The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Forest and the Woodcutter
THE FOREST AND THE WOODCUTTER
(Book XII.—No. 16)
A woodcutter had broken or lost the handle of his hatchet and found it not easy to get it repaired at once. During the time, therefore, that it was out of use, the woods enjoyed a respite from further damage. At last the man came humbly and begged of the forest to allow him gently to take just one branch wherewith to make him a new haft, and promised that then he would go elsewhere to ply his trade and get his living. That would leave unthreatened many an oak and many a fir that now won universal respect on account of its age and beauty.
The innocent forest acquiesced and furnished him with a new handle. This he fixed to his blade and, as soon as it was finished, fell at once upon the trees, despoiling his benefactress, the forest, of her most cherished ornaments. There was no end to her bewailings: her own gift had caused her grief.
Here you see the way of the world and of those who follow it. They use the benefit against the benefactors, I weary of talking about it. Yet who would not complain that sweet and shady spots should suffer such outrage, Alas! it is useless to cry out and be thought a nuisance: ingratitude and abuses will remain the fashion none the less.