The Hare and the Tortoise
The Hare and the Tortoise: Aesop rewritten with the characters of Jane Austen
(A piece of Northanger Abbey silliness)
A hare-ish young man of five and twenty, a Mr. John Thorpe, took it upon himself one day to ridicule another man of his own acquaintance, a nearly-handsome man with dark hair and a pleasing manner (quite un-tortoiselike), about the heaviness of his equipage in comparison to his own. "Henry Tilney," said he (for that was the nearly-handsome man's name), "DÛm me if you get anywhere in that odious curricle in half the time of my light gig! What a rotten piece of a deal you have got there! Why, if you had been so fortunate as to have known me before you made such a mess of your deal, I could have informed you about my good friend, Sam Fletcher, who managed to get me this here equipage, and under 100 guineas at that! But alas! ÎTis a bad thing to take young ladies out in such a dÛned curricle! So slow, too! I bet you could not make five-and-twenty miles in under two hours like my horse and gig can."
Mr. Tilney laughed, a devilishly amused smile with pearly white teeth flashing against his dark skin. "Though your gig may be swift as the wind," he said with an amused glance at the loose bindings, "I will beat you in a race."
"I think not!" cried Thorpe. "Why, my horse is a fine specimen, capable of pulling great distances at great speeds, and my gig, why, it is piece of work, Tilney! Hey-day, Miss Morland," he broke off to a pretty young woman passing by in the street, accompanied by an elegant woman dressed in white, "would you guess that this chap thinks he can beat me in a race? That heavy piece of equipage!"
The lady, bewildered, glanced at Mr. Tilney for a moment. "Oh! I could not say, Mr. Thorpe. I know nothing of the matter."
"Henry," admonished the lady's companion to her brother, "you are not seriously considering a race? I thought you outgrew that sort of thing since you left Oxford."
John Thorpe's ears perked up at the mention of his college. "Oh, no, Miss Tilney," he objected, "racing is something that nearly every Oxford man learns. Like drinking his bottle, or winning a round of cards by bluffing! It is not something easily forgot." Miss Tilney nodded politely. "But let us get started with the race, shall we? A race from Bath to Blaize Castle would be enough to prove the superiority of my beast! And then, Miss Morland," he broke off, "we could see the castle like we planned once before."
The lady colored. "But if you are racing, sir," she stammered slightly, looking at her feet, "how am I to get there?"
"Why, what a dÛned silly question that is! Of course you must ride with me, and Miss Tilney with her brother! You ladies need a little excitement. And I am such a dÛned fine driver that you would enjoy it thoroughly. And besides, if there is a tumble, you will come out without a scratch, as the roads all the way there are but soft dirt! Now, what do you say to it, Miss Morland? Care to join me?"
The lady's silent appeal concerning safety and propriety was not lost on Mr. Tilney. "But, Mr. Thorpe," he said, "I am sure that I could try and fit both the ladies in my already cumbersome curricle. It would hardly make a difference, as long as they do not mind having less room." Miss Morland was visibly relieved.
Mr. Thorpe, though astonished, agreed. "Whatever would make you want to do a fool thing like that?"
The day of the so-called race arrived, and both Mr. Tilney and Mr. Thorpe arrived, equipage cleaned and shining, on the outer limits of Bath; Mr. Tilney's curricle carried the Misses Tilney and Morland. "So, Mr. Thorpe, are you still certain that you want to do this?" Mr. Tilney said with a glance at Mr. Thorpe's perspiring horse. "Have you," he asked in amazement, "been out already? That horse looks exhausted!"
"Oh! Well, he was acting up, so I thought I would beat in some respect before we went out." He glanced carelessly at the foaming beast. "At 50 guineas, he is a such a strong horse! And quite the runner as well. I have never seen a finer muscle. He ain't going to give out, aren't you, boy?"
If the horse could have responded, Mr. Thorpe might not have bounded into the seat of his gig with such alacrity.
"Now, let's go!" Mr. Thorpe cried with a shake of the reins.
They took off for Blaize Castle, Mr. Thorpe, cracking his whip numerously and cursing in a high-pitched voice as his face turned red, gained a large early lead over the slower, steadier curricle. His coat flapped about him as he swung about, twisting the horse's reins carelessly. "Ah, dÛn!" he exclaimed as his hat came flying off his head, tumbling down the road.
Meanwhile, the other racer was making his way along the road at a brisk yet safe pace. The ladies chatted contently with him as he easily maneuvered the vehicle out of any and all danger. One of the ladies particularly noticed his becoming hat, exquisite greatcoat, and manly boots, which caused a good deal of flutterings in her stomach (and may have been noticed had not the gentleman in question was intent upon his driving. But alas! The young lady admired unnoticed).
As Mr. Tilney's curricle neared within a half-mile of the castle, the occupants of the steadily driven vehicle were aghast at a great sight along the side of the road. Mr. Thorpe's gig lay on its side, and the horse, breathing heavily and covered in sweat, was grazing nearby! The ladies were appropriately shocked, and Mr. Tilney, despite his role as a competitor, was genuinely worried. They slowed down beside the remains of the easily-purchased gig, and inquired of a scratched-yet-livid Mr. Thorpe of the circumstances.
"D--n that horse!" he cried. "He plumb got tired of racing, I suppose, and decided to stop, right there in the middle of the road! Stupid creature! He gave the gig a jolt when he stopped, and this stupid bolt flew, and look where I am now!" He glared at Mr. Tilney's sound curricle, and turned back to his wreak in contempt. "Odious gigs!" he cried. "I cannot believe the quality of these shoddy vehicles. One would think that 100 guineas would by more nowadays."
He paused, looking in the direction of the castle. "I blame Sam Fletcher, I do! That man has prevented me from winning a race that was so obviously mine! When will the world learn that men like Sam Fletcher are not to be trusted?"
Moral: Slow and steady wins the race.
Porism: Those who look becoming in greatcoats and hats will always catch the eye of any young lady, despite another young man's owning equipage and horses purchased from Sam Fletcher.
Q.E.D., finis, The End. Thank you for playing, Mr. Thorpe, but you chose the wrong door.
© 1999 Copyright held by author