The Bragdowdy and the Busybody

A female hare, who had been born with a foot in everybody’s affairs, became known in her community as “that big Belgian busybody.” She was always listening to the thumpings of her neighbors. “You’re all ears,” her mate snarled one day. “For God’s sake, get some laissez faire.”

There was no answer, for she had hopped next door to exhort, reproach, and upbraid a female guinea pig who had borne one hundred and seventy-three young and had then let herself go. She had become a bragdowdy, and spent her time weeping over True Pigtales.

“Where is your civic spirit?” demanded Mrs. Hare. “And your country, state, federal, and global spirit? Look at me. I am president, or chairwoman, of practically everything, and founder of the Listening Post, an organization of eight hundred females with their ears to the ground.”

The male guinea pig, who had been lying on a lettuce leaf, taking it easy, tried to hide from his nosy neighbor, but she came into the room, buttocky buttocky, before he could get out of bed.

“A big strapping male like you,” she scoffed, “lying around the house when you ought to be at the laboratory, having injections to see whether some new serum is deadly or not.” The male guinea pig’s teeth began to chatter, and when a male guinea pig’s teeth chatter it doesn’t mean he’s afraid, it means he’s mad. But the Belgian busybody didn’t care how anybody felt except herself. “You and your mate should join things and do things!” she exclaimed. “Shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone, best foot forward, finger in the pie, knee on the chest!”

Before many weeks had passed, Mrs. Pig developed a guilt complex that manifested itself in an activity compulsion. She gave up reading True Pigtales, took her mate’s edible bed away from him, straightened up the house, and joined twenty-four up-and-coming organizations. She became famous for keeping everybody on his toes, whether that’s where he wanted to be or not.

She was made chairman of the Bear a Basket of Babies Committee, secretary of the Get Behind Your Mate and Push Movement, treasurer of the Don’t Let Dad Dawdle League, inventor of its slogan, “He can do twice as much in half the time if he puts your mind to it,” and, in the end, national president of the Daughters of Ambitious Rodents.

The now celebrated Mrs. Pig also found time to bear thirty-seven more offspring, which was thirty-seven more than her mate had wanted. They drove him to Distraction, where he found the male Belgian hare, who had been driven there by his own mate’s private and public projects, pryings, proddings, and pushings. The two males had such a quiet and peaceful time together without their mates that they decided to keep it that way.

Representatives of ninety-six different organizations—the seventy-two Mrs. Hare belonged to and Mrs. Pig’s twenty-four—argued with them in vain. They ran away one night while their mates were addressing the He Could If He Wanted To, He’s Just Not Trying Club, without so much as a fare-thee-well or a note on a pillow, and leaving no forwarding address.

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They decided to go to Tahiti to forget, but long before they reached Tahiti they had forgot.

MORAL: Thou shalt not convert thy neighbor’s wife, nor yet louse up thy neighbor’s life.

The Bragdowdy and the Busybody

James Thurber

James Grover Thurber (December 8, 1894 – November 2, 1961) was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He was best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker magazine, such as "The Catbird Seat", and collected in his numerous books. He was one of the most popular humorists of his time, as he celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.

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