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

Should he choose the Panther?  The Panther is brave and strong, and is, besides, a great master of military tactics; but the Panther knows nothing of politics, is ignorant of everything that belongs to civil affairs.  A king must be a judge and a minister as well as a warrior.  The Panther is good for nothing but fighting; so it, too, is unfit to educate royal children.

To be brief, not a single beast, not even the Elephant himself, who was as much esteemed in the forest as Plato used to be in Greece, seemed wise enough to satisfy the Lion.

By good fortune, or the opposite—­we shall find out which—­another king, the king of birds, the Eagle, an old acquaintance and friend of the Lion, heard of that monarch’s difficulty, and, wishing to do his friend a great kindness, offered to educate the young Lion himself.

The Lion felt a great weight removed from his shoulders.  What could be better than a king as the tutor for a prince?  So the Lion-cub was got ready, and sent off to the Eagle’s court, there to learn how to govern.

And now two or three years go by.  Ask whom you will, meanwhile, you hear nothing but praise of the young Lion; and all the birds scatter throughout the forests the wonderful stories of his merits.

At last the appointed time comes, and the Lion sends for his son.  The prince arrives, and all the people are gathered together, great and small alike.

The king embraces his son before them all, and thus addresses him:  “My beloved son, you are my only heir.  I am looking forward to the grave, but you are just entering upon life.  Before I make over my sceptre to you, tell me, in the presence of this assembly, what you have been taught, and in what manner you propose to make your people happy.”

“Papa,” exclaimed the prince, “I know what no one here knows.  I can tell where each bird, from the Eagle to the Quail, can most readily find water, on what each of them lives, and how many eggs it lays; and I can count up the wants of every bird, without missing one.  Here is the certificate my tutor gave me.  It was not for nothing that the birds used to say that I could pick the stars out of the sky.  When you have made up your mind to transfer the kingdom to me, I will immediately begin to teach the beasts how to make nests.”

On this the king and all his beasts howled aloud; the members of the council hung their heads; and, too late, the Lion perceived that the young Lion had learned nothing of what was wanted, that he was acquainted with birds only, not knowing anything of the nature of beasts, although he was destined to rule over them, and that he was destitute of that which is most requisite in kings—­the knowledge of the wants of their own people and the interests of their own country.

The Pebble and the Diamond

A Diamond, which some one had lost, lay for some time on the high road.  At last it happened that a merchant picked it up.  By him it was offered to the king, who bought it, had it set in gold, and made it one of the ornaments of the royal crown.  Having heard of this, a Pebble began to make a fuss.  The brilliant fate of the Diamond fascinated it; and, one day, seeing a Moujik passing, it besought him thus: 

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