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Salamander The salamander felt sad. He had tried to leave the cave that was his home, but his head stuck in the entrance and prevented him from doing so. The cave that was now his eternal home had, as this will suggest, an ex- tremely small entrance. It was gloomy, too. When he tried to force his way out, his head only succeeded in blocking the entrance like a cork, a fact which, though an undoubted testimony to the way his body had grown over a period of two years, was enough to plunge him into alarm and despondency. “What a fool I’ve been!’” he exclaimed. He tried swimming about the inside of the cave as freely as it would allow him. When people are distressed, they frequently pace about their rooms in just this fashion. Unfortunately, the salamander’s home was none too large for pacing about in. All he could manage, in fact, was to move his body somewhat to and fro and from side to side. This had the effect of covering the walls of the cave with slime and making them feel smooth, so that he was convinced in the end that moss had grown on his own back and tail and belly. He heaved a great sigh. Then he muttered, as though he had reached a great decision: “All right—if I can’t get out, then I have an idea of my own!” But it scarcely needs saying that he had not a single idea of any use. 59 The ceiling of the cave was thickly overgrown with hair moss and liverwort. The scales of the liverwort wandered all over the rock, and the hair moss had dainty flowers on the ends of its very slender, scarlet carpophores. The dainty flowers formed dainty fruit which, in accordance with the law of propagation among cryptogams, shortly began to scatter pollen. The salamander was not fond of looking at the hair moss and the liverwort. Indeed, he felt a positive distaste for them, for the pollen from the moss scattered steadily over the surface of the water in the cave, and he was convinced that the water of his home would eventually be polluted. What was worse, there was a clump of mold in each of the hollows in the rocks and the ceiling. How stupid the mold was in its habits! It was forever disappearing and growing again as though it lacked the will to continue propagat- ing itself unequivocally. The salamander liked to put his face at the entrance and watch the scene outside the cave. To peer out at a bright place from inside somewhere dim—is this not a fascinating occupation? Never does one so constantly see so many different things as when peering from a small window. Mountain streams, it seems, are given to rushing along in a great froth and flurry only to form large, still backwaters at un- expected places. From the entrance of his cave, the salamander could look out on just such a backwater of the stream. There, a clump of duckweed on the riverbed grew in cheerful array, stretch- ing from the bottom to the surface in countless, slender, perfectly straight stalks. Then, when it reached the surface, it suddenly ceased its growth and poked duckweed blossom up from the water into the air. Large numbers of killifish seemed to enjoy swimming in and out between the stalks of the duckweed, for there was a shoal of them in the forest of stalks, all trying their hardest not to be carried away by the current. The whole shoal would veer to the right, then to the left. Whenever one of them veered to the left by mistake, the majority, of one accord, also veered to the left for fear of being left behind. Should one of them be forced by a stalk to veer to the right, all the other little fish without exception veered 60 to the right in his wake. It was, therefore, extremely difficult for any one of them to make off by himself and leave. Watching the little fish, the salamander could not help sneering at them. “What a lot of excessively hidebound fellows,” he thought. The surface of the pool moved ceaselessly in a sluggish whirl- pool. One could tell this from a single white petal that had fallen into the water. On the surface, the white petal described a wide circle that gradually shrank in size. It increased its speed. In the end, it was describing an extremely small circle until, at the very center of the circle, the petal itself was swallowed up by the water. “Tt almost made me giddy,” muttered the salamander. One evening, a tiny shrimp came wandering into the cave. The small creature, which seemed to be in the middle of its spawning season and had a transparent belly filled with what looked like tiny millet seeds, attached itself to the wall of the cave. For a while, it merely waved its tentacles, which were so long and fine that they disappeared before one could trace them to their end; then suddenly, for no apparent reason, it jumped off the wall, ventured on two or three successful somersaults in midair, and ended up clinging to the salamander’s flank. The salamander felt an urge to look round and see what the shrimp was doing there, but resisted it. If he moved his body even slightly, the small creature would certainly have fled in alarm. What, he wondered, could this pregnant creature, this worthless scrap of life, be up to in this place? The shrimp must be laying its eggs, under the impression that the salamander’s flank was a rock. Or perhaps it was busy medi- tating on something. “People who worry about things and get wrapped up in their own thoughts are stupid,” remarked the salamander smugly. He resolved that, whatever happened, he must get out of the cave. Nothing could be so foolish as to remain forever sunk in thought. This was no time for frivolity. 61