The Story Of Mr Fox

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

[A simple, but very curious tale, of considerable antiquity. It is

alluded to by Shakespeare, and was contributed to the variorum edition

by Blakeway. Part of this story will recall to the reader's memory the

enchanted chamber of Britomart.]

Once upon a time there was a young lady called Lady Mary, who had two

brothers. One summer they all three went to a country seat of theirs

which they had not before v
sited. Among the other gentry in the

neighbourhood who came to see them was a Mr. Fox, a bachelor, with whom

they, particularly the young lady, were much pleased. He used often to

dine with them, and frequently invited Lady Mary to come and see his

house. One day, when her brothers were absent elsewhere, and she had

nothing better to do, she determined to go thither, and accordingly set

out unattended. When she arrived at the house and knocked at the door,

no one answered. At length she opened it and went in, and over the

portal of the door was written:

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold.

She advanced, and found the same inscription over the staircase; again

at the entrance of a gallery; and lastly, at the door of a chamber, with

the addition of a line:

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold,

Lest that your heart's blood should run cold!

She opened it, and what was her terror and astonishment to find the

floor covered with bones and blood. She retreated in haste, and coming

down stairs, she saw from a window Mr. Fox advancing towards the house

with a drawn sword in one hand, while with the other he dragged along a

young lady by the hair of her head. Lady Mary had just time to slip

down, and hide herself under the stairs, before Mr. Fox and his victim

arrived at the foot of them. As he pulled the young lady upstairs, she

caught hold of one of the bannisters with her hand, on which was a rich

bracelet. Mr. Fox cut it off with his sword: the hand and bracelet fell

into Lady Mary's lap, who then contrived to escape unobserved, and got

safe home to her brothers' house.

A few days afterwards, Mr. Fox came to dine with them as usual. After

dinner, the guests began to amuse each other with extraordinary

anecdotes, and Lady Mary said she would relate to them a remarkable

dream she had lately had. I dreamt, said she, that as you, Mr. Fox, had

often invited me to your house, I would go there one morning. When I

came to the house, I knocked at the door, but no one answered. When I

opened the door, over the hall I saw written, "Be bold, be bold, but not

too bold." But, said she, turning to Mr. Fox, and smiling, "It is not

so, nor it was not so." Then she pursued the rest of the story,

concluding at every turn with, "It is not so, nor it was not so," till

she came to the discovery of the room full of bones, when Mr. Fox took

up the burden of the tale, and said:

It is not so, nor it was not so,

And God forbid it should be so!

which he continued to repeat at every subsequent turn of the dreadful

story, till she came to the circumstance of his cutting off the young

lady's hand, when, upon his saying, as usual,

It is not so, nor it was not so,

And God forbid it should be so!

Lady Mary retorts by saying,

But it is so, and it was so,

And here the hand I have to show!

at the same moment producing the hand and bracelet from her lap.

Whereupon the guests drew their swords, and instantly cut Mr. Fox into a

thousand pieces.