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A FARM-YARD SKETCH.
ON a calm summer morning a peacock stood spreading his feathers in the sun. Near him a lake lay sleeping in motionless transparency. He walked toward it with conscious pride, and bending himself over the brink, sometimes gazed at his gorgeous plumage in the mirror, and sometimes turned back his eyes, to examine the play of green and gold upon his back. The simple inhabitants of a neighboring farm-yard stood off at a respectful distance, awe-struck with his grandeur. The hens cackled to each other; the geese huddled together, poked out their long necks, and hissed; and even chanticleer, although generally on capital terms with himself, rather lowered his crest, and lifted his yellow feet with less of lordly majesty as he marched among his companions, who no longer paid him their accustomed attention. At this extorted acknowledgment of his superior splendor, heavens! how the peacock swelled! Certainly," said he, "I am without an equal. How mean these poor wretched creatures appear by my side. How magnificently beautiful I am. What golden tinges chase each other across my feathers. How superbly my tail reflects the light. It is full of eyes which absolutely rival the sun himself. When I look around, what is there to compare with me?"
A rose, which was blooming near, overheard this arrogant soliloquy, and addressed him,
Pray, Mr. Peacock, do not be offended, but I think I can show you a bird, not only your equal, but so far your superior, that before man would allow one of the race to be destroyed, he would behold you and all your vain flaunting relations exterminated."
"I always thought, madam Rose," replied the peacock," that you were a decent sort of person, and had one or two tolerable colors in you—that is, for a mere rose; but I cannot give you credit for much wisdom. And so sure am I of being considered of more value than any which you can possibly bring, that I
fearlessly challenge you and all the world to produce my rival."
"This very afternoon," said the rose, "and before the assembled creatures of the earth and air; they shall pronounce upon your respective merits."
"I will come an hour before sunset," replied the peacock, spreading his superb tail and tossing his head affectedly. "I appear to more advantage, the greater the light; good morning, madam Rose. What a fool is this ridiculous red flower," he continued in a lower voice, as he strutted away, "and so conceited too. Bah! how I hate conceited people!"
The hour for the trial came. The setting sun filled the woods with golden light; lengthened shadows lay on the soft green meadows. The bee hummed lazily along the drooping flowers, as if tired of their day's wanderings; the crows went winging their way over the tree tops to their nests; the fish hawk had made his last plunge in the lake, and was bearing his prey toward the high dry tree-every thing told of the closing day.
The peacock spread his tail and entered the arena where he was to await the expected rival. He found all the beasts, poultry, &c., of the neighborhood assembled. The geese came in single file, headed by a sage old fellow, a kind of philosopher, who led the procession with grave dignity. The hens brought their dear little chickens, with their wee bit voices; the ducks waddled to their places, and quacked "how do you do," to their neighbors, the geese. The horses, who had been let loose in the adjoining field, cantered up, tossing their heads in the air, kicking out their heels, and neighing cheerfully to their friends and fellow citizens. The ass shook his ears with much self complacency, and trotted after. An old black sheep sprang over a fence, and was immediately followed by about a hundred others, who leaped over in the same place. The cows walked out of the pond and took their stations, lashing themselves with their tails, and chewing the cud; no animal like your cow for gravity and patience. A great filthy hog, who had been wallowing in the mire, came in grunting, and thrusting himself into company where he was not wanted: but he got a good seat, because
every body feared to come in contact with him. The swallows skimmed down from their nests under the eaves of the barn, and seated themselves in a row on the rail fence. The turkeys came in late, grumbling and gobbling. They thought the whole concern rather ridiculous-they were as good as the peacock any daysome people make such a fuss about nothing.' A beautiful robin came hopping along, and flew up into a branch of the cherry tree, with a sweet and plaintive cry; while a fierce little bantam rooster pushed his way in among the horses, squared off to a turkey seven times as large as himself, and at length reached an excellent place, where he sat with the air of one who thinks himself as good as most people.
When the company were seated, the rose, who had called the meeting, in a brief and graceful address, explained the wager which had been laid between the peacock and herself.
My friends," said the peacock, in a screaming, discordant voice, which made the robin flutter to a more distant seat, "I am nearly overcome with diffidence at appearing thus in public. Nothing but duty and self respect could have driven me to such an extremity, but as the representative of a large class of society, I feel bound to assert our claims to your attention. Look at me, my friends; examine those feathers, the rainbow tinges that melt into each other on my breast, the brilliant hues brightening up for ever and dying away, the radiance that seems to float around me, and which certainly excels in superb beauty even the vivid bow of heaven. The rose, who is a nice sort of person to be sure, but without taste, and not a little prejudiced against nature's more choice productions," (here the peacock unfolded his tail, and accidently cast his eyes upon the ass, who, supposing the remark an oblique compliment to himself, held up his head higher, gave a gentle bray of approbation, and continued to listen with imperturbable gravity,) "the rose has proffered to bring before you a bird more valuable than myself. I appeal to my person, and challenge competition."
The peacock then walked around in a circle.
"I shall now produce your rival, master Peacock," said the rose, in a sweet voice, and with something of a deeper shade of crimson passing over her soft face. She nodded her head, and a strange bird, who had not before been at all observed among the crowd, stepped forth, and stood in silence by the rose bush. His plain appearance excited some whispering-there was a good deal of cackling and simpering among the old hens, at the idea of such a small, insignificant looking creature, daring to present himself on such an occasion. The most influential goose gave a downright hiss, whereupon, all the other geese stretched out their sagacious heads, and hissed also; while the guinea hen uttered a peevish, discontented cry. Nothing, however, could exceed the irrepressible mirth of the rooster, who gave a right hearty crow of derision, unless it was the wise demeanor of the ass, who first looked down contemptuously on the little aspirant, then laughed aloud, and concluded by nodding his head and long ears to his neighbors, and winking his left eye with a knowing look, as much as to say, "stand by now and we shall
have some fun."
After the peacock had remained silent for a moment, swelling and strutting, and exhibiting himself to his admirers, like a militia colonel on parade, he asked the rose, with a sneer, if she intended to "insult the audience by such a miserable jest."
The rose was going to reply, when the ass, who always puts himself forward on these occasions, and attempts to lead the rest of the meeting, rose and made a short address.
My friends," he said, "I can no longer suppress my feelings of indignation at the insult offered to the excellent, tender-hearted and amiable peacock, by this brazen faced rose. Let me ask you, gentlemen, who and what is this rose? What has she done? What use is she of? Who ever heard her voice in the wood, as mine is heard and the peacock's, animating nature, and soothing all that have ears to hear and hearts to feel? The rose is a stupid and senseless flower, so conscious of her own insignificance, that she dare not show herself in the pathway where we tread. Look at the blush of shame which even now rises to her cheeks-look at her fee
bleness, her uselessness, her idleness; for my part I always hated her, and preferred the noble sunflower, which lifts its yellow head, in yonder field. Now, let me ask the rose how she dare collect us (whose time is important) together, for the purpose of judging between the merits of yon small paltry brown bird, that we should never think of looking at twice, and this gay and splendid creature, which is the admiration of myself and all other cognoscenti, indeed, of the known world."
"I must remind the learned gentleman," said the rose, in a low but touching tone," that there are other means of gaining fame beside appearance. That the dress of the peacock is more bright, striking, and gaudy than that of the nightingale, I am willing to allow, but dress does not make the man. The nightingale rests his hope of your approbation upon higher qualities. Nature has given him a most extraordinary power of touching the soul; and, I think, this must rank him higher in the scale of creation than the peacock."
"Oh ho!" said the 66 ass, you mean his singing. I have been often disturbed by his voice in the night, although I never before had the honor of seeing the vocalist. What!" he continued, "this is the fellow, is it, that keeps us awake? Well, hark ye, my little chap, give us a touch of your quality; and be short, do you hear, for our time is precious, and important to the commonwealth."
The nightingale was about to commence, when the peacock broke in,
"I also," said he, "have cultivated my voice, and aspire to some skill in melody."
"Right," said the ass, "and the nightingale is nothing to you.
The little bantam, who had perched upon the top of an old chesnut rail, came out with a sudden laugh, and slapped his sides with his wings, at this assertion; but the ass, regarding him with a grave, rebuking expres sion, said,
"I would have you to know, sir, that if there is any thing on which I really pique myself, it is being a correct judge of music. In that I'll yield to nobody. But hush! that divine creature is going to sing."