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The Happy Family

The Happy Family

Really, the largest green leaf in this country is a dock-leaf; if one holds it before one, it is like a whole apron, and if one holds it over one's head in rainy weather, it is almost as good as an umbrella, for it is so immensely large. The burdock never grows alone, but where there grows one there always grow several: it is a great delight, and all this delightfulness is snails' food. The great white snails which persons of quality in former times made fricassees of, ate, and said, "Hem, hem! how delicious!" for they thought it tasted so delicate—lived on dock-leaves, and therefore burdock seeds were sown.

Now, there was an old manor-house, where they no longer ate snails, they were quite extinct; but the burdocks were not extinct, they grew and grew all over the walks and all the beds; they could not get the mastery over them—it was a whole forest of burdocks. Here and there stood an apple and a plum-tree, or else one never would have thought that it was a garden; all was burdocks, and there lived the two last venerable old snails.

They themselves knew not how old they were, but they could remember very well that there had been many more; that they were of a family from foreign lands, and that for them and theirs the whole forest was planted. They had never been outside it, but they knew that there was still something more in the world, which was called the manor-house, and that there they were boiled, and then they became black, and were then placed on a silver dish; but what happened further they knew not; or, in fact, what it was to be boiled, and to lie on a silver dish, they could not possibly imagine; but it was said to be delightful, and particularly genteel. Neither the chafers, the toads, nor the earth-worms, whom they asked about it could give them any information—none of them had been boiled or laid on a silver dish.

The old white snails were the first persons of distinction in the world, that they knew; the forest was planted for their sake, and the manor-house was there that they might be boiled and laid on a silver dish.

Now they lived a very lonely and happy life; and as they had no children themselves, they had adopted a little common snail, which they brought up as their own; but the little one would not grow, for he was of a common family; but the old ones, especially Dame Mother Snail, thought they could observe how he increased in size, and she begged father, if he could not see it, that he would at least feel the little snail's shell; and then he felt it, and found the good dame was right.

One day there was a heavy storm of rain.

"Hear how it beats like a drum on the dock-leaves!" said Father Snail.

"There are also rain-drops!" said Mother Snail. "And now the rain pours right down the stalk! You will see that it will be wet here! I am very happy to think that we have our good house, and the little one has his also! There is more done for us than for all other creatures, sure enough; but can you not see that we are folks of quality in the world? We are provided with a house from our birth, and the burdock forest is planted for our sakes! I should like to know how far it extends, and what there is outside!"

"There is nothing at all," said Father Snail. "No place can be better than ours, and I have nothing to wish for!"

"Yes," said the dame. "I would willingly go to the manorhouse, be boiled, and laid on a silver dish; all our forefathers have been treated so; there is something extraordinary in it, you may be sure!"

"The manor-house has most likely fallen to ruin!" said Father Snail. "Or the burdocks have grown up over it, so that they cannot come out. There need not, however, be any haste about that; but you are always in such a tremendous hurry, and the little one is beginning to be the same. Has he not been creeping up that stalk these three days? It gives me a headache when I look up to him!"

"You must not scold him," said Mother Snail. "He creeps so carefully; he will afford us much pleasure—and we have nothing but him to live for! But have you not thought of it? Where shall we get a wife for him? Do you not think that there are some of our species at a great distance in the interior of the burdock forest?"

"Black snails, I dare say, there are enough of," said the old one. "Black snails without a house—but they are so common, and so conceited. But we might give the ants a commission to look out for us; they run to and fro as if they had something to do, and they certainly know of a wife for our little snail!"

"I know one, sure enough—the most charming one!" said one of the ants. "But I am afraid we shall hardly succeed, for she is a queen!"

"That is nothing!" said the old folks. "Has she a house?"

"She has a palace!" said the ant. "The finest ant's palace, with seven hundred passages!"

"I thank you!" said Mother Snail. "Our son shall not go into an ant-hill; if you know nothing better than that, we shall give the commission to the white gnats. They fly far and wide, in rain and sunshine; they know the whole forest here, both within and without."

"We have a wife for him," said the gnats. "At a hundred human paces from here there sits a little snail in her house, on a gooseberry bush; she is quite lonely, and old enough to be married. It is only a hundred human paces!"

"Well, then, let her come to him!" said the old ones. "He has a whole forest of burdocks, she has only a bush!"

And so they went and fetched little Miss Snail. It was a whole week before she arrived; but therein was just the very best of it, for one could thus see that she was of the same species.

And then the marriage was celebrated. Six earth-worms shone as well as they could. In other respects the whole went off very quietly, for the old folks could not bear noise and merriment; but old Dame Snail made a brilliant speech. Father Snail could not speak, he was too much affected; and so they gave them as a dowry and inheritance, the whole forest of burdocks, and said—what they had always said—that it was the best in the world; and if they lived honestly and decently, and increased and multiplied, they and their children would once in the course of time come to the manor-house, be boiled black, and laid on silver dishes. After this speech was made, the old ones crept into their shells, and never more came out. They slept; the young couple governed in the forest, and had a numerous progeny, but they were never boiled, and never came on the silver dishes; so from this they concluded that the manor-house had fallen to ruins, and that all the men in the world were extinct; and as no one contradicted them, so, of course it was so. And the rain beat on the dock-leaves to make drum-music for their sake, and the sun shone in order to give the burdock forest a color for their sakes; and they were very happy, and the whole family was happy; for they, indeed were so.

The Happy Family

The largest green leaf in this country is certainly the burdock-leaf. If you hold it in front of you, it is large enough for an apron; and if you hold it over your head, it is almost as good as an umbrella, it is so wonderfully large. A burdock never grows alone; where it grows, there are many more, and it is a splendid sight; and all this splendor is good for snails. The great white snails, which grand people in olden times used to have made into fricassees; and when they had eaten them, they would say, "O, what a delicious dish!" for these people really thought them good; and these snails lived on burdock-leaves, and for them the burdock was planted.

There was once an old estate where no one now lived to require snails; indeed, the owners had all died out, but the burdock still flourished; it grew over all the beds and walks of the garden—its growth had no check—till it became at last quite a forest of burdocks. Here and there stood an apple or a plum-tree; but for this, nobody would have thought the place had ever been a garden. It was burdock from one end to the other; and here lived the last two surviving snails. They knew not themselves how old they were; but they could remember the time when there were a great many more of them, and that they were descended from a family which came from foreign lands, and that the whole forest had been planted for them and theirs. They had never been away from the garden; but they knew that another place once existed in the world, called the Duke's Palace Castle, in which some of their relations had been boiled till they became black, and were then laid on a silver dish; but what was done afterwards they did not know. Besides, they could not imagine exactly how it felt to be boiled and placed on a silver dish; but no doubt it was something very fine and highly genteel. Neither the cockchafer, nor the toad, nor the earth-worm, whom they questioned about it, would give them the least information; for none of their relations had ever been cooked or served on a silver dish. The old white snails were the most aristocratic race in the world,—they knew that. The forest had been planted for them, and the nobleman's castle had been built entirely that they might be cooked and laid on silver dishes.

They lived quite retired and very happily; and as they had no children of their own, they had adopted a little common snail, which they brought up as their own child. The little one would not grow, for he was only a common snail; but the old people, particularly the mother-snail, declared that she could easily see how he grew; and when the father said he could not perceive it, she begged him to feel the little snail's shell, and he did so, and found that the mother was right.

One day it rained very fast. "Listen, what a drumming there is on the burdock-leaves; turn, turn, turn; turn, turn, turn," said the father-snail.

"There come the drops," said the mother; "they are trickling down the stalks. We shall have it very wet here presently. I am very glad we have such good houses, and that the little one has one of his own. There has been really more done for us than for any other creature; it is quite plain that we are the most noble people in the world. We have houses from our birth, and the burdock forest has been planted for us. I should very much like to know how far it extends, and what lies beyond it."

"There can be nothing better than we have here," said the father-snail; "I wish for nothing more."

"Yes, but I do," said the mother; "I should like to be taken to the palace, and boiled, and laid upon a silver dish, as was done to all our ancestors; and you may be sure it must be something very uncommon."

"The nobleman's castle, perhaps, has fallen to decay," said the snail-father, "or the burdock wood may have grown out. You need not be in a hurry; you are always so impatient, and the youngster is getting just the same. He has been three days creeping to the top of that stalk. I feel quite giddy when I look at him."

"You must not scold him," said the mother-snail; "he creeps so very carefully. He will be the joy of our home; and we old folks have nothing else to live for. But have you ever thought where we are to get a wife for him? Do you think that farther out in the wood there may be others of our race?"

"There may be black snails, no doubt," said the old snail; "black snails without houses; but they are so vulgar and conceited too. But we can give the ants a commission; they run here and there, as if they all had so much business to get through. They, most likely, will know of a wife for our youngster."

"I certainly know a most beautiful bride," said one of the ants; "but I fear it would not do, for she is a queen."

"That does not matter," said the old snail; "has she a house?"

"She has a palace," replied the ant,—"a most beautiful ant-palace with seven hundred passages."

"Thank-you," said the mother-snail; "but our boy shall not go to live in an ant-hill. If you know of nothing better, we will give the commission to the white gnats; they fly about in rain and sunshine; they know the burdock wood from one end to the other."

"We have a wife for him," said the gnats; "a hundred man-steps from here there is a little snail with a house, sitting on a gooseberry-bush; she is quite alone, and old enough to be married. It is only a hundred man-steps from here."

"Then let her come to him," said the old people. "He has the whole burdock forest; she has only a bush."

So they brought the little lady-snail. She took eight days to perform the journey; but that was just as it ought to be; for it showed her to be one of the right breeding. And then they had a wedding. Six glow-worms gave as much light as they could; but in other respects it was all very quiet; for the old snails could not bear festivities or a crowd. But a beautiful speech was made by the mother-snail. The father could not speak; he was too much overcome. Then they gave the whole burdock forest to the young snails as an inheritance, and repeated what they had so often said, that it was the finest place in the world, and that if they led upright and honorable lives, and their family increased, they and their children might some day be taken to the nobleman's palace, to be boiled black, and laid on a silver dish. And when they had finished speaking, the old couple crept into their houses, and came out no more; for they slept.

The young snail pair now ruled in the forest, and had a numerous progeny. But as the young ones were never boiled or laid in silver dishes, they concluded that the castle had fallen into decay, and that all the people in the world were dead; and as nobody contradicted them, they thought they must be right. And the rain fell upon the burdock-leaves, to play the drum for them, and the sun shone to paint colors on the burdock forest for them, and they were very happy; the whole family were entirely and perfectly happy.

The Happy Family

The Happy Family

T
HE largest green leaf in this country is certainly the burdock. Put one in front of your waist, and it is just like an apron; or lay it upon your head, and it is almost as good as an umbrella, it is so broad.

Burdock never grows singly; where you find one plant of the kind you may be sure that others grow in its immediate neighborhood. How magnificent they look!

And all this magnificence is food for snails—the great white snails, which grand people in olden times used to have dished up as fricassees, and of which, when they had eaten, they would say, "H'm, how nice!" for they really fancied them delicious. These snails lived on burdock leaves, and that was why burdock was planted.

Now there was an old estate where snails were no longer considered a delicacy. The snails had therefore died out, but the burdock still flourished. In all the alleys and in all the beds it had grown and grown, so that it could no longer be checked; the place had become a perfect forest of burdock.

Here and there stood an apple or plum tree to serve as a kind of token that there had been once a garden, but everything, from one end of the garden to the other, was burdock, and beneath the shade of the burdock lived the last two of the ancient snails.

They did not know themselves how old they were, but they well remembered the time when there were a great many of them, that they had descended from a family that came from foreign lands, and that this forest in which they lived had been planted for them and theirs. They had never been beyond the limits of the garden, but they knew that there was something outside their forest, called the castle, and that there one was boiled, and became black, and was then laid upon a silver dish—though what happened afterward they had never heard, nor could they exactlyfancy how it felt to be cooked and laid on a silver dish. It was, no doubt, a fine thing, and exceedingly genteel.

Neither the cockchafer, nor the toad, nor the earthworm, all of whom they questioned on the matter, could give them the least information, for none of them had ever been cooked and served upon silver dishes.

The old white snails were the grandest race in the world; of this they were well aware. The forest had grown for their sake, and the castle or manor house too had been built expressly that in it they might be cooked and served.

Leading now a very quiet and happy life and having no children, they had adopted a little common snail, and had brought it up as their own child. But the little thing would not grow, for he was only a common snail, though his foster mother pretended to see a great improvement in him. She begged the father, since he could not perceive it, to feel the little snail's shell, and to her great joy and his own, he found that his wife was right.

One day it rained very hard. "Listen!" said the Father Snail; "hear what a drumming there is on the burdock leaves—rum-dum-dum, rum-dum-dum!"

"There are drops, too," said the Mother Snail; "they come trickling down the stalks. We shall presently find it very wet here. I'm glad we have such good houses, and that the youngster has his also. There has really been more done for us than for any other creatures. Every one must see that we are superior beings. We have houses from our very birth, and the burdock forest is planted on our account. I should like to know just how far it reaches, and what there is beyond."

"There is nothing better than what we have here," said the Father Snail. "I wish for nothing beyond."

"And yet," said the mother, "I should like to be taken to the castle, and boiled, and laid on a silver dish; that has been the destiny of all our ancestors, and we may be sure it is something quite out of the common way."

"The castle has perhaps fallen to ruin," said the Father Snail, "or it may be overgrown with burdock, so that its inmates are unable to come out. There is no hurry about the matter. You are always in such a desperate hurry, and the youngster there begins to take after you. He's been creeping up that stem yonder these three days. It makes me quite dizzy to look at him."

"But don't scold him," said the mother. "He creeps carefully. We old people have nothing else to live for, and he will be the joy of our old age. Have you thought how we can manage to find a wife for him? Do you not think that farther into the forest there may be others of our own species?"

"I dare say there may be black snails," said the old father, "black snails, without a house at all; and they are vulgar, though they think so much of themselves. But we can employ the black ants, who run about so much—hurrying to and fro as if they had all the business of the world on their hands. They will certainly be able to find a wife for our young gentleman."

"I know the fairest of the fair," said one of the ants; "but I'm afraid it would not do, for she's a queen."

"She's none the worse for that," said both the old snails. "Has she a house?"

"She has a palace," answered the ants; "the most splendid ant castle, with seven hundred galleries."

"Thank you!" said the Mother Snail. "Our boy shall not go to live in an ant hill. If you know of nothing better, we will employ the white gnats, who fly both in rain and sunshine and know all the ins and outs of the whole burdock forest."

"We have found a wife for him," said the gnats. "A hundred paces from here there sits, on a gooseberry bush, a little snail with a house. She is all alone and is old enough to marry. It is only a hundred human steps from here."

"Then let her come to him," said the old couple. "He has a whole forest of burdock, while she has only a bush."

So they went and brought the little maiden snail. It took eight days to perform the journey, but that only showed her high breeding, and that she was of good family.

And then the wedding took place. Six glow-worms gave all the light they could, but in all other respects it was a very quiet affair. The old people could not bear the fatigue of frolic or festivity. The Mother Snail made a very touching little speech. The father was too much overcome to trust himself to say anything.

They gave the young couple the entire burdock forest, saying what they had always said, namely, that it was the finest inheritance in the world, and that if they led an upright and honorable life, and if their family should increase, without doubt both themselves and their children would one day be taken to the manor castle and be boiled black and served as a fricassee in a silver dish.

And after this the old couple crept into their houses and never came out again, but fell asleep. The young pair now ruled in the forest and had a numerous family. But when, as time went on, none of them were ever cooked or served on a silver dish, they concluded that the castle had fallen to ruin and that the world of human beings had died out; and as no one contradicted them, they must have been right.

And the rain continued to fall upon the burdock leaves solely to entertain them with its drumming, and the sun shone to light the forest for their especial benefit, and very happy they were—they and the whole snail family—inexpressibly happy!