Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable IX
A Countryman and a Snake
A Countryman happened in a Hard Winter to spy a Snake under a Hedg, that was half Frozen to Death. The Man was Good Naturd, and Took it up. and kept it in his Bosom till Warmth brought it to Life again; and so soon as ever it was in Condition to do Mischief, it bit the very Man that sav'd the Life on't. Ah thou Ungrateful Wretch! Says he, Is that Venomous Ill Nature of thine to be Satisfi'd with nothing less than the Ruine of thy Preserver?
He that takes an Ungrateful Man into his Bosom, is well nigh sure to be Betray'd; and it is no longer Charity, but Folly, to think of Obliging the Common Enemies of Mankind. But 'tis no New Thing for good Natur'd Men to meet with Ungrateful Returns. Wherefore Friendships, Charities, and Kindnesses, mould be well Weigh'd and Examin'd, as to the Circumstances of Time, Place, Manner, Person, and Proportion, before we Sign and Seal. A Man had much better take a Tyger into his Grounds, than a Snake into his Bosom. How many Examples have we seen with our own Eyes, of Men that have been pick'd up and Reliev'd out of Starving Necessities, without either Spirit, or Strength to do Mischief, who in requital have afterwards conspir'd against the Life, Honor, and Fortune of their Patrons and Redeemers. Did ever any of these Human Snakes lose their Venom for lying under some Temporary Incapacity of Using it? Will they be ever the less Dangerous and Malicious, when Warmth shall bring them to themselves again; because they were once Frozen and Benumm'd with Cold? The very Credulity Encourages an Abuse, where the Will to do Mifschief only waits for the Power, and Opportunity of putting it in Execution. Facility makes the Innocent a Prey to the Crafty: Wherefore it is highly necessary for the One to know how far, and to Whom he Trusts; and for the Other to understand what he is to Trust to. The Snake, after his Recovery, is the very same Snake still, that he was at first. How many People have we read of in Story, that after a Pardon for One Rebellion, have been taken in Another with That very Pardon in their Pockets, and the Ink scarce Dry upon the Parchment? Now all this is no more than the Proverb in a Fable: Save a Thiefe from the Gallows, and he'll Cut your Throat.