The Original Fables of La Fontaine/Education



(Book VIII.—No. 24)

Once upon a time there were two dogs, one named Lurcher and the other Cæsar. They were brothers; handsome, well-built, and plucky, and descended from dogs who were famous in their day. These two brothers, falling into the hands of different masters, found their destinies likewise in different spheres; for whilst one haunted the forests, the other lurched about a kitchen.

The names to which they now answered were not, however, the names that were first given them. The influence of each one's career upon his nature brought about a new name and a new reputation; for Cæsar's nature was improved and strengthened by the life he led, whilst Lurcher's was made more and more despicable by a degraded existence. A scullion named him Lurcher; but the other dog received his noble name on account of his life of high adventure. He had held many a stag at bay, killed many a hare, and otherwise risen to the position of a Cæsar among dogs. Care was taken that he should not mate indiscriminately, so that his descendants' blood should not degenerate. On the other hand, poor Lurcher bestowed his affections wherever he would and his brood became populous. He was the progenitor of all turn-spits in France; a variety which became common enough to form at last a race in themselves. They show more readiness to flee than to attack, and are the very antipodes of the Cæsars.

We do not always follow our ancestors, nor even resemble our fathers. Want of care, the flight of time, a thousand things, cause us to degenerate.

Ah! how many Cæsars, failing to cultivate their best nature and their gifts, become Lurchers!