“I confess,” replied the idler, “that our usages with regard to vermin and reptiles might be so amended as to be more temperately diabolical; but please to remember that the gentle agonies with which we afflict you are wholesome and exhilarating compared with the ills we ladle out to one another. During the reign of His Pellucid Refulgence, Khatchoo Khan,” he continued, absently dropping his wriggling auditor into the brook, “no less than three hundred thousand Persian subjects were put to death, in a pleasing variety of ingenious ways, for their religious beliefs.”
“What that has to do with your treatment of us” interrupted a fish, who, having bitten at the worm just then, was drawn into the conversation, “I am quite unable to see.”
“That,” said the angler, disengaging him, “is because you have the hook through your eyeball, my edible friend.”
Many a truth is spoken in jest; but at least ten times as many falsehoods are uttered in dead earnest.
A wild cat was listening with rapt approval to the melody of distant hounds tracking a remote fox.
“Excellent! bravo!” she exclaimed at intervals. “I could sit and listen all day to the like of that. I am passionately fond of music. Ong-core!”
Presently the tuneful sounds drew near, whereupon she began to fidget; ending by shinning up a tree, just as the dogs burst into view below her, and stifled their songs upon the body of their victim before her eyes—which protruded.
“There is an indefinable charm,” said she—“a subtle and tender spell—a mystery—a conundrum, as it were—in the sounds of an unseen orchestra. This is quite lost when the performers are visible to the audience. Distant music (if any) for your obedient servant!”
Having been taught to turn his scraps of bad Persian into choice Latin, a parrot was puffed up with conceit.
“Observe,” said he, “the superiority I may boast by virtue of my classical education: I can chatter flat nonsense in the language of Cicero.”
“I would advise you,” said his master, quietly, “to let it be of a different character from that chattered by some of Mr. Cicero’s most admired compatriots, if you value the priviledge of hanging at that public window. ‘Commit no mythology,’ please.”
The exquisite fancies of a remote age may not be imitated in this; not, perhaps, from a lack of talent, so much as from a fear of arrest.