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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

George Thomas Lanigan (1845–1886)


By G. Washington Æsop

The Merchant of Venice

A VENETIAN merchant who was lolling in the lap of Luxury was accosted upon the Rialto by a Friend who had not seen him for many months.

“How is this?” cried the latter. “When I last saw you your Gabardine was out at elbows, and now you sail in your own Gondola!”

“True,” replied the Merchant, “but since then I have met with serious losses, and been obliged to compound with my Creditors for ten Cents on the Dollar.”

Moral.—Composition is the Life of Trade.

The Good Samaritan

A CERTAIN Man went from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among Thieves, who beat him and stripped him and left him for dead. A Good Samaritan, seeing this, clapped Spurs to his ass and galloped away, lest he should be sent to the House of Detention as a Witness, while the Robbers were released on bail.

Moral.—The Perceiver is worse than the Thief.

The Villager and the Snake

A VILLAGER one frosty day found under a hedge a Snake almost dead with cold. Moved with compassion, and having heard that Snake Oil was good for the Rheumatiz, he took it home and placed it on the Hearth, where it shortly began to wake and crawl. Meanwhile, the Villager having gone out to keep an Engagement with a Man ’round the Corner, the Villager’s Son (who had not drawn a sober Breath for a Week) entered, and, beholding the Serpent unfolding its plain, unvarnished Tail, with the cry, “I’ve got ’em again!” fled to the office of the nearest Justice of the Peace, swore off, and became an Apostle of Temperance at $700 a week. The beneficent Snake next bit the Villager’s Mother-in-law so severely that Death soon ended her sufferings—and his; then silently stole away, leaving the Villager deeply and doubly in its Debt.

Moral.—A Virtuous Action is not always its only Reward. A Snake in the Grass is Worth two in the Boot.

The Ostrich and the Hen

AN OSTRICH and a Hen chanced to occupy adjacent apartments, and the former complained loudly that her rest was disturbed by the cackling of her humble neighbor. “Why is it,” she finally asked the Hen, “that you make such an intolerable noise?” The Hen replied, “Because I have laid an egg.” “Oh, no,” said the Ostrich, with a superior smile, “it is because you are a Hen and don’t know any better.”

Moral.—The moral of the foregoing is not very clear, but it contains some reference to the Agitation for Female Suffrage.

The Grasshopper and the Ant

A FRIVOLOUS Grasshopper, having spent the summer in Mirth and Revelry, went on the Approach of the inclement winter to the Ant and implored it of its charity to stake him. “You had better go to your Uncle,” replied the prudent Ant. “Had you imitated my Forethought and deposited your Funds in a Savings Bank, you would not now be compelled to regard your Duster in the light of an Ulster.” Thus saying, the virtuous Ant retired, and read in the Papers next morning that the Savings Bank where he had deposited his Funds had suspended.

Moral.—Dum vivimus, vivamus.

The Philosopher and the Simpleton

A SIMPLETON, having had Occasion to seat himself, sat down on a Pin; whereon he made an Outcry unto Jupiter. A Philosopher, who happened to be holding up a Hitching-Post in the Vicinity, rebuked him, saying: “I can tell you how to avoid hurting yourself by sitting down on Pins, and will, if you will set them up.” The Simpleton eagerly accepting the Offer, the Philosopher swallowed four fingers of the Rum which perisheth, and replied, “Never sit down.” He subsequently acquired a vast Fortune by advertising for Agents, to whom he guaranteed $77 a Week for light and easy employment at their Homes.

Moral.—The Wise Man saith: “There is a Nigger in the Fence,” but the Fool Sendeth on 50 Cents for Sample and is Taken in.

The Shark and the Patriarch

DURING the Deluge, as a Shark was conducting a Thanksgiving service for an abundant Harvest, a prudent Patriarch looked out and addressed him thus: “My Friend, I am much struck with your open Countenance; pray come into the Ark and make one of us. The Probabilities are a falling Barometer and Heavy Rains throughout the Region of the Lower Universe during the next Forty Days.” “That is just the sort of Hairpin I am,” replied the Shark, who had cut several rows of Wisdom Teeth; “fetch on your Deluges.” About six Weeks subsequently the Patriarch encountered him on the summit of Mount Ararat, in very straitened Circumstances.

Moral.—You Can’t pretty much ’most Always Tell how Things are going to Turn Out Sometimes.

The Kind-hearted She-Elephant

A KIND-HEARTED She-Elephant, while walking through the Jungle where the Spicy Breezes blow soft o’er Ceylon’s Isle, heedlessly set foot upon a Partridge, which she crushed to death within a few inches of the Nest containing its Callow Brood. “Poor little things!” said the generous Mammoth. “I have been a Mother myself, and my affection shall atone for the Fatal Consequences of my neglect.” So saying, she sat down upon the Orphaned Birds.

Moral.—The above Teaches us What Home is Without a Mother; also, that it is not every Person who should be entrusted with the Care of an Orphan Asylum.

The Fox and the Crow

A CROW, having secured a Piece of Cheese, flew with its Prize to a lofty Tree, and was preparing to devour the Luscious Morsel, when a crafty Fox, halting at the foot of the Tree, began to cast about how he might obtain it.

“How tasteful is your Dress!” he cried in well-feigned Ecstasy; “it cannot surely be that your Musical Education has been neglected? Will you not oblige”

“I have a horrid Cold,” replied the Crow, “and never sing without my Music; but since you press me—at the same time, I should add that I have read Æsop, and been there before.”

So saying, she deposited the Cheese in a safe Place on the Limb of the Tree, and favored him with a Song.

“Thank you!” exclaimed the Fox, and trotted away, with the Remark that Welsh Rabbits never agreed with him, and were far inferior in Quality to the animate Variety.

Moral.—The foregoing fable is supported by a whole Gatling Battery of Morals. We are taught (1) that it Pays to take the Papers; (2) that Invitation is not Always the Sincerest Flattery; (3) that a Stalled Rabbit with Contentment is better than no Bread; and (4) that the Aim of Art is to Conceal Disappointment.