A certain man made a wooden Image of Mercury, and exposed it for sale in the market. As no one offered to buy it, however, he thought he would try to attract a purchaser by proclaiming the virtues of the Image. So he cried up and down the market, “A god for sale! a god for sale! One who’ll bring you luck and keep you lucky!” Presently one of the bystanders stopped him and said, “If your god is all you make him out to be, how is it you don’t keep him and make the most of him yourself?” “I’ll tell you why,” replied he; “he brings gain, it is true, but he takes his time about it; whereas I want money at once.”
A Hound, roaming in the forest, spied a lion, and being well used to lesser game, gave chase, thinking he would make a fine quarry. Presently the lion perceived that he was being pursued; so, stopping short, he rounded on his pursuer and gave a loud roar. The Hound immediately turned tail and fled. A Fox, seeing him running away, jeered at him and said, “Ho! ho! There goes the coward who chased a lion and ran away the moment he roared!”
A Heifer went up to an Ox, who was straining hard at the plough, and sympathised with him in a rather patronising sort of way on the necessity of his having to work so hard. Not long afterwards there was a festival in the village and every one kept holiday: but, whereas the Ox was turned loose into the pasture, the Heifer was seized and led off to sacrifice. “Ah,” said the Ox, with a grim smile, “I see now why you were allowed to have such an idle time: it was because you were always intended for the altar.”
An Owl, who lived in a hollow tree, was in the habit of feeding by night and sleeping by day; but her slumbers were greatly disturbed by the chirping of a Grasshopper, who had taken up his abode in the branches. She begged him repeatedly to have some consideration for her comfort, but the Grasshopper, if anything, only chirped the louder. At last the Owl could stand it no longer, but determined to rid herself of the pest by means of a trick. Addressing herself to the Grasshopper, she said in her pleasantest manner, “As I cannot sleep for your song, which, believe me, is as sweet as the notes of Apollo’s lyre, I have a mind to taste some nectar, which Minerva gave me the other day. Won’t you come in and join me?” The Grasshopper was flattered by the praise of his song, and his mouth, too, watered at the mention of the delicious drink, so he said he would be delighted. No sooner had he got inside the hollow where the Owl was sitting than she pounced upon him and ate him up.
There was a time in the youth of the world when Goods and Ills entered equally into the concerns of men, so that the Goods did not prevail to make them altogether blessed, nor the Ills to make them wholly miserable. But owing to the foolishness of mankind the Ills multiplied greatly in number and increased in strength, until it seemed as though they would deprive the Goods of all share in human affairs, and banish them from the earth. The latter, therefore, betook themselves to heaven and complained to Jupiter of the treatment they had received, at the same time praying him to grant them protection from the Ills, and to advise them concerning the manner of their intercourse with men. Jupiter granted their request for protection, and decreed that for the future they should not go among men openly in a body, and so be liable to attack from the hostile Ills, but singly and unobserved, and at infrequent and unexpected intervals. Hence it is that the earth is full of Ills, for they come and go as they please and are never far away; while Goods, alas! come one by one only, and have to travel all the way from heaven, so that they are very seldom seen.
There was once a Groom who used to spend long hours clipping and combing the Horse of which he had charge, but who daily stole a portion of his allowance of oats, and sold it for his own profit. The Horse gradually got into worse and worse condition, and at last cried to the Groom, “If you really want me to look sleek and well, you must comb me less and feed me more.”
A Goatherd was one day gathering his flock to return to the fold, when one of his goats strayed and refused to join the rest. He tried for a long time to get her to return by calling and whistling to her, but the Goat took no notice of him at all; so at last he threw a stone at her and broke one of her horns. In dismay, he begged her not to tell his master: but she replied, “You silly fellow, my horn would cry aloud even if I held my tongue.”