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Fox and the wolf.

From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.

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Once upon a time there was a fox so shrewd that, although he was neither so fleet of foot, nor so strong of limb, as many of his kindred, he nevertheless managed to feed as comfortably as any of them. One winter's day, feeling rather hungry, he trotted out of his lair to take a look round. The neighbouring farmers guarded their hen-roosts so carefully from his depredations that a nice fat hen was out of the question, and the weather was too cold to tempt the rabbits out of their snug warren. Therefore Mr Fox set his wits to work and kept his eyes open for what might come along. After a while, as he slunk along the bottom of a dry ditch, he descried in the distance an old man driving a cart. This was Truvor, the fisherman, who, since two or three days of December sunshine had melted the ice, had had a good catch of fish in the lake by the mountain-side. "Aha!" said the fox to himself, "I should relish a dinner of fine, fresh trout. Truvor is far too selfish to share them with me, so I will have them all." To achieve the purpose in view, he laid himself flat in the road over which the fisherman must pass and pretended to be dead. The fisherman beheld him with surprise when he drew near, and jumping from his seat poked his sleek sides with his whip. The fox did not move a muscle, and Truvor decided that he had been frozen to death by the cold of the preceding night. "I will take him home to my wife," he remarked, as he flung the limp body into his cart. "His coat will make a very nice rug for our parlour, and she can use his brush to dust with."

The fox had much ado to refrain from laughing when he heard this and found himself amongst the fish. They smelt delicious, but he did not think it wise to eat them then, so he silently dropped them one by one into the road, and when the cart was empty, sprang out himself. Knowing nothing of what had been going on, the old man drove on until he reached his cottage. "Come and see what I have brought you!" he called to his wife. You can imagine the good woman's disgust when she found the cart quite empty. Not only was she without the rug, but they would have no dinner. Meanwhile, the fox was thoroughly enjoying himself. The fish that he could not eat he hid away under a heap of grasses that he might make use of them some other time. While engaged in this occupation a wolf came up. "Won't you give me a taste, little brother?" he asked. "I have had no food for the last two days, and know not where to seek it." "You have nothing to do but to go to the lake and dip your tail over the edge of the bank, or through a hole in the ice if the water has frozen over again, as I expect it has done from the nip in the air. If you say these words: 'Come, little fish and big fish. Come!' the finest fish will take hold of the bait, and when you feel them hanging on you will have only to whisk your tail out of the water."

The wolf was a dull and stupid fellow and, never doubting the fox, hied him off to the lake. Sure enough the water had once more frozen over, but, finding a hole, he thrust in his tail and rammed it through, and sat down to wait till the fish should come. The fox was delighted to find him still sitting there as he passed by, and looking at the sky above him murmured: "Sky, sky, keep clear! Water, water, freeze, freeze!" "What are you saying?" inquired the wolf, without turning his head. "Nothing at all," replied the fox. "I was only trying to help you." Then he went his way, and the wolf sat on all through the night. When morning came he was cramped with cold, and tried to draw out his tail. Finding this impossible, since the water had frozen fast around it, he congratulated himself on having caught so many fish that their weight prevented him from lifting his tail. He was still pondering how to transfer them to the surface when some women came to fill their water jars. "A wolf! a wolf!" they exclaimed excitedly. "Oh, come and kill it!" Their cries soon brought their husbands to their sides, and all united in belabouring the wolf. With a great effort, however, he managed to free his tail, and ran off howling into the woods. The fox, meantime, had profited by the absence of the householders to make a good meal, visiting the various larders, and feasting at will on the daintiest morsels he could find. Having eaten rather more than was good for him, he felt disinclined for much exercise, and determined to go in search of the wolf that he might induce him to carry him home.

His sense of hearing being unusually keen, even for a fox, he was soon guided to the wolf's retreat by his mournful howls. "Look at my tail," cried the wretched animal, as the fox poked his nose through the bushes. "See what trouble you brought upon me with your advice! I am in such pain that I can scarcely keep still." "Look at my head," returned the fox, who had carefully dipped it into a flour bin after greasing it with butter that it might have the appearance of having been skinned. The wolf was kind-hearted, though stupid, and his sympathy was at once aroused. "Jump on my back, little brother," he said, "and I will carry you home." This was exactly what the fox had been scheming for, and the words were hardly out ere he had taken a comfortable seat. As he rode home in this way he hummed to himself a sly little song to the effect that he who was hurt carried him who had no hurt. Arrived at the end of his journey, he scampered off without a word of thanks, and, as he made a hearty supper on the remaining fish, he chuckled at the remembrance of the trick he had played the stupid wolf.


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