IN A certain village, whose name I know (but I think I will keep it to myself), in this village, I say, there was once a Milkman. I daresay you know that a Milkman is a man who sells milk; but I have seen milkmen who also sell water. That is to say, they put water in the milk which they sell, and so they get more money than they deserve. This was the sort of Milkman that my story tells of; and he was worse than the more part of such tricksters, since he actually filled his pans only half full of milk, and the other half all water. The people of that village were so simple and honest, that they never dreamt their Milkman was cheating them; and if the milk did seem thin, all they did was to shake their heads, and say, "What a lot of water the cows do drink this hot weather!"
By watering his milk, this Milkman got together a great deal of money: ten pounds it was, all in sixpences, because the villagers always bought sixpennyworth of milk a day.
When the Milkman had got ten pounds, that is to say, no less than four hundred silver sixpences, he thought he would go and try his tricks in another place, where there were more people to be cheated. So he put his four hundred silver sixpences in a bag, and set out.
After travelling a while, he came to a pond. He sat down by the pond to eat his breakfast, laying his bag of sixpences by his side; and after breakfast, he proceeded to wash his hands in the pond.
Now it so happened that this was the very pond where the Milkman came to water his milk. He came all this way out of the village, because he did not want to be seen by the people of the village. But there was one who saw him; and that was a Monkey, who lived in a tree which overhung the pond. Many a time and oft had this Monkey seen the Milkman pour water into the milk-cans, chuckling over the profit he was to make. This was a very worthy and well-educated Monkey, and he knew just as well as you or I know, that if you sell milk, you should put no water in it. When the Man stooped down to wash his hands in the pond, quietly, quietly down came the Monkey, swinging himself from branch to branch with his tail. Down he came to the ground, and picked up the bag of sixpences, and then up again to his perch in the tree.
The Monkey untied the mouth of the bag, and took out one sixpence, and, click! dropped it into the pond. The Milkman heard a tiny splash, but it did not trouble him, because he thought it was a nut or something that had fallen from the tree. Click! another sixpence. Click! went a third.
By this time the Milkman's hands were dry, and he looked round to pick up his bag, and get him gone. But no bag! Click! click! went the sixpences all this while; and now the Milkman began to look around him. Before long he espied the Monkey sitting on a branch with his beloved bag, and--O horror! dropping sixpences, click! click! click! one after another into the pond.
"I say, you Monkey!" shouted he, "that's my bag! What are you doing? bring me back my bag!"
"Not yet," said the Monkey, and went on dropping the sixpences, click! click! click!
The Milkman wept, the Milkman tore handfuls of hair out of his head; but the Monkey might have been made of stone for all the notice he took of the Milkman.
At last the Monkey had dropt two hundred sixpences into the pond. Then he tied up the mouth of the money-bag, and threw it down to the Milkman. "There, take your money," said the Monkey.
"And where's the rest of my money?" asked the Milkman, fuming with rage.
"You have all the money that is yours," said the Monkey. "Half of the money was the price of water from this pond, so to the pond I gave it."
The Milkman felt very much ashamed of himself, and
went away, a sadder but a wiser man; and never again
did he put water in his milk. And that is why
I have not told you the name of the village
where he lived; for now that he has
turned over a new leaf, it would
hardly be fair to rake up
his old misdeeds