Billeder på siden



THERE was, in a distant part of the world, a rich

man, who lived in a fine house, and spent his whole time, in eating, drinking, sleeping and amusing himself. As he had a great many servants to wait upon him, who treated him with the greatest respect, and did whatever they were ordered; and as he had never been taught the truth, or accustomed to hear it, he grew very proud; imagining that he had a right to command the whole world, and that the poor were only born to serve and obey him.

Near this rich man's house there lived an honest and industrious poor man, who gained his livelihood by making little baskets, out of dried reeds which grew upon a marshy ground close to the cottage. But though he was obliged to labor from morning to night, to earn food enough to support him, and though

he seldom fared better than upon dry bread, or rice, or pulse ; and had no other bed than the remains of the rushes, of which he made the baskets, yet he was always happy, cheerful and contented.

His labor always gave him so good an appetite, that the coarsest fare appeared delicious; and he went to bed so tired, that he would have slept soundly even upon the ground. Besides this, he was a good and virtuous man, humane to everybody; honest in his dealings; always accustomed to speak the truth; and therefore beloved and respected by all his neighbors.

The rich man, on the contrary, though he lay upon the softest bed, yet could not sleep, because he had passed the day in idleness; and though the nicest dishes were presented to him, yet he could not eat with any pleasure, because he did not wait till nature gave him an appetite. And besides this, as he was a great sluggard and glutton, he was almost always ill.

As he did nobody any good, he had no friends; and even his servants spoke ill of him, behind his back; and-all his neighbors whom he oppressed, hated him. For these reasons, he was sullen, melancholy, and unhappy; being displeased with all who appeared

more cheerful than himself. When he was carried out in his palanquin, a kind of bed borne upon the shoulders of men, he would haughtily direct his servants which way to go.

In these airings, he would frequently pass the cottage of the poor basket-maker, who was always sitting at the door, and singing as he wove his baskets. The rich man could not behold this without anger. What, said he, shall a wretch, a peasant, a low born fellow that weaves bulrushes for a scanty subsistence, be always happy and pleased; while I, a gentleman, possessed of riches and power, and of more consequence than a million of such reptiles as he, am always melancholy and unhappy ?

This reflection tormented him so much, that he began to feel the greatest hatred towards the poor man; and, as he had never accustomed himself to conquer those evil passions, however improper or unjust they might be, he at last determined to punish the basket-maker for being happier than himself. With this wicked design, he one night gave orders to his servants, who did not dare to disobey him, to set

fire to the rushes, which surrounded the poor man's house.

As it was summer, and the weather in that country is extremely hot, the fire soon spread over the whole marsh : and not only consumed all the rushes, but soon extended to the cottage itself, and the poor man ran out almost naked to save his life. You may judge of his grief, when he found himself thus deprived of the means of subsistence by the wickedness of his rich neighbor.

Having never justly offended him, and being unable to punish him for his injustice, he set out and walked to the chief magistrate of that country, to whom with many tears he told his pitiful case. The magistrate, who was a good and just man, immediately ordered the rich man to be brought before him; and finding that the rich man could not deny the truth of the accusation, he thus addressed the poor man:

“ As this proud and wicked neighbor of yours, has been puffed up by the opinion of his own importance, and has maliciously attempted to oppress you


your poverty, I shall proceed to teach him of how little value he is to anybody, and how vile and contempti

ble a creature he really is. But for this purpose, it is necessary that you agree to the plan I have formed, and go along with him, to the place I intend to send

you both.”

The poor man said, that having lost his all, through the cruel conduct of his wicked neighbor, and having no means of obtaining a livelihood left, I am therefore ready to go wherever you may please to send me; and though I would not treat this man as he has treated me, yet should I rejoice at any measures calculated to teach him more justice and humanity, and to prevent him from injuring the poor a second time.

The magistrate then ordered them both to be put on board a ship, and carried to a distant country, which was inhabited by a rude and savage kind of men, who lived in huts, were strangers to riches, and obtained their living by fishing. As soon as they were set on shore, the sailors left them, as they had been ordered, and the inhabitants of the country came round them in great numbers.

The rich man, seeing himself thus exposed, without assistance or defence, in the midst of a barbarous people, began to wring his hands in the most abject

« ForrigeFortsæt »