Gateway to the Classics: The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by Clifton Johnson
The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson

The Salt Fish and the Eel

T HE men of Gotham were very fond of salt fish, and they bought a great many of them. There was, indeed, no meat food they had on their tables oftener. Of course the cost was considerable, and one time, about the beginning of winter, the men of Gotham got together to consider how to save this expense.

"We have a nice large pond right in the middle of our town," said one man; "why not raise our own fish?"

"Yes, it is a good pond," said another, "but where would we get the fish to stock it with?"

"That is easily done," responded the first man. "You well know how fish multiply. Have we not in our homes many fish not yet eaten? Put those in the pond and let them breed, and next year we shall have a plenty. We will not need to go to market for our salt fish, but will catch them as we want them from our pond."

"Good! good!" cried the men of Gotham, clapping their hands and stamping their feet. "Let every man who has salt fish left cast them into the pond!"

"I have many white herrings," said one.

"I have many sprats," said another.

"I have many red herrings," said another.

So they all told what salt fish they had and said, "Yes, yes, throw them into the pond and we shall fare like lords next year!"

Without farther delay the salt fish were put into the pond, and when spring came the men of Gotham thought the fish must have multiplied and that it was time to take some of them out. So they dragged the pond with a net and drew it to the shore expecting to find it full of fish, but it was empty. Again and again they dragged it through the pond, yet do what they would they could not catch any fish. However, at last a large fat eel was found in the net.

"Ah!" said they all, "a mischief on this eel, for he has eaten all our fish."

"And now what shall we do with him?" said they.

"Kill him!" said one.

"Chop him into pieces!" said another.

"Not so," said another; "let us drown him!"

"Be it so!" said all, and the men of Gotham rowed their boat out to the middle of the pond and threw the eel overboard into the deep water.


When they saw the eel wriggling down toward the bottom one man said, "Do you notice how frightened he is? See how he squirms and twists with terror."

"He may squirm and twist as much as he pleases," said another man. "He must shift for himself now."

"Yes," said they all, "he shall have no help from us;" and they left the eel to drown.

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