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"The others can do so much and so well," said iEsop, "that there's nothing left for me to do." "Will you be honest and faithful if I buy you?" "I shall be that whether you buy me or not." "Will you promise not to run away?" "Did you ever hear," answered iEsop, "of a bird in a cage that promised to stay in it?"
Xanthus was so much pleased with the answers that he bought iEsop.
Some time afterward, Xanthus, wishing to give a dinner to some of his friends, ordered iEsop to furnish the finest feast that money could buy.
The first course iEsop supplied was of tongues cooked in many ways, and the second of tongues and the third and the fourth. Then Xanthus called sharply to iEsop:
"Did I not tell you, sirrah, to provide the choicest dainties that money could procure?"
"And what excels the tongue?" replied iEsop. "It is the great channel of learning and philosophy. By this noble organ everything wise and good is accomplished."
The company applauded iEsop's wit, and good humor was restored.
"Well," said Xanthus to the guests, "pray do me the favor of dining with me again to-morrow. And if this is your best," continued he turning to iEsop, "pray, to-morrow let us have some of the worst meat you can find."
The next day, when dinner-time came, the guests were assembled. Great was their astonishment and great the anger of Xanthus at finding that again nothing but tongue was put upon the table.
"How, sir," said Xanthus, "should tongues be the best of meat one day, and the worst another?"
"What," replied iEsop, "can be worse than the tongue? What wickedness is there under the sun that it has not a part in? Treasons, violence, injustice, and fraud are debated and resolved upon by the tongue. It is the ruin of empires, of cities, and of private friendships."
At another time Xanthus very foolishly bet with a scholar that he could drink the sea dry. Alarmed, he consulted iEsop.
"To perform your wager," said iEsop, "you know is impossible, but I will show you how to evade it."
They accordingly met the scholar, and went with him and a great number of people to the seashore, where jEsop had provided a table with several large glasses upon it, and men who stood around with ladles with which to fill the glasses.
Xanthus, instructed by iEsop, gravely took his seat at the table. The beholders looked on with astonishment, thinking that he must surely have lost his senses.
"My agreement," said he, turning to the scholar, "is to drink up the sea. I said nothing of the rivers and streams that are everywhere flowing into it. Stop up these, and I will proceed to fulfill my engagement."
It is said that at one time when Xanthus started out on a long journey, he ordered his servants to get all his things together and put them up into bundles so that they could carry them.
When everything had been neatly tied up, iEsop went to his master and begged for the lightest bundle. Wishing to please his favorite slave, the master told JEsop to choose for himself the one he preferred to carry. Looking them all over, he picked up the basket of bread and started off with it on the journey. The other servants laughed at his foolishness, for that basket was the heaviest of all.
When dinner-time came, iEsop was very tired, for he had had a difficult time to carry his load for the last few hours. When they had rested, however, they took bread from the basket, each taking an equal share. Half the bread was eaten at this one meal, and when supper-time came the rest of it disappeared.
For the whole remainder of the journey, which ran far into the night and was over rough roads, up and down hills, iEsop had nothing to carry, while the loads of the other servants grew heavier and heavier with every step.
The people of the neighborhood in which iEsop was a slave one day observed him attentively looking over some poultry in a pen that was near the roadside; and those idlers, who spent more time in prying into other people's affairs than in adjusting their own, asked why he bestowed his attention on those animals.
"I am surprised," replied iEsop, "to see how mankind imitate this foolish animal."
"In what?" asked the neighbors.
"Why, in crowing so well and scratching so poorly," rejoined iEsop.