A PRIZE, or rather two prizes, a great one and a small
one, had been awarded for the greatest swiftness in running,-
not in a single race, but for the whole year.
'I obtained the first prize,' said the hare. 'Justice must
still be carried out, even when one has relations and good
friends among the prize committee; but that the snail should
have received the second prize, I consider almost an insult to
'No,' said the fence-rail, who had been a witness at the
distribution of prizes; 'there should be some consideration
for industry and perseverance. I have heard many respectable
people say so, and I can quite understand it. The snail
certainly took half a year to get over the threshold of the
door; but he injured himself, and broke his collar-bone by the
haste he made. He gave himself up entirely to the race, and
ran with his house on his back, which was all, of course, very
praiseworthy; and therefore he obtained the second prize.'
'I think I ought to have had some consideration too,' said
the swallow. 'I should imagine no one can be swifter in
soaring and flight than I am; and how far I have been! far,
'Yes, that is your misfortune,' said the fence-rail; 'you
are so fickle, so unsettled; you must always be travelling
about into foreign lands when the cold commences here. You
have no love of fatherland in you. There can be no
consideration for you.'
'But now, if I have been lying the whole winter in the
moor,' said the swallow, 'and suppose I slept the whole time,
would that be taken into account?'
'Bring a certificate from the old moor-hen,' said he,
'that you have slept away half your time in fatherland; then
you will be treated with some consideration.'
'I deserved the first prize, and not the second,' said the
snail. 'I know so much, at least, that the hare only ran from
cowardice, and because he thought there was danger in delay.
I, on the other hand, made running the business of my life,
and have become a cripple in the service. If any one had a
first prize, it ought to have been myself. But I do not
understand chattering and boasting; on the contrary, I despise
it.' And the snail spat at them with contempt.
'I am able to affirm with word of oath, that each prize-
at least, those for which I voted- was given with just and
proper consideration,' said the old boundary post in the wood,
who was a member of the committee of judges. 'I always act
with due order, consideration, and calculation. Seven times
have I already had the honor to be present at the distribution
of the prizes, and to vote; but to-day is the first time I
have been able to carry out my will. I always reckon the first
prize by going through the alphabet from the beginning, and
the second by going through from the end. Be so kind as to
give me your attention, and I will explain to you how I reckon
from the beginning. The eighth letter from A is H, and there
we have H for hare; therefore I awarded to the hare the first
prize. The eighth letter from the end of the alphabet is S,
and therefore the snail received the second prize. Next year,
the letter I will have its turn for the first prize, and the
letter R for the second.'
'I should really have voted for myself,' said the mule,
'if I had not been one of the judges on the committee. Not
only the rapidity with which advance is made, but every other
quality should have due consideration; as, for instance, how
much weight a candidate is able to draw; but I have not
brought this quality forward now, nor the sagacity of the hare
in his flight, nor the cunning with which he suddenly springs
aside and doubles, to lead people on a false track, thinking
he has concealed himself. No; there is something else on which
more stress should be laid, and which ought not be left
unnoticed. I mean that which mankind call the beautiful. It is
on the beautiful that I particularly fix my eyes. I observed
the well-grown ears of the hare; it is a pleasure to me to
observe how long they are. It seemed as if I saw myself again
in the days of my childhood; and so I voted for the hare.'
'Buz,' said the fly; 'there, I'm not going to make a long
speech; but I wish to say something about hares. I have really
overtaken more than one hare, when I have been seated on the
engine in front of a railway train. I often do so. One can
then so easily judge of one's own swiftness. Not long ago, I
crushed the hind legs of a young hare. He had been running a
long time before the engine; he had no idea that I was
travelling there. At last he had to stop in his career, and
the engine ran over his hind legs, and crushed them; for I set
upon it. I left him lying there, and rode on farther. I call
that conquering him; but I do not want the prize.'
'It really seems to me,' thought the wild rose, though she
did not express her opinion aloud- it is not in her nature to
do so,- though it would have been quite as well if she had;
'it certainly seems to me that the sunbeam ought to have had
the honor of receiving the first prize. The sunbeam flies in a
few minutes along the immeasurable path from the sun to us. It
arrives in such strength, that all nature awakes to loveliness
and beauty; we roses blush and exhale fragrance in its
presence. Our worshipful judges don't appear to have noticed
this at all. Were I the sunbeam, I would give each one of them
a sun stroke; but that would only make them mad, and they are
mad enough already. I only hope,' continued the rose, 'that
peace may reign in the wood. It is glorious to bloom, to be
fragrant, and to live; to live in story and in song. The
sunbeam will outlive us all.'
'What is the first prize?' asked the earthworm, who had
overslept the time, and only now came up.
'It contains a free admission to a cabbage-garden,'
replied the mule. 'I proposed that as one of the prizes. The
hare most decidedly must have it; and I, as an active and
thoughtful member of the committee, took especial care that
the prize should be one of advantage to him; so now he is
provided for. The snail can now sit on the fence, and lick up
moss and sunshine. He has also been appointed one of the first
judges of swiftness in racing. It is worth much to know that
one of the numbers is a man of talent in the thing men call a
'committee.' I must say I expect much in the future; we have
already made such a good beginning.'