Marcellin by Unknown

MARCELLIN, a young shepherd boy, who tended his father’s flock upon the mountains, having penetrated a deep gorge to search for one of his sheep which was missing, discovered in the thickest of the forest a man lying upon the ground overcome with fatigue, and faint from want of food.

“My poor lad,” said the man, “I am dying from hunger and thirst. Two days ago I came upon this mountain to hunt. I lost my way, and I have passed two nights in the woods.”

Marcellin drew some bread and cheese from his knapsack, and gave to the stranger.

“Eat,” he said, “and then follow me. I will conduct you to an old oak tree, in the trunk of which we shall find some water.”

The food satisfied his hunger; then he followed Marcellin, and drank of the water, which he found excellent. Afterwards the boy conducted him down the mountain, and pointed out the way to the city.

Then the hunter said to the shepherd boy, “My good lad, you have saved my life. If I had remained in the mountain another night, I should have died. I will show you my gratitude. Come with me to the city. I am rich; and I will treat you as if you were my own son.”

“No, sir,” said Marcellin; “I cannot go with you to the city. I have a father and a mother who are poor, but whom I love with all my heart. Were you a king, I would not leave my parents.”

“But,” said the hunter, “you live here in a miserable cabin with an ugly thatched  roof; I live in a palace built of marble, and surrounded with statues. I will give you drink in glasses like crystal, and food upon plates of silver.”

“Very likely,” responded Marcellin; “but our house is not half as miserable as you suppose. If it is not surrounded with statues, it is among fruit trees and trellised vines. We drink water which we get from a neighboring fountain. It is very clear, though we do not drink from crystal cups. We gain by our labor a modest living, but good enough. And if we do not have silver ware in our house, we have plenty of flowers.”

“Nonsense, my boy! Come with me,” said the hunter; “we have trees and flowers in the city more beautiful than yours. I have magnificent grounds, with broad alleys, with a flower garden filled with the most precious plants. In the middle of it there is a beautiful fountain, the like of which you never saw. The water is thrown upward in small streams, and falls back sparkling into the great white marble basin. You would be quite happy to live there.”

“But I am quite happy here,” replied Marcellin. “The shade of our forests is at least as delicious as that of your superb alleys. Our fields are running over with flowers. You can hardly step without finding them under your feet. There are flowers around our cottage—roses, violets, lilies, pansies. Do you suppose that our fountains are less beautiful than your little jets of water? You should see the merry brooks bounding down over the rocks, and running away through the flowery meadow.”

“You don’t know what you refuse,” rejoined the hunter. “If you go into the city, you will be put to school, where you can study all departments of art and science. There are theatres, where skilful musicians will enchant your ears by harmony. There are rich saloons, to which you will be admitted, to enjoy splendid fêtes. And since you so much love the country, you shall pass your summer vacation with me in a superb chateau which I possess.”

“Well, I am greatly obliged to you,” replied the shepherd boy; “but I think I had better stop with father and mother. I can learn everything useful in our village school. I am taught to fear God, to honor my parents, and to imitate their virtues. I don’t wish to learn anything beyond that. Then your musicians, which you tell about, do they sing any better than the nightingale or the golden robin? Then we have our concerts and our fêtes. We are right down happy when we are all together on Sunday evening under the trees. My sister sings, while I accompany her upon my flute. Our chants can be heard a long way off, and echo repeats them. And in the evening, when we stay in the house, grandfather is with us. We love him so much because he is so good. No, I will not leave my parents. I will not renounce their home, if it is humble. I cannot go to the city with you.”

The hunter saw that it was of no use to argue the point; so he said,—

“What shall I give you, then, to express my gratitude for your services? Take this purse, filled with gold.”

“What need have I of it? We are poor, but we want nothing. Besides, if I accept your money, I should sell the little service I have been able to render. That would be wrong; my mother would blame me for such conduct. She tells me that we ought always to assist those who are in trouble and want without expecting pay for it.”

“Generous boy! What shall I give you as a mark of my gratitude? You must accept something, or I shall be greatly disappointed.”

“Is it so?” asked Marcellin, playfully.  “Then give me the cup which is suspended at your side—that one on which is engraved a picture of some dogs pursuing a stag.”

The hunter joyfully gave the cup to the happy shepherd boy, who, having once more indicated the way which would lead to the city, bade him good day, and went back to his flock.

And the rich man returned to his splendid dwelling, having learned that it is the proper use of the means we have, rather than wishing for greater, which brings happiness and contentment.