Then he looked at them nearly; and there was a new ulcer on the left ankle, and the old one on the right was not yet healed.
"Now, may God forgive me!" cried Jack. "I would I were well home."
And when he was home, there lay his uncle smitten on the head, and his father pierced through the heart, and his mother cloven through the midst. And he sat in the lone house and wept beside the bodies.
Old is the tree and the fruit good, Very old and thick the wood. Woodman, is your courage stout? Beware! the root is wrapped about Your mother's heart, your father's bones; And like the mandrake comes with groans.
IX - THE FOUR REFORMERS.
FOUR reformers met under a bramble bush. They were all agreed the world must be changed. "We must abolish property," said one.
"We must abolish marriage," said the second.
"We must abolish God," said the third.
"I wish we could abolish work," said the fourth.
"Do not let us get beyond practical politics," said the first. "The first thing is to reduce men to a common level."
"The first thing," said the second, "is to give freedom to the sexes."
"The first thing," said the third, "is to find out how to do it."
"The first step," said the first, "is to abolish the Bible."
"The first thing," said the second, "is to abolish the laws."
"The first thing," said the third, "is to abolish mankind."
X. - THE MAN AND HIS FRIEND.
A MAN quarrelled with his friend.
"I have been much deceived in you," said the man.
And the friend made a face at him and went away.
A little after, they both died, and came together before the great white Justice of the Peace. It began to look black for the friend, but the man for a while had a clear character and was getting in good spirits.
"I find here some record of a quarrel," said the justice, looking in his notes. "Which of you was in the wrong?"
"He was," said the man. "He spoke ill of me behind my back."
"Did he so?" said the justice. "And pray how did he speak about your neighbours?"
"Oh, he had always a nasty tongue," said the man.
"And you chose him for your friend?" cried the justice. "My good fellow, we have no use here for fools."
So the man was cast in the pit, and the friend laughed out aloud in the dark and remained to be tried on other charges.
XI. - THE READER.
"I NEVER read such an impious book," said the reader, throwing it on the floor.
"You need not hurt me," said the book; "you will only get less for me second hand, and I did not write myself."
"That is true," said the reader. "My quarrel is with your author."
"Ah, well," said the book, "you need not buy his rant."
"That is true," said the reader. "But I thought him such a cheerful writer."
"I find him so," said the book.
"You must be differently made from me," said the reader.
"Let me tell you a fable," said the book. "There were two men wrecked upon a desert island; one of them made believe he was at home, the other admitted - "
"Oh, I know your kind of fable," said the reader. "They both died."
"And so they did," said the book. "No doubt of that. And everybody else."
"That is true," said the reader. "Push it a little further for this once. And when they were all dead?"
"They were in God's hands, the same as before," said the book.
"Not much to boast of, by your account," cried the reader.
"Who is impious now?" said the book.
And the reader put him on the fire.
The coward crouches from the rod, And loathes the iron face of God.
XII. - THE CITIZEN AND THE TRAVELLER.
"LOOK round you," said the citizen. "This is the largest market in the world."
"Oh, surely not," said the traveller.
"Well, perhaps not the largest," said the citizen, "but much the best."
"You are certainly wrong there," said the traveller. "I can tell you . . ."
They buried the stranger at the dusk.
XIII. - THE DISTINGUISHED STRANGER.
ONCE upon a time there came to this earth a visitor from a neighbouring planet.