A young country woman named Perrette set out one morning from
her little dairy-farm with a pail of milk which she cleverly balanced
upon her head over a pad or cushion. She hurried with sprightly steps to
the market town, and so that she might be the less encumbered, wore a
kirtle that was short and light—in truth a simple petticoat—and shoes
low and easy. As she went, her thoughts ran upon the price to be gained
for her milk, and she schemed a way to lay out the sum in the purchase
of one hundred eggs. She was sure that with care and diligence these
would yield three broods. "It would be quite easy to me," she said, "to
raise the chicks near the house. The fox would be clever who would not
leave me enough to buy one pig. A pig would fatten at the cost of a
little bran, and when he had grown a fair size I should make a bargain
of him for a good round sum. And then, considering the price he will
fetch, what is to prevent my putting into our stable a cow and a calf? I
can fancy how the calf will frisk about among the sheep!" Thereupon
Perrette herself frisked for joy, transported with the picture of her
affluence. Over toppled the milk! Adieu to calf and cow and pig and
broods! This lady of wealth had to leave, with tearful eyes, her
dissipated fortunes, and go straight to her husband framing excuses to
avoid a beating.
Overtoppled the milk.
The farce became known to the whole countryside, and people called
Perrette by the name of "Milkpail" ever after.
Who has never talked wildly? Who has never built castles in Spain? Wise
men as well as milkmaids; sages and fools, all have waking dreams and
find them sweet! Our senses are carried away by some flattering
falsehood, and then wealth, honours, and beauty seem ours to command.
Alone with my thoughts I challenge the bravest. I dethrone monarchs and
the people rejoicing crown me instead, showering diadems upon my head.
Then lo! a little accident happens to bring me back to my senses, and I
am Poor Jack as before.