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The War Of The Wolf And The Fox

from The Green Fairy Book





There was once upon a time a man and his wife who had an old cat
and an old dog. One day the man, whose name was Simon, said to his
wife, whose name was Susan, 'Why should we keep our old cat any
longer? She never catches any mice now-a-days, and is so useless
that I have made up my mind to drown her.'

But his wife replied, 'Don't do that, for I'm sure she could still
catch mice.'

'Rubbish,' said Simon. 'The mice might dance on her and she would
never catch one. I've quite made up my mind that the next time I
see her, I shall put her in the water.'

Susan was very unhappy when she heard this, and so was the cat,
who had been listening to the conversation behind the stove. When
Simon went off to his work, the poor cat miawed so pitifully, and
looked up so pathetically into Susan's face, that the woman
quickly opened the door and said, 'Fly for your life, my poor
little beast, and get well away from here before your master
returns.'

The cat took her advice, and ran as quickly as her poor old legs
would carry her into the wood, and when Simon came home, his wife
told him that the cat had vanished.

'So much the better for her,' said Simon. 'And now we have got rid
of her, we must consider what we are to do with the old dog. He is
quite deaf and blind, and invariably barks when there is no need,
and makes no sound when there is. I think the best thing I can do
with him is to hang him.'

But soft-hearted Susan replied, 'Please don't do so; he's surely
not so useless as all that.'

'Don't be foolish,' said her husband. 'The courtyard might be full
of thieves and he'd never discover it. No, the first time I see
him, it's all up with him, I can tell you.'

Susan was very unhappy at his words, and so was the dog, who was
lying in the corner of the room and had heard everything. As soon
as Simon had gone to his work, he stood up and howled so
touchingly that Susan quickly opened the door, and said 'Fly for
your life, poor beast, before your master gets home.' And the dog
ran into the wood with his tail between his legs.

When her husband returned, his wife told him that the dog had
disappeared.

'That's lucky for him,' said Simon, but Susan sighed, for she had
been very fond of the poor creature.

Now it happened that the cat and dog met each other on their
travels, and though they had not been the best of friends at home,
they were quite glad to meet among strangers. They sat down under
a holly tree and both poured forth their woes.

Presently a fox passed by, and seeing the pair sitting together in
a disconsolate fashion, he asked them why they sat there, and what
they were grumbling about.

The cat replied, 'I have caught many a mouse in my day, but now
that I am old and past work, my master wants to drown me.'

And the dog said, 'Many a night have I watched and guarded my
master's house, and now that I am old and deaf, he wants to hang
me.'

The fox answered, 'That's the way of the world. But I'll help you
to get back into your master's favour, only you must first help me
in my own troubles.'

They promised to do their best, and the fox continued, 'The wolf
has declared war against me, and is at this moment marching to
meet me in company with the bear and the wild boar, and to-morrow
there will be a fierce battle between us.'

'All right,' said the dog and the cat, 'we will stand by you, and
if we are killed, it is at any rate better to die on the field of
battle than to perish ignobly at home,' and they shook paws and
concluded the bargain. The fox sent word to the wolf to meet him
at a certain place, and the three set forth to encounter him and
his friends.

The wolf, the bear, and the wild boar arrived on the spot first,
and when they had waited some time for the fox, the dog, and the
cat, the bear said, 'I'll climb up into the oak tree, and look if
I can see them coming.'

The first time he looked round he said, 'I can see nothing,' and
the second time he looked round he said, 'I can still see
nothing.' But the third time he said, 'I see a mighty army in the
distance, and one of the warriors has the biggest lance you ever
saw!'

This was the cat, who was marching along with her tail erect.

And so they laughed and jeered, and it was so hot that the bear
said, 'The enemy won't be here at this rate for many hours to
come, so I'll just curl myself up in the fork of the tree and have
a little sleep.'

And the wolf lay down under the oak, and the wild boar buried
himself in some straw, so that nothing was seen of him but one
ear.

And while they were lying there, the fox, the cat and the dog
arrived. When the cat saw the wild boar's ear, she pounced upon
it, thinking it was a mouse in the straw.

The wild boar got up in a dreadful fright, gave one loud grunt and
disappeared into the wood. But the cat was even more startled than
the boar, and, spitting with terror, she scrambled up into the
fork of the tree, and as it happened right into the bear's face.
Now it was the bear's turn to be alarmed, and with a mighty growl
he jumped down from the oak and fell right on the top of the wolf
and killed him as dead as a stone.

On their way home from the war the fox caught score of mice, and
when they reached Simon's cottage he put them all on the stove and
said to the cat, 'Now go and fetch one mouse after the other, and
lay them down before your master.'

'All right,' said the cat, and did exactly as the fox told her.

When Susan saw this she said to her husband, 'Just look, here is
our old cat back again, and see what a lot of mice she has
caught.'

'Wonders will never cease,' cried Simon. 'I certainly never
thought the old cat would ever catch another mouse.'

But Susan answered, 'There, you see, I always said our cat was a
most excellent creature--but you men always think you know best.'

In the meantime the fox said to the dog, 'Our friend Simon has
just killed a pig; when it gets a little darker, you must go into
the courtyard and bark with all your might.'

'All right,' said the dog, and as soon as it grew dusk he began to
bark loudly.

Susan, who heard him first, said to her husband, 'Our dog must
have come back, for I hear him barking lustily. Do go out and see
what's the matter; perhaps thieves may be stealing our sausages.'

But Simon answered, 'The foolish brute is as deaf as a post and is
always barking at nothing,' and he refused to get up.

The next morning Susan got up early to go to church at the
neighbouring town, and she thought she would take some sausages to
her aunt who lived there. But when she went to her larder, she
found all the sausages gone, and a great hole in the floor. She
called out to her husband, 'I was perfectly right. Thieves have
been here last night, and they have not left a single sausage. Oh!
if you had only got up when I asked you to!'

Then Simon scratched his head and said, 'I can't understand it at
all. I certainly never believed the old dog was so quick at
hearing.'

But Susan replied, 'I always told you our old dog was the best dog
in the world--but as usual you thought you knew so much better.
Men are the same all the world over.'

And the fox scored a point too, for he had carried away the
sausages himself!





Next: The Story Of The Fisherman And His Wife

Previous: The Golden Mermaid



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