The Two Mules (Prose Fable)

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

There were two heavily-laden mules making a journey together. One was carrying oats and the other bore a parcel of silver money collected from the people as a tax upon salt. This, we learn, was a tax which produced much money for the government, but it bore very hard upon the people, who revolted many times against it.

The mule that carried the silver was very proud of his burden, and would not have been relieved of it if he could. As he stepped out he took care that the bells upon his harness should jingle well as became a mule of so much importance.

Suddenly a band of robbers burst into the road, pounced upon the treasure mule, seized it by the bridle, and stopped it short. Struggling to defend itself the unhappy creature groaned and sighed as it cried: "Is this then the fate that has been in store for me: that I must fall and perish whilst my fellow traveller escapes free from danger?"

"My friend," exclaimed the mule that carried only the oats, and whom the robbers had not troubled about, "it is not always good to have exalted work to do. Had you been like me, a mere slave to a miller, you would not have been in such a bad way now!"

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