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The Mink And The Wolf

from The Orange Fairy Book





In a big forest in the north of America lived a quantity of wild
animals of all sorts. They were always very polite when they met; but,
in spite of that, they kept a close watch one upon the other, as each
was afraid of being killed and eaten by somebody else. But their
manners were so good that no one would ever had guessed that.

One day a smart young wolf went out to hunt, promising his grandfather
and grandmother that he would be sure to be back before bedtime. He
trotted along quite happily through the forest till he came to a
favourite place of his, just where the river runs into the sea. There,
just as he had hoped, he saw the chief mink fishing in a canoe.

'I want to fish too,' cried the wolf. But the mink said nothing and
pretended not to hear.

'I wish you would take me into your boat!' shouted the wolf, louder
than before, and he continued to beseech the mink so long that at last
he grew tired of it, and paddled to the shore close enough for the wolf
to jump in.

'Sit down quietly at that end or we shall be upset,' said the mink;
'and if you care about sea-urchins' eggs, you will find plenty in that
basket. But be sure you eat only the white ones, for the red ones
would kill you.'

So the wolf, who was always hungry, began to eat the eggs greedily; and
when he had finished he told the mink he thought he would have a nap.

'Well, then, stretch yourself out, and rest your head on that piece of
wood,' said the mink. And the wolf did as he was bid, and was soon
fast asleep. Then the mink crept up to him and stabbed him to the
heart with his knife, and he died without moving. After that he landed
on the beach, skinned the wolf, and taking the skin to his cottage, he
hung it up before the fire to dry.

Not many days later the wolf's grandmother, who, with the help of her
relations, had been searching for him everywhere, entered the cottage
to buy some sea-urchins' eggs, and saw the skin, which she at once
guessed to be that of her grandson.

'I knew he was dead--I knew it! I knew it!' she cried, weeping
bitterly, till the mink told her rudely that if she wanted to make so
much noise she had better do it outside as he liked to be quiet. So,
half-blinded by her tears, the old woman went home the way she had
come, and running in at the door, she flung herself down in front of
the fire.

'What are you crying for?' asked the old wolf and some friends who had
been spending the afternoon with him.

'I shall never see my grandson any more!' answered she. 'Mink has
killed him, oh! oh!' And putting her head down, she began to weep as
loudly as ever.

'There! there!' said her husband, laying his paw on her shoulder. 'Be
comforted; if he IS dead, we will avenge him.' And calling to the
others they proceeded to talk over the best plan. It took them a long
time to make up their minds, as one wolf proposed one thing and one
another; but at last it was agreed that the old wolf should give a
great feast in his house, and that the mink should be invited to the
party. And in order that no time should be lost it was further agreed
that each wolf should bear the invitations to the guests that lived
nearest to him.

Now the wolves thought they were very cunning, but the mink was more
cunning still; and though he sent a message by a white hare, that was
going that way, saying he should be delighted to be present, he
determined that he would take his precautions. So he went to a mouse
who had often done him a good turn, and greeted her with his best bow.

'I have a favour to ask of you, friend mouse,' said he, 'and if you
will grant it I will carry you on my back every night for a week to the
patch of maize right up the hill.'

'The favour is mine,' answered the mouse. 'Tell me what it is that I
can have the honour of doing for you.'

'Oh, something quite easy,' replied the mink. 'I only want
you--between to-day and the next full moon--to gnaw through the bows
and paddles of the wolf people, so that directly they use them they
will break. But of course you must manage it so that they notice
nothing.'

'Of course,' answered the mouse, 'nothing is easier; but as the full
moon is to-morrow night, and there is not much time, I had better begin
at once.' Then the mink thanked her, and went his way; but before he
had gone far he came back again.

'Perhaps, while you are about the wolf's house seeing after the bows,
it would do no harm if you were to make that knot-hole in the wall a
little bigger,' said he. 'Not large enough to draw attention, of
course; but it might come in handy.' And with another nod he left her.

The next evening the mink washed and brushed himself carefully and set
out for the feast. He smiled to himself as he looked at the dusty
track, and perceived that though the marks of wolves' feet were many,
not a single guest was to be seen anywhere. He knew very well what
that meant; but he had taken his precautions and was not afraid.

The house door stood open, but through a crack the mink could see the
wolves crowding in the corner behind it. However, he entered boldly,
and as soon as he was fairly inside the door was shut with a bang, and
the whole herd sprang at him, with their red tongues hanging out of
their mouths. Quick as they were they were too late, for the mink was
already through the knot-hole and racing for his canoe.

The knot-hole was too small for the wolves, and there were so many of
them in the hut that it was some time before they could get the door
open. Then they seized the bows and arrows which were hanging on the
walls and, once outside, aimed at the flying mink; but as they pulled
the bows broke in their paws, so they threw them away, and bounded to
the shore, with all their speed, to the place where their canoes were
drawn up on the beach.

Now, although the mink could not run as fast as the wolves, he had a
good start, and was already afloat when the swiftest among them threw
themselves into the nearest canoe. They pushed off, but as they dipped
the paddles into the water, they snapped as the bows had done, and were
quite useless.

'I know where there are some new ones,' cried a young fellow, leaping
on shore and rushing to a little cave at the back of the beach. And
the mink's heart smote him when he heard, for he had not known of this
secret store.

After a long chase the wolves managed to surround their prey, and the
mink, seeing it was no good resisting any more, gave himself up. Some
of the elder wolves brought out some cedar bands, which they always
carried wound round their bodies, but the mink laughed scornfully at
the sight of them.

'Why I could snap those in a moment,' said he; 'if you want to make
sure that I cannot escape, better take a line of kelp and bind me with
that.'

'You are right,' answered the grandfather; 'your wisdom is greater than
ours.' And he bade his servants gather enough kelp from the rocks to
make a line, as they had brought none with them.

'While the line is being made you might as well let me have one last
dance,' remarked the mink. And the wolves replied: 'Very good, you may
have your dance; perhaps it may amuse us as well as you.' So they
brought two canoes and placed them one beside the other. The mink
stood up on his hind legs and began to dance, first in one canoe and
then in the other; and so graceful was he, that the wolves forgot they
were going to put him to death, and howled with pleasure.

'Pull the canoes a little apart; they are too close for this new
dance,' he said, pausing for a moment. And the wolves separated them
while he gave a series of little springs, sometime pirouetting while he
stood with one foot on the prow of both. 'Now nearer, now further
apart,' he would cry as the dance went on. 'No! further still.' And
springing into the air, amidst howls of applause, he came down
head-foremost, and dived to the bottom. And through the wolves, whose
howls had now changed into those of rage, sought him everywhere, they
never found him, for he hid behind a rock till they were out of sight,
and then made his home in another forest.

[From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.]





Next: Adventures Of An Indian Brave

Previous: The Bird Of Truth



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