by Lord Dunsany
HE WAS ALL in black, but his friend was dressed in brown, members of two old families.
“Is there any change in the way you build your houses?” said he in black.
“No change,” said the other. “And you?”
“We change not,” he said.
A man went by in the distance riding a bicycle.
“He is always changing,” said the one in black, “of late almost every century. He is uneasy. Always changing.”
“He changes the way he builds his house, does he not?” said the brown one.
“So my family say,” said the other. “They say he has changed of late.”
“They say he takes much to cities?” the brown one said.
“My cousin who lives in belfries tells me so,” said the black one. “He says he is much in cities.”
“And there he grows lean?” said the brown one.
“Yes, he grows lean.”
“Is it true what they say?” said the brown one.
“Caw,” said the black one.
“Is it true that he cannot live many centuries?”
“No, no,” said the black one. “Furrow-maker will not die. We must not lose furrow-maker. He has been foolish of late, he has played with smoke and is sick. His engines have wearied him and his cities are evil. Yes, he is very sick. But in a few centuries he will forget his folly and we shall not lose furrow-maker. Time out of mind he has delved and my family have got their food from the raw earth behind him. He will not die.”
“But they say, do they not?” said the brown one, “his cities are noisome, and that he grows sick in them and can run no longer, and that it is with him as it is with us when we grow too many, and the grass has the bitter taste in the rainy season, and our young grow bloated and die.”
“Who says it?” replied the black one.
“Pigeon,” the brown one answered. “He came back all dirty. And Hare went down to the edge of the cities once. He says it too. Man was too sick to chase him. He thinks that Man will die, and his wicked friend Dog with him. Dog, he will die. That nasty fellow Dog. He will die too, the dirty fellow!”
“Pigeon and Hare!” said the black one. “We shall not lose furrow-maker.”
“Who told you he will not die?” his brown friend said.
“Who told me!” the black one said. “My family and his have understood each other times out of mind. We know what follies will kill each other and what each may survive, and I say that furrow-maker will not die.”
“He will die,” said the brown one.
“Caw,” said the other.
And Man said in his heart: “Just one invention more. There is something I want to do with petrol yet, and then I will give it all up and go back to the woods.”
* * *
Source: Fifty-One Tales (1915)