Really， the largest GREen leaf in this country isa dock-leaf; if one holds it before one， it is like awhole apron， and if one holds it over one's head inrainy weather， it is almost as good as an umbrella，for it is so immensely large. The burdock nevergrows alone， but where there grows one therealways grow several： it is a great delight， and allthis delightfulness is snails' food. The great whitesnails which persons of quality in former times madefricassees of， ate， and said， “Hem， hem! howdelicious!” for they thought it tasted so delicate——lived on dock-leaves， and thereforeburdock seeds were sown.
Now， there was an old manor-house， where they no longer ate snails， they were quiteextinct; but the burdocks were not extinct， they GREw and grew all over the walks and allthe beds; they could not get the mastery over them——it was a whole forest of burdocks.Here and there stood an apple and a plum-tree， or else one never would have thought that itwas a garden; all was burdocks， and there lived the two last venerable old snails.
they themselves knew not how old they were， but they could remember very well thatthere had been many more; that they were of a family from foreign lands，and that for themand theirs the whole forest was planted. They had never been outside it， but they knew thatthere was still something more in the world，which was called the manor-house， and thatthere they were boiled， and then they became black， and were then placed on a silver dish;but what happened further they knew not; or， in fact， what it was to be boiled， and to lieon a silver dish， they could not possibly imagine; but it was said to be delightful， andparticularly genteel. Neither the chafers， the toads， nor the earth-worms， whom they askedabout it could give them any information——none of them had been boiled or laid on a silverdish.
the old white snails were the first persons of distinction in the world， that they knew;the forest was planted for their sake， and the manor-house was there that they might beboiled and laid on a silver dish.
Now they lived a very lonely and happy life; and as they had no children themselves， theyhad adopted a little common snail， which they brought up as their own; but the little onewould not grow， for he was of a common family;but the old ones， especially Dame MotherSnail， thought they could observe how he increased in size， and she begged father， if hecould not see it， that he would at least feel the little snail's shell; and then he felt it， andfound the good dame was right.
One day there was a heavy storm of rain.
“Hear how it beats like a drum on the dock-leaves!” said Father Snail.
“there are also rain-drops!” said Mother Snail. “And now the rain pours right down thestalk! You will see that it will be wet here! I am very happy to think that we have our goodhouse， and the little one has his also! There is more done for us than for all other creatures，sure enough; but can you not see that we are folks of quality in the world? We are providedwith a house from our birth， and the burdock forest is planted for our sakes! I should like toknow how far it extends， and what there is outside!”
“there is nothing at all，” said Father Snail. “No place can be better than ours， and I havenothing to wish for!”
“Yes，” said the dame. “I would willingly go to the manorhouse， be boiled， and laid on asilver dish; all our forefathers have been treated so; there is something extraordinary in it，you may be sure!”
“the manor-house has most likely fallen to ruin!” said Father Snail. “Or the burdocks havegrown up over it， so that they cannot come out. There need not，however， be any hasteabout that; but you are always in such a tremendous hurry， and the little one is beginning tobe the same. Has he not been creeping up that stalk these three days? It gives me a headachewhen I look up to him!”
“You must not scold him，” said Mother Snail. “He creeps so carefully; he will afford usmuch pleasure——and we have nothing but him to live for! But have you not thought of it?Where shall we get a wife for him? Do you not think that there are some of our species at aGREat distance in the interior of the burdock forest?”
“Black snails， I dare say， there are enough of，” said the old one. “Black snails without ahouse——but they are so common， and so conceited. But we might give the ants acommission to look out for us; they run to and fro as if they had something to do， andthey certainly know of a wife for our little snail!”
“I know one， sure enough——the most charming one!” said one of the ants. “But I amafraid we shall hardly succeed， for she is a queen!”
“That is nothing!” said the old folks. “Has she a house?”