The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Gardener and His Landlord
THE GARDENER AND HIS
(Book IV.—No. 4)
A man who had a great fondness for gardening, being half a countryman and half town-bred, possessed in a certain village a fair-sized plot with a field attached, and all enclosed by a quickset hedge. Here sorrel and lettuce grew freely, as well as such flowers as Spanish jasmine and wild thyme, and from these his good wife Margot culled many a posy for her high days and holidays.
This happy state of things was soon troubled by the visits of a hare, and to such an extent that the man had to go to his landlord and lodge a complaint. "This wretched animal," he said, "comes here and stuffs himself night and morning, and simply laughs at traps and snares. As for stones and sticks they make no difference whatever to him. He must be enchanted."
"Enchanted!" cried the landlord, "I defy enchantment! Were he the devil himself old Towler would soon rout him out in spite of his tricks. I'll rid you of him, my man, never fear!"
"And when?" asked the man.
"Oh, to-morrow, without more delay!"
The affair being thus arranged, on the morrow came the landlord with all his following. "First of all," he said, "how about breakfast? Your chickens are tender I'll be bound. Come here, my dear,' he added, addressing the man's daughter, and then, to her father," When are you going to let her marry? Hasn't a son-in-law come on the scene yet? My dear fellow, this is a thing that positively must be done you know, you'll have to put your hand in your pocket to some purpose." So saying he sat down beside the damsel, took her hand, held her by the arm, toyed with her fichu, and took other silly and trifling liberties which the girl resented with great self-respect, whilst the father grew a little uneasy in his mind.
Nevertheless, the cooking went on. There was quite a run on the kitchen.
"How ripe are your hams? They look good."
"Sir," replied the flattered host, "they are yours."
"Oh, really now! Well I'll take them, and that right gladly."
The landlord and his family, his dogs, his horses, and his men-servants, all take breakfast with hearty appetites. He assumes the host's place and privileges, drinks his wine and caresses his daughter. After this a crowd of hunters take seats at the breakfast table.
Now everybody is lively and busy with preparations for the hunt. They wind the horns to such purpose that the good man is dumbfounded by the din. Worse than that they make terrible havoc in the poor garden. Good-bye to all the neat rows and beds! Good-bye to the chickory and the leeks! Good-bye to all the pot-herbs!
The hare lies hidden under the leaves of a great cabbage, but being discovered is quickly started, whereupon he rushes to a hole—nay, worse than a hole, a great and horrible gap in the poor hedge, made by the landlord's order, so that they might all burst out of the garden in fine style; for it would have looked ridiculous for them to ride out at the gate.
The poor man objected, "This is fine fun for princes, no doubt——"; but they let him talk, whilst dogs and men together did more harm in one hour than all the hares in the province would have done in a century.
Little princes, settle your own quarrels amongst yourselves. It is madness to have recourse to kings. You should never let them engage in your wars, nor even enter your domains.