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The Fox and the Sick Lion


It was reported that the Lion was sick, and the beasts were made to believe that they could not make their court better than by going to visit him. Upon this they generally went; but it was particularly taken notice of, that the Fox was not one of the number. The Lion therefore dispatched one of his Jackals to sound him about it, and ask him why he had so little charity and respect, as never to come near him, at a time when he lay so dangerously ill, and every body else had been to see him?—'Why,' replies the Fox, 'pray present my duty to his majesty, and tell him, that I have the same respect for him as ever, and have been coming several times to kiss his royal hand: but I am so terribly frightened at the mouth of his cave, to see the print of my fellow-subjects feet all pointing forwards and none backwards, that I have not resolution enough to venture in.' Now the truth of the matter was, that this sickness of the Lion's was only a sham to draw the beasts into his den, the more easily to devour them.


A man should weigh and consider the nature of any proposal well before he gives into it; for a rash and hasty compliance has been the ruin of many a one. And it is the quintessence of prudence not to be too easy of belief. Indeed the multitude think altogether in the same track, and are much upon a footing. Their meditations are confined in one channel, and they follow one another, very orderly, in a regular stupidity. Can a man of thought and spirit be harnessed thus, and trudge along like a pack-horse, in a deep, stinking, muddy road, when he may frisk it over the beauteous lawns, or lose himself agreeably in the shady verdant mazes of unrestrained contemplation? It is impossible. Vulgar notions are so generally attended with error, that wherever one traces the footsteps of the many, tending all one way, it is enough to make one suspect, with the Fox in the fable, that there is some trick in it. The eye of reason is dulled and stupified when it is confined, and made to gaze continually upon the same thing: it rather chooses to look about it, and amuse itself with variety of objects, as they lie scattered up and down in the unbounded prospect. He that goes implicitly into a thing, may be mistaken, notwithstanding the number of those who keep him company; but he that keeps out till he sees reason to enter, acts upon true maxims of policy and prudence. In short, it becomes us, as we are reasonable creatures, to behave ourselves as such, and to do as few things as possible, of which we may have occasion to repent.