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THE RACERS

 

A PRIZEor rather two prizes had been announceda big one and a little onefor the greatest swiftnessnot in a single race but for swiftness through-out an entire year

I got the first prize!”said the Hare;“there must be justice when relations and good friends are among the prize committee but that the Suail should have received the second prizeI consider almost an insult to myself.”

No!”declared the Fence-railwho had been witness at the distribution of prizes,“reference must also be had to industry and perseveranceMany respectable people said soand I understood it wellThe Snail certainly took half a year to get across the thresholdbut has broken his thigh-bone in the haste he was compelled to makeHe devoted himself entirely to his workand he ran with his house on his backAll that is very praise-worthyand that's how he got the second prize.”

I might certainly have been considered too said the Swallow.“I should think that no one appeared swifter in flying and soaring than myself and how far I have been aroundfarfarfar!”

Yesthat's just your misfortune,”said the Fencerail.“You're too fond of flutteringYou must always be jourmeying about into far countries when it begins to be cold here You've no love of fatherland in youYou can-not be taken into account.”

But if I lay in the swamp all through the winter?”said the Swallow.“Suppose I slept through the whole time should I be taken into account then?”

Bring a certificate from the old swampwife that you have slept away half the time in your fatherlandand you shall be taken into account.”

I deserved the first prizeand not the second,”said the Snail.“I know so much at least that the Hare only ran from cowardice because he thought each time there was danger in delayI on the other hand made my running the business of my lifeand have become a cripple in the serviceIf any one was to have the first prize I should have had it but I make no fussI despise it!”

And so he spat

I am able to depose with word and oath that each prizeat least my vote for eachwas given after proper consideration,”observed the old Boundary-post in the woodwho had been a member of the body of judges.“ I always go on with due consideration with order and calculationSeven times before I have had the honour to be present at the distribution of prizes but not till today have I carried out my willAt each distribution I have started from a fixed principle I always went to the first prize from the beginning of the alphabet and to the second from the endAnd if you will now take notice when one starts from the beginning the eighth letter from A is H and there we have the Hare and so I awarded him the first prize the eighth letter from the end of the alphabet is Sand there-fore the Snail received the second prizeNext time I will have its turn for the first prize and R for the second there must be due order in everythingOne must have a certain starting-point!”

I should certainly have voted for myself if I had not been among the judges,”said the Mulewho had been one of the committee.“One must not only consider the rapidity of advancebut every other quality also that is foundasfor example how much a candidate is able to draw but I would not have put that prominently forward this time nor the sagacity of the Hare in his flight or the cunning with which he suddenly takes a leap to one side to bring people on a false track so that they may not know where he has hidden himselfNoThere is something else on which many lay great stress and which one may not leave out of the calculationI mean what is called the beautifulOn the beautiful I particularly fixed my eyesI looked at the beautiful well-grown ears of the Hare it's quite a pleasure to see how long they areit almost seemed to me as if I saw myself in the days of my childhood And so I voted for the Hare.”

But,” said the Fly,“I'm not going to talk I'm only going to say something I know that I have overtaken more than one hareQuite lately I crushed the hind legs of oneI was sitting on the engine in front of a railway train——I often do that for thus one can best notice one's own swiftnessA young hare ran for a long time in front of the enginehe had no ideaa that I was present but at last he was obliged to give in and spring asideand then the engine crushed his hind legs for I was upon itThe hare lay there but I rode onThat certainly was conqueribg himBut I don't count upon getting the prize!”

It certainly appears to me,”thought the Wild Rosebut she did not say itfor it is not her nature to give her opinion though it would have been quite as well if she had done so—“it certainly appears to me that the sunbeam ought to have had the first prize and the second tooThe sunbeam flies in a moment along the enormous path from the sun to ourselves and arrives in such strength that all nature awakes at itsuch beauty does it possess that all we roses blush and exhale fragrance in its possess that all we roses blush and exhale fragrance in its presenceOur worshipful judges do not appear to have noticed this at allIf I were the sunbeamI would give each of them a sunstrokebut that would only make them madand that they may become as things standI say nothing,”thought the Wild Rose.“May peace reign in the forest It is glorious to blossomto scentand to refreshto live in song and legendThe sunbeam will out-live us all.”

What's the first prize?” asked the Earthworm who had overslept the timeand only came up now

It consists in a free admission to a cabbage garden,”replied the Mule.“I proposed that as the prizeThe Hare was decided to have won it and therefore Ias an active and reflective member took especial notice of the advantage of him who was to get itnow the Hare is provided for The Snail may sit upon the fence and lick up moss and sunshine and has further been appointed one of the first umpires in the racingIt is so good to have a professional in the thing men call a committee I must say I expect much from the futurewe have made so good a beginning.”

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