ONCE upon a time there was a beautiful park, full of all manner of trees and shrubs, with beds of flowers set here and there, and no end of fruit-trees. A gardener used to take care of this park; pruning the trees when they made too much wood, and digging the ground, and watering the flowers in dry weather.
It happened that there was a fair to be held away in the city, and the gardener very much wanted to go. But who would take care of the park and garden? If his master came in and found all the flowers drooping or dead, what would he say then! It would never do.
Meditating thus, and in doubt, he looked up into the branches of the trees, and a bright thought struck him. I must tell you that in this park there were not only herds of deer, and plenty of rabbits and other creatures that usually live in parks, but there were troops of monkeys in the trees, who climbed and chattered and cracked nuts all day long, with no lessons to do. And when the gardener cast up his eyes to the trees, he saw some monkeys that he knew very well indeed. Many a time he had been kind to them; and now he thought they should do the like by him, as one good turn deserves another.
So the gardener called out, "Monkeys, I want you!"
Down they all clambered, and in a very short time they were sitting beside him on the grass.
"Monkeys," said he, "I have been a good friend to you, letting you eat my nuts and apples. And now I want to take a holiday. Will you water my garden while I am away?"
"Oh yes, yes, yes!" cried the Monkeys. They thought it a great joke, and leaped for joy.
So the gardener handed over his watering-pots to the monkeys, and put on his Sunday clothes, and went away to the fair.
Meanwhile,the Monkeys held a solemn council, sitting in a ring round the Monkey chief.
"Brothers," said the Monkey chief, "our good friend, the gardener has given us charge of this garden and all there is in it. We must take care not to hurt anything, and, above all, not to waste the water. There is very little water, and I really don't think it will go round."
It was in fact a well, very small at the top, but very deep, and at the bottom the water was always running. You might have watered till doomsday out of that well; but monkeys, though they are cunning, are not wise, and these monkeys thought that a little round hole could not hold very much water.
"So you see," the Monkey chief went on, "you must give each plant just enough water, and no more; and I think the best way will be, to see how long the roots are."
So each Monkey took a watering-pot, and they scattered all over the garden. Every bush and every plant they carefully pulled up, and measured its roots; and then they gave a great deal of water to plants with long roots, and only a little when the roots were short. After that they put the plants and bushes back in the holes they came from.
After a day or two, back came the gardener from his fair. But what was his horror to see that nearly all the plants in the garden were drooping, some of them dead and many dying, while the Monkeys were busy in every direction pulling up the rest.
"Oh dear, oh dear, what in the world are you doing? My garden is ruined, my garden is ruined!" The poor gardener wept for sorrow.
The Chief Monkey was very much surprised. He thought he had been very clever to put water according to the size of the roots, and he said so.
"Clever!" said the gardener. "Clever indeed! Fools you are, there is no mistake about it."
"Fools they may be," said his master, who had come up behind him without being seen, "but, after all, that is their nature. You ought to have known better than to put monkeys in charge of a garden, and you are a greater fool than they."
Then he sent that gardener away and got another.