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Dolphins at Play, edited by Andrew Lang


For some reason or other, dolphins, those queer great fish that always seem to be at play, have been subjects for many stories. Pliny himself has told several, and his old translator’s words are so strange, that, as far as possible, we will tell the tale as he tells it.

‘In the days of Augustus Cæsar, the Emperor,’ says Pliny, ‘there was a dolphin entered the gulf or pool Lucrinus, which loved wondrous well a certain boy, a poor man’s son; who using to go every day to school from Baianum to Puteoli, was wont also about noon-tide to stay at the water side and call unto the dolphin, “Simo, Simo,” and many times would give him fragments of bread, which of purpose he ever brought with him, and by this means allured the dolphin to come ordinarily unto him at his call. Well, in process of time, at what hour soever of the day this boy lured for him and called “Simo,” were the dolphin never so close hidden in any secret and blind corner, out he would and come abroad, yea, and scud amain to this lad, and taking bread and other victuals at his hand, would gently offer him his back to mount upon, and then down went the sharp-pointed prickles of his fins, which he would put up as it were within a sheath for fear of hurting the boy. Thus, when he once had him on his back, he would carry him over the broad arm of the sea as far as Puteoli to school, and in like manner convey him back again home; and thus he continued for many years together, so long as the  child lived. But when the boy was fallen sick and dead yet the dolphin gave not over his haunt, but usually came to the wonted place, and missing the lad seemed to be heavy and mourn again, until for very grief and sorrow he also was found dead upon the shore.’

The dolphin carries the boy across the water