544 THE HARE AND THE HEDGEHOG.
As they talked, the hedgehog and his wife reached the place in the field where he wished her to stop, and then went back and found the hare at the starting-place, ready to receive him.
" Do you really mean it ?" he asked.
" Yes, indeed." replied the hedgehog, " I am quite ready."
"Then let us start at once," and each placed himself in his furrow as the hare spoke. The hare counted " One, two, three," and started like a whirlwind across the field. The hedgehog, however, only ran a few steps, and then popped down in the furrow and remained still.
When the hare, at full speed, reached the end of the field, the hedgehogs wife raised her head and cried, "Here I am."
The hare stood still in wonder, for the wife was so like her husband that he thought it must be him. " There is something wrong about this," he thought. " However, we'll have another try." So he turned and flew across the field at such a pace that his ears floated behind him.
The hedgehog's wife, however, did not move, and when the hare reached the other end, the husband was there, and cried, " Here I am."
The hare was half beside himself with vexation, and he cried, 11 One more try, one more."
" I don't mind," said the hedgehog. " I will go on as long as you like."
Upon this the hare set off running, and actually crossed the field seventy-three times; and at one end the husband said, " Here am I," and at the other end the wife said the same. But at the seventy-fourth run the hare's strength came to an end. and he fell to the ground and owned himself beaten.
The hedgehog won the Louis d'or and the bottle of wine, and after calling his wife out of the furrow, they went home together in very good spirits, to enjoy it together; and if they are not dead, they are living still.
The lesson to be learnt from this story is, first, that however grand a person may think himself, he should never laugh at others whom he considers inferior, until he knows what they can do ; and, secondly, that when a man chooses a wife, he should take her from the class to which he himself belongs; and if he is a hedgehog she should be one also.