Boston: Bruce Humphries
This volume of thirty-one original fables, published in 1966, is out of print. Old copies can usually be found on the Web. A much-revised and augmented “second edition” of forty-seven fables appears in Otherwise Fables.
The Lucky Pebble
Two peasant lads named Robin and Colin were sitting at the edge
of a footpath, chewing grass and tossing pebbles into the meadow
which lay before them. One of Robin’s pebbles happened to strike
a hunter who was asleep behind a thicket. The hunter gave a cry,
leaped up, and strode toward the boys.
“Who threw that pebble?” he shouted. “I demand to know who threw that pebble!”
The two boys were terrified.
“I threw it, sir,” said Robin as piteously as possible.
“Wonderful boy! You saved my life!” cried the hunter. “Look at me: I am none other than your Prince. I was pursuing a fox with my retinue, but I galloped so nobly that I lost my way. Exhausted, I lay down and fell asleep. Your blessed pebble woke me. I saw a deadly snake on my breast ready to strike. I killed it, and thanks to you, my dearest and patriotic boy, our country will continue to rejoice in my rule.”
“I was glad to do it, sir,” said Robin.
At this point the Prince’s retainers arrived. They dismounted in alarm, but the Prince reassured them and told the miraculous story of how his life had been spared. “See to it, Lord Chancellor, that this charming and loyal youth is taken to my palace to be reared among my pages; ennoble his parents at once and give them 20,000 ducats for vestments and furnishings. When the boy grows up I shall make him Captain of my Dragoons.”
The Lord Chancellor folded Robin in his arms. “Come with me, charming and loyal youth,” he said, “from now on your eyes must light on nothing baser than gold, ermine, and pearls.”
As everybody was mounting his horse again — the Prince’s steed, I am happy to report, was grazing nearby — and Robin sat proudly on a margrave’s pillion, Colin tugged at the Chancellor’s robe, whose hem he could just reach.
“What about me?” he piped. “I was throwing pebbles too.”
The Chancellor nipped his robe out of Colin’s hand. “How dare you compare your vulgar pebble-throwing with his?” he thundered.
“Upstart,” said Robin from his horse.
“He has shifty eyes,” added the margrave.
Whereupon the cavalcade departed, covering Colin with a great cloud of dust. What remains to be said? Colin went home to spend the rest of his living days planting turnips and beans, and Robin grew up to become a rich, pampered and dreaded Captain of Dragoons.