to be afraid, which made them scream all the more, so that there were soon few or none but old fellows left to admire this foreign wonder, of all the brave and bold fowls of the air the only one that ventured there, where sparrows dared not show their faces; and they are the boldest and least diffident—in short, the most impudent birds in the world. Ever since a good stout fence of oak-palings had surrounded this spot, the wading birds, as the pond they loved so much had been filled up, waddled away to a piece of water further down the road, where the weed was pretty good and green, but the frogs few and smallish, and so they gobbled two or three at a time. In the old pond—ah, that was something like a pond l—one was almost a choker : here three frogs went to a mouthful. And now, of all the hundreds of wild and domesticated fowls once common to this once a common, there were but three geese and a gander, (nicked by the gardener as his private property,) and this foreign wonder of a fowl, who were not afraid to venture within this sacred inclosure, regularly tabooed from all the wild-fowl world. When the gardener's back was so completely turned that he was sitting with his face fronting the Two Jolly Gardeners, a mile up the road, taking his pipe and pint of ale, these geese and their green goslings (not because they had more bravery than sparrows, but because they had more stupidity) would run cackling in where they dared not now think of going for a minute in their way to somewhere else ;
“Thus fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
The gander especially (a fine, full-grown fellow, as proud as a NO. XXII. —WOL. IV. B B
turkeycock—quite a Grand Turk in his way) so strutted and waddled about “at his own sweet will” wherever he liked—all over the new-made beds, and ducking his head even under the very vertebra of the long-backed monster which so scared them, as if it had no terrors for him, great goose !—a very Alexander of a gander -–that, willynilly, they could not choose but admire him; for, if he had not courage, he had insensibility to danger—a good substitute for that old bull-dog virtue. Iły way of compliment to the gander, some one suggested that he should be asked what he thought of this bird, with the spinal column six yards long. Agreed to ; but it was not so soon agreed who should ask him ; for the goose looked so very grave and grand, that they were all afraid to speak to him. At last it was settled that they should get their old gossip the Magpie to pop the question indirectly, not to the Gander, but to a Robin who visited the villa daily for bits of broken victuals, though there was a cat there who hated the very sight of him. As luck would have it, Mag came screaming by, in mere wantonness and fun, for there was nothing amiss with him ; and seeing such a goodly company of sparrows in full convocation assembled, he slackened sail, and dropped in among them. IIe was a clean, clerical-looking fellow to look at, with a good many of the airs and graces of a pert, smart, pragmatical, pet parson, spoiled by too much praise of his cloquence, and too many presentations of rings and silver tea-pots by fair hands. If there had been any schism in his church touching white and black gowns, he had settled the question by wearing a pie-bald surplice—as much black as white. When they had informed him that his worship was the last person they had in their mouths, they begged his attention to the foreign wonder, and directing him where to look, they inquired if he had ever seen so extraordinary a bird in his life 2 Mag looked accordingly, with his beak first to one side and then to the other, making all sorts of odd, exclamatory noises as he looked intently at it ; and then he confessed that, in all his wanderings, he had never seen a wild fowl like it before, or behind either, for that matter | . At which piece of pleasantry there was an universal twitter of sparrow laughter: for he had such a renown among the small birds for his great wit, that he had only to open his mouth, and his silliest badinage was received with a roar. His chuckles of wonder at its antics—his imitations of its capers as the wind affected it—were really comical ; and made the small birds merry—very Among other memorable things said by him on this occasion, he remarked, “That, as it could not say it had not a feather to fly with, why did not it fly, and not stand there frightening the sparrowocracy, and puzzling him what to think of such a fowl Ornithologically 3 '' And as Mag was in such a gracious humour, they boldly put it to him, “Would he ask robin to ask the gander 22 “No, indeed, I wont,” said Mag decidedly. “Robin is a proud, bird-unsocial fellow; social, and mean, and humble enough to our great enemy, Man, and because he is a poet, and can sing pretty well when his betters wont sing—in winter—when the concert-season is over, he is above speaking to sparrows or to me. Even I should not get a civil answer from him : he would mind his song, and never mind me ; which shows that he knows more of music than of manners. The goose I think I could talk to, and get, if not a wise, a civil answer from him. For you will remember—if you don't, I do,” and he looked uncommonly nutty upon his knowledge, “that he is called Anser by the learned, and must answer when called upon by the unlearned.” And here, of course, there was a prodigious twittering, so gratifying to his vanity, that he readily promised to ask the goose the question propounded. “And there he is, coming down the grand gravelled walk—how grandly and how gravely, as if he had something more on his mind than Michaelmas-day next I'll ask him at once to oblige you !” And so saying, Mag 'walked over the way with great dignity— the dignity of an usher of the black-rod with a message from the upper house—and meeting the gander at the gate he saluted him, and hoped he was salubrious—he looked so ; and the ladies and the little ones, all pretty well ? Yes. And then paying him a fulsome compliment upon his wisdom, he laughed, and looked behind him at the sparrows cowering in a corner, and told him of the terror of the small birds at the appearing of this monster-fowl, “all feathers and no flesh, with a spinal column ten yards long, who was eating up all the worms, slugs, and snails to himself.” “What monster is this? where is this monster ?” said the gander, looking as if it was the first he had heard of it. Mag directed his eye to the centre-bed ; and at that moment the indescribable bird was playing most extraordinary antics, and throwing his feathers about from one side of his long spine to the other, as if he cared not which side was warm and which