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The Beetle
by [?]

Suddenly a hand seized the beetle, and pressed him, and turned him round and round.

The gardener’s little son and a companion had come to the hot-bed, had espied the beetle, and wanted to have their fun with him. First he was wrapped in a vine leaf, and then put into warm trousers-pocket. He cribbled and crabbled about there with all his might; but he got a good pressing from the boy’s hand for this, which served as a hint to him to keep quiet. Then the boy went rapidly towards the great lake that lay at the end of the garden. Here the beetle was put in an old broken wooden shoe, on which a little stick was placed upright for a mast, and to this mast the beetle was bound with a woollen thread. Now he was a sailor, and had to sail away.

The lake was not very large, but to the beetle it seemed an ocean; and he was so astonished at its extent, that he fell over on his back and kicked out with his legs.

The little ship sailed away. The current of the water seized it; but whenever it went too far from the shore, one of the boys turned up his trousers and went in after it, and brought it back to the land. But at length, just as it went merrily out again, the two boys were called away, and very harshly, so that they hurried to obey the summons, ran away from the lake, and left the little ship to its fate. Thus it drove away from the shore, farther and farther into the open sea: it was terrible work for the beetle, for he could not get away in consequence of being bound to the mast.

Then a fly came and paid him a visit.

“What beautiful weather!” said the fly. “I’ll rest here, and sun myself. You have an agreeable time of it.”

“You speak without knowing the facts,” replied the beetle. “Don’t you see that I’m a prisoner?”

“Ah! but I’m not a prisoner,” observed the fly; and he flew away accordingly.

“Well, now I know the world,” said the beetle to himself. “It is an abominable world. I’m the only honest person in it. First, they refuse me my golden shoes; then I have to lie on wet linen, and to stand in the draught; and, to crown all, they fasten a wife upon me. Then, when I’ve taken a quick step out into the world, and found out how one can have it there, and how I wished to have it, one of those human boys comes and ties me up, and leaves me to the mercy of the wild waves, while the emperor’s favourite horse prances about proudly in golden shoes. That is what annoys me more than all. But one must not look for sympathy in this world! My career has been very interesting; but what’s the use of that, if nobody knows it? The world does not deserve to be made acquainted with my history, for it ought to have given me golden shoes, when the emperor’s horse was shod, and I stretched out my feet to be shod too. If I had received golden shoes, I should have become an ornament to the stable. Now the stable has lost me, and the world has lost me. It is all over!”

But all was not over yet. A boat, in which there were a few young girls, came rowing up.

“Look, yonder is an old wooden shoe sailing along,” said one of the girls.

“There’s a little creature bound fast to it,” said another.

The boat came quite close to our beetle’s ship, and the young girls fished him out of the water. One of them drew a small pair of scissors from her pocket, and cut the woollen thread, without hurting the beetle; and when she stepped on shore, she put him down on the grass.

“Creep, creep–fly, fly–if thou canst,” she said. “Liberty is a splendid thing.”

And the beetle flew up, and straight through the open window of a great building; there he sank down, tired and exhausted, exactly on the mane of the emperor’s favourite horse, who stood in the stable when he was at home, and the beetle also. The beetle clung fast to the mane, and sat there a short time to recover himself.

“Here I’m sitting on the emperor’s favourite horse–sitting on him just like the emperor himself!” he cried. “But what was I saying? Yes, now I remember. That’s a good thought, and quite correct. The smith asked me why the golden shoes were given to the horse. Now I’m quite clear about the answer. They were given to the horse on my account.”

And now the beetle was in a good temper again.

“Travelling expands the mind rarely,” said he.

The sun’s rays came streaming into the stable, and shone upon him, and made the place lively and bright.

“The world is not so bad, upon the whole,” said the beetle; “but one must know how to take things as they come.”