118 THE GOLOSHES OF FORTUNE
' Oh, yes !' replied the parrot; * but here I am far better off. I have good care and genteel treatment. I know I've a good head, and I don't ask for more. Let us be men now. You are what they call a poetic soul. I have thorough knowledge and wit. You have genius, but no prudence. You mount up into those high natural notes of yours, and then you get covered up. That is never done to me ; no, no, for I cost them a little more. I make an impression with my beak, and can cast wit round me. Now let us be men ! '
' 0 my warm flowery fatherland ! ' sang the canary. ' I Avill praise thy dark green trees and thy quiet bays, where the branches kiss the clear watery mirror ; I'll sing of the joy of all my shining brothers and sisters, where the plants grow by the desert springs.'
' Now, pray leave off these dismal tones,' cried the parrot. ' Sing something at which one can laugh ! Laughter is the sign of the highest mental development. Look if a dog or a horse can laugh ! No : they can cry ; but laughter—that is given to men alone. Ho ! ho ! ho ! ' screamed Polly, and finished the jest with ' Let us be men now.'
' You little grey Danish bird,' said the canary ; ' so you have also become a prisoner. It is certainly cold in your woods, but still liberty is there. Fly out! they have forgotten to close your cage ; the upper window is open. Fly 1 fly ! [
Instinctively the copying clerk obeyed, and flew forth from his prison. At the same moment the half-opened door of the next room creaked, and stealthily, with fierce sparkling eyes, the house cat crept in, and made chase upon him. The canary fluttered in its cage, the parrot flapped its wings, and cried, ' Let us be men now.' The copying clerk felt mortally afraid, and flew through the window, away over the houses and streets ; at last he was obliged to rest a little.
The house opposite had a homelike look : one of the windows stood open, and he flew in. It was his own room : he perched upon the table.
* Let us be men now,' he broke out, involuntarily imitating the parrot; and in the same moment he was restored to the form of the copying clerk; but he was sitting on the table.