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Aesop's Fables: Sir Roger L'Estrange (1692)

115. AN APE AND A FOX (Perry 81)

Upon the Decease of a Lion of late famous Memory, the Beasts met in Council to chuse a King. There were several put up; but one was not of Make for a King, another wanted either Brains, or Strength, or Stature, or Humour, or something else; but in fine, the Buffoon-Ape with his Grimaces and Gamboles carry’d it form the Field by I know not how many Voices. The Fox (being one of the Pretenders) stomach’d it extremely to see the Choice go against him, and presently rounds the New-elect in the Ear, with a piece of secret Service that he could do him. Sir, he says, I have discover’d some hidden Treasure yonder; but ‘tis a Royalty that belongs to your Majsety, and I have nothing to do with it. So he carry’d the Ape to take possession: And what should this Treasure be, but a Bait in a Ditch. The Ape lays his Hand upon’t, and the Trap springs and catches him by the Fingers. Ah, thou perfidious Wretch! Cries the Ape. Or thou simple Prince, rather, replies the Fox. You are a Governour of others, with a vengeance, that han’t Wit enough to look at your own Fingers.
THE MORAL. Governours should be Men of Business, rather than Pleasure. There’s one great Folly in making an ill Choice of a Ruler, and another in the Acceptance of it; for it exposes Authority to Scorn.

L'Estrange originally published his version of the fables in 1692. There is a very nice illustrated edition in the Children's Classics series by Knopf: Sir Roger L'Estrange. Aesop - Fables which is available at amazon.com.