I know some of you are waiting on the answer to the “What is it?” post. I have consulted with my expert friend and am eagerly awaiting her reply. Unfortunately, in my own research I found out that I may be wrong in what I believed it to be. The phrase ‘close but no cigar’ comes to mind. But, in any case, I am hoping to have an answer by tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the little fable dealing with ‘humility’.
The Fly in the Mail-Coach
A mail-coach, one hot summer’s day, was traveling along a very dusty road. There were several passengers all in a great hurry to get to their journey’s end, and the coach drove very fast. There was a clergy man going to preach his probation sermon the next day; there was a lawyer hastening to settle who had the best right to a great estate; and there was a young couple in a hurry to be married. Besides this there was a bag of letters, some on very urgent business, and some enclosing bank-notes to a considerable amount. So that, you see, what this coach carried was altogether of some importance.
In the coach, among the passengers, was a fly. Nobody observed this fly; he sometimes sat upon a gentleman’s hat, and sometimes upon a lady’s handkerchief, and sometimes in the shade upon the lining of the coach. But the fly was, in his own judgment, of more importance than all the rest; indeed he had so high a conceit of himself, that he absolutely forgot there was anybody else in the coach. He thought it a very nice thing to travel so fast without feeling fatigued, and he was in as great a hurry to get to London, which he had never seen, as any of the human passengers.
It happened, as they drove along at a great rate, that a large school of little gentlemen and ladies was walking along the causeway. It was a holiday; they had all been very good; they were dressed in their best clothes; and their school-mistress was taking them to a nice dairy-house, to treat them with syllabub and cheese-cakes. As the coach drove by, the wind set full in their faces, and the por children were almost blinded with the dust. The fly looked on very attentive at all that was passing.
“Upon my word,” said the fly, “I am very sorry for these children. I am quite grieved that I should incommode them thus. If I had not been so extremely in a hurry, I would really have desired the coachman to stop, till they were past. But a person of my consequence cannot pass through the world, however excellent his intentions may be, without frequently occasioning inconvenience to his inferiors.”
A pretty butterfly, who heard this self-conceited speech, could not help rebuking this coxcomb fly. “You insignificant little insect, do you think anybody here knows any thing about you? I dared not come into the coach, till I saw that there were no children in it, because nature has thought proper to adorn me with brilliant colours, which often bring on my ruin from naughty boys and girls, who do not recollect that a butterfly can feel. Bu you may go through the world unnoticed by anybody, unless it be by a spider. Do you think the coach goes one step the faster or slower, because we are in it? Take my word for it, my friend, that the most ridiculous creature in the universe, is he who entertains a big imagination of his own importance, that no one ever dreamed of but himself.”
The fly was so ashamed at this just rebuke from his brother insect, that he crept into a crevice made by a corner of the worsted-binding of the coach, and never showed himself any more, till he smelled the butchers’ shambles in Whitechapel, as he entered London from the east. Then he roused himself from his hiding-place, and flew away to his dinner.
The Book of Fables. Selections from Aesop, and Other Authors
by ed. Edward Baldwin
Published by Robert B. Collins, New York, 1854