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Aesop's Fables: Sir Roger L'Estrange (1692)

96. MERCURY AND A TRAVELLER (Perry 178)

One that was just entring upon a long Journey, took up a fancy of putting a Trick upon Mercury. he say'd him a short prayer for the Bon-Voyage, with a Promise that the God should go half with him in whatever he found. Somebody had lost a Bag of Dates and Almonds, it seems, and it was his Fortune to find it. He fell to work upon 'em immediately, and when he had eaten up the Kernels, and all that was good of them, himself, he laid the Stones and the Shells upon an Altar; and desir'd Mercury to take Notice that he had perform'd his Vow. For, says he, here are the outsides of the one, and the insides of the other, and there's the Moiety I promis'd ye.
THE MORAL. Men talk as if they believ'd in God, but they live as if they thought there were none; but their very Prayers are Mockeries, and their Vows and Promises are no more than Words of Course, which they never intended to make good.


L'Estrange originally published his version of the fables in 1692. There is a very nice illustrated edition in the Children's Classics series by Knopf: Sir Roger L'Estrange. Aesop - Fables which is available at amazon.com.