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The Literature Collection

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894 / Fables (1902)

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[work xiii]

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greyscale etching

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'They cannot think,' said the philosopher.

'I don't know about that,' returned the stranger: and then, laying his hand upon a trunk: 'I like these people,' said he.

XIII

THE DISTINGUISHED STRANGER

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Once upon a time there came to this earth a visitor from a neighbouring planet. And he was met at the place of his descent by a great philosopher, who was to show him everything.

First of all they came through a wood, and the stranger looked upon the trees. 'Whom have we here?' said he.

'These are only vegetables,' said the philosopher. 'They are alive, but not at all interesting.'

'I don't know about that,' said the stranger. 'They seem to have very good manners. Do they never speak?'

'They lack the gift,' said the philosopher.   [p. 48]   Page image

'Yet I think I hear them sing,' said the other.

'That is only the wind among the leaves,' said the philosopher. 'I will explain to you the theory of winds: it is very interesting.'

'Well,' said the stranger, 'I wish I knew what they are thinking.'

'They cannot think,' said the philosopher.

'I don't know about that,' returned the stranger: and then, laying his hand upon a trunk: 'I like these people,' said he.

'They are not people at all,' said the philosopher. 'Come along.'

Next they came through a meadow where there were cows.

'These are very dirty people,' said the stranger.

'They are not people at all,' said the philosopher; and he explained what a cow is in scientific words which I have forgotten.

'That is all one to me,' said the stranger. 'But why do they never look up?'

'Because they are graminivorous,' said the philosopher; 'and to live upon grass, which is   [p. 49]   Page imagenot highly nutritious, requires so close an attention to business that they have no time to think, or speak, or look at the scenery, or keep themselves clean.'

'Well,' said the stranger, 'that is one way to live, no doubt. But I prefer the people with the green heads.'

Next they came into a city, and the streets were full of men and women.

'These are very odd people,' said the stranger.

'They are the people of the greatest nation in the world,' said the philosopher.

'Are they indeed?' said the stranger. 'They scarcely look so.'   [p. 50]   Page image

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