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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about The Talking Beasts.

“Ah, my son,” replied the Old Mouse, “learn while you live to distrust appearances.  The first strange creature was nothing but a Fowl, that will ere long be killed, and, when put on a dish in the pantry, we may make a delicious supper of his bones, while the other was a nasty, sly, and bloodthirsty hypocrite of a Cat, to whom no food is so welcome as a young and juicy Mouse like yourself.”

The Wolf and the Mastiff

A Wolf, who was almost skin and bone, so well did the Dogs of the neighbourhood keep guard over their masters’ property, met, one moonshiny night, a sleek Mastiff, who was, moreover, as strong as he was fat.  The Wolf would gladly have supped off him, but saw that there would first be a great fight, for which, in his condition, he was not prepared; so, bidding the Dog good-evening very humbly, he praised his prosperous looks.

“It would be easy for you,” replied the Mastiff, “to get as fat as I am if you liked.  Quit this forest, where you and your fellows live so wretchedly, and often die with hunger.  Follow me, and you will fare much better.’

“What shall I have to do?” asked the Wolf.

“Almost nothing,” answered the Dog; “only chase away the beggars and fawn upon the folks of the house.  You will, in return, be paid with all sorts of nice things—­bones of fowls and pigeons—­to say nothing of many a friendly pat on the head.”

The Wolf, at the picture of so much comfort, nearly shed tears of joy.  They trotted off together, but, as they went along, the Wolf noticed a bare spot on the Dog’s neck.

“What is that mark?” said he.  “Oh, nothing,” said the Dog.

“How nothing?” urged the Wolf.  “Oh, the merest trifle,” answered the Dog; “the collar which I wear when I am tied up is the cause of it.”

“Tied up!” exclaimed the Wolf, with a sudden stop; “tied up?  Can you not always run where you please, then?”

“Well, not quite always,” said the Mastiff; “but what can that matter?”

“It matters so much to me,” rejoined the Wolf, “that your lot shall not be mine at any price”; and, leaping away, he ran once more to his native forest.

The Tail of the Serpent

The Tail of a Serpent once rebelled against the Head, and said that it was a great shame that one end of any animal should always have its way, and drag the other after it, whether it was willing or no.  It was in vain that the Head urged that the Tail had neither brains nor eyes, and that it was in no way made to lead.

Wearied by the Tail’s importunity, the Head one day let him have his will.  The Serpent now went backward for a long time quite gayly, until he came to the edge of a high cliff, over which both Head and Tail went flying, and came with a heavy thump on the shore beneath.

The Head, it may be supposed, was never again troubled by the Tail with a word about leading.

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