The Mistress and her two Maids

Kriloff’s Original Fables
An Old Maid, whom the years had made but fussy,
Stiff as a poker, for each trifle strict, Had two young Maid-servants, whom she called hussy,
And who, from morn to midnight almost kicked,
Were forced to put their hands unto the spindle,
Until worn out they cried it was a shame and swindle. A holiday or not, ’twas all the same
;
Their Mistress would not let them be
;
A minute’s time to breathe from spinning never free : When all else sleep at daybreak, the wheel has long its game
For them of rapid turning played.
It might have been that sometimes the Old Maid laterrose,
Had not a cursed cock, who lived there, always strayed
Under their windows every morn : Soon as she hears his sounding horn, In jacket warm and high cap cornered, shows
Their Mistress, who upon the stove fire blows,
And grumbling hobbles into the spinners’ room
;
Her bony fingers shove them up upon their toes, And for the obstinate,—well, there’s a broom.
And thus their sweetest nap is daily broken. What’s to be done with her ? They frown, and yawn, and stretch, give every token
Of sleepiness, still from the bed must stir, And, all unwilling, leave it warm as fur.
Again the next morn, at the cock’s first crow, The Mistress and her Maids the selfsame scene play o’er: Once more the spinning-wheel to death doth bore. ” Then pest, be off, to the devil go !

To the cock with teeth clenched say the spinners
sputtering
:
“But for thy song we’d slept much longer,” runs their muttering
;
” Upon thy head be all the sin ! ”
Seeking their opportunity, they wrung
The cock’s neck so that never more it sung. But they, alas, by that did nothing win ; Quite contrary to their intent The business went
:
‘Tis true, no cock’s cry with their dreams was blent—
Their persecutor dead
:
But see, their Mistress, fearing that this to lost time led, Let them not lie so long as it takes an eye to close, And every day now rouses them so early from repose, That no cock had, since cocks have crowed, so early
tuned his lyre, And then, too late each Handmaid knows,
That out of the frying-pan she’d fallen into the fire.
It happens that, when men have got in trouble,
The fate of these poor Maids they often share : Rid of one bother, they draw on them double,
But to repent—when worse for good they fare !
[This is taken from ” La-Vieille et les Deux Servantes ”
of La Fontaine. Kriloff has only borrowed the leading
fact, and out of a dry and humourless anecdote has made
an animated and amusing fable,]