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The Beetle
by [?]

The emperor’s favourite horse was shod with gold. It had a golden shoe on each of its feet.

And why was this?

He was a beautiful creature, with delicate legs, bright intelligent eyes, and a mane that hung down over his neck like a veil. He had carried his master through the fire and smoke of battle, and heard the bullets whistling around him, had kicked, bitten, and taken part in the fight when the enemy advanced, and had sprung with his master on his back over the fallen foe, and had saved the crown of red gold, and the life of the emperor, which was more valuable than the red gold; and that is why the emperor’s horse had golden shoes.

And a beetle came creeping forth.

“First the great ones,” said he, “and then the little ones; but greatness is not the only thing that does it.” And so saying, he stretched out his thin legs.

“And pray what do you want?” asked the smith.

“Golden shoes, to be sure,” replied the beetle.

“Why, you must be out of your senses,” cried the smith. “Do you want to have golden shoes too?”

“Golden shoes? certainly,” replied the beetle. “Am I not just as good as that big creature yonder, that is waited on, and brushed, and has meat and drink put before him? Don’t I belong to the imperial stable?”

“But why is the horse to have golden shoes? Don’t you understand that?” asked the smith.

“Understand? I understand that it is a personal slight offered to myself,” cried the beetle. “It is done to annoy me, and therefore I am going into the world to seek my fortune.”

“Go along!” said the smith.

“You’re a rude fellow!” cried the beetle; and then he went out of the stable, flew a little way, and soon afterwards found himself in a beautiful flower garden, all fragrant with roses and lavender.

“Is it not beautiful here?” asked one of the little lady-birds that flew about, with their delicate wings and their red-and-black shields on their backs. “How sweet it is here–how beautiful it is!”

“I’m accustomed to better things,” said the beetle. “Do you call this beautiful? Why, there is not so much as a dung-heap.”

Then he went on, under the shadow of a great stack, and found a caterpillar crawling along.

“How beautiful the world is!” said the caterpillar: “the sun is so warm, and everything so enjoyable! And when I go to sleep, and die, as they call it, I shall wake up as a butterfly, with beautiful wings to fly with.”

“How conceited you are!” exclaimed the stag-beetle. “Fly about as a butterfly, indeed! I’ve come out of the stable of the emperor, and no one there, not even the emperor’s favourite horse–that by the way wears my cast-off golden shoes–has any such idea. To have wings to fly! why, we can fly now;” and he spread his wings and flew away. “I don’t want to be annoyed, and yet I am annoyed,” he said, as he flew off.

Soon afterwards he fell down upon a great lawn. For awhile he lay there and feigned slumber; at last he fell asleep in earnest.

Suddenly a heavy shower of rain came falling from the clouds. The beetle woke up at the noise, and wanted to escape into the earth, but could not. He was tumbled over and over; sometimes he was swimming on his stomach, sometimes on his back, and as for flying, that was out of the question; he doubted whether he should escape from the place with his life. He therefore remained lying where he was.

When the weather had moderated a little, and the beetle had rubbed the water out of his eyes, he saw something gleaming. It was linen that had been placed there to bleach. He managed to make his way up to it, and crept into a fold of the damp linen. Certainly the place was not so comfortable to lie in as the warm stable; but there was no better to be had, and therefore he remained lying there for a whole day and a whole night, and the rain kept on during all the time. Towards morning he crept forth: he was very much out of temper about the climate.