The Pigs

Intermediate
6 min read
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    Charles Dickens once told us about a pig, and since that time we are in a good humour if we only hear one grunt. St. Antony took the pig under his protection; and when we think of the prodigal son we always associate with him the idea of feeding swine; and it was in front of a pig-sty that a certain carriage stopped in Sweden, about which I am going to talk. The farmer had his pig-sty built out towards the high road, close by his house, and it was a wonderful pig-sty. It was an old state carriage. The seats had been taken out and the wheels taken off, and so the body of the old coach lay on the ground, and four pigs were shut up inside it. I wonder if these were the first that had ever been there? That point could not certainly be determined; but that it had been a real state coach everything bore witness, even to the damask rag that hung down from the roof; everything spoke of better days.

    “Humph! humph!” said the occupants, and the coach creaked and groaned; for it had come to a mournful end. “The beautiful has departed,” it sighed—or at least it might have done so.

    We came back in autumn. The coach was there still, but the pigs were gone. They were playing the grand lords out in the woods. Blossoms and leaves were gone from all the trees, and storm and rain ruled, and gave them neither peace nor rest; and the birds of passage had flown. “The beautiful has departed! This was the glorious green wood, but the song of the birds and the warm sunshine are gone! gone!” Thus said the mournful voice that creaked in the lofty branches of the trees, and it sounded like a deep-drawn sigh, a sigh from the bosom of the wild rose tree, and of him who sat there; it was the rose king. Do you know him? He is all beard, the finest reddish-green beard; he is easily recognized. Go up to the wild rose bushes, and when in autumn all the flowers have faded from them, and only the wild hips remain, you will often find under them a great red-green moss flower; and that is the rose king. A little green leaf grows up out of his head, and that’s his feather. He is the only man of his kind on the rose bush; and he it was who sighed.

    “Gone! gone! The beautiful is gone! The roses have faded, and the leaves fall down! It’s wet here! it’s boisterous here! The birds who used to sing are dumb, and the pigs go out hunting for acorns, and the pigs are the lords of the forest!”

    The nights were cold and the days were misty; but, for all that, the raven sat on the branch and sang, “Good! good!” Raven and crow sat on the high bough; and they had a large family, who all said, “Good! good!” and the majority is always right.

    Under the high trees, in the hollow, was a great puddle, and here the pigs reclined, great and small. They found the place so inexpressibly lovely! “Oui! oui!” they all exclaimed. That was all the French they knew, but even that was something; and they were so clever and so fat!

    The old ones lay quite still, and reflected; the young ones were very busy, and were not quiet a moment. One little porker had a twist in his tail like a ring, and this ring was his mothers’s pride: she thought all the rest were looking at the ring, and thinking only of the ring; but that they were not doing; they were thinking of themselves and of what was useful, and what was the use of the wood. They had always heard that the acorns they ate grew at the roots of the trees, and accordingly they had grubbed up the ground; but there came quite a little pig—it’s always the young ones who come out with their new-fangled notions—who declared that the acorns fell down from the branches, for one had just fallen down on his head, and the idea had struck him at once, afterwards he had made observations, and now was quite certain on the point. The old ones put their heads together. “Umph!” they said, “umph! The glory has departed: the twittering of the birds is all over: we want fruit; whatever’s good to eat is good, and we eat everything.”

    “Oui! oui!” chimed in all the rest.

    But the mother now looked at her little porker, the one with the ring in his tail, “One must not overlook the beautiful,” she said. “Good! good!” cried the crow, and flew down from the tree to try and get an appointment as nightingale; for some one must be appointed; and the crow obtained the office directly.

    “Gone! gone!” sighed the rose king. “All the beautiful is gone!”

    It was boisterous, it was grey, cold, and windy; and through the forest and over the field swept the rain in long dark streaks. Where is the bird who sang, where are the flowers upon the meadow, and the sweet berries of the wood? Gone! gone!

    Then a light gleamed from the forester’s house. It was lit up like a star, and threw its long ray among the trees. A song sounded forth out of the house! Beautiful children played there round the old grandfather. He sat with the Bible on his knee, and read of the Creator and of a better world, and spoke of spring that would return, of the forest that would array itself in fresh green, of the roses that would bloom, the nightingale that would sing, and of the beautiful that would reign in its glory again.

    But the rose king heard it not, for he sat in the cold, damp weather, and sighed, “Gone! gone!” And the pigs were the lords of the forest, and the old mother sow looked proudly at her little porker with the twist in his tail. “There is always somebody who has a soul for the beautiful!” she said.

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