First published in The Saturday evening post, Nov. 9, 1957
I intended a somewhat Churchillian delivery of the last line...
The paintings are:
"Boy and Rabbit", 1814, Sir Henry Raeburn,
"Still-Life with Insects and Amphibians", 1662, Otto Marseus van Schrieck,
"Fox in the Courtyard", 1746, Philipp Ferdinand de Hamilton.
Once there was a kind-hearted lad named Jack Do-Good-for-Nothing, the only son of a poor widow whom creditors did importune,
So he set out in the world to make his fortune.
His mother's blessing and a crust of bread was his only stake,
And pretty soon he saw a frog that was about to be devoured by a snake,
And he rescued the frog and drove the snake away,
And the frog vowed gratitude to its dying day,
And a little later on his walk,
Why, he saw a little red hen about to be carried off by a hawk,
And he rescued the little red hen and drove the hawk away,
And the little red hen vowed that whenever he was in trouble his kindness she would repay,
And he walked a few more country blocks,
And he saw a bunny rabbit about to be gobbled up by a fox,
And he rescued the bunny rabbit before the fox could fall upon it,
And the bunny rabbit thanked Jack and told him any time he needed help, just to call on it,
And after all this rescuing, Jack was huffing and puffing,
And a little farther on the snake and the hawk and the fox jumped him, and out him they beat the stuffing,
They even stole his crust of bread and each ate a third of it,
And the frog and the little red hen and the bunny rabbit said they were very sorry when they heard of it.
You see, Jack against a cardinal rule of conduct had been a transgressor:
Never befriend the oppressed unless you are prepared to take on the oppressor.