The Grey Fairy Book HTML version

The Simpleton
There lived, once upon a time, a man who was as rich as he could be; but as no happiness
in this world is ever quite complete, he had an only son who was such a simpleton that he
could barely add two and two together. At last his father determined to put up with his
stupidity no longer, and giving him a purse full of gold, he sent him off to seek his
fortune in foreign lands, mindful of the adage:
Excels a fool that stays at home.
Moscione, for this was the youth's name, mounted a horse, and set out for Venice, hoping
to find a ship there that would take him to Cairo. After he had ridden for some time he
saw a man standing at the foot of a poplar tree, and said to him: ‘What's your name, my
friend; where do you come from, and what can you do?'
The man replied, ‘My name is Quick-as-Thought, I come from Fleet-town, and I can run
like lightning.'
‘I should like to see you,' returned Moscione.
‘Just wait a minute, then,' said Quick-as-Thought, ‘and I will soon show you that I am
speaking the truth.'
The words were hardly out of his mouth when a young doe ran right across the field they
were standing in.
Quick-as-Thought let her run on a short distance, in order to give her a start, and then
pursued her so quickly and so lightly that you could not have tracked his footsteps if the
field had been strewn with flour. In a very few springs he had overtaken the doe, and had
so impressed Moscione with his fleetness of foot that he begged Quick-as-Thought to go
with him, promising at the same time to reward him handsomely.
Quick-as-Thought agreed to his proposal, and they continued on their journey together.
They had hardly gone a mile when they met a young man, and Moscione stopped and
asked him: ‘What's your name, my friend; where do you come from, and what can you
The man thus addressed answered promptly, ‘I am called Hare's-ear, I come from
Curiosity Valley, and if I lay my ear on the ground, without moving from the spot, I can
hear everything that goes on in the world, the plots and intrigues of court and cottage, and
all the plans of mice and men.'