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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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Truth and Convenience         305

precious gift of falsehood too cheap ; he has comejte it too
easily; cheaply come, cheaply go will be his maxW    The
good liar should be the converse of the poet; he sntej$& fy&
made, not born.                                                        ^^.J—

It is not loss of confidence in a man's strict adherence to the
letter of truth that shakes my confidence in him. I know what
I do myself and what I must lose all social elasticity if I were
not to do. *Turning for moral guidance to my cousins the
lower animals—whose unsophisticated instinct proclaims
what God has taught them with a directness we may some-
times study—I find the plover lying when she reads us truly
and, knowing that we shall hit her if we think her to be down,
lures us from her young ones under the fiction of a broken
wing. Is God angry, think you, with this pretty deviation
from the letter of strict accuracy ? or was it not He who
whispered to her to tell the falsehood, to tell it with a circum-
stance, without conscientious scruples, and not once only but
to make a practice of it, so as to be an habitual liar for at least
six weeks in the year ? I imagine so. When I was young I
used to read in good books that it was God who taught the
bird to make her nest, and, if so, He probably taught each
species the other domestic arrangements which should be best
suited to it. Or did the nest-building information come from
God and was there an Evil One among the birds also who
taught them to steer clear of pedantry ? Then there is the
spider—an ugly creature, but I suppose God likes it—can any-
thing be meaner than that web which naturalists extol as such
a marvel of Providential ingenuity ?

Ingenuity ! The word reeks with lying. Once, on a summer
afternoon, in a distant country I met one of those orchids
whose main idea consists in the imitation of a fly; this lie
they dispose so plausibly upon their petals that other flies
who would steal their honey leave them unmolested. Watch-
ing intently and keeping very still, methought I heard this
person speaking to the offspring which she felt within her
though I saw them not.

" My children/' she exclaimed, " I must soon leave you;
think upon the fly, my loved ones ; make it look as terrible as
possible; cling to this thought in your passage through life,
for it is the one thing needful; once lose sight of it and you are