The Dog Who Carried His Master's Dinner (Prose Fable)

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

Our hands are no more proof against gold than our eyes are proof against beauty. There are but few who guard their treasures with care enough.



A certain dog who had been taught to carry to his master the mid-day meal was one day trotting along with the savoury burden slung around his neck. He was tempted to take a taste himself; but knew that it would be wrong to do so, and being a temperate, self-governed dog he refrained. We of the human race allow ourselves to be tempted by covetable things often enough; but, strange as it is, there seems to be more difficulty in teaching mankind to resist temptation than there is in teaching dogs to do so.

On this particular day the dog was met by a mastiff who at once wanted the dinner, but did not find it so easy to capture as he thought; for our dog put it down and stood guard over it. There was a mighty tussle. Soon others arrived; curs that were used to knocks and kicks while picking up a living in the streets. Seeing that he should be badly over-matched, and that his master's dinner was in danger of being devoured by the crowd, he bethought himself how he too might have his share, if shared it must be. So he very wisely exclaimed, "No fighting, gentlemen, my bit will suffice me. Do as you please with the rest." With these words he snapped up a portion, upon which all the rest began to pull and jostle to their utmost and feasted merrily.



In this I seem to see the picture of one of those unfortunate towns or states which occasionally have suffered from the greed of their ministers and officials. Each functionary has an eye to his own advantage, and the smartest sets a pattern for the others. The way in which the public funds disappear is amusing. If one sheriff or provost, having a scruple of conscience, finds a trifling argument in defence of the public interest the others show him that he is a fool if he utters half a word. So, with a very little trouble, he gives way, and often becomes the leading offender.

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