THERE once was a young Quail that lived on a farm. When the farmer ploughed up the land, Quailie used to hop about over the clods and pick up seeds, or weeds, or worms, or anything that the plough turned up, and he ate these and lived on them.
You might think this was very nice for him; he had no trouble to find food, because the ploughman turned it up; he had only to hop along after the plough and peck. Not a bit of it; he must needs better himself, as he said; so one fine day he flew away over the farm, away to the forest which fringed it; and, alighting on the ground just where the forest began, he looked about to see if there was anything good to eat.
Up in the air, just above the tree-tops, a Falcon was sailing, poised on outstretched wings; as Quailie searched for worms, so the Falcon was searching for quails; and lo and behold, he spied one! Down he came with a swoop and a whirr, and in an instant the Quail was in his crooked claws.
What could poor Quailie do now? He twittered and fluttered, and at last began to cry.
"Oh dear, oh dear!" whimpered Quailie, the tears running down his beak, "what a fool I was to poach on other people's preserves! If I had only stayed at home this Falcon could never have caught me, not even if he had come and tried!"
"What's that, Quailie?" asked the Falcon. "Do you think I can't catch you anywhere?"
"Not on my own ground!" cried the Quail.
"What do you mean by that?"
"A ploughed field full of clods."
"Oh, nonsense, Quailie, clods won't help you. Just try; off you go! I'll follow."
The Quail flew off, feeling as happy now as he was miserable a moment gone; and when he got back to his farm he picked out a big clod and perched on the top. "Come on, Falcon!" cried he; "come on!"
Down came the Falcon with a swoop like a flash of lightning; but just as he came close the Quail dodged him nimbly and tumbled over the clod to the other side, leaving the Falcon to come full tilt against the clod of earth; and so swift was he, that the shock killed him.
So the Quail found out how much better it is for most people to stick to what they are used to; and as for the Falcon, he might have thought, if he had been able to think at all, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.