A Story From: United States
Read Time: ["3 to 5mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs., 10 to 14yrs.

A Fable by Mark TwainA Fable by Mark Twain ~ Short Stories for Kids 

The fable is a fictional story meant to teach a moral lesson. See what lesson about the nature of perception Mark Twain is trying to show us.

 

Once upon a time an artist who had painted a small and very beautiful picture placed it so that he could see it in the mirror. He said, “This doubles the distance and softens it, and it is twice as lovely as it was before.”

The animals out in the woods heard of this through the housecat, who was greatly admired by them because he was so learned, and so refined and civilized, and so polite and high-bred, and could tell them so much which they didn’t know before, and were not certain about afterward. They were much excited about this new piece of gossip, and they asked questions, so as to get at a full understanding of it. They asked what a picture was, and the cat explained.

“It is a flat thing,” he said; “wonderfully flat, marvelously flat, enchantingly flat and elegant. And, oh, so beautiful!”

That excited them almost to a frenzy, and they said they would give the world to see it. Then the bear asked:

“What is it that makes it so beautiful?”

“It is the looks of it,” said the cat.

This filled them with admiration and uncertainty, and they were more excited than ever. Then the cow asked:

“What is a mirror?”

“It is a hole in the wall,” said the cat. “You look in it, and there you see the picture, and it is so dainty and charming and ethereal and inspiring in its unimaginable beauty that your head turns round and round, and you almost swoon with ecstasy.”

The donkey had not said anything as yet; he now began to throw doubts. He said there had never been anything as beautiful as this before, and probably wasn’t now. He said that when it took a whole basketful of sesquipedalian adjectives to whoop up a thing of beauty, it was time for suspicion.

It was easy to see that these doubts were having an effect upon the animals, so the cat went off offended. The subject was dropped for a couple of days, but in the meantime curiosity was taking a fresh start, aid there was a revival of interest perceptible. Then the animals assailed the donkey for spoiling what could possibly have been a pleasure to them, on a mere suspicion that the picture was not beautiful, without any evidence that such was the case.

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