The Troubles of the Porcupine and Other Fables
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"The Troubles of the Porcupine."
Porcupines are little animals like fat rabbits, with long hairs that have grown into spikes that are called quills.
Once upon a time a porcupine agreed with a rabbit that they would work together. Of course the rabbit had to run about a great deal to get his food, and could see a great many things, but the porcupine could not run very fast. So when the rabbit found trees that had the kind of bark that the porcupine liked to eat, he told the porcupine; and when foxes or dogs came, the rabbit crept under the porcupine and they could not touch him because they were so afraid of the porcupine's quills.
The two got on very nicely together, and finally the porcupine said that he would like to sleep with the rabbit, and the rabbit said, "All right," but the second night the porcupine curled himself up so that a long spike stuck out and pricked the poor rabbit, and when the rabbit asked him not to do that the porcupine said, "You are a horrible cross thing, and I won't work with you any more."
So off he went and found a wildcat; and he said to the wildcat, "You work with me." The wildcat had to go long journeys so as to catch rabbits and mice and birds, and when he found the right kind of trees he would tell the porcupine, just as the rabbit used to do; and when the porcupine was climbing about the branches and found birds' nests he told the wildcat and the wildcat ate the eggs and the birds. So they were getting along nicely, until one day the wildcat said he knew of some trees that were very hard to find, so he would show the porcupine where they were, and off they set together. It was pretty hot walking, and the porcupine, to let the air in, raised up his spines straight and they stuck into the poor wildcat. The wildcat said. "Oh, don't do that," and the porcupine said, "I will too-I want to." "Well," said the wildcat, "I won't find you any more trees," and he left him then and there. and the porcupine said. "What a horrid disagreeable thing a wildcat is!"
The porcupine started to go home, and on the way a storm came up and it was blowing hard, and when he came to a house he thought he would go and take shelter in the cellar. As he passed the front door there was a hitching-post, and it had got a little loose in the ground from the horses' pulling at it. Just as he went past, it blew over a little bit and at once the porcupine turned around his tail and hit it a' bang with his spikes, and a lot of them went into the hitching- post. Of course the post did not care, but it hurt the porcupine awfully. The porcupine said, "I think the meanest, hatefulest people I ever met are hitching-posts."
The people in the house were really very kind people, and they used to give him apples and grease (which porcupines love to eat) and pretty soon he got so tame that he would come up and take the apples out of their hands. Their dog was a wise dog and knew enough to let the porcupine alone, and so really this porcupine was quite a pet. The little girl Doris used to feed him and to stroke him from his head to his tail on the sharp spines and he smoothed them down so that they would not hurt her hand.
But one day, when she was petting him that way, the stupid porcupine stuck up his spikes and two of them went into Doris's hands, and she ran away frightened and told her papa. Her papa took a big switch and switched the porcupine so badly that he went away as fast as his legs could carry him, saying to himself, "I think girls are horridly unkind."
As he was going along the wagon-road he met a horse and wagon and he did not get out of the way of the wagon at all; the driver was asleep in the wagon and the horse was jogging along. He was a nice horse, besides which he did not want to get his leg full of porcupine quills, so he just stepped aside and the porcupine sat there as grumpy as could be; and the first thing he knew the wheel came right at him so that he had just time to scramble to the side, and as it passed he struck it with his tail. Well, of course the wheel was made of hard wood and it smashed the quills of his poor tail and the edge of the wheel went over his hind paw, and the porcupine said. "The cruelest. meanest things I know are wheels:' See what troubles one has, when one is a porcupine!
THE CROSS SQUIRREL
Once there was a squirrel that did not like its home, and he used to scold and find fault with everything. Its papa squirrel had long gray whiskers, and so was wise-beside which he could shake his whiskers quickly. He said to the squirrel, "My dear, as you do not like your home there are three sensible things you could do-
- Leave it,
- or Change it,
- or Suit yourself to it.
Anyone of these would help you in your trouble."
But the little squirrel said, "Oh, I do not want to do any of those: I had rather sit on the branch of a tree and scold."
"Well," said the papa squirrel, "if you must do that, whenever you want to scold, just go out on a branch and scold away at some one you do not know."
The little squirrel blushed so much that he hecame a red squirrel, and you will notice that to this day red squirrels do just that thing.
THE STUPID MICE
THERE were five little field mice. Their mother was very wise and one day when they went out to play she told them that when she chirped like a bird, they must lie perfectly still. That seemed so funny that the mice were surprised, and began to ask each other a great many questions about it. It would have been much better to ask their mama, but they were very little.
Just then their mother saw a hawk in the sky and chirped. One poor little mouse got frightened and forgot all about what she said; and one dived down into a hole. Unfortunately there was a weasel in that hole; and the weasel got him. Another ran off and got lost in the grass, arid never was found again. Another ran and tried to hide under a leaf, and a hawk swooped down and ate him up. Another jumped into the bushes and a snake swallowed him. The fifth stayed quite still and, though he did not know it, he looked so like a withered leaf that neither' the snake nor the weasel nor the hawk saw him at all.
Which one do you think was the wisest?
- Bolton Hall, “The Troubles of the Porcupine and Other Fables,” St. Nicholas 34, no. 11 (September 1907): 1020-1021.