(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 7)
A bush, duck, and bat, having found that in trade,
Confined to their country, small profits were made,
Into partnership entered to traffic abroad,
Their purse, held in common, well guarded from fraud.
Their factors and agents, these trading allies
Employed where they needed, as cautious as wise:
Their journals and ledgers, exact and discreet,
Recorded by items expense and receipt.
All throve, till an argosy, on its way home,
With a cargo worth more than their capital sum,
In attempting to pass through a dangerous strait,
Went down with its passengers, sailors, and freight,
To enrich those enormous and miserly stores,
From Tartarus distant but very few doors.
Regret was a thing which the firm could but feel;
Regret was the thing they were slow to reveal;
For the least of a merchant well knows that the weal
Of his credit requires him his loss to conceal.
But that which our trio unluckily suffered
Allowed no repair, and of course was discovered.
No money nor credit, It was plain to be seen
Their heads were now threatened with bonnets of green;
And, the facts of the case being everywhere known,
No mortal would open his purse with a loan.
Debts, bailiffs, and lawsuits, and creditors gruff,
At the crack of day knocking,
Our trio kept busy enough.
The bush, ever ready and on the alert,
Now caught all the people it could by the skirt:
"Pray, sir, be so good as to tell, if you please,
If you know whereabout the old villanous seas
Have hid all our goods which they stole t" other night.
The diver, to seek them, went down out of sight.
The bat didn't venture abroad in the day,
And thus of the bailiffs kept out of the way.
Full many insolvents, not bats, to hide so,
Nor bushes, nor divers, I happen to know,
But even grand seigniors, quite free from all cares,
By virtue of brass, and of private backstairs.
Jean de La Fontaine