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The Fox And The Wolf

from The Scottish Fairy Book





There was once a Fox and a Wolf, who set up house together in a cave
near the sea-shore. Although you may not think so, they got on very well
for a time, for they went out hunting all day, and when they came back
at night they were generally too tired to do anything but to eat their
supper and go to bed.

They might have lived together always had it not been for the slyness
and greediness of the Fox, who tried to over-reach his companion, who
was not nearly so clever as he was.

And this was how it came about.

It chanced, one dark December night, that there was a dreadful storm at
sea, and in the morning the beach was all strewn with wreckage. So as
soon as it was daylight the two friends went down to the shore to see
if they could find anything to eat.

They had the good fortune to light on a great Keg of Butter, which had
been washed overboard from some ship on its way home from Ireland,
where, as all the world knows, folk are famous for their butter.

The simple Wolf danced with joy when he saw it. "Marrowbones and
trotters! but we will have a good supper this night," cried he, licking
his lips. "Let us set to work at once and roll it up to the cave."

But the wily Fox was fond of butter, and he made up his mind that he
would have it all to himself. So he put on his wisest look, and shook
his head gravely.

"Thou hast no prudence, my friend," he said reproachfully, "else wouldst
thou not talk of breaking up a Keg of Butter at this time of year, when
the stackyards are full of good grain, which can be had for the eating,
and the farmyards are stocked with nice fat ducks and poultry. No, no.
It behoveth us to have foresight, and to lay up in store for the spring,
when the grain is all threshed, and the stackyards are bare, and the
poultry have gone to market. So we will e'en bury the Keg, and dig it up
when we have need of it."

Very reluctantly, for he was thinner and hungrier than the Fox, the Wolf
agreed to this proposal. So a hole was dug, and the Keg was buried, and
the two animals went off hunting as usual.

About a week passed by: then one day the Fox came into the cave, and
flung himself down on the ground as if he were very much exhausted. But
if anyone had looked at him closely they would have seen a sly twinkle
in his eye.

"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" he sighed. "Life is a heavy burden."

"What hath befallen thee?" asked the Wolf, who was ever kind and
soft-hearted.

"Some friends of mine, who live over the hills yonder, are wanting me to
go to a christening to-night. Just think of the distance that I must
travel."

"But needst thou go?" asked the Wolf. "Canst thou not send an excuse?"



"I doubt that no excuse would be accepted," answered the Fox, "for they
asked me to stand god-father. Therefore it behoveth me to do my duty,
and pay no heed to my own feelings."

So that evening the Fox was absent, and the Wolf was alone in the cave.
But it was not to a christening that the sly Fox went; it was to the Keg
of Butter that was buried in the sand. About midnight he returned,
looking fat and sleek, and well pleased with himself.

The Wolf had been dozing, but he looked up drowsily as his companion
entered. "Well, how did they name the bairn?" he asked.

"They gave it a queer name," answered the Fox. "One of the queerest
names that I ever heard."

"And what was that?" questioned the Wolf.

"Nothing less than 'Blaisean' (Let-me-taste)," replied the Fox, throwing
himself down in his corner. And if the Wolf could have seen him in the
darkness he would have noticed that he was laughing to himself.

Some days afterwards the same thing happened. The Fox was asked to
another christening; this time at a place some twenty-five miles along
the shore. And as he had grumbled before, so he grumbled again; but he
declared that it was his duty to go, and he went.

At midnight he came back, smiling to himself and with no appetite for
his supper. And when the Wolf asked him the name of the child, he
answered that it was a more extraordinary name than the other--"Be na
Inheadnon" (Be in its middle).

The very next week, much to the Wolf's wonder, the Fox was asked to yet
another christening. And this time the name of the child was "Sgriot an
Clar" (Scrape the staves). After that the invitations ceased.

Time went on, and the hungry spring came, and the Fox and the Wolf had
their larder bare, for food was scarce, and the weather was bleak and
cold.

"Let us go and dig up the Keg of Butter," said the Wolf. "Methinks that
now is the time we need it."

The Fox agreed--having made up his mind how he would act--and the two
set out to the place where the Keg had been hidden. They scraped away
the sand, and uncovered it; but, needless to say, they found it empty.

"This is thy work," said the Fox angrily, turning to the poor, innocent
Wolf. "Thou hast crept along here while I was at the christenings, and
eaten it up by stealth."

"Not I," replied the Wolf. "I have never been near the spot since the
day that we buried it together."

"But I tell thee it must have been thou," insisted the Fox, "for no
other creature knew it was there except ourselves. And, besides, I can
see by the sleekness of thy fur that thou hast fared well of late."

Which last sentence was both unjust and untrue, for the poor Wolf looked
as lean and badly nourished as he could possibly be.

So back they both went to the cave, arguing all the way. The Fox
declaring that the Wolf must have been the thief, and the Wolf
protesting his innocence.

"Art thou ready to swear to it?" said the Fox at last; though why he
asked such a question, dear only knows.

"Yes, I am," replied the Wolf firmly; and, standing in the middle of
the cave, and holding one paw up solemnly he swore this awful oath:

"If it be that I stole the butter; if it be, if it be--
May a fateful, fell disease fall on me, fall on me."

When he was finished, he put down his paw and, turning to the Fox,
looked at him keenly; for all at once it struck him that his fur looked
sleek and fine.

"It is thy turn now," he said. "I have sworn, and thou must do so also."

The Fox's face fell at these words, for although he was both untruthful
and dishonest now, he had been well brought up in his youth, and he knew
that it was a terrible thing to perjure oneself and swear falsely.

So he made one excuse after another, but the Wolf, who was getting more
and more suspicious every moment, would not listen to him.

So, as he had not courage to tell the truth, he was forced at last to
swear an oath also, and this was what he swore:

"If it be that I stole the butter; if it be, if it be--
Then let some most deadly punishment fall on me, fall on me--
Whirrum wheeckam, whirrum wheeckam,
Whirram whee, whirram whee!"

After he had heard him swear this terrible oath, the Wolf thought that
his suspicions must be groundless, and he would have let the matter
rest; but the Fox, having an uneasy conscience, could not do so. So he
suggested that as it was clear that one of them must have eaten the Keg
of Butter, they should both stand near the fire; so that when they
became hot, the butter would ooze out of the skin of whichever of them
was guilty. And he took care that the Wolf should stand in the hottest
place.

But the fire was big and the cave was small; and while the poor lean
Wolf showed no sign of discomfort, he himself, being nice and fat and
comfortable, soon began to get unpleasantly warm.

As this did not suit him at all, he next proposed that they should go
for a walk, "for," said he, "it is now quite plain that neither of us
can have taken the butter. It must have been some stranger who hath
found out our secret."

But the Wolf had seen the Fox beginning to grow greasy, and he knew now
what had happened, and he determined to have his revenge. So he waited
until they came to a smithy which stood at the side of the road, where a
horse was waiting just outside the door to be shod.

Then, keeping at a safe distance, he said to his companion, "There is
writing on that smithy door, which I cannot read, as my eyes are
failing; do thou try to read it, for perchance it may be something
'twere good for us to know."

And the silly Fox, who was very vain, and did not like to confess that
his eyes were no better than those of his friend, went close up to the
door to try and read the writing. And he chanced to touch the horse's
fetlock, and, it being a restive beast, lifted its foot and struck out
at once, and killed the Fox as dead as a door-nail.

And so, you see, the old saying in the Good Book came true after all:
"Be sure your sin will find you out."





Next: Katherine Crackernuts

Previous: Assipattle And The Mester Stoorworm



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