This wise man is a fraud; even my husband is as wise as he."

Then she stopped short and slapped her hand against her forehead.

"Why," she cried, "I will make a Wise Man of Perry, my husband, and then he can earn money without working!"

So she went to her husband and said,

"Get up, Perry Smith, and wash yourself; for I am going to make a Wise Man of you."

"I won't," he replied.

"You will," she declared, "for it is the easiest way to earn money I have ever discovered."

Then she took a stick and beat him so fiercely that at last he got up, and agreed to do as she said.

She washed his long beard until it was as white as snow, and she shaved his head to make him look bald and venerable. Then she brought him a flowing black robe with a girdle at the middle; and when he was dressed, he looked fully as wise as either Socrates or Sophocles.

"You must have a new name," she said, "for no one will ever believe that Perry Smith is a Wise Man. So I shall hereafter call you Pericles, the Wisest Man of Gotham!"

She then led him into the streets, and to all they met she declared,

"This is Pericles, the wisest man in the world."

"What does he know?" they asked.

"Everything, and much else," she replied.

Then came a carter, and putting a piece of money in the hand of Pericles, he enquired,

"Pray tell me of your wisdom what is wrong with my mare?"

"How should I know?" asked Pericles.

"I thought you knew everything," returned the carter, in surprise.

"I do," declared Pericles; "but you have not told me what her symptoms are."

"She refuses to eat anything," said the carter.

"Then she is not hungry," returned Pericles; "for neither man nor beast will refuse to eat when hungry."

And the people who heard him whispered together and said,

"Surely this is a wise man, for he has told the carter what is wrong with his mare."

After a few days the fame of Pericles' sayings came to the ears of both Socrates and Sophocles, and they resolved to see him, for each feared he would prove more wise than they were, knowing themselves to be arrant humbugs. So one morning the three wise men met together outside the hut of Pericles, and they sat themselves down upon stools, facing each other, while a great crowd of people gathered around to hear the words of wisdom that dropped from their lips.

But for a time all three were silent, and regarded one another anxiously, for each feared he might betray himself.

Finally Sophocles winked his one eye at the others and said, in a grave voice,

"The earth is flat; for, were it round, as some fools say, all the people would slide off the surface."

Then the people, who had listened eagerly, clapped their hands together and murmured,

"Sophocles is wisest of all. What he says is truth."

This provoked Socrates greatly, for he felt his reputation was in danger; so he said with a frown,

"The world is shallow, like a dish; were it flat the water would all run over the edges, and we should have no oceans."

Then the people applauded more loudly than before, and cried,

"Socrates is right the is wisest of all."

Pericles, at this, shifted uneasily upon his stool, for he knew he must dispute the matter boldly or his fame would depart from him. Therefore he said, with grave deliberation,

"You are wrong, my friends. The world is hollow, like the shell of a cocoanut, and we are all inside the shell. The sky above us is the roof, and if you go out upon the ocean you will come to a place, no matter in which direction you go, where the sky and the water meet. I know this is true, for I have been to sea."

The people cheered loudly at this, and said,

"Long live Pericles, the wisest of the wise men!"

"I shall hold I am right," protested Sophocles, "until Pericles and Socrates prove that I am wrong."

"That is fair enough," said the people.

"And I also shall hold myself to be right until they prove me wrong," declared Socrates, firmly.

"I know I am right," said Pericles, "for you cannot prove me wrong."

"We can take a boat and sail over the sea," remarked Socrates, "and when we come to the edge we will know the truth.

Mother Goose in Prose Page 57

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