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The Fool
by [?]

Translated From The Russian
By Isabel Hapgood

Once upon a time a fool lived in the world.

For a long time he lived in clover; but gradually rumours began to reach him to the effect that he bore the reputation everywhere of a brainless ninny.

The fool was disconcerted and began to fret over the question how he was to put an end to those unpleasant rumours.

A sudden idea at last illumined his dark little brain…. And without the slightest delay he put it into execution.

An acquaintance met him on the street and began to praise a well-known artist…. “Good gracious!” exclaimed the fool, “that artist was relegated to the archives long ago…. Don’t you know that?–I did not expect that of you…. You are behind the times.”

The acquaintance was frightened, and immediately agreed with the fool.

“What a fine book I have read to-day!” said another acquaintance to him.

“Good gracious!” cried the fool.–“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? That book is good for nothing; everybody dropped it in disgust long ago.–Don’t you know that?–You are behind the times.”

And that acquaintance also was frightened and agreed with the fool.

“What a splendid man my friend N. N. is!” said a third acquaintance to the fool.–“There’s a truly noble being for you!”

“Good gracious!”–exclaimed the fool,–“it is well known that N. N. is a scoundrel! He has robbed all his relatives. Who is there that does not know it? You are behind the times.”

The third acquaintance also took fright and agreed with the fool, and renounced his friend. And whosoever or whatsoever was praised in the fool’s presence, he had the same retort for all.

He even sometimes added reproachfully: “And do you still believe in the authorities?”

“A malicious person! A bilious man!” his acquaintances began to say about the fool.–“But what a head!”

“And what a tongue!” added others.

“Oh, yes; he is talented!”

It ended in the publisher of a newspaper proposing to the fool that he should take charge of his critical department.

And the fool began to criticise everything and everybody, without making the slightest change in his methods, or in his exclamations.

Now he, who formerly shrieked against authorities, is an authority himself,–and the young men worship him and fear him.

But what are they to do, poor fellows? Although it is not proper–generally speaking–to worship … yet in this case, if one does not do it, he will find himself classed among the men who are behind the times!

There is a career for fools among cowards.

April, 1878.