Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Leaping Match

The flea, the grasshopper, and the frog once wanted to try which of them could jump highest; so they invited the whole world, and anybody else who liked, to come and see the grand sight. Three famous jumpers were they, as was seen by everyone when they met together in the room.
"I will give my daughter to him who shall jump highest," said the King.
"It would be too bad for you to have the trouble of jumping, and for us to offer you no prize."
The flea was the first to introduce himself. He had very polite manners, and bowed to the company on every side, for he was of noble blood; besides, he was accustomed to the society of man, which had been a great advantage to him.
Next came the grasshopper. He was not quite so slightly and elegantly formed as the flea; however, he knew perfectly well how to conduct himself, and wore a green uniform, which belonged to him by right of birth. Moreover, he declared himself to have sprung from a very ancient and honourable Egyptian family. In his present home he said he was very highly esteemed; so much so, indeed, that he had been taken out of the field where he learned to jump and put into a card house three stories high. This house was built on purpose for him, and all of court-cards, the coloured sides being turned inwards. As for the doors and windows in his house, they were cut out of the body of the Queen of Hearts.
"And I can sing so well," added he, "that sixteen parlour-bred crickets, who have chirped and chirped and chirped ever since they were born, and yet could never get anybody to build them a card house, after hearing me have fretted themselves ten times thinner than ever, out of sheer envy and vexation!"
Both the flea and the grasshopper knew excellently well how to make the most of themselves, and each considered himself quite an equal match for a Princess.
The frog said not a word; however, it might be that he thought the more. The house-dog, after going sniffing about him very carefully, confessed that the frog must be of a good family. And the King's old and trusted councillor, who in vain was ordered three times to hold his tongue, declared that the frog must be gifted with the spirit of prophecy, for that one could read on his back whether there was to be a severe or a mild winter, which, to be sure, is more than can be read on the back of the man who writes the weather almanac.
"Ah! I say nothing for the present," remarked the old King, "but I observe everything, and form my own private opinion. Let them show us what they can do."
And now the match began.
The flea jumped so high that no one could see what had become of him, and so they insisted that he had not jumped at all, "which was disgraceful, after he had made such a fuss!"
The grasshopper only jumped half as high, but unfortunately he jumped right into the King's face, and the King declared he was quite disgusted by his rudeness.
The frog stood still as if lost in thought; at last people fancied he did not intend to jump at all.
"I'm afraid he is ill!" said the dog; and he went sniffing at him again to see if he could find out what was wrong, when lo! All at once the frog made a little sidelong jump into the lap of the Princess, who was sitting on a low stool close by.
Then the King gave his judgment.
"There is nothing higher than my daughter," said he, "therefore it is plain that he who jumps up to her jumps highest; but only a person of good understanding would ever have thought of that, so the frog has shown us that he has understanding. He has brains in his head, that he has!" And thus the frog won the Princess.
"I jumped highest for all that!" exclaimed the flea. "But it's all the same to me, let her have the stiff-legged, slimy creature, if she like him! I jumped highest, but I am too light and airy for this stupid world; the people can neither see me nor catch me; dulness and heaviness win the day with them!"
And so the flea went away and fought in foreign wars, where, it is said, he was killed.
As for the grasshopper, he sat on a green bank, meditating on the world and its strange goings on, and at length he repeated the flea's last words. "Yes," he said, "dullness and heaviness win the day! Dullness and heaviness win day!" And then he again began singing his own peculiar, melancholy song, and it is from him that we have learnt this strange history.

The end

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